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STATE OF THE UNION

Senate Passes Massive Tax Bill; Trump-Russia Investigation Escalating; Interview With Virginia Senator Mark Warner; Interview With South Carolina Senator Tim Scott; Trump: I Never Asked Comey To Stop Investigating Flynn; Flynn Pleads Guilty; Trump's Bizarro World In This Week's "State of the Cartoonion". Aired 9-10a ET

Aired December 3, 2017 - 09:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[09:00:15]

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Investigation bombshell. President Trump insists he's not worried about Michael Flynn pleading guilty to lying to the FBI and now cooperating with the probe.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There's been absolutely no collusion.

TAPPER: But now new questions about what the president knew and when. We will talk exclusively with the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, Senator Mark Warner, next.

Plus: late-night victory.

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act is passed.

TAPPER: While you were sleeping, and without time to read the full bill, Republican senators narrowly pass a major tax overhaul.

TRUMP: It's the largest tax decrease in the history of our country, by far.

TAPPER: Democrats say the whole process was a sham. Republican Senator Tim Scott is here to respond.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TAPPER: Hello. I'm Jake Tapper in Washington, where the state of our union is trying to keep up in this insanely busy news week.

With Republicans now just inches away from passing their tax bill, which will have profound consequences for the public, this morning, President Trump is focused squarely on discrediting the Russia investigation. He was up rather early, sending his first tweet at 6:15 a.m. Eastern about former FBI Director James Comey, saying -- quote -- "I never asked Comey to stop investigating Flynn. Just more fake news covering another Comey lie!" The president, of course, is prone to twisting the truth when defending himself. Let's be clear. Comey said in his sworn testimony, under oath, based on contemporaneous notes he took and shared with close advisers, that the president privately told him -- quote -- "I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go."

Now, this all comes after President Trump's former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, pleaded guilty Friday to lying to the FBI about his contacts with the Russian ambassador. Flynn has now flipped. He has agreed to tell the Mueller team what he knows.

And the president felt compelled to weigh in on that as well, tweeting Saturday that he -- quote -- "had to fire General Flynn because he lied to the vice president and the FBI" -- unquote -- a tweet that would seem to suggest that, if he asked Comey to back off, he already knew Flynn had committed the crime of lying to the FBI.

And now questions are swirling over what the president knew and when.

There's a lot to discuss with my guest, Democratic Senator Mark Warner, the vice chairman of the Intelligence Committee, leading the Russia probe.

Senator, thanks so much for joining us.

SEN. MARK WARNER (D), VIRGINIA: Thank you, Jake.

TAPPER: So, first, let's just start with this claim.

He says -- President Trump says he never asked Comey to stop investigating Flynn. As you know better than I, Comey testified under oath before your committee in June that President Trump did ask him to drop the investigation.

Whom do you believe?

WARNER: I believe FBI Director Comey.

I think he was very credible in his testimony and his private meetings with us. And it's not just Comey. You had -- clearly, you had an attorney general who has had to recuse himself because of untold contacts with Russians. You had the president of the United States trying to intervene, as has been reported, with other national intelligence leaders, who he appointed, saying, could you back off?

We have had reports this week that he reached out to...

TAPPER: Your colleagues.

WARNER: ... you wouldn't surprised by this -- members of Congress, saying, back off.

TAPPER: Yes.

WARNER: This president has been obsessed with this investigation, always saying there's nothing there, but, each week, another shoe drops, where we see more evidence of continuing outreach from Russians and some response from the Trump campaign and Trump individuals.

In the case of Flynn, you have somebody who is top security adviser, then his national security adviser, have a series of contacts with Russian officials, beginning in early December, with the president's son-in-law asking for back-channel connections to Russia, then efforts to try to intervene in American politics, before they take over, in terms of backing Russia off from a U.N. vote over Israel, then trying to get Russia to back off in terms of response to President Obama's sanctions.

And now the president is somehow saying he didn't -- he fired Flynn because he knew Flynn was lying to Pence. Well, if he knew that then, why didn't he act on it earlier? It raises a whole series of additional questions.

TAPPER: Let me ask you about that tweet -- quote -- "I had to fire General Flynn because he lied to the vice president and the FBI. He has pled guilty to those lies. It's a shame, because his actions during the transition were lawful. There was nothing to hide."

That would seem to suggest that President Trump knew that Michael Flynn had lied to the FBI, which is, of course, a crime, when he fired Flynn and also when he, according to Comey, asked Comey to back off.

That seems to be in the territory of obstruction of justice.

[09:05:00]

WARNER: And, again, that's why I think you're going to see much more coming from the special prosecutor.

