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How Will You Pay Under GOP Tax Plan; Trouble Allegations Against Tavis Smiley; Will Tax Plan Hurt GOP In 2018. Aired 11- Midnight ET
Aired December 18, 2017 - 23:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[23:00:32] DON LEMON, CNN TONIGHT NEWS SHOW HOST: This is "CNN tonight." I'm Don Lemon. It's 11:00 p.m. here on the east coast, and we're live with new developments tonight. The Republican tax bill could be on the President's desk on Wednesday. And if you still don't know exactly how it will affect you, you are not alone. And what about the politics of it? Why sign a bill into law that could hurt you badly with the suburban voters who have been costing Republicans elections lately? What will it mean for 2018, and why do real estate businesses, specifically like say the Trump families, save millions? We're going to dig into those questions for you.
Plus talk show host Tavis Smiley fighting back against what have been called troubling allegations about his conduct.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TAVIS SMILEY, PBS TAVIS SMILEY: I can tell you we have a bit of breaking news on this case.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: We will tell you what that breaking news is, he says he's side of the story tonight here on this program. I'm going to ask him what about those troubling allegations.
Let's begin, though, with the GOP tax bill and what it could mean for you. Here to discuss is Gene Sperling, who was a national economic advisor to Presidents Obama and Clinton, and Grover Norquist is also here, he is the president of American tax reform. Good evening, to both of you. Good to see you. Happy holidays to you both. Gene, here's the President talking about the tax plan today and then we will talk.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We are days away from passing historic tax cuts for American families and businesses. It will be the biggest tax cut and tax reform in the history of our country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Your reaction?
GENE SPERLING, DIRECTOR NATIONAL ECONOMIC COUNCIL FOR PRESIDENT OBAMA AND CLINTON: This is I think a monstrosity. Here we have such serious problems, Don. We have people worried about a hollowing out of the middle class, economic security. There's so much we could have done with $1.5 trillion. We could have done something significant on infrastructure. We could have cut taxes just on working families who are really hard-pressed. Skills, free community college. And instead we're going to give the major bulk of this to the largest companies, to foreign investors, to the most well-off investors such as real estate, such as the Trump family. And there's going to be no conditions. It's not going to be tied to job creation or wage creation. It's just going to be a giveaway.
LEMON: You called it a wasted opportunity.
SPERLING: It is a wasted opportunity. Because if we are going to do something major on tax reform, you know, here's an idea. If you're going to spend $1.5 trillion, why not give it all to the working families who need it most? This is bill that actually puts working families so last, that it actually sunsets it. So by 2027, the last year of the plan, 82 percent of the benefit goes to the top 1 percent. And everybody under $90,000 is going to get a tax increase.
LEMON: Grover, I know you want to weigh in on this. It was rushed through congress at lightning speed and a major overhaul of the tax code. What kind of major unintended consequences do you think might be hiding in the bill?
GROVER NORQUIST, PRESIDENT FOR AMERICANS TAX REFORM: Two things. So that is a narrative for people who haven't been paying attention for the last five years. If the press has chosen not to cover the camp bill, which ran through the entire house program and worked out many of these issues, the hearings that the house and senate have had and all these discussions over the last years, the press is only in the last several weeks gone oh, my goodness, there's a tax bill. And they haven't paid any attention to what's in it. It's not a surprise to people. These things have been written down. They've been discussed, and they've been put in legislative language over the last five years and more for some of these ideas.
LEMON: OK. Grover, let me just stop you right there, and I'll let you finish. Is that the same bill that came out of conference? Because you're talking about this bill, and administrations have started talking about this bill, Republicans have started talking about this bill. Most people haven't gotten a chance to read this bill and I'm talking about lawmakers.
NORQUIST: You have two bills, the house bill and the senate bill. But this had been in the work for again for more than five years. The camp bill, which a lot of these ideas come out of, was actually put forward in the house and went through the committee process a couple of years ago. This is another iteration of that. The idea that this is rushed through or secret is only from people who don't choose to the look at it. LEMON: Grover, with all due respect a lot of bills have elements from
other bills. It doesn't make them the same bill. We could go back through history and talk about this bill begets that bill and that bill begets this. Let us be honest here. This bill is new bill from both the congress and the senate and from this administration. Just as this is new administration. This isn't a bill that came from this administration. You're talking about the camp bill that is from a time gone by.
