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Conservatives Balk at GOP Plan to Avert Shutdown; Trump on Borderline of Being Considered Obese. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired January 17, 2018 - 07:00   ET


[07:00:05] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: OK, Sanjay. We know that we're coming back to -- we'll have you back in the program later on with a few more findings. Thanks so much for all of that.

Thanks to our international viewers for watching. For you, CNN "NEWSROOM" is next. For our U.S. viewers, NEW DAY continues right now.


SEN. DICK DURBIN (D), ILLINOIS: It's an embarrassment that we can't reach an agreement.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER: There is no reason why Congress should hold government funding hostage over illegal immigration.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: With a shutdown looming, House Republicans scrambling to find the votes to pass a short-term bill.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), MINORITY LEADER: If you wanted to prove you're not prejudiced, support the bipartisan compromise.

KIRSTJEN NIELSON, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: The president used tough language in general.

SEN. CORY BOOKER (D), NEW JERSEY: You don't remember. I find that unacceptable.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), RANKING MEMBER, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: He was not choosing to decline to answer these questions on his own accord but rather because he was acting under the instructions of the White House.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Bannon is trying to get back in the good graces of the White House.

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D), CONNECTICUT: This subpoena indicates that he will leave no stone unturned.


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

CAMEROTA: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to your NEW DAY. Three days and counting until a potential government shutdown. House Republicans hoping that another short-term spending bill will keep the government running for another month. But hardline conservatives are balking at this. And a shutdown could be inevitable, because Republicans do not appear to have the votes at the moment. Some Democrats are still demanding protections for DREAMers in order to support any spending plan.

CUOMO: We also have a pretty significant new development in the Russia investigation. CNN learning that Special Counsel Bob Mueller has subpoenaed Steve Bannon to testify before a grand jury. The president's former chief strategist was refusing to answer certain questions during a long interview with House investigators. And they wound up issuing him a subpoena, as well.

Two other Trump associates are scheduled to appear today before that committee. Will they also say that the White House won't let them testify about certain questions?

Let's begin our coverage with Abby Phillip live at the White House -- Abby.


Well, a couple of looming questions on some big legislative issues this morning on immigration. The White House is insisting that it's the president, not his staff, who's running the show on that issue. But with just about three days before a potential government shutdown, there is no evidence that they are any closer to having a plan. And it's still also unclear whether the -- what exactly the president is going to support.

Now, GOP leaders have said that they are going to unveil a stopgap funding measure, a short-term spending bill to avoid that shutdown. And that is going to include some goodies in there to hopefully get Democratic support.


PHILLIP (voice-over): House Republican leadership now attempting to go it alone to avert a shutdown, deciding their best strategy is to rally support behind another short-term spending bill to keep the government funded for another month.

The problem? The chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus says his members are not yet on board, warning that "Currently, just based on the number of 'no's' and 'undecideds' in the Freedom Caucus, there's not enough support to pass this with GOP only votes."

REP. TED YOHO (R), FLORIDA: I hate to have a temporary spending bill. This is the fourth one since the end of September, first of October. It's crisis management at its worst.

PHILLIP: Republicans hoping to pressure Democrats into backing the short-term fix by attaching the number of incentives to the continuing resolution, including nearly $3 billion to keep the popular Children's Health Insurance Program funded for six years. The proposal would also delay a number of key Obamacare taxes.

Meanwhile, Democrat leadership continuing to push for a deal that would protect DREAMers. In the Senate, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell urging lawmakers not to rush a DREAMer deal, despite the fact that he needs at least nine Democratic votes to stave off a shutdown.

MCCONNELL: It is clear that Congress has at least -- at least -- until March, at a minimum, and possibly even longer, to reach a compromise that resolves the DACA question. There is no reason why Congress should hold government funding hostage over the issue of illegal immigration.

PHILLIP: The cosponsors of a bipartisan immigration bill rejected by President Trump last week expressing frustration at Mr. Trump's sudden change of heart.

