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Trump: FBI's Reputation in 'Tatters'; Billy Bush: It Was Trump's Voice on 'Access Hollywood' Tape; House & Senate to Begin Reconciling Tax Bills. Aired 6-6:30a ET
Aired December 4, 2017 - 06:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No collusion. There's been absolutely no collusion.
[05:59:09] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president tweeted that he fired him because he had lied to the FBI. That ups the ante.
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: You tweet regarding ongoing criminal investigations at your own peril. I'd be careful if I were you, Mr. President.
SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA: What we're beginning to see is the putting together of a case of obstruction of justice.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're very close to the finish line.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This was Swamp 101. The bill was being hand- drafted. Lots of provisions were being included for special interests.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm not going to say I read every single letter on every single page, but have I read every aspect of that bill before it was fused together? Yes.
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER: We believe this will get the country performing better.
ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is NEW DAY. It is Monday, December 4, 6 a.m. here in New York. Here's our starting line.
President Trump once again undermining the credibility of the FBI. The president launching an extraordinary assault on the nation's top law enforcement agency, saying its reputation is in, quote, "tatters." This after his fired national security advisor, Michael Flynn, pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI and is now cooperating with Robert Mueller's Russia investigation. President Trump's lawyer says it was he who wrote a controversial tweet in which the president says that, for the first time, he knew Flynn had lied to the FBI before he fired him in February.
Former FBI director James Comey says the president then asked him to, quote, "go easy" on Flynn. Some Democrats say this amounts to obstruction of justice.
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: So the topic of what Trump knows and knows to be true is also in the news on a very different topic. Former "Access Hollywood" host Billy Bush says in a new op-ed in "The New York Times" that Trump knows it is him on that infamous tape and that the president is indulging in some revisionist history by questioning the authenticity of the same. Bush also says he believes the women accusing Trump of sexual misconduct.
But for all the problems dogging this president, progress on the legislative agenda would be a big boost. And now Trump is one step closer to his first win. His fate on taxes rests in the House Senate conference. Can they agree on a bill before the deadline?
We have it all covered. Let's begin with CNN's Joe Johns, live at the White House -- Joe.
JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Good morning, Chris. The president or others with access to his Twitter account seemingly wading into dangerous waters over the weekend with what could be construed as a damaging admission just days after his former national security adviser pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI, along with a slap in the face at the agents of the nation's top law enforcement agency.
JOHNS (voice-over): President Trump once again attacking the credibility of his own FBI, calling the bureau tainted and very dishonest and declaring that after years under former director James Comey, its reputation is in tatters. The president seizing on reporting that a senior FBI agent was removed from the special counsel's team last summer after internal messages were discovered that could be interpreted as showing a bias for Hillary Clinton.
The head of the FBI Agents Association firing back saying, "FBI special agents put their lives on the line to protect the American public, suggesting otherwise is simply false. Comey and former deputy attorney general Sally Yates also coming to the bureau's defense, with Yates declaring, the only thing in tatters is the president's respect for the rule of law. The dedicated men and women on the FBI deserve better.
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: What has been shown there is no collusion. No collusion. There's been absolutely -- there's been absolutely no collusion.
JOHNS: President Trump attempting to downplay the guilty plea from his fired national security adviser Michael Flynn before this potentially damning tweet posted on Saturday from his account asserting that he had to fire General Flynn because he lied to the vice president and the FBI. The tweet suggests the president knew Flynn lied to the FBI when he allegedly asked Comey to drop the bureau's investigation into Flynn, a conversation Comey testified happened the day after Flynn was fired.
JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: That's why I understood him to be saying that what he wanted me to do is drop any investigation connected to Flynn's account of his conversations with the Russians.
JOHNS: The president denying Comey's account. Mr. Trump's private attorney insisting that he actually drafted the problematic tweet that could help Special Counsel Mueller if he choices to pursue an obstruction of justice case.
SEN. MARK WARNER (R), VIRGINIA: If he knew that then, it raises a whole series of questions. That's why I think you're going to hear much more from the special prosecutor.
JOHNS: Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein saying Sunday that the Senate Judiciary Committee is building an obstruction of justice case against the president, citing the white House's behavior and Mr. Trump's firing of Comey.
FEINSTEIN: It is my belief that that is directly, because he did not agree to lift the cloud of the Russia investigation. That's obstruction of justice.
JOHNS: This has the potential to be an important week in the Russia investigation. The president's son, Donald Trump Jr., expected to testify before the House Intelligence Committee on Wednesday.
Today, the president flies off to Utah where he is expected to announce he's shrinking the size of some national parks there -- Chris and Alisyn.
