ROBERT COSTA: The shutdown gets a short-term fix, but the political war is only beginning. I’m Robert Costa. Welcome to Washington Week.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: (From video.) I am very proud to announce today that we have reached a deal to end the shutdown and reopen the federal government.
MR. COSTA: President Trump backs a bipartisan deal to reopen the government until mid-February. It ends the longest shutdown in history, but conservatives are furious because it does not include money for a border wall, and the president warns if he doesn’t get that he could declare a national emergency.
Plus, Trump ally Roger Stone is arrested in a predawn raid, indicted on seven counts by the special counsel. He vows to fight.
ROGER STONE: (From video.) There is no circumstance whatsoever under which I will bear false witness against the president.
MR. COSTA: We cover it all next.
ANNOUNCER: This is Washington Week. Once again, from Washington, moderator Robert Costa.
MR. COSTA: Good evening. President Trump announced Friday that the longest government shutdown in history would end for three weeks. The deal with congressional leaders reopens the government until mid-February as talks continue on immigration and the president’s demand for border wall funding. The Trump administration’s budget office said that the 800,000 federal workers who have missed paychecks would receive back pay as soon as possible.
Joining me tonight, Margaret Brennan, moderator of Face the Nation and senior foreign affairs correspondent for CBS News; Elisabeth Bumiller, Washington bureau chief for The New York Times; Yamiche Alcindor, White House correspondent for the PBS NewsHour; and Jeff Zeleny, senior White House correspondent for CNN.
Margaret, you sat down with Vice President Pence last Sunday. He was talking about a deal, working with Democrats. He laid out possible protections for DREAMers in exchange for border wall funding. That was a few days ago. What changed Friday?
MARGARET BRENNAN: Fourteen thousand IRS workers apparently didn’t show up for work as ordered to do. You had LaGuardia Airport, other airports disrupted because of a lack of required TSA agents to actually get people on planes safely. So I think some of those reality checks slowed the politics a bit in terms of how to spin this, and instead the president offered this temporary reprieve. But basically, at the end of that Rose Garden address today, the president said we can do this all over again in three weeks, with this funding only taking us to February 15th. But I was looking back at what the vice president said to me on Sunday, and he laid out exactly why the president couldn’t do what he just did, saying he knows that Speaker Pelosi, even if they reopen the government and begin negotiating, won’t give him that border wall. That was the reason he said the president couldn’t do it, and yet the president did do it.
MR. COSTA: Well, what happened, Elisabeth, with President Trump?
ELISABETH BUMILLER: Well, he was – he really wanted to make the State of the Union address. That was a big disappointment to him. It was – it’s pageantry. It’s the kind of – it’s the presidency that he loves, the show. And also what happened was that McConnell said to him I just can’t hold my – I can’t hold the Republicans. There was a lot of phone calls last night between McConnell and Trump; they continued this morning. Trump last night wanted to declare a national emergency and was talked out of it, and that’s where he went this morning after talking to McConnell. And then with the slowdown at LaGuardia and the IRS workers not turning up, that was enough.
MR. COSTA: So the –
MS. BUMILLER: And I just want to add one thing, that he’s now talking about a smart wall. So I think there might be an avenue towards open government in this smart wall, which is of course not really a wall, but it’s sort of, you know, sensors. But that might be where they go with this.
MR. COSTA: That could be where they go in three weeks. But, Elisabeth, you mentioned he was walked back from a national emergency. Was that Senate Republicans just getting uneasy, people like McConnell, others inside of the White House?
MS. BUMILLER: The Senate Republicans never liked this shutdown, and McConnell finally had to come off the sidelines and decide that Nancy Pelosi was not going to budge and he had to move the president. And the president, of course, it was classic Trump: He declared victory. It sure didn’t look a lot like a victory, but he went out and said this is great, you know. But he ended up back where he started. He ended up – he made no headway in these – in this month.
JEFF ZELENY: I think even, like, worse than when he started, because as he was making a case for the wall it actually became sort of a mocking symbol of something he can’t let go. But I think the McConnell calls on Thursday night into Friday morning, that was key because the cracks in the Senate were becoming very apparent. There was a very explosive lunch that you wrote about in The Washington Post, a Senate lunch on Thursday, but then it continued. He was losing Republicans, so he had to accept political reality. But when you saw President Trump in the Rose Garden, it’s like he was giving the same old speech, still talking about the wall. But it has become much more difficult now, so three weeks from now I do not think there will be another government shutdown. He knows he can do one thing. Read polls: every single poll said this was bad for him, so I’d be very surprised if there’s another one on his watch.