[23:05:25] NORQUIST: Ok, camp, its two years ago. Ok? And three years now, this is the Republican congress. Republicans had the congress and the senate for quite some time, and they've been working on these issues, and I worked with them on it. So it's not a surprise to me, because I pay attention to what they've been focused on. The idea we have a 35 percent business tax corporate tax and the Europeans are down in the 20s, socialist China is at 25, we're at 35, even Obama thought this was a problem and talked about promising to bring that rate from 35 on down. He talked about 28 percent, but h recognize the importance - you didn't think that was a giveaway to anybody. The idea of letting somebody keep money they earned just giving to them just strikes me as an odd understanding of who owns your life. When you walk down a street and mugger passes you by, he didn't give you your wallet. He didn't take it.
LEMON: Did those other bills have --
SPERLING: You know, this is the bill that is going to become the law of the land. That people are going to live by, be punished by, gain, and get around. It's virtually been rushed through. This President talked about he is going to come in and drain the swamp. When these bills come through, it's only the swamp that actually knows what's in it. You don't know what the last minute changes are. You know what, Grover is right about one thing, I was part of President Obama's team, and we thought you could bring down the corporate rates. But we were going to do it in a way that didn't cost other taxpayers, didn't add to the deficit. To say that is similar to a bill that is going to explode the deficit by as much as perhaps $2 trillion, is going to give a tax cut that actually raises tax reform plan that actually raises tax on most people by its tenth year plan, done with things scribbled on the side, virtually no hearings. I mean the process is terrible. It's -- again, the only people are the lobbyists who know what's in it before anybody else does. That is exactly the opposite of what President Trump talked about, and the outcome is, a plan that would disappoint workers, it doesn't help most working families.
LEMON: I want Grover to respond. You're talking about this other bill, but Democrats appointed to the last minute change in the plan that specifically benefits real estate businesses as well. That wasn't in the camp bill was it?
NORQUIST: No, it was in the house bill. There's a house version of how you deal with pass-through and a senate version. And as they went through they accepted the house version dealing with real estate rather than the senate version. And then they turned around and said some Senator slipped in it, which was a damnable lie, and they had to know that. And Senator Hatch wrote a very tough letter to these jerks, putting that case. The idea that somehow Corker had switched his vote. Corker has been for this bill since the beginning. He came up with a 1.5 limit on how much of tax reduction we're going to do in ten years, and I spoke to him for half an hour, two days before he ended up voting against it because the parliamentarian wouldn't let his idea in. Not the Republicans. They were perfectly happy to do that. Of course he is going to vote for it. He is a Republican. He is a Reagan Republican. So when you talk about the senate and the house get together and the senate version or the house version gets picked, there's dozens of decisions that go into it, but they're all doing the same thing. We take the business taxes down for companies which even the Democrats agreed ought to be done, because it's so bad for us. We also do it for subchapter s. This is the 28 million, small businesses generally, which whenever you raise the personal rate --
LEMON: I'm running out of time. I've got to get Gene to respond as quickly as you can.
SPERLING: The truth is that this tax cut goes overwhelmingly to major national corporations. There's a huge difference because it is a giveaway. It doesn't ask them to give up tax expenditures. It just increases the deficit, and that money that they spend on these large corporations and pass-through that are often wealthy people, even billionaires come at the expense of middle class families, not giving a significant tax cut and come at the expense when the Republican try to cut Medicare, Medicaid and social security to pay for the deficit --
LEMON: I'm out of time. Thank you, Grover, thank you Gene. I appreciate it.
[23:10:00] President Trump making an appearance at the Disney world today. The animatronic Trump that is we are talking about. Disney world today unveiling its life size robot version of President Trump seen in this video of wdwmagic.com.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: From the beginning America has been a nation defined by its people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Joining his predecessors in the famous hall of president's exhibit. The unveiling was supposed to happen in late June, but in the Disney world suggested the President had not yet recorded his dialogue for robot Trump. So there it is. When we come back President Trump says he won't fire Robert Mueller, but that is not stopping President Trump's allies from trying to discredit the special counsel.
