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tv   CNN Tonight With Don Lemon  CNN  December 21, 2018 7:00pm-8:00pm PST

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merry christmas to you and your families. let's get after it in 2019. thank you for being with us tonight and every night. "cnn tonight" with d. lemon starts right now. >> i got to keep the place open while you gallivant around whatever play and -- >> you see the look on my face right now? >> is that supposed to scare me? i ain't scared. >> i don't want you to be scared. i don't want to have to chase you. i want to you stand right there and take the beating. >> i can't leave right now because i have a job to do. you can get out of here. if you want to come over and settle this man-to-man, i'm right in the next studio. >> please. please, don. >> seriously, though, you said they couldn't even come up with a name for it. couldn't even agree on a name for it. but they had an agreement on how to solve it at least temporarily, and then this president said, no. >> yep. >> he says, i'm taking my marbles and i'm going home. >> right. look, here's the real problem, okay? this is the scary part. you want to be scared about something, this is the easy part. border protection, barriers, walls, fences, sensors, whatever
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you want to call them -- that's easy. the rules of legal immigration, that's the trick. >> that's the hard part, yeah. >> because the freedom caucus doesn't want people coming in here anymore. those are the groups saying they're dirty. you know, our friend over there on fox -- he's actually not our friend. dirty. they're bad for us. demonizing. that's the real problem, brother. we haven't even touched that yet. that's the real fight. >> yeah. well, we do talk about that a lot. we don't frame it, as you say, our friends on fox. i still like to think people are friends. >> he's not my friend. you are what you show, my brother. you are what you show. >> right. actually, doing proper immigration reform and proper immigration overhaul is really -- that's the hard part. the wall -- that's why i don't understand why people are so stuck on this wall. there's already fencing there. >> you heard mick mulvaney back in 2015. you should use that sound tonight. i can't believe he's going to keep his job.
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>> thank you, mr. producer. as a matter of fact, we have it in the show. but thank you very much. >> don't hate. participate. >> seriously, it is the most simplistic, as mick mulvaney would say, unoriginal, and it shows -- by touting that, by putting that out there, it shows that you really don't have an understanding of what immigration reform would mean. >> but you understand people. and he knew it was an easy sell. >> he understands slogans, and i guess people. >> and he knew it would work. keep them safe, simple, strong. but it was deceptive. now there's a chance he gets hoisted on that petard, that his own bomb will blow him up on this. but it's going to take people on the right who know this isn't the right path to stand up, and we haven't seen that yet. >> i wonder if people realize -- you know the people who are the real big immigration problem, the people who are coming to overstay their visas, i wonder if people know, like, those people make a lot of money,
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right? >> sure. >> and the people who come across the border will probably eventually end uppicing a lot of money. that's the american dream. but they start off doing jobs that don't pay a lot. but the people that come and overstay their visas, if you're talking about people taking money out of your pocket, if you want to frame it that way, i'm not saying that's true, but those are the people who are actually taking more out of the economy than people coming across the southern border. >> depending on some of the paperwork they have, some have high-skilled jobs. look, again, there are fixes that have to be made. these mass caravans are something that our current system was never set up to deal with. they can't handle the flow. >> right. >> and it is political malpractice for them to not work on it, and this is all a distraction, this wall, and what a waste of time and money. >> but we are america, and we can deal with any problem, and so we can deal with that problem, and we can do it in a humane way. >> yes. >> i gotta go. >> well said, don lemon. >> i won't say merry christmas because i'll see you before
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christmas. >> you're the gift to me every day. >> i know you are -- i know i am. that's okay. you're welcome. >> thank you. this is "cnn tonight." i'm don lemon. today is the darkest day of the year. perhaps a fitting end to what may be the most unsettling week for the trump presidency and the country as a whole really. it's a question of leadership and growing chaos inside the white house. the administration under investigation. the stock market plummeting. the defense secretary resigning on principle rather than continue to serve this president. let's see. did i miss anything? oh, yes. we're less than two hours from a partial government shutdown, the third shutdown this year. shutdowns are expensive. they're disruptive. and in this case completely unnecessary. and president t., president trump needs to take
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responsibility, or individual-1, whatever you want to call him. here's what he said this afternoon, somewhat cavalierly. >> it's possible that we'll have a shutdown. i would say the chances are probably very good. >> well, he acts like a government shutdown is not a big deal. it is a big deal. a lot of government employees won't get paid. it's christmas. as a matter of fact, i was out with my family. we were shopping this evening. it is christmas. most people want to do the same thing, be with their families, have some income to be able to buy christmas presents. and tonight the president's inside the white house, probably seething and watching tv, angry at someone or something. that's what he does, and then he tweets. he was supposed to leave for his florida estate today to begin a two-week holiday. the first lady and their teenage son traveled to mar-a-lago without him. he stayed in washington due to
