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Trump To Face Challenges Over Emergency Declaration For Wall; Trump Accuses McCabe Of "Illegal And Treasonous" Acts; McCabe: I Was Fired Because I Opened A Case Against Trump; 2020 Race, Democratic Hopefuls Campaign In Early Voting States. Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired February 18, 2019 - 10:00   ET





ZIMMER: That a really -- There's a lot of levels to that experience over the last few years, so it would be hard for me to say anything, but that --

HARLOW: It was a fascinating conversation. I've covered this company closely, and I learned a lot. You can hear my entire interview with Lyft founder, John Zimmer. Download my podcast Boss Files today. It's on iTunes right now.

All right. Top of the hour, 10:00 a.m. Eastern. Good morning. I'm Poppy Harlow in New York. Glad you are with us. Welcome to a special holiday edition of "CNN Newsroom". Jim Sciutto has a well-deserved day off.

And he got his emergency. Now President Trump is facing a battle like none any president has faced before. Make that two battles. Lawsuits are being filed almost before the ink was dry on the president's declaration of a national emergency to fund his border wall. And Congress is all but sure to take up an unprecedented measure to repeal it.

A constitutional showdown is looming but that's not what the president was fuming about when he picked up his smart phone this morning. Instead he was lashing out at former Acting FBI Director, Andrew McCabe, and outgoing Deputy Attorney General, Rod Rosenstein. In a brand new book, McCabe is coroborating reports from late last year that Rosenstein discussed secretly recording the president by wearing a wire, and even possibly trying to invoke the 25th Amendment, to remove him from office.

Much more on that in a moment, but let's begin with the emergency that could become a crisis. Sarah Westwood, my colleague, is in West Palm Beach where the president is right now. The White House knew, Sarah, that these fights were coming. Are they ready, given that the president said on Friday, I don't really need to do this? SARAH WESTWOOD, CNN REPORTER: Well Poppy, White House officials say the president is prepared to defend his national emergency declaration from these expected legal and congressional challenges. This was always going to be the problem with trying to get money through executive action, and not through Congress. But already, California, and at least six other states, are preparing lawsuits against the Trump administration. And the ACLU, among other groups, also readying for a legal fight with the administration.

But beyond these roadblocks in the court, over on Capitol Hill, House Democrats are already planning to pursue that resolution of disapproval to try to stop the president from using his executive power in this way. And that could gain some traction in the Senate where some Republicans are uneasy with the president making this move.

But top Trump advisor, Stephen Miller, said yesterday that the president could issue the first veto of his presidency if that resolution were to make it to his desk. Take a listen.


CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS HOST: If they pass a resolution of disapproval, will the president veto that, which would be the first veto of his presidency?

STEPHIN MILLER, ADVISOR TO US PRESIDENT, DONALD TRUMP: Well obviously, the president is going to protect his national emergency declaration Chris. Yes, he will veto --

WALLACE: He's going to protect his national emergency declaration guaranteed.


WESTWOOD: Now, around the country today, protests are being planned against the president's use of a national emergency. These protests come amid uncertainty about just where the administration will be getting the roughly $6 billion Trump is hoping to unlock with his national emergency declaration.

But with these looming battles in courts and in Congress -- Poppy -- we could see significant delays before the administration is actually able to access any of those federal funds.

HARLOW: All right. Sarah Westwood, thanks for the update from there. So, big picture, President Trump is declaring a national emergency to move taxpayer dollars out of funding that Congress has already proved to another fun to build the wall. Now remember, all of those times that he said Mexico would pay for the wall.

So that brings me to this. What are you looking at? You are looking at the "New York Times" reminding us, this morning, of all those times, listing them all in red there, of the president vowing that Mexico would pay. That list, needless to say, is lengthy.

With me now Republican strategist, former Communications Director for the RNC, Doug Heye, and former manager for Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign, Patti Solis Doyle. Good morning one and all.

Doug, just really simply put. You say, short-term victories do not equate to long-term success always. Is that what the president is looking at here?

DOUG HEYE, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST AND FORMER REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: Yes. Look, his base is obviously very excited about this. This is something, that regardless of who's going to pay for it, and I think we all can agree that Mexico was never going to pay for it, certainly Mexico would agree with that, they want a wall, or they want rhetoric to a wall.

So, they're happy right now, but long term this is a problem for the president, because he's going to see more and more Republicans peel off. And what I'm hearing so much on the Hill is, that the private hand-wringing is becoming more and more public. More and more Republican House members and Senators are willing to speak out.

And then long term, this is damaging for the country. As we've seen with President Obama's declaration of an immigration earlier, this sets a precedent, and what President Trump has done sets a huge precedent.