LEMON: Our CNN exclusive, the President thinks he'll get a letter of exoneration in the Russia investigation. But that is not stopping team Trump's efforts to discredit Robert Mueller. Let us discuss now, John Flannery is here, he is a former federal prosecutor for the southern district of New York. CNN political commentator David Swerdlick, and former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti, good evening to all three of you gentlemen. John, you first. President Trump was asked yesterday if he was planning on firing Robert Mueller. His answer was no, I'm not. For the White House, they're discrediting Mueller and his team. Is that even better than firing him?
JOHN FLANNERY, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK: I think it is part of the same thing. I think if Trump was allowed to be Trump, he would have fired him ages ago. And I think that is always a looming possibility. But I think they've convinced him by attacking Mueller in any way that they can, that maybe they'll diminish his effectiveness, maybe he'll go away.
[23:15:14] LEMON: But, John, how can you attack him and say I expect him to be exonerated?
FLANNERY: Well, we're talking about President Trump. Consistency is not one of his problems. And, you know, look at the letter that they did with the GSA. They sent it on a Saturday, so it's on the Sunday talk shows. And they don't go to court and complain about it. You know, all of it is pretty transparent. And then they ask the congress. They have the judiciary committee ask the Attorney General to then investigate other things. And I think it's - it is all policy of obstruction. It's a little more subtle than just flat out firing someone, but I think the options are always there. If he can't tie Trump to a wall someday, he will fire Mueller and that will be catastrophic.
LEMON: David Swerdlick, I've listened to everything and watched everything, from left to right. Right-wing media has been trying to discredit Mueller for months. I want you to watch this, this is Jeanine Pirro on her Fox show this weekend.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEANINE PIRRO, JUSTICE WITH JUDGE JEANINE SHOW HOST: There's a core group of arrogant, corrupt and lawless individuals that felt that they and not we should decide a Presidential election. And when they failed, they conspired to create the false narrative to not just muddy our choice for President, but to bring down his presidency and his family as well. The only thing that remains is whether we have the fortitude to not just fire these people immediately, but to take them out in cuffs.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: She was a Judge, right? It's probably a good thing she is not practicing anymore. But, listen, her show is said to be a Trump favorite. She is even visited the President at the White House. How dangerous are comments like this?
DAVID SWERDLICK, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It's dangerous for a couple of reasons. One, if she wants to be an objective journalist and offer opinions, then you would think she would want to hold the President himself at a little more than arm's length. But as you've said and has been reported they sort of chitchat off-line and compare notes. At least that is what the reporting says. More specifically, Don, in the clip you just played, at least in that clip she doesn't specify any situation or any fact which she says the Mueller investigation has gone wrong or any procedure that they haven't followed. She is just talking in this swirl of, you know, the President's enemies are out to get him. If that is really the case, if that is her argument, she should state where procedure was breached, where someone didn't follow protocol, what facts are wrong, why Flynn's plea deal is wrong or why Manafort's indictment is wrong. But she goes to none of the specifics.
Look, I'm not sure that Mueller is going to be fired, Don. If for no other reason than when Director Comey was fired was when the public's attention was really focused on the Russia investigation. And you've got to imagine that the White House staff is saying, if we fire Mueller, this is just going to, you know, turn up the heat on this whole thing all over again. But this campaign that you see in certain media outlets and from some people in the government and from some of the Trump team's lawyers to discredit or undermine or throw the Mueller team off of their scent has really ratcheted up in the last couple of weeks.
LEMON: It's just interesting, I'm sure they'll taste good, those words coming out of her mouth sounds good to the listener and the President's going to say this if I say this and the viewers are going to like it if I say that but there's actually --
SWERDLICK: There's no specifics.
LEMON: No specifics and there are no facts here, which is very, very interesting. Go ahead.
FLANNERY: The prize is you get to go to Mar-a-Lago. She has one audience member at least who is just loving this. This is his nightlife, to just replay her. And she is as much as an ego maniac as the fellow who enjoys it. I did her show once, and she insists you call her Judge, which I wouldn't do. Which was very upsetting to her.
