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NYT: Pres Trump Questions Authenticity of "Access Hollywood" Tape; Pres Trump Calls Warren Pocahontas In Front Of Navajo Group; Showdown Over Top Post At Consumer Watchdog Agency; CBO: Senate Bill Hurts Poor More Than Expected. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired November 27, 2017 - 21:00   ET



[21:00:18] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Well, a big hour after a day that saw the battle to pass a tax plan heat up and a stinging report came out on who will pay the price for it. Also, the president chooses to use a ceremony to honor Native American war heroes as an opportunity to make a racial mark about a Native American and slamming a political opponent.

And the White House responding to a report in "The New York Times" which correspondent Maggie Haberman just updated that the president on at least three occasions that "The New York Times" says they know about -- has told people that he doubts the authenticity of the "Access Hollywood" tape. The one in which he brags about being able to sexually assault women. And of course the one he has already acknowledged was real and actually apologized for.

In a moment, the woman Trump and Billy Bush were meeting just after he uttered those words, Arianne Zucker. But first, CNN's Boris Sanchez with the latest from the White House. So, Sarah Sanders was asked about this, explain what she said because, sort of open to interpretation.

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is, Anderson. Sarah Sanders said that the president had already addressed this. She was asked if the president has any doubts about the authenticity of the tape. She says that he has made his position on it clear, dating back to last year when it leaked in October. She was asked if perhaps his position on it had changed and she said no. She said that if anything, what the president questions is the media's reporting around the tape, but we dug deeper, trying to find out specifically what she meant by that and she said that the president questioned current reports.

We followed up with her to find out if she was talking about this "New York Times" reporting that the president has suggested, dating back to early this year, to one senator, that this tape may not be authentic. Apparently, he repeated that claim recently to an adviser. Part of the reason that this tape has come up in the conversation, we should mention, Anderson, at least according to "The New York Times", is during discussions about the president's response to the allegations to Roy Moore. So we followed up with Sarah Sanders again after that to try to find out specifically what she meant when she said that the president questions the reporting, but she has not gotten back to us yet. Anderson.

COOPER: We should also point out, I talked to Maggie Haberman in the last hour, and she said just -- then within the last two hours, so now within the last three hours, she actually has now talked to a third person who had said that the president had questioned the authenticity to that person.

But just to be clear, the president did acknowledge it was he who made those comments when the tape first came out. I mean -- not only he did do it on video, he did it at the debate that I was co-moderator of.

SANCHEZ: Yes, absolutely. The president literally said, I did it, I apologize. You had a series of surrogates come out and say that this was just locker room talk, including the first lady, Melania Trump, actually told you that this was just locker room talk. So there's never really been a denial from the White House as to whether or not this tape is authentic, whether or not this is the president's voice on there.

One other note that we should mention, Billy Bush who lost his job and has suffered significantly, his career because of this tape, has never denied that the tape wasn't real. So there's really an interesting imbalance here between what was being said last year and apparently what the president is now suggesting in public or rather in private. Anderson.

COOPER: All right. Boris Sanchez thanks very much. Joining us now is three time Emmy nominated actress, Arianne Zucker, who was in the tape doing the interview with then citizen Trump ands also Billy Bush.

Arianne, so the president questioning the authenticity of the "Access Hollywood" tape, I mean, you were there. Is there any possible way it is not authentic?

ARIANNE ZUCKER, ACTRESS IN "ACCESS HOLLYWOOD" TAPE: Well, obviously, I wasn't there during the bus ride. I mean I had -- just to reiterate, I had no idea what was going on before they got off the bus. But I do know that I was there working and doing my job. And the whole point was to, you know, welcome the "Access Hollywood" bus and then give Billy Bush and Trump a tour and then Trump was on our show, on "Days of Our Lives", and so really that was my job for the day.

And so, whatever happened beforehand, I'm assuming, you're miked and it's recording as you're driving in. I don't know how else that could be fake. I mean, unless someone's planting words in your mouth, that's the only other way. But it is puzzling to me. And I was curious. I thought, how do you apologize for something and then renege on it? That was just in question.

COOPER: Yes. I mean, certainly, if there was a time to question the authenticity of the tape, it would have been during the campaign, right after it came out, not necessarily 13 months later after he's already acknowledged what he said and apologized for what he said.

[21:05:05] ZUCKER: Right, absolutely.

COOPER: I mean this is something you've clearly never asked to be a part of. You were just doing your job and now the president and the White House, for that matter, aren't acknowledging that it was real. I wonder, does that -- how do you -- how do you reconcile that? How does that, at this point, feel? I mean, it's been, you know, 13 months since you and I frankly last talked about this.