HEYE: And so, if you're a Republican, and you don't want to see the next Democratic president, assuming there will be one, at either in two years or six years, or what have you, declare that on guns, or on immigration, or climate, or what whatever it may be, they now can look at Trump and say, Donald Trump did this, I can do this too.

HARLOW: Here's Patti, the sticking point, right? You've got Article 1, Section 9, Clause 7 of the Constitution, right? Which says, no money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in consequence of appropriations made by law, giving Congress the power of the purse.

But then, you have Stephen Miller, Senior Advisor to the President, especially on all things immigration, as he pointed out yesterday, you have the 1976 National Emergencies Act, and this is an argument over which overrides the other, right? And where the chips fall.

PATTI SOLIS DOLIS, FORMER CAMPAIGN MANAGER FOR HILLARY CLINTON: Well, here's the here's the crux of the problem for Donald Trump. There is no national emergency at the border. It is a big con job from a very renowned con artist.

You know, illegal crossings are at historic lows. Crime rates from undocumented immigrants are way lower than crime rates from native- born. The drugs that are coming over, the vast majority that are coming over, are coming in at port of entries. This is not a national emergency.

The real emergency here for Donald Trump is, that he's running for re- election in 2020 with low favorability ratings, and not having made good yet on his key campaign promise of 2016. You know, building that great big wall, and having Mexico pay for it. Well, Doug is right. Mexico is never going to pay for it. And he can't get money from Congress to build it, and he has very key conservative figures calling him weak.

So, his emergency is not one of national security. It is a political emergency for him.

HARLOW: So, the question becomes then Doug, if you agree it's a political emergency, what what will Congress do about it specifically? What will Republicans in Congress do about it? You heard Adam Schiff, of course, the Democrats cheering out of the House Intel Committee, over the weekend, saying this is going to be a moment of truth for my Republican colleagues. Will they allow this to happen? Will they allow Congress's authority to be ceded to the president here on this? It's one thing for, I mean, I wonder if you think they will actually act, as in vote against the president on this one?

HEYE: You will see more than a voted against Trump in the in the past. We'll get to a veto-proof majority, certainly not. But more Republicans are going to peel off on this than they have on any Trump initiatives before, because they see this is a real loss of power for Congress.

I would say Democrats and Republicans, under Democratic presidents and Republican presidents, have ceded too much authority away from Congress into the Executive Branch, which is a longer obviously conversation. But ultimately -- Poppy -- we are always in this situation, because of something that is not a terribly sexy political issue, and that's called a working appropriations process.

You mentioned it earlier. And Dana Bash, last week, put out, I thought a really good package together on Nita Lowey, the new chair, Democratic Chair of the House Appropriations Committee, and Kay Granger, the ranking member. The first time in over 30 years that we've had women as a chair and ranking member of a committee.

Whenever we've gotten into shutdown politics, or an issue like this, it's because we don't have a working appropriations process. And ultimately, whether you agree with Donald Trump on this or not, and I certainly don't, if Congress doesn't do its job, the executive fills that void. And this is where Congress needs to stand up.

HARLOW: Let's take a moment, both of you, and listen to Mick Mulvaney, now Chief of Staff, but this was him when he was a member of Congress back in 2015, talking about what he calls an imperial presidency.


REP. MICK MULVANEY, (R)-SOUTH CAROLINA: "An imperial presidency is dangerous for everyone. And I think this is this is the premier issue right now in Washington, D.C. I don't think we're going to get anything across the President's desk that will pass his veto, but I do think we should put it on his desk and let him know that the elected officials of Congress, Republican and Democrat alike, object to him going around Congress."


HARLOW: Patti, obviously, you know, we saw President Obama take liberties when it comes to executive orders, etc. Different than this one in terms of, this is the first, where we've seen the president go to Congress, ask for what he want, not get what he wants, and then declare a national emergency here. Well, what do you make of Mick Mulvaney comments then versus now being chief of staff?

SOLIS DOLIS: Well obviously, the hypocrisy is tremendous, but I agree with Doug in that, I think you will see some Republicans sign on to this resolution of disapproval on the Hill. I also think look this is not what the Republican Party is about, right? Circumventing Congress, doing an end run. They're about limited government, right? They're about controlling the appropriations and the purse.


SOLIS DOLIS: So, I also think, aside from some members voting for the resolution, you're going to have maybe some Republicans, who are considering primarying him thinking, OK maybe, this is the time for me to jump in.

We already have Bill Weld, who's doing an exploratory committee. There's talk of Larry Hogan. I think this could be, you know, pushing some Republicans to say enough.

HARLOW: You say it makes it more likely. Doug, do you do you agree with that, that this will push further a potential primary the president?

