Return to Transcripts main page


GOP Braces for 2018 Midterms; Deadly Attack in Kabul; Israel Names Wall After Trump; Democrat Delivers Dream; Aired 9:30-10:00a

Aired December 28, 2017 - 09:30   ET



[09:31:15] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back. I'm Poppy Harlow in New York.

Republicans close out 2017 with a win on tax reform, but is it enough to fuel the party in those critical midterms? My next guest says his party needs to prepare for the worst, hope for the best.

With me now, Republican Congressman Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania.

Nice to have you here. Thanks for joining us.

REP. CHARLIE DENT (R), PENNSYLVANIA: Thank you, Poppy. Great to be with you, as always.

HARLOW: So, you are one of 27 Republicans not seeking re-election in the new year. That's compared to 15 Democrats. How much of a factor do you believe Donald Trump plays overall in that number and how much of a factor did the president play in your decision?

DENT: Well, at least in my case, I'd say that the president was a factor but not the factor for me deciding to leave. I've been thinking about leaving Congress since 2013. Ever since the government shutdown, I really thought it might be time to move on. So those are part of my reasons.

But certainly we're in a very challenging midterm environment. You know, the party of the president typically, you know, loses about 32 seats in a midterm like this.

HARLOW: Right.

DENT: So I think most of my colleagues are well aware of the historical challenges that we face. And, of course, then Donald Trump, you know, complicates that because he's a very polarizing figure and so I suspect that our challenges will be even greater just because of that.

HARLOW: Challenges even greater because of the president than just because of what history has shown us.

At the same time, you know, he's done some big things that have been big wins for conservatives and for his base. Tax reform, first time in, you know, three decades, getting that done. DENT: Right.

HARLOW: Also Neil Gorsuch appointed to the Supreme Court. Those are big wins for your party. Are they worth the damage, what you call the dysfunction, that has also come with that?

DENT: Well, I think the wins are, like you said, the wins are very significant, on the Supreme Court and certainly tax reform. Whether or not those legislative victories will translate into political success is another matter.

One of the challenges I've noticed is that even when the president has, you know, advanced some good policies, whether it's on regulatory reform or tax reform, whatever the case may be, I think sometimes because he's become such a lightning rod, such a polarizing figure himself, that people will oppose a policy just because the president supports it, which is sort of absurd to think of it, but that's what -- that's the environment we live in right now.

I've noticed this in my own dealings, when I disagree with the president, there are people who are very loyal to the president who call you a sellout and a trader.

HARLOW: Right.

DENT: And there are people, you know, and then the people who oppose the president will say, oh, aren't you a great guy? You're a tough guy. You stand up. Then if you agree with the president on an issue, they'll say the same thing, you know, you're a sell-out and a traitor and, you know, how dare you.


DENT: You've gone -- you lost your mind. I mean this is what you deal with.

HARLOW: I mean --

DENT: People are just so polarized -- yes.

HARLOW: This is part of why you're leaving Washington, clearly.

But you're not leaving your party and you're not leaving your beliefs and you're not leaving your conservative roots. And you're worried about the future of your party. I mean you've said that you were absolutely concerned that the Republican Party is alienating Hispanic voters, African-American voters, female voters, younger voters.

If something does not change, what does your party look like in ten years?

DENT: Well, one of the challenges our party faces, it's become -- you know, we have a -- we have a much stronger base with older voters and white voters, obviously. But we have to do a better job reaching out to less traditional constituencies for our party. We just haven't done as good a job of it. The under 50 crowd, as I like to say, we have to do a better job with. And so that means that we have to do much --

HARLOW: But does anything tell you that's happening? I mean are you seeing that?

DENT: At the moment, no. After the 2012 presidential election, I guess Reince Priebus, when he was RNC chair, he did an autopsy and made a lot of very good recommendations at the time about reaching out to Hispanics in particular, as well as other minority groups. And so I guess what I'm saying to you now is, I think that we have gone in the wrong direction on that score.

[09:35:19] It seems that, you know, the president's campaign was really directed more at just, you know, solidifying the base. You know, again, appealing more to older white voters. He clearly, you know, alienated a lot of Hispanic voters with some of his comments on Mexicans and Latinos. And, of course, we've had the Charlottesville situation. There are, you know, obviously comments about Muslims. And so I think that has hurt us. That, you know, we're not expanding the base.

You know, I always said that politics is an excessive -- and getting elected is an exercise in inclusion, not exclusion, addition, not subtraction.

HARLOW: Well --

DENT: That is, we have to add to the -- you know, we're trying to build a coalition. We're not trying to -- this isn't a club where you're trying to keep people out. You're trying to -- this is -- this is really more of a situation where you're trying to allow -- get people into the tent, not push them out.

