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CNN NEWSROOM

"Power to the Polls" Rally Underway in Las Vegas; Report: Chinese Ambassador Zeroes in on Kushner; SAG Awards Gets Ready for #MeToo Close-Up; McConnell And Schumer Discussed In Their Private Meeting That Occurred Right After Senate Floor; Government Remains Shutdown, Senate to vote at 1 a.m. ET; Graham: White House staff members "Yanking Back" Proposals; Vote to Reopen Government Scheduled For 1:00am. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired January 21, 2018 - 18:00   ET

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


ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: That's beautiful, my friend. Thank you for that report.

Top of the hour, I'm Ana Cabrera in New York. You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM. Thank you for being with us.

It's our breaking news right now, the mud scramble on Capitol Hill to try and restart the United States government. In just a few minutes ago, the two most powerful U.S. senators, the majority and minority leaders met face to face on this, the second day of the American government shutdown. No word yet from either Mitch McConnell or Chuck Schumer's people on whether they found any common ground that might help and the funding sell mate.

But the next scheduled action in the Senate as a vote of 1:00 a.m., it's a vote that would kick start the government again at least for a few weeks to give lawmakers more time to pass a longer term funding bill.

Our senior congressional correspondent Manu Raju is on Capitol Hill right now and our White House correspondent Boris Sanchez joins us from the White House.

But we begin there on the Hill with you, Manu, because things are moving. There are people dodging and weaving and deals that are to be had, we hope. That meeting between McConnell and Schumer was not a long one. What came of it?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we were still trying to a get a sense about whether or not they came to any sort of consensus. Right now, we're not getting any sort of suggestion that there was a deal that was cut in that closed door meeting.

We do know that they had discussed the possibility of keeping the government open for three weeks as well as a proposal that have been brought to push by a group of a senators from both parties trying to cut a deal saying that they would agree to this stopgap resolution to keep the government open for three weeks in addition to commitment for votes on a variety of issues and quitting -- dealing with the DACA issue for the people who came to the country illegally at a young age as well as disaster relief and domestic and defense spending levels that Democrats wanted a commitment to move those measures to get those into law some way to get into the president's desk.

It's unclear exactly how whether or not Mitch McConnell made that commitment in this closed door meeting. But in a sign that things are not going particularly well, Senator John Cornyn, who's the Senate Majority, we have just emerged from his office and spoke to reporters about the idea of having a vote on that DACA issue before February 8th, which is the timeframe for the one of this proposed stopgap measure would expire.

He said, "It's ridiculous to consider a stopgap -- to consider a vote on the DACA issue by February 8th," though, he wants something by the March deadline when that issue of DACA is bound to expire. He also was pretty pessimistic about any deal tonight and the government will still be shutdown tomorrow morning.

So we do expect these talks to continue through the course of the day but still no sign if there's any deal ahead that has been read so far. At the same time, some of these -- this frustration is building between the White House and some members of the president's own party between Senator Lindsey Graham who raised this concern earlier today about one of the president's senior aides, Steven Miller.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, (R) SOUTH CAROLINA: I've talked with the president. His heart is right on this issue. I think he's got a good understanding of what will sell. And every time we have a proposal, it is only yanked back by staff members. As long as Stephen Miller is in charge of negotiating immigration, we're going nowhere. He's been an outlier for years, there's a deal to be had.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RAJU: So the White House was pushing back on that tonight as well as some of the White House's allies. Senator Tom Cotton saying to impugn the president's advisers the way to impugn the president himself. A sign that this effort to reach a bipartisan deal even is reached in the Senate will still need the support from others in the Republican Party, including the White House and there's no indication part of the White House on board with this proposal from bipartisan representatives negotiating still to be had in the coming hours here, Ana.

CABRERA: OK, Manu Raju on the Hill, thank you.

Let's check in with the White House, get the latest from Boris Sanchez, who, I understand, you just got reaction from the White House regarding those comments from Lindsey Graham.

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. The White is taking exemption in parts to the portion where Lindsey Graham said that Stephen Miller was in charge of immigration, coming up with a deal on immigration in Congress, in the White House's position on that.

