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At This Hour

House To Vote Today On Short-Term Spending Bill; Source: Trump "Hated" Kelly's Comments, Was Furious; Soon: Trump To Hammer Dems Over Impact On Military; Trump: "Worst Thing" About Shutdown Would Be The Effect On Military; GOP Senator Lindsey Graham Speaks To CNN's Dana Bash. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired January 18, 2018 - 11:00   ET


BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: And moments away, an exclusive live interview with Senator Lindsey Graham. CNN's Dana Bash will sit down with the South Carolina Republican, who says he will not support his party's stopgap measure.

On the linchpin issue of immigration, Graham is pushing a bipartisan deal that would likely win Democratic support, but the White House warns it would be dead on arrival. We have the view from both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue.

Let's start with Sunlen Serfaty on the Hill, Abby Phillip at the White House. So, Sunlen, let's begin there at the capitol as the clock is ticking.

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The clock certainly is ticking, Briana, the president's tweet this morning really not helping the already complicated efforts up here on Capitol Hill after the president tweeted about the CHIP extension.

A lot of people up here saying does this mean he does not understand the policy, is it a poorly worded tweet or is he really undercutting the Republican strategy to try to push this short-term spending plan forward.

Many members really scrambling up here to try to really decipher what that tweet means for the overall negotiations, and the fact that Republican leadership is now pushing to try to hold a vote this evening to get the short-term spending plan through the House.

That's not to say there is a lot of complicated efforts on the Senate side that they also have to overcome. We will hear from Speaker of the House Paul Ryan in just a few minutes. Certainly top on the agenda is what do you think President Trump meant by that tweet, how does this impact the plan to vote on it tonight and certainly the biggest fact is that this is under 40 hours to a potential government shutdown and no plan as of now.

KEILAR: Yes, which made that such a stunning tweet. Sunlen Serfaty on the Hill, thank you.

Also, this morning, the president is reportedly furious at his own chief of staff. A source tells CNN that the president hated remarks by John Kelly in which he said the president had changed his views on a border wall between Mexico and the U.S.

Now the president venting some of his frustration in this morning's Twitter storm saying in part, the wall is the wall. It has never changed or evolved from the first day I conceived of it.

Let's get to the latest from the White House and CNN's Abby Phillip. Tell us about what seems like it may be a rift between two key players in averting a government shutdown here -- Abby.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right. Some very direct pushback from the president to John Kelly's comments on Fox News and also in a meeting with Congressional Hispanic Caucus members yesterday.

Now, John Kelly had been tasked with sort of leading this effort on behalf of the president, trying to broker a deal between the two sides. But in the process, he seems to have undercut the president himself and President Trump is, as you mentioned, was fuming according to this source and hated the comments that he made in this interview. Take a listen.


JOHN KELLY, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: He's very definitely changed his attitudes towards the DACA issue and even the wall. He has evolved in the way he's looked at things. Campaign to governing are two different things and this president is very, very flexible in terms of what is within the realm of the possible.


PHILLIP: Now, remember that John Kelly came into this administration with sort of midway through and tried to put his own stamp on it. But clearly that is chafing at the president right now on this -- on the DACA issue, and it's unclear how that rift will be resolved -- Brianna.

KEILAR: All right. Abby Phillip for us at the White House, thank you so much.

I want to go ahead and bring my panel in to discuss this. We have Mark Preston, David Drucker with us and Rebecca Berg as well. I'm so curious what you guys think -- in the midst of all of this, the last thing the White House needed was to be bickering amongst itself between the president and the chief of staff.

So, Rebecca, when you look at the president's reaction to what John Kelly said, when clearly John Kelly was trying to smooth things over with critical Democrats, I mean, what do you think about it?

REBECCA BERG, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: The art of the deal, Brianna, clearly. I mean, it just shows that the president really doesn't have a strategy here. He's lashing out at his chief of staff at a time when the administration really needs to be speaking with one voice on this issue. If only just to be able to make the case to Republicans on Capitol Hill, especially on the House side, and the immediate future, to pass this short-term spending measure, keep the government open. I mean, it is just a total disaster for the president to be out there at this late hour undermining his chief of staff and the work he's trying to do.

