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Congressional Republicans Unveil Reconciliation Tax Bill; Republican in Congress and White House Display Confidence Tax Reform will Pass; Sizes of Wildfires Grow in California; Interview with DNC CEO Jess O'Connell; North Korea Makes Threatening Remarks Toward U.S.; Don Garber Discusses Success as Major League Soccer Commissioner. Aired 10-11a ET

Aired December 16, 2017 - 10:00   ET



[10:00:13] CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, so glad to see you today. I'm Christi Paul.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Victor Blackwell. CNN Newsroom begins right now.

President Trump set to board Air Force One soon, heading to Camp David to meet with members of his cabinet.

PAUL: This, of course, happening as he nears his first major legislative victory, and just in time, of course, for Christmas as he promised. House and Senate Republicans have reached a final deal on tax reform with a vote expected now on Tuesday.

BLACKWELL: A potential win for the president could be overshadowed by the Russia probe. Again President Trump's lawyers are set to meet with special counsel Robert Mueller as early as next week. Let's begin with the GOP's tax plan. Our team of reporters are combing through the details this morning. Let's start with CNN Congressional reporter Lauren Fox in Washington. Lauren, give us the details of the plan, and winners and losers here.

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Well, Republicans did unveil a final tax deal last night, and there are, just like any other bill, big winners and losers. Corporations have a major drop in the corporate tax rate, something that's going to make their holiday quite a bit brighter. You also have individuals who are going to own pass through businesses who will see a reduction in their tax rates.

And there are some big losers moving forward. One of the biggest losers here is individuals who will see their tax rates that have been dropped through this bill sunset, actually, at the end of 2025. That just has to do with the fact that this bill is very costly, which leads to another loser, the national debt and the Affordable Care Act, which will be repealed, the individual mandate, which was a key backbone of that provision will be repealed in this bill. And a lot of health care experts are saying that that could make it very tough for the Affordable Care Act to continue successfully without the individual mandate. BLACKWELL: Thank you. All right, so about the health of two

senators, Cochran in Mississippi and McCain of Arizona, what do we know about their potential to be in Washington to cast those votes?

FOX: Well, yesterday the president did speak with John McCain's wife, Cindy McCain, and there are some questions about whether or not these senators will be able to be at the vote. Senator Cochran's staff has said that he is ready to vote. He's in Washington. He did have a health procedure last week. And, you know, if Senator McCain is up for the vote, he will be there, as well.

We should mention, of course, that Republicans feel very confident with the number of votes that they have. Senator Marco Rubio and Senator Bob Corker came out in supported this bill, and a lot of leaders are saying that they hope that the other members will be there, but even without them, they are confident that this bill could get passed.

BLACKWELL: All right, Lauren Fox, thanks so much.

PAUL: Abby Philip is live at the White House for us right now. Again, a potential huge victory for the president here. As Lauren was just saying, Republicans are confident. Is the White House as confident in the passage of this bill?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Christi, the White House is projecting some cautious optimism today, hoping that by next week, early next week before the president leaves for Christmas, they'll have a bill on his desk for him to sign.

Now they know that Senate and House leaders believe that they have the votes to pass this bill, but they are just waiting to make sure there are no procedural hang ups in the Senate, that those members who are ill this week will hopefully be able to make it to the vote. White House aides say even if those members are not there, they still have the votes. At the same time I think they would like to have the full body of Republicans in the Senate voting in favor of this, getting them over that last threshold.

PAUL: OK, so I want to talk to you about Senator Marco Rubio. He flipped to a yes vote, surprised some people in that, and after he did so, the president called him. Do we know what was said in that conversation?

PHILLIP: Well, that was something of a congratulatory call. Marco Rubio was a big piece of that puzzle that was just coming together in the last 24 hours, and with his vote they really were able to solidify what they needed to go forward. The president calling Marco Rubio on an issue that is also pretty important to his daughter, Ivanka Trump, who has worked with Rubio for several months on the issue of the child tax credits. So the White House saying that after Rubio put out those tweets indicating that he was likely to support the bill, the president called him, thanking him for his support, also just verifying that that was actually a yes, because Rubio's tweets were not as specific. We heard from Rubio's sources after the tweets went out that he was definitely a yes. I think the president was also checking in on that, as well.