MR. COSTA: That’s a good point, because this agreement does come as the president’s approval ratings have dropped. A new Washington Post/ABC News poll released Friday shows 58 percent of Americans disapprove of the job he is doing and 37 percent approve. When asked who they thought was mainly responsible for the shutdown, 53 percent of those surveyed blamed the president and Republicans. Yamiche, there were also pressure points from 800,000 federal workers who were going without a paycheck. You saw on Friday the FAA temporarily halted flights into New York’s LaGuardia Airport. What was another – were those the key breaking points as well, or was it all politically driven in the Senate on Capitol Hill?
YAMICHE ALCINDOR: I think it’s really important to walk people through what the president did as he said that he was not going to ever break for a wall. He held a primetime special. He went to Texas and actually went to the border. He also had this – multiple meetings where he had all this misleading information where he said drugs are pouring in, our country’s being invaded. For 35 days he literally made the case, and what happened? His approval ratings were dropping, people were blaming him, you had federal workers saying we could not take this. And then you had people who were saying, apart from the federal workers not getting their money, there was the cab drivers who said no one’s going anywhere in D.C.; you had restaurants that were extending – literally, Washington’s Restaurant Week was extended a week because people said no one’s going out and spending money. So you had the American economy also looking at President Trump and saying something needs to give.
The White House’s official stance today was that rank-and-file Democrats told President Trump and told Republicans that they’re going to give them money for the wall. That’s what they were saying. I said, well, who are these Democrats who made you this promise? They would not give you one name. That tells me that the president came up with this line to tell reporters that, but in reality it was all the pressure that you just talked about.
MR. COSTA: And we saw in this showdown over the shutdown a new dynamic in Washington. We have Speaker Pelosi, three weeks into her job after being sworn in; she’s pushed the president to reopen the government and, as Elisabeth said, postpone his State of the Union address. She was asked about that today.
HOUSE SPEAKER NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): (From video.) State of the Union is not planned now. (Laughs.) Get that. What I said to the president is when the government is open we will discuss a mutually agreeable date, and I’ll look forward to doing that and welcoming the president to the House of Representatives for the State of the Union when we agree on that mutual.
MR. COSTA: She’s saying there, the speaker, in her words, that she controls the Capitol, but she also in part controls this new Washington. Was this shutdown as much about Speaker Pelosi and her asserting herself in this new D.C. as it was about President Trump?
MS. BRENNAN: Her ability to flex her muscles to the power and to show what she does control was masterful in terms of the PR win. She can claim that on this. But it’s the matter of the battle versus the war here. President Trump looks like he lost this battle; the question is, does he lose ultimately the war? There’s also the question of certainly the polling that we see says this was unpopular and you can look at ratings agencies like S&P that says the shutdown cost $1.2 billion per week, that this could hurt the economy, but does the president actually come out of this being able to say I was on brand, I fought for this, and pocket a win in some way? That’s another question. But one of the things that I would say is another point, perhaps, in Pelosi’s court is because this has been so publicly litigated in many ways, that the White House has actually kind of talked itself back. We’re no longer talking about – and they own this – no longer concrete wall sea to shining sea. They’re talking about, as Vice President Pence described, like, 200 miles of steel slats. They’re scaling back the ask in the public domain.
MR. COSTA: And that’s such a good point. Was this actually about just showing the Republican base he went to the brink, that he did all he could on the wall?
MS. BUMILLER: Of course that’s what it was about. He can take that to the 2020 campaign and say: I did my best. I tried. I was stopped by, you know, Nancy Pelosi. I want to also address Nancy Pelosi here. I mean, this is the first – Trump’s first experience with divided government in Washington. It’s also his first experience, as Sheryl Stolberg wrote this week, dealing with a really, really powerful woman. And you talk to any of the Trump biographers, and they say this was very difficult for the president because in the past he’s dealt with powerful women, he likes powerful women, but he’s always been able to go around them to their more powerful male boss. Nancy Pelosi doesn’t have a male boss. It’s Nancy Pelosi. And it was – this was a tough one for Trump. And she also understands the legislative process more than he does.