KEILAR: And how does the president, David, go to the Pentagon, which that seems smart, go to the Pentagon, use this as -- for optics, say that Democrats are hindering the funding of the military, which is a case that can arguably be made about a government shutdown, wherever you want to put the blame as a partisan, you know, you may do that, but as he's doing that, he seems to really be just proving that he's -- as much the problem if not the bigger problem here.

[11:05:04] DAVID DRUCKER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: The president has always had difficulty adjusting to what it means to negotiate major legislation. At a time when Republicans desperately, I mean, the president as well, desperately want to keep the focus on the tax reform bill that he signed last month.

All of the good news that is coming out of that in terms of job creation, and investment for corporations that are benefitting from the corporate tax cuts, the president is blowing up his party's plan to jam Democrats on the continuing resolution and to keep the government open by appearing to say that he does not agree with this idea of including CHIP, which is --

KEILAR: Children's health insurance.

DRUCKER: For the poor, this linchpin of the CR plan that is the Republicans' way of trying to get Democratic votes and force them and force the issue and force them to support this thing.

KEILAR: I do want to interrupt you, listen to President Trump at the Pentagon.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: -- we're here to support our country's military. If the country shuts down, which could very well be, the budget should be handled a lot differently than it's been handled over the last long period of time, many years, but if for any reason it shuts down, the worst thing is what happens to our military.

We're rebuilding our military. We're making us -- bringing it to a level it's never been at and the worst thing is for our military. We don't want that to happen. I'm here to support our military. Our military has to be the best in the world by far, and as you know, it has been depleted over the last long period of time.

And when we finish, there won't be anything like it. We need that now, almost more than at any time in the past. So, I'm here for our military. I'm here to support our great, great and very powerful military and we're going to keep it that way. But we're going to make it much better and that's what we're doing. It also means jobs. You see what's happening with respect to jobs, you see what happened yesterday. Apple and now it was just announced that they're giving each employee a lot of money. So, our tax cuts and our tax reform has turned out to be far greater than anybody ever anticipated.

And I'm sure the Democrats would like to blunt that by shutting down government. But, again, the group that loses big would be the military and we're never letting our military lose at any point.

We're going to fund our military. We're going to have a military like we have never had before, because we just about -- just about never needed our military more than now. Thank you, all, very much. Thank you.

KEILAR: OK, Mark Preston, we need to fact check something the president just said because he is raising this specter. While you heard Democrats and Republicans say it is important to get through this budget process, allow the military to move forward with future plans, construct a better budget, he's raising a different specter, which is that entirely the military funding is going to be cut off. That's not true.

MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: That's not true at all. Look, he's being very vague in how he's saying this right now. Yes, there needs to be a budget in place, not only for the military, but also for domestic priorities. We are now going on the fourth continuing resolution stopgap measure to try to keep the government funded.

But as far as the military goes, back in 2013, President Obama signed a law that ensured that 1.4 million active military members and reserves and DOD contractors would get paid during the shutdown at that time. So, the military can get funded.

There is no way Congress is not going to allow the military to get funded specifically if we run into a shutdown right now. So, he's playing very fast and loose with the facts.

KEILAR: So, where is the truth actually had it comes to this argument that he should be making, David?

DRUCKER: Well, both sides always play this game, right, when the Republicans forced a shutdown because they wanted to try and get rid of Obamacare, the Democrats very effectively said that the Republicans were putting vital services at risk and/or threatening national security by cutting off funds and making us look like a laughingstock.

The truth is, whoever makes the argument to the voters that the voter accept is where this thing ends up. Mark is right, the military will be just fine. The president is being a little loose there to try and win a political argument, which makes you wonder, though, why the president would blow up the deal that Republicans think they have to force the Democratic votes they need in the House and Senate to keep the government open. Not only for all of the vital services, military and otherwise, that they say may be threatened, but also so they can focus on tax reform and keep the news and the attention where they want it, rather than in a government shutdown where you end up in a tit for tat politically over who is to blame for Washington's dysfunction.

KEILAR: What do I wonder Congressional Republicans think about this, Rebecca, when they saw that tweet go out, and just to be clear, it is not as if this was a proposal that came out 5 minutes ago from House Republicans.

[11:10:03] This is a proposal to have a short-term funding measure with a sweetener for Democrats for children's health insurance, for poor Americans, on it, we have known about this for a little while now.

The vote is scheduled for tonight and then he tweets out completely undercutting it. He knows the -- I'm assuming the president is aware that the vote is tonight. What did Republicans think about that?

