Is it possible for the Kurds to find common ground with Assad after the president withdraws US troops from Syria?

This is a rush transcript from "Sunday Morning Futures," December 30, 2018. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

CHARLES PAYNE, HOST: Good morning, everyone. I'm Charles Payne, in for Maria Bartiromo.

Joining us straight ahead on "Sunday Morning Futures," Texas Republican Congressman Louie Gohmert reports -- reacts, rather, to the partial government shutdown, now in its second week, this as Democrats prepare to take control of the House on Thursday. What will it take to break a very bitter stalemate?

Plus, former Justice Department prosecutor James Trusty is weighing in on the legal battle over immigration. Democrats outraged after the death of two migrant children in U.S. custody, while President Trump points to the murder of a California police officer, allegedly by an undocumented migrant, to push for that border wall.

And former State Department senior adviser Christian Whiton will join us to discuss the withdrawal of U.S. troops in Syria, the president vowing to fulfill his campaign promise by pulling troops out of the region. But how does this affect the containment policy toward Iran?

All this more, as we look ahead on "Sunday Morning Futures."

We began with the White House blaming Democrats for this partial government shutdown. The standoff over the wall funding is expected now to stretch into the new year, presenting a day one challenge for the next speaker of the House, presumably Nancy Pelosi.

Here now to talk about it, Republican Congressman from Texas Louie Gohmert, who's a member of the House Freedom Caucus and the House Judiciary Committee, where he's the vice chairman on the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security.

Representative Gohmert, thanks for joining us.

REP. LOUIE GOHMERT, R-TX: Sure, Charles.

PAYNE: It feels -- we have come a long way. We're a week into this, and I'm not sure that the American public necessarily feels an impact. But the political pressure seems to be mounting day by day.

Play out the possibilities of how this may end.

GOHMERT: Well, it's going to end at some point because there were things that had not been funded that the Democrats desperately want to fund, be it HUD and some other things.

But the truth is, there is nothing more important than the nation's security. It's our number one job in the U.S. Congress, keeping America safe. And when you have people that are here legally from Mexico, from Central America saying, get the wall where we need it, secure the border, you have got to make this country safe, I don't know why they're not being listened to.

And when you hear Democrats saying, oh, no, it's immoral to have a wall, and they say that while they're living behind a wall around their house -- this is like President Obama -- I read his new home has a 10-foot wall around it. Walls matter.

They do make a difference. And this isn't like the Iron Curtain that kept people in to deal with what Natan Sharansky called a fear society. If we're going to have a free society, it's got to be protected.

And Randy Weber said that he saw a bumper sticker in Houston that said, heaven has walls, pearly gates and a strict immigration policy. Hell has no borders, no walls, and no immigration party -- policy.

PAYNE: Right.

GOHMERT: There's something to that, Charles.


PAYNE: There is something to it, but let me jump in for a second.


PAYNE: Let me just jump in for a second, though...

GOHMERT: Yes. Sure, of course. It's your show.

PAYNE: ... because I think that the Democrats, again, playing the political -- playing the game of politics, understand what you're saying.

I mean, I think, if they don't have a wall, they certainly lock their doors at night. So they have tried to sort of make it a game of semantics, OK, maybe not a wall, but -- quote, unquote -- "security." I think that means drones and other things like that.

I mean, is that a viable alternative in your mind?

GOHMERT: Well, Janet Napolitano spoke for the Democratic Party while she was secretary of homeland security. We had appropriated billions of dollars, much of which was supposed to be a virtual wall, the drones, the - - all of this security cameras and all that.

And she ended up ruling that that wasn't a legitimate use of the money and she nullified what we appropriated money to do. Now, there was escape provision in case she felt like it was better spent elsewhere. But the fact is, she declared that wasn't a proper use of the money.

So this is total hypocrisy for Democrats to come along now, after they squandered that money -- we haven't been able to find out where -- and say, oh, no, this would be where we put it now. No, we played that game before.

PAYNE: Right.

GOHMERT: When we got you the money, you didn't use it for that.

We have got to have a tangible wall where we need it. And, as Secretary Nielsen has pointed out, when we have a wall, over 95 percent of the illegal immigration in that area stops. That is important.

But when we look at whether this thing is -- the shutdown, how long before it ends, you look at each party's priority. And I loved Justice Scalia. I was having lunch with him one day, and he said -- and I don't remember who the attorney general was, but when he worked for me, he came in one day and he said, hey, I heard a great definition for the difference between Democrats and Republicans.

He said, Democrats want to control everything and everybody, and Republicans don't want them to.

Now, when you're plotting a strategy like that, it's more of the defense than anything to another party that wants to control people's lives, think they're not smart enough. So we have got our work cut out for us, but it's more defensive from here.

PAYNE: Is there a chance -- Representative Gohmert, let me...


PAYNE: Is there a chance for perhaps a grander compromise?

A week or so ago, there was talk of maybe the Republicans coming down a little bit, the White House coming down from its $5 billion number, and the Democrats going up.


