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Trump: FBI's Reputation in 'Tatters'; Trump Endorses Child Molester Roy Moore; Interview with Marc Short; Interview with Rep. Jim Himes. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired December 4, 2017 - 07:00   ET


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. Welcome to your NEW DAY. President Trump trying to undermine the credibility of the FBI.

[07:00:05] The president launching an extraordinary assault on the nation's top law enforcement agency, saying its reputation is in tatters. This comes, of course, after fired national security adviser Michael Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI and is now cooperating with Bob Mueller's Russia investigation.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: The president's lawyer now says it was he who wrote a controversial tweet which says that Trump knew Flynn had lied to the FBI before he fired Flynn. Some Democrats say this amounts to obstruction of justice.

All of this unfolding as President Trump is one step closer to scoring his first legislative win. Can the House and Senate iron out their key differences on these tax bills?

And President Trump just endorsed embattled Alabama Senate nominee Roy Moore in a new tweet.

So we have lots to cover.

Let's begin with CNN's Joe Johns. He is live at the White House. Good morning, Joe.


The president or others with access to his Twitter account seemingly wading into dangerous waters over the weekend with what could be construed as an admission just days after his former national security advisor pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI.

And there's also those harsh words from the president on Twitter about the nation's -- the nation's most well-known law enforcement agency.


JOHNS (voice-over): President Trump once again attacking the credibility of his own FBI, calling the bureau tainted and very dishonest and declaring that after years under former director James Comey, its reputation is in tatters. The president seizing on reporting that a senior FBI agent was removed from the special counsel's team last summer after internal messages were discovered that could be interpreted as showing a bias for Hillary Clinton.

The head of the FBI Agents Association firing back saying, "FBI special agents put their lives on the line to protect the American public, suggesting otherwise is simply false."

Comey and former deputy attorney general Sally Yates also coming to the bureau's defense, with Yates declaring, "The only thing in tatters is the president's respect for the rule of law. The dedicated men and women of the FBI deserve better."

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: What has been shown is no collusion. No collusion. There's been absolutely -- there's been absolutely no collusion.

JOHNS: President Trump attempting to downplay the guilty plea from his fired national security adviser Michael Flynn before this potentially damning tweet posted on Saturday from his account, asserting that he had to fire General Flynn because he lied to the vice president and the FBI. The tweet suggests the president knew Flynn lied to the FBI when he allegedly asked Comey to drop the bureau's investigation into Flynn, a conversation Comey testified happened the day after Flynn was fired.

JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: That's why I understood him to be saying that what he wanted me to do is drop any investigation connected to Flynn's account of his conversations with the Russians.

JOHNS: The president denying Comey's account. Mr. Trump's private attorney insisting that he actually drafted the problematic tweet that could help Special Counsel Mueller if he chooses to pursue an obstruction of justice case.

SEN. MARK WARNER (R), VIRGINIA: If he knew that then, why didn't he act on it earlier? It raises a whole series of initial questions. That's why I think you're going to see much more coming from the special prosecutor.

JOHNS: Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein saying Sunday that the Senate Judiciary Committee is building an obstruction of justice case against the president, citing the White House's behavior and Mr. Trump's firing of Comey.

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA: It is my belief that that is directly, because he did not agree to lift the cloud of the Russia investigation. That's obstruction of justice.


CUOMO: All right. Thank you very much. Joining us now is Marc Short. He is the White House director for legislative affairs. Thank you for taking the opportunity, sir.

MARC SHORT, WHITE HOUSE DIRECTOR OF LEGISLATIVE AFFAIRS: Thanks, Chris. Thanks for having me on this morning.

CUOMO: All right. So the president has put Roy Moore on your plate, because talking taxes, he brought up the Alabama Senate candidate who he seems to be endorsing, despite accusations of child molestation against the man. Is that his clear purpose here?

SHORT: Well, I think, Chris, he's been clear about expressing his concerns about the accusations against Roy Moore. But he's also making the point in one of our best opportunities for significant tax relief, tax relief that many Democrats have said they thought the idea of reforming our corporate code made sense. We couldn't muster any support from Democrats on a plan that provides massive tax relief for middle-income families.

