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Trump Spends First Christmas as President at Mar-A-Lago; Trump Tweets Take Aim at Deputy FBI Director McCabe; President Trump's Most Memorable Moments of 2017. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired December 25, 2017 - 14:00   ET



[14:02:18] BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to this special Christmas edition of CNN newsroom. I'm Brianna Keilar.

President Trump is spending the first Christmas of his administration at this Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida. And it is a special occasion for the first couple. He and First Lady Melania Trump attended Christmas Eve services at the church where they were married. And then the couple wished the nation a merry Christmas.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Melania and I are delighted to wish America and the entire world a very merry Christmas.

MELANIA TRUMP, U.S. FIRST LADY: At this time of year, we see the best of America and the soul of the American people.


KEILAR: The president, though, is also spending his holiday feuding with the FBI. He sent out a litany of tweets attacking the deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe over the weekend.

CNN White House correspondent Sara Murray is near Mar-a-Lago.

So, it's just in stark contrast, Sara, because you look at that Christmas address and it's very festive, very Christmasy, and yet then you have the attacks which are certainly Donald Trump but not exactly of the spirit of the holiday.

SARA MURRAY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Not exactly in the spirit of the holiday, yes. That's a gentle way of putting it.

But, of course, this is President Trump and it wouldn't be a day in the life of this president without a Twitter tirade and that's certainly what we saw over the weekend. We saw him taking aim at the FBI. We saw him taking aim at the media. We saw him complaining that he doesn't feel he's getting the credit he deserves for his accomplishment, particularly when it comes to the economy.

Now, if the White House is concerned about this, they've certainly given no indication of it. We even saw a top White House official on television over the weekend defending the president, saying that he has every right to be concerned, for instance, about bias in the FBI. Although insisting the president does have full confidence in the FBI director he hand-selected, Christopher Wray -- Brianna.

KEILAR: All right. Sara Murray for us in West Palm Beach, Florida, happy holidays to you, Sara. Thank you so much for the report.

And joining me now to discuss is Dave Jacobson, CNN political commentator and Democratic strategist, and John Thomas, he's a GOP consultant.

So, John, to you first. When you look at certainly politics not taking a break during this holiday, I mean, what do you think about this, about these attacks on Andrew McCabe?

JOHN THOMAS, GOP CONSULTANT: Well, I think the president makes a good point. I mean, we saw on Friday, a member of Congress revealed to Fox News that he has e-mail evidence proving that McCabe said that Hillary Clinton was going to receive an HQ special. I'm not sure exactly what that means but it sounds like special treatment and perhaps being given a pass. We also saw a couple weeks ago with Peter Strzok, there was text messages showing extreme bias.

[14:05:00] So, I think he's right to bring this up. Look, 99.9 percent of the FBI is fantastic but we've got to clean house of the people who have these conflicts.

KEILAR: By all accounts, Andrew McCabe is considered a professional. But you disagree with that?

THOMAS: Well, I do. I mean, I think you see this conflict with his wife who is running for state senate in Virginia, who received $600,000 in money from Terry McAuliffe who happened to be Hillary Clinton's campaign chair for president. Now, that's significant because in a race --


KEILAR: He wasn't in this last election.

THOMAS: You're right. You're right, but $600,000 was almost half of the Senate campaign fund, half, transferred by a Clinton ally. It's a conflict. I wonder --

KEILAR: But you know it didn't happen during the time that McCabe was in tenure in this position, right? You know that?

THOMAS: Yes, I do. But the issue was it turns the fact that he can be an impartial in this and he's conflicted out. Like any attorneys who would be in that same situation, whether it was a year ago, five years ago, would recuse themselves from the situation. And that's what he should have done. The fact that he didn't now means he's got to go.

KEILAR: Dave, you react to that. DAVE JACOBSON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Look, I think this tweet by

the president is emblematic of the fact that he's the deflector in chief. This is a guy who's trying to change the conversation away from the Russia investigation that Mueller is spearheading.

But, look, we wouldn't be in this position in the first place had Donald Trump not at least allegedly obstructed justice by firing Director Comey. McCabe never would have been in the position of power as acting director for the several months that he was had Donald Trump not let go of Comey in the first place. So, this is ultimately a mistake by Donald Trump that Steve Bannon even said will go down as one of the worst political mistakes in modern history.

