Return to Transcripts main page


President Meets over Funding Deal; Negotiators Reach Tentative Deal; El Chapo Trial Verdict; Trump Speaks About Funding Deal. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired February 12, 2019 - 12:00   ET


[12:00:00] KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: A big opportunity tonight.

Vanessa, great to see you. Thank you so much.

And do not forget, folks, you can watch a special tonight. Special CNN presidential town hall with Howard Schultz live in Houston. Poppy Harlow is moderating. Tonight, 10:00 p.m. Eastern.

Thanks so much for joining me. "INSIDE POLITICS" with John King starts right now.

JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you, Kate.

And welcome to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm John King. It's a busy new day. Thank you for sharing it with us.

Yes or no, Mr. President, Congress brokers a deal to boost border security and keep the government open, but it is way short of what the president demands. He is in a cabinet meeting right now. But his own top aides aren't certain if he will sign it.

Plus, the president's Texas rally last night was a chance to road test his attacks on the green new deal and what he labels socialist Democrats. But did the choice of El Paso also give a potential rival a giant opportunity.

And, speaking of 2020, astronaut Mark Kelly launches a Senate bid in Arizona. Once reliably red, Kelly looking to prove Arizona is trending blue.


MARK KELLY (D), CANDIDATE FOR U.S. SENATE IN ARIZONA: You know, it becomes pretty obvious pretty early when you get into space that we're all kind of in this together.


KING: Back to that race in a little bit.

But we begin here in Washington waiting on the president to give us a thumbs up, thumbs down or maybe something in between. The president at a cabinet meeting at the White House right now. We expect to see tape from that meeting any moment and get the president's first take on a deal congressional negotiators reached last night to keep the government open. It's a rough sketch compromise, but one that would give the president some money for his border barrier. Those dollars, though, come with limits. And the big number, $1.375 billion, is far less, way less than the nearly $6 billion the president demanded when he shut parts of the government down back in December.

Republican leadership hopes to convince the president he got enough, and the compromise is not evil.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), MAJORITY LEADER: It had been clear to everyone that in order to reach an agreement, our Democratic colleagues would have to walk away from two extreme positions that had been dictated to them presumably by the far left. Fortunately, our Democratic colleagues did abandon those unreasonable positions.


KING: But those who talked and tweeted the president into the shutdown last time are unhappy again.


SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS: And this new so-called compromise, I'm getting details, 1.3 billion? That's not -- not even a wall, a barrier. I'm going to sell this tonight and we will get back into this tomorrow. Any Republican that supports this garbage compromise, you will have to explain.


KING: CNN's Abby Phillip, live at the White House.

Abby, the president is in this meeting. Is he going to accept the Hannity "it's garbage" or the Mitch McConnell "it's reasonable."

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, I'm looking at my notes to see if the president is saying anything yet about this border agreement that has been reached on "The Hill." So far nothing. But it's been interesting this morning to see the White House trying to give President Trump more space to decide where he stands on this bill.

The principal deputy press secretary, Hogan Gidley, told reporters this morning, as of around 10:00 a.m., that they had not yet seen the details of the agreement and that they were going to look at it closely with a fine-toothed comb to see what kind of stipulations or nuances are in the agreement in terms of how the money can be spent and where, and those kinds of details that had actually stalled the talks over the weekend.

But even as the White House is looking over the paper of the agreement, they're also looking at how it's playing in conservative media. One of the big factors here is whether or not President Trump can come away from this without losing ground with his base. That's one of the things that has been a main concern for him going into the last shutdown. So it's not clear how he's going to interpret some of the comments from people like Sean Hannity or Laura Ingraham or whether it's Ann Coulter or whoever. And I think President Trump is very sensitive to those kinds of things.

And so far, as you pointed out, this agreement gives him less than he would have gotten more than a month ago when the House and the Senate passed a bill that he rejected. So, in many ways, he's once again going into this perhaps losing a little bit on this border fight, and also, at the same time, the White House continues to say that he is considering using executive action to perhaps build the wall without Congress. But that would make available to him less money than he had hoped to be appropriated by lawmakers, but it might allow him to save face and say that even though Congress isn't doing what they -- what he would like them to do, he's going to do it anyway through executive action, John.

KING: Abby Phillip, live at the White House. Stay close. The president's in the room with reporters right now. We could get more information any minute.

With me in studio to share their reporting and their insights, Julie Pace with the "Associated Press," CNN's Phil Mattingly, Darren Sands with "BuzzFeed" and Jackie Kucinich with "The Daily Beast."

