Return to Transcripts main page
AT THIS HOUR
Top Trump Aides Give White House Briefing as Shutdown Looms; WSJ: Trump Lawyer Used Private Company to Pay Porn Star for Silence Before Election. Aired 11:30-12p ET
Aired January 19, 2018 - 11:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[11:30:00] UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Thank you very much. You mentioned that DACA is not in -- because of March 5th deadline. Do you know that that is the sticking point for many Democrats? So for people who are sitting at home, and they are wondering if there is a government shutdown, how long would this last, could this potentially go weeks? Like the last one was 16 days, especially since you're talking about the March 5th deadline. What is the realistic time frame of how long this, for either of you, a shutdown could last?
MICK MULVANEY, WHITE HOUSE BUDGET DIRECTOR: You've seen -- we talk about immigration and you all have seen the quote from Mr. Schumer from 2013. I'll read it again, he says basically sort of like, "We could say we're shutting down the government, not going to raise the debt ceiling until you pass immigration reform, it would be governmental chaos."
There are examples of statements like that. Bernie Sanders, one of my favorites. What they are saying -- by the way, this was of me, back in 2013, to the group that was trying to figure out a way to force a debate on Obamacare repeal. "What they are saying to the American people, maybe we lost the presidential election, maybe we lost seats in the Senate" - and this is Sanders talking. "It doesn't matter. We can bring the government to a shutdown, throw some 800,000 hardworking Americans out on the street, we're going to get our way no matter what."
This is exactly what they accused the Republicans of doing in 2013. There is absolutely no reason to have to insert a DACA discussion, an immigration discussion into the funding bill today.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: How much should people expect --
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Can you expand upon that?
(CROSSTALK) MULVANEY: A couple of different things. OMB is responsible for sort of managing the lapse, managing the shutdown. The military will still go to work, they will not get paid. The border will still be patrolled. They will not get paid. Fire folks will be fighting the fires out west, they will not get paid. The parks will be open, people won't get paid. You see the whole list. There will be a bunch of different things. When you see in 2013 -- compared to 2013. But don't lose sight of the fact that we're asking the military to work without pay. We're asking firefighters to work without pay. It is still harming the people.
MULVANEY: What's different? It's different, parks will be open this time and they weren't before. Go down the list. The parks will be open. The way it works is that the parks are open, but the -- especially at the services provided by third parties, but things like the trash won't get picked up. Fannie and Freddie will be open, the post office will be open, the TSA will be open. Again, all of these people will be working for nothing, which is simply not fair.
We're going to manage the shutdown differently. We are not going to weaponize it. We're not going to try and hurt people, especially people who work for this federal government. We still need Congress to appropriate the funds.
Look, that's all the time we have. We'll be doing this again.
So thanks very much.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: All right. And the energetic, I think we can say, White House briefing wrapping up there with the legislative director for the White House and the budget director for President Trump.
I want to bring in my panel now to talk about this, Chris Cillizza and Maeve Reston with me now.
What do you make of the theatrics that we see playing out as the clock ticks toward a shutdown. We saw this at the White House, a lot of blame for Democrats. We saw Mitch McConnell on the Senate floor blaming Democrats. The White House is trying to call this the Schumer Shutdown.
CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER & CNN EDITOR-AT-LARGE: Yes. They're very much trying to make Schumer Shutdown happen. Right.
CILLIZZA: A lot of vested discipline in that regard.
MAEVE RESTON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: A lot of mean girls, right?
CILLIZZA: It was. (LAUGHTER)
It is the little things.
I think the way these things work is that every minute that goes by where we still have no vote on the House continuing resolution. I mean, that will come, it will fail, in the Senate. Every minute that goes by where there is not a, wait a minute, there is this dark horse plan that is going to save everything that can get some momentum, momentum builds behind a shutdown. Because as you saw with Mick Mulvaney, with Marc Short, with Mitch McConnell, and Democrats, too, the focus goes from let's solve this problem to let's start figuring out how to blame the other people for this problem. I think we're getting close to the tipping point where 90 percent of the time is spent on the blame game and 10 percent of the time spent on the these are last minute things.
KEILAR: Not inspiring confidence.
RESTON: I think that the Schumer Shutdown is pretty brilliant planning. And we were just talking, you know, in the break about this Quinnipiac poll that we saw coming out yesterday, I believe, where more Americans said they would blame Democrats for the shutdown than Republicans, which is really remarkable given that, you know, that obviously Republicans are in control of the White House, both branches of Congress. At the same time, Democrats clearly feel that they really have leverage here. Things are looking good for them in terms of taking control of the House in November. And as we have seen, the Democratic Party, and particularly these bright stars like Cory Booker and Kamala Harris moving farther and farther to the left, they feel they can take a stand on this and they'll be rewarded for it in the end.
