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CNNI - State of America; The State of the Union: A Historic Speech; Trump Defends Shutting Down Government over Border Talks. Aired 5-5:30p ET

Aired February 1, 2019 - 17:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


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KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: It's required by the American Constitution, it's one of biggest moments of the year for a president and this year it almost didn't happen.

This is the STATE OF AMERICA.

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Speaker, the President of the United States.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Tonight, I call upon all of us to set aside our differences.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CALIF.), HOUSE SPEAKER: There's not going to be any wall money in the legislation. Ports of entry, we might need more ports of entry and some roads. That's part of the negotiation.

TRUMP: If there's no wall it doesn't work. She's just playing games.

SEN. JOHN KENNEDY (R), LOUISIANA: It's time for us to have an honest discussion about our immigration system.

TRUMP: I really think it's going to be a speech that's going to cover a lot of territory but part of it is going to be unity.

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BOLDUAN: Hello, everyone, I'm Kate Bolduan in New York. To our viewers watching around the world, this is STATE OF AMERICA.

Article II, Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution states that, "The president shall, from time to time, give to the Congress information of the state of the union and recommendation to their consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient."

And just like that, the time-honored annual tradition in Washington was born, the State of the Union address.

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Speaker, the President of the United States.

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BOLDUAN: It actually wasn't even officially called the State of the Union until after World War II and it often wasn't even a speech to Congress. Sometimes it was just in writing.

But now it's a major primetime television event with all the pomp and circumstance, with all three branches of government under one roof for one of the most important speeches of year.

And first and foremost, one of the jobs of the speech is to finish this simple sentence.

"The State of the Union is ... "

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GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The state of our union is strong.

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The state of our union is strong.

BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The state of our union is strong.

JIMMY CARTER, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The state of our union is sound.

GERALD FORD, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The state of the union is not good.

The state of our union is better but still not good enough.

TRUMP: The state of our union is strong.

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BOLDUAN: And after that assessment, almost every president takes the opportunity to tout their successes, set their agenda and also take on their critics. Bill Clinton made this promise in his '96 address.

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CLINTON: The era of big government is over.

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BOLDUAN: After that, he signed a Balanced Budget Act and balanced the four last budgets of his administration, all while working with a Republican House -- I know, unheard of these days. George W. Bush, speaking four months after the September 11th attacks,

he coined a phrase in his State of the Union address that helped define his entire presidency.

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BUSH: States like these and their terrorist allies constitute an axis of evil.

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BOLDUAN: One year later, American --

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BOLDUAN: -- troops invaded Iraq.

In another State of the Union moment, Barack Obama took on the Supreme Court while the justices of the Supreme Court were seated directly in front of him.

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OBAMA: With all due deference to separation of powers, last week the Supreme Court reversed a century of law that I believe will open the floodgates for special interests, including foreign corporations to spend without limit in our elections.

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BOLDUAN: I don't know if you saw that on the left hand of your screen. That was Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito there, saying not true to the President of the United States in full view of millions of Americans that were watching this.

Last year, almost 46 million Americans watched Donald Trump's first State of the Union. That is a lot. To put it in perspective, though, 100 million people watched the Super Bowl, the American pro football championship, last year.

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TRUMP: We have gone forward with a clear vision and a righteous mission to make America great again for all Americans.

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BOLDUAN: But this year, as with everything, broke with tradition. It almost didn't happen because of the government shutdown. It was on the books for January 29th. And while Trump was prepared to give it, deliver it, rules dictate he has to be invited by the Speaker of the House. That's now Democrat Nancy Pelosi and she said, not so fast.

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BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: It was as if the Speaker of the House was speaking Trump's language by making this about television because essentially what is on the line for the president is his show is being canceled. His annual show is being canceled.

That is where we are. He wants to go on with the show. She's probably not going let him.

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BOLDUAN: And in a very un-Trump like move, the president eventually caved.

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TRUMP: The State of the Union speech has been canceled by Nancy Pelosi because she doesn't want to hear the truth.

PELOSI: Thank you for recognizing that it's inappropriate to have a State of the Union address for people working hard, very hard, protecting all of us in that room and not getting paid for it.

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BOLDUAN: And while they haven't made any progress on a deal to keep the government open long-term, they did agree to reopen for three weeks. And so the big date, the State of the Union date, is back on.

