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Northam Digs In; New Poll on Border Deal; Interview with Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-TX). Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired February 4, 2019 - 13:00   ET



[13:00:22] BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Brianna Keilar, live from CNN's Washington headquarters.

Underway right now, the controversy over blackface, the KKK and the moonwalk is not forcing the governor of Virginia to resign. Instead he's digging in.

And he slammed President Obama for not working hard enough, and he questioned Hillary Clinton's stamina, but leaked schedules raise question about just how little the president is actually working.

Plus, he's known as an Atlanta rapper, growing up in the streets, but ICE just arrested him. It turns out he's British.

And an answer that leaves many confused. The president suggests he'd just send more troops back to Syria if there's one thing that happens.

Up first, mounting pressure. Virginia's governor wrestling with the decision as calls for him to resign are growing louder and the list of people urging him to step down grows longer. Governor Ralph Northam says he needs more time to decide his fate after racist photos from his 1984 medical school yearbook have surfaced. In a bizarre weekend news conference, Northam denied that he was either of the people in this photo, after earlier saying he was. One is in blackface. The other, as you can see, is wearing a Ku Klux Klan robe and hood. And Northam had said that just that day earlier in writing that he was one of the people in the picture. At the news conference, he did admit that he once darkened his face to dress like Michael Jackson.

CNN politics reporter Dan Merica is live from Richmond.

So, Dan, did the governor get any support during these meetings that he had today with his cabinet and his staff?

DAN MERICA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER: The short answer is it doesn't appear that he did. There had been a lot of condemnation from folks, Virginia Democrats, here in Richmond on the governor. That seemed not to have moved him.

So the pressure point now becomes, what does his cabinet do? What do the people who are closest to him do in response to this? And that's really what we're waiting to hear. He did finish up with those meetings a short time ago. He had a

cabinet meeting and then an all-staff meeting. A Virginia Democrat, who's been briefed on those meetings, tells me that he asked for more time, as you said. It's kind of been his mantra throughout the last 48 hours of this controversy. He wants more time to figure out what is next for him.

Obviously, as you correctly noted, the issue is, he has a credibility problem at this point. Friday he said he was in the photo. Saturday he has that bizarre press conference where he raised questions about whether he's telling the truth at all, and that has all contributed not only to the issues with just the public here in Richmond, but with those people who are the closest to him. Because, at this point, they're -- every other Virginia Democrat who is in power right now has called for him to step down. It's now -- the pressure point now falls on those cabinet members, Brianna.

KEILAR: Yes, and there's just this big list, right, of people who want him to resign.


KEILAR: You have both U.S. senators from Virginia, 2020 Democratic presidential prospects, you have national Democrats, including Hillary Clinton, former Vice President Joe Biden.

What are we hearing from Virginia Republicans?

MERICA: So I will clearly note, you have -- you have not heard yet from President Barack Obama. There are some here who think he could put pressure on Northam. But, yes, Virginia Republicans, early on, called for his ouster. And notably, though, the speaker behind me in the legislature said that impeachment is not on the table. Kirk Cox said impeachment is not on the table because it's -- for one reason, it's very difficult, it's a high standard here in Virginia. Take a listen to what he said just this morning.


KIRK COX (R), SPEAKER, VIRGINIA HOUSE OF DELEGATES: Obviously, this is a very painful and heartbreaking moment for the commonwealth. We've put out a statements out Saturday morning. More or less the last people to call for the governor's resignation. But it has become clear to us by then, regardless of the veracity of the photograph, the governor's lost the confidence of the people and cannot effectively govern.


MERICA: So now all of the focus is on Justin Fairfax, the 39-year-old lieutenant governor, an African-American lieutenant governor here in Richmond. He is close with Northam, but he is now one of the very few Virginia Democrats who has not expressly called on Northam to resign. He issued a very tough statement after that press conference on Saturday, but he has yet to weigh in and say that it is time for the governor to go. A lot of pressure on him as well. People frankly waiting outside of the capital behind me where he is at currently presiding over the senate, waiting to see what he has to say.


KEILAR: All right, Dan Merica, thank you so much, in Richmond, Virginia, for us.

And so far there are no signs of supporters rallying around the Virginia governor as he struggles to stay in office.

Wes Bellamy is a city councilmember in Charlottesville, Virginia. He has worked for the removal of confederate statues in the city. He's also a friend of Governor Ralph Northam.

[13:05:06] Councilman, thanks so much for being with us.


KEILAR: I know this is really personal for you. He's your friend. But you have written a post on FaceBook that -- and you spelled this out very thoughtfully where you say that he should resign.

