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GOP Moves Ahead with Vote to Avoid Government Shutdown; Trump Defends His Definition of a Border Wall. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired January 18, 2018 - 06:00   ET



SEN. JOHN NEELY KENNEDY (R), LOUISIANA: Everybody else in America has a budget except the United States government. It's embarrassing.

[05:59:04] SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), MINORITY LEADER: We want to do everything we can to avoid a shutdown. It will fall on the Republicans' backs.

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: What happens, I think you only have one place to look, and that's to the Democrats.

JOHN KELLY, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: He very definitely changed his attitudes toward the DACA issue and even the wall.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER: As soon as we figure out what he is for, then I would be convinced that we were not just spinning our wheels.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When they have no collusion, it seems unlikely that you'd even have an interview.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: White House counsel Ty Cobb saying President Trump is very eager to speak to Robert Mueller.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Steve has had very, very little contact with the White House.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I am really frustrated when witnesses talk to the media, but they can't talk to the members of Congress.


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

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is NEW DAY. It is Thursday, January 18, 6 p.m. here in New York. Here's our starting line.

Republican -- House Republican leaders facing a big test today as they vote on a short-term spending bill to fund the government. Lawmakers have less than 42 hours to avoid a shutdown of the federal government. At this hour, Republicans do not appear to have the votes, but anything can change this morning. With the clock ticking, Republicans and Democrats still struggling to find common ground. Conservatives want more funding for the military. Democrats want protections for the DREAMers. Neither of these are in the GOP's current stopgap measure.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Another problem seems to be a serious failure to communicate. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says he does not know what the president wants in an immigration deal. Maybe that's because the president doesn't know what he wants.

Sources tell CNN this disconnect coincides with a big admission from the president's chief of staff. He told Democratic lawmakers that some of Mr. Trump's position as candidate on the border wall were, quote, "uninformed."

Meantime, President Trump's attorney is insisting once again that the president is very eager to talk to Special Counsel Bob Mueller. That needs to be reported, because it contradicts what the president said just a week ago. All this as Steve Bannon strikes a deal with Mueller to avoid testifying for a grand jury.

We have it all covered somehow. So let's begin with CNN's Abby Phillip, live at the White House -- Abby.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, good morning, Chris. We are one day away from that government shutdown, and the White House is now announcing that they do support that short-term bill to fund the government. But there's still one big question. Will it pass?

The House GOP is expected to vote on that bill today, but already, with all the uncertainty surrounding that bill, both sides are playing the blame game.


PHILLIP (voice-over): House Republicans scrambling to secure support for a short-term budget resolution ahead of tomorrow's government shutdown deadline. The member of the House GOP whip telling CNN they are confident, but as of now, CNN's count shows they do not have the votes.

A key concern, the roughly 30 conservative hardliners in the House Freedom Caucus who largely oppose another short-term fix.

CUOMO: Are you in a position right now to vote "yes" on what's out there for a budget resolution on Friday?

REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH), HOUSE FREEDOM CAUCUS MEMBER: No. Here's what I want. I want us to do what we told the American people told us we were going to do, what they elected us to do: fund defense, hold the line on nondefense and do what the election was about on immigration.

PHILLIP: But even if the resolution passes in the House, it faces more uncertainty in the Senate. Republican Senator Lindsey Graham announcing Wednesday that he will not support the short-term bill, because it deprives the military of long-term funding assurance.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I'm not going to vote for it. The Democrats seem to be willing to increase military spending. Many Republicans are willing to have a DACA fix. And those who don't want to combine the two are just, I think, very naive.

PHILLIP: But contrast, Democrat Joe Manchin declaring that he will support the short-term bill.

SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D), WEST VIRGINIA: We should be able to work to keep the government operating the way we're supposed to do and that to punish 300 million plus people is just ridiculous, for our dysfunction here.

PHILLIP: With Senator John McCain absent, if all remaining Republicans vote "yes," that leadership need 10 more votes from Democrats.

SCHUMER: The revulsion towards that bill was broad and strong.

PHILLIP: Five Democrats have definitively said they will not back the continuing resolution, leaving little room for additional "no" votes.

Senator Graham continuing to push for a bipartisan bill he cosponsored, but President Trump rejected, but has been garnering growing support in the Senate. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell giving this blunt response when asked why he has not yet brought the so- called Gang of Six bill to the floor.

