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Lawmakers Kick Off Talks to Prevent Another Government Shutdown; Trump Slams His Intel Chiefs, Calls Them Extremely Passive and Naive; Historic Deep Freeze Slams Midwestern United States; Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired January 30, 2019 - 09:00   ET


[09:00:01] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. Top of the hour. I'm Poppy Harlow.


Seventeen lawmakers, 16 days, one major question that gets more pressing by the hour. Can a bipartisan group of House members and senators make a deal actually on border security in time to avert another shutdown?

We may not know until moments before the current spending deal runs out February 15th, but the work begins today.

HARLOW: It does. What some are calling the Gang of 17, it's a lot of people who can figure this thing out. They're meeting for first time this afternoon and while President Trump is not involved at this point he is warning that they'll be, quote, "wasting their time if they're not discussing or contemplating a wall or physical barrier."

Well, this morning he is also putting his own spin again on national security threats outlined yesterday in sobering terms by the leaders of all of the major U.S. intelligence agencies. Quote, "Tremendous progress," the president writes, "on Syria, ISIS, North Korea and peace talks proceeding well in Afghanistan," he says.

Much more on that in a moment including a brand pushback on Iran from the president. There he's calling the intel leaders, quote, "passive, naive and wrong." That is stunning.

Let's begin, though, on Capitol Hill. Manu Raju is watching this. First up, the Gang of 17, coming together. Can they do it? And can they do it on time?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Those are all the big questions. I think today what we're going to see at this House- Senate conference committee are each of these members making their opening statements or opening pitches and it's going to be pretty clear the divide between Republicans and Democrats about border security, border -- about fencing, about the wall, about the president's demand for $5.7 billion, and about whether they can do anything bigger beyond just funding for border security and immigration. I can tell you in talking to the people who are directly involved in

these negotiations, the senators, the House members, the last couple of days it's pretty clear that there's not much expectation that they can do a bigger deal about immigration dealing with things such as the Dreamers or people in the Temporary Protective Status programs. Those issues seem to be much thornier.

What's more likely, a narrower deal, something dealing specifically with funding levels and going up to the president's demands of $5.7 billion, both sides are skeptical that they can even get anywhere near that. More likely if anything probably in the range of $1.3 billion, $1.6 billion, somewhere around there. But the question is, whether Democrats will allow any of that to go towards the president's demand for border -- for the border wall as the president calls for this steel barrier along the southern border, uncertain.

I asked Speaker Nancy Pelosi on multiple occasions over the last several days if she would be open for any funding for the wall. She has not said one or the other. So ultimately this will come down to the leadership, the House and Senate, Democrat and Republican leaders, Jim, as well as the White House, what they can agree to so we may see these public statements, Jim and Poppy, today but at the end of the day this is going to be a negotiation between the White House, between Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, and we've seen how that's gone in the past which is why a lot of people have skepticism heading into this round of talks today -- Jim and Poppy.

HARLOW: Yes. Swimmingly would not be the word to describe how that's gone in the past.

Manu, let's hope it's better this time. Thank you.

Also today the president is responding for the first time after the nation's top intel chiefs contradicted him on major global threats like ISIS, like North Korea. While he is digging in, President Trump also appears to be contradicting himself. OK. Look at this, this is part of a tweet from December of last year, he wrote, quote, "We have defeated ISIS in Syria." This morning, though, the president did not go that far. He wrote, quo, "Caliphate will soon be destroyed."

SCIUTTO: That's different. And on North Korea, in June, 2018, the president tweeted this just after his summit with Kim, "There is no longer a nuclear threat from North Korea." Compare that to this morning when he wrote, "Time will tell what will happen with North Korea." He went on to say there is a decent chance of denuclearization, quite different from saying there's no longer a threat.

Here to discuss, CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr and Max Boot, CNN global affairs analyst and senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Listen, folks, you know, this is not the first time the president has done this. He's done it from the very beginning, taken his own view of the world over that of the intelligence agencies and intelligence chiefs that he appointed. Barbara Starr, you walked the halls of the Pentagon. You speak to

officials there. What is the reaction there when officials see the president deny in effect what they're telling him, for instance, about ISIS still being present in Syria?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: ISIS, North Korea, and the latest this morning, as you guys said a couple of seconds ago, the president going after intelligence community leaders full bore saying that they are extremely passive and naive when it comes to Iran. They are wrong.

