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Negotiators Reach Tentative Deal To Keep Govt. Open; CNN: Trump Thinks Congress Will Never Be Serious About Wall; Rep. Omar Apologizes "Unequivocally" For Tweets Called Anti-Semitic; CNN Hosts Howard Scultz In Town Hall Aired Tonight At 10PM ET. Aired 10-10:30a ET
Aired February 12, 2019 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR AND CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Kristin Robbins, thanks very much.
A good Tuesday morning to you. I'm Jim Sciutto in New York. Poppy is on assignment today.
There is a deal on the table. Big question is, will the president accept it? A White House source says if the administration is still going through the agreement, a Cabinet meeting next hour may be the first time that we hear from the President on this plan. The deal includes just $1.3 billion for just 55 miles of a barrier on the border. Keep in mind that is less than what the president rejected last year leading to the longest shutdown in US history. Also in the deal $1.7 billion in new funding for DHS. Four negotiators, two from each party, said that this was the best deal they could come up with. But, the president is already facing pressure from party hardliners, and particularly from a Fox News commentator who has piped in on this before.
For more, let's bring in CNN Congressional Correspondent, Phil Mattingly. Listen, maybe, victory extracted from the jaws of defeat here. I'll make you a handicapper, because I know you've been covering this so closely. Does this look like this deal is going to get bipartisan support to get through both Houses.
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's definitely to get bipartisan support, and I think there's an expectation now with leaders on both sides, in both chambers backing this deal. The appropriators backing this deal that they should be OK with the votes. But, as you found out last hour, when you talked to Senator Lankford, most people have not seen the deal. And, as I speak to you, right now, the staff is actually drafting the deal, of not just the Department of Homeland Security funding measure, but seven full Appropriations Bills. So, this is going to take a while. The full details aren't going to come out for about another day.
What's important though, kind of, the top lines that we have in talking to aides in both parties over the course of the last couple of hours. You talked about, kind of, the top-line proposals, the $1.375 billion dollars for border barriers. Importantly for Republican's perspective that also includes, in those 55 miles, border barrier in the Rio Grande Valley. That was a focus for the White House. It's a focus for Republicans, so they're happy they got that. You also talked about ICE detention beds. This was a major issue between Democrats and Republicans, helped to blow up the talks for a period of time this weekend. That level is actually going to stay at its current funding level 40,250, where Republicans make clear the cap Democrats were seeking, particularly for interior beds, and the cap for overall beds, any restrictions, any ability to move money around for ICE to fund more beds do not exist.
So, basically Republicans are saying they will be able to have more detention beds if they want them. And, you know Jim, another top-line thing, probably doesn't get a lot of attention, $1.7 billion for technology for ports of entry. That's something that's bipartisan agreement on. Something there's agreement that money needed to go to that area. So, that will be something you'll hear negotiators talk a lot about as well.
SCIUTTO: I mean, so they say they haven't seen the full details of the agreement. That may very well be true, but we know the headlines, and the key the key issues here that led to the shutdown before was that top-line figure. Really money for barriers, and more recently the bed issue. What reaction are you hearing from lawmakers now as these details trickle out?
MATTINGLY: Yes, I would actually-- I would go to Congresswoman Nita Lowey, who is the Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, Chairwoman of the House Appropriations Committee on New Day earlier this morning, probably put it best. Take a listen this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CONGRESSWOMAN NITA LOWEY, CHAIRWOMAN OF THE HOUSE APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE: This is a compromise. No one got everything they wanted, but it does secure the border. It does represent our values, and I am cautiously optimistic.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTINGLY: Jim there is a recognition, I think, when I talk to both Democrats and Republicans who support the deal, that they are not going to be a unanimous support for this deal. It would be Republicans on the right, and on the conservative side of things that fall off, and oppose it, there will likely be Democrats on the left, particularly on ICE issues that oppose it as well.
