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Republicans Get Ready to Enact Their Agenda; Obama, Pence Head to Capitol Hill for Obamacare Fight; Trump's Warning to North Korea; Trump Claims Intel Briefing on Hacking Delayed; House GOP Tries to Gut Ethics Watchdog; Ford CEO Scrapping Mexico Plant "Makes Sense for Our Business"; Trump Celebrates New Year with Convicted Felon "Joey No Socks". Aired 9-10p ET

Aired January 3, 2017 - 21:00   ET



[21:00:47] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Thanks for joining us this hour. Topping the hour, House and Senate Republicans getting ready to do what they tried to do for years but couldn't with the Democrat in the White House holding a veto pen. In just 17 days that will change. So could many things that Americans taking for granted, including insurance through the law known as Obamacare, agree or disagree with the direction they plan to take. In 17 days Republicans will be able to deliver in what they have been promising for a long time. CNN's Jeff Zeleny starts us off with a look at their agenda.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you solemnly swear --

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: The new Republican order is taking shape tonight in Washington. For the first time in a decade, Republicans set to control the House, Senate and White House.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, (R) MAJORITY LEADER: We know that the coming days are going to require hard work and cooperation from both sides.

ZELENY: Mitch McConnell of Kentucky becoming Senate Majority Leader as the 115th Congress opened for business. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin easily reelected Speaker of the House.

REP. PAUL RYAN, (R) HOUSE SPEAKER: This old chamber might look the same, but in the hushed whispers in the whirl of activity, you can feel the winds of change.

ZELENY: In just 17 days, Donald Trump will join them as president, completing the GOP's ascension to power. The optimistic applause echoing across the Capitol will soon give way to the challenges of governing with Republicans facing the burden of delivering on the changed voters demanded.

For making good on their pledge to repeal and replace Obamacare to passing tax reform and easing government regulations, Republicans are crafting a bold agenda. Speaker Ryan called it a once in a lifetime opportunity.

RYAN: The people have given us unified government. And it wasn't because they're feeling generous. It was because they want results. How could we live with ourselves if we let them down?

ZELENY: Out of power, Democrats say they will find common ground when they agree and hold their ground when they do not. In the House, Republicans now have a majority of 241 to 194. Yet in the Senate, Republicans still need Democrats with Republicans holding 52 seats and Democrats 48. Most pieces of legislation need 60 votes to pass.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER, (D) MAJORITY LEADER: When you loose an election like this, you can't flinch, you can't blink. You have to look it right in the eye, analyze it, learn from it.

ZELENY: The Trump Cabinet will be one early test. Secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson and Defense Secretary nominee retired General James Mattis visiting Capitol Hill today preparing for their confirmation hearings. In a day of pomp and pageantry, the new Congress came with one old touch.

Vice President Joe Biden in his formal role presiding over the Senate, swearing in one final class of senators. It's one of his last official acts after 44 years in Washington.

JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Anybody else want to be sworn in?


COOPER: Jeff Zeleny joins us now. I understand both President Obama and Vice President-elect Pence are going to be on Capitol Hill tomorrow. What more do you know about it?

ZELENY: Anderson, very unusual for the President to come up now just 16 days before he leaves office. He is going to be trying to make the case to Democrats to protect his signature agenda, piece of his legacy, Obamacare. He wants Democrats to tout the benefits to their constituents across the country. At the same time, though, Mike Pence, of course, will be trying to walk Republicans through how they want to repeal and replace Obamacare.

Now the question of repealing it is an easy one. Replacing it is a difficult one. And that is the challenge coming up for the Trump administration and, frankly, all Republicans here, because they know they will be taking something away from people. But the majorities in the Congress, as they say now, Republicans will repeal it, replacing it, that's the question, the bottom line here, but President Obama trying to give a one last pitch for his legacy when he meets here on Capitol Hill tomorrow with all the Democrats. Anderson?

COOPER: All right, Jeff Zeleny. Jeff, thanks.

Joining us now is former Obama senior adviser Van Jones, Trump supporter and contributor to The Hill, Kayleigh McEnany, and Austan Goolsbee, Economics professor at the University of Chicago's Booth School of Business and former chairman of President Obama's Council of Economic Advisers.

[21:04:58] Van, I mean, it's interesting that while the President is going to be meeting with House and Senate Democrats (inaudible) of his presidency like the Obamacare -- like Obamacare, Pence is going to be there trying to do the exact opposite, discussing how to repeal and replace it.

VAN JONES, FORMER OBAMA ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, you know, and that's where we are. We have a divided country, if not a divided government.

One thing you're going to be watching now, you've got a lot of people in red states actually who have benefited from Obamacare. A lot of the coal miners, actually, their main health care right now is Obamacare. So it's very easy to take something away, but when you take something away, people are going to ask, what are you going to do for me now?

And I think that the failure of Republicans to really fully agree with any particular approach to the replacement is going to become a problem sooner rather than later. But, you know, they got elected promising to do something. They're going to try to follow through on it. We'll see how it goes.

COOPER: Austan, what can Democrats actually do to try to prevent it?

