Rahm Emanuel: Trump's 'base will follow him... over a cliff' even if no border wall

The "This Week" Powerhouse Roundtable debates the week in politics, including the government shutdown, which has now entered its third week.
9:22 | 01/06/19

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Transcript for Rahm Emanuel: Trump's 'base will follow him... over a cliff' even if no border wall
This picture from the new house, 89 democratic women now joining Nancy Pelosi, the house speaker once again making history for "This week." Want to talk about all the new developments on our round table. Joined by our chief political analyst, Matthew dowd, Stephanie brown James, co-founder of the collective pact. Welcome to you. Co-host of "The view," Meghan McCain, Rahm Emanuel, and Republican John James who ran in the upper peninsula. I see your tie. Yes, sir. Welcome to all of you. We start with you. What are we learning about this new world in Washington as we watch the first week play out? I think what we're learning is Donald Trump has not changed or adjusted his behavior in a loss in the midterms which normally presidents do. President Obama tried to adjust his behavior, president bush after 2006, president Clinton. Donald Trump hasn't adjusted it. It has worked for him in the past, hasn't snit. -- It? For who? Donald Trump? Yes. But he has never faced an opposition in one branch of government and now that the Democrats are in charge of the house -- we have also learned that Nancy Pelosi who has stepped up and is ready for primetime. She has obviously served as speaker before, but she is ready for this. She runs the caucus, and she has been very engaged and that's helpful to the caucus. I think Donald Trump is in a totally different world now, and he has his work cut out for him. Should he have changed? I think what he will say is what he has been doing has been working and I think the Democrats should be very careful -- should be very careful of taking 2018's success as an endorsement of 2016 policy. I think that what needs to happen is the American people are sick and tired of the partisanship and the bickering. The American people want to get real things done. The thing with this shutdown and the border wall, these are things that Democrats and Republicans have agreed on for decades. We're just haggling over price. There are 800,000 people on furlough right now who aren't getting paid and I believe that you have a congress that for years has failed at its duty to get comprehensive immigration reform that has failed to get a substantive budget done. You have served in that congress. Any danger the Democrats will overplay their hand here? Any time there is too many people with different views, yes. What I would do if I was speaker Pelosi is not allow the negotiations to be the only arena. Within passing the bill and if Schumer files rule 14 putting forward, you have lost three Republican senators and that says open up the business. I would make sure every day you're passing that same bill. Chisel away at the will of the Republicans. The second is there is a point of pressure that will happen, and once this becomes relevant to the American people, and it's no longer just 800,000 workers, something that they rely on starts to break down, that's when everybody will focus and say, okay. If they don't open this week, no paychecks for January 11th. A lot of people don't realize, we're not just talking about Washington, D.C. Here. These are federal workers all across the country. Yeah, and the one thing is that military and veterans are currently being paid, which is usually the hand that Democrats play, and that's a problem that hits particularly close to home, and this is with any there will be a problem because Democrats is going to look like caving from the Progressive left and so I don't see -- we were talking about it in the green room. I don't see any anybody meet in the middle. Both sides will scream bloody murder. You talk about the lack of bipartisanship. This is ground zero of what wair talking about. A lot of the members you helped elect in 2018. Let me ask you the same question I asked mayor Emanuel. Are you concerned this energy becomes what Liz Cheney was saying, radical and out of touch? No. At the end of the day, what the Democrats do is overcommunicate and get out of Washington. I anticipate that president trump will get on the trail fairly soon which I think would be bananas, but I think that it's important for the Democrats to understand that they have to shore up their base, and they have to understand that, like, look. What's going to happen in the next few weeks if the shutdown continues is you're got going to get your tax returns, you know, you're not going to be able to see your lives get any better, and I can tell you what. President trump will need to build a wall around the white house if people do not get those tax returns on time. I actually think trump's made one major miscalculation. Which is? He thinks if he gets a wall, he wins. I think he actually wants the issue. If I was Donald Trump and in the white house, I don't want to be there. If I was them, I would say, you know what? Having the issue may be our win, not getting the wall, and I think they have made a calculation -- The risk there is that he looks weak, right? He won't -- his base will follow him right over a cliff. The problem is he is making every calculation on 34% rather than on 51%. To me, it's not a radical position to say don't build the wall. That's what the majority of the country wants. If we took this from a point and I totally agree with John, the thing that's been lost on Washington for the last few years or decades is bipartisanship and the ability to get past it and get to the common good, but if we do what the American public wants, they want border security, they want the government reopened and they don't want the wall the way the president expressed. Maybe the only way out of this, which is going to be reopen, and as Rahm said, it's going to get reopened. We're not even paying air traffic controllers. We're not paying TSA agents. That will at some point have a huge impact. He doesn't want the wall. He wants the ability to talk about the wall. If he can get the words to say and the passage where he can talk about it, he'll claim victory. The statistics are accurate that the average person doesn't want the wall, but when rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter start on Twitter screaming bloody murder, they have his ear and that's when he started hedging and shut down the government. It depends on what happens in conservative media, and we are ultimately emboldened to what they believe. The president's job is to enforce the laws. We cannot get away from the fact that congress can pass laws without the president. It's their job to stay there and get this job done. He has to sign it. If they can go back, veto or not sign within ten days, it can go back and they can pass it. It needs to be good enough to work for the American people and right now, the American people aren't seeing a government that's working for them. They are seeing a government working for themselves and the partisanship is trumping people and that's the problem. The house just passed the same bill -- the senate uniformly passed, right? That was the bill back in December. Everybody agreed to it. That's what everybody wanted and then the president as Meghan said, Ann Coulter and rush Limbaugh said, you can't do this. They are the radical elements that are intervening in this process and that's the problem. Finally, we have the Democrats now -- what I think is in a good position because they are showing that they have a backbone. They talked about the agenda, and the first bill they put out, house bill one talks about the democratic agenda and people are excited to see that the Democrats finally have a position they want to stand on. Now it's important that they have to win the war on words within the public to make sure people can continue to follow along with them. Meghan talks about Ann Coulter and rush Limbaugh. The question is when are Corey Gardner, Susan Collins, when are all the Republicans in 2020 going to face the president? That's when it becomes basically it will be a liability. There is a price point, and the lines cross. I would just say in 1994 when there was a government shutdown, the biggest mistake newt Gingrich made was sitting next to president Clinton and making that their arena. Do not allow the negotiations to be the only arena. Pass the same bills in congress. Pass it to the senate. Schumer should file it and you lost within a half a day. Three Republican senators coming out of there, and I would keep coming after them, and keep forcing it. And then the base that the president is relying on, and the senate Republicans starts to weaken. Then you have the outside forces like I do believe when it's not just 800,000 people getting a paycheck, when it starts to impact the rest of America -- Tax refunds. We're just adjusting symptoms at this point. We have had more government shutdowns in the past couple of years than I can remember. It's becoming normalized. Until legislators share in the pain -- they need to share in the pain. The news will be when governments open. That will be the event. The norm. We want government to work and not embarrass us. Is that too much to ask? Yes. In order to share -- we need to legislate -- They need to not embarrass us, and we have to admit that even the American people haven't quite felt the realities of a shutdown yet. Most have been over in a week or a few days. When we get to the point where 1 in 8 Americans do not get their food stamps, many of whom are white and trump voters or children, when the effects of the shutdown really start to impact the American people, it's going to

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

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