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Trump's Attacks on the FBI & Mueller's Russia Investigation; Jeff Flake Comments on Future of Republican Party. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired December 26, 2017 - 08:00   ET


[08:00:00] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All of a sudden we started sliding and then we started spinning and spinning and spinning and ended newspaper a snow bank.


RENE MARSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: JetBlue says there were no injuries, so that's good news. Passengers were bussed to the terminals. We know that the runways were briefly shut down at the airport yesterday because they just had quite a bit of snow in the area. Keeping tabs on how things are looking there at Boston Logan this morning, I will say that we are starting to see more delays, but that happens as service and operations start to pick up throughout the morning. But overall nationwide if you are flying things don't look too bad for you. Back to you.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Rene, you would think Boston Logan knows how to de-ice the runway. Of all places, it snows there all the time. OK, thank you very much for that report.

So the arctic blast is now gripping much the nation and it could complicate your holiday travels. Wnd what does it mean for your New Year's Eve plans? CNN meteorologist Chad Myers has our forecast. How's it looking, Chad?

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, most of the U.S. should bundle up for New Year's Eve, and that's not breaking news, but it is certainly going to be colder, below normal then we should be, by sometimes 30 or 40 degrees. So yes it's cold now, wind chill factors as cold as 42 degrees below zero.

Let's take you over here to show you what is going on and why this is happening. We have a huge ridge of high pressure in the west. There it is, right there. It's coming down and it's taking all of this arctic air and it's shoving it down towards the south, toward the southeast right through Chicago. And this is going to be with us all the way through Sunday afternoon. Not going to go away anytime soon.

So New York City, you are still going to be in the teens and 20s, and with the wind, it's going to feel like zero, especially for the ball drop there in New York City. Chicago, a little bit colder. You are closer to the flow, to that jet stream that is heading down, but now as close as Fargo, North Dakota. Fargo on Sunday afternoon, your wind chill will be 60 degrees below zero. I don't even have words for that except just the numbers.

But if you are trying to find someplace nice, not only Key West where Bill Weir will be, but even L.A. You at this, temperatures making a run at 80 by Friday, maybe even into Saturday. Guys, this is pretty good. This is the place to be.

CAMEROTA: It sure is. You really hit the jackpot.

BILL WEIR, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, after hurricane Irma we thought we would check out how the folks are doing down there.

CAMEROTA: You earned this assignment.

WEIR: Yes, but then we watched "Sushi," the drag queen, descend in a giant high heel Duval Street.

CAMEROTA: That's awesome.


WEIR: While everybody shivers with Andy and Anderson in Time Square. Anyway, I hope you join us New Year's Eve. But let's talk about the news of the day. First, President Trump spent his first Christmas in office sharing the holiday spirit with a serious of grievous tweets attacking the media and a top FBI official. CNN's Sara Murray is live in West Palm Beach, Florida. I can't spit it out, but he certainly can in 280 characters or less. Good to see you, Sara.

SARA MURRAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning. The president said that he is back to work and that is after a few days of taking part in Christmas festivities and taking aim as the media as well as the FBI on Twitter.


MURRAY: After a quiet Christmas at Mar-a-Lago, President Trump promising to get back to work, touting his make America great again agenda, this after repeatedly complaining that he's not getting the credit he deserves after his accomplishments. Trump marking his first Christmas in office with traditional presidential tact, attending a late-night church service on Christmas Eve, taking calls with young children on the Santa-tracking hotline, and teleconferencing with the troops.

DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I just wanted to wish everybody a very, very merry Christmas, we say Christmas again very proudly.

MURRAY: Trump claiming he has led the charge for Americans to say "merry Christmas" instead of "happy holidays."

TRUMP: It's my tremendous honor to finally wish America and the world a very merry Christmas.

MURRAY: Despite the fact that President Obama used the phrase repeatedly while in office. BARACK OBAMA, (D) FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Hello,

everyone, and merry Christmas.

So merry Christmas, everybody.

Merry Christmas, everybody.