Here's a statement from Hogan Gidley, the deputy press secretary here at the White House. He writes, "As long as Senator Graham chooses to support legislation that sides with people in this country illegally and unlawfully instead of our own American citizens, we're going nowhere. He has been an outlier for years." That echoing very closely what Lindsey Graham said about Stephen Miller that his ideas were out of the mainstream and that his proposals would never get 60 votes in the Senate.

The White House also putting out a statement this afternoon confirming that the president had, for the second consecutive day, reached out to lawmakers and to several secretaries, the head of Veteran's Affairs as well Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, the head of the Department of Homeland Security among other lawmakers to talk about the negotiations and to check in further the White House pushing the idea that this is really a full court press that it's not just the president but also Chief of Staff John Kelly that has been speaking with lawmakers along with the director of Legislative Affairs, Marc Short, who earlier today, one of the Sunday shows, said that he was cautiously optimistic about lawmakers coming up with the deal as early as tonight.

[18:05:37] We've heard different things from different people though the director of the OMB Mick Mulvaney was actually on CNN earlier today and he said that the sides were further apart than was publicly being perceived. So there is kind of a mix message but at this point the White House is fighting back on the idea that the president is not involved in these negotiations and further that he is going to continue to be involved in these negotiations as you have, people like Senator Lindsey Graham asking essentially for leadership from the White House.

CABRERA: All right, Boris Sanchez at the White House, thank you.

Let's get a better sense of how far or close these negotiations are ahead of this 1:00 a.m. vote, I want to bring in Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut.

Senator, thank you for joining us. So, at 1:00 a.m. Eastern, which is now just seven hours away, the Senate will have this critical vote as government's funding still hangs in the balance, how do you plan to vote?

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL, (D) CONNECTICUT: I need to know what we are voting on. I would vote against the three-week proposal that's currently before us because it simply kicks the can down the road without adequate funding for our military, or community health centers or disaster relief and of course without any protection against mass draconian deportation for the Dreamers brought here through no choice of their own.

CABRERA: So what in the bill as far as policies do you oppose beyond just the fact that it's a short-term versus long-term spending bills?

BLUMENTHAL: It is critically important that it is in adequate solution that it flat lines military spending at the 2017 levels which Secretary Mattis has said really is very destructive for our national defense. And we really need a long-term budget.

I'm in the half full glass camp. I am cautiously hopeful that we can reach a consensus, a bipartisan agreement that will meet all of the challenges that we face but it will take some leadership because what is striking so far is how the Trump White House has been completely have been absent without leave, A-W-O-L even though it is a Trump shutdown cause by his saying, there is a good shutdown here. And I think we need for the president to either lead or get out of the way.

I hear what you're saying in terms of trying to get something in the deal that Democrats can vote for but there are a lot of Americans who say something is better than nothing even a short-term deal is better than no deal at all given the government shutdown is going to impact so many Americans and there are a lot of people who are worried about when they're going to get their next paycheck.

BLUMENTHAL: No one except the president of the United States has said that it's a good shutdown. Those words are his. No one except Mick Mulvaney has said that it would be cool to use that word cool to be in charge as the government shuts down. We are united here behind our troops, our military. They deserve pay, our government workers, the people who need to appeal Social Security rulings or --

CABRERA: Right.

BLUMENTHAL: -- service from the IRS. We're all united and that's why we're working hard here in the Capitol to try to reach a solution on a bipartisan basis.

CABRERA: OK, but how long are Democrats willing to hold their position? No DACA, no deal in there forward, no end of shutdown.

BLUMENTHAL: On DACA, there is also bipartisan consensus that there is a moral obligation. The America has made a promise to these young people, the Dreamers who come here, 800,000 of them, with their parents, no choice of their own and providing them a path to citizenship.

We have made that extra step to our comprise by putting on the table, full funding for the wall even though the president promise the Mexicans would pay for it, even though it maybe excessively costly and in fact, ineffective, we've said if it takes a law, put it on the table.

But what would it take to reach an agreement? I think compromise on both sides. We need to come together and we can be reasonable in the finger pointing, in the blaming and come together as Americans.

