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Warning About GOP's Future; Trump Blasts Russia Investigation; Trump Touts Bonuses; Utah Paper Calls for Hatch to Retire. Aired 8:30- 9a ET

Aired December 26, 2017 - 08:30   ET


[08:31:14] BILL WEIR, CNN ANCHOR: Senator Jeff Flake and Congressman Charlie Dent are two Republicans who are about to enter their final year in office and they have a warning for their own party, unless serious changes are made in 2018, they could be headed for disaster.


SEN. JEFF FLAKE (R), ARIZONA: 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're appealing to older white men and there are just a, you know, a limited number of them.

REP. CHARLIE DENT (R), PENNSYLVANIA: You're going to be running into a headwind. You better be prepared for the worst and hope for the best. But just be prepared for the worst because this could be a really tough year.


WEIR: Let us discuss this now with CNN political commentators Ana Navarro and Ben Ferguson.

Merry Christmas to both of you. Thanks for being with us.

BEN FERGUSON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Merry Christmas. It's good to be here.

ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Thank you. I'm so glad -- I'm so glad you're able to say that, you know, after this frontal assault, after we finally were able to rescue Christmas from the chains that bound her for so many decades. Thank you, Trump. Thank you. Thank you that we've been able to say "Christmas."

WEIR: We're all waiting for the Ken Burns documentary on the war on Christmas and on the battle over fruit cake.

But, Ben, what do you think of Senator Flake's comments there, that your party is in the death rattle?

FERGUSON: Yes. A scorned politician who realized he couldn't win in his own state, couldn't even win in a primary when the last polls were coming out that showed that he was in serious trouble because the people in his own state, and a bunch of them were white guys, said we're walking away from you.

I think it's pretty funny when you see politicians as Flake come out as some sort of, you know, senior statesman at -- you know, who's letting us know the warning signs that he sees coming when he didn't even see those same warning signs on his own seat in Congress.

I think the party has left Flake more than it's left Donald Trump, as he tries to imply here. And the bottom line is, it's always a little tougher for the president, in a mid-term election after they win. We've seen that historically.

Does that mean that Flake's advice of, you know, doomsday is coming is reality? No. I -- Flake should have paid more attention at home and maybe he wouldn't be sitting here trying to be some sort of, you know, storyteller about the future when he couldn't even figure it out in his own race.

WEIR: Ana, what about that argument that this is a guy on his way out the door and the party left him?

NAVARRO: You know, maybe if it was just two isolated cases, but it's not. We really are having an exodus of Republicans deciding not to run again. Some of them have been very long time Republicans, leadership, people like my own congresswoman, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who won her district last time by the biggest margin of any district in the United States, 20 plus points. And yet I think, you know, there's some people who just can't stomach what Washington has become, can't stomach what the Republican Party of 2018-2017 looks like and don't want to be part of it.

There's others, who, like Ben says, could probably not win their primaries, but would have won generals and would have kept that seat in Republican hands. And there's others who, you know, who realized that this party maybe no longer represents them and realizes that the party has changed, has transformed. The Republican Party under Trump is a very different party than what many of us grew up with under Reagan, under Bush, and don't feel comfortable in those shoes.

So I -- you know, I think there's a lot of things going on. I think it would be folly not to pay some attention to the warning signs. It's less to me about what Flake is saying or what Dent is saying and it's more about the results in Pennsylvania, in Virginia and in other states that are, you know, showing a clear warning sign for Republicans that it's time to really recalibrate.

[08:35:03] WEIR: As we look back on the year that was, people tend to get nostalgic. We have these lists, end of year lists, and Politifact named the lie of the year, and that is the president's claim that the Russian election interference story is made up, a hoax, a witch hunt and this is obviously on the president's mind this morning as he watches his favorite show, "Fox and Friends." He just tweeted, dossier is bogus. Clinton campaign, DNC funded dossier. FBI cannot, after all this time, verify claims of the dossier and the Russian-Trump collusion. FBI tainted. And they use this crooked Hillary pile of garbage as the basis for going after the Trump campaign.