And so he's making the case that, for the people of Alabama, it's a factor to consider that not one Democrat has been able to find time to actually say they support middle-income tax relief, and reducing the corporate rate will bring jobs back to America.

CUOMO: We have never heard Roy Moore weigh in on the tax plan. We don't know for sure whether he would have even been a vote for it.

SHORT: He should weigh in. I agree with you.

[07:05:00] CUOMO: But the president seems to be assuming that he's for it. And because he is for the tax plan, the president seems to be feeling that everything else doesn't matter. Is that an odd message to send to the voters in Alabama?

SHORT: No, I don't think that's a fair characterization, Chris. I think he expressed concern about the allegations, but he also said, you know, when allegations arise 38 years later, when Roy Moore has been a very public figure for those 38 years, he's run multiple times statewide in Alabama, people from Alabama have an opportunity to choose and makes decisions about Roy Moore's character that there's certain questions that come about the timing of those allegations and so putting all that together, he's encouraging the people of Alabama to make the right decision. And he's also acknowledging there's not one Democrat in the United States Senate that supported massive tax relief for the American people.

And now it put Doug Jones in a very difficult position, if not any Democrat in this country can find their way to support tax relief for middle-income families.

CUOMO: All right. Let's drill down on your area of expertise, which is the tax bill. Thank you for answering the questions. The president put it on your plate, my friend, not me. He put out the tweets. And as far as we know he wrote these. So I'm going to have to take them as official statements from the president, not from somebody else.

So on taxes, every Democrat we have on the show says the same thing, that they can't be part of this process. Part of the reason that you're doing it this way is because you get your simple majority. You control all the committees. So their amendments keep getting shot down. There is no effort to work with the Democrats. You're just blaming them out of convenience. SHORT: Chris, you remember just a couple weeks ago, your network was

widely reported in a meeting we had with about 10 Democrats organized by Senator Joe Manchin in which the president called in.

So it's a little bit difficult to say we didn't try to reach out to Democrats. Well, just two weeks ago you were reporting about meetings you're having with only Democrats. Prior to that, we met with all the Senate Finance Committees, both Republicans and Democrats, to outline our issues with where we're going with the tax plan.

We had several other meetings with blue-dog Democrats in the House as well as the Problem Solvers Caucus in the House. So we had a lot of outreach to House members and Senate Democrats to try to encourage them to find ways to partner with this.

I think sadly, the environment here in D.C. is so partisan that even on the plan that does what they said they wanted, as far as reducing the corporate rate and middle-income families. They couldn't find a way to actually partner with us. We think that's unfortunate.

CUOMO: A simple metric is do you have a list of any amendments that came from Democrats that made it into either of these bills that are going into conference?

SHORT: I think there's a different way of looking at that question, Chris. To what extent were the amendments that were being put forward ones that were intended to be just political poison pills versus ones that were trying to actually improve the process?

CUOMO: That's a matter of perspective, Marc. I get why you'd want to cast it that way, but the Democrats will say none of our amendments made it into the bill. They didn't want to cooperate. They want to muscle it through and get their simple majority vote.

SHORT: I assume that's why you're having me on the show, is to give my perspective on this.

CUOMO: Absolutely. Absolutely.

SHORT: I think in many cases, what they are doing is they're putting forward amendments that were not intended to actually help the bill. They're putting forward amendments that were trying to be poison pills, to put people on a position that they could use to grandstand in future election cycles.

We had many conversations, many conversations with them where they would acknowledge that the corporate in America, 35 percent was outdated. We were losing jobs overseas. Conversations that said, "Let's focus on middle-income families. We thought we did that with this bill. We asked them to help them partner with us. There are even other meetings here at the Oval Office that you guys covered with Democrats in the Senate Finance Committee meeting here with -- meeting with the president. So we thought there were many avenues open. But at the end of the day, I think that they believe that this was going to have a similar pathway to health care, and they did not want to be a participant in that process. CUOMO: All right. Well, that's your perspective. They have another

one. My job is to put it out there and then test your perspective. And I appreciate you taking the opportunity. They will say, and I think that -- forget about what the Democrats are saying.

