Return to Transcripts main page


Government Shutdown Averted; McCabe Backs Up Comey; Jerusalem Vote Fallout. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired December 22, 2017 - 05:00   ET


[05:00:01] DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: CNN's Phil Mattingly, not quite out of here for the holidays, he has more from Capitol Hill.


PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Christine and Dave, in the end, the pull or the scent of jet fumes overwhelm the idea of having a fight when it came to a potential government shutdown. House Republicans having the votes on their own to keep the government funded through January 19, the Senate following suit shortly thereafter. There will not be a government shutdown, at least for now.

Now, what's actually in the bill that they passed? It's more than just funding through January 19. It's also funding through the end of March, the Children's Health Insurance Program, a program that lapsed in September. This bill will have $3 billion to keep that moving forward.

This bill will also extend through January 19th a key FISA surveillance program, a warrantless surveillance program, the intelligence community has said that it desperately needs. It will also have some elements of funding for community health hospitals. Key components, but no doubt setting up major fights for January.

DACA, obviously the program that President Trump said he would wind down by the end of March, that has been punted to January as well. You also have a disaster supplemental bill, basically funding for hurricane-ravaged Texas and Florida and Puerto Rico. While the House passed that with a big vote, the Senate put that aside, saying they didn't have the votes for it this time around, that will have to be addressed in January as well.

So, Republicans and Democrats agreeing not to shut down the government, a low bar, but that's progress on some level but what it does do, again, is set up major fights in January. For now, though, everybody is going home to celebrate the holidays with their families -- Christine and Dave.


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Phil, thank you.

As Phil reported, there is still no deal on DACA, the law that protects DREAMers, young undocumented immigrants brought here as children. Just before the vote on the short-term spending bill, more than a dozen members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus marched on Senator Chuck Schumer's office calling for a no vote on a spending bill, unless it contained a DACA fix.

BRIGGS: They say Schumer only committed to galvanizing support for the nation's DREAMers. Earlier this week, Republican Senator Jeff Flake said he has a commitment from Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to vote on a bipartisan immigration bill next month.

ROMANS: Let's bring our international expert live from Paris, political economist Greg Valliere, who happens to be in Paris before the holiday, the chief strategist at Horizon Investments.

BRIGGS: Good for you, Greg. Good for you.

ROMANS: Nice to see you, Greg. This time of year, that is a very nice place to be.

Let me ask you first about a long list of things that Congress is going to have to revisit in the middle of January. Yes, congratulations. They passed a spending bill, continuing resolution, a spending bill. But you say January looks really tricky?

GREG VALLIERE, POLITICAL ECONOMIST: Yes, I've got to say, guys, I think the chances are above 50/50 that we have a shutdown in mid- January. The issues are so enormous over how much you spent for the Pentagon, how much domestic issues, what do you for the DREAMers, what do you do for health insurers. Yes, there could be a nasty shut down that could last for a few weeks.

BRIGGS: Well, let's talk about the tax bill. They got that done, and the president is going to sign it before heading out to Mar-a-Lago. And you see the polls, they're not good for this tax bill. As of now, the Democrats feel good about winning the messaging war for now, Greg.

But as we get closer to 2018, what are the Democrats going to run on in terms of an economic message, when the Republicans can say unemployment is low, the stock market is high, the economy is growing, who will get the best of this ultimately?

VALLIERE: You know, you got to say, Dave, it's not enough for the Democrats to say we hate Trump. That's not a sufficient agenda. I think if on Labor Day, the unemployment rate is 3.7, very possible, and if GDP is growing by 3 percent or a little more, very possible.

I think the Republicans could still do well in November. All of the conventional wisdom is that they're going to get annihilated in November. Way too early to make that call because I think the economy is only going to get stronger in 2018.

