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U.S. Government Shutdown Could Last Into New Year; Trump Boots Mattis Two Months Early. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired January 8, 2018 - 06:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), MINORITY LEADER: President Trump, if you want to open the government, you must abandon the wall.

[05:59:15] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's very possible that this shutdown will go into the new Congress.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a made-up fight so the president can look like he's fighting.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president is really being petulant. He's going to be a tough act to follow.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president deserves somebody that can advise him with his trust.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: President Trump is looking for yes-men in the job. This is obviously not normal.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.

ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is NEW DAY. It is Monday, December 24, 6 a.m. here in New York. Alisyn and John are off on this Christmas Eve. John Avlon and I are taking the reins.

JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST/ANCHOR: Buckle up.

HILL: Buckle up, because it is quite a Christmas Eve, as we enter into day three of the partial government shutdown. Negotiations between the White House and Senate Democrats appear stalled, with both sides digging in over funding of President Trump's border wall. The Trump administration now warning the shutdown could last into the new year.

AVLON: But the chaos before Christmas doesn't stop there. President Trump abruptly forcing out Defense Secretary James Mattis two months early after coverage the general's bruising resignation letter rebuking the president's sudden decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria and Afghanistan. Now, CNN has learned that senior military officials are worried about the uncertainty the military upheaval is causing, and U.S. allies are anxious; and global markets remain jittery.

HILL: All of this news leading to alarming headlines on the front pages. Here's a look at just a few. "'A rogue presidency': The era of containing Trump is over," "For Trump, 'a War Every Day' Waged Increasingly Alone." And this: "After James Mattis resigned, Trump's America is slinking off the world stage."

We have a lot to cover. Let's begin with CNN's Boris Sanchez, who's live at the White House.

Boris, good morning.

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, there. Good morning, Erica and John.

President Trump's Christmas vacation has been delayed. He is here at the White House instead of sunny South Florida. Of course, Congress is not due back in the nation's capital until Thursday. So Washington, D.C., may be a bit quiet until then, except of course, here at the White House and likely, on Twitter, as well.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SANCHEZ (voice-over): The partial government shutdown entering its third day, with a source telling CNN that little progress was made over the weekend toward ending the impasse over President Trump's demand for border wall funding.

MICK MULVANEY, DIRECTOR, WHITE HOUSE OFFICE OF MANAGEMENT AND BUDGET: It's very possible that this shutdown will go beyond the 28th and into the new Congress.

SANCHEZ: The White House backing off of their request for $5 billion but continuing to insist that funding for the wall be included in any agreement.

MULVANEY: We moved off of the 5. We hope they move up from their 1.3.

SCHUMER: It will never pass the Senate. Not today, not next week, not next year. So Mr. President, President Trump, if you want to open the government you must abandon the wall. Plain and simple.

SANCHEZ: A source says that after President Trump rejected a short- term bipartisan deal to keep the government open last week, Senate Minority Leader Schumer countered by offering money for border security. That offer also rebuffed.

Vice President Pence later offering his own counteroffer that was dismissed by Schumer, President Trump turning to Twitter to insist that a wall is the only solution.

SEN. DICK DURBIN (D-IL), MINORITY WHIP: It really is in the president's hands to decide. He says it's an issue of border security. I think we know better. It's an issue of his own political insecurity. When the right-wingers start screaming at him, he just backs off and dissembles in front of us.

SANCHEZ: Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle trading jabs on the Sunday shows, with some conservative Republicans urging the president to stay the course as others in the GOP struggled to defend the shutdown.

SEN. BOB CORKER (R), TENNESSEE: It's a spectacle and, candidly, it's juvenile.

SEN. PAT TOOMEY (R), PENNSYLVANIA: We have an impulsive president, we know that, and it's completely taking away focus where it should be, on a very, very strong economy.

SANCHEZ: Approximately 800,000 federal employees are impacted, including more than 420,000 who are working without pay during the shutdown, and another 380,000 who've been furloughed.

Meantime, there is more turmoil in the Trump administration. The president abruptly pushing Defense Secretary James Mattis out of his position earlier than expected, replacing Mattis temporarily with his current deputy and former Boeing executive, Patrick Shanahan.

