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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand Under Fire; Major Airlines Ground Boeing 737 MAX 8 After Crash; Trump Unveils Budget Proposal. Aired 4- 4:30p ET

Aired March 11, 2019 - 16:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[16:00:01]

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Investigators rated Hasson's last month, where they found a stockpile of guns and steroids.

I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thank you so much for being with me on this Monday afternoon.

Let's go to Washington. "THE LEAD" starts now.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: It's almost as if the president wants the fight for the wall more than the wall itself.

THE LEAD starts right now.

President Trump drawing the battle lines again, demanding billions for a wall in his new budget, and the asking price is even higher this time.

And any moment now, we could find out if Joe is a go. The former veep s decision reportedly imminent, as a new scandal begins to haunt another contender.

Plus, airlines scrambling, some travelers trembling after another brand-new plane, same make, same model, goes down. Will they be grounded in the U.S. until investigators figure out what went wrong?

Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Brianna Keilar, in for Jake Tapper today.

And we begin with the politics lead, and President Trump gearing up for another fight. Today, President Trump's budget request for 2020 was delivered to Congress. And there is one big number that is getting a lot of attention; $8.6 billion is what President Trump is requesting for his border wall next year.

That's in addition to the money that Trump wants to redirect with his national emergency declaration, that order coming after Congress refused to give him the $5.7 billion that he wanted the last time around, resulting in the longest government shutdown in U.S. history.

But as CNN's Kaitlan Collins reports, this is just one battle brewing between the president and Democrats.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The first White House press briefing and 42 days was supposed to focus on President Trump's new budget proposal.

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: President Trump's 2020 budget, which was released today.

K. COLLINS: But it was quickly overshadowed after Sarah Sanders refused to deny a report claiming Trump told a room of Republican donors that Democrats hate Jewish.

QUESTION: Didn't say yes or no. Does he really believe Democrats hate Jews? I'm just trying to get (OFF-MIKE)

HUCKABEE SANDERS: I think that's a question you ought to ask the Democrats.

K. COLLINS: Instead, the press secretary hitting Democrats for not going far enough to rebuke their own members.

HUCKABEE SANDERS: Democrats have had a number of opportunities to condemn specific comments and have refused to do that.

K. COLLINS: And pointing to Republicans calling congressman Steve King out by name for his racist comments.

HUCKABEE SANDERS: We called it out by name. We stripped him of his committee memberships. And we'd like to see Democrats follow suit.

K. COLLINS: But the president never condemned King.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I haven't been following that. I really haven't been following that.

K. COLLINS: The back and forth distracting from the unveiling of Trump's new budget blueprint. He's renewing his demand Congress pay for his border wall, this time asking for $8.6 billion in new funding.

But the White House proposal is going nowhere on Capitol Hill, where Democrats have declared it dead on arrival, claiming Trump hasn't learned his lesson from the government shutdown when he walked away without a single dollar in new wall funding.

TRUMP: We have reached a deal to end the shutdown and reopen the federal government.

K. COLLINS: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer reminding him: "Congress refused to fund his wall, and he was forced to admit defeat and reopen the government. The same thing will repeat itself if he tries this again."

The proposal coming just weeks after Trump declared a national emergency to secure funding for his border wall, a move that rattled critics and allies alike.

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: I don't believe that the president has that authority under the Constitution.

K. COLLINS: The House passed a resolution to revoke Trump's declaration and the Senate is expected to follow suit this week. Trump has promised to veto that measure, but aides are worried more than 10 Republicans could break with the president.

HUCKABEE SANDERS: Let's not forget the only reason he has the authority to call a national emergency is because Congress gave him the right to do so.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

K. COLLINS: Now, Brianna, when a reporter pointed out that the president himself had never publicly condemned Steve King, she said that she has and she speaks on his behalf.

Now, she didn't deny that the president told that room full of donors that Democrats hate Jewish people. But when the president was leaving the White House on Friday to go down to Alabama, and then to Florida for that fund-raiser, he said -- and I'm quoting him now -- "Democrats have become an anti-Israel party there, but they have become an anti- Jewish party. And that's too bad" -- Brianna.

