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GOP Tax Plan Clears Major Hurdle In The Senate; Political Shutdown Could Lead To Government Shutdown; U.N. Holds Emergency Security Council Meeting Today; Report: Trump Still Questioning Obama's Birth Certificate. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired November 29, 2017 - 12:30   ET



[12:33:03] JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Welcome back. Republicans are enjoying a break-through moment today. That, after the Senate tax plan cleared the Budget Committee yesterday by a single vote. The next hurdle is the full Senate where Republicans are still wooing several colleagues who have doubts. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell a short time ago said the vote to proceed will happen later today.

Now, President Trump is a big part of the sales pitch. He heads to Missouri this hour for a late afternoon rally. The tax bill isn't the only year end challenge facing the President and Congress. They need to pass a spending plan to keep the government open.

But at the moment, they're in a partisan divide. A big bipartisan meeting planned for yesterday fell apart after the President sent an attack tweet criticizing Democratic Leaders Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer. They then decided it wasn't worth going to the White House.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So they decided not to show up. They've been all talk and they've been no action. And now it's even worse, now it's not even talk. So they're not showing up for the meeting.


KING: For all the horrible staging at the White House in recent days, a little clever play there. They moved into the Roosevelt Room so they could have the empty placards of the non-guests there.

That's about the spending bill. Let's come back to the tax cut bill. Mitch McConnell says we're going to bring it to the floor, start the debate. That tells you he's reasonably confident he is going to get there. Will he?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I mean, I spent a lot of time on Capitol Hill yesterday and was surprised when -- well, I shouldn't say I was surprised. I think there was a big sigh of relief when Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and Bob Corker of Tennessee walked into the Budget Committee room saying yes, that they were going to vote yes. And it did come after they had a meeting with President Trump. And I think that that is noteworthy for all of the things that we've been talking about, for all of the frankly failures that he had at deal making that he promised he would be so good at and we're talking about within the Republican sphere. We have to remember that. We're not talking about across the aisle. We're talking about hurting his own cast.

[12:35:04] He seemed to do a pretty good job in trying to, you know, get the senators at least to continue with the process which in this atmosphere is no small feat.


KING: Let me just continue with the process. You get it out of committee. You essentially don't let it get derailed in the committee, get into the floor, and now they're having this conversation about getting the 50 votes plus Mike Pence if he could lost two Republican senators. And Bob Corker has said he is worried about the deficit. He does not believe the projections. He believes when you cut tax rates like this, the deficit is going to explode. So he wants to include what's called a trigger essentially.

If the deficit starts to go up, the government has to bring in more revenue. You take some of the tax cuts away to bring the revenue back. Wall Street Journal says this, the editorial board about the trigger. "It's a bad idea on the policy merits. No one knows when there might be another recession during which tax recedes invariably fall. A trigger could then be a tax hike on Americans at a tough economic time."

It's a -- I don't know, what do you call it? Is it an out, is it a gimmick, is it a fail-safe? What is it?

BASH: Can I say one thing that Senator Corker told me yesterday about this trigger idea. Another senator just as an example, Senator Kennedy said if you ever see me voting for that, it is such a gimmick, you'll know that I'm absolutely drunk. It gives you a sense of where other senators are.

BENDER: But it was mostly good noises coming from Susan Collins and Corker and Ron Johnson yesterday. And I do think President Trump deserves a little bit of credit even though all the television last night, all the clips yesterday were of these empty seats which is in the side here. I thought another metaphor here was McConnell and Ryan so far away from Trump.

But let's see if the President can string a couple of this together, right? He's going to Missouri today. He has a speech, extensively about taxes. He's -- Well, we know he's going to talk about the economic accomplishments which actually I think is kind of counter intuitive to the need for -- the economy is doing great and we need the tax plan to make everyone feel better here.

I'm also told that he wants to in this speech get back on some of the cultural wars on Christmas and talking about like, you know -- NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Making everybody

say, Merry Christmas.

BENDER: Right. So, you know -- so at the very least, it could be some dual messaging here today. If not overshadow, what a little bit of momentum finally for the party here in Washington.

JONATHAN MARTIN, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: No, look, I talked to some senators including Collins from Maine who are -- let's be honest not the biggest Trump fans in the world. High marks for his performance there yesterday. They thought that he really improved his performance.

Look, are they sort of offering in the kind of low bar, the soft bigotry of low expectations. So I'll borrow from George W. Bush, perhaps. But, I thought it was striking that they were praising him. And it does appear like they're going to pass this bill.

But my goodness, it's an illustration of his lack of clout that he won all of these states where Democratic senators were up for the election next year, red America.