MR. ZELENY: I think that’s significant. I mean, you saw an experienced leader there. She was not going to blink. Leader Schumer was not going to blink. So they out-maneuvered the president, who’s very new to this. You know, he thinks he can control Washington. He is learning very much what divided government is like. But he does respect Speaker Pelosi. We’re coming out of this five-week period. He hasn’t branded her with, you know, a mean nickname. He – there is something about them that – respect. So I think this relationship – we still don’t know how it’s going to end. We know that President Trump likes to make deals. So I don’t think that we should view the rest of this year being sort of out the window because of this.
I think that we’ll sort of see how this goes. But we’ve learned a lot about the wall, a lot about what he’s willing to compromise on. I think we have to watch the right-hand flank. Ann Coulter, who’s largely responsible – or partly responsible for this, she called him weak and compared him to Herbert Walker Bush – George Herbert Walker Bush. So we’ll see what they say, but I’m intrigued to see what the Trump-Pelosi dynamic continues to be.
MR. COSTA: Margaret?
MS. BRENNAN: I want to just pick up on something Yamiche mentioned, which was the White House saying how they want to sort of split rank and file – or, that that seems to be their theory, that they can split away rank and file Democrats from leadership. But they won’t name who it is that actually they say do agree with them. But as a play, it seems to be maybe a bit of projection here, but maybe perhaps truthful ultimately, which is that they think they are going to see with Democrats the same problem Republicans had years ago in terms of, on the left, a progressive flank really causing problems for Democratic leadership. You didn’t see that here in terms of – Nancy Pelosi still kept her caucus in line on this.
MR. COSTA: She almost used them as a weapon. You saw Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the new New York representative, Yamiche, walking over with other freshmen to the Senate to demand from Senator McConnell that he hold a vote to reopen the government. How do you see Speaker Pelosi handling those pressures?
MS. ALCINDOR: I think that right now we’ve gotten somewhat of a preview of that. There was all this talk about who’s going to – who’s going to challenge Nancy Pelosi for the speakership. And what we saw was her, one by one, do away with the people who were trying to say that they were going to challenge her. I mean, I still remember Marcia Fudge – Representative Marcia Fudge being basically almost perp walked into Nancy Pelosi’s office, cameras behind her snapping as she came out, almost looking a little confused saying: You know what? I looked at Nancy Pelosi’s calendar, I look at how much money she raises, and I’m just not sure I’m ready for this job. That was a big change from what she was saying before.
I also think that it’s interesting that President Trump called Nancy Pelosi reasonable. He said the reason why he postponed the State of the Union is because he found Nancy’s offer to be reasonable. Reasonable is not the word that President Trump has used with opponents. So I think that we see him in the public atmosphere saying: I do respect this woman.
MR. COSTA: Elisabeth, there’s a big profile of Senator McConnell in the upcoming New York Times Magazine. Speaking about the word “reasonable,” what happens around Valentine’s Day, when the president again maybe starts toying with the idea of declaring a national emergency? Where is McConnell? Is McConnell now the force that Republicans –
MS. BUMILLER: McConnell then has to go to Trump and Jared Kushner and say: We can’t do this again. And I think – I think that is what will happen here. I think as – you know, as we were saying, this is not – this can’t happen again. There’s actually talk that you would actually pass legislation now making it illegal for another government shutdown to happen. It’s not going to happen, you know, maybe in the next two weeks, but I can see that coming. I just don’t think there’s the – there’s no political – there’s no political good that will come out of this for President Trump to do this again.
MR. COSTA: Well, so let’s say there’s not another shutdown, that maybe there’s an agreement. Jared Kushner kept talking about a big deal, something that included DACA protections, like Vice President Pence was talking about with Margaret last Sunday, maybe even adjusting green card policies. Is that real, Jeff, the idea of an immigration deal in mid-February now that the government’s reopened?
MR. ZELENY: It is very hard for me to get my mind around a big immigration deal. I mean, we’ve all watched when – you know, when President Bush was in office. And that was, you know, the driving force of that Republican Party orthodoxy at the time, was to get a deal. If they couldn’t do it then, I do not see how suddenly this becomes something that happens. Now, we don’t like to rule anything out, because this president is nothing if not flexible. And again, he does, I think, want to make a deal. He loves the press coverage when he sees himself getting a deal. He hates this press coverage. He’s saying that it wasn’t a concession, he didn’t cave. Well, he did cave. So watch his reaction in the coming days as he watches this all be picked apart. All that said, I can’t really see a big immigration deal coming out of this. The right flank of the party is just not there.