So what is the country likely to hear about the State of the Union this time around?

Does the president have a plan to stop this constant cycle of government shutdowns?

Does he have a final decision on when and how troops will be leaving Syria, as he's previously indicated?

And what then does he think about Afghanistan?

That's just to name a few of the topics he could hit on. We don't know, of course. But I do recall this appeal that came from the president from his last address.

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TRUMP: Tonight, I call upon all of us to set aside our differences, to seek out common ground and to summon the unity we need to deliver for the people.

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BOLDUAN: With the government about to shut down for the second time just days after the longest shutdown in history ended, I think we all know how well that one went over.

Did the president not mean what he said in that last State of the Union? Was no one listening?

Maybe both. There's always next year, I guess. And by next year I mean we are actually talking Tuesday night.

So coming up for us, how much good or how much damage can a president do with one big speech like this?

We'll look back and look ahead at the stakes for the president's big State of the Union address. The panel is here next.

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BOLDUAN: President Trump will command the attention of the entire federal government and much of the nation during his State of the Union address next week.

Will he persuade any Democrats to fund his border wall?

Will he reassure his base that he's not giving in on the central campaign promise?

Both?

That's impossible.

The panel tonight: Marc Short is here, CNN political commentator and former director of legislative affairs for President Trump; Tim Naftali is a CNN presidential historian and former director of the Nixon Presidential Library; Catherine Rampell is a CNN political commentator, "The Washington Post" columnist; and Evan Siegfried is a Republican strategist and author of "GOP GPS."

It is great to have you all here. I get all warm and fuzzy talking about the State of the Union. It's such a moment. Let us see what it brings.

Tim, looking back, looking ahead, what does the State of the Union address mean, do for a president?

TIM NAFTALI, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Well, most of them are really boring.

BOLDUAN: True, and long.

NAFTALI: And long and they're a laundry list and they're really a compilation of what various departments want to say. But they can be great. There aren't many of them. But there are moments in our history when a State of the Union can set the agenda. LBJ used a State of the Union to announce the war on poverty and to

talk about Medicare. John F. Kennedy flubbed his first State of the Union and he used the second -- he actually had two; he didn't call the second one that -- talked about putting a man on the moon by the end of the 1960s.

Bill Clinton used his State of the Union to say the era of big government is over.

So there -- but these are rare opportunities. Now I would argue that Donald J. Trump actually needs a State of the Union that sets a new agenda. At the moment, he is stuck talking about just a wall. So his presidency seems to rest on his ability to build a barrier on the border when we all know presidencies are more complicated than that.

BOLDUAN: I think life is more complicated than just that.

So Marc, the fact that the president is giving an address, I believe -- give me five more seconds to check Twitter that it's been canceled on CNN -- but at the moment we believe that he's giving this address but he's still also -- he's still facing the border wall fight and he's facing down the potential of another government shutdown.

What do you think he needs to do in this address?

MARC SHORT, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I don't think there will be a shutdown. I think that's been too painful --

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SHORT: -- for everyone involved. No, I think that's been too painful for everyone involved. So I think what you'll see the president do is declare a national emergency when we get up to the February 15th date.

BOLDUAN: Oh, we'll talk about that in a second.

SHORT: But there's no doubt I think that he will discuss the border issues and that was central to his candidacy in 2016. He'll make that case.

And so I think there will be some areas where there's partisanship displayed in the State of the Union. But I also think there will be a couple of area where he actually reaches across and say, here are things we can work on together, namely infrastructure.

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BOLDUAN: Marc, we have been talking about infrastructure since day one of this administration.

SHORT: Infrastructure was poorly rolled out by the administration when it --

BOLDUAN: I feel like every week is infrastructure week.

SHORT: -- yes, and I know that's a common refrain in these circles. But I think the reality is that the president will make that a large part of his speech because in truth, the president's position is more in line with Democrats on the --

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SHORT: -- And so with Democrats having control of the House, he sees it's more of an opportunity now.

CATHERINE RAMPELL, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It is and it isn't. To be clear, to the extent that this administration has released any proposals about infrastructure, they was about tax-based credits that would go toward companies not toward public spending, which is where the Democrats land on this issue.

