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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER
El Chapo Guilty on All Counts; Trump Reportedly Likely to Sign Deal to Avoid Another Shutdown. Aired 4-4:30p ET
Aired February 12, 2019 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thank you for being with me.
"THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER" starts right now.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: He didn't get his wall. Will federal workers get the shaft?
THE LEAD starts right now.
President Trump today saying he's not happy with the agreement to avoid another government shutdown after some of his pals in conservative media slam the deal. Will the president sign it, or will 800,000 federal workers suffer again?
Trashing the Mueller probe. The president's former White House lawyer says the Russia investigation is a waste of time and we may never get to see a final report anyway.
Plus, "Narcos"' grand finale. Mexico's most notorious drug lord, El Chapo, found guilty today in New York City on all charges -- how a tale of bribes, golden guns and a naked underground run to freedom got us here.
Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.
We begin today with the national lead.
President Trump today refusing to say whether he will sign the brand- new bipartisan deal to avoid a government shutdown and provide some additional border security. The federal government is just 72 hours from the deadline that will trigger another partial government shutdown.
And the president made clear today he does not like the deal on the table.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have to study it. I'm not happy about it. It's not doing the trick. But I'm adding things to it. And when you add whatever I have to add, it's all -- it's all going to happen where we're going to build a beautiful, big, strong wall.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Republican and Democratic lawmakers hammered out an agreement late last night, which includes $1.375 billion for new barriers on the U.S. Mexico border.
It's worth noting that the nearly $1.4 billion is less than the $1.6 billion that the president would have gotten for border security before he decided to back out of that deal in December, thus prompting the longest government shutdown in American history, a full 35 days.
Now, President Trump has not said he will veto this bill. And as you heard in that clip, he did leave open the possibility of accessing other funds to build his border wall by declaring a national emergency or possibly taking executive action.
The president's conservative allies on Capitol Hill and in right-wing media have already begun to assail the compromise legislation, and the world is now waiting to see if their opposition will derail the deal, as it did last time, prompting economic hardship and inflicting pain on the American people.
CNN senior White House correspondent Pamela Brown joins us now live from the White House.
And, Pamela, is the president any closer to making a decision as to whether he will sign this deal when it hits his desk?
PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, that is still the big question looming here at the White House.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says he doesn't know if Trump will sign the funding deal.
A White House official tells CNN, though, it is likely that President Trump will sign the deal, but cautioned it's still not final. Now, many thought the president would sign the last funding bill before the government shut down for 35 days.
TRUMP: It's very simple. We're building a wall.
BROWN (voice-over): President Trump making clear he is not satisfied with the bipartisan conference deal.
TRUMP: Have to study it. I'm not happy about it. It's not doing the trick.
BROWN: Hinting that, if he accepts the deal, he's weighing options, including various executive actions, to supplement the proposed wall funding.
TRUMP: We're supplementing things and moving things around. And we're doing things that are fantastic and taking from far less, really from far less important areas.
BROWN: Another possible option? Declaring a national emergency.
TRUMP: I consider everything. I'm considering everything.
BROWN: Sources tell CNN the deal presented to the president includes more than a billion dollars for barrier funding that will cover roughly 55 miles of new barrier along parts of the Rio Grande Valley, a priority for the White House and the Border Patrol, more than 40,000 Ice detention beds, short of the number requested by the administration, but with flexibility for additional funding from other sources as needed.
And a $1.7 billion increase in Department of Homeland Security spending focused on technology, ports of entry security and humanitarian aid.
REP. NITA LOWEY (D), NEW YORK: This is a compromise. No one got everything they wanted. But it does secure the border. It does represent our values.
BROWN: The agreement falls well short of the $5.7 billion Trump originally demanded for a wall and even falls short of the $1.6 billion included in a Senate measure the president rejected in December. Still, many Republicans are urging the president to take the deal.
SEN. LAMAR ALEXANDER (R), TENNESSEE: I hope the president can sign it.
SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: There is no way that the country should be put through another disastrous government shutdown?
BROWN: And Democrats say Trump has no choice.
SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D), CONNECTICUT: The president ought to lead or get out of the way. Just sign this thing and enable this country to move forward.
BROWN: But even though Trump didn't commit to signing the deal, he also told reporters another shutdown at the end of the week is unlikely.
TRUMP: I don't think you're going to see a shutdown. I wouldn't want to go to it now. If you did have it, it's the Democrats' fault.
BROWN: Now, at last check, White House officials have seen some of the top-line details, but details of the conference still are still being hashed out, and the White House wants to thoroughly scrub it before giving any firm commitment on what the president will do.
But one thing is for sure, he wants his wall, and he wants to avoid a government shutdown, as he has said today publicly. So it appears, Jake, that executive action is still very much on the table in order for the president to get the funding he says he needs to build the wall -- Jake.