Clearly, General Flynn and his son was in a great deal of legal jeopardy. The fact that General Flynn was only charged with one account, a major account, lying to the FBI, I believe means that there's many more stories that General Flynn will have to tell about his time during the campaign and during the transition.

So, I think there's more to come. And what we see here is, this president, whenever any of his close associates falls into problems, he tries to disassociate. So, the other individual, Mr. Papadopoulos, he tries to dismiss, again, somebody who's already pled guilty.

His campaign manager, his deputy campaign manager, Mr. Manafort and Mr. Gates, who have been indicted, he tries to back them off. Now they're even trying to call General Flynn, I hear, the White House has said, this former Trump...

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: Obama administration.

WARNER: Obama appointee.

Remember, General Flynn was someone who led the Republican Convention in a very inappropriate, you know, "Lock her up" kind of chant. This guy, Flynn, was completely tied in to the Trump operation throughout the campaign, and then was national security adviser.

How many people can this president continue to dismiss, particularly, as the circle gets closer and closer, even to family members?

TAPPER: President Trump did say this on Saturday when asked about the Trump -- I'm sorry -- when asked about the Flynn plea deal.

Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: What has been shown is no collusion, no collusion. There's been absolutely -- there's been absolutely no collusion.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Is there any evidence of collusion? Is there any evidence of the Trump campaign and the Russians having some sort of agreement on how Russia can help the Trump team during the campaign?

WARNER: Let's, again, just go through the facts.

We have had an FBI director who has been fired because of the president's intervention. We had the attorney general had to recuse himself because of his many contacts with Russians he didn't reveal.

We have had a series of these others individuals indicted or pleading guilty already. We also have mounting evidence, almost every week, of additional contacts between the Russian government or Russian officials and officials connected to the Trump campaign, under the guise of trying to improve relations.

But, as we look back at that meeting in June that included Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, Paul Manafort, where there were constant overtures from Russians to say, hey, we have got dirt on Hillary Clinton, we want to share that with the Trump campaign -- now, we have got more dots to connect. We have got to finish our investigation.

TAPPER: So, it's still circumstantial, no actual concrete proof yet?

(CROSSTALK)

WARNER: I'm not going -- I'm going to reserve my final judgment until we have all these individuals in to see us.

But there has never, there has never been, in modern American history, a political campaign that had this much outreach to a foreign government, and a foreign adversary in this case, throughout the campaign and throughout the transition.

TAPPER: I want to get to taxes in a second, but I do want to ask you about this detail from a "New York Times" story in which Flynn's deputy, K.T. McFarland, who was on the Trump transition team, wrote in an e-mail -- quote -- "If there is a tit-for-tat escalation with Russia, Trump will have difficulty improving relations with Russia, which has just thrown USA election to him."

Now, the Trump team is saying she's just saying that's how Democrats are going to describe it...

WARNER: Well, what is...

TAPPER: ... that she's not declaring it as a fact.

WARNER: And, again, another reason why Ms. McFarland needs to come in, and not just testify in front of Mueller, but testify in front of the congressional committees.

We have a responsibility -- and we have been trying to run this down the middle, Chairman Burr and I -- and to get all the facts out to the American public, so that not only can we figure out if there was collusion, but the fact is, Russia and other foreign adversaries are continuing to use misinformation, disinformation in these types of overtures.

How do we prevent this from happening again?

TAPPER: Let's talk about taxes.

The Senate passed the bill late Friday night and...

WARNER: Early Saturday morning.

TAPPER: Saturday morning.

And the House and Senate are now going to go to a conference committee to reconcile the differences in the tax bills. Is there any chance that this bill will not become law?

WARNER: I think there still remains some chance.

And I was saying, Friday was my single worst day as a U.S. senator, because, as somebody who wanted to be part of tax reform and realizes we need to have a more competitive corporate rate, and realizes we need to bring back some of those American profits, there are three things about this whole process that just plain stunk.

One was, this was swamp 101, the process on Friday night, where the bill was being hand-drafted. Lots of provisions were being included for special interests. One got exposed already exempting a particular religious college in Michigan backed by the DeVos family for special tax breaks.

That got exposed at least, but I will bet you we will see literally dozens more of these special provisions put in to help special interests.

Secondly, as somebody who's been passionate about not adding to our already $20 trillion in debt, this bill, I believe, will add over $2 trillion to the debt, even with whatever growth comes from these tax cuts.

[09:10:07]

That's not only because of the $1.5 trillion that's already been acknowledged, but this tax bill is set up so that all of the goodies, the things that are actually somewhat helpful to individuals, are all set to expire within five years, creating what is called more fiscal cliffs. And chances are those will be extended, driving up more debt.