DURBIN: We call him two days later, Senator Graham and I, and say, "We've done it. We met your criteria. We have a bipartisan bill. We're ready to go." And then to be called into the president's office to explain it to him, and find that we've been sandbagged.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Yes, I think somebody on his staff gave him really bad advice between 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. on Thursday.

PHILLIP: Both senators grilling Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen at Tuesday's Senate Judiciary Committee hearing about her insistence that she does not recall President Trump using the word "shithole" at last week's Oval Office meeting.

NIELSEN: The president used tough language in general, as did other congressmen in the room.

PHILLIP: Nielsen's testimony prompting this rebuke.

SEN. COREY BOOKER (D), NEW JERSEY: Your silence and your amnesia is complicity. When Dick Durbin called me, I had tears of rage when I heard about this experience in that meeting. And for you not to feel that hurt and that pain and to dismiss some of the questions of my colleagues, saying, "I've already answered that line of questions," when tens of millions of Americans are hurting right now because of what they're worried about, what happened in the White House. That's unacceptable to me.


[07:05:24] PHILLIPS: Well, despite all those fireworks on the Hill yesterday, White House chief of staff John Kelly is going to be over on the Hill talking to Congressional Hispanic Caucus members about this DREAMer issue. Remember, Kelly was one of the White House staffers urging the president not the support the Durbin-Graham bill.

Meanwhile, the president is also going to be on the Hill for a ceremony honoring Bob Dole. He has no meetings scheduled at the moment, but with all of this going on, with the shutdown and the DREAMer bill, all the key players will be on hand; and we'll be looking to see what the president does on that issue today, Alisyn and Chris.

CAMEROTA: OK, Abby, thank you very much for that.

Let's bring in CNN political analyst and White House correspondent for "The New York Times," Maggie Haberman.

Maggie, great to have you here.


CAMEROTA: What is your reporting about what was happening in the Oval Office during the "African nations are blank-hole" comments, because as we heard yesterday, DHS Secretary Nielsen doesn't remember the president saying that. Yet, there was other reporting, maybe yours, that said that he was almost taking sort of a victory lap afterwards, because he felt that it would play well with the base.

HABERMAN: Right. We've reported on that. Lots of people have reported on that. That he, in phone calls to allies and friends immediately afterward that evening and then all weekend at Mar-a-Lago where he was for the holiday weekend, he was talking about how great this plays with his base; the base loves it. You know, this is the kind of thing we have heard him say repeatedly. He said it about his fight with NFL players over kneeling. He has said it about monuments. He has said it about weighing in after Charlottesville on various aspects of that clash. So it's not a surprise that that's what he's saying. But it is at odds with what his staff...

CUOMO: Right.

HABERMAN: ... swung into action, to try to do several days later, which is suggest that that's not what he said. Look at what these senators said. Other people who were in that meeting said that that wasn't what he said.

Those other people who were in that meeting have declined to paint on the record a full account of what they say actually happened. So what we're left with is the usual Rashomon experience with people around Trump of, you know, seven different people hear something seven different ways.

At the end of the day, there is this semantics argument about words that I don't really...

CUOMO: Right.

HABERMAN: ... I still feel weird saying on TV, but it's really hard for me to see what the distinction is here between the two versions.

CUOMO: Nobody has denied the preference that he express said for what he wants in this country and why.

HABERMAN: Senator Tom Cotton last night, actually, after a vote in the Senate was talking to reporters. And he did suggest that it was something else, that it was about how there shouldn't be one country's preferenced over another.

CUOMO: Right.

HABERMAN: The Norway example is so specific.

CUOMO: Right.

HABERMAN: The president clearly did say Norway at some point, especially because he had...

CUOMO: Right.

HABERMAN: ... I think Kirstjen Nielsen acknowledged that. He just had a foreign leader from Norway in his office. And as we know, whoever spoke to him...

CUOMO: Right.

HABERMAN: ... last tends to come...

