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Trump faces challenges on 2 sides, as House pushes resolution and Cohen testifies

The House is pushing a resolution to invalidate President Trump’s declaration of a national emergency over illegal immigration. Meanwhile, Trump faced a challenge from the other side of Capitol Hill as his former attorney Michael Cohen testified in a closed session with the Senate Intelligence Committee. Lisa Desjardins updates Judy Woodruff on a busy day on Capitol Hill.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    President Trump is being challenged tonight on both sides of the U.S. Capitol.

    First, to the House of Representatives and the battle over the border between the United States and Mexico. Majority Democrats pushed a resolution this evening to terminate the president's national emergency declaration. It came after arguments over Mr. Trump's plan to divert other government funds in order to build a southern border wall.

  • Rep. Tom Malinowski, D-N.J.:

    The Emergencies Act is for genuine emergencies. It is not a get out of the Constitution free card for presidents who want something that Congress won't give them.

  • Rep. Jodey Arrington, R-Texas:

    I will be voting today for our president, for his constitutional legal authority to defend this country, to protect our borders and our citizens. I will be voting for the safety of the American people today and the safety for our communities not just in West Texas, but throughout this country.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    The resolution will now go after the House to the Senate, where the focus today was President Trump's former personal attorney Michael Cohen. He testified in a closed session with the Senate Intelligence Committee. Tomorrow, he testifies publicly at a House oversight hearing.

    Late today, Florida Congressman Matt Gaetz tweeted a warning to Cohen, saying his wife is about to learn a lot about — quote — "your girlfriend." Later, Gaetz insisted that he wasn't engaging in witness intimidation.

    Our own Lisa Desjardins has been keeping track of this entire swirl of news today on Capitol Hill.

    It doesn't get any busier than this, Lisa.

    Let's start by talking about the emergency declaration. They have been talking about it in the House. They're about to vote. What have you been hearing?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    I'm watching my phone. That vote should happen any minute.

    This is that vote which would terminate this emergency declaration, and Congress does have that power. This is the first step in trying to block that declaration. It is believed this will pass. And it will pass easily.

    The question is, how many Republicans will be on board, Judy? And many Republicans are having a very difficult time with this issue. I spoke to one, Tom Massie of Kentucky, who said he is now going with Democrats and saying that he thinks this is an overreach by the president.

    However, I talked to another, freshman Denver Riggleman of Virginia, who said he walked in this morning he too would agree with Democrats, then received a briefing about the situation at the border, and after that briefing he felt that it was enough of a crisis that he is struggling, but he is now going to vote with the president in trying to keep the emergency declaration going.

    This is important because ultimately we think two-thirds of the members of the House will have to agree in order to actually override a likely veto.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    A likely presidential veto. So all but certain it passes the House.

  • Lisa Desjardins:


  • Judy Woodruff:

    What about in the Senate?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    That's an interesting question, because, right now, of course, there are 47 Democrats who are planning to vote to try and terminate this emergency declaration.

    That means four Republicans are needed to go alongside with them to just pass this resolution. Right now, Judy, we have three Republicans who say they agree with Democrats, Susan Collins of Maine, Thom Tillis of North Carolina, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.

    Those last two, Senators Tillis and Murkowski, Judy, their two states have some of the largest number of projects, military construction projects, which the president could freeze, take money from, in order to build his wall. They also say they have constitutional objections largely to what the president is doing.

    So we think that it is likely another Republican will probably side with them. I spoke to eight Republicans today who are — who are deciding. But Vice President Pence was in the Senate today trying to tell Republicans, side with the president, keep this emergency declaration going.

    We don't know when that vote will be. Our Saher Khan got information from Republicans that it may be in two weeks. It could be sooner. We're not sure.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Not right away. But it looks like it's at least delayed for a few days.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    They have some choices to make on that.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, now let me ask you about the other big thing, the story that everybody's watching. And that is the president's former personal attorney Michael Cohen went behind closed doors talking to the Senate Intelligence Committee.

    The information has trickled out. And now we have this tweet that has gotten everybody's attention from the Florida congressman. What do we know about him?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Right. Right.

    Matt Gaetz is seen as one of the president's strongest allies in Congress. He's a conservative firebrand. He also, importantly, Judy, sits on the House Judiciary Committee. That's not the committee that is meeting with Mr. Cohen tomorrow.

    However, it is the committee where impeachment proceedings would begin. And Matt Gaetz is seen as someone who would be one of the most ardent defenders of the president, should impeachment proceedings happen.

    Judy, more importantly, I think what's happening here is we're seeing what Republicans will do tomorrow when Mr. Cohen testifies publicly. They are going to assail him as a witness with no credibility. And as much as the Democrats ask questions about the president's activity, Republicans will be going after Mr. Cohen about his personal life, as we have seen today.

    And also it's interesting to see, is this a threat against Mr. Cohen by a member of Congress? That's still being debated.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, again, that's the House Oversight Committee where he's going to be testifying tomorrow in public.

  • Lisa Desjardins:


  • Judy Woodruff:

    Cameras will be there, but we don't know what he — what more he's likely to say, do we?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    We do have some reporting, thanks to our great Yamiche Alcindor.

    She's speaking to a source close to Cohen who tells her that — in fact confirms other reports — that Mr. Cohen will speak to what he sees as criminal activity by the president, that he will also talk about the president saying racist statements to him.

    And, indeed, he will speak, Yamiche is told, to financial statements from the president. These are all very serious allegations. So I think we have two things happening, one, an intense political atmosphere where we see both sides ready to perhaps exaggerate what's happening.

    And then we have very serious dramatic testimony that may not need exaggeration. And it's going to be very difficult and have to be very careful in figuring out how to weigh all of this in a very frenzied atmosphere. It could be quite circus-like tomorrow.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Very — enormous attention on what Mr. Cohen is going to be saying tomorrow, and, of course, all this while the president's out of the country.

    Lisa, thank you very much.

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