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Kevin Spacey Arraigned; Should Wealthy Pay Higher Taxes?; Trump Threatens to Prolong Shutdown. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired January 7, 2019 - 15:00   ET



BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Brooke Baldwin. You're watching CNN. Thanks for being with me.

The shutdown is going prime time. President Trump says he will do a live broadcast tomorrow night at 9:00 Eastern from the Oval Office and then, two days later, he will travel to the border, all of this, of course, to make the case about his need for this border barrier, as the partial government shutdown now enters the American history books as the second longest ever.

It is tied with the impasse from 41 years ago. And as these 800,000 federal employees wait without a date for their next paycheck, Democrats finally know what kind of wall the president wants, a steel barrier that will cost $5.7 billion. That is one of the requests from this White House, which also seeks, among other things, hundreds of millions of dollars for urgent humanitarian needs at the border, more detention beds, and more ICE officers.

So, with me now, Eliana Johnson, White House reporter for Politico and CNN political analyst.

And, Eliana, nice to see you again.

And let's start with this president. Why do you think -- beyond tomorrow night addressing the nation, why do you think he is physically going to the U.S.-Mexico border?

ELIANA JOHNSON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, normally, we see the president communicate by and large through tweets, but we're seeing him take a different approach recently.

Starting last week, we saw him hold a Cabinet meeting which really was a 90-minute press conference. Then he headed to the White House Briefing Room. We saw him in the Rose Garden with another press conference.

BALDWIN: We've seen a lot of him.

JOHNSON: Now a prime-time address and travel to the border. So I think he clearly wants to own the message of this in a different way and really try to sell the American public on this for border wall. I don't think it's been clear quite where public opinion is on this. And I think this is the president really trying to clearly get public opinion his side. We don't know where it is, so it'll be an interesting test.

BALDWIN: In terms of tomorrow night and the prime-time address, Eliana, do you think this is a sign that he's leaning toward carrying through on this threat to declare a national emergency?

JOHNSON: You know, the president has said privately that he wants his aides to find a way out without looking like he's conceding to Democrats.

And a national emergency would be a way for him to do this. He could reopen the government and cave to Democrats on the $5.7 billion demand by declaring a national emergency. So that's one of the ways.

We have also seen him talk about getting money from other government agencies. It does look like the president is tiptoeing towards trying to find a way out without striking a deal with Democrats.

BALDWIN: On the shutdown and on facts, we -- I want to play a clip. This is White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders getting caught by FOX News' Chris Wallace.


SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: 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.


CHRIS WALLACE, HOST, "FOX NEWS SUNDAY": Wait. Wait. I know the statistic.


WALLACE: I didn't know if you were going to use it. But I studied up on this.

Do you know where those 4,000 people come -- where they're captured? Airports.

HUCKABEE SANDERS: Not always, but certainly a large number.

WALLACE: At airports. The State Department says there hasn't been any terrorists that they've found coming across the southern border from Mexico.

HUCKABEE SANDERS: It's by air, it's by land, and it's by sea. It's all of the above.


BALDWIN: So, Chris Wallace did his homework.

Let me add to that. A source says that during Friday's meeting between -- between Democrats and Republicans, Speaker Pelosi cut off Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen twice. Pelosi told her -- quote -- "I don't believe your facts."

And then this is what a Speaker Pelosi aide told CNN: "In presentations made, they have repeatedly use statistics not supported by fact. They're trying to cast every single migrant as a terrorist or someone with a violent criminal history. The secretary has proven herself to not be credible on these issues."

So, Eliana, the administration is pushing these lies to try to make their case. At what point does this backfire?

JOHNSON: Look, I think this is one of the perils of working in the Trump administration, because it's the president who's leading at times with -- as Kellyanne Conway might say, with alternative facts.

And then he's got aides who, because the president is so attentive to television news, are forced to go out there and argue on a set of mistruths and lies. And that puts them in, frankly, an impossible position. They have got to back the president up in this fight, and to do so on ground that crumbles beneath them.


