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INSIDE POLITICS

Trump Blasts the FBI on Twitter; Congress on Track to Pass Tax Bill by Christmas; Dems Slams GOP's Last-Minute Handwritten Tax Changes; Billy Bush: It Was Trump on "Access Hollywood" Tape, Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired December 4, 2017 - 12:30   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:30:51] DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Welcome back.

The president promise to disrupt Washington, but it's not really clear if this is what voters thought he meant. From the president's Twitter account Sunday, "After years of Comey with a phony and dishonest Clinton investigation and more, running the FBI, its reputation is in Tatters, worst in history. But fear not, we will bring it back to greatness.

Like worst in history?

A quick detour to our way back machine in time long, long ago. See that picture there? J. Edgar Hoover, he kept extensive FBI files not to fight crime but to use it as weapons against everyone from Albert Einstein to Marilyn Monroe to Martin Luther King Jr. He was so powerful even Nixon was afraid to fire him. But we digress.

President Trump points to the removal of an FBI agent from Robert Mueller's special counsel team over anti-Trump bias. "Tainted, no. Very dishonest", he wrote. "FBI agent's role in Clinton probe under review. Led Clinton e-mail probe. Fox and Friends Clinton money going to wife of another FBI agent in charge."

And then this morning, the president said this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I will say this, Hillary Clinton lied many times to the FBI and nothing happened to her. Flynn lied and they destroyed his life. I think it's a shame.

Hillary Clinton on the Fourth of July weekend went to the FBI not under oath and it was the most incredible thing anyone had ever seen. She lied many times, nothing happened to her. Flynn lied and it's like they ruined his life. It's very unfair.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: Just a little fact check. James Comey, the FBI director, former FBI director testified under oath that Hillary Clinton did not lie to the FBI. So that's a very important fact check here.

Manu, what -- look, this is real. This -- the fact that this FBI agent who was apparently very well respected did something that you're not supposed to do which is send a political text. And it does gives the president fodder for all of the hyperbole that he has out there about the FBI. This was a bad move.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Yes, and it's giving Republicans on the Hill some fodder too. Chuck Grassley, the Senate Judiciary Committee chairman has long been after trying to figure out what happened with the Clinton e-mail probe as well Devin Nunes, the House Intelligence chairman has been threatening to hold the Justice Department in contempt until they get more information about this fired agent. And we now know that he will actually be allowed to be interviewed by the House Intelligence Committee in the next several weeks.

This is, you know, a case of -- it's convenient for the president right now to have this controversy emerge so that he could shift the focus away from the very serious charges of Michael Flynn and everyone else. But, you know, the difference between, you know, Hillary Clinton and what he said about Hillary Clinton and Michael Flynn this morning as you mentioned, Hillary Clinton, you don't know if she lied to the FBI, she plead guilty to lying to FBI. Michael Flynn did.

That's still going to be a problem for the White House even, you know, as a this other controversy about Mueller's team continues to unfold.

BASH: And, you know, I have had this said to me by people in and around Trump that they have said this to him which is, you got to be careful when you go after the FBI. Because even when there's a bad seed, even at the time when people were maybe mixed about their then FBI Director James Comey, if you appear that you are going after the institution, they can turn on you, and they are powerful.

JACKIE KUCINICH, THE DAILY BEAST: Yes, but when does this president ever heeded the advice of his legal team or the people around him? He does what he wants. And there was this sort of radio silence initially after Flynn pled guilty and I think what, it took 24-hours for the president to -- I guess get his phone back from whoever was holding it or catch up with the news.

But -- so, whether or not this comes back to bite him, we'll have to wait and see. But, he's not going to be filtered for anyone no matter what the cost can possibly be.

[12:35:08] SARA MURRAY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: There are actually people who are close to the president who would rather see him vent on Twitter, for instance, rather than to take action. They sort of see it as a release valve in the morning. If he take to Twitter, you know, he go after Jeff Sessions, he go after Hillary Clinton and you yell about whoever you fell like you need to yell at.

Right. Some people just turned on like Twitter and like President Trump's journal, that might mean you're not waking up and firing someone in the morning who can then set off an additional investigation or questions about obstruction of justice. So there are some who just begun to embrace this as -- look, this is part of this president, this is part of who he is and frankly it's better than what the alternative.

BASH: Except that you do have an agency where there are people on the front lines all over the world working to defend and help this country.

Let me just read a quote from the New York Times of a former FBI spy hunter about morale. "You got men and women working tirelessly in every corner of the world to protect the United States and its people. When he says what he says", mean the president, "it's an insult and degrading for the men and women who are sacrificing their lives to protect this great nation."

JOHN MCCORMACK, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: I think that's certainly a fair point, but all the talk that the FBI might sort of seek revenge for Trump going after them really undermines this whole idea of their independence. So as much as we talk about, you know, how they're feeling, what a morale is, you know, they need to be talking about we're going to follow-up wherever it goes.