JONES: Well, listen, you've --


JONES: Go ahead, Austan.

AUSTAN GOOLSBEE, FORMER CHAIRMAN, COUNCIL OF ECONOMICS ADVISERS: You know, I think they kind of have to rely on the -- spreading the message that Van's saying there of look, how many million people are going to lose their insurance, and remember what it used to be like when they could deny you for preexisting condition when your, you know, your uncle was 60 and he couldn't get on Medicare, and -- but he had heart problems? They're going to just try to use the bully pulpit to emphasize that, but I don't think -- I don't know that they'll be effective. I think the Republicans are going to, a, try to make it -- they're going to try to take it away without making it seem like they took it away. So they're going to try to extend that as long as they can and say oh, no, it was dying on its own, we never -- we didn't kill it.

And then I think the second thing is, there are a lot of red states where a lot of people do benefit from it, but they showed at other points like with the expansion of Medicaid, that even if it hurt their own people, the Republican governors in those states were still willing to turn it down. So, I'm nervous for it, but I think that's where we are.

COOPER: Kayleigh, I mean, do you believe Republicans actually are united on a plan not just about repealing it but replacing it? Because President-elect Trump during the campaign was very clear saying he wanted to keep people who had preexisting conditions, he wanted to keep that coverage.

KAYLEIGH MCENANY, TRUMP SUPPORTER: That's right, he did say that, and I think that's an important component that needs to stay. I think Republicans are by and large united around Paul Ryan's plan, which when you go and look at it that the dubbing on his plan says affordable health care for all. So I think the other guests are right to the extent that Republicans have to have some sort of replacement.

You do have tens of millions of people who have gained insurance via Obamacare, those folks need to be able to keep insurance in some form. But what I think is very important, though, is to fix some banalities in Obamacare. And to me and to many Republicans that means repealing it entirely. That is to say the problems where Obama says if you like your doctor you can keep it, not true. He promised families that their premiums would go down by 2500, in fact, they're increasing by 25 percent next year.

There's significant disapproval of Obamacare, especially on these fronts. So, I think you have to repeal it undoubtedly, but you must replace it, because if there's not a replacement there, Republicans are going to have a big problem on their hands.

COOPER: Van, I mean, Kayleigh is right. Premiums have gone up in many states, so Republicans do end up having a better solution for this in their replacement. Shouldn't Democrats be receptive to work with them?

JONES: Well, listen, I think one of the missed opportunities for Hillary Clinton when she ran was -- and she could have said, listen, Obamacare is a great first step, no program is perfect from the very beginning, Republicans won't let us speak to it, I think if you elect me, I'm going to be able to -- we're going to have this program. I'm going to work with them to make it better and better and better.

We wound up just saying listen, 20 million people have insurance, we were defending the status quo as opposed to saying, we don't think it's perfect, but Republicans have stopped us from making it better. Send a message that you want to improve it.

So now, look, here's the reality. I think both political parties have some peril. Because if the Republicans bashed this up, there will be a revolt at the midterm level. If the Democrats stand in the way of good things that will make it better, they're stepping on their own constituency. So both parties now have to look down the barrel of what is going to happen to real Americans --


JONES: -- over the next two years.

COOPER: Austan, I mean, is it clear what repealing would actually look like? How much would a repeal cost in the short term and in the long term?

GOOLSBEE: Well, I think it's pretty clear what it would look like in the short term. It would actually cost money to repeal it. And so they're trying to figure out ways to not make it cost money.

I think, you know, if you look -- I think the Republicans are at greater peril at this moment than the Democrats are. Because the passing of Obamacare, even the heralded saving $2500, that was compared to what would happen without it. So we have had high health care inflation for many decades. And actually, health care inflation has been at about the lowest rate that we have seen in almost a half century.

[21:10:09] The problem was, once you do something on health care, then you own it, and that's been Barack Obama's problem. Once the Republicans do anything to Obamacare, repeal it, change it, whatever, suddenly every problem that everyone has with the health system becomes the Republicans' fault instead of Obama's problem.

MCENANY: Austan --

GOOLSBEE: And that's not going to be a fun place to be.

MCENANY: Austan, I understand the argument about inflation and actually, you know, not growing as much as inflation was projected to grow. I get that academic argument but the reality is, what I think Van was saying, it's about how Americans feel as they've seen the dollar, the price on their premiums go up. They see they're not getting much in return. They have high deductibles. One third of American counties only have access to one Obamacare plan, and this was a plan sold to us on a bill that it would give us more choice. I think the way Americans feel --

GOOLSBEE: In the exchanges. Look, I'm not disputing that it is about feeling. I think that's correct. What I'm saying is, once the Republicans repeal Obamacare or gut it --

COOPER: Right.

GOOLSBEE: -- then prices are going to start going up again, even more than they were going up under Obamacare, and then they're going to be mad at Republicans and that's not a fun place to be.

MCENANY: Not if you open up the state lines and implement free market principles.

COOPER: Yeah, which is what Donald Trump has been saying. We'll see -- we'll continue on this. We'll have more from Austan and Kayleigh coming up. Van, thanks very much.

