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tv   Washington Week  PBS  December 22, 2018 1:30am-2:01am PST

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robert: a breach in the cabinet and congress on the. bri i'm robert costa. welcome to "washington week." >> every nation h the right but the absolute duty to protect its borders and i citizens. without borders, we have the reign of chaos crime cartels. robert: president trump digs inq on his ruest for billions for border wall. rattling capitol hill and the markets. and he announces u.s. troops will leave syria. >> we've been fightingor a long time in syria. i've been president for almost two years. tnd we've really only stepped i up. and we have won against isis. robert: but leading republicans push back. >> to say they're defeat is an
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overstatement and it's fake news. >> the decision to withdraw an american presence in syria is a colossal in my mind mistake, a graver >> that's going to have significant repercussions in the importants and years -- in the yearso come. and defense secretary james mattis resigns. this is "washington week." announcer: this is "washington week." funding is provided by -- >> kevin. >> kevin. >> kevin.ic >> a for life. life well planned. learn more at uncer: funding is provided by, newman's own foundatio donating all profits from newman's own toharity and nourishing the common good. qu and patricia yuen committed
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to bridging cultural differences in our community. the corporation for plic broadcasting and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. announcer: once again frgtom wash, moderator robert costa. robert: good evening. you join us liveht on friday n as capitol hill is buzzing just days beforeou christmas. reporters have been closely tracking the showdown over presidentru's ultimatum of funding for a border wall. here is what you nee to know. the president, he wants $5 billion for the wall to be included in thegoatest rnment funding bill. but so far the -controlled congress on the eve of divided government has struggled to find the sotes the least. and the president's demand has sp aked a frenzy tonightt the capital as lawmakersin tto
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avert a partial shutdown at midnight tonight. >> president trump, you will not get your wall. abandon your shutdown strategy. you're not getting the wall today, next we or on january 3rd when democrats tak control of the house. robert: now, there is a plan b. the senate on wednesday passed what reporters called a clean bill. in other words, it doe't clude the $5 billion the president wants for his wall but it would fund the government through early february. thelock though, it's tick ticking. molly ball joins us from "time" magazine. peter baker chief white house correspondent for theti "new yo s." kimberly atkins for "the "boston herald"." and jake sherman senior editor s of politic playbook. thanks so much for joining us on this busy evening. it. preciate where do things stand in terms
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of the negotiation. there's a lot of talk among top aids that maybe there's a compromise in the works to not give the president $5 billion but $1.6 billion. right.'s i mean, the government just to be clear, the government is alst without a doubt shutting down in about four hours. it was a fascinating scene. republicans and democrats in t senate decided to proceed to a bill basically to debate b al to buy time so they can come up with a global agreement so ty could pass all seven lingering appropriations bills in the cong days here. so there are seven bills that need to be passed, to deal bith slice of government. they're going to try to work over the next couple of days to ge it done. there are a lot of pressure points as you noted, $1.6 billion is about as mh as democrats will allow for border security, not the president's wall, but bordey. secur and i just talked to jim jordan, thep conservativelican from ohio. he said $1.6 billion is not going to do it for
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's the reaction you're going to get from conservatives across the capitol. the question is what does donald trump do? does he embrace a lower total $1.6 billion instead of $5 billion to avoid a prolong shutdown until next year. it's not clear.e but vresident mike pence is just around the coroner the capitol with jared kushner and mulvaney to do shuttle diplomacy literally going from the house and the senate trying to negotiate a deal. robert: and some moderate senators, retiring republicans like jeff flake and bob corker they seem to be going on tonight. >> he seemed hesitant take. jeff flake switched his vote. voted no. and then ved yes when he had assurances that negotiations would happen. it's dinitely a last gasp from bob corker who told us literally yesterday that he wa goingome and not coming back and thanked
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us for all of our work in years.g us for the i guess he decided that he was going to have one more deal-making session. this isn't a complicated deal. cooked for a been long time. the question is will donald trump accept the $1. billion. and we don't have an answer at this point. rort: bob corker told reporters to go have a scotch while everyone waits for these negotiations to finish. i promise we're just having water and cofe. the vice president, mick mule -- mulvaney. and the president said he would be willing to have a government shutdown. is the whoice walking bk -- white house walking back that demand? >> you don't know what he's going to do. one minute he ss yes. the next minute he says no. earlier it looked like he was going to accept a temporary solu gon. then h his backup once the