HEYE: I think it could, but ultimately as long as Donald Trump, and this is the challenge for congressional Republicans right now, especially those who have tough re-elections in the House, or the Senate. Ultimately as long as Donald Trump is at 85 or 90 percent approval within the Republican Party, not only is he going to win the primary, if he has won. But those Republicans, who are running for re-election, have to be very careful about the needle they're trying to thread politically in opposing Trump and also appealing to a broader swath of voters in a general election.

HARLOW: Thank you both, Doug Heye, Patti Solis Doyle, especially for coming in on the holiday. Appreciate it.

Still to come, several Democratic candidates on the campaign trail in, of course, the key state of New Hampshire hoping to charm voters. We'll take you live to the ground there. Plus, the president is firing back, this morning, at former Acting FBI Director, Andrew McCabe, after McCabe says it's the president's own words that led him to launch a counterintelligence obstruction probe against the president. And CNN brings you the stories of those most impacted by the crisis in Venezuela. This, as the president prepares to give a speech on the situation today.



HARLOW: All right. Welcome back. This morning President Trump is slamming former Acting FBI Director, Andrew McCabe as well as the Deputy Attorney, General Rod Rosenstein. McCabe says Rosenstein talked about wearing a wire into the White House possibly, and also discussed the possibility of using the 25th amendment to remove the president. Well, this morning the president called that "illegal and treasonous". Listen to this. This is McCabe telling CBS's "60 Minutes", what it was like in the days after the president fired FBI Director, James Comey.


ANDY MCCABE, FORMER ACTING FBI DIRECTOR: We talked about why the president had insisted on firing the director, and whether or not he was thinking about the Russia investigation, and did that impact his decision. And in the context of that conversation, the Deputy Attorney General offered to wear a wire into the White House.

He said I never get searched when I go into the White House. I could easily wear a recording device. They wouldn't know it was there. Now, he was not joking. He was absolutely serious, and in fact, he brought it up in the next meeting we had.


HARLOW: Let's discuss this with Former Federal Prosecutor, Jennifer Rodgers. Good morning. Thank you for being here. Let's just get to the president's claim that this is treasonous. Look at, you know, how treason is defined in the US Constitution. It is established as, "Waging war against US, or aiding its enemies." Is there any world in which what Andy McCabe says Rosenstein talked about is treasonous?

JENNIFER RODGERS: FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: No, not at all, because what they were doing when they were batting around options for how to deal with this president, and what they were hearing from this president, was on behalf of the United States, right? Saying that the president is the one acting in such a way as to raise concerns that he actually is acting on the interests of Russia not the US. So, no way, there's no way in the world that is treason.

HARLOW: All right. Lindsey Graham wants no more. He's obviously a key ally the president. He speaks out when he disagrees with President Trump, but he now has a very powerful position heading Judiciary Committee.

And he calls, what Andy McCabe laid out there, these conversations between him and Rosenstein, about Rosenstein possibly wearing a wire, or invoking the 25th amendment against the president a, "Bureaucratic coup against President Trump." He wants to subpoena them to learn more. Is, I mean, do you agree with Graham not on the cool part, but on the it's worth a subpoena here?

RODGERS: Well, you know, there's not a lot of guidance or parameters around what Congress is allowed to do with their oversight roles. So, you know, it's not really for anyone else to say I suppose. I mean, if they want to take a look at this, they certainly can. You know, the issue is, what they were doing, it appears from what we've heard from McCabe and others is, they were kind of batting around options to deal with what they were seeing as a president, who was taking a series of steps that caused them great concern. And ultimately, of course, we know that they opened the investigations into the president.

Ultimately all of that goes over to Mueller, which has been a very successful and productive investigation. So, you know, they can look into this all they want. There, it kind of plays into their deep state theory, of course, that they've been, kind of, going with for a while now. This investigate the investigators, the deep state against the president, that's a political goal of theirs.

HARLOW: The significance that Andy McCabe now says, his contemporaneous memos of these conversations with the president in the Oval Office are now in the hands of Bob Mueller.

RODGERS: Well so, it's all about credibility, right? Anytime you come out and say this happened, and you're trying to judge the credibility of that person to see whether you believe that that's in fact what happened. If they took contemporaneous notes at the time when they didn't have a reason, that may have arisen later to make it up, that then goes to their credibility.

If it makes it more likely that they're telling the truth about what happened then. What Bob Mueller is doing with this information? I don't know. I don't really see that he would be doing much with it insofar as we know what is in those memos, what Annie McCabe has said publicly.

There may of course be more including things that might be classified that he's unable to share publicly. That stuff Mueller may have an interest in.


HARLOW: In terms of how much credibility the public should give, and Mueller for that matter, will give to Andrew McCabe, how significant is it that the Department of Justice's Inspector General Report found that he lied to investigators, not once but three times under oath, about, when asked if he was the source of this story given to the Wall Street Journal?