[18:10:02] CABRERA: Let me throw out this idea from Senator Lindsey Graham. When you talk about compromise, according to two sources, he now believes he has at least five new Democratic supporters on board with a proposal to end the shutdown which in some iteration of a three-week short-term funding bill plus from commitments from GOP leaders on consideration of immigration legislation. Would you vote yes for that? BLUMENTHAL: I would vote yes for a commitment to make DACA or the Dreamers and the DREAM Act part of a must pass bill so that we are guaranteed a vote in the House of Representatives.

Remember, we work very hard. I was part of leading the effort on comprehensive immigration reform passed by the Senate, bipartisan vote overwhelming 68 senators and then it was never brought to a vote on the floor of the House of Representatives.

We need a guarantee that there will be a vote on the Dreamers. Their status expires on March 8th. It needs to be done well before then administratively in order to spare them mass draconian deportation. It's an obligation on the part of our nation. It's a moral obligation. We've made promises to them but it's also an economic obligation. Half a trillion dollars will be lost in workforce contributions if they are deported.

CABRERA: OK. So just to clarify, though, the deal that Lindsey Graham has proposed and he thinks he can bring Democrats along with him, additional Democrats and the ones that had already voted yes, is that compromised as we just laid it out something you would support?

BLUMENTHAL: It is something I certainly would consider. I would want to support a compromise. It has to be a measure that fully achieves our common objectives. The path to citizenship guarantees that it will be brought to a vote in the House as part of a measure that will be considered and that it enables all of us to come together and keep our promise to the Dreamers. The details are important, Ana, and I want to see them.

CABRERA: Senator Richard Blumenthal, thank you. Good luck as the --

BLUMENTHAL: Thank you.

CABRERA: -- negotiations continue.

Still ahead this hour, making their voices heard. Thousands take to the streets for a second day. We will take you live to a rally, how women's march in Las Vegas, next.

Plus, red flag? A new report detailing Jared Kushner's high level meetings raising eyebrows especially given the president's son-in-law has temporary security clearance. Details ahead.

You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:16:44] CABRERA: So what does the shutdown mean for everyday Americans? First, hundreds of thousands of non-essential employees are for load, if it last long enough, they will be without a paycheck but would likely be paid retroactively.

Now, the military is considered essential in which the report for duty but they could potentially not be paid during a shutdown either. Guess who still does get their paychecks? Congress, that's written in the law. National zoos and museums are closed, mails don't get delivered, essential services like Social Security still gets funded, that includes the TSA and air traffic control. The nation's capital could be hit especially hard because the city's budget comes from Congress. So services like garbage pickup maybe delayed if a shutdown drags on.

So where do things stand right now? Well, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer are finally talking again. They met just a short time ago. Could the fear stand up between Democrats and Republicans?

And tonight, we are hearing that crucial vote is still tentatively set for 1:00 a.m. Eastern. So let's talk it over as the clock ticks down with Matt Lewis, senior columnist at the Daily Beast, Maria Cardona, Democratic strategist, and Jeff Ballabon, member of the Donald J. Trump for President Advisory Board.

Matt, you have an article in which you write the scariest thing about the shutdown both sides think they can win. Explain.

MATT LEWIS, SENIOR COLUMNIST, DAILY BEAST: That's right. Well, first of all, I think that's the scary thing about 2018 is that you have two sides that think the wind is at their back. Republicans say hey, look, we have everything. We've got the president, we've got the Senate. We just passed tax reform. And so the wind is at our back.

Democrats are saying, no, we're going to win the midterms, Donald Trump's approval rating is in the gutter. So you've got two sides that are like equally matched, nobody wants to back down and then you take this shutdown deal, the continuing resolution specifically. Republicans say Democrats are going to get blame. They're the ones who voted against a continuing resolution. They own the shutdown and Democrats are going to say, no, Republicans control everything. How can we be?

So you basically have this situation where whenever two people believe that they're winning, there's nuance in it for anybody to back down.

CABRERA: Maria, we just spoke with Senator Blumenthal who said there is bipartisan support for DACA. It seems to be that is the linchpin right now. So if Republicans and Democrats agree on DACA, Democrats are very sure of that that they have Republican support on that issue, why not? Wait to deal with DACA after the government is backup and running again.

