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Clashes Erupt in Venezuela; Pelosi and Schumer Speak Outside White House; Pelosi and Schumer Meet with Trump on Infrastructure. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired April 30, 2019 - 12:00   ET



[12:00:15] ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.


We begin the hour with dramatic breaking news. A coup attempt today in Venezuela. A coup attempt that is getting full-throated backing from the Trump White House.

Dramatic pictures coming into CNN just moments ago. You see them right there on the streets of Caracas. A Venezuelan national guard tank running over anti-government demonstrators in the Caracas streets.

The opposition leader Juan Guaido says today's demonstrations are different because what he is calling Operation Freedom, Guaido says now has the support of military leaders.


JUAN GUAIDO, OPPOSITION LEADER IN VENEZUELA (through translator): What the soldiers are doing, not just in Caracas but throughout the whole of Venezuela, is getting to the side of the constitution. It's a coup against Maduro.


KING: Now the extent of the military break though with President Nicolas Maduro is unclear. The Maduro regime calling it a small group of traitors.

The Trump White House declared its support for Guaido months ago. Still, its aggressive statement supporting today's coup are significant. Vice President Pence leading support for the opposition on Twitter, saying in Spanish, we are with you.

Likewise, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweets, the United States government fully supports the Venezuelan people in their quest for freedom and democracy.

Let's go now live to Jorge Luis Perez Valery of our sister network CNN Espanol. He's in Caracas.

You see these dramatic images, Jorge. What's the current situation on the streets?

JORGE LUIS PEREZ VALERY, CNN EN ESPANOL REPORTER: Pretty tense situation, John. Right now we now have been seeing those images coming from that place in the east part of Caracas, where supporters of Juan Guaido recognized as an interim president by the U.S., has been gathering to start a strategy that they call (SPEAKING IN SPANISH), Liberty Operation, in which they say they are going to finally take Nicolas Maduro out of the presidency seat.

What we are seeing is a very tense situation in which some military groups are backing up Juan Guaido in this movement. But, on the other hand, we have also supporters of Nicolas Maduro also gathering in other parts of the capital city of Caracas, in the west part, surrounding the presidential palace, saying that they are going to stand there for Nicolas Maduro, the only president that they recognize is -- in this country.

KING: And so, Jorge, help our viewers in the United States, who might not track this story every day. There has been demonstrations before. How much more significant, how much more dramatic, how many more people in the streets? And to the point you were just making, which is the key point, we don't quite know the split, how significant the military split is. Interim president or opposition leader Guaido says they're with him, but we don't know how many, right?

VALERY: Yes. The outcome of this is played in the military is going to -- we're going to see it in the upcoming hours. Since we do not have certainty of how many military commanders, for example, are going to back up Juan Guaido, it is a strategy.

We have seen a couple of those (INAUDIBLE) military are there for him, hanging heavy weaponry, saying that they are going to support him. In fact, a couple of (INAUDIBLE) warning we hear some gunfire in this place of the east of Caracas, where I'm standing.

KING: Jorge, I'm sorry to -- I'm sorry to interrupt you, Jorge. We need to go to the White House now. Democratic leaders emerging from a meeting with President Trump.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): We just had a very productive meeting with the president of the United States. We came to this meeting with an understanding that there's great need in our country for rebuilding our infrastructure, with the recognition that we stand at a pivotal place in terms of building infrastructure for the future. It's about jobs, jobs, jobs. It's about promoting commerce. It's about cleaning air, clean water. It's a -- so, therefore, a public health issue. It's a quality of life issue, getting people out of their cars, not being on the roads so much. And, in every way, it's a safety issue. So we're very excited about the conversation that we had with the president to advance an agenda of that kind.

We did come to one agreement, that the agreement would be big and bold. Our distinguished leader from the Senate will announce how big and how bold.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): Thanks. That's OK. PELOSI: And what remains to be seen is another -- we agreed that we would meet again to talk about how it would be paid for. But we're very pleased with the positive attitude toward recognizing the trillions of dollars of need according to the American Society of Civil Engineers, the deficit that we have in our infrastructure, and now we have an opportunity to work together in a bipartisan way.

Building infrastructure of America has never been a partisan issue. And we hope to go forward in a very non-partisan way for the future.

