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Awaiting Trump's Address on Border Security; Interview with Maine Independent Senator Angus King; Court Filing Shows Former Campaign Chair Manafort Shared Polling Data with Alleged Russian Operative. Aired on 8-9p ET

Aired January 8, 2019 - 20:00   ET


[20:00:13] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening.

An hour from now, President Trump will speak from the Oval Office about the border. This will be his first time in that setting and the setting is significant. It's where John F. Kennedy told Americans about Soviet missiles in Cuba, where George W. Bush spoke after the 9/11 attacks.

When a president speaks in primetime from behind the Resolute desk, it's always serious, and frequently it's worse. It's often when a president wants to calm the nation or at least provide them with facts. The mere act of asking networks to make time for it telegraphed the gravity of it, at least it has until now.

In the past, with only rare exceptions, you might disagree with what a president said from the oval office without wondering if you were straight-up being misled. Or lied to.

Keeping them honest, sadly, that's not the case tonight. Now, it's not our job to advocate for or against a given policy, it's our job to call out the dishonest pursuit of it. So, as we wait for the president to speak about what he calls the crisis on the border, we're starting with the crisis of credibility he's created for himself.

If what his vice president said today is any indication, the dishonesty will continue. So, consider this a kind of prebuttal or at least a viewer's guide for what may be coming tonight because the White House has continued to fudge the facts as late as today.


MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: With regard to terrorists, we've seen more than 4,000 known or suspected terrorists attempt to come into our country through various means but on the southern border --

INTERVIEWER: Let me stop you on that number. It's a misleading claim that's been fact checked as I believe you're aware --

PENCE: Well, look --

INTERVIEWER: -- because the number is for all ports of entry including airports.

PENCE: That's what I was saying. It is from all ports of entry but on the southern border, last year, alone, 3,000 special interest aliens were apprehended trying to come into our country. Those are individuals whose travel patterns or backgrounds represent the need for additional screening and represent a potential security threat to the United States of America. There are two different categories and they often get conflated.


COOPER: Well, that last sentence is actually correct, they are two different categories, and they get conflated when you conflate them which is what the vice president just did. That 4,000 figure refers to people stopped mainly at airports or applying for visas, not at the southern border. And while 3,000 so-called special interest aliens were stopped at the southern border, according to U.S. officials, many were stopped at points of entry.

The term, special interest alien doesn't mean they're terrorists. They're on various terror watch list for a variety of reasons, including their countries of origin -- meaning someone who comes from a country where there is terrorism. The State Department says in a 2017 report, there is, quote, no credible information that any member of a terrorist group has traveled through Mexico to gain access in the United States.

Just last night, we learned that between October of 2017 through October of last year, federal officials say they encountered roughly a dozen people on the terror watch list. Of that number, around half were apprehended crossing the border illegally between ports of entry. It's according to administration official familiar with data from Customs and Border Protection. So six or seven people caught who are on the terror watch list, and even one might -- even one might even be an actual terrorist, but we don't know that because the administration wouldn't say if.

If it were an actual terrorist, it would be one too many, obviously, but would be a far, far cry from 3,000 or 4,000. The president and people who speak for him also like to claim that most Americans support the wall, the fact is, they don't. CNN polling shows a majority, 57 percent, are opposed to it and even if you don't believe the polling or the statistics, the U.S. government actually keeps, there's the larger point that the president is expected to make tonight that this is a crisis because of the sheer numbers coming over the border.

That, too, is misleading at best. In fiscal year 2017 according to Pew Research, border agents apprehended about 310,000 people trying to enter the country. They refer to all borders but the vast majority are in the southwest. In any case, that is down 1.3 million from the last major peak which was in 2000. In fact, the numbers have not been this low since 1970.

And yes, there are migrants waiting in Mexico hoping to apply for asylum and they are in camps but that's at least in part because the U.S. has made getting asylum much more difficult even if you're fleeing threats on your life or abuse. The number of people able to apply for asylum each day at a legal point of entry, that's been slowed intentionally to a trickle.

One intelligence official has had enough of what he or she says as all the misrepresentation telling CNN, quote, no one is saying this is a crisis except them. They're playing the public for suckers. It's exactly what used car dealers do.

There's also the president's claim that some former presidents told him privately they support a wall. None have. All the former presidents who are alive have denied doing so.

But before we show you how the vice president tried to explain it today, here's exactly what the president said.


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

[20:05:01] Some of them have told me that we should have done it.


COOPER: So there he is, the words are clear. Some have told me.

It kind of makes you think, you know, some have told him. Well, apparently not to the vice president.


PENCE: Well, you -- I know the president has said that that was his impression from previous administrations, previous presidents. I know -- I know I've seen clips of previous presidents talking about the importance of border security, the importance of addressing the issue of illegal immigration.

INTERVIEWER: It's different from telling the president, though, right?

PENCE: Look, you know, honestly, the American people -- the American people want us to address this issue.


COOPER: Well, he's right about, again, that last point. The American people want the government to address this issue. Honestly.

More now on what the president is expected to say from CNN's Jim Acosta at the White House.

Jim, what are you learning about the president's speech tonight?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, as for the big question as to whether or not the president will declare a state of emergency tonight in this Oval Office address to try to secure funding for the wall, we are told as of this evening that he's not expected to do that, though, we don't believe that is the final answer from the president as to whether or not he'll declare a state of emergency.

