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What's In The GOP Tax Plan?; GOP Unveils Final Tax Bill, Vote Expected This Week; President Trump Reportedly Optimistic about Outcome of Mueller Investigation; Power Restored to Hartsfield International Airport Interview With Rep. Diane Black, R-Tenn. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired December 18, 2017 - 08:00   ET


[08:00:00] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: We'll see where it goes. Only one man knows right now. Michael Caputo, appreciate your perspective as always. You're always welcome on NEW DAY.

There is a lot of news this Monday morning. What do you say? Let's get after it.


DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: As we said, there's no collusion. There's no collusion whatsoever.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The fix is in against Donald Trump from the beginning.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You see a concerted effort out of the White House to undermine the investigation. The question is, what are they afraid of?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People said we wouldn't get this done. We're on the verge of getting it done.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Senator McCain, we hope he comes back, but I'm confident we will pass this bill.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What we're seeing here is a massive attack on the middle class.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're all just waiting to get out of here. It's been a complete nightmare.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is no evidence to suggest that the fire was caused deliberately.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just want to get home.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't know what we're going to do.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.

CUOMO: All right, good morning and welcome to your NEW DAY. It's Monday, December 18th, 8:00 in the east. And we begin with a CNN exclusive. Multiple sources telling CNN President Trump is expressing new confidence about the outcome of the Russia investigation, this as his personal attorneys are preparing to meet with the special counsel tomorrow, and his team. The president believes he will be exonerated even as his aides prepare for what they're calling a potential presidential meltdown if things don't go his way.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: This as lawyers for the president accuse Mueller's investigators of using improper channels for obtaining e- mails from the Trump transition team. Mueller offering a rare response. He maintains it was all done by the book. CNN's Sara Murray is live at the White House with the breaking developments. Good morning, Sara.

SARA MURRAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Alisyn. Look, we are told privately that President Trump has been less agitated about the special counsel's investigation into potential collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian officials and that the president is even telling some friends and allies that he expects a letter of exoneration from Mueller.

Now part of this stems from conversations the president is having with his legal team, and his legal team has a very optimistic view that in the coming months relatively quickly Mueller will clear the president and the White House of any wrongdoing.

But when you talk to people who are familiar with the Mueller probe, when you talk to other lawyers who are involved in it, they don't have such a rosy view. They say there's really no indication that Mueller is wrapping up his work.

Now, we spoke to about three dozen people, people who work in this White House, people who are close to the president, people who are involved in the Mueller probe to get this assessment, and one of the big worries from Trump's allies is that if this timeline doesn't work out to the president's benefit, he could have a meltdown. A key tipping point in this could be this week when Mueller and his team are sitting down with the president's lawyers. Now, if there is an assessment that maybe this is wrapping up quickly, that could buoy the president's spirits. But if there is some kind of indication that this is nowhere near its end, Trump's allies worry that he could make a drastic move, like trying to move forward, for instance, with trying to fire Mueller.

The president spoke to reporters yesterday and he insisted that was nowhere on the table. He is not considering any sort of firing. But we've already seen the president's allies out there trying to take aim at investigators on Mueller's team. That could be a sign of more to come. Back to you.

CUOMO: All right, thank you so much for the reporting, Sara, very, very insightful. Let's discuss and welcome back CNN political analyst John Avlon and Chris Cillizza, CNN politics reporter and editor at large, Chris, "The Point," Cillizza.


CUOMO: What do you see at the point on this?

CILLIZZA: That he is calm because his lawyers are telling him that in the words in the story, there's a light at the end of the tunnel. Ty Cobb said it was Thanksgiving. His timeline has moved a little bit, but that there's no evidence that they see coming forward that he is in real legal jeopardy and that this will end sooner rather than later.

On the sooner rather than later piece, I don't know that we know that that is to be the case. I thought the Flynn plea deal was telling in that regard. The fact that Flynn pled to what we assume was one of the lesser charges against him suggests that Mueller thinks that Flynn has some -- a story to tell, presumably about people above him. There aren't that many people above him. I would assume that means it's going to go on for a little longer.

But again, with Trump, he's calm now. At 8:00 p.m., at noon, who knows? That's the thing -- and you'll know, because he'll take to Twitter. He is -- you know, when he got off the plane yesterday, when he left on Friday, he made comments both times about the investigation. No collusion, no collusion whatsoever. Many people are upset at the FBI. It's not as though he's not thinking about it, because he is.

