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White House Briefing Amid Trump Tweet Backlash, Tillerson Buss; White House says if Trump Loses Faith in Tillerson, He'll Be Gone; Conyers in Hospital as Top Dems Call on Him to Resign; Senator McCain Says He'll Vote for GOP Tax Plan. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired November 30, 2017 - 15:30   ET


[15:30:10] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Does he understand sharing those videos might have violence against Muslim? And does he know that he's elevated a fringe political group that people outside of Britain didn't even know about it until he --

SANDERS: I think what he's done is elevate the conversation to talk about a real issue and a real threat. And that's extreme violence and extreme terrorism. Something that we know to be very real and something the president feels strongly about talking about and bringing up and making sure is an issue every single day. That we are looking at the best ways to protect Americans -- John.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On that point, Sarah, did the president when he retweeted Jayda Fransen know who she was?

SANDERS: No, I don't believe so. But again, I think he knew what the issues are. And that is that we have a real threat of extreme violence and terrorism. Not just in this country but across the globe, particularly in Europe, and that was the point he was making. And I don't really have much to add beyond that -- Alex.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yesterday the president said NBC should terminate Joe Scarborough because of the quote, unsolved mystery that took place in Florida years ago. Why did President Trump think it was appropriate to seemingly reference the death of Lori Klausutis in 2001? And does he think Scarborough is responsible for the death of his former aide?

SANDERS: I don't have anything to add on that front beyond the tweet -- April.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sarah, a couple of things. One, what was the tipping point between president Trump and Tillerson?

SANDERS: Like I said I don't think believe there was a tipping point considering they were sitting here in a meeting today working hard to carry out the president's agenda. I think the tipping point is trying to do the best they can to make sure that they are making our world a better place, making America safer, and they're working together to get that done.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is the president listening to Tillerson as it relates to North Korea as North Korea is escalating? SANDERS: The president is listening to the Secretary of State as well

as Secretary of Defense, the National Security Adviser, his Chief of Staff. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and a number of other individuals, including world leaders that he's spoken to several times this week specifically, about North Korea. And he's going to continue to do that. And continue to talk to all of the relevant stakeholders -- John.

Sorry April, I'm going to keep moving.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What about John Conyers in the hospital and call for him to resign. What does the president have to say about that?

SANDERS: That's a decision for John Conyers to make -- John.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thanks a lot, Sarah. Back to Tillerson, where does the administration think these stories are coming from? Is it difficult in your view for Mr. Tillerson to carry out his job as Secretary of State with all these questions surrounding whether or not he's going to be in the administration maybe through January of next year?

SANDERS: Look, I don't know where those stories are coming from. I don't try to spend most of my day figuring that out. I'd rather focus on the points that I know. And the points that we are driving through the administration. And the Secretary of State is a pretty tough guy I think he'll be just fine carrying this job out -- Blake.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sarah, we often here the president or see the president talk about the stock market. We haven't yet heard from him on a separate but similar issue which is crypto currency. Has the president been following this at all bitcoin specifically, the major run up in it, does he have an opinion on it? Does he feel or does the administration feel that this is now something that needs to be regulated by the government?

SANDERS: I know this is something that is being monitored by our team here in terms of specific briefings and announcements on it. I don't have anything that I can share with you right now but will be happy to follow back up with you.


SANDERS: I'm sorry.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What kind of monitoring?

SANDERS: Look this is an issue, I know that Tom Bossert with the homeland security team and adviser to the president has brought this up in a meeting earlier this week. I know it's something that he's keeping an eye on. We'll keep you posted when we have anything further on it -- Stephen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm sorry to hear you are not feeling well. Actually, I hope you feel better. I have a question about the president's health. Mr. Trump predecessors going back as far as Ronald Reagan every year would go up to Bethesda. They have the best doctors in the military and they would report on their health and the vitals to the American public. We have a month left in the year. Does Trump intend to get a physical at Walter Reid?

SANDERS: I'd have so ask. That's not something I've checked on, but I'll be happy to check on it

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you know if he intends to share any details about his health the way his predecessors have?

SANDERS: Like I said, I haven't asked him that. But I would be happy to check. I do know that I spent 12 days on the road with him in Asia. And despite the fact that he's a little bit older than me, he had twice the energy that I do, and I'm the one sick now and he's still going. So, I think he's in pretty good health. But I'll be happy to share any information.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you. You read the first earlier about to those who are given much as much as expected. Linking that to the tax policy, the President said yesterday that this tax bill is going to cost him a fortune. Independent analysis says that that's not true. That he's actually going to save a lot of money and his family could save more than $1 billion. Could you tell us specifically what in the bill that is going to cause the President to pay more in taxes than he's paying now?