HARLOW: So the thing is, it worked for the president, right? I mean it worked for the president to win the Electoral College this time around. However, when you look forward to 2020, there's a fascinating analysis in "The Washington Post" by Jennifer Ruben, who's a conservative as well. She is a never Trumper. But she wrote this about the prospects for a 2020 Republican challenger for the president. If Democrats go far left, lining up behind Senator Bernie Sanders, the void in the middle of the political spectrum will be irresistibly enticing to a fiscally prudent, strong on defense, practical right center candidate who has earned credibility by opposing Trump from the get go. She names a few names, John Kasich, Mitch Daniels of Indiana, Brian Sandoval of Nevada, and she goes on.

Do you see that as a real possibility?

DENT: I actually do. I hadn't read her piece, but I think I understand what Jennifer Ruben is saying, that if the Democratic Party goes full -- I'll say full Bernie, hard left, and the Republican Party stays where it is, that opens up a lot the space in the center. I have noticed this for some time that there are many people in both political parties, you know, who are, you know, who go -- who want to go about their lives, who are not obsessed with politics. And they're working, they're doing their best and they want to see their government function. They're not ideologues. They're practical people. And there's a lot of space in between.

And I think that's where most Americans are. And I think that both parties right now are in a bad place because it seems to me that the political parties are realigning right now. And nobody's sure how this is going to sort itself out. And so, I mean, it's going to take a cycle or two to understand it.

But my party faces another challenge, is demographic. You know, we can continue just to play to the base, sure. But, you know, we see the growing numbers of Hispanics and other minorities. I mean Texas could change quite a bit over the next few cycles as -- just one example. And if we were to lose Texas, that would be a, you know, a major blow to the Republican coalition.


DENT: I see that in the western states too.

By the same token, some of the northeast -- or I'll say some of the -- I'll say the big 10 states may be trending more in the -- in the -- to the Republican advantage right now.

HARLOW: Big problems for both parties. That is your prediction as you are on the way out.

Congressman, it's nice to have you here. Thanks so much and happy holidays.

DENT: Hey, thanks, Poppy. Great to be with you. Happy New Year.

HARLOW: You as well.

All right, so ISIS now claiming responsibility for a deadly attack in Kabul, Afghanistan. Dozens killed in the explosion. Our Arwa Damon has the very latest for us ahead.


[09:42:21] HARLOW: ISIS is claiming responsibility for a deadly suicide attack and bombing in Afghanistan. A warning before we show you these images, they are very difficult to look at.

What we know at this hour, the blast happened in the capital of Kabul. At least 40 people have been killed, dozens more have been injured.

Our senior international correspondent Arwa Damon joins us with the developments.

Arwa, what do we know about this at this point?

ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the attack took place at a cultural center where around 100 people were gathered inside a room or a hall. They were marking the Russian invasion of Afghanistan. And this suicide bomber managed to infiltrate the gathering and then detonated the explosives. This was then followed by two other smaller explosions. But given the space where the attack took place, that presumably is one of the leading reasons why the casualty, the death toll and that of those who are wounded, is so high.

Now, ISIS has claimed responsibility at this stage. And it's worth noting that the attacks in Afghanistan, whether it's in the capital or elsewhere, whether it's against the civilian population or against the Afghan security forces have really been on the rise, especially since that deadly attack that took place in Kabul over the summer that killed around 150 people.

Of course, what is especially devastating to the Afghan population is not just the loss of life, the impact that these attacks have on those who were wounded and their families, it's also the psychological impact. People in Afghanistan are exhausted. They're tired of burying the dead. And at this stage it seems like ISIS and the Taliban, many will tell you, are actually growing in power and in incapacity, Poppy.

HARLOW: Arwa Damon reporting on that blast in Kabul for us. Thank you very much.

Meantime, Israel officials are so happy with President Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, they are showing their gratitude to the president by putting his name on the new western wall train station and a park, among other things.

Oren Liebermann joins us from Jerusalem.

So, I mean, what's the reaction, though, on the ground to this? Obviously not everyone is happy to see it?

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, of course, this is split, as it so often is, between the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Israel is reviwing (ph) Trump, and I'll go ahead and say this, as nothing short of a hero for his recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Part of that, and part of that -- the way they're showing gratitude there, is to take a planned high-speed rail station that will go into the old city of Jerusalem and name that station after President Donald Trump.

[09:45:04] The station will be, in a few years, when it's completed, if plans go ahead as they're expected to, just a few feet away from the Western Wall. Trump, when he visited in May, made history there because he was the first sitting U.S. president to visit the Western Wall. And that thrilled Israelis. But not as much as his statement from a few weeks ago where he recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. This is a way of thanking him.

As you pointed out though, this hasn't exactly made everybody happy here. A senior Muslim cleric in Jerusalem has said that this train station, the high-speed rail, naming it after Trump, none of that changes the status of East Jerusalem as occupied territory. And that's the sort of anger we'll see here, not only at the high speed rail end that goes into the old city, which is the most sensitive part of the Israeli conflict, but also naming it after Trump, who has now polarized Israelis and Palestinians in opposite directions here. Poppy, this isn't the only project that's to be named after Trump. As you pointed out, there's a park in northern Israel, a small city called Kilatyam (ph). They're building a park there, starting construction next month, that will be named Donald Trump Park. And the mayor there is considering inviting the president to the opening of the park in April. And then here in Jerusalem, and in a city in southern Israel, they're considered naming streets after the president. So you get a sense here of how happy Israelis are and how angry Palestinians are.