[12:05:06] And with that I'm just pleased to yield to the distinguished leader in the Senate.

SCHUMER: Well, thank you.

And it was a very constructive meeting. It's clear that both the White House and all of us want to get something done on infrastructure in a big and bold way. And there was goodwill in this meeting. And that was different than some of the other meetings that we've had, which is a very good thing.

First, we agreed that infrastructure is crucial to the future of America. We agreed it creates jobs. It agreed it keeps us competitive. We agreed that for 25 years this kind of a big, bold bill that we could pass would make America a better place. This is not just a one year or a two year.

We agreed on a number, which was very, very good. $2 trillion for infrastructure. Originally, we had started a little low. Even the president was eager to push it up to $2 trillion. And that is a very good thing.

And then we talked about a number of things we would do. Obviously the roads and the bridges and the highways, obviously water, but also a big emphasis on broadband, that every American home, we believe, needs broadband, an emphasis on the power grid so we can bring clean energy from one end of the country to the other, and several other issues.

We told the president that we needed his ideas on funding. That the last bill he proposed, which, a, was smaller, but, b, took as much money away -- and the speaker emphasized this -- took as much money away as it put in wasn't going to work. So where does he propose that we can fund this because certainly in the Senate, if we don't have him on board, it will be very hard to get the Senate to go along. And we said we would meet in three weeks, and he would present to us some of his ideas on funding.

So this was a very, very good start. And we'll see. We hope it will go to a constructive conclusion.


QUESTION: Madame Speaker, how hard is it to work with this president on infrastructure when he's stonewalling you on investigations?

PELOSI: Well, we can -- obviously, we are here to do something for the American people. We have said all along, in our for the people agenda that we ran on, that we were there to lower the cost of health care for the American people by lowering the cost of prescription drugs, and we hope to work with the president on that. We said we're there to lower health care costs, bigger paychecks by building the infrastructure of America in a green and futuristic way. And we talked about clean government.

For the first two we think we can work with the president on, while we may have our difficulties in the other areas. But we cannot -- we cannot -- we cannot ignore the needs of the American people as we go forward.


QUESTION: Did that issue come up in this conversation?

PELOSI: No, it didn't.


PELOSI: You can ask the same question of the senator. (INAUDIBLE).

QUESTION: And to both of you, right after the midterms, the president said -- suggested that he wouldn't be able to work with you if you were simultaneously investigating him. Do you get the sense that that has passed?

And can I ask you, what is a bigger priority for Democrats, investigating the president or trying to (INAUDIBLE)?

PELOSI: Our priority is to honor our responsibilities under the Constitution of the United States, to meet the needs of the American people and to honor our oath of office. I'm going to yield to the --

SCHUMER: Yes, let me just say one more -- let -- please.

In previous meetings, the president has said, if these investigations continue, I can't work with you. He didn't bring it up. And so we're going -- I believe we can do both at once. We can come up with some good ideas on infrastructure, and we want to hear his ideas on funding. That's going to be the crucial point in my opinion. And the House and the Senate can proceed in its oversight responsibilities. The two are not mutually exclusive, and we were glad he didn't make it that way.


SCHUMER: We'll take one more.

PELOSI: What has happened? You all turned into shouters.


PELOSI: Whoa. Whoa.

SCHUMER: Last question. PELOSI: I'll take one from a woman.

QUESTION: Thank you. Thank you.

Did you choose a leader among you to guide the infrastructure project and spending going forward?

PELOSI: Well, we have our -- some of our members -- we have our leadership there, and we -- and I have a rule when I go to a meeting with multi -- with many members, and that rule is, the purpose of the meeting is not to criticize the president of the United States. And, secondly, that every person has a chance to say what he or she came to say. So this is a collaborative effort. And we hope it will be very bipartisan.


[12:10:05] PELOSI: But we will be meeting next about how it is paid for, and that will engage, of course, the secretary of the Treasury, among others, and our leadership in terms of the Ways and Means and the Finance Committee.

SCHUMER: Well, we agreed --


SCHUMER: Wait, wait, wait. What we --

PELOSI: But some of it will also spring from the committee of jurisdiction, for example, the Transportation Infrastructure Committee, which has its own funding mechanism. This is a technical question you're asking. But everybody who is appropriate to the solution will be involved.

