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Federal Government Faces Looming Shutdown; New Reporting Indicates Chief of Staff John Kelly May have Influenced President Trump to Reject Congressional Immigration Deal; Soon: Homeland Secretary To Face Senators At Hearing; Trump's Vulgar Comment Imperils Prospect Of A Deal; DACA Could Be Out Of Reach As Shutdown Nears; Hawaii Announces New Missile Alarm Procedures. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired January 16, 2018 - 08:00   ET


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The reaction has been over the top.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know who said what. Starting to look like a bunch of kids in the back of a minivan.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A host of Trump campaign and White House staffers set to testify this week as part of the Russia investigation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Bannon said that the heart of the case is money laundering. I think they are going to want to know what does he mean by that?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The real question is whether the Intelligence Committee is willing to gather the information that we need to protect ourselves.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to your NEW DAY. It's Tuesday, January 16th, 8:00 here in the east. Congress returns to work today but the federal government may be headed for a shutdown on Friday night which coincides with the one year mark of Donald Trump's presidency. The controversy created by the president's reportedly crude comments about immigrants makes it less likely that lawmakers can reach a deal on spending and immigration in the next four days.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Democrats are demanding any spending bill include protections for the dreamers. But right now there is no deal on DACA. While Republicans focused on passing another short term spending measure, their goal is to keep the government up and running. So now what you have is this functional game of chicken, that's what's playing out on Capitol Hill. The political stakes are very high. These are lives, not just ledger entries that we are talking about with DACA.

Let's begin our coverage with CNN political analyst Josh Green and CNN politics reporter and editor at large Chris Cillizza. All right, so, Chris, The idea of whether or not DACA is a standalone or is incorporated into the budget resolution, what is the plus/minus on those two moves, and who is making them?

CHRIS CILLIZZA, EDITOR AT LARGE, CNN POLITICS: Well, Democrats are trying to use their leverage as they perceive it on DACA to either shut down or keep the government open. They believe that the Republicans have pushed this down the road far enough. Remember it was Donald Trump who ended that program, and that they need to fix it. The longer it goes the more jeopardy these folks are in.

And as you point out, Chris, we tend to lose sight of this sometimes. These are people's lives, these are people who are being affected by this legislation, so at some point you can't just keep kicking the can down the road.

The problem for Republicans is Donald Trump blew up the one DACA deal that was possible as related to the wall, getting some border security money and also getting protections for the DREAMers. That blew up on Thursday. We focus a lot on what word he used to describe immigrants for some countries coming into the U.S. But the important thing is that that deal is no longer operative for Republicans and there is no other deal that Democrats are even considering.

So to me the idea of any kind of immigration bill being united with a way to keep the government open is now not happening. You are going to have decoupling of that and you are going to have a debate over these next three days over will the government shutdown or not. Will any Democrats go along with another stopgap budget funding measure for another month. And then once that debate passes if we don't have a shutdown, we will move back to this DACA border wall debate. But that debate effectively ended last Thursday.

CAMEROTA: So Josh, if Democrats decide to make this political stand and the government gets shutdown, why don't they think they will blame them?

JOSH GREEN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Because Republicans control all three branches of government, number one, and number two because President Trump himself shot down a bipartisan immigration solution in the West Wing when he made his racist comments about not wanting immigrants from Ghana and preferring more white immigrants from countries like Norway. So it's clear where his sentiments lie. If the government shuts down over a DACA deal it seems likely the Democrats and Trump in particular would bear a lot of blame.

One problem though the Democrats have is that while that might be true nationally, there are Democrats running for reelection in the Senate in nine or ten states that Trump won who are not really eager to see the government shutdown over an immigration issue because that could play badly in their states and potentially imperil their reelection.

CUOMO: And you have other Democrats, Chris, who have to worry about the base. Yes, it's about families but it's also about politics and leverage. They lost on the tax deal. The high ground they was that Trump did that in rank partisan fashion, he divided the country along party and socioeconomic lines to get that done. So that's their high ground, the Democrats right now politically. If they give him the wall as part of this DACA deal their base is going to be really angry. So it's not as simple as just getting it done.

