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Howard Schultz Weighs in on Policy, But Avoids Specifics in Town Hall Debate; Amy Klobuchar: Medicare for All is an "Option" for Health Care Goals; Trump Intending to Sign Deal to Avoid Shutdown; Richard Burr: Any Goodwill Toward Cohen Gone After He Stiffed Senate Intelligence Committee; Cohen's Lawyer Cites Cohen's Testimony on Capitol Hill was Postponed Due to Shoulder Surgery; Trump Intends to Sign Border Deal to Avoid Shutdown; Text Not Finished Yet on Deal to Avoid Shutdown. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired February 13, 2019 - 09:00   ET


[09:00:00] JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: A very good Wednesday morning to you. I'm Jim Sciutto in New York.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Poppy Harlow live this morning from Houston, Texas. Good morning, everyone.

He is in. Sources telling CNN the president now intends to sign the border deal to avert another government shutdown.

SCIUTTO: Just one day ago the president said that he was not happy with this agreement which includes only a fraction of the billions of dollars that he has demanded for a wall in the border. Of course shut the government for it. So the big question is now how will the president get those funds?

CNN's Dana Bash breaking all the news this morning. She joins us now.

Dana, it's your reporting that the president intends to sign this deal. What's his thinking?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is according to two sources who have spoken with the president that that is his intention to sign this deal once it gets through Congress, which hasn't even started to happen yet. We should note that has to obviously be passed by the House and Senate, get to his desk.

He will sign it for several reasons. What he's saying privately matches really, frankly, with what he's been saying publicly, that he doesn't like it, he realizes that he didn't get what he wanted at all, but that he is going to blame Congress for not doing its job and he is also going to keep the fight going. He is going to keep the political fight and even the policy fight going.

On the policy side, as we have been talking about for a few weeks now. He is -- has been working with the administration on finding pots of money. We have even been specific, pots of money from the Department of Homeland Security, from the Pentagon, to use his own authority to put more money and to build the wall. And the other things he is still thinking about, I'm told, is a

national emergency which is a different level of executive action that would have a lot more pushback from even his own party. We've already seen that pushback from people like Mitch McConnell, again publicly and privately saying to the president that's a bad idea, but big picture, the president realizes a shutdown again is bad. It was a mistake, it was a disaster for many reasons, and he needs to move on.

SCIUTTO: Dana Bash, thank you.

It's interesting, you know, Poppy, that blame Congress talking point, you're already hearing it. Mark Meadows was using it this morning. He happens to be a member of Congress.

HARLOW: Right.

SCIUTTO: But that seems to be the spin at this point.

HARLOW: Right. Yes, it does. That's a good point.

So let's go to Capitol Hill and talk about Congress. CNN has learned that the legislative text for the border funding deal, it's not finished yet. Sunlen Serfaty has the detains.

Good morning, Sunlen. So you heard Jim's point, which is a good one. When do lawmakers expect to be done with it?

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, time certainly is of the essence up here on Capitol Hill, Poppy. The staff members, they are working behind the scenes as quickly as possible to turn this actual deal to put pen to paper and turn it into actual legislative text, and that does indeed take some time.

Now I'm told this morning from sources that that bill is not completed, that they are still in the process of writing it. The hope is that they can get something final and posted tonight by this afternoon at the very earliest. But there are already talks in the works here in case they are not able to make that unofficial deadline tonight, talks about potentially waving the so-called 72-hour rule.

That is a rule in the House that allows members three days to go through, absorb, read actual legislation before they vote on it. The fact that that might not be a luxury here, the fact is that House Democrats are considering waving it that really speaks to the fact that they are trying to move very quickly through this, and emphasis is, of course, on avoiding that midnight deadline on Friday not going into another government shutdown.

So another indication they are trying to move very quickly through this when they actually get that bill text. Now Republicans up here on Capitol Hill both privately and publicly are urging President Trump to sign this deal and we heard from Richard Shelby, a top Republican that's negotiating this deal, he spoke with President Trump on the phone yesterday. Here's what he said after that conversation.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. RICHARD SHELBY (R), CHAIRMAN, APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE: I said, Mr. President, this is only a down payment on the wall. I said, you know, they've said you weren't going to get any money. We did get you some money.

