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Trump & Schumer Meet to Avoid Government Shutdown; Republicans Call Out Trump on Mixed Messages on Shutdown; "Trump's First Year, Reign of Chaos" Airs Tonight; Trump Appointee Carl Higbie Resigns over Comments. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired January 19, 2018 - 13:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[13:30:53] ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: We're following breaking news as the clock is ticking on a government shutdown. The deadline midnight tonight. Right now, the Democratic leader, Senator Chuck Schumer, he's over at the White House for an extraordinary one-on-one meeting with President Trump. Right now the two of them are trying to see if they can avert a government shutdown, come up with some sort of deal. Two New Yorkers working on this right now. We'll see what emerges from their meeting.

Interestingly, the Senate majority leader, the Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, is not at that meeting at the White House, at least not yet.

It's important to remember there are only 10 active U.S. Senators remaining from the 1995 federal government shutdown. That was the longest one in history.

Joining us now from Capitol Hill is one of them, the Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy.

Senator, thanks so much for joining us.

SEN. PATRICK LEAHY, (D), VERMONT: Good to be with you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Do you have any inside word, if you could share it with us -- I know a lot of this stuff is pretty sensitive -- on what Chuck Schumer has brought to the White House to try to come up with some sort of deal with the president, the Republican leadership, to avert a government shutdown?

LEAHY: Well, I think that Senator Schumer is aware, the only person that's publicly called for a shutdown is Donald Trump. I don't think many people, Republicans or Democrats, want to see a shutdown. They would like to see the government work. We're 111 days into the fiscal year. We've had sound bites, we haven't had substance. It's time to have substance. If we had done our job last fall, if we had passed the appropriations bills we should, this would be a moot point. Instead, we suddenly have everything coming together. You have all these competing suggestions to what we should do. None of them adequately -- in fact, our military, opioid, CHIP, anything else, and we're now stuck with saying, gee whiz, maybe we should do what we should have done last fall.

BLITZER: Basically, there is a lot in this plan that passed the House of Representatives with 230 votes last night, but there's a lot that you still want to include. You're not going to get that in the next few hours. How do you avert, Senator Leahy, a government shutdown tonight? What needs to be done in the short term? And you can worry about some of the other long-term requirements that you would like to see down the road.

LEAHY: First of all, the Republican plan does not do the things they claim they do. It doesn't fund the military adequately. It doesn't take care of our domestic programs. It doesn't adequately affect the opioid crisis, which is affecting every single state in the union. So it's kind of a non-starter.

BLITZER: But, Senator, let me interrupt. This is only a 30-day plan. They're not dealing long term right now.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: They're dealing with a 30-day plan to keep the government open.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: And during the 30 days, you work on a lot of these other issues.

So let me repeat the question.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: What can you do -- what can you do in the coming hours to avoid a government shutdown?

LEAHY: It's not just a 30-day plan. We've had 111 days and they have not come up with a plan. Nobody has any confidence in 30 days if they keep punting it down the road that they will come up with a plan. What they have done shows what they do behind closed doors without the American people involved. And they come up with a very, very inadequate plan. What we can do is get key members of both parties together and say, we will pledge to have -- and give the various points. Fine, the average short-term extension maybe four or five days while we draft it and do it. But this thing of having behind closed doors, spread it out and say, here, we're go ahead for another 30 days. That's baloney.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: So, basically, what I hear you saying, Senator, is Schumer is pitching four or five or six days. Get a short-term deal, keep the government operating through the weekend, early next week. Then during this time, work around the clock to deal with these other issues. Is that what I'm hearing from you? [13:35:06] LEAHY: We've had a template for all these other issues.

That's been done. Now we need people to stop the sloganeering, sit down, actually be legislators, something that they're elected to do in both parties, and get it done. It could be done very easily in four or five days.

BLITZER: What's the difference between four or five days and 30 days?

LEAHY: Because we --

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Why not give a little extra time to breathe?

LEAHY: Because every time we've given extra time, all of sudden, it changes. The president calls for a shutdown. He changes his mind on different things. You can't do it that way. Corporations couldn't plan that way. Our military can't plan that way. Our medical research can't plan that way. You cannot turn these vital programs on and off every 30 days.

BLITZER: So are you confident or concerned that something might emerge from this Schumer meeting with the president that's ongoing right now?

LEAHY: I talked with Senator Schumer this morning. Look, I've got Irish and Italian ancestry. I'm always optimistic. Less optimistic than I've been for some time, but it could be done. The fact is, to be serious about it, Wolf, this can be done if we want to. But it also means the president can't change his mind every five minutes and tweet something different.

