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Showdown at Watchdog Agency; Senate Tax Bill; Trump Suggests Tape Not Authentic; Trump Doubles Down on Moore; Ivanka's Criticism of Moore; Kushner's Days Over. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired November 27, 2017 - 14:00   ET


[14:00:00] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Appreciate it very much.

That's it for me. Thanks very much for watching. I'll be back 5:00 p.m. Eastern in "THE SITUATION ROOM." "NEWSROOM" with Brooke Baldwin starts right now.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, here we go, breaking news on this Monday afternoon. I'm Brooke Baldwin. You're watching CNN. Thank you so much for being with me.

First just a head's up, we are waiting for the first White House press briefing in a week with Capitol Hill in the thick of a critical time crunch. The president promised historic tax reform by Christmas. So we'll get into that.

But first, the Democratic senator from Minnesota, Al Franken, stepping behind a couple microphones and publicly apologizing moments ago after several women have now come forward describing how he groped them. Among them, Leeann Tweeden, seen in this 2006 photo with Franken's hands over her breasts.


SEN. AL FRANKEN (D), MINNESOTA: I know that I've let a lot of people down, people of Minnesota, my colleagues, my staff, my supporters, and everyone who has counted on me to be a champion for women. To all of you I just want to again say, I am sorry. I know there are no magic words that I can say to regain your trust, and I know that's going to take time. I am ready to start that process and it starts with going back to work today.


BALDWIN: This happening just a little bit ago as sexual harassment, as Roy Moore's candidacy and now the president questioning the authenticity of his "Access Hollywood" tape rocked the halls of Capitol Hill.

There is a showdown of another kind brewing as well. This crazy partisan power struggle that is reputing right now inside the agency borne from the great recession. The CFPB, that's the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Two directors both showed up to work this morning. On the right hand of your screen, this is Leandra English, who says she is the official successor now that Democratic appointee Richard Cordray stepped down. The other is the current White House budget director, Mick Mulvaney. And this tweet shows Mulvaney at his new job this morning. Even though President Trump appointed him, the courts will have to hash this out.

But as they do, staffers must be getting whiplash over which boss to listen to. English sent one e-mail thanking them for their service, signing it "acting director," and Mulvaney sent this. Let me read this for you. He said, quote, it has come to my attention that Miss English has reached out to many of you this morning via e-mail in an attempted to exercise certain duties of the acting director. This is unfortunate, but, in the atmosphere of the day, probably not unexpected. Please disregard any instructions you receive from Miss English in her presumed capacity as acting director. If you receive additional communications from her today in any form related in any way to the function of her actual or presumed official duties, that is not personal, please inform the general counsel immediately. I apologize for this being the very first thing you hear from me. However, under the circumstances, I suppose it is necessary. I look forward to working with all of you. Please stop by the fourth floor to say hello and grab a doughnut. It, too, was signed "acting director."

So, Dana Bash is with us from Washington, CNN chief political correspondent.

And all I keep thinking is to have two bosses show up on the same morning, awkward.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Can you imagine this happening in the real world, Brooke?


BASH: I mean can you imagine? So much for changing Washington, right? And, obviously, if you are the Trump administration and the president himself, that's exactly what he believes he is doing by using what he and the counsel for the CFPB says that they believe is his -- is his right to appoint the person that he wants to be the head.

But, at the same time, you know, it is making for an incredibly confusing and frankly circuslike atmosphere of not just this very controversial agency, but also, more broadly, of the United States government. And but at the end of the day, Brooke, part of the reason -- not part of, the only reason this is happening is because of the deep divide that has always been the case about this agency. And that was on display.

I was filling in yesterday on "State of the Union." Had a Democrat and Republican on, who agree on a lot of issues, including immigration, but not this. Take a listen.


SEN. DICK DURBIN (D), MINORITY WHIP: This was the agency that fined Wells Fargo $100 million for defrauding the people who were saving there and creating phony accounts. It's a watchdog agency. Wall Street hates it like the devil hates holy water. And they're trying to put an end to it with Mr. Mulvaney stepping into Cordray's spot. But the statue is specific. It's clear. And it says that the deputy shall take over.

[14:05:21] SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Well, I think the president's on good ground here to appoint somebody under the vacancy statute. And in terms of the agency, it's the most out of control, unaccountable federal agency in Washington. Really no oversight at all. They didn't get into everybody's business. So I hope it's Mick Mulvaney and I hope he'll right hurt (ph) on these folks.


BALDWIN: Well, that sums (ph) it up.