[08:05:00] CILLIZZA: No, it's not. And I would point out, Josh makes a really important point, I think you have a fissure within the Democratic caucus, particularly in the Senate. You do have these 10 folks who are in seats that Donald Trump won who are up for reelection in 2018, including five of them that are in states that Donald Trump won by double digits. You have a Democratic senator in Missouri, North Dakota, Indiana, West Virginia, Montana. These are not easy states to hold. If you think Donald Trump is deeply unpopular in West Virginia, he is not.

So Joe Manchin has a different calculation to make than the other side of the fissure which is Kamala Harris from California, Cory Booker from New Jersey, Kirsten Gillibrand from New York, Bernie Sanders, Vermont, Elizabeth Warren. Those are folks who are keeping an eye on the base for a very specific reason. I think they would like to run for president in 2020. And the base of the Democratic Party wants absolutely no compromise, what they view as capitulation, to Donald Trump and Congressional Republicans. The theory there is why give them anything? Why should we, the Democratic Party, why should we make a deal when most polling suggests the government shutdown will be blamed on Donald Trump and Congressional Republicans? Why are we giving up our principles for that? So that is the push/pull even within the Democratic Senate caucus.

CAMEROTA: Josh, I can't tell you how many times I've sat on an anchor desk somewhere and had all these ominous warnings the government is going to shut down. It looks like it's not possible for a deal to be met. And then at 11:59 at the deadline basically it feels like they pull it out somehow. So what do you think the likelihood is that somehow these sides are going to figure something out by Friday?

GREEN: It's true a lot of times in these legislative games of chicken at the very last moment the parties come together and pass something. I think this time could be different for one big reason, and that is that both parties' caucuses are split. The issue now isn't really a DACA deal. That is not going to happen by Friday. So the issue on the table is a short term spending deal.

Republicans have problems because defense hawks and the hard right freedom caucus doesn't want to pass another short term deal. It is going to be tough for Paul Ryan to get votes. Democrats have the problem that Chris just enumerated which is that the party is split between Trump state, let's call them moderates, and liberals who are looking at party activists or incipient presidential candidates don't want to offend them. It's not clear how those twin tension are resolved between now and Friday. It doesn't mean it couldn't happen, it just means there are more variables than there usually are and that probably increases the likelihood of a shutdown on Friday.

CUOMO: How many Democrats, Chris, are pushing for some relief for DREAMers in the budget resolution without a full DACA deal? Is that real?

CILLIZZA: I'm very skeptical they would do that.

CUOMO: How would that even work?

CILLIZZA: We don't know how it would work. Again, just to reiterate, the proposal was that this was going to be the deal. Last Thursday this was the deal. This is the bipartisan deal. This is what Democrats want. There's no --

CUOMO: Chris, let me just interrupt you for a second. In the middle of your talking we got a breaking news flash that was breaking news to us, as well. Steve Bannon is going to meet with House investigators today. I take it this is some aspect of his retinue.

CAMEROTA: He just arrived. We saw a shot of him.

CUOMO: So Bannon is going there. It will not be a publically televised event. He is going to talk behind closed doors as are other members of the administration. Chris Cillizza, continue.

CILLIZZA: Just the point is there just is not a Democratic effort I don't think to offer half-measure as it relates to DACA. I see nothing there. The proposals that are out there, there's a Republican proposal by Bob Goodlatte in the House, that's not going to get any Democratic votes. I would be stunned if -- though I have been stunned many times before -- I would be stunned if suddenly a DACA compromise came up.

I think what was lost amid the Donald Trump what curse word did he use debate last Thursday was his reversal from last Tuesday to last Thursday from I'll sign it to we are not doing this deal, there is no deal anymore. We focus so much on the words, but what that meant is DACA/border security is not happening right now. The best resolution if you want it to happen without a government shutdown is that there is a deal on government spending this week that will be totally separate from the border wall, DACA debate which frankly in another month's time we will be having if the government stays open.