You want to hear from one of them, Mark Meadows, Congressman, Chairman of the House Freedom Caucus. Very close ally of the president, somebody who talks to the president regularly, tweeted last night, "This conference agreement is hardly a serious attempt to secure our border or stop the flow of illegal immigration. It kicks the can down the road yet again, failing to address the critical priorities outlined by Border Patrol Chiefs. Congress is not doing its job."
Now, it's worth noting, the expectation that anybody in the Freedom Caucus would vote for a large spending package, I'm not sure anybody actually expected that. But, I think the concern, when you see tweet like that is, Mark Meadows, regular contact with the President, perhaps he gets the president to oppose it. I will say the expectation is, they will get bipartisan support on Capitol Hill, and likely move it forward. The biggest question outstanding for everybody, where's the president stance on this?
SCIUTTO: Yes. No question. Well, the old saying, right? Best deal Washington is one where both sides leave the table unhappy. That's compromise.
Phil Mattingly, thanks very much. For more on how the White House could react to this deal, how the president will react, let's bring in CNN White House Correspondent, Abby Phillip. So, we're hearing talk from the White House. Spoke to Danna Bosch earlier in the hour about accepting the deal, but then quickly moving on to Plan B. What is Plan B for this president?
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Plan B would be some kind of executive action that would allow him to start building the wall without relying on Congress to appropriate all the money that he's been asking for. But, to Phil's point, the question for everyone in Washington, including I would add, some folks in the White House is, where is the president going to come down on this? What is he willing to support? And, is this going to be enough for him, even if he cobbles it together with some kind of executive action in addition to that?
PHILLIP: What White House aides are telling us this morning is, that they're waiting to see how the president reacts still trying to digest a lot of information about what's in this deal, and what's in this package of Appropriations Bills that they're considering on Capitol Hill. And in, about an hour and a half, the president's going to be in a meeting with his Cabinet officials, and we're expecting to hear from him at some point during that meeting. It's not clear whether he will give a definitive answer to that question, or not, but this will be the first opportunity for President Trump to weigh in after so many of these details about this deal that has been struck on Capitol Hill have come out.
That being said our Danna Bosch has spoken to a House conservative who says, this is the view among the president's allies. That this is not enough border security money for him, and that he might immediately move on and go on and do some kind of executive action. But, at the end of the day, the biggest risk then becomes legal challenges. The White House and Republican lawmakers expect that anything that the president do will be challenged in the courts, and that could hold up the border funding, and the border building process even more, Jim.
SCIUTTO: Abby Phillip at the White House, thanks very much. Let's discuss now with Charlie Dent. He's a former Republican US Congressman. And, Bakari Sellers, former South Carolina Democratic House Member. Thanks to both of you, this morning. Charlie, I have to ask you for your reaction. This is more than a month ago, the president was offered more money than this, and yet shut the government down 35 days. Thousands of workers not getting paid, many furloughed. And now, you have a deal for less money. President likely to accept. Was it all worth it?
CHARLES DENT, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: No, it wasn't worth it. In fact, the fact that the president thought that he could get a better deal in the new year with House Democrats in charge is just an act of legislative and political malpractice. What he's getting now is essentially status quo. He's getting $1.375 billion for border security, detention beds staying the same at 40,500. He'll get an additional 50 or 55 miles of barriers on the southern border that would essentially complete the Secure Fence Act, which allowed for 700 miles or 650 built, about another 50 to be built.
So, he's getting that. He'll pocket the gains. He's going to complain about this, because the Freedom Caucus, and of course, Ann Coulter and Sean Patrick Hannity, they're going to trash this deal. The president's going to grumble about it, but he'll probably sign it. But, he'll pocket the gains, and then he'll probably try to then take monies from the Disaster Relief Fund, and put that into border security, which I think he's going to have a hard time, because he'll need Nita Lowey to sign off on that and Congressman Will Ballard Hurd, and I don't see it happening.
SCIUTTO: Bakari Sellers, so the president takes some sort of executive action as his Plan B. That seems to be what the reporting is. What the indications are now. What do Democrats do in response?