KING: Including Missouri today.

MARTIN: And apparently from what I'm told that not one of the Democrats is going to vote for this bill in states that he won overwhelmingly.

BASH: It didn't help that they put the individual mandate.

MARTIN: Which makes it almost impossible for them to support.

HENDERSON: And also it just doesn't help that if you read the sort of top lines on this on any paper, I mean, it does seem like a corporate giveaway. I mean, right? I mean, that's where all of the benefits are going even when the White House talks about it. They kind of lead with this idea that corporations are going to benefit and some sort of trickle down effect to voters and in terms of wage growth.

And you have had -- and you talk about the Corker amendment. You have to have some Democrats too try to say should there be some sort of amendment. If they don't see the kind of wage growth, do you claw back this tax breaks for corporations.

KING: Another trigger. Everybody, hold this thought. The tax debate will be with us. Let's take it to the rest of the week.

Up next though, President Trump condemns what is believed to be the most powerful missile launch by North Korea yet. But does the President have any good options?


[12:43:26] KING: Welcome back. President Trump now preparing to impose additional sanctions on North Korea, after it fired off what is believed to be the most lethal weapon in its arsenal. A newly developed intercontinental ballistic missile.

On Tuesday, the Secretary of Defense warning North Korea now has the ability to attack anywhere in the world. That includes, places like right here, the nation's capital.

This morning President Trump held a phone conversation with President Xi Jinping of China underscoring yet again his hope that China will do more to help deescalate tensions. That call comes as the United Nations prepares to hold an emergency Security Council meeting later this afternoon.

Our Military and Diplomatic Analyst Retired Rear Admiral John Kirby joins me now, former Pentagon State Department spokesman. Keep your Pentagon hat on for me first, Admiral. What's different today now that they had seen this latest test, now that their greatest fears are being realized, the escalation, the improvement in the North Korean missile and rocket technology has been dramatic, much faster than anybody thought would happen? So what's different today at the Pentagon? And is there a viable option, a military option?

REAR ADMIRAL JOHN KIRBY (RET), CNN MILITARY AND DIPLOMATIC ANALYST: I actually think from a Pentagon perspective, things aren't all that different. Now, certainly this new missile increases the sense of urgency. And obviously it contributes to their better capabilities now to target as Mattis said yesterday anywhere in the world so certainly. But I don't think that the Pentagon wasn't aware that this was sort of where things were going.

What it will do in the Pentagon is force them to revisit some of their deterrents and containment strategies. They'll obviously be discussing this with their South Korean allies as well as the Japanese to determine what if anything needs to change in terms of a posture, a footprint. But I really don't expect from a military perspective that this is going to lead to any specific dramatic steps right now.

[12:45:06] KING: And so you have an emergency Security Council session today. That has happened before. You have calls for more sanctions. That has happened before again and again and again.

Listen to Secretary Tillerson. He is the diplomat. You worked at the State Department as well trying to say we're not done with diplomacy just yet we hope.


REX TILLERSON, SECRETARY OF THE STATE: We have a long list of additional potential sanctions, some of which involve potential financial institutions, and the Treasury Department will be announcing those when they're ready to roll those out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And how much more time are you willing to give the pressure campaign?

TILLERSON: As a diplomat, we keep working on it every day.

(END VIEO CLIP) KING: I say this with zero disrespect. We should impose every last sanction we can. But is there any evidence?

This is the most sanctioned country in the world just in the 10 months of the Trump administration. Sanctions have been added and added again and added again. The President asked the world to do more. Is there any evidence that North Korea reacts to sanctions?

KIRBY: Not in the positive way. Not in the way we want them to. Clearly, they have proven impervious to sanctions in the past. They continue to advance this program. And as Will Ripley has rightly reported out of Pyongyang, the more that we sanction them, the more committed they seem to be to develop this capability. It's sort of just retrenches their view that the United States is an existential threat.

That said, that doesn't mean sanctions should be ignored. And I think it's right for the administration to be continuing to look at additional ways to put pressure not just on Pyongyang but on people that do business with Pyongyang such as certain Chinese financial institutions and even Russian institutions. The sanctions can still work. They just take time.

What I'm really heartened to hear both from the President and from Mr. Tillerson is that they are continuing to explore diplomatic options. I have to assume, I don't know, John, but I have to assume that there are some behind the scenes, quiet diplomatic measures being pursued. Hopefully that will lead to confidence building measures. That will allow us to actually get to the table with Kim Jong-un at some point.

