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McConnell on Roy Moore: Let Alabamans Decide; Congress Scrambles to Reconcile Tax Bill & Avoid Government Shutdown; McMaster: Potential for War with North Korea "Increasing Every Day". Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired December 4, 2017 - 11:30   ET


[11:30:00] KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: I really want to get both sides and your take.

Hilary, what do you think changed from this?

HILARY ROSEN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, what changed really is that Mitch McConnell is nervous about the votes that he's going to have over the next couple months and has decided that it's better to have a child molester who is a Republican than a Democrat who may potentially vote against him.

BOLDUAN: I don't know if I believe that, though. The math in the Senate is the same before as it was a few weeks ago as when he was still saying he believes the accusers than now.

ROSEN: What's changed in the heat of a moment you pay attention more. To the extent that Roy Moore has stayed up in the polls in Alabama they don't want to be the guys facing, you know, the -- what tips it over the table but look, this is -- this is just so terrible that our politics have come to this. We've got a tax reform bill that is a mess, we have North Korea that's a mess and we have the president sort of under, you know, under investigation and two of this top people lying to the FBI, and here we are, trying to decide whether or not it is bad for a child molester to be in the Senate. It is, end of story. We should be moving on to more important things.


BOLDUAN: Ed, go.

MARTIN: Well, listen, Kate, I first of all I think it's an absolutely amazing that Hilary says those things. Let me point to a piece of common ground with her. I agree with her on this coming in the next couple months are going to be massively important votes in the Senate including I suspect a new justice on the Supreme Court, dozens of judges, Hilary wants a left winger like the guy, the Democrat down there, I want a conservative. I think the people of Alabama will decide. And one last thing if Hilary thinks it's OK to use the term child molester for a guy accused of something never convicted I like to hear what she will say about Bill Clinton and --


ROSEN: Accused of child molestation.


MARTIN: Bill Clinton was accused of rape.


MARTIN: We call Bill Clinton a rapist.


BOLDUON: Actually, Bill Clinton was accused of rape in his past -


BOLDUON: -- accusations.

ROSEN: You --


BOLDUAN: I don't think -- I'm going to stop anyway. I know my control room is going to kill me.

But, David Jolly, I want to get your take in the end is what I'm seeing right now, making my head want to pop off when it examines the issues. As Billy Bush says, it should be above politics. When it comes to politicians it never will be.

DAVID JOLLY, (R), FORMER U.S. CONGRESSMAN: That's right. And you know what makes me angry is


BOLDUON: Left and right. I'm not letting the Democrats off easy here on this.


JOLLY: Sure. Sure. But --


JOLLY: You know what changed in the last three weeks was courage. It's been very fleeting on in the Republican Party since Donald Trump entered our party. We saw it briefly, saw courage from Mitch McConnell and Cory Gardner and others three weeks ago who were willing to say Roy Moore does not belong in the U.S. Senate. That courage changed for no other reason that they're bowing to President Trump because they're scared of his control of this party. He won the election and he controls the party. They are falling in line behind Donald Trump. What changed this week is courage.

BOLDUAN: Ed Martin, David Jolly, Hilary Rosen, important conversation, let's continue it. Thank you all very much.

JOLLY: Thanks.

BOLDUON: Two monumental tasks, and not a lot of time. Congress now working to reconcile the tax bills between House and Senate. Can they come together. The will is there, the optimism is. Is the clock against them? All while trying to avoid another potential government shutdown. What this means for you, that's next.


[11:37:45] BOLDUAN: And we're back. My least favorite news to have to deliver to you, and here I have to do it again. Countdown to shut down. Yes. Again. Congress is five days to get a spending bill passed or much of the federal government will begin to run out of money and begin to shut down. Republican leaders are now scrambling to buy more time.

This comes as Republicans, of course, are also focused on trying to work out a compromise to figure out the differences between the tax overhaul bills passed in the House and the Senate. Sounds really easy to do.

Let's get the state of play with congressional correspondent, Sunlen Serfaty, on the Hill right now.

Sunlen, where are things?