If the president of the United States believes his intelligence community is passive, naive and wrong, one of the questions is, why does he keep them. Should he be firing all of them? You know, remember, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis resigned, did not get fired as the president said, resigned because he felt he wasn't being listened to.

[09:05:09] And that's the fundamental question here. Is the intelligence community even being listened to by the president? And can they continue on when they see this kind of language from him.

I think it is very fair to say the intelligence community actually watches Iran very closely around the clock and pretty much knows everything that they are up to. Especially their new weapons, their missile testing, their activities inside of Syria, the militias that they are backing, Hezbollah, the threat that they pose to Israel, one could go on and on including their nuclear program.

On the question of ISIS, you see that fundamental shift, that fundamental contradiction. What the intelligence community is saying is something very precise which is, you know, this is not a win or lose. ISIS has -- still, according to director of National Intelligence, has thousands of fighters out there while the president is saying that the caliphate is disappearing, that we are winning against the caliphate.

I think what the intelligence community is trying to communicate to the president, there's no win or lose, you have to keep working at all of these problems.


HARLOW: Yes. And Max, to you, I mean, you have a new opinion piece out about all of this. Let's just step back for a moment and just listen to some of the stark contrast, the president and director of National Intelligence, Dan Coats. Here we go.




TRUMP: And we're well on our way. You know, we signed an agreement.

COATS: North Korea will seek to retain its WMD capabilities.


HARLOW: It's not just, Max, that, you know, they're contradicting one another and that the president doesn't believe his own intel community and calls them naive, et cetera, this is, as he heads into a second summit with Kim Jong-un, I just wonder the actual risk of that.

MAX BOOT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, there's a huge risk. I mean, this is the most powerful person in the world, Poppy, and he is not listening to his own intelligence community and who knows who he's listening to, probably "FOX & Friends" or Vladimir Putin or some other source of information, and the fact is that he is not acting on the best information available.

Now I had a little bit of hope this morning seeing some of the earlier tweets where he was implicitly conceding that, yes, Kim Jong-un has not actually denuclearized, ISIS has not actually been defeated so I thought hallelujah, welcome to the world of rationality, this is finally something fact-based in President Trump's Twitter feed, but of course then a few minutes later he had to go on and blow it by attacking the intelligence community assessment that Iran is not actually at the moment developing nuclear weapons, and what he wrote was that the intelligence people seem to be extremely passive and naive.

And I just have to laugh at that. This is from a president who has said that he is in love with Kim Jong-un, one of the world's most vicious dictators and who has taken the word of Vladimir Putin that he did not hack the Democratic Party in 2016. So this is the president who's accusing the intelligence community of being passive and naive? I mean, that's a joke. The president is really living in this alternative universe where he believes and he wants to believe and he doesn't care about the facts.

SCIUTTO: Here's the thing. These decisions are not just tweets. They're making policy, right?


SCIUTTO: The president's view of ISIS in Syria has led him to withdraw troops from Syria.

Barbara, I wonder, because Mitch McConnell, this is very unusual for him, is publicly disagreeing with the president on Syria saying that U.S. troops need to stay there. From your perch at the Pentagon, is there any sign that that withdrawal of troops is changing at this point?

STARR: Well, I think it is fair to say the Pentagon would like to take a more nuanced approach, more analytical approach basically. You know, it's not so simple as slow it down but they want to take this piece by piece and do everything they can to minimize risk because I think that one of the common threads we're going to see in all of these scenarios, in all of these geographic areas is the president of the United States makes foreign policy and security policy by tweet, America's adversaries watch that and they calculate their next moves and right now ISIS, the Taliban, the Iranians, the Syrians, are they calculating -- the North Koreans, are they calculating that maybe all they have to do is wait Trump out? He seems pretty amenable to all of them. Maybe they just wait him out. It's a real concern.

SCIUTTO: Yes. No question. And based on experience, right, the tweets seem to try policy more than Mitch McConnell or the intelligence agencies.

Barbara Starr, Max Boot, thanks very much.

Also this morning, more than 200 million people across the U.S. -- that's a lot of Americans, about two-thirds -- are facing freezing temperatures.

[09:10:03] In Chicago, more than 24 hours straight of subzero temperatures. We're talking about instant frostbite in large areas of the Midwest and even my colleague here from Minnesota is saying this is cold.


