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Trump Fires Back at Gillibrand & Accusers; Trump Lawyers Demand Second Special Counsel in Russian Probe; Lawmakers Demand Probe into Trump Sexual Accusations; How Trump, His Businesses & Family Benefit from Tax Bill; Grassley Urges Trump to Reconsider 2 Judicial Picks. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired December 12, 2017 - 14:30   ET



[14:30:43] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: President Trump is firing back against the sitting Senator who is calling for him to resign, and against the women who have accused him very publicly here of sexual misconduct. The president tweeting this, "Despite thousands of hours wasted and many millions of dollars spent, the Democrats have been unable to show any collusion with Russia, so now they are moving on to the false accusations and fabricated stories of women, who I don't know and/or have never met. Fake news."

But here's the thing, there is proof that the businessman-turned- president spent some time with at least seven of his accusers.

Our politics reporter, Dan Merica, is with me now with more on this.

Dan, what do you know?

DAN MERICA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER: Hey, Brooke. So President Trump has clearly denied these accusations in the past but what his tweet did this morning was take it one step further. Not only did he deny the accusations but said he has not met or interacted with these women. Now we went through the list of accusers. There are at least 15 women accused of president of some sort of sex you'll harassment or assault. And we went through the list and found at least seven who have spent time with the president. The most blatant example is Summer Zervos who was a contest on "The Apprentice." Fired on the first episode of season five. Take a look.



DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Why should you interrupt me when I'm -


TRUMP: You're interrupting me when I'm -- what are you doing to yourself?

SUMMER ZERVOS, FORMER APPRENTICE CONTESTANT: Because I'm being truthful and I'll always be truthful.


TRUMP: How stupid is that? Right?

ZERVOS: It's not stupid.

TRUMP: Here I am I'm getting ready to fire this guy --


TRUMP: -- for being a horrible leader and you interrupt me.


TRUMP: And you are no great shape yourself. You did a lousy job. Here I am getting ready practically to fire this guy and you keep interrupting me and stopping me from doing it. And in the end, what Carolyn said to you is true.

ZERVOS: I want him to be fired.


TRUMP: He said, what have you done? You don't answer.

You know what, Summer, you are fired.


MERICA: So clearly, Summer has had interactions with the president. She's actually suing President Trump for defamation at this point.

Then I want you to take to Jessica Leeds who appeared at a press conference yesterday in New York City. This seems to be what spurred these tweets from the president. She has accused the president of groping her on a flight in 1980. And yesterday, the White House put out an eyewitness account that they say refutes the Leeds account. The eyewitness says, yes, the eyewitness does say that he never saw any inappropriate behavior between Trump and Leeds. But it also says they were sitting next to each other on the flight. They did meet on that flight.

Then there's Jill Harth, who says President Trump made unwanted sexual advances to her in 1992 and 1993. This came out during the campaign. And she denied these claims. Hope Hicks, who was the spokesperson for Trump, at the time during the campaign, provided e-mails that showed that Jill Harth had e-mailed President Trump asking for a job and to support the campaign. Additionally, President Trump has not denied the fact that he met Harth in interviews. And there are photos of the two of them together.

So far, the White House has not commented on that tweet. Whether they try to clean it up or whatnot. We expect that Sarah Huckabee Sanders will weigh in at 3:00 when she steps in front of the cameras.

[14:34:03] BALDWIN: You know she will be asked about that.

Dan, thank you. Dan Merica, in D.C.

Next here, President Trump's legal team is now calling for a second special legal counsel, this one, to investigate the investigators in the Russia probe. Former White House ethics chief joins me live to explain why he is calling this a direct attack on the rule of law.


BALDWIN: President Trump's lawyers are now calling for a second special counsel to investigate the investigators in this ongoing Russia probe.


JAY SEKULOW, TRUMP PERSONAL ATTORNEY (voice-over): I issued a statement today that the Department of Justice and the FBI cannot ignore the multiple problems that have been created by these obvious conflicts of interest. These new revelations require the appointment of a special counsel to investigate. This is -- I think it's independent of what Bob Mueller does.


BALDWIN: That was the president's personal, the voice of Jay Sekulow. He's not talking about Special Counsel Robert Mueller. But rather the FBI agents assigned to the investigations. These concerns stem from at least three people connected to the investigation that have been fired or demoted because of perceived personal bias.

With me now to talk about this, CNN contributor, Walter Shaub. He Resigned as White House ethics job over Trump.

A pleasure. Welcome back, Walter.

Again, the point being, they are not calling on Mueller to be investigated. They're calling on the FBI. So what's your interpretation of this? Is this a way for them to think maybe this is a way they can get closer to Mueller?