And just to shed a little bit of light on that, Anderson, I will tell you, I talked to a source close to the president who advises the president from time to time who told me earlier this evening the president over the last several days has been reaching out over the phone to friends and aides and advisers and so on, sort of sounding them out on this possibility of declaring a national emergency down at the border. And that several of these people have told the president that it's probably not going to work from a legal standpoint. And we know that the special counsel -- or the counsel's office, White House counsel's office over here at the White House has been examining that, but the president has been told by several people that he trusts enough to talk to over the phone that it probably is not going to work.

That doesn't mean he's not being advised not to do it. I will tell you, Anderson, I talked to another source who talks to president, advises the president, earlier this evening who said that the president has been told by several of his advisers that he should go ahead and do it because it will probably go to the courts, the courts get tied up, and he'll have something to sell to his base, OK, I didn't get a wall but I took it as far as I could.

Now, this adviser told me, Anderson, if the president does not get his wall going into the 2020 campaign, that that is seen as somewhat of an issue that they'll have to deal with, they'll have to explain to their base that the president promised time and get out on the campaign trail and was not able to deliver it. Something his advisers are worried about, Anderson.

COOPER: And the president is going to head to Capitol Hill tomorrow, right?

ACOSTA: That's right. This is a sign he's not sold everybody on this wall down on the boarder. The vice president was up on Capitol Hill talking to the House Republican caucus earlier this evening. He'll be back up on Capitol Hill talking to Senate Republicans and then over here at the White House, he's expected to have Republican and Democratic leaders, including the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi who's obviously adamantly against giving the president any money for a wall then he goes to the border on Thursday.

And so, Anderson, time and again this week, the president is trying to go around almost tin cup in hand trying to find money for this border wall. And so far, Democrats are not biting and increasingly, Anderson, and this is a worrying sign for the White House, Republicans are starting to say, re-open the government, Lisa Murkowski is one who told Manu Raju that earlier this evening. Re-open the government, we'll talk about the wall later.

Other Republicans like Mark Meadows, House Republicans close to the president has been saying, you know what, this national emergency thing, it is a possible tool the president could use but it should only be used in a last-resort kind of situation. When Republicans, conservative Republicans that close to the president are urging the president, hey, you know what, maybe don't do a national emergency on this, Anderson, that is a sign that people are starting to back away from the president on all of this -- Anderson.

COOPER: Jim Acosta at the White House, thanks, Jim.

Joining us now, a senator whose state as a border and all that goes with it, Maine, independent Senator Angus King joins us now.

Thanks for being with us.

Is there -- do you believe there's a national security crisis on the border?

SEN. ANGUS KING (I), MAINE: No, I think there's a problem, not a crisis. Really interesting report. September of 2017 by DHS, President Trump, analyzing exactly what the situation is on the border. All the indexes are down.

COOPER: Right.

KING: Recidivisms, arrests, people coming across, all of those -- the graphs just go like this, and to say that it's a crisis would imply that something special is happening that hadn't happened before. In reality, it's a lot better than it was.

COOPER: All the trending is in the right direction.

KING: Yes. But I started by saying there is a problem.

And by the way, I've got to say at the outset, nobody in Congress is for open borders. I've never heard anybody say that. I've never heard anybody advocate it. Everybody on both sides of the aisle is for border security.

This question is really all about is the wall, a wall, which we don't even know what it is, we'll talk about that, is that the right answer in all cases? Along a 2,000-mile border? Of course, it isn't.

[20:10:01] And so, I think it's really important to frame the discussion. We don't even know what the president is proposing.

COOPER: Some of what the, you know, supporters of the president, folks in the White House have been saying, they've been pointing to the opioid epidemic, to the horrific death toll that's taken place over the last couple years and say the wall will stop heroin, fentanyl, from coming in. Truth is, most of that, heroin, fentanyl, comes in through legal points of entry.

KING: Fentanyl comes in through the mail.

COOPER: Through China.

KING: Through the mail. And the problem is, they come headlong into the facts that have been

established by their own administration. The DEA says most drugs come a across at points of entry hidden in trucks, hidden in cars, hidden in people.

COOPER: I think that's most -- I think marijuana still comes often carried over in bales, but, yes, but hard drugs, heroin.

KING: And here's an example of why this is a misplaced priority. We can only interdict one-fourth, 25 percent, of the boatloads of drugs that we know are coming by water from Latin America because of lack of resources. Only one in four of the boatloads we know about. That's what's so inexcusable about this.

We have the intelligence. Four boats leave, we can stop one of them. That's where we ought to be spending the money in terms of return on investment, as opposed to building a wall which may or may not be useful.

COOPER: In terms of just even getting more border agents, that takes a lot of time, and they are in general -- I mean, the numbers have been rising, but there's still a lot of border agents to hire.

KING: Sure.

COOPER: They have spots for.

KING: And, again, as I said at the beginning, one of the real problems here is as far as I know, we've never been presented with a plan of what the wall means. He wants a $5.5 billion -- by the way, that's a down payment. The real price is in the $20 billion or so. We don't know what that's for. It's a blank check.

And if -- if the mayor of Bangor came to the city council, said I want to build a new school but I'm not going to tell you how big it is, not going to tell you where it's going to be or what it's going to cost, the city council would laugh him out of the park. They ought to come in and say, OK, here's where we need wall, here's where we need fence, here's where we need technology, here's a plan for allocating these funds. Right now, it just -- it's not there.