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the shutdown of his making by the way. president trump is insisting that he won't sign a temporary spending bill unless congress gives him $5 billion for a border wall. nancy pelosi, chuck schumer tried to talk him out of it in an oval office meeting just last week. but with cameras rolling, the president put on a show. >> you want to put that -- >> you said it. >> i'm take it. you know what i'll say? yes. if we don't get what we want one way or the other, whether it's through you, through a military, through anything you want to call, i will shut down the government. >> okay. >> absolutely. and i am proud, and i'll tell -- >> we disagree. >> i am proud to shut down the government for border security, chuck. i will take the mantle. i will be the one to shut it down. i'm not going to blame you for it. >> so he wanted a trump shutdown. still cooler heads did prevail at least for a few days. white house press secretary sarah sanders even hinting earlier this week that funding
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sources could be found elsewhere, thereby avoiding a shutdown days before christmas. >> the president's asked every one of his cabinet secretaries to look for funding that can be used to protect our borders and give the president the ability to fulfill his constitutional obligation to protect the american people by having a secure border. >> well, republican leaders in congress thought they had a deal with the president to let everyone go home for the holidays and keep the government funded through february. that's until trump apparently got spooked by ann coulter, and the outrage of right-wing media and blew up his own administration's deal. >> it will just have been a joke presidency that scammed the american people, enraged, you know, amused the populous for a while, but he'll have no legacy whatsoever. >> ann coulter?
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is ann coulter running the federal government? president coulter. hmm. has a ring to it. "fox & friends"? president "fox & friends." president rush limbaugh? their comments were enough to get trump to retreat to his original position, and now he's trying to blame the democrats. >> it's really up to the democrats, totally up to the democrats as to whether or not we have a shutdown. what's really the democrat shutdown. >> wait. what did the president say again last week? >> i am proud to shut down the government for border security, chuck. i will take the mantle. i will be the one to shut it down. >> okay. now it's democrats. but last week he said it was his, the trump shutdown. remember nancy pelosi named it. he was shocked in the oval office when she said it. who's the real president?
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president ann coulter. h. hmm. president trump will own the shutdown, plain and simple. he'll own the tanking stock market as well since he took credit for its great run-up all year, but now it's nosediving. more than 400 points again today. he also owns the chaos in the turnover of his staff. so right now trump has no permanent chief of staff, no permanent attorney general. he needs a new defense secretary after general mattis quit yesterday while publicly rebuking the president's military policies. today is the friday before christmas. so every year during his presidency, before he left for his annual hawaii vacation, president barack obama would hold a year-end news conference to defend his policies to the
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american people. in 2010, he talked about reaching across the aisle. >> if there's any lesson to draw from these past few weeks, it's that we are not doomed to endless gridlock. we've shown in the wake of the november elections that we have the capacity not only to make progress but to make progress together. >> 2013. obama didn't shy away from taking responsibility for the disastrous rollout of obamacare and he also spoke of the honor of serving as president. >> we get this incredible privilege for a pretty short period of time to do as much as we can for as many people as we can, to help them live better lives. >> and in 2016, as he was preparing to leave the white house, obama spoke about the gravity and power of the office of president of the united
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states. >> i always feel responsible. there are places around the world where horrible things are happening, and because of my office, because i'm president of the united states, i feel responsible. i ask myself every single day, is there something i could do that would save lives and make a difference and spare some child who doesn't deserve to suffer? >> a president actually taking responsibility. gosh, i had forgotten that that happened. the president of the united states said the buck stopped with him, and he came before the american people at the end of the year to take responsibility and to reassure the american people that everything was okay. wow, that's a president. i digress. president trump tonight tweeting about his new name for an old
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obsession, the steel slat barrier, a design of our steel slat barrier which is totally effective while at the same time beautiful. i don't even know what that means. so tall, so spiky, so medieval. it's kind of like a fence, only it's sharper. because of a fight over that spiky fence, wall, steel slat barrier, in less than two hours, the federal government will partially shut down. thousands of government employees won't get paid. it's holiday time. what is it that president trump said? >> i will take the mantle of shutting down. >> takes some responsibility right there, but then he backed