BERG: Well, Republicans have seen this movie before, Brianna, a week ago when the president tweeted about FISA in advance of that House vote.

KEILAR: Is that the same, though, I wonder because that seemed like he didn't exactly know what he was talking about?

BERG: Well, it seems like he doesn't exactly know what he's talking about here as well. Because if he understood the parameters of the deal, there is no reason he wouldn't support the Republican leaders' position on this.

There's no reason that he wouldn't support the deal that they have crafted to try to keep the government open. And so, it really does throw into question what is his strategy here when he's coming out on multiple occasions tweeting things that undermine the Republican strategy that are supposed to help him.

I mean, Republican leaders are acting in such a way that they hope will help the administration. This is supposed to be something to benefit the president as well.

KEILAR: Do you think it feels left out that they're brokering a deal --

DRUCKER: I can't look. I'm not going to try to shrink the president. What I can tell you is that we all know that the White House put out a statement supporting the parameters of this plan and in talking to my sources on the Hill immediately after the president tweeted this morning, they were trying to figure up what he meant.

They said they didn't know and the hopeful interpretation from them was that he misunderstood the deal and thought that the CHIP component was only for as long as the 30-day CR. And if he knew it was a six- year CHIP authorization, then he would be -- he would support the deal that his White House said he supported, but they really don't know, and they have not yet figured it out.

KEILAR: That is so baffling to me, David, that the president wouldn't know that it is a six-year CHIP extension.

DRUCKER: I give him credit for knowing. I assumed he knows and I assume that he blew up the deal because he didn't like it.

KEILAR: The FISA thing was complicated. There were different parts of FISA to understand. It still seemed like as the president he should understand it, but I would argue that that was more complicated than something like this. This is a pretty straightforward deal, 28- day extension of funding, six-year CHIP extension. One, two.

PRESTON: You know, I think that we have to stop for a second and forget about the details of the deals and just go up to about 50,000 feet and look down at this situation right now.

Could you imagine President Ronald Reagan, President Bill Clinton, President Barack Obama, President George W. Bush, President George Herbert Walker Bush, President Nixon for that matter, coming out and saying day in and day out that they feel aggrieved, that they're being attacked, not only by their enemies, but inside as well.

Can you imagine to have a president of the United States come out and be critical of his chief of staff who is trying to go up on Capitol Hill and solve the problems that he has created himself?

So basically. when you look at this whole situation, and we talked about this for the past year right now, all of these problems have been created by President Donald Trump and they have been created because he feels aggrieved, feels like he's the victim. He's the most powerful person in the world.

And I know a lot of people out there might not believe that, but he's the most powerful person in the world. Yet, we hear these petty and trivial little snarks and snicks from him that is just absolutely ridiculous and that is in part why we're seeing Washington right now frozen, not only on this deal for the CR, but on DACA, and just about everything else.

BERG: Incredible lack of discipline overall.

KEILAR: So, where does it leave us then? As we're looking, Rebecca, at a potential government shutdown, the clock is ticking toward tomorrow.

BERG: Right. And so, the big question with the House vote, which is going to come first on this, is what do the conservatives what do the House Freedom Caucus ultimately decide. And the fear after the president's tweet is that they might be emboldened now to try to stop a short-term spending measure from moving forward.

The Republican leadership position had been hopeful that the president and the administration could persuade these members of the House Freedom Caucus to go along with a short-term spending deal because it is what the president wanted. But if the president doesn't want it or if there is some doubt about that, that might embolden the conservatives to stop this.

DRUCKER: I think House Speaker Paul Ryan may have news for us when he delivers his weekly news conference coming up shortly. Will he have spoken to the president personally by the time he goes before reporters? That's going to be the first question we ask.

By the way, if you want to know why Mitch McConnell will only do an immigration bill that has Donald Trump's definite support, it is because of chaos like this, they don't want to make any assumptions and be caught taking tough votes for nothing.

[11:15:03] KEILAR: Very good point. All right, thank you, guys so much for being with me here. We are going to await an interview from Senator Lindsey Graham with our Dana Bash. We're also soon going to hear from the House Speaker Paul Ryan here in several minutes when he holds a news conference on Capitol Hill. We're going to bring that to you live.