[16:05:00] SANDERS: Yes, I think some of the provisions in the bill which may or may not be there. We'll see what the final piece of legislation looks like. But a lot of the deductions that he would probably normally receive may not be part of the package that would affect his actual what he pays in taxes. But, again, until there is a final piece of legislation I can't go into much more detail. But I know some versions of it take out a lot of those deductions that currently benefit the president and his family. Take one last question here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What's the president's response to --

SANDERS: I'm sorry I'm going to go right here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The President was pretty definitive yesterday when he said he would pay more and his wealthy friends would pay more. So, what was he referring to?

SANDERS: Like I just said, I believe his reference was to a lot of deductions that may no longer exist that are in the current policy right now. Again, we'll have to see what the final piece of legislation looks like. Our focus as an administration has been to focus on middle class tax cuts. That's why I think the President doesn't care whether or not he gets a tax cut or not. But his focus is on making sure that the middle-class and middle-class families get those tax cuts and that we simplify the process and that we bring companies back home so that they can invest here.

Margaret, I'll take one more question. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You said Tillerson to close out a successful

year. Are you saying that he will close out the year? Will he serve beyond that? And when you are talking about elevating the conversation, does the President normally watch these kinds of anti- Muslim videos that have been posted by this group?

SANDERS: I'm not sure every single video the President has viewed. In terms of the Secretary of State, I think I've spoken about that pretty extensively and answered that question.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- by you. Where you real mean --

SANDERS: We are all closing out the year. You guys are closing out the year in your news network. We don't set the calendar. That's something that happened a few centuries ago. The year it is going to end whether we like it or not. We're all going to close it out. And we're all going to do the very best job we can for the American people in that process. I don't mean anything by it more than that. I'm closing out the year. You guys are. I know most of you are doing end of the year stories because that's how the calendar works. The year ends. And we are going to end on a strong note. And I think we'll end the briefing on a strong note and I'm going to get some water and a few cough drops. Our team will be around the rest of the afternoon to answer any other questions you guys have. We'll look forward to seeing you again.


BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: All right. So, Sarah Huckabee Sanders there wrapping up. We'll get into a big discussion of some of the headlines there. But they did mention we saw the acting HHS director. So, I think it is worth noting. He came up and thanking the president for donating his third quarter salary to helping fight the opioid epidemic.

But then all the questions flew. Right? From the White House press Corps on those anti-Muslim retweets, which she acknowledged the president probably didn't know who that woman was when he retweeted her. That she made news in saying that. Talking about this tax plan. And of course, on the big buzz today on the current Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson. So, Dana Bash, Samantha Vinograd, and Admiral John Kirby are back with me now.

Let's start with where we were moments ago before the briefing started on Rex Tillerson. Dana Dash, when she was asked about the fate of Rex Tillerson, her response was, when the president loses confidence in someone they'll no longer serve. Rex Tillerson was here today. So, is that her attempt to say nothing to see here, all is hunky-dory, or what did you make of her response?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That it was her attempt to answer the question without answering the question.

BALDWIN: Thank you.

BASH: And she, you know, has had to do this kind of thing with Rex Tillerson and others so many times that this is just kind of a new variation of the same kind of thing, which is side stepping the answer. Not really answering it. But certainly not giving a glowing endorsement of Rex Tillerson at all. I should say, though, as we were talking, she was talking, you mentioned showed a clip of Heather Nauert over at the State Department, another thing that we are seeing in our email, that Heather Nauert said, is that the White House Chief of Staff, John Kelly, called the State Department today to insist that the stories about Tillerson getting fired soon are not true. So that's another kind of wrinkle that came out as this press briefing was going on.

BALDWIN: All right. Sam, so General Kelly says the rumors aren't true. How do you take that?

SAMANTHA VINOGRAD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: I still take it that this doesn't empower Secretary Tillerson on the world stage. Think about the range of issues that he should be negotiating right now. Syria, we've seen Russia hold their own parallel set of negotiations. North Korea, President Trump has undercut Tillerson and the chances for diplomacy on that issue. This was not a sound we support Tillerson he's here for the long haul. This is what we like to call in government purposeful ambiguity and she wielded it very well.

BALDWIN: Purposeful ambiguity. We heard about parachutes from Admiral Kirby.

[16:10:00] You know talking about Heather Nauert and some of the phrases she used in talking about the fate of her boss over at the State Department. What did you make, Admiral, of Sarah Sanders response? Her nonresponse, response?