SHORT: And my point to you, Catherine, is that that's where the president himself was more comfortable. He was not comfortable, in fact, with the own policy that some in his administration rolled out. Where he wants to be is closer aligned with where the Democrats are on that --

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RAMPELL: That would be great. I'm not convinced --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm not sure that would be great --

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SIEGFRIED: -- the conversation on infrastructure between the White House and Democrats would be a lot more cordial than, say, talking about the wall. And I think there's a lot more room to get things done.

I think the president also has a problem in coming off the shutdown. We did see some of the base begin to lose patience with him, either because they didn't like the shutdown itself or they because they didn't want him to cave --

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SIEGFRIED: -- and he needs the wall. And it gets to what Marc said about the national emergency. A national emergency would be the best move for him politically because he can go out, declare that he's going build the wall, avoid another government shutdown and if the courts were to strike it down, he then -- that says, I tried but it's these activist judges.

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SIEGFRIED: It's another target where he can point the blame of the base and have that base shored up --

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BOLDUAN: If he doesn't -- I think there's no chance he's doesn't talk about border security, as Marc would well know better than anyone. In his address but if he doesn't lay out -- and maybe we're already even past this point -- but if he doesn't lay out, Evan, what exactly he can accept in terms of a compromise, in terms of something coming over from Congress, that would fund the border wall rather than a national emergency, is that a failure?

Or do you think that it's already past that point?

SIEGFRIED: I think the vast majority of the country has already made up their mind about the border wall and what they will personally accept.

I think you're going to see the president actually pivot and try and go toward abortion because Ralph Northam just gave Republicans a gift with his ghoulish comments this week and -- about abortion and basically having it literally up until the moment of birth.

And I think you're going to see him reestablish his pro-life and anti- abortion bona fides, which is going to rally especially evangelical Christians back to the president and help shore up the base going in to reelection.

BOLDUAN: So that would be definitely an area where you are not going see -- in State of the Unions, what we see, is -- when do the Democrats stand up with the Republicans, when do the Republicans stand up, when do the Democrats stand up. It's just kind of a little bit of part of the folly at home to watch, when -- how is Nancy Pelosi going to react?

Because she's going to be sitting at the head of the president the whole time. One area I'm most interested in when this would happen is that I'm interested in is when he talks about the economy. The president has a real win in looking at the economy. Those most recent jobs report coming out, it's great, it's good. No on can dispute that.

Is that something that Democrats should -- I don't know if they will -- but should be applauding when the president talks about it?

NAFTALI: Kate, it's all about I think the nature of the climate he's creating. He's already attacking Speaker Pelosi. I mean, if the man wants a compromise, he's got to show respect for the person he's dealing with.

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BOLDUAN: -- come up with a nickname yet. I don't know if that --

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NAFTALI: That's a low standard. I mean, after all, if we're going to have a compromise and if Democrats are going to find their way toward supporting a Trump initiative, like infrastructure, which I'm sure most of them would, if it weren't Trump's initiative, then he's got to show respect for Nancy Pelosi and not be sending signals that, my bottom line is this. RAMPELL: Well, I think it's not only about sending signals or whatever. I mean, this is the guy who ran as the great dealmaker.

And by alienating whoever is sitting on the other side of that table and insisting, whether it's China, whether it's Nancy Pelosi or anyone he's negotiating with and insisting that the only way that he can win is if the other side loses, by having a sort of zero-sum view of any sort of negotiation, it puts the person on the other side of the table in a very awkward position.

Because even if you agree with Trump, if you hand him a win, that must mean that you lose. Rather than framing everything as win-win, this is something that Democrats can agree upon with me, this is something that we can all get behind, China can win with our mutual negotiations or whatever, by framing everything as we've been losing, we need to start winning, we need the other side to back down, you sort of force the other side into this position of opposing everything.

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BOLDUAN: Did you see that with him often, like, we can all win in this?

SHORT: I would look at last year if, actually what we did is we signed a $1.6 billion bill for border infrastructure that was a bipartisan bill. So when we talked about the president's intransigence here, let's recognize that Nancy Pelosi has said there would be zero, zero funding for the wall. And she's said that repeatedly and she's said it again this week, which doesn't actually show much room for compromise or working --

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BOLDUAN: Don't steal my thunder, Marc. That's my next segment. But quick, one word, the State of the Union is -- who wants to give me a word?

The State of the Union right --

NAFTALI: Troubled.

BOLDUAN: Troubled.

What do you think?

SHORT: On the economy, it's great.

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

RAMPELL: Divided.