And, third, on just plain substance, for example, I think they got some of the international provisions wrong, so that, unfortunately, this bill may actually incent more companies to move businesses abroad, where they will build a factory, say, in Germany and then put their intellectual property in some tax haven, and because you can average your taxes, have corporations still paying virtually no American tax.

And then, if we're going to bring back this money at such cheap rates, why not put a requirement in that these companies would actually invest some of that money in training their work force, giving them skills they need to compete, as opposed to what I'm afraid, is that we will see the vast majority of these funds come back and be used for share buyback and dividends, rather than things like investing in human capital or investing in much-needed infrastructure?

TAPPER: All right, Senator Mark Warner, Democrat of the Commonwealth of Virginia, vice chair of the Intelligence Committee, thanks for being here. Appreciate it.

WARNER: Thank you, Jake.

TAPPER: While the president is obsessing over the Russia investigation, Republicans are celebrating after passing the tax bill in the Senate in a wild late-night early-morning session that including scribbling last-minute changes into the bill that could change your life.

Republican Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina is here to talk about that next.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:15:55]

TAPPER: Welcome back to State of the Union. I'm Jake Tapper.

The Republican tax plan is one giant leap closer to President Trump's Resolute Desk after the Senate, in the middle of the night and after jamming last-second changes into the bill, passed their enormous tax bill.

No Democrats voted yes. One Republican voted no. This legislative victory for the GOP comes just hours after a nonpartisan look at the numbers said the bill would add $1 trillion to the deficit.

Democrats are tearing the bill apart as a corporate sellout. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), MINORITY LEADER: Today will be the first day of the new Republican Party, one that raises taxes on the middle class, abandoning its principles for its political paymasters.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Joining me now is Republican Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina. He sits on the Senate Finance Committee.

Senator, I want to get to taxes in a minute.

But, first, I do want to get your reaction to President Trump tweeting this morning and yesterday about his decision to fire his national security adviser, Michael Flynn.

He tweeted -- quote -- "I never asked Comey to stop investigating Flynn. Just more fake news covering another Comey lie."

Obviously, the former FBI Director James Comey testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee in public that the president asked him to end his investigation into Flynn.

Do you have any reason to believe that Comey was lying under oath?

SEN. TIM SCOTT (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I don't know all the facts, so I'm not going to pretend to know those facts.

I can say that Senator Warner and Senator Burr are doing a really good job of digging into all the facts in the Intel room, and that's really important for the American people. With that bipartisan group working together, we will know all the facts by the end.

We do know this, though. Mike Flynn broke the law. The FBI continues the investigation, and I think we will find out the truth before -- hopefully by the end of this year or early next year.

TAPPER: Your fellow senator from South Carolina, Lindsey Graham, told CNN that he would urge President Trump to pledge to not pardon Michael Flynn. Do you agree with that?

SCOTT: I do.

At the end of the day, here's what we know. We have to have a way to restore confidence of the American people in their elected officials and the leaders of this country. One way that you do that is by holding those folks who are, A, laying to the FBI, you hold those folks accountable, and, B, you have a process that is clear and transparent.

When the Intel community -- Committee is finished, we will have the facts.

TAPPER: Let's turn to the tax bill that the Senate just passed. You were a big part of that. Tennessee Senator Bob Corker, your fellow Republican, was the only

Republican to vote no on the bill. In his statement, he said -- quote -- "At the end of the day, I am not able to cast aside my fiscal concerns and photo for information that I believe, based on the information I currently have, could deepen the debt burden on future generations" -- unquote.

As you know, the Joint Committee on Taxation looked at the bill before it was changed on the Senate floor. They said that, even if you factor in the growth projections, this legislation would still add $1 trillion to the national debt over the next decade.

As more boomers retire and tap into social benefits like Social Security and Medicare, how is this bill not burdening younger generations with the cost of this tax bill?

SCOTT: Well, if you look at the last eight years and look at the actual cost of government continuing to explode, one thing that you conclude after the last eight years is our debt went from $10 trillion to $20 trillion and our economy stalled.

If we continue to spend more than we make -- and we should find a way not to do that as a government -- and our debt continues to explode, we do burden the next generation with more and more debt.

One of the fastest ways to fix that is economic growth. We are in a global competition. We must win that competition, which means that our tax code must be competitive with the rest of the world.

When that happens, American companies will churn out more profits, more revenues to the government, and we will be able to deal with our national debt.

