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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Shutdown Continues; Government Investigates Death of 2nd Migrant Child in U.S. Custody; Interview with Republican Congressman Mark Meadows of North Carolina. Aired 4-4:30ET

Aired December 27, 2018 - 16:00   ET

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


[16:00:15]

DANA BASH, CNN ANCHOR: Back from Iraq and, yes, back on Twitter.

THE LEAD starts right now.

Inaccurate tweets again, this time a false claim about the nearly one million workers impacted by the almost weeklong government shutdown. How long will it last? I will talk to a congressman who has the president's ear.

Plus, inconsolable. The mother of an 8-year-old boy who died in Border Patrol custody speaks out as questions mount about what happened to the little boy and how the government is trying to stop this from happening again.

And indefensible. Russia touts a new nuclear missile that Vladimir Putin claims travels 20 times faster than the speed of sound, and the U.S. military can't stop it. The new Pentagon chief weighs in.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BASH: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Dana Bash, in for Jake Tapper.

We begin this afternoon with breaking news in our money lead, Wall Street's wild ride. The Dow plunging more than 600 points at one point today, before closing in positive territory. This comes just 24 hours after the index posted its biggest single day in history, its biggest single gain.

So, Alison, it was up about 256 when it closed just about 90 seconds going. Drastic swings once again. What are you hearing on the floor there?

ALISON KOSIK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, what a big comeback stocks are making.

You saw stocks literally erase a 611-point decline and then close up, talking about the Dow, up 258 points. That's an 800-point swing, so clearly this is a session that's been marked by heavy volatility.

At first, the beginning of the day, we saw a big pullback after that historic jump in the Dow, and then we saw stocks come back, as this turnaround is happening as investors are trying to square their books at the end of the year. There's just two more trading Sessions in 2018, so there are heavy losses that have to be made up.

So far this year, we have seen the Dow lose thousands of points since its peak in October, so what we're seeing is a squaring of the books, so investors can close the books on 2018 with as much profit as possible -- Dana.

BASH: You can finally unbuckle your seat belt from this roller- coaster ride today there, but I'm sure you will be back again there tomorrow.

Alison, thanks so much.

And President Trump is back at the White House after visiting with U.S. troops in Iraq, and instead of expressing concern for the nearly one million federal employees who are working without pay or furloughed because of the shutdown, Mr. Trump is pointing the finger at his political opponents, tweeting -- quote -- Do the Dems realize that most of the people who are not getting paid are Democrats?"

We should note that there is no evidence that federal workers who live and work all across the country, not just here in D.C., are mostly Democrats.

Let's get straight to CNN's Jessica Dean at the White House.

Jessica, we just learned that there are no votes scheduled, which means that the shutdown is most certainly headed into the new year and into the new Congress.

JESSICA DEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right. We're just rolling ahead with this, Dana, and the president also tweeting today. He's been talking a lot about Democratic obstruction.

That's a term he keeps using over and over again. He keeps hitting on that border wall, talking about how the border wall is needed. He, of course, wants that $5 billion in funding. The Democrats wanting to offer nothing close to that, saying it's not needed for that border wall funding, and so you can certainly say they are here in a stalemate.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DEAN (voice-over): President Trump is back in Washington and back on Twitter. Less than two hours after arriving home from his whirlwind trip to Iraq, the president tweeted about the government shutdown, saying: "Do the Dems realize most people not getting paid are Democrats?"

The president of the American Federation of Government Employees, one of the largest unions representing government workers, pushed back against Trump's claim the shutdown affects mostly Democrats, saying -- quote -- "A government shutdown doesn't hurt any one political party or any one federal employee more than another. It hurts all of them."

While in Iraq, the president repeatedly avoided directly answering whether he would accept $2 billion for the border wall, instead of his original $5 billion request.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm not going to talk about it now, but I will say this. We have been building a lot of wall.

DEAN: Instead, Trump blamed Nancy Pelosi for keeping the government closed, despite him repeatedly saying he wants the shutdown to continue until he gets border wall funding.

TRUMP: But she's calling the shots, and she's calling them because she wants the votes, and probably, if they do something, she's not going to get the votes and she is not going to be speaker of the House.

[16:05:05]

DEAN: Pelosi does have the votes to become speaker and is expected to take the gavel when the new House convenes January 3.

