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Source: Kelly Says Trump's Pledges On Border Were "Uninformed"; White House Makes Major Push For House Seat In PA; RNC Gears Up For Challenging Midterm Elections. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired January 18, 2018 - 07:30   ET



[07:32:41] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: White House Chief of Staff John Kelly told members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus that President Trump's positions on the border wall during the campaign were quote "uninformed."

Kelly also said the president's attitude towards DREAMERs and all sorts of immigration issues have changed, as well.

Democratic Congressman Henry Cuellar was in that meeting and he joins us now. Good morning, Congressman.


CAMEROTA: When Chief of Staff John Kelly told all of you that the president's positions when he was running for president on the campaign trail were uninformed, what did that mean?

CUELLAR: I think that basically means -- not only for President Trump but for any president because I saw that under President Obama, they'll say certain things during the campaign and then once they get in and they get people -- the experts and other folks to come in and present them the facts, there is -- there is an evolution process to this, without a doubt.

And I think that's what he's talking about because generally speaking, most people don't understand the border.

Yes, I live on the border, I drink the water there, I breathe the air there. And I always get a kick out of folks that have never been to the border or might have been there for a couple of hours and then they think they know the dynamics of the border --


CUELLAR: -- better than some of us that have lived there. Our mayors, our businesspeople --


CUELLAR: You know, community members there.

CAMEROTA: And, in fact, you made that point in that televised Tuesday meeting with the president that I want to get to in one second.

But here's what the president is saying this morning, so this is where his head is on the wall this morning.

"The wall is the wall. It has never changed or evolved from the first day I conceived of it."

And so, it's just -- once again, it's -- look, it's just confusing when the chief of staff says one thing, that the wall is not a wall, it is a hodgepodge of different technologies and fencing and idea. And then, the president says the wall's the wall.

As you stand there today, do you understand what the president wants?

CUELLAR: At the moment, I don't, but maybe tomorrow there will be a different position.

But, I mean, with all due respect for the -- you know, to the president, if a chief of staff comes in and speaks for him that should be the consistent message. But, you know, you'll have somebody say something and he'll come back and want to clarify it and that unfortunately makes it hard when it's a moving target or trying to figure out where do you want to end up on.

But again, he's a businessperson. He knows how to negotiate. And I've said this to our leadership and to the other folks there, and I heard your prior guest and I think they were on spot because I served in the state legislature. I was secretary of state in the state of Texas.

[07:35:11] And the way you solve a tough issue is you roll up your sleeves, you sit down. You don't let staff negotiate this.


CUELLAR: You actually go in there and you actually talk about this provision, this provision --


CUELLAR: -- and you can get it done.

CAMEROTA: And is that what the president's doing, Congressman? Is the president rolling up his sleeves and getting it done and negotiating or is he moving the target, as you just said?

CUELLAR: Well, the target has been moved by him and by other Republicans.

Back under President Bush, we added a lot of border security. We added 654 miles of fencing at that time.


CUELLAR: And the Republicans, at that time, said this is what we need. And here we are, years later, and they're saying oh, no, no, no, we actually need more.

But the point that I make -- even if you put the most beautiful wall, keep in mind that 40 percent of the undocumented persons that are here came in through a legal system -- permit. So, it --

CAMEROTA: And they overstayed. They overstayed their visas and the wall doesn't solve that problem. And so --

CUELLAR: It doesn't solve that issue.

CAMEROTA: Listen, I mean the reason that we're trying -- we're sort of getting bogged down and trying to define all of this is because this is the sticking point with funding the government and keeping the government open.

And so, how today -- there's a vote in the House tonight. How are you going to vote on whether to keep the government open?

CUELLAR: Well, you know, certainly I want to put leverage on the Republicans because they've got to earn their own votes. They have the majority. They should be able to govern. So I certainly want to put the leverage on it.

But I've said this back when we had the shutdown because of the health care by the Republicans. I don't think one single issue should shut down the government. I don't want to see it.

CAMEROTA: So you're going to vote yes.

CUELLAR: Well look, I'm going to put leverage on them by voting no, but if my vote counts to keep the government open I will vote yes. But I want to put the pressure on the Republicans so they can govern. They're in the majority right now.

