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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Interview With Colorado Senator Cory Gardner; Senate Reaches Compromise to End Government Shutdown. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired January 22, 2018 - 16:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good afternoon, and welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

We are going to begin with the politics lead today.

Any minute now, we are expecting the U.S. Senate to take its final vote to end the government shutdown. After more than two days of the standoff, this afternoon, an agreement was reached between Senate Republican and Democratic leaders to reopen the government, though only for two-and-a-half weeks.

Here's what Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer agreed to. The federal government will reopen as soon as President Trump signs this bill into law. CHIP, the Children's Health Insurance Program, will be funded for six years.

And now there is a commitment that the Senate will work on a big comprehensive bill, one bill that will attempt to lift defense and non-defense spending caps, address disaster aide, and undertake immigration issues, including DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

But if no agreement on that big bill is reached by February 8, Leader McConnell promised the Senate would immediately proceed to an open debate on immigration legislation in general, meaning that the bipartisan gang of six or anyone else can offer their own immigration legislation.

Schumer's office says this commitment is more than the Democrats had before the government shutdown, but Republicans argue McConnell was going to do all of this anyway and there's no guarantee what will pass the Senate or what the House of Representatives will do or what President Trump is willing to sign into law.

Republicans say, frankly, the Democrats blinked. And it's not just Republicans saying that. Many in the progressive wing of the party are accusing Democrats of caving. A source telling CNN in a House Democratic Caucus meeting today, the chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus said, Cedric Richmond, said the Senate Democrats are -- quote -- "getting their butts kicked."

Either way, though this shutdown is on track to end, we are by no means over difficult days in Congress. In fact, those days might just be beginning.

We have the major players on THE LEAD this hour, from the White House deputy press secretary, Hogan Gidley, to Capitol Hill, where we will talk to one of the gang of six, Republican Senator Cory Gardner, and someone whose life is caught up in these negotiations, a dreamer and activist who thinks the Democrats caved.

But let's begin with CNN's Pamela Brown at the White House.

Pamela, President Trump, he obviously fancies himself a deal-maker, but as far as we can tell he's been absent from the negotiations and this deal. Is there any more clarity going forward on where President Trump stands on these major immigration issues?

PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said today the president's position on immigration hasn't changed, that if anything his positions have hardened.

In fact, she stopped short of saying he would support citizenship for the dreamers, but she said the White House is hopeful a deal will get done in a couple of weeks, though the path to getting there remains murky.

But for now, Jake, the White House claiming victory for stopping the government shutdown today , despite the president's backseat role in getting the deal done.


BROWN (voice-over): The Senate striking a deal to bring an end to the three-day-old government shutdown.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On this vote, the yeas are 81. The nays are 18.

BROWN: The agreement funds government through February 8. And while it doesn't include a solution to DACA, it does come with a commitment from Republican leaders to negotiate a deal for dreamers.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER: Let me be clear. This immigration debate will have a level playing field at the outset and an amendment process that is fair to all sides.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), MINORITY LEADER: We expect that a bipartisan bill on DACA will receive fair consideration and an up-or- down vote on the floor. And we on our side of the aisle will continue to fight as strongly as we can for the dreamers in the weeks ahead.

BROWN: The deal clears the way for bipartisan talks to continue on DACA, the budget and other priorities.

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: Today, we have taken a significant step forward with more than 80 senators voting to reopen government and with a commitment from the Republican leader to bring an immigration bill to the floor with ample opportunity for those with differing views to offer up substitutes to a bill. SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D), WEST VIRGINIA: The pressure is going to be on.

Basically, when we get our job done, then Paul Ryan has to do his job. We can't do the House's job.

BROWN: Some Democrats expressed disappointment the party did not get a firm agreement from Republicans to take up a DACA bill. Others disagreed.

SEN. SHERROD BROWN (D), OHIO: There is no way the Democrats caved. I think the Democrats got a better deal than people expected.