As the shutdown drags on, the president also faces questions about his trip to Iraq. He was in the country for three hours, but did not meet with the Iraqi prime minister after their face-to-face was canceled due to differences over logistics. Instead, President Trump spoke with the prime minister by phone.

Trump was met by loud applause as he spoke to troops talking about their pay raise.

TRUMP: You know what? Nobody deserves it more. You haven't gotten one in more than 10 years, more than 10 years, and we have got you a big one. I got you a big one. I said, no, make it 10 percent, make it more than 10 percent, because it's been a long time. It's been more than 10 years.

DEAN: But that's not true. Military pay has increased every year for more than three decades. The 2.6 percent increase in the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act is the largest in the past nine years, but it's not the 10 percent Trump claimed. President Trump didn't shy away from politics while talking to the troops.

TRUMP: The Democrats don't want to let us have strong borders.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

DEAN: And we have a new statement from Sarah Sanders that just came in, in the last few minutes. I would like to read it to you now.

She says -- quote -- The president and his team stayed in Washington over Christmas, hoping to negotiate a deal that would stop the dangerous crisis on the border, protect American communities and reopen the government. The Democrats decided to go home. The only rational conclusion is that the Democrat Party is openly choosing to keep our government closed to protect illegal immigrants, rather than the American people. The president does not want the government to remain shut down, but he will not sign a proposal that does not first prioritize our country's safety and security." Dana, this political back and forth is certain to go on because we're head towards the new year as well. We will see what the president plans to do around that holiday.

BASH: Happy new year to everybody.

(CROSSTALK)

DEAN: Happy 2019.

BASH: Yes, except those about million people who are not getting a paycheck.

DEAN: Yes.

BASH: Thank you for that reporting.

We're now around the table with our panel.

Doug Heye, I will start with you, because you were on Capitol Hill working for Republicans leadership in the House during one of the more recent shutdowns in 2013, obviously different circumstances.

But when you see a statement like this in particular saying that the only rational conclusion is the Democrats are choosing to keep the government closed in order to protect illegal immigrants, you say?

DOUG HEYE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I don't think that's the case.

It reminds me somewhat of what we saw in 2013, in that there wasn't a real plan in 2013 for how to get out of a shutdown once we realized that that was...

BASH: In 2013, Ted Cruz forced a government shutdown over Obamacare repeal.

HEYE: Exactly.

And it was a fight within the Republican Party. And this to some extent is what happened this time, where senator Republicans are ready to move forward on something they were told the president would support, and then all of a sudden the rug was pulled out from them.

So what we're seeing right now, I think is a continuation of the same old reindeer games that we see in politics that is really frustrating the American public right now, whether you're a conservative Republican. Things just aren't getting done the way they should.

BASH: So this is a Republican, Mona, saying that this is, again, a fight -- a different issue, but a fight within the Republican Party. Obviously, that's a very different message, understandably, understanding politics, that we just heard from the president. Do you agree with that?

MONA CHAREN, ETHICS AND PUBLIC POLICY CENTER: I do agree with him. I would say only this as a footnote to what you said, because I basically agree, but I would just point out that the Democrats might have a little bit of a danger for them too in terms of messaging.

Nancy Pelosi has said things like a wall is immoral. I don't think that's the right way to view it. I think it's a waste of money. It's an absurd symbol that we don't need. There are many other things that we could be doing that would make a lot more sense, like visa overstays.

Most of the people who are here illegally our visa overstays. They didn't come in over the southern border and so forth. So, that's the risk as I see it for the Democrats.

For the Republicans, I agree that have walked themselves into a box canyon here, especially because the Democrats are about to take control of the House on January 3. And they're going to even lose that leverage.

JENNICE FUENTES, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: It adds insult to injury that 800,000 people, as you correctly pointed out, in the holiday season, people who possibly live from paycheck to paycheck, don't know where the next paycheck is going to come from, all because this president, after playing president for two years, you would think that he gets it and that he understands that maybe I should own something and to have an agreement, let me move forward and not ruin Christmas for all these people.

And to call them Democrats, and say just Democrats, it's -- the federal government is composed of everyone. So it adds layer upon layer of insult.