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right down. merry christmas, everybody. want to turn to phil mattingly. thank you for joining us. i know it's a busy night, maybe not so busy right now. it's official. in less than two hours, the government will shut down. the president just released a video calling for border security. in it he's using the same kind of imagery in the racist ads before the election. this is the part where he talks about the wall. watch this. >> the only thing that's going to stop that is great border security with a wall or a slat fence or whatever you want to call it. but we need a great barrier. >> so i don't know why he's yelling. so there's that video. what's the latest? how did we get here, phil? >> reporter: it's interesting. you mentioned the vibe here is so odd. i remember one shutdown or two ago when we were doing this, and i was texting back and forth to sources as there's this flurry of activity trying to -- the capitol is essentially empty. everybody has accepted this reality and hoping they can
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figure out a path forward at some point. when it comes to how did we get here, it's actually pretty simple. it's political incentives. i think the president and the white house made clear, the president specifically, that they were going to have this fight that the president promised he was going to have, that he campaigned on, that he believes is his issue that the base rallies toward. and they were willing to short circuit a bipartisan deal that was reached in the senate, put on the floor by senate majority leader mitch mcconnell and passed unanimously. and then with allies in the house, move forward on a bill they knew couldn't pass in the senate that had that $5 billion for the wall. there are negotiations that are ongoing. vice president mike pence, mick mulvaney, jared kushner were on the hill for a couple of hours shuttling back and forth between offices trying to find a path forward. behind the scenes on the negotiations, what i've been told, there were proposals traded back and forth between that group of white house officials and democrats, and the baseline remains the same. there are two potential problems here for any potential deal. the first is there is a lack of
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trust, not just on the democratic side but also on the republican side about what the president will actually agree to, particularly after an about-face earlier this week. so republicans and democrats alike are essentially saying, look, the white house can say whatever they want but until the president tweets something or says something about what he would accept below that $5 billion number, we're probably not going to come to the table and agree to anything. the other is the democrats, nancy pelosi and chuck schumer, believe they have the winning political hand here. you played the sound from the president in the oval office. they've been playing that and repeating that repeatedly. their base doesn't want them to budge off the money they've committed to for border security and fencing up to this point, and therein lies the problem. and therein lies the reason i'm told right now that a quick solution to this is very, very unlikely even though talks continue. >> wow. okay. that was comprehensive and a lot. i hope everyone had their pads and pens at home. phil, this will be the third
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shutdown this year. the first one was january 20th. the second one was february 9th for just one day. and now add midnight on 12/22. and all these shutdowns, the republicans have controlled both houses of congress and the presidency. so i mean what gives here? why this at the last possible second? for two years, they've had the white house, the senate, and the congress. >> reporter: an interesting thing. i'm on a text chain with congressional staffers where the actual question today is where does this rank in the history of dumbest shutdowns because there is often an understanding with both parties on capitol hill that shutdowns are a pretty bad idea and don't make a lot of sense. i think the reality in all of these shutdowns, there have been different reasons, different dynamics at play. the biggest reason right now is just the uncertainty about where the president stands on things. and the recognition that republicans don't want to undercut the president. what i've been told explicitly is this. house republicans will not move
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forward on anything the president doesn't explicitly support. that's a problem in the house, particularly when if you put what the senate passed on the floor today, they would have the votes to pass it in the house. but they don't want to undercut the president. after what happened earlier in the week, senate majority leader mitch mcconnell will not put anything on the floor until they know where the president stands. so as long as that dynamic remains, shall we say, ambiguous as it is right now at the moment, there's no quick end to this. as to why this keeps happening, look, this has been happening for better or worse for the better part of five or six years, these fiscal fights. people find themselves into these, let's say, box canyons. i will tell you if history is any guide, the way this ends is one side gets bludgeoned to the point where they simply can't stand it anymore and they eventually give in. that is how they traditionally end. the big question right now from republican staffers is given where the president stands on this, given the fact that he doesn't appear to want to move at all, if that moment will ever
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come, at least at any point in the near future. that's why things are so up in the air right now. >> phil, can you just explain this to me, if you can do it quickly? so right now if the government shuts down and they don't negotiate, so the government will be shut down for about a week, week and a half, to january 3rd, correct? and that's when the -- well, at least. >> reporter: yeah. >> then the new congress starts january 3rd. then there's absolutely no leverage for republicans. so shouldn't the president and republicans now be saying, okay, let's make a deal as quickly as we can before we have less leverage instead of digging themselves in? >> reporter: the beauty of my position is that i don't have to give political advice to anyone here. >> but you understand what i'm saying? common sense just says the government will be shut down for a week and a half. people won't get a paycheck for at least then. then if they come back on the 3rd, when the new congress comes
