Return to Transcripts main page


Trump Plans Primetime Speech To Pitch Border Wall; Schumer: Dems Won't Be "Bullied" By Trump Into Paying For Wall; Reports: Mysterious Train Used by Kum Jong-un on the Move; Trump Plans Primetime Speech to Pitch Border Wall; Schumer: Dems Won't Be 'Bullied' by Trump Into Paying for Wall; Judge Tells Russian Firm's Lawyer to 'Knock It Off' After Bias Claim. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired January 7, 2019 - 17:00   ET


JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: -- all around other news organizations say that that story was wrong. Of course, that denial, both from the White House and the Hill, later proven false, as well.

[17:00:10] JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Jim Sciutto, thank you so much. You can follow me on Facebook and Twitter, @JakeTapper. Our coverage on CNN continues right now.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, breaking news. Direct messaging. President Trump goes from arm twisting to jawboning as he plans an Oval Office address to make his case directly to the American public for a border wall. Will the major networks carry it? And will the president use the occasion to declare a national emergency?

Wall inflation. As the government shutdown continues, the price for the president's wall keeps going up, with the White House tacking on another $100 million and making a series of false claims about a border crisis.

Knock it off. A federal judge appointed by President Trump tells the lawyer for a Russian troll farm to "knock it off" after the lawyer claims bias and makes references to Looney Toons and "Animal House."

And midnight train to China? Kim Jong-un reportedly takes a secret trip on an armored train to China. Could he be consulting with China's President Xi before his next summit with President Trump?

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: Breaking news. With the government shutdown now in its third week and millions of Americans feeling the pain, President Trump is planning an Oval Office speech to make a pitch for his border wall, which is at the heart of the dispute with congressional Democrats. The president will visit the southern border to underscore his demands and is threatening to use his emergency powers to get what he wants.

The White House had been using false claims to spin this into a crisis, insisting against all evidence, that terrorists have been crossing the border from Mexico into the United States.

I'll speak with Republican Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick of the Homeland Security Committee. And our correspondents and analysts are also standing by with full coverage.

Let's begin with the breaking news. Our chief White House correspondent, Jim Acosta, is standing by.

Jim, as the shutdown drags on, the White House seems to be trying to drum up a border crisis.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It sure seems that way, Wolf. President Trump is planning a full-court press over the next few days for his border wall, with an address to the nation and a trip to the border both planned. Earlier today, Vice President Mike Pence held a briefing with reporters and tried to make the case that there's a growing crisis, something you'll hear from this administration time and again over the next several days, at the border.


ACOSTA (voice-over): For President Trump this week, it's the wall or bust. Today the White House announced the president will deliver a primetime address to the nation Tuesday night and make a special trip to the border, all part of a last-ditch effort to ram his wall through Congress. Democrats doubt the speech will be worth the air time.

REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY), JUDICIARY CHAIRMAN: I expect the president to lie to the American people. Why do I expect this? Because he has been lying to the American people, and his spokespeople continue lying to the American people.

ACOSTA: With Democrats refusing to give the president his wall, Mr. Trump is warning he may declare a national emergency to get his way. Vice President Mike Pence told reporters in an off-camera briefing that the White House counsel is looking at whether Mr. Trump can declare that emergency, despite the fact that the president said on Twitter that there's no doubt he has that authority.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I may declare a national emergency, dependent on what's going to happen over the next few days.

ACOSTA: Democrats predict that's a fight that will go to the courts.

REP. ADAM SMITH (D-WA), ARMED SERVICES CHAIRMAN: Now, he'd be challenged in court, because there clearly is no emergency. There's no reason for this on border security grounds.

It would be wrong. It would be horrible policy, and I'm totally and completely against it. But from a legal standpoint, he could do it.

ACOSTA: With the shutdown now entering its third week, hundreds of thousands of federal employees are facing the prospect of working without pay. The president claims he can feel their pain. TRUMP: I can relate. And I'm sure that the people that are on the

receiving end will make adjustments. They always do. And they'll make adjustment. People understand exactly what's going on.

But many of those people that won't be receiving a paycheck, many of those people agree 100 percent with what I'm doing.

ACOSTA: Democrats argue it would be a mistake to cave to the president, who vowed he would own the shutdown.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), INTELLIGENCE CHAIRMAN: If you reward the president with that kind of tactic, Jake, then we're going to see every year the president shutting down the government. And we just can't afford to do business that way.

