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Haley: U.S. Will Remember Being Singled Out for Criticism; GOP Leaders Speak After Passing Tax Cut Bill; Nunes: "Not a Secret" Intel Committee Investigating FBI, DOJ. Aired 11:30-12p ET
Aired December 21, 2017 - 11:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[11:30:00] DANNY DANON, ISRAELI AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: In the year 2000, prime minister offered them a state, offered to compromise them on Jerusalem, and they were not willing to move forward.
ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: As you mentioned the private and public U.N., Prime Minister Netanyahu yesterday calling the U.N. a house of lies. At the same time, you and other diplomats were asked to meet with high-level officials to talk to them about not supporting this resolution or at the very least not speaking on the floor there today at the General Assembly. How difficult is it making your job when you're hearing publicly from your prime minister that the U.N. is a house of lies and you're trying to have these private conversations?
DANON: It's not easy, Erica. It is a hostile territory in the U.N. But for me, I get courage from the private conversation with ambassadors, even Arab ambassadors which they tell me what they think about the area, Israel and the U.S., admire our democracies, and I am optimistic about the future. Our challenge is to close the gap between the public U.N. and the private U.N., and we're starting to see it.
HILL: Israeli ambassador to the U.N., Danny Danon, appreciate your time. Thank you.
DANON: Thank you.
HILL: Right now, the deputy director of the FBI getting grilled by lawmakers behind closed doors amid allegations that the department is biased against the president. New reaction from Capitol Hill next.
[11:35:33] HILL: Democratic Senator Mark Warner has a stern warning for President Trump, don't fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller. His strongly worded address on the Senate floor comes as Mueller is facing criticism from some Republicans over the Russia investigation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MARK WARNER, (D), VIRGINIA: Any attempt by this president to remove Special Counsel Mueller from his position or to pardon key witnesses in any effort to shield them to -- from accountability or shut down the investigation, would be a gross abuse of power. These truly are red lines. (END VIDEO CLIP)
HILL: We'll go to Capitol Hill, where House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell are holding an event after passing the landmark tax reform bill. Let's listen in.
SEN. TIM SCOTT, (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Well, good morning. What a good morning this is. A fantastic day, Christmas coming early for the American people. The House and the Senate working together, putting aside all differences with one clear objective, making sure the American people are heard. Making sure that small businesses have an opportunity to grow.
We have seen a tremendous victory through this process and it is because of committed leaders behind me, entrusted with the confidence of their voters to bring forth a tremendous victory. I am thankful that we are led in the Senate by Leader McConnell, who has done a fabulous job of bringing 52 cats --
-- all working in different directions together for one purpose, to serve the American people.
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, (R-KY), SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: Well, thanks.
This is a happy day, indeed, for the American people. These middle- class tax cuts are resonating already. We've used examples of single parents making $41,000 a year who are getting a 73 percent reduction in their taxes. But it's not just on the individual side. I was pleased to see America's corporations standing up almost immediately and saying the employees will benefit from this great tax cut. Led off by AT&T yesterday with a thousand-dollar Christmas bonus to 200,000 employees, echoing after that, other corporations standing up and saying just exactly what people like Speaker Paul Ryan have been predicting for a long time, this is going to provide great opportunities for the employees of our country. So it's a great Christmas season. I'm happy to be here.
With that, the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, the leader on this issue, all along the way, Kevin Brady.
REP. KEVIN BRADY, (R-TX), CHAIRMAN, HOUSE WAYS AND MEANS COMMITTEE: Leader, thank you, again, so much for your leadership and Speaker Ryan's as well.
You've seen this bill signed today, this final historic tax reform bill, one of the biggest highlights for many of us in our time in Congress, and maybe in even our adult lives. One of the main reasons so many of us ran for Congress was to do exactly this, improve America's broken tax code and take away the pain it was having in causing on our country, in our economy. We all want to make it simpler, fairer, flatter, rewarding hard work, making America competitive again and leapfrogging America to the lead. That's exactly what we accomplished in this bill.
