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At This Hour

Crucial Day of Talks Ahead as Shutdown Deadline Nears; Trump Heads to El Paso Today to Rally for Border Wall; Democrat Lawmaker Takes Bipartisan Heat for Anti-Israel Tweets; In Taped Interview Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg Talks About Becoming Youngest President Ever; Warren & Klobuchar Launch White House Bids; In a Taped Interview Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg Talks About Becoming Youngest President Ever; Klobuchar Launch White House Bids, Trades Insults with Trump. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired February 11, 2019 - 11:00   ET


[11:00:00] STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And a lot of female performances. It was, overall, a well-received show -- Jim and Poppy.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Alicia Keys on two pianos. I mean, that's --



HARLOW: Incredible talent.

ELAM: The place to do it.

SCIUTTO: Absolutely.

HARLOW: Totally.

SCIUTTO: That's talent.

Stephanie Elam, thanks so much.

HARLOW: Thank you all for being with us today. I'm Poppy Harlow.

SCIUTTO: I'm Jim Sciutto.

"AT THIS HOUR" with Kate Baldwin starts right now.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan.

Shutdown II, the sequel. It could be playing soon at a federal government office near you. If it wasn't so serious, it would almost be funny. Peoples livelihoods are at stake once again. And once again it is up to Congress. Lawmakers have had weeks to hammer out a deal on border security. And last week, they were optimistic. Starting this week, it seems it is a completely different story. Bipartisan talks have stalled and the deadline is Friday.

And the president's acting chief of staff is offering no words of comfort and no signs of budging. Listen.


MICK MULVANEY, ACTING WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: Let's say that the hardcore left wing of the Democrat Party prevails in these negotiations and they put a bill on the president's desk that says zero money for the wall or and $800 million, an absurdly low number, how does he sign that? He cannot in good faith sign that. Is the shutdown entirely off the table? The answer is no.


BOLDUAN: Let's see where things are at the moment. CNN's Phil Mattingly is on Capitol Hill and joining me now.

Phil, it was glass half full last week. What changed?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I feel like some were being punished for being optimistic before a deal was finally struck. You know the saying, nothing is agreed to until everything is agreed to on Capitol Hill and not everything was agreed to yet.

Here's the crux of essentially what happened over the course of the last 48 hours. The border barrier debate, the funding for that, the number had been pinging back and forth on multiple proposals. That was not actually the cause of the breakdown. The cause of the breakdown was related to detention beds, essentially how many undocumented immigrants can be detained by ICE at one time. There is the broad kind of southern border cap that is always considered an appropriations bill. The issue here was on the interior. It was individuals that currently live in the United States but are undocumented. And what Democrats proposed is a cap of 16,500 beds for that group of individuals. Republicans said essentially it was a nonstarter. The fact that it was still coming up at the debate, according one aide I was talking to, it was a complete poison pill, something they could never accept. Because of that fact, the talks have broken down. Democrats have made clear, look, they disagree with the Trump administration's broader immigration enforcement policy. This would be a way to reorient that to some degree. But it would serve as almost payment for increasing border wall funding levels. That's where things stand. That's why things broke down.

Now all eyes today are on a meeting with the top-four bipartisan negotiators. They're going to meet at 3:30 p.m. The question is, can they resuscitate what everyone thought was a positive negotiation as of Thursday night and Friday, or are they moving towards shorter term solutions? I'm told, on both sides of the Capitol, in both parties, there have been discussions about what kind of plan B or plan C might look like. The problem with that, Kate, is largely people don't want to punt this off for another couple of weeks.


MATTINGLY: Because what's going to change at that point in time? Democrats are considering a short-term funding measure for the Department of Homeland Security, plus a package of the other six appropriations bills, perhaps moving that forward. But that likely won't move for Senate Republicans or the president. The reality is as negotiators meet, can they bring back the broader talks, and if they can't, is there any plan B that could get through both chambers and the president's signature? The answer is we don't know the answer yet. Stay tuned. But more broadly, things are not in a very great place right now.

BOLDUAN: Because you can't get much shorter for a short-term solution than the three weeks that we just saw. So let's see what happens next.

Go shake it up. Let's see what you can do, Phil. Good to see you, buddy.

So speaking of the wall that was the crux of this whole fight, at least to begin with, President Trump, he is taking his pitch straight to the border. He's holding his first big campaign rally of the year tonight in El Paso, Texas, the same El Paso that the president has held up over and over again as a prime example that walls work.

Here he was, as a reminder, during the State of the Union.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The border city of El Paso, Texas, used to have extremely high rates of violent crime. Now, immediately upon its building with a powerful barrier in place, El Paso is one of the safest cities.


BOLDUAN: That is not accurate. So what is the truth?

CNN's Abby Phillip is at the White House.