MURRAY: Trump also spent the holiday weekend lashing out again at the country's top law enforcement agency, attacking FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe, former FBI director James Comey, and FBI lawyer James Baker. The president pouncing on reports that McCabe is planning on retiring in March, going after the FBI deputy over donations his wife's campaign received from a Super PAC connected to Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe, a close friend of the Clintons. The president hasn't shied away from attacks on the Justice Department or the FBI since taking office. Still the White House insists Trump has more confidence in the FBI now that he has hand-selected the man in charge.

MARC SHORT, WHITE HOUSE LEGISLATIVE AFFAIRS DIRECTOR: I think he's very happy to have Chris Wray now running the FBI. He's very pleased with the changes that are taking place. He's making the point that we need to make sure there's no bias.

[08:05:03] MURRAY: The criticism coming amid growing questions from Republicans over the credibility of special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia probe.

SEN. JEFF FLAKE, (R) ARIZONA: If the president continues to try and undermine the legitimacy of the investigation, and if Republicans continue to try and help with that, I think that puts us in peril.


MURRAY: And the president has nothing on his public schedule today, but he is up and he is tweeting. Here is the latest Trump tweeted "Based on the fact that the unfair and unpopular individual mandate has been terminated as part of our tax cut bill which essentially repeals over time Obamacare, the Democrats and Republicans will eventually come together and develop a great new health care brand." The key word in that might be "eventually." So far we haven't seen much appetite for Democrats and Republicans to come together on much of anything on Capitol Hill. Back to you guys.

CAMEROTA: OK, Sara, thank you very much. We have a lot to discuss with CNN political analysts Brian Karem and April Ryan. Great to see both of you.


CAMEROTA: Great to see you, too, Brian. I haven't seen you in 25 years. We worked together in the '90s Brian and I. At "America's Most Wanted" we were crime reporters.

KAREM: That's true. CAMEROTA: And Brian, it has been great to see you fighting the good

fight in the press briefing room where you are speaking truth to power. And I assume you'll be doing that again this year.

KAREM: Supposing they don't kick me out.

CAMEROTA: Well, I do worry about that. But let's talk about that. And April, of course, you are holding forth in there as well. So let's talk about what we can expect from the president, if his tweets are any indication. Sara just read us one. Here's another one that he tweeted over Christmas. "The tax cut reform bill including massive Alaska drilling and the repeal of the highly unpopular individual mandate" -- by the way, Obamacare signups had historic sign up levels, so we're just trying to fact check this in real time even with the individual mandate, "brought it all together as to what an incredible year we had. Don't let the fake news," meaning news he doesn't like, "convince you otherwise. And our insider polls are strong." April, do you have any sense of what he means by their insider polls, and if he is seeing something different for real inside the White House than what people are seeing out here with a 35 percent approval rating?

APRIL RYAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, first of all, Alisyn, happy holidays and merry Christmas to you and Bill.

CAMEROTA: You, too.

RYAN: Let's say this. First of all, listening to the tweets over the last couple of days sounds like there could have been a little coal in the president's stocking. But nonetheless when you look at what the president is saying about his internal polls, I take that seriously because they had internal polls during the campaign for president and look what happened. He won. This president does believe a lot in himself when the general public is saying no, but he does have a lot of pluses. He does the fact that he did have one legislative win, he finally got a legislative win towards the end of the year, almost a year, took him almost a year. He did seat a Supreme Court justice. This president is overseeing a good economy. But that hinges upon a lot of different things. One, we are hearing so many people from even the former Obama administration that there is residue that he is coasting on from the Obama administration.

KAREM: He's not being honest with it, though.

RYAN: Well, we are at a time -- Brian, I got you. We are at a time --

KAREM: Don't forget that part, April.

RYAN: Anything that could happen -- we are possibly on the precipice of war. That could change the economy. There are so many different variables that we are looking at a stronghold moment, so those polls you're talking about, a strong hold moment in time because tomorrow could be totally different from today.

CAMEROTA: All polls are a snapshot.

WEIR: But Brian, there may be people within the White House to make him feel better who are telling him things that he wants to hear.

KAREM: I think they play protect with him. And I think, look, from what I get inside that White House briefing room, it's all theater for them. I said before I rarely believe anything they say except maybe their name, and even then I'm not sure of it.