CAMEROTA: But he did sound subdued in those comments. They weren't fiery comments. But either way, that hasn't stopped -- if he's feeling more sanguine, it hasn't stopped his team from making the -- trying to put chinks in the armor of the Mueller investigation.

[08:05:05] So latest are these e-mails. The transition team says that Mueller's investigators got them through ill-gotten ways, but they were dot-gov e-mails which are in the public sphere. Those are government e-mails that theoretically, I think, according to Jeffrey Toobin, we are all entitled to know about.

JOHN AVLON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Absolutely. And it exists before they take office so executive privilege is a reach. Their argument, basically, is we were misinformed. We thought that during the transition anything we said would remain our private property, which doesn't make any logical let alone legal sense.

CUOMO: And factual sense because one of the counsels for the government agency that oversees the transition said that they were told they should not have an expectation of privacy.

AVLON: That's right. And also, if you are beginning a presidential transition, it is self-evident or it should be self-evident that these are public documents in the public interests.

CUOMO: But that's a lot more high-minded than the Christmas gift I just got from Michael Caputo. Michael Caputo, who was very important to the Trump campaign for a while, he just admitted on television, maybe he was tired, hey, look, this is what people do in politics. This is what the Clintons did during that probe and that's what other people during the probe. And literally I said so that makes it OK? I thought you guys were going to be better, that you weren't going to play those kinds of games and Trump didn't need to play those kinds of games, and now you are admitting that this is what you do when you're being investigated? You attack the investigation?

CILLIZZA: Remember, aside from "lock her up," which was a very popular chant during the Trump years, the other one was "drain the swamp." And I wrote about it at time. That was a compelling message for a guy like Donald Trump, that people are fed up with Washington. They are sick of Washington politics. But what you have Michael Caputo come on and say, look, the game is baseball and that's what we need to play, well, remember, Donald Trump was elected to fundamentally break that system. His election was heralded as a sign that people were fed up and they wanted something -- and he represented this -- something radically different. That's what's difficult.

Look, Obama did some of this, not to extent, but remember, Barack Obama essentially said we're not going to have any lobbyists be a part of our administration. They found a lot of loopholes to it. This is not new. The swamp tends to drain you more than you drain it.

AVLON: The swamp gets restocked. But I think what's different in this particular situation is the steady drumbeat of attacks on the FBI, on the investigation from surrogates, in addition to the administration's actions. And the president may believe that he's going to be exonerated and feeling pretty upbeat at moments, but if it's all predicated on being told by his lawyers that the end is near and the end is not near, that blowback is going to be considerable and the repercussions of that could be --

CAMEROTA: But by the way, I also thought that Michael Caputo said another really compelling thing, and that was that he thinks that Mueller has licked the problem, pretty much, because if there were people with anti-Trump bias in the investigation he's gotten rid of them or made moves to begin to get rid of them.

CUOMO: One he moved on, one he --

CAMEROTA: But Strzok he moved on, and if he gets rid of the other one, basically, problem solved.

CILLIZZA: The Flynn plea deal to me just stands out there. Why do that? Michael Flynn, from all the CNN reporting we know about, there were ties to turkey. There was a lot there and he pled guilty to lying to the FBI. Now, I mean, I don't want to plead guilty to lying -- it's a criminal charge, but out of everything that was there, why? Bob Mueller is an experienced prosecutor. He's not going to offer a paralegal if he thinks Michael Flynn has nothing to say, particularly nothing to say about people above him, right? That's the way these investigations --

CUOMO: We'll see. Look, the truth is, the Mueller thing is a mystery. We don't know what's going on inside that investigation. The only thing that we know for sure is that the idea -- I've had a lot of experience around federal investigations. The idea that this one has taken a long time is absurd. It's just not true.

But beyond that, it is a lot of mystery. And that's why we're seeing the politics. The irony that the president of the United States only offers something congratulatory to United States intelligence services when Vladimir Putin basically tells him to, Vladimir Putin, thanks the United States for giving them information that helps stop a terror attack in St. Petersburg, I wonder if they would return the favor. I wonder if that's how it worked during the Boston bombing intelligence. But when he says thank you, the president, yes, our intelligence services are awesome. That's what it took? Anyway --

CILLIZZA: Just as a reminder, last week, said the FBI was in tatters. Again, I just, I think it's important. He says and does so many things that are directly contradictory to one another, but I think it's important to note these things. This is a guy who has sought to, and on a number of occasions, undermine our intelligence officials. He continues to not accept the conclusion that Russia purposefully interfered in the election when it's a unanimous belief from the intelligence community.

