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FBI Deputy Director McCabe Testifies Behind Closed Doors; U.N. Votes to Condemn U.S. Embassy Move to Jerusalem; Virginia House Race Tied After Additional Vote is Counted; Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired December 22, 2017 - 07:00   ET


[07:00:00] MCKAY COPPINS, STAFF WRITER, THE ATLANTIC: -- political asset possibly but not someone he was going to get along with, not somebody he was going to hang out with. I have one story in the piece about when it was reported actually by CNN back in January of this year that Pence was going to be moving his family pets into the Naval Observatory.


COPPINS: Trump was ridiculing it to his secretary because he thought, as one longtime adviser told me, he thought it was embarrassingly low class and that he thinks the Pences are yokels. So that gives you a sense of kind of -- the respect between the two men seems to flow one way.

CAMEROTA: McKay Coppins, the piece is really fascinating in "The Atlantic." Thanks so much for sharing your reporting with us.

COPPINS: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: And thanks to our on international viewers for watching. For you, "CNN TALK" is next. For our U.S. viewers, NEW DAY continues right now.


JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: He asked specifically of loyalty.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: McCabe is corroborating Comey's versions of those conversations.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Shame on my colleagues who are implying that Andrew McCabe is not a terrific public servant.

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We have no intentions of firing Bob Mueller. We look forward to see this hoax wrapped up.

REP. JACKIE SPEIER (D), CALIFORNIA: There's an effort underway to somehow besmirch the integrity of Special Counsel Mueller. We smell rats.

NIKKI HALEY, UNITED STATES AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: America will have our embassy in Jerusalem. No vote from the United Nations will make any difference.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They take hundreds of millions of dollars and then they vote against us. We don't care.

NICHOLAS BURNS, FORMER UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE FOR POLITICAL AFFAIRS, STATE DEPARTMENT: There was no way that countries are going to take orders from the United States. This is not a good day for American diplomacy.

ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY, with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.


CAMEROTA: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to your NEW DAY. Chris is off. Bill Weir joins me.

BILL WEIR, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning.

CAMEROTA: Good morning. Happy Friday.

WEIR: Great to be back.

CAMEROTA: Great to have you. So President Trump set to fly to Mar-a- Lago in a few hours with a huge legislative wind under his belt and a looming government shutdown averted for now. The president is expected to sign that GOP tax bill into law this morning. But the Russia investigation ticks forward as well. FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe testifying for nine hours on Thursday about conversations he had with former FBI director James Comey.

WEIR: The plot thickens there. Meanwhile, loyalty, a very big issue for Nikki Haley, America's U.N. ambassador. And she made good on her threat to take names after nearly 130 countries voted to condemn the U.S. for its recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital. Haley invited only the 64 countries who did not vote against the U.S. to a, quote, "friendship party."

Our coverage begins with Joe Johns, live at the White House with the very latest.

Good morning, Joe.

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Bill. They may have kicked the shutdown can down the road, but the president heads down to Mar-a-Lago with a big win under his belt. And he is very likely -- likely to sign the tax bill before he hits the road. Still hanging over the administration, however, the Russia investigation after the deputy director of the FBI spent 16 hours testifying on Capitol Hill. FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe testifying on Capitol Hill.


JOHNS (voice-over): 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.

COMEY: He asked specifically of loyalty in the context of asking me to stay. My common sense told me what's going on here is 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. The Republicans reportedly grilling McCabe about Comey's handling of the Clinton e-mail controversy. Democrats calling the questioning a diversion.

REP. JERROLD NADLER (D), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: This hearing is part of an ongoing Republican attempt to divert attention from the real investigation into the collusion between. 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 its 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 us. Well, we're watching those votes. Let them vote against us. We'll save a lot. We don't care.

[07:05:04] 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.

HALEY: And we will remember 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: Here we are now down at the very end of the year and we are learning of another departure from the Trump administration. Deputy chief of staff Rick Dearborn expected to leave early next year. Still no plans for the president to give a formal on-the-record, last end- of-the-year new conference today. However, there will be an opportunity or two for him to answer questions from reporters anyway.

Alisyn, Bill, back to you.

CAMEROTA: OK. Joe, thank you very much.