ACOSTA: One way the White House is trying to win the shutdown battle is by declaring war on the facts. Press secretary Sarah Sanders tried to suggest that thousands of known or suspected terrorists are coming across the border with Mexico, only to be fact-checked live by FOX.


CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: On the southern border from Mexico?

SANDERS: -- and it's by sea. It's all of the above. But one thing that you're forgetting is that the most vulnerable point of entry that we have into this country is our southern border. And we have to protect it. And the more and more that individuals --

[17:05:05] WALLACE: But they're not coming -- they're not coming across the southern border, Sarah. They're coming, and they're being stopped at airports.

SANDERS: They're coming a number of ways. They're certainly -- I'm not disagreeing with you that they're coming through airports. I'm saying that they come by air, by land and by sea.

ACOSTA: But a State Department report out last year found no credible information that any member of a terrorist group has traveled through Mexico to gain access to the United States.

The president is also finding himself contradicted on his vow to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria after declaring late last year that ISIS had been defeated.

National security advisor John Bolton now says the fight against ISIS will continue, at least for now, with U.S. troops.

JOHN BOLTON, U.S. NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: We're going to be discussing the president's decision to withdraw but to do so from northeast Syria in a way that makes sure that ISIS is defeated and is not able to revive itself and become a threat again.

(END VIDEOTAPE) ACOSTA: Now, as for the White House claim that there are terrorists

coming across the border with Mexico, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, she was also in that briefing with Vice President Mike Pence. She insisted that is happening.

When pressed for numbers, when she was pressed for numbers, Wolf, she could not provide any information, saying that that information was classified. Even though reporters were asking for that information time and again, she said it was classified.

And even the president's own allies at this point, we should point out, they have been warning him that his immigration message had not been resonating with voters or with the base, which is why you will see the president insist in his speech tomorrow night that the nation faces a border crisis.

That begs the question, of course, if it's such a crisis at this point, why didn't the president take care of it when he had a Republican Congress -- Wolf?

BLITZER: The first two years of his term.


BLITZER: All right, Jim Acosta. Thank you very much.

Let's turn to our congressional correspondent Sunlen Serfaty. Sunlen, what are you learning, first of all, about the state negotiations right now?

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is still very much in a standoff right now on Capitol Hill, Wolf. There's no clear path forward at this time.

Both sides appear to still be digging in even further. Democrats, they want the government to be reopened first, before there's any discussion about border security.

But the White House, they will not reopen the government until border security is dealt with first. So that's essentially where we are right now.

In the talks over the weekend with the vice president, it really did not lead to any significant progress, if any at all, especially after that offer from the White House, that $5.7 billion offer for a steel barrier at the border. That is a nonstarter with Democrats, and it really frustrated the Democrats, setting a tone, a grim start to the week, essentially.

Here's the Senate minority leader, Chuck Schumer.


SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), MINORITY LEADER: If every time President Trump throws a tantrum and demands he get his way unless the government will be shut down, it will create disaster. It will encourage his worst instincts which are bad enough now. Maybe he thinks he can bully us. But I'm from Brooklyn. You let a bully succeed, you'll be bullied again worse.


SERFATY: And Democrats will attempt to try to exert some political pressure up here on Capitol Hill this week. Nancy Pelosi again will get the House of Representatives to vote on the individual appropriations bills. Those are the ones not related to the border, to reopen parts of the government.

But that is largely, again, a symbolic vote, something that majority leader Mitch McConnell has said he will not bring to the Senate's floor, because it does not have the endorsement of President Trump.

But meanwhile, Senate Democrats, they will attempt to block some legislation, including tomorrow the Syria sanctions bill, in an effort to try to force Republicans to bring a bill to reopen the government to the floor. And at least two Democrats will -- Senate Democrats, they say they won't vote on any legislation unless there is a bill to refund the government brought to the Senate floor.

BLITZER: Yes. Lots at stake, not only for the 800,000 federal employees who are not going to be getting paychecks but their families, as well. Sunlen Serfaty up on Capitol Hill, thank you very much.

Joining us now, Republican Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania. He's a member of the Homeland Security and Foreign Affairs Committees.

Congressman, thanks so much for joining us.