Sources tell CNN that the president only realized how critical Mattis' resignation letter was after announcing that he was retiring with distinction, and that he's grown increasingly angry watching lawmakers lament Mattis' departure and criticize the troop drawdown on the news.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SANCHEZ: Now, sources indicate that the orders to withdraw some 2,600 troops from Syria have already been signed. That drawdown expected over the next few weeks.

The big question now is whether the president will look to do something very similar in another hotbed of terrorist activity: Afghanistan -- John, Erica.

HILL: All right, Boris, thank you.

Let's bring in now senior editor for "The Atlantic" and CNN senior political analyst Ron Brownstein; senior political correspondent for "The Washington Examiner" and CNN political analyst David Drucker; and congressional reporter for "The Washington Post" and CNN political analyst Karoun Demirjian. Good to have all of you with us on this very quiet Christmas Eve morning.

Ron -- Ron, let's kick this off with you. The reality is we wouldn't even be here this morning if the president hadn't rejected the deal that was actually agreed to.

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Agreed to, not only this time. If the president had not rejected the deal last year when Democrats offered him his border wall funding in return for a solution for the DREAMers. And ultimately, that was sunk because the White House then insisted on adding massive -- largest cuts in legal immigration since the 1920s. [06:05:08] Look, I think this entire fight is incredibly revealing of the Republican mindset after the election. You are talking about using a tactic that is historically very unpopular, shutting down the government, for advancing a goal that is, in polling, even more unpopular, building the wall. I mean, I have not seen a poll with more than 43 percent of the country supporting building the wall. The last CNN poll, only 38 percent supported it, and that number dropped to 33 percent. Only 33 percent of the country said they supported building the wall if the U.S. had to pay for it.

And it was opposed overwhelmingly by all of the groups that powered the Democratic gains in the midterm, including young people, minorities, college-educated whites -- only 30 percent supported if the U.S. had to pay for it.

And I think all of this is a signal that really kind of crystalizes what has happened since November, which is that Republicans essentially have shrugged off the midterm and again remain politically just kind of monolithically on energizing, activating the base, even at the cost of antagonizing the broader electorate.

AVLON: And Karoun, one of the fascinating things about this sort of art of declining the deal we're witnessing in the context of this shutdown is the president now insisting via tweet that the Democrats own the shutdown, when most of us watched a week or so ago when he accepted full blame in that Oval Office meeting. Let's take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I am proud to shut down the government for border security, Chuck. I will take the mantle. I will be the one to shut it down.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

AVLON: So Karoun, is this just the case, the president hoping that we don't remember what he said a week ago? Or can he credibly make that case to the American people?

KAROUN DEMIRJIAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I mean, tape is a pesky thing, right, and the president really does like to pivot and shift and rewrite what happened, usually over Twitter, whenever he feels like things aren't quite going the way that he thinks is advantageous to him, which is you know, you can bluster about taking full -- full responsibility for a shutdown when it hasn't happened yet. When it's happened, it becomes a little bit more difficult to actually say, "OK, this is all my fault."

Anyways, we know the president does not like to be blamed, really, for anything. So this is now, you know, let's switch up the spinning. He was speaking extemporaneously when he was in that meeting with the leaders of Congress. And now he's seeing that this isn't going that well, in terms of how it looks. And so he's trying to spin it harder, this is the Democrats at this point who are at fault.

I mean, look, we're heading towards the end of the year. Yes, the lawmakers are going to be back to D.C. a few days before the end of the year, but the incentive really is not to conclude a deal at this point. The Democrats are going to be taking over in the new year. They have more leverage once they're actually in the majority. And at this point, nobody trusts each other in this negotiation anymore.

And so, if there's offers being made across the -- the transom, still, and more bad blood being brought up, you're just going to see more of this finger-pointing. And are we going to call it a Democrat shutdown or Trump shutdown? Unclear.

Also, as much as shutdowns are bad, this one isn't really rocking the country the same way that the 2013 one did. It's a quarter of the country that's being shut down. It's not the military. That matters in terms of how angry people are. And so there's kind of room to spin right now, because people aren't paying quite as close attention, at least in my estimation, as they were a few years ago.

HILL: Karoun, I think you're right. And it isn't as big. It doesn't mean it doesn't affect those 800,000 people, obviously.

DEMIRJIAN: Right. Oh, of course.

HILL: But you're right: when we put it in context, it is a little bit different.

David, there's also the issue of, for the president in terms of digging in his heels, there's a campaign promise at stake here. And it's not just the building of the wall, but it's that the president repeatedly told us that Mexico would pay for that wall.