MCCONNELL: I'm looking for something that President Trump supports. And he's not yet indicated what measure he's willing to sign. As soon as we figure out what he is for, then I would be convinced that we were not just spinning our wheels.

PHILLIP: The White House pushing back.

RAJ SHAH, PRINCIPAL DEPUTY WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Now the president has been pretty clear. There's been plenty of discussion back and forth. And yet we'd be happen to contact the leaders' office another time about this.

PHILLIP: Chief of staff John Kelly further muddying the waters, telling a group of Democrats that Mr. Trump was uninformed when he repeatedly made this signature campaign promise.

TRUMP: But we will build the wall. Mexico is going to pay for the wall.

KELLY: He's very definitely changed his issues towards the DACA issue and even the wall. He has evolved in the way he's looked at things. Campaign to governing are two different things.


PHILLIP: Well, here's what we can expect from the White House today. President Trump is headed to the Pentagon to meet with military leaders about his military strategy. But he's going up to Pennsylvania to tout his tax plan, but this is -- while this is an official trip, he's also going to be doing perhaps a little bit of politics. He'll be joined by a special election candidate, the Republican, at that rally; and the Republicans hoping to hold onto one more special election seat in that state, in a place where they believe it is Trump country -- Chris and Alisyn.

CUOMO: All right. Let's bring in CNN political analyst David Drucker and CNN political commentator Errol Louis.

So you have sources as good as any, E. Louis. What are you hearing in terms of where this vote is headed for Friday?

[06:05:09] ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It is headed for a disaster. The...

CUOMO: With a smile on on your face.

LOUIS: You know, it's interesting, because we've spent a year and a half talking about how Trump is going to do anything to satisfy his base. And we often forget that across the aisle is another thing called the Democratic Party, and they have a base. And that base is restive; that base is energized. That base is going to be in the streets in numbers like you can't believe just this weekend, perhaps as the shutdown is happening.

CUOMO: The women's marches.

LOUIS: The women's march. And so the Democrats are not in a position to do very much. To a certain extent, they're being held captive. When you see someone like Chuck Schumer, he knows how to count votes. And what you just played as a clip, he's saying, "I'm -- my hands are tied. I'm not in a position to sort of strong-arm this conference into doing something that they're not prepared to do." These folks don't want primary challenges, especially not in a year where Democrats are supposed to do well.

CAMEROTA: And yet, I mean, I think there are -- there are people who are crossing the aisle, David. There's Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, who says he also is going to be a "no" vote. He doesn't like how this can keeps getting kicked down the road. There's Joe Manchin, Democrat, who says he's going to be a "yes" vote. You know, look, again, we've been here before. Anything can happen in 42 hours.

DAVID DRUCKER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It could. Both sides are trying to sort of figure out where their pressure points are and what they can get away with. Republicans have never won a shutdown, at least not in the modern era. And they're very nervous, that even though they hold the presidency this time and presidents tend to have a bully pulpit, which gives them a communications advantage over Congress, they're nervous that it's just not going to work out for them, and they'll get blamed anyway. Because they controlled Congress, and they control the White House.

On the other hand, you have, I think, Democrats that are very hesitant to shut down the government. It's just not something that they see themselves as elected to do. Republicans often run on this idea of putting the brakes on government. And then you have to ask yourself, with Republicans, going back in their direction, they may end up winning the shutdown fight. It could work out for them.

But do they want to take the risk and divert all of the attention from the tax overhaul legislation that they think is working out very well for them. We've seen some polling start to come back for that bill. They've also seen some good news in terms of corporations giving bonuses and announcing investments in the U.S. And do they want to distract from that and have to talk about a government shutdown.

Ultimately, this is all about bargaining. Both sides are going to claim there should be a clean bill or that there shouldn't be a clean bill. But it's just about who has the political upper hand.

CUOMO: All right. So the bargaining is the key word. That requires an inside knows what it wants.

So there are two real reasons that they're stalled right now. One of them has to do with the Democrats and which want DACA in this and which don't. We can get to that. But the biggest reason is that Mitch McConnell, who is driving the bus, does not have his foot on the gas the way he should. And there's a reason for that.

Let's play this disconnect between McConnell and the White House.


MCCONNELL: I'm looking for something that President Trump supports. And he has not yet indicated what measure he's willing to sign. As soon as we figure out what he is for, then I would be convinced that we were not just spinning our wheels.

