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New Uncertainty Over GOP Tax Bill; Call To The Kremlin; Nuclear Odds. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired December 15, 2017 - 05:30   ET


[05:30:00] ALISON KOSIK, CNN ANCHOR: Senator Marco Rubio says he may vote against the bill unless the child tax credit is made more generous.

Adding to the uncertainty, two senators, John McCain and Thad Cochran, are dealing with health issues ahead of next week's planned final vote.

Remember, Senate Republicans have a razor-thin margin here. They can't afford to lose more than two votes.

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: Vice President Pence has postponed his planned trip to the Middle East by a couple of days in case he needs to cast that tiebreaking vote. But, President Trump remains optimistic, promising Americans the greatest tax cut in U.S. history.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think we will get there. It will be in a very short period of time. It will be the greatest Christmas present that a lot of people have ever received. It'll be something special.


BRIGGS: Our gift to you this morning is Phil Mattingly on Capitol Hill.


PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Alison and Dave, for Republican leaders today is the day, the day they've said they will release the full tax overhaul plan -- the final bill they plan on voting on as soon as early next week.

Here's one problem, though. They don't necessarily have the votes and late into Thursday night they were still working on hammering out the details of that bill.

One of the big moments on Thursday that occurred, Sen. Marco Rubio, a Republican from Florida, coming out and saying he was a no on the deal that had been struck by Senate and House negotiators. His issue, the child tax credit.

Now, that's a tax credit in the boosted from $1,000 currently to $2,000. But, Sen. Rubio's point, he wants it to be more refundable, basically adding more to people in terms of what they would get beyond their income tax liability. The big problem with that, at least according to Senate leaders, is it is expensive. However, I'm told from several Senate aides that they've been working behind the scenes to try and address those concerns.

Will they give the senator everything he wants, no, but they will give him something -- something that Republican leaders think will be enough to get him in line.

As one Republican senator told me on Thursday, do you really think Sen. Rubio wants to sink this once-in-a-generation opportunity, at least once-in-a-generation from the Republican perspective?

Guys, Democrats still unified in their opposition of this, still complaining about the process, complaining about the policy. Saying that in the wake of the Alabama Senate upset that everybody should wait until Senator-elect Doug Jones is seated. That's not going to happen.

Should Republican leaders finalize their deal as they expect to, sign the conference report Friday as they expect to, release the bill Friday night as they expect to, expect them to move very quickly next week. I'm told still, the time line stands. They want the tax bill done through both chambers of Congress and on the president's desk by Wednesday -- Alison and Dave.


BRIGGS: Light speed they'll get this thing through.

Phil Mattingly, thanks.

Joining us here in New York, Katie Glueck, senior political correspondent for "McClatchy" newspapers and the co-host of McClatchy's "BEHIND THE BUBBLE" podcast. Good morning to you and welcome.

KOSIK: Good morning, welcome back.


BRIGGS: All right. So, President Trump says this will be a huge Christmas gift for Americans.

But Marco Rubio gift-wrapped what could be a huge gift to Democrats in 2018 with the optics saying I need more for a child tax credit than $1,100. He says you found money for the top earners, going from 39 to 37. How can't you find money for lower- and middle-income Americans?

Will they give him money?

GLUECK: Well, as Phil was saying, it looks like they have to give him something -- find some sort of agreement with him because as we were talking about earlier today, the margins here are so thin. The Republican Senate Caucus cannot afford to lose many votes and we are already looking at a very razor-thin majority there. And so, they've got to find some way to find common ground on this because this is the biggest priority for Republicans right now.

BRIGGS: Because while Rubio has said he's a no unless they get him more money, it appears Mike Lee from Utah is also on board with Marco Rubio, saying we need more on the child tax credit.

KOSIK: You know what? You look at the optics of the tax plan, itself. A Quinnipiac poll shows that only 26 percent of Americans actually favor this tax plan.

Is this the kind of tax plan that's actually good for Republicans now, and in 2018, and beyond?

