Return to Transcripts main page


Trump Insults Intel Chiefs; Trump Draws Line as Talks Begin; Protests Erupt in Venezuela; Schultz Possible Run for President; Interview Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL). Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired January 30, 2019 - 13:00   ET


[13:00:00] CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: The arrest in Canada at the U.S. request of Huawei's CFO and an indictment unsealed against the company this week. Certain, John, the stakes in this negotiation are very high.

JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: See you back here tomorrow.

Brianna Keilar starts right now.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Brianna Keilar, live from CNN's Washington headquarters.

Underway right now, he can't seem to criticize Vladimir Putin, but the president able to insult America's intelligence chiefs after they contradict him.

And as the U.S. heads for a potential shutdown sequel, the president draws a line in the sand as lawmakers begin negotiation.

Plus, Senator Kamala Harris already bending, just 24 hours after vowing to eliminate private health insurance.

And, who came up with the locker room talk line? Why is Jared Kushner's father behind one of the most loathsome crimes? Deep thoughts with Chris Christie.

But up first, go back to school. That is the advice from President Trump to the nation's intelligence leaders. The president is firing back after the intel chiefs delivered a sobering assessment of global threat facing the U.S. One that contradicted the president's views.

Ad he responded by rebuking his own advisers after disputing their assessments on ISIS, North Korea and other issues, and accusing them of underestimating Iran. The president tweeted this. He said, the intelligence people seem to be extremely passive and naive when it comes to the dangers of Iran. They are wrong. Be careful of Iran. Perhaps intelligence should go back to school.

CNN's senior White House correspondent Pamela Brown is here with us.

And, Pamela, the contradictions between what the intel officials were saying and the president's views, they're striking. They are just completely opposed to each other. Is he sticking with his version and just ignoring the experts?

PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's what appears to be happening here, Brianna. It's worth noting that these experts are people that the president nominated to fulfill their roles. Gina Haspel, head of the CIA, Dan Coats, head of DNI. And the president is briefed on the same intelligence that these officials are working off of to provide this national security assessment that they gave to Congress that is at odds with what the president has espoused publicly when it comes to Iran, when it comes to North Korea, when it comes to ISIS.

So the president is pushing back in a series of tweets today. As you pointed out, it's worth repeating, saying that they are naive, that they are passive and even suggesting they go back to school.

Now, one of the starkest contrasts is, of course, what Dan Coats said about Iran and Gina Haspel, saying that it doesn't appear Iran is currently making a bomb, even after President Trump announced withdrawing from the Iran deal. Clearly, the president didn't like that because in his tweets earlier today he said that Iran is still very much a source of potential conflict and danger.

And then, of course, there is North Korea. You heard the intel officials say that they have taken steps at odds with denuclearization. You've heard this administration, though, the president specifically, expressed more confidence that North Korea is no longer a threat in terms of nuclear weapons, that they haven't tested anything, which is true. However, it is clear from the intel officials that they want to maintain their stockpile as a source of survival. The president also knocking his intel chief in a series of tweets about that, saying that the relationship has greatly improved.

And then, of course, there is ISIS, Brianna. The president tweeting about that, saying that the caliphate will soon be destroyed. Contrast that with what his intel chiefs said yesterday, that there are thousands of fighters in Syria and Iraq that still want to do harm to the United States. So it's really striking to see this -- the contrast and how the president is handling this in a series of tweets.

Of course, Brianna, it is not the first time that President Trump has gone after intelligence officials, most famously when it comes to Russian meddling in the 2016 election.


KEILAR: Yes, which they say happened very clearly.


KEILAR: Pamela Brown at the White House, thank you.

Meanwhile, negotiations are underway on Capitol Hill right now as lawmakers try to avoid yet another shutdown. As it stands, it's really unclear exactly what President Trump is going to accept in terms of a deal, but he did offer this on Twitter this morning. If the committee of Republicans and Democrats now meeting on border security is not discussing or contemplating a wall or physical barrier, they are wasting their time.

