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W.H. Now Not Pulling Out Of Syria "Until ISIS Is Gone," Last Month: Our Troops Are "Coming Back Now"; Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Sparks Controversy, Attracts Supporters As Youngest House Member; President Trump Announces National Address and Border Visit; Interview with Pennsylvania Republican Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick. Aired on 8-9p ET

Aired January 7, 2019 - 20:00   ET


[20:00:17] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening.

The president of the United States believes that building a wall along the border with Mexico is important enough to shout down the government. Important enough, he believes, to go on national television tomorrow night to alert the nation about what he says are the consequences of Congress not funding it. A threat so dire, he says, he might declare a national emergency and order the military to build it and it's certainly his prerogative to make that case. It might not hold up in court, as some have suggested, but he can and might try again his prerogative.

And just to make it clear, it's not our job to argue for or against walls or shutdowns or anything that one party or another wants. It's up to elected officials. What is our job is to point out when officials are making their case disingenuously or dishonestly, when they're making stuff up essentially. And sadly, yet again, that's what the president seems to be doing.

He made a claim on Friday about the wall that's now been thoroughly debunked. Here's what he said on Friday.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This should have been done by all of the presidents that preceded me and they all know it. Some of them have told me, that we should have done it.


COOPER: Some former presidents he said have claims, told him, they should have done it. Now, keeping them honest, there's no evidence that any living former president did say that to him.

Jimmy Carter today became the latest in last former president to deny it or have a spokesman deny it. Bill Clinton's spokesman denied it and said they haven't talked since the inauguration. George W. Bush's spokesman said they haven't. President Obama's whose spokesperson declined to comment, has consistently blasted President Trump's wall. So, unless he is the president's secret admirer, the president's claim

on Friday, excuse me, was made up. Add it to the list. The president now also seems to be making up the concession and suggesting Democrats will go along with it.


TRUMP: And as I told you, it's going to be a steel border and that's going to give us great strength.

REPORTER: Why do you think the Democrats would agree to a steel border?

TRUMP: They don't like concrete, so we'll give them steel. Steel is fine. Steel is actually more expensive than concrete. But it will look beautiful and it's very strong. It's actually stronger.


COOPER: Steel, catnip to Democrats.

Now, keeping them honest, whether you agree with it or not, the Democrat's position is no money for the wall. Not no money unless it's steel, in which case, go wild. So unless Democrats are saying the complete opposite of their public position behind closed doors, the president is making that up as well.

Now, in fairness, negotiators often say different things in public than they do in private, it's just that a president who makes up imaginary secret supporters doesn't have a lot of creditability when talking about what goes on behind closed doors, which is pretty messed up when you think about it. The president and the White House are also saying that a wall is essential to stop terrorists as well as criminals and drugs.


TRUMP: We're looking at a national emergency because we have a national emergency. Just read the papers. We have a crisis at the border of drugs, of human beings being trafficked all over the world. They're coming through. And we have an absolute crisis and a criminals and gang members coming through. It is national security. It's a national emergency.


COOPER: Now, the president speaking generalities, which makes it hard to fact check what he said. His surrogates are more specific.

Here's Press Secretary Sarah Sanders on Fox News.


SARAH HUCKABEE SANDES, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Ninety percent of the heroin that comes into this country comes across through the southern border and 300 Americans are killed from that every single month.


COOPER: Now, keeping them honest, according to information from border protection and the DEA, the majority of hard drugs like heroin seized by Customs and Border Production comes through ports of entry, not through gaps in the wall or on the backs of unlawful border crossers. The majority of heroin arrives in packages and cargo with people trying to enter the country lawfully through ports of entry.

Now, the White House is throwing around a big number of known or suspected terrorists and making it sound like they are crossing into U.S. from Mexico.


SANDERS: We know that roughly nearly 4,000 known or suspected terrorists come into our country illegally and we know that our most vulnerable point of entry is at our southern border.


COOPER: Now, I don't say this often, but I'll let my Fox News colleague take this for a minute because his facts are correct.


CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Wait, wait. I know the statistic. I didn't know if you're going to use it. But I studied up on this. You know where those 4,000 people come, where they're captured? Airports.

SANDERS: Not always. Certainly a large --


WALLACE: The State Department says there hasn't been any terrorists that they found across the southern border to Mexico.

SANDERS: It's by air, by land.


COOPER: That 4,000 figure appears to be from a recent homeland security presentation to Congress and it's misleading. The figure, as the Department of Homeland Security itself, writes -- represents individuals all over the world who are blocked from traveling to or entering the U.S., not necessarily along the southern -- southwest border.

[20:05:10] Some were stopped before they boarded flights. Some before they even obtained a visa.

Now, to be exceedingly generous to Sarah Sanders for a minute, maybe she got confused and conflated those numbers from all ports of entry in all over the world with these numbers.


KIRSTJEN NIELSEN, DHS SECRETARY: CBP has stopped over 3,000 what we call special interest aliens trying to come into the country on the southern border. Those are aliens who the the intel community has identified are of concern.


COOPER: All right, so sounds like she's talking about terrorists there. And keeping them honest, there's no uniform definition of the term special interest alien. However, her predecessor at DHS, John Kelly, did sort of spell it out u. They are he said from parts of the world where terrorism is prevalent or nations that are hostile to the United States.