BASH: And that -- yes, exactly. Exactly. That was -- it makes it as clear as mud. This is why a judge is going to have to decide this in the short term and then in the long term Congress is going to have to try, if they can get it together, to kind of address the questions about what this agency should do, never mind who should be in charge, because at the end of the day, Brooke, Lindsay Graham just articulated the big reason why the president wanted Mick Mulvaney in there and not the designated deputy of somebody who is a holdover for the Obama administration.

They don't like this watchdog agency. They think it is a rogue agency. They think it goes way too far from the original premise, which is to protect consumers. And, obviously, Democrats completely disagree with that and they say, show us the evidence, and we haven't seen any yet.

BALDWIN: We've got a current employee of the CFPB, who's been with the CFPB since day one. So we'll get his take on this whole thing coming up later in the show.

Speaking of Congress, though, Dana Bash, let's talk about this whole to-do list and basically at the top, right, is to pass tax reform. We know that they want to do this by Christmas. We believe the Senate will vote on their version this week. But talk to me about the holdout, the wildcards and who this really may come down to.

BASH: You know, in the past, when we've been talking about Obamacare, there have been, you know, probably three or four senators that we have been really focused on as the make or break. As you can see there on the screen, it's a bigger group now that are make or break.

One, Ron Johnson, you see on the left, has said he just adamantly opposes the tax bill right now. But the key is, right now. And as we speak there is wheeling and dealing going on, you know, that would make anybody's head spin in -- from Las Vegas to anywhere else where they do wheeling and dealing because this is crunch time.

The Republican leadership, the president of the United States, they are trying to find a way for 50 Republican senators to get to yes. And if they -- because they realize that an Obamacare -- repealing Obamacare, the stakes were high. Right now it is do or die and that is not an exaggeration based on what Republican after Republicans say.

So, you know, there are lots of holdouts, but there's also a lot of kind of toing and froing and horse trading, which is the way legislation is supposed to work, except, unfortunately, that right now we're talking about in and among Republicans and not a bipartisan bill which has happened in the past, but not now.

BALDWIN: Well, I want to talk more on taxes.

Dana Bash, thank you so much, as always.

BASH: Thank you.

BALDWIN: More on taxes and how this affects you tomorrow. President Trump will meet with Republican senators as the chamber pushes for a vote on the Senate version of this Republican tax plan at some point this week, but another headwind has hit.

The CBO, the Congressional Budget Office, just projected that the Senate plan would increase the deficit, look at all those zeros on your screen, it is $1.4 trillion over the course of the next ten years.

So Mattie Duppler is with me, senior fellow at the National Taxpayers Union.

Mattie, so nice to have you on. And, by the way, the CBO office repeated the findings from non-partisan Joint Tax Commission.

So, Mattie, welcome.


BALDWIN: And so back to that group. So that group found that people making less than $75,000 would see their taxes go up by 2027. We're just throwing all these number out for people playing along at home. That is more than three-quarters of the population that would be hit under this tax plan, yes?

DUPPLER: So to buy into the CBO analysis there's one crucial premise that I think most Americans will reject, which is that the American taxpayer will suffer if the government isn't paying out a bailout to insurance companies, which we know simply is not the case.

So when you look at the CBO report, it's looking at spending that they're extrapolating from the JCT analysis of the Senate bill, which, of course, is the other non-partisan congressional score keeper when it comes to taxation plans. And we know two things from JCT, two very important things. One is that there is a tax -- there's tax relief granted at every income level in the Senate plan, and, two, is that it retains the same amount of progressivity as the current code. And that's a really important component that we saw in the unified framework when it was released several months ago and that has been reiterated in both the House and Senate plans. [14:10:08] BALDWIN: So why is this plan -- and, again, we hear from the White House that this will be good for the middle class. But when you actually crunch the numbers, you know, why is this tax plan hitting both low income and low to middle income so hard?

DUPPLER: Well, some of these assessments, they are a little bit shaded by the fact that especially in the Senate you have budget rules that really restrict what you can do with tax policy and in effect restrict what you can do both in the ten-year, in the current budget window, and also permanently.

So the reason that some of these scores look like they don't deliver the tax relief that they actually will in the long term is because of the gaming that legislators have to do when it comes to scoring these bills.

So some of the tax relief in these bills is right now scheduled to be temporary, while other tax cuts in the bill will be permanent. Now, this is something that I think has gotten a lot of ink spilled on it, but really, in the long run, will produce the growth effects and the relief that middle income taxpayers need. And that's for two reasons.

One, going back to the JCT score. JCT itself says that some of this taxation -- some of this relief that we're granting to businesses is going to be seen immediately for workers. Workers are the ones who will bear the benefit of a corporate income tax cut. So that's something that is, A, made permanent in the Senate and the House bills, but also will continue to deliver dividends beyond just the tax relief and the window.

