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Trump Talks 'Pocahontas' in Front of Native Americans; Trump Administration Power Struggle; Republican Tax Push. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired November 27, 2017 - 15:00   ET



BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Both of them sent e-mails to the staff today declaring themselves as the one in charge.

Here is how Mick Mulvaney is responding to this whole power struggle.


MICK MULVANEY, WHITE HOUSE BUDGET DIRECTOR: Well, we are just sort of here running the agency today as the acting director.

So, I think you saw that we responded this or to an e-mail that Ms. English put out. I think she purported to give some instructions to some of the high-level folks. And just simply sent an e-mail out that said, look, we don't consider her to be the acting director and you should disregard her instructions in an official capacity.


BALDWIN: And we just learned that Leandra English will be meeting with top Democratic senators, both Chuck Schumer and Elizabeth Warren, this hour. So, we will stay tuned for that..

Let's go to our CNN justice correspondent, Jessica Schneider, who is joining me now.

And to have these two potential bosses showing up to work, talk about awkward. And now, what, this is all just ultimately going to be decided by a judge.

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. This is going to play out in court and perhaps very soon, Brooke.

We know the judge is looking to take immediate action here. In fact, we just got word that Judge Thomas (sic) Kelly, he has called for a hearing on Leandra English's motion for a temporary restraining order at 4:30 this afternoon, so just 90 minutes from now.

That will happen, unless both of them aside to agree on a different time in the next half-hour. So this judge, Brooke, obviously recognizes the urgency of the situation since really, as you have recounted there, for the past seven hours, both Mick Mulvaney and Leandra English, they have been staking claim to this title of acting director. And you heard Mulvaney. He defended those battling e-mails just a little while ago. But really here is the X-factor in all this. The judge who has assigned to this case that will probably ultimately decide this, this is Thomas (sic) Kelly. He is a Trump appointee, a former staffer for Republican Senator Chuck Grassley.

He was just confirmed by the Senate just a few months ago in September. So the question, Brooke, is, will he grant that temporary restraining order which would make English the acting director or will he say President Trump is right in this and that Mick Mulvaney should assume the temporary position?

It's potentially something we will learn in the next few hours, because this really has to be settled, so that agency just has one boss instead of two -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: Yes, we will follow that. Jessica Schneider, thank you.

Meantime, as we wait for this White House briefing, let's talk about the Christmas gift that the president promised the nation here, historic tax reform.

So, the House has 12 legislative days left, the Senate has 15 to get the job done. Can Republicans in the final three business weeks of 2018 prove they can pass major legislation, especially now, as another headwind has hit??

The CBO, the Congressional Budget Office, it just has just projected that the Senate tax plan will add $1.4 trillion to the deficit over the next 10 years.

So, for our play-by-play from our Capitol Hill expert, we go to CNN congressional correspondent Phil Mattingly.

And so, Phil, you know, you have been this go-to source for all the latest on the lawmakers' wheelings and dealings. I'm trying to think even where to begin. Do we begin on who the holdouts and the wild cards are, who really can make or break this thing?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, look, Brooke, if you look at what Republican leadership wants to do, they want have a vote on this by the end of this week. They want to have it on the floor within the next couple of days.

Here's the issue. They need 50 votes to be able to move forward. They only have 52 Republicans in the Senate and they have got a lot of holdouts right now. And their issues specifically don't necessarily overlap, which means Republican leaders have a lot to work to do and a lot of changes to make.

Let me tick through them pretty quickly and there's a number of them. You have Senator Ron Johnson from Wisconsin and Senator Steve Daines from Montana. They are either opposed, as Johnson is, or has a lot of concerns, like Steve Daines, their issue, past-through entities.

Now, Brooke, these are small businesses, business entities that pass through their income on to the individual side. Now, the Senate bill, just like the House bill, addresses this issue. Daines and Johnson want it to go further.

Republican leaders have committed they will go further. How that will end up, we will have to wait and see. Then you have what is kind of the deficit caucus, if you will. Republicans, remember, for a very long time cared a lot about deficits.

As you noted, this bill will add at least $1.4 trillion to the debt over the course of 10 years. You have got a group of senators, Senator Jeff Flake, Senator Bob Corker, Senator James Lankford, who want assurances from the administration from an economic analysis that over the course of this tax plan that $1.5 trillion will be made up for with economic growth.