PAUL: All righty, Abby Phillip, thank you so much. Good to see you this morning.

BLACKWELL: All right, Ron Brownstein, CNN senior political analyst and senior editor for "The Atlantic," Amie Parnes, CNN political analyst and senior political correspondent for "The Hill," and Andre Bauer, CNN political commentator and former lieutenant governor of South Carolina all with us this morning. Good morning, everyone.

[10:05:08] Amie, let me start with you. Do they have the votes? Is this in the bag for the president?

AMIE PARNES, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, it's in the bag for the president. Republicans are really happy about this. The president is very happy about this. They needed something. They needed something, some momentum going into 2018. They really didn't have much in terms of a legislative action or agenda this past year. It fell by the wayside. And so they needed something going in to kind of give the party a little momentum, particularly on the heels of Alabama.

So this is coming at the right time, and this was something that Paul Ryan pushed for years. This is pretty much a legacy item for him. So I think they are all in all very happy and they do have the votes now particularly with a Rubio yes.

BLACKWELL: Ron, let me ask you about one specific yes vote that is in the Senate for this compromise bill but wasn't for the initial bill from the Senate a couple of weeks ago, and that's Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee. Back on the 1st he released this statement, here's part of it. "I'm not able to cast aside my fiscal concerns and vote for legislation that I believe based on information I currently have could deepen the debt burden on future generations."

Here's what he released yesterday. "The question becomes, is our country before with or without this piece of legislation? I think we're better off with it." None of the deficit concerns had been assuaged here. There's still going to be, as the JTC says, $1 trillion added to the deficit by 2027. What happened with Corker?

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: There is no plausible explanation for the shift because, as you say, everything he was concerned about is still there. And, you know, in his statement he basically said this is something that was important to the party. I think overall, you know, it fits with Republican ideology and I will sign on for it.

I think this is a policy win for the president and the party, and it's an even bigger political gamble. It's a policy win because we saw Ronald Reagan in his first year, George W. Bush in his first year, they both cut taxes. That's what Republican presidents do most often when they come into office.

It's a huge political gamble, however, for several reasons, one of which that it is polling at a lower rate of public approval than any major policy initiative in the past 25 years, including bills that raised taxes. You're looking at the core of the Republican coalition, non-college whites, only a third of them say they expect to benefit from it.

But I think the even bigger reason it is a policy gamble, is because it is betting that there will be enough improvement in the overall economy to overcome the fact that there are an unusual amount of losers under this tax bill, particularly upper middle class voters around big metro areas in blue states. And as we saw again in Alabama, it is precisely those white collar suburban voters who are already pulling away from the Republican Party on cultural and personal assessments of President Trump. And that, I think, is a big gamble for Republicans representing Orange County, New York, New Jersey, Philadelphia, northern Virginia. So this is a policy win, no question. It is also a political gamble.

BLACKWELL: Let me bring Andre into this. Andre, let me ask you, is this tax cut and jobs plan to Republicans in 2018 what the Affordable Care Act was to Democrats in 2010 insofar that you've got this single party big initiative passed, and you may be facing the shellacking that President Obama described in 2010?

ANDRE BAUER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No, I absolutely believe this is what will save so many Republicans. If they don't pass this, I think it sends a very, very different message. Look, there's a lot of things that splinter the Republican Party, but the one thing that is supposed to unite all Republicans is to reduce taxes. I mean, bigger than any issue since I was a little boy involved in politics, raising taxes is what the Democrats did, lowering taxes is what the Republicans did. And they believed in an ability for business to create more opportunity.

And we see right now the stock market roaring, job opportunities roaring, money coming back into manufacturing, things that are -- and part of that is because of the promise that taxes are going to get reduced. Part of that stock market gain right now is because of the confidence that they believe in the future they are going to have a better opportunity to compete worldwide with the tax opportunities given here in our homeland.

