Return to Transcripts main page

INSIDE POLITICS

Border Security Deal; New Wall Being Built; Manafort's Lawyers Fight Back. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired February 13, 2019 - 12:00   ET

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


[12:00:00] ALISON KOSIK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: To be aware of that this is all happening now.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, especially in this economy, and that's the whole point.

Great to see you, Alison.

KOSIK: Good to see you.

BOLDUAN: Thanks for laying it out for us. We really appreciate it.

And thank you all so much for joining me today. INSIDE POLITICS with John King starts right now.

JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you, Kate.

And welcome to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm John King. Thank you for sharing your day with us. Another busy one.

The former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort back in court today, insisting he did not lie after promising to cooperate with the special counsel.

Plus, the green new deal. Its boosters say the new wish list will force a long overdue debate on climate change. Its detractors say it's too much, too expensive and could help President Trump's re-election hopes.

And crunch time on Capitol Hill. Lawmakers racing to turn a compromise border security framework into a detailed, legislative plan. CNN is told the president is ready to sign it, even though many of his conservative boosters hate it. One historic wrinkle in this deal, the House committee that decides how your tax dollars get spent is, for the first time, led by two women.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: These men probably never imagined that women would be in charge, and you are.

REP. KAY GRANGER (R), RANKING MEMBER, APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE: Yes. Yes. This is what I gave her when she became chair. And when I became --

when I was elected by the steering committee, she's the first one that called and congratulated me. So we have that sort of a relationship.

BASH: Do you actually use that at the hearings or it's ceremonial?

REP. NITA LOWEY (D), CHAIRMAN, APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE: I use it for lots of things.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: All right, I'll leave that one to your imagination.

We begin -- laugher's OK.

We begin the hour, though, waiting for lawmakers on Capitol Hill to put their new spending compromise on paper and waiting for the president to say publicly what our sources tell us he is saying privately, that he plans to sign it despite not liking it.

We should see the president any moment greeting the president of Colombia, who's coming here for a White House visit. We'll bring you that as soon as it happens.

And we'll see if reporters get a chance to ask the president about that tentative deal reached by congressional negotiators to avoid another partial government shutdown. Two sources telling CNN the president does intend to sign this bipartisan deal. This tweet last night, a pretty good hint. I want to thank all Republicans for the work you have done in dealing with the radical left on border security. Not an easy task, the president wrote, but the wall is being built and will be a great achievement.

Friday is the deadline. House Democrats say the deal should be on paper today. Their plan is to vote tomorrow. Speaker Nancy Pelosi knows both liberals and conservatives aren't happy. She has this advice.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D), HOUSE SPEAKER: And as with all compromises, I say to people, support the bill for what is in it. Don't judge it for what is not in it.

We can't pass it until it's ready. And when it's ready, we'll be ready to pass it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: CNN's Kaitlan Collins live from the White House.

Kaitlan, we're waiting to see the president. Sources tell us he gets it, no more shutdowns, sign it even though you don't like it, but no definitive answer yet.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: No. And no White House official has been willing to go on the record to say that the president is going to sign this despite the fact that Dana's reporting that the president is telling people he intends to sign it. That's because they know this is a president who often changes his mind, so they're not willing to go out further than he is and they're waiting for the president to publically say he's going to sign this bill.

Now, the president had a phone call with the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Senator Richard Shelby, last night. Shelby was trying to pitch this deal to the president, touting the numbers, saying that it's good for the president. But I'm told that the president wasn't completely sold by that phone call because Shelby was saying -- making the argument to the president that this has over $1 billion for fencing on the southern border with Mexico and that's in the range of what the president wanted. Well, John, I guess that depends on what your range is since the president shut the government down saying he wanted $5.7 billion and he's getting far less than that in this agreement.

However, despite all of that and despite the fact that the president hasn't come out publicly and said, yes, I'm going to sign this, White House officials feel pretty confident that there's not going to be a government shutdown on Friday. But right now Sarah Sanders told reporters earlier they are waiting to see the final text of this legislation.

KING: Can't blame them there, wanting to actually see the text. An interesting theory, actually see the text before you say whether you'll sign it.