BLITZER: All right. So you're one of, what, nine Republicans in the House of Representatives who are willing to support legislation that would reopen the federal government without border wall funding. Do you expect that list to grow as this shutdown drags on and on? It's now in week three.

FITZPATRICK: Well, I think a good start, Wolf, would be for my colleagues to do what many of us are doing, which is forego a pay, so that we can put ourselves in the same position as these federal employees who are not receiving a paycheck.

And Wolf, the list goes on and on. It's TSA screeners. It's air traffic controllers. It's the FBI. It's the Border Patrol. It's CBP. It's the Coast Guard. I mean, literally, the majority of our national security apparatus is being caught in the crosshairs of this. And there's just no terrain on which to battle and discuss and debate a very, very important issue of immigration reform.

BLITZER: I just want to point out you are one of seven member Republicans in the House, two Republicans in the Senate who are willing to vote, even if it didn't have funding for a border wall. [17:10:09] As you know, the president insists he could simply declare

a national emergency, go around you, go around Congress in order to get his border wall. Do you believe there is a crisis on the southern border that is so severe it would justify declaring a national emergency?

FITZPATRICK: Well, that's really two questions, Wolf. No. 1 is "Can he legally," and the other is "Should he?" As to the "can," I mean, that's around Article II of the Constitution and, secondarily, under Title 50 of the U.S. Code; and that's a question of constitutional law.

And as to whether he should, you know, Wolf, I'm a big believer in opening the government and having this go through regular order, have it fully debated. And it's going to have to be a bipartisan solution. The Democrats control the House. Republicans control the Senate. This is an incredibly important issue.

And by the way, for the record, Wolf, I do believe that we need robust security on the border. I do believe in protecting the DACA kids. Our bipartisan Problem-Solvers Caucus, both Democrats and Republicans, a group of centrists, believe in that. And we can get those votes. But it's got to be a bipartisan solution.

And we also have got to watch the language we use, Wolf, because so many of the terms we're using in this immigration debate have become so toxic politically that the second people -- some of my colleagues on both sides, hear the word, they run for the hills. Everybody's got to be adults, and we've got to tackle this issue, but we've got to do it once the government's open.

BLITZER: You're totally right. Everybody's got to be adults, because a lot's at stake right now, including a lot of people in your district out there in Pennsylvania.

If the president were to declare a national emergency, the billions of dollars that he wants to use to build a wall would have to be diverted from funding that already is going to the Department of Defense, the U.S. military. Would you be OK with that?

FITZPATRICK: Well, I think it's a moot point, because it's going to be tied up in litigation. Without a doubt, if he were to make that declaration, it's going to be tied up in the courts. There's going to be a question of constitutional law under Article II and Title 50. So I don't even think that it would be allowed to move forward.

So I really think that it's time for the adults to step up and bipartisanship to prevail here. And that means --

BLITZER: Bottom line, if the president tomorrow night in his address, his TV address, if he does declare a national emergency, you think that would be -- from his perspective, a major blunder?

FITZPATRICK: Well, I mean, again, the question is can he do it legally? And that's a question of constitutional law. And I'll leave that to the experts. I don't think it's wise -- a wise thing to do, Wolf, because I do

believe that the way forward is not to have that end around. And by the way, you know, a lot of my colleagues criticized the prior administration when they took solely executive action on the DACA issue, which is another piece of the immigration debate. I think this issues needs to be resolved by Congress and in a bipartisan manner.

BLITZER: I think a lot of people agree with you: they would like to see comprehensive immigration reform and work to resolve all of these issues. Clearly, that's not happening any time soon. The president keeps saying he's not going to deal with the DREAMers, the DACA recipients, until the United States Supreme Court has decided on a pending case.

Do you think that's wise on his part?

FITZPATRICK: I think that DACA and border security and all the components of immigration -- the ag guest worker program, the issues of e-verify, the visa lottery issues -- let's deal with all these issues together.

I have a colleague of mine, a very good friend of mine, Jimmy Panetta, who's on the Problem-Solvers Caucus, put a lot of work into an immigration reform package that makes perfect sense, Wolf. And we have bipartisan, centrist Democrats and Republicans that are willing to support that.

We just need the leadership of both parties to be willing to come to the center and put their country ahead of their party and get this very important issue solved. We owe that to the American people.

BLITZER: Before you were elected to Congress, you were a federal employee. You could relate to what's going on right now.

The president has largely dismissed concerns about federal workers not receiving their paychecks. He insists he could also relate to their situation.