We have CNN political analyst and "Politico" congressional reporter Rachael Bade with us live from Capitol Hill.

And, Rachael, we're just 16 days away until part of the government, the one -- the big part that was just shut down -- runs out of funding yet again. So based on this tweet, it really sounds like we're kind of at square one here. No wall, no government funding. Is the wall on the table, at least for some of the Democrats in these negotiations?

[13:05:05] RACHAEL BADE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, Democrats have really softened their rhetoric when it comes to the wall. They're not saying right now that it's immoral. We haven't heard Pelosi use that word in a couple of days.

But, make no mistake here, Democrats are not feeling any pressure right now to give the president this $5 billion worth of wall money and they're very unlikely to do so. In fact, I would say point blank that they're not going to.

Look, this committee that is meeting today to try to avert another government shutdown, they could very well come to a deal, but it's not a deal the president is going to like and it's going to be much more narrow from what I hear from both parties. You know, the president said when he reopened the government, Brianna, that he wanted both sides to work on some sort of deal that would address the situation of dreamers and give him this $5 billion in border wall money. But Democrats are saying they don't want to address DACA and the dreamer situation at all right now. And if they don't get that, then they're not going to give very much on the border wall, if anything.

KEILAR: No, that's a very good point. They would want something huge for that if they even go for it, which they've been reticent to do.

BADE: Right.

KEILAR: And at the same time, Rachael, you're covering this, lawmakers are working on ways to prevent another shutdown from happening.

BADE: That's right. And I think a very narrow deal is possible. You have appropriators in one room. Appropriators have sort of a reputation for, you know, compromising and trying to come to the middle. But we're talking here maybe a couple hundred million for border wall reconstruction, maybe a tiny bit of new wall, not $5 billion.

And this is going to put the president in a pickle, right? He has said he was hoping these three weeks would, you know, pressure lawmakers into coming up with some sort of deal. But the reality is, on Capitol Hill, there is no appetite for another shutdown. And so that takes that emphasis off the table in that sort of edge, that cliff off the table because Republicans, they don't want to do this and they're going to tell the president no if he tries to go for another shutdown. It could lead potentially to an emergency declaration by the president. And we are hearing from Republicans up here that he is very much considering that and leaning toward it. And that's what we might see happen on February 15th.

KEILAR: Wow, we will wait and see. And legal challenges to follow no doubt if he does do that.

Rachael Bade on The Hill for us, thank you.

BADE: Thank you.

KEILAR: President Trump spoke directly with Venezuela's opposition leader and self-declared acting president, Juan Guaido, for the first time today to offer continued support from the White House and also to reinforce Washington's position that Guaido is the country's rightful leader.

In the meantime, Guaido's supporters are taking to the street again today to protest against Dictator Nicolas Maduro. President Trump tweeted that Maduro is ready to negotiate after the U.S. placed new sanctions on Venezuela. But Guaido says he's not interested in negotiating on Maduro's terms.

CNN's Nick Paton Walsh is in nearby Colombia.

And, Nick, Guaido is banned from traveling, his bank accounts have been frozen by the supreme court. What -- what is next and what effect is this U.S. position having on the internal politics in Venezuela?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Brianna, I think it's important to kind of recognize there are sort of two different realities here. There's the one which Washington is speaking of, along with the opposition to the Maduro government, about how Juan Guaido is the interim president. He's self-declared, remember? He swore himself in, in front of a protest crowd saying that much legislation in Venezuela recognizes him as a legitimate option.

What they're saying, and the actions they're doing to make sure they can get a hold of some of the sanctioned and frozen bank accounts the Venezuelan government that the U.S. wants to give the money from to the opposition, there's that discussion happening outside, and all of the international recognition of Juan Guaido, and there's what's happening inside Venezuela itself, where Juan Guaido is, but his bank accounts are frozen and he can't travel out of the country. He also really can't get his hands on the millions if not possibly billions the U.S. would like to see him get a hold of to put humanitarian aid into practice.

