Return to Transcripts main page


Senate to Rebuke Trump; Sen. Bill Cassidy (R) Louisiana Interviewed about Senate Resolution; O'Rourke Launches Campaign. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired March 14, 2019 - 13:00   ET



[13:00:19] DANA BASH, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, everybody, I'm Dana Bash, in for Brianna Keilar today, live from CNN Washington's headquarters.

Underway right now, some Republicans see it as a power grab. The president sees it as a loyalty test. Why the Senate vote moments from now is set to embarrass the White House.

He may have the personality and the pageantry, but does Beto O'Rourke back the right policies for today's Democratic voters? The 2020 race takes a new turn.

Plus, two Stanford students now suing over the rich and famous cheating to get their children into college.

And new questions about whether the U.S. waited to ground the Boeing models involved in two deadly crashes to protect an American company.

And we start right now. You see what's going on, on the Senate floor. We are moments away from a key vote. Senators are preparing to vote this hour on a resolution against President Trump and his national emergency declaration on border security. To be clear, this is all about the wall and about the president's authority to run and end run around Congress to get the wall funding that he was denied.

But what we expect is a rare rebuke of the president by not just Democrats but fellow Republicans, even as he threatens to issue his first veto of his presidency. A threat he repeated just a short time ago.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If we had a proper wall, which we're building now as we speak, and we're getting a lot more funding of it, as you know, in what we're talking about in the vote today, whether it's positive or not, I'm vetoing it unless I don't have to veto. I think that's unlikely. I'll do a veto. It's not going to be overturned.


BASH: We've got coverage on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue. Abby Phillip is at the White House. Sunlen Serfaty on Capitol Hill.

Sunlen, let's start with you.

Republicans are coming out over the past couple of days, even in the past few hours, saying, you know what, I'm going to vote against the president, and, in their perspective, for the Constitution.

Where do these -- things stand right now, Sunlen?

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's right, Dana, many Republicans just in the last hour announcing where they have decided to vote later today on this resolution. We now know that eight Republican senators will vote with this resolution, in essence against President Trump. The newest names are Senator Pat Toomey, Senator Lamar Alexander and Senator Mitt Romney, all coming out just in the last few hours saying that they will vote against the president on this.

This is significant. This means, again, that Republicans certainly have enough numbers to push this to President Trump's desk and to push him to issue the first veto of his presidency.

Now, there has been something of a last-minute scramble up here on Capitol Hill. But that's not a scramble to save this vote. It is essentially just a scramble to minimize the embarrassment on the White House, to minimize the Republican deflections here.

Senator Lindsey Graham, as well as a few other Republicans senators, they went to the White House last night. They barged in, according to Senator Lindsey Graham, on a dinner with President Trump and made something of a last-minute Hail Mary pitch to President Trump to try to save this vote and lower those deflections, including Senator Graham telling President Trump that he should potentially try to save Senator Mike Lee's resolution that would limit the president's authority over future national emergency declarations.

Here's Senator Graham earlier this morning.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I don't expect you to give up any powers as president that you think is necessary, but if you could find a way to sit down and bridge the gap here prospectively, it would be in everybody's interest.


SERFATY: And Senator Graham saying that if President Trump was open to changes, that would certainly minimize the defections in his words dramatically. You know, Dana, we are pushing towards this vote at 2:15 Eastern Time. So we will see the final numbers. But we already know enough Republicans are voting against President Trump on this one to send this bill to his desk.

BASH: OK, so it's now 2:15 Eastern. We are going to be watching for that. Sunlen, thanks.

Let's get straight to Abby.

Sunlen described this as not -- as a loyalty test, at least that's how the White House is looking at this and trying to twist arms behind the scenes.

Abby, what can you tell us about that?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's exactly the way that the White House is looking at it because this resolution is really about whether or not President Trump is right on a major signature issue really for him, which is the border wall.

Now, the White House has been scrambling over the last several days to figure out how they can get more Republicans to not vote for this resolution. They've tried a number of things. A lot of hand twisting from the vice president, Mike Pence, who was on The Hill this week, who delivered a stark message that a vote for this resolution is a vote against President Trump, a vote against border security. None of that seemed to have worked.

[13:05:09] Even this morning, President Trump, in a series of tweets, seemed to reverse himself on that very issue that Lindsey Graham was talking about on The Hill. He seemed to suggest that he might be willing to accept something that would -- would restrict national emergency authority in the future, but would leave his current national emergency alone in exchange for Republicans standing with him on this vote.

