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Can House GOP Find Enough Votes to Pass Spending Bill?; Interview with Congressman Mo Brooks of Alabama; GOP's Graham: Some Around Trump Have "Irrational" Views. Aired 2-2:30p ET
Aired January 18, 2018 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[14:00:00] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: Hi, everyone. I'm Brooke Baldwin. You're watching CNN.
The finger-pointing is at a fever pitch as the government is set to shut down, can you see the clock right there, 34 hours and counting. We're going to dive into what's being done to avoid that in just a second.
But, first, here is what would happen if there is no deal and the current spending bill expires. Hundreds of thousands of nonessential -- that's what they call them -- nonessential employees would be furloughed. If it lasts long enough, they would be without a paycheck but would be paid retroactively. The military is considered essential would still report for duty, but they could potentially not be paid during a shutdown either.
Guess who would still be collecting paychecks? Yes, Congress. It is written into law.
The national parks, zoos, museums, they all shut down. Mail still gets delivered. Essential services like Social Security still get funded, and that includes the TSA and air traffic control. The nation's capital could be hit disproportionately -- easy for me to say -- hard because the city's budget comes from Congress. Services like garbage pickup may fall by the wayside if a shutdown drags out.
Earlier, the president singled out his biggest concern among all of these negative, as he was visiting the Pentagon earlier today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If for any reason it shuts down, the worst thing is what happens to our military. We're rebuilding our military. We're making us -- we're bringing it to a level that it's never been at and the worst thing is for our military. We don't want that to happen. I'm here to support our military.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: So, as it stands right now, there is officially one bill, just one, that could prevent the government from shutting down. The C.R., the continuing resolution by House Republicans. It's been proposed. It would, among other things, extend funding for the children's health
program for six years. That's CHIP, which should be a major draw for Democrats. But that's not exactly so fast on that one. We'll get into that in a second.
Also just in, official traveling with the president on board air force one reaffirms the White House does not expect a government shutdown and that the president is prepared to speak with lawmakers on both sides to see what they're calling a, quote, clean C.R.
To Capitol Hill we go, to CNN's Sunlen Serfaty. Tell me more, when we hear clean C.R. from the White House, what does that mean and where -- would that include CHIP, not include CHIP, and where are the votes now?
SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that does include the six-year extension of the funding of CHIP, Children's Health Insurance Program, the only plan as of right now on the table. That's what everyone is referring to as clean C.R. And that is the plan that House Republicans are pushing towards and that they want to see voted on tonight.
We heard speaker of the house, Paul Ryan, this morning at his press conference saying, you know, he feels confident, we're doing fine. We feel like we're in a good place. I feel confident that this will pass. But the stage this is in right now, Brooke, is that they very much are in the phase of still having to twist a lot of arms.
House Republicans still getting members of their own party on board, lined up as they're pushing towards the vote. And not helpful to any of this was that tweet that you referenced by President Trump this morning, which really seemed to undercut Republican strategy. They had to come out and say, no, this is the plan the White House wanted. This is the plan we want. This is the plan we are voting on tonight.
So, he has to play a little cleanup. All that said, we're also hearing some really partisan rhetoric, some colorful language coming from the Democrats.
Here's just a little bit of the taste of both sides this morning.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: He fully supports passing this legislation. I just talked to him about half an hour ago after my CHIP speech. So, I didn't see what he wrote, but I've spoken with the president. He fully supports passing what we're bringing to the floor today.
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), MINORITY LEADER: As I said to you, this is like giving you a bowl of doggy doo, put a cherry on top and call it a chocolate sundae. This is nothing. You know, the CHIP -- this CHIP should have been done in September.
(END VIDEO CLIP) SERFATY: Some colorful language there from Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, but certainly, Republican leadership in the House knows they cannot rely on Democrats to get this through. Over in the House tonight, if and only if it gets through the House, then, of course, it leads to a much more precarious passing over in the Senate where we're hearing more Senate Democrats, which Republicans will need to get on board to pass 60 votes, more and more by the hour saying they're not in support of this short-term CR. We know that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is drawing up contingency plans here to potentially keep the Senate in session for the weekend if need be -- Brooke.
BALDWIN: Quite the mental image that Leader Pelosi left the press with.
Sunlen Serfaty, thank you so much for what's at play right now, again, less than 34 hours to go.
[14:05:05] Now, Republicans, they're also facing opposition on the bill from some within their own party, specifically the more significant wing, the House Freedom Caucus.
Joining me now, one of its members, Alabama Congressman Mo Brooks.
Congressman Brooks, nice to have you on, sir.
REP. MO BROOKS (R-AL), MEMBER, FREEDOM CAUCUS: My pleasure.