LEMON: I mean, it's not a personal attack. You just can see it all -- you can see it all working, how it works. The President likes to hear it, she likes to hear it. And the Trump transition lawyers say that Mueller's team unlawfully obtained thousands of e-mails from the transition team. In a rare statement Mueller's team pushed back saying in part "when we have obtained e-mails in the course of our ongoing criminal investigation we have secured either the account owner's consent or appropriate criminal process." You say this is publicity stunt and not a serious legal challenge from the President's team. Why is that?
[23:20:02] RENATO MARIOTTI, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, these e- mails are on a government server. And there were actually contracts signed by the transition team saying there's no expectation of privacy to those e-mails. And that essentially ends this from a fourth amendment perspective. If you don't have an expectation of privacy, no one needs a warrant. It's like for example when you're using your employer's computer, for example, you know that when you're using CNN's computer, Don, your employer can go through it. Here they were using the transition -- the transition was using a government computer. They signed documents saying there's no expectation of privacy that pretty much ends it. What they did was wrote a letter essentially if you're a lawyer you read between the lines and they admit that. To congress, if they had a real legal argument they would have gone to Mueller or gone to court. There's really nothing there. It's more of trying to undermine Mueller. I will tell you instead of making a decision to fire Mueller what the Trump team has decided is that it's in their best interest to keep Mueller around at least for now and to try to discredit him. And it's led to that hateful rhetoric we've just heard, which is obviously this conspiracy theory, over the top, unsupported and this very dangerous rhetoric.
LEMON: John, how significant is it -- if you can give a quick answer, because I want to get David in -- how significant is it to get Mueller to defend himself here?
FLANNERY: I think he is feeling the pressure, I would not be surprised when we see an indictment before the end of the year that signal this is very serious. I was surprise by that, I think I would with have said something like if you had anything, you would have taken me to court or written to me personally. They talk about a lawyer's privilege, what lawyer, executive privilege. It's a very thin posturing politically.
LEMON: There's another point that I intended to make about the whole thing, and we're talking ability the sound bite there. Listen, most of the people on the transition team, these are people appointed by the President of the United States or Republicans or career people who were in there. So how is it that there was some sort of coupe or something that is happening from people, David, that the President appointed himself?
SWERDLICK: Yeah, and if you recall, Don, when Mueller was first appointed back in May, seven or eight months ago, you had Republicans on the hill. You had Republican notables like former speaker Newt Gingrich speaking about how Mueller was a man of the highest integrity, how they thought it was a good pick, how he would get to the bottom of things. And now that the investigations has sort of dragged out and has bogged the administration down, now you're seeing a situation where more supporters of the President are criticizing this. I would just point out, Don, real quick that, look, anybody that is an adversary of the President who thinks that a shoe is going to drop and the administration's going to crumble, I think they're going to be waiting a long time for that. Similarly for the President's supporters whether it's Judge Jeanine or someone else who think that this is going to route, the President himself who thinks this is going to wrap up neatly in a few weeks and we'll wipe our hands, move on, nothing to see here, neither side is going to have that. Mueller is going about this in a very methodical, specific, meticulous way, not talking a lot to the press. And we will find out as things develop as we have over the last several months.
LEMON: That is the truth. All three of you are smart gentlemen, but that was the smartest thing that was said here. I agree with you on your entire point there, Davis it is not that easy on either side. SWERDLICK: yes, one step at a time.
LEMON: Thank you very much. When we come back PBS has dropped Tavis Smiley's show after what's being called troubling allegations against him. Tonight he is fighting back. I'm going to talk to him. That is next.
[23:28:02] LEMON: Tavis Smiley who hosts his own nightly interview show on PBS since 2004 fighting back tonight against what PBS calls troubling allegations about his conduct. But the network is standing by its decision to suspend his show. Joining me now is Tavis Smiley. Thank you so much.
SMILEY: Don, good to see you.
LEMON: Are you getting any rest, because these are troubling allegations?
SMILEY: Not much rest at all, but I can tell you we've had a bit of breaking news in this case. When I first came out a week ago in comments about this, I said very clearly that I had never groped, coerced or inappropriately exposed myself to anyone. I said PBS they had rushed to judgement here, that they had engaged in a sloppy investigation. Essentially they have not connected the dots and done their job. We just received a letter a couple of hours ago from PBS, after my appearance on the America Today. And now after three weeks of imploring those to talk to my staff, to my COO, to my H.R. people, to debunk whatever they've heard which they've refused to do, they've now sent a letter this afternoon asking if they can meet with those very same people. This is after you dragged my name through the mud, after you've trampled my reputation, after you've impacted my earnings, after my sponsors have walked away from me, now you want to come back and continue the investigation as a result of what happened today.
