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AT THIS HOUR
Trump Digs in on Wall Demand with Shutdown 9 Days Away; Trump Says He Wants to Raise Number of Legal Immigrants; Congressional Negotiators Claim Profess on Border Talks; Schumer on Trump Speech: "So Much for Inclusiveness"; Cohen Testimony to House Intel Committee Delayed; House Intel Votes to Send Transcripts on Russia Investigation to Mueller. Aired 11-11:30a ET
Aired February 6, 2019 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
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[11:00:00] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And he was able to use his hands, arms and feet --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- to choke the animal.
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JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: My goodness. The runner suffered serious injuries but has since been released from the hospital, officials said. That is quite the survival story.
Thanks so much for joining me today. A lot of news today. I'm Jim Sciutto, in Washington.
"AT THIS HOUR" with Kate Bolduan starts right now.
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan.
Folks ask this after every State of the Union: How does the president turn his words into action? But with this president, it's an even bigger question today. Nine days away from another government shutdown, did the president move the needle at all toward a deal and away from putting federal workers once again out of a job.
Here appears to be his attempt to get Democrats on board last night.
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DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: In the past, most of the people in this room voted for a wall, but the proper wall never got built. I will get it built.
TRUMP: This is a smart, strategic, see-through steel barrier, not just a simple concrete wall. It will be deployed in the areas identified by the border agents as having the greatest need.
Simply put, walls work and walls save lives.
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BOLDUAN: And something that did not happen last night, the president making good on his threat to declare a national emergency to go around Congress to get the money that he wants for the wall. At this point, is that what counts as progress?
CNN's Abby Phillip is live at the White House once again.
Abby, what are you hearing about the possibility of a government shutdown? Possibility any different today as it was yesterday?
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Kate. Well, there does not seem to be any change today from the day before or the day before that. At the moment, things still stand as this, that the president and the White House are waiting for congressional negotiators to figure something out by that February 15th deadline. If they don't, they've kept open the possibility of another government shutdown or that the president might declare a national emergency in order to build the wall.
Last night, the president's language on the wall and border security was as strong as we've ever heard it. There was no wiggle room there when he talked about wanting to build the wall, intending to build the wall. He talked about hundreds of immigrants, thousands of immigrants coming up through the southern border in caravans. So no change there.
This morning, when asked -- Vice President Mike Pence was asked about whether the president or the White House regretted the shutdown, here is what he had to say.
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UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Do you think the shutdown was a mistake?
MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I never think it's a mistake --
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Why?
PENCE -- to stand up for what you believe in. I think what the American people admire most about this president is, he says what he means and he means what he says in a very real sense.
The American people saw this president as absolutely determined to keep his word to secure our border and end the crisis of illegal immigration.
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PHILLIP: The president may not think it was a mistake, but he did not mention the 35-day government shutdown at all during his hour-and-a- half-long speech last night. That was pretty telling considering that was such an important period and a lengthy period of time, after which he did not get his wall -- Kate?
BOLDUAN: And the president largely kept to the script that was laid out last night. But he did ad lib a bit, saying at one point that he wants legal immigrants coming in, and the way he put it, in the largest numbers ever. Is that what the president's policy has been?
PHILLIP: That certainly seemed like a bit of hyperbole from the president last night. Kate, that is not the policy that the president and his administration have been trying to carry out. They spent the last year trying to push Congress to limit legal immigration, trying to restrict the visa lottery system that the president believes is a sort of boondoggle. That is a former of legal immigration. Asylum is also another former of legal immigration. And the administration has made it clear they want a merit-based system, which narrows the path for immigrants to come into the United States.
But I will say this, that the president has also talked increasingly in recent days, as a result of some conversations he's been having with business leaders and CEOs around the country, about the idea that the U.S. actually needs more workers, not fewer. There's record-low unemployment. More and more, President Trump is starting to talk about the need for more workers to come into the country. Whether or not that line last night was a nod to that is not clear but it certainly seems to be a bit of hyperbole considering all the moves they've made over the last year --
PHILLIP: -- to try to get Congress to narrow those paths to legal immigration in this country.
