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Trump Slams Russia Probe In Tweet, Says FBI "Tainted"; Poll: 51 Percent Disapprove Of Trump's Work On Economy Despite Gains; Washington Post: Top U.S. Officials Underestimated Russian Trolls. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired December 26, 2017 - 11:00   ET



DANA BASH, CNN ANCHOR: -- Dana Bash in for Kate Bolduan. Christmas 2017 is a wrap and President Trump says he's back to work. He's also back on Twitter after giving it a break, at least for Christmas day.

As his first year in office winds down, the president is taking some parting shots at a few favorite targets -- FBI, Obamacare, and, despite the election he won being over more than a year ago, the Clinton campaign.

CNN's Sara Murray is with the president in West Palm Beach. Sara, he is back tweeting. I guess that means in part back to work even though we understand he's on the golf course. But specifically, he's tweeting about health care. What's he saying, and why do you think he's saying it?

SARA MURRAY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's right. The president says he is back to work today. Obviously, there is a lot on the agenda for Congress in the New Year. They have a budget to deal with. They have to deal with what they want to do about the Dreamers.

The White House has said they want to move forward about infrastructure, but that is not what the president was tweeting about today. The president was tweeting about health care, essentially saying he's all but dismantled Obamacare by doing away with the individual mandate in the tax reform bill.

And saying that maybe eventually down the line Republicans and Democrats will come together to some kind of bipartisan fix when it comes to health care and eventually may have been the key part of that tweet because so far, we certainly haven't seen a lot of bipartisanship on Capitol Hill.

BASH: Never mind the fact that the Republican leader, the majority leader, Mitch McConnell, has said in the past couple of weeks, he doesn't see that happening, especially when they come back, they're only going to have a one-vote majority in the Senate.

But we'll put that aside. Let's also talk about the other thing that the president seems to be focused on this morning, and that is Russia and the dossier is on his mind. Why do you think that is? MURRAY: Well, I don't think it's any surprise that this president has been repeatedly distracted by the Russia investigation obviously over the weekend. We saw him going after the FBI. Today, he apparently took in cable news and has become focusing again on this dossier, which he believes to be entirely fake, although U.S. investigators have corroborated some of the points in it.

This is another thing that just infuriates the president. It leads him to believe once again that any sort of allegation of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian officials must be false. He called the dossier garbage.

Now, the president's lawyer spoke to the "Wall Street Journal" over the last couple of days, and they continue to sound this sort of optimistic tone that Robert Mueller is going to wrap up his investigation sometime soon.

Jay Sekulow said, "I know we collectively, the lawyers, are looking forward to an expeditious wrapping up of this matter." Jay is, of course, part of the president's legal team. But outside experts, other lawyers involved in this probe say, hmm, an expeditious wrapping up of this might be a little bit too optimistic. This may take a little bit longer than the president and his legal team are hoping for.

BASH: And a shameless plug for your reporting. You have a bunch of CNN reporters -- something on on just that, that not only are the president's lawyers saying this publicly, that it will wrap up soon, they apparently are telling that to their client, the president of the United States. We can talk more about that another time. Sara, thank you very much for that report.

And for more on the president's latest attacks on the FBI, let's bring in our senior Congressional correspondent, Manu Raju. Manu, Trump likes to say that this dossier -- we should say the dossier that was put together not by the government but a private source.

And the funding we've learned over the past year or so that it was funded by a Republican source, by Democratic sources, but understanding the basis of what this dossier way is, what the president is saying today is that it's not true.

Again, as Sara said, he was watching a Fox report, but what does the role in the dossier actually mean for these investigations that's you've been following so closely on Capitol Hill?

RAJU: Well, Dana, the dossier has been a subject of intense interest for GOP critics of this investigation so far, but there are elements of the document that are in fact true. Now the most salacious allegations in the dossier have not been verified, though its broad assertion that Russia waged a campaign to interfere in the election is now accepted as fact by the U.S. intelligence community.

Now U.S. investigators have corroborated some aspects of the dossier, specifically that some of the communications among foreign nationals mentioned in the memos did actually take place. The FBI has used the dossier, but it is not the basis of the FBI's investigation into Russia meddling. As we reported earlier this year, the FBI did use it as part of its own justification to secretly monitor the Trump foreign policy adviser, Carter Page, during the campaign last year.

Now none of the four charges in the special counsel's ongoing investigation referenced the dossier, but Robert Mueller's team did meet this past summer with a British foreign agent who wrote the dossier, Christopher Steel.

[11:05:09] Now this has become a lightning rod among GOP critics because as you mentioned the dossier's resources effectively paid for by a law firm retained by the DNC and the Clinton campaign.

But U.S. law enforcement officials and intelligence officials said federal investigators did their own work, separate from the dossier, to support their findings that Russia tried to meddle in the election in favor of Trump.

