Mick Mulvaney: President Trump 'not going to not accept money for a border wall'

Mick Mulvaney, who will replace John Kelly as chief of staff, joins "This Week" to discuss the government shutdown and the president's foreign policy.
20:34 | 12/23/18

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Transcript for Mick Mulvaney: President Trump 'not going to not accept money for a border wall'
We have witnessed an extraordinary level of chaos this week, even by the standards of the past two years. A sudden troop withdrawal, a stunning resignation, a break down in negotiations, a partial government shutdown and a volatile stock market suffering its worst week since the great recession. Worst of all investigations setting in. Investigations that have hit the president's former campaign chairman, nation security and personal lawyer this week brought down the trump family foundation. With Democrats just 11 days away from taking over the house, the president needs his party's backing more than ever. There are signs that respect support is beginning to waiver. Man, have I become the ultimate outsider, right? Donald Trump campaigned on being a disrupter, proudly unpredictable, unapologetically playing by his own rules. Now those very qualities are shaking the Republican party. Reporter: Will there be a shutdown? We'll see what happens. After the white house signalled support for a bipartisan bill to keep the government open, the president suddenly reverse rejecting the plan because it did not include money for his border wall. We're going to have a shut down. There's nothing we can do about that. Dragging reluctant Republicans into a shutdown showdown. I haven't seen shutdowns ever work. I think a government shutdown is not a good option. It was the surprise resignation of defense secretary Jim Mattis over the president's abrupt decision to withdraw from Syria that prompted this loudest criticism from fellow Republicans, including a rare rebuke from senate leader Mitch Mcconnell. I'm particularly distressed that Mattis is resigning due to sharp differences with the president on these and other aspects of America's global leadership. A group of, is that rights, including four Republicans, urged the president to reconsider the Syria withdrawal calling it a costly mistake that threatens the safety and security of the United States and emboldens ISIS, Iran and Russia. After reports of the president's plans to also withdraw thousands of troops from Afghanistan, one of the president's staunchest allies in the senate issued an ominous warning. If we withdrew any time soon, you would be paving the way for a second 9/11. All this played out against a back drop of a rocky week on Wall Street. It was not only the stock market's worst week since the great recession, but also on track to be the worst December since 1931. Joining us now is Mick Mulvaney. The man just named abouting white house chief of staff. This is his first interview since getting job. He's also been at the center of the shutdown negotiations. Mr. Mulvaney, thank you for joining us. Good morning, Jon. Merry Christmas. Merry Christmas to you. Let's start with the negotiations. Where do things stand right now? The vice president and I were on the hill yesterday and before that meeting with democratic leader Mr. Schumer. Also various members of the Republican party in the house and senate. We gave them an offer late yesterday afternoon. We're waiting to hear back from them right now. What's the bottom line for the president? Is he willing to accept anything that does not include money to build a new border wall even if the Democrats are willing to give money for more border security. I'm not going to tell you what our bottom line is. It's a fair question as to what we would accept. The president is not going to not accept money for a border wall. What people call a wall and another person might call a fence. You saw the tweet with the steel -- With the spikes on the top. I didn't see any design like that. Exactly. That's what we want to build. That's what the president needs to have money for. As to what the number is, the Democrats offered us $1.6 billion a couple weeks ago. Then they offered the president $1.3 billion this week. That's a negotiation that seems like it's going in the wrong direction. We've insisted on 5. The discussions are between 1.6 and 5. I was out with the president throughout the presidential campaign. Mexico was going to pay for this wall from day one. Let me remind you what he said the day he announced he was running for president. I will build a great, great wall on our southern border. I will have Mexico pay for that wall. Mark my words. Mark his words. Now, the president has forced a government shutdown because he's insisting that American tax payers pay for that wall. What gives? If you ask the president he'll point to you immediately to something else that didn't get a lot of news which is the new u.s./mexico/canada agreement which is so much better than the nafta deal that American workers are going to do better and you could make the argument that Mexico is paying for it in that fashion. He's asking for billions of dollars from American tax payers right now. Hasn't he broken one of the central promises of his campaign. Let me finish. Another story I don't think you covered this week and I don't know why no one did is Mexico agreed for the first time in history to keep asylum seekers folks trying to get into the U.S. On the Mexican side of the border. They said folks will be in Mexican facilities. Maintained by Mexican officials. They're doing more for border security than Democrats in congress. We're in a good place getting the wall built and getting Mexico to participate in our border security. None of that is Mexico paying for the wall. Technically. You and I both know it can't work exactly like that. I can't spend any money at the office of management and budget, the department of homeland security can't spend money from Mexico. We have to get it from the treasury. I understand that. That's not how it sounded in the campaign. How do we get out of this? There's been one proposal put forward by newt Gingrich together with don graham, editor of the "Washington post." They're proposing a compromise where the president gets money for the wall and allows a path to citizenship for the dreamers. Whether you support money to build the wall or regard it as a waste, everyone knows it's