BROWN: Despite reaching an accord, lawmakers were not quick to drop the finger-pointing, with Republicans faulting Democrats.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: It was a mistake for Chuck Schumer to shut down government. Three days of the Schumer shutdown. And I think we will see more of this. The reason Chuck Schumer forced the shutdown is, his far left base is enraged.


BROWN: And while Democrats blamed Republicans and singled out President Trump for being an unreliable negotiator.

SCHUMER: President Trump's unwillingness to compromise caused the Trump shutdown and brought to us this moment. The facts are well known.

BROWN: But the White House says the president is ready to talk.

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Look, we have been very clear about what we want to see in any legislation, and I don't think that there's a whole lot of daylight between where we are and where the Democrats are. We certainly want to negotiate and get to a place and we're hopeful that we can do that over the next couple of weeks.


BROWN: And so an open question today of how involved the president would be if a DACA deal passes through Senate with getting the deal through House leadership with the House, House Republicans. That is still unclear, whether he would be more involved than of course he has been this past weekend.

And there's no guarantee, Jake, that we won't be back to where we have been with another government shutdown in just a few weeks. Meantime, I should mention Sarah Sanders also said the president will still be going to his trip to Davos later this week, assuming everything goes as planned today -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Pamela Brown from her new perch at the White House. Good to see you there, Pam. Thanks for joining us.

BROWN: Yes. Thank you.

TAPPER: The Senate has just started its final vote to reopen the government. We will keep tabs on that.

But my political panel is here with me.

Jen Psaki, did the Democrats blink?


TAPPER: But what do you think?



PSAKI: Here's why. They're keeping the government open for two-and- a-half weeks. We're not losing or saving the republic here.

If this was Democrats agreeing that you don't to have bring up immigration, nothing needs to happen, then I would say this is a terrible deal. But ultimately what the Democrats get out of this, with control of nothing and really no leverage, to be honest, is that DACA and immigration will be discussed for another couple of weeks, instead of other issues like infrastructure that Republicans may want to discuss.

And it keeps the issue on the front burner. It is not ideal. It is divisive within the party, because progressives are upset, dreamers are upset, as you have acknowledged. And that's not a good place for the party to be in. But ultimately we can keep an issue alive, Democrats keep an issue alive. And that's not a total loss.

AMANDA CARPENTER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think a reasonable and cynical person could look at the situation and ask, did the Democrats want to flex their muscle to appease their base and stage a weekend government shutdown to ruin Donald Trump's one-year anniversary, ruin a fund-raiser, and then take it back on Monday morning because they couldn't deal with the political consequences?

TAPPER: A cynical person might do that.


CARPENTER: And I am that cynical and reasonable person, Jake.

TAPPER: Oh, you are. You are that cynical person. You think that's what they did.


TAPPER: Do you think the Democrats got anything out of this deal?


I think there was going to be a vote eventually on DACA, I think, I suspect, anyway. And the problem to me is a Senate vote doesn't get you anything. Right? I think we sort of know the Senate is where it is likely to pass. The key question is, will the House have a vote on a bill any

Democrats can actually vote for? And what will President Trump do? I don't think all Paul Ryan or Trump moved at all this weekend, even if Mitch McConnell moved a little bit.

TAPPER: So, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a Democrat from New York, who it's no secret is thinking about running for president in 2020, she voted no today. You noted the progressives that were opposed to this on the bill.

Here's what she wrote on Twitter -- quote -- "I am deeply disappointed that today's outcome fails to protect dreamers. They deserve better from the elected leaders of the only country many of them have ever called home. I want to see the government reopened as much as anyone, but this bill fails to fix the moral issue we must solve. That's why I voted against it."

What happened today is dividing the Democratic Party, but I think it is also true that this debate going forward on immigration will also divide the Republican Party.

PSAKI: That's right. It has divided the Democratic Party today.

I disagree what Amanda said, no surprise, because this is really a moral issue for most Democrats. It is not a political issue for most of them. They think that this is totally wrong that nothing has happened with the dreamers, that there are 800,000 people hanging in the balance.