CAMEROTA: I understand, but you are saying two completely separate things.


CAMEROTA: So you want the leverage --

CUELLAR: Let me say this. I --

CAMEROTA: I get it, but you're going to vote yes.

CUELLAR: I'm voting no and we'll see if they have the votes. And if we don't need my vote to keep it open -- and there's other Democrats -- we've talked about this.

I want to put the leverage on the Republicans. They've got the majority. They should be able to govern like we did when we were in the majority.

CAMEROTA: I understand. So, as of right now, 40 hours away, your vote is a no. You're not going to vote on the continuing resolution to -- for this short-term budget deal. CUELLAR: That is right.

CAMEROTA: However, at 11:59 tonight if they need your vote you're going to vote yes to keep the government open.

CUELLAR: And I'm not talking about the Republicans. I'm talking about the public in general.

CAMEROTA: Of course.

CUELLAR: If they need my vote I will do that, yes.

CAMEROTA: I understand. But you're hoping that somehow between tonight at -- between now and -- well, whatever the vote is tonight -- I don't actually know that it's a midnight. It's probably before that.

Your vote in the House -- you are willing to vote yes but you are hoping to vote no.

CUELLAR: I will be voting no. If they need my vote -- the public -- to keep it open, I will go ahead and do that.

Look, bottom line is I sit on Defense Appropriations, I sit on Homeland Appropriations. We should have done this back before September 30th and we keep kicking the can down --


CUELLAR: -- the road. And we don't have the top numbers. We've done our work in Appropriations but the Republican leadership have not given us the top numbers.

Are we going to put one penny to defense and are we going to do the equal amount for non-defense? Those are the issues. We don't have top numbers.

You know, back when I was in the state legislature -- let me say this -- we had thousands of bills. But the most important bill was the appropriations.

Everything is poetry. Here, everything is poetry and then we leave the appropriation bills to the end. This is a must-pass bill that we have to do.

CAMEROTA: OK. Congressman Henry Cuellar, we'll be watching. Thank you very much for joining us this morning on NEW DAY -- Chris.

CUELLAR: Thank you.


So, faced with all this acrimony, the president is heading to western Pennsylvania today to push his tax plan.

But there's another reason he's making the trip. There's a special election getting the White House's attention. What is it, what are the stakes, next?


[07:43:21] CUOMO: Patriots fans, it got a little scary for you. Tom Brady was limited in practice. There's some kind of injury to his throwing hand.

Andy Scholes has more in the "Bleacher Report."

Is this a hurt or this is an injury?

ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: You know what, Chris? We really -- we really don't know. All indications are he's still, of course, going to play in Sunday's AFC championship game. This is the last thing you want to hear if you're a Patriots fan.

This "Bleacher Report" brought to you by the new 2018 Ford F-150.

According to ESPN, Brady -- well, he hit that throwing hand in a minor collision during practice yesterday. He did skip speaking with the media to be treated for that injury.

Now, Brady had Xrays and it showed no structural damage, according to the "Boston Herald." A source telling ESPN that the injury could affect Brady on Sunday but the belief is he's going to be OK.

The Patriots take on the Jaguars on Sunday at 3:00 eastern.

Colin Kaepernick announcing that over the next 10 days he will be donating $10,000 a day to organizations dedicated to social justice. Now, this will complete his pledge to donate $1 million to the cause.

And yesterday, Kaepernick announcing that the first $10K was going to DeBug, the San Francisco area organization that advocates for criminal justice reform.

Kevin Durant matching Kaepernick's donation for a total of $20K going to the organization. And, Kaepernick posting this video to Twitter to thank Durant.


COLIN KAEPERNICK, ACTIVIST, FORMER NFL QUARTERBACK: K.D., thank you so much, brother, for continuing to uplift and empower our communities. We love and appreciate you. Thank you, again.


SCHOLES: Kaepernick adding about how his donations are being put to use. Alisyn, you can go to his Website

CAMEROTA: Really interesting, Andy, because so many people say oh, he's just taking a knee. Why is he doing that -- after he's putting his money where his --

SCHOLES: Absolutely. CAMEROTA: -- knee is.