This is an incredible day for the American people. We would have never got here, but for the leadership of Paul Ryan, our speaker, without the leadership of the Senate, Leader McConnell, Chairman Hatch and others.
But I do want to take a moment to tell you as proud as I am of this bill, I am equally proud of the 24 members of the House Ways and Means committee who worked long hours, evenings, weekend, came back from holidays to be ready to deliver this tax reform plan.
I would be remiss as well if I didn't thank our team and committee led by David Stewart and Barbara Angus, our tax counsel, who did remarkable work.
[11:40:08] BRADY: I cannot wait to see this new life that springs up in our economy in the United States as we deliver more jobs, fairer taxes and bigger paychecks for the American people. Thank you.
BRADY: And I am -- I'm proud to introduce the chairman of the Energy Committee in the Senate, Senator Murkowski.
There you are.
SEN. LISA MURKOWSKI, (R-AL), CHAIRMAN, SENATE ENERGY COMMITTEE: I had to come from behind my Congressman for Alaska, Don Young, who has been with us on the Anwar fight for 37 years now. So while I was able to be the architect of Title II in the Senate and proud to do so, I think it is only appropriate that I recognize the dean of your House, Congressman Don Young, who has done an extraordinary job for us.
MURKOWSKI: But as tax reform has been long awaited, so has opening the 1002 area to limited exploration and production, an area of extraordinary resource that can be accessed with a minimal footprint, something that Alaskans have been fighting for, for 38 years. You don't give up on something when the cause is right, when you know you have so much to contribute, so to colleagues that have stood with us as the Alaska delegation, with those who have stood with Alaska, with those who have stood for American energy production, today is, indeed, a bright, bright day.
We thank you for your continued support. Alaska will make you proud.
(APPLAUSE) UNIDENTIFIED SENATOR: Thank you.
Well, this is a bright day for the United States because America is rejecting the economics of envy and embracing the economics of opportunity. There's a real buoyancy and brightness to that. I think America is longing for brightness in our public life. If you think about the impact of this vote, it has an impact on every American and if you're having an impact on every American, that means you're having an impact on the globe.
The world longs for the United States to be a strong diplomatic power and in order for that to be true, the United States has to be a strong military power and in order for that to be true, the United States has to be a strong economic power. At its foundation, is the ability now to project American values around the world.
This is much bigger than an economic picture. It is a casting a vision for what our future looks like, and we're choosing brightness and opportunity.
SENATOR MIKE ENZI, (R), WYOMING: This is an exciting day for America and for almost every single person in it that works. I had a person say, well, we're not going to know whether this helped us or not for another year, until April 15th of the following year. I said, no, companies will get the new withholding tables by the first of February.
And so the first checks to come out in February, people are going to be able to see the reduction in the amount of withhold they had to do to pay their taxes. They will see a benefit come February. And I've been overjoyed with calls this morning from small businesses and some international businesses that worked on the international tax piece. And I've already heard from some companies that will move their business back to the United States, build a couple more manufacturing plants here.
And one was talking about a thousand more employees. But I've heard from small business, too, one who said this will be the biggest investment we've ever made. We will put $15 million -- that's a big number to a small business -- $15 million, into new plants. I think we're going to hear a lot of examples of that. Every new plant needs employees to do it. Employees increase the competition among workers, increase competition among workers, raises wages. So we're going to see lower taxes, higher wages, and more jobs in the United States, which is exactly what we set out to do in this bill. And I'm glad that the Budget Committee was able to play a role in this to get the reconciliation so that we could get through to the final stage and do it.
[11:45:10] REP. KRISTI NOEM, (R), SOUTH DAKOTA: I've told this story a couple times before but a while back I was grocery shopping on a weekend at about 11:00 at night and a mom came up to me and she had her hand full of coupons and her cart full of generic food and said when is it going to get better. My electricity costs have gone up, health care costs have gone up, when is it going to get better. Passing this bill and signing it into law it got better for that individual and family. In my home state of South Dakota, the average household income is $54,000 a year.