That's a complicated task and it's key, though, because you're hearing and seeing now protests inside the country, on the streets today. They weren't that big. They weren't as big as the ones last week that saw him swear himself in. And they possibly will give those around Maduro, who are wondering how this is going to develop, particularly the military and the elites, pause to think actually let's see how the weekend's process plays out.

It's all about the money, really. When that runs out, Nicolas Maduro's in peril. The U.S. moving fast to strip that down and make petrol perhaps harder to come by in the country. But we're going to have to see how this weekend's protests play out really. Today, what we've seen so far, I don't think is going to move the dial a lot.


KEILAR: All right, very interesting.

Nick Paton Walsh in Colombia. We appreciate that report.

CNN political commentator and host of "Smerconish" here on CNN, Michael Smerconish, with us now.

I want to talk to you, Michael, first about one of the bit stories we're covering today which is that the president has been questioning really the intelligence of his intelligence officials, which it isn't exactly new, right? He doesn't believe them about Russian meddling in the 2016 election. He does say publicly that U.S. intelligence is naive. It needs to, quote, as he put it today, go back to school.

[13:10:04] What do you think about this?

MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think you're right that the seeds were sown in the Russian imbroglio when he didn't buy into that intelligence, arguably because it suits his interests not to. That's probably where the base of this lies.

But I think we've been awfully lucky so far. This is awfully dangerous stuff. What would we do in the case of a national emergency where the president is telling us one thing and the intelligence sources are telling us something else? Because it used to be that these political differences, they ended at the water's edge. And we would unite as Americans against a common foe.

I worry -- you were just talking, for example, about Venezuela. What if the president wants to do something in Venezuela that's not justified by the intel according to our intel chiefs. So hopefully they get on the same page soon. Otherwise, I think it could lead to something really perilous.

KEILAR: I want to ask you about something that's playing out right now between billionaires and some Democratic lawmakers who want Medicare for all. Senator Kamala Harris, Senator Bernie Sanders, they support Medicare for all. Michael Bloomberg and former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz do not. Both are considering a run for president, as you know.

What do you make of these potentially billionaire candidates going head to head with Democrats on this issue?

SMERCONISH: I like the influence because without them there you'd have politicians saying, here's what we should do and perhaps not enough explanation as to how you pay for it. So, in this case, I mean you can say what you will about both Bloomberg and Howard Schultz, but they know how to read a ledger. They know how to build a business. And I personally like someone saying, OK, this sounds terrific, but how are we going to make it happen?

KEILAR: What do you think about all of this opposition to Howard Schultz? I've heard party Democrats, even in Washington state, we had one on this week saying, look, this isn't someone who's ever even really shown an interest in the party or trying to do something on other levels. He's just all of a sudden trying to throw his hat into the ring in the presidential race. What do you make of just what this -- he's created such a backlash. What do you make of it?

SMERCONISH: I'm dumbfounded by it.

KEILAR: Really?

SMERCONISH: Here's a guy who tweets and then says, I love America, and I want to run for president, I think, as a centrist independent. Why aren't we thanking him? Why aren't we saying, wow. The fact that you would undertake a challenge like that and throw your hat in the ring -- we don't know if we're for or against you -- but I salute anybody, as Theodore Roosevelt said, who is willing to get in the arena.

Here's a guy with a legitimate, Horatio Alger story. He's a legitimate billionaire. I don't know if we can say that about the others who are self-professed. He's got some interesting ideas. And a plurality of Americans. This is the most important part. Self-identified the way that he has described himself.

I need to repeat and remind folks that more individuals eligible to vote in 2016 sat it out than voted for Donald Trump or for Hillary Clinton. So, before you tell me all this spoiler business, take up the beef with those who didn't get off their butt and get out and vote in the last cycle.

KEILAR: Well, those are fighting words, Michael Smerconish.

And -- and you can get --

SMERCONISH: And, listen, Brianna -- Brianna, I should say -- I should say, I don't know Howard Schultz. I've not interviewed Howard Schultz. I'm not here to carry his water, but I'm really appalled by the blowback against someone willing to put some skin in the game and trying to make the situation better.

