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Trump: Some in GOP "Happy" With Alabama Senate Loss; Trump, Republicans Meet As GOP Reaches Deals on Taxes. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired December 13, 2017 - 14:00   ET


[14:00:15] ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: Hi there. I'm Brooke Baldwin. You are watching CNN on this Wednesday afternoon. Thanks for being with me.

Very soon, President Trump will speak on tax reform, as a major development is now breaking on that. So, House and Senate Republicans, they have hit a deal on the tax bill. We know they want this win, especially in the wake of last 24 hours.

As president pushes for what could be that win for his presidency, he is now licking his wounds, though, over this gut-punching loss in Alabama. Think about this -- for the first time in 25 years, the ruby red state where President Trump dominated by almost 30 points is sending a Democrat to the United States senate. Doug Jones beat Republican Roy Moore that accused sexual molester and attacker endorsed by President Trump.

I want to play the moment for you when Alabamians realized the stunning upset since the president himself won.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: From Alabama, he beats Roy Moore in this really, really exciting contest, Doug Jones comes from behind.




BALDWIN: Now, in the world of Roy Moore, he has yet to concede to Doug Jones but the president is admitting defeat. He congratulated Doug Jones on Twitter, and a second tweet, maybe not so gracious. But we'll get into that here in just a second.

But moments ago, the president acknowledged Moore's loss was positive to some in his party.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: A lot of Republicans feel differently. They are very happy with the way it turned out but I would have -- as the leader of the party, I would have liked to have had the seat. I will say, we have to get more senators and more congressmen that are Republicans elected in '18, then you'll see a lot more of what we're doing right now.


BALDWIN: Let's go straight so Abby Philips. She's our reporter for us this afternoon at the White House.

And, Abby, I understand the finger pointing inside the White House has begun.

ABBY PHILLIPS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Definitely, the knives are out for various people right now. And I think there's no question about it, last night was a huge loss for the president, one source telling CNN that it was devastating and characterized it as an earthquake. But the question is, who is the president going to blame exactly?

There are some folks within this White House pointing the finger at the former adviser to the President Steve Bannon who encouraged the president to back Moore and travel down to Alabama to campaign for him. But at the same time, other Republicans inside and outside the White House are pointing the finger at Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, saying that McConnell was the one who botched this race by not fully getting behind Moore.

But the president as you just heard has made it very clear that he thought that this seat was worth winning at all costs. He wanted them to go all in on it. Now that that seat is lost, there are some real questions now about the president's political pull. This is the second time that he has endorsed in this Alabama race and his candidate of choice has lost. In other elections this year, we have seen the same thing, notably in Virginia.

So, going forward, there are some real questions here about what are the risks for Republicans going forward if the president endorses, does he still have the ability to pull candidates over the finish line.

BALDWIN: The cache. We'll see. Abby, thank you at the White House.

There is some more bad news for the president. Let me show you this new poll just out minutes ago has president Trump approval rating down to 32 percent. That is a low from Monmouth Polling. It matches the lowest poll we've seen in another public polls.

So, with me now, three ladies, Jamie Gangel, CNN special correspondent, Carrie Sheffield, conservative commentator, and CNN political commentator Sally Kohn, host of "State of Resistance" podcast.

It is great to have all of you on.


BALDWIN: You first, we are just about a year into this Trump presidency, we now talked a lot recently about Virginia. Now, of course, the big upset win in Alabama. You are talking to Republicans. This is a huge sigh of relief for them and the president acknowledged that.

But still what does this loss mean for President Trump?

JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: It's a huge loss for him. And Donald Trump as we know does not like to lose.

I do want to say, though, that I think this was about Roy Moore.

[14:05:03] If an acceptable Republican candidate had run, I think that Republican candidate would have won. That said, Donald Trump loses on a lot of fronts. He loses politically because he didn't push for him to step aside and try to get someone else in. He loses because the Senate is now in play in addition to the House. He's down to a razor thin margin.

And I think he also loses because Republicans that might not have been willing to buck him now have a hall pass, right. Where is this Trump base?

Maybe I'll go out there and I'll do what I want to do on this issue or that issue. And I think it goes beyond people like Susan Collins moderates. I think you may see a wider crack.

BALDWIN: Which is significant especially when it comes to legislative agenda. We'll get into that in a second.

But, Carrie, back to you, you know, going back to this tweet from the president. I said Roy Moore will not be able to win the general election, I was right. Roy worked hard but the deck was stacked against him.