Tell us about coming to that conclusion.

BELLAMY: Yes, well, I think Governor Northam, again, as I alluded to in the post, is a friend. I believe him to be a good person. However, I think for the betterment of our commonwealth of Virginia, he has to step down and step aside.

To me it's rather personal for a variety of different reasons. I know firsthand what it's like to have things that you've done in the past come out and have individuals come out against you, and you regret some of the issues that you've made -- or, excuse me, some of the things that you did while you were younger.

However, it's also really important for us as a commonwealth, specifically on the 400th year of the first group of enslaved Africans stepping foot here in this state, when we're coming off of the very personal attacks of white supremacists and members of the Ku Klux Klan here in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017, it is very difficult for me to see a man who I know in the governor in either picture in KKK garb or deep blackface. And I know that since he's come out and said that it wasn't him. But, honestly, after seeing the press conference and seeing him attempt to do the moonwalk, of all things, it shows, in my person opinion, that he doesn't quite get it.

And all of his colleagues have essentially stated that they are not willing to work with him. I think that if the governor truly wants to make this right, which I believe that he still can, he needs to step aside and let's move forward with the real tangible work of healing and reconciliation. And we can do that with our actions, not just with our words.

KEILAR: And, councilman, you mentioned that moonwalk moment. I want to show our viewers what you're talking about. Let's watch.


GOV. RALPH NORTHAM (D), VIRGINIA: It was a -- it was a -- a dance contest. I had always liked Michael Jackson. I actually won the contest because I had learned how to do the moonwalk.

QUESTION: Are you still able to moonwalk?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Inappropriate circumstance.

NORTHAM: My wife says inappropriate circumstances.


KEILAR: His wife appropriately shut that down. But I -- there were so many people who looked at that, so many observers who said, what is he thinking? This doesn't -- this doesn't display the gravity that it should. They questioned his judgment.

Did you make wider conclusions about that?

BELLAMY: Yes, at that moment in time, I mean, again, it showed, in my personal estimation, that he doesn't quite understand how serious and how real this is, let alone the fact that he did it, admits to blackface, by putting a marker to his face to -- excuse me, to symbol or by bringing his thoughts of Michael Jackson. He was literally going to do the moonwalk at a press conference when we're talking about not only blackface, KKK robe, and in the backdrop of him last year dressing up as a slave member -- or, excuse me, a slave owner. This is also coming off, again, the events that we saw right here in our city in Charlottesville. It's just -- it's just really difficult to see and watch. And the fact that he didn't quite understand it is -- it really hurts. It hurts.

KEILAR: Joe Lieberman has said that there's been an unfair rush to judgment with the calls for Northam to resign. What do you say to that?

BELLAMY: Well, I think there's a lot of people who have a wide variety of thoughts and opinions on this. And everyone is entitled to their own. Again, I know firsthand what it feels like for individuals to feel as if you should resign because of things in which you've done in your past.

But I think there's a fundamental difference here. Whenever we make mistakes, because no one is human -- or, excuse me, no one is perfect. All humans are imperfect. And taking accountability, as he did Friday night in clearly stating, listen, I messed up, I made a mistake. Let's figure out how we can move forward. I want to regain your trust. That was a very productive step.

But then to come back the next day and say, no, this wasn't me, and to a certain extent exemplify and show a great deal of defiance from members of the legislative black caucus, members of the Democratic committee, Republican committee. This is a nonpartisan issue. People literally who have to work with you from across the commonwealth, you've stated to them that you don't really care what they say because for you it's more important that you remain in a position in which you're in. All the people have stated that they won't work with you is just a very bad choice.

And I really think that Governor Northam, again, is an individual who I've come to know. We've gone to church together. We've ate meals together. We've broken bread together. I think him to be a good man. But I think for the commonwealth and for the greater good of our state, he needs to step aside. And let's truly acknowledge the hurt. Let's truly look to figure out what we can do with our actions to move us forward.

[13:10:00] America loves a redemption story. We are a community and specifically a state of second chances. And Governor Northam will have the opportunity to have a second chance if he moves aside and expedites this movement in terms of doing what he must to help us get to where we need to be with his actions.

KEILAR: Councilman, thank you for being with us.

BELLAMY: Thank you.

KEILAR: Wes Bellamy joining us there.

Now, President Trump is going to take his case on the border wall to the American people tomorrow night with his State of the Union Address. That may include his push to declare a national emergency.