However, what you're seeing here is bad for Democrats today, it will not be great for the Republicans over the next couple weeks. This is an issue that 90 percent of the people supports. And they are going to have to be on the other side of it or vote for it. And what is Trump going to do? There's confusing dynamics there as well.

CARPENTER: No surprise, I disagree.

I actually think this has hardened the Republican position on it and messaged it more clearly to the public what the deal will be. There is a deal to be had on the table, protection for the dreamers, in exchange for the wall, a lottery, reducing the lotteries and restricting chain migration.

That's the deal to be had. But now that we have gone through this shutdown theater debacle, the White House is saying we're not even going to even touch the Durbin deal with Graham. That was a more liberal position. And Republicans are running away from it as a result of the silly, stupid shutdown.

TAPPER: Well, in addition to the White House saying today, Perry, that they do not support the gang of six bill, Durbin-Graham, the Trump campaign put a web ad out over the weekend that was pretty stark. Pretty harsh. Take listen.



NARRATOR: President Trump is right: Build the wall. Deport criminals. Stop illegal immigration now. Democrats who stand in our way will be complicit in every murder committed by illegal immigrants.


TAPPER: Complicit in every murder committed by illegal immigrants. That does not sound like the ad of somebody who is preparing to sign a bill that will provide some sort of legal status for dreamers.

BACON: That has been my core question throughout this.

Donald Trump ran this campaign talking about illegal immigration. Does Donald Trump actually want to stand up any day ever and sign a bill that is going to be, no matter what he says, amnesty? I'm not totally sure he does.

That ad, I find worrisome for other reasons too. It just we don't necessarily want to have one party the party for minorities, the only parry that is a party for white people. If you think about that kind of ad, that's kind of where we're headed with that kind of messaging and how aggressive it was and how it focused on illegal immigrants being sort of bad and murderous I think was the term used in the ad.

TAPPER: I don't know that there is anything that could pass the Senate, meaning have nine Democratic votes and all Republican votes, that doesn't have something for dreamers.

And yet, Amanda, you would agree that doesn't sound like...

CARPENTER: No. I think that ad steps on the strong hand the White House has.

No one is talking about not deporting criminal illegal aliens. That's not what this debate is about. The way I think they have a winning argument is saying, listen, the Democrats shut down the government, defunded the military, put people on notice for the small population of people.

I think there's support for doing something for the dreamers. But the Democrats will have to come to the table with other items. Until they do, there will be no deal.

PSAKI: Nobody defunded the military, first of all, so let's be just totally clear on that.

But, ultimately, this deal with DACA is one that 80 percent, more than that, of the public supports. Many Republicans who are in the mainstream support DACA. So this isn't just such an easy issue I think to run away from.

And the White House and whether or not Trump is going to stand by his convictions, we have no idea what his convictions are. So that's another thing that we learned from this as well.

TAPPER: Everyone, stay right there.

I want to bring in Senator Cory Gardner, Republican of Colorado. He's on the gang of six. That is the bipartisan group working on an immigration deal.

Senator, always good to see you. Thanks for joining us. Appreciate it.


TAPPER: First question. There's going to be a vote one way or another on immigration in the Senate. Does the gang of six framework have 60 votes?

GARDNER: The framework is set by the president.

The fact is, he wants to talk about the things that we talked about in our bill. If that bill were brought up today, it would be tough to have the support that we need. But the fact is this. I believe we can build on that framework, the four things the president laid out, the wall, addressing DACA population, dreamers, addressing the diversity visa lottery, address the issue of chain migration, as the president calls it.

Look, when the president said that he opposed our legislation, we didn't throw up our hands. We went back to work, talking to more colleagues about how we can improve it, what we can do better. Those are the same conversations we're having today.

TAPPER: So the president's spokesman Raj Shah told CNN today that the president will not sign the gang of six deal on immigration.

Obviously, that has an impact on whether or not it will pass. I hear you saying it can't get 60 votes today. Last week, Durbin and Graham said that it would get 60 or 70. What do you need to do to get to 60 votes? What do you need to change in the bill?

GARDNER: I think we have to address the issue of the border wall system the president talked about, border security. That's going to be part of it.