CUOMO: But Nielsen and Cotton, they're both doing that explaining of what Trump meant, as opposed to echoing what the words were that he used.

But look, it is what it is. He is who he is.


CUOMO: What do you know about where they are in getting a budget deal?

HABERMAN: Well, they are getting a budget deal. It's going to take some time. I mean, if we're talking about the -- immediately what's happening in Congress with the spending gap and the short-term C.R., the congressional Republicans have come up with a leadership plan that they are hoping everybody can sign onto.

They don't have enough conservative votes for it at the moment. It means they're going to have to get some Democratic votes. That is going to give Nancy Pelosi and House Democrats some leverage. And they are not in a great deal-making mood for a variety of reasons right now.

We will see how it plays out. I do think that it is likely that this goes through, because no side wants there to be a government shutdown. But we will be back here again in a month. This will be the...

CUOMO: Does it go through with Democrat votes or all Republican?

HABERMAN: I think it's going to have to go through Democrat votes. It's not going to go through with all Republicans. Because conservatives already said they're against a number of aspects of this as it is now. If it changes a little bit, maybe they get closer. But I just don't see it.

CAMEROTA: Is the White House worried about a government shutdown or in the damn the torpedoes style, do they say, "Yes, sure, shut it down"?

HABERMAN: As always, there is a distinction between President Trump and the White House. White House staff knows that a government shutdown is not ideal, is not a good thing. A number of people there, not everybody, but a number of people are concerned there will be a shutdown. There are several folks who I've spoken to in the last couple days who say they are optimistic that there won't be one, and they really do believe that.

The president has told people for weeks that a government shutdown is a good thing for him, because "I'll just blame Democrats." As we know, we have heard him say this over and over and over. He said it about health care reform, repeal and replace not passing. I think that there will be some blame for Democrats. I think it will be impossible there won't be. Republicans are the party in power across the board.

CUOMO: Do they get Democrats on board with this C.R. without having DACA included? Because that seems to be the bright line. On the right it seems to be military spending, frankly. I mean, I'm hearing more about that from the conservatives then anything else.

But on the left you have some like Cory Booker saying if the DREAMers aren't helped, I'm not in on this continuing resolution." And then others, Democrats, are a little bit more open.

HABERMAN: I think that it is likelier than not you will see Democratic support for this without DACA.

CUOMO: Without DACA.

HABERMAN: Given the number of days that we are talking about until a shutdown, yes, I do.

But I think Democrats are putting themselves in a very, very bad box on this. Schumer and Pelosi drew a line on what they would accept in terms of DACA. And they have allowed that to be pushed by repeatedly. There's going to be a limit to that with their own voters at a certain point.

CAMEROTA: Let's talk about the president's health. He is in peak condition.


CAMEROTA: He passed with flying colors. You, though, did point out a distinction on Twitter. You saw something interesting.

HABERMAN: To my detriment.

CAMEROTA: Well, isn't everything on Twitter?

CUOMO: Talk about bad for your health.

CAMEROTA: You saw -- you saw something curious that had happened. "Reminder that earlier physicals decades ago put Trump height at 6'2". The 6'3" height makes a difference on his body mass index from overweight to obese." The president is growing. He has grown into the role of the White House.

HABERMAN: Everyone has said they wanted him to grow in office.

CAMEROTA: Lo and behold.

HABERMAN: Well, in fairness, he grew before that, because 6'3" is what Dr. Bornstein, the doctor who we've all become familiar with...

CAMEROTA: His personal doctor...

HABERMAN: His personal doctor.

CAMEROTA: ... who said that he's the healthiest person in the world.

HABERMAN: Strength and stamina, in fact, was in that note.

CAMEROTA: I'm not sure that we should take his note as the ultimate arbiter of...

HABERMAN: Right. I was not -- I was not in the briefing room yesterday so I did not get to ask this question. I am still not clear on whether the president was weighed and measured anew or whether they took the old measurements. I think there was some question to Ronny Jackson at some point, if I remember correctly, about whether they measured his waistline. And he said, "No, we don't do that. We do height and weight."