BLACKWELL: All right, so let's turn to another issue. "Washington Post" reporting this morning that the Office of Financial Services with the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention have given to policy analysts who are preparing requests for the 2018 budget seven banned terms, terms they do not want to see in any of the requests. Here they are, "vulnerable, entitlement, diversity, transgender, fetus, evidence-based, science-based." Amie, to you, the argument there are now banned words from the CDC, I don't know how you come up with a plan to prevent or control diseases without a science-based or evidence-based approach.

[10:10:00] PARNES: No, and I was just talking to someone inside that department who is a little appalled by it, and that seems to be the general consensus of people, that they've never seen anything like this before. It's a really unusual, it's an anomaly, and I think they are a little taken aback by it. And I think this is going to become a news story, I think, in the next few days, a big one, because it says so much about where this administration wants to take things. And so I think that could be potentially problematic for them.

BLACKWELL: You know, Ron, for all of the noise that the president made during the campaign about words that he said that Barack Obama as president would not say, and being politically correct, we've seen this now from the CDC, we've seen web pages being removed from the EPA, we've seen similar things with the Department of Education. There's a pattern here.

BROWNSTEIN: Well, yes. And look, I think there are a couple of things that I think are very revealing about this. First, we knew during the campaign the president was a culture warrior on a new set of issues having to do with immigration and racial identity and Black Lives Matter and crime, but he did not seem that he was going to be quite as enthusiastic as he has turned out to be in enlisting in kind of the older Republican social agenda on gay rights. Remember he talked about how he'd be a great friend to the gay community. And you see the "transgender" word is being part of this here. It's just kind of a reminder he's been more in the traditional old moral majority kind of agenda than you would have anticipated.

But the other thing I think is very clear, this is kind of a -- risks being portrayed as anti-science in a way we used to talk about at the EPA, withdrawing the page on climate and moving away from the agenda on climate even as we're living through wildfires in California and the hurricanes in the southeast. And again, that reinforces what has been the most distinctive political movement of the Trump era which is his underperformance relative to other Republicans with college educated white collar voters, especially white women, that we saw in New Jersey, Virginia, and again even in Alabama, which is not the first place you would expect to see that.

BLACKWELL: Let me read a response here from a group here, the executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality sent this out. I'm just going to read the last sentence here. "The Trump administration is full of dangerous science deniers who have no business near American public health systems like the CDC. They are actually going to kill Americans if they do not stop." Andre, to you, in the discussion of these now seven terms, "transgender" being one of them, "vulnerable" being another, as well, how do you defend omitting the word "vulnerable" when requesting funds for preventing diseases?

BAUER: Well, Victor, like most Americans, I don't read CDC reports and I don't know what the reasoning was. I try to give everybody the benefit of the doubt. It seems something on surface that, you know, trying to find another word to define that doesn't seem like a top priority for me. I do understand the most important thing in there, and that's three percent growth that they project. And that's what's important to me. So again, I don't have a way to defend it because there may be a rationale for it, I don't know what it is. But trying to come up with a different word for the same thing doesn't seem to be effective thing to be doing right now.

BLACKWELL: All right, Andre Bauer, Amie Parnes, Ron Brownstein, thank you all.

BROWNSTEIN: Thank you. PARNES: Thank you.

PAUL: Well, Republicans are on track to seat a record number of federal judges. Not all of President Trump's nominees, though, are sailing through unscathed.

BLACKWELL: Matthew Peterson is facing criticism after he struggled to answer basic questions during his hearing this week.


SEN. JOHN KENNEDY, (R) JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Do you know what a motion in limine is?

MATTHEW PETERSON, JUDICIAL NOMINEE: I would probably not be able to give you a good definition.

KENNEDY: Do you know what the Younger abstention doctrine is?

PETERSON: I have heard of it, but, again --

KENNEDY: How about the Pullman abstention doctrine? You'll all see that a lot in federal court. OK.


BLACKWELL: All right, so Republican Senator John Kennedy, that's the person who's asking the questions there in that exchange, he's now calling on the White House to withdraw Peterson's nomination.


