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Trump, GOP Celebrate Passage of Landmark Tax Bill; U.N. to Vote on Trump's Jerusalem Decision. Aired 6-6:30a ET
Aired December 21, 2017 - 06:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNTIED STATES: It's always a lot of fun when you win.
[05:59:28] SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), MINORITY LEADER: There's only two places where America is popping champagne: the White House and the corporate board rooms.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're one heck of a leader. This cannot pass without you.
TRUMP: The individual mandate is being repealed. That means Obamacare is being repealed.
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), MINORITY LEADER: It isn't up to us. It's up to them. They have the votes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't think anybody is advocating for a shutdown right now. We think that Congress will do the right thing.
SEN. MARK WARNER (D), VIRGINIA: To remove Special Counsel Mueller would be a gross abuse of power.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Most of Mueller's team is anti-Trump. What concerns me is the intent to carry out a plan to disrupt the election.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The willingness to just torch the whole FBI building to advance this narrative is very troubling.
ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is NEW DAY. It is Thursday, December 21, 6 a.m. here in New York. Chris is off. Bill Weir joins me. Great to have your help today.
BILL WEIR, CNN CORRESPONDENT/ANCHOR: Great to be here.
CAMEROTA: More big news day.
WEIR: Happy day for President Trump. Maybe the happiest since he won the election. CAMEROTA: Good point. So let's get right to it. Here's our starting
President Trump is euphoric over his first legislative win and GOP lawmakers heaping praise on the president. But there's still a lot of uncertainty among everyday Americans. When will the impact of the Bill kick in? How will you feel it in your own wallet? And with the repeal of the individual mandate, the president claims that this ends Obamacare. Does it?
WEIR: Does it?
CAMEROTA: Yes. Bill wants to get right in on that.
WEIR: And why weren't we talking about that before this Bill was signed?
Anyway, there's also the looming possibility that they're going to shut the lights down Friday. Government shutdown. Funding runs dry in less than 48 hours. House Republicans emerging from a closed-door meeting last night, say they're no closer to a deal on a spending plan.
And also a shot across the bow from a top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee. Virginia's Mark Warner warning President Trump not to mess with Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Not to fire him or pardon any of his witnesses in the Russia investigation while lawmakers are away for a break.
We have it all covered this morning. And we will start with Joe Johns, live at the White House.
Joe, good morning.
JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Bill.
We've seen effusive gushing thanks and praise. It is something this president craves but one of the few things that could pour cold water on all the enthusiasm over the tax cutting bill would be shutting down the government, because they can't get a short-term agreement on a spending bill. It still seems unlikely right now, but time is running out.
TRUMP: All friends. I mean, I look at these people. It's like we're warriors together.
JOHNS (voice-over): President Trump celebrating the tax bill alongside congressional Republicans months after attacking GOP leadership over previous legislative failures.
TRUMP: Paul Ryan and Mitch, it was a little team. We just got together, and we would work very hard, didn't we? It seems like -- it was a lot of fun. It's always a lot of fun when you win.
JOHNS: The love fest continuing with Ryan and McConnell gushing over the president.
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER: There's been a year of extraordinary accomplishment for the Trump administration.
REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Something this profound could not have been done without exquisite presidential leadership. Mr. President, thank you.
JOHNS: The quick passage of this legislation causing confusion for taxpayers on how they should prepare for the huge overhaul. The Treasury Department and the IRS scrambling to write new regulations. Republicans saying workers will feel the benefits of this tax cut in a matter of weeks.
RYAN: On January 1, Americans are going to wake up with a new tax code. In February they're going to see withholdings go down so they see bigger paychecks.
JOHNS: The tax bill making a big impact on the Affordable Care Act, eliminating the individual mandate, which fines Americans who don't have insurance. The president falsely claiming he's repealed Obamacare. He did not. Republicans tried to do that through legislation and failed.
TRUMP: 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.