Do you believe President Trump understands the financial hardships these Americans and their families are about to go through? They're already suffering, but this is going to become much more intense in the coming days.

FITZPATRICK: Which is exactly why I think that everybody ought to follow the lead of -- that several of us have already set. Don't get paid. If you're in Congress, don't just delay your pay. Forfeit it. Write a check back to the U.S. Treasury. Then you'll feel the pain of these federal workers.

And Wolf, back in 2013, I lived through a government shutdown as an FBI agent and as a supervisor. And I can tell you, you have to make really tough calls. You've got to designate essential versus nonessential employees. Professional staff who are critical to ongoing investigations are furloughed. And it's a national security issue. And I know that because I lived through it. It's very easy for people to say that it's not a big deal when you've never worked in the federal government, you've never have been part of the security apparatus. I can tell you right now the Coast Guard, the Border Patrol, the CBP officers, the TSA screeners, the air-traffic controllers, we need these people to be fully funded, to be alert and to be physically and mentally healthy enough to do their jobs. And when they're not getting paid, and many of these people live pay check to paycheck. People forget that. That adds stress on their home life, and it's not good for us.

BLITZER: Yes. And it's not just the 800,000 federal employees, as I keep saying. It's their families, as well, and a lot of these child care centers at federal institutions around the country, they've been shut down already, because of what's going on.

Let me get your thoughts on another issue. You're a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. The president's confusing statements about his decision to remove U.S. troops from Syria. Last month he declared that the fight against ISIS had been won, that he would now be bringing those U.S. troops home from Syria.

But now his national security advisor, John Bolton, says the U.S. military will stay in Syria in order to ensure ISIS is defeated and can't be revived. And they might stay there for a long time. Are you concerned about this uncertainty, where the U.S. really stands on this sensitive issue that clearly resulted in Jim Mattis leaving the Department of Defense?

FITZPATRICK: Yes, Wolf. If I was -- I was over in the Middle East just on Christmas day to have Christmas dinner with our troops. And I can tell you we need to be in Syria. We need to be there.

Our footprint there was fairly limited, roughly 2,000 troops. They served as a check on Assad, on Russia, on Iran and that overall Middle East strategy, which is very, very complicated. It gets involved with the Kurds. And so on and so forth.

And I'm a big believer in leaving the military decisions to the military experts. Just like for me, as an FBI agent, it was always frustrating when people that had never worked under\cover cases, never wired up an informant or recruited a source, were sending policy for us. I think the same thing applies to the military.

We need to leave those decisions to the military experts. And that should not be usurped, especially from someone like Jim Mattis who has broad bipartisan support, not only as a military expert but as a good human being.

BLITZER: But as you know, the president has said he knows more than the generals know on these issues.

FITZPATRICK: The general -- nobody knows military strategy better than the generals. Nobody.

BLITZER: All right. Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick, thanks so much for joining us. We really appreciate it. Good luck to you. Good luck to all the folks in your district. Good luck to all the folks around the country who are suffering right now. Thank you.

FITZPATRICK: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Up next, a federal judge tells a lawyer for a Russian troll farm to "knock it off" after the lawyer in that Mueller-related case claims bias and cites Looney Toons and "Animal House."

Plus, North Korea's dictator reportedly travels to China on an armored train. What could be behind such a secret mission?


[17:21:52] BLITZER: A Russian troll farm is battling it out with a federal judge in a case stemming from the special counsel, Robert Mueller's investigation. And it's getting pretty heated right now.

Our political correspondent, Sara Murray, has been looking into all of this for us.

All of a sudden, Sara, there are references to Looney Toons, "Animal House," coming up in the Mueller probe.

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. You can thank Concord Management for that. That's the Russian company you were referring to, who's been accused of being involved in this Russian troll farm conspiracy.

And the judge has basically had enough of this company's shenanigans. That's what the judge made clear in court today, calling the lawyer for Concord Management unprofessional, inappropriate and ineffective.

And what Concord is trying to do is they're trying to get their hands on the evidence in this case. And Mueller's team has said, "This is sensitive evidence. There are national security concerns. We don't want you to get access to it, because frankly, you are run by a bunch of high-profile Russians, including a guy who's referred to as Putin's chef. There are still ongoing secret grand jury information this is related to, which means there could be more indictments coming. We don't want to share this information with you guys."