A 2016 Department of Homeland Security inspector general's report defined special interest countries as those, quote, that are of concern to the national security of the United States based on several U.S. government reports. But special interest alien doesn't appear to mean terrorist because in a July 2017, State Department report says there is, I'm quoting, no credible information that any member of a terrorist group has traveled through Mexico to gain access to the United States, which is a far cry from 3,000 or 4,000. They're saying zero.

The vast majority of terrorist acts in this country have been committed by U.S. citizens or lawful immigrants. Now, you can make the case that even suspected terrorist is too many. But the president is not arguing on that basis. He's not trying to persuade Americans to face a threat that actually exists, because according to the government's own statistics, the threat comes in many places that have nothing to do with the southern border.

The president is asking Americans to sign on to potentially extreme measures from the shutdown to a possible state of emergency unless an honest pretenses. More now on the state of talks and the president's address to the nation tomorrow.

Jim Acosta joins us from the White House with that.

So do we know why the president felt it necessary to address the nation tomorrow night?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, I think there's a recognition inside the White House that they are losing this argument. This shutdown wall argument and that is reflective in the fact that the president is having a rare Oval Office address to the nation tomorrow night. I was just told by a senior White House u official in the last several minutes that this address is only going to be about seven to eight minutes, but that will command a lot of air time. While the networks, including CNN, are going to run this address.

And in addition to that, on Thursday, he's going down to the border with Mexico to once again try to talk about what they deem to be a crisis over here at the White House. And speaking of that, I was in a briefing today. It was off camera, pen and pad briefing with Vice President Mike Pence and the Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, and the word they used time and again, Anderson, during this briefing is crisis. They're going try to make the case to the American people tomorrow night with the president in the oval office with all the trappings of the presidency and so on all around him, that the country faces a crisis right now, and just begs the question if it's such a big crisis, why are they Republican lawmakers right now saying they're willing to open up the government without this wall funding.

And if it is a crisis, how can they build a wall quickly enough to meet that crisis. And so on. And so, there's a lot of unanswered questions over here at the White House. And even the president's own allies have been saying these tweets and these gaggles you're doing with reporters here and there, it's not convincing the American people and that's part of the reason why he's going to be coming out here and going down to the border on Thursday.

COOPER: And do we know how seriously the president is considering declaring a national emergency that should build this wall? Or is it a negotiating tactic?

ACOSTA: Well, I talked to a very key Republican aide to a key senator up on Capitol Hill earlier today who said at this point, there's a recognition that this may be a negotiating tactic on the part of the White House. Vice President Pence said today though that the White House counsel's office is looking at this. So, it does sound like it's a live option the president is considering. He's been talking about this over and over again.

But as you mentioned earlier, Anderson, there's a lot of lawmakers on Capitol Hill and it's a possibility that you could have lawmakers on both sides who would support a challenge to that in the court and the challenge would essentially say there is no national emergency right now, so the president can declare a state of emergency. They can make things up, as you've been pointing out over the last several minutes over at the White House, but just because they make things up about what they see is happening across the border with Mexico, that doesn't necessarily make it so.

One other thing I should point out, Anderson, when we sat down with the vice president, the homeland security secretary earlier today, they promised us a fact sheet that was going to try to inform the American people about all of these things they've been talking about over the last several days, and I suppose clean up some things they've been saying. We've still not received that fact sheet at this hour, Anderson.

COOPER: All right. Jim Acosta at the White House -- appreciate it. So, the bottom line according to people on both sides of the talks is not very encouraging in terms of the shutdown stopping.

[20:10:01] No progress yet. The pain is coming. For some, it's already here.

One point made by CNN's Phil Mattingly, current pay-as-you-go spending rules could force cuts to Medicare if Congress doesn't act. The stakes are growing, whether it's the kind of crisis the president seized or the one that millions around the country could soon be feeling.

I spoke about it earlier with one of those Republicans Jim Acosta was just talking about, Pennsylvania Republican Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick, who voted last week with Democrats on bills to reopen the government.


COOPER: Congressman, with the president poised to dig in more on the shutdown with the primetime speech tomorrow night, a visit to the border on Thursday, do you have any reason to believe the shutdown is going to be resolved anytime soon?

REP. BRIAN FITZPATRICK (R), PENNSYLVANIA: I sure hope so, Anderson, because the stakes are awfully high and I lived through a government shutdown as an FBI agent back in 2013, and saw how devastating and detrimental it is, you know, having -- as a supervisor, having to make decisions on essential versus nonessential employees, and then the FBI, everybody's essential professional staff getting furloughed right in the middle of investigations, it's not a good situation.

And under the current circumstance right now, we have the TSA negatively impacted, Air Traffic Control, Border Control, Customs and Border Protection, the Coast Guard, the FBI, our entire national security apparatus is not being funded and it's national security issue for sure.

COOPER: The president says the situation at the border is a national emergency and they might bypass Congress and use military funds to build the wall. Do you see this as a national emergency?

FITZPATRICK: There's two questions there. Number one, can he legally? The second is, should he? The can is a question of constitutional law in Article 2 of the Constitution and Title 50 of the U.S. Code. That's the question of constitutional lawyers, and I think if he does make that decision, Anderson, that's going to get tied in litigation.