Abby, what is President Trump trying to do with this trip? Are there any signs he's actually going to correct the record on what he said about El Paso over and over again?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Kate, it is not clear whether President Trump will take this opportunity to correct the record, in part, because if he were to do that, he probably wouldn't be going to El Paso in the first place. The fact is that El Paso is not a sort of paragon of what happens when you build a wall. The city had been safe for many years before that wall was built during the Bush administration. After it was built, they experienced a brief spike in crime. Then the crime rates went back down again.

[11:05:] The president's presence in El Paso, in order to make this point about the need for border security is irking some local officials, including the mayor of El Paso, who says the president is mischaracterizing what has been going on in the city for a long time.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DEE MARGO, (R), EL PASO MAYOR: We were going back to 2005, one of the safest cities in the nation. The barrier went up and the fence went up, and it's only about 10 miles long, and the total fencing in the El Paso sector is about 78 miles and it's not continuous. It's part of the process for border security but it's not the total panacea.


PHILLIP: Also greeting President Trump in El Paso will be counter protesters and a 2020 presidential hopeful. Beto O'Rourke will be doing a counter rally very close to where President Trump will be in El Paso.

It is interesting that Trump chose to go to the city, a city that he actually didn't win in the 2016 election. But it's going to highlight perhaps more than anything else the nuances of the issue on the border and the fact that many of these border cities have a very nuanced view of whether they need a fence or a more robust border security package like what you heard the mayor say in that clip earlier today -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: And as you point out, raising with that context the important political question of, is the fight what the president needs and wants a solution at the border what would actually be a good thing for him politically.

Good to see you, Abby. Thank you.

Let me go back to Capitol Hill. We have freshman Democrat, Congresswoman Omar Ilhan being accuse of anti-Semitism, this time, after the Minnesota Democrat, who is one of the first two Muslim women elected to Congress, after she tweeted that Republican support of Israel is, quote, "all about the Benjamins." When asked to explain her statement, the congresswoman pointed the finger at AIPAC, the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee, a powerful pro-Israel lobby group that does not contribute to politicians.

Joining me now is John Bresnahan, congressional bureau chief for "Politico." He's been writing about all of this.

It's good to you, John. Thanks for coming in.


BOLDUAN: This comes with context. It isn't the first time the congresswoman has been called out over her anti-Israel stance, but what exactly is she saying here? And, more importantly, is she trying to -- is she attempting to clean it up? What was she trying to do?

BRESNAHAN: There are a couple threads here. She and another, the other Muslim congresswoman, Rashida Tlaib, and other new Democrats have - they are opposed to BDS legislation, which is the boycott and sanctions, anti-BDS legislation Republicans are pushing. She has made some comments about Israel and Israel's treatment of the Palestinian people, which is a huge issue. There's a growing fraction within the Democratic Party that says, we can criticize Israel without being anti-Semitic. There's a push-back within the party of this. Republicans, of course, jumped all over this last night. But now we have five Democrats who came out last night and today -- in fact, one just now, Ted Deutch, of Florida, who is saying all of those comments are way out of line. That you can criticize Israel, but the idea that you're floating, the idea that Jewish money controls American politicians with huge donors, is a really ugly comment. It's a really ugly anti-Semitic comment. I think it's a really dangerous place for Omar to go.

BOLDUAN: And that's been an important part of this, is the response from fellow Democrats. It really wasn't more than a few moments, you know, kind of in the Twitter world universe, where you had Max Rose come out almost immediately. I find it as a fascinating dynamic in this.

BRESNAHAN: Well, Kevin McCarthy, who is the House minority leader, who is a top Republican in the House, was criticizing Omar the other day. That's how this all started. He was trying to say her comments and comments from Rashia Tlaib, were worse than what Congress Steve King, a Republicans from Iowa, did when he made racist comments. He was sanctioned by his own party. They kicked him off his committees. So McCarthy is saying, look, you guys, Democrats, have your own problem. Look at Omar and look at Tlaib. Where's Nancy Pelosi? Where's Speaker Pelosi? She's not doing anything. That's how this controversy started. So --


BOLDUAN: But as you raise Kevin McCarthy, John, an important part of this is he asking the Democrats to take action. But Kevin McCarthy, he has been accused of sending an anti-Semitic tweet just last year before the midterms. There's a lot of dynamics at play here.

BRESNAHAN: There is a huge -- this is a hugely complex issue. You know, there's a growing concern among some that President Trump and the Republican Party has skewed way too far towards Israel, moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, pulling out of the Iran nuclear deal. But, then again, Republicans are accusing the Democrats, you have a strain of anti-Semitism within your party and you have to do something about it. This is a hugely important issue. It involves discrimination, traditional, against Muslims and Jews in this country. How do we treat Israel? How do we look at Israel? I think this is not going away any time soon. This is a problem for both parties and something we'll have to deal with.