KEILAR: Yes, it's an interesting point, Michael. I know that you'll be talking about this and many other things on Saturday on your show "Smerconish," which we will definitely tune in for. That will be 9:00 a.m. on Saturday here on CNN.

SMERCONISH: Thank you.

KEILAR: Thanks, Michael.


KEILAR: Senator Kamala Harris already bending on her vow to eliminate private insurance just 24 hours after backing Medicare for all.

Plus, Chris Christie's fascinating story about watching the "Access Hollywood" tape with President Trump before the story broke.

And the secret Vladimir Putin chats. We're now learning who was not in the room when he met with President Trump.


[13:18:38] KEILAR: Democratic Presidential Candidate Kamala Harris is sticking by her support for Medicare for all, but she does say that she's flexible on whether to eliminate private insurance to achieve that goal as she advocated during a CNN town hall on Monday night. Now, Harris says that she's open to more moderate plans to achieve the goal of health care for everyone.

We have Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a Democrat from Florida, former chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee with us.

REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ (D), FLORIDA: Good to be with you, Brianna.

KEILAR: And, congresswoman, it's so great to have you here.

SCHULTZ: Thank you.

KEILAR: And as you're seeing so many of these candidates from your party talking about Medicare for all, it's a position that was really popularized by Bernie Sanders in the last cycle, they're making these promises. But watching Senator Harris and her campaign now broadening out her openness to health care reform that doesn't necessarily eliminate private insurance companies, do you worry that this is a sign that Democrats might be opening themselves up to some really big promises that they can't realistically keep?

SCHULTZ: No. On the contrary, I think you'll see, number one, we'll have a historic number of candidates who will compete for the Democratic nomination to get rid of, you know, the most erratic prevaricator that we've ever had in the White House. And you'll see each and every one of them be for this litmus test, and that is that every one of them will be for making sure that we can expand access to quality, affordable health care to as many people as we can. Everyone, if that's possible. And you'll see, I think, different candidates take the position that there are multiple pathways to getting there and that we need to do that as soon as and as comprehensively as possible.

[13:20:22] And you'll also see much -- equally as importantly, them defend the Affordable Care Act and the 20 million plus individuals in America who have quality, affordable health care now that didn't before and prevent Donald Trump from taking that away from them.

KEILAR: Promising more -- promising access to more affordable health care is one thing. Promising Medicare for all and promising to get rid of private in insurers, which so much of the system is currently based on, is another thing. Are they overpromising by talking about a change that is that large, that seems very difficult to achieve?

SCHULTZ: See, I think we have to look past the surface-level name for it. The moniker of what you call the concept, which we are all fully embracing, is that we -- health care is a right and should not be treated as a privilege that is only available to those who can afford it. That is what Democrats are for. That's what you'll see every Democratic presidential candidate be for. And, like you would expect, they will take different approaches to getting there.

But, you know, the black and white choice of, are you or are you not for Medicare for all, we are all for, and that's the -- that's the litmus test that there should be that I think every one of them will meet. We are all for making sure that everyone in America can get access to quality, affordable health care and we need to all move forward together to ensure that that happens.

KEILAR: I want to talk to you about Howard Schultz. As you know, he's contemplating a run for the presidency as an independent.


KEILAR: He's gotten so much backlash from people in your party. And I was just talking to Michael Smerconish. Admittedly he's to the right of you. But he said he doesn't understand why someone who has such a good story from, you know, growing up in low-income housing and becomes a legitimate billionaire and now he's talking about throwing his hat into the arena, why he is getting so much blowback.

SCHULTZ: Because the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. We've watched this movie before. In 2000, when Ralph Nader won, he got 92,000 votes in the state of Florida. And that election came down to 537 votes in my state because Ralph Nader, a variety of other reasons, too, but essentially if Ralph Nader hadn't run, Al Gore would have been president.