Just ahead, breaking news, Donald Trump's latest tweets casting new doubts on the Intelligence Community that's about to brief him. Also his tweeted warning to North Korea and tweet on China and the fallout from that.


[21:14:56] COOPER: We began the program tonight with breaking news on the report that's expected to underscore the assessment from the entire U.S. Intelligence Community that Russia was behind the hacking of the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton's campaign chief.

Now there's more. President-elect Trump will be getting a very high- level briefing on it. He just tweeted, you can decide for yourself what to make of the quotation marks, "The intelligence briefing on the so-called "Russian hacking" was delayed until Friday, perhaps more time needed to build a case. Very strange."

CNN justice correspondent, Pamela Brown, has been on the story all night. She joins us again.

So Donald Trump just weighed in on this, essentially confirming that he's still skeptical of Russian involvement and seemingly skeptical of the term intelligence for the Intelligence Community.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: That's right. It's remarkable how this is playing out, because for months, Anderson, Donald Trump has questioned the veracity and the intelligence supporting the idea that Russia was behind the hacks. And essentially, Donald -- that President-elect Donald Trump is coming out and challenging the intelligence agencies that will usually be working for him when in fact he is officially the president.

With this tweet here tonight, I've spoken to intelligence officials who are frankly perplexed by it, that there was some sort of delay with this briefing about that comprehensive report dealing with the election hacks, because all along, as far as I've been told by officials, it was supposed to happen as early as Friday and perhaps even later, because this comprehensive report hasn't even gone to the desk of the President. And when this high-level briefing does happen, Anderson, it will be the first time that Trump comes face-to-face with the leaders of these agencies that he has been challenging and questioning, Anderson.

COOPER: So it's not clear -- I mean, let me just be clear. Is it -- can we say definitively there was not a delay? Or do we know?

BROWN: The people I've spoken with in the Intelligence Community, a couple of officials, have said they're perplexed, because it was never on the leaders of the Intelligence Community's schedule to go up to New York and brief the president-elect before Friday, before --


BROWN: So there may be some miscommunication or misunderstanding about the schedule, but I can tell you, that as terms of the leaders of the Intelligence Community that will be involved with this briefing, they were never on the schedule to do it before Friday. So there is some confusion about this so-called delay --


BROWN: -- and, again, Anderson, it hasn't even gone to the desk of the President, and Trump would be briefed after that happened.

COOPER: All right, Pamela Brown. Pamela, appreciate it. Tonight's tweet was far from the only one making headlines. Tonight, he also used Twitter to break the tradition, had sent a sharp message to North Korea. CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr has details on that.


BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Nobody knows if North Korea's Kim Jong-un has seen Donald Trump's latest tweet. North Korea just stated that it is in the final stages of developing a nuclear weapon, capable of reaching parts of the U.S. it won't happen. And nobody knows how North Korea's erratic leader will now react.

COL. CEDRIC LEIGHTON (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: This particular tweet is in essence telling the North Koreans, putting them on notice, that they are going to be watched very carefully by the incoming administration and that they don't have carte blanche.

STARR: This after Kim said --

KIM JONG-UN, NORTH KOREAN LEADER (through translator): Cutting edge arms equipment is actively progressing. An intercontinental ballistic missile test launch preparation is in its last stage.

STARR: It's not clear how soon Kim can be ready to launch a missile that could reach the U.S., but the prospect raises alarm. If a nuclear weapon exploded over a west coast population center like Los Angeles or San Francisco, tens of thousands could be killed. Even a non-nuclear North Korean attack into South Korea could also kill tens of thousands, including 30,000 U.S. troops based there. Trump, on the campaign trail, was open to talking to Kim.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT-ELECT OF THE UNITED STATES: I wouldn't go there. That, I can tell you. If he came here, I'd accept him. But I wouldn't give him a state dinner.

STARR: Now Trump wants to pressure China to get Kim to roll back his nuclear program. China has been taking out massive amounts of money and wealth from the U.S. in totally one-sided trade, but it won't help with North Korea, nice. But that message already largely brushed aside by Beijing.

GENG SHUANG, CHINESE FOREIGN MINISTRY SPOKESMAN (through translator): We hope to see all sides avoid remarks and actions that would escalate tensions.

STARR: The Obama administration doesn't think North Korea can threaten the U.S. with a nuclear missile yet.

JOHN KIRBY, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: We do not believe that he at this point in time has the capability to tip one of these with a nuclear warhead.

STARR: The current U.S. military response focuses on defending against an attack with interceptors in Alaska and California and ships in the western pacific. But in the face of a sudden imminent threat, U.S. officials tell CNN President Trump could activate existing plans for preemptive attacks, so-called no-mercy strikes to destroy the regime and its weapons.

[21:20:14] A former Defense Secretary who called for a preemptive strike in 2006 now says it must not happen.

WILLIAM PERRY, FORMER DEFENSE SECRETARY: A preemptive strike could bring about complete and total catastrophe to South Korea and to Japan. So that is not an option.