BALDWIN: So, just out of the gate, so we have it on record, I read that you would be a yes vote for this stopgap. Is that correct, sir?
BROOKS: That is correct.
BALDWIN: OK. So, as a member of the House Freedom Caucus, you know, we heard from your chair, Mark Meadows, and Congressman Meadows just said that the Republicans don't have the votes yet in the House.
Do you think you're going to get those votes for this to pass?
BROOKS: Well, you don't need the votes right now to pass it. What you need the votes for is when we actually have it on the House floor. And I believe the time it gets to the House floor later today, they'll easily be enough votes to pass the continuing resolution --
BALDWIN: You do?
BROOKS: -- on the House side to avoid a federal government shutdown.
BALDWIN: What about some of the members who have said, you know -- who either aren't quite a yes or are noes, who are concerned there's not enough defense spending in there, that it's not tough enough, you know, on immigration policy, do you think they will get around? Once you have the big vote on the House floor, do you think they will get around and avoid a shutdown?
BROOKS: Certainly there are different people who want different things out of this continuing resolution. The only way to get those things is to posture yourself as a no vote right now and perhaps have enough people with you, so that collectively, you're able to advance that issue before we get to an actual House floor for a vote. By the time we get to the House floor for a vote, I'm quite comfortable that a lot of these folks who are purporting to be no right now, they'll be yes on final passage.
BALDWIN: OK, got it. Thank you for the translation on the political posturing so far.
Since you, Congressman Brooks, are in favor of this Republican proposal, which includes extending CHIP for six years. And when you woke up, sir, and saw the president's tweet this morning, did you think that at all undermines all of your hard work?
BROOKS: No, I don't think that it does. We on Capitol Hill, we're used to being surprised by presidential tweets and we give them the weight that they probably are due and we're going to go ahead with our business and we're going to get this job done. Please bear in mind that on the House side, we've passed every appropriations bill to fully fund the government and we did it way back in September.
BALDWIN: I understand but --
BROOKS: So this is all because of the C.R. situation that we're in with the Senate.
BALDWIN: When you see these surprise tweets -- I mean, I understand you're saying you get on with the work that needs to be done. He is the leader of your party. And how is that one tweet a perfect example of throwing a wrench in the whole thing?
BROOKS: I don't think it's going to have any effect whatsoever on what we're going to do in the House. And once the House passes the funding bill and hopefully the Senate will do the same, I fully expect the president to sign it.
BALDWIN: Congressman Brooks, hang on a second. Isn't that a little bit problematic that a presidential tweet carries no merit in your book when it comes to work that needs to be done in progress? Isn't that a problem?
BROOKS: We have seen a number of communications from the White House over the past year or so that are somewhat internally inconsistent with what ends up happening and so what --
BALDWIN: How do you know who to listen to?
BROOKS: What he tweeted this morning may be different from what he tweets this afternoon. He has got his own method for doing what he does. Perhaps he believes that enhances his bargaining position in certain negotiations.
But we on the House side, and I suspect also on the Senate side, we know our job in front of us and we're going to do that job regardless of the tweets that come out of the White House unless we get a veto threat. If we get a message of a veto of a particular piece of legislation, that's a little different than the kind of give-and-take you see with these tweets that are probably put forth in order to enhance a bargaining position on this legislation or other.
BALDWIN: So, you get the sense it was political posturing on behalf of the president and not the fact that he just doesn't understand the policy and had to be explained to essentially by John Cornyn on Twitter and Paul Ryan on the phone today? The president gets it?
BROOKS: Well, the president has a lot on his plate. He's not able to get into the weeds on this legislation like we in the House and Senate are.
BALDWIN: Congressman, he is the president of the United States.
BROOKS: Yes, he is. And he's got nuclear missile threats out of North Korea that he has to pay some attention to. He's got the potential of a nuclearized Iran that he has to pay attention to. Of course, you've got the more obvious China and Russia issues in the South China Sea in --
BALDWIN: Sure, but what about domestic issues like the shutting down of the U.S. government? That has to be a priority, no?
BROOKS: Avoiding a shutdown of the United States government has to be a priority. I'm quite comfortable if the House and Senate will coalesce on the funding bill that the president will sign it. That's the bottom line.
BALDWIN: OK. Let me move on to this interview on FOX. You had the White House chief of staff John Kelly was talking about the president's border wall. He had suggested that the president's attitude had changed. Here he was
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
[14:10:01] JOHN KELLY, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: As we talked about things with this president and how much he wants to deal with this DACA issue and take it off the -- take it off -- take it away, I told him that -- you know, there's been as this president has gone through as a campaign and pointed out to all members in the room, that they all say things during the course of campaigns that may or may not be fully informed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: A lot of conservatives, Congressman Brooks are saying that the president is going soft on his campaign promise on this border wall. Do you think the president is going soft?