CAMEROTA: OK, Joe, thank you very much. Let's talk about all of this. We want to bring in CNN political analyst, Karoun Demirjian, and Asha Rangappa, a special agent and senior lecturer at Yale Law School. Great to have both of you here.
So Asha, let's start with the problematic e-mail -- I'm sorry, tweet, as Joe just described it. So let me read it for everybody. This is the one over the weekend that now is raising all sorts of eyebrows: "I had to fire General Flynn because he lied to the vice president and the FBI. He had pled guilty to those lies. It is a shame, because his actions during the transition were lawful. There was nothing to hid!" Exclamation point.
So then the president's lawyer comes out and says that when it -- it causes a firestorm of, "Uh-oh, he knew that Flynn had done this," then the lawyer says, "No, I wrote it."
So first you have to believe that the president has a ghostwriter for his Twitter account. That's the first thing. And then, second, what do you think legally this tweet leads to?
ASHA RANGAPPA, SPECIAL AGENT AND SENIOR LECTURER, YALE LAW SCHOOL: Well, right. So the best story they can come up with is that the president's own lawyer framed him on Twitter. OK? That doesn't actually speak highly of his legal counsel or bode well for the case.
But as a legal matter, this is his tweet. He adopted it. It's on his Twitter account. But I think more importantly, Mueller is not going to rely just on his tweet to make his case. OK? He's not going to march it in put the tweet down and say, "I rest my case."
What the tweet highlights is that, if the president knew at the time that he asked Comey to drop the investigation that Flynn had lied to the FBI. That significantly makes the case of obstruction. And now Mueller has Flynn.
Flynn knows what the president knew, and he can say it from -- in his own words. He can say it on the stand if he needs to. And that's one of the, I think, many values that Flynn has to Mueller right now.
CUOMO: Quick follow: the president can start or stop any investigation that he wants. He can remove the head of the FBI whenever he wants. How is it obstruction of justice to do what he is allowed to do anyway, which is go to Comey and say, "I don't like this. I like Flynn. I don't believe any of this. I don't think it's that important. If you can get rid of it, that's great"?
Now, the president, just to be clear, says he didn't say that. Comey seemed to indicate very strongly in his congressional testimony that he did say that. And it was so upsetting that he wrote his memo and all that stuff.
CUOMO: But how is the president able to obstruct something that he has the ability to do, under any circumstances?
RANGAPPA: Right. So this is a great talking point that I heard all the time, and what I point out is, yes, the president can fire his -- the people that he is appointed.
However, he does have a constitutional duty to take care that the laws be faithfully executed. So he cannot fire people based on a motive to not allow the laws to be executed.
CUOMO: Does motive matter? That's the question.
RANGAPPA: Motive is everything in obstruction of justice. And that's what Mueller needs to prove. He needs to prove that this wasn't just he fired Comey because he wasn't doing a good job. He did not want the FBI to pursue this investigation to, you know, get to whatever they were getting to.
And that's why, if Trump had any personal thing to gain or lose from that investigation, if he knew of anything illegal at the time that he made that decision to fire Comey, all of these go to what is called corrupt intent and can help prove that it was actually obstruction and not just a personnel decision.
CAMEROTA: So Karoun, let's talk about the FBI. And the president publicly, you know, demeaning them and undermining them. So here are the tweets from the weekend. These were yesterday. "Report, anti- Trump FBI led Clinton e-mail probe. Now it all starts to make sense," he says. Then "after years of Comey, with the phony and dishonest Clinton investigation and more, running the FBI, its reputation is in tatters, worst in history!"
So where is Attorney General Jeff Sessions on all of this? I mean, this is his purview. What's he supposed to say about the president undermining our criminal justice system?
CUOMO: He's like this. (PUTS HEAD DOWN ON THE DESK)
KAROUN DEMIRJIAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It is an awkward situation for him to be in, right. Because--
CUOMO: That's where he is.
CAMEROTA: Got it.
DEMIRJIAN: We have -- we have yet to hear him kind of make a declarative statement one way or the other on this. But it is actually not a good position for him to be in, because this is all stuff that he recused himself from anything involving anything related to the campaign. And now this is all mixed up together basically. Because I mean, the Trump -- the president's tweets are, in part, a reaction to some of those stories about the investigators on the Clinton probe, in part a reaction to all the Flynn news. Right? And so that's stuff that Sessions is supposed to be keeping at arm's length.
And so he's kind of keeping his head down, even though a fairly major unit is being insulted on a regular basis over the weekend by what the president has been tweeting.
CUOMO: Go ahead.