Here's the rub. There hasn't been a single analysis that's come out thus far, Brooke, that has shown economic growth will match up with $1.5 trillion. So there's work to do there, either on the analysis front or some changes as well.

Then you have people like Senator Susan Collins, who has a lot of concerns about the addition of the repeal of the Obamacare's individual mandate, also some concerns about the repeal of the state and local tax deduction.

What I'm told from sources is that start to expect maybe we will see something like we saw in the House, where on the SALT issue, the idea of a $10,000 cap on property taxes would be allowed in on the deduction side. Perhaps there is a compromise there.


And then, Brooke, the one everybody I think is paying attention to right now, the wild cards. Again, if you can only lose two senators, and you lock all those guys up, you still have a couple more you need to look in to.

Senator Lisa Murkowski, she obviously was a no on health care. She said she's OK with the repeal of the individual mandate, but still hasn't decided on the bill, a lot of eyes on her.

And then of course you have Senator John McCain, the individual whose thumbs down killed the health care bill. Here's what I'm being told right now from several Republicans involved in the process. They don't want this to come down to Senator John McCain.

McCain is a deficit hawk. He voted at the 2001-2003 Bush tax cuts. McCain obviously a procedural hawk I guess is what you could call him as well, wanting things to be bipartisan and wanting things to move through the committee process and wanting things to work as the Senate is supposed to work.

Now, Brooke, it's worth noting Republican leaders have made very sure this went through the committee process and went through a four-day mark-up. But I'm told that he was -- Senator McCain is not convinced that that was the best way to go and isn't necessarily pleased with the final product at this moment.

And because of that, a lot of Republicans are unsettled by the idea that this might come down to him, and they want to lock up everybody else to ensure that Senator McCain isn't the final vote just in case he doesn't come around, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Why do I have this feeling that you talk about tax reform in your sleep, Phil Mattingly?

MATTINGLY: It's very upsetting to my wife, and dog and children.



BALDWIN: You are impressive. Phil Mattingly, thank you so much.

We will come back to taxes here in just a second, and obviously that will be something that will come up in the White House briefing.

But let's get to this whole showdown at the CFPB, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, because I have Benjamin Olson with me now. He's this former deputy assistant director at the CFPB.

And so nice to have you on, sir, as your former place of work is now center stage here in Washington, and you have seen the news, the fact that you know, Mulvaney and English have both shown up to for the same job today at work. I don't know if you have talked to any of your former colleagues, but how awkward would that be?


And thanks for having me on, Brooke.

BALDWIN: You got it.

OLSON: This is an unprecedented situation, at least in my experience working with the government, to have two people asserting authority over at an agency at the same time. Like anybody else, the folks at the CFPB, many of them have been bank regulators for years and years.

They have got a job to do. They are looking for their leadership to give them direction. And they just need to know which leader to follow.

BALDWIN: For people who have no idea what the heck the CFPB is, in short, it's a consumer watchdog, right? It the job to protect we the consumer. We're all consumers.

And so I'm wondering how this sort of ambiguity at a place that sets out to protect consumers actually affects their job and protecting Americans.

OLSON: Yes, it's a real dilemma. You're absolutely right. We're all consumers. It's not a Democrat issue. It's not a Republican issue. And although the bureau has been a lightning rod since the moment it was created, I don't think there is anyone that takes the view that the work it does is not important.

There are a lot on different perspectives on how you protect consumers, but I think and I hope that, at the end of the day, whether it's Leandra English or Mick Mulvaney or whoever the permanent nominee for the position is, there is agreement that we want this agency to function well and to provide certainty for consumers and for the industry that serves consumers.

BALDWIN: You said it. CFPB has been a lightning rod. And you have been there since day one. And you know some of Mick Mulvaney's views, but for people who don't, roll it.


MULVANEY: It's a wonderful example of how a bureaucracy will function if it has no accountability to anybody. It turns up being a joke. And that's what the CFPB really been in a sick, sad kind of way, because you have got an institution that has tremendous authority over what you all do for a living, over your businesses, over your members.


BALDWIN: So, how do you take it? What is the message that the Trump administration is sending by appointing that man to temporarily be in charge of the agency?