[11:35:13] KEILAR: I do want to get to the White House because Jim Acosta is there. Let's bring him in to chat about this.
Jim, you were there. You asked a question, and the budget director said it is Democrats, it takes 60 votes, it requires Democrats in the Senate. What did you think of that whole show we just witnessed?
JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, shutdowns are a tough sale, Brianna. And it sounds at this point that this White House is bracing for the likelihood that this government is going to shut down. You heard during this briefing with the legislative affairs director, Marc Short, and the director of Office of Management and Budget, Mick Mulvaney. The Director Mick Mulvaney, saying this is the Schumer Shutdown and they're making the case they need Democratic votes in the Senate to go along with what was passed in the House, that this is somehow the responsibility of Democrats. That's just going to be a hard sell when you have Republicans in charge of the White House, the House and the Senate. And you've been talking about that for some time. I thought it was interesting to note that when I asked the question
about DACA, the fix for the DREAMers, that Marc Short said that there was no legislative vehicle to get that accomplished. As you know, there has been a Gang of Six working on such a legislative vehicle, some kind of legislation to make that happen. It just seems at this point that there is a refusal on the Republican side to allow that to be brought into this process.
And I think what they're dealing with is, at this point, Brianna, is the fallout of what happened last week when the president essentially blew up this process. He had a very productive meeting at the White House with members of Congress from both parties. And then a couple of days later, there was that very fiery meeting that happened behind closed doors where the president made some pretty offensive remarks, and ever since then, just has not been very much progress from a bipartisan basis.
So you heard Mick Mulvaney saying we're making this a kinder, gentler shutdown. They federal parks will be open. The trash may not get picked up, but you can still go to your parks. Federal workers will go to work, but they won't get paid.
The question is, how long can that drag on. And there are the optics of it, the image of it. Optics is a terrible Washington word, but it matters. Does the president go down to Mar-a-Lago this weekend and celebrate the one-year anniversary of being in office? All of that is very difficult.
By the way, the president is in the Rose Garden, we're told, at the top of the hour for a separate event, but I suspect he'll be asked questions about this. And as you know, from time to time, the president is tempted to take those questions, especially at a moment like this. The reality TV show brinkmanship seems to be getting ratcheted up by the minute -- Brianna?
KEILAR: Jim Acosta, at the White House, thank you, sir.
It is hard to imagine, Maeve, that the president would go down to Florida in the midst of a shutdown.
KEILAR: It seems we're getting the indications from the White House that's not going to happen. To that point, one-year anniversary, where the government is shut down, what does that say?
RESTON: Talk about bad optics. Right? They wanted this to be, you know, a moment of celebration where the White House was getting on a firmer footing, people were starting to think more about the benefits of the tax reform bill, and instead, you have this drama unfolding in Washington that makes no sense to people in the rest of America. And let's not forget that Donald Trump was the one who also seemed to be ready to throw a wrench into the works with his tweet earlier this week about funding for children's insurance. And I just think that it -- it is just -- he can't resist the drama. And you heard Marc Short talk about how he's working the phones today. How much influence does he have at this point to get Democrats on board?
KEILAR: Chris, we talked about the poll numbers where it shows that less people would blame Donald Trump than Republicans or Democrats with the shutdown. I wonder how the weekend is going to change that, though, because you're looking -- it is his one-year anniversary, we're expecting a big protest march, which could refocus the message away from Donald Trump and towards people who are very dissatisfied and emboldened in their dissatisfaction now. And then you think about it, and that's where so much focus is, it is easy to see how this would turn where Donald Trump is blamed.
CILLIZZA: I just -- I'm with Jim Acosta on this. I think if you look at that Quinnipiac poll, it is interesting that you have a higher number of people saying they blame Democrats than congressional Republicans and Trump even lower. You just, for practical political purposes, you should take the congressional Republican number and the Donald Trump number and add them together and then compare them. Because in point of fact, the midterm election is going to be a referendum on Donald Trump whether or not the government closes down. This is still a president that is at 37, 38, 39 percent approval. Republicans control everything. You can call it the Schumer Shutdown -- and, frankly that's very catchy --
[11:40:11] -- but I just don't see how you get beyond that fact, for the average person, and I still think the average person which is none of us who do this for a living, will not dial into this until maybe not even until Monday -- Maybe not until Monday if it is still shutdown. It is there, but the boy who cried wolf and they talked about shutting down and then they don't. I don't know the politics of it have sorted themselves out yet. I think Republicans have to look at what happened in '95, '96 and in 2013 and be concerned at least.
RESTON: To that point, remember what Trump ran on, he was coming to Washington to fix the broken system, drain the swamp.
CILLIZZA: The only person who could do it.
RESTON: And shut down the government.
KEILAR: Here we are on this Friday.
