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Trump Signs Tax Bill, To Leave Soon for Mar-a-Lago; Trump Predicts Working with Democrats in 2018. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired December 22, 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] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They wanted to be a part of it. Just doesn't work out.

I really do believe, and I've said on social media today, I really do believe we're going to have a lot of bipartisan work done. And maybe we start with infrastructure because I really believe infrastructure can be bipartisan. We've spent $7 trillion in the Middle East, not to mention all of the lives and all of the heartache, and it's so sad, $7 trillion. It's time for us to rebuild our country.

Thank you very much.

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: Thank you very much, everybody.

Thank you.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Do you wish you had started with infrastructure at the beginning of this year --

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: Yes. We're going to get infrastructure. Infrastructure is the easiest of all. We're very well on our way. We've essentially repealed Obamacare. You know, the individual mandate is a VERY big factor in this bill. A lot of people don't talk about it because the tax cut is so important. But infrastructure is by far the easiest. People want it. Republicans and Democrats. We will have tremendous Democrat support on infrastructure, as you know. I could have started with infrastructure. I actually wanted to save the easy one for the one down the road. We'll be having that done pretty quickly.

Thank you all very much. I appreciate it. Thank you very much.

(CROSSTAKL)

TRUMP: Thank you.

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: I think I have. One thing I really learned is I learned, I got to know and became very friendly with the people in the House, the people in the Senate, both Republicans and Democrats. When I came, you know, I didn't know too many. I was very politically active but didn't know too many. The fact that I've become friends with so many of the names I read off and so many of the Senators, so many of the congressmen and women, I think that's a huge factor. I can call anybody now. I know every one of them very well. And I understand the legislation very well. So, you know, it's been a process. A great process. Really beautiful.

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: But I do believe -- I do believe that the fact that I have gotten to know so many of these people -- and many of these people, I have to say, not saying all, but I'm saying many of these people are great people that truly love this country. So I think that helps. I think you'll see that in this legislation.

Thank you.

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: Thank you all very much.

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: Thank you very much.

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: Thank you all.

ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: And again, President Trump there moments ago in the Oval Office, signing that tax reform bill.

Want to go to Jeff Zeleny at the White House who was in the room.

Jeff, about 20 minutes there, we heard a fair amount from the president. Walk us through a little bit more of that.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Erica, it was interesting, the president was perhaps giving a bit of a reality show view of signing this bill, saying he wasn't going to sign it but then decided to sign it to keep his promise. Perhaps injecting a bit of drama into the news programs. He acknowledged he was watching this morning on television.

Just the top lines, he did sign that emergency spending bill to keep the government open for a few more weeks. You know, he noted the defense spending in there as well. Of course, he signed the signature tax plan and he thumped it on his desk a little bit. It's pretty tall. It's about three inches tall or so. He thumped it as he signed it, touting it as his biggest accomplishment. After that was over, he was asked if he plans to travel around the country a lot and sell this bill. He knows, polling is clear, it's not popular. A majority of Americans believe it will not benefit them. The president was more optimistic and said, look, I don't think we have to do much to sell this bill. People will see it in their pa paychecks. He called out companies individually for giving bonuses to workers, for committing to invest more money in building and things. At the end, he said he wanted to work with Democrats. He tweeted that this morning saying he hopes Democrats would work with him on infrastructure. I asked him at the end if he wishes he would have started his first year with infrastructure, wishes he would have started something with a bipartisan support on this, and he said he wanted to save infrastructure because it's easier. So he believes he will try and do that in 2018. That is a tall order. Republicans do not agree on the funding for this. Some Democrats now are likely reluctant to work with this president. We will see how that plays out in 2018.

And as we kept asking questions, the president, to me, seemed eager to answer them. That's something that's been going on behind the scenes here, Erica, that the president, in fact, wanted to hold a news conference. His aides advised him against it, thinking that all types of questions would come up. But at the very end there, you couldn't quite hear him on camera, I asked him if he had any regrets from this year, any regrets in 2017, and he looked us square in the eye and says no -- Erica?

[11:35:11] HILL: There we have it. It is interesting that he was more open to questions today and did want to speak more with reporters.

Jeff, thank you.

Our panel is back with us.

David, I want to touch on a couple things that Jeff just brought up which stood out to me as well. Let's pick up on infrastructure first because we did end on that. The president saying he wanted to save what was easier for down the road, and yet, not only is this difficult because Republicans and Democrats don't see eye to eye, we're moving into an election year? How easy is infrastructure?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: It just got a little more complicated by the price tag associated with the tax plan. I mean this is, you know, there is going to be an added deficit issue to deal with as -- if the president is going to push infrastructure as they try to deal with the funding around it. That being said, it is the kind of issue that both Republicans and Democrats -- and I see now we see the president at Joint Base Andrews crossing from the helicopter to the plane to begin his vacation. It is, Erica, I think, an issue that we have seen Democrats and Republicans join forces on in the past. Lots of bipartisan plans have been put forth about how to deal with infrastructure. But I do think the price tag associated with it is going to be a huge problem and how it gets paid for. And he may be right that he can pick off maybe some deep red-state Democrats that are up for re-election. But right now, as you noted, it is an election year we're coming into, and the Democratic base is so fired up by an anti-Trump energy, that I think the Democrats are going to think two or three times before they start working with this president.

HILL: A couple other things that stood out, specifically picking up on the president saying this bill is going to sell itself. We heard from Mitch McConnell, if they can't sell this they're in the wrong line of work, and he believes, Amie, it's a lot of corporate bonuses being announced doing the sales job for him.