KING: And yet you hear people like Senator Lindsey Graham saying the American people should be prepared. That he believes war is actually an -- war is actually a possibility here because the tensions keep escalating.

KIRBY: Well, certainly, I don't think he can ever take military options off the table. That would be foolish particularly with a regime like that in Pyongyang. That said, I don't find the senator's comments necessarily helpful to the situation right now.

What we need to be doing is deescalating the rhetoric, deescalating the tensions and finding a way, again, through confidence building measures to try to get to a negotiating position with Pyongyang, even if it's indirectly. So, yes, the military has to be ready and Secretary Mattis has made sure that they are. But that kind of rhetoric I think is just not helpful.

And, by the way, Kim Jong-un is not going to be bullied by that rhetoric. If they think that by saying things like that they're going to force him to change his behavior, I think they're absolutely wrong.

KING: Pretty long history to supports your opinion. I'm not the one. Admiral, appreciate your insights today.

Next, President Trump, any minute now boarding Marine One and Air Force One. He's off to Missouri to sell the Republican tax reform plan and facing another distraction after resurrecting yes, the Obama birth of conspiracy.


[12:52:38] One way to score the President's first year in office is legislative achievements of which there are very few. Another is to look at judicial appointments, executive actions, to roll back regulations. Conservatives see a lot to cheer there. And third, it's more of a character question than a policy scorecard.

Two constants in this first year are the President's casual relationship with the truth and his craving for conspiracy theories. Now those who thought the gravity of the job might change this troubling behavior have given up hope.

Just recently reports, the President tells some visitors that wasn't his voice on the Access Hollywood tape and there's this, from a detailed account in today's New York Times. In recent months, Mr. Trump has used closed door conversations to question the authenticity of President Barack Obama's birth certificate. He has also repeatedly claimed that he lost the popular vote last year because of widespread voter fraud according to advisers and lawmakers.

Mr. Jonathan Martin, you reported this fascinating well-reported detailed story. Why?

BASH: He's a reporter, not a therapist.

MARTIN: I wish Maggie was here, our friend Maggie Haberman, who I wrote it with, who knows Trump better than anybody. I think our sense is that he creates a reality that is preferable than the one that actually all of us live in, where facts that are embarrassing or inconvenient he kind of shades. And he creates new facts.

This isn't new for him though. He's been doing this for decades. He wrote about it in his first book which I think was called the "Art of the Deal," is that right? And -- So, he's been doing this for a very long time.

It's just that I think there was an expectation, perhaps a hope that when he crossed that threshold and became the President of the United States, that he would, in fact, change his conduct. And by the way, during the campaign last year, he said this all the time. He said I can be, you know, so presidential. He promised.

BASH: Yes.

MARTIN: And in fact that he --

BASH: People will be bored, I'm going to be so presidential.

MARTIN: Yes exactly. And he isn't changing.

BASH: Are you bored?

MARTIN: What's striking to me, though, is this is that one senator told me that Trump knows that there are certain conspiracy theories that are so out there that he can't say in public. And so, he can't let them go. But what he does is he just brings them up in private conversations.

So while he will muse about, you know, mass voter fraud last year on Twitter or in public and people kind of roll their eyes about that, he won't go there in public on Access Hollywood being fake or on still not believing that the President Obama was born in America.

[12:55:00] So he does have some kind of internal restraint, some kind of governor to stop him from going there publicly. But the fact that he's still talking about this stuff well into the presidency tells you that this President has not changed from the person he's always been.

KING: please, someone else --

HENDERSON: Yes. And --

KING: That's -- he's not a healthy person.

HENDERSON: -- I mean, I just -- for now, he hasn't gone public with them.

KING: That's true.

HENDERSON: But remember, there is, you know, there is also this belief --

KING: There's hours to go.

HENDERSON: Yes, there's hours to go and there's also his voting commission, right, that looking into his conspiracy theories about what happened in 2016.

BASH: Listen, how many 70-year-old people do you know --

MARTIN: Right.

BASH: Who have the internal constitution to change? Now, we don't know a lot of 70-year-olds who go from billionaire, you know, TV reality star to president. But it's just -- it's not possible. And I don't think that anybody who thought he would be able to do that was living in the real Trump world. Remember that.

BENDER: It's only a matter of time before that becomes public too. I mean, that's how we report on public, talk to his friends what he's talking about in --

KING: Thanks in part to Mr. Trump's efforts, they printed versions of Barack Obama's birth certificate. It's like souvenirs. I have one at home. He was born in Hawaii.

Thanks for joining us in INSIDE POLITICS. Wolf Blitzer is in the chair after a quick break. Have a good day.