And just to take it further, just to prove his point here, I want to take you all back to September when he appeared on an Alabama radio show to promote Luther Strange. Remember, the president backed the wrong guy initially, and the president didn't even know Roy Moore's name.


TRUMP: To me, very importantly is that he will absolutely win against the Democrat. Whereas, Ray is going to have a hard time, you know that. It's going to be a hard race. You've seen the races go very bad.

Luther wins automatically. If Luther wins tomorrow, the Democrats will hardly fight. If Ray wins, they're going to pour in $30 million like they did in Atlanta.


BALDWIN: Ray, Roy, potato, he picked the wrong guy. Do you think that -- obviously the president picked the wrong person. He listened to Steve Bannon and an according to some reporting out of the White House, it's a little egg on his face and he's frustrated today.

But is the president way of saying I was right by taking the perspective of all sides, this is what I thought now, this is how I feel now, therefore I'm still right?

CARRIE SHEFFIELD, CONSERVATIVE COMMENTATOR: Well, look, I can only speak for myself. I can't speak for the president or anybody else. I speak for myself --


SHEFFIELD: -- in this issue. But I think what he was trying to say was, look, I backed the wrong guy in the primary but I was all in for the sake of the party for the sake of getting a policy agenda forward. So I think that was his rationale.

I personally would have been one of the people who either stayed home as a conservative or I would have been those who wrote in. So the write in ballot I think were 1.7 percent which would have been deciding margin potential in this race.

So, I mean, I end up writing in, in the presidential race as well, Senator Ben Sasse, because I was one of those conservatives who felt like this is a moment of crucible for us as a conservative movement, we have to decide how do we want to define ourselves. How do we want to think about protecting women? How do we want to think about defining human dignity? How do we want to think about when it comes to virtue or, you know, job skills, do we choose virtue or skills? We should choose virtue because that's character and that's what matters.

BALDWIN: Hit me Sally Kohn.

KOHN: I mean, I agree with Carrie.



KOHN: Look, I mean, Carrie is exactly right. This is incredibly important moment for the Republican Party, and not just what happened in Alabama, which, look, it's decisive in terms of what it means for congressional politics. And alongside Virginia, it shows both that suburban voters -- suburban white voters are concerned about Trump and where Republicans are going. And it also shows especially if the Democrats actually reach out to them and don't take them for granted, black voters are incredibly motivated right now. Those will have impacts going forward.

The other piece here is how this defines the Republican Party going forward. And in addition to the Todd Akins and the Donald Trumps, it's not going well for Republicans. And what we saw in Alabama, in addition to black voters turning out in droves for Jones, was a lot of white women, especially, staying home or voting for Jones as well.

And that's going to be hard to shake. However, Trump wants to marginalize this, he is rebranding his party as the party that actually endorses supports, throws weight and money behind men who molest little girls. In addition to --

BALDWIN: Allegedly.


KOHN: In addition to the allegations against the president himself. That is not a good look going forward.

BALDWIN: Here's the thing though, isn't he also throwing fuel on the fire with the way he spoke about Kirsten Gillibrand on Twitter, I mean, come on. Isn't that just further -- in the end he's firing up, Carrie, Democrats.

SHEFFIELD: I think, I think counter punishes that's his strategy.

BALDWIN: There is counter punching and then there is --

KOHN: And punching himself in the face.

BALDWIN: Thank you.

[14:10:00] SHEFFIELD: Sure. I'm not defending. But I think the issue of Gillibrand, which a lot of conservatives made, was she had taken money, she had been an affiliated with Harvey Weinstein. And also --

BALDWIN: When the president was giving money to a Democrat, wasn't too long ago.

SHEFFIELD: Sure. Right. But also, you know, she was very close to the Clinton family and Bill Clinton had paid out money for sexual harassment, you know, adjusted for inflation over a million dollars for Paula Jones for harassment. So, I think the question of, you know, we need to have people speaking out, but I don't think that Gillibrand is necessarily the spokeswoman was the point a lot of conservatives were making.

KOHN: So, a couple of things, first of all, look, what the Democrats -- no party is perfect, we can agree on that for ever. But the Democrats have at least started to signal, I mean, allegations obviously they are. But they were --

BALDWIN: They needed a little help.

KOHN: There are allegations that Roy Moore did a poor job of trying to deny who distance himself from. But the parties created in Alabama was a choice between a man who allegedly preys on little girls and a man who persecutes people who hurt little girls, as in the man who committed the Birmingham bombing. This is a distinction that people are going to pay attention to.

