Return to Transcripts main page


Lawmakers Face February 15th Deadline Ahead of Another Shutdown; 800,000 Federal Employees Return to Work After 35-Day Shutdown; Senator Kamala Harris Launches Presidential Campaign; Lawmakers Face February 15 Deadline Ahead of Another Shutdown; Interview With Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-NH); WSJ: Trump Doubts He'll Accept Any New Border Compromise; Senate Republicans to Push Barr's Attorney General Nomination This Week. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired January 28, 2019 - 09:00   ET


[09:00:00] JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Going back to work. Big question is --


SCIUTTO: And big question is always when that back pay comes, because it's not like it just shows up in their bank account on the day of.

HARLOW: No. No. Again now a new deadline for the shutdown, February 15th. Can they reach a deal? A deal that the president will agree to.

SCIUTTO: Right. The president told the "Wall Street Journal" this weekend that he's not certain.

HARLOW: Right.

SCIUTTO: That will happen. For 800,000 federal employees and their families, untold members in federal contractors, these are big questions now. We have our Manu Raju, he's been on the Hill following this throughout.

So, Manu, we got through one impasse on Friday, but now already talk of the next deadline.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right. And there's a lot of pessimism as we head into that deadline in mid- February because -- in no small part because the president's own positioning on this making it very clear in that "Wall Street Journal" interview that he would not go for anything less than $5.7 billion saying that that's what he wants for his border wall.

Of course, the Democrats have wanted to give him virtually nothing for that wall. Also, he seemed to reject any notion of providing citizenship for those so-called Dreamers. And in exchange for a larger immigration deal. And that's one thing Democrats have asked for all along and have been on part of the talks last year that the president rejected. There is -- and the president himself is skeptical, too, telling the

"Wall Street Journal" that he believes the chances are less than 50-50 for getting a deal, saying, "I personally think it's less than 50-50. But you have a lot of very good people on that board." And by that board he means that 17-member group, a conference committee of House and Senate negotiators who will be discussing this behind the scenes about coming up with a proposal.

Largely in the next few weeks these negotiations will happen among the leadership level, among the leaders of the House and Senate appropriations committees to see what the White House could get along with. And then if they're close to a deal, perhaps then they'll start to talk about some of these things in public, but this is going to happen behind the scenes. The question is, can they get any closer than they did over the last 35 days which was not close at all. And will the Democrats give the president anything for that border wall? And will the president accept anything less than $5.7 billion.

That's why the president and lawmakers themselves come in to these talks with a healthy level of skepticism as the president said and lawmakers agree with that. Less than 50-50, maybe even less than that -- Poppy and Jim.

HARLOW: All right. We'll see where this goes, three weeks and counting.

Manu, thanks very much.

SCIUTTO: Let's bring in our Jessica Dean in a part of a D.C. that is a whole lot busier today than it was just last week or the week before that or the week before that.

What are you hearing, Jessica, as you follow the fallout from all of this?

JESSICA DEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, well, you guys, we're right here by the metro stop that goes to so many federal buildings as you said in this area of Washington, D.C. and people who are coming out today seem genuinely excited to be back at work. And that's twofold. The people we've talked to said they are ready to get back in and do some of the work that they know they need to be doing for this country and for their various agencies.

They're also really, really excited they're going to get paid. As you've been talking about and as we have been showing people over the last several weeks, this has really impacted so many Americans all across the country in really meaningful ways and it has really stretched them to the limits financially.

But here, the scene is one of almost like a reunion of sorts. You see people kind of excited to see their co-workers. There are people here volunteers that have just shown up to hand out treats. They have their children with them that have signs saying welcome back.

We talked to one woman who said she's ready to head back into the office, reboot that computer and get back to work. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GLYNIS HILL, EPA EMPLOYEE: It's exhilarating knowing that we'll get paid in the future and now we can get back to work and do the work that we -- our mission is to do for the American public.


DEAN: Yes. And she said, you know, listen, the inbox is going to be really full. Everybody kind of checking in on everybody else to see what they've been doing over the past several weeks. So many of them have been furloughed at home. They obviously have not been able to do any of the work that they love to do. And we have to remember, too, these are bureaucrats. These are people who are paid to run the government. This is not a political thing for them. This is about doing the work of keeping our country going and running, you know, the various agencies that they have been assigned to run.

