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CNN Poll: 45 Percent Approve to Trump Ahead of State of the Union; Embattled Virginia Governor Meets with Cabinet, Seeks Allies; VA Lt. Governor Has Not Asked Northam to Step Down; Trump Won't Rule Out Another Shutdown; Interview with Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D- FL). Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired February 4, 2019 - 11:00   ET


[11:00:00] KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan.

President Trump is preparing for tomorrow's State of the Union address, the state of which is very much where it has been, divided and not going anywhere anytime soon. First and foremost, he and Congress are no closer to a deal on a border wall.

Here is what the polling says about that. Brand new CNN poll says the president's approval rating after the shutdown is up slightly to 40 percent.

Here is what the president is saying as the next shutdown deadline approaches.


UNIDENTIFIED CORRESPONDENT: Would you shut down the government again?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, we are going to have to see what happens on February 15th.


UNIDENTFIIED CORRESPONDENT: You're not taking anything off the table?

TRUMP: I don't take anything off the table. I don't like to take things off the table. It's that alternative. It's national emergency. It's other things. There have been plenty of national emergencies called.

You need a wall. Anybody that says you don't, they are just playing games.


BOLDUAN: But CNN's new poll shows those ideas are not popular with the majority of Americans right now. Less than 40 percent want another government shutdown and just three in 10 people want the president to declare a national emergency to build that border wall.

Let's get over to the White House. CNN's Abby Philip is there for us.

Abby, majority of Americans don't want a shutdown and are not looking for him to declare a national emergency. The majority of Republicans, if you narrow it down, support shutting down the government and declaring a national emergency to secure that funding. Is that the thinking behind why the president maintains his position?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Kate, I think in many ways he is just a mirror of what we have been seeing for the last two years of the Trump administration, which is that the president is often doing things that correspond to what his base wants him to do, not necessarily what the broader American public wants him to do. If you look at the poll numbers, 39 percent is roughly where President Trump's approval rating is in general. You can see that he is sort of tailoring some of his moves toward that minority of Americans. He even suggested that the last government shutdown, 35 days long, he did not secure his border wall funding, but he seems to believe that it is helping him in terms of moving the American public's opinion, at least the portion that he cares about, toward where he wants them to be on the wall. Listen.


TRUMP: On the 15th, we have set the table beautifully because everybody knows what is going on because of the shutdown. People that didn't have any idea, didn't have a clue as to what was happening, they now know exactly what is happening. They see human trafficking and drugs and gangs and criminals pouring in. We catch them because we are doing a great job. But if we had proper border security we wouldn't have to work so hard and we can do an even better job. I think Nancy Pelosi is doing a terrible disservice to the people of our country.


PHILLIP: So when the president says, we set the table beautifully, the next question really is, set the table for what exactly? He has been very coy about whether or not he is leaning more toward a national emergency or some kind of executive action or perhaps another shutdown. But it is clear that the president is getting very frustrated with the legislative process, which he believes is not going to end up giving him his wall. And his aides behind the scenes over the past several weeks and months have been working on trying to craft all these plans giving him his options for declaring a national emergency. So you can see that the emphasis in his words clearly is on what he can do alone. But the question is, will he go ahead and do that and will he risk alienating some Republicans on Capitol Hill who seem to not be that warm to the idea of the president going it alone on building the wall -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: The precedent it sets. We will have to get into the definition of a national emergency is if it lingers on for months and months at a time.

Great to see you, Abby. Thank you so much. The other big story we are following is the question in Virginia,

which is, is the Democratic governor going to survive the morning politically. Governor Ralph Northam is resisting calls from his own party to resign after a racist photo on his medical school yearbook page suffered. Northam's attempt at damage control over the weekend seemed to do more damage to his already damaged situation. He has been losing allies ever since.

A source tells CNN that during a meeting last night with staffers of color, none of those staffers urged him to stay and fight. He has been in more meetings this morning.

CNN's Ryan Nobles is in Richmond, Virginia. He has covered Virginia politics for years.

Ryan, what are you hearing right now? Any word on what has happened this morning?