THOMAS: Dave, we both agree with that, but when you hear about emails from Director McCabe about an HQ special, what does that mean to you?

JACOBSON: I'm not familiar with those emails, John, but at the end of the day, this is a man with immense integrity. There's been wide- ranging reporting that this is an individual who has led the FBI with honor and integrity. And so, at the end of the day, I haven't seen any wrongdoing to dispute that.

KEILAR: But -- and John, to that point, when you -- you know, there are some people who their reputation precede them and in this case, his reputation is a pretty stellar one. I mean, what do you say to that?

THOMAS: Well, I say that number one, he's conflicted out because of his wife. You can't do both of those things in such a high-profile investigation, especially when a lot of people thought Hillary Clinton got a pass. So that's one thing you can't do. And number two, the e- mail of an HQ special. Now, I can't tell you explicitly what it means but --

KEILAR: OK, you've said it three times and you haven't made clear exactly what you're talking about.


KEILAR: I do want to ask you -- I do want to ask you, John, why is he doing this when, yes, I mean, he had this tax reform overhaul, which he's trumpeting as a victory. Now, it's very unpopular with voters but this is something that Republicans can say, look, we said we were going to do this. We did this. We delivered.

Why isn't he talking about that?

THOMAS: I think he's doing both. Obviously, I think he should be focusing more on the positive than this, but I think he's focusing on it because on Friday, like I said, the bombshell about the HQ special on Fox News broke. It was top of mind for Donald Trump and he's revisiting it. That's why he's talking about it.

JACOBSON: I think he's trying to sow the seeds of discourse and at the end of the day, muddy the waters when it comes to this very toxic and radioactive Russia investigation that is hovering over the White House and has been plaguing his administration since before the inauguration. But also he knows that this tax bill is extraordinarily unpopular with the American people. According to Quinnipiac which put out a poll just days before, it sailed through the Congress, a mere 29 percent of Americans supported the bill.

KEILAR: But what do you think, Dave? Because when you look -- look, if we were talking a month ago, we might have said they didn't get a lot done in Congress. But with the passage of this tax bill, you have (AUDIO GAP) most Americans that are going to see a tax cut, middle- class Americans are going to see a tax cut. Republicans have now opened up ANWR, sacred ANWR to liberals, to oil exploration. They've gutted the penalty, the tax penalty if you don't sign up for health care, which is like taking a sledgehammer to Obamacare.

I mean, they have done (AUDIO GAP)

JACOBSON: Yes, look, at the end of the day, it doesn't do anything to address the biggest economic issue facing Americans, and that's income inequality.

[14:10:01] The fact of the matter is the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer, and this is a handout to millionaires and billionaires and Wall Street fat cats and big corporations. It does nothing to help hardworking families.

John, you can't even tell me as a Republican that this guarantees that every middle-class family across the family gets a tax cut. That -- you know why? Because it actually raises taxes --


JACOBSON: It raises taxes on hardworking families in California and New York and New Jersey. Millions of people, who are hardworking middle class families, are going to see their taxes go up. And that's a fact.

THOMAS: Dave, 91 percent of middle class Americans are going to in fact see a tax cut. And in terms of wage disparity, you saw that companies like Wells Fargo are of their own volition raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour. That helps change that wage disparity.

Dave, I just think it's fascinating, that since not a single Democrat voted for this bill, they are so against giving middle class Americans money back in their pocket.


THOMAS: I'm happy for us to campaign on this going into midterms, because I think this saves the Republican majorities.

JACOBSON: Let me be clear, Democrats support tax cuts from middle class and hardworking families. Democrats don't support giving the 1 percent millionaires and billionaires big, fat tax cuts. Donald Trump, according to "Forbes" magazine, which did a report, according to his 2005 tax returns, is going to get $11 million in tax breaks. Average American families, excluding New York, California, New Jersey, are going to get a couple thousand dollars back. When Donald Trump gets $11 million, that's the reality.


THOMAS: Sounds like a lot more --

JACOBSON: And moreover, let me tell you something, John, this does nothing in terms of meat on the bones requiring big corporations to hire more working people or to raise wages. There's a couple companies who have come out to say, you know, like AT&T, we're going to give everyone 1,000 bucks.

THOMAS: And Comcast, and Wells Fargo. I mean, Dave --

JACOBSON: Only a couple of them.

