tv CNN Newsroom with Poppy Harlow and Jim Sciutto CNN December 24, 2018 6:00am-7:00am PST
good monday morning to you. i'm jim sciutto. poppy harlow is off today. federal employees are off today but they didn't ask for it. a partial government shutdown that could last well into 2019. president trump has said to have hated james mattis' resignation letter and decided to replace him right away. that means the united states will ring in the new year with
an acting defense secretary in addition to an acting attorney general, an acting white house chief of staff, an acting epa administer and five federal departments completely unfunded. let's begin this hour at the pentagon where uncertainty at the top quickly being felt throughout the ranks, top to bottom and around the world. barbara starr is there. there was a marine commander traveling around, visiting deployed marines when they asked him what to expect. they said they don't know. is that something you're hearing across the board? >> it is, jim. we don't really know what the reaction is going to be at the end of the day. at least for now there's a lot of uncertainty about this. marine corps commandant traveling to wish the troops happy holidays and getting a lot of questions about the uncertainty they feel about what will happen with them, when they're coming out of the war zone, what will happen to the combat zones they are leaving behind. secretary mattis will be gone
january 1st. the president upset, it is said, about the resignation letter, upset about all the news coverage. now deputy defense secretary patrick shanahan, number two, a long-time boeing executive, will take the helm as acting secretary. he will have to go, presumably, to an upcoming nato summit. he will have to testify on capitol hill. no foreign policy experience, but he will be on the world stage and over the weekend in what may be one of his last significant acts in office, secretary mattis did sign the execute order that spells out how and when troops will be coming out of syria. jim? >> it's a reality now. barbara starr at the pentagon, thank you very much. let go now to the white house where incoming chief of staff mick mulvaney warns the partial shutdown could last into the new year. boris sanchez is there. no sign of either side really backing down here, democratic
leadership or the president. >> that's right, jim. we understand the president hosted some republican lawmakers over the weekend on saturday. no indication as to who he has spoken to or dealt with since then. no indication from the white house that any progress has been made in his contacts with senate democrats. according to sources vice president mike pence approached senate minority leader chuck schumer that included $2.5 billion for border wall funding, significant. the white house had demanded $5 billion for the president's long-promised border wall. that deal reportedly turned town by schumer and aides saying that both sides are very far apart. schumer has been dealing with senator richard shelby, a deal that was apparently discussed between them, somewhere in the $1.3 billion range for border security, ultimately, was shot down by the white house. as you said, both sides still remain far apart. to give you an idea of what the
dialogue is like, we have a sound bite. incoming heef of staff mick mulvaney and chuck schumer. listen to this. >> it will never pass the senate, not today, not next week, not next year. so, mr. president, president trump, if you want to open the government, you must abandon the wall. plain and simple. >> now as you noted, the warning from mulvaney was that this shutdown could go into the new congress, as democrats take over the house january 3rd, it would be a significant loss of leverage for the president as he tries to move forward on that promise of a border wall with mexico. no word on how mexico was going to pay for it.