[11:05:00] RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Kate, we believe that this cabinet meeting that was scheduled for 9:00 this morning just wrapped up a few minutes ago. It went much longer than what was originally scheduled. Now the governor set to convene a meeting of a larger group of his staff members.

Our feeling as to how this day is going to go is that these meetings that the governor is conducting today will go a long way to helping him figure out whether or not he can continue to govern effectively. That is a very important point, because what the governor has said over and over is that he will only stay in office if he believes he can govern effectively. We already know that he has lost the support of basically the entire legislature. Almost every elected official in Virginia, both Republican and Democrat, has called for him to resign. So the only bastion of support he has right now, which reports say is tenuous, is within his own staff, the folks that he has appointed and the folks that work under this charge. We don't exactly know how the meeting went. We are told it just wrapped up. We are trying to get a read right now as to how it went down.

But, Kate, I want to talk about one other thread hanging, and that is the possibility that if the governor resists the calls for resignation, that the legislature takes the dramatic act of forcing him from office. That has never happened in Virginia's history, going back all the way to the Civil War.

Today, the Republican speaker of the House said that is not going to happen. Listen to what he said earlier today.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Have you got the sense from your Democratic colleagues that they would implore you to take a step of impeachment? Has there been indication from the other side of the aisle and that's the direction they would like to go?

STATE REP. KIRK COX, (R), SPEAKER, VIRGINIA HOUSE OF DELEGATES: They have not. They have not talked to me about impeachment. (END VIDEO CLIP)

NOBLES: That's important, Kate, because not only does the Republican speaker believe that the governor's actions do not fall under the conditions necessary to have a governor removed from office, he is also not hearing from Democrats encouraging him to take that next step. That means, Kate, that this decision lies with just one person and that is Ralph Northam, the governor of Virginia, as to whether or not he stays or goes -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: That pressure is mounting moment by moment.

Ryan, state with me.

Joining the conversation also is CNN senior political reporter, Nia Malika Henderson.

Great to see you, Nia.

Nia, what are the possibilities for Northam now?

NIA MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: The possibilities, I think -- obviously, Ryan outlined the fact it doesn't look like impeachment is an option. There seems to be two options, him hanging on and seeing if he can power through the difficult time, or he steps down. Obviously, everyone at this point pretty much in terms of Democrats, both statewide Democrats and local Democrats, have called for him to step down and resign so that Virginia can move on.

I think what has been so interesting about this is when this first broke, there was so much good will towards Northam. There was a sense that somehow he can right the ship. And then almost with every statement he made -- he obviously made the first statement and then that second statement that was videotaped. With each step, he has made it worse. Of course, the moon walking press conference, I think, that also only hastened people who were a little bit on the fence and trying to give him room and give him respect, they all came out, too, and said he is somebody who can't really continue.

He is essentially saying he is someone who could actually be a kind of racial healer. This is an important year for Virginia, 400 years since slaves first touched down in that commonwealth in 1619. There will be commemorations and markings of that anniversary. But I think it's hard to believe that he can be a racial healer given how he has botched this whole episode. It's almost as if his response to it has made the initial sin, if you will, that much worse.

BOLDUAN: Also, if your spouse needs to tell you in a press conference it is inappropriate circumstances, you know you have a problem.


BOLDUAN: Ryan, let me play what the former Virginia governor said about all of this yesterday on CNN.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TERRY MCAULIFFE, (D), FORMER VIRGINIA GOVERNOR: When the photo came out Friday afternoon, I said there's absolutely no way that Ralph Northam is in this picture. Friday evening, it came out that Ralph was in the picture. At that point, for me, morally, the only right thing to do -- and it was hard -- I called Ralph on Friday night. It was one of the hardest things I had to do. He was my lieutenant governor. We did so many great things working together for the Commonwealth of Virginia. Once that picture with black face and the clansman came out, there's no way you can continue to be the governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia.


BOLDUAN: I mean, there's also, Ryan, the Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax. I wonder, where is the lieutenant governor on all of this?

[11:10:04] NOBLES: Interesting you ask that question, Kate, because I just saw the lieutenant governor a few minutes ago. He serves as the president of the Senate and has to preside during their session this morning. He didn't answer my shouted questions.