HARLOW: I mean, when New Yorkers tell me it's cold I tell them it is negative 66, folks, that's what it feels like this morning in Minnesota. In Michigan, state offices are closed. North Dakota has a message for residents, stay off the roads.

Our Ryan Young is in Chicago.

Ryan, I have been there on these assignments, thank you for doing this, my friend. Tell us what it's like.


RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, at this point, I think it started to blow up my ear but, you know, there are those days you question how much you love your job, I absolutely love my job at this point, which you have to talk about just how cold it is. You can feel it in your lungs, your toes, your feet. My photographer's hands are almost rock solid because he's been holding his camera all morning long.

But as we talk about just how cold it is, this is -- we're talking about some deadly potential temperatures here. Look out of the river. This is the iconic Chicago River. It is frozen over. And then when you look at the big Lake Michigan, I think we have that shot up as well. You can just see the steam rising from this. All morning long people as they have been walking by, they says they've never experienced temperatures like this. When you feel it on your skin it feels like needles hitting the front of your face.


YOUNG (voice-over): Nearly three quarters of the U.S. bracing for bitter cold.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Like I'm going into a freezer.

YOUNG: Digging out as life-threatening low temperatures and ferocious winds grip the Midwest.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's hard to take a breath in. It's affecting my lungs a little bit.

YOUNG: In Wisconsin, a 55-year-old man found frozen in his garage after authorities say he apparently collapsed while shoveling snow.

Slippery roads making travel a nightmare. This dash cam video capturing the treacherous driving conditions in Minnesota where police say 193 crashes were reported on Tuesday.

The windchill at the Benson, Minnesota, airport clocking in at 62 degrees below zero.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's really, really dangerous out right now.

YOUNG: This 13-vehicle pileup in Michigan bringing the highway to a standstill for hours.

SGT. ERIC WESTVEER, OTTAWA COUNTY SHERIFF: Slow down and leave space between you and the vehicle in front of you and be prepared for whiteout conditions.

YOUNG: In Illinois, giant patches of ice blanketing the Chicago River. Residents insisting they're ready for the deep freeze.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm dressed in layers, so have two pairs of pants on.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As long as I bundle up, have a hat, have a coat, I think I'll be fine.

YOUNG: Dangerously cold air predicted to make temperatures here feel like 50 below.

GOV. J.B. PRITZKER (D), ILLINOIS: These conditions are and can be life-threatening. Even short periods of exposure to this type of weather can be dangerous.

YOUNG: Winds also whipping in North Dakota where it's expected to be negative 20 degrees. Across the nation, airlines cancelling thousands of flights because of the deep freeze.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They are putting the de-icer on and the de-icer froze on the plane.

YOUNG: And for Amtrak customers, all Chicago trains suspended. The flames on these tracks intentional. Crews setting them on fire to keep commuter trains going.

The weather so cold the United States Postal Service suspending deliveries in multiple states across the country.


HARLOW: Gee. All right. We let Ryan Young go inside because we care about him.

SCIUTTO: That's the cold. Yes.

HARLOW: Thank you, Ryan, for that.

Our meteorologist Jennifer Gray is tracking the polar vortex. Wow. How long is the Midwest in store for this?

JENNIFER GRAY, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Well, temperatures will finally rebound. I say rebound, get above zero by tomorrow afternoon but it's going to be cold all the way through much of the weekend. We really start to warm up by the time we get into Sunday and Monday but until then it is going to be bitterly cold across this area.

Fifty-one below zero is what it feels like in Chicago right now. Minneapolis feeling like 50 below. International falls 54. Even Indianapolis feeling like 34 below zero. And then as we go through the day today temperatures are really not going to warm up. We stay well below zero as far as that feels-like temperature, the windchill, 40 below in Chicago by this afternoon. Marquette 24 below. Cleveland 25 below by 5:00 p.m.

And then tomorrow morning we are still in the same boat with temperatures well, well below zero not to mention below freezing. By the time we get into Thursday afternoon, New York City, though, only feeling like two degrees by tomorrow morning will definitely feel below zero as well. So it does spread into the east and this is very far-reaching so we can get frostbite setting in only 10 minutes with the windchill 30 below. 50 below it only takes five minutes, guys, for that exposed skin to get frostbite.

SCIUTTO: Goodness gracious. When I went to the North Pole, that's what the temperature was there.

HARLOW: Was it really?