mulvaney was asked about that over the weekend and didn't get an answer. >> that one debunked many times. >> we want to take stock of the important events the last several days. the president undermining or attempting to undermine three institutions of government meant to be independent of him or largely independent and the office of the presidency. at the pentagon, department that operates under the president who is commander in chief but traditionally generals have given frank advice to presidents during war time as have civilian leaders at the pentagon. mr. trump, over the impassioned advice of jim matt. summarily over the advice. when he bristled at mattis' departure, the president forced him out two months early. at the justice department you will remember that the president fired attorney general jeff sessions in november, replacing
him temporarily with matt whitaker who repeatedly and publicly have criticized the probe. the justice department ethics lawyers recommend that whitaker recuse himself from the russian probe as sessions had. he refused that advice. trump scolded whitaker for not reigning in prosecutors here in new york from charges against michael cohen that the president felt made him look bad. now we know that mr. trump's choice for permanent pick at the justice department, bill barr, is no fan of the mueller investigation either. seems the president wants an attorney general willing to limit the probe that directly involves him. he could be getting just that. finally the federal reserve, institution that oversees monetary policy is designed expressly to be entirely independent from the president and congress so it could do its job without political interference. now we learned that the president, unhappy that rising interest rates might threaten
his favorite barometer of success, the stock market. asking aides if he could fire the fed chief, being told he cannot do so without cause. mike rogers, thank you for taking the time, particularly on christmas eve. >> thank you. merry christmas. happy holidays to you and yours. >> much appreciated. first i want to start with big picture here. because you had a president choosing to take troop os out of syria over advice of his commanders, you had mattis quit over that and brett mcgurk, who has led that fight for a number of years. he also quit. what is the state, in your view, of u.s. national security decision making under this president? clearly, he went forward with his decision not only over the
advice of his closest national security advisers but without informing many of them or also u.s. allies and partners in the field. does the u.s. have a decision-making process today for key and national security decisions? >> i don't know. i don't think anyone knows, which tells you there's probably not a great process for getting these decisions done. and that's what so upset mattis in this particular case. we've seen this before. we've seen this movie before. if you remember, you know, trump was giving away things in the north korean negotiations that many of the national security space said please don't do this. you're giving up all your leverage and mattis had to get dispatched to japan and saying we're not doing joint training exercises. we're still with you. that was a problem. mattis wasn't there and certainly the national security apparatus was not giving that
away without getting -- pulling out of the inf was not discussed, intermediate nuclear forces treaty with russia just kind of summarily pulling out of that created a whole bunch of problems that the national security folks were trying to put back together. syria and afghanistan where it's, by all appearances, he just decided that morning he was going to tweet this thing out. hadn't talked to mattis, his security team. certainly hadn't engaged the envoy, who was actually in negotiations with the kurds at the time as they were doing a major military offensive that day. you know, this is a problem. you can't pull away from your alliances and your allies in a way that creates this level of uncertainty because what it means is they're going to stop trusting you eventually. >> you just listed a long list of alliances that president trump has either pulled out of -- the missile treaty, but
alliances with allies on the ground in syria, threatening the alliance with japan. we know his public comments about nato through the years. these are consequential things. alliances stand, don't they, based on the confidence that the u.s. will stand behind them. what are u.s. allies telling you? i'm sure you keep your relationships alive now about their own nervousness, with russia increasingly aggressive. >> i do. i've talked to a lot of those folks, both in the military defense and intelligence arenas and certainly malaysias and whatnot. listen, they're very concerned. they're going to put on the happy face as long as they can. but they express privately just in notion of we don't know when we'll get completely abandoned, thrown under the bus or fill in the blank. these relationships overseas take decades to develop.
the reason that we have such strength with the polish government is because it's a counter balance to russia. the reason that we have such
strong relationship with japan and south korea, it counters both china and north korean activities in the region. and so you can't -- you cannot and should not give your word and then just walk away from them. that's certainly what happened with the kurds in the most obvious way. we encouraged them, help train them. we helped guide their decision making on the battlefield and then somebody hands them a note and says good luck, we're out. that kind of thing has impacts not just in syria, but the rest of europe. now they're wondering -- and our asian allies are starting to wonder, whether we be there when things get a little hard? that, to me, is what's at risk and that's what i hear most all over the world. is the united states really going to be there or not? by the way, this is why this is so important. because we are there, because we have these alliances, we stop more problems than most people
could possibly imagine by those relationships, by standing by our friends, allies and allegiances. when you start to deteriorate that,
bad actors will fill the void. china's expansionism. the russians, chinese, iranians are all looking at this as huge opportunities and it scares the rest of the world in a way i haven't seen in a while. >> i was going to ask you that question. if our allies are nervous, i imagine there are adversaries. i want to ask you this. the president has enormous power in foreign policy and national security. but if there was no decision-making progress, not running this through the traps, consulting allies, et cetera and if he looks at alliances in a way that he feels he could pull out of them by tweet, i wonder what congress can do. what can -- is there anything that other parts of this government can do to check the
president's worst impulses or do we have to sit back and say, well, throw your hands up in the air and watch it unfold? >> i never believed that. matter of fact -- and i think you know this. you've been advocating for a congressional role in even the military actions we have around the country. congress candidly has abdicated their role ever since the passage of the first authorization to go into afghanistan and then they've used it, the executive branch has used it creatively to do other actions and congress has let them do it, and shame on congress for doing that. they can absolutely get back. now they have to have a logic, nonemotional, substantive debate, which sometimes is hard for them to do. you need to start talking about what are our interests in making sure that syria is stabilized and doesn't become a proximay se for iran in the region that would destabilize the rest of it? you need to be able to have those conversations. congress needs to get back in
the game of authorizing military activity around the world. they should do it. constitutionally, they're supposed to do it. because it's a hard vote they haven't wanted to take it for a very long time. under both presidents, obama and now trump. and so i think if they get back into that business, they can have more influence about a rash decision to pull out or push back in. that's one way. power of the purse is the other one. you control the money that flows to these operations. you know, you can cause some problems for the administration if you're not in sync -- if you think it should get that far. i never believe you should play politics with the troops ever. you can have an honest conversation about saying hey, we're willing to fund this at this level but maybe next year we're not. we'll have to sit down and figure out what our strategy is moving forward. >> listen right now, congress can't fund the government so we'll see what progress they make on these other issues.