ZUCKER: I'm the type of person that moves on from things. These are -- you know, with so much going on in the world and so much that goes on in our communities on a daily basis, and especially everything that's gone on in the last 13 months, my whole goal is staying positive and moving forward. So to me, it really hasn't affected my life, because I've made a choice for -- not to affect me in a negative way and -- but having it come full circle, I feel like, haven't we learned our lesson? Haven't we moved on? Let's take responsibility for ourselves and our actions.

And I really, truly believe that if you're honest with yourself and you're honest with the people around you, the repercussions are less, because people go, wow, they appreciate your honesty and they're going to move forward with you instead of against you when you're constantly going back and forth. And that's what I feel like now, now we're going -- it's like three steps forward and now we take 15 steps back.

COOPER: Right, I mean, this is not something we would be reporting on, you know, "The New York Times" not -- now three sources who said the president is continuing to talk about this and is now denying the authenticity. I mean, when you and I spoke over a year ago after the tape came out. You said watching it was surreal. Talking about it, again, watching it again, does it still feel surreal?

ZUCKER: Not so much anymore, because it's been played so much, I've had conversations about it, dinner conversations. People stop me in the elevator and they ask how I'm doing and they ask about the situation. So it's soaked in and feels like a part of history, which now, you know, I understand it truly is.

But I just -- as a mother, as a friend, as a daughter, as a community member, I just really would hope that someone in such a high position could really teach us a few things which would be respect, honor, trust, and not to go back. Because at the end of the day, you figure, just a little scenario is, I'm a mom. And if I come home and I'm constantly telling different stories to my daughter, how do you think I'm going to raise her? Which direction do you think she's going to go? Is she going to tell the truth on a daily basis? Is she going to go, well, wow, my mom kind of finagles stories here and there, so I guess I can too. You're teaching that to people that are younger than you. Maybe people that are, you know, in the same position you are or beneath you in your colleagues, but it's just very -- it's upsetting as a person.


ZUCKER: Because you really want to see a person in a positive position giving -- helping others be respectful and honest and truthful.

COOPER: I mean one of the things when I see that tape. And again, I haven't watched it for a while, but, of course, today, you know, I watched it several times again, is that -- to me, it's sort of so interesting, because it kind of -- in some ways shows the position often that a woman may find herself in, where whether you believe it's just guys talk or locker room talk, they're in on -- what they were talking about when they're actually meeting you and just -- have the knowledge of what they have been just speaking about. You are not in on that conversation. You have no idea of what they have just been speaking about and I think that's the position probably a lot of women find themselves in when they're not in that board room or they're not in the room where, you know, a bunch of guys are having a conversation. You have no idea -- you're not in on what's just occurred.

ZUCKER: Right. Exactly. And, you know, this is a -- this is a time where it's really important that women in these situations and with all the sexual harassment that's happening now, I really think this is the time to be positive and move forward. So now it's coming out.

It's scary. It's scary just to sit here and have this conversation with you, because, you know, I'm a pretty quiet person on a day-to-day basis. So I'm proud of those women that come out. And it's our time. This is a time to set an example, to set an example for our youth, men and women, and to teach our children how to be respectful of each other and how to communicate with each other. We're losing that. And I think communication is such a big part of our society that we've lost through Twitter and having conversations online when we should be having conversations in person.

[21:10:01] COOPER: So what sort of a message then -- I mean, if "The New York Times" reporting is correct, they now have three people saying to them that the president has denied the authenticity of this, what kind of a message do you think that sends to women?

ZUCKER: Not a very good one. I think that -- again, I think the message should be, enough is enough. When do we say when? You know, when do we say -- when does somebody in a position of power take this moment in time and do something amazing with it? And that's where -- that's what you want to see, regardless of a past situation, this is a time to turn your life around and do something better. And I think that's why I feel so passionate about it now, because, you know, we don't -- we're not going to get this second chance. And things are going to unravel more and more and more as the news goes on and as these stories come out. But what are we going to do while it's coming out, and the healing process and moving forward? And I think that is a really important aspect that we're all missing.

COOPER: So for you, that healing process requires acknowledging the wrong that was done or acknowledging comments that were made?

ZUCKER: Yes. And my situation and in so many other corporate jobs or, heck, you can be working -- I just read articles about the restaurant business, about how people in power, whatever position of power you're in, taking advantage. And why is it OK that, you know, someone in this position doesn't get the same kind of discipline as somebody off the street. So somebody else could be in jail, another man could be -- you know, arrested for these sexual acts and how come we protect other people in other positions or higher positions? And that's where I think this is important, you know, standing together as men and women, who believe that we should be respecting each other. Need to take a stand. And I think this is a perfect time to do it. And be passionate about it. And find the progress and move forward instead of moving backwards.