COOPER: I want to bring in the rest of our folks. I know they have some questions for you as well.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Senator, is there anything the president can say tonight that you think would convince the country, which Anderson said, a majority is opposed to the wall? That could convince the country that, in fact, some kind of wall is need, particularly independent voters, you're an indent.

KING: Sure.

BORGER: Is there anything he can say, you think?

KING: Well, the problem is they've been saying it for months and it hasn't worked and as you pointed out, as Anderson pointed it out, a lot of it is misleading or flatly untrue. So what he will say to create a sense of urgency, I don't know. I think, and everybody's speculating now, one way out of this would be for him to declare a national emergency and say, I can do this without that pesky Congress, and we'll go ahead and so we can refund the government, we can start the government back up, and I'm going to do it through this national emergency --

BORGER: Wind up in court.

KING: Ten USC 2808 and wind up in court. At least then he can say, I'm continuing the fight, we're going to do this, but we're not going to deal with Congress on this.

The problem is this is a guy who's never had to answer to anybody. His corporation didn't have a board of directors, I don't think. It was a family-owned corporation. And I don't think he understands the way the government works, and that if you want to do something like this and spend $20 billion, according to the Constitution, it's got to come from the Congress. And you've got to persuade them or you have to cajole them or have to whatever.

But holding the government hostage --

COOPER: So is --

KING: -- is exactly what this is, is not, shouldn't be in the toolkit.

COOPER: Is that the only way you see out of this shutdown, him declaring an emergency in order to get cover to then let the government get back to work?

KING: The original bill that was in the Senate that came out of the appropriations committee unanimously had $1.6 billion in it. It had limitations. He could take that money and say we're going to use that to do border security improvements, and we're going to analyze where the wall would be and then we're going to come back and he could say we've got over a billion dollars, and we're embarked upon the process that may lead to a wall. I'm trying to give him --

COOPER: Cover.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Right, but he had that opportunity 17 days ago.

KING: Yes.

BASH: And very overtly and in a very big way said he didn't want to take that.

So, you're a senator now, you were a governor. You're one of the grown-ups in the Senate right now. Putting that --

KING: You just got me in trouble with my colleagues.

[20:15:01] BASH: Sorry. Sorry about that. Putting that, you know, idea that didn't work aside, if you were to go

to the president and say, OK, let's make a deal, where do you think there is a deal to be made? Or is there one at all? Is there any give on border wall funding?

KING: Well, I think the president's so deeply dug in on the issue, and it's really --

BASH: Aren't Democrats dug in also?

KING: They are, but there's deeper issues here than the wall. This is about are we going to have to do this over and over? If he gets what he wants by holding the government hostage because he's got to sign all appropriations bills and budgets for at least the next two years, this is going to become a tactic.

BASH: So don't give an inch?

KING: I think that's -- I think that's part of the reason, and I can't speak for the Democrats, there has not been a caucus meeting on this. But for me, one of the problems is if the precedent is established that the president can hold the Congress and the government hostage to get some policy that he wants, then I don't know where it stops, and it will continue, and this is not what the framers intended. They intended there be checks and balances.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Who blinks? Who blinks? Will the president speak tonight? Will that fortify Republicans or will more Republicans say, you know what, Mr. President, we can't sell this back home? We have people who work for the federal government who are furloughed, who say they can't pay their mortgage, can't pay their tuition. Stop.

Or will the president just polarize people, bring the Republicans back over, leave this in this polarized environment, where Nancy Pelosi says, no, I'm the new Democratic speaker, you get nothing for the wall, and the president says I want $5.7 billion, and here we go. Eighteen days turns into a month or more.

KING: Well, he's demonstrated just in the last couple of days that he can turn on a dime. Syria is an example.

I think he can say, we're going to keep fighting for the wall and in the meantime, one out would be to allow the six bills that have been passed by Republicans and Democrats that fund most of the government, agriculture, treasury, the FBI, allow them to go through, sign them, hold out DHS which includes the wall, gives you another 30 days or whatever number to fight about this. But it gets us out of the majority of this -- of this shutdown scenario which is now, you know, injuring a lot of people across the country.

And we always talk about the 800,000 federal workers. There are tens, probably hundreds of thousands of contractors who service those workers, who serve those agencies who probably will never recover from this. Will never get their money back. So I think there is a way out by saying, OK, park rangers have nothing

to do with the wall. Food stamps have nothing to do with the wall. Let's fund those. We'll fight about it in the context of the DHS budget and, you know, we'll live to fight another day.

COOPER: Let's get one more --

KING: That would be one way to actually --

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Senator, you say that people feel like the president doesn't know what he's proposing. You don't know what the president is proposing but some people say they don't really know what Democrats are proposing, either. You talk about border security, it's sort of a vague term.

What are Democrats, and you obviously caucus with the Democrats, what are they proposing?

KING: In the appropriations bill that passed was $1.6 billion for border security and there were a lots of pieces of it. Anderson mentioned more border patrol people, technology, fencing. There may be, in fact, a wall could be part of it, a portion of it.

There's wall down there now. I've seen it. I've been to the border in Texas.

But to -- that's why I say I keep getting back to we don't really know what's proposing. The bill that passed has $1.6 b billion. The one that passed last year had $1.3 billion. You know, that's a lot of money and does specify a whole series of things but, again, part of the burden on the administration is to come forward and say these are where we think the money -- this is where we think the money could be most effectively spent to give the maximum protection to the American people including the American taxpayers.

COOPER: Senator King, always good to have you on. Thank you very much.