TAPPER: But the Joint Committee on Taxation said that, even with growth, this bill is going to add $1 trillion to the national debt.

SCOTT: Yes, there's no doubt that the JCT has been consistently underestimating the activity in our economy, because their model is based on a closed economy.

That basically means that all the activity that can happen from the markets and capital production happens within the country. The truth of the matter is that we are in a global competition.

[09:20:04]

When you bring home $2 trillion worth of overseas profits back to the country, able to create more than a million jobs, when you're at full employment, wages rise, more economic activity happens within your economy, we're in far better shape to see the numbers that we're talking about eclipsed.

We're not thinking about a $1.4 trillion economic activity. I believe we will get a lot more. In other words, Jake, what they're saying is, we are going to have to slow the growth of the economy by about 50 percent over what it was growing. Today, we're growing at 3.1, 3.2 percent. Before the Trump

administration took over, we were at 1.9 percent. We have to cut that growth rate significantly, and we would still produce $1.4 trillion, $1.6 trillion of economic activity over the next 10 years.

So, they're saying, we're going to slow the economy by cutting taxes. That's just inconsistent with reality.

TAPPER: Senator, one of the big criticisms about this bill is the process, making sweeping changes to the bill at the last minute, some of them hand-written in the margins of the bill, voting on it even though some Democrats voted on an effort just to have a couple of days to read the bill.

Listen to your colleague Senator Elizabeth Warren from Massachusetts.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D), MASSACHUSETTS: They have just released the tax bill. It is about 500 pages. And they want us to vote on this thing in about an hour, an hour.

I spent more than an hour making a decision about the refrigerator that we recently bought. They're sending around their edits as we speak. Edits.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Another Democratic senator, Jon Tester, said that there was one page of hand-written text -- I think it's the same that Warren was showing there -- that he couldn't even read.

Were you able to read the entire bill before you voted on it?

SCOTT: I went through the entire bill.

I'm not going to say I read every single letter on every single page, because 470 pages, in this last hour, I did not read 470 pages.

But have I read every aspect of that bill before it was fused together? The answer is yes. We have had the chance over the last three years, since I have been on the committee, to work on every aspect of the bill.

The question that they're actually addressing is not whether or not you have read the bill. It's whether you have read the bill in its current form. But if you take every component piece of the bill, yes, we have had three years of meetings, hearings, and committee hearings around those issues.

And the difference between the hearings that we have had during the committee and then the committee working its way through subgroups over the last three years is very important.

So, we had five subgroups working on every aspect of that bill that came together in the last hour. But that last hour was not the accumulation of new information. It was a culmination of three years of meetings, hearings, and hard work by committee members that may not agree on every aspect of the bill, but we certainly knew what was in that bill far before -- long before the last pages were printed.

TAPPER: Well, you're saying that you knew what most of it was, but not necessarily the additions that were added to the bill in the last hour or two.

I'm old enough to remember the '86 tax cut bill. It took 15 months.

And I'm just wondering. I mean, just as a simple yes or no, was this the process that you had hoped for, to have all of these changes made at the last minute?

SCOTT: Well, Jake, I will say it this way.

The last hearing that we had was a 23-hour hearing. We had 63 Democrat amendments that were offered. The suggestion that this was not done in the light of day and the last-minute changes, as they talk about them, were last-minute changes that had been envisioned for weeks.

We knew at the end that there would be dials that were changed. So, here's an example. We increased helping small businesses by about 2.4 percent. That happened in the last hour or so.

But that had been envisioned for the last 10 days, because we had been talking about that.

So, we had another amendment by Senator Rubio to increase the child tax credit. Had that happened on the floor, that would have been a last-minute change, but that was something else that had been envisioned.

So there were no new ideas, no new opportunities, simply opportunities that had been envisioned that were going to be voted yes or no on the floor, and then fused into the final product.

The suggestion that we had so little time to take a look at 500 pages is inconsistent with the truth.

TAPPER: All right, Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina, thank you so much for your time, sir. Appreciate it.

SCOTT: Absolutely.

TAPPER: How are Republicans feeling about Michael Flynn trumping their big moment on tax reform? That's next.

Also, in a word of alternative facts, President Trump meets the other version of himself in the bizarro world in this week's "State of the Cartoon-ion."

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [09:29:44]

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: The context and the president's words are what led me to that conclusion. And so that's why what I understood him to be saying that he wanted to do was drop any investigation connected to Flynn's account of his conversations with the Russians.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: That's the FBI director -- or former FBI Director James Comey in June testifying that the president had asked him to back off Michael Flynn in the investigation.