BOLDUAN: Absolutely. Great to see you, Abby. Thank you.
So, in Congress, where do negotiations actually stand right now as those 17 lawmakers are still said to be meeting and working to avoid another government shutdown?
CNN's Lauren Fox is on Capitol Hill following this angle for us.
Lauren, what are you hearing?
[11:05:12] LAUREN FOX, CNN REPORTER: There's a lot of optimism at the moment, Kate, about the potential for a government shutdown deal, a deal to avert that shutdown. Now, I will say that Senators and House members are meeting with border officials this morning to get a sense of what they need on the southern border. And perhaps that's a way to sort of move Democrats and Republicans off their respective talking points. If border officials come to them and say, we need a barrier here, we need more border agents here, and we need technology there, I think that's potentially a way for both sides to find a middle ground.
I will say that there's a big question about how involved the president himself should be in these negotiations. You hear from Democrats saying, if the president stays out of this, we can get a deal.
Here's what Chuck Schumer, the Democratic leader in the Senate, had to say about President Trump's involvement.
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SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER, (D-NY), SENATE MINORITY LEADER: I believe, John, if the president stays out of it, we will get a deal, a good deal that Democrats and Republicans, House and Senate, can support. It's when the president weighs in with heavy hand, his unrealistic heavy hand -- doesn't know how to negotiate -- that things get messed up. So if he stays out of it, yes, I believe the odds are very high we will get a deal.
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FOX: Of course, Democrats want him to stay out of it. But at the end of the day, the president has to sign any negotiation this conference committee comes up with. That is still an open question, where is he going to be when the conference committee announces that they get a deal, a deal, is he going to sign it? That's the big question -- Kate?
BOLDUAN: Yes, I would say the big question still.
BOLDUAN: No matter what Chuck Schumer says.
Thank you, Lauren. Thank you so much.
Joining me right now is David Jolly, a former Republican congressman from Florida, and Molly Ball, a CNN political analyst and national political correspondent for "Time."
Thank you guys for being here.
Molly, is there any better sense right now from your reporting what President Trump will accept from Congress? No matter what Chuck Schumer said, it still needs to be signed.
MOLLY BALL, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Sure. It's very difficult to product Trump from one day to the next because he can be so inconsistent that even the things he says are subject to change. However, I do think you heard signals in that speech last night of where he's building himself some wiggle room. He didn't issue an ultimatum. He didn't talk about a national emergency. He didn't talk about the shutdown, which I think was a way of saying he wants to move on from that. The shutdown was not a good experience for the White House or Republicans on Capitol Hill. I don't think they want to do it again, despite the president's bluster. So I think you did hear signals in the speech. While, of course, he advocated very strongly for the wall, he does seem to be potentially building himself some wiggle room to accept something that doesn't go as far as he originally said he demanded. BOLDUAN: And, Congressman, Mike Pence saying this morning that he
couldn't guarantee that there won't be another government shutdown and also saying that the last shutdown was not a mistake. And he also said the president says what he means and means what he says. On a factual basis, ask any Republican Congressman or Senator, they will say, I actually don't agree with you, Vice President Pence.
DAVID JOLLY, (R), FORMER FLORIDA CONGRESSMAN: Right.
BOLDUAN: But when no one speaks for President Trump other than Trump, that is one thing that's very clear over two years, who can Congress depend on to know where the compromise is?
JOLLY: They can't. They can't depend on Donald Trump or Mike Pence as a surrogate. And Pence was wrong. The government shutdown was a mistake. It was a mistake politically for the president.