They pay double the average of energy costs because of what we're located. They have about an $830 tax liability. With the passing of this bill now they will get a $730 refund. That's a $1600 difference and for that family, that's life changing. That's a weekend they can spend with their kids, they can take a couple days off, put some money in a savings account. So as I came to the table as a Ways and Means member and a final negotiator on this package, I came to that table as a farmer, as a rancher, but most importantly, as a mom who wanted to see those families get some relief.
So this is a wonderful day for us. Not only did we meet family needs, but we also gave tools to farmers and ranchers and small businesses across the country, interest deductibility, expenses a small business low tax rate, all things that will pay off and build strong families, but also a strong future for this country.
You know, the bottom line is this, that people are worked hard for their money. It's about time that people in Washington, D.C., respect that and let them keep more of their money and make their lives and futures better.
So thank you, Chairman Brady, for your work on this bill and what so impressed me throughout this process Chairman Brady let us be legislatures.
I served in our state legislature, I was the assistant majority leader there. Since I've come to Washington, D.C., one of the things that frustrated me the most is you see very little of the legislative process, but this chairman let us be legislators. He let us negotiate, craft policy. And I absolutely loved the fact that he gave us that opportunity to truly be a part of forming this bill so that it worked for our districts, our state, but for this country.
And now I want to introduce the man who gave such an inspirational speech yesterday at the White House. I talked to so many people that said it almost brought them to tears, but Chairman Hatch will speak next.
HILL: You've been listening to Republican lawmakers, touting their victory with the tax reform bill yesterday. Talking about what they've heard from their constituents and how good they're feeling about it. We will continue to look at that.
Also, some breaking news we want to bring you to. Republican Congressman Devin Nunes just telling CNN it's not a secret they're investigating the Department of Justice. Nunes issuing subpoenas to senior DOJ and FBI officials in an attempt to get documents on how the FBI used that now infamous dossier in its investigation into Russia. We dive into that next.
[11:52:40] HILL: Breaking news. The top Republican on the House Intel Committee speaking too CNN about the investigation into the Department of Justice and the FBI. Republican Congressman Devin Nunes just telling CNN it's, quote, "not a secret" they are investigating the Department of Justice. Nunes has issued subpoenas in an attempt to get documents in how the FBI used the infamous dossier in the Russia investigation.
I want to bring in Scott Jennings, CNN political commentator, former special assistant to George W. Bush, and Symone Sanders, CNN political commentator and former press secretary for Bernie Sanders' 2016 presidential campaign.
As we look at this, Nunes here today is pushing back against a report earlier in the day in "Politico," which was saying that he was investigating, looking at investigating the perceived corruption at the DOJ. He said it's not about corruption, but an attempt to get the information.
Scott, to you, he was recusing himself from the Russia investigation. In looking into the dossier, doesn't that fall into the Russia umbrella?
SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It falls under the umbrella of making sure that the American people have confidence in what's going on at the FBI and confidence on what's going on at the bureau that is tasked, at least in part right now, of investigating the president of the United States. I don't think Robert Mueller is a bad actor. I think he has high integrity. I don't think anyone in the FBI is known to be a bad actor. I think most FBI agents have high integrity. But with an investigation going on at the highest levels, the American people need confidence that information is not being mishandled and that personal biases are not being used in it. I don't have a problem with giving the American people more information if that's what they are doing.
HILL: In terms of confidence, the president said he would not fire Robert Mueller but then we have Mark Warner saying firing Mueller would cross a, quote, "red line." There is so much being bantered about here.
And, Symone, when you hear him saying he would cross a red line, what would red line even be when we are talking about Republican-controlled Washington.
[11:54:44] SYMONE SANDERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: You know, one, the fact that Mark Warner went out there and gave that speech on the Senate floor was very telling. The Senate investigation has had a very high bar. The fact that Senator Warner felt he needed to go to the floor and say that says that many people in Washington, Senators on the committee feel as though the investigation and Robert Mueller are in danger.