And as far as whether he should or not, you know, I think this is an issue that needs to be b revolved by Congress in a bipartisan manner, by the way, and that's going to require both our friends on the left and right to come to the center and come to a consensus solution to this, because the Democrats control the House. Republicans control the Senate.

So, by necessity of this, it will be a bipartisan solution. And the stakes couldn't be higher. We have to get the government reopened and that's the most important thing.

COOPER: So I take it from that, you don't believe when the president says it's a national emergency, you don't believe it is in the sense the president means. FITZPATRICK: No, I think it needs to go through Congress. There are

a lot of these people same people Anderson that complain that when the prior administration took executive action on DACA, that they said he acted outside of authority. My question to those same people, is do you believe this would be the same thing. We need to be consistent.

COOPER: Just lastly, have you gotten blowback for your vote to reopen the government?

FITZPATRICK: Well, you hear from certain constituents and you welcome through your rationale. You know, I just don't see any logic whatsoever so shutting the government down. It is a dangerous thing. And people that haven't lived through it may not understand that.

And to that point, Anderson, 'm encouraging every single one of my colleagues to do what several of us are doing, which is to forfeit our pay during the shutdown. Not just delay it. Forfeit it. Right a check back to the U.S. Treasury because then we'll actually feel the pain these federal employees living paycheck to paycheck will feel.

And just looking at aviation security, Anderson, the TSA and air traffic controllers, if they're not getting paid and they're fatigued and they're not on the ball as far as their job goes, that makes us less safe. We need to think about these things.

COOPER: Yes. I mean, that's the irony. And if the larger issue is national security, the shutdown is harming national security.

FITZPATRICK: And specific to the border. CBP, the Coast Guard and Border Patrol all fall under DHS. And DHS is not being adequately funded. So, having a debate over border security, while we're defunding border security simultaneously.

COOPER: Congressman Fitzpatrick, I appreciate your time. Thank you.

FITZPATRICK: Thank you, sir.


COOPER: Well, just ahead, more on the political dimension, especially the question of who pays the price as voters out there start feeling the pain, the price politically. Later, not so fast, the president's 30-day troop pullout in Syria has now sprouted delays and conditions. The president says he never said it would happen quickly. We're keeping them honest, ahead.


[20:18:22] COOPER: In a little more than 24 hours, President Trump will talk to the country about the crisis as he sees it on the southern border. Then on Thursday, he'll go down there.

Some of the people he meets will likely be working without pay. The president on Friday said they support him on the shutdown. Not everyone, as you've seen is happy, but for now, how the politics plays out. That's an open question which we want to get into with CNN's chief

political analyst Gloria Borger, former Trump campaign aide, Michael Caputo, and Democratic strategist Paul Begala.

Gloria, who do you think just politically has the upper hand tonight? I mean, we have the president threatening to declare a national emergency to get a wall built and a split Congress that negotiations seemingly going nowhere.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Look, I think right now, this president is reeling because he's not winning the narrative here and he's just trying to change it. He's trying to create a crisis, where I believe one does not exist. And if you look at the polling, you have 62 percent of people in this country oppose the building of the wall. You have a majority of the people, according to a bunch of polls, who say they blame the Republicans and the president more than the Democrats for shutdown.

So, what the president is trying to do with the speech tomorrow night is kind of reset and say, look, this is a crisis here. And here is why and that's why he's going for the photo op at the border at well. But I have to say, you know, we've been talking about wall. The president has been talking about this wall for what, more than a couple of years. And questions can be raised if it is a crisis and has been a crisis, when he controlled both houses of Congress, why didn't it get built?

COOPER: Michael, what about that? Do you think at this point, the president should bypass Congress and declare a national emergency?

[20:20:03] MICHAEL CAPUTO, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN AIDE: Well, I don't think the wall got built as Gloria said because we couldn't find the intestinal fortitude in Congress to get it done. You know, I also believe that whatever it takes, I don't care how he pays for, how he gets it done, I think we need this wall built.

I live about 18 miles outside of Buffalo, New York, and 48 hours over this weekend, we had nine opioid overdoses. Three people dead and we talk about you know, the children being smuggled across, the women being assaulted across as they come up north to go across the border, but 94 percent of opioids that are abused in the country come across the border, and whether it's by car or by tractor trailer or body carrier, it's got to be dealt with.

From here in Buffalo, where we just had nine overdoses an by the way, in flyover country, we had 45,000 people die of opioid deaths, 94 percent of those coming from across the border. It's a crisis up here. Whether it's a crisis on the border, I'm interested to see the case the president's going to make.

COOPER: Paul, do you see it as a crisis?

PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, there is an opioid crisis, yes, but there is not an illegal immigration crisis. We have fewer undocumented folks here today than we did ten years. And when the president goes to the border, he hasn't announced yet where he's going to go. This I know with 100 percent certainty, wherever he stands on that border, he will be in a congressional district where the local member of Congress opposes his wall because every single member of Congress, Republican and Democrat, who represents the border says we don't need a wall. They oppose Mr. Trump's wall.

So I hope he listens to them. But I'm terribly worried actually that he, for political purposes, is going to try to assert some sort of national security argument for extreme or emergency powers. This time tomorrow, we may be in constitutional crisis. He seems to admire Putin and Duterte and Erdogan and, Bolsonaro, the new president in Brazil, who all have moved to consolidate a radical power in away outside of our Constitution.