KING: Thanks, Anderson.

COOPER: Appreciate it.

A lot more to talk about as we wait for the president's remarks which are going to take place in about 40 minutes from now.

Coming up next, a story that would be the lead on any other night. Our first direct indication the special counsel Robert Mueller is linking the Trump campaign to Russians. In this case, a piece of a court filing that frankly the public was not meant to see. We'll explain that ahead.

And also later, to Senator King's point about the human cost of the shutdown. The president says people will make adjustments. Some are warning the shutdown could cost lives. We'll speak with a mom whose young son, sadly, could be one of them.

We'll be right back.


COOPER: At the top of the program, I read a quote about the border from a current intelligence official who said, I'm quoting again here, no one is saying this is a crisis except them, meaning the administration. They went on to say, they're playing the public for suckers, unquote.

Now, beyond the question of whether it's a con job, is tonight's oval office address a distraction from things like the Russia investigation?

So, tonight, we're certainly not distracted. There's a major new development from Team Mueller, a somewhat accidental revelation linking Paul Manafort during the campaign to a suspected Russian intelligence operative.

CNN's Sara Murray joins us now with details.

So what exactly went on here?

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, first of all, we're learning this information from Paul Manafort's legal team on accident. They filed this document, they redacted a bunch of sections, but they formatted it incorrectly, so a lot of these juicy details were now public.

COOPER: So, they forgot to redact some parts.

MURRAY: They were redacted, but if you copy and pasted the information, you could just copy and paste it normally. So, all these details are especially redacted. Journalists quickly discovered were easily made public. And what we learned was that Paul Manafort was in contact with Konstantin Kilimnik, a Russian associate of his who investigators say has ties to Russian intelligence, while he was the campaign chairman.

[20:25:03] They talked about a Ukrainian peace deal. At one point, Paul Manafort actually shared campaign polling data with this Russian associate and this relationship continued into 2017 after Donald Trump was elected. The two of them met up in Madrid and Mueller's prosecutors said this is one of the things that Manafort was lying about during these interviews where Manafort was supposed to be cooperating.

COOPER: So it's not just that he met with -- shared this information with this guy, he then went on and lied about it to Mueller's team.

MURRAY: That's right. Now, Manafort's attorneys said in this filing he didn't intentionally lie. He just misremembered a couple of these things along the way. The interviews are very long. These things happened a long time ago. He may have mangled a couple of the details.

COOPER: I think they said he would wake up early in the morning to do these interviews and that was part of the problem.

MURRAY: They said they would perhaps last all day. This is a guy who's leading the Trump presidential campaign who was in contact with a Russian, that prosecutors believe was in touch with Russian intelligence and was sharing information about what was going on in the campaign, was talking about foreign policy at a time when Donald Trump's campaign was starting to make foreign policy. Foreign policy that they hoped to make in the White House and apparently, Paul Manafort saw nothing wrong with this.

COOPER: And, of course, you know, for a lot of Democrats already today have been saying this is sort of the definition of collusion or this could certainly be called a collusion.

MURRAY: It's certainly the closest thing we've seen publicly that suggests there was some kind of coordination between a member of Donald Trump's presidential campaign and a Russian. And, again, in this case, a Russian that they say has ties to Russian intelligence, so it's not very hard, you know, if you are Mueller's people and have all this information to say, OK, was Paul Manafort giving this polling information to this Russian who was then giving it to Russian intelligence who then used it to help direct their troll farm?

That's not in the documents. We don't know everything that Mueller has. But it is sort of this clear signal that there was at least some kind of collaboration, some kind of discussion.

COOPER: This is while he was on the campaign.

MURRAY: While he was leading the campaign.

COOPER: Right.

Stay with us.

I also want to bring in the law firm of Cordero and Toobin, Carrie Cordero, CNN legal analyst and senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security. Jeffrey Toobin is a former federal prosecutor and also a CNN chief legal analyst, or the CNN chief legal analyst.

Carrie, can you think for me valid reason why Manafort would be sharing campaign polling data with someone with ties of Russian intelligence allegedly?

CARRIE CORDERO, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: No, I'm a former counterintelligence lawyer. That's some of the work I did at the Justice Department years ago so this would have been an enormous counterintelligence matter to have somebody who was the chairman of a major political campaign meeting with an individual, that the intelligence community certainly knows has connections to Russian intelligence. That's about as big of a counterintelligence issue as one could get.

The only question I think at this point from those of us in the public who are observing through the dribs and drabs of what's coming out both intentionally and unintentionally through these court proceedings is whether or not other individuals on the Trump campaign had any understanding of what Manafort was doing. I think that's a legitimate question we don't quite yet know the answer to.

COOPER: And, Jeff, again, it's not that he shared information, he allegedly lied about sharing information.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Like everybody connected with Donald Trump. Everybody lies about their connection with Russia. They misremember. They don't -- you know, well, I -- Jeff Sessions forgot his meeting with the Russian ambassador. Jared Kushner forgot.

They never deal accurately with their dealings with Russia and 16 members of the Trump campaign in one way or another met with Russians. And here's what we don't know about this interaction between Kilimnik and Manafort. What did Kilimnik give Manafort?

Because, remember, we have the intelligence agency saying that the Russian government was dedicated to getting Donald Trump to defeat Hillary Clinton. So, yes, we now know, according to Manafort's lawyers, that he presented information, this polling data, to Kilimnik. What did he get in return?