STARR: The person who also called for a preemptive strike against North Korea back in 2006, the current Defense Secretary Ash Carter. Anderson?

COOPER: Barbara Starr. Barbara, thanks.

Lots to discuss. Joining me is Gordon Chang, "Daily Beast" columnist and author of "Nuclear Showdown: North Korea Takes on the World", also CNN national security commentator and former House Intelligence chairman, Mike Rogers.

Chairman Rogers, let me just start with you. Before we talk about North Korea, I just want to ask you about the tweets from Donald Trump tonight about the intelligence briefing and Russian hacking being delayed. He puts quotes around the word intelligence and hacking. Is he setting himself up for a difficult relationship with the Intelligence Community, and is that a bad thing, or is that, you know, maybe a wise thing?

MIKE ROGERS, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY COMMENTATOR: Well, I mean, I'd be a little cautious how you do it. If he's pushing the Intelligence Community on its analytical products and what they're finding and what they're recommending, I think that's perfectly OK. Where it gets a little dicey is if you're attacking the integrity of the officers who are out risking their lives right now trying to get information, that will backlash in a way that I don't think they'll anticipate. I hope they're not getting there, I hope that's not what this is.

If he wants to challenge this, remember, in about less than, whatever it is, 16 days, he's going to get the keys to every Cabinet. He will have all of the information he needs to make his own assessments. He can have dissenting agreements, come to the White House and talk him through where he thinks he wants to be on a particular position.

If you jeopardize the relationship between the executive and these intelligence agencies, I think that's really kind of a dangerous place to be, mainly, again, because these are almost living organisms. They're out doing things every day. They didn't care about the election, they didn't care who won. They're out doing their bit. They're out there trying to gather the information, some risking their lives to do it to bring it back, to formulate an analytical product that would inform policymakers.

If you disrupt the trust relationship between that, and I'm not saying you can't push them or give them the wire brush treatment, as a matter of fact, I think they would thrive in that kind of an environment, but if you attack the integrity of these individuals, I think that's where the line gets crossed. I haven't seen him do it yet, but he has certainly has come close.

COOPER: All right, let's talk about North Korea, Gordon. Is there any way to know how North Korea responds to Donald Trump's tweets? I mean, this is uncharted waters where a president-elect is tweeting 140 characters, you know, messages to North Korea.

GORDON CHANG, AUTHOR, "NUCLEAR SHOWDOWN: NORTH KOREA TAKES ON THE WORLD": Yeah, well -- and when you look at what Trump said in that first tweet, it's clear that Kim Jong-un saw that as a declaration of war. At the very least, a threat of using force imminently. And we know one thing about Kim Jong-un. He's in an unstable regime. You know, he's executed 140 people during his first five years. He's purged 340 --

COOPER: 140 members of his own government.

CHANG: Senior -- yeah, senior leaders in his own government and regime. And also, when you put in the junior officers, that's maybe 500 or so when you total it off, because they've been sent to the camps, and we can't count that. So for Kim Jong-un, he has got to look tough, because if he doesn't look tough, he knows that he could die.

COOPER: Chairman Rogers, I don't know if the question is about the appropriateness of a president-elect, you know, tweeting to Kim Jong- un or tweeting something that can Kim Jong-un's going to read. What do you -- just what do you make of the -- what kind of impact has going to have if any?

ROGERS: Well, I mean, I didn't see anything that would directly threat an escalation. There's certainly convectional conflict. There's one thing for certain, we have to change the dynamic that we're having with North Korea. The way we have been handling it isn't working.

Now I'm not a big fan of using tweets to engage, because it's, you know, 140 characters can be misconstrued in a way where people have large armies and react in ways that aren't anticipated. But I do think that it's OK for the President-elect to set out a path that says we're going to do things a little differently, including trying to engage China hopefully on the black market activities in the -- on their southern border, North Korea's northern border, that allows this regime to continue to flourish, and that really hasn't been dealt with.

I think if that's the path that we're going down, I think it could be great. If we continue to use tweets after the President is sworn in on January 20th, I get a little concerned, because it is too easy to misconstrue those words, those 140 characters in a way that probably won't be helpful, and that's not a whole of government approach.

[21:25:06] You want a whole of government approach to try to rein in Kim Jong-un. And, by the way, it's too late. He has nuclear weapons. He has an intercontinental ballistic missile that has been fired. He has fired missiles from a submarine. All of those spell danger for the future of national security of United States. We're going to have to deal with that in a way that we haven't dealt with it before. It doesn't mean conventional action. It doesn't mean preemptive strikes necessarily. I don't think we should take those off the table, but I don't think you ought to lead with those.

COOPER: Gordon, I mean, do we know enough about what the impact of a strike against North Korea would be?

CHANG: Well, the thing that we know is that North Korea has chemical and biological weapons. It has nukes on short-range missiles, intermediate range missiles. They could basically take out any South Korean city they want.

And, you know, when people start talking about the casualties from the first couple hours of war from Seoul alone, they're talking hundreds of thousands, and that's why the military strike is absolutely the last option.

