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U.N. Votes to Condemn U.S. Embassy Move to Jerusalem. Aired 6- 6:30a ET

Aired December 22, 2017 - 06:00   ET


ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Now, that Congress passed a standing (ph) bill late last night. Before the president departs, sources say that he will sign the newly passed GOP tax plan into law. But, a cloud of Russia and the investigation still hangs heavy over the President. The FBI's Deputy Director Andrew McCabe testifying for nine hours on Thursday.

Sources say he told members of the House committee about a conversation that he had with former FBI director James Comey, a conversation that could corroborate Comey's claim that the president asked him for a show of loyalty.

BILL WEIR, CNN ANCHOR: Meanwhile on Capitol Hill, Democrats are fighting back against Republican efforts to discredit Special Counsel Robert Mueller. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi sent a letter to Speaker Paul Ryan, warning him not to allow the House's Russia investigation to shut down. And U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley made good on her threat to take names after nearly 130 countries voted to condemn the U.S. for it's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

Haley invited only the 64 countries who didn't vote against the U.S. to a special reception. We have all the angles covered this Friday. And let's start with Joe Johns, live at the White House. Good morning, Joe.

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Bill. The president heads out to Mar-a-Lago on a high note today for the Christmas holiday. Some indication he will sign the tax bill before he leaves, still hanging over the administration, though, the Russia investigation as the Deputy Director of the FBI spent 16 hours on Capitol Hill testifying.


JOHNS: FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe testifying behind closed doors that former FBI Director James Comey discussed conversations he had with President Trump, conversations that could corroborate Comey's claim that the president asked him for loyalty days before the president fired him.

JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: He asked specifically of loyalty in the context of asking me to stay. And my common sense told me what's going on here is that he's looking to get something in exchange for granting my request to stay in the job.

JOHNS: But the president has vehemently denied that account.

TRUMP: I don't know how that got there because I didn't ask that question. I hardly know the man. I'm not going to say, "I want you to pledge allegiance". Who would do that?

JOHNS: Attendees at McCabe's hearing described the mood as tense. Republicans reportedly grilling McCabe about Comey's handling of the Clinton e-mail controversy, Democrats calling the questioning a diversion.

REP. JERROLD NADLER (D), N.Y.: This hearing is part of an ongoing Republican attempt to divert attention from the real investigation into the collusion between the trump campaign and the Russian government.

JOHNS: Now, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi warning House Speaker Paul Ryan against letting the House shut down the investigation, saying in a letter Democrats are deeply concerned by what she calls the majority's efforts to curtail the House Intelligence Committee's Russia probe. And it's overall failure to address Russia's meddling in the 2016 election.

The Russia cloud hanging over the White House as the president is at odds with much of the world over his controversial decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, prompting a harsh rebuke at the U.N.

TRUMP: They take hundreds of millions of dollars and even billions of dollars and then they vote against. Well, we're watching those votes. Let them vote against us. We'll save a lot. We don't care.

JOHNS: 128 countries voting to approve a resolution effectively demanding the Trump administration withdraw its decision, 35 abstaining and just nine others voting against it, even after this direct threat from Ambassador Nikki Haley.

NIKKI HALEY, UNITED STATES AMBASSADOR 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.

JOHNS: Haley later inviting representatives of countries who voted against the resolution to a reception, thanking them for their friendship to the United States.


JOHNS: We also learned overnight of a new departure from the White House staff that would be Deputy White House Chief of Staff Rick Dearborn expected to leave the administration early next year. No plans today for a formal end of the year news conference from the president, but we will see if he takes questions from reporters before he sets on his way to Mar-a-Lago. Bill and Alisyn, back to you.

CAMEROTA: That will be very interesting, Joe. Thank you so much. Let's talk about it. We have CNN Senior Political Analyst Ron Brownstein and CNN Chief Legal Analyst Jeffrey Toobin. Gentlemen, great to see you. OK, so Jeffrey, nine hours of testimony from the Deputy Director of the FBI Andrew McCabe. It was a closed door meeting but we -- a few things have leaked out. Sources say that he may be able to corroborate the Comey conversation where the president asked him for a loyalty pledge. Where (ph) do you see the significance of all this testimony?