When we came up with a bipartisan bill, we knew that we have to convince our colleagues on both sides of the aisle to support it. If there are things that need to improve it to gain the president's support, that's what we have to do.

A bill that passes out of the Senate with 12 Republicans and 48 Democrats, or a bill that passes like that without the support that we need to get it through the House and the president's desk isn't a bill that succeeded.

We have got to have the president's signature on this. That means he has to support it. So we have talked about improving border security. We have talked about improving the language as it relates to the diversity visa lottery. I don't think those are things that can't be done. We don't have a

monopoly on good ideas. We're not going to get upset if somebody else gets credit for a better idea. We are here to legislate, to fix this very challenging problem. It is not going to be easy. But the bottom line is, it is the people of this country who will benefit from it if we can solve it.

TAPPER: It sounds like -- in the past what has happened with these bipartisan bills on immigration that have passed is usually it is 40- something Democratic votes, and, as you note, 15, 20 Republican votes.

You seem to be saying the bill needs to have more Republican votes than Democratic votes. Am I hearing you correctly?

GARDNER: Yes. The Senate doesn't make laws by itself.

It takes the House of Representatives and President Trump, the White House. And so a bill that passes without the kind of support it needs to get through the House is a nonstarter. We can pat ourselves on the back all day long for passing a bill out of Senate, but nobody is going to give us a passing grade if we don't get it through the House, the Senate and the president. That's what we have to do.

TAPPER: So, what do you need to put in a, let's say, largely conservative immigration bill so it would have more border wall funding, not just authorized, but actually appropriated, changing diversity visas in immigration, changing what are called chain migration or family reunification visas.

[16:15:07] In addition to that, you would need to do something for the DREAMers in order to get 10 or so Democratic votes, wouldn't you?

GARDNER: But if you look at the original DREAM Act that had a five- year path to citizenship, the final product that was negotiated, that was rejected, moved to as much, as long as a 12-year path, that's something that we can negotiate, that's something that people are going to have difference of opinions on.

The language that we came one gave the president what he was asking for in his 2018 appropriations request. Obviously, people want more than that. We can agree to that.

I just left a bipartisan meeting where we had people from all sides of the political spectrum there, from conservative to liberal Democrats and talking about how we can actually use this chance to negotiate things like that.

We have two and a half weeks. This is not going to be easy. But I believe we can get the basis of a very good, the cornerstone of a very good deal laid down and so that we can actually show results come February 8th.

TAPPER: Senator Gardner, I know you saw the Web ad that President Trump's campaign ran, accusing Senate Democrats of being, quote, complicit in murders committed by undocumented immigrants. And I wonder if those are the actions of somebody prepared to sign any compromise legislation at all.

GARDNER: Look, the charges against that kind of language come from the same people who accused us of murder when we passed the tax bill. They said it was Armageddon, the end of the world. This is the kind of political rhetoric that Washington, D.C. has -- come to be expected out of Washington, D.C. that the American people don't like.

So, let's use this chance to have our better angels, prevail on a piece of legislation that addresses a solution that I believe almost every member of Congress wants to address. The president has never -- look, in my conversations with the president, he has never waivered on his desire to find a solution. He laid out the four corners of the deal that we have to address. He's been very clear about that.

So, let's take this chance. Let's put aside the rhetoric. Let's put aside the attacks and let's get something done.

TAPPER: Senator Gardner, Republican of Colorado, always good to see you, sir. Thanks for joining us. Appreciate it.

GARDNER: Thanks, Jake.

TAPPER: So, I want to play for you some sound from Senator Lindsey Graham. He was talking about the difficulty that Republicans like he and Corey Gardner face when it comes to dealing with this because of staff members at the White House. Take a listen.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: His heart is right on this issue. I think he has good understanding of what will sell. And every time we have a proposal, it is only yanked back by staff members.


TAPPER: And I don't know if he's referring to Steven Miller or General Kelly or whomever. But there does seem to be this issue about what exactly will the president support, Amanda?