SCHUMER: This is the last thing we're going to say. The -- we agreed that the same group would meet in about three weeks, and the president would present his ideas on funding, and we would take it from there. And if we had to break up in smaller groups after that, so we would.


PELOSI: Let me just add one point. I want -- I want you to take this home with you because one really important advance that we made in this meeting was the president's real -- acceptance or maybe just agreement -- I won't say acceptance because he may have been thinking of this all along -- and that is that infrastructure -- that infrastructure should include broadband. And it's important to health care. It's important to education. It's important to commerce. And his embrace of that, in addition to transportation and water issues, was very important.

SCHUMER: Thank you very much, everybody.


QUESTION: Did you talk about immigration? KING: You've been watching a remarkable, truly remarkable moment

outside of the Trump White House, unprecedented in the Trump presidency, Democrat leaders emerging from a meeting with the president of the United States talking optimistically, saying they had an agreement with the president to try, insert skepticism here, but to try to move advance, even though there are investigations underway, even though there are big fights on other issues, like immigration, like the possibility of impeachment, like Trump oversight of his finances. These Democrat leaders emerging saying they had an agreement with the president to try to move forward on a massive infrastructure program, $2 trillion, the amount of money put out by the leaders there. They said they would meet again in three weeks.

One key issue, how to pay for it. Democrats have their own proposals. Most of them ruled out by Republicans, so that will be a giant issue down the road. But the tone there was simply remarkable. Both Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House, Chuck Schumer, the Democratic leader in the Senate, saying the president did not bring up impeachment or the investigations, nor did they. And they believe that they can at least try, try to move forward on a bipartisan area of interest -- we'll see if they can get to agreement -- while the oversight and investigations go forward. Again, insert skepticism here.

But it was a remarkable moment.

With me in studio to share their reporting and their insights, Jackie Kucinich with "The Daily Beast, "Tamara Keith of NPR, Karoun Demirjian of "The Washington Post," and CNN's Abby Phillip.

Speaker Pelosi saying we cannot ignore the needs of the American people, even as they have these oversight responsibilities.

I don't want to be a cynic, but I'm skeptical. I just -- just -- that was remarkable. Everybody talking nice. The Democrats complimenting the president, saying he came engaged, that he was with them as they talked up the price tag, if you will, and making a -- at least a commitment for now that this is important, we should be able to repair roads and bridges, build new highways, improve broadband access to the Internet, which as the speaker noted at the end, not only helps from a infrastructure perspective, it helps education, it helps health care, the domino effect of that is dramatic.

This issue has been on the table for years, dating back to the Obama presidency, with nothing.


KING: Is that a seed of hope, or was that a brief parallel universe?

PHILLIP: It could be a seed of hope. I mean we know that President Trump wants to do this. That he's been talking about infrastructure for a long time. He's really serious about it. And, frankly, he's actually not that conservative about it in the sense that he really doesn't care what the price tag is. He thinks the bigger -- in some ways the bigger the better. Already the price tag is way more than Republicans have wanted to do in the past, so there's that, where he's kind of in line with Democrats on it.

But, simultaneously, while the president -- while this was happening at the White House, on the other coast, the president's acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, was speaking publically and he was throwing cold water on this effort. He basically said that -- that he doesn't think that the way the Democrats want to do this will line up with the way that he wants to do it. He wants to dismantle environmental regulations in order to green light infrastructure plans. And he thinks that trade is much more likely to get through Congress than an infrastructure bill.

So I think you're going to see a push and pull between the president, who is very non-ideological on the issue of infrastructure, and a lot of his advisers, like Mulvaney, who are very much ideological about it. And I think that's where we're going to have an interesting (INAUDIBLE).

JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICS ANALYST: It's like a role reversal. Usually Trump is the one just throwing cold water on what his advisers are doing. And I would have a little bit more confidence in what happened at that meeting if there were Republicans in that meeting.


KUCINICH: Because once Republicans get ahold of whatever the president and Democrats have talked about, as Abby said, it's going to start to fall apart. We've seen this happen before, the president does have a tendency to tell the person in front of them what they want to hear and then when reality kicks in, that's when the trouble starts.