SCIUTTO: Yes. It was minus 50 or something.

HARLOW: Oh my god.

SCIUTTO: So now it's happening on the streets of Chicago. That's incredible.


SCIUTTO: Jennifer Gray, thanks very much.

Right now, the U.S. welcomes China's top trade negotiators for high- stakes talks but will new charges against China's tech giant Huawei backfire on those negotiations


And the other major talks today, Congress working to avert another government shutdown, how will this time be different? We're talking to one of the lawmakers who will be in that meeting.

HARLOW: Plus, Howard Schultz facing intense Democratic backlash over his potential 2020 run. I sat down with him and asked what he has to say to all of those critics.


HOWARD SCHULTZ, FORMER STARBUCKS CEO: People are worried and I understand that potentially, this could end up re-electing Donald Trump. I don't believe that.


SCIUTTO: Right now, top negotiators from both the U.S. and China are beginning a critical round of high level trade talks in Washington. But those talks are difficult and the clock is ticking, only 31 days until President Trump imposes 25 percent tariffs, new tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods.

This is just moments ago --

[09:20:00] HARLOW: Yes --

SCIUTTO: In those discussions.

HARLOW: Yes, you have the Treasury Secretary there, also next to him, you have Larry Kudlow, et cetera, Wilbur Ross right there, the Commerce Secretary, and to make the talks even more complicated, the uncertainty of the fate of the Chinese tech giant Huawei and its CFO Meng Wanzhou.

The Trump administration is now charging the company with nearly two dozen crimes, including violating U.S. sanctions with Iran and stealing trade secrets. Christine Romans; our chief business correspondent is here as well as Stephen Moore; the former Trump economic adviser and author of "Trumponomics".

Good morning to you both. Romans, I am super interested in your take on this, because I think your read is that the administration has been sort of dialing back expectations here about 30 days out.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN SENIOR BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: You know, I would say there are carefully kind of underplaying expectations, and I'll give you a perfect example. The Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross last week on "Cnbc" very clearly said, we are miles and miles away from a deal.

With 31 days to go, that's quite a statement to make. He also made a point, and others publicly and privately have made this point too. There are people on the negotiating team there for the Americans who don't believe the Chinese will keep their word on any kind of deal. You heard Secretary Ross talk about compliance. They have to have an iron-clad agreement that China does what it says it will do. And remember, we have a long list of demands here, the United States does, and it's going to hurt. I mean, those demands would hurt for China to implement.

It has an economy that is directed by the state. Its national security, economic security and future strategy is all one big state determined goal, and the United States is basically saying, we don't want you to do like that anymore. We want to be able to have, you know, American companies own themselves. We want to able to have intellectual property protections, we want all these things that are just not in the Chinese playing book.

So there's --


ROMANS: A long road here.

SCIUTTO: And there are reasonable demands. I mean, China imposes rules that we don't impose on them, but see, as Christine was saying, I've been told the same thing that administration officials worry that if China makes commitments for instance to buy more U.S. goods, they won't actually do it if they make regulatory commitments, they won't actually do it.

So how do you solve that problem at this point, particularly when you now have a senior Chinese technology executive who is being extradited to the U.S., and that is a central concern for the Chinese as well.

STEPHEN MOORE, ECONOMIST: Well, Jim, you set up the segment very well when you called these talks critical, they are critical and difficult, and they are difficult too. And you know, we have seen more and more bad behavior even recently from China in terms of some of the industrial espionage that's going on.

This country has become a bad actor. You know, I think that -- I agree with everything Christine said except for one thing, Christine, where you said, you know, that we're making these demands that our top, you know, might not be in China's interest.

Actually, as I see it, you know, if China would lower their tariffs and play by the rules, and open up their markets to more American goods, I think it would be a win-win for both countries. Of course, I don't think Beijing sees that --


MOORE: That way because they have a very mercantilist system. I will say this, I think the thing that makes these so critical is that, you know, this is the big enchilada when it comes to the economy and its performance over the next two years.

Donald Trump will move forward with these tariffs of 25 percent --

HARLOW: Yes --

MOORE: When does that start, sometime in the Spring.

HARLOW: Thirty one days --

MOORE: If he does -- if he does not have that deal.

HARLOW: Hold on --

MOORE: And that will hurt both of us, that will hurt both of us.