But we have a lot of things that we haven't done. You know, we've tried almost every policy. The one policy that we haven't pursued though is imposing cost on China. We know that Chinese entities have been selling uranium hexafluoride to the North Koreans, they've been selling other components for their uranium weapons program, and yet, we just stand back and we don't do anything about it.

And so this has got to change, and I think it will. In the end of the Obama administration, we started to see the first sanctions on China. I'm sure that Trump is going to continue on that path.

COOPER: Interesting. Gordon Chang, appreciate your expertise. Mike Rogers as well. Thank you so much.

Coming up next, can Republicans in the House nearly gutted the watchdogs who were keeping them and Democrats honest from where House Speaker Ryan stood on the move? Also perspective from admitted influence peddler Jack Abramoff, he joins us ahead.


COOPER: Well, at the top of the broadcast, CNN's Jeff Zeleny reported on the GOP legislative agenda. However, before they even started on that, House Republicans were busy with something else. As you may know, they voted in secret last night to essentially neuter the non- partisan Office of Congressional Ethics. Then came a public outcry, this morning a tweet from Donald Trump, and by this afternoon the plan was dead.

[21:30:04] My next guest has a rare perspective on this. He is the former lobbyist who's crimes help paved the way for the creation of the OCE. Jack Abramoff, who served 43 months in prison for influence peddling, joins us tonight.

Jack, I'm wondering what your reaction was when you heard that Republicans on the Hill wanted to gut the ethics office, which is obviously an office that was created in response to the actions that you ended up on prison before.

JACK ABRAMOFF, FORMER LOBBYIST CONVICTED OF CORRUPTION: Right. I don't know that they necessarily wanted to gut it. I think that there is concern among the members that some of the procedures of the office are not necessarily great. So they made what I think was a bad move to, first of all, deal with this as one of the first issues.

COOPER: Right.

ABRAMOFF: Obviously, the optics are very bad. And number two, to move it or to put it within the confines of the members, probably not a good move either. I think what they should have been doing is remembering what the election was about in November and coming forward with a series of proposals to have reformed the other way and to have less corruption and be able to go after the things that frankly Americans are upset about, not to do something like this.

COOPER: And when you talk about corruption, I mean, obviously you saw this firsthand. You were deeply involved in this. I know on "60 Minutes" years ago you said at one point that you essentially owned up to 100 congressmen and their offices, you would offer jobs to their chiefs of staffs or other key employees when they left so that while they were still in office, essentially, they were beholden to you. Is Capitol Hill still as corrupt as when you were lobbying?

ABRAMOFF: Well, I think there's a level of corruption that isn't quite necessarily what I was involved in or some of the people at the very tip of the spear are involved in. That's a more normal corruption, if there's such a phrase, where people feel that it's completely normal for people soliciting favors and I guess acts from government officials to give those government officials things of value and offer campaign contributions. That, to me, is the level of corruption that America is sick of and we have to deal with.

In terms of the things that I was involved in, I don't think you'll find too many lobbyists who have the resources, really, to do the things that unfortunately I was involved with. But the every day corruption, the corruption they don't feel is corruption is the biggest problem that they think is completely normal.

COOPER: Right, because, I mean, what you -- at one point, I think you said that you were spending, like $1 million a year on tickets to sporting events for Congress people for their staffs. But that every day sort of corruption that you talk about, explain that a little bit more because the rules are really interesting.

I mean, there are rules about, you know, you can't buy a congressman or congresswoman a meal, you know, hamburger, but you can do -- throw them a fundraiser and give them, you know, tens of thousands of dollars.

ABRAMOFF: Right. It's that kind of idiocy that people look at and they scratch their heads and wonder what is wrong with these people. You know, I travel the country and I speak often on campuses and other places, nobody, except people within the beltway, seem to not get this.

Everybody else seems to realize that if you give somebody who is a public servant something of value and you're asking that public servant to do something for you that that's not a good thing. But within the beltway, people feel that it sort of part of the process and they don't really get upset about it.

COOPER: Is it true that when you're lobbying and lobbying hard and incredibly successfully earning, you know, I think 1.20 million a year, although I think you gave away a lot of that money to various groups, did you feel like you were doing something inappropriate? And the Congress people, the staffs that you were involved with, did they feel that this was corrupt?

ABRAMOFF: No. Well, first of all, I can certainly speak for myself. Unfortunately, I didn't feel that there was any problem with it. It was basically the way the system worked. I probably did more of it than I should have. Well, certainly did more than I should have, but did more of it than others did.

I was just sort of an excessive version of it in my mind, but it was the system where basically lobbyists and others who were trying to get people to do something in government by natural course, particularly the congressmen give contributions, provide in those days' meals, it's a little more difficult to do, trips, golf tournaments, tickets to the ball game, et cetera, that system is a system that's been going on for decades in this town and unfortunately is not likely to go away until the American people continue to do what they did in November, which is throw the bums out and basically say that we fed up, we fed up with this.

COOPER: Jack Abramoff, I appreciate your time tonight. Thank you.

ABRAMOFF: Thanks so much.