The bottom line is it's deflect, it's defend, it's distract, and everything that he tweets and everything that goes on is to deflect away from some of the real issues that they haven't dealt with. And he says he brought back merry Christmas? Please. Happy Festivus for the rest of us. I have been saying merry Christmas forever. It's such a nonissue.

And then to sit there and talk about how he has made America great again, it was pretty good before he got here. There's not really anything that comes out of the man's mouth that isn't a deflection, a defense, or tries to keep us from the real issues at hand.

The real issue at hand is the Mueller investigation and him trying to muddy the waters in his echo chamber by convincing people that they have an axe to grind against him.

[08:10:00] And that's disheartening. That's a very real issue. North Korea, a very real issue. And the two issues that he really has done something with he hasn't even funded. The two issues that speak a lot to the American people, the opioid crisis, which he put Kellyanne Conway in charge of. That's another issue but it's not funded. And then he talks about reinvesting in NASA and exploration which appeals to very many people. Bush tilted his windmill at that but it was Kennedy --

CAMEROTA: But Brian, you are overlooking the tax bill that obviously Republicans have tried for decades to do, and there are all of these companies, at least 10 that we know of that because of that are giving their employees $1,000 --

KAREM: So they had a lot of money beforehand and they are timing it just in time.

CAMEROTA: Yes, they were sitting on profits.

KAREM: Sleight of hand and twist of fate.

CAMEROTA: Listen, I'm just saying that when you are talking about what matters to people around their dining table, obviously it's the pocketbook issues, so some people are going to be seeing $1,000 bonuses. And if they connect that with the tax reform, then bingo, that's a win.

RYAN: How many people are going to see that kind of bonus? Trickledown economics has not proven in the past to work. This is for the moment. And not only that, Alisyn, we have to remember that corporations are going to benefit permanently. People will not. And when it comes to the pocketbook, when you don't see that tax cut happening after 2025, wait a minute, this is for the moment. Let's see if it continues. KAREM: What they are banking on is that if they lose the House or

they lose the Senate that the Democrats will get the blame. So let's go to Jeff Flake. This is a guy that did a large profile recently, this is a guy that should be a star in the Republican corner. But because of the way the Republican Party has gone, there are people bragging he couldn't get reelected so that's why he quit. This guy votes with 95 percent of the time conservative voting. He's one of the guys, he should be the star of the GOP party, but because of the fact that he believes in the art of half a loaf and the art of real political discourse, he's a pariah in what is left of the GOP, and he's right.

And so what April is speaking to about where we are going to be and where is that money going, that guy is speaking exactly to the point, a bunch of old men protecting themselves and a party that is on its deathbed.

WEIR: Let's hear that sound bite, because it is really alarming. Hold on, April, we just want to play this. It's a sample of profiles and courage that comes after you announce your retirement. Here's Jeff Flake.


SEN. JEFF FLAKE, (R) ARIZONA: When you look at some of the audiences cheering for Republicans sometimes, you look out there and you say those are the spasms of a dying party when you look at the lack of diversity sometimes. And it depends on where you are, obviously, but by and large we are appealing to older white men. And there are just, you know, a limited number of them. And anger and resentment are not a governing philosophy.


WEIR: April, how much of that do you hear from non-retiring Republicans whispered in the hallways?

RYAN: It's not whispered anymore.

KAREM: It's shouted.

RYAN: And not only that -- yes, it's marched down the streets. Here's the bottom line. This is a nation that is browning and this is a party that is playing on the people that feel like they are on the fringe who are not part of the system in any kind of way who happen to be white men, who happen to have not received a college education, and very fearful that something could be taken away.

And I will go back to the earlier issue about taxes. There's another big piece that could hit faster than the election -- the pay-fors. This tax bill, Republicans, be it Trump Republicans or Republicans from other sectors, are saying this is not a perfect bill, and part of the reason why it's not perfect, how is it going to be paid for? And things could hit the fan with this bill very soon, particularly when they come to the entitlements where the least of these are affected, the least of these, the poor and the people of color. We hear this, this is a party that is not about diversity. This is where it comes from, because typically in Washington the axe hits the least of these when there are budgetary problems. But now even before the budget people who have real lives who are affected are on the table and they want help. They feel they are not being --

KAREM: They've blown at $1.5 trillion hole in the budget.