CUOMO: Right.

HABERMAN: Which indicated it was a new measure. Look...

CUOMO: It would be very unusual to go to any kind of physical examination...

HABERMAN: And not get -- yes.

CUOMO: ... and not have them do your weight.

HABERMAN: And Ronny Jackson is -- is a real professional. He is really, you know -- he was the Obama physician. He is admired by a lot of people in that White House. He has a very, very good reputation. I mean, I think it is important to take a lot of what he said at his word.

But I also think it is understandable, given this White House's track record and this president's track record with honesty, especially when it comes to numbers, there's a reason to doubt.

CAMEROTA: And in fact, we know that Dr. Jackson said that the president said go out there and answer every single one of their questions.

HABERMAN: Yes, yes.

CAMEROTA: He took an hour. He seemed to be having fun.

HABERMAN: Absolutely. And to his credit that he did that.

CAMEROTA: For sure. Listen, transparency is what we're always asking for. But the reason that the height matters, other than that it's funny that he's growing at 71 years old, is -- is that he is right now one pound...

HABERMAN: One pound.

CAMEROTA: ... away from an obese category.


CAMEROTA: If he were 6'2", he would be in that obese category. And obviously, that's not healthy. And we do know a lot about his diet that could use some improvement.

HABERMAN: Right. Look, I mean, he does not eat well. I think that there is the alternate point to make that we all know a lot of people who we've heard stories about. You know, the aunt in your family who smoked eight packs of cigarettes a day and lives to 110. There are people who do not take good care of themselves and are in good health.

I thought Sanjay Gupta made a very important point in the last hour. Those numbers, while they were painted as rosy about his cardiac condition, are not that rosy. Right? So I mean, like there can be concern in numbers without having it be a glaring illness and something that's a neon sign.

He clearly has a weight issue. I think that Ronny Jackson was clear about that. I think the other reason that becomes important is not only is this president obsessed with appearances, which we know, but he has been known to make fun of other people's weight. So I think that's part of -- I'm seeing lots of on Twitter, "Oh, yes, it's OK to fat shame, because it's the president." This is a president who has a pretty long history of talking about other people's appearances.

That is 100 percent true. So it seemed like the headline was, though, that the president asked the doctor to do the Montreal Assessment Test...


CUOMO: ... a cognitive function test. Do you think that the results from this doctor will put to rest the idea that the president is suffering from a mental fitness or disease or deficiency issue?

HABERMAN: I don't. And I think that -- I mean, one of the things that we've spoken a lot on this show about the Michael Wolff book. I think one of the reasons that you saw a lot of the president's critics seize on that book is that Wolff sort of lustily embraced their belief that there must be something diagnostically wrong here, and the rest of that sentence is, "and therefore it means this term will come to an end sooner." That is, I think, a hope that Ronny Jackson sort of pushed away for a

lot of people yesterday. People can look at the -- you know, we've talked about this, too. That we have all interviewed this president over many, many years. Personally, I do not see a basic difference in this president. I just don't. This is the same person who he's always been. Now, people can say they have issues with this person; they have concerns about this person. But there's not some deterioration in the manner in which we have had it described by his critics, most of whom have seized on dementia as a -- as a diagnostic based on nothing, based on literally armchair diagnosing. And I think that an actual physician put that to rest yesterday.

[07:15:09] CAMEROTA: But I also think that it means that the inflammatory and knee-jerk and sometimes incoherent tweets that we read are not the sign of some sort of cognitive impairment.

HABERMAN: It's who he is.

CAMEROTA: That's -- they're deliberate.

HABERMAN: I don't know if they're deliberate. It's not -- deliberate...

CAMEROTA: Yes, you're right.

HABERMAN: ... suggests to me there's a plan. This is who he is.