The president's tone and conversation was very good. Concerned that he didn't get everything he wanted and I told him I shared that.


SERFATY: And we're hearing that language a lot from Republicans up here on the Hill, that down payment or the feeling that this might not be what everyone got, that wanted and what everyone hoped that they would get in this deal but they are urging President Trump sign this and then have a conversation about whatever next steps you want to take -- Poppy.

HARLOW: Yes. And I think that's the definition, at least the unofficial one, of compromise, where you don't get everything that you want.

[09:05:05] Sunlen, thanks very, very much. Jim.

SCIUTTO: Let's discuss now with Jackie Kucinich, Washington bureau chief for the "Daily Beast," and Errol Louis, political anchor for Spectrum News.

Jackie, let's just test out that talking point there, down payment, we heard Republicans using that same language a couple of weeks ago, but the fact is, this is a smaller down payment.


SCIUTTO: On the wall than the president shut the government down for in December, the longest shutdown in American government history. Does that spin fly?

KUCINICH: I mean, the president isn't getting what he wants here. It's very cut and dry and right now what you're hearing from Republicans are trying to rationalize how to get him to sign this because there is absolutely no appetite on the Hill for another government shutdown and time as was mentioned is running short so whatever they can do to massage this and to make it so palatable for the president who has walked away from several deals that would have given him more money.

And it's not going to get any better because the atmospherics in the House aren't changing and, again, the pressure on Republicans to not have this happen again isn't lessening either.

HARLOW: So, guys, let's take a moment and listen to some of the president listens to a lot. That is Sean Hannity on FOX News. Here's his take. Of course this was last night before we learned this morning from Dana's reporting the president will sign it but it's still relevant. Let's play it.


SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: I'm not as concerned as some other conservatives if the president signs the bill but there's a couple of ifs, and that would be the president would need to declare a national emergency. This is the time. That is a necessity.


HARLOW: Errol, what's your read? I mean, he could do that. We just don't know if he will do that. Does this give the president some cover from the far right?

ERROL LOUIS, POLITICAL ANCHOR, SPECTRUM NEWS: Well, you know, look, it creates about the most unhelpful dynamic one can imagine when people have spent weeks trying to compromise to try and bring the country back from the brink, and to actually try and tackle issues around the border that have been festering, frankly, for decades, to have kind of a media blow hard run out and make policy on his own, and lead the president down that path is really very unhelpful.

I will tell you also, though, Poppy, I mean, you've got another dynamic that we should not forget which is that those 40,000 ICE beds are going to be a problem for Democrats because what that sounds like is expanded enforcement. There's been a lot of heated rhetoric around separated families, around the disruption that happens when ICE goes about its business, hanging around court houses, hanging around hospitals, hanging around schools and yanking people out of communities.

If that's going to continue, we're in for whether it leads to a shutdown or not. A lot more conflict on this issue.

SCIUTTO: Jackie, so the options that the president is apparently discussing, you know, perhaps at one end an emergency declaration but short of that is looking for other pots of money, things being discussed as disaster relief in Puerto Rico, northern California, money intended for expanding military bases or improving military bases.

We know there would be legal challenges to an emergency declaration. Will there be legal challenges or will Congress challenge him if he attempts to take money away from other pots of money that the Congress intended for other things? Right? I mean, they didn't vote for the money to be used for wall. So this is money intended to be used elsewhere.

Will there be challenges for that?

KUCINICH: The answer is yes, because every one of those projects not only has a congressman representing it, it has two senators, so yes, there's going to be massive pushback from Congress.

It's not as easy just to move this money around in the budget particularly somewhere like the Pentagon where these budgets tend to be lengthy. They tend to -- these projects tend to take a long time, so all of a sudden you start taking money out of some of these projects that were meant for one thing and putting it down to the border. That's going to create some problems so the answer to your question, Jim, is absolutely yes, there is going to be -- there are going to be challenges from Congress and perhaps in the courts as well.

