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Trump Declares National Emergency to Secure More Border Wall Funding; Pelosi & Schumer Statement: Congress Will Defend Constitutional Authorities "Using Every Remedy Available"; Trump Presented No Data/Information Showing Emergency Declaration Necessary; Trump on Redirecting Military Construction Money: Those projects "Don't Seem Important to Me"; Trump Claims Undocumented Immigrants are Criminals but Data Shows Native-Born Americans Commit More Crimes; Interview with Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL). Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired February 15, 2019 - 11:30   ET


[11:30:00] KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: President Trump, just as he signs the deal that Congress reaches on border security, announces he is going around Congress to get more money for a wall. And that's what we were just hearing there.

A lot to digest. Let's go first to CNN senior political reporter, Nia Malika Henderson.

Nia, what stuck out to you?

NIA MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: In a lot of ways, what we heard from this president is what we heard all along, the idea that there's danger coming from the southern border, this idea that there's all of this trafficking that is going on that this border wall will prevent. He is circumventing Congress. He has a sing-songy way of talking about what is ahead in terms of courts blocking it. So they are certainly anticipating that. He was upbeat. You compare the press conference with the one before where he had to say that he would reopen the government and go to this process of a conference committee. He seems to be in a place where he wants to be declaring the national emergency, going it alone in a way that we know this president likes to do. I think this, again, is the president, he essentially failed. If you think about what his actual promise was during the campaign, it was that the wall would be free. It would be paid for by Mexico because he was such a great negotiator. Here not only was he not able to negotiate with both Houses of Congress, he was unable, after all of these years, to get this done in a way that was about both sides coming together and about negotiations. He is making it around Congress. We'll see what happens with the Republicans. A handful of them seem to object to this. We'll see what happens when the rubber meets the road and they might have to vote on this in Congress.

BOLDUAN: It seems like it could be a very long road.

Nia, stick with me.

I'm going to get over to the White House. Abby Phillip is at the bureau.

Abby, let me ask you this. I think one of the most important questions that was asked during that very long press conference and announcement was, where do you get your numbers.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. The president did not acknowledge at all that there were a lot of statistics and figures, many of which came from his own government that seemed to contradict the prince pp claims that he is making. I think we should start with the issue of drugs. The president talked about our drugs coming from the southern border. He's not incorrect to say the majority does, but 90 percent comes from ports of entry, not between ports of entry. He talked about crime statistics, talking about an invasion of people bringing crime, women being tied up and being brought across the border. At the same time, illegal border crossings are down. His administration says the spike that we have seen is in family units coming across the border and immediately turning themselves into Border Patrol agents and trying to seek asylum. There were a lot of contradictions here in what the president had to say. He didn't present his own statistics to back up what he was trying to claim about the crisis at the border.

He did some work to undermine his claim. He talked about how he didn't have to declare a national emergency. He did it because he wanted to build the wall faster. But at the same time, he acknowledged there would likely be a protracted legal battle that would hold this up in courts for months and months. This idea that he just wanted to do it faster might undermine his claim that there's an emergency on the border all together. A lot of things of both sides of the issues here -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: One-hundred percent. One of the things he said that further undermined his claim is when he said, there's $8 billion or $1.2 billion or $2 billion, we are getting a lot of wall done. You are getting $1.4 billion approved by Congress for a barrier of some kind. You wonder exactly why, where is the emergency, where is the data. He had the opportunity to present the proof of why he needed the national emergency. He did not present data. That is leading then to what the Democratic response is and already has been.

Let me go to CNN's legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin, on this.

Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer releasing a statement, Jeffrey, as the president was speaking, saying -- obviously, they are opposed to what he is doing and saying that, "The Congress will defend our constitutional authorities in the Congress, in the courts, and in the public, using every remedy available."

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: I'm sure they will. I would like to focus on something that Abby mentioned. He said a couple different times and a couple of different ways, I didn't need to do this but I want to go faster than Congress wants to go. Is this an emergency or not? He doesn't need to do it, that seems to admit that there's no emergency. And that this is something that should belong to the normal give and take between the executive branch and Congress and what they allocate money for and what they don't. He didn't get the money he wanted. Maybe he will get it in next year's budget.

But we are talking about an extraordinary remedy that he is seeking, a violation of the norms of constitutional governance that has been in effect for more than 200 years, which is that it is the Congress who controls the power of the purse. And there's this law from 1976, which says, in certain emergencies, the executive branch can reprogram some money. The president said, there's no emergency. You can be sure the lawyers who are challenging this change in expenditures took great note of that and it will figure prominently in the complaints that will be filed in court probably today.