[11:10:56] BOLDUAN: And exhibit Z, X and Y of why putting policy and making these statements on Twitter is not advisable for members of Congress. I don't know how many times we have to say this.

Good to see you, John. Thank you.

BRESNAHAN: Thanks, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Coming up for us, two more candidates jump into the race for the White House this weekend and didn't waste any time hitting right back at President Trump. How they're fighting back. And they are just getting started.

Plus, is America ready for a Millennial president? We'll go to my home state of Indiana to find out. We ask why the mayor of a small city thinks he has what it takes to win back the White House for Democrats. That's next.


[11:15:57] BOLDUAN: We said it before and we'll say it again, the Democratic Party field is getting crowded. Add two more names to the list, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren and Minnesota Amy Klobuchar are both making it official over the weekend. And both wasted no time taking shots at President Trump.

After the president made fun of Klobuchar for launching her campaign in the middle of a Minnesota snow storm, the Senator had this reply.


SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR, (D), MINNESOTA: When he called me a snow woman, I would like to see how his hair would fair in a blizzard.



BOLDUAN: Elizabeth Warren went so far as to raise the possibility of impeachment when talking about the president.


SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN, (D), MASSACHUSETTS: By 2020, Donald Trump may not even be president.



WARREN: In fact, he may not even be a free person.



BOLDUAN: But some candidates are taking a different approach, like South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg. He says his goal is to ignore Donald Trump and not ignore the question that he gets over and over again on the trail: Why does a mayor of a small city, and one who is 37 years old, think he can be president?

I traveled back to my home state to ask him.


PETE BUTTIGIEG, (D), MAYOR OF SOUTHBEND, INDIANA: The question of experience I think is one of the most important questions that I want to answer. The background of a mayor, of a city of any size, and is the background, on the one hand, is an executive, and on the other hand, is very close to the ground. You know, I don't have to go on a tour to find out what's happening in middle America. I go to Target.

One of the first things I like to point out to people is those two churches.

BOLDUAN (voice-over): South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg knows he is a long shot for the White House. He has been a long shot before. He ran for mayor at 29 years old in a place "Newsweek" labeled a dying city. He won and he is on a second term.

BUTTIGIEG: While I've got you --

BOLDUAN: Now he wants America to bet on him.

BUTTIGIEG: When you run for office at my age, in many ways, your face is your message.

This thing, which -- I was getting ready blow that thing up. That building was vacant and was in receivership. It was in miserable condition.

BOLDUAN: His story is very much the story of South Bend and he wants it that way.

Like much of the industrial Midwest, South Bend saw a boom and bust around manufacturing.

BUTTIGIEG: There you go.

BOLDUAN: Here, the most powerful symbol of that is the massive Studebaker auto plant.

BUTTIGIEG: Wow. I have never seen this much fog inside the building.

BOLDUAN: Shuttered and sitting vacant since the 1960s. And now?

BUTTIGIEG: There's a code school here. They teach middle schoolers coding. Super cool.

We were honest about the fact that nothing ever resembling, for example, the Studebaker Car Company, was ever going to come back to the city. That wasn't coming back but we were.

BOLDUAN: Buttigieg says that is exactly the message of change Democrats need for 2020.

BUTTIGIEG: If we look like are the protectors of the old order, if we look like we're here to restore normalcy, whatever that means, then, in a way, we are committing the same sin of the Trump campaign, which is to tell people to look for greatness in the wrong places.

The industrial Midwest is ground zero for that.

BOLDUAN: It's a crowded field of Democrats he could be up against, many better known, other mayors, another veteran. And he's not the only candidate from the Midwest. And one way he is trying to set himself apart, he says the race is not about Donald Trump.

(on camera) When he goes low, where do you go?

BUTTIGIEG: I go right back to how our ideas are going to make lives better and about how we got here, how we got this president. We had an election cycle where our candidate was talking about herself or about him. A lot of people at home were saying, OK, but who is talking about me?

BOLDUAN: Is your goal to ignore him?

BUTTIGIEG: In many ways, yes. The problems we are facing right now are going to grow with or without him.

BOLDUAN (voice-over): But the Indiana mayor isn't pulling any punches when it comes to the former Indiana governor, Vice President Mike Pence.

(on camera): When it comes to Mike Pence, is it personal?

[11:19:59] BUTTIGIEG: Look, my personal interactions with him have always been very civil and very decent. It's also simply true that politically he is a fanatic. And he damaged our city and our state through choices that his social extremism led him to make.

How's it going?

BOLDUAN (voice-over): What does he say about the Democrats?

BUTTIGIEG: He's a tall back up.

BOLDUAN: He calls them competitors, not opponents.

(on camera): Define between components and competitor.