CAMEROTA: All right, thank you very much, Josh Green, Chris Cillizza.

[08:10:00] So we are learning more about what happened inside that tense and profane meeting between the president and lawmakers last week where the president reportedly expressed a preference for people from Norway over black and brown immigrants from impoverished nations. The "Washington Post" now reports that chief of staff John Kelly convinced the president before that meeting happened that the bipartisan bill he was about to hear was not good for him politically.

Joining us now is the "Washington Post" reporter who broke that story, Josh Dawsey. Josh, great to have you here. so give us the back story and your reporting. Basically Senators Durbin and Lindsey Graham had a phone call in the morning with the president in the White House. He seemed to express enthusiasm for their bipartisan deal, then something happened by the time they got there at noon. What happened?

JOSH DAWSEY, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, "WASHINGTON POST": It was a frantic day of action at the White House on Thursday. You had calls between the president and Durbin and Graham around 10:15 in the morning on Thursday. The president heard the deal. He said thank you for bringing this to me, I would love to meet with you. Come over at noon.

By the time the lawmakers got there at noon they were surprised to find a number of hardliners, conservative Republicans, in the White House and the president no longer seemed in a positive and sunny mood and seemed very predisposed not to listen to their deal. And that's when the 30-minute meeting happened where the president referred to African countries in a derogatory term and said he preferred Norway. And things kind of blew up really quickly.

So from Tuesday when he said I will sign whatever deal comes to you, Thursday morning he says bring me a deal over. When the gentlemen get there with a deal the president is not happy about it and says there's not enough money for the wall, visa lottery system will bring in people from undesirable countries that he doesn't want, and no deal. Go back to the drawing board.

CAMEROTA: And so Josh, is it your reporting that Durbin and Graham were sort of blindsided when they got there and found, when you say the hardliners, they found Senators Perdue and Cotton already waiting for them, and I believe it's your reporting is that had been Stephen Miller and Marc Short who had realized they were going to need more ammunition in that room to keep the president from signing on to the bipartisan deal?

DAWSEY: And the president wanted other Republicans there. After they presented the plan to the president there was a briefing given to John Kelly where he realized what was in the plan, and General Kelly said he did not think the plan would be good for the president politically. I think people underestimate how involved the chief of staff has been in these DACA negotiations. He has been calling lawmakers every day. He's been meeting with DHS officials. He was a former DHS secretary himself. And he has taken a pretty hands-on role in this. And when he saw the plan he thought it would be bad for the president politically and told the president so. And then the president started hearing from hardline conservative members, the folks who are more hawkish on immigration and support the wall, who want more money for border security who are saying you can't take this deal, Mr. President. And he agreed with them.

CAMEROTA: Josh, I want to hear more about that, about chief of staff John Kelly, because as you know there is something of an impression outside of the White House that maybe he has been a moderating voice on the president inside the White House. But from your reporting it sounds like he actually pulled the president to a harder line on immigration and that maybe those are John Kelly's true -- I don't know if those are his true feelings or if, as you're saying, this is just a political move to preserve the base.

DAWSEY: My reporting indicates that John Kelly is more hawkish on immigration being in the White House, but Kelly is also not a political figure. He has spent his entire career in the military. He was DHS secretary. He doesn't understand ins and outs of Congress maybe as much as some folks. He's a very smart man, but just the minutia of Congress. And I think John Kelly has been a moderating voice of some sense. He has limited the paper that gets to the president. He's limited access to the Oval Office. He's put some rigor and discipline on the staff. But when it comes to many issues that the president won on, he has been simpatico with John Kelly, particularly on immigration.

CAMEROTA: Do you have any reporting on why Senators Perdue and Cotton decided to change their tune on what they heard in terms of the language in that meeting?