I'm sorry of these are alarmist, but I think that's what this president has got up his sleeve. I don't think he gives a whit about the wall. I think he's looking to try to assert a really radical presidential powers here.

COOPER: Gloria, I think the real test of this is going to come I guess starting Friday, which will be the first time the vast majority of federal workers do not get a check. How much could that change the calculus here?

BORGER: Well, I think then you may have a real national security crisis because then you're talking about the TSA and border patrol and people who are not showing up at work who need to show up at work. And I think what's been stunning to me about all of this is the lack of the president's empathy in talking about the people who the 800,000 people who are losing their paychecks who won't be able to pay their mortgage. I mean, he said at various times either they're Democrats or they support me or they'll make due. I think none of that is actually true. I think these are you know, these are people who want to support their families.

And I think this focused the Democrats as well as focusing the president when people start realizing that these people are out of work, their services are out of work an everybody at that point starts getting blamed and, you know, Paul has lived through this. It becomes kind of a pox on all your houses. So, maybe they'll do a deal on Dreamers and figure out a way out of this.

COOPER: Michael, the argument you make about the opioid epidemic. I mean, it's a powerful argument. You know, the counterargument is that, the majority, according to, you know, all the statistics and the majority of hard drugs like heroin and fentanyl, which is killing so many people, are coming through legal points of entry. It's coming through border -- you know, actual border crossings smuggled in vehicles, and through cargo and through the mail and things like that.

CAPUTO: Right. That's true, according to the DEA. But about 25 percent or so comes with body carriers. The idea of the wall is this part of an integrated solution. There's a need for a lot more border patrol offices, technology as well. The idea of the wall is that you stop the overland smuggling of those drugs at 25 percent. You force it to go through the ports of entry in the vehicles and you bring in more personnel and technology to interdict them there. And to me, it's a crisis levels up here in small town America and I

think if we can do something like that, we can address this opioid epidemic before it kills a lot more people. And by the way, we can't address it unless we stop the overland smuggling which is done through the body carriers. That's just not going to happen. It will never work without an integrated solution.

COOPER: Paul, is that -- I mean, is the opioid argument a valid one in terms of building a wall?

BEGALA: It's not the one the president's using. There is a crisis with opioid addiction and I think this president has been pathetic in how he has addressed that.

[20:25:05] I think that anything Michael is saying is correct in that there's a crisis and a lot of good people are dying. I don't think this president has focused on it sufficiently and I wish he would, but the wall is not going to fix the opioid overdose problem. In fact, it could be counterproductive to it by pulling resources away from interdiction and treatment and putting it into concrete.

It would be I think a huge mistake. By the way, it's not the argument the president's is using. He may throw that against the wall tomorrow night, too.

CAPUTO: I think he should though.

BEGALA: Maybe he should, but what he's trying to el us is that people who are in the main are fleeing and trying to find asylum, obeying our laws. They're not violating our laws. They're presenting themselves for asylum at our border and he's trying to say that's a threat to national security so that we're somewhat al Qaeda. That's completely dishonest.

COOPER: Yes. Paul Begala, Michael Caputo, Gloria Borger, I appreciate it. Thank you. We'll be talking to you again.

Coming up, the president insists his stance on withdrawing troops in Syria has not changed after his national security adviser appears to walk it back. We're keeping them honest, next.


COOPER: Today, the president tweeted that his intentions on Syria are no different from his original statements that the United States will be leaving at a, quote, proper pace, while at the same time, continuing to fight ISIS. Now, keeping them honest, that's not exactly true.

What the president originally said is different. The apparent reason he tweeted that today is that national security advisor John Bolton has contradicted what seemed to be the president's policy. Yesterday, Bolton told reporters that the United States will leave Syria only under the condition that Turkey promises not to attack Kurdish allies there. Later in a news conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Bolton again referred to a conditional withdrawal. [20:30:00]


JOHN BOLTON, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: We're going to be discussing the President's decision to withdraw, but to do so from Northeast Syria in a way that makes sure that ISIS is defeated and is not able to revive itself and become a threat again and to make sure that the defense of Israel and our other friends in the region is absolutely assured. And to take care of those who have fought with us against ISIS and other terrorist groups.


COOPER: Well, you may remember just a few weeks ago, the President claimed that ISIS already had been wiped out. He said, "We have defeated ISIS in Syria, my only reason for being there during the Trump presidency." Originally, the President had a 30-day timeline to withdraw the troops, which was later extended to four months, then yesterday, the President said this. Take a look.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We are pulling back in Syria. We're going to be removing our troops. I never said we're doing it that quickly, but we're decimating ISIS. When I was elected president two years ago, ISIS was all over Syria and all over Iraq. We've wiped out ISIS in Iraq.


COOPER: Well, keeping them honest, he said they were doing it quickly, 30 days. In fact, the same day he claimed victory over ISIS, he posted a video saying they are coming back now full stop, that they're "getting ready, you're going to see them soon," meaning U.S. troops.


TRUMP: Our boys, our young women, our men, they're all coming back, and they're coming back now. We won.


COOPER: Keeping them honest, the only thing that's happening now is that the old policy seems to be back in place.