And last night in Alabama, inclusion and equality won. And Democrats showed that's not just a political strategy, that's a moral strategy that also happens to win elections. And I'm going to be honest, more and more Republicans, who are getting fed up, and you are welcome to come on over, were getting fed up with the Republicans, come on over, Susan Collins, if you are watching, if you want to stand for something and you want to support women -- you won't be a Republican now.


SHEFFIELD: I want to protect innocence no matter if it's in the womb or if it's in teenage girl. So, that -- to me, I could not have pulled the lever for the Democrat in this race because he was not willing to -- the values of Alabama in terms of being a pro-life state were not reflected.

BALDWIN: Here's a person who would have been disappointed in you as a conservative, Steve Bannon, right? So, Steve Bannon is the guy who is the Steve Bannon wave with Donald Trump. And they thought it would be the Steve Bannon wave with Roy Moore. Not so fast, right?

So, as Jim Acosta is reporting over the White House, again, this notion that the president feels he has egg on his face because he listened to his buddy Steve Bannon and turned out Bannon was wrong.

I want you to listen to what a Republican congressman referred to Steve Bannon as this morning on CNN.


REP. STEVE KING (R), NEW YORK: This man does not belong on the national stage. He looks like some disheveled drunk that wondered onto the political stage. He does not represent what I stand for. I consider myself a conservative Republican. I consider myself an Irish Catholic and he sort of parades himself out there with his weird alt- right views that he has. And to me, it's demeaning the whole governmental political process.


BALDWIN: A disheveled drunk, Jamie Gangel.

GANGEL: So, I think a lot of Republicans were relieved. It was a twofer yesterday.

BALDWIN: Twofer relief.

GANGEL: Not just they were relieved Roy Moore.

BALDWIN: They wouldn't have to deal with.

GANGEL: But any time Steve Bannon's power or appearance of power is diminished, there are a lot of Republicans who go, whew. He is a migraine headache for them.

And also, it speaks to the same concern of, can they break with Trump? Are they going to get primaried? Is Steve Bannon going to put candidates up against them in primaries where they could get hurt? So, there are a lot of people today who are saying, you know, I don't want to say ding dong the witch is dead with Steve Bannon but any time it pulls back, they are very happy.

BALDWIN: OK. KOHN: They poured a little water on him.

BALDWIN: Good one. Wizard of Oz --

KOHN: For the win.

SHEFFIELD: I think Congressman King himself by using -- throwing out words like that. He's doing the same thing that he says Trump does by name-calling that way.

BALDWIN: Hear you. Speaking from the gut though, clearly that is how he and more and more Republicans are feeling about Bannon and that relief.

Ladies, thank you so much. Thanks to all of you.

GANGEL: Thank you.

BALDWIN: Breaking news now, speaking of Republicans, clearing a major hurdle today in the effort to overhaul the U.S. tax system before the end of the year. This is happening as President Trump is expected to speak very soon about taxes from the White House. We'll take that live.

Also, should the special counsel Bob Mueller be fired? That question asked to the deputy attorney general testifying today up on Capitol Hill on the integrity of Mueller's Russia investigation after revelations about anti-Trump messages were found from one of his FBI agents.

And she has been one of President Trump's long time supporters, going back to "The Apprentice". You know her, Omarosa. The story behind her drama filled resignation, quote/unquote, from the White House, and reports that she was actually escorted off the property.

You are watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.


[14:19:13] BALDWIN: This hour, we are following breaking news up on Capitol Hill. House and Senate Republicans striking this tentative deal on this history tax bill, just ahead of President Trump's speech next hour on Republican tax -- the Republican tax overhaul.

Here is what the president had to say earlier today.


TRUMP: It's a massive tax cut for the middle class and it's about jobs. And the jobs are really defined by the companies, the companies are going to be expanding and they're going to be creating jobs. We have very talented representatives right here. And I think I can say that we are very close, right? We're very, very close.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We'll get it done. TRUMP: And I want to thank Senator Orrin Hatch. He's been

incredible. And Kevin Brady, incredible. You guys have been just really, really amazing. Although I shouldn't say that until we sign.

[14:20:02] We've been there too many times. Let's get the vote first, right?


BALDWIN: All this coming just one day after stunning Republican upset in the reddest of red states, Alabama. You know the story, the Democrat there Doug Jones winning that Senate seat over Republican Roy Moore. The Republican surprise loss putting fresh pressure on the president to score a win -- score a big win on tax reform before the Democrat takes office next year.

So, to our congressional correspondent Phil Mattingly we go live on the Hill. You've got some of the meat and potatoes, Phil Mattingly. What's in the deal?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, look, the president is right. They are very close. They took a huge step, Republican negotiators, House and Senate, basically agreeing to the framework of what a final deal would be.