Ben, even his supporters say it would be smart not to conflate the two. That it's -- that two things can exist at the same time. Yes, the Russians did interfere the way everybody in the intelligence community agrees they did, but the Trump campaign didn't collude with that particular effort there.


WEIR: He can't help himself, though, can he?

FERGUSON: Well, I -- look, you did a better job explaining that than most have done in the media to say that, look, it's very clear that there's not any collusion that has been shown in any capacity between the Trump campaign and the Russians. Everyone that's got in trouble who's been indicted I think should have been indicted for the record, but all of their things -- I mean you look at Manafort. It was his business dealings from a decade ago that got him in trouble. It had nothing to do with the campaign itself. If you lie to the FBI, for example, you should be in trouble. Again, no collusion there with other people that have been indicted. But there has been an obsession over the last year by many to not distinguish between the two, to admit and be honest about this, intellectually honest.

Look, clearly we're spending an awful lot of taxpayer's dollars to investigate something that started with collusion. Clearly no one's been indicted for collusion. Even Democrats on Capitol Hill say they've seen no indication of collusion between Donald Trump, his campaign, the White House and the Russians. And if people would start distinguishing it the way that you just described it, I think the president would stop feeling like he needs to tweet. But if you ask the average guy walking down the street doing Christmas shopping, do you think there was collusion between Donald Trump, there's a lot of people that are going to say yes because they see only headlines. They don't read into the story. And there have been too many people that have been trying to make connections that are not there, and that's irresponsible.

WEIR: Ana, the president just can't let this thing go about the fake dossier. How do you see this year playing out in terms of the investigation? Is he going to kill it death by 1,000 cuts and by the time we do hear the findings of it his base won't pay attention? Project for us.

NAVARRO: First of all, I don't know how the people from Politifact were able to come up with one lie of the year from thousands and thousands of entries that we have had in the past 365 days. But, OK.

As to your question, I think he's going to continue fighting the battle in his head. You know, to me, Donald Trump is like a, you know, half crazed Don Quixote fighting battles in his head. He's very good at laying the groundwork for his base. He's very good at planting seeds of doubt within his base. I think he is going to continue this battle.

What we have seen with Donald Trump consistently is that he does not let go of things. He is like -- like a dog with a bone. Whether it is illegal immigrants voting in the elections, whether it's crooked Hillary, whether it's -- I mean you name it, he's got recurring things to which he goes to over and over and over again. That's not going to change this year.

I do think that he's going to be watching the elections very closely because if the House goes Democrat or the Senate goes Democrat in 2018, he's going to have a completely different scenario as to who is listening to these testimonies and who is running these investigations. He's not going to have a Devin Nunes carrying the water for him in the House. He's not going to have folks that are trying to protect him and cover him. And if anybody's got a lot playing on this, it's Donald Trump.

WEIR: Ana Navarro, Ben Ferguson, always good to see you two spar. Appreciate your time this morning. Thanks.


CAMEROTA: Man of La Mancha or man of Mar-a-Lago. We could play with that.

WEIR: Oh, very good. Tilting windmills.

CAMEROTA: She planted the -- she planted the seed. Yes, there's a lot to play with there.

All right, meanwhile, listen to this. Your favorite story.

An unexpected and unwanted gift for Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin. Why the Secret Service had to deal with this secret Santa. That's next.


[08:43:24] CAMEROTA: Time now for the "Five Things to Know for Your New Day."

Number one, President Trump says he's ready to get back to work from his Mar-a-Lago estate today. This after a series of tweets attacking the FBI and the press over the holiday weekend.

WEIR: A Christmas night scare for passengers on a JetBlue flight to Boston. The plane spun out after hitting a patch of ice upon landing. But no one was hurt.

CAMEROTA: Russian officials banning an opposition leader from running against Vladimir Putin in the upcoming presidential election. Activist Alexei Navalny being sidelined for a previous embezzlement conviction. He says it's political. He plans to appeal.