HARLOW: Yes --

MOORE: Yes --

HARLOW: It will hurt us, too, Christine --

MOORE: Yes, sure --

HARLOW: I mean, just look at the numbers out of Caterpillar this week, the --

ROMANS: Yes --

HARLOW: Worst performance for Caterpillar, a Dow component, a huge indicator of the economy overall right in the heartland of America --

ROMANS: Yes --

HARLOW: Worst performance in a decade, why? Because of China's lowered demand. Yes, our economy --

ROMANS: Yes --

HARLOW: Is weaker, but the tariffs, the trade war is hurting. If he goes ahead with this --

ROMANS: And there have been a --

HARLOW: Doesn't it just hurt U.S. companies more?

ROMANS: There's been half a dozen other companies that have said the same thing, you know, slowing demand from China is a problem and the trade war is also a problem. You know, I think what could happen here is, you could have the Chinese step forward and say we're going to buy a whole boat load literally and figuratively, of soybeans and tractors and chickens and --


ROMANS: President Trump is just enamored with this idea that the deficit, the trade deficit is a sign of losing, and he wants to narrow that deficit. So the Chinese could step forward and try to make some tweaks around the edges and some big purchases.

But what Robert Lighthizer and what others in this administration want to see are structural changes, and I think you're going to hear a lot over the next couple of days about structural changes in the way China does business, not necessarily just big purchases --


ROMANS: Of soybeans and tractors.

MOORE: You know, Christine, when I spoke --

SCIUTTO: Stephen, just -- I just want to ask you an important --

MOORE: Yes --

SCIUTTO: Point here. The president --

MOORE: It's OK --

SCIUTTO: Has and to the ire of senior Justice Department officials, in the past seemingly raising the idea of going soft on Huawei or even this extradition as part of the talks, connecting it to the talks. From the president's point of view --

MOORE: Wait, I'm sorry, going soft --

SCIUTTO: Is that --

MOORE: Sorry?

SCIUTTO: A bargaining chip, is that --

MOORE: Say that again?

[09:25:00] SCIUTTO: Is that a bargaining chip though, from the --

MOORE: No soft --

SCIUTTO: President's view, this prosecution?

MOORE: Going soft on what? I didn't quite hear you.

SCIUTTO: On the extradition of Meng, the Huawei chief --

MOORE: All right --

SCIUTTO: Technology officer. Is --

MOORE: Well, this seems --

SCIUTTO: In the president's view, is that a bargaining chip in these talks?

MOORE: It might be. Look, I think --


MOORE: This is so critical to helping both our economies perform. I mean, people in the United States don't really quite -- the media hasn't really covered how damaging these tariffs at 10 percent have already been. I mean, they have warehouses, they have docks, they have factories full of, you know, products that they can't sell because of a 10 percent tariff.

This would do --


MOORE: Significant damage if it went to 25 percent --

SCIUTTO: But are you saying the president --

MOORE: It's almost a game of --

SCIUTTO: To be clear, are you saying the president --

MOORE: To begin --


SCIUTTO: Would trade a Department of Justice prosecution against what the U.S. sees as a --

MOORE: I don't know the answer to that --

SCIUTTO: Technology, national security threat?

MOORE: I really don't know the answer to that, but I do know this. I mean, look, the White House, when you were talking earlier about China not keeping its word and lying and cheating, you know, this is the frustration when I've talked to some of those officials that are in that room this morning.

They -- this is their fundamental frustration. Is that they feel like that they've got to deal with China, and then the next day, they do --

HARLOW: Compliance --

MOORE: The exact opposite --


MOORE: Thing. Which means what Trump needs to have here is what Reagan used to talk about when he used to, you know, negotiate against the Soviets. Trust, but verify.


MOORE: You've got to get verification that they're actually living by the deal.

HARLOW: Right.

SCIUTTO: Christine, Stephen, thanks very much as always.

MOORE: Thank you.

SCIUTTO: New talks, same old problem.

HARLOW: Yes --

SCIUTTO: How will this round of shutdown negotiations be different from the last one which was, what, a few days ago?

HARLOW: Yes --

SCIUTTO: We're going to talk to one of the lawmakers who is trying to hash out a deal.

HARLOW: And we are moments away from the opening bell on Wall Street. The Dow set to jump there. Look at futures up almost 300 points, investors watching two things today, of course, as we just mentioned. The trade talks between the U.S. and China and the Federal Reserve meeting on interest rates.