SHAH: The president has been pretty clear about what it will take to get us to the next phase by having a DACA fix, along with border security, ending chain migration, and ending the visa lottery system.


CUOMO: So a clear disconnect, Errol Louis. Why would Mitch McConnell lie? Why would he say he doesn't know if he did know exactly what the president wanted? But there are four priorities out there. But those four pillars aren't enough for him to architect a piece of legislation.

LOUIS: Well, look, I think Mitch McConnell has learned the hard way that you don't just sort of assume that you know what the White House is going to do, because some of those deals have changed. And we saw just in the last few days you go into the White House, assuming that the president is going to be true to his word, saying you bring the bipartisan bill, and I'll sign it.

They bring in a bipartisan bill, his chief of staff blows the whole thing up. And so Mitch McConnell is not going to put his members' necks out on the line if it's subject to change at the last minute. And added things, by the way, like, hey, let's end chain migration. I mean, that's a policy that goes back to 1965. You don't just do that in the closing hours of a negotiation as just a little sweetener here and there.

So if they're not going to get into the big, broader discussion, that apparently, the chief of staff, General Kelly wants to see happen, they're not going to get a deal.

CUOMO: It must matter, though, because they came up with that fugazi DHS report yesterday that basically pays everybody who comes into this country illegally as a potential terrorist.

So that chain migration think, Errol, mattered more than we thought.

LOUIS: I mean, look, it's critical. It's existential for Republicans. The Ann Coulters of the world for a long, long time.

They came up with the report yesterday that paints everybody who comes into this country illegally as a potential terrorist. So that chain migration thing, Errol, may matter more than we thought.

LOUIS: Well, I mean, look, it's critical. Frankly, it's existential for Republicans. As the Ann Coulters of the world have been telling everyone for a long time.

You keep chain migration in place. Our family reunification as it's called, family unification policy and the visa lottery, you will guarantee a long-term problem for Republicans, depending on where these families cluster, because they tend to vote Democratic. That's going to be sort of a larger problem.

[06:10:12] But here again, when you mix and match, when you say to deal with this 20, 30-year problem that we have with whether or not newly-arriving immigrants are going to tend to vote Republican, we're going to shut down the government or not shut down the government on Friday, that's a really, really tough place to be. And that tends to lean towards the kind of shutdowns that we've seen in the past.

CAMEROTA: Part of the problem not only is that the president switches his position, David, as Lindsey Graham found out the hard way. He, as you know, wondered if he was going to get Tuesday Trump or Thursday Trump, because so much had changed in the president's position.

But also, then, the chief of staff yesterday, John Kelly, admitted to the House Hispanic Caucus that the president's campaign promises, particularly about the wall, were uninformed. And I guess that's a euphemism for a hollow promise. He was making a promise that, at the time, lots of people pointed out it was not realistic. But now the chief of staff is admitting that that's not a wall is not going to stretch from ocean to ocean, and Mexico's not going to pay for it.

DRUCKER: Right. Well, we always knew that both of those things were untrue. And we've been waiting for the administration to simply embrace the fact. Look, I think part of the problem here, Alisyn, is that the president, his style of leadership, of negotiating is very chaotic and uneven.

He likes to pull the rug out from under people after they think they've made a deal with him because he thinks it serves his purposes. And he's also very agreeable in any meeting he has. We've seen that play out in immigration, where he agreed to anything they will send him. And no, no, no, not anything he will send me. But it has to have these elements. I interviewed Mitch McConnell in December. He said that DACA was one of the things they were going to address. That he made clear to me, as he made clear this week, that they would only do what the president will sign. Why is that? Because immigration is so politically charged.

There are Republicans running in primaries in the next few months. Not only do they need to make sure they don't waste a vote on something the president doesn't support. They need his cover on something like immigration in Republican primaries. This is a very delicate issue.

And if the president really wants a deal on this, what he has to do is make sure that Republicans and Democrats on the Hill understand his broad parameters. Where will he not go, and where is there wiggle room? And if he doesn't do that, it's going to be very hard to get anything done, in fact on anything, because they remember on the health care bill, the House stuck their neck out, House Republicans passed the bill.

They had a big celebration in the Rose Garden. And then President Trump called it a "mean bill," completely undercutting the whole process.

CUOMO: Well, look, you know, it's interesting to say his style of negotiating. It's like the New York Jets style of play is fumble the ball, throw interceptions at the end of the game, and lose all the time. When you're president it's a style.