mike rogers, thank you very much and wish the best to you and your family for the holidays. >> thank you so much. >> this government shutdown comes down to one thing. a 2,000-mile long border wall the president wants. president trump says it's the only way to stop gangs and drugs from entering the u.s. is there anything to back that up? plus the new year could bring us the one government report that everyone wants to read. now a top democrat says he's ready to square off with the white house to make sure the mueller report goes public. new concerns in indonesia as the death toll continues to rise. could this deadly tsunami be the first of many there? your insurance rates skyrocket after a scratch so small
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immune from the government shutdown. on day three, the white house still cannot take your calls. 800,000 federal workers have been left in limbo right during the holidays. more than half of them working right now, though, without pay. the shutdown could last well into the new year. keep in mind, from the beginning of this budget battle, president trump's border wall has been front and center. the president insists that the wall will make america safer. is he right? joining me now, former dhs secretary under president obama, julia keim. thanks for joining us this morning. >> thank you for having me. >> so, this is a debate that's played out in public for really months and years. the president makes claims that he has tweeted again, everyone knows you can't have border security without a wall. listen, we've had republicans on this broadcast who question that, particularly when you look at the whole expanse of this 2,000-mile border. you were at dhs. part of your job -- your job there is defending the country, defending the border.
who's right? >> well, i think those who worry that the wall is some simplistic solution to very complicated border management problems. the wall doesn't solve the problem that we have with the mexican/u.s. border. essentially, you need it to be open. in other words a million people are going across the border every week, there's commercial activity. it's our second largest trading partner in terms of nafta. the challenge of border management is how do you secure a border but still allow the flow of people, goods, networks, all sorts of things. a wall should be utilized in places where it will be beneficial. i think what donald trump never sort of acknowledges is that about 700 to 800 miles of wall already exists. it's fencing, it's wall, it's a combination of things. you don't put wall where there's mountains. you don't put wall over water. simply, how do you minimize the
illegal border crossings? the last two administrations have done a pretty good job, border crossings are down at historic levels. the number of people working the border is up by four to five times than it was even ten years ago. it's not a crisis. and the wall is not a solution. at this stage i think, jim, honestly, it's an ego thing. he promised the wall. he promised mexico would pay for it. mexico's not paying but he still has to deliver on the wall. >> how much will it cost to do what the president wants, this vision of a giant 2,000-mile wall, in effect, trademarked trump, right? even if he got $5 billion, that doesn't cover it, in fact, it's a fraction of it. >> no, it wouldn't. so, i've seen estimates anywhere between $30 to $50 billion. look, secretary nappeolitano was a border governor, she
understood borders. she used to say if you build me a 50-foot wall i'll find someone who can build a 51-foot ladder. there are ways to get around walls. this investment in the wall as a solution to really complicated migration patterns, which is why do people want to come here, why do they want to leave here? those fundamental questions are not answered by a simplistic wall that will cost taxpayers -- name the number. 30, 40, $50 billion and that donald trump had promised his supporters that mexico was going to pay for. this weekend, obviously, his new chief of staff is already starting to say what you and i have already known, which is that mexico is not paying for it. >> final question, one of the many decisions that jim mattis apparently differed with this president on was deploying u.s. active military to the border, some of whom -- many of whom are
still there as christmas approaches. ways there any justification for putting active u.s. military on the border beyond politics of preand post-election? >> none whatsoever. you have a law enforcement, looking back at mattis' decision about syria and resigning, syria may have been the reason why, but i really put, you know, sort of mattis' recognition that he could not control this president with the border. you knew that mattis did not want to send active military to the border and he lost that battle as well. there is no reason for it. we have very complicated civilian management with local, state and federal authorities, overlaying the opportunity is just -- it's all symbolism now, jim, to president-elect the president's promise and meanwhile, you know, we should -- people are working