A new CNN poll shows that Americans aren't confident a deal on the border will be reached -- on border security will be reached by the next shutdown deadline of February 15th. Sixty-four percent say it's unlikely that the two sides will reach a deal.

We have CNN's Chris Cillizza joining us now.

How does that pessimism break down by party, Chris?

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER: All right, let's get into it, Brianna. But I would say, I'm surprised the numbers isn't bigger, candidly, because Donald Trump has essentially said, what a waste of time this all is.

But let's go -- but this is interesting because when you go into the numbers, you usually see huge partisan divides on virtually every issue. Not really the case here. Sixty-five percent of Democrats think Congress isn't going to reach a deal. Fifty-seven percent of Republicans think Congress isn't likely to make a deal. Independents, even higher. But the point here is, not really seen through a partisan lens. It's seen through a Washington is broken lens.

There's another number. Let's go to the next slide. There's another number here that gets to that. OK, so the federal government is currently doing the worst job of your lifetime. Forty-three percent of people said that four in 10 people said in my lifetime this is the worst the government's ever done. Bad, but not worse, OK, that's not really something you want to put on your resume, but one quarter, and a good job, one in every five people. So I think this explains why people are pessimistic, broadly speaking.

Now, how does this impact the president? OK, he's at 40 approved, 55 disproved. Not great, but not as bad as the poll we did before the shutdown, Brianna, where he was at 37. Some of this just speaks to the fact that Donald Trump's numbers are baked in. They might move up a little bit, low 40s, they might move down a little bit, mid to high 30s, but it's never going to be 20 percent approval and it's never probably going to be over 50 percent approval. It's just people's minds are made up about him. So you'll see other numbers move. This number here and this number here, probably going to stay pretty steady from now until 2020.

Brianna, back to you.

KEILAR: So it will be, as you said, bad but not worse.

CILLIZZA: Bad, but not the worst. That's --

KEILAR: Not the worst.

CILLIZZA: That's what you're really going for if you're an elected official.

KEILAR: All right, Chris Cillizza, thank you.

President Trump igniting new immigration anger with a controversial move on the border just 24 hours before his State of the Union Address.

Plus, the world's most powerful person spending 60 percent of his working hours in executive time.

And, President Trump says he'll just send troops back into Syria if ISIS reemerges once the U.S. leaves. The problem is, his intelligence officials are telling him that ISIS will definitely reemerge if the U.S. leaves.


[13:17:21] KEILAR: The Pentagon is deploying nearly 4,000 more troops to the southern border as the president hints that he'll declare a national emergency there. They'll be tasked with mobile surveillance support, as well as laying 150 miles of new concertina wire.

We have Texas Congressman Lloyd Doggett with us. He is a Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee.

Thanks so much for being with us.

REP. LLOYD DOGGETT (D), TEXAS: Great to join you, Brianna.

KEILAR: So last week there were Pentagon officials who went up to Congress to testify on this border mission and they did not disclose this increase in manpower. The decision was clearly made. This happened -- this testimony was happening even as the acting defense secretary was going public with the increase. What did you think of that?

DOGGETT: Well, I think they didn't mention it because they know they can't defend it. This is not only a waste of money, hundreds of millions of dollars, to send troops to the border to stretch concertina wire, to do vehicle repairs and road -- traffic management, that kind of thing. They can't come in contact with the immigrants themselves who are crossing the border.

But it is also, I think, an impairment of our military readiness. Troops that are going there are not training, are not getting ready for the kind of conflict that they might face, are not focused where they need to be. So it's a waste of money, it's a fake crisis, and it impairs our security.

KEILAR: Right now there are 17 Democrats and Republicans from the House and the Senate and they're trying to work out a deal on border security. They're trying to avert another government shutdown and they have this February 15th deadline to do that. The president, he seems poised to avoid a shutdown. He doesn't think that this is going to happen, this deal. He seems poised to declare a national emergency to get that wall funding. If he does that, what recourse do Democrats have?

DOGGETT: Well, I think there will be immediate legal action. This is an attempt to really circumvent our Constitution. President Trump, I believe, would like to rule on executive fiat about just everything. He condemned this bipartisan effort before it had hardly begun.

I've come to the conclusion, unfortunately, that the president really doesn't want a solution. He wants a permanent fight. Chaos is not an accident in his administration, it's an operating principle. And so declaring a fake emergency allows him to continue the battle. When he is eventually overruled by the courts, as I hope and believe he will be, he can condemn the courts, blame anyone else for the mess that he creates every day in endangering our security, blame it on anybody but looking in the mirror and seeing where the problem really is.