[16:10:00]

BASH: Well, let me just -- you actually mentioned the tweet that he said flatly that most of the people who work for the federal government who are furloughed or who are not able to come are Democrats.

Mark Warner, Democratic senator who represents the state of Virginia, says: "This is outrageous" -- outrageous, rather. "Federal employees don't go to work wearing red or blue jerseys. They are public servants and the president is treating them like poker chips at one of his failed casinos."

(LAUGHTER)

ROBBY MOOK, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, and he's right.

And I think the president is betting on two things here. Number one is he's betting on this idea that federal workers in general are not popular, that people want less of them, they want to cut government, right?

And, second, he is trying to keep us talking about immigration all the time. He thinks that's a loser for Democrats, a winner for his party. In fact, I would argue you're going to see this for the next two years, as long as he's still running for president.

This is what he wants his reelection to be about. And so I think he sees this as a great fight to have. I think the problem -- where this is going to get perilous for the president is, as you mentioned, he's been a terrible negotiating, I don't even want to call it partner.

He's been terrible at the negotiating table. He's not just been unreliable to Democrats. He left Democrats at the altar once on this already and certainly is doing it again. He's also leaving his own party.

And the question to me is, at what point does this become such a stress on Republicans that they can't even rely on him? And as -- when the Democrats come in and start hearings -- we haven't even talked about what happened a little bit with this child at the border this holiday -- when all that starts to come out, and the president isn't a reliable entity for Republican senators and House members to rely on, I worry this is really going to start to crack.

BASH: And, Doug, the other thing that I noticed that is example number 732 of things that would be unbelievably -- met with unbelievable outrage if a Republican or Democrat did this in normal times, but just add this to the list.

The Trump campaign is fund-raising off the shutdown over the wall and actually offering donors to become a -- quote -- "official wall member" and blaming Democrats for playing the -- quote -- "political games" as part of this political fund-raiser, asking for money in and around the shutdown.

HEYE: Yes, it's not only it's not your grandfather's RNC anymore. It's not my RNC anymore when I worked there in 2010.

(CROSSTALK)

BASH: But is there any kind of backlash, do you think, that the Trump campaign or the president himself will get for fund-raising off of that?

HEYE: Sure. Sure.

(CROSSTALK)

CHAREN: He got it in the 2018 midterms, when all of those suburban women and others abandoned the Republican Party, in part because they were offended by the tone that he took regarding the evil immigrants who are coming, criminals in the caravan, who represented this existential threat to the United States.

That was offensive to a lot of Republicans.

BASH: And just was told that the House and Senate have now officially adjourned until next week, meaning those -- meaning pretty much next session, the pro forma session, which is literally pro forma, today, lasted mere minutes.

(CROSSTALK)

BASH: So this is not going to end anytime soon.

FUENTES: No, and it's possibly not going to end well.

And to answer the clip earlier about Sarah Huckabee Sanders saying that it's immoral, I will tell you what -- that we have a border problem. But we have is a humanitarian crisis. We should call things by their name.

And what we have done is, because we have to not have an immigration policy in this country -- forget about a good one or a bad one. We just don't have one, right? So now you're calling this a security problem on the border.

No, we do not have security border problem. What we have is a humanitarian crisis, because first we had a policy that was cruel. And now we have a policy that it's immoral, that you can allow two kids to be under the conditions in facilities that were never meant to basically be holding human beings for more than 72 hours.

This is the problem that we're having. It's not really about the fence needed and what change or positive change that will bring to our immigrants in this country or to our own safety.

BASH: OK, everybody, stand by, because, up next, we have a Republican congressman, probably the most influential with the president on the things we're talking about, immigration in particular. He is going to be here live.

Then, it travels 20 times faster than the speed of sound, and Vladimir Putin is bragging the United States can't stop it, the potentially terrifying missile from Russia.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:18:24] DANA BASH, CNN HOST: We're back with our politics lead.

And just moments ago, the House and Senate adjourned with no deal in sight to end the government shutdown. This afternoon, the House majority whip's office told members no votes on a deal are expected this week.

Joining me now is Republican Congressman Mark Meadows of North Carolina. He's the chairman of the House Freedom Caucus.

Thank you so much for coming in. Appreciate it.

REP. MARK MEADOWS (R-NC), CHAIRMAN, HOUSE FREEDOM CAUCUS: Good to be with you, Dana.