SEN. JOHN KENNEDY, (R) JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: I don't know how the White House works, Erin, I'm a brand new senator. The only time I get to go to the White House is to take a tour, so I don't know how the internal White House works. I will say that I did raise objections on two of the president's other nominees.

Once again, they are done in his name, but I don't believe for a second President Trump interviewed them. One of his nominees, for example, didn't tell us, it was revealed by the press, one of his nominees was caught blogging in support of the early Ku Klux Klan. And, again, this is America. You can do what you want, but I can do what I want, and I said I'm not going to vote for him, and they pulled him down.

I'm hoping that the White House will pull down Mr. Peterson. I don't want to -- I mean, I don't want to see him suffer. He's a nice guy and I think he's whip smart.


[10:15:06] PAUL: Earlier this week the White House withdrew the nominations of two other judicial picks for past controversial comments that had been made. Listen, a warning from North Korea this morning, calling the president

frightened and warning America that it could soon face, quote, "disgrace and destruction." We'll tell you more about the message the regime has specifically for President Trump.

BLACKWELL: Plus, the wildfire now bigger than all of New York City devouring parts of southern California. The state now confirming it is the third largest fire in the state's history, and the weather is making it even tougher to get things under control.


BLACKWELL: This morning an aggressive warning from North Korea to President Trump, although it's not unlike things we've heard before from North Korea. State media saying the U.S. could soon face disgrace and destruction.

PAUL: And the regime also called President Trump a, quote, "old lunatic who's frightened."

[10:20:02] CNN political affairs correspondent Elise Labott live in Washington now. Elise, good to see you this morning. I know these comments from North Korea, the thing we have to point out is that they come just hours after some pretty strong statements from both Secretary of State Tillerson and Secretary of Defense Mattis.

ELISE LABOTT, CNN POLITICAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: That's right, guys. Look, and this is the kind of typical North Korean rhetoric, fiery rhetoric, that we see, and this comes a day, as you said, after this really unprecedented U.N. Security Council meeting in which I think, you know, it's very rare for a North Korean ambassador to be addressing the U.N. Security Council, but this was a North Korean ambassador sitting across in a ministerial of the council with the U.S. secretary of state.

And Secretary of State Tillerson, while leaving the door open for diplomacy, made clear that the U.S. is not going to accept a nuclear North Korea. Take a listen to Secretary Tillerson yesterday.


REX TILLERSON, SECRETARY OF STATE: We have been clear that all options remain on the table in the defense of our nation. But we do not seek, nor do we want war with North Korea. The United States will use all necessary measures to defend itself against North Korean aggression, but our hope remains that diplomacy will produce a resolution.


LABOTT: And so the North Korean ambassador had very fiery words, and, you know, blamed this crisis on the United States and its allies like South Korea, who were threatening North Korea, and they had no choice but to build up its nuclear program to protect itself. Secretary Tillerson answering the North Korean ambassador said, look, you are to blame for this crisis. And the door, as he said, is open for diplomacy, but North Korea has to walk through it, has to what Secretary Tillerson called earn its way to the table. Guys?

BLACKWELL: All right, Elise Labott for us in Washington, thank you.

PAUL: Thanks, Elise.

We have some breaking news we want to share with you this hour. Firefighters say they are now battling the third largest fire in California's history. Look at some of these pictures we have coming in. It is dry and windy weather there that's threatening to make this massive blaze even bigger. We have more for you.

BLACKWELL: Also, a final deal on tax cuts is on the table. It's a potential win for President Trump, but how do average taxpayers fare?


[10:26:51] PAUL: Glad to have you with us, I'm Christi Paul.

BLACKWELL: I'm Victor Blackwell.

Breaking news this morning. We've learned that the massive California wildfire, we're talking about the Thomas fire the crews have been battling since earlier this month, is now the third largest fire in the state's history. That's according to the Ventura County fire department. The weather conditions are making stuff even tougher for the firefighters there. Meteorologist Allison Chinchar joins us now. No rain, strong winds, you've got some dry brush there, too, really a dangerous trinity there.