JOHNS: President Trump selling this tax overhaul as a Christmas present for the middle class, with some companies already delivering on the promise. Comcast and AT&T promising $1,000 bonuses to their employees. And Wells Fargo hiking its minimum wage. Meanwhile, companies like Pfizer and Coca-Cola validating Democrats' concerns, saying they'll turn over most gains to their shareholders.
SCHUMER: Is that what you intended? Give more money so they can buy back more stock, increasing the wealth of corporate CEOs?
JOHNS: As the tax bll makes the way to the president's desk, Republicans now have just two days to pass a spending bill to avoid shutting down the government. A closed-door meeting of House Republicans late Wednesday night ending with more questions than answers.
JOHNS: The president still has not signed the tax bill. That could be a day or two before it gets to him.
Now, there is nothing on the president's schedule today. However, we are waiting to see whether there could be a year-end news conference. No word so far on the White House on that.
Bill and Alisyn back to you.
CAMEROTA: Joe, thank you very much for setting all that up. Let's discuss it. We have our CNN political analysts, David Drucker and Karoun Demirjian. Great to see both of you.
OK. So people are waking up with uncertainty this morning. They're not sure what this will mean for their paychecks. They're not sure what this means for their insurance coverage, certainly if they have Obamacare, because the president, Karoun, as you know, said the individual mandate is being repealed, and that means Obamacare is repealed.
[06:05:15] So let's just put up for everybody what we know is in and out right now, what's been taken away and what remains. So here's what's been taken away. The individual mandate, effective in 2019. Those cost-sharing subsidies for insurance companies that they were haggling over in Congress.
Here's what remains in Obamacare. The Medicaid expansion, pre- existing conditions that are the most popular provision. No lifetime cap on benefits. Subsidies to low- and moderate-income customers.
And so, Karoun, we had always heard, hadn't we, that if the individual mandate goes away, Obamacare does collapse. Is the president right?
KAROUN DEMIRJIAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think it's a hit to the Obamacare structure that, certainly, the Democrats did not want to have to contend with. But it basically is inching the -- the system more towards this sort of -- it's not really the public option, but it's more sort of this -- this pot of thing that will catch people that are low-income, uninsured, the Medicaid people, the -- all the kind of groups that you just listed that still exist.
So it becomes a different math problem of how to make the entire thing hang together. But that was why it came together in the first place. Republicans were looking for something to offset various provisions of the tax bill and looping in the Obamacare repeal mandate. Both sounded politically good and also, you know, helped them a little bit with the -- with the numbers. So that's what you're basically seeing, is the combination of that right now.
But no, this is not a direct getting rid of Obamacare. That's a sales pitch right now that the president is making, because there are so many parts of it that are still intact. And remember, you have, as part of this, a promise that they're going to be revisiting part of health care when you come into the new year, because there was a discussion about whether they were going to work on the Alexander- Murray provisions to get those into the mix, and that did not happen. There's not enough time left for them to haggle it out. But that will be something that they revisit when they get back to town in January.
WEIR: How many of us would buy car insurance if it wasn't the law? You know, the individual mandate was a Republican idea. It came from Mitt Romney in Massachusetts. It's personal responsibility. Get more people into the pool.
And can we play the actual sound from the president yesterday, talking about this at the cabinet meeting? David, before I ask you this next question, let's listen to President Trump.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: 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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WEIR: I was hoping that was the bite where he said, "We didn't tell. We told the people to keep it from the press."
WEIR: Because we didn't want to scare anybody away out there with the idea of the Obamacare.
David, did he hide the ball on this? Were Republicans able to keep that away?
CAMEROTA: That wasn't a very well-kept secret. We've been reporting on it for a week.
DAVID DRUCKER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: No. I was going to say, I think the president -- it struck me the president was referring more toward this idea that they didn't want to complicate the tax negotiations by getting too caught up in the health care implications.
Look, the individual mandate was always one of the key problems that Republicans had with Obamacare. Of course, you know they had many. But this idea that the government would force Americans to buy a product always rubbed them the wrong way, notwithstanding where the idea came from originally. The party had long evolved away from that philosophy. And so I think, for Republicans, it felt good to repeal the individual mandate. It also freed up billions of dollars they could score, at least on paper, to help pay for the tax cuts.