And Concord does not like that. And so they've used these very colorful filings to show their displeasure. And today, the judge really just upbraided Concord's attorney today, saying, basically, "You can put all of this stuff in in your filings. It is not going to sway my decision one way or another." And saying, you know, it's really affecting their credibility in this courthouse. The judge said, "I'll say it plain and simple: knock it off."

BLITZER: And amidst all of this, there's a deadline later tonight for Paul Manafort, the former Trump campaign chairman, to respond to allegations that he lied while he was supposedly cooperating with Robert Mueller, the federal investigators. What's the latest you're hearing on that?

MURRAY: Well, Wolf, you've got to love these midnight filing deadlines. We are still waiting to hear from Manafort's team, and this is their opportunity to respond to Mueller's team, which basically said, look, Paul Manafort, he's sitting in jail. He's supposed to be cooperating with the government. And the government says that Paul Manafort lied to them a bunch of times when he was supposed to be cooperating.

This is Manafort's opportunity to say, you know, either "I don't agree with this. I don't agree with what you're saying I lied about," or "OK, fine. I did lie. Let's move on."

But this all falls into question what's going to happen with this cooperation agreement he struck with the government. And ultimately, the judge will have to decide, once they have all the facts in this case, and hear from Manafort's side, about, you know, whether he did lie or didn't.

BLITZER: Let us know when that response comes forward. We'll report it, obviously. Sara Murray, thank you very much.

Coming up the breaking news: President Trump plans a primetime Oval Office speech and a border visit to make his case for a wall. Were those high-profile moves scheduled because the president's immigration message is no longer resonating with the public?


[17:29:10] BLITZER: Breaking news, the White House this afternoon announced President Trump plans to make a primetime speech tomorrow night, then visit the U.S.-Mexican border on Thursday. All of this as the partial government shutdown, sparked by his demand for a border wall, and funding for that wall, now in its 17th day with no end in sight.

Let's ask our experts all about this.

Chris Cillizza, what do you expect from the president's speech tomorrow night and his visit to the border on Thursday?

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS CORRESPONDENT AND EDITOR AT LARGE: The speech first. I think it falls into one of two buckets. The first is he announces a national state of emergency in order to take military funding and do the wall.

Option two, he cobbles together some mix of anecdotes, some of these half-true and not true stats about this crisis on the border, and puts that into a speech.

Either one of those scenarios makes things worse from a perspective of do we get the government open again? Because I think it -- the first option, national -- declaring an emergency, I think makes, as John Cornyn told Manu Raju earlier today, you know, it creates a whole other set of legal and political problems.

[17:30:13] The other one, I think, resets us a little bit back to where we were before they started talking over the weekend.

But ask yourself this if you're thinking about what Donald Trump is going to say tomorrow night. Name a situation in which Donald Trump spoke publicly in which he took some of the heat away from an issue or made something less controversial. I'm at a loss to think of one.

BLITZER: Because he's been doing a lot of speaking over these past few days, Abby. He went into the White House briefing room, spoke for a while. He had a long news conferenced in the Rose Garden the next day. Yesterday at the White House, before he left for Camp David, after he left from Camp David, he spent a lot of time answering reporters' questions. Why does he think having an address to the -- from the Oval Office tomorrow night is going to make much of a difference?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Right. And let's be clear, that is a change of strategy for this president. A couple of weeks ago, he was in the White House, tweeting about how he was alone, not really showing his face to the public in the midst of this shutdown.

And now he's decided, basically, that -- that he needs to take the bully pulpit of the presidency, as many presidents have before him, and try to change the argument, to frame the conversation.

In some ways some of these appearances have been about trying to box Democrats in by saying that there's been progress made when maybe there hasn't been progress made, by trying to roll back what a wall is. By saying he really wants steel slats now. He really wants something steel and see-through.

I think the president's task tomorrow is going to be, in his mind, to try to frame public opinion about the wall. The problem is, as Chris points out, this has been a public relations effort that has been riddled in falsehoods. And I think it could backfire on them if they continue to make an argument that is not based in fact, that's not grounded in fact. And I think we are likely to get more of that tomorrow.

BLITZER: Susan, if he does, you know, as Chris suggests, maybe announces there's a national emergency, declares this national emergency tomorrow night and says he's going to take billions of dollars already appropriated to the U.S. Department of Defense, instead of using that money for the U.S. military, use that money to build a wall and next, along the border with Mexico, use eminent domain to take land from private citizen in order to build that wall, this could drag on in court for years.