MARIA CARDONA, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, I think, again, as Senator Blumenthal also mentioned, I think the Democrats -- I don't think I know because I've been talking to them, they would absolutely be open to doing that if the deal is let's keep the government open for two or three more days as the negotiations on the non- controversial bipartisan supported DACA legislation get ironed out.

That was the deal that Trump promised Pelosi and Schumer late last year after he was the one who rescinded DACA and started this whole mess to begin with, that was the deal that he promised Graham and Durbin when they talk on the phone last week. And then what did he do? Oh, and that was the deal also that was on track when he invited Schumer to the White House just on Friday.

[18:20:03] And what happened in all three of those situations, Ana? The great deal maker became the person who blew up the deal. So Schumer is absolutely right. How can you negotiate with someone who's like Jell-O with someone whom you can't trust, with someone who says one thing to your face and then when they get back to the White House and talk to their anti-immigrant advisers and tell them there's no way you can make this deal with the Dreamers then he backs out. That's the problem that we're up against.

But we are hopeful that this will continue down the line with a bipartisan group of senators who understand that the majority of Americans are in support of giving these Dreamers the protections that they deserve and move forward with all of the other things that also are deserving of the attention of the people who are on the Hill, and, frankly, of this White House. It has been completely NIA.

CABRERA: Jeff, how do you respond to the idea of the president continuing to move the target in terms of the terms of negotiation?

JEFF BALLABON, MEMBER, DONALD J. TRUMP FOR PRESIDENT ADVISORY BOARD: Well, look, I mean Matt started off by talking about how these two echo chambers in America that are at odds with each other and each field have to win behind their back. And we just started an explanation of facts and who sets this problem up that obviously from my perspective, it's completely at the lunch.

The DACA situation wasn't set up by Donald Trump. It was set up by Barack Obama, who bite this legislative process all together and he created this problem. Donald Trump said let's make this a legislative --

(CROSSTALK)

BALLABON: -- that makes the legislative issue correctly and as a legislative issue, from the get-go as he was campaigning, President Trump has been clear that he wants the wall but he also wants a big beautiful doors, those were his words repeatedly.

And so the issue was not DACA and the Dreamers. The issue is what about security for Americans in terms of immigration generally. That's the deal in which DACA is part of.

(CROSSTALK)

CARDONA: So, Jeff --

CABRERA: Maria, hold on for a second --

CARDONA: Yes, sure, sure.

CABRERA: -- because the president apparently, according to Chuck Schumer, Schumer has said, we'll give you the wall if you agreed to the DACA --

CARDONA: Exactly, he puts the wall on the table. BALLABON: Well, Chuck Schumer puts on the wall -- what Chuck Schumer's put on the table was minimum funding for something far less than anything serious in terms of Boris security --

(CROSSTALK)

CABRERA: But he just said in the very last deal that he was trying to make with the president --

BALLABON: Right.

CARDONA: That's right.

CABRERA: -- right before the shutdown, he said and he is giving his commitment to the American people today say this is the deal that I'm willing to make and that is to give the president --

BALLABON: That's not the deal.

CABRERA: -- the money that he has asked for.

BALLABON: He is not getting the money that he's asked for all together. What he said is (INAUDIBLE) the money. And the truth of it is that between that and chain migration, you know, Americans by and large are very comfortable with the idea of Dreamers and DACA. The issue is we first want to feel safe and secure and the fact is that the Democrats are shutting down the government over this much broader issue of illegal immigration --

(CROSSTALK)

BALLABON: -- broader issue of immigration, not just this issue.

CARDONA: No. That's a lie.

BALLABON: And the truth is -- OK. And the truth is that the Democrats are counting on immediate complicity and certain amount of gullibility among people but I think most Americans are not going to be gullible of that as most Americans see the Democrats are the ones who have really shut this down, they didn't have to, the Democrats shutdown the government over this issue.

Yes. I get there's going to be -- excuse me, he said she said on this as exactly Matt started off with, it's true. There are two sides of this and we are completely disagreeing even about the very facts.