DAVID DRUCKER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes.

HILL: Of course, we know from Mexican leaders, past and current, the presidents, that's not going to happen, despite their attempts at -- I don't know -- some interesting government math with the new trade deal, that's not going to happen.

AVLON: Also, the president's incoming chief of staff admitting that's not going to happen.

HILL: Yes. So when we look at it from that respect, how much of that need to fulfill the campaign promise is -- is pushing the president in this moment? And how much of it is just him sitting back and saying, "I can do whatever I want, and I will sit here as long as I want"?

DRUCKER: Yes, well, look, I think it's a combination of all of that.

Look, I think the main thing to look at here when you talk about the president's campaign promises, is not so much whether Mexico is going to pay for the wall or not. It's whether or not the president is being effective in overhauling U.S. immigration law and beefing up border security.

I think voters that are a part of his base, I think, the media personalities on the right that push him into positions that he responds to will live with U.S. taxpayers paying for the wall. They may not live for [SIC] the president not following through on overhauling immigration law and actually beefing up border security.

And I think the president's been his own worst enemy here, because there's a certain way to get this done. He's been president for almost two years, and there's really been no major legislative push, regardless of what you think of the president's policies on immigration, to actually get this done in Congress when he had a Republican House and a Republican Senate.

He's tried it at fleeting different -- at fleeting times in fleeting ways, to try and get a few things done, but not made the push like he did on tax reform or even attempting to overhaul Obamacare.

And why is he his own worst enemy? Because not only has he not given the legislative push that's required, nobody trusts him. Republicans don't trust him. And the way it works in -- in the United States Congress is if there is no trust, you cannot get people to make tough political decisions on your behalf.

You know, in the opening you played that clip of Pat Toomey saying that we know this president is impulsive. What Pat Toomey is saying is "We can't trust him."

A few days ago, everybody voice-voted in the U.S. Senate this $1.6 billion or so for border security that the president agreed to, that the president asked them to vote for. They're now all on the hook for a vote they would have rather not been on the hook for, and the president just changed his mind aft they had gone ahead and done it. That's why Mitch McConnell, who is always at the center of every negotiation when he can be, has ceded all of this to Chuck Schumer and said, "You go make a deal with that guy. Everybody come back to us when you actually have something."

They don't trust him, and that's why the president is not getting anything done here.

AVLON: That lack of trust among Republicans is why you had so few folks standing up to defend the president yesterday; and one really kind of harsh criticism came from one of the first folks who endorsed him among his rivals in the presidential campaign, Chris Christie. Let's take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), FORMER NEW JERSEY GOVERNOR: I want to ask everybody who's out in the audience today, if they have a 72-year-old relative whose behavior they're attempting to --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just like Donald Trump?

CHRISTIE: Hold on. Whose behavior they're attempting to change, when people get older, let's get ready. Because it's happening to me now, When people get older they do become more and more convinced of the fact that what they're doing is the right thing, and it becomes harder to convince them otherwise.

(END VIDEO CLIP) AVLON: That brings it home for the holiday season.

BROWNSTEIN: Yes.

AVLON: But Ron, seriously, one thing that comes with age supposedly is wisdom and that comes from perspective. So let's take a look at the history of shutdowns to date, because it's pretty revealing.

BROWNSTEIN: Yes.

AVLON: You know, early on, you had a bunch during Reagan and Carter. But take a look at the last 25 years. It's really been quite rare. And especially with the two Clinton shutdowns and the one Obama shutdown, it's with divided government. Democratic presidents and Republicans in Congress.

You've had three shutdowns to date, two -- the first two being pretty short in duration. This new one looks like it could last quite a long time. Is this going to get worse when we get divided government? Is this just an impulse the president has?

BROWNSTEIN: Well, first, I covered those Clinton and Obama shutdowns, and the shutdown has never been able to force the other side to do what the proponents of the shutdown wanted. It's just not a powerful enough lever.

And while congressional Republicans may not trust the president -- I think David is exactly right -- they do enable him. And the fact that House Republicans, in their -- really, their final act as a majority, snubbed their nose at the voters who just kind of chastised them in the midterm and whacked them in the midterm election, by voting for, you know, the $5 billion that they knew had no chance in the Senate. A kind of -- a final act of kind of enabling Trump in exactly the kind of way that cost them, I think, the midterm, losing 40 seats with 4 percent unemployment, was just really striking.