BLITZER: I think -- I've been speaking with a lot of your colleagues and they totally agree with you. This is definitely doable. If there is a reasonable compromise, they can get this done. We'll see what emerges. And we'll see if Chuck Schumer can sell that two or three or five-day extension to the president so you can keep working on the weekend with this.

(CROSSTALK)

LEAHY: I'm perfectly -- I'm perfectly willing. I'd rather be in Vermont, but I'm perfectly willing to stay right here and work all day, all night, throughout the weekend to get it done.

BLITZER: I know a lot of your colleagues totally agree with you on that.

Senator Leahy, thank you for joining us.

LEAHY: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: I want to show our viewers some live pictures coming in from Washington right now where anti-abortionists are marching towards the U.S. Supreme Court and the capitol. As we speak, they're taking part in the annual March for Life event here in Washington. This is the event's 45th year. Just before marchers started their trip, they heard from President Trump via video feed from the Rose Garden during which he touted his administration's anti-abortion decisions.

More news coming up, a top Trump appointee resigns after CNN uncovers a litany of racist, offensive and derogatory remarks from 2013. You'll hear what he said, and what he's saying now.

Plus, this. Multiple Republicans calling the president out over his mixed messages over the past several days and his lack of clarity with a looming government shutdown. We have information that you need to know.

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[13:42:22] BLITZER: There is a fundamental disconnect between Republicans and their leader, President Trump. One reason, President Trump himself. Here's why. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. MO BROOKS, (R), ALABAMA: Well, I'm going to confess that I don't know what the White House's position is on border security or with respect to this continuing resolution to fund the government or with respect to an omnibus to fund the government for the rest of this fiscal year. You don't have the kind of consistency that you would like emanating from the White House on this particular set of issues.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: We still don't have a plan from the White House what the diversity lotteries should be replaced with. We still don't know what they want on chain migration other than comprehensive.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Let's bring in our chief Washington correspondent, the anchor of "THE LEAD" and "STATE OF THE UNION," Jake Tapper.

Jake, let's talk about this last-minute meeting the president is having now in the Oval Office with Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer, two guys from New York trying to come up with some sort of deal.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT & CNN ANCHOR, THE LEAD & CNN ANCHOR, STATE OF THE UNION: Two outer borough guys. And I think Senator Schumer is the politician to whom President Trump, as a civilian, has given more money than any other individual candidate. You would think they are two guys who could make a deal, who could broker a deal on both the government funding resolution and also CHIP and DACA and other things. But as you heard from Republicans, Mo Brooks and Lindsey Graham, and we also heard from majority leader, Mitch McConnell, Republicans on the Hill have no idea what the White House is willing to sign. They don't know -- they don't have any leadership there.

BLITZER: I assume they're pretty nervous right now because they don't know what the president will hear from Chuck Schumer and how he'll emerge. TAPPER: They're nervous, obviously. When you look at what President

Trump said in that meeting, the 55-minute negotiation with a bipartisan group of members of Congress, and then you look also at how Tom Cotton and other immigration hardliners came into that meeting with Durbin and Graham, there is obviously, stated and unstated, a real concern that President Trump, who is not necessarily tethered very strongly to very deeply conservative principles, what kind of deal he would be willing to negotiate with Chuck Schumer if it's just the two of them in a room.

BLITZER: Tomorrow marks exactly one year of the Trump presidency, and a lot of people think he's changed the nature of the presidency.

TAPPER: That's one of the things that we've gotten into in this documentary that is going to be airing tomorrow night, called "Reign of Chaos, One Year (sic)." And one of the issues was, how much is President Trump changing the presidency.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[13:45:04] TAPPER: Is President Trump, has he changed the presidency forever? Will it never be the same because of the different disrupting way that he's doing it?

SEN. MARK WARNER, (D), VIRGINIA: Our country can absorb an awful lot of hits, and I don't think Donald Trump will change the trajectory of our nation forever.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Trust me. I'm like a smart person.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is a nation that is built on a system of really norms and not laws, that if people don't follow those norms in a good-manner system, sort of way, the system can break down.

TAPPER: Do you think the president has some emotional issues? Do you think the president is unstable?

REP. CHARLIE DENT, (R), PENNSYLVANIA: Do I see narcissism, attention deficit disorder, impulse control issues, volcanic temper? Yes, I see that. I mean --

TAPPER: That must concern you.