SUSAN HENNESSEY, CNN LEGAL AND NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: I think that's right. So it will absolutely, certainly be litigated. You know, we don't know how that will eventually turn out. Oftentimes, courts do tend to be deferential to the president on sort of national security matters.

That said, the very famous Youngstown Steel seizure case pretty -- is precedent that goes pretty directly against the president.

You know, I think one thing here is it's not clear that Donald Trump would necessarily care if he won or lost. By taking the case to court, by declaring this national emergency, that would allow him to tell his base, "Look, I'm fighting for this wall." Then, if the court tells him he can't do it months or years from now, then he can blame the court.

And so even taking it to court, I don't think that's a strategy about whether or not he's going to win or lose. I don't think we should lose sight of the fact that it is essentially an assault on our constitutional structure for the president to declare an emergency where there is an absence of an emergency. These are decisions that are supposed to be made by Congress, not by the president. Emergency authorities are supposed to be a safety valve and not a work-around to the separation of powers.

CILLIZZA: Just to add to Susan's point, we've sat in these two seats and talked about the exact same thing as it relates to the Mueller investigation. Donald Trump fighting a political battle, to Susan's point. Fighting a political battle about, "Well, I'm standing up for it," while the legal battle is on an entirely separate track. He almost always fights the political battle, because the legal one often is not in his favor.

BLITZER: Phil Mudd, if the president does declare a national emergency, what do you think?

PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: I look at this and say this is not that hard. After 9/11, can you imagine President Bush saying, "Hey, I have to persuade the American people that we have an emergency"? That was a bipartisan national effort where everybody knew the moment that happened that we had to combine forces across government with the support of Congress and move.

The fact that the president has to go to the Department of Defense and say, "I've got to divert money, because there is no consensus that this is an emergency," tells you all that you need to know. There is no emergency.

I give you one more fact, Wolf. Note that everybody out talking about this is a political hack. You don't see the FBI director, the CIA director or the director of national intelligence, because there aren't facts to support, for example, the proposition that there are a bunch of terrorists coming across the southern border. There simply aren't. It's all, if you look, people who are paid by or supported by or who are appointed by the president of the United States, because they've got to support what he says. This is a joke.

PHILLIP: And of course, Wolf, the fact that we're having this conversation is, in and of itself, the objective here. It's a threat that's lingering out there to sort of put pressure on the negotiators to come to a resolution so that this extraordinary measure doesn't have to be taken.

But President Trump has threatened this before. He's threatened it repeatedly in the past. He has not done it, in part because they do understand that it is not as easy as simply just saying there's a national emergency. They do understand that the potential political damage that he could inflict upon himself and his party far outweighs any benefit of getting a billion or $2 billion out of the Pentagon in order to build some steel slats at the border.

[18:35:27] BLITZER: Who's more concerned right now about the political pressure on them? In other words, who's more likely to blink first: the president or congressional Democrats?

CILLIZZA: OK. On any normal scale, the president. This -- he's the most visible figure by a long shot within this. Democrats control a House of Congress but not both. And I think he would likely bear -- if we're talking about majority of the country, who would they blame, I think they would blame Donald Trump if this went on for months. Frankly, I think they would blame him if it went on for another week. Maybe they blame him now.

The only thing is, with Trump -- Susan mentioned this -- is there's 35 percent of the people who are going to say he won even if he loses. He won the legal case, even if he loses. And that's who he's played his entire presidency towards. So his definition of winning and losing is a little odd.

I would argue with this, also, not a mathematical formula to win the presidency again. His base is not big enough to win the presidency. He had a base plus in 2016. So just his base isn't enough. But he 's done nothing to suggest that he's going to move beyond that base. This is a play for that base, which maybe he doesn't give up under those circumstances.

BLITZER: The president says he can relate to those federal workers who are paycheck to paycheck and are suffering right now. He says he understands what they're going through.

PHILLIP: I don't really see how that can necessarily be the case. I mean, this is the same president who said, well, just talk to your landlord and work something out. I mean, this is, for a lot of people who are living very normal lives, even if you're living a middle class life and you rely on your paycheck in order to pay your bills, this is not something you can just defer until further notice or write a letter to landlord, offering to do work on their properties in exchange for rent. This is not a reality for most Americans.