COOPER: Arianne, I want to play something for you that the president recently said, I just need to take a quick break and just pick up the conversation with you in a few moments, if that's OK with you. We'll also get the panel's take as well.

And later, that moment that's getting so much attention, a ceremony to honor Navajo war heroes and the president's remark about the senator he calls 'Pocahontas.'


[21:15:48] COOPER: We're talking to Arianne Zucker who spoke with then citizen Trump and Billy Bush after the now-infamous remarks on the "Access Hollywood" tape, the one that he's now reportedly casting doubt on according to "New York Times".

I want to play something the president said just last week when asked what his message to women is in this moment in U.S. history. Let's listen.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Women are very special. I think it's a very special time, because a lot of things are coming out and I think that's good for our society. And I think it's very, very good for women. And I'm very happy a lot of these things are coming out. And I'm very happy --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you believe the accusers --

TRUMP: -- I'm very happy it's being exposed.


COOPER: Back with Arianne. I'm wondering what your reaction to those comments when now just less than a week later, according to "The New York Times", you know, over the course of some time, the president has been sewing doubt about the tape that you are on, that "Access Hollywood" tape, saying that it's not authentic.

ZUCKER: Again, it goes back to that -- you know, that see saw effect, when, you know, you're honest over here and then you're defiant over here, I'm not sure -- you know, you're not sure when you're listening to two different comments. And it's really at some point, when do you throw up your hands and go, I don't know what to believe. And that's why I feel like we, as people, as citizens, as, you know, it's our right to come together and find a way to -- if he's not going to do it, and we need to act on it and find a way to bring this respect forward and to make sure that, you know, women are in a position where we're equal. I don't need to be in a place of power. I just want to be equal and I want to make sure that my daughter has a chance and doesn't have to go through any of these harassment issues that so many women have gone through.

And, you know, what's really sad to me is almost every woman that I know has been harassed in some way, shape or form, including myself. And that shouldn't be an issue, to have that problem in this day and age.

You know, we have the ability, we have the social networking. We have the therapy. We have so many things that we can do to prevent young men and women from being abused and I just -- there's so many facets to this conversation, so it's hard to sort of pick one way, but I feel like, you know, it starts from the top. And you know, when you have someone saying one thing and doing another we -- you know, somebody else has to make it happen.


ZUCKER: And so I hope just by coming here, you know, I thought, what am I going to do or what am I going to say, how am I going to help? Well, I hope I can help just by being a voice and saying, let's do something, let's start today. Let's start making sure that we respect each other and start communicating better and being real with each other and trusting each other a little bit more, because it is -- we are in such a difficult time right now.

COOPER: Arianne Zucker, I appreciate your time. Thank you very much.

ZUCKER: Thank you.

COOPER: I want to bring in the panel. Kirsten Powers is here, Jason Miller, Christine Quinn, Scott Jennings, and Tara Setmayer.

Now "The New York Times" -- I just talked to Maggie Haberman, she says -- she now has a third person who has told her just in the last couple of hours that the president is questioning the authenticity of this. And the senator who the president reportedly talked to according to "The New York Times," according to their reporting, he actually talked about hiring investigators to kind of investigate the authenticity of the tape.

KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, I don't know why he's opening this up again, right?

COOPER: Right.

POWERS: Because he had, you know, apologized for it, said, you know, admitted that it happened, and now he's sort of opening it up again as a topic of discussion. And you know, I'd be interested to know why he -- why he -- how he thinks this would have worked, right? If he really does believe this. And I don't know if he really believes this or if he's just decided this is something that he can say and that the people who follow him will believe it. That maybe he can just put it out there and say, well, actually, I was set up. You know, but what's the evidence for it?

[21:20:00] COOPER: Because it is interesting, Jason, that he's not publicly saying this. I mean, according to -- if "The New York Times" reporting is correct, and obviously, Maggie and all the other reporters, three reporters who were working on the story, they're deeply sourced and the president has talked to Maggie repeatedly, he's not -- I mean, you know, you heard from Sarah Huckabee Sanders today, who clearly didn't want there to be a sentence saying the president is denying this or the president -- you know, the language he used was somewhat convoluted. But if he is sort of semi-publicly going around to a senator and to other people in his orbit, saying this, does it make any sense to you?

JASON MILLER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, keep in mind, at the time when the tape came out, and of course I was working on the campaign, and the president said that he was wrong and he apologized. He said those words don't reflect who he is as a person. And since then, we haven't had any additional tapes or anything like that pop up again.