The U.S. intelligence agencies, particularly the CIA and the FBI, took Steel's research seriously enough that they kept it out of a publicly released January report on Russian meddling in order not to divulge which parts of the dossier they had corroborated and how.

But Dana, with the president continuing to focus on the dossier, expect his GOP critics in Congress to continue to attack it, as well as we head into 2018.

BASH: But it's an important fact check to give us the real deal of what the dossier was and wasn't and what it's meant for these investigations. Manu, thank you so much for that report.

Joining me now, conservative commentator, Carrie Sheffield, also executive director of grassroots conservative group, "Geared Towards Young Voters Generation Opportunity." Also with me today, CNN political commentator and former Ohio state senator, Nina Turner, and CNN political commentator and senior columnist at the "Daily Beast," Matt Lewis. Hi, everybody. Nice to see you.

We'll start in the studio. Let's start with the back to work comment that the president is pushing and particularly on health care. Give me a reality check on that. Do you really think that there is a path to finally fully repealing Obamacare, and more importantly, replacing it for Republicans --

MATT LEWIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It's possible. I think this was a big deal that this tax bill got rid of the individual mandate. That's the linchpin that we were told will keep Obamacare afloat, right? Because right -- you know, you basically -- insurance companies are required to treat people with pre-existing conditions.

But how do you do that? Well, you have to have these young, healthy people who are mandated to also buy health insurance. Once the mandate is gone, there's the potential for this death spiral.

BASH: Right.

LEWIS: And that premium skyrocket, the thing could collapse. The concern that I would have, though, if I were Donald Trump and Republicans is, yes, it's possible that this thing starts to collapse, and Democrats and Republicans work together and act responsibly and craft maybe a little bit more market-driven conservative approach.

I think it's just as likely that Democrats take over in the midterms and do something that Bernie Sanders might want, right? So, they do some sort of a single payer plan. It could be that Republicans set this thing up to fail and you get a more liberal solution, you know, in a couple of years.

BASH: You're smiling.

NINA TURNER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Speaking my love language. A more liberal solution. The majority of Americans regardless of political ideology believe the government should take on more of a role when it comes to health care. You have lots of people suffering.

To the fact that it seems as though the president along with the Republicans take great pleasure in not repealing and replacing with something better, but great pleasure in being able to say they defeated President Barack Obama.

And in actuality, what they are doing is hurting millions of people in this country and not hurting President Obama individually but hurting the health care outcomes for millions of Americans.

BASH: We should just also give a fact check on the notion of he effectively repealed Obamacare. You're right. He got -- got rid of the individual mandate which was supposed to be a crucial money generator for the whole system. However, you still have in there regulations, an expansion of Medicaid, subsidies for insurance premiums, protections for pre-existing conditions.


BASH: But we digress. Carrie, I want to bring you in on the economy. If you take a look at what is going on right now on the economy -- which the president talks about sometimes, but he also kind of gets diverted with other things.

Just look at this. A Quinnipiac poll shows that stocks are at a record high, Dow is up 25 percent this year. Unemployment the lowest in 17 years -- excuse me, the Quinnipiac poll is there. His approval is 44 percent, disapproval up 51.

However, stocks up according to the Dow 25 percent. Unemployment is the lowest in 17 years at 4.1 percent. Quarterly economic growth, three-year high. Consumer confidence, 17-year high. Should the president be talking about anything else except those figures?

CARRIE SHEFFIELD, CONSERVATIVE COMMENTATOR: That's a good question, Dana, and it's very much, you know, like Bill Clinton said it's the economy, stupid. I don't think that Trump thinks the voters are stupid. I think we'll actually see even better numbers going forward because of the tax reform plan.

The "Wall Street Journal" just reported today that because of the tax reform plan, we're likely going to see lots of money coming back from overseas. That's going to be injected into new jobs, more take-home pay for people.

[11:10:07] So, I think we'll see even better numbers and I think the president does get frustrated sometimes because the mainstream media isn't willing to report some of these great numbers.

So, I'm very glad that we're talking about it here on CNN, but I think that's part the why the president goes directly to Twitter, so he can speak directly to the people. You mentioned the polling, I think the polling -- you know, I initially was very much a Trump skeptic.

But as a conservative, I've come along in many respects because I think that in polling, for example, you just can't hold it to the same methodology with Trump because so many people because of the negativity that's in the mainstream media, it's hard for them to even admit to a pollster because the pollster is coming at it from a place of negativity.

BASH: We could talk about polls another time. I'm not sure I agree with you. I want to get a comment from you, Nina, on the economy because I like to talk to you because you live in the real world, Ohio.