And the president is a billionaire, and he doesn't understand what that life is like. So I think to show more empathy, it's going to require the president to speak more directly to these people, and he's declined every opportunity up until this point to do so.

BLITZER: Stick around. There's more of the breaking news. We'll be right back.


[17:42:14] BLITZER: We're back with our experts. And Phil Mudd, I want to play for you a clip. This is what the president said on his decision to remove U.S. troops from Syria very quickly, because the mission had succeeded. Listen to what he said and then now listen to what John Bolton, his national national security adviser, says.


ISIS. We've beaten them, and we've beaten them badly. We've taken back the lands, and now it's time for our troops to come back home.

JOHN BOLTON, U.S. NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: We're going to be discussing the president's decision to withdraw, but to do so from northeast Syria in a way that makes sure that ISIS is defeated and is not able to revive itself.


BLITZER: Very different statements. What do you think?

MUDD: I think this is a pattern that goes back to early in -- not early but the initial stages of the Trump administration and also during the campaign. The pattern is very simple. The president does sound bites. He doesn't do serious.

If you look at the air gap between the president and his advisers on policies ranging from everything from North Korea -- in this case, we're seeing it on Syria; we saw it on repeal and replace. He said stuff that was patently untrue, but it was a great sound bite.

Same thing we saw, by the way, on Stormy Daniels. He says stuff that sounds good, and his attorney, Rudy Giuliani, has to come out and say, "Well, actually, the facts don't correspondend with what the president said."

The president is a great salesman, but when serious people come behind and say, "If we withdraw from that country, there are implications you didn't think about," you see what happens with the national security advisor. We have to withdraw from what the president said. He doesn't care, because the sound bite sells.

BLITZER: Because Susan, the president seems to say one thing, but almost everyone else in his administration, including the military officers, they disagree.

HENNESSEY: I think that's right. I think Phil is right whenever he says the president just kind of shoots from the hip. He says something, and then the administration kind of scrambles to clean up the mess.

You know, I think one of the problems here is that what we're seeing is that this administration doesn't have a coherent sort of Syria policy; they don't have a coherent policy on ISIS. There isn't supposed to be a different of opinion between the president of the United States and members of his administration. The president is the entire executive branch. We're supposed to have this unitary executive.

But I think what we're seeing now is that the president, frankly, has such spectacular bad ideas, ideas that are not just ideas that are sort of against what Democratic values but are against sort of traditional Republican positions, as well. And so instead of having an administration that is attempting to actually implement the president's policies, what we have are administration officials who's basic task is to mitigate and try and work around the president's worst impulses.

CILLIZZA: Two points. One, Twitter -- foreign policy by Twitter is never going to work, right? I mean, that's to Phil's point. He does sound bites. He does "This will make a good tweet. I'll get a lot of retweets on this." That's not how you conduct foreign policy.

Two, to Susan's point, I always am struck by people who say, "Trump is just doing what Republicans do." No.

[17:45:00] This is the exact -- so many things that Donald Trump represents is the Donald Trump Republican Party. It's not the Paul Ryan Republican Party. It's not the Mitt Romney Republican Party.

What he has done, whether it's on Syria, whether it's on debt and deficit, whether it's on -- fill in the blank. Other than taxes, what he has done is a total break from everyone else running for president, with the exception of Rand Paul, in 2016.

This is not the Republican Party foreign policy, even on the broad outlines of the mainstream. Not even close.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Does the President understand -- when he says, a few weeks ago, ISIS has been defeated and John Bolton, his national security adviser, in Jerusalem yesterday with Netanyahu, says they've got to defeat ISIS, does he understand these are very different statements?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I think he does. This is more of the same of what we often see with the President, which is that one thing is said on Monday, another thing is said on Tuesday; and then on Wednesday, they tell you that they're both the same. And that is --



PHILLIP: This is not the first time that this has happened. It's going to happen again. But what's telling about this situation is that -- it seems like a century ago, but the President's Defense Secretary quit because of this decision, because the President refused to moderate his decision to pull out troops, refused to listen to his advice on this.

And he quit over this very issue, and then days later, the President went to Iraq and told reporters that he told his generals that he was no longer going to listen to them on this, that they needed to pull out troops immediately.

So the President himself has reinforced the original decision. Now, they're changing course, but they are not going to own up to it. But that doesn't mean that the facts aren't the facts.