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in, then democrats take over the congress. then they have less political leverage on the right. it just seems to me like this is all for naught. it seems a fait accompli. >> reporter: let me just kind of relay what i've heard from republican staff and senators and members of the house in both chambers over the course of the last 24 hours. they recognize the political reality of the moment. they recognize the reality of the dynamics in terms of what the next steps most likely are. what i've been told repeatedly is the only likely way out of this is for the president to get tired of this and essentially accede to what the senate passed earlier, a clean stopgap bill for the next six weeks. but until that moment happens and if this president, as he's made clear, he's willing to have this fight. he's willing to keep the government shut down. if that dynamic doesn't shift, then nothing shifts. and it doesn't shift just because democrats take power in the house. if they get into this, and they will in the next hour and 45 minutes, how do they get out and
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when do they get out? and there's no clear answer to that right now. >> the theater. the theater of it all. it's not just broadway. it's happening in d.c. too. thank you very much, phil. i appreciate it. more breaking news tonight. sources telling cnn that president trump has lashed out at his acting attorney general over revelations that came to light in the case of michael cohen. that's his former lawyer, who has been sentenced to three years in prison. i want to bring in now cnn's justice reporter, laura jarrett. laura, good evening to you. what's going on? >> hey there, don. this story is really about how the president views the justice department, and here's what happened. on at least two occasions in the past few weeks, the president vented at his acting attorney general, hand-picked, matthew whitaker, about the michael cohen investigations. the president angered in particular by federal prosecutors referencing him in crimes that cohen pleaded guilty to. according to multiple sources, telling myself and pamela brown that trump was really frustrated that prosecutors that of course
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wit kerr oversees as the acting attorney general, filed charges that made trump look bad. of course those hush money payments to women surrounding the 2016 election. and now none of those sources say that the president actually directed whitaker to stop the investigations, but these discussions between whitaker and trump really underscore the extent to which the president believes the attorney general should serve as his personal protector. and it gives a glimpse into the strange, some might say unsettling dynamic of a sitting president talking to the u.s. attorney general about investigations he's potentially implicated in, don. >> what exactly happened? talk to me more. take us deeper inside. what exactly happened here? >> so as i mentioned, there's at least two discussions that we know about. one after the special counsel charged cohen over making those false statements that included those details of him talking to the president well into the election year about that moscow trump tower project. the second is after cohen is
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implicated more formally, maybe indirectly but pretty clearly in court paper, and the federal prosecutors there laid it all out in cohen's plea for those campaign finance violations, something that trump and his attorneys fiercely maintain isn't an illegal campaign contribution. obviously experts disagree with that. and trump pressed whitaker on why more wasn't being done to control the prosecutors in new york, suggesting really that they were going rogue. now, of course we should add, while not confirming these considerations at all, the president's lawyer, rudy giuliani, did say this in a statement to us. quote, the president and his lawyers are upset about the professional prosecutors in the southern district of new york going after a non-crime and the innuendo that the pre involved. the justice department declined to comment about all of this, don. >> this seems to be the jeff sessions situation all over again. >> absolutely. absolutely. the president, on numerous occasions, had gone after sessions for recusing himself and not controlling the special counsel probe. we all remember all the times he
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lambasted him on twitter and in interviews. and in whitaker, he had an attorney general who had publicly criticized the probe in tv appearances. just this week, whitaker refused to recuse from overseeing the russia investigation. until this week, whitaker hadn't been briefed on the special counsel investigation, i'm told, but he was given a heads-up about the cohen probe, the cohen guilty plea i should say, the night before. and we learned that whitaker will soon now get briefings on the mueller investigation now that that ethics review is complete, don. >> laura jarrett in washington, thank you very much. i appreciate it. straight ahead, more on our breaking news coverage now. the partial shutdown of the federal government at midnight eastern. i'm going to talk with senator jeff merkley of oregon.
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so here's the breaking news. the federal government will shut down, partially shut down in less than two hours at midnight eastern. the third shutdown this year. i want to talk about this with senator jeff merkley, democrat of oregon. good evening, senator. thank you so much for joining us. a government shutdown is less than two hours away. you were on this show for the last two shutdowns. i hope you remember that back in february and january. you blamed the president back then and the republican party. take a listen. >> this is completely, 100% on their hands. they're in charge. they're deciding to shut down the government. everything depends upon president trump. >> who gets the blame tonight?