For anybody else, it's just, you know, bad technique. So on the Democratic side of the ball, though, Errol, whether or not DACA in this budget bill tomorrow is make or break. That's a big decision for them, as well.

Yes, there are exigencies. Yes, every day people falling into a state of anxiety that they should not be in as DREAMers. But that deadline is in March. It's not tomorrow. How big a play is that to say, "No, it has to be in there tomorrow, or I'm out"?

LOUIS: Well, you know, the curious thing is that they put that front and center, but there are other issues that are right behind that.

CUOMO: True.

LOUIS: There are those who want domestic spending to equal or be related to any increase in military spending. There's the CHIP program. There's children's health insurance. That's very, very important to a lot of Democrats in particular.

So I think they're putting DACA out there. They're putting the DREAMers out there, in some cases because it's an appealing issue to their base. But if that's not the only thing that's going on and when you start adding some of the other things, domestic priorities, Children's Health Insurance, yes, it is something that they think for political reasons as well as substantively, they can and will go to the wall over and compel a shutdown.

CAMEROTA: Errol louis, David Drucker, anything can happen during our program. We will keep everybody posted.

CUOMO: All right. So when it comes to the Russia investigation, according to his attorney, the president is, quote, "very eager," unquote, to speak to special counsel Bob Mueller. Why do we quote that kind of language? Because the president said something different just last week. Part of his style. So which is it? We discuss the reality next.


[06:18:16] CUOMO: All right. The reason we keep bringing up the wall is because there is certainly confusion about it.

Yes, we thought we had a breakthrough moment with General John Kelly saying he was uninformed, Donald Trump was, during the campaign when it came to immigration positions like the wall.

But this morning, just now, while we were talking about it, the president tweeted this: "The wall is the wall. It has never changed or evolved from the first day I conceived of it. Parts will be, of necessity, see through it, and it was never intended to be built in areas where there is natural protection such as mountains, wastelands or tough rivers or water." And he's still thinking. That's what the ellipses means. So we'll see what he says next.

Let's bring back Errol Louis and bring in CNN legal analyst and former federal prosecutor Michael Zeldin, who served under Bob Mueller.

Errol, I will challenge anyone to a free NEW DAY hat if they can show me language from the campaign where Donald Trump said anything like what he's tweeting right now, which is wall to wall, except where there are rivers or there's topography that we have to deal with.

LOUIS: Right, right, right. It was not qualified at all. And many of his Republican opponents, even in the primaries, pointed out that the wall, you know, I mean, rivers change, right? So rivers change their course. And so you end up with one side or the other side of the border depending on what season we're talking about.

You know, all of these things were kind of swept aside. And it gets even more complicated if you start talking about having Mexico pay for it, where they -- you know, to the extent that they issue a plan, they say, "Well, we'll add tariffs to Mexican goods." And so, well, wait a minute. American consumers pay a tariff, right, so we're actually paying for it.

So look, the president is trying to do some clean-up stuff. He and his chief of staff apparently not seeing eye to eye on this. The reality is, and we've heard some of this from released transcripts, the president is trying to salvage his promise. Right? He's trying to get the bare minimum. He wants Mexico, and he asked the Mexican diplomats, "Please, just say that."


[06:20:08] LOUIS: "You sort of agree that you might pay for it."

Because he's caught out there. This is not something that is going to happen. Democrats are not going to fund it. Mexico is not going to pay for it. It is not going to be a great southern barrier that's akin to what's going on in Israel or the Great Wall of China. It's just not going to happen.

CAMEROTA: Here is how the chief of staff, John Kelly, described last night who -- how it will be paid for, which is quite different. Listen to this.


KELLY: We have some ideas on how things like visa fees, renegotiation of NAFTA and what that would mean to our economy. In one way or another it is is possible we could get the revenue from Mexico but not directly from their government.


CAMEROTA: Errol, listen. Michael, we'll get to you in a second. But Errol, just to finish on that point, so that was an empty promise. Right? On the campaign trail. I guess the point is does it matter now? That what his back likes was the tough talk. He was talking about immigration. He was going to keep Mexicans out. He was going to keep rapists out.

And so did they really care that it's not going to be a brick and mortar coast-to-coast wall? Is this anything that will trip him up? Will anybody really hold him responsible, that the wall has been...?

LOUIS: Politically, I suspect his base will -- you know, if he just sort of keeps evolving in the direction that he's going and saying, you know what? You're going to pay for the wall.