President Trump contradicting that this morning, saying -- quote -- "I never asked Comey to stop investigating Flynn. Just more fake news covering another Comey lie."

My panel is here with me. Let me start with the former FBI official, Mike Rogers. Do you believe James Comey?

MIKE ROGERS, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY COMMENTATOR: I do believe James Comey.

I think James Comey is a very good man. The FBI agents loved James Comey. I think that's really important to separate this.

I do think he had some judgment problems about how he dealt with the investigations of the Clinton --

TAPPER: The Hillary Clinton?

ROGERS: Yes, I do.

I think he made some mistakes. Should they have been fatal or not, I don't know. But certainly, I think he made some mistakes along the way.

But I think his testimony is going to be credible. And I don't think he's done here. I think given what happened, the plea deal with General Flynn, I think Comey will play another role in this.

Though I'm sure that they'll bring him back, about that process of what he knew, leading into the election.

TAPPER: And that gets into President Trump and whether or not these tweets are the smartest thing in the world for him to have sent out. Because, of course, there is this question about obstruction of justice. And if the president tweeted yesterday that he fired Flynn because he had lied to the FBI in addition to lying to Vice President Mike Pence. That --

JENNIFER GRANHOLM, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: This morning, the White House is saying that it was really the lawyer that typed that tweet. If that's the lawyer that's typing the tweet, that lawyer should be fired because that obviously implicates his client.

There's so much going on around the firing of James Comey that lends credence to the fact that he felt like he was pressured to back off the investigation. You know, I mean, when Trump asks Coats and Rogers, the other Mike Rogers, to intervene with Comey to ask him to back off the investigation, that's another brick on the wall of evidence.

When he goes to Pompeo and when he goes to Senator Blunt and Senator Burr and even Mitch McConnell and says, back off the Senate investigation, it's another brick in the wall. When he asks Sessions to come up with some fake excuse as to why he should fire Comey, it's another piece of evidence.

There's so much evidence surrounding why he fired Comey, that notwithstanding his own tweets, I fear he is really in jeopardy of obstruction of justice.

TAPPER: And Comey is sub-tweeting from wherever he is. Take a look at this Instagram message. He posted a picture of a sunset, Senator Santorum, and it says, "Beautiful Long Island sound from Westport, Connecticut. To paraphrase the Buddha, three things cannot be long hidden, the sun, the moon, and the truth."

RICK SANTORUM, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: OK.

GRANHOLM: It's beautiful.

(LAUGHTER)

SANTORUM: Let me just think about this. Let me just -- here's -- here's -- here's -- to stipulate that Trump tweeting all this stuff is really bad and he shouldn't have done it. And -- so we stipulate to that let me try to get into the mind of Trump which is always a risky --

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: We appreciate it. Yes.

SANTORUM: I think the mind of Trump is that his whole focus on this investigation is, did we collude with the Russians to win the election? It's all about the election for Trump. That -- Russia has nothing to do with what happened after the election. It's all about what happened before the election.

And he is convinced, and I actually am convinced, that Donald Trump had at least personally had nothing to do with any kind of collusion with the Russians. And I think if you look at the investigation, there isn't much, even ask Senator Warner, what do you have from before the investigation? Everything we're talking about here with Flynn is after the election.

And there really isn't much other than one meeting with a bunch of, you know, ne'er-do-wells when it comes to foreign policy talking to some Russian ne'er-do-wells. But -- and he's saying, look, this whole premise is false. OK, maybe some stuff happened after the election, but the whole premise is false, leave it alone, because you're jeopardizing the legitimacy of my election.

That's the entire framework that he's approaching this. And unfortunately, there are things that happened after the election, now that we see Mike Flynn pleading guilty that were problematic, like him lying to the FBI. He doesn't care about that, because it has nothing to do with whether or not he colluded with the Russians, so leave it alone.

That's his perspective. Whether it's right or not is up for discussion but that's why he's saying, leave it alone because it had nothing to do with the main point.

TAPPER: Right. And just to say you're from Move On which obviously was an organization founded during the Clinton impeachment.

KARINE JEAN-PIERRE, SENIOR ADVISER, MOVEON.ORG: Yes. Yes. Yes.

TAPPER: And Bill Clinton was impeached not for anything he did --

JEAN-PIERRE: Right.

TAPPER: -- improperly with Monica Lewinsky or Paula Jones or anyone else, it was for suborning perjury and for committing perjury.

JEAN-PIERRE: Right.

TAPPER: It was for the process, which is what we're going through right now.

JEAN-PIERRE: Right. Well, here's a thing to what the senator was saying here. It's like, OK, we don't know there's collusion, that's what Mueller's trying to figure out.