So, Jim, they are happy to be back at work and also looking ahead to three weeks from now, hoping that they're not right back to where we all were last week. We'll see.


SCIUTTO: And that list we were just showing there, it shows that there are a lot of questions that these federal agencies have to decide. For instance, NTSB, what accidents do they investigate. It doesn't just turn on a dime.

Jessica Dean, thanks very much.

HARLOW: All right. Also today, the list of Democrats ready to challenge President Trump in 2020 is growing. Senator Kamala Harris officially launching her campaign with a big rally yesterday. And tonight she faces audiences at CNN's town hall in Iowa.

[09:05:09] Jeff Zeleny is there in the midst of the -- oh, your inside, Jeff. Kind of wimpy, man. It's like a polar vortex there in Iowa.


HARLOW: Tell us what we're expecting tonight from her in that key state?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Poppy, good morning. It's Minnesota cold here in Iowa. And I know you know what exactly what that means, as to why. It is very cold. We are inside but we are in front of the stage here where Senator Kamala Harris is going to be taking questions tonight from our Jake Tapper as well as from Iowa voters. We're here on the campus of Drake University.

And this is really going to be the beginning of a year-long listening exercise and a shopping exercise if you will, for Iowa Democratic voters and some independent voters as well looking for an alternative. Looking for a choice they will be making. But Senator Harris as you said really delivering a big announcement

speech in her hometown of Oakland, California, on Sunday through a big crowd of some 20,000 people or so. And she also talked about how improbable this run might be as she said this.


SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And we know what the doubters will say. It's the same thing they've always said. They'll say, it's not your time. They'll say, wait your turn. They'll say the odds are long. They'll say, it can't be done. But -- but America's story has always been written by people who can see what can be, unburdened by what has been.


ZELENY: So hearing those words there, it reminded me of a speech from another junior senator some 12 years ago about this same time. Barack Obama, of course the junior senator from Illinois, was saying people are saying it's not his time. It is too early. Of course, there will be comparisons and parallels drawn between these two senators.

This is a difference time, a different field, to be sure. But it is going to be one of the largest Democratic fields and certainly most diverse Democratic fields that the party has seen in recent memory here. So this is the beginning of really one of the most unwieldy and wide-open races that Democrats can recall certainly in a generation. And it will begin here in a new phase tonight in Des Moines -- Poppy.

HARLOW: And Jeff, do we add one more name to that list? Not a new name, but you're reporting on former candidate and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton not closing the door on a third try?

ZELENY: Poppy, we were hearing that over the weekend. I was talking to some confidantes and friends of the Clintons, of Secretary Clinton. And they said particularly after the indictment on Friday of Roger Stone, she was telling some friends and confidantes again that she is not closing the door to the possibility of running in 2020. She has been saying this repeatedly, and her argument would be, look, given all what we know now, she won the popular vote, of course. Should she have another try at this?

Now these confidantes and friends warn that there's no campaign plan in waiting. Most believe she will not do this, but it is certainly significant that she has not closed the door to this.

But, Poppy, we should also say, a lot of former and losing and failed presidential candidates don't always close the door perfectly tight on a run. So she's leaving it open. But a question would be, could she even win this Democratic primary? It would be certainly a challenge. So again, we're not expecting her to jump in, but she's leaving that door open, at least just a crack -- Poppy.

HARLOW: All right. Important reporting. Jeff Zeleny, bundle up and get outside. Enjoy it, my friend.

ZELENY: Will do.

HARLOW: Thank you very much.

The CNN town hall with Senator Kamala Harris moderated by our very own Jake Tapper, it's tonight, live from Des Moines, 10:00 p.m. Eastern, only right here.

SCIUTTO: Joining us now CNN senior political writer and analyst Harry Enten.

So, Harry, Hillary Clinton not closing the door to that. Just a simple question in the numbers that you've seen, does she have the support potentially to win the nomination?