TAPPER: All right, Pamela Brown, thank you so much.
So let's dive into this with my experts.
Kaitlan, you're the White House correspondent at the table. Majority Leader McConnell says he hopes the president will sign the bill. A White House officials says President Trump is likely to do so. But we don't know that it's going to happen until it happens.
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: No, we don't. And no one is fully confident about the president signing it. And that's why no one will go and say that the president is going to sign it.
I think Mark Meadows is only person who's gone so far to say that he expects the president to sign it, which is significant. And we know Republicans are lobbying the president to do so. And White House officials think that they can avoid this shutdown by having the president sign this, but they have already kind of gotten to this conclusion that the president could take whatever deal he got, as long as it wasn't outrageous.
And then they could still use some kind of executive action, whether it be executive action or a national emergency, to get the wall anyway. That's why they weren't fazed when there were those reports on Monday that those talks between negotiators to reach an agreement had broken down.
TAPPER: So, Bill, let me ask you.
So the last deal in December, the one the president just like pulled the rug out from under the Republicans in the Senate said he wasn't going to sign, that had $1.6 billion for border security. This one has $1.375 billion for border security.
I have never been strong at math, but is it possible that the president is actually ending up with a worse deal for what he wants because of the government shutdown?
BILL KRISTOL, FORMER EDITOR, "THE WEEKLY STANDARD": Yes, because Republicans weren't going to support him for a second shutdown.
Look, this is going to pass. People talk about, will the president sign it or not? This is going to pass overwhelmingly in the Senate, and I believe with veto-proof majorities in the House. I would be surprised if the Freedom Caucus can get 145 votes against it.
So if he doesn't sign, they will override him. And if he wants to have a veto and be overridden by a Republican Senate and a Democratic House, I suppose that's fine. He will -- he will try to resort to some kind of executive action or emergency. That's not so easy either. Congress has some say about overturning the emergency declaration.
And on executive actions, people talk about it as if, well, the president just has all this flexibility to move money around.
It's not that easy. And you're moving money from something Congress appropriated funds for. And so the president to say, you know what, those funds you thought you were appropriating for MILCON, for military construction, to refurbish bases in Iowa and Texas and Kansas, sorry, I have decided to use it on something that Congress chose not to appropriate money for, on the wall.
So I think he can get some -- try to do something face-saving that way, but it's been a humiliating defeat. Nancy Pelosi has defeated the president in their first big showdown. And I think she insisted -- she was very careful to make sure that -- and the Democrats were able to prevail on this -- shows how much the Republicans aren't really -- don't really have Trump's back at this point, getting a lower number, as you pointed out -- 1.35 is lower than 1.6.
It could have been 1.7. But I don't think Speaker Pelosi was going to let Trump get 1.7.
TAPPER: But let me ask you this, Karen.
So Speaker Pelosi has said that the wall is immoral. This has funding for barriers, fencing, not a wall, but it's still going to keep people from other countries out of the United States on the border. Is that immoral? Is that something -- is there anything for hard-liners on border security to say, look, we did get something out of this?
KAREN FINNEY, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, sure.
I mean, everybody's going to be able to say that they got something out of this. And I think the goal is probably so that everybody can say they got something out of this, so we can avoid a shutdown, right? And I think that's part of why people are being quiet right now.
It's like, don't say anything, let's get this guy to sign this thing, and then we will -- we can complain about what we like or we don't like. I do think Democrats also, though, had a victory in that it, as I understand it from talking to friends on the Hill, they have got more money for the kinds of technology that they thought was so important in terms of port security and sort of other parts of the border where they were very firm that a wall, a concrete barrier was not what was warranted there.
So I think at this point, though, I'm curious to know if the deal behind the scenes is -- is the president saying, look, I'm going to not -- we're going to -- I'm going to sign this thing, but you're going to have my back when I take money from the Army Corps of Engineers, which I pulled up a very long list of projects that they have.
I don't know where the money is going to come from, but perhaps he's trying to cut that kind of a deal.
JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: And each of those -- each of those projects have someone, a congressman and senator, that represent them that are going to fight like hell to keep that money where it has been appropriated.
But one of the interesting things about the Mark Meadows -- what he said.
TAPPER: For people at home, he's a congressman from North Carolina, leader of the House Freedom Caucus, very conservative.
KUCINICH: And who has a lot of clout with the president, who speaks with the president.
And what he told reporters this afternoon, not only did he think the president was going to sign it. He said the Freedom Caucus doesn't have any leverage to go to the mat on this legislation. And it seemed sort of discouraged by that.
And you can't really underestimate the amount that the Freedom Caucus really fueled the president's fire the other times he's walked away from the deal back to this sort of hype man against this.
If they're not going to do that -- it's not saying they like it. He was very clear that he doesn't like it. But if they're going to let this happen, that is a positive indicator for people who want this passed.