GLUECK: Well, they're certainly saying that's the case and, of course, Democrats take a very different view. You know, Democrats are talking a lot about how the -- in their view it might hurt the middle- class. Of course, Republicans have a very different view. They're talking about kinds of savings they say a lot of folks could get from this bill.

But what's very important to remember is that post-2016 campaign, a lot of Republicans are looking to tap into this sort of more populous rhetoric that propelled President Trump.

KOSIK: But what about those unintended consequences? I mean, some of these tax cuts wear off and that's what I'm saying when I am asking is this really good for Republicans. You know, when --

BRIGGS: You're talking about the personal expire and the corporate are permanent.

KOSIK: Exactly. So, Americans are going to start to realize hmm, wait a minute, this wasn't what I expected or was sold.

GLUECK: There's certainly that risk, depending on which group of voters we're looking at and how each individual group is affected by the various tax proposals being put forward.

[05:35:03] Republicans, at this point, as very focused on just being able to say, you know, we control every branch of Washington. We are, in fact, able to deliver on major legislative achievements, which is something that they really have not been able to say up until this point.


GLUECK: But certainly, Democrats are looking to do that sort of messaging on the economic piece down the road, for sure.

BRIGGS: Still, at this point looks likely, which gives Paul Ryan once-in-a-generation tax reform, something he has long, long seeked.

But now, rumors that Paul Ryan could retire in 2018 or just beyond the midterms. He says he ain't going nowhere. Sarah Huckabee Sanders says no, he talked to the president and this is not true.

But there were numerous people off-record who said yes, Paul Ryan has long considered retiring. He wants to be with his family.

What might force him into early retirement?

GLUECK: Well, and we're hearing all kinds of chatter about this on the Capitol -- on Capitol Hill right now. You know, there are a couple of theories here.

Paul Ryan is someone who has said that he'd never stop his job as speaker, which is a really tough job in any circumstance.

BRIGGS: He was reluctant, initially, to accept the role, yes.

GLUECK: Absolutely -- he absolutely was. He had to be asked several times. This is someone who has said that he -- you know, this was not something that he aspired to and he has this reputation as a policy wonk. Early on, he had given every indication that was where his focus was.

And then, of course, this is someone who has a young family. Someone who does talk, you know, genuinely about wanting to spend more time there.

You know, also, we are talking a lot about tax reform. If this is something that is, in fact, able to get through, this has longtime been a priority of his and, you know, that would allow him to go out on a high note.

But, it's a really difficult job to corral such a practiced Republican Caucus right now.

BRIGGS: Yes, we'll see what happens in those midterms if he's minority leader come 2019, then he'd want the off-ramp. We'll see.

KOSIK: OK, Omarosa fired not just once -- not just once -- how many times is it?

BRIGGS: Not just once, not just -- twice as an "APPRENTICE" contestant.

KOSIK: But now fired from the White House. Here's what she had to say after her firing. Listen to this.


OMAROSA MANIGAULT NEWMAN: Well, as the only African-American woman in this White House, as a senior staff and assistant to the president, I've seen things that have made me uncomfortable, that have upset me, that have affected me deeply and emotionally. It has affected my community and my people.

And when I can tell my story, it is a profound story that I know the world will want to hear.


KOSIK: OK. So just for the record, she says she resigned, but what's the drama here?

GLUECK: Well, a number of different dramas at play here.

First, the controversy over did she resign, was she let go and why, you know. The White House has thanked her for her service and has suggested that she was not fired. We're seeing other reporting that suggests otherwise.

This was someone who was a fixture during the campaign. Someone who --yes, she's noted has known President Trump for a long time but came in more from that sort of wild life to the Trump campaign as opposed to being someone who has come up through Chief of Staff Gen. Kelly's apparatus, so there's that.

And then, speaking of drama, she hinted that she may have a lot of dramatic things to say coming soon.