WEIR: And the eldest daughter of Eric Garner, who died after a New York City officer put him in a banned chokehold, is in a medically induced coma this morning after suffering a heart attack. Since her father's death, Erica Garner has become an activist against officers abusing their power.

CAMEROTA: The Secret Service questioning a man who claims to have sent a manure-filled package to Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin over the weekend. The psychologist who says he's the sender says it was a response to the Republican tax overhaul that he says was bull blank.

WEIR: It kind of upset the neighborhood in (INAUDIBLE).

CAMEROTA: Yes, that's an unwelcomed Christmas gift.

WEIR: Right. Right.

For more on the "Five Things to Know," go to for the very latest.

CAMEROTA: OK, so a blistering editorial is slamming Utah Senator Orrin Hatch for his, quote, unquenchable thirst for power. We get "The Bottom Line," next.


[08:48:54] CAMEROTA: President Trump is selling his tax plan to the people, pointing to several corporations now offering bonuses or wage increases to their employees after this first legislative win was signed into law.

So will the tax cuts trickle down to all Americans? Let's get "The Bottom Line" with CNN's political director, David Chalian.

David, great to see you.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Good morning. Merry Christmas, guys.

CAMEROTA: So -- Merry Christmas to you.

Let's just put up on the screen, these are just like nine or ten companies that we know of that are giving $1,000 bonuses, most of these, to, you know, thousands of their employees, sometimes in the case of AT&T hundreds of thousands of their workers. Wells Fargo is boosting their minimum wage to $15 an hour.

Listen, all of these companies could have done it the day before the tax overhaul. They could have done it last year. They've been sitting on record profits. However, they used the tax plan as the impetus to do it. And so, for 2018, for the midterms, when people see an extra thousand dollars in their wallet, doesn't this help the Republicans?

CHALIAN: Yes, I mean, that's no small thing, if you're somebody getting that bonus or getting that wage increase, you're certainly going to feel better about the money you have in your pocket, what you can spend on your family. It will sort of increase your optimism and -- about the economy as you look out to the future in general. That should bode well for the party in power.

[08:50:14] The question is, is that enough, just those companies and those employees. Is that widespread enough where people feel that enough and does it indeed counteract the tradeoffs, an increase in the deficits or other priorities that people may have in their minds as they head into the voting booths.

Here's the thing. You said President Trump is selling the tax plan. As you know, before he left the White House on Friday for Mar-a-Lago, he said he doesn't even have to sell it, it will sell itself. That's the bet Republicans are making. And the answer is, we don't know, Alisyn. We don't know, will this work, this trickle-down theory. We have some history to guide us that it doesn't always work to the intended effect, but we -- we are not sure how it will work this year and that is the big bet Republicans have placed and it's what we're going to see as the year unfolds ahead of us if indeed people are feeling better about the economy.

WEIR: Yes, we're going to go out there and hope for the best, but report the truth, and there's plenty of stories of factories shrinking in this as automation takes hold.

David, I want to talk about Utah for a second here. An interesting story happening as "The Salt Lake Tribune" releases an editorial that says, Orrin Hatch, bless his heart, he's been around longer than three-fifth of the state has been alive, but it's time for him to go. Having finally caught the great white whale of tax reform, it would be great if he were to call it a career. If he doesn't, the voters should end it for him.

I heard this when I was covering the Bears (INAUDIBLE) story of plenty of really deep red Republicans saying, yes, it might be time for Orrin to go. How would this -- what kind of dynamic is happening in Washington around this, you know, lion of the Senate?

CHALIAN: Right. So let's just first be really clear. If indeed Orrin Hatch does retire, I don't think Utah is in play for the Democrats.

WEIR: No. Exactly.

CHALIAN: So it's not going to affect the balance of power. But this comes on the heals, you'll remember, Orrin Hatch standing on the South Lawn just last week after the tax bill passed praising President Trump perhaps as one of the greatest presidents of all-time. That is not how Utahans, who are diehard Republicans for the most part, many of them, feel about Donald Trump. We saw a resistance to Trump among this core Republican base component in Utah throughout 2016. You remember there was a third party candidate who actually ran really well in Utah against the president there. So there has not been a lot of love lost between Utah Republicans writ large and Donald Trump. And I think what you're seeing here in the editorial is they're trying to sort of harness some of that reaction that they've heard from the hometown about Hatch's attachment to Trump.