But, Kate, we've set up the almost a binary choice between a deal on Capitol Hill or a national emergency. The reality is, we very likely might see both. What I mean by that is Donald Trump wants to avoid a government shutdown, so he very well may sign whatever Capitol Hill sends to him and still go ahead with a national emergency declaration because it doesn't satisfy the wall. This is where Donald Trump arguably may have set a perfect trap for Hill negotiators, Democrats and Republicans. T
he one thing I think Democrats are overlooking, an opportunity missed, is I believe they should already be declaring victory. Recall Donald Trump said Mexico is going to pay for it, it's going to be a concrete wall. Donald Trump has already given in to the Democrats' position. He's acknowledged Mexico is not going to pay for it. He now says we don't need a concrete wall. We just need a pedestrian barrier in geographically targeted areas. That is the Democratic position. They should say, thank you, Mr. President, for coming over to our side, declare victory to the American people, and give the president funding for the steel slats that are geographically targeted.
BOLDUAN: But alas, that's not what's happening right now.
Molly, should folks think of this as, at this point, less of a State of the Union setting the agenda for the coming year of a presidency and more of a speech laying out something of a blueprint for his reelection campaign?
[11:10:08] BALL: It was partially that. We always talk about the State of the Union being a speech to the American people going over the heads of the people in Washington. But to an unusual degree, this State of the Union had to be pitched toward the people in this room as well because the president's status with his own party on Capitol Hill is seen to be more tenuous than it's been in the past. And because he faces, for the first time, a divided Congress rather than a fully Republican Congress. So part of what I think he aimed to do was rally Republicans behind him. That extends perhaps to Republicans across the country trying to convince his base or those softer Republican supporters that he still has an optimistic vision, plans, an agenda, that it hasn't all been terminated by all of the chaos and the investigations and so on. But I do think that part of his audience was in that room and they really need a pep talk right now, because Republicans on Capitol Hill have been pretty discouraged watching the White House's strategy and watching the president do things that they aren't so sure about, frankly.
BOLDUAN: And saying things and then flipping on his position and then flipping on it once again --
BALL: And leaving them holding the bag frequently, yes.
BOLDUAN: One-hundred percent. Look no further than Mitch McConnell. When it came to the government shutdown, remember what McConnell said. He said they're not going to pass anything until they know the president is going to sign it and that's why they didn't move forward. That' now McConnell has taken the position of let the Congress do their will and let the president sign it. That's kind of an honest state of play of where things are.
And, Congressman, you've got the president calling for unity. But before the speech, the "New York Times" and "Washington Post" reporting that he was not walking the walk, hours before, calling Chuck Schumer a nasty SOB to a room full of journalists in a lunch just hours before the speech.
I want to play how Chuck Schumer responded to that this morning.
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SCHUMER: So much for inclusiveness, so much for working together. I criticize the president. That's part of my job as leader and part of my job as an American. And his answer should be on the merits. I said yesterday, it got under his skin evidently, that 364 days of the last year he's divisive. We hope this one-day speech, if it emphasizes some kind of comedy, will be more than a day. Instead of answering that on the merits, he uses an epithet. That's like a 10- year-old in a schoolyard in Brooklyn or Queens. It just doesn't work.
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BOLDUAN: This is where it is right now. It is name calling. Do you declare at this moment here and now that we can forget everything that we heard in this speech if that's where this ends up?
JOLLY: We can forget most State of the Union addresses. It was a disciplined but forgettable speech. Most State of the Union addresses are forgettable, but for Bush 43 saying "axis of evil," Bill Clinton, the "year of big government is over." The reality is the president owns the stage. Whatever party delivers comments that can't really be checked by political adversaries in real time from the floor. And it becomes very forgettable.
To the earlier conversation, to Molly's point about 2020 and the audience, there was a line where the president set up what I believe is the contrast going into 2020. It's when he said, "America will never be a Socialist nation." For good or bad, fairly or not, the reality is Republicans are going to create that contrast going into 2020. Elections are decided based on the contrast of the candidates, often not the facts. Donald Trump laid out, we are going to be a conservative party, we are not going to be a Socialist nation. That's the contrast he's trying to draw. But there's nothing that was said last night that is credible, believable or memorable.