(CROSSTALK)

CABRERA: Wait, wait, wait, Maria, just for a second though because, Matt, let met get you back in here. You (INAUDIBLE) conservative we know and we're hearing from a lot of Republicans like Lindsey Graham who are saying some of your Republican colleagues are putting party over the country. They are putting the party flag over the American flag I think was the word Lindsey Graham had initially said. There have been efforts today to reach some kind of compromise, how do you see this playing out? LEWIS: Well, I think that the question is do Democrats -- you know, everybody is going to pretend that they're winning this fight. But I think it's possible that Democrats are starting to get a little bit of cold feet about this. Because remember, we've got midterms coming up and if all things being equal, Democrats should probably do really well in the midterms.

So right now, I think if all things being equal, Democrats will probably take the House of Representatives. They don't want to do anything that would mess that up. And if it looks like they are giving -- that they're basically inconveniencing or harming, thousands of American citizens in order to benefit a handful of undocumented immigrants, that's not going to play well in some of these congressional districts.

So if it -- if they feel like that this is actually hurting them, they're not going to say that. They might be willing to cut a deal that says, look, let's talk about DACA, later, we'll do a short-term fix to keep the government open. Otherwise, this thing could drag on if both sides really believe that they're winning, this thing could go on.

CABRERA: So, Maria, Democrats did take a big gamble though with this DACA play, right? A brand new poll from CNN finds most Americans, 36%, the DACA is not worth a government shutdown. Of course, you are a Democratic strategist.

CARDONA: Yes.

CABRERA: What do you say to a majority of Americans who disagree with the Democrats' gamble on this?

[18:25:00] CARDONA: Well, what I would say is I would actually point out to the same CNN poll and other polls who have shown that it's actually the Republicans and President Trump who will be blamed for this government shutdown as they should be because the other thing that Americans understand very clearly and very easily is that Republicans control the White House, Republicans control the Senate, Republicans control the House of Representatives.

Republicans are the ones who have, as head of their party, somebody who campaigned on being the grand deal maker on being somebody who only he himself could fix this mess and being the only one right now on record calling for a government shutdown. So --

(CROSSTALK)

CARDONA: So what Jeff is saying --

(CROSSTALK)

CABRERA: One at a time. Finish your thought real quick and then --

CARDONA: Thank you.

CABRERA: -- I'll give you the last word, Jeff.

CARDON: What Jeff has said before in terms of, you know, Democrats wanting all these things on illegal immigration, that's just not true. We would be happy with the fix on DACA, which is what Trump promised and everything else, you know, can come and yes, we understand that long-term fixes need to be done on so many issues facing the country. But, again, this has everything to do with Republicans not being able to govern and this president not having the spine to govern. So similar to so many Trump properties, this shutdown will have Trump written all over it.

CABRERA: Jeff, your last thought.

BALLABON: It sounds like a Democrat strategist trying to find an exit out which suggest that Matt may be right that they're already beginning to get cold feet. Fact is Americans understand all those things. They also understand the filibuster role. They also understand that despite control of the government, you need 60 votes and therefore, I think they understand this is the Schumer shutdown.

CARDONA: They also understand how unfit this president is to lead.

CABRERA: Maria Cardona, Jeff Ballabon, and Matt Lewis, thank you all for joining us.

CARDONA: Thanks, Ana.

CABRERA: All right, coming up, hundreds of thousands took to the streets yesterday as protest in cities across the U.S. But the rallies, they weren't over today, another one in Las Vegas with thousands are gathering to hear everyone from Congressman John Lewis to share. We'll take you there live in the CNN NEWSROOM.

But first, the government shutdown could derail Wall Streets rally, not because of the actual economic consequences, those tend to be limited but because of shutdown is a bright flashing sign of political dysfunction and that can hurt investor and business confidence, especially if it's prong. Now, the stock market of course has been on fire since President Trump took office.

Last week, the Dow blew threw yet another milestone hitting 26,000. This week, investors will also keep an eye on company earnings and the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, the annual conference of the global investment business establishments this year's President Trump was planning to attend. Still no words just yet on exactly if he still will if we're in a government shutdown.

The White House says he wants to advance as America first agenda with those world leaders to put him in the same room as many of the international elites he attacked during the 2016 campaign. So, we'll keep an eye on what happened and if he ends up going.