TAPPER: Kaitlan, you cover President Trump. I want you to put yourself in the head of President Trump for this exercise I'm about to embark on.
This is Sean Hannity, who is a good friend of the president's, a counselor of the president, somebody the president really likes and respects a lot. This is what Hannity has to say about the deal.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEAN HANNITY, HOST, "HANNITY": If you are a Republican senator or House member, and you're too weak to take a stand, then it's probably time for you to retire, go home. Let somebody who's willing to fight take your place.
Any Republican that supports this garbage compromise, you will have to explain.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: How do you think that's going to affect President Trump?
K. COLLINS: So I think the president listens to Sean Hannity, they speak often, but I think what the president cares the most about, this is what the coverage is going to be.
And if it frames it as a success for the president -- and listening when Sean Hannity broke in last night while the president was still on stage in El Paso to say this is a garbage deal -- the question now is just how much when people like that have influence over the president, because there are a lot of conservatives, not just people like Sean Hannity, but actual other people, other conservative figures, that are voicing concern about this deal, saying the president didn't get enough for it to be worth what the concessions that they're making to Democrats are.
So the question is, does the president listen to them? But if you listened to the president today during that Cabinet meeting, it sounds like he's setting the stage for compromise because he emphasizes they're already building the wall, and he said that he can move things around in other budgets.
KRISTOL: Here's what Sean Hannity is going to say tonight: It's a pretty good deal. It's a better deal than I realized. The president has a really clever way of getting stuff done otherwise, playing 37- dimensional chess.
KRISTOL: I think Sean Hannity will be following the president.
KUCINICH: Listen to Mitch McConnell's speech today on the floor.
He started talking about how Democrats caved on things. And I think you're going to hear a lot of Republicans say that. Oh, man, look what they lost. Look what we gained.
FINNEY: But I think that's also why this reporting that we have been seeing more of about all the ways that the White House for weeks has been looking at ways to move around money. They -- we have cited different pots of money they feel like they can take from.
I suspect, by tomorrow, we will hear a lot more about that. And, again, the signage from last night of finish the wall, as Kaitlan was saying, they're already trying to move and declare the win, I think.
TAPPER: Yes, that was interesting.
TAPPER: Everyone, stick around.
A top Republican angry at Michael Cohen for what he did on Saturday night. Stay with us.
TAPPER: To politics lead now, a startling prediction today from the president's former lawyer John Dowd about what we may or may not see from special counsel Robert Mueller when he wraps his investigation. Take a listen.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
JOHN DOWD, FORMER LAWYER: I don't think there will be a report. The rules of the department say no report.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
TAPPER: Wait, you don't think there's going to be a report? Mr. Dowd, please explain.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
REPORTER: So, you're saying when Mueller's report drops, it's going to be a flop? You're saying we're not going to --
DOWD: I will be shocked if anything regarding the president is made public, other than "we're done".
(ENBD AUDIO CLIP)
TAPPER: Given the months and months of public interest in the special counsel's investigation, that prediction was something of a surprise.
Kaitlan Collins, is that the prevailing wisdom at the White House that there is not going to be any sort of report that's actually issued? Just --
COLLINS: They're not sure. They don't know if it's going to come out and they feel like it's going to come out soon but they don't know what it's going to look like, how it's going to drop, anything like that. They're kind of on the same side that we are, because a lot of people actually in the White House don't try to talk about the Mueller investigation. It's a topic a lot of people try to avoid, unless the president directly engages them.
But I thought that his comments were fascinating especially given in light of what Bill Barr who is about to become the next attorney general it looks like judging by the votes has said and has not committed to making the report public either. And then when the president was asked today, will you commit to making the report public, he didn't answer that question even though he had just answered a series of other questions.
TAPPER: So, Jackie, take a listen we just heard just minutes ago from the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Senator Burr, talking about Michael Cohen, the president's lawyer, and he seemed to have some rather harsh words about the fact that his former lawyer, the president's former lawyer, he seemed to have some rather harsh words for Cohen not showing up. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. RICHARD BURR (R-NC), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: He's already done in Washington today because of an illness, yet on Twitter, a reporter reported he was having a wild night Saturday night eating out in New York with five buddies, didn't seem to have any physical limitations and he was out with his wife last night. Well, I would prefer to get him before he goes to prison, but you know, the way he's positioning himself not coming to the committee, we may help -- we may help him go to prison.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: It's pretty strong. And Burr doesn't say much publicly about the investigation and certainly not along that tenor and tone.
KUCINICH: No, he's not a flame thrower by any stretch of the imagination and you're -- I'm starting to think that Michael Cohen doesn't have a lot of respect for Congress, considering that he lied to them once, got in trouble for it, and then now is making excuses as to why he can't come in front of the committee.
[16:20:06] But, you know, Burr is right. You don't get one way or the other.
