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Trump Says Another Government Shutdown Is Certainly an Option; US Announces New Sanctions Against Venezuela Amid Crisis; GOP's Cornyn Has Confidence in The Process to Achieve A Border Security Deal. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired January 28, 2019 - 15:30   ET


[15:30:00] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: The Russia thing is far from over and Trump said this to him: "What do you mean? Flynn met with the Russians. That was the problem. I fired Flynn. It's over." Mr. Kushner added, "That's right, firing Flynn ends the whole Russia thing."



BALDWIN: I mean a little naive?

BORGER: Well I don't think it did. Also, don't forget that Chris Christie also says Jared Kushner thought that firing Comey was a good idea because Democrats would support it and it wouldn't create the big storm it created. So, you know, Kushner and Christie don't get along well because Christie prosecuted Jared Kushner's father. We know that history. But I think if you go through Chris Christie's book, one of the threads you will see is that these are people who didn't understand Washington. And who were very naive about how things would play out politically.

BALDWIN: What about the politics of the shutdown, Jeff? We know it hurt the President. I was reading over the weekend that Mark Meadows says that building a wall is really key to Trump's base looking ahead to 2020. Obviously, the Mueller investigation depending on how that goes, that could have a real impact on trying to get through the primary and now some Republicans are courting others to challenge him. How likely is that that he faces a primary challenger?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think that's a little unlikely at this point. I've been talking to Iowa Republicans out here as well and they aren't thrilled by everything that's been done, but boy, President Trump has done one thing better than almost anything and that's holding on to his base of support. Consolidating that brought him to the White House in the first place.

So yes, there is some disappointment. Yes, there are a few cracks in there and I expect a Republican or two will explore the option of this. And maybe Larry Hogan, the Governor of Maryland, which is a blue state and he's a Republican governor, but I think the idea of a challenge for President Trump right now is entirely premature, but we are at the beginning of the year, who knows what this will bring, but going back to the shutdown, there's a sense among Republicans that the breaking point last week as we know as we've been reporting was that phone call, series of phone calls from McConnell to the White House saying I am losing Senate Republicans on this. We can't hold them.

I believe that would be the same situation three-week from now. You saw Leader McConnell saying that again today. I do not believe shutdowns are good. So that is why Bill Shine and others in the White House are talking to commentators on the right saying the President could still declare a national emergency. So, I would say at this point that is more likely than a shutdown. But again, you have Lamar Alexander saying the President and Speaker Pelosi should stay out of it and allow this conference committee to work. So, we'll see how this three weeks play out. I think the politics of a shutdown would be even worse for President Trump. We'll see if he learned a lesson and agrees.

BALDWIN: OK. Thank you both so much and we're going to take a quick break. We'll come back. We'll go to the White House. Sarah Sanders speaking to the White House press pool answering some key questions. We'll be right back.



JOHN BOLTON, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: On January 23rd, President Trump officially recognized the President of Venezuela National Assembly, Juan Guaido as the interim President of Venezuela. Venezuela's National Assembly invoked Article 233 of the country's constitution to declare Nicolas Maduro illegitimate.

This action was a statement that the people of Venezuela have had enough of oppression, corruption and economic hardship. Since then, 21 other governments in the region and across the world had joined the United States in recognizing Guaido's as Venezuela's interim President. Today turn the podium over to Steven Mnuchin for this purpose we're going to announce sanctions against Petroleos de Venezuela Sociedad Anomina or PDVSA as it's known by its Spanish acronym. The

state-owned oil monopoly. We have continued --


BALDWIN: Here is the breaking news. The Trump administration vocally backing Venezuela's self-proclaimed leader, Juan Guaido. Washington was his rival Nicolas Maduro out saying his reelection was rigged. Moments ago, the United States, as you are just listening to Ambassador Bolton there, slapping new sanctions against Venezuela/

My next guest warns Venezuela may be heading toward a catastrophic conflict. But he may have one solution. He is Jeffrey Sachs, the Director of the Center for Sustainable Development at Columbia University in New York. He is also the author of "The Price of Civilization, Reawakening American Virtue and Prosperity." First, sir, you just listened to the national security advisor John

Bolton laying out of course again the United States backed leader in Guaido and also slapping sanctions. Your reaction to that first.