But all of this could very well be too little too late with just about an hour left before this vote happens. The White House is expecting, oh, about a dozen defections here. That's a major repudiation of the president. They had hoped for a lot less. But it looks like it's going to be as bad as it could be given that we're already at eight senators at this point. There are likely to be more before that 2:15 deadline.


BASH: OK, Abby Phillip and Sunlen Serfaty, thanks to you both for your reporting. Let us know if you get any information as we head towards that vote.

We don't know what the exact number will be. Abby just talked about the fact that eight Republicans so far have said they're going to vote against the president.

Joining me now is somebody who has not declared, Louisiana Republican Senator Bill Cassidy.

So, the first question is, you're going to have to cast the vote within the hour. What say you?

SEN. BILL CASSIDY (R), LOUISIANA: Yes, I'm going to vote to secure the southern border. I'm going to vote in a way that is compatible with the Constitution. I think the way you set up the story is that is it for or against the president. I think you would interpret that as being for the president. I would argue it's for southern -- security of the southern border compatible with the Constitution and with current statute, and with legal precedent.

BASH: OK. So are you going to vote yes for this resolution?

CASSIDY: No, I shall -- I shall oppose the resolution. And, again, as I just described for those reasons.

BASH: OK. Well, I'll just give you one example of what your colleagues -- your Republican colleagues who are voting for this resolution, which effectively means against what the president did with his executive power, are saying.

Mitt Romney, for example, here's what he said this morning, senator. For the executive branch to override a law passed by Congress would make it the ultimate power rather than a balancing power. He went on to say, I'm seriously concerned that overreach by the executive branch is an invitation to further expansion and abuse by future presidents.

Does he have a point?

CASSIDY: So -- no, I would disagree with that. Congress -- I don't particularly care for this, but a previous Congress, by statute, gave the president the ability to declare -- the ability to declare a national emergency with wide latitude as to what that would be.

It also, in times past, has given the president the ability to move dollars from one pot of money to another. If Congress wishes not for that to happen, Congress will say no more of this shall be allocated, notwithstanding the source. That was not done in this case.

Now, we can either say, well it's been done -- it's been done in times past in accordance with the statute that Congress has pass and so, therefore, this is an overreach, or we can say, hmm, we may not like it, but this is allowed by law, and it's been done before, and Congress did not put in the safeguards. And that's actually the way it plays out.

BASH: Well, so what Senator Romney and other colleagues, not just Democrats, some of your Republican colleagues who agree with him are saying, is that this is a case that's different because, the argument goes, that this was a bipartisan discussion/deal in Congress, legislation was passed. The president signed it and then said, never mind, I'm going to do -- I'm going to go my own way. So that is why they think that he is -- that it's executive reach.

CASSIDY: If you don't -- put it this way. I don't particularly care for the way this played out. That is actually a different question than whether it was constitutional, which it is, whether it's compliant with law, which it is, whether or not there's precedent for it, which it is.

Now, if you don't like the form of it, let's work on restricting the use of national emergencies and shifting funds around in the future. I agree with that. And Lindsey Graham spoke of that as well in your clip beforehand. But to say that it is not constitutional and not compliant with statute or not consistent with precedent, that is wrong.

BASH: Well, you talked about potentially changing the law. There's -- it's -- there's been a bit of chaos about that in the last 24 hours. I know that your colleagues, including -- even lead by Senator Mike Lee, has been trying to do that.

The president tweeted that he's open to supporting Congress rewriting the law that allows for this national emergency declaration and others, but before he's said the opposite. So what do you think his stance is in reality, senator?

CASSIDY: I think Congress should handle this through regular order. It should go to committee. Members of both parties who have concerns about it, even though it's constitutional, legal and addresses a significant problem, which is a crisis at the border, go through the regular order to see whether the status quo is appropriate. If it is not, we should change the law. I, frankly, would like that tightening of the law. But, on the other hand, that is different than saying what he's doing now is not defensible when it actually is.

[13:10:03] BASH: OK, one last question. Assuming that regular order doesn't happen, you're not able to change this. Go down the road however many years. There's a Democratic president. And this Democratic president does something almost exactly like what Donald Trump just did. Will you stay silent?

CASSIDY: Well, it depends. When you say -- put it this way. If it -- what he's doing or she is doing is constitutional, it is according to the law, and it addresses a national emergency, it will be constitutional, it will be legal, and it will address the national emergency.