BRIGGS: Yes. She was the only African-American making that maximum senior-level staffer, $180,000.

I think the money she's concerned about is in the tell-all book that may come out around the time of Sean Spicer's. We could have --

KOSIK: Dueling books.


BRIGGS: -- some interesting books, yes.

Katie Glueck from "McClatchy," great to have you --

KOSIK: Thanks so much.

BRIGGS: -- this morning. We appreciate it.

GLUECK: Thank you so much.

KOSIK: Great to see you.

GLUECK: Good to see you, thank you.

KOSIK: All right. North Korea's ambassador to the U.N. will be in New York this morning to address the U.N. Security Council for the first time in 10 years.

The meeting comes after a jaw-dropping prediction Wednesday from Sen. Lindsey Graham. The South Carolina Republican hawk giving 30 percent odds that President Trump orders a first strike against North Korea to stop it from developing a nuclear weapon capable of hitting the U.S. And he told "The Atlantic" that if Pyongyang conducts another nuclear test, its seventh, the chances climb to 70 percent.

Graham says the topic of North Korea comes up all the time when he plays golf with the president, as he did on Sunday.

BRIGGS: Frequent golf partners.

Donald Trump calling Vladimir Putin after the Russian leader praised the president publicly for his administration's accomplishments. The White House says Mr. Trump thanked Putin for acknowledging America's strong economic performance and also discussed working together on the crisis in North Korea.

Earlier in the day, the Russian president held his annual news conference for several hours. He complimented the Trump administration for its quote "fairly serious achievements." He also called reports of contacts between Russia and the Trump campaign quote "dreamed up."

KOSIK: Congressman Blake Farenthold announcing he will not run for reelection next year. The House Ethics Committee is already investigating sexual harassment allegations against the Texas Republican.

On Thursday, he released this video apology.


REP. BLAKE FARENTHOLD (R), TEXAS: And I allowed the personal stress of the job to manifest itself in angry outbursts and, too often, a failure to treat people with the respect that they deserved. That was wrong.

[05:40:05] Clearly, it's not how I was raised, it's not who I am, and for that situation, I am profoundly sorry.


KOSIK: The news of Farenthold's decision to retire follows a CNN report Wednesday about a former senior aide who claims the lawmaker made sexually graphic jokes and berated staffers.

Like all members of the House, Farenthold's term ends every two years so his plan to retire means he could remain in office until January of 2019.

BRIGGS: And that matters because we've heard from his former male staffer.

KOSIK: Right.

BRIGGS: We haven't heard from Lauren Greene and that's where he settled an $84,000 taxpayer-funded settlement related to sexual harassment. So if we hear from her --

KOSIK: We'll see if he lasts until 2019.

BRIGGS: Right, exactly. That would be some brutal optics --

KOSIK: Yes. BRIGGS: -- for Republicans in 2018.

Ahead, slower Internet speeds and higher prices. How the FCC's vote to rollback net neutrality rules could affect your online experience, next.


[05:45:30] BRIGGS: All right, welcome back.

The New York "Daily News" calls it "Net Brutality." Tech giants like Amazon, Facebook, and Netflix vowing to fight the FCC's decision to roll back the Obama-era net neutrality rules.

The Republican-led commission voting three to two along party lines to repeal regulations that stop Internet service providers from deliberately slowing down or speeding up traffic from specific Websites and apps. The rules also prevent Internet providers from giving their own services an advantage over rivals.

KOSIK: Meantime, here come the lawsuits. New York's attorney general Eric Schneiderman already working on a multi-state lawsuit to roll back the FCC vote. Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson also indicating he will sue.

Among opponents of the change, this tweet from Netflix saying, "We're disappointed in the decision to gut net neutrality protections that ushered in an unprecedented era of innovation, creativity, and civic engagement."

BRIGGS: The Internet service providers applauding this move.

This from Verizon. "Verizon fully supports the open Internet and we will continue to do so. Our customers demand it and our business depends on it."