COOPER: Just ahead, were Donald Trump's threats about a border tack is a fact, were they a factor in Ford's decision to cancel plans to build a plant in Mexico. Did they cut a deal with the incoming administration? Poppy Harlow's exclusive interview with Ford CEO Mark Fields is next.


[21:38:09] COOPER: Well, throughout the campaign and now during the transition, President-elect Trump has taken a hard line with America's auto makers, pressuring them to create jobs at home. The same kind of pressure has been plan other manufacturing companies and by pressure we mean threats and hefty border taxes.

Today, we look to a lot of people like Ford blinked (ph). And tonight, some are asking, did the car maker caved to gain favor from the incoming administration? And the exclusive interview with Ford CEO Mark Fields. Poppy Harlow asked him just that.


POPPY HARLOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: In a stunning about face, Ford today scrapping plans to build $1.6 billion small car plant in Mexico.

Are you canceling the plans to build this huge plant in Mexico because of the President-elect?

MARK FIELDS, PRESIDENT & CEO, FORD MOTOR COMPANY: We do what's right for our business. This makes sense for our business, and we look at all factors, including what we view as a more positive U.S. manufacturing business environment under President-elect Trump. And it's literally a vote of confidence around some of the pro-growth policies that he has been outlining.

HARLOW: That plant was going to mean 2,800 new jobs in Mexico. Now Ford says it's creating 700 new jobs here at home instead.

FIELDS: This business decision was done independently, but we did speak to the President and the President-elect and the Vice President- elect this morning.

HARLOW: Did he say he's going to stop with the tweets and the attacks against Ford?

FIELDS: No. I don't think we got into that level. He was just very appreciative for the announcements that we're making.

HARLOW: But there's little doubt Trump's persistent threat of 35 percent tariff on cars made in Mexico and sold in the U.S. made that plant a lot less attractive.

Why not as many jobs here as you were going to create in Mexico?

FIELDS: Well, first of, we have to understand the reason we are canceling our plant in Mexico. The main reason is because we're seeing a decline in demand for small vehicles here in North America.

HARLOW: This is a trend we've seen.

[21:40:02] The President-elect calls out Carrier. He gets jobs to stay here. He calls out Boeing. He gets a cheaper Air Force One. He calls out Lockheed Martin and they say, "We're going to work with you."

There is a concern among some, Mark, that this is in essence a form of crony capitalism that it dangers to American democracy, that the president can cut deals with companies and then they expect favors from the administration in return.

FIELDS: Well, first of, we didn't cut a deal with the President- elect. We did what's right for our business.

HARLOW: You said on CNN this fall one of the things you'd like to see from the administration is as they review fuel economy standards. What about the concern from some who might look at this and say is this crony capitalism? They might get more favorable regulation on fuel economy standards because they're bringing jobs home. To those critics you say? FIELDS: To those critics, we say first of as a company we are very dedicated to improving the fuel economy, but we just want it to be a fact-based discussion and we want to make sure that we preserve vehicle affordability, customer choice and American jobs.

HARLOW: Trump and Ford have quite a history. For more than a year, Trump has repeatedly slammed the company.

TRUMP: Ford is leaving. You see that, the small car division leaving. Thousands of jobs leaving Michigan, leaving Ohio.

They think they're going to get away with this and they fire all their employees in the United States. They move to Mexico.

HARLOW: Ford CEO shot back in this exclusive CNN interview.

Will Ford cut any U.S. jobs as a result of this move? One, any single one?

FIELDS: Absolutely not, zero.

HARLOW: In October, Chairman Bill Ford called Trump's attacks infuriating.

BILL FORD, EXECUTIVE CHAIRMAN OF FORD MOTOR COMPANY: He knows the facts so, you know, and -- but who knows what the campaign trail is all about.

HARLOW: This morning, the President-elect took on G.M. tweeting, "General Motors is sending Mexican-made model of Chevy Cruze to U.S. car dealer's tax free across border. Make in USA or pay big border tax.


HARLOW: And, Anderson, General Motors responding to the President- elect's tweet today in a statement saying that, "manufactures the Chevrolet Cruze sedan in Lordstown, Ohio. All Chevrolet Cruze sedans sold in the U.S. are built in GM's assembly plant in Lordstown, Ohio. G.M. builds the Chevrolet Cruze hatchback for global markets in Mexico, with a small number of those sold in the United Stated."

I should note in an interesting ironic twist, Anderson, General Motors CEO Mary Barra has just recently been named by Trump to a forum that will advise him, frequently, on jobs and on the economy. Meantime on this news, Ford's stock closed up nearly 4 percent. Anderson?

COPPER: All right, Poppy Harlow. Poppy thanks very much. Donald Trump certainly ran as a pro-business candidate, no surprise there, but what are the implications, both short and long term? Back to talk about it, Kayleigh McEnany and Professor Austan Goolsbee.

