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Senator Shelby: Trump is Being Reasonable About Funding Talks; Can Top Three VA Dems Stay In Office Despite Controversies?; Maduro Blocks Desperately Needed Aid From Entering. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired February 7, 2019 - 16:30   ET


SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, they want to give themselves essentially, Jake, a safety net here. They want to give themselves the room and time to be able to move any deal through the House and Senate before that actual deadline of next Friday when we potentially could see another government shutdown without a deal.

[16:30:07] Now, at this time on Thursday of this week, there is not a deal yet. But there is the contours of a deal that's slowly starting to come together.

We heard that from Senator Richard Shelby, one of the negotiators. He went over to the White House to brief President Trump directly about the deal that is emerging, still unknown combination of new barriers, new technology, and new personnel. And Shelby returned here to Capitol Hill confident, saying he thinks that the deal that's emerging is one that President Trump could sign.


SEN. RICHARD SHELBY (R), ALABAMA: If we could work within some of the parameters that we've talked about today, which we'll keep to ourselves right now, I think he would sign it. And I think, he's -- from my perspective, he has been quite reasonable.


SERFATY: And Shelby there, really speaking to the wild card in all of this. Essentially, that cloud hanging overall of this conversations, the feeling of what President Trump, indeed, would sign. Senator Shelby confident, many others are not so much, though -- Jake.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: All right. Sunlen Serfaty on Capitol Hill.

Some protesters there as well, obviously.

David Urban, one of the problems that senators, Republican senators and members of the House have had is that they doesn't know what Trump will sign. If they come up with a deal that has $2 billion for steel slat barriers, they don't know if he will go along with that, even if the entire House and Senate will.

DAVID URBAN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. So, I'm not quite sure what Senator Shelby, what discussions he has had with the president. The president says if they're reasonable, responsible. If they come back and say, hey, we got three-quarters of the loaf. It's that what we're getting and you need to sign it, the president should sign it.

I mean, I think that's what we're going to be on this one, or if you shut it down again, and say, I own it, and he owned it. I don't think that will be useful for anybody.

JONES: There was something that happened that during the speech that --

TAPPER: The State of the Union speech.

JONES: The State of the Union speech that I thought the rhetoric was way too high against the immigrant community, but there was a moment he went off script and said he wants as much legal immigration as we ever have. I wonder if Democrats shouldn't take yes for an answer on that. In other words, is there some -- that wasn't in the speech.

TAPPER: It's completely contrary to all the policies.

JONES: Exactly.

TAPPER: They're trying to reduce legal immigration.

JONES: Exactly. Fewer visas, fewer everything. So, on the one hand, you have his administration pushing down but sometimes, you know, take yes for an answer on something. I wonder if there isn't something that can be done, if we're trying to get out of this.

You think there might be another shutdown. I think you are right. Right now, both sides are so dug in that we may again punish 800,000 workers and more. I just want to say I missed that moment in the speech. I was so overheated by the rest of it.

But if he actually does want to do more on legal immigration, I think Democrats should take yes for an answer on that and see if we can do more on that side of the equation and try to get out of this oncoming train crash.

TAPPER: But on Monday, the president is going to go to El Paso, where he will herald how the wall there that was built there has reduced crime, although the crime was dropping years before the wall was constructed there. I don't doubt that the wall has helped.


TAPPER: But if you just look at the statistics, the crime was going down. The wall was built I think it was allocated in 2006, built in 2008. Crime is going up a little bit. Now, of course, that's not because of the wall, but he's misrepresented that. And he's going there on Monday night.

HAM: Look, this is the thing he cares about. We know that physical barriers, the thing he cares about. We also are sure how we will act once we get something on his desk. And I think that leaves it to Congress to do their job and get together and come up with something and tell him, this is the thing that's on the table. I have a feeling anything with a physical barrier part in it, he would

take. He already lost a lot of the sort of Ann Coulter wing, for lack of a better term, when he agreed to the three weeks opening to negotiate. The negotiation seems to be happening in some small promising way. I don't want to jinx it.

But they're being rather quiet about it, having expert testimony behind closed doors. It doesn't look terrible at the moment, although they do have a short time off.

SYMONE SANDERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think the Border Conference Committee is, in fact, doing its job and I think the legislators in the committee are coming to a consensus. I think when we saw Speaker Pelosi, she's been saying it. She reiterated it today.

One of the news articles I was reading, she encourages the president to be as much an interventionist in these talks as she is, which is not at all. And so, let the conference committee do its job, and if the president doesn't want to sign the bill, I'm with you, Congress needs to do its job. But I think Republicans in Congress have seen if they wait on the president, he'd burn them. A 35-day shutdown, what did they get out of it? Nothing but vitriol and blame.

TAPPER: And the truth of the matter is, the president has been pressured in the past to sign legislation that he doesn't want to, including one of the early spending bills.