What is interesting is we talked about how pretty much every politician across the board in Virginia has called for the governor to step down. Lieutenant Governor Fairfax has not. I think for obvious reasons. He doesn't want to appear to be pressuring the governor for his own personal reasons.

The lieutenant governor, I think, plays an important role in all of this, particularly because he is an African-American, a rising star, someone who has taken a principled stand in favor of civil rights here in Virginia, which, of course, is an uncomfortable and ugly history as it relates to the rights of African-Americans. As an example, Virginia still has this relatively outdated holiday where they honor both the Confederate Generals Lee and Jackson. It comes the Friday before Martin Luther King Day. When they make note of that with a resolution on the Senate floor every time, the lieutenant governor steps down as a way to illustrate that he, who is a descendant from slaves, believes that practice remains abhorrent. So he has a powerful voice in all of this, particular as it relates to how this impacts Virginia's history and race relations. But right now, we are told he is taking a step back. From reporting from my colleague, Dan Merica, there has been a breakdown in communication between the governor and the lieutenant governor's office. They are not really talking anymore. So even Lieutenant Governor Fairfax is seeming to be allowing the governor to twist in the wind to a certain extent and make this decision for himself.

BOLDUAN: I wonder how long that lasts.

Nia, how does this impact Democrats? Every Democrat who is running for president in 2020 has come out with a statement on this. They're not going to be able to avoid it. They are going to have to take a position on it. They will be asked about it. How does this impact Democrats in 2020 who want to take on President Trump on race?

HENDERSON: You know, I think, in some ways, that is an overblown story line. I think it certainly matters in Virginia. It matters for the local races that are going to be happening this year in Virginia. You imagine, in 2020, if Northam is still the governor, if you are Kamala Harris or Cory Booker or whoever, Biden, whoever the nominee is, you can imagine you probably don't want to campaign with him. I think that is probably the sort of complicating factor. Obviously, if you are one of those Democrats, their records are so different from President Trump's. That's the contrast they will be drawing. I don't necessarily think people will be making any sort of connections between Northam and whoever the Democratic candidate is.

BOLDUAN: First and foremost, let us see what --


BOLDUAN: Go ahead, Ryan. I'm sorry.

NOBLES: I was going to add to that. To Nia's point, I think the 2020 influence on this has zero to do with Ralph Northam's decision making. This is much more about these candidates and how they're viewed by their potential voters and how they're responding to it. I don't think there's going to be any 2020 candidate that, in any way, shape or form, sways Ralph Northam to either stay or go.

BOLDUAN: We'll see if and what that is, if and when it happens.

Thanks, guys. I really appreciate it.

NOBLES: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Coming up for us, President Trump says all options are on the table when it comes to his demand for money for the border wall. Does that mean that the country is headed for another shutdown? We will ask the top Democrat on a key committee coming up.

Plus, the new report about how the president spends his time. What it says about who he is talking to, how he makes decisions. And what it means that his schedule was leaked in the first place?


[11:18:20] BOLDUAN: Congress has less than two weeks to pass a spending bill or face the prospects of a government shutdown. Despite that not ending well the first time for President Trump, he is not ruling it out again and he is also not ruling out declaring a national emergency to get the money he wants for the wall. Listen.


TRUMP: I don't take anything off the table. I don't like to take things off the table. It's that alternative. It's national emergency. It's other things. There have been plenty national emergencies called. This really is an invasion of our country by human traffickers. These are people that are horrible people bringing in women, mostly, but bringing in women and children into our country, human trafficking. We are going to have a strong border. The only way you have a strong border is you need a physical barrier. You need a wall. And anybody that says you don't, they are just playing games.


BOLDUAN: Joining me right now, Democratic Congressman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, from Florida, a member of the House Appropriations Committee.

Congresswoman, thanks for coming in.

REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ, (D), FLORIDA: Thanks for having me, Kate.

BOLDUAN: You chair the subcommittee that deals with military construction. That is especially important today because that is the pot of money, if you will, that the president would be dipping into if he declares a national emergency to fund his border wall. It sure sounds, from what he said to CBS, that that is the direction he is headed by the end of next week. If that is the case, Congresswoman, what do you do about it?