[13:20:07] KEILAR: Listen to what the president said Sunday when he was asked about the possibility of being impeached.


MARGARET BRENNAN, CBS ANCHOR, "FACE THE NATION": Are you prepared for an attempt to impeach you?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The only way they can win, because they can't win the election, is to bring out the artificial way of impeachment. And the problem is you can't impeach somebody for doing the best job of any president in the history of our country for the first two years. It's supposed to be high crimes and misdemeanors. Well, there was no high crime.

(END VIDEO CLIP) KEILAR: So you pushed for impeachment in the House back in December of 2017. Do you think the Democrats have grounds for impeachment right now?

DOGGETT: Well, I think there are likely grounds. This is president occlusion, president obstruction. But what we need is the Mueller report. And I voted against cutting off any debate of impeachment. But I think our focus needs to be on investigation, on getting the facts, on exposing his close connection with Putin and all his buddies and the favoritism to the Russians, the wrongdoing that has occurred. But until we have that report, and the importance of protecting and making that report available to the taxpayers who paid for it, I think it's not appropriate to move forward on impeachment.

KEILAR: It's not appropriate. And you said -- did you say --

DOGGETT: No appropriate.

KEILAR: You said presidential collusion, did you, at the beginning of that answer? I just -- I want to make sure that I --

DOGGETT: Yes. I think -- I think the --

KEILAR: And what's the basis for that?

DOGGETT: Well, I think you can see one Trump associate after another who forgot their contacts with the Russians. We see the meeting that was in Trump Tower with people that --

KEILAR: Can I -- but, congressman, just with the president, do you push that all the way up to the president, or do you see it in the people underneath him?

DOGGETT: I guess what I see is a great desire to collude. It was a small campaign with a president who micromanaged everything. It does defy imagination that he didn't have a hand in this, but that's what some of the investigations and the Mueller report can tell us.

KEILAR: You are on the Ways and Means Committee, which is the very powerful tax writing committee in the House. You have the authority to obtain tax returns. And Democrats are expected to formally request the president's this week.

What are the grounds that the committee is requesting them on?

DOGGETT: Under a near century-old statute, the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, with the mere signature on a letter to the IRS, can request those returns. I think getting the returns is directly related to the work of our committee. How's that audit coming that his -- was his excuse? How much did he benefit from the provisions that he and his administration worked so hard to impose in the new tax law? What about the changes they're proposing for the future? Is this all about just enriching the Trump family, as some have estimated? It may be over a billion dollars that they've gotten out of this tax law. In order to maintain confidence in our tax system, we need to know about that. And, of course, along the way, in the many business entities that he has, we need to know about Saudi and Russian and other foreign influence that may be endangering our security. I think it is.

What will happen this week is not perhaps the formal letter, but it is a hearing that regards an ethics bill that we're trying to get through Congress to ensure not just this president, but all future presidential candidates disclose their personal and their business returns so the American people will know up front what their relations are, not after we're burdened with someone, hopefully never this horrible again, but as horrible and as endangering as Donald Trump.

KEILAR: Before I let you go, I want to ask what you think of what's going in Virginia. The governor there, Ralph Northam, is very much embattled over this controversy about a very racist picture that was on his yearbook -- his medical school yearbook page. He had a racist nickname. Does he need to resign?

DOGGETT: I think there's no choice but for him to do so, though he's done some good throughout his career. This is -- it's just really outrageous. And I don't believe we can continue to speak up forcefully, as we must, against the regular bigotry of Donald Trump, not only toward African-Americans, but toward Latinos, Muslim- Americans and others. I don't think we can do that unless we hold all of our officials to a high standard, and that is what has to be done with reference to Governor Northam.

KEILAR: Congressman Lloyd Doggett, thank you for joining us.

DOGGETT: Thank you.

KEILAR: A new report puts the president's work ethic under the spotlight, revealing that he spent nearly 300 hours in the last three months in so-called executive time. What leaked presidential schedules reveal and how the White House is explaining this.

[13:25:01] Plus, ICE arrests a rapper in a sting operation, which breaks his public persona of being from Atlanta when he's not.


[13:29:51] ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

LT. GOV. JUSTIN FAIRFAX (D), VIRGINIA: Have to assume that office in the event that he were to resign and so I have to be very circumspect to have to think about the people of the commonwealth of Virginia. (INAUDIBLE) --

QUESTION: They're saying they want him to quit. So why not just say he should go?

FAIRFAX: People can say, you know, whatever they'd like. And I've made my statement