BAKARI SELLERS, FORMER SOUTH CAROLINA DEMOCRATIC HOUSE MEMBER: Well, I think that they're going to be tied up in courts for years, and years, and years. I don't see the president being able to take any executive action, or any emergency action. I have to remind viewers and everyone who's watching, that the president had control of both the House and the Senate for two years, and failed to pass any dollar amount for a border wall. Therefore, I'm not sure if it wasn't an emergency during the first two years. How you get to some emergent need now. Any executive action or emergency action that takes away funds for disaster relief, whether or not it be Puerto Rico, or Houston, or anything of the such, is going to be met with stiff resistance. Not just from Democrats, but those individuals who don't want a slippery slope for the President of the United States when it comes to their executive authority.
I heard Senator Cornyn from Texas even speak out against any executive action, or emergency action. And, I will tell you, I don't necessarily believe he has the fortitude to stand up to the President of the United States. But, you will hear those voices from the right and the left. Both say that you cannot do this Mr. President.
SCIUTTO: Charlie, the president is all about win and loss, right? Who wins? Is it a political win? And, this is very much tied into 2020 because this was a 2016 campaign promise here. The president did, and he hears it from Sean Hannity. Here's the one up from others when he falters on this. Who won this battle? Who won this battle in the midst of the larger 2020 war?
DENT: Well, this is really-- At the end of the day, this is a stalemate. Nothing much has changed. So, to that extent I guess you'd have to say the president lost. But, he lost because he set an unrealistic expectation. He talked about a wall, and Mexico paying for it, 2,000 miles from sea to shining sea. Now, he's walked that back, as he had to.
And, now that we're having a serious conversation, you know, he's going to get 700 miles, which is what I supported when I was a co- sponsor Secure Fence Act. We didn't pick 700 miles out of the air. That was done with a lot of expert consultation, and now he's doing the things that need to be done. But, he's not going to get this pie- in-the-sky wall that he foolishly promised during the campaign.
SCIUTTO: I want to ask you now about a different topic that, of course, the comments by Democratic Congressman Ilhan Omar regarding, talking about Jewish money influencing members of members of Congress.
SCIUTTO: She issued an apology. I'm going to put this up on the screen for you saying the following, "Anti-Semitism is real and I'm grateful for Jewish allies and colleagues who are educating me on the painful history of anti-Semitic tropes. My intention is never to offend my constituents or Jewish Americans as a whole. We have to always be willing to step back and think through criticism, just as I expect people to hear me when others attack me for my identity. This is why I unequivocally apologize."
First you Bakari Sellers. The apology, does that settle this issue, in your view, for Congresswoman Omar.
SELLERS: No, it doesn't settle the issue. I think that her comments were ignorance that were enveloped in anti-Semitism. And, the reason I say that it was ignorance is, I heard comments were directed at AIPAC, a bipartisan organization, which doesn't spend money on candidates, which doesn't fund candidates. And, if you look at the top 50 organizations that spend money on lobbying, it's not even there. It's a bipartisan group that's a pro-Israel group, but yet still very much bipartisan.
And the reason that I'm disappointed in her comments, more so than the anti-Semitism and the racism that we are enveloped in, in this country right now, is that it made the conversation about Israel, that's a very nuanced, more confident conversation, more difficult to have. There are many of us who are friends of AIPAC, who are friends of Israel, but have very critical opinions on "Bibi" Netanyahu. I mean those criticisms are OK. Those criticisms are valid. I believe that Ambassador Shapiro said it best, but when you start to go down this path of anti-Semitic rhetoric, it doesn't do anybody any good.
And so, I'm glad that she made an apology. I'm glad that the Democrats were forceful in asking her to make that apology. But, we have to make sure that there's this effort to bring peace between our Palestinian brothers and sisters, and Israel is one that is bipartisan, and representative Omar made that quite difficult. So, I'm quite disappointed. I think that it was ignorant, and I think it was enveloped in anti-Semitism. And, I challenge her to do as much as she can to learn more about what's going on from Stroke to Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, and everywhere in between.