COOPER: Well, also --

TOOBIN: Again, I don't know.

COOPER: You can't imagine that anyone involved in this is probably all that thrilled that Manafort's legal team flubbed these redactions.

TOOBIN: No. I don't think that anyone is particularly thrilled about these things. I'm sure you know Mueller's team obviously has been very quiet. They don't want these details out. I think Manafort's team is probably feeling a little bit embarrassed that they mangled the formatting of this document and ultimately made their client look even worse in the process.

I mean, they were trying to just put out a filing that said you're asking my client about a lot of intricate details, these things happened years ago, he was running a presidential campaign, anyone can misremember these things. And then they put out all this information about his conversations and interactions with a Russian associate. So, I can't imagine they're pleased today.

COOPER: Also, Carrie, the other part is Manafort's legal team's explanation, not only that he just misremembered, he was depressed, they say, suffered from anxiety, he suffers from gout. I mean, is it likely a judge is going to accept those kind of explanations?

CORDERO: I don't think those will be legitimate explanations for the judge in terms of why he affirmatively lied to investigators.

[20:30:00] I mean, he knew that he was under tremendous criminal exposure in a variety of fronts in terms of all sorts of financial crimes. He had an incentive to tell the truth if he wanted to, so I don't think that that will be persuasive. And as far as the redactions, I think what that also underscores just to add on there is that there is so much information. There have been other filings made in this case that are also under redacted document and it just underscores that there's a lot more that both the special counsel investigators and the judges, because they see that information, the judges know in these cases.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Yes. I mean, Jeff, that's a really important point. Again, you know, we've talked about a lot that we've only seeing kind of the tip of the iceberg in terms of what Manafort has access to.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: You know, this is -- I have a lot of sympathy for ordinary civilians who are trying to follow the Russia story and they're trying to figure out if this is a big deal, you know, stuff comes out every day. It doesn't come out in a sort of linear chronological way. I promise, this is a big deal.

I mean, the fact that the campaign chairman is meeting with a Russian intelligence agent during the campaign, presenting him with apparently confidential polling material, and then after the campaign goes to Madrid, which is not exactly a convenient meeting spot, meets with him again at a time when the Russia policy is under review and Russia's trying to get sanctions lifted. I mean, this is the definition of contacts between the Trump campaign and Russia.


TOOBIN: That's what we've been looking for. That's what investigators have been looking for. How far it went, how extensive it was, we don't know, but this contact is very significant.

COOPER: Jeff Toobin, Sara Murray, thanks very much. Carrie Cordero is going to stick around.

Coming up next, we have more breaking news tonight on the ripple effects of the government shutdown, a dire warning for some of the people whose job is keeping us safe and healthy and in some cases keeping us alive.


[20:35:24] COOPER: About 25 minutes from the President's address to the nation right now and as we wait, there's more breaking news in the fallout of the partial government shutdown.

CNN is reporting that about 41 percent of the Food and Drug Administration is dark right now and some agency employees are speaking to CNN and warning that the low staffing levels could prove deadly.

We just learned of the warning a few minutes ago after we had already planned to talk to a mom who says her son's potentially life-saving drug cannot be approved because the FDA division that approves this experimental trial is on furlough.

The mother is Sara Doerr. She joins me now.

Sarah, much of the talk about the shutdown has focused on missed paychecks and the difficulties economically that families are going through and that's certainly incredibly important. But for some people, this can be a matter of life and death. Can you just explain the situation your family is in right now?

SARA DOERR, SON WAITING FOR POTENTIALLY LIFE-SAVING DRUG TRIAL: Absolutely. That's correct. What we're facing right now is because the FDA is one of the government agencies that is closed right now, our son who has a disease called PKAN and he's been waiting for a clinical trial, we were told that that trial would be starting in early 2019 pending some regulatory review and approval through the FDA.

Because the FDA is shutdown, that's been delayed and our son and, you know, other kids with this, you know, rare and terrible disease are not getting the treatments that they need and it's frustrating.

COOPER: And I mean, time is -- time is a big factor here.

DOERR: Absolutely. It's a degenerative disease.

COOPER: I understand that either you or attorneys have contacted the -- or your doctors have contacted the FDA, but you literally just get kind of an automated e-mail response just saying everybody's been furloughed. Is that right?

DOERR: My understanding from the doctors and the investigators who are running the clinical trial is that their contact at the FDA which has been, you know, supportive up until now, and we've worked closely with them, but that the, you know, bounce back e-mail, you know, reflects that those employees are furloughed.

COOPER: Your son is -- Max is 6 years old. Obviously, he doesn't understand the ramifications of all this. What do you tell him?

DOERR: He knows that he's, you know, waiting for his medicine, that's what we call it. You know, we tell him that we're working on getting it for him. You may have heard this, you know, the way that this trial has come about has been through, you know, fundraising by the families of the kids with this disease. So, you know, we've been working really hard since Max's diagnosis, you know, working towards that trial.

COPER: What's Max like? I mean, you know, I think it's important that people in Washington know who they're affecting by not fixing this situation and that they're not just thinking about statistics and large numbers of people. What's Max like?

DOERR: Absolutely. I mean, Max, he's great. He turned 6 two weeks ago. He's in kindergarten. He's bright and funny and kind and smart. He, you know, he's got a great life and buddies and he, you know, in a lot of ways his life is pretty typical for a 6-year-old, but the difference is that he has a degenerative disease. COOPER: If you can say anything to the President tonight or folks in the White House or on all political, you know, on all sides of the political aisle, what would you want them to know?