HABERMAN: This is who he is. How he's always been. Everybody is always looking for some deeper meaning. Is there a deeper strategy? Or some kind of a -- everybody tries to put a -- some sort of normal structure on this. And I'm using normal very specifically. They want to put something that they can understand and that makes sense to them from previous experience. He does not fit previous experience on almost any level. It is what it is.

CAMEROTA: Maggie Haberman, great to talk to you, as always.

HABERMAN: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: All right. Ten hours of questioning. And Steve Bannon said little or nothing to House investigators. A member of the House Intel Committee tells us what that meeting was like and what he still wants to know. That's next.


[07:20:08] CAMEROTA: Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon refused to answer questions from House investigators. Bannon has now been subpoenaed by Special Counsel Robert Mueller to testify before a grand jury and got another subpoena from the House Intelligence Committee.

So joining us now is Democratic Congressman Jim Himes of Connecticut. He is a member of the House Intel Committee. Good morning, Congressman.


CAMEROTA: Was he in front of your committee for ten hours?

HIMES: Something -- something like that. Now, bear in mind, a lot of that time was spent working out the whole process and understanding, this incredible claim of executive privilege, which apparently the White House asserted they told Steve Bannon that he couldn't talk about anything related to his time at the White House or, remarkably, to his time during the transition. So there were -- there was a great deal of back and forth on that issue, which again, really slowed things down.

CAMEROTA: So did he tell you anything that was helpful?

HIMES: Well, yes, yes. He was perfectly willing to answer questions about what happened during the campaign, which of course, we had a lot of those questions. So I wouldn't say that he didn't answer anything. In fact, he was there for a long time answering those questions.

But again, the remarkable thing about this, quite apart from what lawyers will tell you about this idea that executive privilege can cover a transition, as well as conversations that are not with the president, this is a White House that has said that there is absolutely nothing there, that this is all a big hoax, that there was no collusion. And yet, when they send Steve Bannon in front of the committee, they say, "You can't talk about anything related to your time at the White House or in the transition." I'll tell you, that's got us scratching our heads.

CAMEROTA: Look, he was quite forthcoming with Michael Wolff in the book. Were there lots of questions about the book for him?

HIMES: Well, there were questions that were certainly, you know, based on things he said in the book. And that's another one of these ironies. I mean, actually, someone had a copy of the book sitting there in the interview room. And of course, Steve Bannon has not been one bit shy about talking to reporters, quite apart from "Fire and Fury."

So the idea is -- and again, let's let the lawyers and law professionals work on this one. A guy like Steve Bannon can talk to the author of a book, he can talk to the media constantly, but when he gets in front of Congress, then he exerts -- he doesn't exert, but you know, he says, "I'm not going to speak about this because the president told me not to"? That just doesn't make sense.

CAMEROTA: Can you tell us what you did learn that was new?

HIMES: Well, Alisyn, we're trying to be pretty careful about not revealing the contents of what happened in these investigations out of respect for our witnesses and so that they can feel like they can speak openly. But, you know, let's just leave leave it at the fact that, you know,

when it comes to whether there was, you know, inappropriate contact with the Russians, the transition period is pretty critical. And we were not allowed to ask, or we were told that he would not answer questions about that period of time.

CAMEROTA: Do you think with a subpoena you'll get more out of him?

HIMES: Well, you know, there was a subpoena. One of the crazy ups and downs of yesterday was we learned midway through the interview, of course, "The New York Times" broke the story that Mueller and the FBI have subpoenaed him. We've issued our own subpoena in the moment to Steve Bannon, but -- pardon me -- he still said, "No -- subpoena or no subpoena, I'm going to abide by the White House's instructions not to answer questions about the White House, my time at the White House or the transition."

CAMEROTA: Subpoena in real-time. That is interesting.

Do you think you'll get any more today out of Rick Dearborn or Corey Lewandowsky, who will be appearing?

HIMES: Well, as you might imagine, we have other witnesses coming this week that are or were at the White House that were in the transition. And if the White House claim of privilege is used with those witnesses, too, I'll tell you, we're going to come to a grinding halt.