AMANDA CARPENTER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I kind of see both sides of this. I think the president has been pretty clear about what he wants in exchange for some kind of DACA protection but at the same time, I don't know why this Republican on Capitol Hill keep expecting to get permission from the White House and what they will pass. I mean, they got through government shutdown with little help from him.

I mean, when is the Senate going to start acting like the Senate and the House acting like the House and Republicans run it and just pass some bills and say, if you don't like it, veto it.

TAPPER: Do you agree?

JEN PSAKI, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think it's a fair point. I mean, they do punt quite a bit and say we don't know what Trump will support. Now, that's a frustrating position to be in because if you look at the Durbin-Graham meeting, they felt they had a deal and they thought they were going there to have a deal agreed to.

And what we've learned about Trump over the last week or so is he's not steeped in the issues. No surprise. So, he probably relies as a result on his staff too much. People who have very conservative views on issues like immigration. And he is able to be ruled by them.

And so, it's understandable they have concern but Amanda is right. They could test this proposition, come up with a Gang of Six agreement, come up with an agreement with people can get to and see if he'll sign it or not.


TAPPER: Well, let me play devil's advocate. Let me pretend to be a member of the Gang of Six, OK?

Last week, Dick Durbin and Lindsey Graham said they thought they had 60 to 70 votes for their legislation. Today, you heard Corey Gardner tell me he doesn't even think he could get to 60. And what's changed? President Trump came out against it. There are a number of Republican senators, Perry, that I think will not support anything if President Trump says no for any number of reasons including, I don't want the president attacking me as being weak on immigration.

PERRY BACON, SENIOR WRITER, FIVETHIRTYEIGHT: Exactly. This idea that Graham was talking about the staff, it's not a rogue staff. Donald Trump hired Stephen Miller. He hired John Kelly. These people are speaking and have in these jobs because of him.

And the White House actually has endorsed one bill, the House Goodlatte bill, which is a very conservative one the Democrats don't like. So, we know where he stands. People don't like it, though.

TAPPER: Everyone, stick around. We've got lots more to talk about as the Senate holds its final vote to reopen the government. Many immigrant communities say they've lost trust in Congress, especially Democrats.

We're going to talk to one Latino activist who is also a DREAMer, coming up next.

Stay with us.


[16:24:12] TAPPER: We're back with our politics lead.

You're looking now at live shots from the U.S. Senate as they vote to reopen the government. Senate Democrats and Republicans reached an agreement earlier this afternoon and the Senate is holding its final vote on that now.

The government will reopen after that legislation gets to President Trump's desk. But the fate of the approximately 700,000 so-called DREAMers were brought to the U.S. illegally when they were children through no fault of their own, that remains in limbo. That was, of course, the major issue for Democrats in this stand-off.

March 5th is the deadline to negotiate a legislative fix. But it's unclear what the White House is willing to support.

Joining me now is Juan Escalante. He's a DREAMer. He was brought to the U.S. at age 11, with his brothers, from Venezuela. He's now the communications director for America's Voice. It's a progressive group that advocates for legal status for undocumented immigrants.

Juan, thanks so much for joining us.

[16:25:01] So, simply put, you think Democrats failed today to protect you and your fellow DREAMers?

JUAN ESCALANTE, COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR, AMERICA'S VOICE: I think so. I think that they had a really strong negotiating position in which they can carve out a deal that essentially protected as much of the immigrant population, especially the DREAMers, and in good faith, also coming with Republicans.

Unfortunately, what we see here now is that the Democrats have ceded the way and we still have until March 5th, as you mentioned earlier. But unfortunately, what's going to happen now is that the Senate may actually have a timetable to deal with this issue.

Well, what about the House? What has Speaker Ryan promised and what is going to end up happen in that scenario? What are the restrictionists from the Republican Party going to do and put forward and more importantly, what ultimately is the president going to do?

And, you know, way before the March 5th deadline, I think what is really at hand right now is one thing -- every day that Congress fails to act and passing legislation protecting DREAMers, 122 young people lose their status. And, you know, working -- as long as they have -- this is my third DREAM Act, over the past 10 years, you can see the effects of that right now.