REAR ADMIRAL JOHN KIRBY (RETIRED), CNN MILITARY AND DIPLOMATIC ANALYST: Yes, look, trusting confidence behind the scenes is like boiling a frog. Right? Unless the person commits a crime, dui, you know, it's just kind of slowly erodes over time. And so, it can be true at any given moment that the President is losing trust and confidence. But you don't want to say that from the podium. Because from the podium we treat the trust and confidence like it's a hammer hitting a nail. Until the ink has been put on the paper that says you are gone, you technically still have the trust and confidence of the principal. That's the way we do as spokesperson. Nothing she said was inaccurate, but it was very carefully couched to protect this process.

BALDWIN: The questions also came of course on the retweets from this far right group and this one woman in particular who Sarah Sanders acknowledged the President didn't even know who she was. So, there is that. That the President retweeting a woman who he doesn't even know who she is, with these really disturbing videos of a young Muslim boy, or young boy being beaten, and turns out as we've been doing some of our own reporting on this, one of the tweets by the way showing this Muslim migrant it turns out was in fact a Dutch citizen. So, retweeting fake news as it comes out, Dana. But to hear Sarah say that, obviously defending the President and saying that the tweets or the retweets were aimed to elevate the conversation. How is that elevating anything?

BASH: I mean, the word elevate was quite frankly a very odd one to use in any context with regard to the situation. It doesn't. I mean, I think it objectively doesn't elevate anything. It excites. It exacerbates. But elevate means to lift up. What are we lifting up here? Except maybe bigotry. Which is -- I don't think you should use that in the same sentence as elevate. So, it was an odd word. Look, she has been, as we talked about yesterday, struggling to defend the in defensible and admitted -- as you said. And it's important to underscore, that she admitted that the president did not know who the source was, which is a big problem.

BALDWIN: Didn't know who the source was. What does that tell you? That the President of the United States, Sam, is retweeting an account that he's not even -- how many Twitter followers does he have?

VINOGRAD: I think 4.5 million. And aside from the fact that this content of these tweets is just simply up warrant.

BALDWIN: Disgusting.

VINOGRAD: Disgusting. There are national security implications here. After the travel ban the Foreign Minister of Iran, said that it was a great to extremists, because it deepens divisions that extremists exploit. These retweets do exactly the same thing. They're making us less safe. At the same time the leader of Bahrain.

BALDWIN: Is sitting in the White House today.

VINOGRAD: Is sitting in the White House today. And you have to wonder how is President Trump reconciling these horrific retweets with anything that he's telling the leader of Bahrain, President Erdogan, President Sisi, name your Muslim leader, about the close partnership between the United States and the Muslim world. They don't reconcile.

BALDWIN: Admiral Kirby to you on North Korea. A question was asked based upon what Ambassador Haley had said yesterday at the U.N. Essentially saying that if there were to be war, I think the phrase was that the North Korea would be utterly destroyed. And so, the question was does that indicate a change? Let me look precisely what I had written down. Does that indicate a regime change by North Korea? And her succinct answer was the focus is denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

KIRBY: It's another non-answer. They don't want to talk about regime change and for good reason. Because it's regime change that Kim Jong- un fears the most. He believes United States is an existential threat literally to his life and the life of his country and his country man. That's why he continues to advance his program. He's not going to be in any mood to negotiate or talk until he can come to a table having that capability to hit the United States with accuracy.

So, I this I she answered it the best way that she could. And frankly, look, I agree that denuclearization needs to be the policy goal. It was the goal for President Obama and it was for President Bush. It's just about how you get there. And I think we need to start -- if were not already -- looking for confidence building measures to show the North that we are serious about trying to find a diplomatic path forward here. Because everything else just hasn't worked.


BASH: Can I say one thing?

BALDWIN: Please. Close this out.

BASH: The question that was asked of Sarah Sanders about whether the President is going to get a physical Bethesda Naval. I think that we need to make sure that doesn't get lost. Because this is another tradition of president's, Democratic presidents, Republican presidents, they go, they get a physical. It's made public how their health is. They are the President of the United States. And she didn't say no, but she didn't say yes. And the physical health of the president, back to the campaign, has been, you know, a question mark of exactly what it is, because he got a doctor to write a very short and nondetailed letter about how he's the healthiest person who ever walked the planet.

[16:15:00] BALDWIN: I remember that. Lack of transparency, we'll see if he goes. And we'll see if he'll shares his health with the rest of us. Dana and Admiral and Sam, thank you all so much.

