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Border Wall Deal; Rep. Interview with Rep. Tom Reed (R-NY); Schultz Receives Criticism; Separating from Pack. Aired 1-1:30p ET
Aired February 13, 2019 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[13:00:22] BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Brianna Keilar, live from CNN's Washington headquarters.
Underway right now, the president may sign the spending deal, but the question is, where else is he going to get money to pay for his wall?
Fiscal responsibility used to be a rallying cry for Republicans and helped give birth to the Tea Party. So what does the GOP have to say about America's debt hitting $22 trillion?
Plus, if Mexico's not paying for the wall, how about El Chapo? Why the idea of spending the gangster's billions on border security is gaining steam.
And, in a crowded field, two presidential contenders drop a reality check on their liberal colleagues.
Up first, he doesn't like it, but he's expected to sign it. Two sources who have spoken to President Trump say he intends to sign the bipartisan border security deal to prevent another government shutdown. The White House says the president is waiting to see what the final agreement will look like and weighing his options to secure more money for his border wall.
Here's what he had to say on this just moments ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're doing a lot of work and we have planned to do a lot of work, but I have not seen it yet. I appreciate all the work the Republicans have done because they're really going against a radical left. It's a radical left. And they're going against it very hard. And they're fighting. But we're in very good shape and we're going to take a look at it when it comes.
I don't want to see a shutdown. A shutdown would be a terrible thing. I think a point was made with the last shutdown, people realized how bad the border is, how unsafe the border is and I think a lot of good points were made, but I don't want to see another one. There's no reason for it. And we're going to look at the legislation when it comes and I'll make a determination then.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: CNN White House correspondent Abby Phillip there for us from the North Lawn.
So, Abby, this compromise, it includes about $1.3 billion, a little over that, for a border barrier, which is less than what was proposed before the government shutdown. So what is the president's rational for signing this?
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, in many ways, Brianna, the president really doesn't like this agreement. He has told people that he thinks it's a pretty bad deal, but he's also, as he said in that clip that you just played, he doesn't want another shutdown. He recognizes how damaging the last one was for him and also for his party.
But what he's talking about now in that pool spray that we just heard from a couple of minutes ago is the big picture number for the funding of the Department of Homeland Security. He keeps repeating this number, $23 billion. That's the overall funding level which includes not just the money for the wall, but money for personnel and for technology and for other things. And so you're hearing the president trying to put a positive spin on this.
But ultimately what this is about is trying to avoid a second shutdown, which has virtually no support among Republicans on Capitol Hill. And what the White House is also considering, according to our sources, is the president still continuing and doing some kind of executive action. Whether that is a national emergency, which has gotten some pushback among Republicans, but it could also be a number of other different options. The president and the White House have identified several pools of money which include things like civil asset forfeiture, money from the Army Corps of Engineers, money from the Pentagon and other sources that they could cobble together in order to redirect money toward paying for a more robust border wall building at the border.
So I think the president is looking at this as something that will allow him to avoid a shutdown, but still potentially going it alone and trying to get more money for this border wall given that he and the administration have said that they need the border wall. I mean, remember, a national emergency requires something urgent and so the president's going to potentially make an argument that this is urgent enough that he needs to act alone, Brianna.
KEILAR: Yes, that will be very interesting to hear that argument. Abby Phillip, thank you.
The president indicating that he's going to sign this compromise. Just, of course, has to get through Congress first. And the House is scheduled to vote on this tomorrow night.
New York Republican Congressman Tom Reed is with us now.
So, sir, this didn't really get close to the money that the president wanted for the wall. Thinking about that, was this compromise worth this historically long government shutdown?
REP. TOM REED (R), NEW YORK: Well, I don't think anything was worth that shutdown because it should have been avoided. As we were saying months ago, it should never have happened.
However, the reality of the situation is, we have to deal with Congress. This is a congressional problem. We'll see what we can get through Congress. And if it's $1.3 billion, that's what will go to the president's desk and I hope he will sign it and move on. But there's other revenues and other money that could be deployed for further border security enhancement I see on the table.
[13:05:05] KEILAR: When you look at what has been offered in the past and then what he ended up settling for in this -- his demand, of course, was $5.7 billion, though the compromise that the vice president put out was $2.5 billion, the Senate bill that was passed had $1.6 billion and then you can see the compromise bill had just under $1.4 billion. I mean, looking at that and this whole process, what was the takeaway for you?
REED: Well -- and I would gently remind many of my colleagues on our side of the aisle, not too long ago, about a year ago, we had $25 billion on the table in regards to a compromise position for border security. And so what I would say is, don't let perfect be the enemy of good. I encourage my colleagues to recognize, when you can get 75 percent, 80 percent of the loaf, take it. Take yes for an answer. And now I encourage my Democratic colleagues, take yes for an answer, let's move on, let's keep building relationships so that we can solve problems for the people back home.