We have seen the president more than once have his aides walk on out on a limb he's put out there, only to have him saw it off. So, yes, these people are in a tremendously difficult position.

And I think Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader -- or Minority Leader Chuck Schumer are really testing that.

BALDWIN: Eliana Johnson, thank you so much for that.

That's what's coming from the White House. Again, the president addresses the nation tomorrow night.

The pain from this impasse is getting oh so real for the 800,000 federal workers furloughed or still on the job without pay and the federal contractors. They don't expect to get any lost back pay.


LILA JOHNSON, FEDERAL CONTRACT EMPLOYEE: My car note soon be doubling up on me. My writ got to be paid. As far as my other bills, like my credit cards and loans that I owe, that's doubling up on me. So everything is just piling up on me.


BALDWIN: There is also this. Nearly 39 million Americans depend on food stamps to eat each month. But the Department of Agriculture, which administers the program, could run out of funds in February if it remains shuttered. And what about your tax refund? The IRS has sent home much of its

staff without pay, so billions of dollars in refunds could be delayed. America's farmers suffering a double punch. They have been hit hard by President Trump's tariffs, and now they may have to wait on government subsidies, loans and even crop report that they need for deciding what they will plant this spring.

The vice president of the Illinois Farm Bureau tells CNN, this could hurt the president.


BRIAN DUNCAN, VICE PRESIDENT, ILLINOIS FARM BUREAU: I do think the president is in danger of losing a significant part of his base if the economic woes continue out here, if there is no result of these trade disputes.

My fear is that what we will be watching in 2020 is, are we bleeding for territory we already had? We're shedding significant economic blood out here.


BALDWIN: One of those federal employees who is directly affected by this shutdown is Andrea Popelka. She is an I.T. specialist at the Denver Federal Center. She has been an employee of the federal government for 28 years.

Andrea, nice to have you on. Welcome.


BALDWIN: So what have the last 17 days been like for you, for your family?

POPELKA: Well, just kind of being on pins and needles, waking up each day looking at the news, wondering what's going to happen that day, if we're going to be able to go back to work or not.

BALDWIN: Tell me about your daughter and this prestigious art program she just got into.


I think, sometimes, we all forget that things happen in life, and it's not always bad. Sometimes, they're good. And, for instance, my daughter was selected out of hundreds of junior, seniors, high school, for a program. It's called ARTLAB. And she's one of 15.

And it's a great opportunity. And because of that, I need to have extra funds in my budget for her to be able to get her down to that program every Saturday. Any photography supplies she may need or extra stuff, I need to be able to provide that for her, because this is a very, very important opportunity for her, excellent program.

And I can't see her getting out of that. And I will try whatever I can to make sure that stays that way.

BALDWIN: So the president says, when you talk about your daughter, other folks are talking about family members putting food on the table -- he says he could relate to folks like you. Does that make you feel better?

POPELKA: No, it doesn't, because I don't believe that.

I don't -- I don't think he can. I don't really know his whole life history. But, from what I seen, I don't see him living from paycheck to paycheck. So I don't think he can relate to that and all the issues that everybody faces, and I think there's many that are looked over.

And I don't, you know, believe that none of us really like living paycheck to paycheck. And we weren't always -- sometimes, life just happens, and we just have to budget, and that's the way it is for a while. And when something like this happens, you kind of think, oh, it'll be a couple of days or week, we will get our next check.

And all of a sudden, another day passes, another day passes, and now it's come to the point where we are -- we're going to miss a whole check. So my whole budget is thrown off.

BALDWIN: Let me -- let me ask you about that, because, as I mentioned, you have been working for the federal government for 28 years.

I mean, you have been through some government shutdowns. And this has gone through a multitude of presidents, multitude of White House's. Does this one feel different? And if so, tell me why.


POPELKA: Yes, it does.