[06:05:00] JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Well, let's just remember why this whole thing is an issue. That part of the Mueller investigation involves obstruction of justice. Did the president fire James Comey because James Comey was not cooperating with him in limiting the Russia investigation? One of the key conversations that Comey testified about what his interaction with the president where the president asked him for loyalty.

Which -- which Comey said made him feel very uncomfortable because it had seemed like a quid pro quo. Give me loyalty on the Russia investigation and I'll let you keep your job. The president has denied that conversation took place. Yesterday, McCabe said Comey told me about that word for word, apparently, right after it happened. Which is a significant corroboration.

Remember also, Comey said that he immediately typed up notes of these conversations with the president, also corroborating his own version of what happened. It's not dispositive proof that Comey was telling the truth, but it's certainly another brick that might establish a pattern of behavior on the president--

WEIR: Can I ask, though -- one thing that the White House refuses to say when the president knew that Flynn was lying, right?

TOOBIN: Right.

WEIR: And is that the timeline that we're talking about here? When he had that conversation, the loyalty pledge with Mueller -- or with -- with Comey, was it in relation to when -- if he knew then, or (inaudible)--

TOOBIN: Well, it's--

WEIR: --obstructing justice?

TOOBIN: It's all around the same time. It's all -- it's all very early. I mean, remember, Flynn was only around for a month.

WEIR: For a couple weeks, yes. (ph)

TOOBIN: So -- and -- and his statement to the FBI, which he admitted lying to, was January 24th, just four days into the administration. This dinner that the president had with Comey was also very early in the administration. So it's -- it's -- it's all happening around the same time.

CAMEROTA: Ron, what do you hear in all this? RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well I think the

congressional Republicans are playing a dangerous game. I mean, I think on the one hand -- obviously, they are -- they have -- some of them have legitimate -- you know, kind of a beef still, kind of a smoldering dispute with how the FBI handled Hillary Clinton.

But I think in a larger sense, what -- what many of them seem to be engaged in is trying to create a context in which any involvement of Russia in the 2016 election is only part of a story in which allegedly, the senior law enforcement officials were agitating against President Trump.

I mean, they're trying to kind of brace the president for any future finding along the lines of what Jeff was talking about, as obstructing of justice, by in essence arguing that the FBI -- that Comey deserved it, that the FBI was kind of maneuvering against him. And there -- you know, there are several problems with this. You know, one is kind of undermining faith in our premiere federal law enforcement institution.

But even more as a -- as an effort in self-preservation, they are dealing with a reality of a president who is right around 60 percent of disapproval, a generic congressional ballot, which is now consistently double digits advantaging Democrats and they risk, I think, giving the president the wrong signal that there would be political tolerance for him firing Bob Mueller.

And that, I think -- most Republicans have recognized that to be a political catastrophe. If it happens. I think that message is being significantly obscured lately by what's happening in conservative talk radio and FOX and so forth, and even now among many of the House Republicans.

CAMEROTA: So Nancy Pelosi, Democratic leader, is very concerned about what she sees happening on the Republican side with everything you've just outlined. Let me read you a portion of the letter that she just spent -- sent to Speaker Ryan. "Democrats are deeply concerned by the majority's efforts to curtail the House Intelligence Committee investigation and its overall failure to address Russia's meddling in the 2016 election. We expect that you will take urgent action to ensure this investigation can continue, and justice can be pursued, unhindered."

So hard to know how Speaker Ryan will respond.

TOOBIN: It's shocking to think that politics is taking place in the House of Representatives. I know. But another point about the Republican attempt to make the FBI look like a Democratic capital D institution. I think the one thing people remember about the FBI during the 2016 campaign is that very shortly before the investigation, Director Comey announced the reopening of Hillary Clinton's e-mail investigation, which was devastating to her campaign.

CAMEROTA: She believes it cost her the election.

TOOBIN: She does, as many people around her do. The idea that the FBI that did that was some sort of pro-Clinton--

CAMEROTA: (Inaudible) Hillary.

TOOBIN: Yes -- is really going to be a very tough sell, I think.