DOERR: I would want them to know, you know, what you alluded to before, Anderson, which is that this is bigger than politics and I don't want to trivialize the hardship for families who are missing paychecks or things like that, but this is -- for us, this is bigger than that. This is, you know, our child's life on the line here and it's a nightmare disease.

COOPER: Yes. Well, Sara, I appreciate you coming and talking with us tonight. I'm sorry it's under these circumstances, but I hope someone hears this and I hope it makes some kind of a difference, not only for you but for so many families out there who are suffering.

DOER: Thank you so much.

COOPER: No matter how you cast it, government shutdowns are painful for millions of Americans and obviously for that mom in Minnesota.

Back now with our political team here in Washington. Joining the conversation, Ana Navarro, former Senator Rick Santorum. Senator Santorum, I mean, is there a way out of this?

RICK SANTORUM, CN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. Well, I just want to address that, Anderson, because I worked with a lot of disease groups and have a child with disabilities and that just -- it's crushing to hear that.

I mean, I hope the President hears that. I hope Commissioner Gottlieb hears that. I mean, there is flexibility. You saw it today or yesterday. The administration announced they would pay refund checks for the IRS.

[20:40:08] These things are always more art than they are science and law. And so this is a good situation where maybe you bring this to the attention of the administration they can do something about making sure those folks at the FDA get back to work.

COOPER: And by the way, I'm not sure if she said that, but this clinical trial, because this disease is so rare, big pharmaceutical company --


COOPER: -- there's no incentive for them so they're funding it themselves.

SANTORUM: I know all about this area and the FDA, you know, has done a tremendous job under this administration. It's been a really bright spot in this administration and Commissioner Gottlieb has done an outstanding job in really advancing, working with the rare disease community, really advancing a lot of these cures and I don't know the situation. I'm already taking it from what she says that they're not working on it right now. And if they're not, they need to look at that again and see if they can do something about it.

COOPER: Yes. Ana, I want to play something that the President said. I think it was just on Sunday, actually. Let's play this.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I can relate and I'm sure that the people that are on the receiving end will make adjustment. They always do. And they'll make adjustment. People understand exactly what's going on.


COOPER: He's obviously talking in general about people who, you know, out of a paycheck who aren't being paid right now. Do you think people understand what's going on in terms -- in way that the President thinks people understand?

ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Look, anybody who believes that Donald Trump can relate to the pain and suffering of people living paycheck to paycheck, of the pain and suffering of parents whose kids' FDA trials are not occurring, to the pain and suffering of people whose federal contracts for low-income housing have expired, the pain and suffering of the TSA agents who are showing up to work without pay, frankly, if they think that Donald Trump can relate to that, I'd like some of what they're smoking.

You know, it is tragic and I think, though -- you know, you asked Rick, is there a way out? I think the way out is by folks, you know, Republicans, Republicans, talking to the Trump administration and talking to Trump about the human cost and the political cost. It's both things that are going on all over America. There's restaurants that are frequented by federal workers that are, you know, about to close their doors because people are not going to spend the money.

COOPER: But isn't it the political cost of not following through on the wall promise that the President is --

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I don't -- I mean, I think that that's a good piece of advice in the regular world when Donald Trump wasn't president, and there were persuadable people. That's not the case now. It's just not and you know that. I mean, at some point, something's got to give. We'll see what that is.

But I think even at this point, if Republicans would go to the President and say, enough already, I just don't know that that would make a difference. I mean, you were in the Republican caucus, in the Senate. You know them. Do you think it would even matter at this point?

SANTORUM: Well, number one, I'm not sure it would matter because the President is really dug in on this. And I think frankly for good reason, I honestly support the President on this. But, you know, also -- I mean, the President we've seen is not long on empathy. I mean, he just doesn't really connect with people. And it's, you know, we all have our pluses and minuses. I'm not being critical of him. I mean it's just -- that's just who he is.

And so I don't think these stories really have that much of an emotional impact on him. It may on members of Congress. Members of Congress understand that what's happening here are the Democrats are playing political hard ball with this President and they think they have an advantage and they're not --


BASH: It goes both ways. But it does go both ways.

SANTORUM: But he's also playing political hard ball with them.

BASH: Yes, right.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And so the question is the moment, though. Is he going to reach out tonight in some way, and let's listen to the President. Let's give him a chance. Let's see what he says. Is he going to reach out some way? Sometimes you raise the stakes to cut a deal. Is that what we're going to get tonight or is he raising his own wall, if you will? He's backed into this corner now.

He lost an election and his response was to ask for more from a now Democratic Congress than he was asking from a Republican Congress in terms of not only the money for the wall, the money for the beds, the money for border security. That is contrarian. Usually when you lose an election, you have to retreat.

He lost the election and he's asking more. And Nancy Pelosi is in her corner to, Dana's point, the Democrats are hardened too. In her first week as speaker, is she going to give the President the wall? No.

BASH: No, but --

COOPER: I have to get a quick break in. Stay with us. The President's first live address from the Oval Office is just ahead. Coming up, the very latest on what may happen tonight, what he may talk about. We'll also check in on Capitol Hill, take the temperature of where things stand in Congress on the shutdown. Stay with us.


[20:48:28] COOPER: Well, less than 15 minutes away from the President's Oval Office address, new reporting about the President's plans tomorrow. I want to check in with CNN's Phil Mattingly.