BROOKS: I'm not sure what the president is doing in that regard. I'm still looking forward to the legislation that was the centerpiece of the president's campaign. And that was to build a wall along the southern border for security reasons and to make Mexico pay for it. And I'm anxiously awaiting that legislation being drafted by the White House and submitted to Congress.
And quite frankly, if the White House will do that, I'm in all probability be a co-sponsor to that legislation.
BALDWIN: So --
BROOKS: But the White House is doing things at its own pace. I'm not overly concerned by that. As you get more information, as you get different circumstances, sometimes there's tweaking going on, on campaign promises. If that's what that is, that's OK.
The purpose of a border wall is to prevent this huge surge of illegal aliens into America and there are a variety -- excuse me -- there are a variety of different types of walls and systems by which we could achieve that goal.
BALDWIN: I understand but, Congressman, what I just heard from you, it's reminiscent of what we heard from the Senate majority leader yesterday, which is he has no idea where the president stands. He was talking about Dreamers. You're talking about a wall.
Again, isn't that a problem that you don't know where the president stands on an issue that he promised to the American people during the campaign?
BROOKS: Well, there, as you know, are a lot of subparts to the border security issue. You've got DACA, you've got the Dreamers, you've got the bigger problem of 10 million to 15 million illegal aliens --
BALDWIN: Congressman, yes or no, is that a problem that you don't know where the president stands on the wall?
BALDWIN: This is something that matters to you, I'm sure, and your constituents.
BROOKS: Absolutely, that is a concern that the White House might take one position today and a different position tomorrow. I'm sure in time we'll see a coalescing on a particular position that will serve the United States of America. But over the past year, unfortunately, we've not had that kind of consistency of message on a variety of different public issues that I think behooves us insofar as the White House.
But let's also be clear, the United States Congress has taken a variety of different positions on a lot of different issues, too. That's just the nature of people.
BALDWIN: Congressman Mo Brooks, thank you so much. Just, Congressman, on a personal note, I know you've had quite a health care and we're wishing you and your family the very best.
BROOKS: Thank you.
BALDWIN: Thank you so much.
BROOKS: Thank you.
BALDWIN: Thank you.
I want to move on to a CNN exclusive. Senator Lindsey Graham telling CNN and our chief political correspondent Dana Bash today that some of president's White House staff have, quote, irrational views on immigration and Dana is with me now from Washington.
Dana Bash, great interview earlier today.
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Thanks, Brooke.
BALDWIN: When we hear from the South Carolina senator and he says irrational views, who is he pointing at? What else did he share with you?
BASH: I tried to get him to name names and, in fact I asked that very specifically. He didn't dance around it too much. I mean, he said somebody they dealt with a lot in the Senate that is now at the White House. There's only one person in that category and that's Steven Miller. Was a little tough on John Kelly, saying that he's never close aid deal before in politics. That's not where he has been in the past.
But the thing that -- one of the -- several things that really struck me about Senator Graham's response to questions about the state of play right now was his relationship with President Trump and I was trying to get more information on that now infamous Oval Office meeting last week.
BASH: He wouldn't but he did say I know what people are asking, is he a racist? His answer is no. He just wants people to like him which, Brooke, led me to a line of questioning about whether that has work for Senator Graham.
BASH: You've spent the better part of this year doing exactly what you're talking about, killing him with kindness, getting to know him golfing, talking to him frequently on the phone. And it seems to have blown up in your face.
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I don't feel that way at all.
BASH: How come?
GRAHAM: Because I think we're going to get a deal. The Tuesday Trump, that guy, that's a guy I play golf with.
BASH: But doesn't it bother you that the president of the United States has a different personality and outlook between Tuesday and Thursday?
GRAHAM: If you don't understand that there are more than one politician in all of us, you're pretty naive. Everybody on Capitol --
BASH: You have a lot of consistency. I don't think it's a question of whether or not you stand in a certain place.
GRAHAM: I'm not here to analyze President Trump.
[14:15:02] Everybody says he's healthy and I believe he's wealthy.
BASH: But this is about being able to work with him.
GRAHAM: Yes. So, here is what he's got to do. Here's what I've got to do. I've got to show some flexibility.
The proposal we wrote is not the Bible. So, it can be added to. There's not much but we can add to it.
John Kelly and -- I admire him greatly. General Kelly needs to get the team down there to help us all get the yes. If we just use President Trump's guidelines Tuesday, we'll get there. It's not just about immigration. We need to get the military better funded.