Joining me now is retired Army Lieutenant Colonel Ralph Peters. Colonel, thanks for being with us. Should it comes any surprise that these plans for a 30-day withdrawal are now being walked back and whether the President wants to admit that they are or not.

LT. COL. RALPH PETERS (RET.), U.S. ARMY: Well, on a very practical logistical level, we couldn't leave in 30 days unless you wanted to leave behind very expensive military equipment, classified gear. So it was just another example of the President not having any idea whatsoever what he was talking about.

But as far as policies go, there's no consistency. The President is very child like and he's loyal to the other kid that he's playing with at the moment. He was on the phone with Erdogan. They were pals. Erdogan says, you know, (INAUDIBLE). You know, the Kurds are bad people. They are terrorists. We can take care of that and blah, blah. And Trump impulsively makes this announcement.

Now you have John Bolton trying to walk it back further because the job is not done. And it's a problem on multiple levels, Anderson. First of all, any U.S. presidential announcement or policy that pleases Vladimir Putin, the Iranians, Bashar al-Assad and ISIS is inherently a flawed policy. But secondly, it's not just about the Kurds, although they're very important and they had been outside of this.

You know, the best ally we've ever had in the Middle East, you know, they're doing the fighting on the ground not us --


PETER: -- who are supporting them. But it's not just about the shame, the disgrace of betraying the Kurds, rather, it's a global issue for the United States because after the President attacked NATO and stirred doubt about whether we'd support our NATO allies, now he's threatening to walk away from the Kurds say he wasn't going to do it.

Alliances are critical. The President himself said we can't be the world's policeman. Well, if we don't want to be world's policeman, you better have some other cops on the beat and we need allies and we are alienating them as fast as President Trump can.

COOPER: Yes. I mean, it's one of the things in Afghanistan that, you know, our troops for years had been trying to do is get people Afghans off the fence and try to convince them that you know, that we have their back for the long-term. This certainly sends, as you said, a message. I mean, the Kurds as you said, have been fighting with U.S. interests for, you know, and a lot of loss of life on the side of the Kurds.

But, I mean, either ISIS is defeated or is not, how are the American people supposed to know what to believe when the President says one thing one day and a different thing another?

PETERS: Well, regrettably, you simply cannot believe what President Trump says. You cannot believe it. He is the most invariant liar I have ever seen and not only public life, in my personal life. I mean, children don't lie with this alacrity, with this sense of conviction and he can't, he's child like

And I think I really believe that when Trump says these things on some level, he believes them. Counterfactual though, they may be. But Trump is ultimately a symptom of greater problems that we have.

And one of the problems frankly, Anderson, is that in this hyper media age, everybody wants a President they can have a beer with. I want a president I can have a beer with. I want a president who's qualified to lead our country domestically and aboard.

And it has been -- if we are honest, it has been over a quarter century since we have had a fully qualified president from either party who knew both domestic policy and foreign policy.

[20:35:10] The pattern is straightforward. You want to back even to JFK even further. American presidents, particularly Democrats, but from both party, come to the office with a strong domestic agenda, stuff they want to get done for America and foreign policy consumes them.

To elect a president who is not converse it with and capable of running a grown up foreign policy is a danger to our country and the world and President Trump, we've had bad presidents before, bad foreign policy presidents. We have absolutely hit bottom and it's frightening.

COOPER: It is the sort of announcing policy on the fly that is particularly surprising or shocking. I mean it's, as you said, a conversation with Erdogan and he makes an announcement and it seems like everybody else in the administration has to play catch up to try to either, you know, lessen the impact of it, follow through on it or reverse it without embarrassing the president.

PETERS: Yes. And it's difficult because the adults have left the room. You know, the kids are ripping the house up. They're home alone. And if you look at the what's left, the people advising Trump on foreign policy, both officially and unofficially, I mean, if you try -- you're trying to find somebody who is capable, it's like judging a beauty contest in a leper colony. I mean, there's just nothing left.

And the President, I'm not sure you can even call them policies, they're impulses. He just gets an idea in his head and says it or hears something on far right radio or he's -- something has whispered on Fox News or announced on Fox News and suddenly that's our national policy. That's not how you do policy.

And again, even if this like today, I wish President Trump would turn around and be a great president, but he is so far a disaster for our country, policies foreign and domestic.

COOPER: Colonel Peters, I appreciate your time. Thank you very much.

PETERS: Thank you.

COOPER: I want to check in with Chris to see what he's working on for "Cuomo Prime Time" at the top of the hour. Chris, welcome back.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Happy New Year, my brother. You were great on New Year. It was great watching you and they love you in Puerto Rico, my brother. They love you in Puerto Rico and everywhere else.

COOPER: You looked like you were having a good time.

CUOMO: I did. Why not go there. If you're going to go somewhere warm, the place is great, they need the money.

So, picking up on your conversation with Peters. The reason that we're dealing with this problem with the wall in part is because it was the mother of the President's jumping to an easy solution.

What we see in foreign policy now is actually an extension of this farce versus fact that we're dealing with, with the wall on the border. Something that somebody gave them that kind of appealed to his gut sense of what kind of problem to create and a simple solution that people can grab on to and it worked. It worked in the campaign and now they're caught, right?