But he is -- Donald Trump is jeopardizing himself constantly. I mean, I would take it further and say, there is an obstruction of justice here, because every action that he has taken has -- it puts him into that jeopardy that he -- who knows what he's trying to hide.

[09:35:10]

So it's really complex and problematic as to why he's doing that, unless he's trying to hide something. And we're not even a year done, a year hasn't been done yet. And he has four people in his -- in the -- that was part of his team that were indicted and pleaded guilty.

What is going on here? So I think that there is -- there is a lot of evidence that there is obstruction of justice. And yes, maybe he's going and talking about -- there's no collusion. But he is really stepping into it, when he is putting himself --

(CROSSTALK)

GRANHOLM: And let's just be clear, this particular charge from -- of Flynn, which is a relatively minor charge, it's just a little tiny window into what is going on.

JEAN-PIERRE: Right.

GRANHOLM: Flynn's got an awful lot more information.

JEAN-PIERRE: Right.

GRANHOLM: So while you may be convinced that there was no collusion, my guess is that Mueller has some other information.

And let me say one other thing. If Trump really didn't know about what was happening on his campaign, if there were -- was outreach to the Russians, if he didn't know about that meeting his -- in Trump Tower, if he didn't know about any of that, then he is either a terrible executive or I don't believe anybody --

(CROSSTALK)

SANTORUM: Well, can I --

(CROSSTALK)

SANTORUM: I ran for president. The idea that you're going to know what every one of your volunteers --

(CROSSTALK)

GRANHOLM: No, no, no.

SANTORUM: -- are doing during the campaign.

GRANHOLM: Oh, come on. This is not everything. This is a really big deal.

JEAN-PIERRE: But this is a senior staff --

(CROSSTALK)

GRANHOLM: It's a really big deal to collude with the Russians?

SANTORUM: Look, what we know of the contacts, they are not a big deal.

TAPPER: Can I ask you a question?

SANTORUM: OK.

TAPPER: Mike Flynn, why would he lie about those conversations with Kislyak? Because that's what I don't understand. He was head of the Defense Intelligence Agency. He knows that these conversations are being monitored in all likelihood.

So first of all, on an intelligence versus stupidity decision --

SANTORUM: I'll turn to the intel guy for this.

(LAUGHTER)

TAPPER: But what would he be hiding? Why hide it? Why hide these conversations, if --

(CROSSTALK)

ROGERS: Can I just say this? I would be careful not to confuse conspiracy with incompetence. And I think they made some really bad, dumb decisions based on a naive approach to what they thought the government was.

They came in with chips on their shoulders the size of the United States itself and I think that led to really bad decisions. He could have had those meetings with Kislyak. He could have walked in and told the FBI I had the meetings with Kislyak.

There's no crime there. The transition is allowed to have foreign government outreach. There's nothing to prohibit it. Now --

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: But some would argue --

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: The Logan Act --

JEAN-PIERRE: Right.

ROGERS: Well, some would argue, if you're pushing a policy. But to understand the incoming administration, this happens every time. Every transition goes through this process, where they come in and the foreign governments say, hey, Jake, tell me what you're thinking about the South China Sea or tell me what you're thinking about South Korea. That's all appropriate behavior.

TAPPER: So why lie?

ROGERS: That -- this is the $1 million question.

JEAN-PIERRE: Yes.

ROGERS: I think -- I just think that General Flynn did not have a good appreciation of what was happening and again, this is that conspiracy with incompetence. And this is where the prosecutors have a challenge. They're going to have to make sure that if there was something more there, and I happen to agree with the governor on this be with there is no way that you proffer a deal, meaning the defense comes in and the prosecutors come in, they don't sign a deal unless you say, tell me everything you have and every one that might be involved in it.

And if you don't get there, you're not getting this. This is a big deal.

TAPPER: Everyone, stick around. We've got a lot more to talk about. Republicans are cheering and Democrats are blasting them for rushing through this tax bill that included a lot of last-minute changes so many that they couldn't read all of it before voting. That story is next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:43:14]

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: At about 3:00 in the morning, I got a call. I said, call me. You can call me.

It's the largest tax decrease in the history of our country by far. It's not even close.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: It's the largest corporate tax cut in history, it's not the largest tax cut in American history. But we'll move on from there, that's President Trump celebrating a rare major legislative victory in Congress. Our panel is back with me.

First of all, Senator Santorum, let me start with you, do you think now that this has cleared the hurdle of the Senate that it will become law?

