ANNOUNCER: This Week with George Stephanopoulos starts right now.
MARTHA RADDATZ, ABC NEWS CO-ANCHOR: Let’s make a deal.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I am here today to break the log jam and provide congress with a path forward to end the government shutdown.
RADDATZ: The president proposing wall funding for temporary Dreamer protections.
TRUMP: Straight forward, fair, reasonable and common sense with lots of compromise.
RADDATZ: As the shutdown stalemate drags into its fifth week.
REP. NANCY PELOSI, (D-CA) SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Every day impacts it.
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER, (D) NEW YORK: Open the government.
RADDATZ: Democrats immediately calling the president’s proposal dead on arrival, saying he is now holding Dreamers and federal workers hostage for his wall.
So if Republicans can’t get the votes, is a national emergency the president’s next step? And does Trump’s tough rhetoric match the reality on the ground? We traveled to both sides of the border in Tijuana.
Tell me about your journey here and why you left.
And San Diego.
CBP SAN DIEGO SECTOR BORDER PATROL CHIEF RODNEY SCOTT: I believe America wants that border barrier.
RADDATZ: Plus, we talked to the top Democrat on the House Homeland Security Committee Congressman Bennie Thompson, and Trump ally James Lankford of the Senate Homeland Security Committee.
And a rare rebuke.
TRUMP: It was a total, phony story.
RADDATZ: The special counsel disputes parts of a Buzzfeed investigation, claiming there is
evidence the president instructed his former lawyer to lie to congress. Were Democrats too eager to embrace the story and threaten impeachment?
SEN. KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND, D-NEW YORK: Keep marching.
RADDATZ: We’ll ask the latest 2020 candidate hoping to take on Trump, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. Plus, the latest insight and analysis from our powerhouse roundtable.
ANNOUNCER: From ABC News, it’s This Week. Here now, co-anchor Martha Raddatz.
RADDATZ: Good morning and welcome to This Week. Today marks the official halfway
point of President Trump’s first term, exactly two years since he took the oath of office. Today also marks day 30 of the government shutdown, the longest in U.S. history.
And after weeks of stalled negotiations and 10 days since his last meeting with Democratic leadership, President Trump once again took his message directly to the American people, delivering a televised address from the White House yesterday, offering what he characterizes as a compromise, extending protections for so-called Dreamers and those with temporary protected status, for three years in exchange for $5.7 billion to fund part of his border wall.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: This is not a 2,000-mile concrete structure from sea to sea, these are steel barriers in high priority locations. Our request will add another 230 miles this year in the areas our border agents most urgently need.
That is our plan: border security, DACA, TPS and many other things.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RADDATZ: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says he will bring that bill to the floor, but Speaker Nancy Pelosi has already called Trump’s proposal a nonstarter, saying he should open the government first.
So, does Trump’s plan have any chance of breaking this stalemate? Or are we back at square one? We’ll ask a Republican senator who worked closely with the president on this proposal. But first, let’s bring in the latest Democratic Senator to jump in to the 2020 presidential race, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York. She joins us from Iowa. Good morning, senator.
SEN. KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND (D), NEW YORK: Good morning, Martha.
RADDATZ: Senator, you tweeted that the proposal is a bad deal, saying that since Trump ordered the end of DACA and TPS, he is only temporarily giving back what he took away and calling the wall pointless and ineffective. So is this proposal a non-starter for you?
GILLIBRAND: It is. It — it doesn’t recognize the importance of what this debate’s about. Democrats will protect this country. We believe in border security. But to not protect all Dreamers, to not recognize the suffering that families who are here are facing, to shut down the government to get his own way when 800,000 people have not gotten their paychecks this week, who might not be able to pay their rent or their mortgage or food or heat, it’s outrageous and he’s just playing politics and this is a bad deal. It does not do the things that would move this country forward in a productive way.
RADDATZ: Senator, let me just read you what the — what President Trump just tweeted. He said amnesty is not part of my offer, it is a three year extension of DACA. Amnesty will be used only on a much bigger deal, whether on immigration or something else. Likewise, there will be no big push to remove the 11 million-plus people who are here illegally — but be careful, Nancy.
Does that sound to you like he’s moving a bit? And what’s your reaction to that?
GILLIBRAND: It doesn’t sound like he’s moving at all. If he really wants to work on comprehensive immigration reform, open the government and then sit down with Democratic leaders to actually work on the stuff that needs to get done. People need a pathway to citizenship.
And we have 3 million DREAMers in this country and we should be protecting these young people. They came here through no fault of their own and they’ve made lives. Some are serving in our U.S. military. Why wouldn’t you welcome them here to make sure they can have a pathway to citizenship? That’s something we’re willing to talk about. But for President Trump —
RADDATZ: Senator —
GILLIBRAND: — to hold hostage public servants, it’s wrong; it’s morally wrong.
RADDATZ: — the White House suggested yesterday that the president’s plan is similar to the bipartisan BRIDGE Act in 2017. You were a co-sponsor of that bill. Is there room for negotiation on this?