PAYNE: But what about a grander compromise? Maybe the reintroduction of DACA, the offer that President Trump -- I thought was an amazingly -- amazing offer, amazingly generous with respect to what he campaigned on, coming back with something for greater funding for the wall, greater funding for DACA, maybe some immigration policy adjustments?

Because we saw the tragic death of police officer Singh in California. Could this be a chance to take it in a different direction and finally to deliver to the American people on a solution, so that we don't have to deal with this anymore?

GOHMERT: Yes. Well, we're going to have to keep dealing with it until we do have the border secure.

Any offer of amnesty before the border is secure, our Border Patrol men made clear day after day, you guys talk about even legality, amnesty, anything of that nature, Charles, it is a shiny object. It's an attraction that draws thousands and thousands more every day.

And so we need to secure the border, and then we can work these things out. But like you said, the president bent over backwards to try to negotiate, and he was slapped back for it. And I do think this president is and will prove himself to be the best negotiator we have had at least in my lifetime.

And it helps if people think he's a little bit crazy. You get better deals that way. But he made that offer.

PAYNE: Right.

GOHMERT: But I'm telling you, in states like Texas, if you do an amnesty before the border is secure, you can say goodbye to Republicans winning elections in those states ever again. And there goes the country.

PAYNE: OK. We have got less than a minute to go, so I do want to ask...

GOHMERT: So, it's serious, deadly serious.

PAYNE: I do want to ask you, Representative Gohmert, do you believe, then, ultimately, the Democrats will cave and they will come through with some additional funding where they are right now for this border wall?

GOHMERT: Well, with Nancy Pelosi expected to be speaker -- and she's in Hawaii -- most of us have been on alert ready to run back to Washington at a moment's notice.

But as long as she's in Chicago, the -- I mean, Hawaii -- the odds are zero. Once she gets back, then I'm hoping that some grander scheme can be worked out, a compromise worked out.

You can compromise on numbers. That's something that's compromisable. But when you are asked to compromise on principles that include the security of the country, more precious officers being killed, more children being lured into their deaths, I mean, that's something -- we really need to stand up for those live that are being lost...

PAYNE: Right.

GOHMERT: ... both legal Americans here and illegal Americans being attracted into their death.

It's time to protect this attractive nuisance, as what's called in legal realm, like a swimming pool. If a child comes in, falls in your pool and dies from drowning, every state has laws that said that land owner is going to likely be held accountable.

PAYNE: Right.

GOHMERT: And so the Democrats need to understand this is on them.

PAYNE: Yes. It's a -- we have had three tragedies in the last week that all point to...

GOHMERT: Yes, we have.

PAYNE: ... the desperate need to finally...

GOHMERT: And that won't be the last.

PAYNE: ... finally find a solution for this.

And, of course, it won't be the last, for sure.

Thank you very much, sir. I always appreciate it. Merry Christmas and happy new year. See you soon.

GOHMERT: Charles, love talking to you. Thank you.

PAYNE: And new concerns on Capitol Hill about the mounting legal issues surrounding our immigration policies.

As Democrats demand an explanation into the deaths of two migrant children at the border, is Congress prepared to take action in 2019?

Stay ahead -- we take a look ahead, this on "Sunday Morning Futures."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) PAYNE: So, as the president squabbles with Democrats over funding for his proposed border wall, legal issues regarding illegal border crossings are rising.

Senate Democrats are calling for a hearing into the deaths of two Guatemalan children who died while in custody of Customs and Border Patrol Protection, this as President Trump sites the killing of a California police officer, allegedly by an undocumented immigrant, to further push for border wall funding.

Let's bring it former Justice Department prosecutor James Trusty. He's also a partner at Ifrah Law.

James, obviously, some -- a lot of tragedy surrounding this issue and the mounting legal issues that also are beginning to reverberate. Explain to the audience where we are from a legal standpoint, as Congress hopefully can cut a deal with President Trump.

JAMES TRUSTY, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, Congress is talking about having some enhanced scrutiny of Border Patrol to emphasize their look at the death of these two children.

I don't have a problem with that concept. I also don't leap to the conclusion that Border Patrol is just heartlessly standing by and letting children die. So I suspect that there's at least room for some sort of lawmaking, some sort of compromise where people get together and speak rationally, not just emotionally or on anecdotes, and say, what can we do to fix this entire system?

There's a lot of stuff that's broken. But if there are small standard operating procedures that can be tinkered with to allow for the better safety of people in caravans, then I think Border Patrol would probably welcome that, as long as it doesn't affect their safety.

So, small things can be done, but big things need to be done about asylum, about the processing time, about the resources that go in, all at the same time trying to protect the safety of American citizens and American Border Patrol.

PAYNE: Some are saying that the checklist, perhaps, on determining the health of asylum seekers or anyone else who's caught at the border, maybe there needs to be some adjustments, particularly as it pertains to children.