They can't surrender on the wall because he doesn't want to capitulate, he doesn't want to seem as though he's not keeping a promise, but we're dealing with a fiction. You know this better than anybody. You've been down on the border more than any of us here who are covering (INAUDIBLE).

The wall he says he wants to build was never going to happen. The bollard fencing that is there that they need more of, he's now slowly -- the President saying, this is what I always meant. It's not what he always meant, but it is the reality. So we're going to take people through what the facts are versus the farce and we're going to test how long this shutdown is going to keep hurting people's lives.

COOPER: Facts versus farce. Chris, thanks very much. Appreciate it. I look forward to it. That's in about 20 minutes from now.

Coming up, my interview with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez, probably the most well-known new member of Congress. She's become a lightning rod certainly for conservatives, even some Democrats are worried she may move the party too far to the left. She's a hero to others. My interview with her coming up.


[20:42:37] COOPER: As you know, the 116th Congress was sworn into office last week, even if the government remain in a partial shutdown. A record number of women have been elected to the House of Representatives and so far, one newcomer is getting most of the attention from both the left and from the right.

Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, she's 29 years old, she never run for elected office before, and was working as a waitress and a bartender when she launched her campaign. She managed to unseat one of the most powerful Democrats in House in the primary.

Like Senator Bernie Sanders, Ocasio-Cortez is Democratic socialist. She believes in universal health care, tuition-free public college, massive government investment and to combat climate change. She's been described as both an inspiring and idealistic insurgent and then as a naive and ill-inform newcomer, depends who you talk to.

As the future of the Democratic Party narrower, as a potential obstacle to its success, few rookie members of Congress have put such bold ideas on the national agenda and stirred up so much controversy before they were even sworn in. I spoke with her for a report that first aired on "60 Minutes" just last night.


COOPER (on camera): There are people that say you don't understand how the game is played. Do you?

REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D), NEW YORK: I think it's really great for people to keep thinking that.

COOPER: You want folks to underestimate you?

OCASIO-CORTEZ: Absolutely. That's how I won my primary.

COOPER (voice-over): Winning that primary shocked the Democratic establishment and in November, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez became the youngest woman ever elected to Congress.

OCASIO-CORTEZ: We have made history tonight.

COOPER: Just a few days later, as soon as she got to Washington, she paid a visit to climate change activists who were occupying her party leader Nancy Pelosi's office. She was the only newly elected member of Congress who decided to drop by during the sit in. She called on Pelosi to create a select committee on climate change without any members of Congress who accept money from the fossil fuel industry.

(on camera) Nancy Pelosi is incredibly powerful.

OCASIO-CORTEZ: She absolutely is. And --

COOPER: And you're occupying her office.

OCASIO-CORTEZ: Oh, my goodness, I could have thrown up that morning. I was so nervous. But, I kept kind of just coming back to the idea that what they're fighting for wasn't wrong.

And I had also sat down with Leader Pelosi beforehand and she told me her story. She came from activism and I knew that she would absolutely understand how advocacy can change the needle on really important issues.

[20:45:08] COOPER (voice-over): Ocasio-Cortez and her allies manage to get more than 40 members of Congress to support the climate committee.


COOPER: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi agreed to create it, but it's not nearly what Ocasio-Cortez had in mind. Pelosi granted the committee limited powers and did not ban members who take money from the fossil fuel industry.


COOPER: For Ocasio-Cortez, it was an early lesson in congressional politics and another one came when she defied Pelosi and voted against the speaker's new House rules, but it was not joined by many other progressive Democrats.

Ocasio-Cortez told us she's determined to keep fighting for what's being called a Green New Deal, a highly ambitious, some would say unrealistic proposal that would convert the entire U.S. economy to renewable sources of energy in just 12 years, while guaranteeing every American a job at a fair wage.

(on camera) You're talking about zero carbon emissions, no use of fossil fuels within 12 years?

OCASIO-CORTEZ: That is the goal. It's ambitious. And --

COOPER: How is that possible? You're talking about everybody having to drive an electric car?

OCASIO-CORTEZ: It's going to require a lot of rapid change that we don't even conceive as possible right now. What is the problem with trying to push our technological capacities to the furthest extent possible?

COOPER: This would require raising taxes.

OCASIO-CORTEZ: There's an element where, yes, people are going to have to start paying their fair share in taxes.

COOPER: Do you have a specific on the tax rate?

OCASIO-CORTEZ: You know, you look at our tax rates back in the '60s. And when you have a progressive tax rate system, your tax rate, you know, let's say from zero to $75,000 may be 10 percent or 15 percent, et cetera.

But once you get to like the tippy (ph) tops on your $10 million, sometimes you see tax rates as high as 60 percent or 70 percent. That doesn't mean all $10 million are taxed at an extremely high rate, but it means that as you climb up this ladder, you should be contributing more.

COOPER: What you are talking about just big picture is a radical agenda compare d to the way politics is done right now.

OCASIO-CORTEZ: Well, I think that it only has ever been radicals that have changed this country. Abraham Lincoln made the radical decision to sign the emancipation proclamation. Franklin Delano Roosevelt made the radical decision to embark on establishing programs like social security.

COOPER: Do you call yourself a radical?

OCASIO-CORTEZ: Yes. You know, if that's what radical means, call me a radical.


COOPER (voice-over): She doesn't seem to be viewed as a radical by her constituents in New York 14, the racially diverse liberal and reliably Democratic congressional district that includes parts of Queens and The Bronx.

