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Democratic Presidential Field Grows; Will Trump Shut Down Government Again Over Border Wall?. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired February 11, 2019 - 16:00   ET



BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Let's send it to Washington.

"THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER" starts right now.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: We're not going to give the president a Paso when it comes to his deceptions about immigration and border security.

THE LEAD starts right now.

President Trump heading to the border, as he repeats the lie that a border wall saved the city of El Paso, Texas, and as the Republican mayor of El Paso even tells the president, sir, please get your facts straight.

Two more women candidates are officially. The historic list of 2020 contenders grows, but facing tough questions already about their substance and their style and what it will take to beat President Trump.

Plus, the top U.S. commander in the campaign against ISIS telling a different story than the commander in chief, warning that tens of thousands of ISIS terrorists remain in Syria and Iraq, and as CNN sees the fight firsthand on the front lines.

Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

We begin today with the national lead.

And as lawmakers are meeting right now to try to avoid the inflicting of pain on the American people by their own government due to yet another partial government shutdown, President Trump is heading to the U.S.-Mexico border tonight, the city of El Paso, Texas, to pick up the political fight that he seems to relish and to continue to spread a falsehood that he loves to trot out, including in his State of the Union address.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The border city of El Paso, Texas, used to have extremely high rates of violent crime -- one of the highest in the entire country, and considered one of our nation's most dangerous cities. Now, immediately upon its building, with a powerful barrier in place,

El Paso is one of the safest cities in our country.


TAPPER: The president using a false story that the barriers built in El Paso are exhibit A for why he should get the full $5.7 billion he's demanded for a border wall or barrier or metal slats or whatever it is this week.

But here's the problem. Whatever your position on border barriers or a border wall, the case that president lays out about El Paso is simply false. El Paso has never had -- quote -- "one of the highest rates of violent crime in the entire country," according to FBI data.

Its violent crime rate has always been well below the average rate for the top 35 cities with a population over 500,000, lower in El Paso in fact than in Houston or Dallas or in Fort Worth, large Texas cities not on the border.

But let's get to the other point. How did the barrier that was built there impact the city? FBI crime data shows that violent crime in El Paso actually peaked in 1993 and continued on a downward trend, falling 60 percent over the next 13 years. Border wall construction didn't begin until 2008. And then violent crime did not actually drop then.

It actually increased 5.5 percent from the year before construction of the fence started to the year it was completed.

Well, you don't believe the FBI? OK. How about the Republican mayor of El Paso this morning on CNN? He called the president's claim flat wrong.


DEE MARGO (R), MAYOR OF EL PASO, TEXAS: But the remarks that the president made in the State of the Union were stated originally, almost verbatim, by our attorney general some weeks ago. And that's where the erroneous comments came from that were not correct.


TAPPER: Not correct.

Now, it is correct that Customs and Border Patrol officials would like more barriers on the U.S.-Mexico border. That's not in dispute. But the president wants to depict undocumented immigrants as hordes of almost entirely violent criminals, which is not true.

So he makes claims that are also not true, like claims that El Paso was once:


TRUMP: Considered one of our nation's most dangerous cities. (END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: False.

Claims that El Paso only became safe:


TRUMP: Immediately upon its building, with a powerful barrier in place.


TAPPER: False.

The president is lying to you to get his border wall.

President Trump just wrapped a meeting with White House aides on border wall funding. Any minute, he will head to El Paso for tonight's rally.

CNN's White House correspondent, Kaitlan Collins, kicks off our coverage from Texas.


KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Trump heading to El Paso for his first campaign rally of the year, Trump hoping to amplify the argument for his border wall in the Texas border city, as border security talks are breaking down in Washington.

SEN. RICHARD SHELBY (R), ALABAMA: I say 50/50 we get a deal.

COLLINS: Though the wall was once the central issue in the funding fight, Democrats are now demanding a limit on the detention of illegal immigrants. But Republicans want an exception for criminals.


Today, the president called the brand-new demand from Democrats crazy. White House officials say, if lawmakers can't come to an agreement that includes funding for the border wall, another partial government shutdown could happen, leaving 800,000 federal workers in limbo once again.