without pay. this is just what it's come to. it's just sort of so shocking at this stage. >> 800,000 people, about half of them not working. government employees, half of them working will not get paid. imagine that with christmas tomorrow. >> i'm going to the airport on the 26th. tsa agents make an average of 26 to 30,000 a year. they are living paycheck to paycheck. >> and when folks say these are not essential federal workers, they're tsa. some of them are tsa, folks are protecting planes from terrorists. juliette, thank you so much. even with a shorter session on this christmas eve, markets open after a brutal week of stocks, futures are down again and president trump is reportedly blaming his fed chair for market instability and steven mnuchin for recommending powell for that position in the
first place, calling it the worst decision of his entire presidency. allison kossic is at the new york stock exchange. two things, one, this talk of firing the fed chairman but this odd statement from the treasury secretary over the weekend saying that banks have amp liquidity, which is the kind of assurance you typically hear from the treasury department in the midst of a draut dramatic fall. what's happening here and how is wall street reacting? >> let me get to the administration drama, making all this uneasiness even more so on wall street. that the moment the dow is looked to set another triple digits at the open in about four minutes when the opening bell rings. full plate of worries that weighed on investors last week still weighing today, weaker economic growth around the world, fading benefits of the trump business tax cuts, unresolved trade situations and concerns about how that will eat into corporate earnings.
investors continue to take profits off the table, readd justing their positions based on where they see the economy next year. not much relief expected this week. volume is expected to be right which can only exaggerate those volatile moves. treasury secretary steve mnuchin was on the phone individually calling six ceos of the biggest banks. he emerged saying that banks have plenty of liquidity. he reached out to them. while it's normal for him to talk to these executives the timing is a little weird. it has a potential to cause panic because of the timing. the government shutdown, christmas around the corner. he's making these calls while on vacation. it creates the thinking, does the administration believe that there is reason for concern? to just to be clear, jim, there isn't a liquidity problem but
suggesting you may know something that no one else knows, that creates more uneasiness. jim? >> which you might say is the last thing the market needs. >> right. >> alison kosick, we know you'll be watching this. thank you very much. like it or not, robert mueller's report on the russian investigation will become public, a letter to the president. more on that next. ♪ ♪ ♪ the greatest wish of all is one that brings us together. the final days of wish list are here. sign and drive off in a new lincoln with zero down, zero due at signing, and a complimentary first month's payment. only at your lincoln dealer.
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schiff, says he is prepared to force mueller's report on the investigation to go public if the white house tries to block its release. >> i'm prepared to make sure we do everything possible so that the public has the advantage and as much of the information as it can. now there may be parts of the report that have to be redacted because they involve classified information or grand jury material. this case is too important to keep from the american people what it's really about. >> joining me now to discuss, jim schultz, former attorney for the trump white house. thanks for taking the time on this christmas eve. >> thank you. >> first question, in your view, is there any compelling legal reason for the white house to block the public release of the special counsel's report? >> okay. so, schiff had it right in that the report is going to go over to congress, presumably. it doesn't have to. presumably it's going to go over to congress. i think it would be politically detrimental to this administration to hold it back
for any reason from going over to congress. certainly there are reasons why portions of it will be redacted. remember this is a counterintelligence investigation. there are like ly to be -- i think the report would likely go over to congress. i don't think the administration would try to stop that. the mueller team reports to the deputy attorney general and they're part of the executive branch. i think executive privilege would be asserted in this case but i don't see it happening. >> let me ask you, you bring up the acting attorney general. we learned that dog ethics lawyers who are partisan career professionals there recommended that he recuse himself from oversight of the russia investigation in large part because of his public comments
criticizing the russia investigation before he took that position. we also learned that the president scolded his acting attorney general for not reigning in federal prosecutors here in new york for pursuing criminal charges against michael cohen that he pled guilty to because the president felt that that made him look bad. is that the way a president should treat his attorney general? is that the way that an attorney general is meant to operate, in your view? >> look, i don't believe that it's going to impact whiattacker's decision making one way or another, the fact that the president may have scold him. apparently the president did not give him any directive as it related to any of that. and i think that whitaker is going to do the right thing, continue down the road he has gone down, in terms of the way he has been conducting himself and i don't believe it will have any impact. >> you remember the reaction of republicans to the famous tarmac meeting between bill clinton and