GILLIBRAND: So the difference between what he’s offered and what we were trying to propose was we wanted a pathway to citizenship for all DREAMers. He’s just taking a small section of that — those are the DACA recipients — and he’s only giving them a temporary stay.
Just for a moment, think about the people that he is affecting. I’ve met with those DREAMers and they have so much anxiety, they have so much fear. They don’t know if they’ll be able to finish their college education. They don’t know if they’ll be able to stay with their husbands. They don’t know if they’ll be able to continue their life. And so what he’s creating is anxiety and fear in people in our communities, people that we care about, our families.
And it’s wrong. What he’s doing, again, he has no compassion for anyone. He has no empathy for the struggles and the hardships that he’s placing on people, whether it’s the government workers who aren’t getting paid or the dreamers who are contributing to our country in amazing ways. He doesn’t care about anyone but himself. It’s just about him —
RADDATZ: But — but Senator, what — what about that wall? Is the wall, for you, a nonstarter? If you got what else you’re talking about, could you live with the wall?
GILLIBRAND: Well, his idea for a wall is ineffective and it’s not going to make us safer. I will support border security. I will support investment to make our country strong and safe.
All Democrats care about national security and border security. But what he’s done is he’s confused America. He’s tried to create fear and division. He’s tried to say immigration is about terrorism. Immigration is not about terrorism.
And you should separate out those two things because we need to invest more money to keep our country safe from terrorism, to stop human trafficking, to stop gun trafficking, stop drug trafficking. We want more funds to go there, absolutely. But we do not want the inhumane treatment of people seeking refugees — refugee status in this country, people seeking asylum. Moms and children divided at the border is immoral.
Putting people in for-profit prisons, spending all that money that we’re supposed to be spending for border security and trafficking–
RADDATZ: Senator, I — I want to — I want to just stop you for a minute because I was —
RADDATZ: — on the border this week and I talked to the chief of the San Diego sector for Border Protection. And he said we need that wall so the agents can work on other problems down there, drug smuggling. What is the matter with the wall if somebody who’s standing there every single day says we need it?
GILLIBRAND: Um, I’ve heard a lot of interviews and I’ve talked to border security officials as well and they need resources to do their job. But they’ve also said that the way President Trump is conducting his immigration enforcement is destroying their ability to actually do anti-terrorism. I have a letter from 19 ICE agents written to the secretary of Homeland Security, saying that what President Trump has done under ICE is making it impossible to do their jobs.
There’s two jobs for border security and ICE. ICE has to do anti-terrorism, anti-gun trafficking, anti-drug trafficking, and anti-human trafficking. That’s on one side. The other side is immigration enforcement removal. All the money’s going to immigration enforcement removal and what that means is you’re defunding anti-terrorism, which is a huge problem.
The money, Martha, is going to these for-profit prisons running — run by companies like GEO and they’re literally locking up families in prison-like settings and — and not only demonizing them, but creating inhumane places for them to wait for just the chance to be considered as — their asylum claims. So —
RADDATZ: So — so Mitch McConnell says he’ll —
GILLIBRAND: — if he really cared —
RADDATZ: Mitch McConnell says he’ll bring this to a vote next week but he needs 60 votes to even start the debate. Will the Democrats block that?
GILLIBRAND: Mitch McConnell’s not letting us vote on the things that could pass. I don’t know why he’s not standing up to President Trump and doing what’s right.
RADDATZ: The president said one way or another he’s going to get this wall. So what’s the strategy for Democrats if he declares a national emergency?
GILLIBRAND: Well, Martha, let’s go back to where you started. We put a deal on the table a year ago to say, we will give you the border security money that you want, we will let you start doing the things you want to do, but you must protect all the Dreamers. That was something we were willing to talk about. That is still there for him. The fact that he’s saying three years just for DACA just shows that he’s not serious and he doesn’t actually care about moving the country forward.
RADDATZ: I — I — I do want to ask you …
GILLIBRAND: Which is one of the reasons why, Martha — which is one of the reasons why, Martha, I am running for president because, I tell you, we have to stand up to this president when he’s wrong. The country has to reclaim this democracy, has to open government, put the power of the people back in our hands and …
RADDATZ: And Senator Gillibrand, I want to ask you about your run for president, which you did announce this week. You’ve been facing scrutiny for past statements about immigration. When you were a member of the House, you called securing the border a national security priority, you voted to increase for ICE and you opposed amnesty for undocumented immigrants. I know you’ve said you were embarrassed about those statements but are you confident Democratic primary voters believe you?
GILLIBRAND: I do, because the truth is what President Trump is doing at the border today is inhumane. Immigration has always been our strength; our diversity is our strength. We are a nation of immigrants. Our story is about that if you come here and you have a dream you can earn your way into the middle class and make America stronger.
RADDATZ: But how do those voters…
GILLIBRAND: We should not be afraid that…
RADDATZ: …how do those voters believe you? Maybe you’ll change your mind about something if you became president.