RYAN: And how are you going to pay for it?

KAREM: And how are you going to pay for it? Medicare, Medicaid, and the poor will pay. The rich are not going to pay.

RYAN: Entitlements are next.

KAREM: The richer will get richer and the poor are going to get poorer. That's the essence of this bill. That's what Flake is speaking to, that you have scared old white men who are cornered and holding onto their cash, and the rest of us are suffering. And that's not going to change until you flip the script in D.C.

[08:15:04] And that's not going to change until you flip the script in D.C. And that's not going to change until you have some real leadership in an opposition party and at least some people in the GOP who acknowledge that there are other people in the country rather than aging old rich white guys --

CAMEROTA: All right.

KAREN: And like rock 'n' roll.

RYAN: It's going to take a chorus of white men and evangelicals, a course of white men, and evangelicals, necons and even Tea Partiers or Freedom Party people to come and say this is wrong. People are not listening right now when it's just one person. It's going to take a chorus.

CAMEROTA: It's going to be very interesting year. Brian Karem --

KAREM: And the Mueller -- I'm sorry, and the Mueller investigation continues. That's what you got to keep your eye on, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: There you go. Thank you both for all of your reporting.

All right. Could President Trump's repeated attacks on the FBI impact special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation? We will talk about that with a former campaign adviser to President Trump, next.


CAMEROTA: President Trump taking aim at top officials in the FBI in a series of tweets over the holiday weekend. The president and Republicans argue the FBI is politically biased.

Joining us now is former Trump campaign adviser, Michael Caputo.

Good morning, Michael. MICHAEL CAPUTO, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN ADVISOR: Good morning, Alisyn. Merry Christmas.

CAMEROTA: Merry Christmas to you as well.

So, is this the strategy of the Trump administration now? It's no longer he's not going to fire Bob Mueller, which is what Democrats are worried about.

[08:20:03] It's going to be death by a thousand cuts so that by the time Mueller releases any sort of finding, well, it's tainted.

CAPUTO: Well, I said all along that the president is not going to fire Director Mueller, I don't see any reason why. Should I think the president has to get control of his investigation? I think also the president is taking it upon himself, I think successfully, pointing out the very obvious bias that some members of the investigation and former members of the investigation have. I think the person --

CAMEROTA: There you go.

CAPUTO: Go ahead, Alisyn?

CAMEROTA: The former members of the investigation. I mean, when you say that Bob Mueller has to get control of it, hasn't he? He reassigned the folks. He saw a tweet that seemed to be anti-Trump, he reassigned them and got them off the investigation.

CAPUTO: Right, text, between two members of his investigation who were having an illicit affair. But at the same time, we have Weissmann, who's a senior member of the investigation sending similar e-mails to Sally Yates, the former member of the Department of Justice, and also attending Hillary Clinton's victory party.

You know, it's not that Mueller has done nothing about it. In fact, he was quick to fire Strzok and Strzok's lover was reassigned as well. I think that the president is highlighting this bias so that the bias stops. Weissmann is still there and I don't know why he's still there.

And the American, but look --


CAPUTO: Go ahead?

CAMEROTA: So, because he went to Hillary Clinton's victory party, he needs to be gone, and then, is that it? Then, can the investigation move forward?

CAPUTO: As long as there's no more bias and we are getting to the bottom of that. I think also Congress should be able to access -- you know, the problem with Strzok's firing, the investigation was stonewalling Congress as to why he had been fired.

I understand that it was politically sensitive and they were trying to play the political game, but the problem we have here is that the FBI appears to be inherently political, inherently biased. I think the director has done a good job with Strzok. He should have been more forthcoming of why he fired Strzok. I think Weissmann needs to be gone.

And I think, you know, the director is moving forward resolutely to conclusion here.

CAMEROTA: But I mean, listen, Michael, it's just absurd on its face to think that the FBI is some den of lefty liberals. It just doesn't hold water. As you know, the people leading the investigation are Republicans and the FBI is a crime-fighting organization where I think if you did a poll, most people would say they were Republicans. It's just not the lefty organization the president is painting it as.