SANTORUM: This has been a done deal since health failed. There was just no way this Congress was going to leave town by the end of this year without having passed this bill. And so that's why you saw this dynamic that I thought was interesting.

I mean, you saw people that never are problems when it comes to passing a bill in the Senate be problems which I thought was really -- Bob Corker -- I mean, who has ever heard of Bob Corker objecting to any -- not that Bob isn't a good senator, but he's never been the flay in the ointment. Jeff Flake, all these guys, why? Because they knew they had leverage to get something that they wanted because it had to pass.

And they were going to make a deal. No matter what it was, they were going to make a deal. And that's -- that's what we're going to see --

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: Democrats say they're going to use this against Republicans.

GRANHOLM: Of course, because if you're going to do -- if you're going to do something that costs $1.5 trillion, that ends up hurting everyday citizens and their children, because of the deficit that Republicans have always kowtowed to, why not invest it in infrastructure, in creating jobs, do $1 trillion there or do universal broadband. Do something or just give it as a tax cut to the middle class. But what they have done is taken individuals and given -- taken their money and given it to corporations at a time when we have a four percent unemployment rate and these corporations are already flush with cash.

[09:45:02]

Why would not the Republicans allow, for example, Sherrod Brown's amendment, that would say, hey, if you're going to get all of this money, then create jobs here, create investments here? Why wouldn't they allow for the amendment that said, don't deduct expenses when you move offshore?

It is an outrage. This is an outrage.

TAPPER: How was it -- let me ask you, because you were a congressman for many years, from Michigan, which is a state that Trump won, but where he's vulnerable again and Republicans typically don't thrive statewide, how is this tax bill playing in Michigan?

ROGERS: Well, listen, if you don't like the tax bill before, you're not going to like it now. It is big, it's confusing. All of the reforms that folks like me wanted to see making it more simple isn't going to happen.

That being said, what gets missed in this debate is the reason those people showed up and voted for Trump in places like Michigan and Indiana and Pennsylvania is because they got left behind. And everybody talked about on the coast, oh, this is -- everything's great and everything's wonderful. We're making a lot of money.

What they decided to do in this -- in the Republicans in the Senate and in the House is say, we're going to invest in growth. You can't keep lumping along the bottom and expect anybody whose wages were flat and their costs went up to go anywhere.

So they took a gamble. I'm not saying this is not a gamble. I think it is a bit of a gamble for them, but they took ideas that -- by the way, about 75 percent of this bill, Republicans and Democrats have agreed on over the past 10 years. Including corporate tax reform.

And they took that and they added it in and they said, we're going to make this bet that if we don't take care of the people in the center part of this country, we're all going to be in trouble. I think this bill allows that growth. It allows people to invest in their people and their businesses in places that build things in America.

I think, like I said, a bit of a risk? Yes. But at the end of the day, I think this is going to pay off for them.

Remember, everyone can argue about the policy and the process and all of that. If going into next year the economy hasn't gotten better for the vast majority of Americans, that's where the price will be paid.

TAPPER: And the progressive grassroots movement seems to really hate this bill. JEAN-PIERRE: Yes, because it is a bad bill. And it's not just a progressive movement, there are independent analysts, independent organizations who have come out and said, this is going to not help -- hurt the middle class -- excuse me. And it just seems to be like a big gigantic Christmas gift for donors, Republican donors who wanted this bill, corporations, and a piece of coal for everyday Americans.

And I just don't understand why you would take the step to try to just give it to your donors? And really, the other part, too, is that they wanted to pass something.

They've been an ineffective Congress. An ineffective presidency. And they had to go into 2018 with something, but you can't just pass anything, especially that's going to hurt poor people and middle class.

(CROSSTALK)

SANTORUM: Well, the same thing happened with Obamacare. Where they had to pass Obamacare, and they shoved it down the throat. So -- I mean, both sides do it when they make these pledges to get something (INAUDIBLE).

JEAN-PIERRE: No, no, Obama -- no, I worked for the first two years in the White House. Obama tried to work with Republicans on it --

SANTORUM: No, he didn't. No.

JEAN-PIERRE: Yes, he did, and they did not want to come to the table.

SANTORUM: That's ridiculous.

JEAN-PIERRE: And Obamacare is working. There are parts that need to be fixed -- and this will not work.

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: Let's --

(CROSSTALK)

SANTORUM: Yes. The bottom line is, I think it's rich that the Democrats come out and talk about the deficit when the deficit went from $10 trillion to $20 trillion --

GRANHOLM: We're just repeating you guys. This is your -- that's your talking point.

(CROSSTALK)

SANTORUM: We believe -- we believe --

GRANHOLM: That's hypocrisy.