[14:39:50] WALTER SHAUB, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, it's the same thing, really. Because they are trying to discredit the entire law enforcement activities in this area. And they have a very funny definition of conflict of interest. These are the people who don't think it's conflict of interest to own vast financial holdings while being the president of the United States and making all sorts of decisions that can affect your holdings, but they do think it's a conflict of interest to have a viewpoint. And there isn't a single human being without a viewpoint. What they are really attacking, and "The Washington Post" pointed this out recently, is the concept of professionalism, the idea that human beings have viewpoints but do their jobs objectively.

BALDWIN: OK, professionalism. OK. You tweeted today that those behind this idea of this second special counsel, to quote you, "Believe there is guilt that needs concealing." What did you mean by that?

SHAUB: What I mean is they are trying to undermine Mueller even if they have to do it by going after the FBI agents assigned to do his investigations. And that to me signals they are engaging in panic fire. There is something they are afraid of. Mueller is getting too close for comfort. One of the claims has been an FBI agent, who immediately got taken off the job, tweeted -- texted some messages saying he didn't like President Trump. Well, that is just simply a viewpoint. There may be others who like him, others who don't like him. But we don't tend to call viewpoints conflicts of interest. I can't imagine that the agents who took down John Gotti had any tuck love for John Gotti, but they still did their job.

BALDWIN: Right. And they need to do theirs.

Let me move to something else, because you as former ethics chief, on all these sexual harassment allegations, and how you have these Trump accusers and now about 100 members of Congress who stood there and are calling on this congressional committee to investigate Trump, to investigate these old allegations.

What is the likelihood, Walter, that that would happen? Is there a precedent for this?

SHAUB: I have to admit I'm not optimistic. I think there is about zero chance that they are going to look into it.

BALDWIN: Zero chance.

SHAUB: He's been quite blatant about his activities. And his denials are categorical. They're not necessarily plausible but he simply denies them. And I don't see any sign that those in Congress have the power to do anything about this, the majority is likely to take any action whatsoever. It's unfortunate because this is a moment in our history where a lot of people are having their voices heard for the first time and people are facing consequences for the first time. But like with everything else, our president seems to be getting a free pass from America.

BALDWIN: I hear you on zero chance. Obviously, there were 100 members of Congress, 59 women, and to be fair, a lot of men as well, saying they do think that there should be. How would it even work if they tried?

SHAUB: That's the other thing. And, by the way, I sure hope I'm wrong. I would love to be proved wrong on this one. But I don't know how they would proceed. Normally, the oversight function from Congress is carried out one of two ways. Either oversight hearings, and that's usually conducted by an economy committee like the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, and that's usually targeting presidential appointees. The other mechanism is through impeachment proceedings, but I seriously don't think we are seeing any momentum toward that.

BALDWIN: Walter Shaub, thank you very much.

SHAUB: Thank you.

BALDWIN: It's worth the ask.

It is coming down to the wire. Republicans gathering support for their tax overhaul. The president is touting the plan as a tax plan for the middle class. But is it really the president and his family who stands to benefit the most? We'll fact check.


[14:48:26] BALDWIN: As House and Senate negotiators wrestle with this tax reform Rubik's Cube now before conference committee, President Trump has said he and his family and other rich Americans will not benefit from the Republican tax plan.


TRUMP: Believe me, believe me, this is not good for me. Me, it's not -- I have some very wealthy friends, not so happy with me, but that's OK. I keep hearing Schumer, this is for the wealthy. Well, if it is, my friends don't know about it.


BALDWIN: In fact, the president says it's going to cost him a fortune. Is that really true?

CNN chief business correspondent, Christine Romans, is looking into his claim.

Christine, what did you find?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Brooke, President Trump says the tax bill will cost him a fortune, but he's keeping tax returns secret, so it's impossible to know how the plan affects him. But key elements of both proposals help the president, help his family, and his businesses. Like tax cuts for pass throughs. Trump owns hundreds of pass-through businesses. That's when a company's profits pass to the owner and are taxed at the individual rate. For someone like President Trump that means the top rate of 39.6 percent. The House lowers that rate to 25 percent, while the Senate bill reduces taxable income, lowering the tax rate. Either way, Brooke, that's a nice tax cut for the president. There are also goodies for the Trump family business, real estate. Both plans lower the tax on income for real estate investment trusts, which the Trumps and the Kushners use. The Senate version allows bigger deductions on commercial property. While the House plan won't cap interest deductions on the industry. And finally, both plans keep a break for golf course owners. That benefits the Trump administration which owns multiple golf courses. And the alternative minimum tax, the House bill repeals it, the Senate bill keeps it. But fewer people have to pay it. How would that help the president? Remember, two pages of his 2005 tax return leaked in March showed Trump payed $31 million because of the AMT. Without it, he would have owed $5 million that year. Finally, the estate tax. It currently taxes estates at $5 million or more, like President Trump. The House bill repeals it, the Senate bill doubles that amount -- Brooke?