BUTTIGIEG: When you're viewing others as opponents, you're looking to find their weaknesses. When you're looking at competitors, you think about how everybody brings something to the table. I'm definitely the only left-handed, Episcopalian, Millennial, gay mayor in America. So I have that lane all to myself.


BOLDUAN (voice-over): He is not only the only gay mayor in the race. He would be the first gay president if he won.

We sat down for the first interview with his husband, Chasten, by his side.

CHASTEN GLEZMAN, HUSBAND OF MAYOR PETE BUTTIGIEG: The reason I fell in love with Pete is because he is the same person on the trail or at home. I'm excited for the country to get to know him on a larger scale because he is a breath of fresh air.

BOLDUAN (on camera): When did you realize Pete was the one?


GLEZMAN: Six or seven months in, I wanted to spend every day with Peter.

BOLDUAN: Is he Peter or is he Pete?

GLEZMAN: Mostly Peter to me. Depends on the situation we are in. Peter Paul --


GLEZMAN: -- if he hasn't done the dishes. Yes.

BOLDUAN: There has to be something that is annoying about your spouse.


BOLDUAN: What is it?


GLEZMAN: Pete refuses to throw things away.

BOLDUAN: Anything?


GLEZMAN: Yes. He is a little bit more lenient with expiration dates than I am.

BUTTIGIEG: I use it more as a guideline. Like if something --


BOLDUAN: A suggestion.

BUTTIGIEG: If it tastes OK, who cares about the date?

GLEZMAN: That or corduroy pants that he used to wear in high school.


BUTTIGIEG: They are comfortable.

BOLDUAN: You represent a historic first in your candidacy. How much do you want it to define the campaign?

BUTTIGIEG: Being gay is part of who I am. I'm aware of what it represents to be that type of person, the first elected official to try to do this, who is out. Ultimately, I want to be evaluated based on the ideas I bring to the table. It's kind of like being mayor. If I'm plowing the snow and filling potholes, then I'm a good mayor. And if we fail to do that, then I'm not. It's got almost nothing to do with, when I come home, it's two husbands, two wives.


BOLDUAN: But is the country ready for it? The mayor says yes.

BUTTIGIEG: It's not lost on me that, at no point in the last 100 years, would somebody like me maybe be taken a little bit seriously? Something is different right now and I'm not going to miss this moment.


BOLDUAN: I asked him how he would handle attacks coming from Donald Trump and all the Democrats in the primary, and he was blunt, saying, "I'm a gay man from Indiana. I know how to deal with a bully." He also said he served in combat and he's comfortable dealing with income fire. Chances are, we'll soon find up.

Coming up for us, these new Democrats in the race, what's the state of the Democratic fight to retake the White House? And how do any of them separate themselves from the rest of the pack?

We'll be right back.


[11:27:51] BOLDUAN: Only on the campaign trail one day and Senator Amy Klobuchar has already been nicknamed by Donald Trump, snow woman, snow man, or woman. When you see her announcement, it's no surprise how he came up with that one. Does that mean the Senator Amy Klobuchar is starting out ahead if she's already under attack?

Joining me right now, CNN senior political reporter, Nia Malika Henderson, and CNN political analyst and congressional reporter for "Washington Post," Karoun Demirjian

It is great to see you guys.

OK. Karoun, what do you think of Klobuchar's rollout, snow and all?

KAROUN DEMIRJIAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I mean, look, it's where she is from. She is from Minnesota and she is making her point who she is in her element. I think it's hilarious the president has already leapt on that. Like you said, that shows he is taking you at least seriously enough to give you a nickname. He has been focused on Elizabeth Warren and it was a question of who is going to be the next person. This is innocuous. It is a tame one. She is -- we were expecting her to join the fray. She will be representing, in a way, the center, but in a way also, a powerful female candidate who had her chance to make her face known in the Senate and at the Kavanaugh hearings. So there grows the field.

BOLDUAN: Yes. Exactly right.

And, Nia, she has faced some stories, even just before she announced it, about being a tough boss and some staffers saying they were brought to tears by the way she ran her office. She answered to that this morning on "Good Morning, America."

I want to play what she said.


KLOBUCHAR: First of all, I love my staff. I wouldn't be where I am and we wouldn't be able to pass all of those bills and do all that work if we didn't have great staff. I am tough, I push people, that is true. My point is that I have high expectations for myself, I have high expectations for the people that work for me, and I have high expectations for this country.


BOLDUAN: I want to get your reaction on what you make of her answer. But I also feel like I want to ask the obvious: Would she face the same questions if she were a man?

NIA MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: What is interesting about Amy Klobuchar is this has been a story that has dogged her in Washington, right? If you're a Washington reporter, as we all are, we have heard stories about Amy Klobuchar being a tough boss. It is interesting to put it in context of obviously there are a lot of male bosses here and congressmen.