So as much respect as some of us might have for Howard Schultz and his accomplishments, and he's been a good Democrat for many years, you know, for him to suggest that the Democratic Party is far too left for him and he needs to, you know, shake some sense into us and run for president as an independent really shows that he doesn't quite grasp the depth of the impact that that decision would have on our ability to defeat Donald Trump. It would be incredibly damaging.

KEILAR: The Democratic Party apparatus, it really coalesced around Hillary Clinton last time. You saw people who were very much a part of the establishment sort of waiting in the wings for her campaign. And then we saw -- you yourself, you were accused, and hacked e-mails that were obtained by Russia, which were then released, showed with good reason that that had occurred. That you and the DNC had been favoring Hillary Clinton, certainly in the end of the primary race, even if at the very least it was trying to speed up a foregone conclusion for Hillary Clinton.

Bernie Sanders looked at that. He said, oh, the system is rigged. And he was saying that even before that happened. I wonder, if you think maybe that's part of the reason why candidates like Howard Schultz look at this and they say, I don't really want to be a part of that system. That doesn't seem like something that I can participate in and that will be fair to me.

SCHULTZ: Oh, on the contrary. I mean, Brianna, we're about to have the -- a record number of candidates decide to run for our party's nomination. And I am absolutely confident, as are Democrats all across this country, that we will put forward and our process will allow us to put forward the best nominee that can -- we can put up to go toe to toe with Donald Trump, who is destroying this country, who is ignoring the rule of law, who is lying and who has brought the country to its knees through an irresponsible government shutdown and may do so again.

We have a lot at stake and Democrats understand that. And I think you'll find the Democratic Party, at the end of the primary nominating contest, that has never been more unified behind our eventual nominee.

KEILAR: You were the head of the DNC when it did become apparent in May of 2016 that the DNC had been hacked. It was about a month later where the -- you had a secure -- a company come in and take a look at really what did that mean? Who had done it? And they determined that it was Russian hackers. And that was out there publically, that that's who was responsible for this.

SCHULTZ: Right. That's right.

[13:25:15] KEILAR: So when you have read this indictment of Roger Stone where it alleges that he was seeking e-mails damaging to Hillary Clinton, even after WikiLeaks dumped those DNC e-mails that were publically known to have been obtained by the Russians, what do you make of --

SCHULTZ: Stolen. Let's use -- let's call it what it is, stolen.

KEILAR: Yes, let's say stolen. Yes, hacked and stolen and then published.

What do you make of people around the president saying -- people like Roger Stone, these are just processed crimes. They're lying. This isn't collusion. What do you make of that?

SCHULTZ: You know, what I make of it is that Roger Stone, and all of the other indicted likely criminals that Robert Mueller has accused of wrongdoing are doing what folks in that category do. They're trying to save their own skin, save the president's skin. I mean, we're talking about a situation here where Roger Stone absolutely knew that Russia had stolen information from the DNC and he was a part of a scheme to -- coordinating with a senior Trump campaign official directed by someone higher than that to get access to that stolen information that was stolen by Vladimir Putin and use it to help elect Donald Trump president of the United States.

And they are going to do everything they can, Roger Stone in particular, to lie, cheat and prevent us from getting justice and making sure that the most important thing occurs, and that is that they are brought to justice and that this never happens again in the United States of America. That no foreign enemy state can be allowed to interfere with our elections. That's what this is all about. And I'm on the Oversight Committee, Brianna, now. And I'm going to be

working with Chairman Cummings and my colleagues to both help get to the bottom of how this all happened so we can take steps to prevent it from ever happening again.

KEILAR: All right, Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, thanks so much for being with us today. We really appreciate it.

SCHULTZ: My pleasure. Thank you.

KEILAR: Coming up, it was an infamous moment from the 2016 campaign, and now Chris Christie is revealing what it was like to watch the "Access Hollywood" tape for the first time while Donald Trump was there in the room watching it with him.

Plus, the president touted a groundbreaking in Wisconsin as evidence that manufacturing jobs were coming back to the U.S., but today the company may be reversing course.