HARLOW: Hey, guys, on Jim's point, because, of course, Congress, you know, controls the purse or is supposed to, let's talk about this out- of-the box idea. It comes from Senator Ted Cruz of Texas. He suggested, Errol, on Twitter that the $14 billion that the feds are seeking from El Chapo, who, of course, yesterday was found guilty on all counts, could be used for this. Thoughts?


LOUIS: Well, look, I --

KUCINICH: That's fun.


LOUIS: I will tell you, I don't know that the government is going to get $14 billion, right? It's not as simple as sending a notice of -- a demand for restitution and then having a murderous drug cartel wire the money into the U.S. Treasury so, you know, the money is probably not going to --

HARLOW: That's not how it works, Errol Louis?

[09:10:08] LOUIS: No, it's a little more complicated than that from what I hear. And, you know, the amount that they are likely to get -- I mean, one hopes that they will sort of crack that cartel and get whatever restitution they can.

HARLOW: Right.

LOUIS: But it's not going to be -- there'll be several zero short of $14 billion. That's for one thing. And then secondly, it's goes into the general treasury and Congress is going to have to vote for money and so if they're going to be right back to where they started, wherever the money comes from, if the money fell out of the sky, you'd still have to have Congress appropriate it for a wall.


LOUIS: And as we have seen there's no consensus around whether or not to do that.

SCIUTTO: Yes, I mean, Jackie, it gets to the fundamental functioning of government, doesn't it? Right?


SCIUTTO: Every president -- the president still has to go to Congress based on the Constitution to get funding for legislation, for things that they want to legislate. KUCINICH: Well, and you've seen this Congress abdicate their

authority on a whole realm of issues over the last couple of years but, you know, this seems to have woken them up and the legislative authority when it comes to appropriations is something they don't like to be challenged on, particularly now that you have Democrats in charge of the House.

They are going to be a lot louder and a lot more aggressive in challenging the president's executive authority. Particularly on this topic.

HARLOW: All right. Thank you both, Jackie Kucinich, Errol Louis. We'll see you soon.

A lot ahead for us. This morning former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz has not even officially jumped in the 2020 race but the buzz around his potential run is building and so are all of the questions about where he really stands on the issues. Case in point, income taxes.

How much does the billionaire potential candidate think he should be paying? I asked him just that.

SCIUTTO: It was quite a conversation last night, Poppy. Good to see you there across from him.

Plus, this hour, good will is gone. The Senate Intel chair says just that about the president's former attorney and fixer Michael Cohen. He says Cohen has stiffed investigators on the Hill.

And outrage building on both sides of the aisle after the White House misses the deadline to determine who is behind the death of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Senators working on legislation, and to be clear, Republicans and Democrats, to quote, "hold the administration's feet to the fire."

We will have one of those senators ahead.


[09:15:00] JIM SCIUTTO, CO-HOST, NEWSROOM: It is still 629 days until the 2020 election, but you really wouldn't know it because this race is not just heating up, the growing list of Trump challengers is downright hot. We have a lot to get to, but first, potential independent candidate, billionaire Howard Schultz, facing the tough questions from my co-anchor and the audience last night at the Cnn town hall.

POPPY HARLOW, CO-HOST, NEWSROOM: And it wasn't just, as you know Jim, from seeing what Schultz said last night, a lot of this is about what he did not say as well, so let's bring in our experts. Cnn political analyst, my friend Mark Preston who has been with me throughout in Houston, and Cnn senior political writer and analyst Harry Enten in New York, breaking down the polls that we've seen on Schultz lately.

And more, so let's just pause for a moment and play this exchange with Schultz and myself last night about the key issue of taxes. Watch. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HARLOW: You've just said twice --


HARLOW: I should pay more taxes, and America's question, important question was about personal income tax --


HARLOW: How much of the wealthy pay in this country. You're a billionaire --

SCHULTZ: You know --

HARLOW: Give me a sense. Are you talking about you should pay 2 percent higher, 10 percent higher, 20 percent higher federal income tax?