Maeve Reston, Chris Cillizza, thank you so much.
RESTON: Thank you.
KEILAR: Coming up, we're still waiting to hear from Senator Chuck Schumer live from the Senate floor. We're going to bring that to you soon as it happens.
Plus, the new report on the great lengths Trump's attorney went through to pay for a porn star's silence for an alleged affair with then-Candidate Trump. We'll have that next.
[11:45:29] KEILAR: So new details now on the great lengths that Trump's attorney allegedly went through to pay for a porn star's silence for an alleged affair with then-Candidate Trump. Her stage name is Stormy Daniels. The "Wall Street Journal" reports she was paid $130,000 in basically hush money just weeks before the election.
I want to dig into the details of this with CNN's M.J. Lee.
Tell me what you're learning, M.J.
M.J. LEE, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER: Brianna, this is certainly a bizarre story. Let me get into the meat of the "Wall Street Journal" report. According to "The Journal," the sexual encounter, this alleged sexual encounter between the porn star, Stormy Daniels, and Donald Trump took place in the summer of 2006. And Michael Cohen created an LLC in October of 2016. And this LLC was created, "The Journal" says, so that it could pay Stormy Daniels $130,000, essentially, to keep her silence, to prevent her from talking about the sexual encounter.
Now CNN, I should mention, has not independently verified this "Wall Street Journal's" reporting.
Now, something worth pointing out about this LLC is the fact that it was created in Delaware. This is a state where individuals can create these kinds of LLCs easily, under the radar, relatively speaking, compared to other states. So that's interesting.
Something else that is interesting from the" Wall Street Journal" report is that, according to formation documents for the LLC, Michael Cohen, Donald Trump's lawyer, is listed as the authorized person for that company, but Stormy Daniels appears to come up on that document under a pseudonym, and that pseudonym is Peggy Peterson.
Both Cohen and Stormy Daniels have put out statements. Here is what Cohen said. He said, "These rumors have circulated time and again since 2011. President Trump, once again, vehemently denies any such occurrence, as has Miss Daniels."
This, of course, doesn't address the alleged payment.
Now, the statement from Stormy Daniels says, "Rumors that I have received hush money from Donald Trump are completely false. If, indeed, I had a relationship with Donald Trump, trust me, you wouldn't be reading about it in the news. You would be reading about it in my book."
This, of course, seems significant because she doesn't say whether she got money from an LLC. She simply says she didn't get money from Donald Trump himself.
It seems like both of these statements, Brianna, are pretty carefully worded.
KEILAR: It sure does. And "In Touch Weekly" released an interview it did with Stormy Daniels in 2011. This really kind of contradicts everything she said, everything Michael Cohen said. Tell us about this.
LEE: Well, this is an interview that "In Touch" says was conducted in 2011 with Stormy Daniels. This is an interview where she appears to go into the details of the first meeting she had with Donald Trump in 2006 that we were talking about, the encounter that happened after a charity golf tournament. Now, CNN is not going to get into any of the details of that alleged sexual encounter. And it is really not clear why "In Touch" would have had this interview in 2011, but is only choosing now to actually release the details of that interview.
Again, clearly there, is some kind of back story and we're continuing to do reporting on what exactly happened, especially what happened with the "In Touch" interview.
KEILAR: All right. M.J., we know you'll keep looking into that.
M.J. Lee for us in New York. Thank you.
Joining me to talk about this, CNN political commentators, Robby Mook, Hillary Clinton's former campaign manager, Alice Stewart, former comms director for Ted Cruz's presidential campaign, and Bryan Lanza, the former communications director for President Trump's transition team.
Brian, I'm sure you're so thrilled to be talking about this. What do you think the president thinks about all of this?
BRYAN LANZA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I mean, at this point, he's not surprised by this came out. You've got this -- I guess Stormy Daniels released a statement saying none of this happened, and I guess that's not enough for the media when two of them say nothing occurred.
KEILAR: She also describes things.
LANZA: I'm just telling you, her statement I saw said nothing happened.
KEILAR: But she also has an interview where she talks about the details of things.
LANZA: A magazine that usually, you know, is quick to put out information when before they didn't put it out. There's clearly some issues with the veracity of the truth here. She has her statements pretty clear, and President Trump has his statement as well.
[11:49:56] KEILAR: And, Alice, all of this is happening, I find it's so ironic in a way that some of the headlines will pop for President Trump recently, and what he said about s-hole countries and the MLK Day he has to honor. This comes out, and now he has to address the March for Life, you know. I wonder what Republicans are thinking about this, especially conservative Republicans, when they prefer to be the ones taking the moral high ground in the political sphere. And instead, they are very much looped in to this kind of smut.
ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: What conservative Republicans are going to hear when they read this story or hear us talk about it, they're going to hear the words "allegedly, Stormy Daniels denied, the president denied." They will hear this may or may not have occurred. They're going to look at both people have denied details of this. That's what they're going to listen to.