GILLIBRAND: Well, Martha, 10 years ago when I became a senator, my job was to represent 20 million people, 20 million people in other places around the state that might have had different concerns, and worries and fears than my upstate New York rural district. And so, I listened to them. I met with leaders across my state, leaders like Nydia Velazquez about what was happening at her community and how families were being torn apart.
And I promise you, Martha, the reason why I’m running for president is I will fight for their children as hard as I would fight for my own; I will fight for all Americans’ children as hard as I would fight for my own. And that’s why we have to fight for these moral issues, it’s why we have to fight for health care as a right and not a privilege, why we need better public schools, why we need better job training, so anybody who wants to work hard can earn their way into the middle class.
It means rewarding work, helping unions organize, helping workers get better training for higher wages, equal pay for equal work, affordable daycare and universal pre-K. Those are the things that need to be fought for because I do care about other people’s children.
And so I would tell voters, look at my heart, see who I am. I believe I have the courage, and the compassion and the fearless determination to do what’s right even when it’s hard, especially when it’s hard. I’m a fighter; I’ve always been a fighter. I will fight for your kids as hard as I would fight for my own and that’s why I am going to run for president.
RADDATZ: And — and — and senator, lastly I want to get your reaction to the BuzzFeed report suggesting President Trump instructed his former attorney Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about a proposed Trump Tower Moscow deal. The special counsel’s office disputed that report. What was your reaction and did Democrats seize on that report too quickly?
GILLIBRAND: The report is highly concerning, Martha. It just shows more evidence that perhaps this president did obstruct justice. It shows that …
RADDATZ: Even though the special counsel disputes it?
GILLIBRAND: …this needs to be fully investigated. Martha, it raises a question in my mind that is very serious. And so what we need is Mueller to be able to finish his investigation.
And one of the things that I’m most concerned about is that Senator McConnell will not let a bipartisan bill come to the Senate floor to allow us to protect that investigation, to make sure he cannot be fired prematurely and — and — and the law says he can only be fired for — for a cause.
And so what our bill does is it goes to a judge so a judge can make an in-camera decision about whether this was done properly and preserve all the evidence. So we have to protect the Mueller investigation. We need the facts, and so this just shows how urgent that investigation is.
RADDATZ: OK. Thanks very much for joining us this morning, senator.
GILLIBRAND: Thank you, Martha. Thank you.
RADDATZ: Now let’s bring in Republican senator James Lankford, a member of the Senate Homeland Security Committee. Good morning, senator.
SEN. JAMES LANKFORD (R), OKLAHOMA: Good morning to you.
RADDATZ: I know you worked with the White House and other senators to formulate this new proposal but Democrats are already calling the president’s pitch a non-starter, so are we back to square one? You just heard Senator Gillibrand there.
LANKFORD: I — I certainly hope we’re not back to square one on this. The problem that we’ve had for the past 30 days has been everyone’s been staring at everyone, playing politics instead of policy. Politics is a lot easier than policy on this and what we’ve got to do is get a proposal on the table. Now what I encouraged the White House to do and multiple others encouraged the White House to do is put out a proposal. They’ve listened to a lot of Democrat and Republican members for the last month, they’ve heard all the demands, they know all the background on it, put out a straw man proposal, get something out there the president can say, I can support this, and it has elements from both sides, put it on the table, then open it up for debate.
The vote this week in the Senate is not to pass the bill, it is to open up and say “Can we debate this? Can we amend it? Can we make changes?” Let’s find a way to be able to get the government open because there are elements in this that are clearly elements that have been supported by Democrats strongly in the past, like the Bridge Act, like trying to get asylum to those in Central America rather than having to travel all the way to the United States, humanitarian relief.
RADDATZ: Well, the Democrats say – the Democrats say it’s a nonstarter because the deal doesn’t go far enough in offering permanent protection for Dreamers, should that be on the table or is the three-year extension the final GOP offer?
LANKFORD: So what’s – and I can’t speak for the White House and where they are on things but what’s interesting to me is, the president is saying, OK, let’s take the DACA issue, let’s give them three years, for the first time ever, legislative approval – because DACA, as you know, has been an administrative approval. So let’s actually put it through the Congress, have legislative approval and let’s take it past the next presidential election and so this can be determined. It’s no longer the quote, unquote “leverage point” dealing with the kids in DACA. Also did the same thing for those in temporary protected status from El Salvador and Honduras. And that’s hundreds of thousands of people that would get an extension of what they already have.
So it is a big deal to be able to put out there. The conversation about what happened last February saying that there was a full-on DACA for individuals to be able to get citizenship for a wall. Actually that was 25 billion in total border security for long-term protections for those that are in DACA. The president still said we can talk about that another time but let’s get the government open. Let’s not wait this out. Let’s get the government open, get what we can get resolved, resolved.
RADDATZ: I want your reaction to the president’s tweet which I read to Senator Gillibrand, putting amnesty on the table saying amnesty will be used only on a much bigger deal, whether on immigration or something else. Likewise, no big push to remove the 11 million-plus people. What’s your reaction to that?