BASH: Where are things right now?

MEADOWS: Well, obviously, over the last 24, 48 hours, things have not progressed. There's been a lot of conversation between rank and file members, not necessarily Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi, but senators, House members with some of their Democrat colleagues.

And it really comes down to this. Democrats are dug in that there's not going to be any money for the wall. We passed obviously $5.7 billion out of the House, and even a compromise that the administration, the president has put forth a number of different proposals with Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi have really fallen on deaf ears. So, at this point, it looks like it could be in for a very long-term shutdown.

BASH: When you said the Democrats aren't proposing any money for the wall. You know that they had a proposal on the table for $1.3 billion. That's --

(CROSSTALK)

MEADOWS: Well, but even then, I clarified that today because I want to make sure, knew I was coming on to talk to you, but even the $1.3 billion that they were talking about is really for fencing. It's not even for the wall. Chuck Schumer, you can listen to his words on the Senate floor. He said there will be no wall. He's talking about replacing the fencing, and yet, here we see the same Chuck Schumer that in 2006 voted for a Secure Fence Act that would -- with 700 miles of fencing and the same Chuck Schumer that in 2013 probably voted for that Gang of Eight bill that talked about bothered security.

[16:20:12] So, you know, at some point, you have to understand that part of our immigration problem has to be addressing border security.

BASH: You're blaming Chuck Schumer here. You did it on Twitter earlier, but the Senate passed a funding bill. It was the House --

MEADOWS: Well, with no money for the wall. But no money for the wall, Dana.

And let me just tell you. It may be different in New York, but I can tell you the vast majority of Americans believe that a secure border and a secure community is something that is important to them, and to suggest otherwise, you know, with caravans coming in. I mean, Chuck Schumer had $1.6 billion in the Department of Homeland Security bill just recently, and then all of a sudden, they went from $1.6 back to zero. You know, I don't think it's something that the president should support. It's certainly not something that House Republicans support.

BASH: I don't think it's fair to say that the Democrats aren't proposing anything for border security.

MEADOWS: What are they proposing, Dana? I mean, you know, you cover the hill. This is not your first rodeo.

BASH: No, it's not.

MEADOWS: So, what are they proposing? Are they willing to meet halfway? The president and his team offered $2.5 billion, 2.6 billion. BASH: Let me ask you this while you're on this. You're putting

pressure, just so everybody understands, on the White House from the right. Would you be okay -- let's just say in this theoretical conversation, Democrats went for that. Would you be OK with 2.5?

MEADOWS: Certainly, the vast majority of Republican members of the conference understand that there may be a compromise between $5.7 billion and 1.6 or wherever the number may be. But as we're looking at it the, whether it's 2.5 or 2.7 it doesn't matter. Chuck Schumer has said no. The American people she as a compromise. I see as a compromise.

And so, certainly if that's on the table, you would find a number of Republican members encouraging the president to go ahead and accept that.

BASH: I want to ask you about something that happened earlier this year. There was a deal on the table, included $25 billion.

MEADOWS: Right.

BASH: Now, we're talking about 1.3 -- $25 billion for border security, including the wall in exchange for a number of changes to the immigration system.

MEADOWS: Right.

BASH: And at least legal status for so called Dreamers, children who come to America illegally with their undocumented parents. Given where we are now, was leaving that on the table a mistake?

MEADOWS: Well, I think given where we are today, it's all about trust, and part of that -- that deal was about securing our border, and if the Democrats are not willing to put up even $2.5 billion or $2.6 billion, they were never serious about it. They were wanting the amnesty portion but not the border security portion, and when you look at, that that's one of the tragedies of today is if the Democrats are not willing to embrace some of the ideals that Republicans believe are important to secure our community. Then how do they expect some of the Republicans to come along on some of the things that maybe are more for their constituency, whether it be Dreamers or DACA recipients?

I can tell you, that on a lot of that, there's been discussions even this week, should we go ahead and allow for a short-term three-year work visa for DACA recipients, the ones that 750,000 or so people that signed up so that it gives us a chance to work on that in exchange for the wall? Some of those discussions are happening even as we speak, and yet what happens is, is when you see this entrenched, no money for the wall, border security ever, it means that the Democrats are not really serious about getting a compromise.

