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Interview with Representative Eliot Engel; Top 7 Political Stories of 2017; Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired December 26, 2017 - 10:30   ET



[10:31:03] PAMELA BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Well, President Trump says he is back to work at Mar-a-Lago this morning. And so far he is mixing it up. Talking about health care and Russia, including a fresh attack on the FBI this morning.

Joining me now for his reaction is Democratic Congressman Eliot Engel of New York.

Congressman, thanks for coming on.


BROWN: Happy Holidays. So let's start first with what the president is saying about Russia this morning on Twitter. Here's what he said, "Dossier is bogus. Clinton campaign, DNC funded dossier. FBI cannot after all of this time verify claims in the dossier of Russia-Trump collusion. FBI tainted. And they used this crooked Hillary pile of garbage as the basis for going after the Trump campaign."

So there are some factual inaccuracies in that. But your reaction to the overall tweet and his focus a day after Christmas on Russia, dossier, and the FBI?

ENGEL: Well, it sounds a little paranoid to me. I mean, Hillary Clinton lost the election. They should let it go already. I know they hate her, but the American people want to see a president and an administration that governs, that doesn't just tweet and throw hatred around.

You know, these attacks on the FBI and Mr. Mueller, you know, when Mr. Mueller was appointed universally, everybody said, wow, what a terrific choice. He's a Republican. He's certainly not in the Democrats' pocket. Let him do his job. Let's see what happens. I have faith in the institutions.

And that's what we should expect. But this sort of attacking him and, you know, trying to stab him with 1,000 cuts, it's really not what we should have in a democracy like ours. I think he's a man of great integrity. So does everybody else. And we should let him do his job and stop throwing things from the outside.

BROWN: But it's interesting, though. I mean, the president has really focused more on the FBI, individuals in the FBI, the dossier, but he hasn't really personally attacked Mueller in quite some time.

ENGEL: Well, he may not have personally done it but -- lately but his people certainly are. And there's the whole whispering campaign, you know, the question of, will he be fired, will he be replaced? I think there should be less rhetoric frankly from the president and from the administration, let the people do their jobs. That's what our democracy is all about. And I have confidence in the institutions of this country.

BROWN: And to be clear, the White House has said that there is no consideration to fire Robert Mueller. But I want to stay on the topic of Russia, according to the "Washington Post," the government under President Obama, quote, "underestimated Russia's capability to meddle in the 2016 election, despite warning signs."

When asked for reaction, here is what one senior Trump official told the "Washington Post."

"If it changed one electoral vote, you tell me. The Russians didn't tell Hillary Clinton not to campaign in Wisconsin. Tell me how many votes the Russians changed in Macomb County, Michigan. The president is right. The Democrats are using the report to delegitimize the presidency."

Does he have a fair point there?

ENGEL: No, not at all. I mean, I don't think anybody has any doubts at this point that the Russians interfered with our democratic process. To me it doesn't matter whether they helped Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump. To me, it's the Russians are a hostile country. They're not friends of the United States. And they interfered in our democratic process, in our elections. And we have to make sure that it never, ever happens again.

It goes way beyond Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. And so there's no doubt that the Russians interfered. The evidence is there. American people heard all kind of things that the Russians planted. The question is, was there collusion with the Trump campaign in having the Russians get involved. And that's the question we want to find. It's not a question of did the Russians get involved? Of course they did. And they should keep their hands off.

BROWN: All right. Let's look ahead to 2018 before we let you go. Republicans feel they have the momentum, some -- I should say most Republicans we've spoken to.

[10:35:03] The economy is doing so great. They say more Americans will notice more money in their pockets after this tax reform bill. So the question is, how do Democrats battle the GOP for midterms when the economy is still strong?

ENGEL: Well, I think the average American doesn't feel that the economy is helping them. You know, the economy and the tax bill, by the way, was a fraud. The tax bill -- my home state of New York and other states, people are definitely hurting. High tax states are hurting. And the middle class is hurting. You know, this bill, this tax bill was a giveaway to the very wealthy people like Donald Trump and to wealthy corporations.

And in some instances, the middle class will get a small increase, but it's only temporary, it's bait and switch. The middle class increases, if there are any, and there are lots of middle class people that will find that they will get tax increases rather than decreases. The problem with the whole thing is that it -- it goes away in four or five years. Whereas the tax increases for the millionaires and the billionaires and the wealthy corporations become permanent. So this is a bait and switch.

BROWN: You mean tax cuts?

ENGEL: This is a phony bill. This is not a bill that will help the middle class. And the president and his people should know better.

BROWN: Well, and I just -- representing the other side, as you know, Republicans say, look, across the board Americans are going to see more money in their pockets. This is going to have a long-term effect and cause growth to help fill the deficit.

So anyway, Congressman Eliot Engel, thank you very much for coming on.

ENGEL: Thank you. My pleasure, and again, Happy Holidays to everybody.

BROWN: Happy Holidays.