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conservative media, rush limbaugh began pummeling him for caving in. it's hard to negotiate if you don't know that your negotiating partner is going to stick to a position longer than a day, basically. robert: you've been covering the democrats over the last few weeks likely speaker nancy pelosi, she's holding the line.l does she f and her allies boxedhat the president is in here that he has to accept the $1.6 billion for the wall? >> they do. and they're somewhat vindicated over fact that the next appears to be coming down the pipe is their originalth positi. haven't budged. and republicans are trying to give them what they want, theal origenate deal gave the democrats what they wanted. to be clear, the president is never going to have more leverage than he does right now. he's still got the house. he still got both houses of congress. now, he does need 60 republican votes to get something through
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the senate. there was unimaginable level of relief in capitol hill particularly among republicans when earlier this week,e not only signaled that he would support this deal but tweeted in support of it. but then as peter said, he changed his md. even with mike pence and jared kushner, nobody on capitol hill feels they can trust any of the people negotiating on trump's behalf oreg eveniating directly with trump because he can turn around and change his mind. and so, y know, everybo there would just like to go home. and nobody istas inv in the border wall as the president is. the reason that the senate unanimously passed this deal that didn't include a border orll, it included a nominal amount ofr security is they don't care about the wall as much as trump does. and the house doesn't care about the wall as much as he does. and that's why they've not been funding the wall because he's the o w whots this. he's the one who is going to have to insist on this to get it
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done and even then it may not. robert: if the talks continue, the government will shut down. what does that mean for federal workers? >> that means about 25% of the government, their employees will be furlowed, meaning they won'tr go to or get paid. or they will have to go to work and not get paid. either way. these aren't people just here in washington. these are people throughout the co they're working at some of the most -- the key agencys that the president isnalking about w it comes to border security, right? we're talking about -- we're talking aboutomeland security. the d.o.j., customs and borde enforcement, the very folks that are the focus of these talks will be the one showing up to work every day because they are mostly essential. and -- and not being paid while this fight plays out which is something i'm not sure theen preshas thought that part of it through, the optics of it, plus, it's right before christmas. it's terrible optics and there
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are folks the republican side that it doesn't look good for.t' >> part of the pressure points here. what about the markets tumbling today? has that forced lawmaker to try to get a deal don >> i can't remember the last time i heard any member of congress talk about the stock market which is shocking to think about. but it does play int the backdrop of the political climate at the moment. the presidentsbviously i exceedingly focused on the stock market and the economic indicators across the ecomy basically. but i will say they feel comfortable in this shutdown ich is ironic because saturday and sunday are weekends and a lot of the government is not open on weekends and monday and tuesday a federal holidays. the president just duclaired christmas eve theovnment's closed on christmas eve. so they feel like they could actually keep t government closed. they have some cushion. if i had to guess though, there will be some agreement here in
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the next 24 to hours. that's just the sense that i get from being in thealays and talking to peesm there were some people that thought there might be an agreement tonight they havo give their members 24 hours to get back to wa pington. maple went home. carlos corbelo from florida was on a flight to miami tonight. people need to get back here. and we'll see that in the couple of days. robert: i want to get something, pete that you brouppingt. the right-wing rebellion. it seemed like a deal was eminent that the would have some kind of short-term resolution. then you heard about fox news and rush limbaugh saying the president wasaving. there's a tyranny of the white wing driving this president. he's listening to the conservative voices me than voices that are associated with him in congress. ann coulter has more of an
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impact. mitch mcconnell has gotten through what he could do on legs. and yet, when annri coulter as tough column saying the president has failed in his most signature campaign promise. and this his most signature campaign promise, he getsorked about it. he unfollows her. but is following her in terms of his policy priorities at the moment. he getshery sensitive w this. you hear former aides and currayt aides talk about the to shape his thinking is to make sure you get your people out on fox news to describe what is going on. and they didn't do they didn't get their side out on fox news for them toear. >> but i wonder is that the story with president trump? tantly evel he's cons listening to the right-wing? but they passedrinal justice reform bill. what's the rl story in the