[11:35:54] BOLDUAN: And he knows it as he presented in almost like a "Schoolhouse Rock" kind of fashion of how a Trump administration is challenged in court on the Trump administration policy. He knows this is coming. He said he doesn't need to do it. He still wants to do it. And he is presented with the opportunity just now to present the data and the information that he might have that would say -- necessitate an emergency. And all he said to reporters was the numbers you have, which reporters got from the administration, the numbers you have are wrong.

Let me go over to the White House right now, CNN's chief White House correspondent, Jim Acosta. He was in the Rose Garden asking some of these important questions.

Jim, your takeaway?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Kate. I want to talk very fast here because I'm so paranoid that they will pull the plug on us in the Rose Garden.

I'm standing in front of Angel Moms who came to the Rose Garden to testify to what they have been through in terms of their ordeals dealing with crime in this country and the undocumented immigrants that were responsible for the crimes that took away their loved ones. You saw the moment when the president pointed to some of these ladies here so they could say, yes, the crimes that happened to our family members that those are real crimes. We were just having a conversation. Kate, I was telling them, in terms of all of us here at CNN, our hearts go out to them. There's no attempt whatsoever to diminish what they've gone or to take away what they have gone through.

BOLDUAN: Exactly.

ACOSTA: As you heard in the question that I had with the president, there it was really about the facts and the data and the disconnect that we have. When we hear the president talk about immigration, he tends to talk about it in ways that demonize immigrants, that just don't stick to the facts. I wanted to point it out, Kate, that some of these folks came up to me after the press conference was over, these very nice ladies here. And they are holding up these pictures of these loved ones who lost their lives.

Ma'am, you were telling me a few moments ago this happened to you, as well. UNIDENTFIED ANGEL MOM: Yes. I'm an illegal immigrant-- I'm a legal

immigrant. This is my only son, Ronald De Silva, who was murdered by a previously deported illegal alien. We need to secure our borders to protect American citizens. President Trump is completely correct on this issue. We need to protect this country.

ACOSTA: OK. Thank you very much for sharing your story, ma'am. I appreciate it. Thank you for that card. Thank you.

Kate, as we know, because we have covered this for so long and there are so many passions and emotions on all sides, these ladies feel very passionate, feel very strong, as the ordeal they went through, that President Trump is on the right in this issue. We'll see moving forward.

You heard the president declare that he will call this a national emergency. It is a striking thing in this country right now because you have Democrats on Capitol Hill and you are the facts -- and some Republicans will say this, too, -- and the facts are on the side of not calling it a national emergency on the border and there's not an invasion on the border and so on. It adds a lot of emotional energy to this issue. You can tell by being here in the Rose Garden, Kate, that this is a very charged issue for a lot of these family members here.

But no question about it moving forward, the president -- and you heard this, at one point during the news conference -- he knows this is going to get taken to court. He knows it is going to be tied up in the courts and will be a court challenge over the next couple of years. We will just have to wait and see whether or not that becomes another impediment, another wall in the president's way as he tries to fulfill his campaign promise -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: That mother's story, not to mention I'm glad she was able to speak.


BOLDUAN: Jim, thank you for bringing us her story.

ACOSTA: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: The question has been -- not diminishing anyone's story and they're pain -- it's a constitutional question and that is where this lands right now.

ACOSTA: That's right.

BOLDUAN: One of the big things that has come up in one of the big areas of money with the emergency declaration would be taking money from the DOD and military construction.

For that, let me bring in CNN political commentator, former Republican Congressman from Pennsylvania, Charlie Dent, on this.

Congressman, I come to you because you wrote the military construction bill that is the focus here. And the president, in talking about it today from the Rose Garden, says, when -- the projects that have been discussed when it comes to military construction, this big pot of money that they are moving and redirecting, he says those projects don't seem too important to me.

[11:40:23] CHARLIE DENT, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, Kate. Can I read you a quote? He talked to the generals. "The project didn't sound too important to me." This was the president's budget request brought to him by his generals and the secretary of defense. Congress approved these. These are very important projects. He said this doesn't sound like -- this is a very small amount, $3.5 billion. The military construction budget, which is about $10 billion, that would be about 35 percent. He is going to take that. He says, also a direct quote, that, "We have rebuilt the military, buying more missiles and new defense equipment. Where are we going to put this stuff? In a shed? In a garage? If you have more troops, they need housing and schools for their children and military hospitals. This is so outrageous these things that have been said here.