then fbi director loretta lynch. we don't know really what happened am that discussion but the appearance was one that republicans, rightfully, questioned and were very publicly critical. we know that the president reached out to his acting attorney general, complained about the independent actions as they're designed to be a federal prosecutor pursuing crimes. why is there not a similar outrage from republicans today for a very similar kind of interference. >> the executive branch of government last time i checked, i don't think bill clinton was the president of the united states at the time he was having that discussion with loretta lynch. certainly that was a different situation. in this case, it's the executive -- >> arguably, worse, isn't it? because the president -- >> the executive branch -- >> it's arguably worse, is it not? trump is the president today. he's not a former president. he is a president who appointed whitaker, directly criticizing whitaker for not keeping him
shielded from an investigation that might hurt him. arguably that is more concerning. >> the president should not be getting involved in these investigations. he should not be publicly or privately scolding the attorney general in connection with these investigations. that's not what i'm saying. i'm saying that whitaker is going to do the right thing and do the right thing as the attorney general of the united states. i don't think it's going to have any impact. but there is a striking difference between a private citizen going in and having a discussion with loretta lynch, if that discussion had something to do with the investigation of his wife. >> understood. although you could argue that a sitting president has more power over the attorney general, could you not, than a former president. listen, you've made the point. you're saying it's not interference that the attorney general should listen to. i think i hear you correctly. >> correct. >> okay. jim schultz, wishing you and your family the best on the holidays. thank you for taking time out. hope you don't get too much grief when you go home.
and then, more jobs robegan to appear.. what started with one job spread all around. because each job in energy creates many more in this town. in indonesia right now, authorities are warning people to stay away from beaches, that more tsunamis could strike. incomprehensible how many people have been killed. 370 now confirmed dead. 10-foot high wall of water pounded into the coastline, taking people by surprise. no one got any warning at all that the tsunami was coming. indonesia's president now wants to make sure that doesn't happen again. a horrible history with indonesia, going back to that massive tsunami in 2004.
early warning system, et cetera. what do we know about what happened? >> terrible. you have a number of people killed, injured and admission after the deadly tsunami. it hit the coast that was packed with tourists for the christmas holiday. it's believed it was triggered by this volcanic eruption, anak krakatau, it means child of krakatoa. it sent 180 acres of mountain side sliding into the sea, according to indonesian authorities, and created this tsunami on what was a night of a
full moon and had been high tide at the time. some survivors we talked to say there was no warning whatsoever and the waters didn't recede before the tsunami struck as you sometimes get in other cases and that's part of the why the results were so devastating. this band we've seen, indonesian pop band 17, their lead singer has announced on his social media accounts that all three of his band members were killed by the wave that tragically interrupted their concert. jim? >> that video, we showed you again, just shocking. shows the surprise. they put in these buoys after the 2004 earthquake that will rise and fall with sea rise. a few months ago, many of them weren't working. why not and what is the government going to do about it? >> the indonesian president was touring the disaster zone and said we need to install an early warning system. but indonesia got one installed
with these deepwater buoys after that horrific tsunami in 2004. it killed hundreds of thousands of people across southeast asia. there was another tsunami just last september after an earthquake in another part of indonesia. it killed about 2,000 people and they didn't get warnings. and at that time, officials were saying a lot of the system doesn't work anymore, it's fallen into disrepair or has been vandalized. big questions about how to protect this country more than 17,000 islands, jim, more than 125 active volcanos, a lot of vulnerable coastien. >> people pay the price there. ivan watson, thank you very much. days before heading out the door, the defense secretary signed an order, pulling u.s. troops out of syria as the president demanded. how america's allies are responding, coming up. ♪
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outgoing defense secretary james mattis has signed the order to withdraw u.s. forces from syria. of course, an order he opposed. president trump's decision to pull them out has garnered bipartisan backlash. joining me, national security analyst david sanger and retired general wesley clark, the formernato allied commander under president clinton. thanks to both of you. general, if i could begin with you. you're someone who knows the importance of alliances. we have a president here who has questioned or outright abandoned a number of them in the span of weeks and months. he certainly questioned nato. he's leaving syria. he's cutting the commitment to