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divided government? >> those are two things he would do victory laps over. we have increased pressure from the muellerti investi. things going wrong. you tend to see the president want toe fight. heels sort of in his -- in his element when he's fighting i t and he has an opponent. and he went right back to the wall which i just aart of his identity at this point. he loves fighting that battle the wall. it was driven in part by the conservative media commentators. weth it bringsimack to his base. we saw a familiar thing happen whd ene larger imagine gration reform fizzled out. there was a deal at the lastte mi the white house tor pedestrianoed it because he s reminded your base doesn't want amnesty, they want the rt: is that what this really comes down to, molly? this whole showdown on a friday night, is it aboutsi the pnt signaling to that core voter, we may have to have a deal at the end of the day, but at least i
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fought until the 11th hour? >>he theme of the trump presidency for the last two years has been that he is the president for this base of trump lovers, trump sporters and not for the rest of america. he's not particularly interested in the fact that he' gotten approval rating in the hie 30's. a just experienced repudiation in the midterms. that doesn't bother him. what i don't really understand is what would happen if he were try to lead them on this issue rather than being led by them? because on all sorts of issues, he's led the republica base on uncharted territory. whether it's been unfriendly v againsdimir putin. whether it's been against law enforcement, against jeff sessions previously rered by the republican base, on all kinds of issues. he has been the one leading t. ba and they have fold him. the famous fifth avenue quote, right? he could do anything. and they would follow h there.
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and yet on immigration, he continues to feel that this is the deal that he has to follow, not just the base, but even majorities of republican voters or trump supporters don't necessarily support a super hard line on immigration or the wall itself and yet the ann coulters of the world who represent a small slice of that republican base, he absolutely niels he cannot earn their displeasure. robert: if they do come up with a spending agreement, based on what molly just said, if they're up i arms about any kind of deal, does that mean an agreement will likely have to pass through the house and the senate with mostly democratic votes? >> it will pass the senate for 90 votes because both are in agreement with the broad spectrum o agreement. but the real danger for the president and kevin mccarthy ana ryan who is halfway out the door at this point is that a majoritys f republic the house do not support the deal. and that's really, really scary for this president because he's
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communicated privately that they really need majority of republicans on this bill. one more point here. paul ryan and kevinhaccarthy been promising this border wall fight for almost two years. they kept telling him let's push it off. and they'rereinally saying w is this fight. now you've stole meor -- told me we are going to have this fight. we need to have this fight. that's why i think t president is the fighting so hard because he's put it off for so long and he thinks it's timeo have thi showdown. robert: let's turn to another big topic thisee president trump suddenly announced that he's pulling u.s. rces out of syria rocking officials at the pentagon who were not expecting the announcement. president trump has advocated for pulling troops from syria for a long time. t the decision without careful coordination surprised james mattis. he is conceived as one of the
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steadiest hands ihe cabinet. he resigned after this. in his resignation letter he wrote, i believe it is right for me toow step dn from my position. peter, a monumental breach in the cabinet. this was not aem rett as president trump tweeted. this was a resnation of buke. >> a resignation protest which is not a common thing i washington. a lot of times people might quit government but they don't say so they leave the door because they're unhappy with the president easily not advantageous to him. james mattis made very clear what his problem are. he said we ought to be standing up to the chinese and the russians and we ought to be standing with the germans and and the british and therefore it's time for me to. lea this is oddly enough as we're talking about the president's following the lead of co ervatives the opposite that. this is where he's taking on the
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dominant conservative thinking of his party which tends to be more hawkish. definitely pro jim mattis. you heardindsey graham being costic in his response saying this is an obama-like mistake. you've got this odd dichotomy where he's with t right o the border wall. and he's against the right on lling home. and in his view this is all of a peace. it's all about the se thing, america first. he sees a connection that is ideologically coherent. but itxposes a lot of fissures. robert: when you think about this idea that secretary mattis was the adult in the roomhat's wilingds wildly talked about in washington. who plays a rolehat measure are america first instinct? is it secretarype p or john bolton the national security advisor? >> i think nobody knows. and this's why so many are