I mean, again, if you give a child a check, if you check, say, OK, they -- the children are in pretty good health, and then not too long thereafter, they pass away, that's going to heighten the sort of anxiety out there, wouldn't it?

TRUSTY: Yes, it's a difficult situation.

I mean, part of it, again, is just resource-driven. You have got giant hordes of people coming across. You have cultural and language barriers. And then you have folks that might have been healthy at the beginning of their journey that are coming to the U.S. after weeks or months of travel.

So there's a lot of operational difficulties that make this a challenge. I know, at least in one of the two children's cases, there was hospitalization and clearance. And so even the best doctors sometimes are not going to see just how severe the problem is.

But, again, if there's ways to tinker with the checklist and make things a little bit safer, I think everyone reasonably should welcome that.

PAYNE: James, in your mind, of all the things -- because you mentioned a myriad of issues or problems that must be addressed. What's the number one, with a sense of urgency, that we should be tackling right now?

TRUSTY: Well, let me put it to you this way.

If you have been to an airport and you travel internationally, and you get in line to come back home, and you may sit in line for an hour, you're filling out forms, you're showing your identification multiple times.

And nothing would be more aggravating and doing all that and then watching a lane open up where 500 people just blow past you without any identification. So, we need to find a way to make lawful integration smoother, more efficient, have the resources devoted to it to make it happen, while shutting back on kind of the unfair line-jumping of being an illegal immigrant.

No matter how sympathetic the basis may be, no matter how tragic the lifestyle might be in Central America, it doesn't really make it right compared to the other folks that are trying to do everything right to get into the country.

PAYNE: Yes. And there's no doubt that I think, more recently in America - - maybe it's the fault of the media -- but there's been a lot of conflating on what are legitimate reasons to come here, seeking asylum, vs. just leaving a country because there are no economic opportunities.


And let me just say, if I lived in El Salvador of my three daughters, I bet you dollars to doughnuts I would be trying to get up here, too. And it's got a very high murder rate, one of the highest murder rates in the Western Hemisphere, if not the highest. It has economic problems. It has gang problems.

And so when you really kind of play the percentages as a parent, it makes sense to try to get to the U.S. But, at least originally, the idea of asylum was based on persecution by the government. That's been stretched to include things like domestic violence or gang violence.

And that's where it's tough, because there's a lot of very sympathetic stories, along with the unsympathetic stories, that come from illegal immigration.

PAYNE: Yes, well, there's some people who live in America who may want to be able to flee their own neighborhoods because of those definitions and seek perhaps some better opportunities.

But -- so this issue has been around for a long time. It's getting worse, not better. Because of the political infighting, do you, from your vantage point, see where there's an opportunity at this very moment maybe to get some real concrete solutions in place?

TRUSTY: Well, there's an opportunity. It really comes down to the good faith of politicians.

And I don't want to put a whole lot of money on that bet. What I'm concerned about is that, when you have congressional hearings that either focus on the horrific tragedy of Corporal Singh or on the tragedy of the two children, that it becomes kind of "Spartacus" moments for politicians, where they want to stand up and show posters and announce how compassionate they are compared to everyone else.

I would rather see some sort of joint group come together, with law enforcement participation, and figure out, what are the most pressing problems with asylum, with illegal alien crossing? And, again, the big picture, human trafficking and human smuggling is killing an awful lot of people. And that's something that deserves a lot more focus than it gets.

People in trucks in the boiling sun or being left in the desert by coyotes, I mean, there's a lot of room for focus there that we haven't had.

PAYNE: James Trusty, thank you very much. Always appreciate it. Thanks.

TRUSTY: Sure. Thanks, Charles.

PAYNE: And a new report rising -- raising questions about whether former Trump attorney Michael Cohen's alleged contacts with Russian officials during 2016 -- really, the question now is, what does this all mean from the Mueller investigation as it moves forward?

All this as we look ahead on "Sunday Morning Futures."


PAYNE: Well, there's some new developments in special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation.

A recent report is raising questions about President Trump's former lawyer Michael Cohen. McClatchy reporting that Cohen's cell phone was detected near Prague in the summer of 2016, supporting claims that Cohen met secretly were Russian officials there.

Cohen tweeted a denial hours after the story was published, saying -- quote -- "I hear Prague, Czech Republic, is beautiful in the summertime. I wouldn't know, as I have never been. Mueller knows everything!"

We're back now with former DOJ prosecutor James Trusty.

James, you were so good, we had to bring you back.


TRUSTY: How you been, Charles?


PAYNE: What do you make of this? This saga, particularly as it pertains to Michael Cohen, is just -- it's just -- it's -- no one knows what to believe anymore.

I doubt very many Americans believe much when -- with respect to Cohen, but how does this change, maybe, the dynamics of the Mueller investigation?

TRUSTY: Well, I'll tell you, you're putting your -- putting your finger right on the problem, which is Mr. Cohen.