DAWSEY: My reporting indicates that Senator Perdue and Cotton told White House officials afterwards that they heard expletive-house instead of expletive-hole. And by that small differentiation they were able to say that they could deny the comments. You saw Lindsey Graham who came out yesterday and said his memory had not evolved in what appeared to be a pretty direct slap at Perdue and Cotton. Senator Durbin who is saying he certainly knows what he heard. He hasn't changed his tune on this. And you have Senators Perdue and Cotton who said at first I can't recall what happened, and then both of them decided they could recall and that was exactly what was not said. And in our reporting they told White House officials that they heard called them a house instead of a hole.

CAMEROTA: That is really important to know, not the distinction so much as what their thinking was in what gives them cover to say those were not the comments that we heard. Josh Dawsey, thank you very much for sharing reporting with us.

[08:15:04] DAWSEY: Thanks for having me.

CAMEROTA: Sure -- Chris.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: All right, so first it was panic in Hawaii following that false missile alert, a half an hour of complete life threatening anxiety. We're going to talk to one of the State senators about what happened and how do they make sure it doesn't happen again, next.


CAMEROTA: In just hours Homeland Security Secretary, Kirstjen Nielsen, will appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Secretary Nielsen was with Senators Dick Durbin and Lindsey Graham in that Oval Office meeting in which they say the president used crude language about immigrants. Nielsen has said she does not recall the president using those expletives. Joining us now is Democratic Senator Mazie Hirono of Hawaii who is on the Judiciary Committee.

Good morning, senator.


CAMEROTA: OK, so when the Homeland Security Secretary comes before your committee, today what do you plan to ask her? HIRONO: Well, first of all, I'm going to ask her what FEMA's role is which FEMA comes under the Homeland's Security Department, what their role is with regard to the emergency alert system throughout the country including, of course, in Hawaii.

So I'll be asking her some of those questions and I'll ask her a number of questions regarding the president's immigration policies which he made clear that day that he met with Dick Durbin and Lindsey Graham that he wants basically white people to come to our country.

[08:20:06] CAMEROTA: So that is your interpretation. You believe --

HIRONO: It's hard not to have that interpretation. It's just not -- just my interpretation.

CAMEROTA: You believe their account of the meeting over some other denials?

HIRONO: You mean the account of Dick Durbin and Lindsey Graham?


HIRONO: Yes, because I think if the president uses a word like -- and I will use it, "shithole," to refer to certain countries, I think you would remember. So I'm saddened that Cotton and Perdue are evolving in their recollections and in fact they're enabling, they're enablers to the president's what he said.

CAMEROTA: When you say evolving their recollections --

HIRONO: I'm using Lindsey Graham's term that you just referred to that his recollection is not evolving. He heard what he heard.

CAMEROTA: So what do you think Senators Cotton and Perdue were doing?

HIRONO: They are enabling the president to go on with his denials.

CAMEROTA: And what --

HIRONO: -- doesn't serve our country at all.

CAMEROTA: Why are they doing that?

HIRONO: -- immigration issues, because they're enablers. You should ask them. I'm very saddened by their changed position. But we need to get on with a bill that would create a safety for even just thousand DACA participants. Need to ask Homeland Secretary what she plans to do with regard to testing the emergency systems throughout our country because a missile strike from Korea can hit not just Hawaii and Guam but they're working on hitting the rest of our country, U.S. And so, she should be very concerned about what every state's systems are.

CAMEROTA: Yes, and I do want to get to that in a moment, but do you think that Senator Durbin today will ask Secretary Nielsen in that hearing for her recollection and to confirm what he heard? HIRONO: I think he may, but I believe she has already said that she doesn't re-collect.

CAMEROTA: And is that OK? Are we just going to live with that?

HIRONO: We know what we heard. He knows what he heard. And I've had many, many dealings with Dick Durbin and certainly with Lindsey Graham especially on immigration issues. And I know that they heard what they heard.

CAMEROTA: What's going to happen with DACA? Is the government going to shutdown on Friday?

HIRONO: A president has said that maybe we need a good shutdown so he can get his wall. And remember that Republicans control both the House, Senate and White House. So I was there when he met with some 20 of us in a bipartisan meeting at the White House where in he said if you all come up with a bipartisan deal I will sign it. That's what he said. And then he says when he was presented with a bipartisan deal that it was no longer something he could sign.