But I think one of the things to keep in mind here is that it's not as though the president is going out on the campaign trail or going out to the Oval Office and bringing this issue up. I mean, some of these conversations were as far back as 11 months and we don't know if the people brought it up to him or if it's something he just happened to be chatting about. But I think it's the difference between, he's not out there bringing this up. And look --

COOPER: But the president even saying in private conversations, I mean he's --

MILLER: But he hasn't backtracked on the apology. And he hasn't backtracked on saying that he was wrong when he made those comments in the first place. And look, if he has --

COOPER: But he's saying, apparently -- I mean, he essentially is if he's saying in private conversations, I'm going to hire investigators --

MILLER: -- he could have raised an issue with the way it was edited or maybe he's wondering who leaked it or who funded this or how this whole thing came about. But again, unless the president is out there saying that he's taking back his apology or that -- or backtracking on what he said previously, I don't see where this is that that big of a deal.

CHRISTINE QUINN, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, it is a big deal. Because there's now clear evidence from deep reporting, right, that the president is questioning the authenticity of this tape, when there's been no evidence to indicate it's anything but real. And he has, in the past, by apologizing, accepting it is his voice.

Now, that tape and what he said was much discussed. But one thing I think we can all accept is that if you were the women who raised allegations against Donald Trump, it was an incredibly painful time. And if you were a person who is a survivor of sexual assault, that was an incredibly painful time to have that kind of a conversation relevant to a man who was running and would be president of the United States.

So I have to tell you, to me, this is like Donald Trump enjoying pouring salt in the wounds of Americans who have suffered sexual assault or sexual harassment. And I can't figure out any reason hays doing it, except he has disdain for those women who accused him of sexually inappropriate behavior, doesn't really believe any of the women out there, and now he's just bringing it all back up and stirring it up in a painful way.

COOPER: David Axelrod and David Gergen in the last hour were raising the idea that, you know, the president may actually believe or have now -- has now convinced himself that in some way it's not authentic.

TARA SETMAYER, POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR, ABC NEWS: Yes, I think this is part of a pattern of his perpetual victimization, because he can never take responsibility for anything ever. I was on air on this network the day that that tape broke and watched him give that video apology. And I even said, he looked like it was in a hostage video. He clearly, you could see how it was -- it was eating him alive to have to say those words, as opposed to showing authentic contrition.

And I think that there is a certain amount of empathy that he actually shows in this case, usually he's not empathetic, but I think there's an empathy with Roy Moore, which is some kind of very twisted thing here, where he feels a kinship with him. And that Roy Moore is being victimized here. And so this is a way of him connecting to that and convincing himself that, well, I could not have possibly me, because that means I was wrong and I was publicly humiliated the way Roy Moore is. This is why he won't comment on Roy Moore, because it illuminates what he did. Because he can't sit there and condemn Roy Moore when we all know what he did and what he said and explain his day everyone --

QUINN: And maybe he regrets the apology.

SETMAYER: I think he does.


SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think to say that he feels a kinship with Roy Moore over this means that he also then by definition must feel a kinship with Al Franken or Conyers or anybody else. So I'm not sure that's the issue here. I think, two things, number one, Jason is right. He hasn't changed his position publicly and I suspect the people who are leaking around the president are probably trying to keep him from changing his position publicly.

QUINN: Well, that's an odd rationale.

JENNINGS: If I were the White House press secretary, I would not hesitate to go back to his words, I said it, I was wrong, I apologize, I was embarrassed, I apologize to my family and the American people. The hostage video, as you called it, was not great at the time, but he actually in the debate with you I thought it was much better in trying to clean it up at the time. So, if I were then -- I was -- (CROSSTALK)

[21:25:03] COOPER: All right.

SETMAYER: But you didn't --

COOPER: We've got to take a break, much more to talk about tonight.

Up next, the White House ceremony for Navajo World War II heroes, where the president chose to go after a political opponent he calls 'Pocahontas.'


COOPER: This afternoon at a White House event to honor Native American war heroes, President Trump touched off an uproar among Native Americans and others for a single inflammatory words he chose and he did it in front of a portrait of President Andrews Jackson, who signed the Indian removal act of 1830, the legislation that set into motion the bloody trail of tears. Here's what President Trump said today.


TRUMP: And I just want to thank you, because you're very, very special people. You were here long before any of us were here. Although we have a representative in Congress who they say was here a long time ago. They call her 'Pocahontas.'


COOPER: Well, he was talking about Massachusetts Democratic Senator, Elizabeth Warren. That is his nickname for her. We spoke in the last hour. Here's some of what she had to say.


SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D), MASSACHUSETTS: I really couldn't believe it, that there he was at a ceremony to honor Native Americans, men who have really put it all on the line to save American lives, to save lives of people, our allies, during World War II. Really amazing people. And President Trump couldn't even make it through a ceremony to honor these men without throwing in a racial slur.

You know, he thinks that somehow he's going to shut me up with that. And it's just not going to happen. It didn't work in the past. It's not going to work in the future. I'm going to keep fighting for all the issues I'm fighting for.