Of course, we need to establish control of the border and the president is incapable of articulating a coherent plan to establish operational control. But to raid military construction accounts, he is breaking the law. You cannot take money from a defense purpose for a nondefense purpose under the Budget Act. That is the law. I don't see how he does this. Republican members of the Armed Services Committee and the Appropriations Committee are probably going to set themselves on fire over this. This is just a slap in the face to Congress and their power of the purse-making authorities.

BOLDUAN: Congressman, stand by for me.

Let me bring in CNN political analyst, "USA Today" columnist, Kirsten Powers.

Kirsten, one of the things that the president said -- and this gets to kind of really what we all watched in the last hours as the president was at the Rose Garden. He said, look at the federal prison populations. We looked. From the Federal Bureau of Prisons, "The federal prison population, broken down by inmate citizenship, 80 percent are American citizens, 80.7 percent are American citizens." And this gets to, if we want to call it what it is, what just played out is the president presented with facts rejects them. Asked for facts, he doesn't present them. He does not give any more data to prove his point. He says it is not about politics. If we are being honest, is that exactly what this is all about?

KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It is about politics. But I also think he believes this. This is an issue for him and an issue on the right where this is something that Donald Trump has demagogued. There's really no other way to put it. It is not reliant on facts. It's reliant on racist tropes about Mexican people and sort of presenting everybody as a gang member or drug smuggler or human trafficker. Facts be damned. If you look at -- I mean, the Cato Institute, which is a Libertarian institute, conservative-leaning Libertarian institute, they put out reports saying that this idea that undocumented immigrants are more dangerous is just completely false. In fact, they are less dangerous than the average native-born American. If you look at the issue of what he was talking about the drugs and he said specifically he seemed to be addressing, Kate, what he is hearing on cable TV about the fact that the drugs that are being seized actually are at ports of entry. Where does that statistic come from? It comes from his government. Right?


POWERS: These are not things that we're making up. These are the statistics that are coming from the people who are actually seizing the drugs, who are saying 80 percent to 90 percent of the drugs that he identified in his speech are seized at the border at ports of entry.

BOLDUAN: He just doesn't accept it. He won't accept it. He doesn't accept intelligence --

POWERS: Right --


BOLDUAN: -- from the Intelligence Community and he is not gel with his narrative and he's going to accept facts when it comes to his administration when it doesn't gel with his narrative. Again, he was asked it, he rejected it. This is a -- this is an emergency in search of -- this is a crisis in search of an emergency.


BOLDUAN: That's what it is.

POWERS: Yes. But this has long been a position of people on the right. He has a captive audience on this. If you look at the Angel Moms, for example, who, of course, our hearts go out to. It's so tragic. You have a woman who lost her only son.


POWERS: I mean, whose heart doesn't break when they see that.

But that -- then when you put that up against the statistics, it doesn't match up that we have a crisis going on where undocumented immigrants are coming in and murdering people. Of course, our system has problems that need to be fixed. And that woman said that the person who murdered her son had previously been deported. That is unacceptable. I think everybody would agree with that.

[11:45:20] When you listen to the way the president talks about human trafficking and you go to experts and they say, we don't know what he is talking about, this is not what is happening, we can't say it has never happened. But it's not the way he is describing it. You have people who are desperate who are coming across the border and don't know that they are being trafficked. That happens. But not what the president is saying.

BOLDUAN: Kirsten, stick by. David Gergen, let me bring in David on this one.

David, give me some perspective. How would you characterize what we watched play out in the last hour?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Listen, I think most of us agree that the nation needs better border security. But I think it's also very apparent that when the president of the United States takes on an issue like this, he has a responsibility to speak with clarity and truth. I found it disheartening that this president -- excuse me -- in this instance presented a phony crisis and backed it up with phony facts. And he is now just trying to slug it on through the courts. This is not the way to persuade or pull the country together. I do think, especially when what is going on here is an attack upon Democratic traditions and mores, and when the president is going over the lines of what we expect presidential power -- when the founders put together the Constitution, it was largely with a view of constraining the president so that he was not George III. They were tired of people acting in a way that was demagoguery. Here I think we have returned to a time of demagogic argument, inappropriate use of presidential power, and not justifying it. This government has a responsibility to tell us the truth about what is happening and to keep a clear head about this. He is asking us to go down a path that he has tried again and again to get the Congress to agree with him. He can't persuade them and his own Republicans that this is a terrific idea to build this wall. And our politics, after you try that, you stop and go back and you try it again. But you do not exercise excessive authority and do it backed up with phony facts.

BOLDUAN: Instead, when you are looking at a 2020 presidential reelection race, you slug through and continue to try to put -- excite your base, let me put it that way.

David, thank you so much.

GERGEN: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Much more to come. House Democrats are making stopping President Trump's national emergency their top priority now. We will talk to a key member of one of the most important committees on this very issue about those plans. That's next.