I will say this, Mitt Romney, the former presidential candidate, is waiting in the wings if indeed Orrin Hatch does decide to retire. Mitt Romney and many of his aides have been discussing the notion of a possible Senate run. And we know that President Trump doesn't love the idea of a Mitt Romney in the United States Senate -- WEIR: Right.

CHALIAN: Which is why he's been encouraging Trump -- Hatch to run for re-election.

WEIR: A democrat may not take that seat, but Mitt Romney is not -- is not a Trump supporter by any stretch.

CAMEROTA: Right, but, David, is this more part of the sort of identity crisis that the Republican Party seems to be going through right now as evidenced by Senator Jeff Flake and Charlie Dent and what they said over the weekend about it's not the party that they believed they knew or that they feel a part of and that there's just all -- you know, obviously Donald Trump has sort of shaken up the whole system.

CHALIAN: Well, there's no doubt about that. And you are right, we haven't -- it wasn't just a blip in 2016 during the Republican primaries, Alisyn, that we saw sort of this rift of what you're saying, an identity crisis inside the Republican Party. We saw it continue throughout all of 2017 as the president was serving his first year and it's going to play out throughout much of 2018. There is a divide in the party. You -- I mean and Jeff Flake and Charlie Dent, I mean Arizona and Pennsylvania are not Utah, right? So there are rich opportunity for Democrats in Pennsylvania and Arizona to try to make hay of the fact that there's this rift inside the Republican Party.

WEIR: Our latest poll on the 2018 midterms, which party are you most likely to vote for? Among registered voters, Democrats, 56 percent, Republicans, 38.


WEIR: That's a pretty big gap, isn't it, historically?

CHALIAN: It's huge.

WEIR: Yes.

CHALIAN: Historically, it's huge. And we'll see if the Democrats can maintain that kind of sort of unprecedented edge throughout this entire election year. One would imagine that that might narrow.

But, Bill, even if that number was an eight-point gap, that would be really significant for the Democrats here. There is a wave coming and the question is, is it going to be big enough for Democrats to actually retain control of the House and Senate majorities.

CAMEROTA: David Chalian, great to talk to you. Thanks so much for "The Bottom Line."

CHALIAN: Thanks, guys.

CAMEROTA: OK, "The Good Stuff" is next.


[08:58:51] WEIR: Time for "The Good Stuff."

It was a simple Christmas gift, a full-length mirror from mom. But it was what she saw in the mirror that was the real gift. Check it out.





WEIR: That is a Navy mom who could not stop screaming when she realized that person in the mirror is her daughter, home early for Christmas. The sailor who posted the video on Twitter came up with the unique reveal and that thing has been seen more than 8 million times, thousands thanking the family for their service.

I could watch soldier reunions all day, every day.

CAMEROTA: Oh, of course. Me too. But how brilliant. That's low tech. Just set up a mirror and have somebody stand behind you.

WEIR: Right.

CAMEROTA: That doesn't require a lot of planning. But it's brilliant.

WEIR: Somebody did something similar with, hey, take a picture of mom, and then her child, the service member, pops up behind. And then when you show them the picture, she realizes it. It's so great.

CAMEROTA: It is --

WEIR: Pure human love.

CAMEROTA: So good. That's wonderful. What a great holiday Christmas moment there. Fantastic.

OK, so I'll see you tomorrow.

WEIR: Yes, if you let me back in, I'm here.

CAMEROTA: Absolutely.

WEIR: All right.

CAMEROTA: Fantastic to be with you.

[09:00:01] Time now for CNN "NEWSROOM" with Pamela Brown.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Well, good morning to you. I'm Pamela Brown, in for John and Poppy this morning. A lot going on already.