So, the President is going to head to Capitol Hill. What is the mood there been leading up to the President's speech?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, Anderson, I spoke to a Democratic senator about an hour ago and he was struck by one of the words he used, which was unsettled. Not because of the content expected out of the President's speech, but because of the reality of what they've seen from the administration over the last 24 hours and continuing tomorrow when the President comes to Capitol Hill that signals that the administration is digging in.

They're unsettled because they don't see a resolution to this coming at any point at any time soon. Democrats have made clear they're not willing to negotiate on border security until the government is re- opened. And the President and his team at the request of Republican leaders are making these trips to Capitol Hill to try and reassure Republicans, to try and keep them in line.

And what I'm told, I was told earlier tonight when Vice President Mike Pence was on Capitol Hill, that he said behind closed doors the administration is staying firm. The administration is not budging off of the President's top-line request, the President's top-line position.

And as long as that's the case, there is simply no end in sight to this shutdown. In other words, no resolution coming soon, no resolution coming the next couple days, potentially, Anderson, no resolution coming in the next couple of weeks.

COOPER: I mean, earlier tonight I spoke to a mom whose family is directly impacted by the shutdown. Do we know how much lawmakers are hearing about the real-life impact from their constituents?

MATTINGLY: Quite a bit. I think this is an important point. People say, well, it's just 25 percent of the government that's currently shutdown, or perhaps this just applies to federal workers in Washington, D.C., or Maryland or Virginia. That's just not the case.

[20:50:02] There are federal workers throughout the country, lawmakers are hearing from them and their personal stories. And what that generally leads to when the real pain of the shutdown starts to bite, when people start missing paychecks, when people start missing the opportunity for medical research or trial drugs that that's when lawmakers get in charge to the table, to try and figure out a deal and say, "Look, we can't deal with this for our constituents anymore."

Here's one problem with that as it currently stands. What you've seen over the course of the last 48 hours is the administration taking great pains to try and mitigate the pain or the bite of the shutdown. You saw it earlier tonight announcing that food stamps would be available through the month of February, which is in question 24 hours ago, the tax refunds would go out as scheduled.

In other words, what the administration is doing in trying to make the shutdown as painless as possible is almost providing a disincentive for lawmakers to come and reach a deal. Now, that doesn't mitigate the fact that on Friday, the first full paychecks for about 800,000 federal workers will be missed. There will still be people deeply, deeply impacted about on this.

But the fewer people that are impacted, the less likely it is that lawmakers are going to essentially be pushed to the table. Rank and file lawmakers are going to tell their leaders, "We've had enough." So, yes, they are absolutely hearing from it.

Senate Democrats are on the floor as I speak talking about personal stories that they're getting from their constituents. But has it had the impact of actually getting them to the table forcing it into this? Not yet, Anderson. And frankly, when you talk to lawmakers, they're not sure when that's actually going to kick in.

COOPER: Phil Mattingly, I appreciate it. Thanks very much for the reporting. We're about 8 minutes away from the President's speech. Back now with our political team.

Yes, go ahead.

SANTORUM: The FDA commissioner just contacted me and he just said, "Please tell Anderson to have Sara Doerr contact me. Nobody should be unable to access a clinical trial or compassionate use drug (INAUDIBLE) lab, so we will help her."


BASH: Great, absolutely great.


NAVARRO: But you know the entity. I mean -- but here's the thing, it shouldn't take having to be on T.V. and having you here and having, you know, somebody that can contact the FDA. How many people out there who don't have access, whose stories we're not telling and were not going to get the attention.

SANTORUM: He's saying that if there is -- the delay is not -- he's saying to me that the delay, if there is one, and he's not sure there is one, is not -- has nothing to do with that.


SANTORUM: That's not the issue here.



BORGER: And can I just say something about what Phil said which gives you a little -- of an idea of the difference here. We were talking before that Trump doesn't have the empathy gene. There is no empathy gene at Donald Trump. He's never run for elected office before he became president. Politicians are all about empathy. They hear from their constituents every minute of every day. And those things --

SANTORUM: In reactive in what --

BORGER: And you react --

SANTORUM: There's constituents on the other side too.

BORGER: And you react differently.

KING: Right. BORGER: But one thing we haven't spoken about Donald Trump tonight is that early on in all of this brouhaha, he said, these people, these government workers didn't vote for me. They're not my supporters. You heard him say that.

NAVARRO: He still believes that.

BORGER: He still believes that. So he thinks that it's the deep state, Washington federal government people, not all of the 800,000 and the ripple effect as Ana was talking about earlier. The people who serve them, the contract workers, et cetera, et cetera. He's not thinking about it.

BASH: And by the way --


BASH: -- it doesn't matter. He's President of the United States of America, not president of my base.

BORGER: Exactly. But no -- exactly, and no empathy.

NAVARRO: He's even worse than the Trump -- president of Trump base. He's the president of Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh. And, look, he's allowed these right-wing conservatives to take him hostage. He could have made a deal weeks ago, he didn't because they didn't allow him.

And my question is, what is the political cost? Are they going to support Elizabeth Warren? Are they going to support Joe Biden? Are they going to support Julian Castro?

COOPER: Carrie, just from a --


NAVARRO: (INAUDIBLE) the other option is Elizabeth Warren?

COOPER: -- from a legal standpoint, the idea of declaring national emergency, legally, I mean, that would go to the courts very quickly.

CORDERO: So one question that's been proposed is whether or not that he's going to announce that tonight. And the news is going back and forth all day, I think, as to whether or not he will.