This is one of these fascinating moments in that the Republican establishment, most members of the president's team saying, you have to sign this. We cannot go through another government shutdown. We'll debate executive action. But we know who he listened to last time. We know who he listened to last time. And I'm sorry that -- Abby says they're trying to give the president some space. There's not a lot of nuance in garbage.


[12:05:11] KING: There's not a lot of nuance in, if you look at Breitbart, they think this is a bad deal.

What's he going to do?

PACE: It's a great question. I don't think we know yet. I'm following my notes along from the -- from the room as well. And I think this really comes down to, you know, how much of a hit the president is willing to take with his base because he's not going to be able to convince everyone on Fox, everyone in his voting bloc that this is a good deal because there's no way around the fact that he's not going to get as much money for the wall from Congress as he had hoped to get.

There are some options that he has. He still has put out the possibility of an emergency declaration. The White House has been talking about some other options for executive actions to try to move some money around.

I do think that one of the things you're going to see him do is try to make a political argument here, though, to say, because he's looking at his re-election campaign, look, I couldn't get this through Congress here, so you need to put me back. The only way that we're ever going to get Congress to take action on this is if you send me back to the White House with a Republican Congress. So there is actually, I think from a political perspective, a bit of a positive for him on the message inside, but no doubt that he is not going to get what he wants out of this Congress.

KING: And the president won't like this because he fashions himself as the art of the deal president. But one argument to the president might be, if you shut down the government again, you might get even less.

PACE: Right.

KING: Because if you just look at the numbers here, here's the deal the president turned down when he shut down the government. He had $1.6 billion for border security, including 65 miles for wall or barrier. What the president then said he wanted was $5.7 billion, he said he wanted to build 200 miles of new wall. What this deal is, is $1.375 billion, that's less than $1.6 billion, I can do that math, and 55 miles of barrier, less than 65 miles. So the president shut down the government, 800,000 federal workers had stress, millions of others had the domino effect of that, and he got less. Why?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: A couple things. First and foremost, the dynamic has changed. House Democrats now control one chamber of Congress, and that changes how the negotiations work. And there's a reason why $1.375 billion was the maximum that Republicans could get.

But it's also worth noting, it just depends on how the president looks at this and how his staff presents it to him. On detention beds, which have become an enormous issue and has been a very divisive issue between the two parties for years and certainly over the course of the last couple of months, you can absolutely make the argument that Republicans ended up in a much better place than I think some people thought that they would going into this debate. Certainly the caps that Democrats are trying to put, both on the interior enforcement and, more broadly overall, were dropped for the end of the deal.

So if interior enforcement, which for immigration hawks is a much bigger issue for them than the bordered wall, is the main thing or the thing that's presented to him as the win, perhaps he's willing to go along.

The other thing he has to keep in mind right now is, Republicans on Capitol Hill are not with him like they were in December. If you talk to Republicans right now, you can't overstate just how over it everyone is. They want to move on. House Democrats have an agenda. They want to move on too. Senate Republicans have an agenda and a lot of judicial nominees they want to move on to. The president's backing on Capitol Hill is nowhere near as solid, if solid at all, as it was in December. I think those are the things that kind of push him towards saying yes to this, but it just kind of depends in the end.

KING: And so that's the question. You can spin it as a win. Mr. President, Nancy, you're not getting your $6 billion or $5.7 billion, but Nancy Pelosi says not $1, you're getting some. We moved up the detention bed number some. If you want to keep your party, (INAUDIBLE) election, logic says, it's an old-fashioned Washington compromise, sign it. Does logic apply to this White House?

JACKIE KUCINICH, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, "THE DAILY BEAST": It doesn't. Well, usually. But it depends on, again, we -- how we started this conversation. It depends on who he's going to listen to because you already have some Republicans that he does tend to listen to, someone like a Mark Meadows, who's very in line with the Sean Hannity, this is garbage. If he listens to them, it's -- I think it depends on if his advisers can convince him that that is not practical advice at this point because if you look at the -- that chart that you just put up, it's moving in the wrong direction for the president and it's not going to go back up.

KING: Right.

KUCINICH: That just -- that just isn't -- that is not the reality that is in this Congress right now for the president.

KING: And on that point, I asked Abby Phillip to stand by because we're getting information of what the president is saying inside the room. The cameras in there. It's not out yet.

Abby Phillip live at the White House.

What are we learning?

