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Obama Warns Against Irresponsible Social Media Use; Prince Harry Grills Obama In Rapid-Fire Exchange; Homeowners Scramble To Prepay 2018 Property Taxes. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired December 27, 2017 - 09:00   ET


[09:00:00] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: -- proposal in just a few weeks, it's already facing some major potential roadblocks, though, namely critical bipartisan support.

With months to go before a crucial election, the president needs to convince Democrats to get behind him on this one.

Let's go to our Abby Phillip. She is with the president who is spending the holiday week in Florida.

Good morning. It looks lovely there, Abby. I hope you're getting some nice time which we, you know, television hits to enjoy the weather. But look, I mean, infrastructure is such a bipartisan issue. Does the White House think they will get Democrats behind them on this one?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Poppy. Yes, the White House does believe that this will be the vehicle for that elusive bipartisanship in Washington. The president is set in a couple of weeks to unveil a big infrastructure plan that remember he's been talking about since the campaign. He promised $1 trillion in infrastructure spending as a candidate, but the White House tells us that the plan that he's going to unveil just before the State of the Union is going to be about $200 billion, so that's a much smaller plan than what's originally proposed, $200 billion over 10 years.

And the hope is that that money will then spur some private sector funding, but Democrats are already crying foul. They're saying that that is simply not enough money to do what the president promised would be done to rebuild roads and bridges around this country, and Democrats have already waited eight or nine months for the president to roll this out.

A lot of bridges have been burned in that time, so it's not clear how much they're going to be willing to work with the president on these especially in 2018, a big election year for both parties -- Poppy.

HARLOW: It is indeed. Abby Phillip, thank you very, very much. We'll be watching.

Meantime, the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee wants answers and wants answers today on those controversial text messages about President Trump between two top FBI employees. Now the deadline, as Chuck Grassley set, is for today. Will he get those answers? We will see.

What are they about? Well, namely one of the exchanges in a series of text messages between these FBI agents, an FBI lawyer and an FBI agent calling then candidate Trump an idiot and awful, among other things. Senator Grassley says the text raised questions about possible bias in the Russia investigation and the Hillary Clinton e-mail investigation.

Jessica Schneider joins us now.

Look, this came about, you know, less than a month ago, a few weeks ago from Senator Grassley. This is a letter to the Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein demanding answers on these sort of seven points by today. What are the key things he wants? And any indication that Rosenstein is going to give him those answers in writing?

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Poppy, that's still a question this morning as to whether or not Rosenstein will respond. So I've been in touch with the Justice Department. They say they've been in contact with Senator Grassley and the Judiciary Committee, but really beyond that there's no other comment from the DOJ. So it's likely that if the two sides are talking they could come to terms on what can and can't be produced.

So it was on December 13th that Senator Grassley sent a three-page letter to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein demanding extensive explanations about those anti-Trump texts between FBI agent Peter Strzok and FBI lawyer Lisa Page. They amounted in the hundreds.

Now Senator Grassley in his letter, he hones in on one particular text from Strzok sent during the campaign. And it said this, "I want to believe the path you threw out for consideration in Andy's office that there's no way he gets elected, but I'm afraid we can't take that risk. It's like an insurance policy in the unlikely event you die before you're 40."

So Andy presumably there referring to Deputy FBI director Andrew McCabe. And while the rest of the text really hasn't been explained, Republicans believe that the insurance policy in that text relates to the dossier that of course contains some unsubstantiated salacious allegations about Donald Trump. So Grassley wrote in his letter to Rosenstein this, he said, "Some of these texts appear to go beyond merely expressing a private political opinion and appear to cross the line into taking some official action to create a, quote, 'insurance policy' against the Trump presidency."

Of course, Poppy, we've seen Republicans seizing on these texts as evidence of political bias in the Russia investigation. Since Strzok was on Mueller's team until this summer when those texts were discovered. So here's Republican Francis Rooney of Florida complaining about this.


REP. FRANCIS ROONEY (R), FLORIDA: I'm very concerned that the DOJ and the FBI, whether you want to call it deep state or what, are kind of off the rails. I don't want to discredit them. I would like to see the directors of those agencies purge it. And so look, we've got a lot of great agents, a lot of great lawyers here, those are the people that I want the American people to see and know that good work is being done, not these people who are kind of the deep state.


SCHNEIDER: So now Senate Judiciary chair Chuck Grassley, he's the latest one making the call looking for more answers about these texts that Republicans have been railing against.

[09:05:03] But, you know, Poppy, it was at a House Judiciary Committee hearing just earlier this month that Deputy AG Rosenstein, who was appointed by President Trump, he defended Robert Mueller's probe and he said that FBI agents they are entitled to their political opinions, and really stressed, Poppy, that that political opinion is different from any political bias that could influence their work.