[12:15:06] KING: Right. And this is another example. You mentioned the key point. The president's from the Trump Organization. They build things. He likes building things. He likes roads and bridges. He does. Sarah Sanders said that on TV the other night. And I don't say this as a joke at all. He views this as, wow, OK, let's build stuff. That is where his -- it's his pedigree.

But he's not ideological. And we've seen this on health care and other issues. He says, great, let's do something, and then the conservatives, whether it's his chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, or Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, say, that's not the way we do bills.

I just want to get to Kaitlan Collins at the White House because, Kaitlan, that will be the significant issue here. The Democrats say maybe we should think about raising the gas tax. Will the president says absolutely not. The Democrats say, how else are you going to fund this? It can't be this amorphous public/private partnership. You need real money up front.

Is the president willing to buck his chief of staff, maybe his vice president, and his own party heading into an election year to say, let's have some big government spending?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's the question. And his chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, as Abby noted, is not here at the White House and was not in that meeting today because he's in California at a conference. So before this meeting -- while this meeting was going on, Mick Mulvaney was casting doubt on the fact that it was going to be successful, saying he thinks that that trade deal the president engineers has more of a chance of passing than an infrastructure deal does.

And, John, it's no secret that Republicans and Democrats agree on infrastructure. What they don't agree on is how to pay for it. And that is not what we were talking about when Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi came out of that meeting just now. They said they agreed that they want it to be big, they want it to be big -- to be bold. They wanted a $2 trillion plan happening. And they said the president was right along there with them for that. But what they didn't detail on was how they're going to pay for it. And, of course, that is the big question here.

Now, Chuck Schumer told reporters they're going to be meeting in about three weeks or so and that they want the president to come up with ideas about funding this as well. So they're certainly making sure that he is a key player in how this is going to be funded because, as they noted, if the president doesn't support it, they're not going to be able to get the Republican Senate to support it either. So that's the big question here.

But also reporters asked, not that long ago, President Trump said that if Democrats were being very aggressive in investigating him, he was not going to be able to work with them on things like infrastructure. They were asked about that. They said the president did not bring up these investigations, the many oversight requests that we've been reporting the White House is aggressively fighting back on. They said that did not come up in today's conversation.

But, John, of course, the question going forward is whether or not the president is going to change his mind, try to weaponize that or use that as these negotiations about how they're going to pay for this $2 trillion plan is going to happen.

KING: Kaitlan Collins live at the White House. Appreciate it.

So you get your curiosity piqued by a moment like this. Number up, the president now has an internal Republican issue, maybe a problem. Really, you said $2 trillion, Mr. President? We're supposed to be the conservative party. We've already run up the deficit. Your tax cut exploded the deficit even more. How are we going to pay for this heading into an election year when we're going to tell voters actually we're the conservative party in America?

The Democrats, some liberals, will be mad, what do you mean impeachment didn't come up? What do you mean you didn't demand the president give his tax returns up? What do you mean you didn't tell the president you're going to end up in court if you don't agree to our constitutional right to oversight? But it appears that today's goal was, everybody play nice.

But now what? KAROUN DEMIRJIAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. It -- this was the

nice Chuck and Nancy and the president and everybody having a nice moment again, right?


DEMIRJIAN: And there was an incentive for everybody to that room to make nice. Nancy Pelosi has been the one most powerful force in Congress saying, let not talk impeachment now. Even some of her committee chairs are saying, we're getting angry enough to the point where there is momentum building and we can see what's happening in the rank and file. That's going to happen under her whether or not she wants to have a nice meeting with the president. And so it's to her advantage to say, there's something to be gained here from not going off the rails with this impeachment stuff right now. But she can't completely control that, just like the president can't completely control his people. And as we have seen, not to be very trite, but the devil is always in the details and these nice meetings tend to run into many roadblocks, not to use infrastructure talk. But --

KING: It's -- no -- that's good. I like that.

But -- but it's a fascinating question. Is it in the interest of the president to do a big deal with the Democrats? Is it interest -- is it in the interest of the Democrats to try to do a big deal with the president? Do you want to give President Trump a giant infrastructure package heading into a re-election year where he's already going to say, the economy is great, unemployment is low, this is going to help even more.