BASH: And we saw the numbers, economic statistics. What about your friends, family, people who you know in Ohio, are they feeling it?

TURNER: Yes. Not just Ohio, I mean, I traveled to about 12 states in the last two months and people are hurting. It is the quality of jobs, too, not just these numbers that say the unemployment rate is down.

We also need to assess the quality of jobs. How many jobs do people have to work to be able to keep pace with the same standard of living that they are accustomed to? The knowledge-based economy is actually displacing lots of workers in this country. Not just in Ohio, all over.

So, we have to be concerned about that. Don't forget the scathing report that the U.N. just gave the United States of America, the wealthiest nation on the face of the earth, said that, you know, extreme poverty.

We're the world-class champions in extreme poverty, traveling to states like California and Alabama to really dig in to that kind of poverty. We need to look at quality of life variables, not just whether or not the unemployment rate is lower.

BASH: That's true. OK. I want to take a turn to raw politics here. Matt, I want you to tackle this one. Utah's largest paper, which is "The Salt Lake Tribune," has a pretty scathing takedown of its senior senator, longtime Senator Orrin Hatch.

It doesn't look like a takedown at first blush because it calls him the Utahn of the year but then it demands that he not run for re- election. It says "the utter lack of integrity -- sorry, "The selection of Senator Orrin Hatch as the 2017 Utahn in the year has everything to do with recognizing his utter lack of integrity that rises from his unquenchable thirst for power."

Now people might not know that much about Orrin Hatch. He is a senior senator, not just from Utah but the entire U.S. Senate. I want to ask what you think it means about the broader fight within the Republican Party about incumbents being -- a lot of conservatives trying to pick off incumbents. This is pretty established paper. Not just -- not just a fringe group.

LEWIS: Yes. No. And look, I mean, I think that it's interesting what's happening. You have Orrin Hatch who in Utah has been around for decades, pretty conservative. I mean, you know, it -- he's establishment, but he's not a moderate or liberal like Rockefeller Republican.

And so, I think, look, even in Utah there are liberal editors and editorials and so I wouldn't read too much into it, but if you look at the polling out there --

BASH: But they've endorsed him before.

LEWIS: Yes. If you look at the polling, I mean, most Utahns would like Orrin Hatch to leave. They don't want to replace him with a liberal Democrat. They probably want to replace him with Mitt Romney, another sort of moderate Republican. So, it's a little bit unique --

SHEFFIELD: As the Utah girl, I'm from Utah. I have covered Orrin Hatch since 2001. I've known him for a while and his people. I will say the "Tribune" as Matt said, is the most liberal paper in the state. The "Desert News" is the more conservative alternative.

Matt is exactly right that this is more a fight between Mitt Romney and Donald Trump as a proxy because Orrin Hatch has been very supportive of the president. So, the president has reportedly asked him to stay.

BASH: Carrie, what do you think this means as somebody who wants to get young conservatives to vote? What do you this says about the broader Republican struggle for who should be in charge?

SHEFFIELD: Sure. Well, I think it goes to the soul searching of the Republican Party. Like how much are they going to be willing to adjust their strategy based on what Trump represents. The book by Charles Murray "Coming Apart," I think sociologically really shows what's happened in terms of the class divide within the Republican Party.

And I think that Mitt Romney represents that upper class. And Trump, you know, they call him the blue-collar billionaire. He spoke to the grassroots foot soldier within the conservative movement. There's this divide.

That divide needs to be unified. The Republican Party has to compromise. The establishment has to understand that Trump represents a voice that was not heard for the last five decades.

BASH: Carrie, Matt, Nina, thank you so much all of you for joining me.

[11:15:08] Coming up, a new report on why U.S. officials did little to stop Russian meddling in the election, even when they knew the threat was growing. What happened? The details next.

Plus, skidding off an icy runway. We'll tell you about the scary landing for passengers on a JetBlue flight.


BASH: Two administrations of two different parties and very little done. There's a new report in the "Washington Post" this morning about the way the Obama administration and the Trump administration so far have hesitated in responding to Russia's election meddling.

The story blames miscalculations and bureaucratic inertia going all the way back to the end of the cold war actually and it says U.S. officials were slow to grasp the extent of Russia's election meddling and then failed to adequately respond.

There you see top U.S. policymakers didn't appreciate the dangers, then scrambled to draw up options to fight back. The story says, in the end big plans died of internal disagreement, a fear of making matters worse, or misguided belief in the resilience of American society and its Democratic institutions.

[11:20:10] The "Post" says the Obama administration shelved various countermeasures including cyberattacks creating its own army of internet trolls, and even launching a global propaganda network to compete with Russia's state-funded tv network.

But President Obama and top aides feared that they would be escalating the conflict if they did any of that and simply didn't believe Russia's meddling would impact the election.