PHILLIP: Well, John, a couple minutes ago the president made some comments, his first comments on the agreement. He said this, according to the pool report, that, I can't say I'm happy, but he added that the wall is going to get built anyway. According to the reporters in the room, the president also blamed Democrats, calling them obstructionists for standing in his way.

But, John, as you know, this is an agreement that was made between Republicans and Democrats. You heard Mitch McConnell, not too long ago, saying Democrats actually backed off of where they were over the weekend. But the president is looking at this as a loser for him. He is saying he's not thrilled about it. He's implying that the wall is going to get built anyway.

What exactly that means remains to be seen. But this -- this is still ongoing. We'll hear much more from the president shortly once those -- that tape comes out and those reporters come out of that room, John.

KING: I'm going to be a broken record. Abby, don't go far. I suspect as this plays out, we'll come back to it.

[12:10:03] And that's one of the challenges for this president. You just heard what Abby Phillip says, the president said he's not happy. The wall is going to get built anyway. You could read that as he's going to sign this and say, it's not enough, but I'm not shutting down the government again. Here's a down payment. And then I'm going to look and find some other money, possibly national emergency, another thing is executive action. They say they'll find like Army Corps of Engineer spending and find that money and redirect it to the wall.

But this president often, within an event like this, takes us on a roller coaster as to what he says and what he means.

DARREN SANDS, POLITICAL REPORTER, "BUZZFEED NEWS": Yes, I think politically, obviously, he's watching TV just like the rest of us, with the shutdown last time and you had people on TV talking about not being able to pay their bills and not being able to put food on the table. Those are stories that Democrats were armed with going to their constituents and saying, look, they -- they're not going to negotiate with us. And so I think it's very important for this White House to recognize that these everyday -- common everyday Americans were struggling.

And, additionally, people like Diana Presley (ph), who -- she wrote legislation basically saying that the federal contract workers who weren't guaranteed back pay --


SANDS: So they would receive restitution. This is obviously a congresswoman from a liberal state -- a liberal city in Boston, but that stuff plays in other parts of the country, like Iowa. So I think for Democrats to come away being the face of this restoration I think is not necessarily a good thing for the White House.

KING: But that's part -- always the wrestling with this president. Does he listen to the hard line immigration chattering class, which is mostly here in Washington, or does he listen to his own polling, which tells him he can sell some of this in some swing districts, but to the voices he heard during the shutdown, which was not good, Democrats got the upper hand there.

We're going to take a quick break. The president's speaking to reporters inside the cabinet room. We're going to track this as we go.

Up next, he's back in Washington after being back out on the campaign trail, if you think he ever really left it.


[12:15:55] KING: Some breaking news just in to CNN, a verdict in the trial of the accused Mexican drug lord, Joaquin El Chapo Guzman.

Our Brynn Gingras is standing by in New York. The jury deliberating for some time.

Brynn, what's the verdict?

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, you know, we're still waiting to get that verdict, John. They've been deliberating for over 30 hours. Last week, yesterday, into today, we know that there are ten counts that they're considering for the man who allegedly ran the Mexican drug cartel for two decades, El Chapo, which has really garnered national/international attention. People as far as California have come here just to be in the courtroom as the man, the myth, the legend, as some people have really referred to him as, but, of course, he's facing serious counts here, including drug making, distribution, running a criminal enterprise, as well as murder, conspiracy. So there's a number of charges that the jurors have been considering for the last week into this week. And we're just waiting to hear what they have come up with.

Now, let's keep in mind, no matter what this verdict is, he is facing other charges and other jurisdictions all across the United States. So we're waiting to see if he's going to stay here in New York, and if the verdict is guilty on one or all the charges, or if he'll be moving to another jurisdiction after this based on what these jurors decide.

But we're hopefully going to have some more information for you in just a bit. But certainly standing by for that verdict, John.

KING: And, Brynn, just to help our viewers, he's in a federal court, so there are no cameras. I want to remind them, that's why we're doing it this way. We can't show you in there.

The jury deliberated last week about 24 hours over the course of the four days. They were, at one point, I saw news accounts that El Chapo was hugging his lawyers thinking that the long the deliberations went on, that was somehow helpful to him. That's not always the case. But that seemed to be at least his reaction.

GINGRAS: Certainly. He's been walking in and out of the courtroom, you know, giving high-fives to his legal team, making eye contact with his wife, who's been here every single day during the 10 week trial, in addition to this last week or so for the verdicts -- or for the jury deliberations.