But still a lot of questions to be answered. We'll see if Rosenstein responds since the deadline, it is in fact today -- Poppy.

HARLOW: Yes. It is. Thank you very much for the reporting, Jessica Schneider, our justice correspondent.

Joining me now, Errol Louis, CNN political commentator, Kaitlin Huey- Burns, national political reporter for RealClearPolitics, and Patrick Healy, CNN political analyst.

So, Errol, let me just begin with you. I mean, re-reading over this Grassley letter, one of the key things he's asking here is, look, you know, you have this IG investigating the Hillary Clinton e-mail investigation because, of course, Peter Strzok, who sent some of those message was leading that investigation that they've, you know, completely exonerated her, et cetera. Well, not completely exonerated but no criminal wrongdoing was found.

And they're saying have you taken the steps, Grassley says, to determine whether or not the escalation of the Russia investigation might have been the result of, in his words, political animus? Will Rod Rosenstein respond with all the details Grassley is asking for? And do you think it's legitimate what he's asking for?

ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It's a fair question to ask. If there's any perception that the investigation is tainted, then that is a problem. So to ask a question is not a problem. And to ask the question, though, and to sort of couple it with what Representative Rooney was talking about, let's purge the FBI.

HARLOW: Right.

LOUIS: Rushing to a conclusion, trying to disable the investigation rather than sort of safeguard it and investigate whether or not it's being done properly is an entirely different kind of a proposition.

What I see coming from Capitol Hill, though, is much more of the latter than the former. It doesn't seem to be a legitimate question. If Senator Grassley wants more information, then by all means let's get all of the hundreds and hundreds of communications out, let's ask what the norm is. Let's ask about this question about whether or not FBI agents are allowed to have political opinions, apparently they are. And let's find out if there was any specific problem.

But that question has to be asked in good faith. To be asked just as whether or not this is an excuse to have a purge of the FBI so we can protect the president. I think people could already see through that.

HARLOW: Patrick, to you, I mean, you say that Republicans in your opinion in large part are being two-faced about how they're going about this. How so?

PATRICK HEALY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. I mean, President Trump and the White House is sort of saying over and over we are cooperating with the special counsel's office, we're doing everything possible to be responsive to them. President Trump has said, no, I'm not going to fire Bob Mueller, that that's not on the table, and yet at the same time you see Republicans in Congress, outside, you know, from kind of the Steve Bannon camp elsewhere, who are just sort of chipping away at the credibility of this investigation.

Mostly through smoke, Poppy. I mean, it's mostly this sort of insinuation was very good at during the campaign, sort of suggested that -- suggesting that something is going on here, or, you know, there's something that we need to get to the bottom of, and President Trump with his tweets, you know, is someone who is raising questions, again about the FBI, the FBI leadership without offering any kind of proof, you know.

And also, you know, someone with the power of his Twitter account, frankly, you know, someone who could tamp down a lot of this talk and kind of rumors about, you know, deep state activity by just saying let the investigation go on.

HARLOW: Right.

HEALY: So on the one hand they're saying we're cooperating. On the other hand it's this sort of insinuations.

HARLOW: Well, it's interesting, too, and I mean, it is the White House counsel Ty Cobb and others who are saying just give them all the documents, let this go forward, let the investigation, you know, fully finished. And then you have president with his 45.2 million Twitter followers just yesterday saying in caps, FBI tainted.

I mean, if the White House and the president really have nothing to hide here as they have said repeatedly, they say no collusion, no collusion, no collusion, why do that? Why appear so panicked?

CAITLIN HUEY-BURNS, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, REALCLEARPOLITICS: Right. And that's exactly the thing that raises even more questions about what is kind of behind all of this. I mean, this is the president trying to have it both ways here really. He talks about the idea that the White House is being cooperative with the special counsel. The White House has said repeatedly they're not thinking about firing Robert Mueller, but at the same time he has allies in Congress who are out there in the public view working to undermine the investigation and sway public opinion about it. And in a lot of cases it's working.

[09:10:08] And that CNN poll that came out last week, you had more Republicans that believed Donald Trump over Robert Mueller and -- or disapproved of Robert Mueller and among those who were supportive of Donald Trump, who approved of his job as president, the job he's doing as president, also disapproved of Robert Mueller, so trying to muddy the waters here certainly which races even more questions than whatever they are trying to do here.

But this is something certainly weighing on the president because his approval ratings are low, heading into a midterm election, overshadowing everything that he has tried to put forward, but overshadowed by his own making.

HARLOW: Look, the president has attacked the FBI, the Justice Department, Mueller, the investigation, you know, six months ago, but the attacks have certainly ramped up since we learned that, you know, his former national security adviser Michael Flynn was cooperating, actively cooperating.