Let's discuss it. We want to bring back in, CNN senior political analyst, Ron Brownstein, and CNN political analyst Josh Green.

Great to have both of you. So, Ron, you're hearing more and more Democrats speak out now with some anxiety. That they believe the Republicans that there is actually sort of a united effort to not only undermine Robert Mueller but to somehow shut down the Russia investigation. So Joe just read for us that portion of Nancy Pelosi's letter. They are trying to appeal to people like Speaker Paul Ryan to do something about this to make sure that the president can't fire Robert Mueller.

But the president has said over and over again that he's not planning to fire Robert Mueller. So where does that leave us?

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think obviously -- you said the president has said that he is not firing Robert Mueller. But there has been a growing kind of chorus in conservative media and even in portions of the House Republicans who have essentially, you know, kind of creating this argument that Mueller is inherently biased.

The investigation is fatally infected with bias. And I think even more profoundly, as we saw in this hearing -- the hearing with McCabe, by trying to create this narrative that any Russian collusion or Russian involvement in the -- excuse me, 2016 election is only part of a larger story that includes the argument the FBI was maneuvering and conspiring against Trump.

And all of this I think is a preemptive action to try to create more of a buttress under the administration if in fact Mueller concludes that the president or others stepped over the line in obstruction of justice or in any other way.

WEIR: Those sources who watched some folks told us who were there for the McCabe testimony that he seems to corroborate James Comey's testimony, that the president asked for this loyalty pledge.

As Alisyn mentioned, Josh, you know, the White House has been sort of adamant that we're not going to fire him. But listen to the way Sarah Huckabee Sanders describes Mueller's investigation.


HUCKABEE SANDERS: I want to be very clear and make sure that I address Senator Warner's concern for the 1,000th time. We have no intentions of firing Bob Mueller. We're continuing to work closely and cooperate with him. We look forward to see this hoax wrap up very soon. (END VIDEO CLIP)

WEIR: "This hoax wrap up." That is a rather passive aggressive description of it. If they're not going to fire him, do you see a concerted effort to undermine him, Josh?

JOSH GREEN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, look, she said they have no intention to fire him. And that certainly opens up a broad avenue to turn around and fire him later on, you know, if Republicans decide and circumstances warrant. But the obvious goal here I think is to impugn Mueller's credibility, to undermine the investigation, to turn this into every other political issue in the country and make it about a partisan divide about, you know, Republicans versus Democrats, about stoking these tribal feelings so that if Trump or somebody in Trump's inner circle is indicted or if Mueller comes forward with evidence of collusion, that they can waive it off and say oh look, this is just a partisan issue, it's not really true.

CAMEROTA: Right. I mean, there you go. I mean, Ron, it's just -- it's much more subtle than firing him.


CAMEROTA: It's just --


CAMEROTA: -- tainting whatever the outcome is when he finally does release his conclusions. Here's where the public opinion polling is right now on this in the latest CNN poll. 47 percent of Americans approve of the way that Robert Mueller is handling the Russia probe. 34 percent disapprove. Does that comport with what you would call President Trump's base? Or what do you see in the numbers?

BROWNSTEIN: Well, yes, and to truly underscore your point and Josh's, as I said, I mean, I think -- I really think this is about -- more about impugning the -- trying to delegitimize any verdict that -- or any conclusion that Mueller and the special counsel's office reaches.

[07:10:07] And also, in essence, to say that the FBI itself was so biased against president -- now President Trump that the decision to remove Comey was justified on those grounds. And kind of stoke the tribal loyalties in that way. But yes, I mean, you know, most Republicans have recognized through this year that at a moment when you're dealing with a president, starting with a disapproval rating around 60 percent, a double-digit generic lead in generic ballot for Democrats in 2018 that firing Bob Mueller would be a catastrophic political mistake.

Those voices in the Republican Party have gotten quieter lately. And those on the kind of the edge both in the kind of conservative commentary and even now into the House, you know, basically are arguing against Mueller have gotten louder. And what this poll does is just offer a reminder of the risk that will be involved if the president misinterprets that kind of chatter as indications that we brought public acceptance of such a move because clearly I think it would be stirring an enormous backlash both within the kind of elected officials and within the public more broadly.