We're back in just a moment. You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM. Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [18:30:00]

CABRERA: A year after millions took to the streets to protest President Trump's inauguration, massive crowds gathered once again at women's marches in cities all across the U.S. and around the world.

In Jacksonville, Florida, demonstrators staged what they call a rally for liberation focused on expanding voter access and registration.

Public safety officials estimate a crowd of 20,000 turned out to march in Phoenix. The organizer there says last year's event was a protest. This one was a movement, encouraging people to make a difference by voting in the midterm elections.

And as far as away as Stockholm, Sweden, this group braved the cold, holding signs, playing music to share their message. The woman who took this video says the #MeToo movement has taken hold in her country and was a real eye-opener for her.

One of the largest of today's rallies is underway in Las Vegas, and Miguel Marquez has been among the crowds there.

Miguel, what is today's event there all about? I know the theme is "Power at the Polls."

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, this is -- if yesterday was about getting out there, getting the feet on the ground and energizing people, this is about organizing people to get out and vote. They had about 16,000 people to register.

They've been going -- I can show you a little bit of the crowd that are still here. They've been going for about 4-1/2, five hours today. Among others, Cher showed up. Faith Evans got the crowd going for a little bit, singing Whitney Houston's song, "I'm Every Woman."

But this was all about politics. This is the national Women's March organization that has organized this event. And they've done it in Nevada for a very simple reason. There's a governorship and a Senate seat, both in Republican hands right now, that they would like to win.

They think they are both winnable. Hillary Clinton won Nevada in 2016, so they think that they have a very good chance of doing that. This state has proved itself to be very, very purple, if not turning very blue in the past, so they think that is the place to put their energy.

But this is also a national movement. They want to start the process of what they say is getting a million new voters registered across the country with this.

[18:35:03] And this will not be the last of these sorts of rallies. They intend to hold 10 of these rallies, at least 10, in 10 different battleground states. They announced a few of them here. At least battleground races in Texas, Ohio, and Pennsylvania is where they're going with this.

But, clearly, this is an attempt to take that energy from last year and this year, those women's marches, and turn into action -- Ana.

CABRERA: All right. Miguel Marquez in Las Vegas, thanks.

Straight ahead, he is the President's point man on Mideast peace, prison reform, and now, reportedly, diplomacy with China.

So why is Jared Kushner, who still only has a temporary security clearance, continually involved in high-level talks? We'll discuss live in the CNN NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CABRERA: A new report in "The New Yorker" details how China has spent the last year zeroing in on the President's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, someone with little to no diplomatic experience.

[18:40:03] Now, this report claims China's Ambassador has met with Kushner several times. And that during at least one of those meetings, the two men were alone, something past administrations have steered clear of.

And also revealed in this report, Kushner still doesn't have a permanent security clearance, even after more than a year in the White House.

I want to bring in one of "The New Yorker's" writers who broke this story. Again, from "The New Yorker." Adam Entous is a CNN contributor as well.

Thank you very much, Adam, for breaking away from your weekend plans to join us. Your report is titled, "Jared Kushner is China's Trump Card." So how did Kushner exactly become China's go to man?

ADAM ENTOUS, STAFF WRITER, THE NEW YORKER: Well, I mean, the broker originally was during the campaign, and it was Kissinger.

Henry Kissinger decided to help Jared get to know the Chinese Ambassador here in Washington, who is an old hand, a real pro, because, you know, the Chinese were trying to figure out how to get closer to people in Trump's immediate orbit.

And in their view, I mean, considering some of the other people around Trump like Steve Bannon, Jared Kushner seems like, from a Chinese perspective, a more reasonable interlocutor.

CABRERA: You write that Kushner has handled some of these meetings with these Chinese officials differently than past administrations. We mentioned meeting one-on-one with the Chinese Ambassador at least once. Why is this so concerning to national security officials?

ENTOUS: Right. So the way it works is, you know, generally speaking, the Chinese always bring note takers, other staff, to meetings because they're concerned that there might be accusations that things were disclosed during those meetings that then would be discovered by Chinese security services. You have a similar concern on the American side. What happens is, is that these meetings take place, and then the

Chinese and the Americans will write reports about what was discussed in these meetings.