BOLDUAN: Divided.

And? SIEGFRIED: It's Schrodinger's State of the Union. It's a Rorschach test.

(LAUGHTER)

BOLDUAN: Rorschach test. That's good.

Stand by, guys.

Still ahead, President Trump is ending the week with some major economic news.

Is this good news for Donald Trump and bad news for the Democrats?

Can it ever be good news for both anymore?

That is next.

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TRUMP: Could I have done it differently?

No, not really. I think what, by having the shutdown, we have set the table to where we are now. If I didn't do to shutdown, people wouldn't know, they wouldn't understand the subject. Now they understand the subject.

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BOLDUAN: Is that President Trump right there saying that the longest shutdown in government history was a good thing?

Does that mean that he has won the week?

And can you just win the week by declaring I've won the week?

Because then that's how we're going to start the segment every week. Let's find out.

Marc, please make the case -- can you make the case that the president won the week?

Because he caved when it came to the shutdown. This is a man who never caves. And now we are facing down another potential of a shutdown. I know you don't think that's going happen when it comes to this border wall.

SHORT: I don't think shutdowns are political winners. I think you can make the case that this has been a triumphant week for the president's team. Having said that, I do think one dynamic is developing and that is this is becoming more of a Pelosi versus Trump, which I think benefits the president.

I think as this becomes the two of them are elevated; Schumer becomes less and less relevant. That place to the president's advantage because Nancy Pelosi remains the most unpopular national public figure.

So that dynamic as it continues to evolve plays to the president's benefit.

BOLDUAN: So to the Marc stealing my thunder in the last segment, the portion of the program, Nancy Pelosi did say, Catherine, that we remember, she said it over and over again, right, open up the government, when the government's shut down, open up the government and then we'll talk and then we'll talk about the border wall.

The government reopens and almost immediately she comes out and says, here's my line. No money for a border wall.

RAMPELL: But she says money for border security and I think that's a totally valid position to take.

BOLDUAN: But was that disingenuous when she was trying to get the government open?

RAMPELL: No, she said at the time -- she said at the time -- and there was this famous story about how Trump marched out of the Oval Office, when he said if we reopen the government, then will you give me money for the border wall?

And she said no and he said, OK, then I don't want to talk to you.

So it's not like this came out of nowhere.

SHORT: But what is disingenuous is that when we asked for additional funding for beds, Democrats said no. When we asked for additional funding for ICE, Democrats said no. When we asked for additional funding for judges, Democrats said no.

So they claim they're for border security and that's a nice sound bite but there's no evidence of what they will actually do.

And just today --

RAMPELL: No, that's just incorrect.

(CROSSTALK)

SHORT: -- just today Democrats in the House came forward with a proposal for less funding altogether for DHS, less funding altogether.

BOLDUAN: Here's another element of this, that is now -- that is developing right now. The president is now taking the position, he's toying with the idea of declaring a national emergency. And just so we're all clear, if it's a national emergency, it was a

national emergency 30 days ago. I don't know how a national emergency just emerges and you can just declare it a national emergency and then think it's legally sound.

We'll get to that when that happens. But today -- but now he's starting to say -- and I've heard him say this -- we are already building the wall with money that we have on hand. I get the attempt to change the narrative, that now we are already building it with money that we've got.

But then why was the government shut down over getting money for the wall, Evan?

SIEGFRIED: Well, I think now is the perfect time for me to say that I'm engaged to Jennifer Lawrence.

We are already building the wall with money that we have on hand?

It's about as likely as that.

(CROSSTALK)

SIEGFRIED: But I think that it's all about sales and marketing. The president has basically -- think -- if you think about it as a house. He's slapped a new coat of paint on and he's not -- he didn't scrape the old paint or any of the rot. He hasn't dealt with the problem. It's all about marketing.

It's sort of what he did here in New York with his real estate developments. Make it look good and try and sell a product as opposed to actually sell an actual item that has been through the test.

And he's -- the wall is the one thing the base wants. We saw the Freedom Caucus, Ann Coulter go apoplectic when the Senate was -- gave the continuing resolution to February 8th in December.

And if he does not get the wall or last get the base to believe that they're getting something on the wall, then --

(CROSSTALK)

SIEGFRIED: -- the whole bottom is going drop out.

RAMPELL: The real question is, who are they going to go vote for in 2020?