WEIR: Let's shift to the United Nations. Nikki Haley said we are taking names. You're either with us or you're against us when it comes to this vote condemning the recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and a promise to move the embassy there as well. Of the vote, I think we have the vote numbers and we can show the countries that sided with the United States.

Big ones like Guatemala, Micronesia, Palau, Togo, in there with Israel and the United States. Whereas a vast majority, 128-9 in the vote went against that. Maybe they're not voting against the United States per se. They think this is going to set back the peace process in the Middle East. But it's telling when Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, some of our closest allies in Europe go the other way. She had a friendship reception for those who did show fealty there as well.

I know, Josh, this isn't generally -- Jerusalem is not your beef. But what does it speak about the foreign policies these days with Rex Tillerson, all of the pieces when it comes to our relationships around the world? Why should people care what's happening at the U.N.?

GREEN: Well, because I think it underscores the increasing U.S. isolation from the rest of the world, including our most important allies. This is a nonbinding vote. It doesn't matter in a technical sense. But in a broader political sense, it really does. This is essentially most of the countries in the world saying we have seen what Donald Trump has done here. We disagree with it. And we're going to hold this vote to emphasize our disagreement.

And, you know, while this may not have immediate direct consequences, it is important in a larger sense of demonstrating I think how U.S. influence around the globe is limited. And that has important potential repercussions for U.S. foreign policy because if you look at an important issue like, for instance, the tensions with North Korea, U.S. foreign policy depends on bringing allies, uniting them to put pressure on North Korea to denuclearize.

Those types of campaigns are going to be more difficult to do after this Jerusalem vote and after votes like this one than they were previously.

CAMEROTA: Well, I just see it from such a different angle because I speak to, you know, Trump voters and supporters all the time.


CAMEROTA: What they would say is this is what he promised to do in the campaign. He was going to reel in the U.N. He was going to tell them who is the boss, he's going to stop bankrolling them. He was going to stop just, you know, giving over U.S. money when they so publicly didn't support some of the U.S.'s agenda. And here he is doing this. That we're not going to pay for you when you come calling. It's so satisfying on that level to them.

BROWNSTEIN: Yes. There's an audience for telling the rest of the world to buzz off in American politics. It's been there since Daniel Patrick Moynahan was thundering at the U.N. in the 1970s, when George W. Bush ignored the U.N. on Iraq in 2000. And it largely comports with what has been the cornerstones of the Trump coalition, older, blue collar, non-urban, evangelical whites.

The problem they've got is the -- there is also an audience, a substantial audience that believes that the U.S. is more likely to achieve its goal by working with others than by conflicting with them. And the voters in America who most -- who are most likely to think we are likely to advance our goals that way are the same people, millennials and college educated whites, who are pulling away from Trump on other grounds, personal grounds and cultural grounds. So this tends to reinforce the existing divide. But it's a divide that is leaving the president short of 40 percent in public opinion.



CAMEROTA: Ron Brownstein, Josh Green, thank you both very much.

[07:15:02] OK. So here's this race we've been covering all week. It is so crazy. It is a tie in Virginia. And it will come down to picking a name out of a hat basically because --

WEIR: Glass bowl.

CAMEROTA: A glass bowl.

WEIR: I think they decided on a glass bowl.

CAMEROTA: At one point incident it was a film canister.


CAMEROTA: One of the candidates in the Virginia statehouse race -- this ended up tied, OK. So how is this going to go? We have one of the candidates with us next.


CAMEROTA: Well, this is the race that proves the saying that every vote counts. The election for the State House in Virginia of delegates is now tied between the Democrat and the Republican at 11,608 votes each. If the Democrat wins, the State House would be an even 50-50 split. Now barring any new development, and as soon (INAUDIBLE) every day in this race, this race will be decided next Wednesday by picking a name out of a hat.

[07:20:07] Joining us now is Shelly Simonds. She's the Democratic candidate in this House of Delegates race.

Miss Simonds, thanks so much for being here. Wow. I mean, we have been slapping our foreheads at this all week. On Wednesday we reported that you had won by one vote. Then what happened?

SHELLY SIMONDS (D), VIRGINIA DELEGATE CANDIDATE: Well, on Wednesday we had won. Everyone involved in the recount process agreed. And then on Wednesday, the judges decided to allow my opponent to pull one vote and look at one vote. And that is not part of the recount process.