Yes, there has been some speculation, why has this been taking so long? But this case was monstrous. I mean the government put forward a case again that was ten weeks long. It had a number of government witnesses, some who were associates or alleged associates of El Chapo, some who cut deals with the government. Of course that's something that the jurors haven't decided. They thought their testimony was credible.

There was witnesses that were incredibly dramatic on the stand, including El Chapo's mistress. There were weapons brought into the courtroom. There were tales of murder. There was video. There was wiretapping. I mean this case was just enormous for these jurors to consider. And that's really why -- one of the reasons it's likely this is taking so long. They had to consider all of these charges. And then just the verdict sheet alone, John, was eight pages long. It took hours for the judge to read to jurors before they actually began their deliberations.

So there was quite a lot to consider here. And so I imagine when we do get this verdict, it's going to be just as complex as it was for their deliberations, John.

KING: And, Brynn, stand by as we wait to get word from the courtroom. As you mentioned, 2,000 hours of testimony, 56 witnesses, as we wait -- the jury's been brought back into the courtroom -- as we wait to get its verdict, a reminder here of how and why the allegations against the notorious El Chapo.


GINGRAS (voice over): For the last two months, jurors have listened to tales of bribes and bloodshed. Her testimony about notorious Sinaloa Cartel boss Joaquin El Chapo Guzman, and saw rare images of the drug lord with his diamond-encrusted pistol by his side.

Government witnesses testified how Guzman allegedly smuggled drugs through tunnels, cars, narco submarines, even inside cans of chili and fake bananas.

Details from his former associates now corroborating with the government, included explosive testimony from fellow Sinaloa Cartel member Alex Cifuentes. He testified about his former boss' bribes allegedly paid to Mexican officials. Cifuentes claimed Guzman once paid former Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto a $100 million bride in October 2012 when he was president-elect. Pena Nieto's former chief of staff called the allegations false, defamatory and absurd. Adding that it was Pena Nieto's administration who located, arrested and extradited Guzman to the United States for trial.

[12:20:30] El Chapo's former IT expert, Christian Rodriguez, whose photo shown here, was obscured by prosecutors to hide his identity. He revealed how the cartel communicated through a system of encrypted phones. He used spyware to capture conversations with members of Guzman's criminal organization.

Guzman is facing multiple counts, including firearm and drug trafficking charges, and faces life in prison. Though the list of charges does not include murder, testimony took a graphic turn when Isaias Valdez was called to the stand. The former security guard turned pilot recalled when Guzman was involved in the gruesome murder of three rivals. Former Colombian drug lord Juan Carlos "La Chupeta" Ramirez also called to court testifying he stating working with El Chapo in the early '90s. Ramirez went on to work with Guzman for 18 years and was eventually captured in 2007. He was so hotly pursued by authorities that he underwent several plastic surgeries to try to evade capture.

One constant fixture in the courtroom has been Guzman's wife of more than ten years, former beauty queen Emma Coronel. Coronel helped her husband escape from a Mexican prison in 2015, according to testimony from a former prison guard turned Chapo associate. She is not facing charges at this time, and her lawyer had no comment about those allegations.

In their final move to convince jurors of Guzman's guilt, prosecutors showed images of the tunnel that provided his escape. A government expert described it as being just under a mile long, complete with a motorcycle track said to have been used by El Chapo and an associate for their ride to freedom.


KING: That's Brynn Gingras reporting there. She's standing by outside the federal courthouse in New York.

Again, the jury in the trial of Joaquin El Chapo Guzman has reached a verdict. We'll get back to that in just moment.

Some other big, breaking news. The president talking to reporters at the White House as we speak, saying he's not happy with the deal brokered in Congress that would prevent another government shutdown. He has not said whether he will sign it or whether he will veto it. He said he doesn't want another shutdown, but he says he's not happy.

A lot of breaking news today. A quick break. We'll be right back


KING: Welcome back.

Two major, breaking news stories we're tracking this hour.

Number one, waiting for the jury which says it has reached a verdict in the trail of the notorious alleged Mexican drug cartel lord El Chapo. We'll bring you that as soon as we can. Brynn Gingras standing by outside the courthouse for us in New York.

Here in Washington, reporters have just left a cabinet meeting with the president at the White House. Congress, last night, brokering a deal, a compromise, to try to avert another government shutdown by beefing up border security. It falls far short, though, of what the president wanted for his border wall.

[12:25:07] We're going to get tape of that meeting any second now.

