Return to Transcripts main page


Trump Jr Suggests Government Conspiracy Against His Dad; Christie Speaks Out Against Jared Kushner; Details of Tax Overhaul Bill; Virginia State House Race Still Undecided; Emily's List: 25,000 Women Interested in Running for Office; Republicans Celebrate Legislative Victory at White House. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired December 20, 2017 - 14:30   ET


[14:30:00] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Well, Don Jr's words have been out on the ether. And many people have responding, including, Michael Zeldin, the former CIA director, General Michael Hayden. Listen to this.


MICHAEL HAYDEN, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: That's just more than a little bit than scary. That's a fairly coded attempt to say America should be governed by the unchecked will of the executive. And those so- called forces pushing back, they also go by the popular name, the rule of law, and the system of checks and balances that have governed us for two and a half centuries. From the outside, looking in, this is the family that is used to getting its way. And when people stop that from happening, they are viewed as enemies rather than, in the American political system, doing their job with competing and coequal branches of government.


BALDWIN: Michael, listening to that, how do you see it? And knowing Mueller, how do you think he sees it?

MICHAEL ZELDIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I'm not sure Mueller cares one wit what Don Jr has to say to a group in Florida. The thing that strikes me humor where is don's lawyers making these statements. Because if Mueller is listening, he can't like it, I don't think he cares. But he can't like it whose job it is to undermine the legitimacy of his father's presidency while the kid is under investigation for coordinating with foreign nationals to impact the federal election commission's integrity. It's stunning to me. And it's sort of lack of thoughtfulness from a legal jeopardy standpoint. But that's Don Jr.

BALDWIN: Sure. So from the president's son to son-in-law. Michael, let me stay with you and talk about Chris Christie he is speaking out against Jared Kushner and he had this to say about him.


CHRIS CHRISTIE, (R), NEW JERSEY GOVERNOR: I'm telling you that he deserves scrutiny. You know why? Because he was involved in the transition and involved in meetings that call into question his role. OK? Well, then if he's innocent of that, then that will come out as Mueller exams all the facts.


BALDWIN: Well, obviously, bad blood between the two. We know the story with Kushner's dad and Chris Christie some years ago. Do you think this is part of this or do you think there is more at play?

ZELDIN: Well, backing up for a second, Christie sends Kushner's dad to jail. That doesn't create good relationships among people. Then Kushner, according to Christie, gets Christie kicked off the transition team and loses him a coveted attorney general appointment or some other such thing, again, another thorn in that relationship.

But in its most benign sense, Christie, if he's talking as prosecutor, says simply the guy had a role in the election, in the transition, and in the administration, all of which are under the mandate of Mueller, so, therefore, he must be looked at. So in its most benign sense, Christie is just saying, as a prosecutor, looking at this guy, of course he's part of the investigation. But of course, with that bad blood history, I don't think he's saying it without some level of happiness that perhaps his tormenter is now facing some of the scrutiny that you like to see happen to your adversaries.


Michael Zeldin, always appreciate sure. Thank you.

Shimon, thank you.

If we don't talk before the end of the year, happy holidays to both of you.


BALDWIN: Coming up here, Republican lawmakers, they are in these buses on their way to the White House right this very moment to celebrate their big, big victory on taxes. And we are standing by to hear directly from the president on all of this.

Also, if you ever needed proof that every vote counts, look at the state of Virginia. A Democrat wins a race for state delegate by just one vote.


[14:35:42] BALDWIN: Coming up here on some of these live pictures of this motorcade of all these buses headed toward the White House from Capitol Hill full of Republicans celebrating the first legislative victory since the president took office 11 months ago, the historical Republican tax overhaul. What about the substance, though? What is in the final plan?

Let's take a look. The sweeping tax overhaul will lower most individual tax rates. Nearly double the standard deduction. Eliminate personal exemption. Caps the state and local tax deductions. And eliminates the Obamacare health insurance mandate.

Trying to figure out how the Republican tax overhaul may affect you and your family, that can be daunting task. There are key financial moves that you can make right now before the end of 2017 to take advantage of these tax changes.

CNN's chief business correspondent, Christine Romans, had a look at that.

What did you find, Christine?

[14:39:39] CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Brooke, there are a few things you can do before January 1 to lower your tax bill for next year, at least try. If you can prepay property taxes this year. This is for high-tax states. The tax bill caps the state and local tax deduction at $10,000. So if you prepay this year's property taxes, you can deduct them under the old rules for 2017. But, remember, real estate taxes are at the local level. And each jurisdiction is different. Even just calling around this morning to different tax offices you are going to get different rules for different municipalities. So check with your local office to see if you can pay right now and check with your accountant.