LANKFORD: It’s interesting, I don’t know what the president’s calling amnesty in this, if he’s talking about for the adults. Much of the conversation about Dreamers has really not been about the kids they came across, it’s been about their families, whether that be their parents, whether that be siblings, other folks as well. Most of the Dreamer conversation is a citizenship for Dreamers and for everyone else in their family as well.
So very often, a Dreamer conversation is about not 1 million or 2 million, it’s about 12 million people. So what I don’t know is what the president’s talking about there, to say amnesty really involves a much larger group. That’s a longer debate and obviously not something we can solve quickly. The best thing that we can to is solve the few elements where we do have common ground on, get those resolved, get the government back open so people are actually getting checks again. This is absurd to keep this dragging on this long. So solve a few issues but not try to solve a bunch of issues at this time.
RADDATZ: Well, and — and to that point of reopening the government, Speaker Pelosi released a statement saying the president should, quote, stop holding the American people hostage with this senseless shutdown. Each day he prolongs this needless crisis, Coast Guardsmen, FBI agents, border patrol officers, TSA agents and hundreds of thousands more workers are forced to live without knowing how they can feed their families or pay their bills so why not reopen the government while negotiating on the border wall for Dreamer protections.
LANKFORD: Well if there’s any two people that I say they’re not in a motion to say trust me, it is Speaker Pelosi and the president. They’re not looking at each other and neither one of them is trusting the other one. The best thing that we can do is resolve what we can resolve. So for Speaker Pelosi to say trust me, president, open the government and then I’ll negotiate, the president’s clearly responded, no, I — I don’t trust you right now as — as she doesn’t trust him. So let’s do what we can, get it in writing, get it passed and get it resolved. And some of these issues are — are really odd.
For instance the fencing issue that Speaker Pelosi has called immoral. President Clinton built fencing, President H.W. Bush built fencing, President George W. Bush built fencing, President Obama built fencing. This has not been an immoral issue and the president’s been very clear. He’s talking about 234 miles of fencing along a 2,000-mile border. It’s only in the priority areas. The majority of the issues will be done by technology. And the normal areas that we handle border security. So this has become highly politicized but when you look at the actual facts on the ground, you see this is something that should and could be resolved and in the past, just hasn’t been a partisan issue.
RADDATZ: Of course, he did say Mexico would pay for that wall. Just last year the president appeared open to a similar deal to protect Dreamers only to pull his support after coming under fire from conservatives like Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter and after the president’s remarks yesterday, Ann Coulter tweeted, Trump proposes amnesty, we voted for Trump and got Jeb. Are you confident GOP support is there for a plan among Trump’s base and among conservatives in the House?
LANKFORD: Well, I think the president’s put a reasonable compromise on the table. Everyone knew if you were going to go through this process, we’re going to compromising on multiple different areas to be able to resolve it. But the core elements are there that we all strongly believe about. That is how to secure the actual border.
The Dreamers, these DACA kids, we know this element, this group of folks, they have all gone through background checks, they’re currently, they’re involved in our system right now, they’re in our schools, they’re in our workplaces. This is a group of students and young adults that we all know as a nation that live down the street from us, go to church with us.
So, for this group of individuals, I just don’t see an issue with that, and I don’t see that being amnesty. This has been a long-term issue for us as a nation, I think can be resolved.
RADDATZ: And senator, I want to end here by showing you a video that’s gone viral this weekend: teenage Trump supporters taunting a Native-American veteran at the end of the Indigenous People’s March here in Washington. Your state has one of the highest Native American populations. What’s your message to those teenagers? And has the president created this environment doing things like calling Elizabeth Warren Pocahontas?
LANKFORD: Well, I would say a couple of things about the video. One is obviously that young man is standing awkwardly close to someone, that doesn’t seem natural to be able to have that. I don’t see him taunting him. I see him just standing there staring at him.
I would there are a lot of rallies that I have seen…
RADDATZ: You don’t think that would be intimidating to have that teenager?
LANKFORD: Well, certainly I do. No, no. Certainly I do, and I wasn’t trying to say that, I was saying that is intimidating, he’s standing awkwardly close to him, but I have seen lots of rallies and events where I have seen individuals yelling and screaming in people’s facing and trying to be able to intimidate them. So, I have seen a lot worse than that. That is highly disrespectful not only to a Native American gentleman, but any older gentleman for a teenager to do that.
The key issue that I would say is in our culture for whatever reason, in our current culture, whether it’s on social media whether it’s at events, I see people trying to stop hate with more hate. That doesn’t help us as a culture. If there’s anything we should have learned from Martin Luther King Jr. is hate doesn’t drive out hate, only love drives out hate.
So for us to be able to respond back with love and compassion to people, rather than trying to To respond back with love and compassion to people rather than driving out hatred would help us in our social media culture and with the dialogue that’s happening, it would certainly help us at events and be able to have more open dialogue.
And even things like this conversation about border security and where we are in government shutdown, to be able to continue to drive up the rhetoric doesn’t help us, to be able to actually have floor debates, which is the request now, how do we actually get things on the floor?