My team followed the rules of the recount process. And the other side really didn't. So we are looking at our legal options for undoing that ruling.

CAMEROTA: Is this --

SIMONDS: And we think that Tuesday's result, which was decided by the electoral board and the volunteers from the registrar's office that that result should stand.

CAMEROTA: Is this -- when you say the one vote, it hangs in the balance of this, let me pull up this ballot. Is this what you're talking about? Because this is somebody who voted for both of you. This is a person who filled in, colored in the circle for both you and your opponent, and then it appears, attempted to maybe cross out the circle for you? But, I mean, this is curious enough that if this is what it hangs in the balance of, I mean, have you seen that ballot?

SIMONDS: You know, it's interesting. I'm getting calls from all over the state and all over the country about this ballot. And a lot of people are saying that that could be a check mark. But the real point is that this is called on over vote. When people vote for too many people and it gets confusing. It was determined on Tuesday that that vote would not be counted because it was an over vote. And I agree with that decision. That ballot is very confusing.

CAMEROTA: OK. So this crazy process continues whereby next week your name and your opponent's name will be put on pieces of paper, then cut up, then put into a bowl? I mean, at one point it had said a hat. And then somebody is going to pull the winner -- the winner's name out of the bowl. Is this what your political future rests on?

SIMONDS: Well, it does really sound crazy. And I am holding on to my faith in the process. I disagree with the court's ruling. But we're going to try to take some legal action. But I hope it doesn't come down to pulling names out of a hat. But, you know, I still think the message is every vote counts. Every vote counts. And really it would be a great holiday gift to me if everybody out there could go find somebody and register them to vote. That would be wonderful. Because really what this is about is making sure that people remember their vote counts. And they really need to participate in these elections. And you know, we've got 2018 elections coming right around the corner. All across the country there will be these really important state elections.

CAMEROTA: Listen, your race proves this. I mean, yes, every vote counts. Voting is important. So what are your legal options before Wednesday? What are you going to try to do?

SIMONDS: Well, we are still deciding what our next move is going to be on the legal front. But, you know, as I said, we are looking at how we can request a re-do with this Wednesday ruling. You know, we're just hanging tough because the whole state of Virginia is watching. Our power of balance and the legislature depends on this.


SIMONDS: And as a Democrat, we just have a lot of things we want to get done. We're really concerned about health care for our citizens in Virginia. I think we have a shot at getting some maternity leave. I'm really concerned about our teachers. I want to make sure that they get pay raises.


SIMONDS: And whatever benefits that we can give them right now.

CAMEROTA: And listen, if you don't have any legal relief between now and Wednesday, when that name is pulled out of a bowl, will you accept the results and stand by the results, whatever they are?

SIMONDS: Well, we will have the option to do a recount again.

CAMEROTA: Right. And you would do that?

SIMONDS: And we go round and round if we do a recount again.

CAMEROTA: And then your opponent could do a recount. I mean, this could be -- this could go on for a while. So you would do a recount if you don't win with that -- name out of a bowl, you would do a recount?

SIMONDS: Well, I have to -- you know, finish determining that with my lawyers, but it is a possibility.

[07:25:06] CAMEROTA: Oh, my gosh. Shelly Simonds, thank you. Thank you for sharing with us how you are feeling in this moment of limbo. Obviously we will all be watching what transpires next week. Thanks so much for being on NEW DAY.

SIMONDS: Thank you for having me on.


WEIR: What a story. What a story.

Coming up next, Ivanka Trump is celebrating the big changes the GOP tax plan will bring. But she didn't get all the facts exactly right in an interview yesterday morning. We will clear up the confusion about whether you can fill out your taxes on a postcard, next.


WEIR: First daughter Ivanka Trump tripping up a little bit during her victory lap yesterday. In an interview about the GOP tax bill she caused about a little confusion with these comments.


IVANKA TRUMP, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S DAUGHTER: Really looking forward to doing a lot of traveling in April when people realize the effect that this has both on the process of filling out their taxes, the vast majority will be doing so on a single postcard. But also having experienced the relief that will be starting as early as February.


WEIR: A postcard? Chief business correspondent Christine Romans here to fact check a little bit and clarify. No postcards, though?