In Pennsylvania, a young man was pulled over. His DACA expired, wasn't able to renew because of the arbitrary deadline set up by the president, pulled over by police on an expired registration, turned over to a detention and processed for deportation. And you can bet from here to March 5th, we're going to see more of this.

TAPPER: Well, let me ask you a question, sometimes we do this with President Trump. Why don't do you this with Chuck Schumer? What do you want to -- I don't know which camera you should look at, look at that camera right, do you want to tell him?

ESCALANTE: I think -- you know, my message to Chuck Schumer is pretty simple. You know, we got to this point, what happened? Why did the Democratic Party have to blink first?

And to me, there's just no reason, you know, as to why this has to happen. I've been fighting this since I was a junior in high school when I was 17 years old. I've seen the DREAM Act fail twice in my life and I told myself that, you know, this time I was going all in. I moved to Washington, D.C.

I met with members of Congress. I met with Chuck Schumer is that all kinds of leadership from both parties. And at the end of the day, here we are again and the can has been kicked down the road. First, it was in September, then it was in December when the fix was going to happen. Then it was in January, then we're being told in February. Before you know it, we'll get to particular and who knows what kind of deal we'll have.

TAPPER: Do you think that this will cause Democrats, especially Latino Democrats, perhaps, to not turn out to vote in November for Democrats in the House and Senate elections?

ESCALANTE: I think what we've learned thus far is that elections have consequences. And what happens when people don't vote and don't show up, they'll vote for their representative, where they believe on one party or the other, there will be consequences. And we are essentially the main people that are frontline, and vivid examples as to what's happening.

The next time a deal is cut on DACA, we have no idea what Stephen Miller, what Tom Cotton, the rest of the party will inject in there in order to make sure that it is so toxic that the Democrats will have to be -- and say we still want to save this pool of individuals will cave to it. But when I look past that, I got to tell you something. I still care about my parents.

You know, my parents brought me here. They got in line. They paid the fees. They did everything right, and because of an immigration lawyer that failed us, that mixed up our paperwork, we fell out of our line and my parents still to this day. They own their own business. They paid their taxes. They deserve a chance, too.

And whatever deal was cut, you can bet the president and his aide to the White House and the Republican Party are going to try every single thing to try to pull my parents away --

TAPPER: All right. Juan Escalante, thanks for being here. We really appreciate your time. Thanks so much.

My panel is back me.

I want to -- there's breaking news right now. The White House said that President Trump met with six Republican senators this afternoon to talk about immigration reform. Those senators are Cotton and Cornyn, Grassley, Langford, Tillis and Perdue. The White House released a statement about this meeting, saying, quote, we will work with Democrats and Republicans in the House and Senate committed to fixing our broken immigration system.

But I have to say, Jen Psaki, those are hardliners. Cotton, Perdue want to reduce the number of legal immigrants coming into this country. And if the president is casting his lot with people who referred to the DREAMers as illegal immigrants and refer to any sort of path to legal status for the DREAMers as amnesty, I don't know how you pass a bill in the Senate. PSAKI: Well, it certainly not going to be the bill that those six are

proposing. Trump may not understand all the intricacies of immigration policy but I think he understands the politics and knows that DACA would have to be part of it.

There is the possibility here that Trump sees an opportunity to be a deal maker and actually redeem himself from being the most irrelevant player in the shutdown resolution. So, that's possible. Perhaps that's optimistic. It's not going to be the deal represented, but he is very powerful with that group. They care about what he thinks and perhaps he's using his influence to try to get them to talk to Democrats and maybe that means as we saw in the statement they are.

TAPPER: This seems like there is an obvious deal here that could pass the Senate, which is do something for Juan Escalante and the other DREAMers, while at the same time, building a border wall and changing how immigration is done. But I don't know that the two sides can come together.

CARPENTER: I mean, that has to be where this goes. And it's unfortunate that DACA people are being used as leverage, but that is the exact situation that is happening right now.