For his part, he told "60 Minutes" he was confused when he answered that. But does that raise real credibility questions for you?

RODGERS: You know, anytime you are trying to judge someone's credibility, and you learn that they've lied about something, sure it definitely goes into it. You know the question is, how do you judge their credibility about around what they're saying? Is what he is saying now something that has been corroborated by others? Other people have talked about -- most of what he said in the interview that was interesting to me was about their decision-making processes, right? Why they open the investigation, what they were thinking about at the time, what went into it.

And it's not, you know, you can't really attack that so much. You know, he gave good reasons for opening it, and all of those reasons are things that are corroborated. You know, he certainly wasn't making any of those things up.

HARLOW: Right. It was a fascinating interview. Thank you very much Jennifer.

RODGERS: Thanks Poppy.

HARLOW: To politics now, in 2020, because hey it's not too early. Democrats hoping to take on the president are fighting for support in the key battleground state of New Hampshire today. We'll take you there live next.




HARLOW: Battleground New Hampshire Democratic presidential hopefuls criss-crossing the state to drum up support ahead of the Democratic primaries there including Senator Amy Klobuchar, who will be front and center tonight at our CNN Town Hall hosted by Don Lemon. All of this on President's Day

Let's go to Suzanne Malveaux. She's in Manchester with more ahead of the Town Hall. She's been campaigning there all weekend. Tonight is a big night for her. What, I mean, what message is she going to try to drive home?

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It certainly is a very big night for her -- Poppy. And yes, it is still early, but she really is trying to differentiate herself from this very crowded Democratic pack.

I do want to mention here, of course, the Town Hall is already set up here. You see the chairs behind me. There's a lot of excitement, enthusiasm about it. This is a theater, about 470 seats, or so. So, the real opportunity for professors, students, Democratic activists, just voters who are really interested in knowing more about her to participate tonight.

And this is the kind of venue here, I think, you'll see she'll be very personable having covered her and watching her with these audiences. Very spontaneous, she does not use a teleprompter, or notes. She is very humorous, and she uses that. She is traveling with her daughter Abigail, and her husband John.

And one of the first things she will talk about, I'm very sure, is about how happy she is to be indoors out of the snow. She loves to talk about her roll out, if you will, and use it as the backdrop, the environment to her advantage too. It was one of the first questions that I asked her when she had announced what makes her different, and she said, "Well, I'm the one who's standing out here in the snow, in this blizzard. It shows the grit and tenacity that I have."

She talked about the Mississippi River as another metaphor of running through the Midwest as a connector, as a bridge, if you will. And that is something that she also will address. It's going to be a focus.

And then finally, she really is a storyteller. She will talk about how her whole campaign started. How her daughter Abigail was at a Hillary Clinton party, thinking Hillary Clinton was going to win. Was devastated, texted her mom saying, "What do I do now? What do I do now?" And she said, "Well, you know, take the subway. You've got class the next morning." And she's like, "No, the country, what does the country do now?"

And that was really the impetus for her campaign, and for this movement. So, this is really an introduction -- Poppy -- to the majority of the country that really doesn't know, or hasn't heard of her before, and whether, or not she can make some inroads for those folks -- Poppy.

HARLOW: And I think, got a lot more interested in knowing more about her after the Kavanaugh hearings, and how she handled that exchange. Certainly wonder if that'll come up tonight. Suzanne, thanks very much.

Let's bring in Neil Levesque, he's the Executive Director of the New Hampshire Institute of Politics, and Chief of Staff for Saint Anselm College. Thank you for being here.


HARLOW: From beautiful, snowy New Hampshire. Happy Presidents' Day to you. Important to note, you consider yourself nonpartisan, and obviously representing some non-partisan stuff here, but do come from a Republican conservative background, just a note.

So, what do voters in New Hampshire, right now, care most about? I know you guys have some new polling.

LEVESQUE: Yes. So, we did some polling last week, and surprisingly there were some big things that showed up in the polling. Eighty-four percent of Democrats here in New Hampshire believe that the president will not win re-election.

So, when you ask them the second question that follows, which is, you know, what do you care about in a candidate? And what they care about is, someone who agrees with their issues, much more, than say, someone that is capable of defeating Donald Trump. So, I'm not sure if the Democrats here are, sort of, underestimating Donald Trump again, but that could be a possibility. But that kind of a question really weighs in on how they're figuring their choices for president.

HARLOW: That's so interesting, because that's counter to what CNN's polling -- You know just a few weeks ago, find them, sure you saw, but it found that what Democratic voters are most interested in, let's pull it up on the screen here.