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New Day

Removing Trump from Office; National Emergency to Build Wall; Bolton on Leaving Syria; Trump's Promise to Coal Industry; Aired 8:30- 9a ET

Aired January 07, 2019 - 08:30   ET


[08:30:00] DAVID LEONHARDT, OPINION COLUMNIST, "NEW YORK TIMES": As the Democrats hold hearings. I don't think he's going to have this kind of unified Republican support because I think Republicans are going to realize they could lose their office the same way so many House Republicans lost their office.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: But his -- but his approval rating has dipped into the 30s and they still stood in solidarity, most of them, with him.

LEONHARDT: Well, it's dipped into the 30s ever so briefly and only to like 38 or 39. I mean I'm not talking about individual polls, which basically I would encourage people never to pay much attention to. Look at the polling averages. And his approval rating has really hovered right around 40 percent.

But I think he's a very weak president. I mean 40 percent is bad. And so, on the substance, I don't think he is fit to be president. I think he's violated his constitutional oath multiple times. I am very worried about what would happen if we had a true national emergency, a war, a financial crisis, a terrorist attack. And imagining him trying to lead the nation through that? And so I think it's important to start to think, to what can we do to imagine a scenario where he does not get to the end of his term.

And I think people who say, well, that will never happen, Republicans will always support him are forgetting just how much Republican support Richard Nixon had into 1973 from voters and from elites. I mean you can go back and find these great quotes from Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush who were senior Republicans at the time standing by Nixon and then it all crumbled.

CAMEROTA: But -- so let's just play out your prescription. So you're saying that their -- that Democrats should immediately launch investigations.


CAMEROTA: They're planning to do that on various committees. You believe that that will somehow affect public opinion polling, though it has been pretty rock solid, I mean, even though there have been all sorts of investigations done in the media about the things that President Trump is accused of. And you think that once those public opinion polls dip enough, then Republicans will come around and then what? You think that before 2020 President Trump could actually be impeached if those things happen?

LEONHARDT: I think it's really hard to game out what's going to happen step by step over the next year or so. So I'm not saying do this and this will follow. What I'm saying is, is Trump is very weak. He just really lost the midterms quite badly and a presidential electorate is more favorable toward Democrats than a midterm electorate.

You really do see signs of Republicans becoming increasingly uncomfortable with him. Jim Mattis resigned. Mitt Romney just entered the Senate by blasting the president. As I mentioned, Cory Gardner and Susan Collins are uncomfortable about this shutdown. And so there really are signs that Trump is weaker than I think a lot of people realize.

And if you end up having a year where Robert Mueller continues doing what he's doing, which is calmly laying out the facts here, and you have the Democrats in Congress holding hearings, trying to get Trump's tax returns, looking into what really happened in Russia, I don't know what's going to follow. I'm not saying, oh, if that happens, he'll clearly be gone. I'm saying I think it's a national emergency that we have an unfit president in the office. And I think people need to be looking at that and saying, what can we do to maximize the odds that a corrupt president, one who really could do a huge amount of additional damage if our country faces an emergency, will not be president anymore.

I'm not saying it's guaranteed to happen. I'm saying when you're facing an emergency, you basically need to look at the most effective ways to address it. And right now I think that these are the most effective ways. I'm cheered to see that I think both Robert Mueller, from a law enforcement perspective, and Nancy Pelosi, from a political perspective, appear to be following precisely this strategy.

CAMEROTA: David Leonhardt, thank you for sharing your opinion with us here on NEW DAY.

LEONHARDT: Thanks for having me.


BERMAN: The president is threatening to declare a national emergency in order to get funding to board his -- build his wall on the border. So what does it look like on the border this morning? We're going to speak to a U.S. senator who is visiting, next.


[08:37:41] BERMAN: Week three now of the government shutdown with no end in sight, and President Trump is now threatening to declare a national emergency to bypass Congress and build the border wall that he wants.

So what is the situation at the border this morning?

Joining us now is Democrat Senator Jeff Merkley. He is in El Paso, Texas. He is visiting the border.

And, senator, I know you're going to investigate the border facility where eight-year-old Felipe Gomez Alonzo was held before his death. He was the second child to die in U.S. custody last year.