Now, even if the tax relief on the individual side is set to expire in a couple of years, there's precedent that shows that that's simply not -- is not going to happen. I mean look at the Bush tax cuts. Even President Obama signed into permanent law 85 percent of the Bush tax cuts. So I would argue, moving forward, getting the needle starting to move in favor of personal tax income relief will continue to have that ball rolling down the field when it comes to the time we'll renew that tax relief.

BALDWIN: OK. I know it's a lot of information to people -- for people to ingest, but we threw the -- you know, just the numbers up on the screen to see what would happen depending on how much money you're making and if that, you know, (INAUDIBLE) end up hurt or helped by the tax plan. It's all spelled out for you on

Mattie Duppler, thank you so much for walking us through it.

DUPPLER: Thanks, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Thank you.

Still ahead here, President Trump reportedly telling people that the voice on that infamous "Access Hollywood" tape where he bragged about sexually assaulting women wasn't him. But keep in mind, he apologized for it. And the president's son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner,

averting a deadline to hand over documents in the Russian investigation. We will tell you what's behind this move coming up next.


[14:17:01] BALDWIN: Welcome back. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

It is the infamous "Access Hollywood" tape on which we hear then- private citizen Donald Trump boasting about grabbing women's you know what. The words caught on tape. We heard them. He admitted saying the words. He apologized for saying the words. And yet, here we are, more than a year later, "The New York Times" reports that the president is questioning the tape's authenticity in private. But for the sakes of putting facts first, listen to the president in his own words.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I better use some Tic Tacs, just in case I start kissing her. You know, I'm automatically attracted to beautiful. I just start kissing them. It's like a magnet. You just kiss. I don't even wait. And when you're a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.

BILL BUSH: Whatever you want.

TRUMP: Grab them by the (EXPLETIVE DELETED). You can do anything.

I've said and done things I regret. And the words released today on this more than a decade-old video are one of them. Anyone who knows me knows these words don't reflect who I am. I said it, I was wrong, and I apologize.


BALDWIN: With me now, Mary Katharine Ham, CNN political commentator and senior writer at "The Federalist."

Mary Katharine, welcome, welcome.


BALDWIN: We just heard, you know, we saw and heard the president apologize. So I can't wrap my head around this. If he is now, according to "The New York Times," going around saying no, no, no, you know, denying this. Why the lying?

HAM: Well, I mean, we could hope that perhaps he got pretty woke about sexual harassment, as this watershed moment (INAUDIBLE) all about --


HAM: But I doubt that's it. Look, you have a couple of options when you're caught doing something like this, as he was, on tape. You can go full in and say it's not problem that I said this, or you can say, I said it and I regret it and it was a long time ago, or you can say, this is made up and I never said it. But you can't do two of those at the same time, the made-up one and the I'm sorry I said it. Those do not jive. And so a year later he seems to be mudding the waters. But it's fairly clear.

And, by the way, one of the downsides for him of having been famous for the past 30 years is has a pretty distinctive voice --

BALDWIN: There's a lot of tape.

HAM: That everyone knows.

BALDWIN: There's a lot of tape. There's a lot of tape of Donald Trump.

You mentioned facetiously about being woke. So let's go to this movement on sexual harassment, right? We're having this whole conversation, as we have been for the last couple of weeks, about sexual harassment and assault on this country. And basically you have the president pouring gasoline on it. So why -- why now is this, you know, to sow confusion as we have this conversation, or do you think he's not even thinking about it?

HAM: I would bet it's because -- because we're talking about sexual harassment more often, that it is in the news and the president, of course, is a great consumer of news. And so it is probably coming up in conversations on TV and then therefore in his life more often. And so I think -- and, look, if he feels defensive about it, I guess that is a slight step in the right direction, but this is not the way to deal with that.

[14:20:03] BALDWIN: Segue to Roy Moore. Roy Moore, right, we've heard him say -- he says, listen, the embattled Alabama Senate candidate has denied that any of these accusations are true and so the president is believing Roy Moore in this situation. We saw him over the weekend, you know, throwing down more of his support Roy Moore. Essentially in doing so, Mary Katharine, you know, ticking off the most Republican, you know, veteran senators who will eventually try to expel him if, in fact, he is elected from the Senate.

HAM: Yes, I think he is a bit trying to have it both ways here where he's sort of endorsing Moore but trying -- I think he's as -- as of now not said his name specifically.

BALDWIN: Not said his name, right.