KEILAR: I don't think it quite works how she's saying it does. And I do think she knows that. Kaitlan Collins at the White House, thank you so much.

OK, let's talk about the budget guys.

Scott, these are normally -- it's sort of a statement of -- it's a wish list. It's like -- it's for Santa Claus, right? Here are the things that I want.

And the president do you think believes that he can really win this fight? And how much of an indication is this that we're headed for another one of these?

SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Oh, I think this White House understands what a president's budget is.

I'm a baseball fan. It's little like we can obsess over it, like baseball fans obsess over spring training statistics. But I wouldn't draft my fantasy team based on it.

[16:05:00]

Look, you signaling your priorities to the American people. He cares about the wall and border security. They have funding for the opioid epidemic in there, which is something I think you're going to hear more and more about from this White House.

But at the end of the day, they have to have realistic expectations. Presidential budgets are usually meaningless documents, and even more so when the other party is in control of one of the two chambers.

KEILAR: And go on. KAREN FINNEY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, I think it's pretty clear, though, what -- the message the president is trying to send is, don't pay attention to about the 7.5 trillion estimated dollars I'm going to add to the deficit. Pay attention to the fight that I really want to have, which is the wall, because that's how I'm going to get reelected.

I think that's really what he's trying to say.

KEILAR: There are some -- there are some things that Democrats will like. There's infrastructure. There's a handful of things, Jamal.

(CROSSTALK)

JAMAL SIMMONS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Here's the thing about listening to the president do these things, these budget proposals.

Even Ivanka Trump's day care proposal, which is in there, right, they have a really good game of saying they care about these things, but there's actually no policy that achieves the result that they're promising people.

So it's all just smoke and mirrors. The wall is smoke and mirrors. There's no Mexico paying for the wall. They don't have money for day care. They're not going to solve the day care crisis for people. They are not going to solve health care for people.

It's just stuff they make up to say on television.

AMANDA CARPENTER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Even though it is somewhat of a wish list, here's what does bother me, as a conservative who would like to see border security happen.

The numbers keep bouncing around like crazy. First, it $1.2 billion. And then I will take five. So now I will take eight. Maybe it's $25 billion. What is the number that you need to secure a good part of the border?

And I really wish the administration would just pick a certain vector area and make an example out of it.

(CROSSTALK)

CARPENTER: So he's playing with the numbers here in a way that I don't think conservatives can even understand, but also invoking the national emergency.

If you want to get the wall done, that is the most complex. It separates Republicans who have constitutional concerns, but then it also invites so many legal challenges that I think they're just shooting themselves in the foot.

KEILAR: If his number does keep changing, how does he make, without consistency, a case for what his needs really are when it comes to the wall?

JENNINGS: Well, if I were him, I would continue to draw on what my government says, what the experts say, what the Border Patrol says.

Like, I would put them in the spot of saying, here's exactly what we need in terms of barriers, technology, and people. Make them the experts. They will give you every -- what's your total wish list to get a total border security package? If you put them in charge of the number, then I think that would be a good strategy.

Congress would have a harder time saying no to them than they would to him.

FINNEY: But the problem is that is exactly what Democrats did. That is exactly what was in one of the many proposals that was rejected by the president. And he rejected it because he was hard and fast about the number, which, as you point out, has already shifted again.

We're asking for more money from Democrats than he did even from Republicans. And it's -- I was hearing this morning it's maybe some concrete, maybe some steel.

I mean, to your point, what is it that you want? What is it that you need? And what is it that the experts -- get on board with what the experts and Democrats are telling you they're hearing actually need.

SIMMONS: The president of the United States -- I'm old enough to remember when deficits mattered to Republicans.

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

SIMMONS: And so we don't quite know how it is he wants to pay for all the things that he's talking about doing.

The other side of is -- there is a great "New York Times" piece about this today, about the fact that we can't quite crack the 3 percent growth threshold. And part of the problem is, we keep giving money -- we gave a lot of money away to rich people last year. You know what they did with it?

They're saving it. They're not spending it in the economy. And so we're not seeing people who could benefit from an economic growth benefit from that growth. We're not seeing wage growth.