[14:50:38] BALDWIN: Christine, thank you very much.

We are moments away from the White House briefing as lawmakers accuse the president of making a sexist smear against a setting Senator. How will Sarah Huckabee Sanders respond? Especially after yesterday's briefing. We'll take that live.

And the top Senator on the Senate Judiciary Committee is now telling the president to reconsider two of his controversial judiciary picks. Hear why, next.


[14:55:29] BALDWIN: Breaking news here into CNN. Senate Judiciary Chief Chuck Grassley just issued a rare rebuke of President Trump's controversial judicial nominees. He is now urging President Trump to rethink two of his picks.

CNN justice correspondent, Jessica Schneider, is with me.

Jessica, what are you learning?

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Brooke, this is a stunning rebuke of two of President Trump's judicial nominations from the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee. Just within the past hour, Senator Chuck Grassley this on two of President Trump's nominees. He said, first, that the White House should reconsider the nomination of Jeff Mateer. And secondly, he said the White House should not proceed with the nomination of Brett Talley.

Now, both of these nominees, in addition to several others, there has been a cacophony of criticism over these nominees really in the past few months.

First of all, I'll point to Jeff Mateer. He's currently nominated for the federal judge spot on the district court in Texas. But, Brooke, there has been a wave of criticism because of speeches he's made in the past. In particular back in September CNN revealed back in 2015 Jeff had made a speech where he called transgender children part of Satan's plan. Also said that same-sex marriage would lead to problems with big a me and polygamy. So based on those comments there has been a wave of criticism about the selection from President Trump.

Secondly, the second nomination he pointed to was Brett Talley. Mid- 30s, nominated for the district court in Alabama but, however, Brett Talley has never tried a case. His wife works for the White House as a lawyer. He didn't disclose that in his Senate forms when being considered by the Judiciary Committee. And he also had a long list of social media platforms that he posted controversial things referring to Hillary Clinton as rotten in one post.

Really, Brooke, there has been a wave of criticism about these two picks. And now, within the pass hour, Chairman Chuck Grassley has said to the White House, look, you have to do something about these two nominees. At this point, the White House is not responding to this. But this could be big trouble for at least two of their nominees -- Brooke?

BALDWIN: Could be asked about that in the coming minutes at that briefing as well.

Jessica, thank you.

Let's continue on.

Hour two. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

Any moment now, the White House press briefing is set to begin. Quite a testy one yesterday. We'll see how today goes. A lot of to discuss, including the new developments that 100 Democratic lawmakers, men and women, now calling for the president to it be investigated. This, of course, comes after multiple women have come forward renewing their very public sexual misconduct allegations against the president.

Also, a couple of Democratic Senators, including Kirsten Gillibrand, are calling for the president to resign.

And on Kirsten Gillibrand, the president is now personally attacking her, calling her, in this tweet, "a light weight and a total flunky."

Here is how she responded to this today.


REP. KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND, (D), NEW YORK: It was a sexist smear attempting to silence my voice. And I'll not be silenced on this issue, neither will the women stood up to the president yesterday, and neither will the millions of women who have been marching since the Women's March to stand up against policies they do not agree with.


BALDWIN: Also trying to discredit his accusers, saying, "These are false accusations," from the president, "false accusations and fabricated stories of woman who I don't know and/or have never met."

We go to the White House to our senior White House correspondent, Jeff Zeleny.

You are in the room now. As I mentioned, Sarah Sanders, it was extra tense at the briefing this time yesterday, when she was asked right out of the gate, as she should have been, about these multiple Trump accusers, these women coming forward. Doesn't the president's tweet contradict Sarah's response from yesterday when she was pointing out there were eyewitnesses who have refuted what happened or didn't happen?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Good afternoon, Brooke. That is good observation. Because Sarah Huckabee Sanders did say from this podium yesterday there are eyewitnesses to back up the president's denials of these accusers. Well, the president this morning, of course, going on social media to essentially say he does not know any of them. By our estimation, Brooke, looking into the 15, at least, women who have made some type of accusation against the president, ranging from sexual harassment to misconduct, even to assault, at least seven of them do know the president. One, of course, was on "Apprentice" with him, one was a receptionist in Trump Tower, on and on here. So I think those will be some of the questions, of course, the --