DENT: Yes. It does. It does concern me.

TAPPER: Long-time Trump friend, Tom Barrack, has no such concerns.

TOM BARRACK, LONG-TIME TRUMP FRIEND: My hope is that we'll be applauding for President Trump at the end of four or eight years saying, we saw what he was doing, it was tough, he had courage, he was very competent, and we're glad he was here.

(END VIDEO CLIP) TAPPER: That was Tom Barrack, and before that, Republican Congressman Charlie Dent.

The documentary airs tonight, Friday night, at 10:00 p.m. eastern.

BLITZER: Really looking forward it to it.

Jake, thanks for all the excellent work.

A reminder, watch the special report later tonight. It's entitled "Trump's First Year, Reign of Chaos," 10:00 p.m. eastern. Excellent reporting. You'll see it right here on CNN.

One of the president's appointees quitting after CNN discovers racist and sexist comments he once made on the air. Now he's responding publicly.

And the interesting story behind this video. Why Russia's Vladimir Putin dunked himself in icy waters.

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[13:51:28] BLITZER: A Trump administration appointee has resigned and is now apologizing after CNN uncovered shocking comments he'd made about African-Americans, Muslims, LGBT people, among others.

Here is one example. This is Carl Higbie, in 2013, talking about people who responded to an ad for free firewood.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CARL HIGBIE, FORMER CHIEF OF EXTERNAL AFFAIRS, CORPORATION FOR NATIONAL & COMMUNITY SERVICE (voice-over): Only one person was actually cordial to me. Every other black person was rude. They wanted me to either load the wood, completely split it for them or some sort of, you know, assistance in labor. I believe that this translates directly into the culture that is breeding this welfare and the high percentage of people on welfare in the black race. It's a lax of morality.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: In another clip, Higbie talks about his feelings towards Muslims.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HIGBIE (voice-over): I was called an Islamaphobe the other day. I was, like, no, no, no, no. I'm not afraid of them. I don't like them.

(LAUGHTER)

And they were, like, well you're racist. And I was, like, fine, if that's the definition of it, then I guess I am.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: CNN "KFILE's" Andrew Kaczynski exposing these racist and intolerant remarks.

Andrew, tell us more about Higbie's position under President Trump and how you uncovered these clips.

ANDREW KACZYNSKI, SENIOR EDITOR, KFILE: Many might remember Higbie as a frequent surrogate on cable news during the campaign. Full disclosure, he was on CNN a number of times where he served as a spokesman for Great America PAC, this Trump-aligned super PAC.

Now, he was basically appointed in August 2017 where he works as the public face of the Corporation for National Public Service. They direct AmeriCorps, all kinds of volunteer service across the country that millions of Americans basically work in.

We found the story when we were working on a different story. We reported, I believe, on either Monday or Tuesday that now House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy had met with some leading members of the Birther movement in his office. What I noticed is they had a radio show, and I was going through it, looking to see if McCarthy had gone on. Then I found out that Higbie made that appearance. Basically, from there -- when he was on the show, he made all these Birther comments and I sort of started looking, step by step by step, if he had done other shows, what kind of comments he made. We didn't even play some of the most offensive stuff. The Birther stuff turned out to be the least offensive thing that we found.

BLITZER: He has now apologized, and he's dropped out of this appointment. Right?

KACZYNSKI: He dropped out. We contacted them yesterday around noon. By about 6:00 p.m., we were told that he had resigned effective immediately.

BLITZER: He issued a statement. He tweeted a statement. I know you have it. Read it to our viewers.

KACZYNSKI: So, he basically said I'm sorry that my words -- apologized sort of very -- he apologized that his words were published. He apologist that he made them. He said, "I'm sorry for what I said in 2013. Those words do not reflect who I am or what I stand for. I regret saying them."

He basically went on to say he told the White House he was resigning so he won't basically distract the message.

[13:54:51] BLITZER: One of president's many successes, he said, #noexcuses.

Andrew, Andrew Kaczynski, reporting for us, thanks so much.

Finally, it isn't your ordinary presidential photo-op. But then again, Vladimir Putin is no ordinary leader. The Russian president stripped down in freezing temperatures before quickly immersing himself in icy waters. It's a traditional Orthodox Christian ritual commemorating the baptism of Jesus.

Looking at live pictures from the White House. Right now, President Trump and the Senate minority leader, Chuck Schumer, are meeting behind closed doors in the Oval Office to try and strike a deal that would keep the government open.

Our breaking news coverage continues right after this.

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