SCHULTZ: I don't -- Poppy, I don't know what the number is. I think what I'm saying is we need comprehensive tax reform --

HARLOW: Ballpark it for people. Because it makes a difference --


HARLOW: Would it go up to, you know, the rate under President Clinton, are we talking about significantly higher?

SCHULTZ: I -- what I think is what's being proposed at 70 percent is a punitive number, and I think there are better ways to do this.

HARLOW: So what's not punitive?

SCHULTZ: I don't know what the number is, but what I'm suggesting is I should be paying higher taxes. And I think people across the country are willing to pay higher taxes, but there's a caveat there, and the caveat is this --

HARLOW: But is it higher than 2 percent more, for example?

SCHULTZ: I think it is.


SCHULTZ: But let me just -- I'd qualify this, this is very important. If you look at the American people and you ask them this following question -- do you trust the government, do you trust Congress? Most people in America say I've lost trust and confidence in Congress and certainly in the president.

And so when you ask people to pay more taxes, we have to make sure that there is an agreement that your additional tax dollars are going to be spent wisely by the government. HARLOW: You said on "60 Minutes", Mr. Schultz, that you would release

your tax returns today. Will you commit to releasing your tax returns this week?

SCHULTZ: Well, I'm not yet decided to run for president. But if I decide to run for president, I, 100 percent will release my taxes and be completely transparent.

HARLOW: And here's why I ask.


HARLOW: Because I remember, we all remember, May, 2014 --


HARLOW: When now President Trump was mulling a bid for the White House --


HARLOW: And he said exactly the same thing.

SCHULTZ: Yes, but I think President Trump unfortunately has a habit of not being truthful.


And I think -- I think I raise my hand to all of you, and I can promise you not only will I pay my -- well, pay my taxes --


Not only will I -- will I release my tax return.


HARLOW: All right, so Mark Preston, to you. This is somewhere where I thought we might get a number from him --


HARLOW: And he's being slammed this morning by Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez who, of course, has proposed that 70 percent marginal tax rate --

PRESTON: Right --

HARLOW: That Schultz thinks he hates it, he hates it, he's been clear about that. What's your read?

[09:20:00] PRESTON: Well, a couple of things. One is I don't agree with him that more people want to pay taxes and they're willing to pay taxes. If people look at their tax bill right now, regardless of how well the economy is doing and unemployment is low, people feel like they're overtaxed, right? So that's not the political message that he wants to go in with,

specifically because he's trying to thread a needle of trying to get moderate Republicans and conservative Democrats to come together. And the fact that he didn't really offer specifics last night, specifically on this issue and other issues, I think is -- was fine in some ways, but I do think in the long run could hurt him.

People are looking for specifics right now, but it's not just him. They want specifics from all these candidates --

HARLOW: Yes --

PRESTON: And to try to differentiate yourself from this rather large field of people who want to challenge Donald Trump, whether it's the Democrats or whether it's Howard Schultz, you need to differentiate yourself. He did fine last night, but he didn't differentiate himself.

SCIUTTO: Harry Enten, what do the numbers show you so far about demand among voters for 2020 for an independent candidate. I mean, is there -- first of all, the man for an independent and option outside of the party, but second of all, what do they say about Howard Schultz himself?

HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL WRITER & ANALYST: Not really, there is not much of a demand for an independent candidate. Yes, people don't tend to like the major parties, but at the end of the day, we are a two-party country. And with Howard Schultz specifically, look at our latest Cnn poll, what you see in that poll is despite the fact that 44 percent of Americans haven't even heard of Schultz.

Among those who do, he has an overwhelmingly negative opinion. I believe his net favorable rating, that's favorable rating, minus unfavorable rating stands at negative 11 percentage points. That's really quite bad, that's a route where the president is despite the fact that everyone knows who Donald Trump is.

That many people already dislike Howard Schultz or at least what they've heard about him.