COOPER: And back now with the panel. Tara?

SETMAYER: You know, look, you can't buy class. I don't care how much money Trump claims he has. Class is certainly not quantifiable for him in this. It's a completely inappropriate. You just don't do this. And for all of the people that sit here and dismiss that it's offensive to some. And I am not, you know, someone that's overly sensitive to those kinds of things. I think that sometimes political correctness can go run amok. But that's not the case here. It's been clear that he's using this as a pejorative. And anytime you're using any kind of cultural reference as a pejorative, it's offensive to people. And you could tell those poor Navajo Code Talkers, they were stuck there. Like, what are they going to say? Meanwhile, the president of the United States made a horrible joke. It was incompletely out of place.

[21:30:14] And for anyone to sit here and defend it and dismiss it as if it weren't that is just being disingenuous. You know it's completely inappropriate. And is call him the Archie Bunker in chief, because that's exactly what he is, because he seems to think that that's funny in his own mind.

QUINN: And he takes an event, to add on that, that should be -- you know what the full statement should have been, thank you.

SETMAYER: All right.

QUINN: Thank you. Thank you for doing everything you did to save this country and being so brilliant in the way you did it. You know, against folks who were not necessarily welcoming you to do it. Thank you.

And it's what he said, and I agree with everything Tara said, but it's that he feels the need to take events which are actually above politics. And not just make them political, but drag them down into the dregs of political battle, in this case, in an offensive way against Liz Warren. It's just as if he misses, and maybe because he never served and did everything he could to avoid ever having to serve our country. He can't just show the respect and gratitude that these men deserved.

COOPER: Scott?

JENNINGS: You know, I was watching this video today and I sort of got this weird feeling while I was watching it and I'm like, when I had this feeling before? And I remember it is when I used to watch my favorite show, "The Office". This was like straight out of the Michael Scott cringe-worthy playbook. So it's -- this kind of crack is better left for a sitcom than a White House event.

The major problem here as I see it as a strategic matter is. All the national polling that's come out lately has shown a vast majority of Americans currently don't think he is fit to hold the office, which is a problem, if you're thinking about how it's going to play in a re- election campaign. This kind of a gaffe today at an event that would really help drag that number back to where you want it to be, doesn't help.

I do think that it's unfortunate. These Code Talkers are amazing people. We used them in World War I and World War II. We're spending all of our time talking about this gaffe. So let's just say a word about the Code Talkers. A lot of folks are familiar with the raising of the flag at Iwo Jima, everybody seen the statue. If it weren't for the Code Talkers that were there, we would not have taken Iwo Jima.

So, tonight, I thought I would take a few seconds and talk about the whole reason for the event which is too bad --


JENNINGS: It's too bad. But the Code Talkers I mean, look, these guys aren't many left.


JENNINGS: They deserve our --


MILLER: -- this is totally political correctness run amok here. I mean, I got to disagree with what you're saying here.

SETMAYER: Of course you do.

MILLER: I mean, the whole reason we're having this conversation is Elizabeth Warren made up the fact that she was saying that she was Native American. Not just made it up just in passing, but did it to try to get ahead, down to the point where she was saying she's part of the Cherokee and Delaware tribes.

And when pressed on it said, well, even folks in my family have high cheekbones. I mean, this is the level to -- she went to. And so look, so if the president is going to bust the chops of a political opponent. You know, this is something that he said dozens of times --


POWERS: -- where he's doing it, though. Yes, I mean, if you don't do -- this is not the place that you do it. It's just basically decency. It has nothing to do with political correctness. It has to do with showing basic respect for people. Why would you say something like that in front of people who are heroes and wait --


POWERS: -- and you may not think it's offensive, but we've had plenty of Native American people and Native American groups come out and say that they think it's offensive. And that is all that matters.

And I just want to address what you just said about Elizabeth Warren, because she actually does not say what you're saying is true. She says this is what she was told by her family. There's no evidence whatsoever that she used it to get ahead she just said that in an interview with Anderson.

COOPER: Right.

POWERS: So, you repeat these talking points, but that's not actually what happened. And even if it did happen, it wouldn't justify --

MILLER: Well, she had her name in that law directory that Native American law directory --


QUINN: She did not run into the event. And say, I'm so happy to be here as a Native American.

MILLER: No, she looks for any opportunity to fight with President Trump and everything that come in to the --

QUINN: But, you know, what, it was an event --


COOPER: One at a time. One at a time.

QUINN: There was an event today called by the president of the United States ostensibly to thank the very brave brilliant Navajo Code Talkers for their service. Liz Warren was not there. She did not issue some statement endorsing the event based on her Native American history. She had nothing to do with it. And he brought her and that offensive slur into the debate. She had nothing -- if she had put out a statement beforehand --

MILLER: So it's OK for her to pretend that she was Native American?