MICK MULVANEY, ACTING WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: Is a shutdown entirely off the table? The answer is no.

COLLINS: But the acting chief of staff left the door open to declaring a national emergency.

MULVANEY: Lots of money where presidents, all presidents have access to without a national emergency. And there's ones that he will not have access to without that declaration.

COLLINS: Though some Republican senators, including Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, aren't sure he has that authority.

SEN. PAT TOOMEY (R), PENNSYLVANIA: It's probably a gray area in terms of the legality of it. And so that's why I'd rather not go down that road. This should be resolved through the legislative process, through a compromise.


COLLINS: Now, Jake, Mick Mulvaney also said that the president has instructed him to comb through the law and find money in any place that he could.

Then, just now in a meeting before leaving the White House to head here to El Paso, the president reiterated his demand that they need a wall.

So, Jake, you can guess where this is headed if those congressional negotiators don't come to a deal soon.

TAPPER: All right, Kaitlan Collins in El Paso, thanks so much.

Let's chat about this with our experts.

Amanda, four days until the government runs out of money and shuts down. The president is holding this campaign rally, really, essentially, to bolster support for a wall and call out Democrats. Will it work? Is this the best way to get the money he needs and to avoid the shutdown?

AMANDA CARPENTER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I'm sure it's the best way. He's free to make his case.

But, come on, Congress. Where is the deal? How much more time do you need? I really hate this idea that they're going to work until the last -- the government runs out of money on Friday. The American people need some time to absorb whatever it is that they come out with.

So what is it going to be? In my opinion, the fact that they're taking so long, they're just ceding this ground right back to Donald Trump.

TAPPER: Do you agree?


I'm not sure, why do you think that? Why do you think they're ceding...


CARPENTER: Well, I think Donald Trump and Pelosi, they have done a good job largely staying out of it, right, so Congress could negotiate, so this bipartisan group could come together and work a deal.

So where is it?

POWERS: Right, but I don't know how that makes that the Democrats' fault? I mean, both sides are trying to negotiate.


POWERS: Yes, both sides are negotiating. And I think that the only reason anyone's trying to get a wall is because of Donald Trump. This isn't a priority of the congressional Republicans, necessarily.


POWERS: Right, but I think the Democrats have been interested in border security. And they have been talking a lot about giving money for -- I mean, they're not opposed to the idea of barriers and give him more money for a barrier, just not for building like a wall, which he has in the past described as being like the Great Wall of China, right?

I mean, that's very different...

CARPENTER: I think he might bend on that.

POWERS: ... than probably, yes, what they're talking about.



TAPPER: No, no, please.

BOLDEN: I think what's interesting is that the negotiators, if you hear what's coming out of those meetings, they're not talking about the border wall. They're talking about border security.

But the whole idea of 5.7 or even $2 billion or less for a wall is just not there. So I think you're right. This negotiation is all about the wall. And what's going to happen is, I think they can get a deal in three or four days.

But the real action is, is it a deal that Donald Trump will rely on and will sign onto? I think not. And then he's got a decision to make whether he declares a national emergency or he combs and finds this other money out there. But he's not getting the wall, because the Democrats have the people behind them.

Look at the latest polling. And so this is really going to be back in Trump's lap and it's going to be a test for his leadership. We will have to see what he does.

TAPPER: Do you the president wants a deal?


Look, the president wants to sign something that has some wall funding in it, sign something that doesn't have a restriction on the number of detention beds. As long as those two things are -- now that those are sort of the two issues out there, if he gets his wall money, he will take whatever he gets, something he can save face with. Hopefully, it's a decent number.

And then he will go about doing what you just talked about. He will talk to Mick Mulvaney and say, OK, where else can we find money?

TAPPER: Right.

SANTORUM: Just because he got this money doesn't mean that's the only money he can spend. He might do the same -- he might declare an emergency on top of this right and say we can spend this money other places.

BOLDEN: Well, is it legal money, though? Or is it illegal money?