[15:40:00] JEFFREY SACHS, DIRECTOR OF THE CENTER FOR SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT AT COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY, NEW YORK: This is a very dangerous, of course in DC they're very confident about what they're doing. But they could be living Venezuela into a catastrophe. Very often, Washington says somebody must go. This is how our foreign policy often works. Very arrogant. Who should rule in another country? By the way, Maduro is not a decent, pleasant man, but on the other hand, for Washington to announce that self-declared politician is the President is a kind of American regime change tradition. The problem here is that these efforts by the United States to change other country's governments often lead to catastrophe and does happen through the Middle East in recent years. You remember a few years ago, President Obama said Assad must go. Well that led to years of civil war and this is what worries me very much.

BALDWIN: Right to think of the reverberations of this kind of message would send not just in Latin America, but around the world. In reading your piece, it sounded to me, you have one solution to this. Which isn't really a matter of choosing who, it's a matter of sharing sovereignty. Explain that.

SACHS: Well, this is a deeply divided country. Not just Maduro versus Guaido, but actually a lot of supporters of Maduro probably many fewer than a few years ago because of the economic catastrophe also the military. History shows that sometimes you need a transition, not just announcing the other side has won. Because when you announce one side wins and the other side loses, that can lead to war. I was out in the 30 years ago in a peaceful transition from communism in Poland when the opposition, the democratic forces shared power for a while with the communists to allow for a gradual, peaceful negotiated transition. But this kind of thinking seems very far from Washington these days, which always just wants winners and losers and gets a lot of people into trouble with that kind of black and white thinking.

BALDWIN: Jeffery Sachs. Thank you. Go to and Michelle Kosinski is at the State Department for us. She's been listening in to the news that's been made there at the podium at White House. So, we heard Ambassador Bolton talking about these sanctions. Can you just put this news today in perspective for us?

MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN SENIOR DIPLOMATIC CORRESPONDENT: This is a real -- given what is going on in Venezuela right now, the deterioration we've seen, it seems as if this next big step was going to be just a when and not an if. But it is a significant step. The criticism and worries surrounding targeting Venezuela's oil production is over how it affects people. Over the humanitarian crisis that could escalate as well as disruption in oil markets. So, what they're saying is what is targeted right now. Venezuela's state-controlled oil conglomerate, PDVSA. This will freeze $7 billion in assets now. They said this will mean $11 billion worth of lost exports over the next year, so what the administration is banking on is that this is the final step to clamp down on revenue going to the Maduro government, what he clings to at this point and this will escalate to the point that he finally gives up power. That is what they're hoping. Of course, if that doesn't happen, it's that big question mark as to what happens next? Does this escalate further in the bad way that nobody wants to see through violence?

So, for a long time, you know over the last year and a half, and even before that, we've seen this slow build in U.S. sanctions. First on certain high-ranking government officials. Then took the extraordinary step of sanctioning Maduro himself, but they still held off on targeting oil. That was considered kind of a last resort to put pressure on Maduro and now we see this starting. That this administration is targeting state owned oil production and that is a big deal.

[15:45:00] BALDWIN: Fears of a civil war breaking out. Depending on what this happens, a humanitarian crisis, the economic crisis. This crisis over leadership in Venezuela. Michelle Kosinski for us with the smart analysis on that. Michelle, thank you so much. We have one ear to this White House briefing. We're waiting for the Q and A portion with Sarah Sanders. That's happening as right-wing media blasts the President for his deal to temporarily end the shutdown. And his longtime associate roger stone gets ready to be arraigned tomorrow. We'll take that live. Stay with us.


BALDWIN: According to an "Axios" report, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham confirmed that President Trump has mused about possible military intervention in Venezuela, but he said he warned the President that could be in a word, problematic, but listen to a National Security Adviser John Bolton speaking from the White House press room moments ago.


BOLTON: Look, the President has made it very clear on this, on this matter that all options are on the table.