LEMON: They released a statement after your interview this morning, on the morning program, but do you think this changes the allegations against you?
SMILEY: The allegations have always been anonymous to me. What I have said consistently is again, I have never groped, coerced or exposed myself to anyone. I've never instructed anyone in my company to take any position based upon my relationship status. The bottom line is they did a sloppy investigation and now they want to come back and continue what they should had done before they made this rush to judgement decision.
LEMON: All right. This are the accusations, I want to read what they said. This is according to variety. According to sources, MSK, a firm they hired, took reports from ten witnesses, a mix of men and women of different races and employment levels at Smiley's organization. Most of them former staffers. The investigation found credible allegations that Smiley has engaged in sexual relationship with multiple subordinates as sources said, some witnesses, interviewed expressed concerns that that their appointment status was link to a status of sexual relationship with Smiley. Ten witnesses, credible allegations, multiple subordinates. That seems pretty significant.
TAVIS SMILEY, PBS TAVIS SMILEY: That statement has a lot in it. First of all, men and women. First of all, I don't know what the accusations are, I don't know what that number of men and women is. What if it's eight men and two men women, not that two women's stories don't matter. After thirty years of being in business, I had a lot of folks, there are some folks who have a lot of axes to grind. I don't think this moment that this should not be used, Don, to exploit wanting to grind -- should not be used in an exploitative way to grind an axe or seek revenge on someone. Again I sat three hours in this conversation. I was never told what the allegations were, who the accusers were, never allowed to provide any evidence, was not given due process, what happened to presumption of innocence in this country? So again you are reading the statement in a variety and they didn't tell me this stuff. I learn from that variety part of good, but I learned three hours face to face conversation.
LEMON: So what does it change for you now that they are going to --
SMILEY: They've asked to talk to the persons on my staff who run the company, who make all of the employment decisions. We said that three weeks ago and they refused to do it. They made this rush to judgment, trampled on me, and now they want to come back and continue this investigation.
LEMON: Do you think that will change the allegations against you?
SMILEY: I will repeat again, when you don't know what the allegations against you are, it's hard to answer that question. What I do know that it shows again, I think we're missing the key point here.
LEMON: They rushed to judgment.
SMILEY: Exactly. And did a sloppy investigation. So how do you come back today after all this national outpour and national outrage about the way this investigation was conducted, that you deny me due process, how do you come back now?
LEMON: So you say they should have done that before, releasing that information. After your interview this morning, they said Tavis Smiley needs to get his story straight. First today on good morning America, Mr. Smiley acknowledge he'd had multiple sexual encounters with his employees. Then struggle to recall the number of current employees with who he had have sex. This contradicted his Facebook post from last week where he cited only one previous relationship with an employee. I want to stop there and put it back up, what do say about that?
SMILEY: I don't know what interview they were watching. Number one, I didn't -- I didn't disconnect anything. What I said in my statement was that if having a consensual relationship with a colleague. I didn't say one colleague, I said a colleague. I'm talking about a coworker. So I never said one, number one. So I didn't change my story this in Good morning America, I told the truth this morning and I told the truth in my statement.
LEMON: How many colleagues have you had consensual relationships with?
SMILEY: That very question conflates consensual relationships with sexual assault, sexual harassment and sexual misconduct that is not the right question? Quite frankly.
LEMON: Why not?
SMILEY: I just told you, because that very question conflates a consensual relationship with sexual harassment and sexual assault.
LEMON: We can talk about that, but that doesn't mean if I've had a consensual relationship with someone in the workplace, wouldn't I know. And I could explain to you this was consensual and this wasn't.
SMILEY: Exactly. And I know what was consensual. I've only had in my entire life consensual relationships. And most of them over 30 years in working in this industry, most include would not be in the workplace. We are talking about a handful of people.