[16:35:00] The Russia sanctions, he didn't want to do that. And then there is this other option.

Take a listen to the acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney talking about what comes next, and there's that national security declaration that's possible.


MICK MULVANEY, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: If Congress won't participate or won't go along, we'll figure out a way to do it with executive authority, with -- and let's be clear about this, legal executive authority. This is not a circumstance of the president overstepping his bounds.


URBAN: Yes. Look, I think we have, there's lot bigger -- I mean, my personal opinion, the opioid crisis. If we're going to talk about national emergencies, there are lot of things that rise to national the emergency. We should be ahead of that. I think the American public would see that.

I think the president doing that and making that exercise should be a mistake. I hope that Congress does act, sends him something that's reasonable, half a loaf, three-quarters of a loaf and we can get out of this mess, and we can get back to the business of taking care of the American people. TAPPER: You know, it's so interesting is that, David, and you talked

about the First Step Act and you talk about the opioid crisis. There are so many areas that President Trump could work with Democrats, Republicans and everything, but he chooses to put the energy and the attention on the issues like the border wall.

JONES: Look, last year, the president did three things that were actually really good. First Step Act, which we worked on together, criminal justice. The opioid package was very good and well-received and had tremendous support.

The opportunities stuff that he did with Tim Scott. Look, that's a heart and soul for me, poor people, people addicted, people behind bars, it gets overshadowed every time, though. Like literally, he signed first step back and two hours later, the government shut down. He didn't get a chance to celebrate.

So, I think that on immigration, on infrastructure, on family leave, there may be a way forward if we can get past this wall rhetoric and shutdown rhetoric. I'll tell you what, as tough as I am on him when he's wrong, if he wants to do something constructive, there are people who are willing to work with him.

TAPPER: Oh, you were there. I saw you.

Everyone, stick around.

Remember the Appalachian Trail excuse? A closer look now at how not resigning might end up working out for Virginia's three embattled Democratic leaders.

Stay with us.


[16:41:31] TAPPER: Our politics lead now.

A blunt assessment today from "The Washington Post", as Virginia's top three public officials find themselves mired in scandal. In a clear cut headline, the paper's editorial board declared that the Democratic governor, quote, Ralph Northam must resign.

Northam admitted to wearing blackface in 1984. But adding to the complexity of his situation, his number two, Democratic Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax, is currently denying an allegation that he committed sexual assault in 2004. And then next in line of succession, Virginia's Democratic Attorney General Mark Herring also admitted he once put on blackface back in 1980.

So far, there are no indications that any of these three besieged officials intends to resign. And to those who ask how can they hang on under such upsetting and damning circumstances? Well, they would hardly be the first.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) TAPPER (voice-over): Whether you protest alleged racism, adultery, corruption charges or prostitution scandals, remember that the phrase "hell no, we won't go" is sometimes popular among politicians, too. The death of Mary Jo Kopechne in a car driven by Democratic Senator Ted Kennedy at Chappaquiddick didn't stop him from serving in the Senate for 40 more years until his death.

Nor did it stop him from running for president in 1980.

SEN. TED KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: I understand full well while some might think it right for me to resign.

TAPPER: President Clinton, of course, famously lied about his relationship with Monica Lewinski.

WILLIAM J. CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT: I did not have sexual relations with that woman.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The court of impeachment.

TAPPER: Even faced impeachment hearings for perjury. But Clinton remained in office and three years later departed the White House with a wave and a smile. He told CBS News in hindsight --

CLINTON: We fought it until the end and I'm glad.

TAPPER: There were calls for South Carolina Republican Governor Mark Sanford to take a hike after a 2009 trip allegedly to the Appalachian Trail turned out to actually be a visit to Argentina to see his extramarital girlfriend instead.

THEN-GOV. MARK SANFORD (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: As much as I did talk about it going to the Appalachian trail -- that was one of the original scenarios that I'd thrown out to Mary Neil -- that isn't where I ended up.

TAPPER: Sanford stepped down as chairman of the Republican Governors Association and got divorced, but he continued to serve as governor and was later elected to Congress.

Anti-abortion, pro-family values, Republican Congressman Scott DesJarlais reportedly urged his extramarital girlfriend to get an abortion but, you guessed it, he stayed in office and won re-election.

SEN. DAVID VITTER (R), LOUISIANA: I am completely responsible and I'm so very, very sorry.

TAPPER: Former Louisiana Republican Senator David Vitter's involvement with a D.C. madam did not keep him from staying in office and even being re-elected in 2010.

Long-time New York Democratic Congressman Charlie Rangel was censured after being found guilty of 11 counts of violating House ethics rules. But he, too, refused to resign and he, too, was re-elected.