Everything about Mr. Cohen, from that sentencing memo that was filed in Manhattan the other day, screams liar. So he's not a particularly reliable source for anything. I think it's interesting that he didn't get credit under a 5K motion, which is the typical vehicle for giving him credit for cooperation.

They said he had not come clean on all of his own dirt. And so one -- you have to wonder a little bit, is this part of that equation? Is there something where they felt very confident that he was attached to that phone near Prague, and that they therefore didn't give him the full credit for cooperation?

But the bottom line is, I'm a big fan of admissible evidence, not just conjecture, not just anonymous sources, citing foreign intelligence authorities for some small proposition. So I think the issue is going to be how much of this actually sees daylight, either in a courtroom, which I'm kind of doubting, or in some sort of report.

And that's what I think the White House has to be fearful of, which is a report that doesn't really go through the process of making evidence admissible or reliable or even determining credibility, but just throws out every bit of fact from every bit of source they can find in a pretty compelling and bad narrative.

PAYNE: Is that your assessment, from the outside looking in, to what we're at least hearing and getting from the Mueller investigation so far?

TRUSTY: Yes, I mean, look, I'm as far outside as everyone. I mean, we're kind of guessing from what we see procedurally.

But you do see the sentencings taking place for various people that cooperated or partially cooperated. That tends to show that this -- that this investigation is winding down. You're starting to hear bits and pieces of litigation from the grand jury side making daylight too.

But I think we're heading towards an endgame. And I think there's a good chance that it's not going to be something where the president's indicted - - he was a subject after all -- but where there could be a report that could be used for political purposes that's pretty damning, depending on how they write it.

PAYNE: Yes, it's interesting, because you mentioned the sentencing memo.

The Southern District had 35, 36 pages of scathing, I mean, just scathing - - their animosity towards Michael Cohen was -- they wore it right on their sleeves. They were pretty upset, to your point, that he didn't cooperate, that he lied, whereas Mueller seemed -- it felt like maybe there was a different interpretation.

And, again, that led to the media jumping more on the Mueller interpretation of whether or not Michael Cohen was trustworthy and honest and really had cooperated with respect to the Southern District, which seemed pretty clear that this guy -- throw the book at him, because he's a liar and he doesn't serve anyone well.

TRUSTY: Well, it was interesting. The Southern District said, he's a liar, he's a terrible human being, with all these things he's done, of either being dishonest or being a bully, being a bag man.

But then they did kind of grudgingly say, he should probably get a little bit of credit for cooperation. They invited the judge to go a little below the 42-month guideline.

So I'm not sure that the two sides are all that far apart. The Mueller case was a much smaller potato case in terms of what the exposure was for Mr. Cohen, so they were kind of necessarily in a backseat to Manhattan.

But I think it's interesting. I'm not sure they were that far apart.

PAYNE: Right.

TRUSTY: I just think that the Southern District memo didn't warm up to the memo that Mr. Cohen's attorney had files.

PAYNE: It's interesting you say, from Mueller, it was smaller potatoes, because you wouldn't get -- you wouldn't get that interpretation from reading a newspaper, from reading a headline, from watching the media. This is President Trump's personal attorney. He knew everything.

This is the end, I mean, the -- scathing, dramatic headlines and the panels, 50 people on a panel, every one of them throwing daggers. This is the end.

You certainly wouldn't have got that interpretation from the way the media looked at this whole thing.

TRUSTY: Well, there's a little bit of hysteria.

I think I heard Greg Gutfeld say the other night that everything with Trump is measured in dog years...


TRUSTY: ... where he packs seven years of activity into one year.

And that's kind of how it feels on the news cycle. There's so much coming out.


TRUSTY: There's so much emotionality to it, that people kind of lose track of actually looking at it analytically or legally.

And I think, if you do that, you can kind of step back and realize that Trump was a subject. He's probably not going to get indicted. There may be people close to him that are. There may be a report that's very damning, but we have to wait and see.

This is a probe that hasn't been leaking its business. So we have to be a little bit more patient than we tend to be in this kind of world.

PAYNE: Right. It hasn't been leaking, but it's gone off for a couple years.

And what we have seen doesn't point to collusion. And you have to say to yourself, again, getting back to Washington, D.C., and the idea, do you go after President Trump on potential campaign finance violations, where other presidents -- presidents, including President Obama, simply paid a fine?

It seems like a tall order right now.

James, I will give you the last word.

TRUSTY: No, look, that's a good point. And that raises another question, which is, Southern District of New York, when they talked about Cohen, they made it clear that they view the president, at least in their filing, as having some potential culpability as well.

But these are not interesting -- not easy areas of law for prosecutors to establish the willful intent when it comes to campaign finance fraud. So there's a lot that's on the table for prosecutors to sift through. I'm not convinced that the president is going to get indicted. But that doesn't mean it's a good day for him as these probes wind up.

So we will have to wait and see.

PAYNE: All right, James Trusty, again, thank you very much. We will see you soon.

