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Talks Break Down as Another Government Shutdown looms; Trump and O'Rourke hold Dueling Rallies In El Paso Tonight; Democratic Leaders Call on Omar to Apologize for Remarks; Klobuchar Says on Treatment of Staff, Yes, I Can Be Tough; Op-Ed Says Record Number of Women Running, "Get Used to It". Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired February 11, 2019 - 14:00   ET


[14:00:00] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: Hi, I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thank you for being with me. New story. Same old story in Washington. Once again, a shutdown is just days away. The government is set to close this Friday, but today and tomorrow, actually really the key in keeping things on track. The reason is this. The House has a 72-hour rule that requires legislation be released three days before it receives a floor vote, but before they can vote, they need to make a deal. And with all the talk of money for a wall, turns out a new sticking point. Detention beds for detained, undocumented immigrants. Democrats want to cut that number from about 40,000 beds to just under 36,000. But the White House and Republicans want to increase it up to 52,000. And this weekend, one of the key members of these talks said he was not confident of a deal or that the government would stay open.


SEN. RICHARD SHELBY (R), ON BIPARTISAN COMMITTEE NEGOTIATING SHUTDOWN DEAL: Shutting down the government should always be off the table. We would like for it to be off the table. We've worked hard to fund the government. We're going to continue to work hard in these negotiations, but the specter of a shutdown is always out there.


BALDWIN: We start with our CNN Congressional correspondent on Capitol Hill and a big meeting is about all of this is happening next hour. Tell us what it's about and who will be there.

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. This is a big meeting coming at such a crucial moment for these negotiations and just over an hour, the top four leaders on the conference committee, this broader group of 17 members, they'll be sitting down behind closed doors up here on Capitol Hill. Essentially trying to pick up the pieces. Trying to see if they can find a way forward. Trying to see if there's anything that's salvageable after the breakdown in talks over the weekend. We heard from negotiators after the breakdown, the fact they had not gotten agreement for the potential physical barrier at the wall, but interestingly enough, the other big dividing point is the number of detention beds for illegal immigrants who are criminals in this country. That's something Democrats want to see a cap on. They want to see that number of beds reduced. Republicans say at that level that Democrats are proposing, that's a nonstarter and you heard that tone coming from Senator Richard Shelby. He is one of the people who will be in the meetings today. That really reflecting the sense of pessimism up here on Capitol Hill and the concern that we are now four days away from another potential government shutdown.

No deal on table. But I think in the next hour or two as lawmakers emerge from the meet, we could see hints of what direction this is heading.

BALDWIN: As we pointed out, how the rules go, that's why today and tomorrow are so key. We'll stay in close contact with you. President Trump is taking his fight on the border wall straight to Texas. He holds his first campaign rally of the year in El Paso tonight. Beto O'Rourke, the former Congressman and potential White House contender will join march build a stop the wall, stop the lies and headline a rally across the street as the President is speaking. Here is what the mayor, a Republican, told me about Trump's wall just on Friday.


MAYOR DEE MARGO (R) EL PASO, TEXAS: Well, you know, a fence, I don't use the term wall because it just personally conjures up the berlin wall in my mind, but the fence is a part of you know, we are a sovereign nation and we need to control our borders. I'm sure it's part and parcel, but it's not the total panacea. I don't think anybody would ever agree it should be the panacea. You can't build a fence from Brownsville to El Paso, Texas. Geographically, Texas, it won't work.


BALDWIN: With me now, Todd Curry, an assistant professor of political science at university of Texas at El Paso. So, professor, welcome. And we want to talk to you because of this quote of yours: "Trump's trip to El Paso is the equivalent," you said, "of a criminal returning to the scene of the crime." What did you mean by that?

TODD CURRY, ASSISTANT PROFESSOR OF POLITICAL SCIENCE, UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS AT EL PASO: Well, Trump's most notorious policies regarding immigration started here in El Paso. Family separation, the Torneo site just miles away. The 12 Sikhs currently on a hunger strike. All of these occurred right here at the locus point of El Paso.