But what they haven't done is replace Obamacare. And Obamacare structurally is still in place, in that there are all sorts of guarantees that Obamacare makes that cost money for the insurance company. And to fully fix the insurance system and make sure costs don't continue to skyrocket on consumers, which is a major problem, Republicans are going to have to come up with proposals and get things passed. Otherwise, I think you're going to have a lot of angry voters.
But by putting this into the tax bill, they were actually able to help create more votes, because it created more of an incentive. We haven't talked about opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to energy exploration. Republicans have been trying to do this for decades. It was another reason why they were able to create a deal around the tax bill, even though there were a lot of tough votes to take, because they put in there a lot of goodies that Republicans have been interested in, both philosophically and fiscally, for a long time. CAMEROTA: So Karoun, now we're just a little more than 24 hours away
from the looming government shutdown. It could happen tomorrow night at midnight. So, what are the sticking points?
DEMIRJIAN: Well, at this point the -- there are many sticking points. A big one is about defense spending. A big one is going to be about what to do about reauthorization of a surveillance program that's going to be expiring at the end of the year.
[06:10:08] There are a variety -- as you just put up on the screen, the question about extending the Children's Health Insurance Program. And of course, the disaster aid, as well, for places that got hit by those hurricanes earlier this year. There are -- it's creating these factions that are not even necessarily following specifically along party lines. There's a lot of internal divisions. Within the House GOP last night, you saw them squabbling over this at the conference meetings. And they are whipping votes now to figure out what they can do.
They have to come to some sort of agreement across the aisle. And this is -- we talk about government shutdowns periodically. I'm sensing less urgency behind that threat this time than in years past, when we really were heading straight into periods where the government did have to shut down for several weeks.
And so the question is how much of a -- how much of a motivation factor, really, is the fact that we're heading into the holidays right now, and people want to go? This could trickle into the weekend as they work out the fine-tuning. But it seems like some of these issues have actually already been slightly resolved. They've settled on at least what they're going to be doing about the surveillance program by kicking that can down the road for a few weeks. This is potentially going to be a short-term extension that is going to let them live to fight another day, on several of these issues that are sticking points which could buy them their vacation, frankly.
CAMEROTA: There you go.
WEIR: There you go.
Some striking moments yesterday, not just at the photo-op there on the steps with everybody celebrating, but also in this cabinet meeting. Take a listen to Vice President Mike Pence talking about the boss.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE PENCE (R), VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm deeply humbled as your vice president to be able to be here. Because of your leadership, Mr. President, and because of the strong support of leadership in the Congress of the United States, you're delivering on that middle-class miracle. I want to thank you, Mr. President.
I want to thank you for speaking on behalf of and fighting every day for the forgotten men and women of America. Because of your determination, because of your leadership, the forgotten men and women of America are forgotten no more, and we are making America great again.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WEIR: The body language and the framing of that shot I'm guessing might come back on "Saturday Night Live" and other references.
CAMEROTA: I'm confused by that body language. He was not, with open arms, receiving that lavish praise.
WEIR: David, what struck you about that?
DRUCKER: Yes, well, what struck me about it is I can't even get my family, people who actually love me, to talk about me that way in private, let alone in front of television cameras. Well, you know, President Trump is really fueled by this sort of adulation and this sort of praise.
And I think that, when the vice president and other members of his cabinet, and we saw during the victory news conference yesterday, you can't blame Republicans for being really excited and happy about what they achieved. It was very monumental and historic. But when they were laying the praise on the president thick, I think that they understand that this is what motivates them. And this is the kind of thing that they are hoping to use to get him to continue to play ball as they go forward next year with some really tough issues they're going to have to deal with.
And one of the things that was so interesting about tax reform is that, unlike health care, for the most part, the president stopped beating up on members of his own party, stopped beating up on legislation that they were negotiating. And I think that was one of the reasons this was able to come about.