afghanistan. he has threatened to alliance with south korea by suspending exercises there amidst the conflict with north korea. he pulled out of the iran nuclear deal. are all of u.s. alliances now in question in the view of the world and the view of our allies and also crucially in the view of our adversaries. >> the allies will be looking for reassurances in the days and weeks ahead. they're probably calling right now. they all had respect for general mattis. they knew what he stood for. trump is an uncertain player still. and the strategic rationale behind the pressure on the alliances really and the cozying up to adversaries really has never been articulated. doesn't make sense. not in the president's own national security strategy that was released last year. adversaries, of course, they would welcome this inconsistency
and unreliability because it creates an opening for them. an opening in the middle east for russia and iran. an opening for china in asia. opening for russia in asia. when the united states pulls back and creates a vacuum, others step forward and often not to our liking and interests. >> david sanger, you know this well. in the midst of these decisions, the president is ignoring assessments by the intelligence community and overruling his commanders. really across the board on a lot of these decisions there. while focusing on this perceived threat at the southern border. what do u.s. intelligence officials tell you about what is on the list of top threats to the u.s. today and what is not on that list? >> jim, there's nothing secret about what's on their list. every year, they have to give congress a ranked order. past five years, it started with cyber threats to the united states and its infrastructure. it's moved on to a threat of
terrorism, russia, china. you have to go pretty far down the list you can find it at all to see any significant threat to the united states from the southern border. and the president's doing this completely in reverse, as general clark suggested, alliances, the border, all seem to him to be the much greater threats. if you're really concerned about keeping some intelligence on the possibility that terrorists could come out of the middle east and hit the united states, withdrawing what's really a token force in siyria that's yor early warning system is making a lot of military intelligence people scratch their heads. >> isis still in syria. al qaeda still in afghanistan. general clark, big picture. i imagine folks at home hear the headlines every week, you know, crisis reaction from democratic
and republican senators to decisions the president made. bring them together for us big picture. in terms of what this means for u.s. national security right now. how much of a threat? you said that allies will be looking for assurances. i wonder who is going to give that assurance because i have been speaking to allies who said they accepted the word of mattis when they were nervous about what the president said. so is there anyone who could deliver a credible message of assurance when the president might reverse that in a tweet as he did with syria? >> jim, this is the problem, of course, that if you look at the big picture, for 70 years since the end of world war ii, the united states has built its security around alliances. we're a continent separated by two oceans from theaters of conflict. those oceans kept us safe. in world war ii, they didn't. we said we would never be caught alone, isolated again. that structure mostly kept the peace. we won the cold war. we were able to advance our
vallis and interests after the cold war. we were struck at 9/11. we went beyond where we had been before. we engaged in some operations in the middle east like the invasion of iraq that our allies didn't support, but they hung with us. now, russia and china are challenging the american structure that emerged at the end of world war ii that we sustained. president trump, instead of re-enforcing the structure and working within that structure, seems to be questioning it as well. he seems more cozy dealing with president putin than he does dealing with, let's say, angela merkel. and this is really at the heart of the concern about jim mattis' departu departure. it's not jim so much. he did a fine job as secretary of defense. people knew he was holding the line, and with jim gone, the question is, just as you posed, who is going to hold it? is it john bolton? doesn't look like it. mike pompeo?
he's been pretty supportive of the president. who's going to come in there? is it going to be the republican senate, but there's no john mccain in the republican senate right now. i think our allies are going to be very anxious and our adversaries are frankly gratified. >> it is a test. a test for u.s. national security today. general wesley clark, thank you very much. david sanger, thanks very much. we'll be right back. ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ the greatest wish of all is one that brings us together. the final days of wish list are here.
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