HARRY ENTEN, CNN POLITICS SENIOR WRITER AND ANALYST: Not really. No. I mean, look, fields, things can change. But if you look at the polls that do include her, she's actually running third or fourth and she has universal name recognition. There was a poll out in Iowa that we did about a month ago that showed that her unfavorable rating was actually higher than her favorable rating among Democrats.

HARLOW: It was like --

SCIUTTO: That's remarkable.

HARLOW: It was really high for her.

Kamala Harris, so she drew a big crowd yesterday for sure. And a lot of progressives like her stance on a number of issues. But doesn't she face a very steep hill and tough road ahead on her record as a prosecutor? And I'm interested in how she is defending that to the progressive wing.

ENTEN: Yes, I mean, look, there's definitely -- it started with "The New York Times" op-ed of I think it was a week or two ago that said that her record as a prosecutor, whether it'd be in the San Francisco D.A.'s office or going all the way up to attorney general of California, wasn't quite progressive enough.

[09:10:09] She has, obviously, fought back against that saying hey, some of that wasn't my responsibility and, you know, you have to recognize that I had to make wheels and deals. I think that's going to be a real question for her, is whether or not with the Democratic Party moving to the left, whether she, in fact, may be a little bit behind the times.

I will point out that she has one of the most anti-Trump records of any senator. If you look at a Web site like which essentially rates the senators on the left-right spectrum, she's very much on the left. So I think she's going to try and build a case for being progressive.

One other thing that I'll point out is of course we should note that there is a difference between say the left which is the Bernie Sanders wing of the party.


ENTEN: And perhaps the progressives like a Web site like Daily Coach which are much more friendly to her candidacy.

SCIUTTO: Let me ask you about Howard Schultz's possibility of a third party run here. And it was interesting to watch the reaction to that. Enormously negative reaction, particularly from Democrats, even from the Washington state Democratic Party, of course Howard Schultz's home state of Washington there. Democrats have bad memories. They'll blame Ralph Nader in 2000, they'll blame even Jill Stein a little bit in 2016.

Is there data that shows that third party candidates draw more from one party than another?

ENTEN: Not really, no. I mean, obviously, Ralph Nader I think haunts the memories of Democrats more than anyone possibly could imagine but if, you know, you look back from 1980 when John Anderson ran he basically took the vote equally from Carter and Reagan. If you look back in 1992, Perot, if you believe the exit polls, he took equally between Clinton and Bush.

I'm just not sure that there's a lot of evidence to suggest that Schultz will pull from either one of the parties disproportionately. One thing I will point out, though, is that Donald Trump's approval rating is so low that Democrats would be a favorite right now if the election were held today, and anything that could potentially enter the field and upset that I think worries them a lot.

HARLOW: So, I mean, we know that his team is looking at polling data like the newest Gallup polling that says look, 39 percent of Americans at this point see themselves as independent. That's more than see themselves as Republicans or Democrats. And they think -- Axios is reporting is that they could then bring Trump down to, quote, "a statistical floor" of 26 percent, 27 percent, 28 percent. But Schultz is, has been, until now, in his words, a life-long Democrat. Does that change the calculation?

ENTEN: I mean, it could. I point out, you know, yes, it's true that a lot more people identify as independent than, say, other Democrat or Republican. But then you ask those independents which party they lean to and then overwhelmingly you see they lean toward one party or another. There are not a lot of true independents that are really out there.

Could Schultz in fact take away from Democrats given his past history? Perhaps so. But remember, Donald Trump was also formerly a Democrat.


ENTEN: And -- but, you know, and then he took basically won the Republican primary and won. So I'm very suspect of that. I will admit that I'm suspect of third party bids just generally speaking but you know what, throw your hat in the ring. We'll see what happens and given where Trump is polling at this point --

HARLOW: You know what?

ENTEN: -- I understand.

HARLOW: He also doesn't have -- he doesn't have to race in because he could self-fund this thing. So he doesn't need to announce now to be able to start raising money. Right? He got some time.

SCIUTTO: There have been promises to self-fund not fulfilled in the past. Just a reminder.


HARLOW: Thanks, Harry.