BALDWIN: So, your point being you're calling those crimes and referring to Trump.

[14:05:00] CURRY: Not necessarily calling them crimes. What I'm in essence saying is that when Trump is showing back up here, he's bringing back up these certain occurrences that have occurred that are sort of negative marks on him at least nationally, and they all took place here where he is come lg back to this evening.

BALDWIN: This is something I also addressed with the mayor. He has insisted over and over falsely that El Paso had one of the country's highest violent crime rates before any border barriers were put up. You heard the El Paso mayor refute that. If Trump stands up the there tonight and spouts these false statistics on crime in El Paso, what can city leaders, what should city leaders do about that?

CURRY: Well, I think city leaders are taking a stand. Beto O'Rourke holding a rally at the same time to tell you the truth. And the truth of El Paso. I think city leaders are going to be thrust into the limelight and have as a necessity to put the record straight regarding what crime has looked like in El Paso over the last 30 year and it's historically low. s

BALDWIN: And to your point about Beto tonight, you have these dueling rallies. So, the President being in El Paso, he's essentially gifting Beto O'Rourke a stage and a microphone and a prime-time audience on a cable news split screen. Do you think the President is giving him a political gift here and who do you think comes out on top?

CURRY: It's granting him, if he decides to run, it's a campaign contribution to Beto O'Rourke. I think coming out on top, Beto O'Rourke is probably going to get just as much coverage as Donald Trump does. And Beto O'Rourke is nationally more popular than Donald Trump. I think the outcome is not a true strategic thought on the behalf of the Trump candidacy, but more so a failure again of sort of a strategic mind set on behalf of this administration.

BALDWIN: We'll be watching both of these men this evening. Todd Curry, thank you so much.

And we've got breaking news now. Democratic leaders of the U.S. House of representatives have joined this growing list of Democrats in condemning one of their own. Freshman Congresswoman Omar of Minnesota accusing, accused again of anti-Semitism, for suggesting Republicans support Israel is fueled by donations from a prominent pro-Israel group. The House leadership is now calling the Congresswoman's comments quote deeply offensive. And this is one of the comments raising outrage on both sides. Congresswoman Omar tweeted," all about the Benjamins, baby."

Her response to a message critical of Republican Kevin McCarthy for Omar's support of what is known as BDS for the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement. Aims to put pressure on Israel to change its actions toward Palestinians and then in a later tweet, the Congresswoman called out APAC specifically for paying politicians to be pro-Israel. Now, House Democratic leadership is calling on Ilhan Omar to apologize. No comment so far from the Minnesota Congresswoman. But I have seen political commentator, Peter Beinart part of our conversation from earlier.


BALDWIN: Let's start with you have the language the Congresswoman used and the policy that she was referring to. You thought what?

PETER BEINART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think it's really important that we have supporters of Palestinian rights in Congress. I think there are a lot of Americans, a lot of very legitimate criticisms. Human rights abuses are serious, but I think you can talk about these issues with suffering and humanity and without talking about Jews and money. I don't know that Omar meant it that way, but just like with black face, thing has a history and you have to be aware of this.

BALDWIN: As she was saying all about the Benjamins and talking about all this lobbying money, you take that as entirely anti-Semitic.

BEINART: I don't think it was in her intent, but it was unfortunate. You can criticize APAC. Here's where I think they're wrong on the issues, but you don't need to say politicians are being controlled by a Jewish organization because that had negative and hurtful connotations. Whether she understood stood that, she needs to understand these things.

BALDWIN: Do you think language, choice of language aside, do you think she had a point on the issue that she was trying to make?

[14:10:00] BEINART: Look, obviously. APAC has committees that give money to candidates and that has an influence with them just like on every other issue. What issue in Washington isn't influenced by fact you have groups giving money. But when you talk b about this particular issue, that anti-Semitism is bound up with Jews in this way, I think it's better to avoid the subject and make the point you want to make on the policy. Part of the tragedy is that that's been lost. Talk about Palestinian rights. Not Jews and money.