So have they decided that this is worth doing? Is it beneficial to both sides?

TAMARA KEITH, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, NPR: I think that it would be way to --

KING: Or should I just -- should I be --

KEITH: I think that your dose of skepticism at the beginning was appropriate. And, you know, we -- we've had similar conversations after meetings about immigration, after meetings at the White House about gun legislation and gun control, where Democrats come out and they say, wow, this was -- this was great. The president agreed with us. And then he is slowly reeled back in. And the fact that they didn't talk about money in this conversation --


KEITH: Means that they didn't talk about the fundamental things that they disagree about and the fundamental things that have been standing in the way of an infrastructure package happening since President Trump became president more than two years ago.

[12:20:06] KING: Right. And the Democrats know if they lead with, we asked the president to raise gas taxes, we asked the president to find revenue here, we asked the president to cut back his tax cut, that the Republicans would say, there go the tax-and-spend Democrats again. They essentially seem -- the agreements seem to be, we're going to let the president go first. We're going to see if in three weeks he has something to give us.

I just -- keep your eye on Twitter for this one.

Chuck Schumer, to Kaitlan's point, the two are not mutually exclusive, meaning, trying to get some stuff done while you have aggressive oversight of the president. We're glad the president didn't make it that way.

Keep your eyes on Twitter. We'll see how long that lasts.

It's interesting. Look, I don't -- yes, you should be cynical, you should be skeptical, because Washington hasn't worked in a long time. That was a remarkable moment. We will see. Maybe we should start a countdown clock, how long it will last.

Up next for us, we're going to return to one of the other top breaking new stories of this day, a violent uprising and the attempted coup in Venezuela.


[12:25:03] KING: We're back now.

The other big, breaking news story we're following today.

Stunning pictures coming in from Venezuela where the opposition's push to topple President Nicolas Maduro escalating dramatically today. We saw this in Caracas within the last half hour or so. Some of these images, you see the anti-government protesters there, but military vehicles running over some of these protesters. Those in the crowd responding by throwing Molotov cocktails.

Joining us now is our senior diplomatic correspondent Michelle Kosinski.

Michelle, it has been remarkable. We know that the administration supports the opposition leader Juan Guaido, but with people in the streets, some violence in the streets, the aggressive from the vice president, the secretary of state --


KING: The national security adviser, essentially cheering on the demonstrators.

KOSINSKI: Right, that's essentially been by tweet though. I mean we did hear from the secretary of state this morning, again by tweet, staying that the U.S. fully supports this operation. Juan Guaido, opposition leader and the self-declared president of Venezuela, was calling it Operation Liberty, saying that this is the beginning of the end stage for Maduro. And Mike Pompeo saying that the U.S. fully supports this. I think it's remarkable, though, that we're not seeing the U.S. come

out -- like Elliott Abrams, for example, the U.S. special envoy for this issue. For a while there, as things were changing on the ground weeks ago, we would hear from him in person here in the briefing room nearly every single day giving us updates. Today, though, the State Department has been silent except for those few tweets.

So there are questions about what exactly is this? Is this a coup attempt? Is this a military operation? What is this? And when we hear from Juan Guaido there, he says this is an appeal to more of the military and more of the people of Venezuela to end things for Maduro.

How exactly that's going to happen is unclear at this point. It's also not 100 percent clear whether Guaido has this critical mass of military support when we know that there are military leaders that are still definitively backing Maduro, at least at this point. So it seems like Guaido is trying to build that mass to some kind of point. But whether this is going to turn more violent than we've seen is what the world is watching right now.

We did just hear from Guaido's ambassador to the U.S., Carlos Vecchio. Reporters, obviously, had all of these questions and more for him, and he said, this is not a military coup. There are more actions to come. Again, unspecified. And he clarified that the U.S. did not help coordinate this information -- this operation. The U.S. did not help coordinate this. I want to be clear on that. And he said that they're looking for more international support, John.

KING: Michelle Kosinski live at the State Department. It's going to be fascinating to watch this as this day plays out. We'll continue to track the story as we go.

Up next for us, though, Joe Biden makes his campaign debut in Iowa today. And, guess what, like it or not, our new CNN poll says he's got a new title, frontrunner.