DEMIRJIAN: No, I was just going to say that I'm not sure that we will hear Sessions necessarily come out and start to try to iron things out, unless this becomes exclusively something that is just a structural complaint about how the FBI is working and right now, everything about the FBI for the president is tied up in this Russia probe.
CUOMO: This is, you know, what he does. Right? This is not so interesting to you. Because this is just if you attack him, he attacks you. It doesn't matter if you're in institution or if you're a kid with an ice cream cart. So -- but in terms of legal analysis, what seems to be coming out now is that Flynn had been assumed to be rogue. This was him. This was his lobbying. This was his past. These were his contacts.
N[[06:10:17] And now it seems that he was not rogue, that he was in constant communication, at least around this subject meeting or contact, as we call them now with the Russian ambassador. He was talking to people. He was telling them what they were doing.
There seemed to be an effort to control the relationship with Russia by the Trump team, for better or worse. Relevance?
RANGAPPA: The relevance is, well, one, that this is in direct contradiction to what everyone in the White House has been saying. And if any of them have stated the contrary when they've been interviewed by the FBI, then they could be in very hot water.
CUOMO: So if I say to the FBI, "Listen, I didn't know what Flynn was doing," and then you have an e-mail as the FBI, saying Flynn is sending it to me and showing that I had reason to know.
RANGAPPA: Right. So if the FBI came to Jared Kushner and said, "When you were at Mar-a-Lago on December 29, did Flynn report back to you on his conversations with Ambassador Kislyak," and if he says, "I don't know," then that's a lie. Because we now know that he was not only -- he not only got those reports back, but he was directing them.
And so more broadly what I think that this says is these people were all on the same page. We didn't just have -- too many people now. Papadopoulos back in the campaign, who was coordinating with the Russians. This in the transition. I think all of this is going to come -- come into place when -- when we see how they all fit together.
CAMEROTA: OK, Karoun, next topic, and that is the "Access Hollywood" tape. Billy Bush, who of course, was the host of "Access Hollywood," has not been public since being fired. And now he is. He has put an out op-ed in the "New York Times" about it. And what prompted this is hearing the reports that President Trump was -- is trying to backtrack and trying to revise history and trying to say, "We don't think that that was my voice on the 'Access Hollywood' tape."
So here's what Billy Bush said this weekend: "He said it. Grab them by the blank. Of course he said it. And we laughed long, without a single doubt that this was hypothetical hot air from America's highest-rated bloviator. Every single one of us" -- meaning all the guys on the bus -- "assumed we were listening to a crass standup act. He was performing. Surely, we thought, none of this was real. We now know better."
Just fascinating, Karoun, to hear from, you know, the witness, the person who was there, the person who has paid with his career.
DEMIRJIAN: Right. I was going to say, the person who actually suffered the consequences of this coming out into the open. And that's not the president. That is Billy Bush.
But yes, he does quite the op-ed. He goes on, kind of details the accusations that are made against the president that are in line with what he was claiming to be able to do on that bus and saying how he believes them.
You know, Billy Bush is not -- he's not a Trump supporter, was not a Trump supporter back during the campaign. So this is not like one of his inner circle turning against him, but it certainly is somebody who was there, and a witness to this conversation, trying to set the record straight. At this point at which the president is kind of trying to equivocate
in order to be able to take himself out of the limelight that is now kind of focused on many members of both parties. He's dishing out a lot of insults about the Democrats who have been found or accused, excuse me, of committing instances of sexual harassment, sexual assault, but trying to excuse himself because everybody is looking at his past, too.
And Billy Bush coming out and saying, "Unh-uh, I was there." Kind of -- it's a knock against what the president has been trying to do.
CUOMO: Right. But it's a little bit of a layup here. Right? I mean, the FBI -- why are we talking about Billy Bush? Here's why.
Because what he was doing to the FBI this weekend and the Justice Department attack. It's inauthentic, illegitimate. If it goes against me, it's bad. It's the same thing he's doing with this tape. Now, it is absurd on its face. Everybody knows it's Trump on the tape, including Trump. But it is a tactic of his: "Maybe it's not real. Maybe it's not even me. Who knows?" This is a tactic that's the same as attacking the FBI in terms of its point of purpose, which is to delegitimize that which is dangerous to him.
RANGAPPA: That's right. And I think more broadly, this just goes to his lack of veracity. So I think what you see is just this pattern where he will switch his position at will, as you said, based on how it's going to benefit him in the moment. And these -- this -- his truthfulness will have -- his lack of truthfulness will have consequences. Because ultimately, whether in his legal troubles, whether it's Comey, or Flynn or anyone else making a statement contrary to him, they're going to be asked, who do you want to believe? And I don't think now that he's someone who's as easily believable.