The repeal of net neutrality regulations does not take effect until next year. The issue may wind up being decided in court but Congress could step in with a legislative solution.

KOSIK: President Trump praising the $52.4 billion merger between Disney and 21st Century Fox.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders confirming the president congratulated Fox mogul Rupert Murdoch.

"Vanity Fair" reports Trump called to make sure Murdoch was not selling Fox News.

The president believes the deal could be good for jobs but here's the thing, it's a horizontal merger between two direct competitors. So what that usually means is job losses, and less competition, and anti- trust concerns. In fact, the companies say the merger saves $2 billion but analysts expect most of those savings are going to come from layoffs. Here's the other thing. The administration's reaction is in stark contrast to AT&T and Time Warner -- that deal. Time Warner being the parent company of CNN. That is a vertical merger between two companies that do not compete yet. Yet, the Justice Department recently moved to block the deal.

As for Disney's deal, Disney's new deal with 21st Century Fox also helps Disney transform into a streaming video giant to rival Netflix. It's now the majority owner of Hulu and it plans to launch its own streaming service next year. So, Disney will be pulling its content from Netflix in 2019, including films from Marvel, Pixar, and Disney Animation.

BRIGGS: New York City police now investigating sexual misconduct and rape allegations against music and media mogul Russell Simmons. The NYPD has not received a direct complaint against Simmons but started this probe based on multiple accusations being reported in the media. Simmons' attorney says he fully supports and will cooperate with the investigation.

In a statement to CNN, Simmons vehemently denies the allegations, posting this photo on Instagram with the comment "Today I begin to properly defend myself. I will prove without any doubt that I am innocent of all rape charges."

KOSIK: "STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI" landing in theaters last night.


KOSIK: You know there were lines and those ticket sales, oh yes, they're already soaring to near-record highs. We've got details on "CNN Money Stream," next.


[05:53:20] BRIGGS: Welcome back.

A self-proclaimed neo-Nazi who allegedly drove his car into a crowd of demonstrators in Charlottesville last summer now facing first-degree murder charges. Twenty-year-old James Fields was already charged with second-degree murder in the death of counter-protester Heather Heyer. Thirty-five others were injured.

On Thursday, prosecutors upgraded the charge against Fields to first- degree murder which carries a sentence of 20 years to life. The case goes before a grand jury on Monday.

KOSIK: A San Diego firefighter killed while battling a raging wildfire in California. Cory Iverson was part of a team taking on the 11-day-old Thomas fire in Ventura County.

Powerful winds continue to fuel the fire which has scorched a quarter- million acres and destroyed almost 1,000 structures.

Officials say an investigation is underway to determine the circumstances surrounding the 32-year-old's death. Iverson leaves behind his wife and their 2-year-old daughter. The family is expecting a second daughter this spring. Our heart goes out to them.

BRIGGS: Yes, it's just awful.

Firefighters in California due to get a brief respite as the winds die down temporarily. Meanwhile, snow on the way for the Northeast.

Meteorologist Ivan Cabrera has the weekend forecast.

IVAN CABRERA, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Hey guys, good morning.

A brief respite for firefighting efforts, I think, as far as the winds will come down a bit and then come right back up as we head into Saturday. High fire risk continues for today. Relative humidity five to 10 percent so those red flag warnings will continue through 10:00 a.m.

Area of high pressure weakens a bit and that's good news. And I think as we head into the latter part of today on Friday and then early Saturday we'll be OK. But then, a new area of lower pressure moves in and that's going to kick up the winds again -- 50 to 60 mile an hours winds. So, once again, as we head through Saturday and into Sunday.

[05:55:05] A few lake-effect snow showers this morning, otherwise not a huge deal. But this low pressure is going to spawn another one here across the mid-Atlantic and that, for the 95 corridor, as we head into the evening commute will once again result in perhaps one to two inches of snowfall. This is not going to be a huge deal. And that goes up into Boston, as well.