LEMON: Mr. Smiley even told viewers I don't know where your heart is going to lead you. PBS is certain that it should not lead to multiple sexual relationships between the owner of a company and subordinates over many years particularly where employment decisions may be linked to sex. So if a woman is even though you say it's consensual, but a woman may feel obliged to go along with it, because she is concerned with her employment. That is how most people would read that.
SMILEY: Here again this is PBS's rhetoric. Today we go back to the beginning of the conversation, today they finally agreed to talk to the persons who could address those issues, had they raised those questions with those persons three weeks ago. My point is, how do you put those statements out without ever talking to those folks who made those allegations? And why are you talking to the press and not my attorneys? You know what I'm saying? They know how to contact my attorneys, but they keep making these comments in the press rather than talking to my attorneys.
LEMON: You understand the power dynamic.
LEMON: You're the President of a company and you're having a relationship with someone. Should you have known better?
SMILEY: Sure, I said what I know this morning I standby, which there are people that have an opinion that there is no such thing Don as a consensual relationship in the workplace. I respect that decision and I hear that. In my company we have a policy that does not encourage office relationships, but it doesn't forbid them. Because, again, I don't know want to tell people who they should hang out with.
[23:35:08] And there's so many relationships in this country that were started in the workplace. Henry Kissinger, met his wife in a workplace. Bill Gates met his wife in the workplace. We all know Barack Obama met Michelle Obama in the workplace. My point is relationship can start in the workplace, sometimes they work out, sometimes they don't. But let's not act like we don't live in a society where people work and meet each other all the time as sometimes things are hard.
LEMON: So you think obviously we've been having this back and forth, you think everything is being conflated. A consensual relationship and someone being abused in a relationship, from Harvey Weinstein, to the person who met his wife, you think they're all being lumped in one category.
SMILEY: That is what they've attempted to do with me. I am not Harvey Weinstein. I don't want to prejudge him, but what I'm suggesting to you is I have never coerced, groped or exposed myself to anyone. The great sin is to have over 30 years a handful of consensual relationships. And if that is a crime, we're going to start criminalizing people for having legitimate relationships as consenting adults, if that is the crime, then let's just say that. But don't drag me through the mud, damage my reputation and then come back is and say we're going to continue the investigation.
LEMON: Would you do consider, all the profile people when have lost their jobs, their livelihoods, would you do anything differently now?
SMILEY: As you know I've been on this program before. I've written specific books talking about the mistakes I've made and the lessons I've learned. Even again, if one or two of those consensual relationships was a case of misjudgment, I ask you, does that misjudgment rise to the level of public shaming, personal destruction and a wrongful termination? For me, it does not. For me or anybody else.
LEMON: What about the women who feel, according to this investigation, that they were hurt by you? What do you say to them? Do you apologize to them?
SMILEY: I don't know again. I'm more than happy to apologize to anyone I offended, but I repeat again, I was never told who the accuser were, I don't know what the allegations were. You can prove what a consensual relationship is. You've got letters, cards, gifts, text messages, and photographs. That is the world we live in nowadays. But I have never asked, given an opportunity to prove something was consensual, because it was never raised in that meeting.
LEMON: A lot of people lost their jobs, people didn't get to go to the senate because of all this stuff. How is Tavis Smiley different? Tavis Smiley is innocent always?
SMILEY: Tavis Smiley has only had consensual relationships. I've got a staff full of people, because of PBS has rushed to judgment that are in the unemployment line, in this holiday season. That does not make me happy.
LEMON: Do you plan taking legal action against them? SMILEY: My attorneys are looking at that right now, I don't want to
get ahead of them, I will tell you, if this in fact does end up in court, because now they've come back and ask to continue the investigation, and it is a little late on a certain level. If this does end up in court the real tragedy is millions of taxpayer money is going to be spent for PBS to defend itself against this bad decision, and that is not how I think the American people want their tax dollars spent.
LEMON: Tavis thank you.
SMILEY: Thank you Don.
LEMON: And when we come back, a report tonight that President Trump considered rescinding the Supreme Court nomination of Neil Gorsuch after Gorsuch criticized him. Sounds like loyalty is not exactly a two way street in this White House.