HARLOW: Indeed you do.

Oren Lieberman for us live in Jerusalem. We appreciate the reporting. Thank you.

All right. So now a moment of unity. That is what we are going to bring you. A family of Trump voters from Kentucky had a dream. Look.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. He has said that since we have been married, we will go to the Grand Canyon one day.


HARLOW: That was their dream. It came true thanks to the generosity of a rich Democrat from New York. The Shouse family tells me what they think it means about American unity, if not within Washington, at least elsewhere across the country.


[09:51:08] HARLOW: We may not have seen a lot of unity in Washington this year, but across the country it's a different story. Last year we visited families in Beattyville, Kentucky. It's a town where 81 percent of the population voted for President Trump.

We went back this year to see if these voters feel like the president has lived up to his promises for them. And while we were there, we found one family who received help from a very unexpected place. Look at this.


HARLOW: We interviewed you for this story and it airs on CNN and at the end you say, we just want our first vacation in ten years.


HARLOW: I said, where would you go? And you guys both said --


L. SHOUSE: Yes. He has said that since we're been married, we will go to the Grand Canyon one day.

HARLOW: A beautiful thing happened after we last visited you. You got a phone call out of the blue from a rich Democrat in New York City.

L. SHOUSE: Right.

HARLOW: Is that right?

L. SHOUSE: Yes. He sent us a beautiful letter that has never been read by anybody but us and -- with an itinerary for a trip to the Grand Canyon. And he said, I -- you know, nobody's ever to know my name. I don't want any recognition. Please call if you will accept this.

And after a couple of days, you know, and it's like, I've got to call because I can't -- I can't believe this. And was absolutely one of the nicest people that you could ever talk to. He was so funny. And within probably three weeks I guess we were on a plane to the Grand Canyon. And he said, I don't want you to even buy a cup of coffee with your money. And it was wonderful. It was wonderful. We are just -- I told him, I said, I feel so blessed, you know? And he said, I am blessed and I want others to be blessed as well.

HARLOW: How do you know this guy's a Democrat?

L. SHOUSE: Oh, he told me.

H. SHOUSE: He told -- yes.

L. SHOUSE: Oh, we talked and laughed about everything. He said he came in from work and sat down on the couch and that was airing at that time.

HARLOW: This is Beattyville, Kentucky, one of the poorest, predominantly white towns in the country.

L. SHOUSE: And that his wife had wanted to go to the Grand Canyon. And he said, no, I do the beach and that's all I'm doing and it was a joke to him. But he listened and he said, within just a minute, he knew that Hillary Clinton would never know where Beattyville, Kentucky, was. And he said --

HARLOW: And this is a Clinton supporter?

L. SHOUSE: Absolutely. And he -- yes, he said -- he said, I voted for her, but, he said, I can completely understand why you could not vote for her. I understand. And he said, it would have never done you any good. I know that. You know, you know that. And he said, I didn't understand until, you know, I saw this.

HARLOW: What did you think, Harold?

H. SHOUSE: I couldn't believe it. I told her, I said I won't believe it until we're on the plane going.

HARLOW: That you were there.


L. SHOUSE: Exactly.

HARLOW: There was a bigger message here. Look at that unity.

L. SHOUSE: Oh, yes.

HARLOW: Rich Democrat from New York. You guys, Republicans in Beattyville, Kentucky, coming together over a common humanity.

L. SHOUSE: And what's really funny is there's people back here in our town right now that has never spoken to me since that aired because I voted for Trump.

HARLOW: Really?


HARLOW: The backlash you got.

L. SHOUSE: Absolutely.

HARLOW: From your own friends?

L. SHOUSE: Yes. Yes.

HARLOW: You guys found a common humanity.

L. SHOUSE: Sure.

HARLOW: It seems like that is lacking in Washington.

L. SHOUSE: Absolutely. Nobody's nice. Nobody wants to play nice. I mean just to be a human being and be considerate, that's what's lacking. There's just -- nobody's considerate.

HARLOW: Civility in Washington?

L. SHOUSE: Absolutely.


HARLOW: Hmm. A lesson on being considerate and civility from the Shouse family, if not from our lawmakers these days. We are so happy for them.

[09:55:00] All right, so, ahead, Roy Moore says the Alabama Senate race was tainted by what he's calling systemic voter fraud. Now he's suing to try to delay today's election certification. But moments ago his Democratic competitor, the winner of the race, weighed in. What he is saying and how this is all playing out this morning. Fast moving developments ahead.


HARLOW: Top of the hour. 10:00 a.m. Eastern. Good morning, everyone. I'm Poppy Harlow. John Berman has the morning off. And we miss him. Come back, Berman.

[09:59:57] It has been two weeks since he won the Alabama special election. Doug Jones has a message for his former opponent, it is time to move on, he says.