The objective analyses of this bill make it hard to call it middle- class tax relief. That that does not seem, by any metric, what it is engineered to do. There is no section of the middle class, unless you start slice it with a knife that would make a Ginsu blush, that the middle class is the obvious intended beneficiary here.

Why call it a middle-class tax cut.

SHORT: Well, I don't think that's a very objective question the way you phrased that with your premise there, Chris. In fact, what both the Joint Committee on Taxation said in the House, though, was that for families earning $59,000 a year, which I presume is middle class, earned roughly $1,180 dollars...

CUOMO: Some families.

SHORT: ... on average.

CUOMO: Some families.

SHORT: In the Senate bill...

CUOMO: It depends how many kids. It depends on how they file. It depends on where they are.

SHORT: I appreciate you having me answer your questions.

CUOMO: Well, I've got to frame the context of it, Marc. I can't let you have your own facts. Go ahead.

SHORT: Those are facts. Those are not my facts. Those are facts the Joint Committee on Taxation put out. The facts the Joint Committee on Taxation put out in the Senate bill is for the average family earning $70,000 a year, the average tax relief will be $2,200. I think those are middle-income families. So, yes, I believe, objectionally, this provides middle-income tax relief for families in America.

CUOMO: Some middle-class families in America will benefit. Some will not benefit as much. All of them will not do as well as people in the top tier.

[07:10:08] My question is very simple. If you're going to call it a middle-class tax cut, why don't those people benefit the most? That's all I'm saying. You could just call it a tax cut and say there's stuff in here for the middle class, as well. But it's certainly not designed to benefit them more than any other class.

SHORT: Actually, no. We think it is designed to help them more than any other class, Chris. If you look at a percentage of their taxes they will benefit more. As you know, if you look at absolute dollars, that does change the calculations, because those in the upper class are paying more in total dollars.

But if you're looking for what is what I would consider most concerning the middle-income families, if you're at $70,000, getting $2,200 in tax relief, that is a percentage greater than those at the higher end. And I think that's what matters to those families.

CUOMO: And I'm just telling you that when I look at the analyses, whether it's from the joint committee or from the CBO, and they put the tables out, the number of middle-class families that are in the categories of the buckets of who does well in the short-term, who does well in the medium term, who does well in the long term, they do not line up with the top tier. The families don't do as well as the top tier. That's all I'm saying.

SHORT: So let's -- let's talk about that CBO analysis for one second, Chris, because we find that to be one of the most misleading of all.

What they acknowledge is that every income bracket will get a tax relief until we decided that it would be good to also repeal the individual mandate, and then analyses switch. And they said, now middle-income families get a tax increase.

But why is that? Why is that any study in Washington would say you remove a tax from an individual, "Oh, and now that's a tax increase"? It makes no sense.

CUOMO: Sure it does.

SHORT: Only in Washington.

CUOMO: I don't have anywhere near your expertise, and I can make a quick and constructive argument. Premiums are going to pop for portions of this population that were very deferential to President Trump in the election, because they are not the young and the strong strong. And when the young and the strong don't buy insurance because they don't think they need it, and now they don't have to buy it because the tax is gone, you know that the insurers will price plans differently for those middle-class, often older and not as healthy individuals.

SHORT: We're happy to have another conversation about how well Obamacare is working and whether or not people are getting proper care and what those -- what their premiums should be.

But specific to taxes, what you're saying is I, as a middle-income family, have all these options from the Obamacare insurance, and I think they all stink, so I'm not going to buy one. The federal government says, "Well, if you're not going to buy one, I'm going to tax you." What our plan does is say you no longer have to pay that tax. And CBO says that's a tax increase. That doesn't make sense.