BOLDUAN: I did find that moment also pretty surprising, Molly. Of course, cameras cut immediately to Bernie Sanders at that juncture.
BALL: Yes. I think the congressman is absolutely right, that that is going to be a central part of the reelection message. The question will be whether it's true, of course, whether the candidate that the president is facing actually does support Socialism, because some Democrats openly do and some do not. And secondly, whether the American people find it persuasive. We saw, for example, in the midterms, the Republicans' plan was to run against Nancy Pelosi, and that didn't work. The question is whether the American people will consider that the most important issue as we go into 2020.
But State of the Unions are mostly forgettable, but I do think that, in every speech, a leader has an opportunity to make choices about what they want to send. It does tell us something -- maybe less with this president because we know he can read a speech and say something completely different or even ad lib something in the middle of the speech that contradicts his administration's stated policies. But I do think you see the White House proceeding with the same argument on immigration, trying to persuade the American people, despite having repeatedly making this argument talking about caravans, talking about walls, including in that Oval Office address, and not having to seem to move the needle so far. They are not changing their argument or their emphasis. He's going to continue to put immigration front and center and make the same argument over and over.
[11:15:33] BOLDUAN: And as you say, there are choices that they make in what's in the speech and what's not. Also surprising is that a Republican president talked nothing about deficits or the federal debt or Social Security and entitlements, which is a pretty surprising thing we did not hear anything on coming from a Republican president, especially.
BOLDUAN: Thanks, guys. Really appreciate it.
BOLDUAN: Coming up for us, it is some of the most highly anticipated testimony in the Russia investigation since James Comey came to Congress and it has been delayed again. What's going on with Michael Cohen?
Plus, another apology from Senator Elizabeth Warren and she hasn't even officially announced she's running yet. The new report from the "Washington Post," next.
[11:20:31] BOLDUAN: It was going to be the most highly anticipated testimony in the Russia investigation. The president's longtime personal attorney, Michael Cohen, testifying in public before the House. Well, that appearance was indefinitely delayed. Then Cohen was to appear behind closed doors to testify before the House Intelligence Committee this week. As of this morning, that testimony also delayed. Why? That's where it really starts getting interesting.
CNN's Manu Raju is on Capitol Hill with much more.
Manu, what's going on here?
MANU RAJU, CNN POLITICS REPORTER & CNN EDITOR-AT-LARGE: It's another development, that highly anticipated testimony that Democrats and Republicans were eager to hear from Michael Cohen about why he lied to this committee when he testified back in 2017 about that Trump Tower Moscow Project. He said at the time, it ended January 2016. Turns out it was much later than that, at least through the mid-summer. Why did he make those comments? He's not going to be able to say that on Friday because that testimony has now been delayed, that classified hearing, until later this month.
Now what Adam Schiff said in a pretty terse statement was that in the interests of the investigation that they're going to delay this closed-door hearing. We don't know exactly what he's referring to, if he's referring to the Mueller investigation or the southern district of New York, which implicated the president in two crimes involving those hush money payments. This committee, the House Intelligence Committee is not looking into that, per say, but we're not clear exactly what Adam Schiff was referring to. Not clarified that yet.
But there was also an expectation that the House Oversight Committee was going to hear from Cohen in a public setting. That was supposed to happen tomorrow. That was delayed. The chairman of that committee, Elijah Cummings, Kate, has not said if that will happen or when that will happen, although he's insisted it will happen publicly. But for now, Michael Cohen, you probably are not going to see him on Capitol Hill this week -- Kate?
BOLDUAN: Curiouser and curiouser. Adding to that now, the Intel Committee has made some important moves regarding transcripts related to the Russia investigation. What's happening there?