ROMANS: Yes, I certainly hope you are right. I hear from a lot of economists that say the same thing. I mean, they say that, you know, years of a loose Fed, you know, quantitative easing and all of the things the Fed did, really helped the economy, put a nice base under things and now, you're going to have the stimulus, more stimulus from the tax bill. I want you to listen to something that Ivanka Trump said. She's sort

of turned out to be the face of tax reform. She has been around the country with Gary Cohn, and the treasury secretary, trying to sell this ahead of time and she was just on the very friendly "Fox & Friends" talking about it yesterday. Listen.


IVANKA TRUMP, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S DAUGHTER: I'm looking forward to doing a lot of traveling in April when people realize the affect this has both on the process of filling out their taxes, the vast majority will be doing so on a single postcard.


ROMANS: Now, a couple things here, first of all they're not going to feel this in April. This will be April 2019 when people will be filling these news tax under these new tax rule. So, that's a long time away, and it might not be at a postcard either. I mean, there are still a lot -- the loopholes are all still there.

[05:05:03] There are a lot of deductions and tricks in this legislation. I mean, there's a chance that people might not feel this right away.

VALLIERE: Yes, although the corporations give their employees bonuses, we have seen some of that in the last 48 hours, that's a really good story. It helps consumer confidence and consumer spending. She's not accurate on a lot of things. She also said, Christine, that this tax bill would eliminate the deficit. It might help a little, and revenues might pick up a little but it's not going to eliminate the deficit.

ROMANS: You mentioned the companies that came out quickly, five or six of them that said they would raise the minimum wage or they were going to give bonuses to their workers, and "The Wall Street Journal" with the really great, great analysis this morning, showing that that AT&T bonus pledge has a tax angle. Actually, the company who are paying out those bonuses this year actually, they get a tax break for doing it under the old tax rule.

So, you know, it's not exactly --

BRIGGS: Still money in the pockets of the Americans.

ROMANS: I take it back. You are right, it is.

Greg, do you expect to see more companies coming out and passing it along?

VALLIERE: I think there will be some more. We will see how everybody spins this story. I mean, right now, you have to acknowledge that it's not popular, this tax cut is extraordinarily unpopular. But if we see month after month of good unemployment data, good GDP data, the stock market staying strong, this opinion -- this negative opinion, I think, could start to turn around. BRIGGS: So, after the unity on the tax bill, we turn our attention to

what's next, what comes in 2018?

And Mitch McConnell was asked about that, will they try to repeal and replace Obamacare? Will they turn their attention to entitlement reform? Here's what he told NPR.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER: We obviously were unable to completely repeal and replace with a 52-48 Senate. We'll have to look what that looks like with a 51-49 Senate, but I think we will probably move on to other issues.


BRIGGS: Not so fast said, Lindsey Graham on a tweet. To those who believe, including Senate Republican leadership, that in 2018, there will not be another effort to repeal and replace Obamacare, well, you are suddenly mistaken.

Needless to say, Paul Ryan probably doesn't agree with the entitlement reform side of this, what do they focus on? Will they still try another run at Obamacare?

VALLIERE: I think it's very unlikely. The really big difference, guys, next year, is you only need, you need 60 votes in the Senate. Chuck Schumer has a new advantage. You can't get anything with 50 like you did with the tax cut under reconciliation. So, infrastructure? No. Entitlement reform? No. Obama reform? No.

Frankly, I think the big issue in the first half of next year is Robert Mueller.

BRIGGS: You could also say Doug Jones, because the math changes in the senate. He is seated and the advantage shrinks for the Republicans and it's harder for them to get through major legislation.

So Christmas in Paris, Greg.

VALLIERE: You know -- one other real quick point, the Republicans, they have gotten what they want, they got the tax bill.


VALLIERE: I think now a lot of Republicans are going to move away from Trump.

BRIGGS: Wow, that's an interesting prediction for 2018. All right. We'll talk to you in about 30 minutes. Thank you, sir.

ROMANS: He's going to get a chocolate croissant and come back in a few minutes. Thank you, Greg.

I wish I was in Paris. I love being here with you -- sorry, sorry.