of central importance for the president. He's proving he's prepared to fight for it. Why shouldn't congress take advantage of the best opportunity in years and give the dreamers the open door they deserve? Would the president be open to a grand compromise where it's amnesty for the dreamers and he gets money for his wall? I don't like the word amnesty. The president has made it very clear he's willing to discuss a larger immigration solution. The wall does not solve all our problems, a border fence does not solve all of our problems. So many laws are still broken. The reason so many people are still trying to come here is they know our laws work to their advantage if you're trying to enter the country illegal. That needs to be fixed as well in order to solve this issue of the difficulties on the southern border. We are more than willing to talk about all those things. Citizenship for the dreamers? Citizenship is one of those things that many folks in our party disagree with. I think a lot of folks in our party support some status. We're not going to negotiate here. The point is this, yes, we're more than interested in talking about larger agreements. No one has shown any interest in doing this. This shut down happens amid a brutal week on Wall Street. Look at some of the headlines. We have signs of a bear market. The worst week since the great recession. The worst month it looks like of December since the great depression. The president we've heard over and over talk about the stock market as basically a barometer of his leadership. Now that we're seeing this dramatic down turn bear some responsibility? No. The fundamentals are still strong. Ask anybody who talks about the market and they'll still tell you they still talk about the fundamentals. What are the fundamentals of the economy? Unemployment is still low. Capital investment is high. Gdp is growing at above 3%. All the things the president said his economic policies would deliver have delivered. The stock market goes up and down. We're no more happier than anybody else. Love to have a conversation with you about some of the things the fed is doing. Let's talk about that. By the way, he took credit when it was booming. You've mentioned the fed. It was a year ago the president nominated Jerome Powell to lead the fed. This is what he said at the time. Based on his record, I am confident that Jay has the wisdom and leadership to guide our economy through any challenges that our great economy may face. The fed is now led by his man who has raised interest rates again. "The New York Times" is reporting that the president has told advisers that Powell, quote, will turn me into Hoover with these rate increases. Hoover presided over the great depression. Does the president think it's potentially that bad? It's not at all unusual for a president to complain about the actions of a federal reserve chairman. Ronald Reagan is famous for it. A book just came out a few months ago where there was a passage his fed reserve was called into the chief of staff's office and said the president is telling you to lower interest rates. It shouldn't be surprising to anybody the president is not happy the fed is raising rates. We think they're driving down the value of the stock market. But Hoover? Is he worried we're on the precipice of something really bad? The fundamentals will drive the economy. They didn't have the same fundamentals back in the 1920s. I recognize the president said Hoover, but no one thinks we're going into a great depression. Does the president believe he has the authority to fire the fed chair? No. I'm sorry. We should have talked about this. I think he put out a tweet last night specifically saying he realizes he does not have the authority. We heard from secretary mnuchin and he said that. We haven't heard directly from the president. I spoke to the secretary last night about a bunch of things yay appropriations and the shut down and he mentioned it to me. I want to get to the Pentagon and Syria. You're currently still the budget chairman. You're one of the real deficit hawks, budget hawks. You're founder of the freedom caucus. How crushingly disappointing is it to you to see the deficit and spending? You had a 600 billion plus deficit in 2017. Now we're approaching a trillion dollar deficit. It's driven overwhelmingly by out of control government spending. It's hard. It really is. I have to keep reminding myself that the president's budgets, the things he and I do together, have been fiscally responsible. The budget you're going to see us put out in a couple months will continue that fiscal responsibility. I can't convince, the president can't convince congress to go along with those things. Congress spends the money. They're addicted to that spending. I was proud of the president coming out and talk about this nickel plan. Going to all the agencies and getting them to reduce their spending by 5 cents on the dollar. The president gets it. We need a willing partner on the hill. I'm worried that Democrats are coming in to control the house because they're not famous for their fiscal responsibility. Defense spending is sky rocketing. He's bragged about that. He's done nothing to talk about entitlements. Spending across the board has gone up. We should have that conversation. The last two budgets we put out have included the most aggressive reforms of mandatory spending spending, what some people call entitlements. Let's move to defense secretary Mattis. Was the president surprised when Mattis handed him that letter of resignation and did he try to change his mind, try to get him to stay? I don't know the answers to those questions. I'm going to give you an educated guess. No. I think the president knew for quite sometime that secretary Mattis and he did not share some of the same philosophies. They didn't have the same world view. You heard the president say a couple weeks ago in an interview that he recognized that Mr. Mattis -- he called him a Democrat. He recognized that Mattis had to leave the Obama administration over simil disagreements. You saw Mitch Mcconnell's response. Let's bring it up again. He's said it's regrettable that the president now must choose a new secretary of defense. I urge him to select a leader that shares secretary Mattis' understanding of these vital principles and his total commitment to American service members. We've seen other Republicans call for the president to nominate