TRUSTY: Sure. Good seeing you.

PAYNE: And more than a week after President Trump announced that he would withdraw U.S. troops from Syria, lawmakers are still concerned about the consequences it may have in the Middle East.

So we're going to examine those potential consequences and impact in the region, as we look ahead on "Sunday Morning Futures."


PAYNE: Concerns are mounting over President Trump's decision to withdraw American troops from Syria.

A U.S. presence in that war-torn country has served as an obstacle to Iranian -- Iran's President Hassan Rouhani, who has been the focus on his country's -- he's been focusing really, we know, on expanding the influence throughout the region, particularly Syria.

Experts are saying that the removal of U.S. troops makes the goal of rolling back Iran's influence in the region more difficult, even as the Trump administration pushes forward on imposing sanctions against Iran.

Joining us now, Christian Whiton, former State Department senior adviser and Trump and George W. Bush -- in both those administrations.

Christian, it's a complicated situation, obviously, in the sense that President Trump ran on pulling us out of these -- out of the Middle East. He ran on defeating ISIS. We know ISIS really has been largely defeated in these areas like Raqqa. And some of these other strongholds are gone.

So it's a complicated situation. How do you see it going forward? And is this an opening for Iran?


Actually, the job we were doing in Syria, which is completely killing ISIS as an entity that's able to hold land, to govern territory, to constitute a real military, and by fighting those jihadists, we were actually, in a sense, making life easier for Iran in Syria.

Iran is aligned with Assad, the dictator. And by basically containing the jihadists, it made it easier for Assad to consolidate the control over the areas that are under his control. So removing these 2,000 forces doesn't really change that much on the ground, as far as Iran is concerned, in Syria.

PAYNE: You know, when I look at the images of these cities -- or former cities -- in Syria, the rubble, the rubble, they're just nothing but hollowed-out shells of rubble.

And you say our presence there didn't necessarily stop that from happening, didn't stop the gassing of children from happening. And you would have to wonder. I know one of the central issues, particularly for conservatives, are the Kurds. How do we protect the Kurds, who have fought valiantly by our side?

WHITON: Well, the Kurds are good at realpolitik themselves, and they are finding common ground with Assad.

Assad is a horrible person. He's a murderer. But in the same way we were able to, frankly , put our differences aside with, for example, Spanish dictator Franco, a fascist who nonetheless was welcomed into NATO during the Cold War, we may find some common ground or at least ability to -- some silver lining, if you will, to Assad gaining control of more and more land, bringing an end to a war that has killed more than 300,000 people.

Our objective was never to take down Assad. Obama said, he must go, but then they never did anything about it. And that was never our choice to make. If we could turn Syria into Beverly Hills, if we could sever Iran's land connection with Lebanon, make it harder for them to supply Hezbollah, that would be good, that would help Israel.

But those are really hard things to do. They would require a much larger, more massive war. And Israel is actually able to manage its defense by striking in Syria as necessary when very urgent threats arise.

PAYNE: But there are reports that Erdogan may be building forces right on the edge of Kurd territory, Kurdish territory. And that's going to put us in a predicament if he makes a move on them.

WHITON: Yes, but the fact is, of all of the parts, of all of the neoconservative objectives that have sprung up recently in Syria, the United States' support for an independent Kurdish state in Syria is one that has never been, to my knowledge, run by the president, never certainly run by Capitol Hill.

I don't know of a single hearing. We created a Kurdish state, de facto, in Northern Iraq. To create another one in Syria that will very much irritate our Turkish allies, who are also fair-weather friends, but nonetheless allies, this is just a complication. This is something we never signed up for.

I'm sorry if some generals made promises to the Kurd that they didn't have the authority to offer. But these people, I believe, will find a political solution, perhaps in league with Assad. It's not our job to create another Kurdistan in Syria.

PAYNE: You mentioned the neoconservatives, or the neocons. And, really, to me, when the -- with the resignation of General Mattis, it felt like they thought that was their moment to reassert that we should have troops in Afghanistan, troops in Syria, that we should have people in harm's way.

And I'm going to get a little personal here, but today would have been my father's 75th birthday, Christian. When he came back from the Vietnam War, he was never the same, never the same human being. And he wouldn't have died perhaps 20 years too soon if it hadn't been for that.

Are they considering that the American public may not want to have our best young men and women in Syria or thousands and thousands of troops in a war in Afghanistan that, obviously, we won't win? I mean, do they consider the human ramifications at all?

WHITON: I don't think so.

And if you look at their willingness to send other people's children into war, the mortality, the killed-in-action numbers are not as big as they were in previous wars, but for every one person killed -- obviously, that is a huge cost -- there are 10 other people perhaps maimed for life.

And then the psychological scars. We lose 20 veterans, 20 veterans a day to suicide. That is skewed heavily toward younger veterans who have fought in these recent wars. Been in Afghanistan 17 years. I don't know what we're going to accomplish in another year or two that we haven't accomplished and 17 years.