BERMAN: What are you hoping to accomplish today?

MERKLEY: Well, I'm down here. I'm with the Hispanic caucus of the House. And we're going to learn everything we can about the circumstances of providing medical care to the children and to the adults. It's such a horrific tragedy to have children die in the care of the United States of America, and we don't want it to happen again. So we want to make sure we understand every aspect and make sure every need is met.

BERMAN: And, of course, there are now discussions going on between Democrats in the Congress and the White House to try to reopen the government, which is stalled, which is closed right now on the issue of border security and the president's border wall. In 2013, you did support a proposal that would have allocated nearly $8 billion for repairing or building some 700 miles of fencing along the border. Now the president wants more than $5 billion for 234 new miles of barrier.

Could you support any new barrier as part of this deal?

MERKLEY: Well, in 2013 we had a comprehensive immigration bill. A number of folks have tried to say to the administration we have a broken immigration system. Let's fix it. Let's have a bipartisan bill like the one that passed the Senate and would have passed the House if it would have been put forward, but it was the Republicans who blocked it.

But as time's evolved -- I mean we are happy to provide money for border security. That isn't the issue. We did so last year. We did so the year before. And not all of it is spent, you know, though much of it's allocated.

The fact is, the president has been much more interested in the politics of this and I think almost doesn't want to fix the immigration system as he holds on to this as a way to incite his base.

BERMAN: The president now says he wants this barrier to be made out of steel, not concrete. Does the material matter to you at all?

[08:40:08] MERKLEY: It doesn't matter at all. Putting up a 30-foot wall of (INAUDIBLE) doesn't make a difference.

BERMAN: Except --

MERKLEY: Listen, we know from the experts --

BERMAN: Go ahead.

MERKLEY: We know the cost effective ways to provide border security. Let's spend the citizen's money in a smart fashion, not with some fourth century basically pointless strategy.

BERMAN: Is all fencing pointless, though, to the question, again, that you have supported some in the past as part of a larger deal.


BERMAN: So some fencing, you're saying, is useful?

MERKLEY: Some fencing is useful (ph). Some barriers are useful. There's a lot of surveillance technology. I've been to cities on the border that have triple fencing and have more personnel and have the technology to see --

BERMAN: Right.

MERKLEY: People moving in the middle of night. All kinds of things. But let's do the things that the experts say work right.

(INAUDIBLE) border security. More people come into the U.S. and stay from overstaying visas than come across the border. And that when people do come to the border and assert asylum, let's treat them with dignity and respect until they have that hearing for their asylum.

BERMAN: Last week Sean Hannity floated the idea of including dreamers or the DACA issue in a larger deal. Jared Kushner was negotiating this weekend, or at least meeting this weekend, and seems willing, reportedly, to include a DACA deal as part of a larger agreement. Do you think that would be helpful here?

MERKLEY: Well, I think talking about a very broad 2013 style bill is useful. All avenues should be explored. Lamar Alexander has put forward some ideas that the president rejected. Lindsey Graham has done so. That included a discussion of dreamers. The president has really, in his tantrum, been unwilling to consider a strategy. But there's no reason that any comprehensive bill should have a 30-foot wall on it. Let's not waste our money.

BERMAN: The president has the authority -- do you think the president has the authority to declare a national emergency to build this wall?

MERKLEY: Oh, absolutely not. The law is very specific about a declaration of war, about the type of threat that's posed to the United States. Realize that in the year 2000, there were 200,000 people at peak coming to our border, 200,000. We're at about a fifth of that right now. So how could this possibly be framed as a national emergency.

BERMAN: Do you think he'll do it?

MERKLEY: I think he may try. I think he may try to reprogram money from other departments without authorization from Congress. These things will be a challenge. And, well, it will unfold. But why keep the government shut down? I mean the House put out a very interesting strategy. They said, look, six of the seven bills being held hostage by the president of the United States, six of the seven spending bills, are ones that have been passed by the Republican-led Senate. So let's free up that much of the government, do a continuing resolution on the Homeland Security for the border and continue to debate but not keep the whole government hostage in this fashion. I think that's a pretty good idea.