[23:42:41] LEMON: We all know how much President Trump values loyalty, but a new report tonight suggests that need for loyalty could have cost him a major accomplishment. Let's discuss now. CNN political commentators Angela Rye, Scott Jennings, both here. Hello to both you. Scott, you first. "the Washington Post" reporting tonight earlier this year President Trump considered rescinding his nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court due a perceived lack of loyalty on Gorsuch's part, specifically when Gorsuch expressed displeasure with the President's attacks on the judiciary. Does this president need thicker skin? What do you think of this?
SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: All right. You know, I think "the Washington Post" tonight is playing gossip girl here for no reason at all. I mean the reality is I went to breakfast this morning and considered having a cheese Danish and made a much better decision to have bacon and eggs, so the President did the right thing. He left Gorsuch his job, it's his main accomplishment this year, it's a great one and I don't see what the big deal is.
LEMON: Angela, do you see the big deal is? Do you agree with Scott?
ANGELA RYE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Of course, I don't agree. I think the challenge I have here is this word that keeps coming up and permeates this administration. And Donald Trump is under the dilution and illusion that people owe him a loyalty pledge rather than taking that oath, passing the bar as now Justice Neil Gorsuch had to do. In his role as a Supreme Court justice it is to ensure that he interprets the constitution. I'm not always going to and probably nine times out of ten won't agree with how his interpretation plays out. But he does not owe Donald Trump his loyalty. He owes his loyalty to the bench. There are three branches of government. The judiciary is one. And I don't know how many times we've said whether it was during the campaign, during the transition period or after he was sworn into office, this is not normal. This is not an authoritarian government. There are three branches of government. All to hold one or the other accountable. This is not about your cheese Danish Scott, this is about ensuring you understand that you have to up hold the law, not about Donald Trump's fragile ego.
LEMON: OK. Let me put it this way, because George Gorsuch is often among the accomplishments that this President touts. So that is one of the thing he mentions. He could have -- you know, his need for a loyalty test, that could have cost him big, because then maybe by the end of the year he'll have the tax cut or the tax overhaul or accomplishment, but so far he doesn't have any major legislative achievement. Wouldn't that have hurt him, Scott?
[23:45:21] JENNINGS: It would have hurt him if they had pulled Gorsuch down, but they didn't. And I think the best I can see here is Neil Gorsuch had sent the President a letter expressing his gratitude for being nominated, which san appropriate thing to do. Someone in the mailroom displaced it, it finally made its way to the President's desk. I think maybe the President here didn't realized that part of the issue as Supreme Court justice nominees is they frequently get asked, almost always get is asked will you have any trouble whatsoever ruling against this administration that nominated you. And Neil Gorsuch answered it just right, I don't have a problem ruling against anybody if that is what the facts and law calls for. I think what we have here is the president who made a good decision, a Supreme Court justice making good decisions in his new job, people who are acting appropriately, and sort of a gossip column tonight that really does not have any bearing on the facts as they exist today. This is a major presidential accomplishment and Gorsuch is a great justice.
RYE: Scott, I just want to push back on you a little bit, though. This buzzword, loyalty that came up when we talked about FBI Director Comey's firing. This is an issue and I think technically you can call this a gossip girl or gossip boy columnist if you want to, but this to me this is a red flag or something that against you go towards whether there's any type of obstruction of justice issue. Not because he is intending to, but perhaps he doesn't know any better. Like whether or not folks that have to get senate confirmation, whether it's to the judiciary or to serve in the cabinet, this is big issue. Your loyalty pledge is not to the President. Your loyalty is to this country and trying to make decisions that are constitutionally appropriate.
LEMON: I want to change the subject. This is another "the Washington Post" report. The White House planning -- and this is them. Quote, a full drama campaign to pledge the President into mid-term elections, adding that aides have met with 116 candidates from our office in recent months. Angela, is that a smart move?
RYE: To meet with candidates?
LEMON: Yes, and to plunge this President into mid-term elections?
RYE: I think they need to do whatever they can. Again, we were talking about his ego. He needs to feel like he is winning. He needs to start with mid-term results. Right now if you're looking at special elections, that is certainly not his track record.