And the thing that's puzzling about this, again, you know, this is the president who has said there is absolutely no wrongdoing here and yet is instructing all of these people not to be forthcoming, not to answer questions of the investigative committee. Even -- even if you sort of accept that he has a right to do that, guilty or not guilty, this is going to slow the process. And a lot of us would love to sort of move on to the things that we got elected to do down here. And this is really going to slow the whole process.

CAMEROTA: OK. So let's move on to some of those things. Do you think the government is going to shut down on Friday?

HIMES: You know, I feel like I'm seeing the same movie for about the 20th time. You know, it's just -- I mean, the dance steps are so predictable.

Yesterday, of course, the Republicans who run this place say that they've got a deal that's going to allow the government to remain open for some period of time, three weeks or whatever it is and that they think they have the votes. And then, of course, the Freedom Caucus comes out about an hour later, saying, "Guess what? You don't have the votes."

What it points to, Alisyn, is something that I would really, really embrace and I know a lot of people around here would embrace, which is for God's sake, let's stop that dance. Let's figure out that you've got a group of Republicans who are kind of never going to help you out, and whether that's 10 or 20 or 30, you figure that out. But let's start working in a bipartisan way. Come over and get 40, 50, 60 Democrats. We could govern this country efficiently if the Republican leadership here were to take that approach.

But again, here we are. It's Groundhog Day. And we'll see whether they can pass this thing all on their own.

[07:25:03] CAMEROTA: But Congressman, will you vote on a funding bill that doesn't include DACA?

HIMES: You know, that's a huge problem for me, because again, there's 800,000, you know, young people out there who, for all intents and purposes, are Americans. And they're afraid about losing their jobs and getting kicked out of school.

The other issue I have, Alisyn, that's going to make me think harder about how I vote on this thing is you cannot run the biggest entity on the planet, the United States government, in two- and three-week increments. It hurts of military. It creates great uncertainty for all sorts of programs and all sorts of people.

So again, I'm going to give this one a lot of thought. Because you just, quite apart from DACA, you should not be running the federal government, you know, in one-, two- and three-weeks slugs of time. It's just -- it's irresponsible.

CAMEROTA: Is it fair to say that, at this moment, you're a "no"?

HIMES: At this moment, it's fair to say I would vote "no" on this, you know, yet again another two- or three-week budget.

CAMEROTA: So even though Paul Ryan has sweetened the deal by throwing in CHIP, which everybody cares so much about, because it's the Children's Health Program, you would still vote no?

HIMES: Well, you know, you may notice I'm leaving myself a little room. Because of course, in classic fashion around here, I haven't actually seen the bill. I haven't actually seen what the Children's Health Insurance Program, how it will be dealt with or what this budget is. So I'm going to give myself a little room in anticipation of actually getting to see what it is I will be asked to vote on.

But yes, that's obviously a very important thing. You know, for too long now, Congress has kicked the can down the road on renewing this program, which is about health insurance for poor children.

CAMEROTA: And very quickly, this morning, do you see any progress on a DACA deal?

HIMES: You know, the answer is yes. If they were bring to bring a clean DACA deal or any of the other -- not any but many of the others deals that have been mooted around here, it would pass with a significant majority.

Again, the problem here is a very small group of people who are adamant about no DACA deal. And of course, the guy who works at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue who has been, you know, rejecting bipartisan ideas. So yes, it could pass here quickly if there was some courage.

CAMEROTA: Congressman Jim Himes, we will look forward to seeing how this all unfolds over the next 48 hours. Thank you very much.

HIMES: Thank you, Alisyn.


CUOMO: All right. Tick-tock, tick-tock. Just three days away before you have a shutdown. And essential services are the only things carved out. And government grinds to a halt, and people's services get compromised.

So you just heard the Democratic perspective. Let's get the Republican perspective. Is there any willingness to reach out to Democrats? Are the Democrats [SIC] really being fear brokers, the way Congressman Himes just said? We get a straight-talking GOPer, next.