BALDWIN: Just big picture, it was the House minority leader, Kevin McCarthy, calling her out on Twitter. Now everyone is saying look at what you tweeted. We have the graphic from before the midterm elections. Again, you know, the theme of Jewish people and money. Anti-Semitic. You also have Congressman Steve King, the racist remarks he's made. The President over the weekend sparking backlash over trail of tears then doubling down using the word savage. It's a lot of hate and racism and anti-Semitism right in the open at the moment. For years and years. Among politicians.

BEINART: Right and the tragedy is that we need to be bound together in this. Jews need to fight it. We need to all be united in this struggle and Omar has a really important role to play and unfortunately, she made a mistake that undermines her ability to play that role. I hope she comes back from it.

BALDWIN: Peter, thank you very much.

Coming up next, a closer look at the growing Democratic field. David joins me to talk about the most recent entries. Two more women, but senators, but with very different ideas about how to run the race. And take a look at how many women are running for President in 2020. We'll talk to Margaret Karlsson who says you better get used to it.

And Virginia remains in a state of chaos over scandals with top Democrats. North you're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.


BALDWIN: Now to the race for 2020, while Beto O'Rourke is keeping them guessing about a presidential run. Two of his fellow Democrats, Senators Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar are leaving no doubt.


SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This is the fight of our lives. The fight to build an America where dreams are possible, an America that works for everyone. And that is why I stand here today to declare that I am a candidate for President of the United States.

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I am running for every parent who wants a better world for their kids. I'm running for every student who wants a good education. For every senior who wants affordable prescription drugs. I am running for every American. I am running for you.


BALDWIN: Two women, two senators, with two different approaches to what it means to be b a Democrat in this 2020 campaign. David is in Houston where he's getting ready for the town hall with Howard Schultz. He's repeatedly slammed a Democrat's lurch to the left. Klobuchar presents herself at a moderate. Doesn't back abolishing I.C.E. and has voted in line with Trump 31 percent of time since she took office. Is she a viable option for anyone skittish about backing a third party candidate?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Well, she is a viable option inside this Democratic nomination race. She's the first one actually that we're seeing now sort of start paving that path of a potential more centrist lane inside the Democratic party. We've seen Warren, you were just showing unabashedly liberal progress. Gillibrand and Harris and Booker are sort of filling the left lane at the moment and we're waiting on some folks. You mentioned Beto O'Rourke or Mike Bloomberg or Joe Biden who may also join Amy Klobuchar in this more centrist lane. When I say centrist, I'm still talking about the Democratic party of the left. Just in the context of the primary fight. You noted she's not lined up with some of those other more liberal members.

BALDWIN: Staying on Klobuchar and in the days leading up to her announcement, she was subject to several reports citing anonymous former staffers that say she mistreats her staff. She has the third highest staff turnover in the Senate from fiscal years 2001 to 2017. Here is how she responded to those reports this morning.


SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D), MINNESOTA: First of all, I love my staff. I wouldn't be where I am and we wouldn't be able to pass all those bills and do all that work if we didn't have great staff. I am tough. I push people. That is true. But my point is that I have high expectations for myself. I have high expectations for the people that work for me and I have high expectations for this country.


[14:20:00] BALDWIN: Do you think she can spin this into a positive moving forward? She's going to keep getting asked. CHALIAN: She's clearly trying. That was spin there and pushing back on

a couple of negative stories that were looking at this staff issue in the week leading up to her announcement. She's clearly having none of it yet she's not running away from it. Just trying to embrace some bit of reality of that reputation and turn it into a positive.

We'll see. To me, it will largely depend on if we hear any mistreatment of her staff during this campaign that feeds into this larger narrative, but I don't think this is going to be the defining characteristic of her campaign if she avoids those kinds of pitfalls in terms of managing this.

But remember, just to go back to what you were saying before, she is somebody who just won 60 percent of the vote in Minnesota. A state that was razor thin close in 2016. She's making the case a lot of other Democrats aren't yet that she could win over some of those Trump voters that slipped away from the Democrats.