ENTEN: Thank you.

HARLOW: Thank you.

All right. After a record-breaking shutdown, the president is not taking another one off the table. What is next for talks? Can a deal be reached by February 15th? That's the deadline. We're going to ask a Democratic senator who said as recently as December, quote, "We need strategically placed fencing." That's ahead.

Also we're on top of all the latest from the political crisis in Venezuela. Now the U.S. is warning any threats against U.S. diplomats will be met with a significant response.

SCIUTTO: And longtime Trump associate Roger Stone is set to be arraigned in a D.C. court tomorrow after he does not over the weekend rule out cooperating with the Special Counsel Robert Mueller.


[09:15:00] HARLOW: All right, the government is back open, good headline, but it's not forever. I mean, maybe it is. Let's be optimistic. The big question now, can lawmakers strike a deal to stop another shutdown in just three weeks? The president is expressing doubt.

Joining me now is Democratic Senator Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire. She is a member of the Homeland Security and Finance Committees. Good morning to you, I'm glad you're joining us on a morning when you guys are fully up and running. Thanks for being here.

SEN. MAGGIE HASSAN (D), NEW HAMPSHIRE: Well, thanks for having me, Poppy, and yes, I think we're all very relieved that the government is back up and running, incredibly grateful to the federal workers --

HARLOW: Yes --

HASSAN: Who were needlessly penalized here. We can't have another government shutdown, and I think it's incredibly important to make sure that the American people are never again used as pawns like this.

HARLOW: So let's talk about the way to a deal because after the temporary agreement was made, you said we can find a way forward. You also, senator, told "Bloomberg News" just in December, quote, "we need strategically placed fencing and other kinds of barriers in certain parts of our border."

Does that mean that you would agree to vote for a deal that does include funding for a border barrier?

HASSAN: You know, last Thursday, we had a bipartisan discussion on the Senate floor about the importance of ending the shutdown, which there was bipartisan agreement was needless and harmful to the American people and our economy.

And that we all pledged to work in good faith to find common ground on border security. And that's what I'm committed to doing. And I think that really starts with making sure we're listening to the experts on the front lines on this.


HASSAN: And that may include strategic fencing in certain --


HASSSAN: Places. Yes --

HARLOW: So I mean, that's significant, you know, that's an area where you differ from a number of your Democratic colleagues. So you would, if it includes other things like technology that you've talked about, agree to some amount of funding for a border barrier. How much?

HASSAN: Well, so what I think is important over the next several weeks is that, we listen to the people on the front lines. I was down on the border last May, and what the CBP told me was they needed more agents, we need more immigration judges, we need better technology especially at our ports of entry.

And in some places, we need to improve fencing, repair fencing or perhaps put in some new fencing.

[09:20:00] You know, what we need to be doing is focus on what the experts are telling us they need, and I think that there is a lot of common ground around that. And I'll continue to push people to look for common ground and come to compromise because that's what we're supposed to do.

HARLOW: Is $5.7 billion for a border barrier a number you could get behind, should it come with prominent protection for Dreamers? Which by the way the president really backed away from, from that in this "Wall Street Journal" article. But should he come to the table with a permanent protection for Dreamers? Could you come to the table with $5.7 billion for a wall?

HASSAN: Here's the problem with that whole question, Poppy. Is that we have seen that every time the president hints at endorsing permanent protection for Dreamers, the people around him and the far right-wing, the Ann Coulters of the world who, you know, make money by being outrageous and unreasonable pull them back.

So I don't think that's going to happen, I think what we should focus on is bipartisan work to listen to the experts on the front lines, they have all said that especially they need more personnel, more technology and in some places, some fencing.

And I will continue to listen to them and I'll continue to work towards that kind of agreement. We've got a group of bipartisan appropriators on this committee of conference, they are people with a variety of perspectives, and I think what we're going to see is them working very hard to come up with a bipartisan agreement here.

HARLOW: Let me get your take since you voted against the majority, if not all of the president's nominees for the Supreme Court et cetera. Let me get your read on his nominee for Attorney General, that is William Barr because Senate Republicans or Republicans colleagues in the Senate will begin to advance dozens of judicial nominees this week. That includes Barr. Will you vote to confirm him?