SCIUTTO: Charlie Dent, I'm curious, if you think the Republican Party has been sufficiently vigilant in policing bigotry within its own ranks whether you're talking about Steve King. My colleague Jake Tapper brought up that Kevin McCarthy, weeks ago, in the midst of the wall debate, talked about what many took is an anti-Semitic comment, accusing George Soros of funding the caravan. Has your party been sufficiently vigilant here, calling out its own bad behaviors, and comments?
DENT: Not as much as it should be. There are certainly nativist elements within the Republican Party that engaged in ethnic and racially incendiary comments. You mentioned Steve King and the president himself on Mexicans and Muslims and others. So, we have a problem within our own party. By the same token, the Democrats have a demon in their party. There is an anti-Israel element within the Democratic-- I'll say maybe more the fringe element of the Democratic Party that at times, you know, they can disagree with Israel on policy, but sometimes it crosses into anti-Semitism as was the case with congresswoman Omar.
When they get into this BDS, and they accuse Israel of terrible things like a genocide and apartheid, they really are engaging in, you know, severe anti-Semitism. So, both parties have demons here. And, I would I would argue that this nativism, isolationism, and protectionism, this three-headed monster, I think contributes to this type of, you know, ugly conversation.
SCIUTTO: Bakari, Charlie, thank you as always.
DENT: Thank you.
SCIUTTO: Still ahead. This hour, President Trump's former attorney, John Dowd, says that he does not believe there will even be a final report on the Mueller Probe. So, what should the public expect? Will we get answers? And a Louisiana town disappearing off the map, because of climate change. Rising water levels are now prompting resident to move their entire community inland. Our Bill Weir takes us there. It's an alarming story that's coming up.
SCIUTTO: An agreement in principle, they're calling it, to fund the government now on the table. In it $1.375 billion for a barrier, which means Congress is not going to give the president the wall money he asked for, just a fraction of it. And, while the president has yet to weigh in, his closest allies are advising him to say no deal.
Joining me now is Democratic Congresswoman, Mary Gay Scanlon from Pennsylvania. She just returned from a trip to the border in El Paso, Texas. Congresswoman, we appreciate you taking the time this morning.
REP. MARY GAY SCALON, D-PENNSYLVANIA: Thank you for having me on.
SCIUTTO: So first, this deal includes less money for a border barrier, than the deal negotiated and offered in December, before that shutdown. That said, it does include money for a border barrier, some 55 miles of new barrier on the border. You'll remember the Democratic leader, the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, said not a dollar for a border wall. Did the Democrats cave here on this agreement?
SCALON: I don't think anyone caved. I think people came to a negotiated compromise, which is what the American people were asking for.
SCIUTTO: Fair point. And, sometimes compromise is, you know, necessary. You visited the border this weekend. I'm curious what you found there, because we do know that many representatives on the Board. I spoke to the Republican Mayor of El Paso yesterday, I've spoken to Will Hurd, your Republican colleague who's on the border area. And they will say that the, you know, a wall is not really the most central issue here. But I'm curious, when you're down at the border, did you see areas where, listen, a wall would make a difference? Because in areas, the experience of the Customs and Border Patrol is, that it does help in some areas.
SCALON: Well, we spent a lot of time with Customs and Border Patrol over the weekend. They gave us a tour along the Rio Grande where, you know, this thin river separates Mexican city from an American city, and there's a lot of trade back and forth across that region.
SCALON: We went out in the rural areas and absolutely, as Democrats and Republicans have been saying, there are places where some kind of barrier makes sense. And we saw concrete walls, we saw steel slats, we saw vehicle bollards, we saw a lot of wells down there. So, the idea that there is not barrier fencing, or walls along the border is completely wrong. But what we really heard from the law enforcement officers we spoke to, was that they need more resources for personnel, for infrastructure, for screening devices, because in every quarter- mile of our border there are different issues, and they need a different mix of tools depending on where they are. We were with Border Patrol agents who were riding Mustang horses, because that was the most useful thing in patrolling some of the more remote areas.