QUINN: It is -- first of all, she does not contend she pretended. And I believe her, but that's a red herring. It's a distraction. The president of the United States at an event where he simply should have, thanks for your service, brought her up. She didn't bring it up.

MILLER: But he did honor them. He's been a very strong friend of Native Americans since he's been in office.

QUINN: The Native American community has spoken clearly and loudly that they were offended. He had no reason to do it and you are trying to change the focus and blame Senator Warren.

MILLER: Hold on, so when you say --


[21:34:59] COOPER: I got to follow up on this. In what way has he been -- I'm --


MILLER: He has been a big advocate of Native Americans being able to do what they want with their land.

QUINN: As supposed, but when he was wanting a casino on their land in 1993 --

POWERS: That's right.

QUINN: -- that's well documented. MILLER: He's been a strong ally since it's been --

JENNINGS: Can't they both be wrong? I mean, Elizabeth Warren based on points out was completely in the wrong when she did this before. And I'm not sure this was the right venue for that to bring it up today, although he's brought it up many times in other political venues and it's been fodder in a number of campaigns.


COOPER: All right. Let's take a break one minute (ph) and take and a breath. And when we come back, we turn to a truly bizarre power struggle at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, two bureaucrats each saying they're in charge.


COOPER: In another truly bizarre story tonight, the dual for the top job at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau or the CFPB, in a remarkable power struggle, the White House has pick for acting director, current Budget Director, Mick Mulvaney, says he is in charge, while the agency's former director's choice, Leandra English, says she is in power. Both sent all staff welcome e-mails today, each signed off acting director.

While serving in Congress. Mulvaney voted in favor of killing the agency entirely and since he worked with President Trump to roll back some of the agency's rules. Bring back in the panel.

[21:40:05] Also joining us is Jim Schultz, a former White House ethics lawyer for the Trump administration, also CNN Chief Legal Analyst, Jeffrey Toobin.

So to -- Jeff, I mean the Dodd-Frank Act states, the Deputy Director shall, "serve as acting director in the absence or unavailability of the director." So why shouldn't the -- This is a vacancy why shouldn't the president be able to point a director?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Because there's a different law that says -- that deals with all vacancies, which says that the president gets to fill the vacancies. It's -- and there's a question about whether the law establishing the consumer bureau is actually constitutional at all. So it's a very complicated legal situation.

I've, you know, followed the arguments. I think there are actually very good arguments on both sides. But it's important to remember, as we talk about this, what's really going to happen here is Donald Trump is going to get to put someone in, eventually. I mean, he's going to put someone in who will be confirmed by the Senate. This bizarre controversy will end.

And then this bureau is basically going to die. That this idea, it was Elizabeth Warren's idea, to have a consumer bureau, is basically going to be killed by this administration. And that, to me, is a much bigger story than who's the acting director for the next month or two. COOPER: Well, James, let me ask you. I mean, so, according to Dodd- Frank, Deputy Director Schultz served as acting director in the absence or unavailability of the director. Why isn't a vacancy the same thing as absence or unavailability?

JAMES SCHULTZ, FORMER TRUMP WHITE HOUSE ETHICS LAWYER: Well, this is the president's power. And I don't believe, but I think it's a pretty simple legal question because the vacancy act is just that. It references vacancy.

When you say unavailability or absence, not so different than a long- term sickness or some kind of extended vacation. So, someone there is there to mind the store. This was not a succession plan as Senator Warren had stated earlier tonight. This is really just the Democrats and Elizabeth Warren and (INAUDIBLE) trying to circumvent the law, circumvent executive powers, and circumvent an election.

QUINN: But aren't there real legal questions about whether, given the timing of the vacancy act and the timing of the creation, this, whether the vacancy act would actually cover vacancies in this bureau. That, I don't believe, is legally clear at all. It's certainly not crystal clear, which is part of why we have the confusion right now. But Jeff's point is the more important one.

Where is this going? And why doesn't the president, whoever the head is, want affirm and sustain an entity that brought $12 billion into the pocket of 29 million people.

COOPER: Right. But the Republicans say, look, there are other agencies, the FCC, the FDIC, which pre-existed this, which have oversight and this is an unnecessary another, you know, federal government --


TOOBIN: What a wonderful job those other agencies did in 2008 when these financial institutions wrecked not the United States economy, but the world economy, because they were so brilliantly regulated. I mean, this exists so that people like the customers of Wells Fargo, who were ripped off to the tune of millions of dollars, millions of customers, no one did anything about it. This bureau did something about it, but it's going to die.