As for Trump, you know, with this -- with the (INAUDIBLE) about Hillary Clinton, I think that that's a (INAUDIBLE) we don't want to talk about, as the Clintons in general because, you know, a lot of Trump supporters are saying listen, unless they uncover literal treason or at least an underlying crime, there is nothing here.

I mean, (INAUDIBLE) that Bill Clinton was impeached, there was the fact that he perjured himself and he obstructed justice. I mean, he was hiding an illegal activity. Illegal, immoral affair with Monica Lewinsky. So even there isn't an underlying crime here, I think that, you know, there's real trouble for Trump.

BASH: That's a good point.

Chris Wray, the current FBI director is supposed to come to Capitol Hill this week. The sound of his silence right now is a little bit perplexing to a lot of people particularly inside the FBI, former FBI agents like the one I just described who are wondering why he's not defending his people.

RAJU: Yes, he's sort of in a box because, you know, if he speaks out now, perhaps he can see the same fate as James Comey. And also does not want to look --

BASH: I think that's unlikely.

RAJU: Right, who knows? But he will of course be asked about this on Thursday. I'm sure he'll say the opposite of what the president tweeted.

Remember, he was also asked at a hearing earlier this year, I think may have been his confirmation hearing whether or not he agreed with the president's assertion that James Comey sound of a low regard and that they -- there is no -- the morale is very low. He contradicted the president there, I'm sure you hear him say it on Thursday. But this probably the way for them to do it, I would guess.

BASH: OK. Everybody, standby.

Up next, Republicans on the verge of doing what Republicans like to do best. Pass a major tax cut. More on that after a break.

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[12:42:27] BASH: Congress is on the verge of passing the biggest tax overhaul in a generation. Both chambers of Congress have now approved bills to slash corporate taxes and reduce individual rates as well while eliminating some popular deductions. The next step is for Republicans in the House and in the Senate to negotiate a final bill that can still win enough Republican votes to pass. The differences that need to be worked out, just a few of them.

Should the individual rates expire in 2025 like the Senate bill? Should the estate tax and the alternative minimum tax be fully repealed which the Senate tax did not do? What will the fate of the deduct -- be of the deductions for mortgages, student loans, and medical expenses owe? And, should the bill repeal ObamaCare, at least the individual mate as the Senate bill did?

Now, none of those are necessarily insurmountable so borrowing any hiccups, Republicans could -- I should say could have a tax bill on the president's desk by Christmas.

We're back with our panel. There's so much to digest here. First let's just talk about how this came to be.

While you were -- while most people were sleeping at 3:00 in the morning, Friday night into Saturday, the Senate did pass this bill. And it was not a pretty process. And that is something that Democrats are going on social media and highlighting and showing the bill.

Let me just give you one example. Jon Tester of Montana looked into a camera, held up the bill and showed everybody what it looked like.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JON TESTER (D), MONTANA: This is your government at work. Here's the bill as it's written. Here's the modifications that are in it. I can read one word. It's called add this language.

Can you tell me what that word is? If you can, you got better eyes than me. This is unbelievable.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: I think it was attributable, but we get your point, Senator.

Let's just look at some of the last-minute adds and they're not exactly small things, a lot of these. Ten thousand dollar property tax deduction. Tax savings for private school or home schooling. Tax breaks for gas and oil operators. I wonder who put that in. Scrapped repeal of the corporate AMT. Manu, you were there late into the night on Friday night. We have all seen the sausage made before. It is not pretty particularly when you're up against a self-imposed deadline.

[12:44:59] RAJU: Yes. And, you know, any bill like this, the longer it hands out there, the more people throw arrows at it, the more unpopular it gets. And presumably, you don't have the votes.

The imperative for the leadership was they had the votes, they were going to jam this through and get this pass to no cost and no end. And the Democrats tried to delay the vote -- the final votes until Monday. They failed in that regard.

But, look, this is not a partisan thing because Democrats did the same thing when they were in power. When they had the votes for ObamaCare while it didn't go through the committee process and the like, they -- you remember --

KUCINICH: Thank you for (INAUDIBLE) that up, Manu.

RAJU: You remember.

BASH: Hold that thought. We just happen to have the tape.

RAJU: Oh, good.

BASH: John Boehner in 2010. Folks, roll it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R), MINORITY LEADER: Can you say it was done openly with transparency and accountability? Without back room deals that's struck behind closed doors hidden from the people? Hell no, you can't.

Have you read the bill? Have you read the reconciliation bill? Have you read the manager's amendment? Hell no, you haven't.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: John Boehner classic. Jackie, I think you and I were somewhere around the House of Chamber when he was delivering that speech. And look, this is the way it works.

KUCINICH: Right.