SCIUTTO: Yes, you have to wonder, Poppy, if you know, Trump to --

HARLOW: Yes --

SCIUTTO: For some voters spoiled the well for a billionaire businessman, right? As an option for president.

HARLOW: Right, and you heard him, Mark Preston last night, really trying to differentiate himself and the president. You've got two white billionaires, businessmen from New York, different boroughs, all agree in that, Brooklyn and Queens.

PRESTON: Right --

HARLOW: But look, Schultz ran a public company that the world could see the books of the company very different from the Trump Organization. What struck you most from what you heard in the hour last night?

PRESTON: You know, a couple of things. He didn't offer specific policy proposals, but he was trying to create a bridge right now that is needed in this country, and I'm not saying that he's going to be successful because I don't necessarily think our country was founded on the ability for someone like Howard Schultz who is a third party certainly at this time to come in.

That's going to get some people upset, I understand that --

HARLOW: Right --

PRESTON: But the bottom line is, what struck me is that there was nothing specific. When you asked him about taxes, and you said -- you know, going back to taxes, what do you think your tax rate should be? He said listen, I think I should pay more in taxes. Well, clearly he should have some kind of an idea about how much more in taxes you should pay.

He didn't come up with an answer, he came out --

HARLOW: Like health care, for example.

PRESTON: Health care, said Medicare for all is not going to work, but he thinks that we should work to try to get health care for everybody. Veterans, he thinks we need to do stuff for veterans, he didn't offer specific policy proposals. Again, it's OK that he didn't last night, but he's not going to be able to continue going on without offering some more depth to what he says that he can do.

HARLOW: I wonder if you got the sense if he's running or not?

PRESTON: I think after last night, he felt very good about himself and very well is probably closer to running after last night than not.

HARLOW: We'll see, Jim?

SCIUTTO: So Harry Enten, Amy Klobuchar, another entrant into the race, generating some excitement because she comes from a Midwest State. She has taken some moderate positions as well, and she also said she wants to see universal health care.

I wonder in the polling data you've seen, are Democratic voters following the candidates left here? I mean, is that the kind of candidate that they are gravitating towards, someone who takes more progressive positions like that?

ENTEN: Well, I will certainly say, you know, obviously, liberal voters are growing as a bloc of the Democratic Party. Though, people who self describes themselves as moderates still make up a majority. I think if you look specifically at the health care polling, yes, if you ask it sort of in the abstract, people would like universal coverage.

But I think they're more concentrated this particular point on improving and expanding Obamacare. And I do think if you further look at the polling, what you see is electability is more important an issue agreement, and of course, you tend to be more electable if you are in the center of the electorate.

That's what political science literature tells us. So I do think the sort of left-ward movement in this Democratic field does leave room for a more moderate candidate, one who voters belief is more electable.

SCIUTTO: Harry Enten, Mark Preston, thanks very much. Presidential candidate and senator, she's going to sit down with our colleague Don Lemon for a town hall with New Hampshire voters, that's going to be at 10 O'clock Eastern Time only here on Cnn.

[09:25:00] HARLOW: Looking forward to that. Also President Trump intends to back the bipartisan deal to avoid a shutdown. It doesn't have nearly all the money he wanted for the border wall, so what will he do next?



SEN. RICHARD BURR (R-NC), CHAIRMAN, SENATE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: I can assure you that any goodwill that might have existed in the committee with Michael Cohen is now gone.


HARLOW: The Senate Intelligence Committee chairman slamming President Trump's former fixer for, quote, "stiffing Congress". He's talking about Michael Cohen who has now delayed, Jim, a third planned appearance on the Hill.

SCIUTTO: Yes, Cohen's attorney defending that delay, saying in part, quote, that "Mr. Cohen was expected to and continues to suffer from severe post-surgery shoulder pain." Let's bring in Cnn reporter Kara Scannell. So Kara, what's going on here?

I mean, it's the third time, once the delay because it was in the interest of the investigation, now it's health reasons. I mean, is there concern here that he's trying to dodge the testimony altogether?