HASSAN: Look, I have continued to be concerned with Mr. Barr's very broad view of executive authority, especially given that we are still in the middle of the Mueller investigation. I think that investigation needs to be protected. I think Mr. Mueller needs to be able to follow the facts wherever they take him, and I think no one is above the rule of law including the president of the United States.

HARLOW: Well, I mean, he said --


HARLOW: As much in his testimony, so I wonder if that's a --

HASSAN: Well --

HARLOW: Yes or a no vote for you.

HASSAN: So what I think is, as I listen to his testimony, he really wasn't committing to allowing Mr. Mueller to follow the facts wherever they lead. And he has a very broad view of executive privilege which makes me believe he is conflicted and compromised here. So I won't be supporting his nomination.

HARLOW: You will not? OK --

HASSAN: Right.

HARLOW: We have 30 seconds left, so let's play a quick game of word association or yes or no here. Hillary Clinton 2020, are you supportive if she were to jump in?

HASSAN: I want to make sure that all of our excellent candidates have a full hearing. I am very excited by how many people we have, and in New Hampshire, we're just focused on making sure the welcome mat is out.

HARLOW: Howard Schultz? A life-long Democrat. HASSAN: Yes --

HARLOW: If he launches an independent bid for the presidency in 2020, would that be a good thing for America?

HASSAN: I am very concerned about the impact of a potential spoiler here. Mr. Schultz is a life-long Democrat, I would encourage him to get into the Democratic primary and test his ideas that way.

HARLOW: He says, though, as you heard last, saying in the "60 Minutes" interview that some of the Democratic ideas that we're seeing from a number of Democrats right now, he says America can't afford, for example, Medicare for all.

HASSAN: Well, so I think there are a lot of us who want to make sure that we are building middle class opportunity all across the board for all Americans, creating jobs, workforce training, lowering healthcare costs, lowering the cost of child care.

And if Mr. Schultz wants to be president, he could test his candidacy and his ideas in a vigorous debate in the Democratic primary. And there are plenty -- there's a huge range of positions in the Democratic primary, and I think they should be tested in that way.

HARLOW: Senator Maggie Hassan, we appreciate you joining us today --

HASSAN: Thank you --

HARLOW: Good luck reaching a deal --

HASSAN: Thank you.

JIM SCIUTTO, CO-HOST, NEWSROOM: Yes, not the warmest reception among Democrats to Howard Schultz's candidacy --

HARLOW: Yes --

SCIUTTO: It's quite interesting. It is becoming the worst growing refugee crisis. Long lines for gas, for basics such as food. Cnn gets an undercover look at how Venezuelans are coping in the middle of a fight to control their government.


SCIUTTO: This morning, the head of Venezuela's National Assembly and self-proclaimed acting President Juan Guaido is calling for a nation- wide protest. He asked the people of Venezuela to hit the streets to demand new elections in an effort to oust the sitting President Nicolas Maduro.

HARLOW: All of this as the humanitarian crisis in Venezuela grows more desperate by the day. Look at these images that our Nick Paton Walsh gathered exclusively on the ground in Caracas, speaking to families relying on the government and just trying to stay alive.


stuff, we beg. A piece of chicken skin to take home. We're beggars now, always begging. This isn't political, it's survival. People are killing each other for a kilo of rice, for water.


HARLOW: Wow, our senior international correspondent Nick Paton Walsh who brought us that joins us now from Bogota, Colombia. And Nick, you look at the need there. And Guaido and the National Assembly, what they're trying to do, as I understand it, is to bring in food, bring in aid, show the people with goods, we can help you more than the Maduro regime.

WALSH: Well, yes, but that's simply not going to happen without some element of government assistance there. I can't physically see how they would do that. There is need and an urgency across the spectrum, even queuing for gas. This is a petrol state, an oil-rich state.

And one of those areas, in fact, gas is being sold in the black market causing a shortage, causing people to sleep in their cars for three days and nights just to get a full tank. And now we move to the more important part of the crisis, and that's the food.