RAJU: The House Intelligence Committee, just moments ago, in its first act in the Democratic controlled House, voted to send those transcripts of those Russia witnesses, who testified before the Russia investigation in the last Congress, the Senators voted to send those transcripts to Bob Mueller's team. The special counsel investigating Russian interference in the elections. This has been a long time coming. Adam Schiff has insisted on those transcripts going over the Bob Mueller's investigation because he believes some of these people could -- information they provided could help the investigation. And also they may not have been telling the committee truthful things and perhaps were misleading this committee. The question is, what does Bob Mueller do with this. We expect that to happen pretty soon that they'll send these to Bob Mueller's team in a matter of days and we'll see where it goes from there -- Kate?
BOLDUAN: We shall see.
Thanks, Manu. Really appreciate it.
Joining me is CNN legal analyst and former federal prosecutor for the southern district of New York, Jennifer Rodgers. She's here right now.
Jennifer, on Michael Cohen and this delay, the wording from Adam Schiff is piquing everybody's interest. Do you think folks should start reading the tea leaves on that?
JENNIFER RODGERS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I don't think it means much, to be honest with you. I was kind of surprised that, right out of the gate they felt it so important to go with Michael Cohen's testimony given so many things this committee should be looking at with vast conflicts of interest with the president, the cabinet, all the people that had such more ethical lapses. I know they wanted to get him in before he went prison but there's really no rush to get Michael Cohen to correct his testimony.
You also have to remember this committee is staffing up right now, now that the Democrats are in charge of this committee. They're hiring staffers with expertise in investigation, other areas. It may just be that they think they'll get better answers out of Michael Cohen if they craft better questions, which comes with the work that these investigators that they are hiring right now can do. So I don't think it's that big of a deal. They'll get to him eventually. I hope they turn their attention to some of these more pressing matters that have been ignored for the last two years.
BOLDUAN: Michael Cohen is also a subject of one of the many investigations going on in the Trump orbit. CNN's reporting that the southern district, your former shop, is now requesting interviews with executives within the Trump Organization. It is also not clear on what topic, where the area of interest is for those interviews. But what does your gut tell you what this means?
[11:25:09] RODGERS: I think it's a couple of things. It's clearly the hush money payments. We have Michael Cohen pleading guilty to that. We know Alan Weisselberg, the CFO, got immunity to talk about it, as did David Pecker from AMI. They're now looking to see who else is chargeable at the Trump Organization. We know from the documents there's someone named Executive Two, who basically had to be asked by the CFO to get permission to pay these coverup payments to Michael Cohen. There's someone, Executive Two, who was in on this. That could be Eric Trump, it could be Don Junior, who is implicated in all of this. So they're probably just doing some more interviews over there, probably not of Executive Two because I think this person is a target. But other people to kind of firm up what happened with the money coverups and so on.
There's another possibility, too, which is they're broadening their look at the Trump Organization to look at other crimes unrelated to the hush money payments. They may be looking into corporate-type crimes like tax fraud or accounting fraud. Because this crime involved that kind of coverup, books and records, and false statements being made on books and records. That can be federal crimes and also can be state crimes, which is why I think the office is working with the attorney general --
BOLDUAN: Does that suggest, from what you know, that they're in the beginning, the middle or the end? Does it give you a timing suggestion if they're now starting to interview more executives from the Trump Organization?
ROGERS: I think they're closer to the end. Remember that they already have talked to Weisselberg.
BOLDUAN: That's right.
RODGERS: They talked, of course, extensively to Cohen. I think they're getting towards the end. But if they are shifting gears toward more of these books and records-types of crimes that maybe could be charged in New York State, by the New York attorney general, which would mean they couldn't be pardoned by the president, which is why they might be interested in that, that's going to be more at the beginning, I think.
BOLDUAN: Also offering up more evidence that the southern district of New York might offer more trouble to Trump in the Trump orbit than even the special counsel's investigation as we're seeing these criminal investigations --
BOLDUAN: Thank you so much, Jennifer. It's good to see you.
[11:29:04] BOLDUAN: Coming up for us, it is an issue Elizabeth Warren has been trying to put behind her for years, her heritage. It's now once again front and center as she prepares to announce her presidential plans.