Ocasio-Cortez was born in The Bronx. Her parents had met in Puerto Rico. Her father owned a small architectural business, her mother cleaned houses to help make ends meet. By the time she was ready for preschool, her parents made a down payment on a small house in the Westchester suburbs. It was 30 miles and a world away from her extended family still living in The Bronx.

(on camera) What was it that brought your parents here?

OCASIO-CORTEZ: Schools. Yes. My mom wanted to make sure that I had a solid chance and a solid education.

COOPER: Did you feel like you were living in two different worlds, because you were spending a lot of time in The Bronx with your family and also here.

OCASIO-CORTEZ: Yes. And just growing up that way and with my cousins who were all my age, too, feeling like we all had kind of different opportunities depending on where we were physically located.

COOPER (voice-over): She did well in school and with the help of scholarships, loans and financial aid, attended Boston University. But in her sophomore year, her father died of cancer.

OCASIO-CORTEZ: We were really working on the classic American dream. And overnight, it was all taken away. My mom was back to cleaning homes and driving school buses to keep a roof over our heads.

COOPER: She moved back to The Bronx after graduating college and spent the next few years working as a community organizer and advocate for children's literacy.

In May of 2017, the one bedroom apartment she shares with her boyfriend became her makeshift campaign headquarters as she launched a seemingly improbable run for Congress. She was working as waitress and bartender at the time. Like many members of her generation, she says she had student loans to pay and no health insurance.

OCASIO-CORTEZ: I really understood the frustration that working people had across the political spectrum. You know, when anybody is saying the economy is going great, we are at record levels, there's a frustration that says, "Well, the economy is good for who?"

[20:50:02] COOPER (on camera): I mean, unemployment is at record lows.

OCASIO-CORTEZ: I don't think that that tells the whole story when you can't provide for your kids working a full-time job, working two full- time jobs, when you can't have health care. That is not dignified.

COOPER (voice-over): A group of Bernie Sanders supporters, and now call themselves Justice Democrats, encouraged Ocasio-Cortez to run for office and gave her training and support. She builds a grassroots coalition that took on the Democratic machine by going door to door.

OCASIO-CORTEZ: Hi, Claudia (ph), I'm Alexandria.

COOPER: Arguing that she can represent the district better than a 10- term incumbent who spent most of his time in Washington.

OCASIO-CORTEZ: Have a good day.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Please welcome, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

COOPER: Her victory made national news and she soon had a higher media profile than many veteran lawmakers. Some saw in her primary victory a craving for change within the Democratic Party. House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi drew a more limited conclusion.

PELOSI: They made a choice in one district, so let's not get yourself carried away.

COOPER: But President Trump rarely missed a chance to suggest that all Democrats were socialists would lead the country to ruin.

TRUMP: Venezuela, Venezuela, how does that sound? You like Venezuela?

COOPER (on camera): When people hear the word socialism, they think Soviet Union, Cuba, Venezuela. Is that what you have in mind?

OCASIO-CORTEZ: Of course not. What we have in mind, and one of my -- and my policy is most closely resemble what we see in the U.K., in Norway, in Finland, in Sweden.

COOPER: How are you going to pay for all of this?

OCASIO-CORTEZ: No on asks how we're going to pay for the space force. No one asked how we paid for $2 trillion tax cut. We only asked how we paid for it on issues of housing, health care, and education. How do we pay for it? With the same exact mechanisms that we pay for military increases, for the space force, for all of these ambitious policies.

COOPER: There are Democrats, obviously, who are worried about your effect in the party. Democratic Senator Chris Coons said about left- leaning Democrats. If the next two years is just a race to offer increasingly unrealistic proposals, it will be difficult for us to make a credible case, we should be allowed to govern again.

OCASIO-CORTEZ: What makes it unrealistic?

COOPER: How to pay for it.

OCASIO-CORTEZ: We pay more per capita in health care and education for lower outcomes than many other nations. And so for me, what's unrealistic is what we're living in right now.

COOPER (voice-over): Since the election, some conservative media outlets have focused on Ocasio-Cortez with an intensity unusual for a rookie member of Congress.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Her views, her policy positions are actually downright scary.

COOPER: She's been accused of being dishonest about the true cost of her proposals and the tax burden they would impose on the middle class. She's also been criticized for making factual mistakes.

(on camera): One of the criticisms of you is that your math is fuzzy. "The Washington Post" recently awarded you Four Pinocchios --

OCASIO-CORTEZ: Oh, my goodness.

COOPER: -- for a mistake in some statistics about Pentagon spending.

OCASIO-CORTEZ: If people want to really blow up one figure here or one word there, I would argue that they're missing the forest for the trees. I think that there's a lot of people more concerned about being precisely factually and semantically correct than about being morally right.

COOPER: But being factually correct is important.

OCASIO-CORTEZ: It's absolutely important. And whenever I make a mistake, I say, OK, this was clumsy. And then I restate what my point was. But it's not the same thing as the President lying about immigrants. It's not the same thing at all.

TRUMP: We've started the wall anyway and we're going to get that done. We're going to get it done.

COOPER: You don't talk about President Trump very much.



OCASIO-CORTEZ: Because I think he's a symptom of a problem.