MILLER: Yes. So we're missing the broader political point here, which is the fact that this is playing right into President Trump's hands. I mean, when you talk about draining the swamp and the deep state, we have an unelected bureaucrat who's trying to essentially hold this administration hostage and (INAUDIBLE) into this position, which as Jeffrey said, the president is going to get his way. He's going to get his person into the spot.

This going back and trying to, you know, throw -- overthrow the results of the election. And I think people are going to see right through it.

SCHULTZ: This is just an opportunity to continue quad race of political crusade for a little while longer. That's all it is. And that's all the Democrats are trying to do here is trying to hold on for just a little while longer, because they don't like who won the election.

SETMAYER: I think we're trying to -- I actually agree that what's happening is politics here, and Trump is probably going to get his way with this. And I think that his -- the vacancies -- federal vacancies act of 1998 will supersede Dodd-Frank, which is what created this whole agency in the first place.

The problem that Republicans have with this, and I happen to agree, is the fact that the way this agency, and Jeffrey brought this up, there is some constitutional questions about the way this agency was created and what it does. It doesn't answer to anyone. It's out by the normal scope of --

COOPER: Democrats say it's exactly the whole point.

SETMAYER: Yes, and that -- we don't like that, OK? You don't want unelected bureaucrats making these kinds of decisions. And the issue here is that they don't even have an inspector general. There's no oversight capacity. And that is a problem -- you can laugh all you want, Jeffrey, but the federal bureaucracy is a problem.


COOPER: We haven't heard from Kirsten.

POWERS: No, but, the other thing is -- you're saying this is a win for President Trump, but wasn't one of the things he was running for to sort of protect the common person and the average person? And that's what this does. and the reason that it's separate and you're calling it unaccountable is because it's intentionally so, so that can be free of any kind of political pressure or influence and it can hold people accountable in the way that they weren't held accountable.

[21:45:11] MILLER: He's not holding it --


POWERS: Many had said that this is a joke. That he wants to destroy the agency. He doesn't think that it should even exist. So why would he do that?


MILLER: -- freeze to do a review to see what's actually going on there --

POWERS: He said he thinks it's a joke. The agency is a joke.

MILLER: Because previously --

POWERS: They don't want -- Republicans don't want the agency to exist.

QUINN: It's a classic --

MILLER: He feels that there's way too much overreach with the organization previously.


SCHULTZ: The only rule-making that was engaged in by Cordray was to hand the trial lawyers more class action opportunities, so the trial lawyers could line their pockets. That money isn't going back. If you -- If through class actions, the only folks that went and out of trial lawyers the people don't win. He got away for -- he did away with the arbitration provisions for that purpose. He's running for governor and wants the support of the trial lawyer.

COOPER: Christine, you look like you've gone to your special place.

QUINN: Because we've forgotten about the American workers and retirees who got completely devastated, as did others in others part of the world, and weighing what happened in 2008 and 2009.

And whatever you think about the structure or how it was created, there are 12 million Americans who have $29 million more in their pockets, who've been protected. Retirees who worked their whole life for the American dream of having a little time to spend with their family. That's what matters here.

And Jeff is right, the president is hellbent (ph) to get rid of that -- this entity, to get rid of the bureau that's protecting and bringing money to those Americans. And the shame of this --


QUINN: -- the shame of this we'll see when that happens.


SCHULTZ: -- if that money is really making its way back to those consumers or going back to the agency itself.

QUINNS: It's going into the pockets of those Americans and that's the issue that we should be concerned about. What's going to happen? Who's going to protect those Americans for the next 2018 --

COOPER: Well, thank you everybody. The panel is going to need to take a break.

Up next the GOP tax plan may be in trouble now that a CBO report undermined some of its central selling points. We'll get into that with Republican Senator James Lankford when we come back.


[21:50:57] COOPER: Lawmakers are back in town after the holiday weekend. The Republicans are focusing on one main priority, the GOP tax plan. This morning, the president tweeted about it, writing, "The Tax Cut Bill is coming along very well, great support. With just a few changes, some mathematical, the middle class and job producers can get even more in actual dollars and savings and the pass through provision becomes simpler and really works."

Problem is that, it's not completely the case, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office released its score the bill today. They say the plan would increase the deficit by $1.4 trillion over the next 10 years. But the average health insurance premium would increase by about 10 percent most years of the next decade taking more money out of family's pockets.

And earlier, I spoke from Republican Senator James Lankford about the bill. Here's part of that conversation.


COOPER: Sir, Republicans have been selling this bill as tax reform that will benefit the middle class. I'm wondering how you square that with what the CBO is now saying, that Americans who earned $30,000 or less a year would be worse off under in 2019 when it goes into effect that most people earning less than $75,000 a year would be worse off by 2027 because of the losing subsidies, tax credits and premiums would rise.