Let's get more money and more resources to people who are working- class, so that they can have good lives and they will spur this economy and we can do what the president promised, which is have faster growth.

KEILAR: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer released a joint statement about the budget request. Here's what they said.

"President Trump hurt millions of Americans and caused widespread chaos when he recklessly shut down the government. Congress refused to fund his wall and he was forced to admit defeat and reopen the government. The same thing will repeat itself if he tries this again. We hope he learned his lesson."

So, Karen, when you look at the polls, people who were polled blamed Republicans, and they blamed the White House, and not Democrats. However, if you talk to some Democrats, they were very concerned that Trump was effectively labeling them as soft on border security.

And it wasn't a fight that they welcomed, because they were worried. They didn't feel that they were, but they felt that he was labeling them. So how would they counter this?

FINNEY: Well, I do think that Democrats could need to do a stronger job of talking about what we were just saying, which is, they do support border security. And they were the ones talking about things like stronger security at our ports and that our -- other places where we know -- it is ironic that the El Chapo case was happening while we were having this fight.

And even in the testimony, they were saying, we don't go through the borders. We go in submarines and in planes and all these other things that were exactly the kinds of things that Democrats were talking about.

[16:10:00]

So, yes, I think they need to do a stronger job in that. But I think what you're also hearing in that is a concern that a shutdown, as much as they're sort of saying, bring it on, I think everybody knows that we don't want -- nobody wants another shutdown.

But I think this time Democrats actually believe the Republicans in that House and Senate, they don't want it either. So clearly Pelosi and Schumer feel strong enough that they can get out there and make this claim, because nobody in Congress really wants this.

JENNINGS: I don't understand going back to the shutdown in this statement.

I mean, the net result of the shutdown for Donald Trump was, his job approval went up a couple of points. He's in the mid to high 40s now in some of the national surveys. And the Republicans are galvanized behind him because he signaled his willingness to do things to get border security.

I actually think the shutdown by some metrics was a net positive for him. I agree that nobody wants to shut it down again. But if you're trying to signal that I will do anything it takes to fulfill my campaign promises, that's not a bad place to be for a president going into a reelection campaign in which he has to keep all of his people together.

KEILAR: All right, you all hang tight with me.

Will he or won't he? The White House answering the question about a possible presidential pardon for former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort. We have that next. Plus a popular new Boeing plane grounded around the world after this

deadly crash that killed everyone on board, but not in the U.S. -- why several U.S. airlines are still planning to fly the 737 MAX 8.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:15:25] KEILAR: Breaking news just in: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi just spoke to "The Washington Post" about President Trump and impeachment.

And here's what she said, quote: I am not for impeachment. This is news. I'm going to give you some news right now because I haven't said this to any press person before but since you asked, and I've been thinking about this impeachment is so divisive to the country that unless there's something so compelling and overwhelming and bipartisan, I don't think we should go down that path, because it divides the country. And he's just not worth it.

Let's go back now to our group of analysts here.

Wow, wow, Jamal.

SIMMONS: It is a big while. I think she will probably have some people in her caucus who are not happy to hear that because there are people in the Democratic left who are particularly interested in trying to impeach this president because he is unworthy to be in office. The problem is though, unless you're going to actually kick him out of office, it ends up soaking up a lot of time to do something that won't yield the product everybody really wants on the left.

KEILAR: Why'd she do it now?

JENNINGS: Well, she doesn't have control of this conference, OK? She's not for anti-Semitism either, but that doesn't stop her members from going out and doing it on a regular basis. She hasn't checked in with her conference. The base of her party, you know --

KEILAR: One member, let's be clear --

(CROSSTALK)

JENNINGS: They've had the whole two votes on anti-Semitism --

KEILAR: That is, Scott, fair, but I'm jut saying you made it sound like they're all saying it.

(CROSSTALK)

SIMMONS: How many votes the president, the Republicans have on Donald Trump's misogyny, racism, white nationalism, how many votes we have on that?

KEILAR: Back to impeachment, back to impeachment.

CARPENTER: The sound you hear right now is people at RNC doing the happy dance on their tables right now because now that Nancy Pelosi has put this to rest, they can say, look, even the House speaker is not for impeachment.