TAPPER: And there was a moment where President Trump last night in his rally in El Paso cited something that Burr had said. Take a listen. Here is something that President Trump said last night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They've interviewed over 200 people, they've studied hundreds of thousands of documents and pages and Richard just announced that they found no collusion between Donald Trump and Russia. Collusion.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Richard in that quote is, of course, Chairman Richard Burr, and he weighed in on that quote from the president as well this afternoon. Here's what Burr had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BURR: We're just saying what factually we found today. We haven't finished with our investigation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: So he's saying that they haven't found any evidence of a conspiracy yet. The investigation is not done, but they haven't found anything yet.
KRISTOL: And we're curious to see what Robert Mueller has found since he's actually done serious and thorough investigation with the grand jury and so forth and hasn't been -- it's harder to lie to Mueller than to Congress, as we've just seen with Michael Cohen and others. So -- and I believe we will know.
I think John Dowd is still being loyal to the president, that is trying to lay some predicate for perhaps Attorney General Barr not releasing the report. But we will know what Mueller finds basically. Either we'll know it through speaking indictments by Mueller which will lay it out in court cases, or we'll know it because this report will be subpoenaed by the House Judiciary Committee or I think they'll be such pressure on the attorney general to release the report made with a few reductions that we will -- we will know it. It's inconceivable to me that that they're going to be able to keep that quiet.
And I think we will find -- I mean, Manafort met with someone very close to the GRU, to the Soviet regime to put -- to Putin in, what, very beginning of August to brief him on proprietary polling information and analytics. I mean, maybe that's not collusion, maybe it's not illegal, maybe they didn't it was just a courtesy, Manafort was trying to grease the skids to have --
KRISTOL: -- a first client, future clients, or maybe it was, you know, kind of collusion, I don't know.
TAPPER: What happened -- what happens to Democrats, what happens to the progressive left if Mueller and/or the Senate Intelligence Committee ultimately say we couldn't find any evidence of conspiracy? We found -- you know, the items we found here and there, but we haven't found the evidence that Democrats have been determined to say is there?
FINNEY: Well, I think the issue right now though is that whereas maybe we won't they won't find it in the initial investigation, we now know that it was -- before I was saying it was like layers of an onion, now I feel it's more like tentacles because as we know, Michael Cohen, it started as one thing and it has led to other investigations, right? And so, in each of these instances, we now have the Southern District of New York looking at the -- inaugural excuse me -- the inauguration. We have a whole -- so we have Manafort, which sort of led to other investigations.
So I suspect that there will be some hope for the Democrats in terms of what ultimately will be found. But that being said, I think it's still pretty clear and most Democrats believe that if it was not illegal, it's certainly unethical. And I certainly think that at the end of the day when you lay it all out, it definitely creates a picture of someone who was willing to skirt the rules at a minimum to attain power and stay in power.
And I think that is going to -- remember Democrats though overwhelmingly, American people overwhelmingly voted for Democrats in the midterm elections to put a check on this president in the House election. So I think, regardless, there -- that people want them to have the power to continue to investigate and I think the Democrats in the House are going to continue to be very aggressive in their -- in those investigations.
COLLINS: And that's what the White House is more worried about the president is happy to tout what he said last night quoting what Richard Burr has said so far, but the White House is preparing for the onslaught of these investigations -- investigations that are already hitting them and that's what they're more concerned about, is that there's going to be just dozens of these that are hammering them on not just the president's financial interest but basically every aspect of his presidency.
And that's what they've been preparing for since the midterms, but I think a lot of the widespread conclusion has been that people in the White House aren't ready for what the next two years is really going to look like when they're going up against all of these investigations against the Democrats, something that is greatly irritated the president.
TAPPER: All right. Everyone, stick around.
Across the street, but so far apart, Beto O'Rourke draws a crowd blocks away from President Trump's El Paso rally. Is O'Rourke living in the president's head today rent free?
Stay with us.
[16:29:06] TAPPER: In our politics lead today, has one particular Democrat who hasn't even made a 2020 decision gotten under President Trump's skin? The president facing a deadline to sign a border funding compromise and avoid a government shutdown, lamenting today about crowd size and whether or not he drew more supporters at his rally in El Paso last night than the competing rally and march led by former Congressman Beto O'Rourke just a few blocks away, where we may have seen a preview of a candidate's playbook to counter President Trump.
CNN's Jeff Zeleny in Texas picks up our coverage.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you all for being here.
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At the White House today, President Trump still thinking about his campaign rally in El Paso.
TRUMP: We had by the way a massive crowd and my competitor had very few people.
ZELENY: That competitor would be Beto O'Rourke, a former Texas congressman who's eyeing a presidential bid of his own.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Beto 2020!
ZELENY: The president chose the West Texas border town for his first campaign rally of the year Monday night, but it's also O'Rourke's hometown.