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who gets the blame tonight? >> oh, well, certainly in this case it's even clearer than before because only one person in america has been bragging about wanting to shut down the government. only one person last week, the man in the oval office, said he's taking responsibility. it's all in his hands. so it's clear for america it's the republican team. they still control both houses, and the president switched his positions after a deal was worked out and decided he's going to make some in his base happy by shutting down the government. >> so, senator, the other shutdowns this year lasted a day and then three days. but the president says the white house is prepared for a long shutdown. how long could this go, you think? >> well, it could go quite a while. here's the thing. you will see an impact on national parks, but a lot of the stuff you're going to see is invisible. it will be environmental inspections, food inspections, the internal machinery of the irs, social security cards for
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new applicants. the checks will go out, but the cards may not get done. new applications for medicare or veterans benefits. there's a host of things. but i don't think you'll see a visible change because a whole lot of the government is already funded. we've already passed five of the 12 bills, and they've been signed by the president. and then you have the essential services on top of that. so i very much think the president may well just say, i'm going to leave it like this until the new congress comes in. the new congress will then send him a bill unlike now, because the house refused to take up the bill and send it. send him a bill on his desk, and he'll have to decide whether to sign it at that point. >> hmm. you know, i got to ask you -- and i'm not saying you should do this, but i just sometimes wonder. do you and your colleagues ever just think, maybe we should give the president his wall. he'll stop with his tantrums and people interested in government can actually begin to do that. is that ever tempting to you?
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>> well, i'll tell you the thing is you think about this $5 billion. what does that represent? that's 650,000 kids who could be in head start. it's 2 million meals a day for seniors. this is real resources, and we have a responsibility to spend america's money in a smart fashion, not through some fourth century strategy easily overcome. and right now the president has $1.35 billion from last year of which he spent almost none of it for border security. so there's so much he could do for border security. he wants to set up a political battle in which he says, okay, this wall is border security. but it's a falsehood. there's much more cost-effective ways to provide border security, and we funded it, and he's sitting on the money. >> i'll take that as a no to my question. no, you don't -- >> yes, no. >> but that was a very good answer, and you explained why no. thank you very much.
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hopefully he won't see you again before christmas, so merry christmas. >> merry christmas, don. >> remember this? >> i am proud to shut down the government for border security, chuck. i will take the mantle. i will be the one to shut it down. >> well, less than two hours to go to a shutdown, and the president is changing his tune. do you like paying for things you don't need? no. and do you want to get things you love for free? who wouldn't? exactly! right. dad, apple music. he gets it. this guy gets it. (vo) get six months free apple music, on the network you deserve. at, we can't guarantee you'll good at that water jet thingy... but we can guarantee the best price on this hotel. or any accommodation, from homes to yurts. booking.yeah
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president trump trying to have it both ways. tonight he is getting the government shutdown that he has been calling for, but now he is trying to pin it on the democrats. i want to bring in now kaitlan collins, kirsten powers and scott jennings. good evening to everyone. >> what are you laughing at? >> kirsten, that was pretty funny. i saw it. sorry. hello. caught you off guard there a little bit.
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kaitlan, ten days ago the president said he'd be proud to own this shutdown. he said, i'll take the blame. in fact, we've heard him call for a shutdown last year too. take a look at this. >> the obstructionist democrats would like us not to do it, but believe me, we have to close down our government. we're building that wall. there are many gang members that we don't even mention. if we don't change it, let's have a shutdown. we'll do a shutdown, and it's worth it for our country. i'd love to see a shutdown if we don't get this stuff taken care of. >> we disagree. >> i am proud to shut down the government for border security, chuck, because the people of this country don't want criminals and people that have lots of problems and drugs pouring into our country. i will take the mantle of shutting down. and i'm going to shut it down for border security. >> okay. so kaitlan, now the president is shifting the blame to democrats. can you explain that one to us? >> reporter: well, i think it's the least surprising thing ever that the president went from saying last week that he would
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own a government shutdown, something that made those two democrats in the oval office, nancy pelosi and chuck schumer, incredibly happy to now he is saying it is on the democrats that the government is shutting down, just as recently in this video he tweeted tonight. the question is what changed? why is the president here now because he went from saying he'd be proud to shut down the government because he had been hearing this criticism that he was growing increasingly sensitive to, that he was backpedaling on that campaign promise to build a border wall. but the actions speak a little bit differently than what the president is saying. he's saying he's proud to shut down the government. today he said he's prepared to shut it down for a long time. but he september his officials, the vice president, his incoming chief of staff, and his son-in-law and senior adviser up to capitol hill today to reopen these negotiations, convince those republican senators, bob corker and jeff flake to move forward, so they could move forward to have this debate over what to do. clearly they know the government is going to shut down.