CAMEROTA: And the reason I ask is it's not fishy. People in your part of the world say, you know, if he were ever to talk to Mueller, the president, we don't know that that would ever happen. But the idea that they wouldn't bring stuff up like this, not because they care, not because there's a potential crime.
They can ask you anything, and it goes to your credibility. Just to see what you'll lie about and what you won't. So even though it seems like Just because it seems completely irrelevant, you never know.
RANGAPPA: And one thing his lawyer should never let him do is talk to Mueller.
CAMEROTA: Asha, thank you very much.
Karoun, thank you.
So coming up on NEW DAY, stick around, because we're going to talk to one of President Trump's accusers. She alleges that Mr. Trump forcibly kissed her in 2005 and more. We'll talk to her. CUOMO: All right. And Senate Republicans have passed their sweeping
tax bill in the Senate. But we're going to see something we rarely see. These conferences with the House and the Senate, they don't happen a lot. Can they actually bang out a deal and a huge win for the president by Christmas? Timing is everything. We discuss next.
CAMEROTA: Senate Republicans' tax plan headed for reconciliation with the House. Lawmakers have significant differences to overcome, and they are also facing a looming government shutdown this week.
CNN's Lauren Fox is live from Capitol Hill with more.
How is it going today?
LAURA FOX, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's good. You're right. Republicans managed to pass a massive tax overhaul in the wee hours of Saturday morning. But that was just the first in many steps ahead. There are plenty of obstacles that Republicans in the House and the Senate will have to overcome. Republicans in the House and the Senate have two different tax bills. And the Republicans in the Senate maintain seven individual tax brackets. The House bill only has four.
The Senate also keeps large parts of the alternative minimum tax while the House repeal it. The Senate managed to repeal the individual mandate in their tax bill.
But the House kept the individual mandate in theirs. And there are still differences between the estate tax. The Republicans in the Senate don't manage to repeal the estate tax. Instead they just double the exemption. In the House, the estate tax is fully repealed.
Now, important to remember that moving forward here the president has said he wants to make sure that the tax bill is signed into law before the new year. That doesn't give Republicans much time. This is as they face a massive spending deadline at the end of this week. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has assured members of the press and members of Capitol Hill that there won't be a government shutdown. But there's still room for negotiations ahead. And there's only five days. So not much time.
CUOMO: That last factor the biggest. There are only five days. Appreciate the reporting. Thank you for setting the table. Let's bring back Karoun Demirjian. And joining us is CNN policy analyst David Drucker.
All right. So the president weighed in this morning, assuming he wrote it. This may be another one he wants to put on someone else. "Democrats' refusal to give -- give even one vote for massive tax cuts is why we need Republican Roy Moore to win in Alabama. We need his vote on stopping crime, illegal immigration, border wall, military pro-life, V.A., judges, Second Amendment and more. No to Jones, a Pelosi/Schumer puppet."
So putting the issue, I guess, Karoun, aside of, well, what kind of person do you want casting those vote, put that to the side, what do you make of this tactic by the president? Isn't it hard to blame the Democrats on this? The way this is being done, they really -- and Democrats won't like this -- but really pretty much irrelevant in the process. Their amendments get shot down, because they don't have the numbers in every committee where they come up.
What could they be doing other than opposing it, because they're not part of it?
DEMIRJIAN: Right. I mean, they were sidelined pretty much from the get-go. And you saw that playing out last week, because you had this scramble to try to rewrite parts of the bill. Because, you know, Corker was pushing back. Of course, he didn't end up voting for the Senate bill either.
But I mean, the images of the bill with the handwritten notes in the side margins were going around the Internet. I think everybody can see quite how rushed this was at the last minute. And Democrats were not placing a part in that process. And so they're holding their votes -- they don't like the policy to begin with, but they also don't like that they were left out.
And so this becomes just a question of, you know, as you said, how can they? But then the president's tweet takes this into a different category.
I mean, the things that the president listed about Roy Moore being good for the GOP. Sure, maybe all of those items, he will be a beneficial addition. But there is a whole thing about Roy Moore being a very complicated person. Mitch McConnell has already said he would probably be under ethics review the second he gets to the second, the Senate he's seated.
And also, there's the matter of are we sure that Roy Moore actually would be a vote for the GOP on things like these financial matters. We're not, actually. And it's interesting that the president didn't list that. Tax cuts -- the tax bill is the impetus for that tweet, but it's not one of the things that the president said that he's in the bag on.