Well, a JetBlue plane lands on ice, skidding and spinning off the runway. What the passengers said about the experience up next.


[10:40:35] BROWN: Quite a scare for holiday travelers last night at Boston's Logan Airport. A JetBlue plane hit a patch of ice as it was landing and skidded off the taxiway. Passengers on that flight said the plane started fishtailing and spinning.

The unfortunate episode happened after a snowstorm dumped several inches of snow in the area. Luckily no one aboard the plane was injured.

And meantime, an arctic blast making its way through the Midwest. Windchill warnings are in effect for nearly 30 million people. And this frigid weather isn't going anywhere for days.

Let's go straight to meteorologist Chad Myers for a look at the forecast.

So what can we expect, Chad?

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, I think this is going to hang with us for 10 days. What you see is what you get. It might go up or down 10 degrees here or there. But 30 degrees below zero is the windchill factor with the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field right now. Minneapolis, it's 26 degrees below zero with the windchill blowing through here. Now they may even get colder than this by next Sunday. And that's New

Year's Eve. So it may be one of those New Year's Eves to stay inside.

Here's what's going on. Here's what the problem is. We have a jet stream that's grabbing all the polar air and pushing it down into the central plains. That jet stream is like a river. Like if you're on one side of the river, that's the cold side. If you're on the other side, that's the warm side. You can't mix. You go across the river. So the cold air is allowed to get all the way down here into the U.S. where it's typically just bundled up there in the Yukon.

Well, no longer is it bundled up, it's on its way down here. And this weather is truly affecting people, we know that. But it's also affecting pets. It's affecting cars. Water freezes on the road at 32. You know, that's a no brainer. The director that I just talked to wanted to know why the top was done. But we will go -- we'll do that another day.

Summer washer fluid freezes at 20 degrees below zero. You need to get the winter stuff in there if you're going to be getting this type of temperatures. Not windchill temperatures, air temperatures will freeze that. And in fact your antifreeze can freeze between 34 and 37. Certainly turn slushy. Even real anti-freeze. You need to get extra heavy-duty stuff to get it passed that. So there you go, hit that car out of there and put the top up and turn the heater on.

Now the rest of the forecast for New York City is pretty good. I think probably New York City, as the ball drops, our weather will be around zero. With the windchill factor, you get a million people standing around, it won't feel nearly that cold.

Farther out, toward the west and toward the southwest of there, it is going to stay cold, be cold, all the way to the period, and even here from New York, we're going to be in the teens and 20s for the rest of the week.

Pamela, back to you.

BROWN: All right. Chad Myers, thank you very much. And we'll be right back.


[10:47:41] BROWN: Well, it has been a tumultuous year in politics, to put it lightly. The first year of a new and different president that likes to do things, well, his way.

CNN's Jake Tapper takes a look at the political highlights of 2017.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR (on camera): Gather round, family and friends. You'll be talking about 2017 for generations to come.

The first year of the Trump presidency shattered the status quo. Cultures of harassment were exposed, travel bans were debated, protests erupted. And I seem to recall something about Russia.

Here are, in our view, the top seven political stories of 2017.

(Voice-over): President Trump signed executive orders banning U.S. entry from seven Muslim-majority nations which sparked worldwide protests and disagreement among the courts before a revised version was upheld.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're going to take our case as far as it needs to go, including all the way up to the Supreme Court.

TAPPER: The administration also ended the DACA program affecting some 700,000 undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children.

JEFF SESSIONS, ATTORNEY GENERAL: The DACA policy, produced by the last administration, could not be sustained.

TAPPER: The fate of these so-called Dreamers was left in the hands of Congress.

TRUMP: Hopefully now Congress will be able to help them and do it properly.

SEN. JEFF FLAKE (R), ARIZONA: Mr. President, I will not be complicit or silent.

TAPPER: In 2017, some Republicans went rogue, openly displaying disdain for the president of their own party.

SEN. BOB CORKER (R), TENNESSEE: I think the debasement of our nation will be one we'll be remembered the most for.

TAPPER: Critics such as Jeff Flake of Arizona and former Trump supporter Bob Corker of Tennessee announced they would not seek reelection to the Senate.

FLAKE: It's not enough to be conservative anymore. It seems that you have to be angry about it.

TAPPER: Both will remain in office until November working with Republican Senators John McCain, Ben Sasse, and Cory Gardner, who have expressed condemnation of Trump at different times, as well.

TRUMP: We're going to get a health bill passed. We're going to get health care taken care of in this country.

TAPPER: Republicans tried to repeal and replace Obamacare, received insufficient support, removed the bill, regrouped, and were left reeling after repeat defeats.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The motion is not agreed to.

TAPPER: The most dramatic courtesy of Republican John McCain.

[10:50:04] SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: We promised to repeal and replace Obamacare and we failed.

TAPPER: The GOP had no major legislative victory all year until December.


TAPPER: A $1.5 trillion GOP tax plan passed with a partial repeal of Obamacare, handwritten edits, and absolutely no Democratic support.