BALDWIN: Kamala Harris, Warren and Klobuchar's colleague and 2020 rival, they were talking about a range of topics this morning including marijuana.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They say you oppose legalizing weed.



HARRIS: And look, I joke about it. Half my family is from Jamaica.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have you ever smoked?

HARRIS: I have. And I did inhale. It was a long time ago. But yes.


BALDWIN: Now all jokes aside, Cory Booker introduced a bill in 2017 would legalize marijuana use at a federal level, a bill that Senator Harris cosponsored after Gillibrand and Sanders expressed their own support and 27 years ago, Bill Clinton made headlines for saying he tried it, but didn't inhale. Do you think now with the snapshot that is 2019, is this even a blip on the radar?

CHALIAN: I mean the fact that candidates smoke pot is not going to be a blip. We're well beyond that in society and in fact, this issue of the legalization of marijuana came up in the Barr confirmation hearings. Both Booker and Harris sit on the Judiciary Committee.

She was making very clear that she believes this needs to be dealt with legislatively to move towards legalization.

BALDWIN: David, thank you, my friend. Again, you're in Houston preparing for the CNN Presidential "TOWN HALL." Poppy Harlow is the host. Tomorrow night, 10:00 Eastern here on CNN and a week from today, Don Lemon will moderate a "TOWN HALL" with Senator Amy Klobuchar in New Hampshire.

Just in this afternoon, we are hearing the President will be holding a meeting inside the oval office this afternoon on wall funding as we get closer and closer, a government shutdown in talks break down over the deadline is Friday and tax return season. So many Americans are getting quite the shock. Refunds. Way smaller than years past despite the President promising his tax cut would help the middle class.


BALDWIN: President Trump is facing unique opposition in his bid for re-election. He will be challenged by at least five women who have announced they're either running for President or exploring a run in 2020. But in a campaign that will be post me too movement, post women's march and after a historic year for women up on Capitol Hill, my next guest argues the rules are different for women in politics this time. She writes in "The Washington Post," as the year of the woman gives way to the year of many women, the female candidates are woke to the ways in which they are required to pass a test they shouldn't have to take in the first place. The writer is Margaret Carlson he is a columnist for "The Daily Beast."

And Margaret, thank you so much for being on, \ going back, how are they so woke you think?

MARGARET CARLSON, WRITER, "THE DAILY BEAST": A lot has happened since Hillary ran and she was pretty much torn apart. This whole likable business is a free pass to do a personality test on women, but not so much on men. We've had me-too, time's up, the Women's March. Women have organized, voted.

They won 100 seats in Congress. It's too late to be imposing something on them that their male counterparts aren't asked to answer for.

BALDWIN: We saw a real-world example of this with Amy Klobuchar talking to David about this. Responding to claims that she's a mean boss and your quote was this: "That doesn't mean Klobuchar shouldn't have to answer valid criticism, just that she shouldn't do it with her blueberry muffin recipe. Double standard doesn't vanish in a day." I think I know what you mean but explain it.

CARLSON: You know, a couple of the videos I mentioned Kamala Harris put out her corn bread on thanksgiving and Warren did an announcement video in her kitchen. So, there's still a you know, this need felt to be likable. I can't think of a different word and the mean boss thing, I wanted to listen to David, but I was just coming into the studio, so I didn't hear him. There are mean bosses on the hill and a lot of them are male members of Congress. All of them work their staffs like rented mules. What it's like on Capitol Hill. But the fact that she's being called on the eve of announcing is slightly unfair and the study that was done a few years back found that she was Klobuchar was at the top of the list. But this list of ten had seven women on it. 70 percent of the list was made up of women when they made up about 20 percent of the Senate. So, I'd just be skeptical and why would a woman be singled out for this? But as I said, she should have to answer for it. I think she did yesterday. I think she was put on that. But there's a lot of putting out your favorite recipe to soften your edges and I'm hoping she doesn't do that.

BALDWIN: Like we're over that. Don't need to see your blueberry muffin recipe.