And I'll say this without any hesitation. There is no way we, as Republicans, are going to get a deal on all the things we want and leave these DACA kids behind. I think we should do both. We should get defense spending to help a military that's under siege and go ahead and get the DACA kids right with the law. I think most Americans would appreciate that.
BASH: And finally on this, I have to ask you this. Because people who know that I've covered you for a long time come up to me. It's kind of striking how many times I've heard, what is going on with Lindsey Graham? Why is he thinking that he can have such an effect on the president? This has been over the past year. What's the answer to that question?
GRAHAM: He's president. He's going to make a lot of hard decisions on North Korea, and Iran. Every president before him has put him in a bad spot with North Korea. He has got right instincts on Iran.
He needs not only my help but a lot of people's help. He's trying to fix a broken political system. He beat me like a drum.
I worked with President Obama where I could and I like the president. I like playing golf with him. I don't always agree with him.
I respect the fact that he won the office and I'm not in the resist camp. I'm not going to tell him everything he wants to hear. I'm going to be me.
And at the end of the day, I want to help this president because I owe it to the people of South Carolina and to the country. We should all want him to be successful.
BASH: And, Brooke, on that infamous meeting that he had with the president in the Oval Office where the president said that there are s-hole countries that he doesn't want people coming in from, Lindsey Graham would not talk about the details and explicitly said that the reason is because he wants the president to still take his calls, that he wants the president to still trust him -- Brooke.
BALDWIN: We're going to take parts of that conversation and analyze them, coming up next. Great interview. Dana Bash, someone who has covered Capitol Hill for years.
Coming up, Senator Graham, who was also asked in that same interview, is Donald Trump racist? How he answered that specific question as some lawmakers announce plans to publicly censure the president and what that entails.
Also ahead, the global impact of President Trump. As we approach the one-year mark of his presidency this Saturday, we are getting a good first look as to how the rest of the world now views the United States and where the U.S. currently ranks as a global leader.
[14:22:18] BALDWIN: Breaking news on Capitol Hill where some Democrats just took steps to censure the president of the United States. This is all regarding these vulgar remarks the president reportedly made during last week's DACA talks over at the White House. The Congressional Black Caucus is leading the effort and more than 100 House Democrats are backing the effort that, if passed, big if here, that would be a formal statement of disapproval against President Trump.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JERROLD NADLER (D-NY), RANKING MEMBER, JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: We're here today to officially condemn and separate itself with the U.S. government from President Trump's racist remarks.
REP. CEDRIC RICHMOND (D), CHAIRMAN, CONGRESSIONAL BLACK CAUCUS: But the real test of leadership is to acknowledge when you make a mistake and to either change course or apologize for anything that you did or may have done to hurt or offend people. And it is very clear if you look at the African Union, or the ambassadors from these countries that the people in these countries and the leadership from these countries were hurt.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: Maybe we should be clear. This isn't going to pass. Democrats won't have the votes but the fact that they're moving toward a censure is newsworthy.
Meantime, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham is talking more about the comments at issue. Here's more of his interview with Dana.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BASH: Do you think that he is a racist?
GRAHAM: Absolutely not. Let me tell you why. You could be as dark as charcoal or lily white, it doesn't matter as long as you're nice to him.
You could be the pope and criticize him, it doesn't matter. He'll go after the pope. You could be Putin and say nice things and he'll like you.
Here's what I found: he's a street fighter. It's not the color of your skin that matters. It's not the content of your character. It's whether or not you show him respect and like him. And if he feels like you're off-script, you don't like him, he punches back and, as president of the United States, the only advice I can give you is that the street fight is over.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: Let's start there. Solomon Jones, he's columnist for "The Philadelphia Daily News" and CNN political commentator Ben Ferguson.
Gentlemen, good to have you on.
Solomon, just first to you. You heard Senator Graham. He says the president is not a racist. The way he put it, he's a street fighter but he's not a racist.
SOLOMON JONES, COLUMNIST, THE PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS: Yes. Yes. I think that the president's record on race is clear. He was sued twice by the Justice Department for discriminating against black and brown people in his real estate business. He went after five young men of color who were falsely accused of raping a young white woman and refused to back up off of those comments even after it was proven that they were false. You know, the record goes on and on.
So, I think that beyond even arguing about whether or not he's a racist, I think we need to look at his record and I think we need to look at his policies.
[14:25:04] His policies say that he doesn't want Haitians here. His policies say that he doesn't want people from African countries here. His policies say that he prefers to say that people on both sides are to blame when racism comes up.
And so, I think his record and his policy show clearly who he is.