HAM: I'm not sure if that works real well. And also, we are in -- and it is just a sad thing about politics. We are in a race to the bottom here. We had Nancy Pelosi on Chuck Todd's show this Sunday saying, well, you know, Conyers, who has credible allegations, credible enough to have paid out settlements for them in a secretive way with taxpayer money, that he's an icon and therefore, you know, maybe let's -- let's reschedule the watershed moment on sexual harassment because my guy is now being taken down. Well, that's not really how this should work. It should be non-political and Trump is a -- is an opportunist who's happy to take advantage of that kind of double standard and say, look, if they're not doing it, I'm not playing by these rules.

BALDWIN: What about in the family? What about, you know, the comments that we heard from Ivanka Trump about a week ago, his daughter. You know, and I'm paraphrasing, but it was something -- on Roy Moore. Something to the effect of, there's a special place in hell, you know, for a man who molests children. And now there's reporting from "The New York Times" that President Trump was annoyed that she went there.

HAM: Well, he shouldn't be because that's a correct moral stance on people who mess with children.

But, look, I think he's a political animal. He's thinking about it that way, somewhat unfortunately.

I've been a little bit surprised, I think, because he -- he endorsed Luther Strange, the opposition to Roy Moore in the GOP primary, that he could take an I told you so moment here and not back Roy Moore.

But, look, I think -- I think he sees where this is going and he doesn't want to lose a seat. And that doesn't help us gain dignity or moral standing in our politics.

BALDWIN: You know, here's my last question for you. Just, I've got Ivanka Trump on the brain and we -- I was wondering this when she made these comments. You know, if he's not, you know, believing his own accusers and he's not believing the Roy Moore's accusers, if heaven forbid, you know, Ivanka Trump had some sort of allegation of sexual assault, do you think the president would believe her?

HAM: Well, I don't know the man's mind, as has been evident throughout the past year of his presidency. We can do the best we can.


HAM: Look, I think that he often loves people who love him. And in Ivanka's case, I think he's pretty protective of her and likely would change his mind in that position would be my guess.


HAM: But this is the problem with all of this is like, you can't only believe the ones who are on your team, so to speak, or on your political side, so to speak. We should judge the credibility of various accusations. And when there's a pattern and an M.O. and people putting their names on the record, we should give some credence to that, despite the fact that it might lose some political power to you, Nancy Pelosi or Donald Trump.

BALDWIN: Yes. I got you. Mary Katharine Ham, so great to see you.

HAM: Thank you.

BALDWIN: Thank you so much for the time.

HAM: Sure.

BALDWIN: Still ahead here, Jared Kushner. Jared Kushner has not turned over documents requested by the Senate committee looking into Russian election interference, but they say that he is still cooperating. What does that mean for the investigation?

And President Trump attacks CNN International, claiming the world doesn't see the truth from my colleagues there. Up next, we'll talk to two of the journalists who have risked their lives time and time again to bring you the facts.

We'll be right back.


[14:28:17] BALDWIN: Just into CNN, Jared Kushner is cooperating with the Russia probe. Today was the Senate Judiciary Committee's deadline for the president's son-in-law and senior adviser to hand over documents related to the Russia probe. But we are now being told the committee does not expect any materials to actually be produced today and that they are satisfied with what Kushner and his lawyers are telling them.

But the question still remains, aside from a lot of undisclosed Russia-related meetings, what has Kushner been doing in his ten-month tenure at the White House and how much longer might this last?

With me now Sharon LaFraniere, "New York Times" investigative reporter.

So, Sharon, thank you so much for joining me.

And let's get right to it.

So, you know, you've been doing some digging. And so Kushner was given this pretty lofty portfolio. Let's tick it off. Tasked with solving Middle East peace, China talks, improving ties with Mexico, criminal justice reform, innovating government, you know, where you write in your piece the, do whatever you want stage of Kushner's tenure is over. Why?

SHARON LAFRANIERE, INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Well, largely it's Kelly's doing, right, because --

BALDWIN: The chief of staff, John Kelly?

LAFRANIERE: Yes. The -- because you can understand why a four-star general would want more of an organizational chart and wouldn't be that happy with somebody who's portfolio's totally limitless and whose mandate is unclear. And so Kushner's detractors -- and he has detractors in the White House still even with Reince Priebus and Steve Bannon gone -- his detractors would say that he's gone from being seen but not heard, to being not seen and not heard.

[14:30:04] BALDWIN: So now that Bannon and Priebus are gone, you know, you write about how, you know, his supporters say this is a success not a failure, that Mr. Kushner helped stabilize the Whites House. But --