BERMAN: A couple of your colleagues, Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, the Maryland contingent in the U.S. Senate says, we don't want -- we want to block any other legislation before the Senate unless and until we vote on measures to reopen the government. Do you support that move?

MERKLEY: I think that's a pretty good idea because this cannot be business as usual if we shut down a quarter of the government and just leave it shut down. It's an incompetent strategy. It does damage to all kinds of people who are making applications, whether it's benefits for social security or for Medicare or so on and so forth. I mean just all those normal gears of government turning. And so let's be a grown up nation, not one with a president throwing a tantrum that places in the incompetent category.

BERMAN: Finally, John Bolton, the national security adviser, in a speech overseas said there are conditions now, at least in his mind, that have to be met before U.S. troops are pulled out of Syria. Do you know what the U.S. policy is this morning, and do you support the insertion of conditions prior to the U.S. troop withdrawal?

MERKLEY: I think it's very important that our actions be coordinated with our allies. Certainly with the Kurds on the ground, with Turkey, other countries that have supported us in the mission on ISIS. That coordination is really a starting point for any action we take when we're working in partnership. I don't know what those conditions are. I'll be returning to D.C. tonight. I'm looking forward to hearing more about the discussion.

[08:45:00] I do believe there are moments when you have to re-evaluate and say, this mission is completed and we need to end our involvement. But when you do that in partner with others, you have to do it in a very careful, planned fashion. And there's certainly none of that careful planning that went into the president's announcement.

BERMAN: Senator Jeff Merkley, thanks so much for being with us this morning. Appreciate it.

MERKLEY: Thank you, John. Good to be with you.

BERMAN: Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: All right, President Trump promised to bring back coal. So, two years into his term, has he done it? CNN went to coal country to get some answers.


CAMEROTA: As a candidate, Donald Trump promised to revive the coal industry. So as we enter his third year in office, has he done it?

CNN's Bill Weir is in coal country to check in on that campaign promise. Bill joins us live from Pennsylvania.

Hi, Bill.


Now, we're standing in front of one of more than 250 coal-fired power plants that have gone out of business since 2010. Of course, a lot of folks in this part of the world chalk that up to a so-called war on coal from the Democrats and Barack Obama. And Donald Trump seized on their fears and resentments there and promised to bring this industry back. Well now, two years in, we came here for a reality check.

[08:50:17] (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WEIR (voice over): Across America, more and more coal-fired smoke stacks are smoke-free. The power plants beneath them, cold and dark. The mines that once fed them, abandoned. But for the past couple of years, miners and their families let themselves believe that a coal comeback was on the way thanks to promises like this.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We are putting our great coal miners back to work.

ARTHUR SULLIVAN, COAL MINING CONSULTANT: He's trying to get their votes. He isn't telling them the truth.

WEIR (on camera): He's lying to them.

SULLIVAN: He's lying to them.

WEIR: You used to work in this mine.

SULLIVAN: I worked in this mine. I was a face boss.

WEIR (voice over): For 52 years, Art Sullivan worked in and consulted on mines around the world, and he bristles every time he hears the president claim to be the savior of coal.

SULLIVAN: And that really disturbs me because these are really good people. These are the people that I have spent my life working with. And if they have the truth, they will make the right decisions.

WEIR (on camera): And if the president was honest, he would explain to those folks that mines like this are never, ever coming back to life again. Not because of regulation, but competition. Coal just cannot compete with cheaper, cleaner natural gas, wind and solar. That's the reason more coal-fired power plants have gone out of business in the first two years of Donald Trump than the first four years of Barack Obama. Another 20 are expected to go down this year. And if a miner is hired today, chances are, he'll be digging to fill the demand in India.

Do you feel the president gave these communities false hope over the last couple years?

BLAIR ZIMMERMAN, FORMER COAL MINER: In my opinion -- in my opinion, absolutely. I mean, I'm an expert, he's not, and I -- when he was campaigning, I asked -- I talked to his people and I said, what's your plan? How are you bringing back coal? Because I -- it could be brought back if these plants would come back up. And deregulating stuff will help this much. It's not going to help a lot.