Let's move on infrastructure, Errol Louis. The White House is arguing here we're putting this forward, the plan in a few weeks, and they think they're going to get bipartisan support on this because it's hard for a lawmaker from any party to say, you know, we don't want to fix your crumbling bridges and roads. I'm from Minnesota, we all remember what happened to the bridge in Minnesota, right? But at the same time you've got CNN polling that shows such high disapproval of the president from Democrats. It's politically risky for Democrats to get on board here, no?

LOUIS: Well, that's right. There's a political risk, there's also I think a substantive disagreement that will come to light when we see the details of the infrastructure plan. If the plan tracks at all with what was promised during the campaign, it is not a Democratic- friendly infrastructure plan. What was talked about during the campaign, a paper that was put out by Wilbur Ross, was the idea of having tax credits available to private industry to fix certain kinds of infrastructure.

And it would be the kind that can generate revenue for them. So not all infrastructure projects are created equal. A bridge in a suburban subdivision where you could charge high tolls and actually pay for that bridge, that's one thing and that's going to be Trump friendly, but something -- you know, to sort of put new pipes in Flint, Michigan, where you're not going to be able to charge rate payers a lot of money, it's going to be considerably less attractive to private industry.

HARLOW: This is a little bit different than that, I hear you, though. That was the trillion-dollar plan that was floated by the president when he was running.

Patrick, what you're looking at now is a $200 billion investment in infrastructure that the president hopes would be matched by $800 billion in state and local funding.

HEALY: Yes, this is --

HARLOW: Which can happen in some places. It can't happen in other places like Flint, for example, where they're more strapped.

HEALY: Sure. I mean, you're going to get a two-tiered situation where some states are going to embrace this and other states aren't, and the people who live in those states that don't want any part of this, or don't want to spend money to match, you know, are going to end up screwed.

You know, the issue, though, you know, Poppy, is that this is just night and day from what candidate Trump proposed. I mean, this was his sort of one big policy idea that he wanted to work with Democrats to create job growth and improvements in the nation's, you know, bridges, tunnels, rail systems. You know, this was sort of his serious idea. And now scaling back and $200 billion is not nothing but it is just night and day from what he proposed.

It's interesting, Poppy. I was at the FDR Library last week and just looking at the first 100 days of President Roosevelt in 1933 and the creation of the Civilian Conservation Corps, the passage of the National Railroad Emergency Act. I mean, very different economic circumstances certainty back then, but it did remind me again of the job growth and wage growth engine that infrastructure can be.


HEALY: And President Trump knew that when he was running. He talked about that to me and others and now this is -- you know, you're just seeing sort of a watered-down idea.

HARLOW: We'll see what is actually on paper when it comes in a few weeks.

Thank you very much, Patrick, Caitlin, Errol. Appreciate it.

President Obama's one-on-one with Prince Harry. He doesn't call out President Trump by name, doesn't mention the name once, but he does warn about the divisiveness on social media.

And it was an eight-hour flight to nowhere. An unauthorized passenger boards a jet bound for Tokyo. The crew finds out four hours later, turns around. How did this happen?

Plus a winter blast, bitter cold across much of the country. One Pennsylvania city getting five feet of snow in three days. A city very near and dear to our hears on this show. We'll tell you why, ahead.



POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Just released this morning, Prince Harry's interview with former President Obama, and while the former president did not mention the current president, President Trump, an avid user of social media, he did have a message for social media users in general. Listen to this.


BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The question I think really has to do with how do we harness this technology in a way that allows a multiplicity of voices, allows a diversity of views, but doesn't lead to a balkanization of our society but rather continues to promote ways of finding common ground.

And I'm not sure government can legislate that, but what I do believe is that all of us in leadership have to find ways in which we can re- create a common space on the internet. One of the dangers of the internet is people can have entirely different realities, just cocooned in information that reinforces their current biases.


HARLOW: Our Melissa Bell is in London with the highlights. So, this is an interview taped a few months ago, just released this week, a BBC interview, fascinating to hear from both of them. But he didn't mention the current president by name but it's pretty obvious.

MELISSA BELL, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely no mention of Donald Trump or even, Poppy, any of the major issues facing the United States or indeed the world. This has been a carefully scripted and prepared interview (inaudible) that was record several weeks ago.

[09:20:08] And yet, it remained fascinating to listen to Barack Obama talk about his approach to power, what life had been like since he left, and also without specifically addressing the current administration, a number of issues around how its dealt.

For instance, he pointed out that one of the big differences for him was the fact that now that he's no longer the president, he's no longer in charge of things like the response to the hurricanes that have hit the United States over the course of 2017 in Houston, Florida, and of course, in Puerto Rico.