So, thank you very much, Andy, for all of that.

[07:45:01] SCHOLES: All right.

CAMEROTA: Today, President Trump heads to western Pennsylvania where he plans to tout the economy and tax reform. The vice president plans to travel to the same area in a couple of weeks. All of this ahead of a special election.

Why is the White House investing so much political capital on this particular race?

CNN's Jason Carroll traveled to Coraopolis, Pennsylvania for an explanation.


JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Meet Rick Saccone, often referred to in these parts as "Trump 2.0."

REP. RICK SACCONE (R), STATE REPRESENTATIVE: I think it's an honor. I think people will respect that.

CARROLL: Saccone is a five-term representative in the Pennsylvania House and a staunch Trump supporter.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would you be more likely to support the Republican, Rick Saccone, or the Democrat, Conor Lamb?

CARROLL: Saccone faces Democratic challenger Conor Lamb in a special election in the 18th district, the seat vacated by Tim Murphy, an anti-abortion GOP congressman who resigned after it was revealed he allegedly asked a woman he was having an affair with to have an abortion.

The 18th spreads across four counties and includes industrial towns and suburban communities. It's primarily white and working class.

SACCONE: I don't know if you realize it, Jason, but you're in Trump country, brother. It's -- this is -- this is -- you know, Trump won this area by 20 points and I think maybe today he may be even more popular than he was when he was elected.

CARROLL: A loss in so-called Trump country could have national repercussions.

Saccone's opponent, Conor Lamb is a 33-year-old retired Marine and former U.S. attorney.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Will you support Conor Lamb for Congress in the special election being held on March 13th?

CARROLL: His supporters say Lamb is not your typical Democrat. They say he's more moderate and not afraid to take on his own party. He raised eyebrows when he said he would not support Nancy Pelosi as Democratic leader.

CONOR LAMB (D), 18TH DISTRICT DEMOCRATIC CANDIDATE: I think that Congress, as a whole, has failed to achieve the results that people want. And it's not a personal thing but when that happens it's time for new leadership.

CARROLL: Is that enough to gain points in a district that has not elected a Democrat since 2000 despite having an edge in party registration?

Paul Berginc is one of those Democrats here who switched parties during the presidential election and is now behind Saccone.

PAUL BERGINC, SACCONE SUPPORTER: People are much more kind to one another (INAUDIBLE) and that would be Conor Lamb.

CARROLL: Across the district at a hardware store more voters standing behind Saccone.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, I think we need a supporter of Trump and Rick Saccone is a supporter of him.

CARROLL (on camera): Democrats hope the president's popularity has waned here and that, in turn, could help them with white, working- class voters who they need in order to pull out a win here. Still, Democrats say they have an uphill battle.

CARROLL: And who's this guy with him? A young looking -- a young looking you, yes?

CARROLL (voice-over): Lifelong Democrat Michael Flynn says Saccone's support for Trump has turned off some voters.

MICHAEL FLYNN, LAMB SUPPORTER: Well, from what I've seen in the past year with Donald Trump and having Mr. Saccone say he's more Trump than Trump, that settled my -- that made my decision there.

CARROLL (on camera): That settled it.

FLYNN: That was it.

MICHAEL SIEGEL, LAMB SUPPORTER: I would hope there'd be a backlash against what we've seen from Trump, but I don't know.

CARROLL (voice-over): Voters head to the polls here March 13th.

Jason Carroll, CNN, Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania.


CUOMO: That race will be one to watch.

The Republican National Committee celebrating year one of the Trump administration. Should they be worried about midterm elections? We're going to talk live with the head of the RNC, next.


[07:52:13] CUOMO: The Republican Party gearing up for a difficult battle in the midterm elections. And a sign of the challenge they face ahead, a Democrat won a Wisconsin state Senate seat this week in a district that President Trump won by 17 points. Is that portentous or it just a one-off?

Who better to ask than the RNC chairwoman herself, Ronna McDaniel. It's good to have you with us.