(CROSSTALK)

SIEGFRIED: That's the difference.

RAMPELL: OK.

(CROSSTALK)

NAFTALI: I would like to hear from people who live along the border. I would like to hear from Will Hurd and Republicans who represent districts along the border and who are against this wall.

Why don't we actually talk to the people who are affected by this, the elected members?

What's so interesting is that Trump's support comes from people far away from the wall. They -- let's talk about border security.

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NAFTALI: Let's talk about actually dealing with the intelligence and law enforcement problems.

BOLDUAN: You think this represents something larger.

NAFTALI: Much larger. I suspect that this represents a whole philosophy of immigration. The wall is a symbol for keeping people out. It's not a symbol for making us more secure.

BOLDUAN: So that if he's in some view failing at this, then that represents a broader erosion of his political leverage?

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RAMPELL: -- doing lots of other things to reduce legal immigration, too, including making it harder for people to come here --

(CROSSTALK)

SIEGFRIED: -- Jennifer Lawrence here?

BOLDUAN: Yes, you can, anytime.

SIEGFRIED: Because actually what we did in last year's gave him $1.6 billion included machine for new steel barriers and new territory, additionally for levees and additionally for repairs. So there is new wall construction happening. But --

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: -- now he's trying to say I'm getting it no matter what. That's the case he's trying to --

SHORT: Where the administration failed, I thin, is showing that the plan that was actually put forward to Congress for funding is the same plan that career officials in CV offered during the Obama years. We have made this about Trump, which makes it hard for a lot of Democrats.

BOLDUAN: Trump has made this about Trump.

(CROSSTALK)

SHORT: I say we, I mean yes. Yes, those of us who serve in the administration. So it's become in essence a referendum on him when in fact the plan that was put forward is by career officials. So it's not asking for a border in all parts of the Rio Grande Valley, it's not asking for a border wall in a lot of parts of the actual border.

But there are places where they say here's where the greatest drug trafficking, human trafficking is and this is where we need it. And that's what as far as a marketing the administration failed to say this is the career plan that's been --

(CROSSTALK)

NAFTALI: Why doesn't the president say that, then?

Why doesn't the president say that this is a plan that professionals put together that include some wall and some areas that don't have wall?

Why doesn't he say that?

It would make it much easier for the Democrats to come back and actually fund border security.

But he doesn't do that, does he?

SHORT: If you look at actually the press conference he was just having today, it was with CBP officials making that case. If you look at actually right before the shutdown, it was surrounded by CBP people in uniforms saying that. But I think they waited too long. The narrative got ahead of them.

SIEGFRIED: But he doesn't also -- at first, he also did come out and say it was from -- and the border and it gets to the eminent domain problem. If remember, the Secure Fence Act of 2006 was only for 700 miles of fencing.

(CROSSTALK)

SIEGFRIED: There are over 120 cases still in federal court of landowners not wanting their land to be ceded to the federal government. It's going to take forever to build the wall, even if Democrats give $100 billion.

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: That's details, man. That -- I mean, that's details that no one ever gets to when you're talking about --

(LAUGHTER)

NAFTALI: But you want to turn Texas into a blue state?

You have --

SHORT: No, I don't.

NAFTALI: -- eminent domain -- no, no, I'm saying, you want to turn it into a blue state?

The best way is to get the federal government to take all that land in Will Hurd's district and make it --

(CROSSTALK)

NAFTALI: Oh, my, God, you'll turn Texas --

(CROSSTALK)

RAMPELL: -- against this.

(CROSSTALK)

SHORT: I was chief of staff for Kay Bailey Hutchison before Longo. And what you found is --

(CROSSTALK)

SHORT: -- sorry -- up and down the Rio Grande Valley is that the ranchers have been used to having this sort of transaction with people in Commerce for generations and they don't want the wall.

But honestly, you go about 50-100 miles inland and there's great support for the wall. And so when you represent an entire state, it's a very divisive issue --

(CROSSTALK)

RAMAPHOSA: When you represent an entire country.

BOLDUAN: It gets real simple. I did hear the president say that the new wall is going to be a lot more attractive. And that might have been one of the problems. Literally, that might be a direct quote.

Just marinate on that.

Guys, good to see you, thank you, thank you, thank you.

That's the STATE OF AMERICA this week. Be sure to listen to our podcast, everybody. We'll see you back here next week. I'm not kidding.