The conservative Republicans, the social conservatives that helped him get elected, they're going to listen to what he says shortly in the Rose Garden about March for Life, and the sanctity of life and the need to protect life in its most precious form. That's what they will be listening to.
That's why many of them worked phone banks and knocked on doors and got their friends and their church members to support him, because they are listening to issues important to them, that he's actually done things, moved the ball down the field with regard to policy on important issues. Not what's happening in a smut magazine.
KEILAR: As I ask you a question, my next question, Robby, I do want to respond to something Bryan said, which was Stormy Daniels did not deny. She denied she got money from Donald Trump. The allegation was she got money from Donald Trump. It was indirectly through an LLC. I mean, just to be clear. And she's not denying that there wasn't some sort of relationship. We just have to be clear about that. That's not what her statement said.
So, Robby, knowing that the "Access Hollywood" tape did not derail Donald Trump -- normally, in any other reality, this would be terribly damning for a candidate, even if there were questions, gorilla dust you could throw up in the air about whether things were true, but he seems like Teflon. So what do Democrats do with this?
ROBBY MOOK, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I don't think Democrats should touch this. I think Democrats should be focused on proving to voters how they're going to help them in their lives. This is not a message that wins campaigns.
But let me say this. I think you're going to see two things happen. The first is you're going to see the Republican leadership completely ignore this, do everything they can not to address it. I think the so-called evangelical leadership in the Republican Party has been very bankrupt for a long time. We saw that in the Alabama Senate race. We're going to see that again here. But, secondly, Donald Trump is going to do something else and we're going to move on and talk about something else.
But stepping back, my question to the Republican Party would be, at what point is this too much? We have the Russia investigation. We have him blowing up a bipartisan compromise to get a budget passed this week. And now we have this. And we have "Access Hollywood." There is so much. At what point is this party finally going to stand up and say, this guy is no good. He's a bad person. And he's preventing our government from functioning. Our entire budget is now hostage to the ego of one man. There was a compromise. He blew it up.
STEWART: No. I think it's important to stress the budget of the federal government is being held hostage by Democrats. The House put one forward --
MOOK: Who blew up the bipartisan compromise?
STEWART: The Democrats are holding it hostage.
MOOK: The Democrats and the Republicans agreed on a compromise.
LANZA: You had a faction of Democrats and the Republicans agreed on it. You didn't have the leadership of the Republicans.
MOOK: There were leaders of both parties in the president's office
KEILAR: It was the president that shutdown
KEILAR: It was the president who rejected the compromise.
LANZA: He rejected the compromise because it didn't achieve the goals he wanted to achieve. The Democrats put a lot of poison pills in this particular bill, knowing, full well, the president wouldn't accept it. They went there wanting rejection because they wanted to be at this particular moment.
MOOK: The president stopped DACA
MOOK: The president stopped DACA
LANZA: We still have plenty of time -- (CROSSTALK)
MOOK: Congress stopped DACA and then he blew up the arrangement.
MOOK: Now he's saying you haven't solved DACA.
LANZA: -- support DACA? There are a lot of DACA kids in the community I grew up in, so I call B.S. Democrats did not come up with a serious proposal. The president wants a serious proposal with --
LANZA: We have a bipartisan budget here today that Democrats aren't going to join. You have a bipartisan budget to move forward. You have a mansion going in there. Democrats just want to blow this up --
KEILAR: Alice, final word to you.
STEWART: There is nothing in the current proposal out there that Democrats don't support. They support funding. They support the measures that are in there. The only thing they're doing is making this more about politics than policy. If they want to hold it hostage based on DACA, that's something they'll have to explain to people. We still have until March to figure out what happens to DACA.
STEWART: But we have a deadline of tonight, a few short hours, to deal with the current proposal that they can sign off now and deal with DACA later. But --
[11:55:09] KEILAR: All right. We are going to leave the conversation there.
Robby Mook, Alice Stewart, Bryan Lanza, thank you so much to all of you for your spirit and conversation.
I do want to say this. Just in, with the government shutdown looming, President Trump has canceled his planned trip to Florida. So that's not going to happen. A government official says the White House alerted them within the last hour here. Now, the president has a ritzy fundraiser planned tomorrow, the big one-year anniversary of his inauguration. AN RNC official said they're determining what will happen with that gala. He could be beamed in via video. It could be rescheduled. But many people are certainly already there in Palm Beach or they're on their way.
We're also now hearing members of the House of Representatives are being told to stay in Washington at this time. So they are not going home.
And coming up, we're going to have -- live pictures you can see right here. This is the March for Life rally in Washington. President Trump is getting ready to address a massive pro-life rally in just a few moments.
Stay with us.