Now, we may differ as to what is a national emergency. I personally think what's happening on the southern border, where drugs are flowing across our border, 60,000 Americans are dying per year from drugs, many -- much of which is coming across the southern border, is a crisis. So we'll have to determine in the future whether we agree as to whether the so-called emergency would be an emergency. But I do agree that this is a national emergency.

BASH: OK, Senator Bill Cassidy announcing here that you will, in fact, vote -- I know you don't like this, but this is the way to better understand it, with the president and against the resolution that is rebuking him that will come before the Senate shortly.

Thank you so much for joining me. I appreciate it.

CASSIDY: Thank you.

BASH: And as the president's former campaign chairman disappears behind bars, his long-time adviser gets some news from the judge.

Plus, why did it take the U.S. so long to ground Boeing jets involved in two deadly crashes? The president says Boeing has to figure it out first.

And Beto O'Rourke is running for president, but back when he was running for Senate in Texas, I asked him about a White House bid in a CNN town hall. Here he was in October, just five months ago.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you foresee yourself one day running for the president of the United States?

BETO O'ROURKE (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Dana, since this is the last segment, asked me to be brief. And so I will. The answer is no. But -- but I appreciate -- my wife was the only one to clap during that.



[13:16:24] BASH: Add another name to the long list of Democrats running for president. Beto O'Rourke ended the speculation today, officially entering the 2020 race. The former Democratic congressman from Texas rose to political stardom during his campaign against Republican Senator Ted Cruz. O'Rourke lost that by less than 3 percentage points, but raised a record $80 million along the way from donors all over the country, donors he hopes will turn into supporters for his presidential bid now.

He's the 13th major candidate to officially announce a presidential run or an exploratory committee. Among those still considering whether to run, former Vice President Joe Biden. A Democratic senator said it's all but certain Biden will get into the race.

And as for Beto O'Rourke, he hit the ground running today, kicking off his presidential campaign with a three-day swing through eastern Iowa. At his first stop today he was asked about the crowded Democratic field.


BETO O'ROURKE (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Any single Democrat running today -- and I may not be able to enumerate every single one of them right now -- would be far better than the current occupant of the White House.

Let's remember that each one of us, at the end of this, once we have a nominee, will be on the same team. It doesn't matter whose team you are on today. It doesn't matter which perspective nominee that you back right now. Ultimately, we all have to get on board the same person because it is fundamental to our chances of success that we defeat Donald Trump in 2020.


BASH: Troy Price is the chairman of the Iowa Democratic Party. Thank you so much for joining me on what is already a very, very busy political day, and it will only get busier, I know, for you.

I want to start by showing our viewers a snapshot of where things stand where you are in Iowa. Take a look at the latest CNN "Des Moines Register"/Mediacom poll out just this past weekend. Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders statistically tied, way out ahead, far behind, but at least registering, are Elizabeth Warren, Kamila Harris, and Beto O'Rourke is at 5 percent.

How does his entry impact the race in Iowa?

TROY PRICE, IOWA DEMOCRATIC PARTY CHAIRMAN: Well, at this point, the race is still very much, you know, up in the air. I think, you know, we're still very much in the courtship phase with caucus goers right now. People are out there. They're wanting to kick the tires a little bit. They want to get to know the candidates. They want to hear their vision and they want to hear -- they want to make sure the candidates are actually listening to them and hearing what's -- the issues that are important to them out here in Iowa.

And so, you know, we're still very early in this process and, you know, whether we welcome Congressman O'Rourke to the race and if anyone else hopes to jump in, we welcome them as well. It's going to be a really exciting year ahead of us.

BASH: Well, you mention the issues. So O'Rourke is on the moderate side of the Democratic spectrum. I did a town hall with him right here on CNN this past October. And during that, a voter in Texas asked about Medicare for all. Listen to what he said.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can you explain how Medicare for all will benefit Texans?

BETO O'ROURKE (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE (October 18, 2018): It could be Medicare for all. It could be another universal, guaranteed, high quality health care system like employer-based insurance complimented by those who can purchase into Medicaid or Medicare. There are many roads that will get us there.


BASH: How is that going to play with caucus goers, especially given the fact that -- that I think it's fair to say the majority of the candidates that they have to pick from right now -- and there are a lot -- are all in on Medicare for all?