a Mattis clone. What is the bottom line for the president? Does he want a defense secretary willing to challenge him or does he want somebody that will be lock step in his views? The president wants a little bit of both. I look across the cabinet agencies and who the president thinks is doing a good job. This is how I describe it. It's folks who didn't always disagree with the president, but don't always agree with him. It's the same well I dealt with I've encouraged him to have some level of discourse. It's the same well I dealt with the budget. If I came to you and said, Mr. President, you told me to raise spending by $1 for every department, I would say I can't do. I'm not that guy. I can't see it your way. It would be the omb guy and the president don't degree. He didn't do that. He had the nickel plan to reduce. Mattis could never get on the same page. The president told people since the campaign he wanted to get out of Syria. He's entitled to have a secretary of defense to that same end. It's not just Mattis. It's Brett Mcgurk, he was top U.S. Diplomattle against ISIS. He's resigned, also to protest the president's sudden withdraw from Syria. He said in an email the recent decision by the president came as a shock and was a complete reversal of a policy articulated to us. It left coalition partners confused and our fighting partners bewildered. Any chance the president changes his mind about this? No. I think the president has told people he doesn't want us to stay in Syria forever. You're seeing the end result of two years worth of work. It's not unusual for a president to lose members of the cabinet over these types of disagreements. Chuck Hagel quit in the Obama administration over similar types of disagreements. This is why cabinet secretaries should leave. If you look at what the president responded to Mcgurk, he said he never met him. He doesn't know him. Mcgurk's title is the special presidential envoy for the global co legs coalition to battle ISIS. How is it the president doesn't know this person? You know the answer to that. The administration is thousands -- the executive branch of government. I don't know who that person is. You don't know Brett Mcgurk? It was an Obama appoint tee -- He was a Rehnquist clerk. He is a life long Republican. He is not an Obama appoint tee. This is not a Democrat. He's well-known within the folks that follow this topic. The fact that the president of the United States doesn't know him shouldn't cause concern. I want to get into this decision to withdraw from Syria. Mcgurk opposed it. Whether or not the president knows him. Mattis opposed it. Pompeo opposed. John Bolton opposed it. Anybody on the president's senior national security team in favor of this move? Jon, in all fairness I've not been heavily involved in that decision. I'm not the chief of staff yet. What little I know I wouldn't tell you on this program. I apologize. Let me ask one more question. The president is blaming in a tweet overnight the media. He's saying that the media hit me hard over this decision. They should have praised me. This is not the media. We saw Lindsey graham called it a terrible mistake. Marco Rubio called it a mistake. Lindsey graham called it a disaster on multiple fronts. Even Mike Huckabee said it's a betrayal of the courage for Syrian Christians. This is something he told people to their faces he was going to do. You ran a clip earlier about the clip of Mexico. If you had stayed with that clip, you would have seen him say we're bringing our men and women back from Syria. He's been telling people he was going to do this from the beginning. If he has tonight against the defense department to do that, that's what he's going to do. Let's talk about your new job as acting chief of staff. You'll be the third chief of staff in less than three years. Two years. How will you succeed where your predecessors failed? I think I know the president better now. Hadn't worked together very much. John Kelly didn't have much experience working with him. I've worked with him now for two years. We've had some great conversations about what a chief should do. I had a conversation with James biker, widely regarded as one of the great chiefs of staff, last week. He reminded me again, you're not the chief of the president. You're the chief of the staff. You're not going to change the way the president acts and operates. You have to make the president successful. Over at omb, I had this mission we would be quietly competent. I don't think you can be quiet in the chief of staff's office, but you can be calmly competent. You're the acting chief of staff. How long do you expect to stay? I talked to the president about that. Every position is temporary. We all serve at the will of the president. He could fire us all tomorrow and everyone knows that. That's the way cabinets work and the staff works. We'll take a couple weeks, couple months and see if he like the way I'm handling the job, if I like the job. This is an ordinary thing to say you and I have to spend a lot of time together. Let's see if we can get along. This clip from 2016 days before the election has been making the rounds. Let's play it. Do I like Donald Trump? No. Is he a role model for my sons? Absolutely not. We have two of the most flawed human beings running for president. In the history of the country. I'm supporting Donald Trump as enthusiast CLI as I can, given the fact I think he's a terrible human being. The choice on the other side is just as bad. That's made the rounds. Yes. Have you talked to the president about it? Sure. We joked about it. What's wrong with Washington, D.C.? People spend a lot more time looking at what people say instead of what they do. The president knows that I've been fighting with him to fight for ordinary Americans. He likes having me around. I like working for him. Before you go, the deputy chief of staff, Zach Fuentes, told people he wants to stick around for six months so he can get a big retirement package from the coast guard. Is that the kind of thing you would allow somebody to stick around for six months without a real job? I'll put my Donald Trump omb hat back on. Donald Trump doesn't let anybody sit around doing nothing. Zach's a good man. We'll find something for him to do productive. Mick Mulvaney, thank you for joining us. Thanks, Jon.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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