The president, though, saying in it, as we wait to see the tape, I'm not happy about it. It's not doing the trick. Says he's adding things to it. I'm going to ask my congressional expert, Mr. Mattingly, how that would work in just a moment here. I don't think you're going to see a shutdown. If you did have it, it's the Democrats' fault. And he tells reporters, he can't say he's happy about the border agreement, but the wall is getting built regardless.

As I said earlier, sometimes when you listen to the president over the course of a long event, yes, no, yes, no, maybe. It sounds like he doesn't want a shutdown, but if you did have it, it's the Democrats' fault. If you read that, he's not certain he's going to sign it.

PACE: I'm not sure we have a clear answer out of this on whether he's going to sign this or not.


PACE: I think he is hearing from a lot of people who say, don't do a shutdown. There's nothing good that will come from a shutdown. To Phil's earlier point, there is no support among the Republican Party for a shutdown.

But I do think he's going to create some anxiety up on Capitol Hill within his own party about the fact that he's not giving a clear answer on whether he's going to sign it or not.

KING: Right.


KING: To that point, and put this under the file of leaders lead. They very much need him to say yes so they can put it in legislative text, or if it's no, I don't know what happens then.

MATTINGLY: Yes, look, the practical effect of what he said, at least according to the notes, and we'll see it shortly, is -- is vote issues. They will not get House Republicans to support this if the president is not behind it. They might get appropriators, maybe some folks in leadership, but if the president is outright opposed to it or says he has major problems with it, they're losing voters by the second every single time he makes a comment like that.

And the problem is, is there are issues in this agreement that Democrats, particularly those on the -- the progressives on the left who have issues with ICE likely will not support it as well. So you're going to need Republicans in the House to get 218 votes.

You also have Republican senators who are very much over this, but have been kind of holding -- keeping their powder dry waiting to see what the president is going to say.

Can he add things to it? Look, if he decides that they need to go back to the table, there will be a government shutdown, period, end of story. They just don't have the time before Friday to go back to the table. And, frankly, the idea that they would reopen a deal that they worked so hard to reach and it was so arduous for both sides, I think is very, very unlikely at this point.

I think what -- the best thing people can take from -- negotiators can take from what they just saw is the hope that he'll sign it grudgingly, rip it, like he did the omnibus last year, the $1.3 trillion spending bill, and then act unilaterally. I think that's the best case of what you see right now. But they're -- they're running into vote problems right now if he keeps talking like this.

KING: And he keeps talking and loses Republican votes. The question is, as he keeps talking, as Phil noted, there are some progressives, because it gives them more money for detention beds, it gives them some money for barriers, they don't want any money for barriers, so there's math on both sides.

SANDS: Yes. I mean I think part of the reason why he's vacillating a little bit is to see how much he can actually get. And I think part of his political strategy as the art of the deal is really saying they didn't know where he stands.

KING: Sorry to interrupt. We're going to get straight -- this is the cabinet room. The president of the United States.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Believe me. OK, thank you all very much. QUESTION: Sir, will you sign Congress' border deal?

TRUMP: I have to study it. I'm not happy about it. It's not doing the trick. But I'll adding things to it. And when you add whatever I have to add, it's all -- it's all going to happen where we're going to build a beautiful, big, strong wall that's not going to let criminals and traffickers and drug dealers and drugs into our country.

It's very simple. It's very simple. We're building a wall. And now I'm saying we're finishing a wall. We just started a big, big section on the Rio Grande. You probably saw it. Some of you were there when they started. You went there. You didn't believe it. You went there. You see trucks all over the place. You said, hey, he's not kidding. I don't kid. I never kid about construction. I love construction. And I know how to do it for the right price.

And we're getting a beautiful looking structure that's also less expensive to build and works much better. That's a good combination of events, because it was crazy what they were putting up. In fact, I happen to think that the walls that they were building were so unattractive and so ugly that walls got bad names, OK, if that means anything. But they were so ugly with rusted steel and big ugly plates on top that were all tin canned. It's called tin canned where they're waving because the heat makes them expand and contract, and they tin can. I say, why didn't you paint the steel? Well, sir, we saved money by not painting it. I said, yes, but it's going to rust. You have to paint -- I've never seen. I've ordered a lot of steel. I've never seen, in my whole life, steel come to me that was unpainted. This could only happen at the border. It wasn't me. It was our past geniuses.

[12:29:43] So I can tell you that -- am I happy at first glance? I just got to see it. The answer is no, I'm not. I'm not happy. But am I happy with where we're going? I'm thrilled. Because we're supplementing things and moving things around and we're doing things that are fantastic, and taking from far less -- really from far less important areas.