KEILAR: Is that your message for the president too? I ask because there was agreement in Congress and it was the president who decided to back away from that.
REED: You know, I would encourage all parties to -- when you can get to yes, take it and then move on to the next day for another day to fight the fight because that's what it's about. It's about finding that common ground, declaring a victory, not a defeat because you're holding out for purity. I try to be a practical member, Brianna, you know that. And I will tell you, that is the lesson I think we could all learn from this last few months of this issue.
KEILAR: What do you make of your leader of the House, Kevin McCarthy, when he's trying to spin this. He says the Democrats caved on the president's demands. But just listening to you, as you look at those number, you're saying, you know, don't let perfect be the enemy of the good. They could have gotten more before. Do you think that this is Democrats caving?
REED: Well, I think there is some movement on the Democratic side, yes. I mean, because you remember, Nancy Pelosi famously said not one dollar for a barrier for a, quote/unquote, wall. But there's border barrier money in here. So --
KEILAR: Well, no, she said for the wall.
REED: Well -- which --
KEILAR: Congressman, in fairness, come on, let's be -- let's be honest here. She said, not one dollar for the wall --
REED: Let's be honest with the American people, when --
KEILAR: And this is for barriers. So that's where they -- that's where they're making that distinction.
REED: Well, when you say a wall, its' --
KEILAR: She didn't say barrier -- no, not a dollar for the barrier. That didn't roll off her tongue as nicely as no money for the wall.
REED: And that's how childish this argument became. You want to say a wall is not a steel fence. It's not some type of see-through material. It's a barrier. That's the end of the day. And it became a political fight.
But the bottom line is, is this, you know, that what we should always be looking for is the compromise position of recognizing -- we're proud Democrats, we're proud Republicans, but, at the end of the day, if you do believe in border security and if you do believe in securing American citizens' lives, this is what we have to do. We have to compromise for the greater good.
KEILAR: I'm curious what you think about this -- the new milestone that the national debt has hit. It's now topping out at $22 trillion. This has risen more than a trillion dollars here in less than a year and that's partially because of the tax cuts. The Republicans pushed through the Trump tax cuts.
Economists say this is a troubling trend. They say that this could have far-reaching consequences for the future. When you look that the, are you worried?
REED: Absolutely. And that's why I'm a proud, fiscal conservative. I voted against the budget deal because I do not believe increasing spending is going to -- it's only going to exacerbate -- it's going to exacerbate this problem. And the bottom line is, now, blame it all on tax reform. Let's be truthful about the revenues. Revenues have gone up to the Treasury Department as a result of the growth that tax cuts have put into place in the American economy. So this isn't about a tax issue.
KEILAR: But they haven't made up the gap. They -- theirs --
REED: Well --
KEILAR: They've certainly not -- there's -- there's a net problem.
REED: Well, the net problem really is driven on the spending side, Brianna. Spending has gone up 7 percent. Revenue has gone up 2 percent. So that tells you exactly where. Those numbers right there should speak volumes to the American people.
Bottom line is, we have to get the debt under control.
KEILAR: OK, so -- but then let me ask you this because Republicans, having been in control, when you talk about the spending going up, I mean that's really the thing to keep an eye on, right, because you're going -- your party has gone off brand of being fiscal conservatives. And in the past, when the GOP has done this, I mean they get taken to task by voters.
REED: And I will tell you, it's not a Republican/Democratic problem, this is an American problem. And, yes, we -- the Republicans went down a path of spending increases that I voted against and I believe that is the root cause of the problem and we should use every opportunity and get spending going in the right direction, and that is down. But let's come together because this is not sustainable at $22 trillion plus.
KEILAR: Tax refunds for a lot of people, and we're talking middle- class Americans, they are coming in lower than these folks had expected. Some people are actually owing the IRS when they normally would not. In many cases, there were people who saw that their take home pay last year increased a little but now there's this bill that's coming due at tax time. Is this what you expected as you voted for tax reform?
[13:10:00] REED: Well, let's just be very clear, because there's a lot of exploitation of ignorance here by folks on the other side. Tax refunds does not equate to tax liability. "The Washington Post," four Pinocchios on Kamala Harris saying that that was the case.
Tax refunds have nothing to do with tax liability. Americans have gotten this money up front. We wanted them to get it up front and they're investing and putting it in savings going forward.
Now, I understand the tax refund. I empathize with people who were relying on those refunds that were coming in. But bottom line, cash position, they're in a better position, middle class America, I'll argue that every day.
KEILAR: The IRS says that tax refunds on average are down 10 percent.