Philip Mudd is a CNN counterterrorism analyst who has many top positions in the government at the CIA, FBI, and the National Security Council. Thank you so much for coming in. It's great to see you.

Let's just start there. Given your experience in all those roles, what were the discussions internally without giving to much away? I mean, was there a concern and did you hear the concern voice by various people who have an expertise in this area?

PHILIP MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: This goes back well before the American elections. People were talking about this because the Europeans had problems with the Russians, as Vladimir Putin tried to expand Russian influence into Europe. So, the Europeans were coming to the White House as a key partner with the Europeans and European security saying what are we going to do about Putin.

BASH: Did you witness political foot-dragging?

MUDD: I'm not sure I would call it foot-dragging. One of the things you have to look at in a situation is every time you take a step, you have to anticipate the counter steps. So, let's say, for example, the United States starts to interfere with Russian government computer systems in the kremlin.

The kremlin says, all right, you want to up the ante. I think one of the problems in the White House is to say how do we get involved in this new age of countering Russian propaganda without making the problem worse.

BASH: And from your experience being at the National Security Council in particular, does it have to be something that is formulated and centered in and around the White House, a policy that is pushed out? Meaning how much of fixing this is reliant on the president of the United States, his national security adviser taking the lead and addressing this problem and fixing it?

MUDD: The White House is critical for a few reasons. That's why people like me would look at the reluctance of the White House and the president to talk about Putin's involvement and say that's a problem moving forward.

Number one, you've got a lot of agencies involved -- Homeland Security, Department of Defense, CIA, the National Security Agency. Who forces them to sit down at the table and say there's one plan, and we're going to execute that plan led by the president?

There's a tactical reason, more mechanical reason in government the White House has to be involved. If the CIA is going to take action or if the National Security Agency will take action, they're going to need a formal order from the president to say, " go do it." They don't operate into penalties. The White House has to be front and center on this one.

BASH: You said something really interesting before we came on about the need for the private sector. The social media companies to really step up and work in a way that maybe the government can't?

MUDD: This is fascinating. The shift in national security from the east coast to the west coast, who would have thought 30 years ago that you're talking about Silicon Valley in terms of national security threats from Russia?

Now you're looking at companies like Facebook and Twitter saying it's not only our national responsibility, it's for our trademark if you will to protect the integrity of the information we're putting on our systems. I think going into the next election cycle, they'll be more aggressive and saying we have to keep the junk off the system --

BASH: The government can't rely on them to do it, right? I mean, it's a delicate balance of overregulation. MUDD: They can -- government has the capability to not only find out what the Russians are doing, but have its own countermeasures, for example, sanctions. I think we have to see, though, is less backbiting from the Congress towards the Silicon Valley and more cooperation. You've got to say, look, if we're going to solve this, we have to work in partnership with the west coast, not in opposition.

BASH: OK, one other thing in the "Washington Post" today on the op-ed page, former White House intel chief, Mike Rogers, also contributor here, acting CIA Director Mike Morrell warned that the Russian cyberattacks against the U.S. could continue.

Here's what they wrote, "True deterrence requires policies that prevent adversaries from achieving their objectives while imposing significant costs of that regime. So far, we have done neither." Is that what you see as well?

MUDD: I do. I mean, if you look at this more broadly in terms of Putin's efforts to expand influence of Russia, if you look at the response to his incursions in the Crimea, the response to what he did in Syria, where I think the Russians have won, the response to what he did in the last election when the president say, you know, I spoke to him and there's only so many times I can tell him what did you do in the election.

What's the cost Russians to try to undermine the American not only the electoral process, but American society by putting in messages that say, for example, there should be violence within American society, which we've seen him do?

I haven't seen a terrific cost shift -- there have been some sanctions, but if I was Vladimir Putin I would say these are just minor, why wouldn't I do it again next time?

BASH: Not to mention the fact that some of those sanctions have not even been implemented. That's a story and a question for another day. Thank you so much. Really interesting insight, Phil.

[11:25:08] And there was quite a scare for holiday travelers on Christmas night in Boston. A JetBlue flight skidded off the runway just moments after landing. Look at those pictures. That's next.


BASH: A big scare for passengers on a JetBlue flight in Boston. The plane hit a patch of ice while landing, making it skid and spin off the taxiway. CNN's Rene Marsh joins me now with more details. Wow, that is incredibly scary.

RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION AND GOVERNMENT REGULATION CORRESPONDENT: Yes. You know, in Boston they had snow, ice, it made things very complicated for people trying to get to their destination Christmas night.

So, this was a JetBlue flight going from Savannah to Boston. Passengers on board said that the plane was actually spinning until it was facing the opposite direction. I believe we have some sound from some passengers who were on board.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We were straight and then all of a sudden started fish tailing --