One interesting statistic, next year, if we're still there, you may have the case where someone who wasn't even born on 9/11 goes to serve in Afghanistan, and they have a father or mother who served, same country, same war. We have been there that long.

As for the neoconservatives, they're terrible -- terrible about politics, both here and abroad. If they were good at politics abroad, they would know the best way to fight Iran is politically by encouraging dissent within that country, not by putting forces in Afghanistan and Syria.

And, domestically, they don't understand how horrendously unpopular their policies are. If you poll the American public, should we go up in Afghanistan or down, 2-1 people want fewer troops there. About 25 percent of Americans think we aren't winning.

PAYNE: All right.

WHITON: And only 15 percent think we have a clear strategy in Afghanistan.


Well, it's -- we know it's difficult. We know it's tough. And the reality is sometimes not what we want it to be. You clearly pointed that out.

Christian, always great to have these conversations with you. We will see you again real soon. Happy new year.

WHITON: Happy new year, Charles. Thanks.

PAYNE: Well, it's day nine of the partial government shutdown, as the White House and congressional Democrats are no closer to reaching a new deal.

So, who gets the blame, as hundreds of thousands of federal workers are furloughed or working without pay?

That's next, as we look ahead on "Sunday Morning Futures."


PAYNE: President Trump pointing the finger at Democrats as we enter day nine of the partial government shutdown.

The White House accusing the lawmakers of abandoning shutdown negotiations, pending the arrival of a new Congress this Thursday, when Democrats take control of the House -- all of this setting up an early challenge for likely Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, who will need to work with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell if she wants to swiftly reopen this government.

I want to bring it Ed Rollins, former campaign manager for President Reagan's 1984 campaign, and Alfonse D'Amato, former Republican senator from New York.

Gentlemen, thank you both.


PAYNE: Senator, let me start with you.

It's an amazing game of chicken going on that we're watching on full -- full display here. Both sides have buckled in, although President Trump, to his credit, didn't go on vacation. He stayed in Washington. And it feels like he has been trying to reach out to his -- to his colleagues on the other side of the aisle.

AL D'AMATO, CONTRIBUTOR: Thank God he stayed in Washington. That's the one good thing he's done.

I think, number two, he's right about border security, but I think he's missed an essential ingredient. And the Republican Party has, the Republican leadership. The biggest problem you have -- and I'm for the wall -- is catch and release. This is the most absurd program.

And most Americans -- or many of them -- don't really realize what it is. And these -- And when someone comes over illegally, they're here, because what happens? They're brought to a detention center, and they are basically released.

And many, many, many of them...

PAYNE: President Trump has talked about this on several occasions.

D'AMATO: On several occasions, but he hasn't explained that what you're doing is encouraging people to come over illegally, and that many of them never return.

And that's why you had the recent incident with the police officer who was killed. This guy never should have been here. And when he was caught, he should have been deported. What you say is, come on over illegally and you can stay here, as opposed to getting online, making your application from the country that you're trying to come to.

That's the big key. And now the president cannot and shouldn't back down unless he gets sufficient funds for the wall. But we have not handled this well. We have not educated the American public. Most of them have a faint idea about what catch and release is. That's legislation. That doesn't cost any money.

And it makes sense.

PAYNE: Well, Americans do understand, though, the lure of sanctuary cities. They do know our immigration system is broken. People are brokenhearted about this police officer who was murdered.

And, of course, the irony of it, right? You have someone who longed to come to America, waited his turn, got here legally, volunteered for the police department, became a police officer, and was killed by someone who cut the line, was a gangbanger, and allegedly.

So, it's scary stuff.

ROLLINS: Well, it's very scary stuff.

And, obviously, the vast majority of people don't -- no matter what the president said or anybody else has, don't understand the problems. The amnesty, all they have to do is come across and say, I want amnesty. They give him a ticket. They say, all right, come to back to court in seven months or eight months or four years from now. Who knows.

PAYNE: But the Democrats in Washington, D.C., understand this problem. Why -- what are they doing to...

ROLLINS: Because...

PAYNE: Why are they -- why are they being such obstructionists, then, if they understand the root of this problem?

ROLLINS: Both President Bush and President Obama wanted an amnesty program. Both had majorities of their own party and couldn't get it through.

And the problem is, one side wants to security, as we do, the Republicans. One side wants easier access. The critical thing here is, one week from today, we will know what's happening here. One week from today, we will either have a deal on the budget, or the president will have vetoed the deal.

Certainly, the Democrats, under Pelosi's leadership, and Mitch McConnell will have something on his desk by the end of the week. And if he vetoes it, then you got a long, hard battle. And, at the end of the day, you got to figure out what the game plan is.

This president can't just run for reelection from the get-go. He's got to basically do some governing here to bring back some of threat voters that he lost. This was a terrible election for us -- 42 -- 40-vote margin to the Democrats at this point in time, Senate seats we should have picked up.