Kayleigh, is this a quid pro quo between President-elect Trump and these companies? And is there any -- if it is, is there a problem with that? MCENANY: I don't see it as a quid pro quo at all. I see what Trump is doing as a carrots and sticks approach. And by that, I mean, the carrots he is offering Ford or G.M. or these various other companies are a better economy, are an economy where you're not going to be hit with exorbitant and taxes where he's promised and vowed that the corporate tax rate would be 15 percent maximum, that's the carrots.

The sticks on the other hand are the 35 percent tariff and I do think that that somehow had to have been weighing in the mind of Ford. But I don't see any quid pro quo here and that something tangible that we can point to was given to the Ford CEO in exchange for keeping jobs here. I think it was a result and a promise of a robust economy going forward.

COOPER: Austan, is that all of this because that's what the Ford chairman seems as we saying that this is good for business, that we have confidence that it's going to be more pro-business environment. Do you buy that?

GOOLSBEE: You know, Anderson, I don't know what was at behind close doors. I think many Republicans and most business people are probably pretty uncomfortable with the notion that whoever the president of the United States decides is going to get up and attack one morning that the market is going to attack them and that he's going to threaten them personally with taxes unless they do what he says.

You know, I kind of think, have you ever been to a wedding where there's that one relative who nobody wants to give the microphone to make a toast? And then when he starts speaking, you know, the opening might be, "I'd like to wish the bride a wonderful wedding," and everyone's like, "Oh, no, what's coming next?" I think a lot of business community feels like that.

So far, Donald Trump is saying that he wants to cut the corporate tax rate. They probably agree with it. But I think nagging in their mind is this question of call it crony capitalism, calling it singling out people, you know, for a mob of Twitter goods to come after you if the president declares you a bad guy. But, you know, I think we got to think that through.

COOPER: I mean, I guess there is, Kayleigh, a version of this, you know, that though -- that has companies simply responding to Trump's policies they believe that what lies ahead is -- I mean, that the argument you made is a better marketplace with fewer restrictions and that's why they're making these decision.

[21:45:13] I mean, I guess you can -- I mean, that's essentially what Ford is saying.

MCENANY: I think that's right and I also think, look, if the President-elect was clear on anything during the campaign, it was that if you try to take advantage of the American economy, but yet want to produce your goods elsewhere, like G.M. is a great example.

The "Wall Street Journal" says 20 percent of their North American products that they import are actually made in Mexico or abroad. If you're going to do that and try to take advantage of the American economy, you're going to suffer in the form of a tariff perhaps.

COOPER: But, Kayleigh, is there a danger? I mean --

GOOLSBEE: Be a little careful.

COOPER: Go ahead, Austan.

GOOLSBEE: I was just going to say, let's be a little careful just concluding that it's about policy, because none of the companies that have not been targeted by Donald Trump are coming out and saying that they're going to do that. You don't see Chrysler coming out and saying, "We're going to open this extra plant." It's only when you get targeted that they come out and respond.

And there are a lot of business people asking, "Well, wait a minute, Donald Trump's own businesses out source their jobs, so how is he determining who he is going to go after?"

MCENANY: But, Austan, I do think he's -- look, he's not even president yet. He's doing a pretty good job if he's gotten 700 new jobs from Ford, 1,000 in Carrier. He's getting Lockheed Martin and Boeing to rethink their pricing structure with the federal government. This is all pretty good for someone who is just president-elect.

COOPER: But, Kayleigh, to Austan's point, isn't it kind of weird that -- I mean, he's not singling out Ivanka Trump for manufacturing, basically all of her clothing and all of her products overseas in a variety of countries.

MCENANY: No, that's true. He is singling out companies. He's singled out all along the way. But, you know, I do think as a businessman he did that it's true. Of course, he did out source. That was him as a businessman. But he is promising to put policies in place that will allow clothing companies like Ivanka Trump or others to produce here.

Right now the economic environment, I'm sure Austan you would agree to some extent, it's not as great, it's not as easy to make a product here as it is in China. You can get it much cheaper there, but he wants to remedy that. And I think pointing it out and remedying those economic conditions will ultimately be what brings companies like Chrysler to come on board. But he has to be president before he can make any sort of change like that.

COOPER: Well, Kayleigh McEnany, appreciate it. Professor Goolsbee, thank you very much. Appreciate you being on tonight.

Just ahead, the video that's raising questions about President-elect Trump's friendship with a convicted felon, nickname "Joey No Socks," they rang in the New Year together at Mar-a-Lago. Details on that ahead.


[21:50:38] COOPER: Right now, you probably heard about the New Year's Eve celebration that President-elect Trump and his family hosted at his Florida resort, Mar-a-Lago. The guests, as you'd expect, are getting a lot of attention. One in particular has raised some questions at convicted felon. Miguel Marquez tonight reports.


MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Joseph Cinque, AKA "Joey No Socks" convicted of a felony in 1989 for art theft celebrating next to the president-elect on New Year's Eve.

TRUMP: Well, thank you very much. It's a great honor --

MARQUEZ: Cinque's current lawyer insists the art was legally owned by Cinque, but the New York Supreme Court says, "Joey No Socks" pled guilty and his conviction still stands." He was given a conditional discharge and served no jail time.