WEIR: Let's turn to the United Nations. Nikki Haley warning, we are taking names, do not cross us on this vote to condemn the recognition of Jerusalem as the Israeli capital here. Here's the countries that said OK we hear you, but we'll vote against you. Including our allies, United Kingdom and Japan and Germany defied that orders of those voting with The United States, nine mostly little countries.

Guatemala, Honduras some Micronesian countries, Palau and then a lot of countries like Canada and Mexico just abstained. We're staying out of this. Ron Brownstein what do you think the take away should be this morning after this?

BROWNSTEIN: Well look, I mean there's been an audience in American politics for kind of thundering at the U.N. since Daniel Patrick when in and did 40 years ago, but in this case I think it really underscores the concern that exists in a lot of the foreign policy leadership of both parties. That America first translates into America alone. Because as you know Bill I mean it's not only - I think it was expected that our major allies in the Mid East would vote against us because of the regional politics made it impossible. Not to, but it wasn't only Egypt and Jordan and Saudi Arabia.

It was all of our major NATO allies - most of our if not all of our major NATO allies, Asia, France, Germany, Japan and it kind of continues this trend. You saw the President's remarks were actually quite revealing when you showed him at the beginning of the show saying we don't care, basically. And that I think is the impression that the world has and I think here in the U.S. there is an audience for that go it alone, but there are also a lot of Americans who are uneasy about the way that this administrations approach to international affairs leaves us often isolated in the world.

CAMEROTA: Well, look now we know who our friends are is what Nikki Haley U.N. Ambassador says and so Palau and Micronesia and they're going to be invited to a party.

BROWNSTEIN: Yes, this.

CAMEROTA: So, there's an invitation.

BROWNSTEIN: These are the cool kids party are invited to the - yes.

CAMEROTA: Right, so here it is. This is Nikki Haley inviting everybody. We invite to you a reception to thank you for your friendship to The United States. That is coming up on January 3. It won't be packed.

BROWNSTEIN: They could probably have the whole country of Palau come and that's the U.N. delegation, but you know it's - that's about it. WEIR: What is this - I mean obviously this stance is popular with the

evangelical base of President Trump who is very much in favor of anything Israel wants to do. What does this do Jeffrey for other relations around the globe?

TOOBIN: Well, when it comes to Israel and the U.N., I mean this is not new to the Trump administration, The United States standing relatively alone with Israel. As Ron said it goes back to Daniel Patrick Moynihan when he rejected the Zionism is Racism resolution decades ago. So, that in its self is not unusual. President Obama tried to move the country back into the U.N. mainstream and also was more critical of Israel, especially regarding its settlements policy.

Now we have - so I think when in terms of Israel this is not particularly new. What is new is this very go it alone that goes well beyond The United States, The United Nations and the question is does this diminish United States influence around the world?

CAMEROTA: Right, I mean or as Trump would say does it strengthen it? Listen, I mean all of this supporters say why are be bankrolling countries who don't support us? They've felt that way for a long time.

TOOBIN: Right.

CAMEROTA: And this very satisfying on that level of you know what we're going to start taking the leash.


CAMEROTA: Yes, go quickly Ron.

BROWNSTEIN: Real quick, I mean and the fact that he's saying this divides the American public along the same lines as say a social issue. I mean, essentially the same constituencies. There is an audience for this kind of defiance among blue collar, evangelical, rural, older, white, at the four corners of the Trump coalition.

But among the voters who have been pulling away from him to begin with. In particular, millennials and socially liberal college educated whites. There is much more support for working internationally as oppose to trying to achieve our goals through unilateral action. It's the same divide we saw by the way under George W. Bush. And so - who did not even go nearly this far.

WEIR: Right.

CAMEROTA: Yes, great. Great context, Ron Brownstein, Jeffrey Toobin thank you very much.

WEIR: Coming up, Steve Bannon taking shots at President Trump and Jared and Ivanka in a new Vanity Fair interview. Is the President's former Chief Strategist seriously eyeing a run for the White House in 2020, himself? That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) WEIR: A 2018 strategy session erupting into heated exchanges at the White House. The New York Times is reporting top aids clashed about how to move forward in the wake of Roy Moore's bruising loss in the Alabama senate race. Let's bring back Ron Brownstein and bring in CNN's political analyst Amie Parnes. Good morning to you.