[11:19:48] WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Let's be very clear on a couple of things. One, there's not a national emergency that would meet the test that would allow for the president to make such a declaration in this case. If you look at border crossings and apprehensions at the border, we have border crossings that are about a fifth of where they were going back to 2000. We have the lowest amount of apprehensions that we have had in four decades. So the president is just not telling the truth when it comes to there being a case to be made for a national emergency to be declared.

And then what also is important is that the president doesn't have the power of the purse. He can't just decide that he doesn't like the way Congress has appropriated the funds in an appropriations act that has been signed into law. So because we are not doing what he wants, he thinks he can just declare a national emergency and take the money from military construction projects that are already under funded. Kate, we have billions of dollars in back log, in projects that need to be have money spent on them to make sure that we have the most pristine, best-funded, top-notched military facilities in the world. And the president would deprive and starve the members of our military if he takes this act. And it would be unconstitutional and mired in court. That can be taken to the bank.

BOLDUAN: Then if you are headed to the bank, I want to ask you, would you be spearheading a legal challenge to the president for using this money for the wall?

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Most definitely. I can tell you that, as the chair of the subcommittee that appropriates funds for our military, I would absolutely, along with my colleagues, challenge the president's ability to make such a declaration. It is not legal, not in compliance with the National Emergency Act that he would be attempting to utilize, and there's certainly not a national emergency. These is more actions of a dictator. The president, on the one hand, has been declaring his opposition to the actions of a dictator in Venezuela at the same time that he is suggesting that he would act like one here in the United States.

BOLDUAN: I do want to ask you about -- we will be talking more about the shutdown as days come because we have a deadline coming up. I want to ask you about 2020. You have a very big field already. "Politico" is reporting that some Democrats, Beto O'Rourke, Sherrod Brown, and others, are purposefully waiting to see, waiting to announce to see if others trip up so they can come in as a white knight. What do you think of that strategy?

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: You know, in my experience, there are various approaches that candidates make to deciding when the right time to get in is. You know, I know that is the reporting, but I have to imagine that if you're any of these candidates that want to become president that are considering running for president are not going to have their decision hinge on whether another candidate trips up. Our field of candidates is the most diverse it will be among the most talented field we have ever had. It's a long experience to go through a presidential campaign. And with a lot of candidates in the field, I think it makes sense to maybe take a step back and not launch a campaign until you get the lay of the land. There's plenty of time for a race to be run. You'll have debates start a little bit earlier in this election cycle because there are so many candidates. Remember, the first primary contest isn't until next February. So we have a ways to go before we declare dead the possibilities of some of these candidates because they haven't gotten in as of February 5th.

BOLDUAN: Good point.


BOLDUAN: Yes, exactly.


BOLDUAN: The Democratic governor, Congresswoman, of Virginia is facing almost unanimous calls to resign over a racist photo on his medical school yearbook page. He apologized and then denied it. What do you think Governor Northam should do?

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: He should resign. There's just no question that he should resign. This is not a close call. The question comes down to not whether or not he is in or not in the picture. It comes down to whether or not he will be able to be the most effective governor on behalf of the people of Virginia. I don't see how hat is possible here. At the end of the day, hopefully, it's in his heart to ultimately realize that and he'll make the right decision and step aside.

BOLDUAN: We'll see what comes from today.

Congresswoman, thank you for coming in.

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Thanks, Kate. Great to be with you.

BOLDUAN: Thank you so much. [11:24:50] Coming up for us, Paul Manafort is back in court this morning defending himself against charges that he broke his plea deal. There has been a twist and a turn in almost every step of this case. So what is the twist this time?


[11:29:44] BOLDUAN: Former Trump campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, is back in court this morning, this time, behind closed doors as a federal judge is considering whether Manafort broke his plea agreement with the special counsel. Special Counsel Robert Mueller accuses Manafort of lying to investigators multiple times even after agreeing to work with them.

CNN's Kara Scannell is joining me now. She's been following this for, what feels like, forever at this point, I'm sure, for you, Kara.

What is expected to come out of today's hearing?