CUOMO: And I will tee up the point you probably want to make most this morning, which is you may have some challenges in front of you but you've got a lot of money to deal with those challenges. This is a record year for you guys. Tell me about it

MCDANIEL: Yes. We just announced today we've raised $132 million in 2017. It is the most any party has ever raised in an off-year year, getting ready for a midterm election.

And that's obviously going to give us a lot of resources to go across the country into these battleground states and prepare us for the midterms. We're already in 22 states building out our data and our ground game.

CUOMO: What is your sense, at this point, about how you will fare in the midterms?

MCDANIEL: Listen, Chris, I knew coming in as chair that the first midterm of a -- of a sitting president is tough on that party and the average loss is about 30 seats. So we've been preparing for that all year. That's why we're already in 22 states.

Our data investment is huge, so we know our likely voter universe, we know our persuadable universe. We customize a plan for each voter as to how we're going to turn them out and what message we're going to take to them. But we knew there were going to be headwinds coming our way.

What's happened in the past few months, seeing our economy humming, seeing the tax reform passing, these bonus checks being passed out, those are things that are going to help us win because we're going to have an accomplishment column that's fairly large to share with our voters and show that we're doing things that are making our country better.

CUOMO: Well, you're going to have a little bit of wait and see, right -- I mean --


CUOMO: -- especially economically. People are going to have to see what this tax plan actually means for them.

The bonuses -- a lot of that's about bookkeeping, too, right? You want to give them out in '17 before the year changeover so you could maximize the tax benefit to those companies. But there's a wait and see. The present will loom large.

What you see happening right now with immigration and this potential shutdown, how concerned are you about that?

MCDANIEL: Well, you just had a guest on -- a Democrat saying I'm going to vote for it. We're not going to shut down this government. I think Democrats and Republicans --

CUOMO: Is that what you heard? I wasn't really sure.

MCDANIEL: Yes, yes --

CUOMO: You're talking about Cuellar?

MCDANIEL: -- yes. He said if I'm the final vote, I'll vote for it. That's what I got from him. If they need me I'll vote for it.

But, you know, I'm confident that they're going to get it through the House and the Senate. We're going to need nine Democrat votes. We have a 51-seat majority. It is going to take nine Democrats working across the aisle with Republicans to keep this government functioning.

I think everybody across party lines wants to see our military funded, they want to see the CHIP program funded, and I think that will get a deal. I hope we do.

[07:55:00] CUOMO: One of the reasons we don't have a deal is an apparent disconnect between the Senate Majority Leader -- obviously a Republican, Mitch McConnell -- and the president.

Why would those two have a disconnect on what the president wants on immigration?

MCDANIEL: I don't think there's a disconnect. The president has had --

CUOMO: McConnell said exactly that. There is a -- I do not know what he wants.

MCDANIEL: Well, the president has said he wants to work with the DREAMERs. He wants to deal with that issue but we have to take care of the border at the same time. We can't put one in place and not put a fix in place so that we don't find ourselves in the same situation 20 years from now, and I think that's a very fair request by the president.

But at the end of the day, we're going to have to come together and fund this government and it is going to take nine Democrats. We have not seen Democrats work with Republicans this year. Since the beginning of this president's term Democrats have decided we're not going to work with his president. CUOMO: They're working with him right now, though, right? I mean, the president had that, you know, really extraordinary meeting --

MCDANIEL: Well, they do the photo op.

CUOMO: -- where he said you guys come with a deal --

MCDANIEL: Yes, they do the --

CUOMO: So, you've got Durbin, you got Graham, the president's golf partner. They come back with a deal and two days later he goes back on his promise. He says no, I'm not going to accept this.

MCDANIEL: Well, they do the photo ops like, you know, Joe Donnelly and Heidi Heitkamp. They fly with the president. They want to say they're going to support tax cuts and then they don't vote for it.

We'll see what they do in the end with this keeping the government funded. They came to the White House. That's the right thing to do.

But we are going to need nine Democrat votes to keep this government funded and I hope they'll work across party lines and on the -- on behalf of the American people.

CUOMO: Now, another sticking point in terms of the comedy -- the working together of the two parties is what happened in that second meeting when Durbin and Graham presented this plan and the president got ugly about his preference for who he wants in this country.