And I think Republicans know that, and they're trying to set the table for more of this and less of what we had over the summer, which was a lot of infighting.
CAMEROTA: David and Karoun, you guys are so smart. You're just brilliant. We really appreciate you guys being here. We couldn't do it without you.
WEIR: So please stay.
CAMEROTA: That's right. We need you another block if you don't mind. We'll be right back with you.
I think that that got them to stay.
All right. So do not interfere with...
WEIR: We learned from Mike Pence.
CAMEROTA: Listen, I mean, that was quite the optic lesson.
"Don't interfere with the special counsel." That was the warning to the president from the top Democrat on the Senate Intel Committee. So what will happen during this congressional recess? We discuss that with our fabulous guests next.
[06:17:49] WEIR: Virginia Democrat Mark Warner, the ranking member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, is drawing a red line over what he calls coordinated attacks against special counsel Robert Mueller.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WARNER: Any attempt by this president to remove Special Counsel Mueller from his position or to pardon key witnesses in any effort to shield them from accountability or shut down the investigation would be a gross abuse of power. These truly are red lines and simply cannot allow them to be crossed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WEIR: Warner told CNN he is actually worried the president might make a move during the upcoming congressional recess. Let's bring them back in, our CNN political analysts, Karoun Drucker [SIC] -- Karoun Demirjian.
Karoun, what do you think? What about the timing of Warner's statements there?
DEMIRJIAN: I think it's clearly meant to be a warning, as Congress is probably going to be leaving Washington, D.C., for a period of time, about ten days and leaving the president, potentially, to his own devices.
Look, the Senate right now has been has been grappling with whether or not to combine these two proposals over a bill that would prevent the president from be able to order a firing of Special Counsel Mueller without it being put to a three-judge panel to actually review that order and make sure that it sounds legal. This has been going on for months and months that they've been dragging their feet. Republicans mostly have been dragging their feet about actually doing something. And Democrats are getting very, very angry about that. Because basically, it leaves them with no recourse to try -- no immediate recourse to try to prevent the president from getting rid of the special counsel while nobody is around to actually, you know, rush in and stop them from doing that.
It is the president's ability to do that. At least to order it through the acting -- the deputy A.G., right, Rod Rosenstein, who has said he doesn't see reason to fire him. So basically, you'd have to set up a new Saturday Night Massacre-esque situation for this to actually happen.
But again, Congress gets nervous about what the White House is going to do over these long periods of time that they're out of D.C. And normally, you're -- this is not a "normally" here. And this is not normal investigation in terms of both what it's doing and how the president is reacting to it, which is consistently negatively.
[06:20:00] CAMEROTA: But David, listen, I mean, this is what -- this is what we need help understanding. The president has said he's not considering firing Mueller. He can't. He has to order Rod Rosenstein. Rod Rosenstein says he sees no reason. He's not considering it.
Then the president's lawyer issued this statement.
WEIR: Yes, "If the media is going to continue to ask for responses to every absurd and baseless rumor, attention-seeking partisans will continue to spread them." Basically, not even considering it; never considered it. Stop talking about it.
CAMEROTA: Right. So why do Democrats keep beating this drum?
DRUCKER: Well, first of all, the president has from time to time expressed publicly his unhappiness with the Mueller investigation. The fact that it's a witch-hunt. And he's never really taken the idea that he might fire Mueller off the table. Even many of his allies have been encouraging him to do so. And there are small pockets of Republicans on the Hill. Not many but small pockets that have questioned the Mueller investigation and suggested the president should do something about it.
I also think that, look, politically the Democrats see value in keeping the Russia investigation at the forefront, talking about what Trump might do. And a lot of this, I think, stems from how Trump has handled the investigation from the beginning.
He has constantly questioned it, constantly tried to undermine it. Even when I think it would be beneficial to him to just let it do its -- let the investigation work its will, focus on legislation, focus on your agenda, and voters will end up probably making a determination in that way that is more beneficial to him than if he constantly focuses the spotlight on this investigation through his tweets and other public pronouncements.