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they do not want it to be shut down for long because they're well aware after a few days, the optics will turn back on them, and it will look bad on the white house's part if it continues to be shut down for more than a few days. >> scott, the president initially signaled he would sign a clean cr if a bipartisan group of senators passed that. then a conservative talk radio host got into his head, and he caved. is this any way to run a government? >> well, it's no way to treat your friends in the united states senate. i mean the president has had the most success in his administration when he has remained allied with the republicans in the u.s. senate and particularly in the leadership. so by turning your back on them, now he's put himself in a position where he has to negotiate with chuck schumer. this whole deal right now is donald trump and chuck schumer. any deal has to be between those two because they have to have democrat votes in the senate, and that's until january 3rd. at that point democrats get even more leverage because nancy pelosi takes over the house. so if he wants to do a deal, he's not doing it with
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republicans. now he's said i'm going to do it with chuck schumer, and i guess we'll see how long it takes for him to figure out what he can accept from the senator from new york. >> there you go. so, kirsten, president trump couldn't get his wall during two full years of basically complete republican control of the government. how is that not a complete failure on his part? there was a deal on the table months ago. >> well, yeah. i mean he walked away from a deal. that's right. i think that he hasn't shown this, you know, so-called art of the deal that he has bragged about, these such the deal maker because he hasn't been able to get a core campaign promise done. it is always important to remember, though, that mexico was supposed to pay for the wall. so really that's who he's supposed to be dealing with. he should be dealing with mexico, trying to get them to pay for the wall since he said that they would. since he hasn't been able to do that, he wants congress to pay for it.
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the democrats have always said they're not going to pay for it. it's a stupid policy. it's, at minimum, $18 billion is what the cbo has estimated it will cost. we can assume that will be the least amount that it will cost because the government doesn't usually come in under budget for something that just absolutely is not necessary. i heard you talking earlier about what is obvious. people can go oupd tunder the w. there are other ways to get into the country. you can fly on an airplane. there are all sorts of ways to get into the country, and $18 billion on a wall that's not going to work and isn't necessary isn't something the democrats are going to go far. >> kaitlan, i want to ask you about this picture. it's the president at the resolute desk, what appears to be the bills he's signing. he tweets he's canceled his trip to florida. is this meant to instill confidence in the american people that he's keeping busy and actually doing his job? >> reporter: i think it's supposed to work to his messaging, that it's the fault of democrats that the government
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is shutting down. look, he's still at work, still in the oval office, willing to cancel his trip to palm beach, florida, that he was supposed to leave for this afternoon in order to stay here and work. of course, the reality, even whus officials will admit and surely republicans on capitol hill is we could have had this debate and this fight several days ago. nothing has changed there except that the president changed his mind because that criticism got under his skin that he was backpedaling on that promise, and that is when he said i'm not going to sign this short-term spending bill, and that is what has gotten us to where we are now. the president could have said this several days ago. some of the options that are being floated now like 1.6 billion for the border wall is something that has been proposed in the past. but we are here now because the president changed his mind is essentially where we are now. this morning, white house officials did not feel confident there was any kind of a plan b here. right now they at least feel hopeful they're working on something that right now, even though the government is about to shut down in just an hour and a half almost, they do feel confident that there are people,
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staffs on capitol hill working to try to get some kind of compromise on the table so that they can bill it as a win for them, bill it as a win for those republicans. but it certainly is not how we were starting the week, and this is not how republicans, many of whom have already gone home, thought this was going to go. >> all right. everybody stay with me. the president lashing out at the house democratic leader nancy pelosi today after pelosi and republicans wouldn't have the votes for a border wall. well, we're going to take a look at that relationship and what it means for the next congress.