[11:52:41] BOLDUAN: One thing we know for sure is that over the past hour we have learned at least one thing, that the president has declared a national emergency to get more money for the border wall. And Democrats are already preparing to block it. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer issued a statement a short time ago, in part, saying, "Congress will defend our constitutional authorities in Congress, in the courts, and in the public, using every remedy available."

Let's talk about the remedies and the president's announcement. A key member of the power House Appropriations Committee, Democratic Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, of Florida, is joining me now. Congresswoman, thank you for being here.



BOLDUAN: Your reaction to the president's announcement just now?

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: My reaction is it's repulsive that a chicken hawk like President Trump would steal money from our troops, damage our military readiness and undermine our national security all in the name of going around Congress because he didn't get his way in the compromise deal to build a border wall that is unnecessary, that is an ancient form of barrier for border security, and that the majority of the American people oppose. I think we need to dive a little deeper into what exactly he would be doing to our military readiness.

BOLDUAN: Congresswoman, I do want to ask you --


WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: I can do that for you because it's incredibly important.

BOLDUAN: And it is. You are the chairwoman --


WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: The details matter.

BOLDUAN: Not to get into the weeds but you are the chairwoman of the subcommittee that handles military funding of military construction, which is the pot of money that Donald Trump is talking about, $3.6 billion, is what the White House says they'll be redirecting and taking and putting elsewhere.


BOLDUAN: A billion dollars.

Let me play for you what the president said about those military projects --


BOLDUAN: -- just now.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We had certain funds that are being used at the discretion of generals, at the discretion of the military. Some of them haven't been allocated yet. And some of the generals think that this is more important. I was thinking to a couple of them, they this is this is far more important than what they were going to use it for. I said, well, what were you going to use it for. And I won't go into details. But it didn't sound too important to me.


BOLDUAN: Not too important. Is it?

[11:54:56] WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: I think President Trump doesn't know the details, which is why he can't get into them. And I find it hard to believe that the generals told him that it was more important to build an unnecessary border wall than it is to make sure we have defense intelligence centers built around the country at our military bases. Those are funds that are eligible to be -- to be taken under this national emergency funding that he is declaring. We have defense intelligence centers. We have military readiness training centers. We have F-35 maintenance facilities and hangers that he would take funding from in order to build his wall. As Charlie Dent said, where are we going to put our F-35s. We spend billions of dollars on F-35 airplanes to defend our nation. We have to make sure that our troops are trained. Where are we going to train them if he cancels these projects and instead moves that money to build a wall? At the end of the day, he is absolutely incorrect and, in fact, lying when he says that the generals are given discretion over how this money is spent. No. Kate, Congress appropriated these funds specifically for these readiness projects. And the president is essentially saying, nope, I'd rather built a border wall, this is not important, and I'm going to take this money that Congress previously said, in coordination with our military leadership, that it was more important. He is jeopardizing our readiness. He will jeopardize the safety and security of our troops. And he will steal money from our troops who are defending our border in order to make sure that he can build this border wall boondoggle. It's unconstitutional, outrageous, and we are going to use every tool we have at our disposal in Congress to make sure he can't do it.

BOLDUAN: Last time we spoke, you said you would be one to spearhead a legal challenge if this is how this went down. This is how this is going down. Is that in the works?

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Like I said, Congress is going to use every tool at our disposal. We will pursue this in court. When we return from our recess in a week, I plan to convene a hearing of the Military Construction Appropriation Subcommittee and bring our military leadership in front of our committee and ask them, point blank, whether they think a border wall is more important than the facilities that we have already funded to make sure that we can keep our troops ready to defend our nation, train them so that they are ready, make sure that we have our intelligence capability at the top of our game.

And we're talking about one of the projects, Kate, is an intelligence center in Europe whose job it is to keep an eye on Russia. You can bet that Putin is putting his feet up on the desk and laughing at President Trump because he is jeopardizing our military readiness here --


BOLDUAN: But on the response, on the -- WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: -- for a wall

BOLDUAN: On the response now, is -- are House Democrats going to sue?

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: I would expect that we would use the courts, that we will use our legislative tools available to us, we will use the court of public opinion and every tool at our disposal. I think, by every means necessary, we are going to fight President Trump on his unconstitutional power grab that jeopardizes our military readiness. We want to keep our nation safer.

BOLDUAN: Congresswoman, thank you for coming in. Really appreciate it. Thank you so much.

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Thank you. My pleasure.

BOLDUAN: We have much more to come on breaking news.

"INSIDE POLITICS" with Phil Mattingly after the break.