REED: But the actual tax bill, not tax refunds but the tax bill for average Americans is less. And that meant that they have that money in their pocket, they're not loaning it to Uncle Sam at a 0 percent rate. They're getting the money up front.
KEILAR: Oh, I hear you. I hear you, but you know how this works. That's not what they were expecting, right? Because maybe they had it in their pocket, but perhaps they didn't understand that it was also going to be coming out of their -- what they thought would be in their pocket in the future.
REED: And that's where I empathize. Brianna, you're right, I empathize with people that, you know, had expected a refund because they somehow had the misinformation that that's money coming to them from the government, not their money coming back. And so what we have to do going forward is educate people on withholding tables, making sure that their paychecks reflect what they want to have held backs and get into the next tax season. But in the meantime, we are 100 percent sure most average Americans have more money in their bank account rather than loaning it to Uncle Sam.
KEILAR: Congresswoman Ilhan Omar has apologized for anti-Semitic tweets. Republicans, including yourself, have criticized her. But the president says that she should resign. And she responded with a tweet. She said, hi, Donald Trump, you have trafficked in hate your whole life against Jews, Muslims, indigenous immigrants, black people and more. I learned from people impacted by my words. When will you?
Do you think the congresswoman should resign?
REED: I'll leave that to the congresswoman. When these questions come up, I defer to the man and woman who is in that position and it's between them and their constituents.
But I will tell you, her comments need to be rightfully condemned. Anti-Semitism in any form in this day and age, just as it is racism and other discrimination is unacceptable. And I'm glad she apologized. But let's see if she truly means it and we don't see any more of this rhetoric coming out of her office.
KEILAR: OK. So if these should rightfully be condemned, is the president the right messenger to be condemning her considering he has trafficked in anti-Semitic tropes and he's also done a number of things that are anti-Semitic? He likened white supremacists sort of to equal value of the people protesting against them in Charlottesville.
REED: I think the president as well as every American citizen should unite and condemn these comments. And that's the right thing to do. And that's what has been done here and rightfully so. Anti-Semitism does not need to go unchecked in America by anyone.
KEILAR: How does he condemn someone when he doesn't look inward as he's repeatedly behaved in a similar way?
REED: Because her comments are wrong and whoever condemns them is rightfully calling them out for what they are. This is about her actions. This is about her comments. And expressing an anti-Semitism that should not exist in the 21st century. And anybody who believes that and issues those statements should be held to account. And I think everybody has a right to do that regardless of where they come from.
KEILAR: But if you called for someone to resign for something you've done yourself, anyone would look at you, sir, and say you're being a hypocrite. Why are you calling for someone to resign for behavior that you yourself have exhibited?
REED: Well, you know, obviously I have not called for her to resign, nor have I exhibited those behaviors. I think rightfully we should all unite as a country and say, we're not going to put up with it. We're not going to put up with racism. We're not going to put up with anti- Semitism. And for us to unite in that message I think is a good thing, not a bad thing. KEILAR: But how does it work for your party when the president is
calling on her to resign and he doesn't say anything about Steve King, who said he didn't have a problem with the term white supremacy, which in itself is anti-Semitic, because I wonder if that sets up what appears to be a double standard coming from your president who is saying that anti-Semitism coming from this Muslim female Democratic member of Congress is worse than Steve King being a proponent, as a Republican, as a white male being a proponent of not seeing the problem of anti-Semitism? Doesn't that set up a problem for your party that makes it difficult to defend?
REED: Well, I understand the question, but just as with Steve King, Kevin McCarthy and the Republican Party took immediate action and took him off the committee.
KEILAR: Not immediate, sir. Not immediate.
REED: Oh, immediately condemned -- immediately condemned him and took him off the committee.
KEILAR: Well, that one thing, but there were -- come on, you know for years --
REED: Oh, Brianna --
KEILAR: For years Steve King said racist things.
REED: There's been consequences here.
[13:15:00] KEILAR: For years and he went --
REED: And he's been called out. And has been called out. And rightfully now has suffered consequences.
KEILAR: Has not been called out. He was just stripped. And I ask you this because I hear like you're a more moderate voice on it, but you didn't tweet about Steve King, and you tweeted about Ilhan Omar.
REED: Oh, I did express disagreement with Steve King and I put that out on social media. I'll double-check that but I'm almost 100 percent sure that we did.
KEILAR: We looked. We didn't find it.
REED: And I will tell you that we -- we condemned those remarks publicly. We had a press conference on that, as we do every week, and we expressed our opposition to that language. So to make that assertion, Brianna, is just something I don't think is accurate.
But at the end of the day, this isn't about me, this isn't about the president, this is about the issue of racism and anti-Semitism. And what we should be doing in this opportunity is coming together and saying, you know what, we in a country say no to that and applaud people for stepping forward. And you can judge people. You can play the political back and forth and try to get political points one way or the other, but, at the end of the day, we should rightfully look at the substance of the issue and how are we improving our country by rooting it out of our country going forward.