Trump and Cinque go way back. In 2008, they shared a stage at the Miss Universe contest. Trump calling him, "Joe."

TRUMP: By the way, Joe is probably one of the most important men in the hotel industry.

MARQUEZ: In 2009, Trump was given an award by Cinque, one of many bestowed on Trump and his properties by Cinque over a decade.

TRUMP: I'd especially like to congratulate and thank Joe Cinque, the head of the academy for the unbelievable job that he does.

MARQUEZ: And last year at Trump's Mar-a-Lago's New Year's Eve celebration.

TRUMP: Thank you very much, Joe. The American Academy is an amazing place.

MARQUEZ: Again, "Joey No Socks" Cinque front and center with Donald Trump. Last May, Trump told the Associated Press he didn't know Cinque well and wasn't aware of his conviction.

DAVID CAY JOHNSON, AUTHOR, "THE MAKING OF DONALD TRUMP": Let's assume Donald Trump doesn't know who this guy is, wow. Donald Trump is so unaware and doesn't have people around him to warn him that you are standing next to a convicted felon?

MARQUEZ: David Cay Johnson for 30 years covered Trump's rough and tumble rise, mostly for the "New York Times". His new book, "The Making of Donald Trump" pulls no punches.

JOHNSON: I was absolutely shocked that Donald Trump, president-elect would stand in a public forum next to a convicted felon who claimed to be connected with John Gotti, credibly enough that the New York City prosecutor's office thought that that was a real connection.

MARQUEZ: The U.S. Secret Service declined to comment on the matter referring CNN to the Trump transition team, which also refused to comment on the relationship between Trump and Cinque. Several Mar-a- Lago members and guests who attended the party tell CNN there was no Secret Service background check prior to it, but they did go through metal detectors.

The Trump-Joey No Socks connection rooted in the American Academy of Hospitality Sciences, an organization that over the years Trump has been listed as ambassador extraordinaire.

JOHNSON: Donald Trump proudly hangs at least 19 awards. You'll noticed, they're signed not just by Joey No Socks, they're also signed by Donald J. Trump as chairman of the board.

MARQUEZ: Trump's signature is on some of the awards. It's like Trump giving himself an award.


MARQUEZ: The Secret Service says it is their job to protect physically the President-elect and the President. It's not their job to control the guest list and they referred CNN to the Trump transition team, which refused to comment about the relationship between Donald Trump and Joseph Cinque. Anderson?

COOPER: All right, Miguel Marquez. Miguel, thanks.

Coming up, something to make you smile at the end of the night. "The RidicuList" is next.


[21:57:45] COOPER: Time now for "The RidicuList". Before we get to the meat of it, it will help to have just a little bit of a basic back story. This is about Wendy's the hamburger place. Everyone of a certain age remembers "Where's the beef," but there's actually another slogan, one that Wendy's has used for years and years. Take a look.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If hamburgers were meant to be frozen, wouldn't cows come from Antarctica? Wendy's hamburgers are made with fresh never frozen beef. Who else can say that? It's a way better than fast food. It's Wendy's.


COOPER: OK. Wendy's has this saying about, "It's beef being fresh, not frozen." Apparently in the world of big hamburger, every just single thing factor counts. A few days ago Wendy's tweeted reminder of his long standing policy on its meat and I quote, "Our beef is way too cool to ever be frozen." Smiling emoji with sunglasses, totally not give us tweet, right?

It's like the kind of tweet no one could possibly have a problem with, right? But, of course, somewhere out there, someone was having the kind of day that made them say to themselves, "I believe I shall now spend the sizable hunk of time arguing with the social media account of a fast food company." That someone's name is Thuggy-D.

An exclusive Twitter exchange happened between Wendy's and said Thuggy-D. Tonight, I will be reading the Wendy's tweet and Frank from our studio crew will be playing the role of Thuggy-D. Take away, Frank.

THUGGY-D: Your beef is frozen and we all know it. You all know we laugh at your slogan "fresh, never frozen," right?

COOPER: I think there's one more line.

THUGGY-D: Like, you're really a joke.

COOPER: I like that last line. To which Wendy's replied, "Sorry to hear you think that, but, you're wrong. We've only ever used fresh beef since we were founded in 1969."

THUGGY-D: So you deliver it raw on a hot truck?

COOPER: Let me pause here because you have to admit that is an interesting question that Thuggy-D poses. And this is where Wendy's gets a little frosty and respond and I quote, "Where do you store cold things that aren't frozen?" Oh, yes, a riddle. But how will Thuggy-D respond?

THUGGY-D: You all should give up. McDonald's got you guys beat with the dope ass breakfast.

COOPER: And Wendy's brings down the hammer with, "You don't have to bring them into this just because you forgot refrigerators existed for a second there." Boom.

[22:00:00] Thank you, Frank. That was excellent, excellent read.

It should come as a surprise to know one that after being fully eviscerated by the social media account of a hamburger chain, Thuggy-D has deleted his account and that's what we call a "Twitter Beef" on "The RidicuList". Come back Thuggy-D, come back.