AVLON: Not only in the intelligence community, apparently in his own capitol.

[08:10:00] CUOMO: He's made a political decision. He believes the president of the United States -- and we know this a million ways from Sunday, including from his own mouth -- every time interference he said he thinks it's bad for him. The problem is I don't see any indication that any of these committees or anybody is coming up with any way to stop it the next time. The national security speech he's going to give today, it's not even one of the major buckets of how to stop it. It's like done by implication. And that's the shame in all of this.

AVLON: Yes, and that speech today is a big deal. We focus on a lot of the breaking news. We focus on the urgent. But these security statements are actually strategic statements of policy, they've been worked on by months by people in the Pentagon and elsewhere. So pay attention to, where is he getting hawkish? What is he sidestepping? Whether it's cyber-security or the Russia investigation. This is a document that matters and it's our job to make those important stories interesting.

CAMEROTA: Do we have a preview?

AVLON: It's just being leaked right now. So I think we're going to wait to take a look. What we seem to know is how it's organized and what is not being addressed is Russia interference.

CILLIZZA: I was just going to add we know more what's not in there than what is in there at this point because we know election reform, which is something that Barack Obama put a big price on and said we need to focus on this, the integrity of our elections, both who can vote and interference, is not in there.

AVLON: And climate change not being considered a national security issue.

CAMEROTA: OK, gentlemen, thank you very much for analyzing all of that for us.

So we do have some breaking news for you. Power is back at the world's busiest airport. But the logistical nightmare is just beginning at Atlanta's Hartsfield International Airport. The challenge, of course, is getting these tens of thousands of passengers who were stranded now to their intended destinations. CNN's Martin Savidge has been there all morning. What is it like at this hour, Marty?

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Alisyn, the good news, as you point out, lights are on. More important, flights are taking off. It's something we haven't seen since 1:00 yesterday afternoon. This is the problem. This is where yesterday runs into today. What I mean by that is there were probably about 50,000 to 70,000 people stranded yesterday. On any given day, the normal passenger flow through this airport is about 270,000. So all of those people hung up yesterday are running into all of those people traveling today. It's the beginning of a workweek and a holiday week, a terrible time for this to happen.

Fire is the cause, at least according to city officials, in the utility tunnels, so bad it took out the main and the backup system. Experts say then you really didn't have a backup system here. Four- hundred flights so far cancelled in Atlanta, but the airlines expect by later this afternoon to have the schedule -- they stress, the schedule -- back to normal. That doesn't mean you as a passenger are going to be where you expect to be because of the backlog that they're dealing with, luggage and everything else on top of it.

People have remarkable patience. They're holding up very, very well, but the real question that those were stranded are asking, how did this happen at the world's, supposedly, busiest and best airport? And that one really hasn't been answered yet.

CUOMO: Yes, look, they have a redundancy issue, they're going to have to figure that out. I'm not traveling today, I'm traveling tomorrow, Martin. All pain is personal. But I'll tell you, what they're dealing with this morning is a heck of a lot better than the alternative. That was scary when those lights went off and they were trying to get those thousands of people out of the airport. Imagine what would have happened. It could have been a lot worse than just inconvenience. Martin, be well. Best for the holidays.

SAVIDGE: Very true.

CUOMO: Always good to see you, brother.

So if the new Republican tax bill passes, how are you going to do short-term and long-term? That is a neglected aspect of this analysis. Not on this show. We're going to speak with one of the representatives who negotiated the final deal, next.


CUOMO: So, Congress is set to vote on its tax reform plan on Tuesday. Republicans are confident they can get it to the president's desk by midweek. The president calls this a massive tax cut for working families and businesses.

Let's take a look at the changes for individuals, all right? Because that's really what we're talking about here. Many individual filers are going to see lower tax rates, including those in the top income bracket, but the individual cuts expire in 2025.

What does that mean? You could see a tax hike in the future, if Congress doesn't extend them and that is not a given, OK? The standard deduction, and that's the amount you can subtract from your taxable income. That's going to be nearly doubled.

That will certainly simplify this filing process for people who currently itemize their deduction. The child tax credit doubles, goes to $2,000. The refundable portion of the credit is increased. It doesn't match to $2,000, but it's close enough.