Also, defer any income you can to next year for lower tax rates. I'm talking about bonuses, maybe some commissions. Also try to pay any expenses that can no longer be expenses, work-related expenses and tax prep fees. Again, talk tour accountant.

You can make charitable donations that is you would have otherwise done next year. If your tax rate falls in 2018, your 2017 deductions will be more valuable. Here's an example. For a married couple making $160,000, making a $1,000 donation, currently 28 percent tax rate. So the tax benefit of that $1,000 donation is $280. But next year, their tax rate will fall so they will only save $220 -- Brooke?

BALDWIN: Christine, thank you.

If you want more of a personal look how all this will affect you, there is a great piece. Go to for that.

Next, it was a razor-thin margin of victory, in an election out of Virginia. But just in, this major development in the race, and potential outcome. A live report next.


[14:45:39] BALDWIN: We're back. And have some breaking news at Virginia, major development in this much-talked about State House race. After a mandatory recount, it appeared this morning the Democrat in this race, Shelly Simonds, defeated the Republican incumbent, David Yancey, by one vote.


SHELLY SIMONDS, (D), VIRGINIA STATE HOUSE CANDIDATE: So excited. I had to take a deep breath. We had to pause to make sure. The registrar did the math four times. But then we started celebrating. It's really neat. I think everybody has a little bit of ownership in the outcome of this election now. Everybody feels like they were the one vote that put us over the edge.


BALDWIN: All right. So she's all smiles. But I have a feeling that that may change.

Ryan Nobles and Juana Summers with me on the politics of this.

Ryan Nobles, did she win or is that in question?

RYAN NOBLES, CNN POLITICS REPORTER: A three-judge panel had to certify the results this morning. And when they were getting ready to certify it, a Republican lawyer came forward with the question of an over vote, essentially a ballot that wasn't counted yesterday. And one of the observers that took part in this recount said that they didn't think that this particular ballot was enough to be counted, that it was filled out incorrectly. And he asked the judges to reconsider that decision. What happened was the who person cast this ballot had voted for Republicans across the board and had filled in the bubble for both of them but had crossed out the bubble for Symonds. They said it's enough to be counted. They wanted it to be included. And that would throw the race back to a tie. After a long period of time of deliberation, the judges agreed with the Republican lawyers, that vote now counts. This is now a tie race. And, Brooke, this means that now both candidates will go to the board of elections and they will literally pull a name out of a hat to determine not only who is going to win this House of delegates race, but that's also going to determine who has control of the House of delegates. Because the fate of the seat will make it a 50/50 race or 49-51 race in the House of delegates. So much on the line, and basically going to come down to an election official pulling a name out of a hat.

BALDWIN: A name out of a hat in 2017. And that decides which way the state House swings in Virginia? My goodness. I can't imagine for both of the man and woman in this race.

Ryan, thank you for the update. We'll keep a close eye on the hat pull.

Juana, let me pivot to you, because I saw a statistic this morning from Emily's List, a Democrat political action committee, saying 25,000 women have notified them that they are interested in running for office in the near future. That's a massive number.

So on that, we talked -- I talked to a woman, Kathy Tran, who won a seat in the Virginia legislature. First Asian American woman ever elected there. I said, listen, as a woman, why did you decide to run? This was her response at the time.


KATHY TRAN, (D), VIRGINIA STATE LEGISLATOR-ELECT: You know, I was pregnant, and due on inauguration day. And so after the election, I wanted to give my daughter a name that reflected our values. So it was important to me and my husband given the direction the world was taking. I made the decision to run when she was a month old. And I just had given a very aspirational name to this baby and I realized I couldn't sit on the sidelines. I needed to stand up and fight for my kids' futures.


BALDWIN: I wanted to show one of these women's faces, but one of 25,000 out of Emily's List. What's the catalyst? What are they sighting?

[14:49:51] JUANA SUMMERS, CNN POLITICS SENIOR WRITER: I think there are a lot of factors. More women, many of whom like the woman you interviewed didn't have traditional backing, infrastructure that you see of a traditional candidate, want to see the country go a different way and want to run for office. I think part of it is in response to the election of Donald Trump. You have the, so-called, #metoo movements in these big industries, but small working-class industries, most people are a part of across the country. People are saying enough is enough. That's where we are seeing the majority of this action right now.

BALDWIN: Juana Summers, thanks so much.