RADDATZ: OK, senator, I’m going to have to stop you there. And we’ll see what happens this week. Thanks so very much for joining us.
LANKFORD: Thank you.
RADDATZ: Up next, House Homeland Security chair Congressman Bennie Thompson responds to the president’s border wall proposal.
Plus, from a migrant’s harrowing journey to the challenges facing border agents on the ground, we take a deep dive into the debate over the southern border. Our full report when we come back.
RADDATZ: The tug-of-war over the border wall has stalled government and polarized an already divided Congress, and the president’s latest proposal doesn’t seem to have changed that dynamic. But just how closely does President Trump’s heated rhetoric about the threat at the border match reality on the ground? This week, we traveled to both sides of the border from Tijuana to San Diego to get a first-hand look.
RADDATZ: We began at a migrant shelter in Tijuana just miles from the U.S. border. Migrants live in dire, fetid conditions, our team given masks to protect against illness.
It’s cramped and crowded here now but there are only about 300 people; at its peak, this camp held 3,000. As we walked through this tent city, we saw children playing soccer, teddy bears in tents, a woman preparing a meal, signs of an attempt at normalcy in a place that is anything but. 22-year-old Alisson Luna told us she fled Honduras after being raped, making the nearly 3,000-mile journey with her three children.
ALISSON LUNA: (In Spanish)
RADDATZ: “This is the only option,” she told us. And while she’s heard about the Trump administration’s recent crackdown, she says a wall would not have stopped her.
Here on the Mexican side of the border just south of San Diego, the wall extends into the ocean. But that has not stopped the migrants. Last year, there was a five-fold increase of interceptions by the Coast Guard.
Back on the U.S. side of the border, it didn’t take long before we saw migrants sneak through in an area where new walls are being built, one man taken into custody as well as a 25-year-old woman fleeing El Salvador with her 2-year-old son as we toured the 14-miles of barriers with the chief patrol agent for the San Diego sector.
Is there any part of you still, where you look at that family and think, oh, got to help them?
RODNEY SCOTT, CHIEF PATROL AGENT, SAN DIEGO BORDER PATROL SECTOR: On many, many levels I feel compassion for those people. But I also feel compassion for the several thousand people that have been in line at the San Ysidro Port of Entry for several weeks waiting to do it right, and those people literally just cut in line in front of them.
RADDATZ: Negotiations over the border have stalled. But Scott says CBP needs that wall.
SCOTT: We cannot effectively control the border without barriers to slow down illegal entries.
RADDATZ: But it’s not a silver bullet. Trump claims the flow of drugs would be stopped by a border wall, but the majority of drug traffic comes through legal ports of entry and some through tunnels.
SCOTT: A border wall won’t directly impact that, but what it does is it allows me to free up personnel to focus on that threat.
RADDATZ: Apprehensions along the border have generally declined for nearly two decades, but recently, there has been a dramatic influx in the number of families crossing the border, more than 100,000.
SCOTT: This is where they will be brought into.
RADDATZ: Stretching the resources of CBP at processing centers like Imperial Beach Station in San Diego.
Almost 100 arrests just that morning, including children.
SCOTT: If you come with a child, you will be released within about 20 days, so that’s created a factor. Once people figure that out, they don’t mind being arrested. They don’t mind being incarcerated for a few days, because they will be released into the United States.
RADDATZ: But many migrants are tracked by ankle bracelets after being released, some of them end up in shelters like Safe Harbors Network in San Diego.
Can you tell me your name?
RADDATZ: He says his family left Honduras fearing for their lives. And this 18-year-old mother, who asked us not to show her face on camera, told us she is running from the threat of gang
violence. She tells us a wall would not have stopped her.
PASTOR BILL JENKINS, FOUNDER, SAFE HARBORS NETWORK: So here’s another six beds.
JENKINS: I can guarantee there are more than six in here.
RADDATZ: Pastor Bill Jenkins oversees the migrants at this shelter.
JENKINS: I have had people tell me that they have crossed 11 borders to get here, and that mine is the first smiling face they’ve seen. And that’s heartbreaking.
RADDATZ: He says his organization has helped over 7,000 immigrants over the last two-and-a-half years.
JENKINS: I haven’t come across any of them that are here for any other reason than the fact that if they stayed where they were, they would have been killed, they would have been raped, they would have been exploited. And I don’t care how high you build your damn wall, immigration is going to continue.
RADDATZ: Always great to see it for ourselves.
And the Democratic chair of the House Homeland Security committee, Bennie Thompson, joins
Representative Thompson, you said in a statement that the president’s childish behavior is causing families to struggle to pay rent and put food on the dinner table, but if Democrats are unwilling to budge at all on the funding for the border wall, don’t you own some of the blame for the continued stalemate?
REP. BENNIE THOMPSON, D-MISSISSIPPI: Well, Martha, first of all, this is President Trump’s shutdown. Those 800,000 employees, they go to work because they have to, they’re not independently wealthy, and we should pay them. We should not be in this situation. Put the people back to work and let’s negotiate border security, but don’t hold those 800,000 employees hostage in this situation.