BRIGGS: I take no offense.

ROMANS: Deputy FBI Director McCabe, he's wrapped up more than 16 hours of testimony this week before members of three House committees. Multiple sources from both parties tell CNN, McCabe described interactions with his one-time boss, former FBI Director James Comey.

BRIGGS: The testimony suggests McCabe could back up Comey's claim the president asked him to pledge his loyalty, and go easy on the Michael Flynn investigation. That's because McCabe told lawmakers Comey informed him about conversations with President Trump soon after they happened.

ROMANS: McCabe's close door testimony came amid growing calls for his firing from Republicans critical of the FBI's handling of the Russia and Clinton e-mail investigations. A new CNN poll shows a majority of Americans, 56 percent, disapprove of the president's handling of the Russia investigation. Meanwhile, 47 percent approve of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's approach of the probe. Both those polls are sharply divided along party lines.

All right. Nikki Haley taking names, as promised, after a U.N. vote condemning President Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital. America's ambassador to the U.N. calling the United Nations a hostile place for Israel after 128-9 vote against the U.S.


NIKKI HALEY, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: The United States will remember this day in which it was singled out for attack in the General Assembly for the very act of exercising our right as a sovereign nation. We will remember it when we are called upon to once again make the world's largest contribution to the United Nations, and we will remember it when so many countries come calling on us, as they so often do, to pay even more and to use our influence for their benefit.


[05:10:08] BRIGGS: Haley's remarks triggering a harsh response from former CIA director, John Brennan. He tweets and his second ever tweet. The Trump administration's threat to retaliate against nations that exercise sovereign right in the U.N. to U.S. position on Jerusalem is beyond outrageous, shows Donald Trump expects blind loyalty and subservience from everyone, qualities usually found in narcissistic vengeful autocrats.

Thirty-five countries abstained from the U.N. vote, 21 others were absent.

ROMANS: Ambassador Haley inviting representatives from all 65 nations that did not vote against the U.S. to a thank you reception in January. Part of the invitation reading: think of this the first symbolic step in the United States taking note of who supports us and who doesn't. BRIGGS: Breaking overnight, legendary sports broadcaster Dick Enberg

has died.




BRIGGS: Family members of the beloved Hall of Fame announcer confirmed Enberg was found dead in his home in La Jolla, California, Thursday. His family suspects the cause of death was a heart attack. The long-time voice of UCLA basketball, of San Diego Padres. Enberg was heard for decades on NBC, on CBS, and ESPN. He covered 28 Wimbledons, 10 Super Bowls, eight NCAA basketball championships.

Enberg dead at the age of 82. He would be on the Mt. Rushmore of the greatest sportscasters of all-time.

ROMANS: All right. We'll be right back.


[05:15:40] ROMANS: The Senate has paid out nearly $1.5 million in workplace settlements in the past 20 years. The Senate Rules Committee released those figures, 13 settlements for claims involving senator's offices, 10 more settlements involving offices not led by individual senators. Taxpayers are on the hook for all of those claims.

BRIGGS: New legislation would make lawmakers personally liable for sex harassment claims. But there's been a delay advancing the measure, a bipartisan group of lawmakers say they will not be able to introduce the bill to reform how Congress handles single harassment until next month.

ROMANS: A federal judge dismissing an ethics lawsuit against President Trump, an organization called Citizens for Responsibility in Ethics in Washington, also known as CREW, claims Mr. Trump's business interest are causing conflicts of interests that violate the Constitution. Their argument resting on the president's decision not to sell his business holdings before the inauguration. On Thursday, a district judge ruled CREW did not have legal standing to bring the suit since Congress must raise the issue first. CREW calls the ruling a setback and vows to appeal.

BRIGGS: Mike Pence is now the highest ranking Trump administration official to visit an active U.S. combat zone. The vice president making a secret visit to Afghanistan on Thursday night, meeting with top Afghan officials and rallying the troops.


MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Today, on behalf of your commander in chief, I say to all of you, in the days ahead, mind your mission, take care of one another, respect the unified chain of command and never doubt that every day, every operation and every decision that you make matters.


BRIGGS: The vice president has departed Afghanistan and is now heading back to the U.S. for the holidays.

ROMANS: President Trump paid a holiday visit to wounded troops at Walter Reed Medical Center.


TRUMP: Some of the bravest people anywhere in the world, we just going to wish them a merry Christmas, a happy New Year, and we love those people.


ROMANS: During his visit, the president awarded the Purple Heart to First Lieutenant Victor Plato of 127th Airborne Engineer Battalion who was injured last month while deployed in Afghanistan. It was Trump's second visit to Walter Reed as president. His two predecessors also visited service members there, wounded in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

BRIGGS: All right. Ahead, the U.S. claims Russia violating a deal to keep the skies over Syria safe. Now, Russia wants the U.S. to get out of Syria. We're live in Moscow, next.


[05:22:29] ROMANS: The Pentagon claims Russia is intentionally violating an agreement designed to prevent accidents over the skies over Syria. That accusation follows a recent encounter between American F-22s and Russian SU-25 jets that nearly resulted in a coalition. Now, Russia's envoy in Syria says it's time for the U.S. to pack up and get out.

CNN's Frederik Pleitgen live from Moscow with the latest developments.

Tell us what's happening.


Yes, we've also actually asked the Kremlin about this as well and Vladimir Putin's own spokesman, Dmitri Peskov, he came out and he said he didn't want to comment on any incidents that have been happening specifically, but he did say that the Kremlin does believe that the U.S. is not legitimately in Syria but that that Russians are.

Now, it seems as though some envoys of the Russian federation have been going even further and essentially saying they want American troops who are, of course, still on the round in places like Raqqa after ISIS there, and American planes out. I want to read to you the statement from one of those envoys who was

saying, and I quote, the task of defeating the terrorists group in Syria by the Americans has actually been fulfilled and therefore we believe there are no compelling reasons for the units to be located on the territory of Syria, they, the reasons the Americans are giving, are groundless.

And so, the Russians being quite strong in their wording. Of course, that does seem to bring some potentially conflict between the U.S. and Russia, and they are on the territory of Syria. The U.S. is saying there was that one incident that you were just talking about, but there has been increasing generally of the infringements of the airspace that the U.S. usually does fly in. So, certainly, it does seem as though there is grounds for concern.

Of course, it's going to be very interesting to see how if there is increased conflict, that could play out in the relations between Vladimir Putin and President Trump.

ROMANS: Of course.

All right. Fred Pleitgen for us this morning in Moscow, thanks, Fred.

BRIGGS: A Wisconsin teenager charged in the so-called "Slenderman" stabbing of a classmate will be spared prison time. The judge choosing to send Anissa Weier Thursday to a mental institution for 25 years. Fifteen-year-old Weier apologized for her actions at the hearing, having already pleaded guilty to attempted second degree homicide due to mental illness.

ROMANS: She and Morgan Geyser lured a classmate to a park three years ago where they stabbed this classmate 19 times to please a fictional Internet character known as "Slenderman." The victim thankfully survived. Geyser pleaded guilty to attempted murder back in October. She will also be committed to a mental institution.

[05:25:01] BRIGGS: The huge Thomas wildfire in southern California inching closer to being the largest in state history. Critical fire danger warnings back in places, winds picked up overnight. As the fire grows, so too does the cost to fight it.

Officials saying the fired consumed 400 more acres Thursday, bringing the total to more than 272,000 acres, and the cost to fight it now topping $170 million. It's now 65 percent contained. But sadly thousands in California are out of their homes as we approach Christmas.

ROMANS: All right. Twenty-five minutes past the hour.

Lawmakers anxious to get away for the holiday. They pass a spending plan to keep the government open for a month. What is in the plan and what is left to clean up in January.