This one seems -- well, it is lasting much longer. And, in the past, it's always seemed like, well, there's been other issues that they're disagreeing about, and our funding for our agency is tied to that, but it always seems as if you have a lot of support from, you know, some of the politicians for the employees, for the agencies, for the work that we do, and you see that support and that they really want to come to some agreement, so they can get us all back to work.

And this time, it doesn't appear like that. It's real -- it seems real cold and it doesn't seem like they're seeing the heart of their employees.

BALDWIN: Andrea Popelka, thank you for coming on and sharing your story.

And just listening to you, as a mom, I know that you're not going to let this shutdown get in the way of your daughter's art ambitions. So best of luck to you, with our congratulations to her. And we will stay in touch and hopefully you will be back in no time. Thank you very much. Coming up next: Freshman Democrat congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-

Cortez is making waves for floating the idea of this 70 percent tax on income over $10 million. And at least one 2020 contender supports her.

Plus, a stunning moment -- the president's national security adviser completely contradicting him on pulling troops out of Syria. Hear why this withdrawal could take years.

And later actor, Kevin Spacey is arraigned today on an indecent assault charge, after allegedly groping an 18-year-old busboy at a restaurant. One of the attorneys who prosecuted Bill Cosby joins me live to discuss the key evidence in this case.



BALDWIN: She is the youngest member of Congress, and she is someone many people inside and outside of Washington are paying close attention to what she has to say.

I'm talking about New York Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. This time, she is making headlines were floating the idea of this hefty tax increase on the super wealthy.

So here's just a piece of her interview with Anderson on "60 Minutes."


REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D), NEW YORK: 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-tops on your 10 millionth dollar, sometimes, you see tax rates as high as 60 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.


BALDWIN: And while her politics is already being branded as radical or impractical, some Democrat -- some Democrats, like potential 2020 hopeful Julian Castro, are defending her.


GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS: Can you support a tax increase like that once you hit $10 million, 60, 70 percent?

JULIAN CASTRO, FORMER HOUSING AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT SECRETARY: Oh, I can support folks at the top paying their fair share.

As you know, George, there was a time in this country where the top marginal tax rate was over 90 percent. Even during Reagan's era in the 1980s, it was around 50 percent.

So do I support, in order to have something like Medicare for all, that we ask folks that are in the top 0.05 percent or 0.5 percent or the top one percent to pay more, yes, I support that.


BALDWIN: Let's have a conversation, two CNN political commentators with me now.

Angela Rye is the former executive director of the Congressional Black Caucus. And Tara Setmayer is a former communications director for the GOP.

So, ladies.

Tara, let me start with you. Just your reaction to the congresswoman floating this possible 70 percent tax hike?

TARA SETMAYER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I mean, I think that that's ridiculous. There is no country that's comparable to ours in the world that has a taxation rate that high.

The wealthy already pay more than their fair share. The top 10 percent pay 70 percent of all federal income taxes. The top 1 percent pays almost 40 percent. You know, it's -- this idea -- but it's very good marketing, you know, to pit us vs. them, the rich.

BALDWIN: How do you mean?

SETMAYER: Well, because, everyone -- the rich must pay their fair share, you know, the rich vs. the poor. We don't have enough. There's income inequality, which there is.

But pushing a taxation rate at that level on people who already pay a lot of taxes, and also they figure out ways to move their money around, so it's not direct income tax that they pay anyway, there's all ways to get around that even if you tried this at 70 percent, it's just another way of redistribution of wealth. This idea of Democratic socialism doesn't work.

And it never has worked. It won't work in this country either. And she could -- did not have a good answer for how she plans to pay for a lot of these grandiose ideas. Just taxing the rich is not enough. That's not going to work. And so it may sound good as a marketing tool, pay your fair share, but when you start getting into the details of it, it's not practical in any, way shape or form, nor do I think it's necessarily good economics.