WEIR: So, this is interesting. Let's set the scene, this is happening at the White House. The President is there, here is the cast who is present. You had Bill Stepien the political director at the White House.

CAMEROTA: Corey Lewandowski's back.

WEIR: Corey Lewandowski was back in along with Bill Stepien and Brad Parscale whose part of this sort of pact that supports them politically. Hope Hicks, John Kelly, Kellyanne Conway there as well. And Amie as you read through this it sounds like Lewandowski was saying, you guys are screwing everything up.


WEIR: And it got rather heated.

PARNES: Yes, it's sort of the best at times and the worst at times because you have - this is a week where he - they're all gloating that the Republicans have won. They finally put points on the board. They're going into 2018 saying, "Look what we did. We've actually provided you with the biggest tax cut in years." But then you see this is a few weeks after Alabama, and but the party is still reeling from that loss and they're trying to move forward. And so there's still this push-pull happening right now because I think a lot of people are warning the White House of what's to come in 2018 and that it could be pretty brutal.


CAMEROTA: Yes, so we're on (ph). That's it that Corey Lewandowski was reportedly sounding the alarm for the midterms, looking at the poll numbers that you look at so closely and trying to sound the alarm that they're on the wrong track somehow.

BROWNSTEIN: Right, and look, any president is susceptible to the argument from the outside, from advisors and friends is that your problem - your political problem is that your aids are not serving you well, and this president is more susceptible to the argument than most. And there's something to that in the sense that the White House - this White House being more kind of chaotically staffed than is usual, but I think if they want to understand their political problem, they've got to look a little more closely in the mirror.

Alisyn, in Alabama, 93 percent of the people who disapproved of Donald Trump's job performance voted for Doug Jones. In Virginia, 87 percent of the people who disapproved of Donald Trump's job performance voted for Ralph Northam. In the CNN poll this week, they gave this - the Democrats this extraordinary 18 point advantage in the generic ballot for 2018 which is one of the largest that I've ever seen in polling. 80 - roughly 85 percent of the people who disapproved of Donald Trump said that they were going to - intended to vote Democratic in 2018.

The problem they have politically is not the White House political office. It's that you have a president with a disapproval rating that is consistently around 60 percent, and unless that changes, whatever else they do they're going to be facing a very rocky 2018 election.

WEIR: But Amie, do you think this shines a light on continued turf battles within the White House as the president, I guess, has favorites and then they lose favoritism and he moves around?

PARNES: Oh yes, and one thing that's interesting is Hope Hicks, she's constantly being brought in because she is a favorite person of the president.

CAMEROTA: She's in a steady presence (ph).

PARNES: Oh yes.

CAMEROTA: She hasn't had the sort of day in the sun and then being ostracized.


CAMEROTA: She's been right there steady.

PARNES: And she's young, and people thought, "how is she going to really do this? She's in her late 20s and she's Comm's Director and it's a pretty hefty job, but there she is sitting in on these meetings. And I think there's a lot of kind of - there's sort of revolving door action happening where a lot of people are hinting at the fact that a lot of people will leave in the next year.

So you have John Kelly doing bed checks of sorts to see who - kind of sniffing around to see who's leaving and who's staying. So there's a lot of kind of, I think, back biting happening, and so I think that's going to continue into the new year and only worsen, and the factions are only going to deepen I think.

CAMEROTA: OK, that leads us to this fascinating profile of Steve Bannon in Vanity Fair. Gabe Sherman has a pretty in depth look at Bannon who is by anybody's account an interesting character to analyze, but (ph) -

WEIR: And we should set it up by saying that Breitbart actively attacked this reporter, Gabe Sherman, as he was working on the Roger Ailes book, and then invited him to travel with Bannon on this trip to Asia.

[06:25:00] CAMEROTA: Strange five fellows (ph), indeed. So, Bannon continues to talk. He's talking a lot. I mean he still has the president's ear we believe, but he's talking out of school, and here's what he says in this Gabe Sherman piece. "Bannon has remarked on the toll the office has taken on Trump, telling advisers his former boss has 'lost a step.' 'He's like an 11-year old child,' Bannon joked to a friend in November."