BALDWIN: All options are on the table. Fellow Republican Senator Marco Rubio agrees with Graham on that as an option.


SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: I don't have anyone calling for military intervention. I'm calling for the constitution to be followed. For military officials in Venezuela to follow and uphold the Constitution they swore allegiance to. For Guaido to be able to act as interim President until we have a new valid election so we can support the new Democratic government. That's what I'm calling for. The United States always retains the right. Always. Anywhere in the world, in any instance, to protect its national security. I'm not going to justify military intervention. I don't know who is calling for that.


BALDWIN: Let's go straight to Barbara Starr live at the Pentagon. Barbara, this idea of military action seems farfetched, right?

BARBARA STARR, CHIEF PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: I think it really does work. I think you also have to remember that President Trump himself said a few days ago I'm not considering anything to paraphrase him, saying all options are on table. Look, national leaders, the President, any President of the United States is always going to say all options are on the table to preserve that ability to defend the U.S. and defend national security interest. It is to sound tough, if you will. It is a very standard line that you hear from a White House from Pentagon from the State Department.

But if you really wanted to do that in Venezuela, what on earth are you talking about with actual military intervention? Do you want to put troops on the ground and go sees Maduro and take him out of the country like the U.S. military did several years ago with Manuel Noriega in Panama? The least of the problem is Panama is a much smaller country. They could operate freely there, in Venezuela, you have an active military force that will not let the U.S. march in and seize Maduro.

If you want to do air strikes or strikes from the sea, what would be the targets that you would hit? This is a country where the civilian population is spread out where it would be very difficult to find a set of so-called military targets without running the risk of civilian casualties and running the risk of hitting civilian targets, infrastructure, power, food, agriculture such as it is the very things the people of Venezuela are struggling to get. So, I think that all of those reasons you probably are limited at this point to tough rhetoric but really an emphasis on diplomatic and economic action which is what we from the White House a saw a short time ago.

BALDWIN: All of this happening as our reporter was there undercover over the weekend saying people are willing to kill for water and rice with the humanitarian crisis ongoing. Not to mention everything that you are describing. Barbara Starr, with the great military perspective, Barbara, thank you.

We are still waiting to hear White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders answer questions on a variety of topics including the possibility of another government shutdown and of course, Friday's huge news, the arrest of Roger Stone. We are standing by for that.


BALDWIN: Wakanda forever. The history making cast of "Black Panther" just one the top ensemble prize at the Screen Actors Guild awards. Incredible team led by actor Chadwick Boseman won for outstanding performance. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHADWICK BOSEMAN, ACTOR, 'BLACK PANTHER": We all know what it's like to be told that there is not a place for you to be featured. Yet you are young, gifted and black. We know what it is like to be told that there is not a screen for you to be featured on. And that is what we want to work with every day. We knew not that we would be around during award season and that it would make $1 billion but that we knew we had something special.


BALDWIN: Mega hit film, broke records as the top super hero film of all time taking in more than a billion dollars. It is also the first comic book film ever to be nominated for best picture Oscar.

Moments ago, Senator John Cornyn, said there is more than a 50/50 chance that Congress will make a deal on border wall funding. That is more optimistic than President Trump is feeling. Manu Raju is up on Capitol Hill, and Manu, what did he say?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, a number of Republicans that I have spoken to today are hopeful that they will get out of this mess and they won't run into another shutdown situation like we saw for the past 35 days. I talked for the Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

[16:00:00] Bill Barr just walked right behind me right here on his way to another meeting with Senators. Mitch McConnell I just talked to on his way -- off the Senate floor. He said I think it remains a bad idea and I'm optimistic we will not be in the position again. Of course, much different than what the President is saying, that it is an option, certainly, an option. Another shutdown, the majority leader making it very clear he does not want anything to do with the shutdown going forward.

BALDWIN: They've got 18 days to figure it out. Lamar Alexander, what was he saying? Back off and let's let the conference figure it out and let them do the negotiating. We'll see if that works. Manu Raju, thank you so much, her grabbing all of these great folks up on Capitol Hill. As always, I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thank you so much for being with me.