As we listen to you talking about these women coming forward, I want you to look at this picture on this screen the buses have arrived. A lot of Republicans here filling the South Lawn of the White House. A jubilant day, a celebration after the massive tax reform package was passed. Just waiting for the signature of the president to turn it into law. Live pictures of that.

I think we'll take a quick break. When we come back, more from the White House.


BALDWIN: We continue on. You are watching CNN live coverage here. Live pictures from the White House. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

Big, big day for Republicans in this country. They are about to be joined by President Trump in celebrating his single major legislative achievement since taking over the White House 11 months ago. He is about to enact the most substantial set of tax cuts this country has seen in 31 years and do a symbolic signing of this Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. Official version of this bill will be ready later.

Passage went nearly as planned. Overnight, Senate passed the law made some technical changes, passed the bill, which made technical changes, which forced House to do a revote. No Democrats voted for this bill. Not a single one.

Earlier, the President Trump reveled in passing the successful legislation. He not only hailed it cuts business taxes but touted the fact it repeals the Obamacare individual mandate.


[14:55:41] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When the individual mandate is being repealed, that means Obamacare is being repealed, because they get their money from the individual mandate. So the individual mandate is being repealed. So in this bill, not only do we have massive tax cuts and tax reform, we have essentially repealed Obamacare. And we'll come up with something that will be much better.


BALDWIN: So let's go straight to the White House to our senior White House correspondent there, Jim Acosta.

Jim, it is quite a crowd at the White House. Set the scene for us.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right. You have every single official from this administration out here on the South Lawn of the White House. The chief of staff, John Kelly, the president's daughter, Ivanka Trump is out here, son-in-law, Jared Kushner, is out here. State Department, even some of the top lawmakers THE president has been sparring with, like Bob Corker. He's up on stage. President is expected to come out any moment now. And we just heard an announcement over the system, this may be starting momentarily.

But he's scoring a legislative victory and celebrating that. He's not signing this bill as you mentioned. As you mentioned, we were told by White House officials, within the last hour or so, they held a background briefing, reporting that that could happen down at Mar-a- Lago when the president is on his holiday vacation in Florida. Your panelists can debate the optics of that signing that into law at his ritzy resort in Florida.

But as you mentioned earlier, they did have the revote. It was not the glitch that stole Christmas. They did this to final passage. The president is coming out. And speaker of the House Paul Ryan is not talking about backing out of Capitol Hill in 2018. They'll be out here in a few minutes to take something of a victory lap. Unlike the victory lap that we saw earlier this year when they thought they were on the road to repealing Obamacare, this time, they actually have accomplished something. They have essentially rewritten the nation's tax code for the first time in a generation, the first time in 31 years. And that is no small achievement -- Brooke?

BALDWIN: It is a major something for Republicans and for this administration.

Not the glitch that stole Christmas. Don't quit your day job, Jim Acosta.

ACOSTA: I'll try not to.

BALDWIN: We need you there at the White House.

And let's go to Phil Mattingly, who has been covering this for us for weeks.

You contrast the last time we saw a mini victory lap, members of the House, Obamacare, which came to screeching halt. We know how that story ended. What do you think went so differently to get them all on the same page for taxes?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSONAL CORRESPONDENT: A couple of things, Brooke, where Republicans stand on tax cuts versus where they stand on health care. They have stark differences how the view how the health care system should be run. Republicans campaigned for tax cuts. All Republicans campaigned for tax cuts, whether it's Susan Collins or Ted Cruz, they have been campaigning on this issue. So it lined up naturally for Republicans.

But no question about it, the lessons learned from the failure of Obamacare, from perhaps that preemptive Rose Garden ceremony early in the year, played a huge role in getting here. In terms of leaders in both the House and Senate, White House recognizing they couldn't do a top down approach. They needed to involve their members. And perhaps more importantly, that they needed to all work together. Kind of 0en a unified front. Something we saw so many splits during the health care process.

And I think one of the biggest issues here is how the failure led to this point. The stark attacks that these Republicans faced when they went home for August recess where they talked to their donors and supporters about their inability to get something done. Brooke, by the time they got back to Washington after that recess throughout the months of September and October, you heard it repeatedly, we have to do something. We have to come out of this year with some type of legislative accomplishment, move into 2018 with some kind of legislative accomplishment.

Brooke, Republicans won the House, the Senate, and the White House. And they were moving towards the end of the year with nothing. Now they have something. That is a very big deal. You can debate the merits of the bill. You can debate the current polling. Clearly, Republicans have a lot to do to sell this bill. But at this moment, they now have something tangible they can bring into 2018 and say, look, you guys brought us here and we got something done.