Democrats are for border security, but we want to talk about it. We want to make sure that what we’re doing is the right thing. The notion that we have come from a wall to some other thing is moving it along, but we have to sit down and talk.
The president, for whatever reason, likes to talk at people rather than to people and that’s not how you work things out.
RADDATZ: Could you negotiate on a wall? That’s certainly the sticking point with President Trump.
THOMPSON: Well, we can negotiate on border security. And I think what we’re trying to get the president to understand is we’ll sit down and work this out. But, you know, we all are adults, and you can’t treat Democrats like something else. And so for the president as a chair of the Homeland Security Committee, I’m saying we’ll sit down and we’ll talk about the situations and we’ll work through it. But under the present circumstances, it’s almost like a talking point rather than trying to get something established.
RADDATZ: You just heard the chief of border protection for the San Diego sector tell me barriers are an essential part of effectively controlling the border, because it allows for agents to focus on specific threats like smuggling drugs. And he was showing me exactly the kind of barriers that President Trump was talking about, those steel slat see through — so why are Democrats opposed to any physical wall in addition to updated technology?
THOMPSON: Well, I don’t think Democrats are opposed to any physical barriers. It’s just the president constantly evolves his description of the wall just as he indicated Mexico was going to pay for whatever was there. So what we have to do is sit down, work through this and let the public know exactly what we’re talking about and what they can expect. And we’re not there yet. Democrats historically have supported certain barriers, certain other things to protect this country. But I am a believer in technology. Technology is the force multiplier for border security. If we do it right, then we can get — I’m convinced — the kind of border security that we need. But —
RADDATZ: But I want to go — I want to go back to that chief again. And you say you like technology. He wants that wall. Are you standing firm that you will not negotiate on a wall itself or is there wiggle room with that wall?
THOMPSON: I’m saying that we will sit with the chief, the president or whomever and we’ll work through it.
RADDATZ: So you wouldn’t rule out a wall?
THOMPSON: I would not rule out a wall in certain instances. Now, the notion that we can’t have barriers is just something that’s not true. But again, Martha, you have to have a plan. And the plan that the president initially started with is not where he is now. And so we don’t know where he will be tomorrow. But clearly Democrats are for border security, but we’re not for this constantly moving the ball just for a talking point. Mr. President, Democrats will work with you, but you can’t pick what Democrats you’ll work with. We have picked our leaders and you have to work with our leaders. And I encourage you to do that.
RADDATZ: The president called the situation at the U.S.-Mexico border a humanitarian cries and we just showed you the dire conditions that we saw firsthand down there. Do you agree with the president that there’s a humanitarian crisis at the border, even if you don’t think it’s a national security crisis?
THOMPSON: Well, let’s back up for a minute, Martha. This is a humanitarian crisis that’s been exaggerated by this administration and his policies. So if he accepts responsibility for what he’s created, then we can fix it. But if he’s trying to fan the flames that all these people here are doing that and not accepting responsibility, then that’s disingenuous on his part. Democrats have always supported humanitarian efforts all around the world, not just on the southern border. So we are prepared to work through the humanitarian crisis.
But he can’t change the policies that create more humanitarian crises in the process. So just like the separation of children, that was part of the crisis that was created. Now we find out that this was a contrived theory that they had put in place before to do this as part of their being against immigration. So Mr. President, if you are genuinely concerned about a humanitarian crisis, then let’s talk about some reasonable policies and solutions. Democrats will work with you.
RADDATZ: OK. Thank you very much for joining us this morning, Congressman.
Up next, the powerhouse roundtable break down — breaks down the president’s new offer to end the shutdown and the fallout over that BuzzFeed report disputed by the special counsel that claimed Trump directed his former attorney to lie to Congress. We’ll be right back.
RADDATZ: We’re joined now by our powerhouse roundtable, ABC News Political Analyst Matthew Dowd, Shawna Thomas, Washington bureau chief for Vice News, Astead Herndon, national political reporter for The New York Times and NPR Congressional Correspondent Susan Davis. Welcome to all of you. Great to have you here.
And Matthew, I’m going to start with you. It’s now week five of the shutdown, we’ve heard the president’s offer, we heard the tweet. You heard the reaction from both sides. Does — does that speech — does this tweet today about amnesty perhaps in the future move the needle at all?
MATTHEW DOWD, POLITICAL ANALYST, ABC NEWS: Well, I find the president’s one speech yesterday in his — the way he’s conducted himself, odd, on three levels really. First, he’s describing this as a negotiation, but only Mike Pence, Mitch McConnell and Jared Kushner met. So — and then they present him with a plan, never having met with the — with Nancy Pelosi or the Democrats on this. It’d be like you and I deciding what was good for NBC News and saying here’s our compromise, this is what we’ve decided. The second thing is they call it a compromise — and this is a problem — the president calls this a compromise that he created.