OLSON: Well, look, the bureau, again, has been under criticism from -- since day one. There was really no honeymoon period before folks started to question the role of the agency and the extent of its intervention in the markets, and whether it was limiting consumer choice by doing so.

Director Mulvaney has been a sharp critic. But that was in his job representing his district as a member of the House Financial Services Committee. Now he's got a new job. He's been running OMB as a director.

And holding an agency accountable as a member of Congress is a lot different than running an agency on a day-to-day basis. He's got a new charge, and, look, he seems to have come in the door. He brought doughnuts. He wore rainbow socks.


He seems to be looking to strike a more cooperative and conciliatory note with staff. And I think what he will fins is, these are people who are dedicated to the work and hopefully they can all find a way to work together.

BALDWIN: We will see how the judge rules on rainbow socks and doughnuts offered up. I'm sure it was appreciated by some of the employees, but ultimately it is up to this judge. Benjamin Olson, thank you so much for being with me. I appreciate it.

And we were talking a minute about this moment -- I'm going to play it for you now that we have the actual tape -- where the president is standing in the White House. This happened just a little bit ago and he's standing with these Native American code talkers. He's flanked by them.

And this is when he makes this comment about Senator Elizabeth Warren. Doesn't mention her by name, but that's who he's talking about. Watch.



So, that was the ultimate statement from General Kelly, the importance. 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. But you know what? I like you, because you are special. You are special people. You are really incredible people.

And from the heart, from the absolute heart, we appreciate what you have done, how you have done it, the bravery that you displayed, and the love that you have for your country.

Tom, I would say that's his as good as it gets, wouldn't you say? That's as good as you get.

General Kelly, just come up for one second. I just want to just have say what you told me a little bit about the code talkers, because it really has been...


BALDWIN: OK. OK. So that's the moment. We'd heard about it. You see it there.

Let me bring in a couple of voices.

David Catanese, you and I had chatted about this a moment ago. Maeve Reston is joining, as is Gloria Borger.

Gloria, I think that -- I think that the president is trying to deliver some sort of compliment, but in the middle of that was a -- you know, right back to Senator Warren, and that he's called her Pocahontas and that he's standing next to Native Americans. What is the man thinking?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I don't think he is thinking. And also, by the way, was there complete silence in the room because

nobody quite understood what he was talking about, it seems to me, that, you know, the undercurrent of Elizabeth Warren and I like you better and all of the rest.

I mean, it was just completely out of place. And it -- it was just beneath the dignity of the office he holds and also beneath the dignity of the people who were standing next to him, who are heroes, and I think that for him to throw that out there is just -- just so stunningly...

BALDWIN: Tasteless.

BORGER: Not classy.


BORGER: And it's just kind of -- you're at a point where you don't know what to say anymore when something like this happens.

BALDWIN: Exactly. When he was saying, they -- they call her Pocahontas...

BORGER: Who's they?

BALDWIN: He, he, he has called her Pocahontas, Maeve Reston.

BORGER: And not in a good way. Right?


BALDWIN: No. No. No. Pejorative.



That comment was inappropriate when he started using that name to talk about Elizabeth Warren. And it's one of those things when you go out to the country and talk to voters, even voters who voted for him, sometimes, people initially think these things are funny, but over time it's just -- there is a fatigue with this, these moments where he isn't thinking and says something that's derogatory and offensive to a lot of people.

And it's just -- it's something that many Americans don't want to hear from their president, who is supposed to be representing their country and the diversity of their country and having respect for all different traditions.

It's just one of those mind-boggling Trump moments that we would all like to go away.

BALDWIN: Ten seconds, David Catanese. Do you think he apologizes once he feels the need?



CATANESE: But I just think this is how Trump operates just from the 100,000 feet above.

It's nicknames, it's insults. He probably doesn't know much about Native Americans, so here he is placed in an event on a Monday after Thanksgiving with Native Americans, and the first thing he goes to is, oh, I insulted a nemesis of mine, Senator Warren, with a -- you know, with an insult.

And he does this by association. I just think -- I don't think there is a strategy to it. I just think that he -- you know, when in doubt, he goes to the insult. He goes to the cheap shot.


BALDWIN: OK. Let's hit pause on this conversation. I'm going to ask all three of you to pretty please stick with me. Quick break.

We are waiting for this White House briefing to happen any moment now. Reporters getting seated. Stay with me. We're back in a flash.