KEILAR: OK. And I will say, I said that to you. We did check your tweets. Didn't see one about Steve King. So if -- if there is one, please let me know. I will happily draw attention to that.
REED: I will definitely do that.
KEILAR: Congressman Tom Reed, thank you so much.
REED: It's always good to be with you, Brianna.
KEILAR: Always good to see you.
REED: Thank you.
KEILAR: big on criticism, short on specifics. Why Howard Schultz's CNN town hall has Democrats on the attack.
Plus, could billions seized from El Chapo pay for the president's wall. This is an idea that's gaining steam.
And a congressman is now speaking out after a racially offensive book was displayed in his office. See the page that it was turned to.
[13:21:2] KEILAR: It isn't so much about what he said, it's really about what he did not say. I'm talking about potential independent candidate billionaire Howard Schultz, the former CEO of Starbucks. He appeared at a CNN town hall to field questions on a variety of issues if he decides ultimately to run for president in 2020.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HOWARD SCHULTZ, FORMER STARBUCKS CEO: We are a country of immigrants. The United States of America should not be building walls.
When I read the green new deal, and I try and understand what they're suggesting, I don't understand.
The headline is here, I should be paying more taxes and people who make this kind of revenue and are of means should make -- should pay more taxes.
If I decide to run for president, I hundred percent will release my taxes and be completely transparent.
POPPY HARLOW, MODERATOR: If you become president, Mr. Schultz, will you sell all of your shares in Starbucks?
SCHULTZ: Well, I think we're getting way premature.
Does anyone here really understand that Medicare for all also means that you will lose the choice of your doctor and your private insurance company?
So now we've got to go back in and fix the Affordable Care Act and bring premiums down.
I respect and I honor the Second Amendment. But what I believe is that there should be some sensible approach to removing the kind of weapons that have no place in common society.
As somebody who grew up in a very diverse background as a young boy in the projects, I didn't see color as a young boy, and I honestly don't see color now.
If the numbers don't add up, I will not run for president because I will not do anything whatsoever to re-elect Donald Trump.
HARLOW: But --
SCHULTZ: No one wants to see him fired more than me.
HARLOW: But the --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: Long on answers, short on details there. And we have CNN political analyst and congressional correspondent for "The New York Times," Julie Hirschfeld Davis, to analyze this with us.
What was your takeaway last night? Did you feel like he was ready for prime time?
JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVIS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I felt like he did not have answers to a lot of questions that he had to have anticipated he was going to get, from policy questions, some of the sound bites that you just played, to the big question of, you know, how -- what is he going to do about his own fortune if he decides to make a run? Will he, you know, try to divest? Will he go -- will he have some sort of a half way solution? President Trump has been criticized so thoroughly for his failure to divest from his own businesses as president. You would think that someone who clearly is going to get that question would have had a ready answer or at least some outlines of what he's willing to do if he decides, in fact, that he is going to try to make this run. And he just didn't have that.
KEILAR: Yes, divesting, it's not premature to talk about it when the president has it and it's been a big issue, right, for his opponents.
I do want to ask you about Amy Klobuchar and also Sherrod Brown.
So there's a -- there's a couple of proposals out there, right, the green deal, Medicare for all. They've been very popular with progressives. Some of them have been trying to figure out how to thread the needle on these expensive programs. But those two candidates, Klobuchar calling them aspirations, Brown saying, you know, he's declining to say if he supports the proposals, so he's not jumping on the bandwagon. What does that tell you?
DAVIS: Well, I mean, it tells me that I think both of them are trying to sort of stake out a path in this increasingly crowded Democratic field that is somewhere more in the middle. Now, Brown's response on the question of the green new deal was
interesting because he basically said, you know, I don't have to prove myself as a progressive. And, of course, he is one of the more progressive members of the United States Senate, one of the more progressive Democrats. But, you know, they are both trying to appeal to this group in the industrial Midwest, this group of voters, working-class voters that President Trump appealed to and that Democrats have had a harder time appealing to. And I think both of them see the risks in going all in on some of these programs that progressives are really pushing at and that, of course, the base is really enthusiastic about because they don't want to lose those voters and they want to talk to them in a way that makes sense to them. I think there's a little bit of nervousness that if they go ahead and bear hug those kinds of proposals, that they're going to have a harder time forging their own path and separating themselves from the more progressive members of the field.
[13:25:21] KEILAR: All right, Julie, thank you so much for being with us.
CNN speaking with the Republican congressman who is under fire for a racially offensive book in his office. You will hear his explanation.
Plus, just in, a former Air Force specialist charged with spying for Iran and accused of some explosive behavior.