So what would happen would be that the Chinese Ambassador would sit with Jared Kushner or with other U.S. officials, write a cable that would describe what was discussed, send it to Beijing, and then officials in Beijing will discuss what was discussed in Washington.

The risk here is that U.S. intelligence agencies are spying on the Chinese, and they capture some of these communications. They get insight into what was discussed.

And so for Americans to protect themselves, American diplomats and American officials to protect themselves, they usually bring specialists, they usually bring note takers, so that there's a version on the American side that might correctly or more accurately reflect what was discussed, rather than have the intelligence community distribute only what they collect from the Chinese side which could have implications. For example, the intelligence community deciding if somebody is being targeted in an influence operation.

CABRERA: Is there any indication that the Chinese have had an unusual influence in some way over the administration through this Kushner connection?

ENTOUS: Well, certainly, when you consider the campaign rhetoric from Trump where he basically accused the Chinese of raping the United States. The policies that have been undertaken as Jared Kushner was running this channel has been much more positive for the Chinese. You haven't had that.

What we learned, as part of our reporting for the story, was that in early March, the FBI had a meeting with Jared in which they explained to him the vulnerability here. That the Chinese and others were targeting him to try to put him on alert so that he would be aware that this was going on around him.

Now, because Jared has, you know, through his company, which he has separated somewhat from but not entirely, there is this added risk that the Chinese might use inducements for these companies, for the family business, in order to try to curry favor with Jared and with other members of the Trump administration.

CABRERA: What is the status, quickly, if you will, of Kushner's security clearance?

ENTOUS: So, you know, he applied pretty much a year ago for a permanent clearance. He got a temporary clearance about two weeks later, something like that.

Since then, he's been given access to what's known as the President's daily brief, which is the most kind of elite intelligence product produced. Even though since then, he has yet to get the permanent clearance. Now, it's not unusual for low-level officials to have to wait in the

first year of an administration up to a year and maybe a little bit longer. But that's for low-level officials.

CABRERA: Yes.

ENTOUS: Jared Kushner is, you know, arguably at the very, very top. And usually, applicants like that are expedited. And we don't really understand what's holding it up. It could be the Russia investigation. It could be his failure to disclose his foreign contacts initially, his foreign contacts.

CABRERA: Yes.

ENTOUS: Or it could be also a combination of that, including these intercepted -- you know these Chinese communications which are now being scrutinized by the intelligence community.

[18:45:04] CABRERA: Adam Entous, really fascinating report. Thank you for your time and for explaining it to us.

ENTOUS: Thank you.

CABRERA: I want to talk more about this new reporting with CNN's national security analyst, Samantha Vinograd.

So, Sam, you've served as a former senior adviser to President Obama's National Security Council. I am curious what you make of this idea that the Chinese are trying to use Jared Kushner as a pawn.

SAMANTHA VINOGRAD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, I think that Jared Kushner, just as a matter of fact, is an ideal foreign intelligence target. The Russians and the Chinese are at the top of the list from a counterintelligence perspective.

Jared Kushner has the access, the influence, and the inexperience that foreign intelligence services often try to manipulate. They want to find people that can give them information that they want, can affect policy in the way that they want, and that usually have some kind of secret that can be manipulated.

That could be undisclosed or misreported foreign contacts. That could be undisclosed or misreported financial transactions, or that could be anything from drug use or gambling to an affair.

But what this really tells me is that there are unresolved questions about whether Jared Kushner can be trusted with intelligence. And he has access, as Adam said, to the most sensitive intelligence in the country.

Under President Obama, there were seven people that had access to the PDB that President Obama read. We now have someone going into the Oval Office every morning, reading that sensitive intelligence without any certainty that he is responsible enough to know how to use it.

CABRERA: And you say that because he still doesn't have his permanent security clearance.

VINOGRAD: Correct, which is unprecedented.

CABRERA: Unprecedented. Explain that to us because what Adam just said is, sometimes, it does take a bit of time.

VINOGRAD: It definitely can. But because of his position, both on the transition team and in the White House, his clearance would have been prioritized. It would have been put at the top of the pile because of the fact that he's an assistant to the President. He was a senior official on the transition team.