BALDWIN: The infamous "Access Hollywood" tape back in the conversation.

You know this tape where we hear then-private citizen Donald Trump boasting about grabbing a woman's you know what, the words all caught on tape. We heard them. He admitted to saying these words. He has apologized for saying these words.

And yet here we are, more than a year later, and "The New York Times" is reporting that the president is now questioning the tape's authenticity, questioning this in private.


But for the sake of putting facts first, here is the president in his own words.


TRUMP: 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. I just kiss. I don't even wait.

And when you're a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.

BILLY BUSH, "ACCESS HOLLYWOOD": Whatever you want.

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

(LAUGHTER) TRUMP: I have said and done things I regret, and the words released 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: Gloria, Maeve, and David back with me.

David, let me begin with you on this one. You know, a person can lie about something and a person can apologize on television, for all the world to see, but you can't do both. Why is he lying?

CATANESE: The time to have called it inauthentic, if you believed it was inauthentic, was during the campaign, when that tape came out and he was in crisis.

And after that tape came out, everyone thought he was done. So that's the time that you would have said it was inauthentic and then presented proof.

But, again, this is a detail in "The New York Times" story, apparently, he told a senator, and he's mentioned it before, but I just -- there's no consistency with President Trump on these things. I feel like his answers can vary on topics, whether it be Roy Moore, whether it be these "Access Hollywood" tapes, whether it be he wants a bipartisan tax bill, given the day, given who he's talking to.

And that's why it's just really hard to get inside his head and understand what he's conveying.

BALDWIN: Is it possible, Gloria Borger, that he forgot that he said he did and apologized for it? I'm trying to understand.

BORGER: I think in his own mind he sort of goes through these scenarios, you know, like it was the largest crowd size of any inauguration. And, of course, it wasn't.

And that, in fact, the tape was a fake, when, of course, it wasn't and he said that it wasn't. But I think you have to consider the context of all of this, which is the Roy Moore election and Roy Moore said...


BALDWIN: Here's Sarah. Hang tight, guys.


SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: -- had a happy Thanksgiving and took the opportunity to enjoy some downtime with your friend -- friends and family.

As you all can see, we're quickly transitioning from Thanksgiving to the Christmas season here at the White House. This morning the first lady unveiled this year's decorations and she personally selected and was involved in every detail. The theme "Time-Honored Traditions" was designed by Mrs. Trump to pay respect to 200 years of holiday traditions at the White House.

During the month of December the White House will host more than 100 open houses and numerous receptions, and more than 25,000 visitors will walk the halls taking part in public tours.

Speaking of Christmas, the president is looking forward to the Senate bringing us another step closer to delivering a big, beautiful Christmas present to the American people in the form of maxive -- massive tax relief.

To that end, on Wednesday the president will travel to St. Charles, Missouri, to deliver an important address to the nation on the need for tax cuts and reforms.

Unemployment is already at a 17-year low, wages are starting to raise (sic), the stock market continues to hit all-time highs and optimism is through the roof.

Just imagine what's going to be possible once this plan passes. And I think it will be a great lead in to the Christmas season, and something we can all be excited about.

And with that, I will take your questions. Jeff (ph)?

QUESTION: Sarah, is Director Mulvaney firmly in charge of the Consumer Financial Protection Agency, or is there a still a back-and- forth between him and Leandra English and who's actually the boss?

SANDERS: Director Mulvaney has taken charge of that agency. And he has the full cooperation of the -- the staff. And appeared there this morning and things went very well on his first day over at CFPB.

QUESTION: How did he handle that power struggle when he arrived there?

SANDERS: I think the legal outline shows very clearly who is in charge of that agency, and both he and the White House as well, as the general counsel for CFPB, who was appointed by Condray (sic), said that he has the legal standing to be there and serve as the director. And we all agree with that and, again, feel very confident in moving forward.

Cecilia (ph)?

QUESTION: Why not just fire Leandra English?

SANDERS: Look, she's still the deputy director and has a legal standing in that capacity, but not as the director.

QUESTION: Do you believe -- does this White House agree with Mulvaney when he called this agency a joke?

SANDERS: Look, we -- we think that a lot of the past practices, under the previous director and under the previous administration, were used more to advance political ambitions and not about protecting American consumers, which is what that's supposed to be. And our goal is to make sure we get back to that.