CAMEROTA: I mean, I don't want to go too far down the Roy Moore avenue here. But, David, this is the closest to an -- this is an endorsement. This said, "We need Republican Roy Moore to win in Alabama." That's an endorsement from the president.
DAVID DRUCKER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. He just endorsed Roy Moore by name after endorsing him without using his name a couple of weeks ago. I don't think it's surprising. I think the president has always looked at Roy Moore as in a similar category himself. Somebody who is accused of sexual misconduct with women that he vehemently denies and swear is a plot. And the idea that Trump was ever going to get involved in pushing Roy Moore out, I thought, was always a fantasy.
Because the president himself is always complaining about rigged elections. And so things like that never really made sense. But Karoun is very correct in pointing out that Roy Moore is not a
guaranteed vote for the Republican agenda. Roy Moore would have opposed the last incarnation of the Republican proposal to repeal and replace Obamacare, where Luther Strange, the man he defeated in that primary in September, supported it.
And so these things are not as easy as the president is saying. It's not surprising that Democrats opposed the tax bill en masse. No. 1, they don't believe in it. It's just not policy that tends to fit in the Democratic world view.
And No. 2, and this is political, but it works for both sides. When you help the majority govern, voters tend to reward the majority for govern, not the minority for joining into a majority project. And so none of what we saw over the past few days is surprising.
CUOMO: Right. But he is fighting his own, the president, on this. He's not fighting the Democrat. They don't have the power and they don't have the wherewithal. This is all about divisions within the Republican Party.
[06:25:04] Karoun, it's very interesting. So Mitch McConnell had been uncharacteristically strong in saying, "Roy Moore, I think he should step aside." Now he's saying the people of Alabama should decide.
You have the president coming out and saying we need the vote. The irony, of course, is Roy Moore allegations are very troubling to people. They're not as bad as those that were against the president. Roy Moore has got two women who accused him of assault. The president had more than that.
CUOMO: Let's remember the majority of women with Roy Moore were saying, "He wanted to date me--"
CUOMO: "-- when I was 16," which was legal.
CAMEROTA: Sure. But one of them was 14.
CAMEROTA: One was with the assault.
CUOMO: Well, there was a curious case involving the president with somebody who was underaged at the time. The suit was withdrawn. That hurt the credibility of the suit greatly.
But it is interesting, Karoun, that we're dealing with this imbalance on these stories about what to do. But at the end of the day, they want Roy Moore and their allegations be damned. Isn't that just their assessment at this point?
DEMIRJIAN: I mean, they are -- the initial reaction was maybe it would be more detriment than good. But yes, since then, and I think it really does matter that the president has set the tone on this. The president has said, as David pointed out, he kind of endorsed him without mentioning his name. And this is pretty darn close to an endorsement this morning.
There's a tie that is moving, that the GOP was caught on the wrong side of the last time. When we were talking about a year ago when Trump was the candidate and the GOP came out and said after the "Access Hollywood" tape, many members said, "I don't know if I like this. I can't endorse him. He should pull out." And he didn't, and he won.
And now he's throwing his weight in the Roy Moore game in the same way. And so it's almost like Mitch McConnell who -- and all the other Republicans who held the line and said, "No, we don't have to stand for this. We have to find some other solution, because this isn't good enough for our party" are now saying, "Oh, OK, we'll let it go and see what plays out."
And I think the real shift on this is the fact the president, who was very quiet about this at the outset, when everybody else in the GOP was talking about it, did start to weigh in, and you are seeing people defer to that.
DRUCKER: McConnell is in a difficult position. Because before he talks about opposing Roy Moore, which he did for several weeks, the more votes Roy Moore gets in Alabama, because they do not like Republican establishment, in particular Alabama Republicans; and they don't like Mitch McConnell.
On the other hand, if Roy Moore ends up in the Senate, he is going to be a magnet for the microphones. In a post-Harvey Weinstein era that we're living in, this is going to be a very dangerous issue for Republicans in 2018. And it helps muddy the water with Democrats who have had their own problems, not figuring out what to do about Al Franken and John Conyers.
All of a sudden, they're all in the same soup, and it's a problem that they are going to have to figure out.
CAMEROTA: All right. David, Karoun, thank you very much.
It seems pretty clear that at the end of the day, they need the numbers. You know, in all of this talk about, well, they put something before the party, you're getting your answer.
Coming up in our next hour, we're going to talk to White House legislative affairs director Marc Short about what's going on with these tax cuts and why the American people should want them.
CAMEROTA: That will be very interesting to hear him explain them.
Meantime, drug store giant CVS looks to expand into health insurance in a huge deal to buy Aetna. Will federal regulators slam the brakes on this mega merger? We explain.