Coming up next here, news out of Capitol Hill today. Congressman John Conyers has been hospitalized -- speaking health. Amid allegations of sexual harassment and now you have the top Democrats, the likes of Nancy Pelosi joining the chorus of people calling on him now to resign. Hear from his lawyer and one of his accusers who spoke out today for the very first time.


[15:50:18] BALDWIN: A few details in the stories of two powerful men accused of sexual harassment. Both with two different outcomes. First the "Today" show star, Matt Lauer, is facing two new accusations of sexual misconduct. This as he is now breaking his silence after being fired by NBC. He released a statement that reads in part.

To the people I have hurt, I am truly sorry. Some of what is being said about me is untrue or mischaracterized, but there is enough truth in these stories to make me feel embarrassed or ashamed. I regret that my shame is now shared by the people I cherish dearly.

That's Matt Lauer. What about Congressman John Conyers? Not apologizing to his accusers. Today that top House Democrat called for him to resign. However, Congressman Conyers attorney says, he isn't going anywhere.


ARNOLD REED, ATTORNEY FOR REPRESENTATIVE JOHN CONYERS: It is not up to Nancy Pelosi. Nancy Pelosi did not elect the congressman, and she sure as hell won't be the one to tell the congressman to leave. That decision will be completely up to the congressman.


BALDWIN: Also joining leader Nancy Pelosi in calling for Conyers resignation -- according to a source -- is the third-ranking Democrat in the House, Jim Clyburn. Also House Speaker, Paul Ryan says it is time for Congressman Conyers to go. With me now Hadas Gold, CNN politics, media and business reporter. And April Ryan, CNN political analyst and White House correspondent for the American Urban Radio Network. Ladies, great to have you on. And April, let me just begin with you since I just -- I think I heard that question that you shouted out to Sarah Sanders just a couple minutes ago precisely on this, on Congressman Conyers. And your question essentially was, you know, would the president like to weigh in? And she said no, no, this is up to Congressman Conyers.


BALDWIN: What do you make -- it seems that the chorus for him to go is getting louder. Yet, he and his attorney, are saying, no, we're staying put. What do you make of this?

RYAN: What I make of it, Conyers is one of the longest serving Reps on The Hill. And he's got his dignity, you know, according to some. But at issue he's in the hospital today, and I'm hearing that he's reassessing. The question is what will be said when he leaves the hospital or what will be said by leaders as he leaves the hospital. A chorus is growing and it's getting stronger. People are saying -- I mean, sources I talked to just before I walked into that White House briefing room, they were saying he's got to go. People who stood by him, they're saying he's got to go. And he's hearing that. He's hearing the chorus. So, the question is what happens when he leaves the hospital today or tomorrow?

BALDWIN: The questions are being asked, when you look at corporate America or Hollywood, journalism versus politics, there seem to be consequences in one realm and a lack of consequences in the other. And so, the attorney for the congressman actually addressed this very question, here's what else he said.


REED: People are saying, right, that Matt Lauer was fired immediately. Other individuals have been fired immediately. Why wasn't the congressman forced to resign immediately? You're dealing with two different entities. In corporate America, there is no due process, John Conyers' situation is completely different. John Conyers works for Congress, a judicial, a legal, a legislative branch of government. It is apples and oranges. So, I need to clear that narrative up for America. Congress works differently. You just cannot fire somebody without going through the proper channels.


BALDWIN: But Hadas, isn't the counter to that, harassment is harassment is harassment. Why is it apples and oranges, do you think? HADAS GOLD, CNN POLITICS, MEDIA AND BUSINESS REPORTER: There is a

difference, and one of the reasons is that politicians face one election day every few years. And so that's one time that they have to sort of answer for their jobs and potentially lose their jobs unless they resign or somehow forced out which is a really hard process to go through.

Whereas in corporate America, in media, in these business organizations, they answer to their audience every single day with ratings and with sales. And so that's I think where you see the difference. Where corporate America is a little bit more worried that people might turn off the channel if they know that there is an alleged harasser on-air or might not go see a movie if they know that it was produced by somebody who is an alleged harasser. And that's where you see the difference and that's also why you see corporate America responding so much faster, perhaps, than Washington, D.C.

BALDWIN: April, I want to ask you about this. I mean, you're standing at the White House. And there was a tweet from Ana Navarro earlier this week on all of this, and this is what she says.