QUESTION: Thanks, Sarah.

Does the president still accept the authenticity of the Access Hollywood tape that he apologized for during the campaign?

SANDERS: Look this -- the president addressed this. This was litigated and certainly answered during the election by the overwhelming support for the president and the fact that he's sitting here in the Oval Office today. He's made his position on that clear at that time, as have the American people in his (sic) support of him.

Jon Decker?

QUESTION: He apologized for it, which would seem to acknowledge its authenticity. And that position hasn't changed?

SANDERS: No. Like I just said, the president hasn't changed his position. I think, if anything that the president questions, it's the media's reporting on that accuracy.


QUESTIONS: Thanks a lot, Sarah.

Just two questions on the CFPB. The first one has to do with whether or not you would like the courts to clear up any confusion as to who is in control of the CFPB. Of course a lawsuit has been filed, you'd like the -- that case to be -- a ruling on that case to be decided very quickly.

SANDERS: Look, of course, we're aware that a lawsuit's been filed, but we're also aware that the law is extremely clear and that Director Mulvaney is the acting director here, as his been outlined by the counsel's office, by the Department of Justice and, as I said before, CFPB's own general counsel, which was appointed by Condray (sic).

So I think that everybody is in full agreement that he's the director of this office.


QUESTION: I had two.

SANDERS: Sorry, Jon. (Inaudible).

QUESTION: How do you envision the agency operating under Director Mulvaney?

SANDERS: Much better than it has in the past.

QUESTION: What are the functions of the agency?

SANDERS: Like I said, we're not going to put political ambitions as the number one priority. We're going to make sure that the consumers are actually being protected, which is what the agency was created for. Trey?

QUESTION: Thanks, Sarah.

On the Senate race in Alabama, does President Trump plan to campaign for Roy Moore?

SANDERS: The president is not planning any trip to Alabama at this time. And, frankly, his schedule doesn't permit him doing anything between now and Election Day.

QUESTION: Over the weekend the president weighed in on -- about this race on Twitter. Does the president continue -- does he have plans to continue his campaign against the Democrat in Alabama, Doug Jones?

SANDERS: Look, I'm not going to get into a back-and-forth from the podium. As you know, I've declined that opportunity many times.

But I can tell you that the president obviously wants people who support his agenda, and certainly wants people that are looking to make America better, to improve our education system, to grow our economy, to continue to fight against ISIS, continue growing the economy. Those are the president's priorities and he wants people in place that are going to help and support those priorities.

Jonathan (ph)?

QUESTION: Sarah, the event that the president just did with the Navajo code talkers he referred to Pocahontas being in the Senate. Why did he feel the need to say something that is offensive to many people while honoring the Navajo code talkers, these genuine American heroes?

SANDERS: I think what most people find offensive is Senator Warren lying about her heritage to advance her career.

Steven (ph)?


QUESTION: That's (ph) a racial slur. She said it was a racial slur. What is your response to that?

SANDERS: I think that's a ridiculous response.

Steven (ph)?

QUESTION: If I could just follow up with that, because the president was speaking at an event to honor members of the Greatest Generation, people who fought in World War II who are in their 80s and 90s now, and the moment had many people online asking whether the president lacks decency. What's your response to that notion (ph)? SANDERS: Look, I think the president certainly finds an extreme amount of value and respect for these individuals, which is why he brought them and invited them to come to the White House and spent time with them, recognizing them and honoring them today. So I -- I think he is constantly showing ways to honor those

individuals, and he invited them here at the White House today to meet with them and to also remind everybody about what the historic role that they played many years ago.

Kristen (ph)?

QUESTION: Why is it appropriate for the president to use a racial slur in any context?

SANDERS: I -- I don't believe that is appropriate for him to make a racial slur or anybody else.

QUESTION: Well, a lot of people feel as though this is a racial slur. So why is it appropriate for him to use that...

SANDERS: Like I said, I don't think that it is and I don't think -- that was certainly not the president's intent.

QUESTION: Sarah, does he see political value in...


SANDERS: I think -- like I said, I think the more offensive -- the most offensive thing...


SANDERS: I'm sorry?

QUESTION: Does he see political value in calling people out racially? Why use that term (ph)?

SANDERS: Look, I think that Senator Warren was very offensive when she lied about something specifically to advance her career.