He created the DACA problem, he created the refugee problem and now he wants to say I’m going to solve the problem I created by you giving me $5 billion. To me, it doesn’t make sense. And third, more — really importantly, I don’t understand what politics he thinks this is. The majority of the country is against the wall, the majority of the country doesn’t approve of this president —
RADDATZ: I think it’s 29 percent only support it strongly.
DOWD: The majority of the country blames the president for this shutdown, and we had an election a few months ago almost on this exact issue and the Democrats won historically. The president’s party and the president lost, had historic losses on election day. So I don’t get the politics of this — and the negotiation tactics and the compromise of this.
RADDATZ: Does anybody get the politics on this one? Oh. OK. Unanimous. Not really, but —
SHAWNA THOMAS, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, VICE NEWS: But, I think also from his speech he was trying to signal something. Because he very specifically said in that speech, I don’t want a 2,000-mile concrete border wall, he said all the things that we’ve heard about before about how there are mountains and rivers and there’s other things to stop it. So he’s trying to sound, at least, like he’s coming to the table, even if, as, you know, Matthew pointed out, that none of the things he’s offering are — are things that will actually bring the Democrats to the table because they think, one, this should be argued about once the government is reopened or the parts of the government that are closed are reopened.
And two, he created some of these problems himself.
RADDATZ: And — and what about that — the amnesty? I mean, the tweet was really interesting. Democrats turned down my offer yesterday before I even got — but he’ll work out amnesty perhaps in a future deal. Is that something, Astead?
ASTEAD HERNDON, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Yes, I mean, it’s something that he’s trying to signal that he’s trying to make a compromise. And we heard that in the shift in rhetoric and now in the shift of — of — of policy, whether it’s a problem he created or not. But I think it’s interesting. You read the Ann Coulter tweet earlier, that this has a risk of angering his own base. I mean, this is a base that he has actually whipped against this issue, saying things like DACA —
RADDATZ: If they don’t like yesterday, they won’t like what they saw today?
HERNDON: Exactly. And I’m saying things like DACA, things like TPS are things that they stood against and now for a border wall that he said that he alone could do, that he would do kind of unilaterally, he’s offering things they might not love. And so it’s interesting the politics here because it might have a risk of angering the conservative base while Democrats are united against it already. This is an issue they find kind of morally enraging and so Democrats aren’t going to budge at all, but who might budge are some conservatives who are still sticking with him who don’t like these things he’s offering.
RADDATZ: And Susan, this comes a week after President Trump and Speaker Pelosi —
SUSAN DAVIS, CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT, NPR: Yes.
RADDATZ: — traded some very big jabs, one about the State of the Union but Pelosi calling on the president to delay that. But Trump — President Trump canceling, effectively —
RADDATZ: — her trip to Afghanistan. Does this really make the matters worse?
DAVIS: Yes. I mean, this is not going to be a Ronald Reagan, Tip O’Neill kind of relationship between Donald Trump and Nancy Pelosi. What Nancy Pelosi has an advantage here is she has worked with Republican presidents before. She was Speaker under George Bush, they had to cut uncomfortable deals, she knows how to do it. I think the president’s adjusting to having a very strong opposition on Capitol Hill, which is something he has not had to face yet as president. And I think there’s – they’re trying to figure out how to do this. You talked to the point of the conservative base; let’s not forget the Democratic base in this debate, right?
If you look at how that – what the president offered yesterday was being received by immigration rights activists, by the Dreamer community, they are saying “Under no circumstances should you accept this deal.” So why does Nancy Pelosi or any other Democrat on Capitol Hill, coming off of this election where they just won big, look at what the president has put on the table and say anything but “no way?”
DOWD: And I think – Martha, part of the thing is – I mean, I get the moral equation of this. But every time somebody uses the moral language, it automatically backs everybody into a corner. I think the real question is, what’s the efficiency of this? I mean, if you break apart this problem into three sectors is, this won’t solve – the wall that he’s proposing won’t solve the drug problem, as we know — all know from the stats where drugs come in and all that.
It won’t solve the terrorist problem. When you take a look at the terrorists, where they come in, where they are – actually, if you wanted to build a wall, you’d build it on the northern border …
RADDATZ: Interesting that Gillibrand was talking about terrorists.
DOWD: And if you really believe this was a humanitarian crisis, as the president’s now saying, which is now different – I don’t understand. If he believed it was a humanitarian crisis, why did he send the military down there before election day. If he believed it was a humanitarian crisis, this wall isn’t the first point in doing that. You’d have a multilateral meeting with Guatemala and El Salvador and Mexico, and you’d sit down and say “How do we solve this?”
So even if you just looked at it from an efficiency standpoint of government and how we should spend our money on those three things, you wouldn’t be doing what the president proposes.
RADDATZ: And Shawna, I want to ask you about Mitch McConnell who hasn’t really been seen much in this, but apparently is going to bring this bill to the floor this week.
THOMAS: Well, and there was some reporting that Mitch McConnell basically wanted the president to do something public and put this out there so that he had some cover when he brought it to the floor because no Senate majority leader wants to bring something to the floor that you can’t get the votes for. The question is, he still has to get cloture on this. And you may be in a situation where you have the Senator Dick Durbins, Democrats of the world, voting against some of these protections for DACA and TPS.