Republican Congressman Steve King, currently in office, has not led repeated racism charges force him out and Democratic Senator Bob Menendez opted to go through a month's long trial, facing federal corruption charges, with his title as an elected official intact. Eventually, it was declared a mistrial and he, too, was re-elected.

SEN. BOB MENENDEZ (D), NEW JERSEY: To those of you who were digging my grave so they could jump in my seat, I know who you are and I won't forget you.


TAPPER: So, for a powerful politician accused of racism --

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: What they're saying is that I'm a racist.

TAPPER: -- adultery, sexual assault, and harassment --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She will not be taking any questions.

TAPPER: -- and various other crimes and misdeeds --

TRUMP: When they have no collusion --

TAPPER: -- staying and fighting might look like a credible game plan.

TRUMP: 2020 is looking really easy isn't it?


TAPPER: So Mary Katharine, why would any politician step down? You -- I mean, that was just a partial list by the way. I mean, if at a certain point of being oh my God, a lot of people just refuse the call, just ignored the calls and they -- and they stayed.

MARY KATHARINE HAM, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No. The first -- the first blatant instance of this I remember sort of in my political coming-of-age was I called it Blagojevich-ing, when everybody was like he obviously has to leave, the Governor of Illinois and he was like nah, I'm going to go for a jog in my Adidas tracksuit.

No, I think, the incidents aren't always there but this is like a tragic comedy of error at this point.

TAPPER: And Virginia.

HAM: We got three top Democratic officials, we got three possible instances of blackface among them and an alleged sexual assault. These are all and like recently deemed unforgivable sins in politics and yet they're all going to sit there partly because allies and adversaries alike are all sniping at them because of the line of secession. They're all desperately trying to keep power.

And I imagine all three of them might stick around for a while, thus mortally wounding the party in some way for the near future.

TAPPER: So Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia called for Governor Northam to step down but take a listen because he doesn't have the same position when it comes to the Lieutenant Governor and the Attorney General.


SEN. TIM KAINE (D), VIRGINIA: It's just too soon. We're just still processing this, you know. We reached -- I reached a conclusion about Governor Northam after about 24 hours after the news broke, and both of these others are just -- they're just too new.

TAPPER: Is it that they're too new or is that if you all three of them resigned then the Republican leader of the House of Delegates becomes the governor.

SYMONE SANDERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I don't -- I honestly don't think that's it from Tim Kane's point of view. I want to remind folks what happened with Governor Northam. He came out on Friday and said there are photos of me in 1984 and I'm sorry for those images. And then Saturday he comes out and says actually it's not me.

And so part of the reason that many folks have said Governor Northam should step down, mind you, no one said anything until he put out a statement is that he has lost the confidence of the folks in Virginia particularly the legislators he has to work with. And this -- in the instance of blackface, of being in a hood of the KKK is something that I think are striking images for folks across the country but it rings especially pointed in Virginia especially given Charlottesville just recently happened.

And -- but then when you talk about you know, and I have to say I know Lieutenant Governor Fairfax personally. I worked for him in 2017. I was one of his consultants. And I was very, very, very disappointed by what he said on Sunday. And I was happy to see the statement that he put out on Monday.

But the fact of the matter is that we are all faced with the choice. And the choice that he made on Sunday to characterize the women that we did not know her name at the time, Professor Tyson as a liar, I think as a choice that could cripple him down the road. And it's not -- it's not the choice I would have been encouraged make.

And so I would hope though that the only person that has to bear the consequences of their choice of Virginia is not just the lieutenant governor.

TAPPER: So I've heard a lot of conservatives say, a lot of Democrats who believe Dr. Christine Blasey Ford's allegations against now Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh are being very quiet about this equally credible allegation being made by Professor Tyson against Lieutenant Governor. Obviously, the circumstances are not the exact same, but the allegations are quite similar in many ways.

VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Look, I think that Democrats are this year going to have to deal with these two values that are in conflict and they're both passionate values for Democrats. You do not want a woman dismissed out of hand and you also don't want someone to be condemned without due evidence and process. And these are two values that are important and they are inherently in conflict.

The old status quo, the way it was always done before, a lot of guilty men got away and a lot of innocent women were hurt. And so the old status quo has to change, but we don't know how to change it too. And so that now you have a mess because how do you square an Al Franken with a Justice Kavanagh, with this, with that, and you're going to -- and I think for men like myself, I want to listen more than I lecture but this is a conundrum I think for Democrats.

DAVID URBAN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I would just said, I wish we'd had that introspection before Justice Kavanaugh had to go through what he went through. That's -- I'm just -- I don't think I need to say more than that. I don't know what Senator Warner or Senator Kaine said in that case but I'm sure we can look it up and I just think it's completely unfair and it's hypocritical. If they're looking to hoist someone a petard very quickly there and now they're incredibly silent, I think that speaks volumes.