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president trump apparently on a rampage. sources telling cnn he lashed out at the acting attorney general over allegations about him that came to light in the michael cohen case. back with me now, kaitlan, kirsten, and scott. so let's talk about this. kaitlan, is the president shopping for an attorney general who will shut down this investigation? jeffrey toobin called it a feature, not a bug in terms of what he's looking for. >> reporter: i think that's certainly what critics of this white house think, and i don't think it's unusual they drew that conclusion because his primary problem with jeff sessions was that he had recused himself and couldn't be in charge of the russia investigation. therefore, president trump thought it had gotten out of control. white house officials will continue to insist day in and day out that the president is not going to fire robert mueller, and he doesn't want to bring the investigation to an
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end though it's clear he wants it to come to an end on his own. but you can guarantee that the president's pick for the attorney general is going to have a fight for this when he does go to be senate confirmed because of course that is going to be a question that a lot of senators feel pressured to ask. are you going to either recuse yourself from this investigation, or do you feel the need to shut it down, or will you protect it in that job? clearly the president drawing some issues here with matt whitaker, who had to inform him of this plea deal with michael cohen that was coming his way, and i was actually here at the white house just about an hour or so after we found out about that, after michael cohen had appeared in court. and the president came out to the cameras, and he was leaving the white house to go somewhere. that was the first thing he talked about unprompted, without any of us shouting any questions at him. he brought up the michael cohen thing on his own. it has been something that has plagued the president since april, and one of the things he is most sensitive about, people close to him say. >> scott, at this point, should the president be wary of further
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interference and stop talking to the a.g. about the investigation full stop? >> well, i mean he's going to have to get updates on the investigation because it appears to me the thing is getting close to the end, and there's going to be more news that needs to be delivered to the white house. now, you could argue that news needs to be delivered to the white house counsel and then to the president. but the reality is this thing is almost over, and the fact that he has nominated an attorney general person, barr, basically guarantees that mueller cannot be fired at this point. i've been hearing the president was going to fire mueller for almost two years now. that hasn't happened, so i really think that he's upset about what's happening, but a lot of what's happening is because this thing is getting close to the end. the real question is come, if you believe some of the reporting out there, come the spring, february, march, when this comes to an end and the report goes up, what does his government do with that report? do they sit on it? do they send it to the congress? how does it get made public? to me, that's the next flash
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point on how he handles the investigation, not whether he's going to fire mueller, which i've never believed he's going to do. >> kirsten, let's talk about james mattis, that resignation letter which shocked washington and the world. is it just a matter of time before trump tweets something about mattis now? >> yeah. i mean, you know, he usually cannot control his grudges against people even he manages to do it for a few days, and it wasn't just that he resigned. it was what he said in his resignation letter that was so shocking. it was a complete indictment of donald trump's foreign policy. and there was nothing in there about even saying that it was a pleasure or an honor to serve the president. he talked about serving the military and serving alongside other people in the military and serving his country, but he never talked about serving with the president and that being an honor.
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so i think it was a real slap in the face to the president, and i've never seen him in the past be able to absorb that kind of slight without lashing out. >> i want to play something that we heard from the president today about the house-passed funding bill that included money for the wall. watch this. >> we were told that you would never get the house to vote. well, we were able to get the house to vote, and it wasn't that we did it. they did it. they about incredible. so i want to thank in this case house republicans because what they did was rather incredible. but when nancy pelosi said you'll never get the votes in the house, we got 'em, and we got 'em by a big margin. 217-185. >> when she said that, kaitlan, it really stuck with him. >> reporter: clearly. the president does not take lightly to criticism, and he said in his twitter feed that he didn't feel that nancy -- or that there was no need for her to apologize for what she said since they did get the votes in the house. but things changed this week
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from when nancy pelosi and chuck schumer were sitting there in the oval office with the president when he said he'd be proud to own a government shutdown and she essentially dared him to bring it to the floor. at that time people on capitol hill will tell you they probably didn't have the votes in the house. but then after things changed this week, they saw the president being very clear he was not going to sign that short-term spending bill that didn't include the $5 billion for his border wall and then the house added it and passed it. that has a lot to do with it as well. but you see the president not missing an opportunity to hit back at nancy pelosi, essentially saying he's correct here even though of course it passed in the house. it is dead on arrival in the senate. those talks on capitol hill today that involved the vice president, jared kushner, and mick mulvaney and all these republicans involved, no one even mentioned the number $5 billion for that wall because they know -- and people at the white house know -- they are not getting $5 billion for this wall. >> so, scott, sum it up for us here. what is next? you've got back and forth.
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nancy pelosi saying i don't have the votes. it turns out he did have the votes. now you have him calling her out. now you have a partial government shutdown happening. so now what? >> it's very simple. he's got to pick up the phone and call chuck shierm, and they got to hash it out because the republicans in the congress will not undermine the president. they'll go with whatever deal that he says to go with, and schumer has to deliver some votes. yes, pelosi was wrong by the way. trump's right. she just totally blew that, and he was right about that but it's irrelevant because the whole ball game is between donald trump and chuck schumer. >> you heard flake earlier saying that some republicans didn't want the money either, right? you're saying republicans, but you think they'll still go along with him. >> i do. i do not think the republican party will undermine the president. if he can make a deal with chuck schumer on whatever terms that he can accept, i think they will end the shutdown. it gets a lot harder after january 3rd. he needs to do it before the democrats take over the house would be my advice.