Kaitlan Collins live at the White House. Kaitlan, stay nearby in case the president talks in the next hour.

With me in studio to share their reporting and their insights, CNN's Nia-Malika Henderson, Michael Shear with "The New York Times," Olivier Knox with Sirius XM and Seung Min Kim with "The Washington Post."

If you watched the president's tweets and read the president's tweets, if you believe what the -- our sources are telling us, he gets it, right, that I can't shut the government down again. There will be a Republican revolt on Capitol Hill. I don't like this, but if you send me what you -- as it's described to me, I'll hold my nose, I'll sign it, and then what, some executive action from the president to do more?

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICS REPORTER: Yes, that's certainly what it sounds like. I mean we can see the president setting the table for this. I mean he literally has said he's setting the table for either the national emergency, some sort of executive action where he gets money from this bill, about $1.3 billion. It's a less than, obviously, than what he wanted. It's a little less than what he was offered this summer as well. But he does seem to be essentially saying, this will be part of a larger move to get money elsewhere.

[12:05:05] And, you know, there was some thinking that the Republicans would revolt against him if he tried to do something with the executive action or national emergency. We'll see how that plays out. KING: That, to me, I'm interested in it as we wait for the

legislation. And then we're going to have to wait for two days for the votes. Does the commentary get to the president in the sense that this is the first big act of the second half, if you will, of his term and he looks weak?

SEUNG MIN KIM, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, "THE WASHINGTON POST": I just keep thinking about the kerfuffle and what we saw back in March of last year where he had to be basically talked into signing that big funding bill because it didn't have that wall money and because the talk show host, the Fox News personalities, really tried to persuade him that this was -- on air that this was not a good deal. But now the president does seem resigned that he is not going to get, at least from Congress, the money that he wants and is looking toward that executive action.

I would point out, though, that for the president to sign something, Congress has to actually pass something first. Right now sources are telling us there's a lot of last-minute hang-ups involving, you know, an extension of the Violence Again Women Act, which is unrelated to this but that Republicans want put in this package. Federal -- back pay for federal contractors. There's some revolt among the left, as well, for not restraining Immigration and Custom Enforcement priorities in this.

But legislating is messy. Everyone seems to not like it all too much. So, at the end of the day, it will most likely pass Congress.

KING: At the end of the day. And so then the question becomes the president.

I just -- you know, the president sometimes, number one, to your point, let's show you the difference here. The president turned down at the beginning of the shutdown, right, in December, the president turned down a deal that would have given him $1.6 billion for 65 miles of barriers, walls. What the president wanted was $5.7 billion. That's a lot more than $1.6 billion, obviously. What negotiators agreed to, $1.375 billion for 55 miles. So he's getting less money, fewer miles of barriers, and he's trying to blame the radical left now and say, then I'll do something else.

As he does that, he says the wall is being built. He keeps saying that. We just want to show you this. That, you know, that is not factual. Here's what has happened during the Trump presidency. Miles of new barriers built, zero. Miles of replacement barriers, started or finished, 40. Miles of new and replacement barriers approved, 80 plus. There's some construction about to happen on some new barriers.

But as we sit here today, the number of new miles of wall built during this presidency, even though he keeps saying the wall is being built, is zero.

MICHAEL SHEAR, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": And, look, the irony of this is, if he had taken the strategy with the original deal that you just put up on the screen, sign it and spin it. Basically sign the bill and then he would have had an opportunity to do what he will now do, which is to try to, you know, find a way to spin that this is really a victory, that he's getting parts of the wall built, and to find other pots of money potentially either by declaring a national emergency, which, I think, we all think is probably less likely now, and, you know, rather to use the power -- the executive power of the -- of the government which he oversees to find ways to shift money around so that he can, again, spin his way to a victory. And the irony is that he could have done that without the government shutdown and without all the damage.

KING: And he probably could have gotten even more money if he had done this when Republicans still controlled the House.

OLIVIER KNOX, CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, SIRIUS XM: That's the -- and that's the irony right there. That's the actual irony. The actual irony is, if there had been enough Republican support for his project, then he could have gotten it. But there wasn't. And the reason the national emergency is really dicey is a lot of these border lawmakers, a lot of them Republicans, they went through this fight, especially on taxes, they went through this fight in '06 and '07. All these eminent domain arguments. All these lawsuits. Some of these guys are up for re-election coming soon. They don't want to have this fight again. And so -- and so that's really the irony, that at any point, in theory, if they had enough GOP support, they could have done this in last years.