And, Brooke, it looks very different in some cases what the House passed and what the Senate passed. Take for example the corporate rate. Republicans have proposed dropping that from 35 percent as it currently stands down to 20 percent. That will now be at 21 percent. Why? Because each point you raise the corporate rate, that's $100 billion in revenue. They needed that money to help pay for the plan altogether.

Now take a look at the individual rates. Brooke, you remember, the House kept the individual rate at the highest level as is, at 39.6. The Senate dropped it down to 38.5. What they have agreed upon is dropping it down to 37 percent.

Now, why would you drop the top rate on proposal that Democrats already say is weighted way too heavily towards the wealthy?

Well, there's two reasons. First and foremost, I'm told, this helps on policy side of things, particularly for high tax states, individuals that will be hit by the repeal of state and local tax deduction, that's helpful there. Also for pass-through companies, S corps, partnerships, those types of companies, this will help with the credit that they are getting to try and drop their individual rate as well.

But there's also another key point here. President Trump wanted the top rate to come down. Several sources have told me that. That's what's going to happen.

Now, you take a look at the mortgage interest deduction. You remember, Brooke, the House took that down from the 1 million level to 500,000. The Senate didn't touch it at all. Well they met in the middle. It will now be $750,000 for new mortgages.

One other key component of this that became very hot topic in the Senate, the individual mandate from Obamacare. The Senate chose to repeal that. That will win out. That Obamacare individual mandate should this be signed into law, it is in the final deal, it will come out of the law as it currently exists.

Those are the type line points right now, Brooke. I think it's important to note there are some details to be hammered out. This is very interconnected, very complicated and most importantly right now, these negotiators aren't the final say. They need to now sell this to the members of their conference, to the Republicans in the House, to the Republicans in the Senate, and try and make sure they still have the 218 votes they need in the House and 50 or 51 votes they need in the Senate to move this forward. But there's no question about it they are on track right now.

And, Brooke, I'll tell you what, they made it clear they want this done soon. They want this on the president's desk as soon as Wednesday. That's a week from today. That is very fast pace, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Wednesday.

Phil, thank you.

I should also point out as we are talking about some of these numbers, the Federal Reserve raising interest rates now just one notch higher which was expected. That is the third increase this year as the economy is surging. See all the green on the screen.

Also important to keep your eye on the markets in anticipation. And, of course, in wake of the president's speech on this mega Republican tax plan. Again, that's coming up next hour. We're watching for that.

Next here, the deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein, grilled on Capitol Hill today. Republicans asking, is there a political bias within Robert Mueller's Russia investigation? And should Mueller be replaced?

We'll discuss how he answered that question, next.


[14:28:01] BALDWIN: The second highest ranking official at the Department of Justice, Rod Rosenstein, says he has zero cause to fire special counsel Robert Mueller in the Russia investigation. He is also defending the DOJ and the FBI today as a number of Republicans, including President Trump, are accusing of agency of political favoritism.


REP. STEVE CHABOT (R), OHIO: My question to you is how with a straight face can you say this group of Democrat partisans are unbiased and will give President Trump a fair shake? ROD ROSENSTEIN, DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL: Well, Congressman, I think

it's important to recognize that when we talk about political affiliation, that all demonstrates political affiliation. Issue of bias is something different. I'm discussed this with Director Mueller and he and I collectively have a lot of experience managing offices in the Department of Justice. We recognize we have employees with political opinions and it's our responsibility to make sure those opinions do not influence their actions.


BALDWIN: Part of the concern is stemming from the release of these anti-Trump text messages you see here. So, they were exchange between top FBI employees during the campaign. One agent called Mr. Trump a, quote, idiot. And another called him, quote, a loathsome human.

Mueller removed those two FBI employees from his team in July when he found out the context of these text messages. Nevertheless, they are fueling calls to appoint a second special counsel.

So, let's talk with Carrie Cordero. She's a former counsel to the U.S. assistant attorney general for national security. Carrie, context from the texts, they were sent out more than a year before these agents would have been assigned to this investigation. They were, you know, this was an exchange on FBI issued device, not a personal phone.

Did they break any rules by doing this, first of all?

CARRIE CORDERO, FORMER COUNSEL, U.S. ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR NATIONAL SECURITY: So the texts, obviously, are unflattering. But the deputy attorney general did two really notable things in his testimony today. He, first of all, very clearly defended the reputation and the work of the special counsel, of former FBI Director Mueller.