ALLISON CHINCHAR, CNN METEOROLOGIST: I think that's the big concern that yes, now we've hit this peak of third, but it may not actually be the end peak. It may just continue to rise over the coming days, because, as you said, weather conditions just aren't expected to improve. Here is a list of the top 10, again right now being third.

The key thing to note is all the other fires on this list happened during peak fire season, which is June through October, not in December. So that's what makes this particular fire so rare. The Thomas fire is the one we're talking about, right now about 259,000 acres. That's less than about 15,000 acres off from being that number one spot.

And you may think 15,000 acres, that seems like a lot, but if the conditions are right, that can actually spread very quickly. It's only about 40 percent contained at this point. The main concern is they don't expect to have full containment until at least January 7th of next year. So that's a big concern is how long they expect for this to take and the weather is going to be a big factor.

We have red flag warnings out not just for southern California, but it actually extends well into northern California and that's a big difference from what we had last weekend where the main focus was southern California. Here's why. This is where the high pressure system was earlier this week and last weekend, bringing in those really strong Santa Ana winds. Now the high pressure is going to break away and push east and a new low pressure system is going to push in.

What that allows for is not just a change of direction for the wind, but it also allows those folks in northern California to unfortunately also be under the fire threat. Winds expect to peak tonight. We're talking about 40 to 60 miles per hour. That's going to last through the overnight and into the early morning hours tomorrow. The good news is, Victor and Christi, that by the time we get to Monday those winds are expected to calm down, but the question is will they calm down enough for firefighters really to be able to make improvements in the containment?

BLACKWELL: All right, Allison Chinchar, thanks for watching it for us.

PAUL: In a little more than an hour President Trump is going to make a rare trip to Camp David to meet with members of his cabinet. The White House could be closing in on its first major legislative win of the year.

BLACKWELL: Sweeping tax cuts. House and Senate Republicans have now reached a final deal on the package with a vote expected on Tuesday.

PAUL: Joining me now to talk about this, Maya MacGuineas, president for the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, and Edward Conard, author of "The Upside of Inequality" and former managing director of Bain Capital. Thank you both for being here. We certainly appreciate it. First of all, I know a lot of people are waking up this morning and they're saying what does this mean for me. Maya, what is your initial takeaway of what is left for the American people in this bill?

[10:30:09] MAYA MACGUINEAS, PRESIDENT, COMMITTEE FOR RESPONSIBLE FEDERAL BUDGET: Well, the focus has been on who's going to get tax cuts and how much. And people are looking to figure out how much they are going to pay less in taxes starting next year. But the real issue in this is we move from the goal of tax reform, which had the objective of growing the economy over the long term and making our unsustainable debt situation better instead of worse, into tax cuts. And while a lot of people will see tax cuts, they are not going to last very long because those tax cuts are going to expire, but more importantly -- we have huge budget deficits, and we're not at a period in the business cycle where we should be cutting taxes.

So that original goal of tax reform was such an important one and I think what it means unfortunately is the economy is not going to benefit over the long term as it could have instead of doing an end run around the hard work of tax reform really gotten through, gotten rid of some tax breaks and paid for this so it's not going to add $1 trillion or more to the national debt.

PAUL: Right, and that will be $1 trillion by 2027. Let's put those numbers back up if we could please here so we could see the seven brackets, seven tax brackets here. Edward, one of the things that was promised with this was it was going to simplify the process. Do you see any simplification of what this bill holds?

EDWARD CONARD, FORMER MANAGING DIRECTOR, BAIN CAPITAL: No. I think it's simplification for people at the bottom end of the income scale, certainly not simplification for people at the high end of the income scale with all the pass-throughs which are going to be quite complicated.

But I go back more to the strategic issue, which is we need corporate tax cuts. These tax cuts even by the conservative measures that the Joint Committee on Taxation is using produces as much tax revenues as they cost. I think under more realistic assumptions, not using current law scoring, but real law scoring, they actually produce substantially more revenue than they cost.