Look, I know Republicans in Washington have bowed down to the president thus far, but the firing of Robert Mueller would be a line in the sand saying we are not going to stand with this and could be talking about impeachment. It's too early to tell, but the fact that multiple folks are jumping out saying basically do not do this or something bad will happen. That's something we cannot ignore and take lightly.
To the point about Devin Nunes and the fact that the American people should have a high bar, I absolutely agree. I don't think Devin Nunes is the person to provide that high bar seeing that he had to recuse himself that he shared improper information to the White House.
HILL: Scott, the bottom line, is there a concerted effort to undermine the investigation?
JENNINGS: There is a concerted effort to make sure the American people have all the information they need to make sure the investigation is conducted in an unbiased fashion. I oppose firing Mueller. This effort by the Democrats to make people think that the president is imminently firing Mueller to me is politically motivated and laughable. The president said he is not doing it and his lawyers said he is not doing it. There is no discussion of this, according to the White House, from the highest possible source, the president himself. Yet the Democrats try to will it into existence. They want the American people to believe something that's not true.
At the end of the day, I think all these investigations need to continue and need to continue unfettered and unbiassed and people are smart this this country and more information is not a bad thing.
JENNINGS: The information that can come out, that's great. And if the president leaves Mueller in place that is great and appropriate.
SANDERS: Scott, Democrats like myself and others on the Hill, folks that have served for a long time are concerned because he fired James Comey when folks from the White House, from the White House press secretary podium said he was not going to do that, and then tried to cover it up and said he didn't fire him because of the Russia investigation, and the president himself went out on national television and told us, yes, I fired him because of Russia.
It was too much. We don't believe you. We have receipts, and the receipts show we can't believe this White House when they say they are not going to do something, particularly when it's involving the Russia investigation.
HILL: Symone, Scott, we are going to have to leave it there. I need to get to Manu before we run out of time.
Appreciate you both joining us.
CNN senior congressional correspondent, Manu Raju, has been talking with lawmakers about all of this unfolding.
Manu, what do you have?
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You really are hearing from Republicans in particular trying to issue some note of caution. They do not believe the president is going to try to move the way that a lot of Democrats are raising concerns about firing Robert Mueller. Several of them going into a closed-door hearing with Andy McCabe, who is deputy director of the FBI, saying they are investigating and not trying to do anything to discredit Mueller in their view. Mark Meadows, one of the members of the House Oversight Committee, said to them earlier when I asked if this is part of an effort to get rid of Mueller.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MARK MEADOWS, (R), NORTH CAROLINA: There is not concern in terms of trying to discredit the special prosecutor that has been not only established but continues to investigation. And so Robert Mueller is not a subject of our investigation.
RAJU: How would you react to the president if he tries to get rid of Robert Mueller?
MEADOWS: He's not. I've talked to the president and he's not.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RAJU: Erica, making clear he spoke to the president and the president reassured him that he's not. One reason he says he's not is Republicans say he did take that step, they would be up and arms over it. Bob Corker raising concerns that it could cause a revolt on Capitol Hill. I heard that from a number of Senators, which is why they don't believe he would go that route. Democrats are going much further. One member in the House Judiciary Committee interviewing Andy McCabe today, the Illinois Democrat, said it would be an impeachable offense if the president were to move to fire Robert Mueller. Said the Congress could come back to session if it were to happen over the Christmas holiday.
But again, Erica, no signs yet. The White House denied there was any movement there, but Democrats sounding the alarm and Republicans urging a note of caution -- Erica?
HILL: We will continue to follow that.
Manu Raju, appreciate the reporting as always. Thanks for joining us.
Thanks to all of you for spending time with us this hour. I'm Erica Hill, in today for Kate Bolduan.
And "INSIDE POLITICS" with John King starts right now.
[11:59:50] JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Welcome to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm John King. Thank you for sharing your day with us.
Thirty-six hours and counting. Republicans move from a big tax cut celebration to a scramble to keep the government open.
Plus, the White House insists, again, there are no plans to fire the special counsel once Congress leaves town. So why do some Democrats just not buy it?