BALDWIN: Yes, I mean, her answer I think for critics of hers definitely feed into off, you know, well, she was only in college a few years ago and she doesn't really know policy very well.


But then, on the other hand, Angela, you have Julian Castro, who not only agrees with her, but he then said -- further alludes to maybe it should be 90 percent.

And I'm wondering, from you, if a 2020 candidate is already responding to this and agreeing, do you think this is a sign of what's to come as we cover 2020?

ANGELA RYE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I absolutely think it's a sign of what's to come.

And I didn't hear either of them say that everyone needs to be -- if they make $10 million, they need to be taxed at 70 percent. I think she actually said something a little different, which was, it makes -- it could be up to 70 percent, and I'm not talking about taxing the full $10 million.

So we don't really know the nuance of that policy. I know that it makes for a great headline, and it makes for great fodder. But I think that I have kind of had enough of questioning the intelligence of this brilliant young woman, who beat someone in congressional leadership to earn her seat at the table.

And I think the least we can do is offer her the opportunity to come up with the policy proposals, and then chew on that. But I think to say that because she comes up with something radical, radical, whatever that might mean, in a climate that is extremely radical -- remember that this is now the second longest shutdown in government history.

So the least we can do is talk about whether or not people are paying their fair share. Brooke, I was in the airport on Friday apologizing to TSA workers because they're working for free right now. So if you want to talk about radical, let's talk about people having to work for free, to secure your livelihood for free. That's radical.

BALDWIN: I know. And they're going to work, and they can't go volunteer and make money elsewhere because they have got to show up. And especially when you talk about TSA and the FAA, we talked to someone last hour about that.

But I do want to keep chewing on this "60 Minutes" interview with Anderson and AOC, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. This is when she was asked about some of her past and, I think Anderson puts it, her fuzzy math. Here you go.


OCASIO-CORTEZ: There's a lot of people more concerned about being precisely factually and semantically correct than about being morally right.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: 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.


BALDWIN: Angela, back to you.

Moral -- the moral piece of that aside, does she not sound like Donald Trump?


RYE: No.

BALDWIN: Tell me why.

RYE: She doesn't sound like Donald Trump.

I think -- I think for a number of reasons.

One is, I think if she's saying there are things in this space that I still have yet to learn, right, I have the heart of the people with me, I know that there are interests that I'm pursuing, and I don't know all the ways in which I should get there, but I know that morally it's sound, Donald Trump is not morally sound.

He's both morally bankrupt and factually bankrupt.

BALDWIN: That's why I said take the take the morals out of it. But when we're talking facts, he's got some fuzzy facts.


RYE: No, no, you got to be right. No, no, but here's the difference.

If I can say, you know what, I misspoke, that's different than saying, this lie is now true today. And that is what we get from him. So I will acknowledge that she said it's clumsy and I have to come back and clean it up sometimes. I'm not perfect job. You all keep working with me. That's what I hear her saying.


SETMAYER: But that's not what she said,though.

RYE: That's what she just said.

SETMAYER: That was probably the biggest -- that was the biggest blunder she made in that -- in that interview, because what she did was, there was an equivalency to the rationale that people use to justify how Donald Trump speaks inaccurately and lies and make things up.

He never apologizes. He never corrects himself. And some people will say, well, it's the means -- the means justify the ends. Oh, so what if he's making up how many terrorists come through the border or if he makes up this or that? He means well.

That was the exact same rationale she just used. She didn't say what...

RYE: I think we should play it again.

SETMAYER: She didn't -- you should play it again, because she never said, I didn't -- if I make a mistake, then I will correct that and be factually accurate. She said it was clumsy.

That to me is not a full-blown assessment of saying, you know what, when I made a mistake, that means that I'm learning on the job. Give me a break. She didn't say that. She said clumsily, which to me didn't take full ownership of making a mistake.

When "The Washington Post" gives you four Pinocchios for something, you can't -- that's not just -- that's not being clumsy.