And at the end of the day here, if we don't get some of those women voters back to us, you're not going to ever have a chance of winning reelection.

PAYNE: Well, right now, to the point you -- both you are alluding to, is that the polling.

I think there's a poll out, Reuters/Ipsos, says 47 percent right now currently blame President Trump for the shutdown, 33 percent Dems, congressional Dems. Ironically, only 7 percent are blaming Republicans in Congress for this.

So it seems like de facto battle between President Trump and Nancy Pelosi, Senator D'Amato.

Does she govern by the polls, thinking she's winning this from a P.R. point of view, or can she come through and try to find some solutions? And, by the way, can we have a grand bargain? Because it feels like, instead of maybe squabbling over the $5 billion, President Trump made a DACA offer that was amazing.

I don't know, Ed, if you think that's amnesty or not, but he made an amazing DACA offer. Bring that back. Get full funding for the wall. Take care of both of these things with one stroke and move on.

D'AMATO: Yes, you really haven't.

DACA is good. He should take it. The American people are in favor of it. It makes sense. But let me tell you, unless you deal with catch and release, the border wall is going into little, because you can't get it built...

PAYNE: How do we deal with that legislatively?

D'AMATO: It's easy.

What you say is that, if you come to this country illegally, you go back to where you came from.

PAYNE: But there are loopholes. How do we close the loopholes?

D'AMATO: You pass legislation to do that.

PAYNE: Right.

You need both parties to do that.

D'AMATO: That's right.


D'AMATO: And if you really instructed the American people as to how you would save, what you would -- eliminate this catch and release people, people who turn out to be criminals, people, some of them, who are criminals.

PAYNE: Sure. But you don't think that can happen?

ROLLINS: I was in the White House. I was the White House political director in 1986, when the last one was done. I was very involved in the negotiation.

Took us five years to get that bill, five years. And Ronald Reagan finally said, make it happen, make it happen.

The votes are not there today to make it happen. And the bottom line here, we want security. They want basically more access. And until you have some comprehensive plan here, you're not going to get it.

PAYNE: But this is not going to go on forever, so how -- handicap how we come to a solution.


ROLLINS: Well, it's not going to -- it's certainly not going to be solved the next two years.

My sense is, there are a lot of other things that need to happen. And the only problem with DACA is, you create a two-system -- in which you let the young people in, but the people who brought them in here, their parents, don't get the right of citizenship.

So it's a comprehensive thing. You have got to look at both the security side, which Democrats have never basically given up, including '86. They promised security. They promised the endgame.

PAYNE: Sure.

ROLLINS: And they didn't live up to it.

PAYNE: We all remember that.

ROLLINS: So my sense is, you are just not going to get it at this point.

D'AMATO: Ed is right. And there's one other ingredient.

And that is, Nancy Pelosi is not going to take on the new Democrats who have just come on, many of whom want open borders. And so she's kind of in a dilemma until she becomes the speaker.

PAYNE: Right.

D'AMATO: So I don't see any quick solution to this.

And the president's got to have now the ability to stick it out. He can't just turn in.

PAYNE: Right. I got a feeling that he does.

Gentlemen, stay with us.


PAYNE: By the way folks, the markets are closing out 2018, one of the wildest rides. Since October, it has been a roller coaster of both record gains and massive slumps.

Will this continue into the new year?

That's next, as we look ahead on "Sunday Morning Futures."


PAYNE: December capping off a tough month for Wall Street, investors now weighing the impact of the trade war with China, interest rate hikes, the partial government shutdown, a myriad of things.

The Dow Jones industrial average losing 9.7 percent so far this month. Nasdaq is more than 10 percent off, and the S&P 500 down 9.9 percent.

Back with us, Ed Rollins and Al D'Amato.

And, gentlemen, it's -- I do want to state, first and foremost, that there's a bifurcation with the stock market and with the economy. The economy is going gangbusters. This last jobs report, we saw non- supervisory workers get a bigger pay raise than their supervisors, first time in four years. And it's the first time they started making money in a decade.

How critical is it, though, that, whatever the market is flashing, Senator, that it doesn't seep into this economy, as we head into 2020 for President Trump?

D'AMATO: Look, you put your finger on it.

Most people aren't aware of that. They don't really see the incredible economy moving here in the United States. And much of this has to do with the uncertainty that people see as it relates to our trade relationships with our partners.

Now, the president, let's give him credit. His people and he negotiated a terrific deal as it relates to Canada and Mexico. It's fantastic. Are we going to see it adopted, or is Nancy Pelosi going to play games, hold it up, write in provisions or seek permissions to protect foreign workers in terms of how much they're getting paid?

PAYNE: Right.

D'AMATO: A lot of nonsense.

You have got the uncertainty on the world situation, China. Now, if indeed we make a deal with China, many people do believe -- and you have mentioned this -- the Chinese economy is in trouble. They need to make a deal. We are in a much stronger position. Let's give Trump credit for that, because they have been taking advantage of us for years, stealing our own intellectual property, as well as dumping.