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The House passed their bill, the Senate passed their bill, the phase they're in on Capitol Hill they have to sit down and reconcile the differences between the two massive tax bills. Today, at some point, we expect the official negotiators to be appointed to the so-called conference committee. These are the people who actually will be sitting down, going over line by line, ironing out the differences trying to get on the same page between the two bills. And certainly, are significant differences that have emerged between the two, not the least of which the number of tax bracket, the AMT, repeal of the individual mandate, whether individual tax breaks would be allowed to sunset our not. These are significant hurdles. That said, Republican leaders are confident they will be able to get over those hurdles quickly and also go towards moving towards passing a final product that they still don't have reconciled before the end of the year -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: Small differences have ruined many a bill -- bill's fate in the past. Let's see what happens.

Great to see you, Sunlen.

To talk more about this, Jean Sahadi, with me, a senior writer for CNN Money.

Jean, you know more about this. You're always my go-to person when I don't know what the you know what is going on. What are do you think the biggest differences that people need to care about between the two bills?

JEAN SAHADI, SENIOR WRITER, CNN MONEY: For individuals, the Senate bill makes most of the individual provisions temporary, expire after 2025. The House bill makes them permanent. The House goes into conference to, you know, reconcile the differences between these bills, with a little disadvantage because the vote is harder to take in the Senate so what's in the Senate bill will probably dominate. So people think. They offer different rate structures. The House bill has four tax brackets --


SAHADI: -- with a top rate of 39.6, the Senate with seven brackets, slight lower tax rate. They have to reconcile the top rate and the structure. In terms of --


[11:40:16] BOLDUAN: All gets down to money.

SAHADI: It all gets down to money, that's right.

BOLDUAN: And what it means, and how -- and can it pass muster in those -- in the rules in the Senate? These are big deals.

SAHADI: That's right. And that's why you're hearing from the president this weekend that maybe he can live with a corporate tax rate of 22 percent as opposed to 20 percent, which both bills are calling for. That will give them about $200 billion to play with to buy off maybe lawmakers who want other provisions in the bill or want to make certain provisions like the child tax credit more generous.

Marco Rubio in the Senate has been pushing for that.


SAHADI: The Senate does have a more generous child tax credit than the House. They both increased it. The Senate by $1,000. Marco Rubio wants to make it more generous than that.

BOLDUON: On the issue permanent versus not permanent to tax cuts, House permanent, individual side, Senate, no, they sunset over years. The president's budget director over the weekend said essentially do not listen to the noise on this. They won't expire in the end. They will be made permanent. Why? It comes down to trust in Congress. Yes, Bush tax cuts may still be in place, but we still have the sequester from the debt deal, which was supposed to never have happened because you're supposed to trust Congress that cooler heads would prevail and members would come together to avoid that problem.

Is there any assurance that folks can trust Congress that today you can say, your individual tax rate, you will keep your tax cuts?

SAHADI: I do think -- I think when it comes to tax cuts both Republicans and Democrats are more likely when it's middle-class tax cuts, the corporate stuff is permanent.


SAHADI: So they're not going to change that. It's hard to tell the middle class, sorry, you have to rearrange your taxes again.

BOLDUON: Sure is.

SAHADI: Both parties, Mick Mulvaney is right in that regard.

On the other hand, it makes their promise of we're only going to add $1.5 trillion to the deficit, which what is the Senate has agreed to, and they have to meet that target in order to pass the bill with a simple majority. That makes that a joke because if you start extending the tax cuts, seven, eight years from now you will add to the deficit.

BOLDUAN: Where are the deficit hawks today.


BOLDUAN: I'm searching for them. Don't see them.

Great to see you, Jean.

SAHADI: Thanks.

BOLDUON: Thank you so much.

So this morning, U.S. and South Korean fighter jets are playing war games on the Korean peninsula, launching attacks on a mock North Korean missile launch site. That sends some kind of a message. This, as an adviser to the president says the potential of war with North Korea is, quote, "increasing every day." What's behind the war games and what does it say now? That's coming up.


[11:47:15] BOLDUAN: U.S. fighter jets in action on the Korean peninsula. They're taking part in combat exercises with South Korea, something the North says is pushing the peninsula to the brink of nuclear war.

Well, White House national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, is also ramping up the rhetoric this weekend. Listen.


H.R. MCMASTER, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: I think it's increasing every day, which means that we're in a race, really, we're in a race to be able to solve this problem.

There are ways to address this problem, short of armed conflict, but it is a race because he's getting closer and closer.


BOLDUAN: CNN Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr, is joining me now with much more on this.