John, it does nothing to require every single corporation who gets a permanent tax cut to hire more people or to raise wages. It does nothing to guarantee that.

KEILAR: And, Dave and John, thank you so much. I'm going to have you stick around and it is the American people that are going to decide if they feel that this makes a difference for them. They will speak in the end.

All right. Gentlemen, stay with me on this holiday Monday.

And next, CNN is going to count down the top seven moments from the first year of the Trump presidency. We are going to talk to our panel about their predictions for 2018.

Plus, a look at how Puerto Ricans are managing this Christmas after hurricane Maria. One Santa Claus has no power or water himself and that has not stopped him from bringing joy all over the devastated island.

And then later, North Korea slammed U.N. sanctions as an act of war and Russia criticizes the U.S.'s approach to diplomacy with Kim Jong- un. We'll discuss where the nuclear tensions go from here.


[14:16:51] KEILAR: It's been nearly one year since President Trump took office and by any measure, it has been a whirlwind of events. Everything from the appointment of the Supreme Court Neil Gorsuch to passing tax reform.

CNN chief political correspondent Dana Bash takes a look back at some of his most memorable moments of 2017.


DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Let's be honest, the first year of the Trump presidency feels more like a decade because of the relentless stream of news.

Here's a look at some of the key moments of President Trump's first year in office.

(voice-over): For candidate Trump, large campaign crowds were the norm. But at his inauguration, this was a sore subject. The new president grew angry watching reports his inaugural crowd size was smaller than President Obama's.

One of his first presidential acts was to order his press secretary to do this.

SEAN SPICER, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period.

BASH: That's something the president himself amplified while standing in front of a CIA memorial to fallen heroes.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We had a massive field of people. You saw that. Packed. I looked out, the field was -- looked like a million, million and a half people.

BASH: But the numbers didn't lie and the episode set an early Trump administration tone.

Government regulation. It sure doesn't sound exciting, so it's no surprise the Trump administration effort on this was not splashy 2017 news.

TRUMP: One, two, three.

BASH: But the president withdrew hundreds of regulations with a real world impact, from the safety of the products you use, to the air you breathe.

TRUMP: We have reduced unnecessary regulations to a point that this country hasn't seen in years.

BASH: It was a promise kept to Republicans who argued excess regulation hurts business and economic growth.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Raise your right hand.

BASH: The most lasting Trump 2017 accomplishment is arguably the nomination and confirmation of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court.

NEIL GORSUCH, SUPREME COURT JUSTICE: I will do all my powers permit to be a faithful servant of the Constitution and laws of this great nation.

BASH: The seat was open for a year since the death of Justice Antonin Scalia and Senate Republicans' refusal to consider President Obama's pick, Judge Merrick Garland.

TRUMP: You will go down as truly one of the best justices in the had history of the United States Supreme Court.

GORSUCH: Judges can disagree without being disagreeable.

BASH: Getting Gorsuch was noteworthy not just for the Trump legacy but the process.

TRUMP: It is an extraordinary resume.

BASH: From announcement to confirmation, this success was the most conventional Trump undertaking of the year. After months of back and forth between Donald Trump and North Korea's dictator, words like rocket man and fire and fury, the President took his insults to the world stage. His first speech at the United Nations.

[14:20:01] TRUMP: If it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea.

BASH: The rhetorical crossfire continued on Twitter and through regime statements.

TRUMP: Rocket man is on a suicide mission for himself.

BASH: By year's end, the escalation reached new height. North Korea tested its most powerful missile yet with the capacity to reach the U.S. mainland.

(on camera): No discussion about Donald Trump's first year in the White House would be complete without talking about his favorite little birdie.

(voice-over): He sent more than 2,000 tweets in 2017 alone, from the mystery of covfefe to a series of really consequential posts, like unprecedented attacks on his own party's leadership and some head- scratching retweets. This anti-Muslim video sent by a Brit convicted of hate crimes caused a diplomatic rift with the British prime minister.

Plus, his claim that President Obama wire-tapped Trump tower yet the one that may come back to haunt him the most, taunting fired FBI Director James Comey: Better hope there are no tapes of our conversations.

The hands down biggest 2017 Trump defeat, failure to repeal and replace Obamacare. John McCain's dramatic "no" vote sealed its fate, but Republicans was split of how to fulfill their Obamacare repeal promise, one that helped them win control of government. That loss made President Trump and Hill Republicans quest for tax reform a political life or death mission must-pass legislation.