SCIUTTO: But part of the mix, in your view, includes a barrier. Will you vote for this agreement?
SCALON: I am inclined to vote for the agreement although I haven't had the time to review all of the provisions yet. They're just being written as I understand it, but yes. You know, there's border security measures in this bill, maybe less than the president wanted, maybe more than the Democrats want. But, part of governing is, you don't get everything that you want all the time. Only toddlers do that.
SCIUTTO: Right. Best deal in Washington where both sides leave the table unhappy.
SCIUTTO: Have you've heard the president considering other options, because the fact is, he wants more money for the wall. He wants more miles for the wall. What will House Democrats do if the president takes executive action to find money elsewhere? And takes it from other pots, whether it be disaster relief, or elsewhere? Do you consider that a violation of the law?
SCALON: Well, I think it very well maybe, and certainly there's been a lot of opinions about that. I mean, Congress has the power of the purse. Congress is the one who sets the laws. It's the president's job to enforce them, and if we have a policy disagreement about that, he's not going to be able to overrule the will of the people. So, in executive order, as I understand it, it's going to depend on what he tries to do, but that may very well not fly. Look, what we saw was a very complex situation at the border, and it can't be solved with a campaign slogan, or a tweet.
SCIUTTO: As you know, the Judiciary Committee is now leading a Democratic investigation of this administration's Family Separation Policy at the border. And, we've learned recently that the administration still cannot account for the number of children who were taken away from their parents. As this investigation proceeds, is the administration now cooperating.
SCALON: Actually, the more troubling thing to me, is the fact that family separations are still occurring, although this policy was supposed to end in June. We met with a family just on Saturday where a separation had occurred in October. A woman and her two daughters. The two daughters were American citizens, three years old, and five years old. And they were taken away from their mother. She had no criminal record. There were no allegations of child endangerment. So, these separations are still occurring, and the administration needs to be held accountable for that.
SCIUTTO: How can they still, just for folks at home, how can they still be conferring, because the president, of course, you know, very publicly supposedly ended the policy some months ago. How can it continue? And if it is continuing, is that against the law?
SCALON: Well, I mean that becomes the reason for oversight by the Judiciary Committee. Is there simply dysfunction in the ranks, or is there a stealth policy. What is being done affirmatively to make sure that this doesn't continue to happen? And how do we redress what has happened to all of these families in the past? That's of huge concern. You know, as an attorney, as a mother, as someone who's worked in the immigration field before, it's a violation of human rights, of the parents' human rights, of the children's human rights, and the US should not be in a position where it's violating children's human rights. That's not who we are.
SCIUTTO: Congresswoman Mary Gay Scanlon, thank you for joining us.
SCALON: Thank you.
SCIUTTO: He was a Navy pilot, a NASA astronaut, and spent nearly two months inside the International Space Station. Now Mark Kelly says he has a new mission.
SCIUTTO: Will former Starbucks CEO, Howard Schultz, run for president as an Independent. We could learn the answer to that question tonight when CNN hosts a Presidential Town Hall with Schultz in Houston, Texas. Democrats have put pressure on him not to run, claiming that he could split the party's vote, therefore, enabling re-election of Donald Trump.
CNN reporter, Vanessa Yurkevich, is in Houston, New Forest. Vanessa, we have to assume that Schultz will be appeared to prepare to attempt to address the criticism of a potential run.
VANESSA YURKEVICH, CNN DIGITAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right Jim. He's either going to get that question from Poppy Harlow, or from one of the voters. And, as you mentioned, the minute he announced that he was thinking about running for president as an Independent, there was immediate backlash from Democrats saying that he would be taking votes away from a potential Democratic nominee, thus ensuring that President Trump would seek re-election. But, Schultz has said the last thing he wants to do is run into a situation where Trump is being re-elected to a second term.