A white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, began with a torch-lit march around a Confederate monument. One of these white supremacists rammed his car into a crowd, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer. The president initially failed to call out the white supremacists.

TRUMP: I think there's blame on both sides.

TAPPER: Even strong conservatives condemned his response.

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: What Trump did today was a moral disgrace.

TAPPER: Passionate demonstrations filled the streets.

PROTESTERS: Nazis are not welcome here.

TAPPER: And nationwide symbols of the Confederacy were vandalized or officially removed.

TRUMP: You're fired.

TAPPER: It was more than a catchphrase. Just ask Press Secretary Sean Spicer or Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci, or Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, or chief strategist Steve Bannon, or National Security adviser Michael Flynn. And, of course --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why do you believe you were fired?

JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: I take the president at his word that I was fired because of the Russia investigation.

TAPPER: The Trump administration had more than a dozen resignations, firings, and reassignments in its first year.

The "MeToo" movement ushered in an era of accountability, ending careers and launching a battle for moral high ground.

Allegations that Republican Roy Moore sexually assaulted teen girls as an adult led Alabama voters to elect their first Democratic senator in 25 years.

SEN. AL FRANKEN (D), MINNESOTA: I am leaving while a man who has bragged on tape about his history of sexual assault sits in the Oval Office.

TAPPER: Fellow Democrats forced Senator Al Franken to announce his resignation after several women said he acted inappropriately.

LEEANN TWEEDEN, AL FRANKEN ACCUSER: He just mashes his mouth to my lips.

TAPPER: Several others in Congress, including Trent Franks, John Conyers, Ruben Kihuen, and Blake Farenthold resigned or announced early retirements after facing accusations of their own. But in response to questions about the president's past actions, the White House was defiant.

JAMES CLAPPER, FORMER DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: That's the big news here is the Russian interference in our election system.

TAPPER: The leaders of U.S. intelligence agencies unanimously concluded that Russia interfered in the presidential election, but did President Trump's campaign help them in their effort?

TRUMP: I have nothing to do with Russia.

TAPPER: FBI Director James Comey was leading the investigation until he was fired. Now an investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller is digging deeper.

Former National Security adviser Michael Flynn pleaded guilty to misleading the FBI and campaign chairman Paul Manafort was indicted.

The Senate Intelligence Committee questioned Donald Trump, Jr. for hours about his meetings with Russians in Trump Tower.

(On camera): Is he being forthcoming?

SEN. MARK WARNER (D), VIRGINIA: There are a lot of legitimate questions that this individual needs to answer.

TAPPER (voice-over): All this as the president and his supporters playing defense, tried to accuse the Mueller investigation of bias.

(On camera): Those are our top seven political stories of 2017. But with the Russia investigation still ongoing and control of the Senate at stake, 2018 is sure to present unprecedented political headlines of its own.

I'm Jake Tapper. Stay tuned.


BROWN: And our thanks to Jake.

Well, Arizona Cardinals' wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald penned a tribute to Senator John McCain as the lawmaker continues to battle cancer. Hear his letter up next.


[10:58:10] BROWN: Well, Christmas is a time of giving, and one NFL wanted to take the time to remind everyone about how much one senator, John McCain, gave to his country.

Andy Scholes is here with more on this touching tribute -- Andy.

ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Pamela, Larry Fitzgerald is a receiver for the Cardinals and he and Senator McCain have become friends over the 14 years that he's played in Arizona. And Senator McCain has even given Fitzgerald a private tour of the Senate which Fitzgerald said was tremendous.

And on Christmas, "Sports Illustrated" published a very touching tribute that Fitzgerald wrote for McCain. Fitzgerald saying, quote, "As soon as my boys are of age, I'll tell them stories about the quality of the man I've gotten to know. I'll tell them Senator John McCain will be revered and respected for as long as the United States of America has a place in this world, and his legacy will outlive us all."

Now Fitzgerald visited Vietnam in 2013 touring places where McCain was tortured as a prisoner of war. In the letter, Fitzgerald said he admires McCain for voting with his conscience and he offered holiday wishes and prayers, and McCain lives another 20 years. And in the letter Fitzgerald also talked about how McCain missed six Christmases when he was a prisoner of war and how he could have gotten out four years earlier but he refused to be freed until all the men captured before him are released.

And Pamela, Fitzgerald says, you know, that's just one example of why McCain is a true American hero.

BROWN: Wow, that is so touching. I personally didn't know about the close relationship that those two men had.

Andy Scholes, thank you so much, and Happy Holidays to you.

SCHOLES: To you, as well.

BROWN: And thank you for joining me today on this Tuesday morning. It's been great having you along with me. I'm Pamela Brown. My colleague, Dana Bash, picks things up right now.

DANA BASH, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, I'm Dana Bash, in for Kate Bolduan. Christmas 2017 is a wrap. And President Trump says he's back to work.