SANTORUM: -- the reason that the deficit grew so bad was because growth was so horrible. And so what Mike is talking about is -- look, these two folks don't believe that if you put more money into the hands of businesses and people that the economy will grow stronger --

GRANHOLM: Everyday people, I'm all about. Everyday people, yes.

SANTORUM: As you know, President Obama and Democrats were for a corporate tax reduction. President Obama was for a corporate tax reduction.

GRANHOLM: A corporate restructuring.

SANTORUM: So the --

GRANHOLM: Restructuring. It's a reform.

SANTORUM: The idea that this is somehow a heresy is not.

GRANHOLM: So here's -- to me, this is so telling. So this is the OMB director of Ronald Reagan, David Stockman. He is being interviewed by FOX News. And FOX News said --

SANTORUM: Who's quoted more by Democrats than Republicans for the last 50 (ph) years.

GRANHOLM: "So you have very little faith that they're going to plow this into plant equipment or hiring folks."

Stockman says, I think not at all. This is going to be -- going to dividends. It's going into leveraged buyouts. That's why Wall Street is frothing at the mouth.

And that is exactly right. There are no strings attached to this to have people hire people or to have people invest in plant and capital.

SANTORUM: Because you don't trust the private sector and Republicans --

(CROSSTALK)

GRANHOLM: Because in the past they have done (INAUDIBLE) --

(CROSSTALK)

SANTORUM: You want to control and manage business, tell them how to spend their money.

GRANHOLM: I want to give the money into the hands of every day citizens. (INAUDIBLE).

SANTORUM: The Republicans are saying, no, we don't, we want to create more jobs and more economic growth.

GRANHOLM: What will -- what will make the economy grow, Rick, is putting money into the pockets of people. People.

SANTORUM: And you believe you should dictate that and we believe that we should let it --

(CROSSTALK)

ROGERS: And they did do some of that in the child tax credit. They did increase it. I was impressed with the number that came out of the House.

(CROSSTALK)

ROGERS: I agree with that as well but they did -- they made a significant investment in the child --

(CROSSTALK)

GRANHOLM: The stuff they give to people goes away and the stuff they give to corporations last permanently.

JEAN-PIERRE: That's right.

GRANHOLM: And that's the problem. If you're going to restructure the tax code, great, simplify it, but restructure it within the business tax, remove some of the loopholes, lower the rate.

[09:50:07]

But they didn't do that.

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: All right. Thanks, one and all. Great --

SANTORUM: Broad consensus.

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: Yes.

JEAN-PIERRE: Right. Right.

TAPPER: I loved it. Up is down, down is up. He says hello when he leaves, goodbye when he arrives.

President Trump meets (ph) his (ph) exact opposite in the Bizarro world, the subject of the "State of the Cartoonion", next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: Welcome back.

A fact is a fact is a fact. But president Trump's recent comments to friends as reported by the "New York Times" have made us wonder, does he know about an alternative universe, his own Bizarro world, where the sun is the moon, and a lie is the truth? That's the subject of this week's "State of the Cartoonion."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TAPPER (voice-over): As comic aficionados know, Superman has his arch enemy, Bizarro, who lives in a topsy-turvy world where stop means go and yes means no. And increasingly, it sounds as though there is a Bizarro Trump who also lives in a world of opposites.

TRUMP: This reality, this wonderful place --

TAPPER: In the real world, in reality, we all heard President Trump say this about that hideous "Access Hollywood" tape.

TRUMP: I've said and done things I regret. And the words released today on this more than a decade-old video are one of them.

TAPPER: But for Bizarro Trump, well, the "New York Times" reports he is still insisting the tape might not be his voice.

TRUMP: Totally fake and made up. It's like a novel.

TAPPER: Here on planet earth, President Trump finally admitted this.

TRUMP: President Barack Obama was born in the United States, period.

TAPPER: But in Bizarro world, we're told, the president is still questioning the authenticity of President Obama's birth certificate.

OBAMA: In other breaking news, the world is round, not flat.

TAPPER: You can see this phenomenon almost everywhere, whether it's how often the president golfs or how well he's doing in the polls.

TRUMP: I'm getting tremendous support, even in your polls, I'm getting tremendous support.

TAPPER: In fact, what we're all watching these days, it makes a lot more sense if, as a kid, you read a lot of Superman comic books.

[09:55:06]

TRUMP: This is reality. You know it, they know it. I know it.

And pretty much the whole world knows it.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TAPPER: Russian meddling. A growing nuclear threat from North Korea, all with the State Department in complete chaos and a secretary of state who might be on the way out. That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)