But you know what? Strategically, if she wants to move the ball and elect Democrats, I think she's right. What is easier for Democrats to do to actually impeach and remove the president or to go flip a couple tens of thousands votes in the Midwest? It's far easier to make this an election issue than a legislative one in the House.

FINNEY: However, I would I will take a different view which is to say that she's sort of put out a marker that says unless it meets a certain threshold where now she didn't say, not ever, no way, no how.

KEILAR: That's right.

FINNEY: We do not know what's in the Mueller report. We all like to pretend like we know it's in the Mueller report, but we do not. So depending upon what is in that report, as I think she left that space open, so they better not be doing too much of a happy dance over there and I would keep that champagne court because the point is, right, there could still be high crimes and misdemeanors.

We do not know the answer to that question yet, when we find out the answer to that question, there may be an outcry that says we want the president impeached.

I think what she's done is to try to take it off the table for now as an issue so that it's not detracting because she's been trying they've been trying to talk about HR, for example, and voting rights and all the other things that they want to accomplish. And so, let's at least put this over here in a parking lot while we try to move forward on this other edge.

CARPENTER: I'm just saying, just look into calendar. Right now, it's March 2019. You're going to have an election in November 2020. The amount of time it would take to actually hold the investigations, have the subpoenas and have the hearings and get the votes, there's that's not enough time in the clock.

(CROSSTALK)

KEILAR: It seems like they're starting to have the hearings, maybe the subpoenas, but maybe not the impeachment. And I wonder if is it just a acknowledgement of reality, that if the president's own party doesn't falter in their support for him, that impeachment is not going to be successful and they're worried it's going to backfire?

SIMMONS: That's right, and one could argue we're already having impeachment hearings, right? Elijah Cummings is already building a case brick by brick as he's been saying since for the last couple of months, he's going to do this very methodically. In the intelligence committee, Adam Schiff is doing this very methodically, and in Judiciary Committee very methodically.

And so, what you may find over the course of time is that we now have enough evidence that shows the president is a criminal and three or four different ways. What I'm worried about is that we may just find out he's just really a big petty criminal, right? Like he's just committing a bunch of petty crimes all over the place and we don't have a big enough crime that people would find compelling to kick him out of office.

FINNEY: But I think one thing we've seen already right he's such an undisciplined human being that you know having all of this happen against the backdrop of 2020 is a huge liability for the Republican Party. If I was a Republican on the ballot in 2020, I do not want to have to worry every day what the president is going to be tweeting next, how am I going to defend me -- even the people in the White House have to figure out every day how are we going to defend that?

I mean, you saw Sarah Sanders with this sort of verbal jujitsu try to, you know, every day when she does a briefing I should say, you know get out of having to defend what the president has said.

[16:20:01] So, I do think having the hearings and that sort of liability for Trump's reaction and, you know, tweet storm is actually helpful to them.

CARPENTER: I would have one follow-up question with Nancy Pelosi. Does she mean impeachment now? Let's say Donald Trump won reelection the Democrats have control of the House and Senate, I bet you she changed her mind then.

KEILAR: What do you think?

JENNINGS: Look, I think that she can say whatever she wants to. There will be a significant number of people in the House Democratic Conference that want to continue to go down this road because it's what their people want.

Look at the CNN exit polls from the midterm. Look at every survey that comes out, huge numbers of Democrats want to see Donald Trump impeached. A lot of energy around that issue. I think you're going to see it continue to be talked about by Tom Steyer. He's still out there banging the drum on that.

So, she can say whatever she wants. I actually think she's smart politically to try to take it off the table, but I don't think it's coming off the table for a lot of folks.

KEILAR: I want to get your reaction to something else that she said. This is -- this was in the interview with "The Washington Post". So, she was asked if the president has done anything good for America.

And this is what she said "He's been a great organizer for Democrats, a great fundraiser for Democrats and a great mobilizer at the grass- roots level for Democrats. And I think that's good for America.

(LAUGHTER)

JENNINGS: We would say the same thing about her. I mean, she -- there's not a singular person in the Democratic Party --

FINNEY: AOC, I'm sorry --

(CROSSTALK)

JENNINGS: -- Nancy Pelosi, right now though, if you -- if your write- up a piece of (INAUDIBLE) mail in the Republican Party, and you don't use Nancy Pelosi, it is like malpractice.