That allows more lower-income families to benefit. The income threshold is a raised and that will allow more families to take advantage of it. But while the bill does offer more benefits, it also eliminates or reduces some popular tax breaks, like these, personal exemptions, eliminated.

So that $4,050 for yourself, your spouse, each dependent, families with more than three kids, that could negate tax relief coming to them from other provisions in this bill. State and local tax deductions, what they're calling the SALT situation. For people in high-tax areas like New York, California, about 12 big states that all happen on Democratic states, by the way, that is going to be preserved.

That's going to be a problem. What was an unlimited deduction will now be capped at $10,000. Homeowners, you're going to see a lower mortgage interest deduction. Not on current mortgages. Those are not affected by the bill. That's important to remember.

But new mortgages, you'll be able to deduct interest, but only up to $175,000 worth of borrowing, down from $1 million where it is currently. So, if the Republican tax plan passes this week, those are some of the changes you can expect to see when you file your taxes next year.

But remember, go to, there's a calculator there, you can put in your personal information and you'll get a better feel for your own stake in this.

Let's talk about the politics. We have Republican Congresswoman Diane Black of Tennessee. She was one of the Republican conferees who negotiated this final tax bill from the House and Senate versions. First, it is good to have you on the show. The best for Christmas to you and the family.

REP. DIANE BLACK (R), TENNESSEE: Thank you, Chris. It's great to be with you.

CUOMO: All right, so Michael Bloomberg, he's a big shot. He's a businessman. He plans to do well because of this tax bill, but he doesn't like it. Let me show you what he has said. "CEOs aren't waiting on a tax cut to jump start the economy. A favorite phrase of politicians who have never run a company or to hand out raises. It's pure fantasy to think that the tax bill will lead to significantly higher wages and growth as Republicans have promised." You laugh in the face of Michael Bloomberg, Congresswoman, why?

[09:20:06] BLACK: I do. Because many of the things he says are not true by other statistics and other folks that have given us information, such as, the CEOs won't give increases in wages. We know that is true. That study has shown that when companies grow, it benefits their employees.

And so, you know, I think what he's saying maybe from his own perspective, his own opinion, but overall, we know that when businesses grow, so do employees do better. As a matter of fact, there was an article just out there this weekend from the CEO of Delta, who said, when we are able to grow, when we see the economy jolted, it helps everybody, including our employees.

And here in the state of Tennessee -- let me just say, in the state of Tennessee --

CUOMO: Go ahead, Congresswoman.

BLACK: -- for someone with an average income, a middle income, we're going to see about an $1,800 reduction in their tax burden. That's a lot of money for people here in Middle Tennessee. It's estimated about 18,000 new jobs will be created and the increase in wages will be about another $1,800. So, this is a big deal and a big help to the middle-income earners.

CUOMO: Right. But now, look, but testing on this is also fairly simple because we're dealing with maybes versus certainties, OK? These are maybes. Maybe wages will go up. Maybe the expansion of any type of corporate windfall here will help middle class families. Maybe the tax benefits will help stave off the tax increases they get later on.

But the certainties here seem to not get played enough. You made the corporate tax cuts permanent. You didn't do that for the individuals? You could have flipped it and made their tax cuts permanent and made the corporate ones temporary, but you didn't do that. And it seems pretty clear why, because you were more worried about making the corporations happy. Fair point or no?

BLACK: No. So, here's what we know. We know when the economy is jolted -- and look, we saw that under both Democrat and Republicans. We saw it under Kennedy, we saw it under Reagan and also under Clinton. We know that when the economy grows, it helps everyone. It's kind of like that old saying that a rising tide brings up all ships, and so we knew that. Now, we were under what they called reconciliation. So, we only had so many dollars that we would be able to use in this plan that we could actually have as a deficit. But what we do know is that this is a likelihood at the end of the period of time, there will be an extension on this.

CUOMO: We have seen that promised in the past and not happen.

BLACK: Well, I can tell you that this is every bit the indication that this has happened in the past. I know with the Bush tax cuts because we were in a real bad downturn, that that did not happen.

CUOMO: That's right so it did not happen.

BLACK: But in other times --

CUOMO: But you never know what's going to happen.

BLACK: Well, we never know what's going to happen today or tomorrow, do we, Chris --

CUOMO: And that's why maybes shouldn't be promised as certainties.