SANTORUM: What is it, 53 emergencies declared under the Emergencies Act right now.

So the idea that what's going on at the border, and you can't make a case of the horror at the border right now, that that's an emergency, given -- looking what the other money has been spent on emergencies?


TAPPER: A lot of other emergencies are about sanctions and things like that.

But let me ask you. If the president does declare an emergency, Congress then gets to vote on it. It won't pass the House, because the Democrats control. And there are Republicans in the Senate who are concerned that it won't pass the Senate either, that there aren't -- what is it, 47-53, that there are six or seven Republicans who might not support it.

You just heard conservative Senator from the great commonwealth of Pennsylvania Pat Toomey expressing concern.

SANTORUM: Yes, I would say that if the president puts up a responsible program for not building the great wall of China. I agree.


If he puts up the Great Wall of China, he's not going to get the votes in the Senate to do that. But he puts up something that shows that he's worked with the border security people that really came from the bottom up, I think he will get the votes for it.

TAPPER: So, Amanda, I want you to take another listen to the El Paso mayor, Dee Margo, who has been out there saying that what the president says about El Paso -- it was a violent city, then they built a wall and now it's a safe city -- is just not true. It's just not borne out by any measure of crime data or anything else.

Take a listen.


MARGO: We were going back to, oh, 2005 one of the safest cities in the nation. The barrier went up and the fence went up, and it's only about 10 miles long. And the total fencing in the El Paso sector is about 78 miles and it's not continuous.

Now, it does -- it's part of the process for border security, but it's not the total panacea.


TAPPER: Now, again, Customs and Border Patrol does say that in parts of the border, they would like more border barriers or fencing or whatever, but this El Paso story is just not true.

CARPENTER: Yes, the president likes to make the most provocative case, not necessarily the most factual case.

I question the wisdom of his team sending him down to El Paso without at least getting the mayor on board. You usually don't go in someone's backyard knowing that they're going to trash your speech in advance.

But the president does have a good case to make if he would make it. The number of asylum seekers coming to the border has overwhelmed the number of judges that can process their claims, it's overwhelmed the number of facilities that our border security can handle.

He could stick to the facts and make a good case. And so I think this is just an unforced error. And I'm very curious to see how Beto O'Rourke handles this. This to me -- there's a lot of Democratic presidential candidates, aspiring candidates who say I want to fight President Trump, I'm the person to do it.

Beto is actually going to do it tonight. And I think that says a whole lot more than anything Amy Klobuchar or Kamala Harris has done so far.


BOLDEN: Yes, but adding more beds, for example, just doesn't make sense, just like the wall doesn't make sense.

U.S. money would be better spent by investing in those countries where the immigrants are coming from, one, investing in border security, not the wall, technology, hiring more people, because when you add more beds, you just -- you're buying into this fact that they're just going to come at all costs, and so let's just have beds.

We're holding them outside of the U.S. right now in camps. It makes no sense. We need a broader policy. TAPPER: And we should point out that the U.S. State Department has requested more money to put in those countries for that kind of investment you're talking about.

BOLDEN: Economic development.

TAPPER: Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.

Let's go back to the potential shutdown part of this. Take a listen to White House Chief of Staff, acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney.


MULVANEY: We cannot definitively rule out a government shutdown at the end of this week. You absolutely cannot. And here's why. Let's say for sake of this discussion that the Democrats prevail and the hard-core left-wing Democrats prevail.

There was a Democrat congresswoman who put out a tweet yesterday about zero dollars for DHS. So let's say that the hard-core left wing of the Democrat Party prevails in this negotiation and they put a bill on the president's desk with, say, zero money for the wall or $800 million, some absurdly low number.

How does he sign that? He cannot in good faith sign that.


TAPPER: There is no indication that there's going to be zero money. There's indication there is going to be a couple billion dollars at least for border fencing.

But it does look like the shutdown is still a possibility.

POWERS: Yes, and I think -- and it's outrageous.