MS. BUMILLER: They go crazy, yeah.
MS. ALCINDOR: I’ve been in meetings after meetings with Vice President Pence and Secretary Nielsen. And they’ve been basically floating this idea: As soon as the government is reopened, we’re going to have a big immigration bill. Well, I put the question to Vice President Pence, why should immigrants trust you if the president’s said that some of these Haitians and Nigerians are from S-hole countries. He said that Haitians, wrongly, brought AIDS to the United States. How can people trust you? And he said, well, I would take issue with the way that you’re characterizing the president’s statements. But all my immigration sources, including advocates, they say this president just isn’t credible on immigration. We don’t trust him not to deport large swaths of people if he gets the opportunity. So I’m with Jeff, in that I can’t imagine a big immigration package happening anytime soon.
MR. COSTA: We’ll be tracking it all. But let’s turn to that story that broke before dawn, the arrest and indictment of long-time Trump ally Roger Stone on charges related to the special counsel’s investigation. The FBI arrested Stone at his Florida home. The seven-count indictment includes one count of obstruction, five counts of false statements, and one count of witness tampering. According to the indictment, Stone lied to Congress and obstructed its investigation. After a brief court appearance before a federal judge, Stone said this:
ROGER STONE: (From video.) I will plead not guilty to these charges. I will defeat them in court. I believe this is a politically motivated investigation.
MR. COSTA: The indictment mentions contacts Stone had with senior Trump campaign officials about the release of Democratic National Committee emails during the 2016 election. Margaret, when you think about Roger Stone, the connection here to the Trump campaign, how important is it for the Mueller investigation and, perhaps, for President Trump, this mention of the Trump campaign contact?
MS. BRENNAN: Hugely, because it shows that there’s the connection that the White House has denied. And for a while, the president’s attorney – public attorney, at least – Rudy Giuliani denied, though he has opened up this idea now that they can’t say definitively that no one within the campaign had contact.
The thing that is also interesting here is in the indictment, when you read through it, the frequent mentions of email, text, different forms of contact, trying to establish timing and the content of these releases is so interesting because what did we learn back in 2017? That the U.S. intelligence community assessed with high confidence that the source of the WikiLeaks material which was so damaging came from Russian military intelligence, from the GRU. So you are starting to see that – those dots being connected in a certain way that leads us back to that premise that the president has dismissed out of hand that Russia had anything at all to do with his campaign. Now you do see some connection.
MR. COSTA: You oversee the investigations in D.C., at the D.C. bureau. When you look at this, is this – is it hard for us to see the whole picture from this indictment?
MS. BUMILLER: Well, here’s what is most interesting to us in this indictment, is on page – it’s on page four item 12, where it says, in passive voice, that a senior – a top Trump campaign official was directed to tell Roger Stone to get in touch with WikiLeaks to find out what they had. Now, there weren’t that many people in that orbit at that point. This is the summer of 2016. So they leave open the possibility – or there’s the suggestion, perhaps – that that – that the top – the only person who would have directed a top campaign official is potentially the president. And – but they do it in this very strange way.
But bear in mind that just because a top Trump campaign official was telling Roger Stone to reach out to WikiLeaks and get some stolen emails, that’s not conspiracy. It’s not clear – that’s not a crime. But what the indictment does establish is, you know, very strong links between – as Margaret said – between the Trump campaign in the summer of 2016 and WikiLeaks. And they were working in parallel ways.
MR. ZELENY: You’re absolutely right, the – was directed. I mean, if – the Trump campaign, as we all know, was very small. It was run – the president, at the time – Donald J. Trump – was involved in most of the decisions. It was run out of his office. So we do not know if he was directing him. But the big question is, all along the way I remember campaign officials saying, gosh, they wish Roger Stone and other sort of hangers-on and old friends wouldn’t spend so much time on the phone with Donald Trump because they didn’t necessarily like those conversations, so how – it’s hard to imagine that candidate Trump then was not talking a lot to Roger Stone. You’ve written about this extensively, about how – you know, the late-night phone calls and things. So that is the question here. But you’re absolutely right, the passive voice of “was directed” is fascinating.