And though there are a few voices like Bob Corker saying that this is kind of absurd, there have actually been very few, although they may not be defending it, Republicans who have kind of called out the unlikelihood of success here.

And again, all of this behind a cause that roughly 40 percent of the country supports: building the wall. Something that has been very popular with the Republican base, but is really deeply unpopular with all of the groups that powered the result in the midterm. And I think, again, it is just striking to me, and indicative of how committed Republicans are to this strategy, this Trump strategy of doubling down on the base.

HILL: And Karoun, what's remarkable, too, is if we just step back for a moment, I mean, this is -- as my 12-year-old would say, you had one job.

AVLON: You had one job. I love it.

HILL: These days, if we look back at the job of Congress, too, I mean, you've got to fund the government. And the fact that we keep getting to this place again and again and again, and we're here, yes, there's some finger-pointing. Yes, the president is involved. But at the end of the day, we're still dealing with a Congress that hasn't gotten their job done, Karoun.

DEMIRJIAN: Yes, we are. Although in their defense a little bit, they've gotten a little more of their job done this time than they usually do. They did pass parts of the budget, which is why we're not in a full government shutdown, as we have been in the past.

But this just -- that is just the status quo right now for Congress, is that you never can get full resolution. You can usually, at this point, agree on national security items and keeping those funded but when it comes to domestic programs, it's really hard.

And right now, that -- what's adding to that is that you've got discord within the Republican Party. But what they actually want, the dirty secret about the wall, is that most of the -- I mean, the whole GOP is not behind that plan. If left to their own devices, they would come up with some other kind of border security that would not necessarily be punching this mantra of wall over and over again.

[06:15:08] So you're not necessarily heading into a situation with the divided Congress that is going to be easier to pass these sorts of budgets. And with Trump in the middle, making deals that switch right and left every 24 hours sometimes, it's -- it's not a really good prognosis for how this is going to go.

AVLON: And David, quickly, as you talk to folks on the Hill, is there anyone offering a constructive compromise that can get us out of this? Or is it still, as it was said a week or so ago, Jesus take the wheel, there is no plan?

DRUCKER: Look, I think that there are -- well, probably, ultimately, that's where we're headed; and I think this is going to go into the new year, because there's just no incentive to fix this.

There are some compromises being thrown about. I think at the end of the day, it's what is the president going to agree to? And I think one, you know, important thing to understand here -- and Ron touched on it -- is that, while the president is playing to his base; and the base is committed to him and the wall, there's the larger Republican electorate, the traditional Republican electorate. And we saw what they thought of the president in the midterm elections.

And what the president is in danger of running afoul of here, is the coalition that actually placed him in the presidency, because he needs both; and he -- right now, he's only playing to one. He's only got one. And I think what Republicans on the Hill are trying to figure out post-election, and especially with the Mattis news, is whether or not the juice is worth the squeeze, because they've always said about him, you know, "The behavior is one thing, but everything he's doing is right so we'll make that bargain." And is that now a bargain worth keeping? And we'll find out over the next few weeks and months.

AVLON: All right. Thank you all for joining us. Merry Christmas Eve.

DRUCKER: You, too.

BROWNSTEIN: Merry Christmas.

HILL: Thanks, guys.

President Trump forcing out his defense secretary two months early after sudden decisions to pull U.S. troops out of Syria and Afghanistan. Ahead, the growing uncertainty for the U.S. military, and the concern that's causing.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HILL: Uncertainty and concern in the wake of big changes for the U.S. military. CNN has learned senior military leaders are worried about what's to come after President Trump forced out Defense Secretary James Mattis, next week. The order to pull troops out of Syria is signed, while plans to get about half of the U.S. military stationed in Afghanistan out of that country are being worked on.

According to "The Wall Street Journal," one Marine commander told a group he was speaking to, quote, "I don't think anybody really knows what is going to happen." Sobering words.

Joining me now, CNN national security analyst James Clapper, of course, the former director of national intelligence and a retired lieutenant general with the U.S. Air Force.

Director Clapper, always good to have you look at -- have you join us. As you look at what's happened, even just since the last time you spoke on this topic, Mattis being forced out now as of January 1, what does that do? What is your main concern there in terms of a transition?