The question is, are you willing to borrow $1 trillion in order to put these in place? The corporate tax cuts are very unpopular, middle class tax cuts are going to end up, I think, being popular. I look at it and I say, you know, this produces under pretty conservative assumptions about $2 trillion of additional GDP. You're borrowing about $1 trillion. You know, would you borrow $1 trillion to get $2 trillion? Yes, you probably would. The benefit, though, is that you get long-term corporate tax reform, rate reduction, which is absolutely essential in a world that has cut the corporate rate to 20 percent. I think that will prove to be far more valuable to the United States than people realize.

PAUL: All right, so Maya, a lot of people, as I said, they are sitting at home wondering what's in it for them. How long, and we know the individual tax cuts are temporary. They disappear in 2025, but in the immediate, how long might it be before they see some benefit from the tax cuts?

MACGUINEAS: Well, I think people who are going to experience a lower tax burden will see that soon. They'll see that next year. They'll start to see their taxes are going to be cut. Of course, there will be some people where their taxes go up because they got rid of or reformed some of those tax breaks in the tax code, so the real question will be do I fall into that bucket where I'm paying lower taxes or where I'm paying higher taxes, and people will be figuring that out in the coming months as we understand all the details of the bill.

But I also agree with the point there were really two different goals in this tax reform/tax cut package. The portion focusing on business tax reform or corporate tax reform is really important for the competiveness of this country and to get economic growth going. And if we had been more directly focused on really creating a bill that would grow the economy and focusing how we tax at the corporate level and offsetting the cost of that by getting rid of a lot of the tax breaks, which is also the same thing you do to simplify the tax code, and to your point I don't think it's going to be any simpler after this, that would have made a big difference. But because we are also focusing on getting more money in people's pockets, even though, as I would say again, it's not the time and we can't afford to be doing that unless we also want to cut spending, that greatly complicated the overall tax bill.

BLACKWELL: OK, in the big picture here, historian Robert McElvaine was on with us earlier this morning, and he said this bill equates to trickle-down economics and will not work. Let's together listen to him here.


ROBERT MCELVAINE, GREAT DEPRESSION HISTORIAN: The best example of that is in the 1920s when the Republicans were in charge of the whole government throughout the decade, as they are right now, and they have an ideological belief that if you just deregulate everything, let the economy go by itself and shovel more and more money to the people at the top, it will leak through to those below. But that simply doesn't work in a consumption-based economy, and every time it's been tried it has been a disaster. That's exactly what this tax bill, which is going to be catastrophic, is doing again.


PAUL: Edward, do you agree with him that this is going to be catastrophic long term?

[10:35:00] CONARD: No. He's a historian, not an economist. The first thing I'd say is don't forget in order to get tax, you have to earn the money. Generally in the economy you have to produce about $5 of value for everybody else to put a dollar in your own profit, so profits trickle up and ultimately get taxed. I don't think this reduces taxes on rich individuals in this case. It largely just reallocates between red state entrepreneurs and increases the taxes on blue state professionals, so I don't think it has a big effect on the taxes of rich individuals.

I don't think there's a serious economist out there that doesn't think that this corporate tax cut will cost about $400 billion is going to raise an additional $400 billion of tax revenues from even larger GDP growth which will be shared by the rest of the economy. And just keep in mind the Joint Committee on Taxation uses three models to estimate the growth. All the growth comes from the corporate tax cut, by the way. One of the models is a small, closed economy, where deficits crowd out financing for the rest of the economy. We just don't live in a small, closed economy. We live in a large, international economy with a surplus of savings out there. There's not going to be any crowding out. So I would expect the growth to be greater than the $400 billion that's estimated by the Joint Committee on Taxation. I think that's going to be beneficial to all workers and to the United States, who ultimately is going to have to pay for retiring baby boomers.

PAUL: Right, OK, Maya MacGuineas and Edward Conard, we appreciate both of you being here so much. Thank you.

MACGUINEAS: Thank you.

CONARD: Thank you.