And yet, he said, this gave him time to focus on the underlying problem of climate change and how best to combat that. That was about as close as the former president got to referring to the current administration, either its approach to climate change or indeed its handling of some of the situations the United States has faced.

But this was insight, nonetheless, Poppy, into a man that we simply haven't heard from a great deal over the course of the last few months. Now towards the end of the interview, Prince Harry had a bit of fun with the former American president, asking him a number of quick-fire questions, and he began with a bit of sibling rivalry, would he pick Harry or his brother, William? Have a listen.


PRINCE HARRY: Harry or William?

OBAMA: William right now.

PRINCE HARRY: Titanic or The Bodyguard?

OBAMA: Titanic.

PRINCE HARRY: Suits or the good wife.

OBAMA: Suits obviously.

PRINCE HARRY: Great, great answer. Cigarettes or gum?

OBAMA: Gum now, baby.

PRINCE HARRY: White House or Buckingham Palace?

OBAMA: White House, just because Buckingham Palace looks like it would take a really long time to mow. A lot of upkeep.

PRINCE HARRY: Queen or the queen?

OBAMA: The queen.


BELL: What was also extremely interesting about this as you heard there, Poppy, was one man who's all been in the limelight for an awfully longtime opposite another who is even more perhaps in the limelight these days as a result of the wedding that we're expecting on May 19th. The reference to "suits" there, Meghan Markle, Prince Harry's fiancee.

HARLOW: So, there is your reporting as I know you've seen here in the U.S. it's in the "New York Post" that they will invite the Obamas to the wedding, and of course, the Obamas did not go to the previous royal wedding a few years ago. Do we know if they're on the invite list?

BELL: There's an awful lot of speculation about this, Poppy, as you can imagine especially in the context where the invitation that had been extended for statements of the United Kingdom to Donald Trump, you'll remember, in the days just after his inauguration when he was paid that visit, the first by a foreign leader by the British Prime Minister Theresa May, has since, of course, been the subject of a great deal of controversy, speculation.

The subject also petitions by a number of people here in the United Kingdom extremely uncomfortable with the idea of the current American president visiting the United Kingdom given the controversies that surround him. So, if indeed, the Obamas were invited to the wedding, you can imagine that it would pose a sort of diplomatic question to officials. Of course, that guest list will be drawn up by Buckingham Palace. Prince Harry was asked specifically about it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) PRINCE HARRY: We share the same kind of mindset on the charitable sector, foundations and mainly on the youth of today. The young people of this world are incredibly inspirational.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well enough to invite him to your wedding?

PRINCE HARRY: Well, I don't know about that. We haven't put the invites or the guest list together yet, so who knows whether he would be invited or not. We'll have to wait for that surprise.


BELL: This, of course, Poppy, is just the beginning, the U.K.'s gripped by this fever as we approach the May 19th date, a whole lot of attention being paid to Meghan Markle, this new addition to the royal family, who spent her first Christmas at Buckingham Palace -- Poppy.

HARLOW: Melissa Bell, the intrigue continues. Thank you, my friend.

The scramble is on, perhaps in your county right now. County tax offices across the country are packed with homeowners. Why? They actually want to give the government money, seriously. They want to pay their 2018 property taxes before the end of the year. Why?

Because the new tax law puts a cap on what you can deduct for state, local and property taxes. Right now, there is no cap. Alison Kosik is here with more. When it comes to money, people will wait in line forever and ever.

ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: This time they're waiting in line to give their money away and they are trying to get their property taxes for 2017 in time for 2018 because those tax laws will be kicking in.

So, the reason they're doing this is to try to take advantage of the 2017 laws that will allow them to get those unlimited deductions. A few things you need to do to make sure this is worthwhile for you to do.

First of all, my suggestion is call your municipality or go to the website and find out if they can even accept this money ahead of time. If they can, there's probably a deadline of December 31st. Make sure your check or envelope is post marked for December 31st.

[09:25:12] But keep in mind, even if you get this money in, there's no guarantee that you'll be able to take these unlimited deductions, guess who it's up to? It's up to the IRS to figure this out. Many people are banking on the fact that IRS is will allow you to prepay those taxes and get those deductions for 2017.

All right. Let's continue talking money, the market is opening in about 5 minutes. It looks like a flat start to today, but it is a holiday shortened trading week, usually a quiet week. I think you'll see investors taking their winnings and going home.

The Dow and S&P already up in the double digits for the year. Apple shares tanked 2.5 percent yesterday, Poppy, on news from analysts that the iPhone X liked sales could be disappointing -- Poppy.

HARLOW: We'll see what happens with that money when it's repatriated. Alison Kosik, thank you very much.

All right. So, a plane takes off from LAX flies for eight hours and lands, guess where? LAX, how did this happen? An unauthorized person ended up on that plane so it had to boomerang. Why, though? Ahead.