CAPUTO: I think the people called out like Strzok and his lover, I think Weissmann and others are an anomaly at the FBI.

CAMEROTA: So there you have it.

CAPUTO: In fact, I know a lot of FBI agents, former and present, who I've worked with over the years who were upset to the perception that the organization is political and they are upset of the behavior of some in these people at the investigation. The morale itself is a little bit low over the FBI because of the perception, and weeding it out is probably the first thing that needs to be done.

CAMEROTA: Here's Richard Painter said, ethics -- former ethics czar, using Twitter on Christmas Eve to intimidate a witness, Andrew McCabe, in a criminal investigation is not a very Christian way to celebrate a holiday, but that does make Mr. Mueller's job easier, and that's a nice thing to do. Merry Christmas.

Here's what Norm Eisen says, also ethics czar, normally, someone being investigated for obstruction of justice who intimidates and threatens, three key witnesses against him, Jim Comey, Andrew McCabe, and Jim Baker, risk additional witness tampering charges.

Do you think the president is getting in trouble with these tweets?

CAPUTO: Of course not. Richard Painter was in charge of filling out forms in the White House. He wasn't much of a czar at all.

CAMEROTA: The president is trying to intimidate these folks?

CAPUTO: I get that.

Of course he's not. Listen, as far as I am concerned, we remember the text between Strzok and his lover talking about an insurance policy that was discussed in Andrew McCabe's office. As far as I am concerned, the president's tweets are insurance for the American people to make sure that its leading -- the law enforcement agency remains unbiased.

CAMEROTA: Except that that's not what he's saying. He's going after these people personally, and you don't think that that is somehow having a chilling affect or that it could be in the eyes of the law?

CAPUTO: I don't think he's going after them personally. He's going after them professionally. He's not talking about what they are doing at home. He's talking about what they're doing at work. And the American people deserves --


CAMEROTA: Well, he's made up nicknames for them, leaking Comey, you know, he has all these nicknames for them that seem to suggest their character. But the point is, is that the president -- this is an investigation and the president is inserting himself into the middle of the investigation.

CAPUTO: Which is nothing different than what has gone on with the Ken Starr investigation. This is politics as usual.

[08:25:00] I know that's disappointing for some people, but the president is highlighting the bias to the American people for a good reason. If there's going to be an investigation, it must be unbiased and I believe Director Mueller has done something about it, but he needs to do more.

CAMEROTA: Do you think because Andrew McCabe, deputy director, do you think because Andrew McCabe's wife had political aspirations that Andrew McCabe can't do his job?

CAPUTO: I think it's actually preposterous crazy that the wife of a senior member of the FBI gathered in $700,000 plus in donations from political leaders who were very closely affiliated with Hillary Clinton. I think that would be a red flag that would keep Andrew McCabe from touching anything to do with Donald Trump, anything at all.

But, you know, this is an odd word, and I think during the time when Hillary and Bill Clinton had a deep grip on Washington, McCabe thought it was just fine.

It's not just fine. The American people understand when your wife runs for office and she gets most of her donations from a political class that is a highly partisan, it's something that needs to be looked at.

CAMEROTA: So if a woman -- if the wife has political aspirations, that renders her husband incapable of doing his job?

CAPUTO: Well, there's -- listen, all of us out there are working couples, wife and husband, understand that our careers impact each other. And this was one was about as partisan as you can get. Running in a party and gathering donations from somebody indirectly and directly who was under federal investigation by the organization where her husband works, it stinks, Alisyn.


CAPUTO: And thankfully, it's being highlighted by the president. CAMEROTA: You agree with the president in other words, Andrew McCabe is incapable of being impartial?

CAPUTO: I think Andrew McCabe needs to be challenged on his impartiality. I think the president is doing that, and I appreciate those tweets and I consider them an insurance policy for America.

CAMEROTA: OK, Michael Caputo, always interesting to get your perspective. Thank you very much.

CAPUTO: Thanks, Alisyn.


WEIR: Coming up, retiring Republicans in Congress are warning their colleagues of looming signs the GOP could be in deep trouble. Will becoming the party of Trump cost them the majorities in Congress? A debate you do not want to miss, next.