So the (INAUDIBLE) positioning of the president it was very hard to figure out what he wants. But it's very clear he said if I don't get my wall then maybe we need a good government shutdown. So if we have a shutdown it is the president's responsibility.

CAMEROTA: I understand that Democrats feel they can pass the hot potato to the president and pin it on him. You make a good case for why that is so. But do you think the --

HIRONO: -- because that's reality. That is what is actually happening.

CAMEROTA: But do you think that Americans would hold lawmakers, such as yourself, Democrats, responsible for the services drying up that would happen after a government shutdown.

HIRONO: Nobody wants a government shutdown. And in fact, the president could avoid a government shutdown today by signing the bipartisan deal, that the deal that was presented to him. And not to mention that we have not funded the children's health programs that helps 9 million children with health care. We have not funded community health centers that support health care for millions of people in our country. And those free items have bipartisan support. Children's health, community health centers, DACA. There is bipartisan support. The person who is holding this up is the president of the United States.

CAMEROTA: And so if the government has to shutdown you are willing to see the government shutdown?

HIRONO: You know, (INAUDIBLE) is eternal land. We're running out of time. But, I think that the country understands that nobody wants a government shutdown and that we actually have bipartisan support to keep government running. And the person who is stopping it is a person who says maybe we need a good government shutdown so I can have my $18 billion plus border wall.

CAMEROTA: Speaking of running out of time, that's what the people in Hawaii thought was happening --


CAMEROTA: -- when they got that false alarm for 38 minutes because somebody pushed the wrong button.


CAMEROTA: Are you confident that today whatever changes have been announced that that will never happen again?

HIRONO: Well, first of all, we know that it started with human error and if there were human failures we need to identify and correct those. And if there were systems failures because it did take 38 minutes from the initial warning for people to get the correct advisory that if there are system failures then we need to identify and correct those. So I'm still awaiting more information with a very transparent way as to exactly what happened and what transpired in that 38-minute interval between the warning and the correction.

[08:25:21] CAMEROTA: Well, I mean, the reason that I ask is because your governor yesterday said, "this will not happen again. You have my promise on this." How can he promise that?

HIRONO: Well then, as I said, that we have to identify the human failures and system failures and then to make sure that those are corrected. And that is one of the ways that we are going to ensure that this doesn't happen again. This is going to lead to much clearer communication with specific command for one thing because this kind of necessary alert was supposed to come from pacific command upon information from northern command that there is a missile strike and it is heading our way. So all of those communications systems have got to be aligned not to mention whatever role the federal government has, FEMA, as well as FCC to make sure that every state's warning systems are what they should be.

CAMEROTA: What a cautionary experience. Senator Mazie Hirono --

HIRONO: Let me just mention one more thing. You know, the overall goal should be to prevent the missile strikes from happening in the first place. And that is why I have said that we need to make sure that the diplomatic resolution to tensions between the U.S. and North Korea must occur. So Secretary Tillerson needs to have all resources in order to pursue that avenue. And I would like the president to start behaving in a more mature way so that he is not adding -- you know, he's not just encouraging more of an environment where mistakes can happen and this calculation --

CAMEROTA: And when you say the president behaving in a more mature way you mean not tweeting anymore?

HIRONO: Well, I'm not saying that my button is bigger than your button. That is very childish. So we are to be focusing on the diplomatic route to resolving the tensions between the U.S. and North Korea.

CAMEROTA: Yes, because the only thing worse than a false alarm is a real alarm.


CAMEROTA: So, yes. Senator, thank you very much for taking time to be --

HIRONO: Thank you. Aloha.


CUOMO: A real alarm would be much, much worse than a false alarm, true.

Growing fallout over President Trump's vulgar comments about immigrants. The president says he is not a racist. In fact, he says that a lot. The question is why does he have to say it so often? What can he do to show he has heart when it comes to immigrants? We'll debate next.