Weekend forecast as we check the temperatures actually going in the other direction -- in a good direction, right, if you like the warm-up here. We'll go with temperatures in the thirties to forties. And down in Atlanta, as well, temperatures pushing 60 degrees by Sunday with partly cloudy skies and perhaps, a few afternoon showers -- guys.

KOSIK: OK, Ivan, thanks very much.

And tensions are rising between the U.S. and Russia over Syrian skies.

U.S. Defense officials say two American F-22 stealth fighters intercepted two Russian aircraft after they crossed the deconfliction line separating Russian and U.S.-led coalition aircraft. The U.S. firing warnings -- firing warning flares during the intercept after the Russian planes crossed the line multiple times. One U.S. official says the encounter lasted several minutes.

A military spokesman says the biggest worry is shooting down a Russian plane because it appears to be threatening coalition forces.

BRIGGS: The White House issuing a warning to Tehran after new evidence comes to light the U.S. says proves Iran is arming the rebels in Yemen. U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley called on the

international community to build a coalition. Haley standing before a display of weapons debris at a military base in Washington that she said included pieces of a short-range missile. She called the debris proof that Iran has a pattern of behavior of defying the U.N. Security Council.


NIKKI HALEY, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: This evidence is part of what has led the U.S. Intelligence Community to conclude unequivocally that these weapons were supplied by the Iranian regime. The evidence is undeniable. The weapons might as well have had "Made in Iran" stickers all over it.


BRIGGS: Haley claims the missile -- Haley claims the missile was made in Iran and sent to Houthis rebels in Yemen, who then fired it at a civilian airport in Saudi Arabia. Iran's foreign minister Javad Zarif rejecting the claims.

He tweeted two photos following Haley's speech, apparently comparing it to Colin Powell's 2003 U.N. speech which claimed Iraq was hiding weapons of mass destruction.

KOSIK: OK, let's get a check on "CNN Money Stream" this morning.

Global markets, they're mostly lower at the moment. Wall Street closed lower on concerns over passing the tax bill. Hopes for tax cuts, though, they've sent stocks to record highs this year.

Senate Republicans, they've got a thin majority with this legislation and Sen. Marco Rubio says he may vote against the bill unless the child tax credit is expanded.

We did see the Dow snap a five-day winning streak yesterday.

Meantime, shares of Disney and Fox jumped on the news of their upcoming merger.

Walmart is letting workers get paid whenever they want. The company announced a new Insta-Pay for its 1.4 million workers. The service is going to allow employees to have access -- to access, actually, half of their wages before payday and they can withdraw that pay whenever they want.

Insta-Pay is part of a personal finance app called Even which connects directly to a worker's account. Walmart is footing the bill for the app.

Ticket sales are strong with "THE LAST JEDI" -- "STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI" landing in theaters last night. And ticket sales soaring to a near-record $45 million for Thursday alone. That's according to early estimates. So this makes it the second-best preview number behind the previous "STAR WARS" film, "THE FORCE AWAKENS." "THE LAST JEDI" is on track for an opening weekend of about $200

million. That will make it the strongest opening of the year.

I can't say I'm going to stand in line for it. Maybe I'll go like during the afternoon during the week.

BRIGGS: Yes. "THE LAST JEDI" the top-trending story on Twitter. Me, I'm waiting for one week from today.

KOSIK: Oh, you've already --


KOSIK: Oh, seriously?

BRIGGS: -- opens next Friday. Got to admit it.

KOSIK: I didn't think you were --

BRIGGS: Can't wait for that one.

KOSIK: I didn't think he was that kind of guy.

BRIGGS: Fat Amy rules. I love, love that series of films. It's outstanding.

KOSIK: All right. Thanks for joining us. I'm Alison Kosik. Have a great weekend.

BRIGGS: What's wrong, you're not a "PITCH PERFECT" fan?

I'm Dave Briggs. "NEW DAY" starts right now. Have a great weekend. It's great stuff.