SIMMONS: You know it didn't work in 2018, right? They tried to run a campaign against Nancy Pelosi --

(CROSSTALK)

JENNINGS: I don't know.

(CROSSTALK)

SIMMONS: Ask Speaker Pelosi how well it worked.

FINNEY: Women that we saw when the president was giving his, you know, his State of the Union Address --

JENNINGS: And how many Democrats ran away from Pelosi, had to run away from her in their House campaigns? Look, she is a divisive figure for Republicans.

FINNEY: And still a speaker.

JENNINGS: So what she says about Trump is exactly what's true about her too, that is a fact.

FINNEY: I do think President Trump, I don't usually put those two words together but I will, has been a mobilizing force for not just for Democrats but I think for a lot of people in this country. Part of the reason we saw such overwhelming turnout in 2018 is that people realize that freedom and democracy is something you have to fight for every single day and I think that has benefited Democrats.

SIMMONS: Well, it may in fact benefit the country because I think it's not just Democrats. Frankly, I've had a lot of conversations I think quite many of us have with people who are common sense Republicans who realized that standing up for the institutions of government, standing up for a country where everybody gets to participate even if we argue over how much they participate or how they get to participate. But the idea that everybody United States has a chance to achieve something here, that is not the government that Donald Trump it wants to see exist.

But there are I argue probably 60 percent of the country who would like to have a government that does encourage everybody in United States to feel like they have a stake in the outcome of our country.

KEILAR: Let me ask you this, because Nancy Pelosi -- she has a point, the fundraising has been good. Many Democratic voters have been mobilized. But there has to be a message and there has to be an agenda beyond countering Trump and beyond countering the border wall, which is a challenge for Democrats. We see he's going to put that back on the agenda here with the budget. So, to her point that he's been good, how much has he also rested the

Democrats agenda from them in the House in a way that they need to try to counter?

SIMMONS: Not at all. I mean, I don't see any Democrat sitting around worrying the Donald Trump is going to suddenly have a jobs bill that puts lower wage workers to work at a living wage, like he's not trying to have universal health care, he's not trying to actually worry --

KEILAR: This is my question because when I interview a lot of Democrats, they'll talk about Donald Trump and then they're pivoting to try to focus on what they want to focus on what they want to sell to the American people, and they're struggling to find the oxygen to do so.

KEILAR: I do think in 2018, I mean, they were trying to -- you know, the for the people agenda coming out of the -- that was the sort of message that the Pelosi and Schumer were trying to push from Washington, but then I think they wisely, you know, those elections were very local, right? So, candidates really ran on local issues and their districts.

I think when coming to the presidential, that is why the debates are going to be so important. I think the CNN series of town halls have been so important because it's been such an opportunity to get a sense of who are these people, what are they going to run on? Is it going to be a single issue like climate change? Is it going to be, you know, for the people, which is Kamala Harris? Is it going to be about, you know, the economy and fairness?

I mean, what are the issues and where do I stand and what is my vision and my agenda? And as we move through this year, I think it's going to move more towards the presidentials and sort of what their vision is and that -- and I think America is going to get to have a -- get a chance to see a very robust conversation about our values and a real contrast with what Trump is doing it.

SIMMONS: One quick concrete thing, and, Scott, you may appreciate this. I remember being on the Gore campaign in 2000, and people fretting about the fact that Al Gore had a real education agenda that was taking away from what Democrats wanted to do with education and ultimately, Ted Kennedy sided up with him and they passed a bill.

[16:25:02] There's no expectation that, you know, some liberal lion in the House is going to team up and pass a piece of constructive --

(CROSSTALK)

KEILAR: You guys, stand by for me.

We're following another breaking news story. Hundreds of people killed after two new planes, same make and model crash, just months apart. Several countries are grounding this type of plane, but the U.S. is not. Why is that? We'll talk about it, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) KEILAR: We are expecting the Federal Aviation Administration to issue an international notice about the Boeing 737 Max 8.