And part of the fallout wound up being the Senate panel interviewing the Homeland Sec. Nielsen and her saying she doesn't recall. She got into it with Cory Booker.

You accused Booker of mansplaining to Nielsen -- Sec. Nielsen, who is, of course, a woman.

Why? Why did you call it that?

MCDANIEL: Well, Chris, I just think it would have been covered differently if it were a Republican senator yelling or lecturing a woman coming before the Senate, not giving her a chance to explain herself, grandstanding.

I know he's auditioning for 2020. I understand that. But he was disrespectful and he did mansplain to her.

And she's an intelligent woman, she's the secretary of Homeland Security, and she deserved an opportunity to answer his rants.

CUOMO: Well, she was there for a long time. She was answering -- she just kept saying the same things.

Here was Booker's response. I want to get your response --


CUOMO: -- to his response.


SEN. CORY BOOKER (D), NEW JERSEY: Well, first of all, I'm glad they're finally attacking me. They attack senators almost every single day. But it's a little insulting to say that I should be treating cabinet secretaries one way or another, depending upon their gender.

I'm standing here as a United States senator in my official capacity challenging a cabinet secretary who is lying before the Senate on an issue that affects my state, as well as this nation, as well as this internationally. Something as serious as her lying about overt bigotry coming out of the -- out of the White House.


CUOMO: So, Ronna, let's put the potential mendacity to the side because you and I aren't going to figure out who's lying and who's not -- not today.

But, in this age of recognizing women as equal once and for all, on all levels, why would he have to treat Nielsen differently? She's so strong, she's so competent, she's so empowered. Why would he have to talk to her differently than he would to a man?

MCDANIEL: I don't think he should have to talk to her differently, but I will say he was disrespectful to her as the secretary of Homeland Security, and he was mansplaining to her. And I do think there's a hypocrisy --

CUOMO: How is it mansplaining just because she's a -- just because she's a woman -- that's what you're saying?

MCDANIEL: There's a hypocrisy of how Elizabeth -- there's a hypocrisy.

CUOMO: Because they talk to people like that all the time, Ronna.

MCDANIEL: Well, there's a hypocrisy --

CUOMO: They talk to men like that all the time.

MCDANIEL: -- as to how Elizabeth Warren is treated versus how Sec. Nielsen is treated. When Republicans ask --

CUOMO: The president calls her Pocahontas.

MCDANIEL: Yes, but when Democrats interrupt Elizabeth Warren the media goes crazy. And when it just happened to Sec. Nielsen --

CUOMO: When? When did that ever happen?

MCDANIEL: -- they didn't go crazy. It happened here.

CUOMO: It's almost impossible to interrupt Elizabeth Warren for an interview.

MCDANIEL: That's a fact, that's true.

CUOMO: But who says that when Warren gets interrupted people go crazy in the media? Even the Pocahontas thing gets laughs these days and that's about as offensive as you see in political mainstream dialogue.

The president gets away with that on the regular.

MCDANIEL: Here's the deal.

Cory Booker was grandstanding. He was lecturing her. He didn't give her a chance to respond. It was disrespectful.

And he's auditioning for 2020. Oprah just got the headlines and now he wanted to make the headlines, so he got them in a way where he didn't listen to the person testifying in front of him in the Senate. I just don't think that's respectful.

CUOMO: Well, I only bring it up -- I'm not quibbling with your points. There's always politics being played. There's no question, but it's just interesting.

This woman, Nielsen, is in charge of keeping the rest of us safe. She's the Homeland Security secretary. This --

MCDANIEL: And she's incredibly qualified and excellent at her job.

CUOMO: This is a tough -- well look, that was a tough day for her there and we'll see what it brings out in the wash about how people view her. But one thing's for sure, she can handle herself.

MCDANIEL: She sure can.

CUOMO: And so can you. Ronna McDaniel, thank you very much for being with us. You're always welcome here on the show.

MCDANIEL: Thanks for having me.

CUOMO: All right, be well.

We're following a lot of news. What do you say? Let's get after it.