[13:20:06] PRICE: Well, there's a lot of issues that people are caring about out here. Obviously, Medicare for all is one that we hear a lot from caucus goers out on the road. But, you know, I think that people really want someone who's going to be able to be able to fight for and be able to provide health care, and so that's part of the health care that people deserve.

You know, we saw the Trump budget this week with its -- the cruel budget with its trillion dollar cuts to Medicare and Medicaid. What people are looking for right now is someone who's going to be able to articulate a vision, that's going to be able to insure all Americans, make sure that people have access to the health care they deserve.

So, again, we're still early in the process. We know ideas are going to change. We know that people are going to roll out new policies and different policies. No one -- the phrase Medicare for all didn't even exist four years ago at this point in the caucus process.

BASH: That's right.

PRICE: And so -- so we've still got a lot of time left and I think voters are going to, again, do their job, the responsibility that we take so seriously here, to talk to these candidates and hear their visions for the future.

BASH: One of the declared candidates, declared before today, Cory Booker, his team responded to O'Rourke's entry into the race, sort of, and I want to show you and show our viewers what his director of communication tweeted. Want to support a young, charismatic candidate with a vision for a better, more unified country? A candidate who has dedicated his life to social change and improving his community? Who has also run a major city? I've got the candidate for you. #teamcory.

What do you make of that?

PRICE: Well, I think -- I think it's going to be a very spirited caucus season. And, you know, but I agree with -- I agree with what the congressman said, is that Democrats are united behind make -- the idea of making sure that we see real change in Washington.

You know, this last year in our 2018 elections, Democrats beat Republicans by almost four points on the federal ballot when you take all of our Congressional districts together. And so when you see that, people are hungry for change. They're looking for someone who's going to provide that change out in Washington.

And so regardless of how the primary plays out, of course, we at the Democratic Party here in Iowa, we stay completely neutral. But regardless of who emerges from this process, I know Democrats are going to be united behind making sure that we defeat Donald Trump, defeat the GOP agenda, and have someone and real leaders back in Washington who are going to fight for us.

BASH: Since I have you on and since I'm a political nerd, I just have to ask you this before we go, and that is, you mentioned the fact that it's a crowded field. You're welcoming people into the crowded field. But is there a concern that the more people in the field, the more splintered it will be, and the less likely that the person who emerges from the caucus winner will really be the front-runner? Meaning, are you going to potentially give up your status of being the kingmaker or queenmaker, as it may be?

PRICE: Well, we've never -- you know, the role that we've always played here in Iowa is to help winnow the field. You know, we don't decide the race here. We've never wanted to decide the race. What we do is we try to help winnow the field. And so through the

retail politics, you go into those coffee shops and having those conversations, you know, we test candidates, hear their vision. And so, you know, there's always that old adage that there's three tickets out of Iowa. There may be more this year if there's more candidates running.

But Iowan take this role very seriously. We're committed to making sure we have a transparent and a successful caucus process. We're really looking forward to the next year. There's so much energy already. We think it's going to be a great year for our party and we think it's going to be a great year for our country.

BASH: Troy Price, thanks so much for joining me. Look forward to seeing you out in Iowa.

PRICE: Me too. Thank you so much.

BASH: Thank you.

And up next, with many of Boeing's Max jets remaining grounded after two deadly crashes, President Trump says the company better figure it out fast.

Plus, two Stanford students now suing over that massive cheating scam involving celebrities and the wealthy. Hear their complaint.


[13:28:47] BASH: A day after former Trump campaign chief Paul Manafort was sentenced to an extra three and a half years in prison, another Trump associate was in court facing the same judge. This time it was Roger Stone, who was expected to have to answer for another possible breach of the judge's gag order on the case because he re-released his book. But the judge, Amy Jackson Berman, put that issue on the backburner, saying she wasn't ready to address Stone's book.

What she did do was set November 5th as the trial date for Stone. She says she expects it to last about two weeks.

And now on to the latest on the investigation into the Ethiopian Airlines crash. The flight recorders from the Boeing 737 Max 8 plane are now at French Air Accident Investigation headquarters. It comes one day after the U.S. reviewed new satellite data prompting it to ground the Boeing aircraft. Earlier, the acting head of the FAA was asked if he thought there might be a similar cause for the Lion Air crash in October and this weekend's Ethiopian Air crash.

[13:29:53] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DANIEL ELWELL, FAA ACTING ADMINISTRATOR: We are much closer to that possibility. And that's why we grounded the airplanes. We got new information yesterday, and we acted on it. And it is in our minds now.