BLACKWELL: So there was a major upset victory in the Alabama Senate race. You've heard that by now. Is that the momentum Democrats need heading into the 2018 midterms? Jess O'Connell, the chief executive officer of the DNC joins us to talk about the future of her party next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[10:41:04] BLACKWELL: Welcome back. After an historic win in Alabama, Democrats are looking ahead to the 2018 midterms with high hopes. In a once unthinkable outcome, the Alabama Senate seat was won by Democrat Doug Jones, and now there's hope for success in other long-held GOP states. Let's talk about the look forward now with Jess O'Connell, the CEO of the DNC. Jess, good morning to you.


BLACKWELL: So let's start with Alabama. I know Alabama was a big win for Democrats, and now there's fuelled all this talk about potentially flipping the Senate in 2018. What's the potential? I know you're optimistic about it, but the potential really for the DNC to take the Senate considering you have to keep the seats you have and then flip a few red states?

O'CONNELL: I think we learned a couple of lessons. First of all, Doug Jones ran a terrific race. The DNC invested early in our communities down there, $1 million into African-Americans communities around organizing, working with faith communities, elected officials like Congresswoman Terri Sewell. And we know when we lead with our values, when we invest in communities and do the hard work, we can actually produce these incredible victories like we saw in Alabama.

And I think that that's an important lesson as we head into 2018 and look to the map. I think you're looking at potential pickup opportunities in states like Nevada and Arizona, maybe even Tennessee now. This is about building a winning coalition and having a conversation in communities 365 days out of the year, and talking to communities that we stopped talking to over the last few years. And so you see a new investment by the DNC in this, and you see that we're building a winning coalition. And we also see our base is turning out, African-Americans leading the way not only in Alabama, but also in Virginia where we elected governor-elect Ralph Northam.

BLACKWELL: Let's talk about that base in African-Americans voters because obviously one of the big headlines out of Alabama and Virginia, lesser extent in New Jersey because of Chris Christie's numbers and what the Democratic Party expected in New Jersey, but African-American voters really showed up for Doug Jones, really showed up for the governor-elect there in Virginia. How will that be reflected in policy proposals from the DNC, and how will that be reflected in candidates that the party backs? Will we see more black women especially backed by the DNC for federal office, for the Senate, for the House?

O'CONNELL: I certainly hope so. You know, we have a record number of women Democrats that are stepping up to run all over the country. We've seen some terrific wins. One of the things that the DNC is doing under Chairman Perez that's new is we're investing in races up and down the ticket which really gives us an opportunity to build a pipeline. We've seen incredible races with African-American women winning at the lieutenant governor's seat up in New Jersey, also mayors races all across the country. In terms of our investments as a party, look, we're going to continue

to invest early and often now in organizing in our communities. We see the effects of that in 2017. We've won 100 seats all over the country since Donald Trump was elected, over a third of them in deep red districts that Donald Trump has won. And so we know that if we do this hard work we're going to continue to make these investments.

And again, look, none of the money that the DNC has been investing has been on TV. This is a shift. This is a strategic shift. We are organizing in communities, we are listening to communities. That's an important part here, and African-Americans are telling us what they need in their communities, and we're going to deliver.

BLACKWELL: Let's talk about listening to these communities because we know that Chairman Perez said this. "The new DNC is about talking to people in every zip code, building relationships in every zip code. The new Democratic Party is organizing everywhere." In some states and some zip codes, that linchpin is life and abortion. And let me ask you this, will the DNC, in a state where there may be a Democrat may be -- will the DNC invest money and resources? If there's a candidate that can win, agrees with every plank of the platform, but is antiabortion, will there be some DNC money behind that Democrat?

[10:45:16] O'CONNELL: -- hear a little bit, but I think I know what you're asking. And the reality is that, yes, the Democrats are going to invest in Democrats who share our values all over the country, and certainly Democrats are going to lead on different planks. The Democratic Party is prochoice, but you're right, Democrats will lead in different ways across the country. The majority of Democrats are prochoice, but we will be making investments to build winning coalitions.

The bottom line is the work of the DNC is to organize and to get out into communities. In fact, we just launched a program Dems for You this week that we'll be running all over the country which is to connect in communities with needs. We just saw on Friday the end of the enrollment period for health care, and we had Democrats all over the country talking in communities, making sure folks knew what they needed to do to get enrolled to get coverage. And that's the work we're going to be doing 365 days a year.