KEILAR: Welcome back. We are waiting right now as you can see in the live pictures coming to us from Capitol Hill. Paul Ryan is going to speak there amid this shutdown fight in his weekly address. His press conference there.

Just moments ago, CNN's Dana Bash sat down for an exclusive interview with a key Republican, Senator Lindsey Graham. Dana, you're joining me now. Tell me about what he said.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, he literally just came by here in between a flurry of meetings to try to keep the government open, which as we know as you've been reporting the deadline is tomorrow at midnight.

[11:20:02] The question, though, so many questions for him, is not just about that, but about the central place that he has had in the chaos surrounding immigration and relations with the president. I started there.


BASH: Dick Durbin said you guys got sandbagged. First and foremost, who sandbagged you? Do you believe it was the White House chief of staff?

SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: All I can tell you is that at 10:00 on Thursday morning, he met with -- talked with Senator Durbin, Senator Durbin indicated we had a bipartisan proposal. He ran through it with the president. The president said that sounds very good, let's talk about it.

I think the president actually gave some interviews with the "Washington Journal" or somebody about 10:30 saying he feels like we're close to a breakthrough. So, all I can tell you is I don't know what happened between 10:00 and 12:00. The meeting did not go well, and we are where we are.

BASH: What John Kelly has said publicly is what happened is that he actually got the details of the proposal from the perspective of conservatives. And he realized that what you're saying is something that he was convinced that what you are saying and talking about is --

GRAHAM: I think there are some people around the press and in the White House, and John Kelly is a wonderful man, an American hero if there ever was one. He's done a good job of creating order out of chaos, but on immigration, I've been dealing with it for ten years.

I know where the bandwidth exists, what you can and can't do in phase one, and there is still some room. The president laid out a pretty good idea, but there is people here in the White House that are outliers. People in the staff, working in the senate, that are well known, to be completely --

BASH: Who are you talking about Steven Miller? I mean, name names.

GRAHAM: There are people around the president --

BASH: Am I right that you're talking about --

GRAHAM: -- who have an irrational view of immigration. They always have. If you follow that lead, we'll never get anywhere. Let me tell you where we can go. You won an election based on we have to secure or border. Mr. President, hats off to you for winning the election. You deserve to start securing our border.

You're right about a wall. We need a wall. We need to start the wall now. You're right about the kids are wonderful kids. I'm sure there are a few bad people that are mostly good kids. You're right about compassion and security and love, that's the way you get a deal.

All I can tell you is that you're not going to get comprehensive on the Republican side, which a lot of people are pushing you. You have good instincts. Close the deal. (Inaudible) laid out what the deal should look like. Now let's just close it.

BASH: Is John Kelly one of the people around the president that is irrational when it comes to immigration?

GRAHAM: I don't think John Kelly is irrational. I think he's never closed a deal before politically.

BASH: (Inaudible) from the deal --

GRAHAM: I don't know the inner workings of the White House, but I do know this. It took us weeks to get a border proposal. You know, he accused a lot of us of fiddling around. I've been working on this for ten years. We still don't have a plan from the White House, what diversity lottery should be replaced with.

We still don't what they want on chain migration other than comprehensive. All I can say is that the border proposal we got I could support, but there is no way to get all of that for the DACA population.

Here is what I'm trying to tell folks. The Democrats got to have leverage for the rest of the 11 million. If they give us all we want on border and go to merit-based immigration, why would they ever expect us to deal with the rest of the 11 million illegal immigrants?

Conversely, what if we legalized the 11 million, do you think they would ever, Democrats, deal with us on border and merit-based immigration? We have no leverage. So, phase one is a down payment on everything.

BASH: Can you tell me what happened in that meeting in your own words?

GRAHAM: No. I can tell you this.

BASH: Why not?

GRAHAM: Because I want to make sure that I can keep talking to the president. I told him what I thought. That's more important to me than anything else.

BASH: But he did call those countries s-hole countries?

GRAHAM: You can keep asking me all day long and I'll say the same thing. Why don't you ask me is he a racist?

BASH: That's my next question.

GRAHAM: OK, why won't you ask me?

BASH: Do you think that he is a racist?

GRAHAM: Absolutely not. Let me tell you why. He can be as dark as charcoal and Lilly White, it doesn't matter as long as you're nice to him. You can be the pope and criticize him, it doesn't matter, he'll go after the pope.