CILLIZZA: That's right. BLITZER: The President says he knows more than the generals and

that's his position.

Stick around. Everybody, stick around. There's more news we're watching. We're seeing reports right now indicating that the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un may be on the move. Standby for the latest on what he may be up to.


[17:51:46] BLITZER: Tonight, we're following some intriguing developments that may involve North Korea's Kim Jong-un. Let's go to CNN's Brian Todd.

Brian, could the North Korean leader be on the move?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: He could be on the move as we speak, Wolf. Getting new information tonight that Kim could be on a train which pulled out of Pyongyang somewhat mysteriously in the overnight hours. There are indications he's headed to a meeting with his top ally to get a customary briefing before he likely meets with President Trump.


TODD (voice-over): On the eve of his birthday, North Korea's ambitious and brutal dictator, Kim Jong-un, appears headed to a crucial meeting with his chief ally, China, as he prepares for a possible second summit with President Trump.

South Korean media reports a distinctive armored train, like this one, left Pyongyang in North Korea for Beijing, China, in the middle of the night, with at least one newspaper reporting Kim was onboard.

CNN could not independently confirm the reports, but if Kim was onboard, analysts say it would be in keeping with Kim's complicated, often testy relationship with Chinese President Xi Jinping, including previous secret train trips to China for the two men to meet.

MICHAEL GREEN, SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT FOR ASIA AND JAPAN CHAIR, CENTER FOR STRATEGIC AND INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: It is a little bit like a mafia leader going to see the big don before a meeting of the consigliere or the other dons. Not because he loves Xi Jinping. In fact, all indications have been that Xi Jinping and Kim Jong-un hate each other, despise each other.

TODD (voice-over): Love or hate, experts say Kim knows he needs the Chinese leader to keep goods flowing across the border between the two borders between the two countries to sidestep sanctions, and Xi wants Kim to keep the dialogue with the United States going.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's a great honor to have President Moon of South Korea with us.

TODD (voice-over): Believing it's in China's interests for Kim to drive a wedge between the American president and U.S. allies, South Korea, and Japan. All of this, analysts suggest, could signal a second Trump/Kim summit sooner rather than later.

TRUMP: We're negotiating a location. It will be announced probably not -- in the not too distant future.

TODD (voice-over): Tonight, there is growing speculation over just where that location will be. Sources familiar with the planning tell CNN the Trump administration has sent scouting teams to multiple cities in different regions, including Asia, in recent weeks. One source says Bangkok, Thailand, Hawaii, and the Vietnamese capital, Hanoi, have been visited.

If he flies long distance, analysts say, Kim would most likely have to borrow a Chinese plane as he did when he flew to Singapore in June to meet with President Trump. Some experts say Kim's got a fleet of Cold War era Soviet-made planes which are poorly maintained and might be challenged with a long flight.

FRANK JANNUZI, FORMER POLICY DIRECTOR FOR EAST ASIAN AND PACIFIC AFFAIRS, U.S. SENATE COMMITTEE ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: They're extremely old. They've been refurbished, but I wouldn't trust -- I mean, I flew on them because I had no choice. If he's got a choice, he should stay off of North Korean airlines.

TODD (voice-over): But Kim has been photographed on a presidential jet, nicknamed Air Force Un, which some aviation experts say could make a long trip. Despite logistical and security concerns for the paranoid young dictator, some analysts believe Kim will venture far if it means another meeting with Trump.

GREEN: Kim Jong-un would have concerns but he needs the world stage. Because part of what he's doing is trying to help Donald Trump create theater rather than take concrete steps of denuclearization. So he'll want a place where he can get media attention but not a place, I think, where protests are possible, which would undercut his security and his propaganda message.


[17:55:08] TODD: Now, wherever a summit is held, analysts say there is considerable pressure on both Trump and Kim Jong-un to come up with a more substantive deal than the one they struck in Singapore. Kim desperately needs sanctions to be lifted.

Trump is facing more scrutiny on North Korea by newly empowered Democrats in Congress, Wolf. He's got to come back with something more substantive than they got in June.

BLITZER: Certainly true. Brian Todd reporting. Thank you.

Coming up, breaking news. While millions feel the pain of a government shutdown, President Trump plans an Oval Office address and a border visit as he goes around Congress to make his case for a wall.