BASH: It is one of the many reasons people look at Washington and just, you know, go like this. But the Republicans did run on this notion in the House -- more on the House and the Senate to be fair of reading the bills, understanding what they're voting on, not rushing things through. And it's not as if this is some minor piece of legislation, this is the biggest tax overhaul in a generation that affects every single person in this country.

KUCINICH: But Democrats did the same with healthcare. Remember, their (INAUDIBLE) bills were passed in the dead of night. I don't think it was early in the day when that bill passed.

So, no, it's just a matter of who is in charge because governing is harder than a campaign slogan. And the leaders especially because in the House there is no earmarks anymore, they used these pressure valves in order to get things done. And it's to their own peril. We'll see if the voters -- we'll see how this bill actually is reacting to it and how it's implemented should it pass.

BASH: Before we go to break, I want to just give our viewers a little bit of insight into something that you wrote which is really, really good, guys. You should check it out on the Daily Beast. It is about how you spent your maternity leave. Congratulations. We all know you're just back.

"The words in my reporter's notebook from the day before my daughter was born say neo-Nazis, many sides and repugnant. That's where the political world froze for me on August 14th around 1:00 p.m. when I went into what would be 21 hours of labor followed by three months -- three and a half months of maternity bliss. In those 90 or so day, I missed approximately 55,541 news cycles and that's just inside the White House."

KUCINICH: Just an estimate.

BASH: But, it is so true.

KUCINICH: Right.

BASH: You give such perspective of kind of stepping out and yet nothing has changed.

KUCINICH: Exactly. I mean, you still have -- at the end I wrote, you know, I feel like it is hard to catch up in one way. But at the end of the day, it kind of stays the same. Democrats are still trying to figure out how to come back from their 2016 loss. Republicans are still trying to govern. We're seeing that with what's going on with Roy Moore.

BASH: And the president is still tweeting. Yes, it is. Happy birthday, Jackie.

KUCINICH: Oh, thank you very much.

BASH: Up next, former T.V. host Billy Bush takes on President Trump. Why he says the president is indulging in, quote, pro-visionist (ph) history. That's next.

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[12:53:09] BASH: Former T.V. host Billy Bush says it was the president's voice in that infamous "Access Hollywood" tape. Bush is speaking out amid reports president is questioning the authenticity of this 2005 recording that came to light at the end of the 2016 campaign. Bush lost his job at NBC's Today show for his part in that 12-year-old tape in which Trump bragged about grabbing women. Now in his pen-scathing New York Times op-ed, Bush says in part, "Of course he said it. And we laughed along without a single doubt that this was hypothetical hot air from America's highest rated bloviator. We now know better."

Sara Murray, Billy Bush is going to will be on Colbert tonight so he is clearly trying to kind of use this moment for some rehab to get himself back in. But what is this do to people you talked to in the White House about their concern. Oh my gosh, here we go again. Not only is the president bringing up the "Access Hollywood" tape again in private, now you have the guy who was on the tape doing the same thing.

MURRAY: Right. Well, I mean, on one hand, you understand where Billy Bush is coming from because he paid a steeper price in the view of many than the president of the United States did for the comments on that tape. He lost his job and then candidate Trump became president of the United States. So you can see why he might be out there trying to rehabilitate his image.

But, you know, for the White House, this just continues this news cycle. The fact that the president continues to stew over past political fights like this privately. You know, most people in the White House know that a lot of that stewing is not going to be private forever. And it's going to get out there and it's going to continue to spur news cycles like what we are seeing now with Billy Bush back in the spotlight ready to rebound what happened on the tape.

That is not what most people in the White House want to be focused on. But there is a sort of a feeling among aides at this point that there is a certain amount of this, you have to just -- you have to swallow hard and stomach it and say, I'm just focussed on tax reform.

[12:55:08] BASH: In addition to the political question, there's the cultural question. Billy Bush in this op-ed and I'm guessing we're going to hear more from him on this, is now trying to kind of come out as the defender of women. He also goes after Trump saying he believes the women who have accused Donald Trump because of Bush's interactions with Trump.

Is this is also where we are in today's world that men who are involved in this, if they see an opportunity to be on the right side are? Real quick.

MCCORMACK: I think certainly you probably have Billy Bush thinking this is the ability to rehabilitate himself and not (INAUDIBLE) saying the right thing, but that's could definitely be part of it.

RAJU: Of course, what will the president say when he is asked directly, is this tape authentic? What will he say then?

BASH: We'll see, we'll see. He's on the plane right now, maybe he was asked on Air Force One. Who knows?

Stay tuned for that and much more. Thank you for joining us on INSIDE POLITICS. Wolf Blitzer is up after a quick break. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, I'm Wold Blitzer. It's 1 p.m. here in Washington. Wherever you're watching from around the world, thanks very much for joining us.

The president of the United States --