LEMON: I just want to ask because Scott, it's no secret the President is facing historically low approval ratings, so I ask the same question to you. JENNINGS: Yes, I lived through a cycle like this in 2006 when I was
in the White House office of political affairs under President George W. Bush. We had a president that have a low approval rating ad so we had to decide strategically where was the best place for the President to campaign? He wouldn't have been helpful in all districts or all states, but there were places that he was helpful. I can tell you one place where the President or Vice President no matter their approval rating is always helpful, and that is on the fund raising circuit. Vice President Pence has been out their raising money for candidates in the party. The President if he so chooses to do it, would be an enormous fund raising draw for just about any candidate, Party, committee, whatever out there, anywhere in the country. So my advice would be for the President if he really want to make an impact, hit the fund-raising circuit and let his political affairs shop, which is led by a very smart operative Bill Steppian, let them decide strategically where he makes the most sense for public events.
LEMON: All right. When we come back Don Jr., Senator Ted Cruz and a cookie with the former President Obama space on it. What does that have to do with each other? We will explain.
[23:52:46] LEMON: Angela and Scott are back with me. I want to play part of the President's national security speech today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: A nation without borders is not a nation.
A nation that does not protect prosperity at home cannot protect its interests abroad. A nation that is not prepared to win a war is a nation not capable of preventing a war. A nation that is not proud of its history cannot be confident in its future. And a nation that is not certain of its values cannot summon the will to defend them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: All right. There's a lot to discuss there, Angela, let's take the part, the last line, where he says "a nation that is not proud of its history cannot be confident in its future." what do you think he means, what he means by that?
RYE: I have no idea. What I can tell you that is most concerning to me is that I have no real clue about whether or not Donald Trump understands what our true history is. I don't think that there's a requirement that we have to be proud of everything in America's past, to be able to move forward, right? I think that that is actually asinine, like, there are a number of things that we should not be proud of. I think that the most important thick we can do to take a step forward, is to recognize the many challenges in our history. The fact that he talks about borders. Standing up borders. A nation without borders isn't a nation at all. A lot of those ideas are circular, and ridiculous. And, again, I think even the America-first ideology is also
ridiculous. Donald Trump has consistently demonstrated that self- preservation is most important to him, even if it means scapegoating people on his own team. I hardly think that is a foreign policy, and a national security agenda and strategy that will work.
LEMON: I want to put this up, Scott, because this is a lot of folks have been talking about this. This is Donald Trump Jr., posted this picture of himself and Senator Ted Cruz yesterday with a cookie that appears to show the face of President Barack Obama.
[23:55:08] The Instagram captioned this "with friends like these, some good friends decided while my birthday is not for two weeks that they would get me an early 40th birthday cake and what birthday is complete without an Obama cake? I figured it was so good that I would have to share it with Ted." What do you think, was it appropriate? Because it caused a bit of a stir online.
JENNINGS: You know, I'm proud to see the evolution of the Cruz relationship with the Trumps. I mean, we've gone from the President, then-candidate, accusing Ted Cruz's dad of assassinating JFK to him posing with the President's son and Obama cake. If Barack Obama accomplished one something, bringing the Cruz's and the Trumps together, that is an accomplishment we can be proud of.
RYE: Meanwhile, the cake looks more like Tavis Smiley. Or whatever it was, a cookie. It looks like Tavis Smiley, it does not look like Barack Obama.
LEMON: They didn't make it.
RYE: Did you see that, Don? Looked like Grant Hill.
LEMON: Looked like Grant Hill. Oh well. You all are crazy.
RYE: You're going to give up, like, forget it. Forget about it.
LEMON: I was just like, you know --
RYE: Who is that?
LEMON: I can't believe Don Jr. would make that face and send it out.
RYE: Yes, that is a whole other issue.
JENNINGS: Are you guys some sort of cake boss cake artists I don't know about? It was like, really difficult to draw a picture on a piece of paper yet alone a cake.
LEMON: That is why I don't do it for a living.
RYE: I can't believe you, are you fighting this because it's a big deal? We're laughing about it, it's not that serious. It doesn't look like Barack Obama. Because it's red, white and blue and a black guy doesn't make it Barack Obama.
LEMON: We're going to have our cake and eat it, too. I didn't know what else to say. Bye, you all. Good night. That is it for us. Thank for watching. I will see you back here tomorrow.