But because it’s really a moral conversation about what the wall means, even though the president is backing off what it physically means, Democrats don’t have to give this to Mitch McConnell.
RADDATZ: And Astead, federal workers have already missed one paycheck. And if this continues, they’ll miss a second paycheck. And that’s really having a devastating impact on some of them.
HERNDON: Right, I mean there’s the political games here and then there’s the very real consequences for a lot of federal workers. I mean, we’ve seen kind of devastating scenes of food lines for folks who have jobs in DC but are furloughed right now. And I think the impact as it gets more real, we are seeing that have – we’re seeing that have a kind of viral internet effect and we’re seeing increasing pressure put on the president and put on Republicans, I think specifically, to kind of look at those folks and to solve that in a more humane way.
And so I think that when we get to things like paychecks and missing second paychecks, these are mortgage payments. I mean, these are – these are real impacts that are having on – on people’s lives and that is kind of the first thing that kind of should be brought to mind here.
THOMAS: Well, it …
RADDATZ: Go ahead.
THOMAS: And I also think as it goes on longer and longer and you miss that second paycheck, February 1st, when people actually have to pay their rent, will become like a very big day in the sand, number one. And number two, you start to have the concentric circle effect, really. So like, what are those towns that rely on the people whose jobs are Bureau of Prisons workers, there’s not as much money flowing into those towns. I mean, we had Delta basically say they’re losing $25 million because the government just isn’t traveling the way it is …
RADDATZ: And that’s what it will affect, more than those 800,000 for sure…
HERNDON: And security in the country. I mean, that’s fundamental. The security of the country is at risk.
RADDATZ: And Susan, I want to go back to you on the Hill and the State of the Union.
RADDATZ: And we know that Nancy Pelosi said you should skip it because of security and other things …
DAVIS: Or put it in writing.
RADDATZ: Donald Trump said this morning in a tweet, “I’m still thinking about the State of the Union. So many options including doing it as per your written offer (made during the Shutdown, security is no problem), and my written acceptance. While a contract is a contract, I’ll get back to you soon!” What do you think that means?
DAVIS: The president has options. You know, he doesn’t have to give it from the House Chamber but there’s other places he can give it. There’s talk of maybe going to a state capital and giving it there. We talked about this before where he had some offers extended in North Carolina to come give it there. He could give it out with workers saying he’s fighting for the wall. He could give it from the White House.
I think it’s safe to say the president’s going to make a statement about this and the White House is maximizing the highest political impact of how they can take this tit-for-tat and try and get the upper hand.
RADDATZ: And I want to move on to the Russia investigation and Mueller. Pretty shocking this week and nearly unprecedented that the special counsel’s office would come out with a statement disputing part of Buzzfeed’s report alleging the president directed Michael Cohen to lie to Congress. That’s truly unprecedented, doesn’t look good for the media. What do you think happens? Kirsten Gillibrand thinks it still needs to be looked at.
HERNDON: I mean, we’re going to — we’re going to see how it plays out. I mean, this was certainly a bombshell report; one that had lawmakers talking about impeachment, they add the caveat ‘if true,’ right? And now we have seen that really come into focus. The — the rarity in which the special counsel’s office puts out these type of statements, you know, we should really take this seriously. They’re putting out one of these denials that — that means that we don’t know which parts of this BuzzFeed report are accurate.
BuzzFeed has asked them to clarify, the special counsel’s office has not, but that puts us in a, kind of, iffy situation — right — that we don’t know which parts of this bombshell report are true. But we’ll see increasing investigations. We’ll see lawmakers want to poke at some of these lanes that the report has opened up. And as we get further and further along it might be vindicated, it might be fully rejected.
RADDATZ: It — it also made me think of all of the stories, the countless stories that the special counsel’s office has not discredited.
THOMAS: Exactly. I’ve never gotten an e-mail back from the special counsel’s press office that was more than, like, half a sentence long.
THOMAS: So the fact that they came out — but there’s been all these other stories, right? And the special counsel is basically saying no comment to those. So should I believe they’re all true as well? And it opens the special counsel’s office up for basically, kind of, confirming everything else in a weird way.
But I also think this just pulls into focus that the only guy who knows what’s going on is Mueller and the special counsel’s office. And it also helps, in some ways, Nancy Pelosi quell all of the House members who may want to talk about impeachment. OK, so like we can’t go down the BuzzFeed impeachment route, why don’t we just wait for Mueller?
RADDATZ: But not a great week for the media, Matt. We got to go.
DOWD: Well, I — I just think this a time when the media and everybody ought to approach everything calmly and methodically. But for the president and his supporters to, like, accuse the media of making mistakes, they’re not the best vehicle.
RADDATZ: OK, got to go. Thanks to everyone. We’ll be right back.
RADDATZ: That’s all for us today. Thanks for sharing part of your Sunday with us. Check out “World News Tonight,” and have a great day and a meaningful Martin Luther King Day.
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