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>> yeah, and i think that's very smart advice. thank you all. i appreciate it. believe it or not, something did get done in washington today. the president signed into a law a bipartisan appreciate and sentencing reform bill. our own van jones has been one of the bill's champions, and he joins me next.
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is. president trump is stepping on his own victory at the white house, during a bill signing ceremony for the bipartisan criminal justice reform, he used appearance to shift blame on the democrats for the shut down. van jones was a key player getting the law over the finish line and was on hand for the signing today. he may have stepped on his own message but we're going to talk about it now. it was a long time, good evening to you, it was a long time coming but you got to be happy because, and not a lot of people can say that in washington tonight. >> yeah. well, i mean, listen for a decade now, there's been a growing understanding that we're spending too much money on prisons.
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we're hurting people. we're putting people in for too long. judges are quitting because they're mandated to give super long sentences and something needed to be done. and obama took things as far as he possibly could but couldn't get a bill across the finish line because of republican opposition, et cetera. we decided that we were not going to give up, that we were going to continue the fight that started under president obama, not let the trump administration move away from some of those principles and ultimately, because of jared kushner's incredible leadership, his father went to prison, he understood these issues, we were able to pull together an unlikely coalition that won. and as a result, people who are behind bars right now have reason to be happy. 100% of the people behind bars in the federal system can stay out of trouble, come home a little bit earlier, about 3,000 are going to come home in january because they are serving outdated sentences on crack coin charges. half of them can take classes
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and come home earlier. 100% of the women are not going to be shackled when they give birth to babies. no more juveniles will be locked in solitary confinement. the list goes on and on and on. >> don't eat up the time because i know it's good. i'm being serious because i want to talk to you about more stuff, and i want to play the clip from today's signing. this is you talking to the president. here it is. >> when you're trying to help people on the bottom, sir, i will work with or against any democrat, with or against any republican because there is nothing more important than freedom. so thank you. >> listen, i hear folks, you hear folks, you are on social media. you see the comments, you have taken a lot of grief for working with this president, but you are making no apologies. >> none. hey, listen, you say, i got beat up on social media. people in prison don't get a chance to see social media because they're locked up. they're being brutalized, they're away from their
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families. they are suffering. i can't worry about what somebody says on twitter. if you're on twitter, by definition, you're not in prison. so we have to be able to put first things first. you and i both know it took both political parties to get us into this ditch. the democrats and republicans were passing crazy laws, putting mostly black people in prison for decades and it's going to take both political parties to get us out. this struggle, nothing is more important than freedom. no politician, no political party, no political rhetoric. nothing is more important than freedom. that's what the civil rights movement was about. that's what the revolutionary war was about, the civil war was about, women's rights, lgbtq, this is about freedom and we can fight about everything else. i told the president when i was there, on immigration, on climate policy, on foreign policy we're going to fight but where we agree, especially to help people on the bottom, we should work together and i'll never back off of that. i don't see how people can justify leaving people to suffer
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in president. just because the president is bad on 99 things, if he's right on one thing that's going to help people, we should work on that. >> i'm out of time. >> i'm sorry. >> don't apologize. >> it's a good christmas for a lot of folks. thank you, van, jones, and merry christmas to you and your family. >> thanks for the opportunity. just an hour to go before the government faces a partial shut down. it would be the third one this year. how did we get here? to relax me, though. ♪ maybe you'd mellow out a bit if you got geico to help you with your renters insurance. oh, geico helps with renters insurance? good to know. yeah, and they could save you a lot of money. wow, suddenly i feel so relieved. you guys are fired. get to know geico and see how much you could save on renters insurance. hey uh, quick question. do you like paying for things you don't need? no. and do you want to get things you love for free? who wouldn't? exactly!
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whetor surprise pizza,aco night, zantac works when you need it. it relieves or prevents heartburn in as little as 30 minutes, and lasts up to 12 hours. zantac. eat your way. treat your way.™ this is cnn tonight, i'm don lemon, our breaking news, a partial government shut down, just one hour away. and there is nothing stopping it now. the house and the senate, they adjourned until noon tomorrow, and the president does not have the money he wants for his border wall. last week president trump said he was proud to own a government shut down in the name of border security. but now he is trying to put


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