This is not a question of the investigating agency not paying attention to his clearance. This is likely an issue of unresolved questions about what he did or did not report in this very lengthy form you have to fill out, an S.F. 86, and whether, again, he might be subject to counterintelligence probes.

CABRERA: Would they ever deny his clearance?

VINOGRAD: They could. If they are unable to resolve questions, they could deny it. And I know people that have had their clearances denied because the investigating agency can't say with certainty this person can be trusted with this intelligence.

It is very unusual, again, for someone at this level to have an interim clearance for this long. And I think that Congress should act immediately to ensure that Kushner does not have access to the PDB until a point, whenever that may be, when he has a full clearance.

CABRERA: Samantha Vinograd, always good to see you.

VINOGRAD: Thank you.

CABRERA: Thank you very much.

Still to come, Hollywood heavyweights gather tonight to honor their best. But how can they juggle being both a rallying point for #MeToo while still being self-congratulatory?

We have live images right now. We will take you there to the red carpet when we come back. You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:52:35] CABRERA: It's a big night for Hollywood. Its stars are gathering for the Screen Actors Guild Awards. And unlike the Oscars and the Golden Globes, these awards are chosen by their peers.

Many of this year's top nominees feature stories by and about women. And tonight's show comes as the #MeToo movement is empowering women to speak out against sexual misconduct.

Stephanie Elam joins us from the red carpet. Stephanie, what are we to expect tonight? STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I can tell you one thing,

Ana. The celebrities here are still very much talking about the Women's March yesterday. A lot of people are talking about how they don't think that this change is just a moment, that they think it's true change.

I was just talking to Susan Sarandon. She pretty much forgot that she's nominated tonight for the "Feud." She's really more focused on talking about the march and activism.

She also thinks that Nicole Kidman is going to win for "Big Little Lies." So there you go. That's Susan Sarandon's prediction for what's going to happen tonight.

That is one of the shows to watch because you have multiple nominees from that show. You have also -- besides Nicole Kidman, you also have Reese Witherspoon nominated, and Alexander Skarsgard.

And on the movies' side, a lot of discussion about "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri," as that movie had the most nominations coming into this awards show with four nominations. So we'll be looking at that.

But one other that's noteworthy, too, about this show tonight, Ana, is the fact that it's going to be hosted by a woman, Kristen Bell. This is the first time they've had a host at the SAG Awards.

And on top of it, most of the presenters will be women as well. So you're going to see that theme carry on through this show in a different way than everyone wearing black at the Golden Globes.

But there will be some men involved, I understand. But for the most part, it is a really women-dominated night with a lot of women- dominated projects like "Big Little Lies" and "Lady Bird."

So we'll see more of that as the show gets going, but the stars are showing up. They're here on the red carpet.

CABRERA: Yes.

ELAM: We're seeing a lot of the stars making their way down the red carpet now, so it's getting fun out here.

CABRERA: Well, I'm loving watching the fashion, the different dresses. All these beautiful women who are showing up, including yourself.

Stephanie Elam, thanks for that update.

ELAM: Thanks, Ana.

CABRERA: And coming up, the ticking clock on Capitol Hill, still ticking away as the government shutdown approaches a third day if we get there tomorrow.

The latest from our nation's capitol in just minutes. You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.

[18:54:49] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CABRERA: Just about 7:00 p.m. Eastern, 4:00 in the afternoon out West, you're in the CNN NEWSROOM, and I'm Ana Cabrera in New York.

Thanks for being with us as we get right to the breaking news right now, the mad scramble on Capitol Hill to try and restart the United States government.

A little more than an hour ago, the two most powerful U.S. senators, the majority and the minority leaders, they met face-to-face on this, the second day of the American government shutdown.

And sources familiar with this meeting say the two men did not make a deal that would outright end the funding stalemate and get the government running again. But there are several hours still left before that vote in the Senate scheduled for 1:00 a.m. Eastern. And unlike the rest of the government, the houses of Congress are full of activity tonight.

[19:00:03] Our senior congressional correspondent, Manu Raju, is on Capitol Hill right now. Our White House correspondent, Boris Sanchez, is at the White House.

Manu, to you first.