BLACK: When we look at the overall plan, we see that this is a plan that can give a jolt to the economy, allow the economy to grow, and I'm fighting for those middle income hard-earned taxpayers right here in Middle Tennessee and I believe this is going to be a real Christmas present for them.

CUOMO: That's what we keep hearing, and that's certainly what people want. There's no reason not to see wages go up here. There just would have been easier ways to guarantee it if you want to prioritize those people that wouldn't have blown up the deficit.

What's interesting is, you know, so many people, yourself included, have been so careful about your language about the deficit and the debt over the years, that it's such a problem, that it's a generational tax that's being passed on. And this tax bill that blows it up in epic proportion. How do you reconcile those two positions?

BLACK: Well, what I want to do is I want to look at both sides. You know I'm somebody that's very concerned about the deficit. As a matter of fact, as a budget chair, my budget that passed out of the House that did not passed in the Senate was the most conservative budget in 20 years.

We did begin to hit that mandatory spending and bring that deficit down, and that's very important. But this is a balance, as we have a jolt in the economy and we see more economics and we see more taxes coming in, we have to be sure that we reduce our spending.

And that's something that I'm hoping that we'll begin to do this upcoming year when we're out of this reconciliation, and we'll be able to do some more mandatory spending, because it is a balance.

If you bring in more, which did happen actually in some of the previous administrations, where more money came in, but you spend more, you never catch up. You've got to look at the other side as well.

CUOMO: Are you worried about going into 2018, where you gave a big tax cut to corporations and still in the maybe phase to see how it works out for people in the working class. And you have to justify this huge deficit that you put on the budget books, as well. Are you worried about that?

[08:25:07] BLACK: I'm always worried about the debt and deficit spending. I'm going to always be worried about that. But I am encouraged, because of, as I say, what we have seen in the past, both in the Kennedy administration and also in the Reagan administration. Look, we saw growth during Reagan at 7, 8 percent.

CUOMO: But you saw how you cut the taxes then. The tax burden was so high that the cut was dramatic and it changed economic dynamics in a way that you will not have today. You also had a ballooning deficit and a lot of residual tax growth -- not tax growth, tax increases under Reagan as a result, also. Doesn't that matter?

BLACK: Well, look at what's just happened, even without the passage of this bill and how the economy has started to grow. Look at the markets. We've had a GDP growth two quarters now that was over 3 percent.

CUOMO: Right.

BLACK: I've been in Congress for seven years, we have not seen growth like that underneath the Obama administration or even -- underneath the Obama administration the entire time. So, this is something that we know does occur. We've seen it in the past. This is not something we're pulling out of the air. When the economy grows, it does not only help individuals, but it also helps us --

CUOMO: We also know we've had the greatest expansion in Wall Street we've ever seen in our history in terms of taking a look at the markets. The companies are holding more cash than they've ever held before, relatively, and they're not raising wages the way that you are promising that they will. Why?

BLACK: But why haven't they? Why haven't they? Because --

CUOMO: Because it's better for them to give it to me as a shareholder and a dividend or to buy back their own stock and that's their mandate. That's their responsibility. Your responsibility is to take care of taxpayers like, not corporations. They take care of their shareholders. I'm not judging it or criticizing, it's just the reality.

BLACK: Well, why don't you read the Delta article that was written by the CEO --

CUOMO: I did. I saw it.

BLACK: We're not going to be buying back our shares. We're going to be growing our product because that's what helps us. Look, as a business owner, you know what helps me? It helps me to be able to create more jobs and grow my business because that also helps me when my business grows.

CUOMO: I hear you, but when that room of CEOs were asked by Gary Cohn who's going to put this money into more wages, there were no hands that went up.

BLACK: Well, I wasn't sitting at that table and I didn't see that --

CUOMO: I'll show you the video.

BLACK: Well, it's impossible for me to see the video?

CUOMO: No, I'll send you a link to your office.

BLACK: OK, you send it to me.

CUOMO: I appreciate it, Congresswoman.

BLACK: This is a good thing for the American people.

CUOMO: I appreciate you making the case to the people on this show. You are always welcome here to do exactly that.

BLACK: Well, thank you for having me.

CUOMO: All right. And the best for Christmas for you and your family.

BLACK: Merry Christmas to you and all your listeners.

CUOMO: Thank you -- Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Chris, not a single Democrat is planning to vote for that tax bill. Did they intentionally sit it out or were they cut out? We'll ask Democratic Senator Joe Manchin, next.