If that deal comes through, a deal that makes sense for the United States and China, this economy is going to demonstrate it in the stock market as well.

So I think there's a harbinger of some good things to come.

PAYNE: I think you're right. I think the market is building in a worst- case scenario that probably won't come through.

I will say this much, Ed. When we leave the studio today, we're going to have a hard time getting to our cars. It's going to be packed with people. The economic enthusiasm out there, seen so far in this shopping season, seen in the confidence numbers, seen in consumer spending, seen in corporate profits, really been phenomenal.


You see, that's what brings -- that's what brings the economy forward. And that's what about the stock market back, was the very strong members on the Christmas season.

The problem is, Washington is a different place now. It's not -- no longer Republicans -- for the first time in eight years, we don't have the House. The members that are there are going to find out, the Republican members are going to find out they're second-class citizens at best, at best.

They're not going to have anything to do with anything at this point in time. Nancy Pelosi is going to drive this agenda. Mitch McConnell doesn't have the 60 votes he -- so he has to deal from a position of weakness. And the president has to understand, he's got to do this alone. He doesn't have a Congress.

And the Republicans in the Congress need to be a -- sort of a loyal opposition, and they can't be out there doing their own thing. They have got to basically say, all right, here's what our consensus is we're going to try and do. And the president has to do things by either internationally do things, which presidents are free to do, or, as Obama did in the closing days, by executive orders.

If he does that, then he can have some play.

PAYNE: Right.

ROLLINS: If he tries to deal with the Congress, make deals, as he's trying to do at this point in time, they will crush him. They will crush him.

D'AMATO: Eddie's hit a nail on the head. And he really has.

And I want to tell you, internationally, it becomes important. We cannot - - and Mattis mentioned this, former secretary of defense. And I hate to see him go. You cannot take on your allies publicly, the way the president has been doing. It creates jitters, not only in terms of our defense, but also economically.

It's not good. So he's got to cut it out. If you're going to take them on...

PAYNE: Well, with all due respect, though...

D'AMATO: ... you take them on quietly behind the scenes.

And then, with your enemies, you seem to be embracing them.

PAYNE: But, with all due respect, it has yielded some results. Everyone said that we weren't going to get NAFTA 2.0. We got an amazing deal.

I saw all three representatives from all three countries smiling as they signed those documents. Over in Europe, NATO hasn't been paying its fair share. And these countries...

D'AMATO: If I take you on publicly about you're not paying your fair share, and I do that to 20-some odd nations, what do I sow? I sow discord.

If I take you on behind the scenes -- and, indeed, Mattis was doing that and saying to them, hey, guys you got to come up with more -- you don't do it publicly. You don't chastise them, because what you do...

PAYNE: I know statecraft is your forte, but I will say that all of that gentleman statecraft that was done for decades hasn't yield any results.

We have been complaining about NATO not paying their fair share for a long time. And what they do is, they have these meetings in these great places, with great food, and great room service, and first-class flights, and then they agree to do it again in six months. And next thing you know, a few years go by, Ed, and they haven't fixed anything.


ROLLINS: They're all going to fight for their own interests. And that's what they always have. And they have always done it better than we have.

The critical thing here, though, is, if you want this president to get reelected, again, with very serious opposition in the House today, which he has never seen before, he's got to make friends around the world. He's got to make some friends in Congress, got to make some friends in the Senate.

PAYNE: On the other side of the aisle, you're saying?

ROLLINS: Other side of the aisle, and particularly in the Senate, but...

PAYNE: Now, who would be his -- who would be President Trump's friend on the other side of the aisle?


ROLLINS: There's three -- there were 10 races in trouble this time. We have picked up three of them. So you got seven people who basically are districts that he won, states he won. He needs to go to Manchin, people like that, who should be Republicans anyways, and get three or four or five of those.

And he's going to lose a couple of his own. There's a couple of ours that are going to go south on us. So you got to be very careful.

PAYNE: And what does this solve? Like, what's the ultimate reasoning...


ROLLINS: Well, the bottom line here is, you can't be fighting all the time, if that's all you're going to get. You still have -- you got a whole bunch of things coming at you, the Mueller report, all the rest of it.

The economic news will become very insignificant if he doesn't basically seem like he's governing. And he needs to basically bring back women. We lost women by an overwhelming margin this time. And if you don't get some of those women back, the numbers aren't there. You can't win.

And Republicans are going to start panicking about their own reelections.

PAYNE: All right, gentlemen, we got to leave it there. Thank you both very much.

ROLLINS: Thank you.

PAYNE: Really appreciate it. Happy new year.

ROLLINS: Thank you.

PAYNE: All right, folks, that does it for "Sunday Morning Futures."

I'm Charles Payne. It's been a pleasure trying to sub for Maria Bartiromo, big shoes to fill.

"Media Buzz" with Howard Kurtz is up next, right after this short break.

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