There are people in elements of his base who will gladly pay for the wall. You know, I mean, whether it's through tariffs, direct taxation, even. They want to see this happen. They want to see the wall. Again, it's a metaphor for a change in immigration policy. If you give them a few drones, a couple of pieces of concrete and charge them for it, are there elements of Trump's base that would pay for it? I suspect that there would be.

CUOMO: Look, it's just who the man is and has always been. He will promise things that he does not expect to be able to deliver on. And if he can't, he will not apologize for it. It's just not who he is. That's not an excuse. It's an explanation.

Michael Zeldin, that plays into our next topic, which is the president says to the entire world, 100 percent I'll talk to Mueller, 100 percent. I'll tell him what I just told you under oath. Then we get the vacillation from him last week. Well, I don't know. I don't think one is necessary. We'll have to see.

Now Ty Cobb says his lawyer, yes, he's willing, he's ready and he wants to go in there and talk to Mueller. How do you see it?

MICHAEL ZELDIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, he has no choice in the end. Whatever Ty Cobb believes or the president wants is irrelevant to what Mueller wants and what Mueller believes.

And so we believe that Mueller will interview the president. He has no reason not to, in order to wrap up his investigation. So it will occur. It's just a matter of when and where.

CAMEROTA: Last week, here's what the president said, just to remind everyone.


TRUMP: We'll see what happens. I mean, certainly, I'll see what happens. But when they have no collusion, and nobody has found any collusion at any level, it seems unlikely that you'd even have an interview.


CAMEROTA: Well, that's a little different, Errol. I mean, he's saying that he wouldn't even be asked. That Robert Mueller wouldn't even ask, because there's been no collusion. I mean, you can flip that around and say if there's no collusion, why not go and immediately say, "I'm available to talk"?

LOUIS: Sure. And if there's nothing to hide, why do you keep telling your people not to say anything or not to share anything?

I think what we've got here is the president either genuinely or because his attorney keeps telling him, perhaps he genuinely believes this, that this is all going to be over. That it truly is a witch- hunt. It's a hoax. It's all going to go away in just a few weeks. That's what he's been saying. That's what apparently, at least some of his legal advisers have been telling them. The reality really argues different.

CUOMO: So when you say, Michael, look, it doesn't matter. He's going to have to go in there.

Trump is not just some other witness or, you know, even a potential target of an investigation. There's going to have to be negotiation here. Mueller has to be concerned about how he treats the president if for no other reason that it's the cloudiest ground for him in terms of what actually he's able to take against the president of the United States.

ZELDIN: Well, there's a lot of precedent for interviewing presidents in independent counsel investigations. The most recent one being that of Ken Starr and Bill Clinton and what they did in that investigation was Ken Starr and his team came over to the map room at the White House, and they recorded the interview. And they gave ported it over to the grand jury, and it lasted some nine and a half hours, and they were done.

And so it if it was good enough for Bill Clinton, it should be good enough for Donald Trump.


CUOMO: You think that the White House counsel is going to let Donald Trump be in front of the grand jury?

ZELDIN: Well, if you asked me the same question 20 years ago, do you think Bill Clinton's counsel would let him be in front of a grand jury...

CUOMO: I think there were very different levels of confidence but -- that the counsel's office had in terms of how the person would comport themselves.

[06:25:06] ZELDIN: Right. I understand that. But what I'm saying, Chris, is that in the end, Mueller has the authority to require an interview. So the issue is not if it will happen...

CUOMO: But how.

ZELDIN: If Mueller wants it to happen, it will happen. It will just be where and when. They want to make sure that they are respectful of the office of the president, and that they do it in terms that people feel comfortable with who are watching it.

And what I'm suggesting to you is that the easiest way to do that is to replicate that which happened most recently, which was the Clinton- Starr investigation.

CAMEROTA: All right. Michael Zeldin, Errol Louis, thank you both very much for all the insight.

CUOMO: All right. We will be covering this continuing saga in primetime tonight. But we have a little bit of a flourish on it. We're going to have billionaire Democrat, mega-donor Tom Steyer in at 9 p.m.. What does he want exactly and why? We'll talk to him about it tonight.

CAMEROTA: OK. Meanwhile, the White House is disputing reports that the president has some signs of heart disease. They insist that Mr. Trump's health is excellent, but his coronary calcium score tells a different story. We have all the details next.