KING: In two years, when his political -- in two years, when he had a stronger political position, he still couldn't sell this when his party controlled everything. Now the question is, who will he listen to? Again, indications are the president gets this and he doesn't want to put his party through it again. But Congress has to pass it. Then we'll read it. Then we'll see what the president says.

And one of the questions is, will he be swayed at the last minute by his de facto chief of staff?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS: I'm not happy either. Nobody should be happy. The president has every right to be angry. The so-called compromise is typically of the D.C. sewer and swamp and its level of funding for security and safety of the American people is pathetic.

The president would need to declare a national emergency. This is the time. That is a necessity. And the president, I think I know him pretty well, telegraphed that very thing just today. Sounds like a national emergency is going to be declared, but I have no insider information.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: To conversations like that -- and Sean's not the only one, "The Wall Street Journal" editorial board says this. The restrictions talk- show right is trashing the deal, and Mr. Trump's grousing Tuesday may reflect that criticism. But these are the same critics who have coaxed Mr. Trump to crash into one immigration dead end into another. They seem to think Mr. Trump's duty is to fail repeatedly in the service of the politically impossible. The next time they give good advice will be the first time.

[12:10:02] Ouch.

KNOX: Wow!

HENDERSON: Yes.

KING: A little divide on the right.

HENDERSON: Yes. Yes.

SHEAR: Part of the problem with what Seung Min said about the deal backed last -- last year I guess was the omnibus bill, was that they didn't have people like Mark Meadows and others who were conservatives on, you know, on Fox News saying we want you to pass this, right? There was just a vacuum of that kind of support. And so all he was hearing from were the, you know, were the opponents of the idea telling him that he should trash it.

And so I haven't heard a lot, you know, of public, you know, support for it from the right, and that, you know, doesn't bode well.

KING: We shall see. Again, the first challenge is for Congress to put it on paper. We expect that to happen by the end of the day. Stay tuned.

Up next, President Trump says he's been cleared by the Senate Intelligence Committee, but it seems one of the top members of the committee is not read ready to go that far.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:15:02] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Does the national security adviser right now enjoy the full confidence of President Trump?

KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO THE PRESIDENT: Yes, General Flynn does enjoy the full confidence of the president.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: That was Kellyanne Conway two years ago today just hours before Michael Flynn resigned from his post as the president's national security adviser. Flynn later cut a deal, a plea deal, with the special counsel and is said to be cooperating now.

Back in court next hour, another Trump insider who cut a plea deal but is now accused of breaking it. Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort was convicted on one set of charges and then made a plea deal to avoid trial on a second set. His lawyers today filed a strongly worded legal brief challenging Robert Mueller's assertion that Manafort repeatedly lied to prosecutors after promising his cooperation.

This is from the brief. Mr. Manafort did not lie despite the considerable efforts of the office of the special counsel. It cannot prove what did not happen. That partially redacted filing is 13 pages long. Nearly seven of which -- you see all the redactions there -- nearly seven pages deal with an August 2, 2016 meeting between Manafort and suspected Russian operative Konstantin Kilimnik. That was 10 days after Donald Trump's nominating convention. And Mueller's office said in a recent court filing, it views that meeting as central to the investigation.

CNN's Shimon Prokupecz joins the conversation.

Hard to know what's redacted. Yet again we're left in the dark, literally, about some key aspects of this investigation. But Manafort's team pushing back pretty strongly, accusing the special counsel of overhyping this idea that he lied.

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Yes, I mean they keep saying that he's just -- he didn't remember certain aspects of this, perhaps some of the ways the prosecutors and the investigators were asking questions kind of confused him. But, you know, you do bring up a good point here is that this man, this Russian operative, Konstantin Kilimnik, there was a very strange relationship between Paul Manafort and Kilimnik. You know, they had a business relationship. But, you know, he's the guy that he shared polling data with. And it seems that the special counsel's office is really focused on their relationship, and that's what they say is at the heart of their investigation, that that relationship, what was Paul Manafort promising him? It could have to do with the sanctions, obviously. So that's what came up in that long hearing that was eventually the transcript was released.