Barbara, these war games are including strikes on a mock North Korean nuclear war site. Seems the message couldn't be clearer on that. What is the Pentagon saying about this?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: The Pentagon is trying to emphasize these drills, these exercises, were scheduled and planned not in response to anything in particular. But let's face it, it is a big message-sending exercise. It's more than 200 U.S. and South Korean aircraft. And they are trying to look at how they might operate in a real-world situation. And it's important to note the U.S. Air Force has sent F-22 aircraft, their F-35s there, two of the most advanced, highly technologically capable fighter jets that the U.S. military has in the field. So there's no question about it, the message is, we are ready, we'll send our most capable assets if we need to do that. That's the message the Pentagon is sending.

And as you say, H.R. McMaster saying that risk of war is growing, and why is that? It's because in no small part, the continued missile testing. And just last week, we saw the North Koreans test fire that missile that flew higher and longer than any missile in the past. The belief is they had problems with it, it didn't re-enter the earth's atmosphere properly. But does show that North Koreans pursuing what they hope is their ability some day to demonstrate they can attack the United States -- Kate?

[11:49:26] BOLDUAN: All right. Standby for more on this. No doubt.

Barbara, great to see you. Thank you so much.

So still ahead, the U.S. is walking away now from a global effort to deal with the massive and growing international refugee and migrant crisis. Why? Saying the U.S. will go it alone. Coming up, a Syrian- American whose life's work now is trying to save the millions of Syrians fleeing war. We'll speak with him next.


BOLDUAN: The Trump administration is pulling out of a worldwide agreement. This is a new announcement coming out over the weekend. The White House notifying the United Nations that they will not take part in a declaration to address the growing refugee crisis impacting the entire world. U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, in making this announcement, said, quote, "We will decide how best to control our border." The U.N., of course, not happy, disappointed with this announcement. So now what?

Joining me now to discuss is Mouaz Moustafa, the executive director of the Syrian Emergency Task Force.

Mouaz, great to see you again. Thanks for coming in.


BOLDUAN: One of the countries most hard hit is Syria. Your focus is largely trying to help Syrians internally displaced and find a way to survive and live there and you do that in partnership with other countries like the United States. What do you think the real impact of an announcement like this is coming from the United States? MOUSTAFA: First of all, this is an announcement that was not

surprising that the administration has been clear about its views of refugees and specifically of Syrian refugees. To be honest under the previous administration, the number of refugees that the United States had accepted from Syria specifically comes to less than 1 percent of the amount of people that are displaced. Syrians are the most displaced people in the world. Not just the refugees outside the country, but a much more dire situation. Over seven million displaced facing bombardment by the Air Force and militias continuing to expand from Syria. For me, I think it's disappointing because United States is a leader in the world and being part of this is important because it can help get an international policy to help these vulnerable people. More importantly is Syria has fallen off the headlines. The administration itself needs to put them back on the edge. If you don't want to deal with refugees, you need to protect those displaced.

[11:55:40] BOLDUAN: In March of this year, when we last spoke, there were big changes that happened in Syria. Most notably, obviously notable is the fall of Raqqa. This was celebrated by folks around the world, but what are you hearing from the ground? What do Americans need to understand as it has fallen from the attention. What do folks need to see as they face on the ground today?

MOUSTAFA: First of all, there was as you remember in the trip that President Trump took to Asia, he had a chance to meet informally with Russian President Putin and had decided that he would sort of try to work with the Russians on the Russia plan they have. What's happened since then is that the Russians have not implemented every part of their plan. Even the plan that is endorsed if you want to try to work with the Russians. They obviously cannot be trust and must be worked from a position of strength if we were to negotiate with them. So far since ISIS continues to be defeated inside Syria due in large part to coalition forces and forces on the ground, the fact is that the Russians and the de-escalation zones. Sunday, 27 civilians died with Russian and regime bombardment from Damascus. Mostly children died in a single day.

BOLDUAN: Twenty-seven people.

MOUSTAFA: That's right.

BOLDUON: That's just one example of -- we can talk about it every day.


BOLDUON: You see the images coming out from the completely demolished cities of Syria.

Mouaz, always great to have you.

MOUSTAFA: Thank you.

Mouaz is executive director of the Syrian Emergency Task Force, doing amazing work. Thanks for coming on.

MOUSTAFA: Thank you so much.

BOLDUAN: Still ahead for us, the president's personal attorney just declared Axios, "No matter what, the president cannot obstruct justice." We'll dig into that theory a little bit more, coming up.