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act as amended is passed.

BASH: And it worked.

TRUMP: The people are going to be very, very happy. They are going to get tremendous, tremendous tax cuts.

BASH: Whether most Americans, especially working class Trump voters, will see that as a win, to be determined.

(on camera): And finally, the most important Trump moment of 2017: firing FBI Director James Comey.

(voice-over): Sacking Comey while investigating potential 2016 Trump Russia collusion caused a political earthquake with aftershocks still rattling the president.

TRUMP: We'll see what happens.

BASH: Not the least of which, Comey's revelation that he kept detailed memos documenting meetings with the president which Comey asked a friend to leak to the press.

JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: I asked a friend of mine to share the content of the memo with a reporter. I asked him to because I thought that might prompt the appointment of a special counsel.

BASH: That's exactly what happened and special prosecutor Robert Mueller's Russia investigation was a cloud over the Trump's first year of presidency which so far produced indictments of two former Trump campaign officials and the guilty plea of former national security adviser Michael Flynn for lying to the FBI.

(on camera): What a year. What will 2018 bring? Buckle up.


KEILAR: And our thanks to Dana Bash for that report.

My panel is back with me now, Dave Jacobson, CNN political commentator and Democratic strategist, and John Thomas, he is a GOP consultant.

And, gentlemen, you heard -- I mean, the tweets, right, that was the sort of new thing I think for all Americans for 2017. So, we've asked each of you to choose your favorite tweet from the president. Dave, you chose this one from just a few weeks ago. It says, I had to fire General Flynn because he lied to the vice president and the FBI. He has pled guilty to those lies. It is ashamed because of his actions during the transition were lawful. There was nothing to hide.

We should point out the president's lawyer came out and said that actually he had drafted that tweet, sort of taking away some of that bite of the FBI part which we wondered if Trump was aware of and reporting showed that he was aware of. But tell us why that's your favorite.

JACOBSON: I'm not an attorney but it begs the question of whether or not the president essentially admitted to obstruction of justice with that tweet. We know just days after he fired Director Comey that he went on "NBC Nightly News" with Lester Holt and had an interview saying that he fired Director Comey because of that, quote, Russia thing.

2And so, the fact of the matter is, you know, it begs the question of whether Trump knew before he fired Director Comey and used that information, you know, when he fired Comey or perhaps beforehand when he met with Director Comey and asked him to let the Flynn thing go. And so, I think while I'm not an attorney, that's the big question that I think Bob Mueller is investigating, is whether or not Donald Trump did, in fact, obstruct justice and whether or not he admitted it through that tweet.

KEILAR: It is a good question.

All right. John, you have a favorite tweet. Look, I have to point out, this is actually a tweet from 2012 but, I mean, 2017 proved that rules are meant to be broken a little bit, right?

[14:25:01] So -- and also this did become relevant again just a few weeks ago.

But here's what you said. Quote: the Coca-Cola Company is not happy with me. That's OK. I'll still keep drinking that garbage. What? Explain your pick.


THOMAS: Yes. Well, Trump actually had a long history of tweeting about Diet Coke and slamming the brand while Coca-Cola has been trying to rebrand Diet Coke to be more of a healthy beverage, help people lose weight.

Trump has continually trashed it and yet we saw a "New York Times" article a few weeks that he still has an obsession with drinking up to 12 Diet Cokes a day.

I just love this president for the fact that he embraces his vices and tweets about it.

KEILAR: Yes, and sometimes even the things he says he doesn't like, he actually does like. So, that is -- that is very interesting.

All right. Gentlemen, thanks so much, Dave and John. I do appreciate your time on this holiday. Have a wonderful Christmas and a happy New Year to both of you.

THOMAS: You too.

JACOBSON: Thanks for having us.

KEILAR: And don't forget to join us as CNN's Tome Foreman takes a look back at all of "The Best, All of the Worst of 2017". This will air tomorrow night at 9:00 Eastern and Pacific.

And next, Puerto Rico looks for some joy this Christmas after a very difficult year.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A kid yesterday asked me to bring back his house the way it was.


KEILAR: We're going to follow that very Santa Claus, his Santa Class I should say, as he delivers gifts to families who desperately need a distraction from the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.