BASH: So, this is by definition how had a standoff happens. You say they are entrenched you, and they see you entrenched so since I'm here talking to you. What are you willing to give up?

MEADOWS: I'm telling you there's a compromise, between 1.6 --

BASH: And what is it?

MEADOWS: You know, obviously, is --

BASH: Well, I'm saying to get that money, for the Democrats to give in on that money, what are you willing to give them --

MEADOWS: Well, 5.7 was a compromise. You mentioned $25 billion, 5.7 is just a down payment for that. But as we're looking in, there's been a number of options that have been floated.

You know, obviously, we can continue -- we've made an offer of $5.7 billion. We passed that out of the House. Nancy Pelosi said there wasn't the votes. Indeed, there were the votes in the House to do that.

Here's what we have to do. At some point Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi and those that work closely with them have to come up with a counterproposal or not, and then they can say zero is the number, but most Americans do not believe that zero for border security

BASH: What are you willing to accept in such a counterproposal?

MEADOWS: Obviously, the number that the president has put out there or that has been reported that they put out, I haven't been in those rooms. I've had discussions, as you know, with the president and his team directly. Those numbers are in that $2.5 billion to $3 billion range.

BASH: I mean, besides the money, take the money aside. The negotiation --

[16:25:00] MEADOWS: We're talking about border security.

BASH: OK, but that's part of border security.

MEADOWS: All immigration reform starts with border security. I mean, at some point, you know, if we go back to Reagan, all the way up to today, you have to secure your border eventually in order to have a legal immigration system that works.

BASH: So far, the Dreamers have -- the Democrats, they don't want to be part of this deal. But if it comes down to it, anyway, would you be OK with that, allowing legal status for Dreamers as part of this wall funding?

MEADOWS: At this point, it takes a while to get wall funding done. Part of what Mario Diaz-Balart who is considered to be more moderate on this issue than perhaps a member of the Freedom Caucus, even he says that we have to start with looking at border security, and then we can look at legal status --

BASH: So that's a no?

MEADOWS: No, I don't think that's a no, but I think that's part of a process. You can't take one thing out and say will you give citizenship to this group of people without looking at the other parts of comprehensive immigration reform.

BASH: Let's talk about the workers.

MEADOWS: Sure.

BASH: People who are not working right now.

MEADOWS: Yes.

BASH: "The New York Times" talked to several workers, including one woman who works for the IRS. She doesn't live here. She lives in Wisconsin, a state that the president won, I should add.

And she said we're all kind of waiting to see how we go forward. Do we apply for unemployment? Do we start looking for part-time jobs?

MEADOWS: Right.

BASH: And you're talking about just to put numbers on this, 42,000 employees in the Coast Guard, 41,000 federal law enforcement officers. Tens of thousands of Customs and Border Patrol agents.

MEADOWS: Right.

BASH: The people who are trying to do exactly what you say needs to be done with the wall. They are not getting paid.

Last week, you said that this is -- effectively said this is what you signed up for in a public service job.

MEADOWS: Well, in that interview what I went on further to say is listen, it's not lost on me in terms of anybody that is caught up in this particular thing. I can tell you, I was in the White House with the president and his team saying how can we make sure that this shutdown has minimal impact on federal workers and minimal impact on those people on Main Street, and part of that may be to those essential employees that are having to show up is to make sure that we fund them to make sure that they don't have to miss a paycheck because some of those --

BASH: You'd be OK with that.

MEADOWS: I would be OK with that. It's something that I've recommended, that we look at, so it's only those that are truly furloughed that are not working, not showing up to work, that you have to deal with. Now, it's not to minimize the impact on them as well, but --

BASH: You realize there are people out there if in goes on they won't be able to pay their mortgage.

MEADOWS: Exactly.

BASH: They won't be able to go to the grocery store. MEADOWS: It's critically important that we look at, that one of the

reasons why I put in the with the CAO to withhold my paycheck as well. I get, that and it's not lost on me.

BASH: Congressman Mark Meadows, thank you for coming in.

MEADOWS: Thank you, Dana.

BASH: I really appreciate it.

MEADOWS: Appreciate it.

BASH: Thank you.

The mother of an 8-year-old migrant boy who died in border patrol custody sends a message to the Trump administration. That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)