What Orrin Hatch went back and asked them to do their analysis without the mandate, they confirmed that every family provided -- every income bracket was provided with tax relief.

CUOMO: Right. In the short-term, that works for most of the families. But there's a middle term and a long term. And of course, when you remove the mandate, you remove subsidies for a lot of people who are going to need it to get health care. They don't get it. That winds up being, you know, a practical tax as well. But you're right, health care is a separate conversation.

SHORT: If those subsidies went to those families. But Chris, those subsidies actually go to health insurance companies. So what CBO is saying that those subsidies go to health insurance companies, but I'm going to count that as actually going to that middle-income family whether they get there or not. It's a very misleading, dishonest study.

CUOMO: Well, except the other side will say, no, it isn't because that is what keeps those rates low for those people. So the practical effect is the same.

But I take your position on it on and I'm happy for you to offer it on NEW DAY. And you are always welcome here to make the case. You can come on every week if you want, Marc. I'd love to have you.

SHORT: I'm glad you have me.

CUOMO: I mean it. The American people can only benefit from hearing what you have to say.

SHORT: Thank you, sir.

CUOMO: Be well. Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: All right, Chris. Let's get some analysis now. Let's bring in our CNN political analyst, David Gregory, for everything that he just heard with Marc Short.

Before we get to what you just heard about the taxes and Marc Short, let's quickly touch on the prison's announcement this morning. He has officially endorsed Roy Moore. He says in a tweet, "We need Republican Roy Moore to win in Alabama." This is the first time that he names him, you know, by name.

CUOMO: In two tweets. There can be no question. That tweet and then the next one, too, he makes another case why it has to be Moore and not the Democrat.


So just to remind everybody, Roy Moore, of course, is accused of various things, of sexual misconduct, as well as assault, and one with a minor. So what do you make of this?

DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I mean, we've been watching over the couple of weeks the various stages of Roy Moore and his defiance in the face of these accusations.

You had all of the leaders in the Republican Party on Capitol Hill making it very clear that they believe the accusations against him, believe the women who talked about being teenagers and targeted inappropriately by Roy Moore when he was in his early 30s as a district attorney. But he was able to ride that out in his defiance.

[07:15:06] And Donald Trump, as president, made a political calculation that he didn't want to go down this road in Alabama again where he, you know, followed Mitch McConnell's advice. And now everybody is, McConnell over the weekend on ABC and the president digging in saying, "Roy Moore is our guy. We want somebody who supports our agenda. And he's denied these allegations."

And it's a tight race down in Alabama. And the voters will decide. Since there's not going to be a criminal proceeding here, the voters are going to figure out whether these allegations are to be believed and whether this is a person who's fit to be a senator.

CUOMO: What do you make of that? What do you make of the change? We don't know where Roy Moore is on the tax plan, per se, I don't think. We have people looking at it right now. He has said that he supports the Trump agenda. He has said that he hates the establishment in so many words.

But what do you make of the idea of clearly choosing party over these allegations? This has to be about the seat. To the extent that the president's tweet makes any sense, because he's talking taxes and Moore at the same time, it's got to be about choosing the seat over anything else.

GREGORY: I agree. But I also think it was -- there was a vulnerable moment, and Moore was able to survive it. It was so close. They pushed -- everybody pushed in the same direction except the president to get him out. And he held firm and was at least in a position to ride this out and face the voters.

And I think there was a backlash against Mitch McConnell, and it was led by people close to the president. Where here was the specter of Republican, you know, Party bosses in Washington threatening not to seat him and to try to look for novel ways to intervene to get him -- you know, either to unseat him or to change the rules of the game and have a different kind of election. And there was a reaction to that.

It looked like Moore was crashing in the polls, but he was able to pull out of that and at least run neck and neck. This is Alabama. It's a tight race. That shows you how vulnerable he remains.

But I think there was overreach on the part of the party elders here in -- in the Republican Party in D.C. It didn't go well.

CUOMO: Yes. They're within the margin of error on the poll right now, having Doug Jones ahead within that. But it's a dead heat.