[15:55:00] Matt Lauer lost his job. Charlie Rose lost his job. Mark Halperin lost his job. Glenn Thrush lost his job. Billy Bush lost his job. Harvey Weinstein lost his job. Kevin Spacey lost his job. But in politics, Conyers still in Congress. Moore is still running, and Trump is still President.

Trump is still president. What do you think?

RYAN: You know, what I think is what I see. From this strange perch, Brooke, that we have a president who couple weeks ago was weighing in on Ray Moore. He wanted Ray Moore, regardless -- because he is desperate for a win, a legislative win, one legislative win. And he was throwing, you know, all caution to the wind and going for this.

Now, you know, with all of this coming up, we have a President who is the moral leader, who is faced with 12-plus allegations, 12-plus women who are concerned about sexual misconduct with then civilian Donald Trump. He cannot escape this. And as the chorus grows of names, it puts a spotlight back here on this president. And he may not or Sarah may not want to talk about the new allegations, but it's still there. And that's something he's going to have to address because the chorus is growing and growing.

BALDWIN: The spotlight seems like back on him when we talk about the other cases, whether it's a journalist or a member of Congress and still not getting much from Sarah Sanders there at the White House. April Ryan, keep asking. Hadas Gold, keep reporting. Thank you so much, both of you. But, let's get to some breaking news now.

Republican Senators, they are feeling confident, we're told, about their upcoming tax votes. Supporters of this overhaul plan received a major boost from none other than Arizona Senator John McCain. Senator McCain saying that he will vote in favor of this bill, even though he called it far from perfect. The White House says it is optimistic, given Senator McCain's decision. Phil Mattingly is our CNN congressional correspondent who is live now for us on Capitol Hill with the update here. You just got some new numbers on what this bill will cost. What is that?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's exactly right, Brooke. Look, when you talk to Republicans, they've made clear, they don't to want talk about static score of this which is essentially how much it would cost not including growth, revenue over the course of ten years, they want to talk about dynamic growth. Basically, what the effects of this tax policy would create on a revenue side. That is two different things. Well, now we have those numbers. From the Joint Committee on Taxation. Something we've been waiting weeks for right now and the news is not good for Republicans.

This plan, the Republican plan, would cost $1.4 trillion over ten years. The revenue effects, based on the tax policy, would only add $458 billion to that. So, in other words, Brooke, this plan, even accounting for economic growth would still cost a trillion dollars. Now, why does that matter? Well, we've been talking about it repeatedly over the last couple of days. Republican Senators, Jeff Flake, James Langford, Bob Corker, their issue is they don't want this plan to add to the deficit in the long run. Republican Senators have been clear. This will have enough growth. It will pay for itself, all of these types of things you've heard. Well according to the Joint Committee on Taxation, it will not. Brooke, the interesting element here is you put it perfectly, this train is leaving the station right now. Republicans are on the path to pass this at some point in the next day or two. The big question now is, this is falling short of what several of the members want. Obviously, they're working on a mechanism. It's called a trigger mechanism. If the growth doesn't add up to add some tax increases here. But this is not a number Republicans are looking for and it certainly goes the opposite direction of the number of Republicans said they would get growth wise in this bill, Brooke.

BALDWIN: I've got to you for another minute, Phil, what's the actual timeline? I mean, what happens today, tomorrow, and might there actually be the vote happening Friday?

MATTINGLY: Yes, I think that's extremely possible. Look, right now everybody's in a holding pattern and just kind of walking through behind the scenes right now. There are a couple of issues that are being worked through. I was talking about that deficit trigger. Senator Bob Corker, Senator Jeff Flake has been huddling multiple times with Republican officials behind closed doors over the course of the last couple of hours, trying to figure out how to structure it.

Look, it's a complex idea, do you raise taxes on the individual side? Do you raise taxes on the corporate side? How does it actually work? How do you adjust to the fact that there's a recession or something like that? It's complicated. They're working on that. They also need to make sure that the bill on a whole does not run afoul with budget rules. As this is all going on, the debate on the floor is still happening. They've got 20 hours of debate, they've been working on that. As you noted, there where be a voterama, where any Senator can offer any amendment that's germane to the bill. Could go a long period of time. When you factor all of that in, the fact that we haven't gotten out of the negotiation stage investigation and Senators are still working behind closed doors, it's clearly going to take a little while longer. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said it was possible to get this done tonight. Every kind of minute, hour that passes by looks like it's going to push into Friday, Brooke.

BALDWIN: OK, Friday it is then potentially. Phil Mattingly, thank you so much. We'll continue this tax conversation for the next couple of days, couple of weeks. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thanks for being with me. "THE LEAD" with Jake Tapper starts now.