WEIR (voice over): Trump's EPA, now led by a former coal lobbyist in Andrew Wheeler, recently move to lift Obama-era caps on how much poisonous mercury and how much heat-trapping carbon power plants can pump into the sky, which really worries climate scientists like Penn State's Michael Mann.

DR. MICHAEL MANN, CLIMATE SCIENTIST, PENN STATE UNIVERSITY: We're already experiencing impacts of climate change that could have been avoided had we acted, you know, two decades ago when we knew already at that point that there was a problem.

WEIR: In order to save life as we know it, Mann says rich countries need to be on carbon-free electricity by 2030, which means 80 percent of current coal reserves need to stay in the ground.

MANN: I think there's enough resilience in the system that we can withstand one term, one four-year term of Donald Trump. I'm not sure we can withstand two.

WEIR: He's among the chorus calling for an energy revolution. And Art knows a few folks who may be able to pitch in.

SULLIVAN: If you spent several years working in the coal mines, you're going to come to understand electricity, hydraulics, mechanics, geology. I see no limitation on the average coal miner's ability to transition into any other field.

WEIR: But first, they need leaders willing to transition, to the truth.


WEIR: One county commissioner here, John and Alisyn, told me he's going to Texas to try to lure natural gas frackers into this part of Pennsylvania, mainly because he needs money to fight the opioid crisis. Another campaign promise made by the Trump administration to tackle. Another scourge in this part of coal country here as well. So two promises un-kept so far.

CAMEROTA: It's really interesting, Bill, because, I mean, I've begun to think that there's so much focus on the wall, the border wall from the White House, they talk a lot about that, there's a lot of psychic energy put into that, while the opioid crisis continues apace, while people are suffering in Monongahela and elsewhere. It's just -- I don't know, it's really helpful to have your reporting spell out how the people there see it all and feel about it.

BERMAN: All right, Bill, thanks so much. Speaking to people who know the reality on the ground.

WEIR: There's mainly -- BERMAN: Oh, we lost Bill there.

CAMEROTA: We just caught off whoever's not us, really, on the show.

BERMAN: That's right.

CAMEROTA: That's what we do.

BERMAN: Prosecutors naming a second suspect in the drive-by shooting death of seven-year-old Jazmine Barnes. "The Houston Chronicle" identifies him as Larry Woodruff. Jail records indicate he is in custody but he has not been charged in connection with the shooting. The local sheriff says the first suspect, Eric Black Junior, was arrested for failing to use a turn signal. He's accused of driving the car used in Jazmine's death and faces a capital murder charge. The sheriff believes this may have been a case of mistaken identity.

[08:55:03] CAMEROTA: Incredible video of a car fully engulfed. This is moments after everyone inside managed to get out in a nick of time. A New Hampshire grandmother was drive with her two-year-old and three- month-old granddaughters when she ran over a mattress and it got wedged underneath the car and that sparked the fire. She says complete strangers helped them get out and then the car went up in flames within a minute. Oh, my God.

BERMAN: All right, it wasn't just celebrities in the spotlight at this year's Golden Globes. Say hello to Fiji girl, as she has been dubbed on social media. The woman whose real name is Kelleth Cuthbert, made a splash with these photo bombs on the red carpet as she proudly displayed the plate full of Fiji water bottles.

CAMEROTA: Oh, my gosh. How awesome is that.

BERMAN: Folks on Twitter got a kick out of it. One person wrote, best supporting actress, the Fiji water lady. By the way, if she had done "Bohemian Rhapsody," it would have been a better one than the one that was actually produced.

CAMEROTA: Oh, my gosh, you are really stuck on "Bohemian Rhapsody."

BERMAN: Fiji water lady did a great job.

CAMEROTA: Is there no security there? How can she just be milling around behind celebrities on the red carpet?

BERMAN: I don't know. Dana Bash also made a hit at the Golden Globes.

CAMEROTA: I know. I thought -- I actually thought that that's whose picture you were going to show.

All right, it's now a steel barrier or aluminum foil. Will Democrats give President Trump what he wants? "NEWSROOM" is next.