You can be Putin and say nice things and he'll like you. Here's what I found. He's a street fighter. It is not the color of your skin that matters, it is not the content of your character, it is whether or not you show him respect and like him.

And if he feels like you are off script, you don't like him, he punches back, and as president of the United States, the only advice I can give you is that the street fight is over. We need a leader. And you got here by being a street fighter, you beat me, you beat everybody else.

[11:25:05] Mr. President, you have the ability to bring this country together. What I saw Tuesday was really amazing. So, what we need is that president to come back, close a deal to get defense spending because we desperately need it, give the kids a better life because they need it and they -- the country is behind you there, and let's start moving on and getting things done. The country is with you, Mr. President, on securing the border. The country is with you on helping these DACA kids. There are people around you who are giving you advice that is just beyond what the market will bear. There is real estate markets and political markets.

BASH: He himself, according to our reporting, made calls after everything blew up in that meeting, saying that he is happy that this is good for his base, his base likes him. I covered you for a long time.

This is exactly the kind of race-baiting that you can't stand in your own Republican base. Doesn't that bother you that he thought that getting out there that he called those countries --

GRAHAM: I don't know who he called. I didn't like what was said. I spoke up but here is what I believe about Trump. If the pope is critical, he goes after the pope. If Putin is nice, he'll say nice things about the pope. I really don't believe the color of one's skin matters with President Trump. What you say about him matters more than anything else. You don't have to agree.

BASH: That's what I was going to ask you as well, which you have spent the better part of this year doing exactly what you're talking about, killing him with kindness. Getting to know him, golfing, talking to him frequently on the phone, and it seems to have blown up in your face.

GRAHAM: No, I don't feel that way at all.

BASH: How come?

GRAHAM: Because I think we're going to get a deal. The Tuesday Trump, that guy, that's the guy I play golf with.

BASH: Doesn't it bother you that the president of the United States has a different personality and outlook between Tuesday and Thursday?

GRAHAM: If you don't understand that there are more than one politician, all of us, everybody on --

BASH: You have a lot of consistency, it is not a question of whether or not you stand on a certain place.

GRAHAM: I'm not here to analyze President Trump. Everybody says he's healthy. Here's what he's got to do, here's what I got to do. I got to show some flexibility. The proposal we wrote is not the bible. It can be added to. There is not much, but we can add to it.

John Kelly, I admire him greatly, General Kelly needs to get the team down there to help us all get to yes. If we just used President Trump's guidelines Tuesday. We'll get there. It is just not about immigration. We need to get the military better funded.

And I'll say this without hesitation, there is no way we as Republicans are going to get a deal on all of the things we want and lead these DACA kids behind. I think we should do both. We should get defense spending to help the military that is under siege, and go ahead and get the DACA kids right with the law. I think most Americans would appreciate that.

BASH: And finally on this, I have to just ask you this, people who know that I've covered you for a long time come up to me, it is striking how many times I've heard what is going on with Lindsey Graham? Why is he thinking that he can have such an effect on the president? This has been over the past year. What is the answer to that question?

GRAHAM: He's president. He's going to make a lot of hard decisions on North Korea and Iran. Every president before him put him in a bad spot with North Korea. He's got right instincts on Iran. He needs not only my help but a lot of people's help. He's trying to fix a broken little system.

I liked the president. I liked playing golf with him. I don't always agree with him. I respect the fact that he won the office and I'm not in the resist camp. I'm not going to tell him everything he wants to hear. I'm going to be me.

And at the end of the day, I want to help this president because I owe it to the people of South Carolina and to the country. We should all want him to be successful.

BASH: I know you have to go. How is John McCain?

GRAHAM: I visited John last week. Very pleased with his progress. He's making progress. We laughed a little bit. We cried a little bit and I admire him greatly and I'm hoping that he can come back and be with us.

BASH: Thank you, Senator. I know you have a government to keep open. So, I appreciate it. Thank you.

GRAHAM: Thanks.


KEILAR: Speaking of Dana Bash with us now, in that interview just minutes ago, he also talked, Senator Graham, did, about the shutdown deadline. What did he say to you?

BASH: That's right. You know, I started by asking him about the latest presidential tweet that threw his own party leadership and the plans into chaos this morning when he tweeted that the CHIP funding, the funding for the Children's Health Initiative, that House Republicans are planning attaching to a government funding bill in order to try to entice Democratic --