I don't know what that means, but that's interesting -

WEIR: Yes.

CAMEROTA: - that Bannon - I mean why is Bannon - he's supposed to be a loyalist to the President, but he has begun sort of benching his spleen (ph) about what he think the administration is doing wrong- wrong.

BROWNSTEIN: Well first thing he was fired, right? He was pushed out of the White House, so there is obviously some kind of ruffled feather over that. There's also a long history of people who essentially create themselves in the political arena by arguing with the President that they helped elect has abandoned the true flame. I mean Newt Gingrich complained in the 1980s was compromising with the Democrats too much. I mean there's that kind of long tradition of playing off of this.

But look, I think Bannon, I think, misinterpreted the degree to which his vision of the Republican coalition was the sole force and elected Donald Trump. Certainly, the kind of inserter (ph), nativist, protectionist arguments that Bannon championed were an important point or part of the victory, but they weren't the only part of the victory. And like any president, Donald Trump in office is responding to a broad range of interests within his coalition and the kind of what he would call the globalists or "the Democrats," the traditional kind of money Republican interest have had pushback at points against the Bannon agenda, and he is frustrated that Donald Trump has not followed him up and down the line. That is reality. No president, I think, can be beholden to just one faction within his coalition and we have seen kind of Donald Trump turn toward more conventional, top down Republican economics and certainly he promised when Steve Bannon was helping write to write the words of his speeches in 2016.

WEIR: Among the other revelations is that Steve Bannon refers to Trump voters as Hobbits. He calls Jared and Ivanka Democrats, also Gary Cohen he lumps in there. He says Ivanka was the fence (ph) of bad advice during the campaign. And then he called President Bush 41 a pervert as he compared them to Roy Moore. But his own political ambitions, this is sort of the headline. He said that if Trump doesn't run for reelection in 2020, which is a realistic possibility Bannon has told people in private conversations, he says Trump only has a 30 percent chance of serving out his term whether he's impeached to be removed by the cabin in evoking the 25th amendment and may run himself.

Now that may just be some fooler talk (ph), but do you think that there's somebody who could emerge from the Bannon wing of this whole thing as a viable candidate?

PARNES: Like Bannon. I don't think Bannon does it, and I've talked to people since this story has come out who've said, "No, that's crazy." I do think that he might emerge again because this is the guy who helped elect President Trump and a lot of people - and takes credit for it, and a lot of people think that he should take credit for it. And he still pretty powerful in his own right. He runs Breitbart, he has a Sirius XM platform, he speaks to a lot of these people who actually supported Donald Trump. And so he definitely has a platform, but I don't think he's running.

CAMEROTA: And Amie, I just want to end with you because I just want to dive into one more thing that Bill was just eluding to about him calling President Bush 41 a pervert. OK, so I just want to read this. The Bush presidency according to Bannon - this is his quote - "is the most destructive presidency in history. James Buchanan included. It's not even close. That's what gets me about them coming after Trump. I really detest them. I mean the old man is a pervert. He's a pervert. Grabbing these girls and grabbing their asses."

Has Steve Bannon forgotten about a detail from the campaign there was something Access Hollywood tape and Donald Trump said he liked to grab women by something even more private body, and 15 women have come forward. I mean how dare he?

PARNES: I think it's - they think that he has sort of evaded everything, that he got elected even though this Access Hollywood tape was out there. And I think they think he can continue to do this, that people have - you heard this drumbeat of he should resign a couple of weeks ago, and that's kind of calmed down a little bit. And so I don't think they think that this is going to affect him in any way.

CAMEROTA: Right, I mean just the willful blindness, the hypocrisy I guess to be able to say this about George Bush Senior and to omit an important detail about Donald Trump.

PARNES: Right.

CAMEROTA: Thank you. Amie Parnes, thank you very much. So we're learning more about the settlements in Congress that have cost taxpayers millions of dollars. Well, we've learned about these - the cost of sexual harassment and the circumstances next.