He has the legal authority to declare a national emergency, he does. Congress has granted -- passed a law that says that the President has wide discretion in order to grant --

COOPER: And there's actually like dozens of national emergencies that have been declared in the last --

CORDERO: There have overtime. You know, usually they're for an actual national security crisis. And so this takes us into what -- from a national security --

COOPER: Well, some of them are like sanctions on Nicaraguan officials or things like that.

CORDERO: It could be sanctions. It could be hurricanes. There's all sort of issues, but the President has wide legal authority to declare it. That is undisputed. If he were to declare it tonight, then Congress, if they had approved majority could actually override that bypassing a law, or the more likely scenario is that immediately it will be litigated.

But here's the underlying issue. In order for a president to declare a national emergency, there should be a legitimate national security issue and a legitimate national security crisis, an actual emergency.

[20:55:00] And that is the point that I fear is getting missed, which is that normally when an administration is going to argue for legislation that is national security based, the intelligence community produces assessments.

They say, here is why we need this authority. None of that has happened in this case because no credible national security official will tell you that the wall, specifically the $5 billion wall, is a solution for a national security problem.

KING: That they're probably -- this is probably more crisis or emergency. If the President doesn't declare emergency tonight, what he has to try to do is change the dynamic in the country by convincing more people there's a crisis, a real crisis, a serious crisis, an urgent crisis.

Can he do that? We live in this polarize world. Immigration has been a problem for 25 years, hostage to the polarization in Washington just like infrastructure, just like Medicare, just like Social Security and issues Senator Santorum traveled the country with Bill Clinton trying to talk about it, talk about a different age.

But when a Republican senator traveled with a Democratic president that they disagree but they thought the country needs to start focusing on this problem. Had Donald Trump done that from day one, he would have a victory on the border already. Does he want a victory? Can he convince the country there's a crisis? Here's my point on this. This is a political, a painful personal moment for that mom, for these federal workers.

If this were a national emergency, wouldn't the Republican governor of Texas be with the President tonight? Wouldn't the Republican governor of Arizona would be with the President tonight? Wouldn't the new Democratic governor of California or the new Democratic governor of New Mexico be there tonight?

If their people were at risk security wise, if their economies were at risk, the Texas governor has been bragging all week about how they're number one in jobs growth for Latinos, for women, for everybody. Where is the crisis? If the governors who are most effected, if Congressman Will Hurd just won narrowly, the biggest Republican congressman on the border district, if there's an emergency, there is a problem.


KING: The President won an election on this and he has every right to tell the Democrats I won an election, let's do business. But if you try to make a full crisis as opposed to let's deal with the problem, I don't --

COOPER: But certainly getting the President's trip down to the border, again, Thursday is to continue the focus on this and try to keep pushing that message if there's a crisis.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Yes. But it's not like he hasn't been focus on this for three year. I mean, if you look at his announcements for instance, it was all about the danger on the southern border, folks coming over, Mexico in his words sending murderers and rapists. If you look at his Twitter feed, I mean, this is what he's been focused on, his whole campaign was about this. So this idea that in 8 minutes he can do what he hasn't been able to do in three years, talking incessantly about this is just --


BASH: Although, what people hear from the President because what he mostly talks about is wall, wall, wall, or depending on the day, recently, wall, steel slats, you know, but the notion of a wall and the people in the administration are trying very hard to soften that and to expand that, the definition of border security to way beyond the wall. If he can do that, maybe.

NAVARRO: Or the question is whether he's so identified --


BASH: Well, get his facts straight too.

COOPER: I want to thank everybody. The President's address is moments away. My colleague, Chris Cuomo, picks up the coverage now. Chris?

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCOR: All right, thank you, Anderson. I am Chris Cuomo and welcome to "Prime Time" live from Washington, D.C.

President Trump is about to address the nation as we near the longest government shutdown in our nation's history. It's a big night. Let's get after it.

Tonight, we're going to hear the first formal address by President Trump to the nation from the Oval Office. After the President, the Democratic leaders, Senator Schumer and Speaker Pelosi, will respond. It's a big night on the heels of a very big day that brought us breaking news on the Russia front.

Here's the headline. Legal papers reveal the strongest proof of contact yet between the Trump campaign and Russia. So let's get to our Chief White House Correspondent Jim Acosta. Jim, what are you hearing? JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Chris, what we're hearing tonight is that the President is going to declare that there's a crisis and an emergency down on the border with Mexico. A crisis and an emergency that many Americans don't see, they don't feel. A lot of Republicans and Democrats simply disagree with in terms of the assessment.

But the President in addition to calling for a wall on the southern border with Mexico, he is also going to try to entice Democrats back to the negotiating table by offering the kind of money that they've been looking for to deal with some of the humanitarian concerns that we've been seeing there in recent months.

In addition to that, Chris, we don't expect the President at least, not at this hour, as we're going into the speech for him to call for a state of national emergency down on the border as a way to secure that funding for the wall. Apparently, that is something that the President is not going to do in this speech tonight.

But, Chris, I understand in the last several days the President has been reaching out to aids, allies, friends, and so on to try to sound them out on this possibility of declaring a national emergency and that some of those folks have simply told the President that is not going to work, it won't work, probably won't work from a legal standpoint.

But the President I'm told is looking for a political win right now. He is concerned about what may be unfolding soon in terms of the Mueller investigation and what may come out of that Mueller report.