So this is a building block. We don’t know exactly what this means. But if you piece all these Friday indictments together, it leads to something, but we’re just not there yet. And it sends a signal to me that we’re not necessarily even close to being there, that Bob Mueller still has some work to do.
MS. ALCINDOR: “Was directed” stuck out to me, but also there is this part in the indictment that says after they – after WikiLeaks released John Podesta’s emails someone from the campaign texted “well done.” For over and over again, when I – when I’ve watched people get indicted, I’m also taken back by how much they didn’t try to hide what they were doing. This idea that you’re texting “well done,” you’re not encrypting it, you’re not saying something else, you’re saying our friend in the embassy when we all know who’s living in an embassy. So I think what we’re seeing here is not only is there going to be a paper trail and a timeline, but that people could also have just been sloppy.
MR. COSTA: That’s a good point. When you think about Roger Stone, who is he? I mean, he’s this character with the Nixon – (laughter) – gestures today.
MS. BRENNAN: And the tattoo.
MR. COSTA: And the tattoo on his back of Richard Nixon. He’s been around politics for decades. Why does he matter? Who is he?
MS. BRENNAN: It is – one of the comments Speaker Pelosi said today I thought was so understated but – well, it’s so interesting who the president surrounds himself with. He’s a character in a very real sense, as you described: the tattoo, the Nixon references. Apparently he was 16 years old, as the Nixon Library tweeted out today to clarify that he wasn’t, you know, having a hand in that presidency in the way that he perhaps has played off publicly to – you know, as he calls himself a dirty trickster, right? This goes beyond just, you know, typical bad politics or, you know, opposition research, what we’re describing here. So he as a character almost seems cartoonish, but these are very serious things being laid out in this indictment. And it was so extensive and so detailed in what was laid out in the public I think we’re going to be learning more and more about him.
MR. COSTA: And he has this connection to Paul Manafort, the former campaign chairman.
MS. BUMILLER: Right. Well, you know, back in the 1980s when Ronald Reagan was president Black, Manafort, and Stone was the big deal lobbying/consulting firm in town, and they represented a lot of dictators and foreign countries. They made a lot of money, but they were – they were the big guys in town. And then they obviously split up, but – and Roger Stone has kept on going, and he turns up in every Republican administration doing something strange. One of the things that he did was he likes to play a lot of practical jokes on people, and he apparently with one of his friends put out the word that he was dead and sent out mass cards to people. This was – he thought this was hilarious.
MR. COSTA: We also had another friend – (laughter) – you’re just bringing up to mind so many Trump characters we’ve all reported on over the years. I mean, there’s more news from the Trump world this week: Michael Cohen, the longtime lawyer, is subpoenaed by the Senate Intelligence Committee. Will it be private or public, from what we can tell?
MR. ZELENY: We don’t know. He was supposed to have a public testimony before the House on February 6th or 7th, I believe. He said because of safety reasons he’s not doing that. So he is subpoenaed to the Senate; we’ll hear from him at some point. I don’t think that is supposed to be public, but I’m not certain of that, but it adds that to the fact. And Paul Manafort was in a courtroom today as well. He was dressed in a suit. His wife was at his side. He was, you know, still litigating if he lied during his plea deal. So for all the – it was interesting how Speaker Pelosi said that. For all of this, who surrounds Donald Trump has been fascinating – a lot of them indicted and other things. But this Roger Stone situation is going to lead to something more. He’s doing a lot of interviews, he’s talking a lot, and he’s in this trouble now because of all his talking not because necessarily of anything else.
MR. COSTA: Talking about what it could lead to, could it lead to a pardon from President Trump, Yamiche?
MS. ALCINDOR: Possibly. I think the moment I heard Michael Cohen’s name, the first thing I thought was this is someone who was supposed to be so loyal to the president, who sounded a lot like Roger Stone when he first got caught up, and then – when then flipped. So maybe Roger Stone might have that same fate.
MR. COSTA: We got to wrap. Thanks, everybody, for being here.
And our conversation will continue on the Washington Week Podcast. Find it on your favorite app or watch it on our website.
I’m Robert Costa. Have a great weekend, and thanks for joining us.