I think -- and I think ultimately at the end of the day, the people that these folks work, for the electorate are going to speak and they're going to fire them.

[16:50:12] SANDERS: It's -- it is not in my opinion, fair to say that this is the same situation with then-Justice Kavanaugh. Dr. Ford came forward and there was an entire process and then when it came out Republicans refused to let them -- to give an investigation. So many people myself included were saying look, if we're concerned about due process, give it an investigation, and Republicans were saying no.

In this situation, I just say -- in this situation, I just said here instead and even there are many people in Virginia that have said, look we need to hear more. There needs to -- and perhaps there does yes, there needs to be an investigation.

HAM: And the FBI did --

TAPPER: There was -- there was ultimately an investigation.

SANDERS: There was a sham Russia investigation. And if there's to characterize that as a true deep dive -- there were people that they didn't even talk to. And so that is the concern that folks like myself --

HAM: You can never (INAUDIBLE) whether the FBI is trustworthy.

SANDERS: -- have with the investigation.

HAM: It depends largely on the part --

TAPPER: I guess your point is that it was a short investigation. It was a week-long investigation.

HAM: It was a sham and not even though it was a short, it was a sham.

URBAN: And done by the FBI?

TAPPER: All right, thank you.

HAM: If this were three Republicans, it would be the only story of national news and there wouldn't be -- even be a State of the Union coverage. That's --

TAPPER: I mean, I hear that argument but by the same token, President Trump has been accused of every single one of these things that these three -- not the black face but racism. Anyway, stick around. Coming up in our "WORLD LEAD," people are starving and the country's president is refusing to allow food into his country. The lengths that people are going into to survive, stay with us.


[16:55:00] TAPPER: Welcome back. Our "WORLD LEAD" now. "We are beggars." That incredible statement coming from Venezuela's embattled Socialist leader Nicolas Maduro who as you see in this video has blocked any international humanitarian aid from entering into his beleaguered country.

The desperate situation on the ground is worsening by the day. People there are starving. There are very few medical supplies and the rate of inflation has skyrocketed. Maduro is refusing to give up power despite global condemnation and massive support for opposition leader Juan Guaido.

Guaido proclaimed himself Venezuela's new president but thus far has failed to secure the support of Venezuela's military leaders, at least publicly. CNN Sam Kiley now has the story from Venezuela.


SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This is Petare, a slum. Home to about 750,000 of Venezuela's poorest people. These locals have little yet they know of others much worse off, of children who face starvation if no one helps. So they do volunteering to cook donated food.

It seems incredible in an oil-rich nation such as Venezuela that you would have therapeutic feeding centers and this is one of dozens just in this one barrier alone. This small bowl of rice and beans is the only meal these children are going to get each day.

Three million Venezuelans have fled this country, food is rationed and in short supply.

ISABEL BLANCO, FOOD CENTER VOLUNTEER (through translator): Here, for one to eat, it's become difficult. Sometimes I even can't get food for one.

KILEY: These slums used to support President Nicolas Maduro who's blocking aid being brought in by his rival, Juan Guaido. Guaido is recognized as president by the U.S. and many other nations. Now the barriers are hotbeds of descent.

Marvelys is a soup kitchen volunteer. We meet in secret. Her cousin campaigned against Maduro and paid a heavy price for it. And after we return from an opposition rally, the special forces were looking for him. They had seen his video, Marvelys says.

MARVELYS PAREDES, COUSIN OF JHONNY GODOY (through translator): He came out with his hands up and they take him up the stairs. You hear a first shot. You hear a first shot and you can hear him pleading with them not to kill him. They go further up and you hear a second shot. One of the neighbors then saw how they put a cloth in his mouth and killed him. They suffocated him.

KILEY: Amid widespread criminal murder and political killings, the government has said nothing about Jhonny's death. He's become just another reason for Venezuelans to leave.


KILEY: Now, Jake, the statistic I think that's worth repeating here is that three million Venezuelans have fled this country. I've covered every major refugee crisis for the last 25 years and there's never been a refugee crisis that has been on this scale, if it hasn't been caused by a civil war or a catastrophe, a natural catastrophe, Jake. These people have fled Venezuela because of their poverty, from this oil-rich nation, Jake.

TAPPER: Unbelievable. Sam, what prospect is there for international aid to eventually be able to get in?

KILEY: That really depends on which way the army goes in this standoff. It's a deliberate dilemma being presented to them by Juan Guaido and the opposition, essentially saying we're going to build up humanitarian aid on the border and it will be up to you whether you stick with Maduro and punish your own people or whether you allow the aid in and at least prove to the nation that Maduro cannot deliver, Jake.

TAPPER: Sam Kiley in Venezuela, thank you for that report. Please stay safe. You can follow me on Facebook and Twitter @JAKETAPPER. You can tweet the show @THELEADCNN.