COOPER: What do you mean?

OCASIO-CORTEZ: The President certainly didn't invent racism, but he's certainly given a voice to it and expanded it and created a platform for those things.

COOPER: Do you believe President Trump is a racist?

OCASIO-CORTEZ: Yes, yes. No question.

COOPER: How can you say that?

OCASIO-CORTEZ: When you look at the words that he uses, which are historic dog whistles of White Supremacy, when you look at how he reacted to the Charlottesville incident where Neo-Nazis murdered a woman, versus how he manufactures crises like immigrants seeking legal refuge on our borders, it's night and day.

COOPER (voice-over): In response, the White House Deputy Press Secretary told us, "Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez's sheer ignorance on the matter can't cover the fact that President Trump supported and passed historic criminal justice reform and has repeatedly condemned racism and bigotry in all forms."

[20:55:00] One of the few things Ocasio-Cortez has in common with the President is an active and often combative presence on social media. When a conservative writer twitted this photo of her saying, "That jacket and coat don't look like a girl who struggles," she called him out for what she said was misogyny.

OCASIO-CORTEZ: Would you be taking a creep shot of Steny Hoyer's behind and sharing it around? Why is there more comfort in doing that to me than there is in doing it to any other member of Congress?

COOPER: Eliminating the influence of corporate money and politics is another one of Ocasio-Cortez's signature issues. Most of her campaign funds came from small donations of $200 or less. She did accept some money from labor unions, but she refuses to take any contributions from corporate political action committees. She's angered some of her colleagues in the House by encouraging primary challenges of Democrats who accept corporate money or oppose progressive policies.

(on camera) These are politically dangerous tactics that you're using and you've heard that.


COOPER: Do you believe it?

OCASIO-CORTEZ: It's absolutely risky. It requires risk to try something new, but also we know so much of what we've tried in the past hasn't worked either.


COOPER: There's, of course, a big difference between the idealism of campaign and the reality of governing. It's a challenge for any new lawmaker.

Someone who knows the dynamics well is former Utah Congresswoman Mia Love, a Republican recently defeated in the midterms but she's with us now and we're thrilled. Thank you so much for being here. Mia Love, welcome.

MIA LOVE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Thank you. I'm excited to be here.

COOPER: We are very excited to have you here. It's great to have your voice. It is, you know, it's one thing to campaign, it's another thing to actually be part of a party and to get things done. What should Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and all the other new members of Congress, what should they expect?

LOVE: Well, she hasn't asked my advice, so I'm sure I'm not -- I'm sure she's not going to. But I would say there are some people that are -- that really care that are there that can really help. And so people are going to be looking and seeing if she's going to be a show pony or a work horse.

They are going to want to know whether you're willing to put in the work, because if there is a lot of work when you want to get a bill through, you have to convince your colleagues to support that bill.

COOPER: Right, because she's calling for primary challenges against some Democrats, which has already angered some, obviously, Democrats.

LOVE: Right. So, you know, you've got -- I would also say my motto was not to let perfect be the enemy of a really good win. And so if I can move the ball down the field, I love football, so I use football analogies a lot. If I can move the ball down the field and get it first down and then continue to move, that's really good progress. And so, you know, obviously our --

COOPER: You're talking about compromise.

LOVE: I'm talking about getting as much as you can out of it even if it's not 100 percent of everything that you want. As long as it's making significant changes in the right direction, at least you're doing that.

Right now -- I mean even when you're looking at the arguments between the shutdown, no one is getting anything, right? You're just seeing two sides argue. But, you know, obviously, we're on completely different sides of the aisle and different sides -- we don't agree --

COOPER: Right, of course.

LOVE: -- on any political things that I can see. But I would say that there are people that you need to work with. I was in the Congressional Black Caucus and I found areas where I could agree, where I could work with members on the other side of the aisle in the Congressional Black Caucus.

COOPER: Is it more difficult if you come into Congress being well known? You know, I mean, you came in being very well known.

LOVE: Look, everyone there had to fight their way there. Every single person was on the battlefield in campaign mode. Some were more visible, some were not. And so, everyone there has had to work hard.

So, I would say don't underestimate the other people that have been there that had worked hard that are representing their districts and see what you can do to make sure that you're working with them. I did everything I could to work with whoever would help me on policy and I was able to get quite a bit done.

COOPER: Do you see the shutdown? I mean, do you see a resolution inside?

LOVE: Look, I think that the -- I think the darn thing was dead on arrival, especially when you're looking at the open negotiations with Schumer, Pelosi and the President and he said, "Well, if you don't give me border security, then I'm going to own the shutdown." They were like, "Great, I'll take it." I think he should have said, "Hey, you need to give me border security and/or else you're going to own this shutdown. It's going to be yours."

Now, one of the things that I don't think anybody is talking about is the fact that the Democrats can actually go in and ask for whatever they want. If they say, OK, fine, we're going to fund border security at $5.7 million -- at $5.7 billion. We are going to -- we want TPS. We want DACA. We want this. They could probably get it. But I would like to -- I mean, go, see what you can get and give him what he wants. I would like to see somebody propose that and see what actually happens.

COOPER: Mia Love, it's great to have you here. Thanks very much.

LOVE: Thank you.

COOPER: Welcome. The news continues. I want to hand it over to Chris.