And to be clear, Roy Moore has every right to stay in the race. He has every right to question the accusers. He certainly doesn't have as many facing him as Trump did in his election.


CUOMO: But this is also a political choice, and they have to justify it. CAMEROTA: OK. Let's talk about taxes. David, the tax plan, at

least. What did you hear Marc Short say?

GREGORY: Well, I mean, you know, they are -- they have muscled this through right now. It was interesting over the weekend to see the president may give a little bit to find a little bit more revenue that's being lost since this is going to be a whammy of a tax cut in terms of its effect on the deficit. And there's still speculation about what it's actually going to mean for the economy.

I do think, on the plus side, what the administration is riding here is, at a time of a massive stock market rally, and high corporate profits, the corporations are going to stand to benefit a great deal here. And that will, you know, create favorable economic conditions overall.

But once you start to dissect who's actually going to benefit over a period of time, I think it starts to break down.

But Republicans have made this bet. They've made an argument. It's striking how many the differences as we've talked about over the last couple of weeks, with even the Bush tax cut in 2001 in terms of how many more people who are the top earners in the country benefit, as opposed to the middle class over time.

But Republicans are going to notch a victory here and face voters with it next year. Mitch McConnell is on record now as saying that the effects of the tax cut will be immediate. It's helpful when you're leaning into an already buoyant, certainly, financial market situation if we're -- even though we're still facing kind of, you know, rather sluggish economic growth.

CUOMO: Short is a very sophisticated guy. We've been working for a long time to get him on the show and good to have him. But it was interesting tactically to see what they're doing there. The CBO says it's not a middle-class tax cut, effectively. "The CBO, they're not -- they're not impartial. You know, and look what they did with the mandate."

There's that tactic again. If they don't like what you say, they attack you as illegitimate. And anybody who believes that health care doesn't have anything to do with taxes doesn't understand...

GREGORY: And -- and we're going to see -- look, it takes time to see the effect of big changes in the health care system. That was certainly the case with Obamacare, as it got executed and implemented over time.

We're going to see it again, taking away that individual mandate. It does remove a central pillar of how it's all supposed to work.

CAMEROTA: OK, David Gregory, hank you very much.

GREGORY: You're welcome.

CAMEROTA: Great to see you. Up next, the Mueller investigation is taking a major step with Michael Flynn's guilty plea. What does that mean to the congressional investigation that's under way? A member of the House Intel Committee joins us next.


[07:23:43] CAMEROTA: President Trump this morning endorsing embattled GOP nominee and accused sexual molester Roy Moore. In a tweet, the president says that Moore needs to win Alabama to help push the president's agenda.

Here to discuss this and so much more, we have Democratic Congressman Jim Himes of Connecticut who serves on the House Intel Committee.

Great to have you here.


CAMEROTA: What's going on with Roy Moore? So the president has now endorsed him by name, saying -- I mean, it just couldn't be any plainer this morning than this tweet, "Roy Moore needs" -- "We need Republican Roy Moore to win Alabama."

And even Mitch McConnell this weekend appeared to be changing his tune on Roy Moore saying, "Well, let's let the voters decide."

HIMES: Yes, well, you know, it's sort of the ultimate raising of party and near-term political objectives over the country and, frankly, over morality, right? I mean, this is all driven by the fact that, as we saw with the health care vote in the Senate, one vote can make the difference. And Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump would rather have Roy Moore, with all that he represents, in the Senate than a Democrat. Which tells you something awful about the state of partisan affairs in the United States today.

CAMEROTA: I mean, but even Republicans back when the accusations against Roy Moore came out. And by the way, let's just remind people, four women have come forward to accuse him of abuse and assault. OK? Assault. One woman, one of those, was 14 years old. And back then, when those surfaced, they said that they would eject him if he were elected, that there would be an Ethics Committee hearing, and that they would eject him.

[07:25:12] So now what happens if he wins?

HIMES: Well, you know, he's going to be a huge political liability, right? I mean, you know, the rest of the country does not look like Republican voters in Alabama.