I mean, it's -- the fact that our government isn't able to function without having these sort of careening back and forth between these ideas of shutdowns is highly problematic. I do think it's important to remember how does the shutdown happened, though, that -- the last shutdown, which is that President Trump was willing to actually give on the issue of the wall.

And then Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter and a bunch of people on the right freaked out, and he sort of caved to that. So I think his initial impulse probably was right. He recognized that this isn't something that the Democrats want to give him.

I don't think it's a hard left position to oppose the wall.

TAPPER: Everyone, stick around.

We're going to keep talking about this. The president just weighed in on the latest obstacle you heard us talking about, as lawmakers right now are racing to prevent the next government shutdown. That's next.

Then: President Trump not wasting any time going after his 2020 Democratic opponents and openly using some racial slurs.

Stay with us.


[16:18:19] TAPPER: In our national lead, Hill negotiators are currently behind closed doors desperately trying to hammer out a plan to avoid another partial federal government shutdown and according to people in those meetings, it doesn't look so good. One major issue stalling talks the number of beds in ICE detention centers to house these undocumented immigrants already in the country Democrats want to cap the number of beds with the idea that fewer beds would force the Trump administration to focus efforts on detaining the criminals with the most serious charges instead of simply general undocumented immigrants.

Republicans disagree. They want more space and argue that Democrats are trying to essentially abolish ICE as many Democrats have called to do and that the bed space to hold the worst offenders who come across the border.

So, everyone, I want you to take a listen to President Trump. He just weighed in on this issue just moments ago.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Not only don't they want to give us the money for the wall, they don't want to give us the space to detain murderers, criminals, drug dealers, human smugglers. How bad is that? Human smuggling. People think of that as an ancient art.


TAPPER: I don't know anyone to continue smuggling -- considers it as an ancient art.

But more to the point --

SANTORUM: Ancient crime.

TAPPER: Yes, of course. It's been going on for a long time. He misspoke.

But so what is the issue here? Obviously, people, the Democrats, pushing this have an agenda. It's not to not give beds to murderers, it's what?

SANTORUM: But the impact would be to either you're going to let criminals go when they pick them up in San Francisco or someplace inside --

TAPPER: What kinds of criminals though?

SANTORUM: Any kind of criminal that they pick up -- that ICE would pick up. That they -- there's only -- if there's a limited number of space so they can track the number of space, you're going to have to choose which criminals you're going to keep and which criminals you're going to let go?

[16:20:03] Or at the border, you're going to have to -- you're going to have what I believe the Democrats really want, which is to return to catch and release, because you're not going to have any bed space to keep people who come to this country illegally, who are not, other than Mexicans, who you can't just send back across the border. So, what you're going to have to do is you're going to process them through because there's no space, release them into the public and guess what happen? They get set up for a detention area, they have some phony alibi, some phony asylum story.


SANTORUM: They don't show up for their hearing which 97 percent are -- I think it's some were like 97 percent of these of folks who don't show up --


TAPPER: I don't most people do show up for the hearings.

But let's focus on the bed issue. What -- I mean are they not trying to, first of all, Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, says this is a poison pill. This is going to blow up the talks.

POWERS: Yes. No, this is -- so anybody who actually works in the area of immigration would just vehemently disagree with everything you just said. It's -- the reality is that ICE over-charges people and over-detains people and that's the problem. And so, they aren't -- there isn't it --

SANTORUM: What's that mean?

POWERS: It means they take somebody who isn't a danger and who even you know could have -- like when the kids were coming across the border, for example, you know, the Republicans were talking about how dangerous they were. They weren't dangerous and they also something like 90 percent of them had family members here who they could have just been reunited with rather than being detained.

TAPPER: Are you talking about unaccompanied minors?

POWERS: Unaccompanied minors. So, instead got put in and being held and they were in detention -- basically being detained -- when they could have been just reunited with a family member. And, in fact, most of them show up. It's actually the opposite of that.

TAPPER: Most of them do show up, according to statistics.

Let's focus on the bed issue. Go ahead.

BOLDEN: But here's the deal, the -- under the Republican definition of illegals or criminals coming across the border, you come across the border and there's not an entry point and you seek asylum, those are criminals for the Republican view of the world, right?