JAMES CLAPPER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, just exactly that. I mean, Jim and his very thoughtful resignation letter had thought about that and was trying to be, you know, the least disruptive under the circumstances as possible.

So now that, you know, is his distinguished time as secretary of defense, which was a retirement, according to the president, now has turned into a firing. And that's not surprising that the president would do that after realizing that the letter was actually a pretty scathing indictment, and seeing the reaction to it, that he would want to try to take charge and fire him, as opposed to letting him "retire," air quotes.

HILL: They're --

CLAPPER: So the big thing is just the disruption.

HILL: The disruption, as reported, CNN's own reporting, senior military leaders very concerned. They're worried about what comes next, because so much is unknown at this point. There's also the reality of how a troop withdrawal works, and the fact that the concern here is that perhaps the president doesn't fully understand how complicated this is. And while there may be a number of Americans who support the move to pull troops back, just doing it on a whim could be dangerous.

CLAPPER: Exactly. You know, I spent 13 years over -- throughout my career in the Pentagon, and the Pentagon is an institution of planning and orderliness. And deploying troops and withdrawing them is not -- they are not trivial undertakings. And there are all kinds of implications here when you withdraw, particularly doing it as we appear to be doing it in Syria, so precipitously. And there are all kinds of unintended consequences that are going to occur here, and this plays havoc in the Pentagon.

And the other thing, I think, of course, is they're all kind of on pins and needles over there, wondering, well, what's next? What's the next tweet we're going to get about either deploying or withdrawing with not a lot of notice?

HILL: As we look at all of this play out, too, it's hard to forget what we've heard from the president in the past, specifically, in terms of his own knowledge about how things work and what's happening. I just want to play a little of that sound for you.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I know more about ISIS than the generals do, believe me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you still feel like they know about ISIS more than the generals?

TRUMP: Well, they don't know much, because they're not winning. That I can tell you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HILL: When you hear those comments played for you again, what comes to mind?

CLAPPER: Well, just appalling arrogance, and you know, his -- him portraying himself as a stable genius and all that sort of thing.

These things are really complicated. And he would do well to listen to his advisers.

And I would point out, by the way, that ISIS is not defeated, not in Syria. And by the way, it's a good thing to remember that ISIS is other places besides Syria, like Afghanistan, where they have a pretty prominent presence there, as well. And so I don't think he knows more than -- than the generals do.

HILL: There's a lot on the president's plate at this moment, as we know. But if we take a look at who is in place to help him and to help with the everyday job of running the government, it is striking as we look at how many positions have not only had a number of turnovers, but also positions that remain unfilled and what folks come into those positions will have to deal with.

[06:25:11] This is an extensive list, and we're two years in. Is this something that you -- you feel is, in any way, starting to take shape? I mean, there are normal moves within an administration, but to look at this at this point, two years in, it makes you wonder what comes in the next two years.

CLAPPER: Yes, exactly. You know, we may look back in 2019, longing for the relative calm of 2018, because I think there's going to be a lot more of this.

I do think that Jim Mattis's resignation and the manner in which he did it was a -- a really significant milestone, because I think it's going to cause a lot of other people to do some hard thinking about their own position in the government and whether they can continue to serve. And I think it's also going to be difficult to find others who are -- who are qualified who can be confirmed to come to the government and serve.

HILL: Do you think, to that point, do you think people will start to become more vocal? I mean, to this point, yes, some people who have left a little bit, of course that we heard from Rex Tillerson last week, but otherwise, even when we're just looking at lawmakers in terms of Republicans, it's folks who are retiring who are the most vocal and who seem to be unafraid of calling out the president when they believe that something was a bad idea.

So do you think that that will change, too, among lawmakers?

CLAPPER: Well, it could. I mean, again, I think the reaction, the response by many Republicans to Jim Mattis's resignation is perhaps indicative of perhaps newfound boldness to speak up.

And I hope, by the way, that Jim doesn't dance quietly off stage, that he will continue to be an influential voice even as he leaves the department.

HILL: A lot of folks anxious to hear from him directly beyond that letter, understandably.

Director Clapper, always good to see you. Thank you. Happy holidays.

CLAPPER: And the same, Erica.

HILL: Appreciate it.

John.

AVLON: Up next, unthinkable destruction after a deadly tsunami in Indonesia, and the threat is not over. A live report and search for survivors, next.

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