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frightened. you heard a real sense of panic efrom s of the most mindsminded and patrician in washington members of the national security establish kwloment even up to now have -- development even up to now have exped hands who are there with trump who would literally swat his finger away from thebr on if it got to that point. and those people aren't there nip. none of them aren't there. tillerson might have been counted asne of this group in the past. and so there is less and less feeling thck there is any c on trump. this is why you're seeing the markets swoon. this is why you're seeing a real sense of fear and trepition in washington is the concern that maybe he really has cast-off all thesetr rnts. for the first two years of his presidency, i think of theal si promises of trumpism that
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ountervened the bipartisa consensus as being trade, foreign policy, and immigration. therwas a bipartisan really consensus in the democrati establishment against tariffs and trade wars against pulling troops out of all the places we are abroad and against building a wall. he has figured out if he gets rid of these people who have been holding him back, he can do all of this stuff and that is deeply disruptive. robert: beyond that, he's disruptiveith these wars what does that mean in afghanistan and in syria, kim? >> yeah, i mean, it remains to be seen. there are about 2200 floops s northernia, not a huge amount. but it brings back memors of iraq. when we had a draw down there and it left a vacuum i which isis was able to thrive and that if the f realus as president trump said so forcefully during
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his campaigng is fightese terrorist groups because they pose such a danger to the united states that this could very well be alaremature dtion of victory. and beyond that. i mean, it is when it comes to mattis's resignation, it is about these two different views of -- opp how toach this. but it's also a world view that is so different. his letter was so extraordinary. i think think he wrotet to the history books to lay out very clearly not -- for the, wor really. that the united states should be standing with its allies. the united states should be clear-eyed about its adversaries and work towards those interests. and the president doesn't believe that. it's a stunning rebuke. >> jake, the view on capitol hill are they stunned secretary mattis's departure or is president trump still in fulh grip o own party? >> i think we have to keep in mind that on capitole hill peo like mattis and pompeo and john
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kelly, are the people more with the congress. so they have a rapport with this people and they de with them lot. there's a lot of shock. you saw mitch l mcconnellt night issue a very strong-worded statement about mattis's departure which was stuing for him, stunning for a congressional leader. you saw a similar one, paul ryan issued one when john kelly announcedesisnation. now, is he in full control of his party? i think he's losing se control with some of these decisions. you are seeing people like marco rubio and lindsey graham take very serious issue wh his military decision. the fact that he is not briefing people -- i mean, listen, republicans had a lot o disagreements with oba about his military strategy, his foreign policy, butri heed key players on capitol hill tall time, kept the in the know.
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robert: who the frontrunner to replace secretary mattis? senator todd cotton orseomebody >> i think tom cotton disagrees with a lot of things that the president has done. i thinkhat it would be helpful if it would be somebody from the senate because they would have an easier time getting through confirmation. but it's a little tooo early t say. robert: peter, you mentioned how this undscores president trump's instincts on foreign policy. it's not a george w. bush hawk. has he always been that? is that where this republican party is going? there's a discussion about mattis's departure andim as a person. where is this administration going in terms of foreign po cy? >> these are things he talked about consistently,anassionately repeatedly as a candidate. he has ft held back. held back by the congress, jim mattis as mollyas saying by
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all the people around him. and he does seem to be feeling more liberated now. his view is not that diffent from president obama's which is a waste of our resources to be inmeshed in these middle east conflicts that we can't solve anyway. the difference with trump is process how you go about doing it. you don't leave your defense secretary so upset about your process that he decides to onsign. you leave the chairman of the joint chief of staff out of the room without any consequences. but he has always sd, he thinks america should be focused back at home. less interventionist or less on the ground where all these people are killed. .pbert: you don't see anyone in the g with that same view. >> if you talk about going to the senate, i don't know who would a with them at least on the large scale. jack keane used to be vice chair
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of the joint chiefs -- he's a very hurkish f i can't imagine him doing that. >> the closest could be sator rand paul of kentucky. >> that would be an interesting turn of events. >> he shares the views. >> you have about 30 left. ds >> even of rand paul is that we can't overlook the russia angle, the fact at president trump did what was most for president putin. and the fact that he has gonehe againstnterest of our allies and against international institutions like nato. robert: what a night. we have to leave it there. thanyou for joining us tonight. our conversation will continue on the podcast. you can find that on our website and on your favorite podcast app. i'm robert costa, thanks for joining us. and enjoy the holidays.
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