SETMAYER: That's a flat-out falsehood.

RYE: Clumsy, to me, is when -- so I'm a clumsy person. Clumsy to me is when you fall down. You still have the opportunity to get back up. Fall down means you made a mistake.


RYE: So to say that she will make a mistake or she's clumsy with it. but she comes back means that she's coming back to acknowledge that what she said was a mistake, it was a misstep.

SETMAYER: She said to reiterate her point, not to make -- not to correct the factual mistakes.

So, again, if the -- if the moral end of it, the moral intention was right, well, then it doesn't matter. Everyone's so focused on my making factual errors.


No, honey, you're a member of Congress now. You have to get things right.

RYE: So, when why are you calling her "honey," Tara?



BALDWIN: All right, ladies.

RYE: No, no, no, but I'm saying we keep treating her like she's this child. And I'm saying, we have to respect the grown woman that she is.

She's made it this far.

(CROSSTALK) SETMAYER: Then she's going to have make grown woman answers.

RYE: And I think she has.


RYE: I think that's exactly what she's doing every single day.

BALDWIN: I appreciate the conversation. Everybody's watching her, those who want her to do well and those who don't think she will. She's got pressure on her. But we will be watching.

Ladies, thank you very much. I appreciate that conversation.


BALDWIN: Just into CNN, a top Republican leader weighing in on President Trump's suggestion that he may declare a national emergency to get the funds to build his border wall.

CNN's Manu Raju just spoke with Senator John Cornyn. He's with me now on Capitol Hill.

Manu, what did he say?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, he was concerned that this would inject more uncertainty into the process by declaring a national emergency, could drag out these proceeding for some time because of possible litigation and the like.

I also asked him about the president's contention repeatedly that this new trade deal with Mexico would pay for the wall. He said, well, the trade agreement has not even been ratified and approved by this Congress. And so that is still uncertain.

He also -- I also asked him about this House Democratic effort to reopen individual aspects of the government not affected by this border fight. He said he'd be fine with that. But he wants to make sure that Democrats aren't just trying to jam the president.


SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R), TEXAS: I'm confident he could declare a national emergency. But what that means in terms of adding new elements to this in terms of court hearings and litigation that may carry this on for weeks and months and years, to me, injecting a new element into this just makes it more complicated.

Well, we have got a long way to go with the new trade agreement. As you know, NAFTA has been in place some 20-odd years. And I support NAFTA. I think trade with Mexico and Canada is good for our economy, increased jobs. The new agreement, I'm willing to consider. But we have got a long way to go before we know whether the vote is there to ratify the new trade agreement.

If this is all about a plan to try to deny the president the money that we need for border security, I'm not going to be part of that, nor will the president sign it.


RAJU: So that last part, again, about whether or not he would be open to those individual appropriations bills that the House is going to send over this week dealing with the Treasury Department, by the Agriculture Department, Transportation and the like, things not affected by the shutdown, whether he'd be open to moving those individual bills, the Democrats are trying to put pressure on Republicans like John Cornyn.

Again, he said he wants to see those agencies open, but he doesn't want to jam the president. Now, at the same time, Brooke, Senate Democrats are planning their own strategy. They plan to try to stop action on a separate bill in the Senate dealing with Syria policy, something that could allow them to express concerns about this president's Syria policy.

They want to block that from going forward in order to focus exclusively on the shutdown, according to multiple Democratic aides, and they plan to discuss broadening that tactic to all legislation, the Senate blocking every bill before to allow the shutdown to be the main focus. So that is what is dominating action here on Capitol Hill.

Perhaps nothing else will be accomplished until the shutdown is resolved -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: Focusing on that.

Manu Raju, thank you so much. Great. Great get with the interview there with the senator.

As the president gets ready to address the nation tomorrow night on the shutdown, hear what Chris Cillizza says the president's advice to workers illustrates the greatest trick the president has ever pulled.