What's, I think, important to understand here is Republicans on the Hill don't want to be too up front in criticizing the president. But most of them do not want him to fire Mueller, because they don't want to have to deal with the implications of what that might mean. And they don't want to have to deal with the Russia investigation itself. They'd much rather have it be Mueller's responsibility.
CAMEROTA: Yes. I mean, absolutely. They don't need that headache.
OK. Let's talk about what's happening with Israel and the president's move to make Jerusalem the capital and move the embassy to Jerusalem. So there's going to be a vote at the -- in the U.N. Security Council and ambassador to the U.N., Nikki Haley, has said that if people vote against this, as they are threatening to do, as countries do, that they'll basically be taking names. That she and the president are taking names. They're keeping a list of who would go against the U.S. And here's what the president says about that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I like the message that Nikki sent yesterday at the United Nations for all of these nations that take our money and then they vote against us at the Security Council or they vote against us, potentially, at the assembly. They take hundreds of millions of dollars and even billions of dollars and then they vote against us. Well, we're watching those votes. Let them vote against us. We'll save a lot. We don't care.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAMEROTA: Karoun, that is really interesting. It's really satisfying on sort of a vengeance level. And I know, you know, from talking to so many of the diehard Trump supporters, they will really love that move. Can the president unilaterally do that?
DEMIRJIAN: Well, look, I mean, this whole, you know, "stick it to the U.N." line has worked for a lot of people, especially a lot of people that support the president, who was not exactly the biggest champion of multilateralism when he was on the campaign trail.
Nikki Haley is going to have to bring her pencil sharpener if she wants to keep that list of names, because there's probably going to be a lot of names at the United Nations. The Palestinians have not done that badly in the past when they have brought other more -- more -- issues where there's more of a debate about who's right or wrong to the United Nations.
And so probably, this will be -- this is not a move that the Security Council liked, the naming of Jerusalem as the capital. It sets the -- it's one of those final-stage negotiation topics when you're talking about the Israeli-Palestinian deal. And what it opens up, basically is having done this by the United States, recognizing Jerusalem, opens up the flood gates for other people to do things that the Palestinians wanted but the United States has always said leave that to the end. That's one of the last thing we'll resolve in this peace negotiation. And the United Nations has been the place they have gone to do these things. So there is probably going to be a lot of resistance to what the United States' decision has been.
But you hear the administration is sticking to it. They are saying this is the correct decision. And they are going to be very upset and expect loyalty with anybody else that we engage with.
Unfortunately, that's not really been -- the United States has a lot of power to wield around the world. But this has been a topic where that is weakening. And that has not really been the case for several rounds of this debate of issues around this peace deal. It seems strange that it was -- all of a sudden, you know, people would fall into line around this declaration, which was so unpopular around the world.
WEIR: David, your thoughts on this?
DRUCKER: Well, look, I think what's interesting about the Jerusalem decision is that most countries in the U.N. were never going to embrace this. It's -- they usually tend to be more sympathetic to the Palestinians in the issue of peace talks between the Israelis and the Palestinians. Is the president's move a part of a broader strategy and a change of
direction in how to arrive at a peace deal?
[06:25:06] It doesn't right now appear that that was the case. But I don't think that the president's decision was necessarily the big problem that people make it out to be, simply because there -- we've never been able to arrive at a peace deal for decades while leaving the question alone and keeping the U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv.
Secondly, the president still signed the waiver. And so much of this was very symbolic. He still allowed room for a final status issue of Jerusalem to be decided by the parties.
The question is whether his strong-arming and jawboning at U.N. member nations can gain him any ground in support for how him and his team wants to deal with this. And so far we have not seen that.
WEIR: Right. Yes. They wouldn't break ground on a new embassy until a second term, you know, for him or whoever comes next.
David, Karoun, thank you so much. Have a great Thursday. Appreciate your time this morning.
Well, coming up, gunfire at the Demilitarized Zone between North and South Korea as another North Korean soldier tries to defect. It's the second time in less than two months. We'll have a live report from Seoul next.