BLACKWELL: All right, Jess O'Connell with the DNC, CEO of the DNC, thanks so much for being with us.

O'CONNELL: Thank you.


PAUL: So ahead we're going to hear from the commissioner of Major League Soccer.


DON GARBER, MLS COMMISSIONER: Now that I've been doing it for 18 years, I'm beginning to sort of say, wow, this is pretty cool.


PAUL: How hard work and a little help from a friend made a big difference in his life and the lives of other people.

First, though, the 11th annual CNN Heroes all-star tribute salutes 10 people who put others first all year long. This is a star-studded gala. It airs live tomorrow at 8:00 p.m. eastern. Take a look.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These are everyday heroes. They inspire and change lives every day.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We want to make sure that they make better choices when it comes to violence.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When you lose your child, the love doesn't go away. It has to find a place. I'm lucky I found a place to put that love.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They are truly what it means to be a hero.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is people helping people the best way we know how.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When they see me, they always feel happy.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just give them a chance. They can do anything you ask them to do.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This Sunday night, CNN presents a very special live event.


KELLY RIPA: I'm Kelly Ripa.

COOPER: Join us live for "CNN Heroes, An All-Star Tribute."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: "CNN Heroes, An All-Star Tribute," live Sunday at 8:00 p.m. on CNN.



[10:52:27] BLACKWELL: Nearly a year since leaving the White House, President Obama is -- I guess he needs some seasonal work, something just for a couple of weeks.

PAUL: You think he really needs seasonal work? I'm thinking he doesn't.

BLACKWELL: It was a nice line, so I threw it out there.

(LAUGHTER) PAUL: You don't normally see him like this wearing a red hat, and he's giving Santa Claus a whole new look with the leather jacket, I will say. Big smile there as he surprised kids at a Boys and Girls Club in Washington yesterday. And you know they are thrilled because the 44th president shook hands with each and every one of them.

BLACKWELL: He did not come empty handed, though. You see the bag over his shoulder there. He came with gifts for the kids.

PAUL: So Major League Soccer's popularity obviously expanding in America so much so that the league is talking expansion again.

BLACKWELL: Yes, at the heart of it is the commissioner of the MLS, Don Garber, who talks about the hard work, courage, and character that got him to the pinnacle of soccer in America. Here's Coy Wire with more.

COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: This difference maker is presented by the new 2018 Ford f-150. Major League Soccer just wrapped up its 21st season with Toronto FC claiming its first ever MLS Cup. I had a chance to sit down with Don Garber, the former NFL exec who is now commissioner of the MLS, one of the fastest growing sports leagues in the world.


DON GARBER, MLS COMMISSIONER: I think it's a quality of ambitious overachievers that you never kind of step back into the moment because generally that moment is fleeting, and your eyes are open thinking about what is next and what's ahead. Now that I've been doing it for 18 years, I'm beginning to sort of say, wow, you know, this is pretty cool.

You know, when I got into the NFL, I got friendly with Robert Kraft as a young guy. For whatever reason he put his arm over me when I was really young. He said I see something in this ambitious young guy and I'm going to work hard to give him an opportunity, and ultimately he brought me over to Major League Soccer.

I came into the league in 1999 and I really had no idea what I was getting myself into. It seemed like a great opportunity. I get asked questions, what does it take to be a good leader? And I think I've narrowed it down to just a couple of things. I'll never get outworked. I can control that. Courage. And I think this I probably the most important, is people care about the character of their leaders, character about their company, character about the people that are around. And I try to think about that still, you know, try to think about that a lot.


[10:55:12] WIRE: Just five years ago Commissioner Garber overcame prostate cancer and he continued to lead the league even during his treatment. He's the type of person that with a positive attitude makes the world a bit of a better place.

PAUL: Thank you, Coy, so much. And thank you for spending some time with us. Hope you make some good memories today.

BLACKWELL: There is much more ahead in the next hour of CNN Newsroom starts right after a break.