But, again, you know, what -- for me what's interesting is that there's this ongoing battle that's still going on with Paul Manafort. You know, I kind of feel like need to move on from this. And the fact -- I think the judge is partly to blame on this. She's drawing this out. And the real thing is, what is the point of this? Will this affect his sentence in any way. He's already pled guilty. He said he's ready for sentence, let's move on. But the judge is just drawing this out and she keeps asking him to file things and she keeps having hearings. You know, maybe today we'll finally get some answers. But I think it's about time that kind of, you know, we move from this point.

KING: Is it, or could it be, and I hate to get into speculation that, again, if you look at the prosecution memo, that meeting and what happened at that meeting is of significance to the special counsel. That's what they say. And, again, we can't connect these dots. We can only look at the calendar. The Republican convention breaks on the 21st of July. This is on the 2nd of August. Why is the Trump campaign chairman going from his successful convention to meet with his long- time business partner, who is known to be a Russian operative. Why? That's a fair question. Let's not speculate beyond that.

But -- but could the -- could the holdup be that the special counsel thinks there's a piece of information that Manafort's refusing to give them?

PROKUPECZ: I mean it could be, but I don't think so. I think they're pretty much done. I think they know they're going to get as much as they're going to get out of Paul Manafort. They know what was going on here. They have their theories.

I will say to you, now I remember this from when I first started covering this. A lot of FBI agents certainly that were getting involved in this investigation early on felt that people like Paul Manafort and others in the campaign were -- did not expect Trump to win.

KING: Right.

PROKUPECZ: And so they were trying to make business off of their connections to the president. And that could be what was going on here, that Manafort was hoping to stay in the good graces of Kilimnik so that he could -- he had no money. He needed money. So he was hoping to probably keep this relationship going so that he could make money.

And that has been the theory of prosecutors and special counsel and FBI agents who have been looking at this investigation.

KING: Swamp. The swamp creatures. Thought he was going to lose and they were trying to make money off it.

PROKUPECZ: That's right.

KING: Another big debate at the moment, the president is celebrating this, tweeting again today, no collusion, no collusion, pointing to these words from the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Richard Burr, who says, we've been at this two years and --

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. RICHARD BURR (D), CHAIRMAN, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: I can assure you that any good will that might have existed in the commit we Michael Cohen is now gone. 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 --

I'm just saying what factually we found to date. We haven't finished with our investigation.

I'm not sure how to put it any clearer than I've said it before. We have no factual evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: It's that last part we wanted to get to. We might come back to Michael Cohen later. But Chairman Burr saying, two years in, we don't have any evidence, in his view.

His Democratic partner on the committee, the co-chairman of the committee, says, respectfully, I disagree. I'm not going to get into any conclusions I've reached because my basis of that has been I'm not going to reach any conclusion until we finish the investigation and we still have a number of key witnesses to come back. [12:20:07] Are there key witnesses? Who is the key witness? Who do

they think has to come back and -- that they -- that Mark Warner thinks hasn't told the truth? Or -- or, you know, the Democrats, for two years, have said, Chairman Burr is doing this in a responsible way. We like Chairman Burr's cooperation. Is it time for the Democrats to say, we've looked under every rock, let's go.

KIM: Well, in terms of the outstanding witnesses, senator -- or Chairman Burr hinted there with Michael Cohen and what not. But the Burr-Warner rift is actually really fascinating. That hasn't been discussed enough. Because since this investigation began, they have been intentionally working hand in glove. They know that this investigation with how sensitive it is it can't be political or seen as political. And it was just such a dramatic contrast to the House Intelligence Committee leaders in the first two years of the presidency with Devin Nunes and Adam Schiff. But -- but right now the heart of this dispute, if you want to call it that, is the fact that Burr and Warner don't necessarily just disagree on the facts, they kind of disagreeing on what they mean at this point. And right now Warner's saying it's too premature and Burr is saying, look, we have no factual evidence and that's kind of where the problem is right now with the Senate committee leadership.

