Quigley Joins Situation Room to Discuss Longest U.S. Government Shutdown & Fight Over Border Wall
BLITZER: Thanks very much. Joining us now Democratic Congressman Mike Quigley of Illinois. He’s a member of the House Intelligence Committee. Congressman, thanks so much for joining us.
QUIGLEY: Thank you.
BLITZER: And as you just heard, the President says he’s not quite ready to go around Congress and declare a national emergency in order to find some money for his border wall, but he’s not ruling it out. Do you believe that Congress would be able to block the President if he were to go through with this national emergency declaration?
QUIGLEY: You know, it's hard to tell how these courts will act where they come through the circuits up to the Supreme Court. I'm very concerned that one of the targets for money is emergency disaster relief. So, in other words, the President of the United States would be taking away money from people who have survived fires and hurricanes. Real victims for a perceived threat on the southern border. He would be creating victims a second time. So, it is extraordinarily hard to tell how a very unpredictable President is going to act on this matter. I’d like to think they’d give it another shot. We have done two weeks of putting bills that Senators on both parties voted for nearly unanimously just before the holidays. We'll try it again next week. Reasonable minds can agree. Remember, the government is funded by 12 bills. Five have passed. Six of the remaining seven have nothing to do with this wall. Let's pass those through the end of the fiscal year, pass a measure for Homeland Security until March, put our workers back to their vital task and have them getting paid again; and then we can resume real consideration of whatever the President is talking about.
BLITZER: You believe, Congressman, that Democrats will accept anything other than, from your perspective, total capitulation on the part of the President when it comes to his border wall?
QUIGLEY: I think we had that deal. Again, a bicameral, bipartisan deal. And in 2018 we funded the government that way. That included well over a billion dollars for border security. That money is being held over. Only about 6% has been spent. I traveled to the border in October. No one was talking to me about walls. They were talking about sensors, cameras, drones. In other words, high-tech ways to keep our border secure. We’re open to talking about that because Democrats want to secure borders as well. They just don't want to waste $5 billion on a boondoggle that simply won't accomplish the task when money can be spent on a lot of other things. There’s not a member there, who doesn’t have some issue that they care about so deeply, but none but the President said “If I don't get my way, I’m not going to support this at all. I’ll take my ball and go home. Somebody has to act like the adult in the room. I believe we already have.
BLITZER: Well, do you think it's time for the Democrats to come up with some compromise proposal that will at least provide some funding, some money for the President's wall or fence or barrier or whatever he wants to call it?
QUIGLEY: Again, when we are talking about a wall, we are talking about something that can be defeated rather easily, underneath or right over the top with a ladder.
BLITZER: What about a steel barrier?
QUIGLEY: I think the tech answer works far better. At some point in time, if we are going to spend all of this money, we have to rely on the experts; and they’re talking about thermo-imaging cameras. They are talking about additional roads along the border so they can increase apprehension. They’re talking about boats on the Rio Grande. These are real solutions. We can't play the President's game. He had a horrible quarter, right? The Mueller investigation, the midterms, a volatile market. This is a grand distraction. How much can we afford to play the President's game? If the goal is border security, we can be on the same page, but border security as a wall makes no sense whatsoever. It’s a very dangerous way because it takes vital resources from other things that keep America safe.
BLITZER: While I have you, Congressman, let me get your thoughts on the other trouble, the legal trouble, swirling around President Trump right now. His former attorney, who as you know is Michael Cohen, now set to testify before the House Oversight Committee on February 7th in open session. How much trouble could this be for President?
QUIGLEY: It’s interesting. Mr. Cohen ties the President's personal, legal, economic, and political worlds together. He once described this work with Mr. Trump as choosing darkness over light. The American public is going to be able to watch, I hope, Mr. Cohen come out of the darkness and explain to them what the real President Trump is like; and I believe and I hope that, to continue that understanding, that Mr. Cohen would be willing to come back to my Intelligence Committee and help us understand the communications with Russians and the financial flow through the Trump Administration and campaign of campaign dollars and finance dollars.
BLITZER: Yeah I know your Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff...he wants Cohen to come and testify behind closed doors. We’ll see what happens on that front. Congressman Quigley, thanks so much for joining us.