And these reduction in beds mean the most the most heinous or the criminals who are rapists murders and what-have-you, there enough beds for them, but the Republicans are catching and releasing now, because they don't have times --


SANTORUM: Because we don't have the beds.

BOLDEN: You can't have enough beds. The Republicans --


SANTORUM: So, we just release them and they don't show up?

BOLDEN: Well, what else are you going to do?


SANTORUM: So, that's open borders policy? Say what it is.

BOLDEN: Hold on. How does it work? Because the people from Honduras and others are still coming in droves --

SANTORUM: That's right.

BOLDEN: You label them criminals.


BOLDEN: You've told them you're going to --


SANTORUM: Why? Why do you they come? Why have we seen the decrease of the number of Mexicans ---


TAPPER: Let's just one at a time.

SANTORUM: So, let's address this issue. Why do we see in recent years an increase of the number of people from Honduras and Nicaragua and El Salvador, and not an increase in Mexico? Why? Because if you're caught and you're Mexican, you can be turned right back into Mexico. If you're caught and you're not from Mexico, you get released into the country.

What message are we sending?

BOLDEN: They seek asylum. That's not true.


SANTORUM: You disagree with that? Most of the claims are phony. CARPENTER: We had a huge problem --

POWERS: No, most of the claims are not phony. That's insane. I mean, my god. This is outrageous.

TAPPER: I want to bring Amanda in for one second. I want to let Amanda for one second. Amanda?

CARPENTER: We had a huge problem this summer when people were coming across the border, children were there. We saw kids in cages, sleeping on the floor. And so, frankly, I don't understand this argument for reducing the number of beds because that just means more people are going to be cramped into insufficient facilities.

If the Democrats want to give a different directive to ICE, they should do that. But just reducing the number of beds across the board is going to make conditions much worse.


TAPPER: If we want -- let me ask you a question. If we want to keep families together, right, don't they need more beds so that the family separation policy --

POWERS: No, because a lot of these people don't need to be detained.

TAPPER: They don't need to be detained.

SANTORUM: Just release. Just release them.

POWERS: They're not dangerous.


POWERS: These are people seeking asylum and you're saying why are they coming from those countries, a lot of them are fleeing danger. They're fleeing gangs, they're fleeing --

BOLDEN: War, violence, poverty.

POWERS: It's like they're coming here.


POWERS: And another reason they're coming here is because they have family members here. And so they want to be reunited with their families, as any of us would if we were fleeing the country. We would go where we have family.

SANTORUM: So, your idea is simply to open the border for anybody from those countries --

POWERS: Why do you do that? Why do you have to like to go some extreme?

SANTORUM: Because that's the answer. POWERS: It's not the answer.

SANTORUM: Because it's not an extreme. What you're saying is bring them and release them.

POWERS: It is not the extreme to say you just let every single person and you -- Democrats have said, we need to worry about ports of entry, we need to actually have border security. But for people who are seeking asylum, they can make judgments about whether they think these people pose a threat.

And the fact of the matter is, overwhelmingly, they do not.

SANTORUM: The law says don't let them in.

BOLDEN: The law requires us --

POWERS: Yes, it's asylum law.

BOLDEN: -- that if they show up, they get us -- they can apply for asylum.

TAPPER: I agree, right?

CARPENTER: You need a facility to be in.


TAPPER: That's why there's a lot of talk about, especially by the White House, about changing the asylum laws, so that -- but I take everybody's point here.

Everyone, stick around.

It's the question any presidential candidates have been asked since Bill Clinton's famous MTV town hall.

[16:25:02] Up next, Senator Kamala Harris on inhaling and an issue Barack Obama knows all too well.

Stay with us.


TAPPER: The politics lead. The topic of race front and center as the Democratic presidential field continues to grow.

Today, Senator Kamala Harris of California whose mother was from India and whose father is from Jamaica addressed the issue head-on.


UNIDNETIFIED MALE: What do you say to people questioning the legitimacy of your blackness?

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think they don't understand who black people are.