BALDWIN: Record and policy so says Solomon.
Ben, how do you see it? Do you agree with Senator Graham?
BEN FERGUSON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Look, rarely do I agree with Senator Graham. On this one, I absolutely agree with him.
I mean, look at this president and the comments he made about his fellow Republicans that he ran against in the primary. Look at the things he said against Ted Cruz. Look at the things he said against Lindsey Graham. Look at the things he said against the people who work with him.
I mean, this is a street fighter. That is an accurate statement of the president. And I think his point is, no, he's a fighter, yes. Does that mean that you're a racist? No.
I also think that at some point, you're just going to overplay this hand and Democrats this week -- think about this. We have a government shutdown and countdown clock at the bottom, 33:34 until the government shuts down and they're working on censuring the president on something they absolutely 100 percent know is not going to pass for political reasons and gains. And I would -- I think most people in this country would wish that these Democrats would actually work on keeping the government open instead of working on something that they absolutely know is not going to pass just for political reasons.
BALDWIN: So, you have a point. Solomon, I mean, the move has no teeth. We know they won't have the votes. Ben just underscored the point of how they won't have the votes.
BALDWIN: Why focus on this? Because also isn't this just going to fire up the president and his base, knowing that the Democrats are trying to at least tip to look like they want a censure?
JONES: Well, I talked with Congressman Dwight Evans just before I came on the air. He is a member of the Congressional Black Caucus. What he told me is, yes, it probably will not pass. They want to get on the record saying they are against the president's comments, that they don't agree with those comments that they, in fact, condemn those comments.
I find it laughable that anyone would say that Democrats are wrong to say anything about this, that they're wrong to go through with this legislative procedure when Republicans voted over and over and over again to try to repeal Obamacare, when they knew they didn't have the votes but they did it for philosophical reasons. They did it for the same reason as this.
But that was OK for them to do that.
FERGUSON: I was against that.
JONES: But now, suddenly, it's wrong for them. But now, suddenly, it's wrong for them. Wrong for Democrats to do the same thing. I think it's hypocritical.
FERGUSON: Brooke, I've been on the show and I said this --
JONES: Let me make this point.
FERGUSON: I even said --
BALDWIN: Hang on. Hang on. Only one voice.
JONES: Republicans are in charge. Republicans are in charge. So, if the government shuts down, guess whose fault it's going to be? Republicans. BALDWIN: Go ahead. Go ahead, Ben.
FERGUSON: That's a really nice talking point for you to say that.
JONES: It's the truth.
FERGUSON: You're going to need Democrats in the Senate, OK, you should know that, to keep this government open. And your job is to do your job, to represent the people. If what you're saying is, is that if Democrats aren't in charge, Democrats don't do their job, then I think the American people need to realize you probably shouldn't vote for any Democrat.
JONES: That's not what I said.
FERGUSON: Well, that's what you're implying. You're basically saying the Democratic Party can't do anything and the Republicans are the only ones who can do something about the government shutdown which is just not true.
But I'll go back to the core point here we were talking about a second ago, Brooke. Maxine Waters is a great example here. Steve Cohen, from Tennessee, my former congressman, great example here. From the moment the president was basically elected, they came out and said we want to impeach him and we're going to impeach him. And every time they don't like him, they say we're going to impeach him.
And now that they can't get that to happen, they now go to this we're going to censure him. I mean, Cory Booker was pretty hard on a female government agency leader the other day. Many referred to it as man slapping or --
FERGUSON: Mansplaining, excuse me, mansplaining. Do I think he should be censured for the way he talked to her? The answer is no. It's wasted time for the American people.
BALDWIN: Yes, but he's not the president.
FERGUSON: I disagree with Cory Booker. No, my point is he's a sitting senator.
JONES: That's a whole different subject.
BALDWIN: I know.
JONES: It is a different subject.
FERGUSON: He's a sitting senator in the United States of America.
JONES: Come on now. FERGUSON: My point is this: every time you don't like somebody or you don't like something they do, like Cory Booker that day, doesn't mean you go out and censure that person and waste the American people's time. Cory Booker as a senator, I didn't like what he did, you move on from it. You don't like what the president did, you have a press conference. But to waste the American people's time when the government is about to shut down, come on, grow up.
BALDWIN: Ben, you got the last word.
Ben and Solomon, we're out of time.
JONES: Every time the government shuts down, it's the Republicans that shut it down. So, it's laughable to try to --
BALDWIN: All right.
JONES: Democrats are not in charge.
BALDWIN: Gentlemen, appreciate you. Thank you.
The Trump -- the Trump presidency, hitting a new low today as approval numbers for U.S. leadership plummets in countries around the world.