SEN. JAMES LANKFORD (R), OKLAHOMA: Yes. So, very interesting this is classic Washington math. If you take the CBO score or you lay it next to the JCT score, JCT is very, very different. Both of them are supposed to be nonpartisan. They are the two entities that we count on in Congress to be able to get a score of JCT. If you remove all the healthcare aspects, would be able to show a dramatic decrease in taxes for all those exact same people that you just talked about.

CBO looks at it and says, well, if these individuals are not forced to be able to take healthcare, then the mayor may not take it, they don't use to be able to take it, then they won't have those subsidies and they count that as an increase in tax for them.

It's not a matter of their taxes actually going up, it's a matter if they didn't actually take in the subsidies and so they count that in the strange way as actually removing taxes. It doesn't make sense to anyone, except for people in the Washington D.C., I would tell you, if you look at the actual score and actually what people paying taxes or don't pay in taxes, the actual amount they don't pay in taxes at this point would go down. Those individuals would pay less.

COOPER: But if premiums are rising for healthcare, if people are under 30,000 or under any number try to get healthcare, won't they end up paying more for it?

LANKFORD: Those premiums were still subsidized exact same way. You remove the individual mandate. It doesn't remove the subsidies that are there. So those individual that are receiving the subsidies right now under -- up to 400 percent poverty level will still be receiving those exact same subsidies. So we're not removing the subsidies, we're removing the mandates.

COOPER: The other headline from the CBO is that the tax bill would add $1.4 trillion to deficit over the next 10 years, you obviously, you know, traditionally been very concerned about the deficit, you've just put out (ph) your annual government wage report, blasting inefficient government spending and the growing national deficit, why this tax bill worth adding $1.4 trillion to deficit if you believe it does?

LANKFORD: Well, again, we go back to the same thing with the Washington math. The $1.4 trillion in additional deficit assumes there is no change in the economy. You lower taxes, people have more money in their pocket but they don't spend it and they don't save it, it just sits there. That's not true in real life. In real life, if people aren't -- have more money in their pockets, if businesses have more money, they buy more equipment, they hire more workers, people spend more money, they save more money, all of those things help the economy. If the economy starts to get healthy again, which is not healthy, it's stable, but it's not healthy right now. If the economy starts to get healthy again, then you have more people paying taxes and it goes up.

So the -- and the essential thing is to look at is, what is the estimate for growth? Is it a reasonable growth estimate? Right now, it's 0.4 percent increase in the economy. If you have 0.4 percent, this is a break-even bill.

Now, my proposal, and I've been very clear about it is, I want to have a backstop (ph) built into this bill that we currently don't have at this point. But, I'd like to have a backstop, so we in case we don't have a 0.4 percent growth, we have some way to be able to protect our deficit. Some way to be able to find the revenue to be able to resolve this. So, we're working through these negotiations right now as a part of this bill. But the key is, we got to get economic growth again.

[21:55:00] People lose track. We've had two percent growth for the last 10 years. We've not had a decade like that since the great depression. Every decade up until the last 10 years, we've had three percent of growth or more, except for the last 10. We can't get used to that as an American economy. We should be at three percent growth. We got to be able to nudge this economy to get healthy again.

COOPER: I want to ask you about the president's comment today about your colleagues Senator Elizabeth Warren, referring to her as 'Pocahontas' during a ceremony honoring Navajo Code Talkers. Was it appropriate that the president of the United States to say that particularly in that moment?

LANKFORD: Yes. It seemed odd and out of place in that moment. I could definitely tell you that. I don't let my children and don't encourage my children to be able to speak that way. I think there's some good dialogue that you're going to have where you can agree or disagree without being personal. But it really did seem very out of place at that moment.

COOPER: Senator Lankford, appreciate your time. Thank you.


COOPER: And we'll be right back.


COOPER: Before we go, this weekend, the president took the following shot on Twitter, "Fox News is much more important in the United States than CNN, but outside of the U.S., CNN International is still a major source of fake news, and they represent our nation to the world very poorly. The outside world does not see the truth from them."

We said earlier tonight, we'll say it again, tweets will not stop us from telling the truth and putting facts first at any cost. My colleague, Christiane Amanpour, tweeted a response saying, "If President Trump knew the facts he would never have sent that tweet. Here is my late camerawoman Margaret Moth, who took a bullet in the face covering the facts and truth in Bosnia. Facts first." Christiane is not alone here. Some of you would be thankful for.

Time to hand it over to Don Lemon in "CNN Tonight". I'll see you tomorrow.

DON LEMON, "CNN TONIGHT" HOST: This is "CNN Tonight". I'm Don Lemon.

I hope you had a great Thanksgiving. It's good to be back and I have a whole lot to say about this president's increasing --