And so just as the president's tweets every single day create a distraction for the American people, you know, most recently this terrible tweet about the FBI, something I care a lot about as a member of the Intelligence Committee, you know, every day Roy Moore is going to say or do something which will -- which will embarrass us as a country and will certainly be a political liability for the Republican Party.

CAMEROTA: OK. Let's get to the Russia investigation. This weekend senator Dianne Feinstein said something very interesting. Let me play for you how she sees it.


FEINSTEIN: I think what we're beginning to see is the putting together of a case of obstruction of justice.


CAMEROTA: Do you see it as an obstruction of justice, getting closer?

HIMES: Well, it is interesting to note that George Papadopoulos, he was charged with lying to the FBI. Michael Flynn was charged with lying to the FBI.

CAMEROTA: Papadopoulos pled guilty.

HIMES: That's exactly right, pled guilty. And of course, there's this -- you know, Flynn is cooperating.

So it is looking like there is a tendency on the part of this administration, the people associated with it, to -- to lie. And, look, you just need to read the president's morning tweets to know his level of honesty.

So look, I think there's huge jeopardy here. And as a member of the committee doing the investigation, I will tell you, we still have a lot of work to do to figure out exactly whether there was information that was passed. And remember, it was promised. It was promised to Donald Trump Jr., information that was passed to the campaign that was used. To me that ticks the final box on the question of collusion. And we don't know the answer to that question yet. But we certainly do know that there is a lot of lying going on about what the contacts were.

CAMEROTA: Let me read to you this tweet to see if you think that -- this is what the president sent out -- if this changes your analysis in your investigation and any closer to obstruction of justice. This was sent from @RealDonaldTrump's Twitter account this weekend: "I had to fire General Flynn because he lied to the vice president and the FBI. He had pled guilty to those lies. It's a shame, because his actions during the transition were lawful. There was nothing to hide."

Now, of course, his lawyer has come out and provided some cover for him and said, "Actually, that was mine."

But it's hard to believe that the Twitter Trump has a ghost writer.

HIMES: Yes, it is hard to believe that. And look, this is in keeping with all sorts of things that don't make sense about the president, right? He is now in a sort of war with Jim Comey. Did he -- he's denying telling Jim Comey that he should be easy on

Flynn. So I mean, the American people will have to be the judge, because it sounds like two men in a room. But when the president, Donald Trump, says something and Jim Comey says another thing, I'll tell you who I believe.

And this is just, you know, time and time again pointing to the fact -- and you see the president's behavior -- pointing to the fact that this president has pressured people, has fired an FBI director by his own admission to relieve the pressure of the investigation. I'm not a lawyer. I don't know wt crosses the line of obstruction, but it sure feels pretty close.

CAMEROTA: OK. So the president, as you've referred to, has also been tweeting about the FBI. He's undermining them, saying that the agency is in tatters. What do you want Attorney General Jeff Sessions or anyone to do about the president's take on the FBI?

HIMES: You know, if Jeff Sessions had a shred of dignity after being attacked by this president, if Jeff Sessions understood what leadership was, he ultimately, you know, is responsible for the FBI. He would stand up for the thousands of men and women who are waking up this morning to keep us safe against terrorism, to keep us safe against criminals.

This irresponsible president, this unbelievably irresponsible president just damaged the morale of the agency charged with keeping us safe in this country.

There is not a shred of truth that this agency is in tatters. I know this agency. You know, people are standing up all over this country and saying, no, the FBI is doing good work. Day in and day out, people put their lives at risk to keep us safe. And this president, though his tweet, badly, badly damaged that organization.

CAMEROTA: Jim Himes, great to have you with us.

HIMES: Thank you, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Thanks so much for being here.


CUOMO: All right. So that's a big topic this morning. The President Trump, no question, his tweets are attacking the FBI. Certainly extraordinary. Will Attorney General Jeff Sessions weigh in? He's in charge of it. Does he agree? Is that what his silence means?

Former attorney general Alberto Gonzalez is next.