SHEAR: I also -- I also do think that there's been -- even though there has been a good working relationship over the last two years on the Senate side in this committee, there's been a frustration, especially on the Democratic side, on Warner's side, that like there's only so much the committee can do constrained by -- as they are by the Mueller investigation on one side, by the resources of the committee, by this sort of idea that you're doing it in a bipartisan way which sort of kind of dumbs it down in a sense. You're not the hard -- and, look, look what's happening on the House side now. It's becoming a hard charging, aggressive investigation. And that's not what been -- what happened on the Senate side. So there is this frustration on Warner's side, like, how can you make these conclusions, how can you draw the kind of conclusions that Burr did --

HENDERSON: (INAUDIBLE), right.

SHEAR: Without the --

HENDERSON: And maybe they -- yes.

PROKUPECZ: It is the one committee that kind of had credibility among the FBI and the Department of Justice. It was the one committee that they were willing to work with.

Now, Comey respected Burr, kind of had a lot of respect for him and was willing to work with him. So this is -- this is certainly interesting how this has developed.

KING: Right. And so one of the -- one of the factual disputes, or the contest disputes here is you do have -- we have -- CNN has documented at least 16 meetings between Trump campaign officials or Trump organization officials and Russians. Chairman Burr would say, those were probably stupid. They probably should have told the truth about him, but we don't have any evidence they colluded. The word collusion.

Mark Warner says, I want more information because that's suspicious. You want to learn more about this, find out everything you need to know about the Russia probe, go to cnn.com's interactive page. It lays out how the Trump team's story have changed. This is why Democrats have suspicion. These stories have changed throughout the course of the investigation. The numerous contacts between the Trump team and Russia laid out there, the Comey firing, Mueller's legal process, all the players, potential legal pitfalls. It is a great primer if you get a little confused at times, as it's easy to get.

Up next, what's actually in the green new deal and Senator McConnell's plan to take it to the floor.

But first, the Senate majority leader name drops a certain 2020 Democrat.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), MAJORITY LEADER: So let's imagine a president Amy Klobuchar in 20 --

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: That's going to really help me with my base. Thank you. Thank you, Mitch.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:228:00] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), MAJORITY LEADER: I've noted with great interest the green new deal. And we're going to be voting on that in the Senate. We'll give everybody an opportunity to go on record and see how they feel about the green new deal.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Now, wait a minute, the green new deal is a big Democratic initiative. So why them is the Senate's top Republican so eager to bring it to a vote? Remember, Mitch McConnell is from Kentucky, a coal state, and, remember, just about every decision made in Washington these days by McConnell or others has a 2020 campaign wrinkle to it. The green new deal is indeed going to be a flashpoint in the 2020 campaign.

Here's what the supporters want to do. It's an aspirational document, a resolution put before Congress. It has no binding authority. But they say they would like to get to net-zero emissions by 2050. One hundred percent cleaner, renewable energy, energy-efficient infrastructure, clean air, water, healthy food, can't argue with that, right, create millions of new jobs, its proponents say. The issue is, when you start going through the details, a lot of this would cost a lot of money. Overhauling transportation, that would cost a lot of money. Upgrading all existing buildings, commercial buildings, residential buildings, who's going to pay for that, how are you going to pay for that? Providing universal health care is part of this document. Affordable housing. Economic security. Republicans say, great idea, maybe. How are you going to pay for it? They think they can use this to their electoral advantage.

It's a big issue in the presidential race. There are nine Democrats who have either announced they're running or announced exploratory committees. Of these nine, let's take a look, seven say they're for the green new deal. Tulsi Gabbard's been a bit unclear. She says she wants to deal with climate change, but she wants to look at the specifics here. Not sure, maybe this proposal goes too far. John Delaney, former Democratic congressman, former businessman, says it does go too far. You have to deal with climate change but this is just too much, too pricey.

But even the candidates who are for it, for example, Amy Klobuchar, Kirsten Gillibrand, when they talk about it, listen, sometimes a little slightly different emphasis.

[12:29:56] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm in favor of it simply because I see it as a framework to jump-start a discussion. I don't see it as something that we can get rid of all these industries or do this in a few years. That doesn't make sense to me. Or reduce air travel.