AMIE PARNES, CNN POLITICAL ANAYST: Right. And, yes, you heard him kind of tout these companies by name and I think that was a really big thing for him. He tweeted about it this morning. This is a big focus. This was his news conference, if you want to call it that, his end-of-the-year news conference where he kind of talked about all the things he's done and most proud of. And this was something that he really wanted to highlight today, that corporations are kind of rallying behind this, that it's good for the economy, and that people, the middle class, will see this in their paychecks, and he repeated that a few times.

HILL: We'll have to see, obviously, if that bears fruit and how that bears out as we move into 2018 and into February as we heard.

Alex, another thing at the end that was interesting, he talked about the relationships he has formed with members of both the House and the Senate, that he didn't know a lot of people when he got there. He now considers a lot of these people and said some Republicans and Democrats friends. And just brings to mind when Barack Obama first came into office and tried to do things a different way and there was criticism that he was not reaching out enough to lawmakers and was not trying to work with them enough. Has President Trump reached out enough in that respect and established these friendships he talked about?

ALEX ISENSTADT, REPORTER, POLITICO: It's interesting. He has been reaching out to a lot of Senators, particularly on our side, to talk about legislation and to talk about how things are going to go next year. And you know, in addition to talking with Republican Senators about perhaps bringing up some kind of infrastructure bill in hopes of gathering Democratic support, he's also talked about things like doing a prescription drug benefit bill. So all these things are going to be geared towards winning over crossover Democratic support. But, look, as some of your other guests have noted, it's going to be hard to get that done, in part, because a lot of these Democrats are going to be under extraordinary pressure from their own base not to play ball with him, not to cooperate with him, because they have to worry about primaries from their own side in 2018. It's going to be very hard to see this president reach out across the aisle, with his approval rating around 35 percent, and get something done.

HILL: Rebecca, we heard a short time ago from Mitch McConnell, who the president called fantastic, just a few moments ago there. So Mitch McConnell saying that he is starting to -- when asked about the president's tweeting habit, he said, "I haven't been a fan until this week. I'm warming up to those tweets."

Do we have a sense how long the love affair will last between these two?

REBECCA BERG, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Likely, Erica, until the next hang-up in Congress. Make no mistake, January and February will not be an easy time on Capitol Hill. There are a lot of big things that Congress needs to address, including this spending measure that they passed yesterday in the House and Senate. They're going to have to come back and address this again at the beginning of the year, essentially. So when Mitch McConnell can't deliver for the president, that's when you see the president getting frustrated. Right now, everyone is feeling great. They're in this honeymoon phase after passing tax reform. And we saw that great kumbaya moment among Republicans at the White House yesterday. But that -- or this week, rather, but that will only last, I think, as long as, you know, things are going well for Republicans, and it is completely possible in the beginning of next year that things go off the rails once again.

[11:40:15] HILL: Jeff, we talked a little bit about and we heard the president talk about the individual mandate, and brought that up and why it's important that this will, in his words, this morning saying, essentially, lead to the end of Obamacare. That's backing off the claims that we heard from the president after the passage of this bill when he was saying this would essentially repeal Obamacare. How important is that conversation moving forward, Jeff?

I'm sorry. We don't have Jeff.

David Chalian, I'm throwing that to you.

CHALIAN: Can you repeat the question, Erica? I'm sorry.

HILL: I absolutely can. So one of the things I noticed from the president, he was talking about the individual mandate and how important that was to him in this tax reform bill. But changing his language from what we heard the other day, walking back what he was saying, this is essentially repealing it, nobody wanted to talk about it, that's what's happening. Today, he was saying accurately that this, in his mind, believes this will lead to an end of Obamacare. There's not the same appetite even between Republicans as to whether or not they should tackle that. Where does things put us moving into 2018?

CHALIAN: Yes, he did modify his language and made sure to note that the Obamacare repeal is the least popular part of Obamacare so, therefore, indicating an understanding. There are lots of other parts of Obamacare that remain the law of the land. So you are right to note there is a discrepancy, certainly between Lindsey Graham, the Republican from South Carolina, who said let's forge forward to repeal and replace the entire law, to Mitch McConnell, the leader in the Senate, who suggested perhaps we've been there, done that, and it didn't prove great, and we have 51-49, and this may not be the smartest thing to do.

One thing about those pictures we saw with the president who, instead of jumping on the plane, went over and shook some hands on the tarmac, the president in the Oval Office earlier, this is a president who I think for much of this year has not been displaying much joy in the job. He hasn't really had that sense about him. But with this big victory at the end, there seemed to just be -- as he's on his way to Christmas vacation, so I think we can all relate to feeling joyous about that -- but there seemed to be an airiness, something lighter and more joyful about his presence today as he ends this year on this high note. You just sensed a different weight about him as the president finishes his first year.

HILL: Part of what Jeff noted, I would say, to your point, David, too, one of the things I picked up on, we saw at the end, the president offering the signing pens to members of the media, specifically calling out the camera folks there, the photographers, some of the boom, the audio operators, and even saying, look, many of you have been working hard and you've been very fair. That is also a change in tone from the president.

CHALIAN: Of course. A few minutes earlier, he was slamming NBC for not being fair while pointing out that comcast gave bonuses. I don't imagine he's going to, all of a sudden, turn a leaf and have a love affair with the mainstream media.

HILL: I don't think any of us are waiting for that. That's true.

As we move forward and look to the rest of this, Rebecca, as everyone does prepare to leave town at this point, and Republicans feeling very good about what happened, Democrats doubling down on why this will be their message for 2018, what do you think the mood will be when people come back? What are you hearing?

BERG: It's going to be back to work, Erica, back to reality. Right now, Republicans are feeling buoyant, including the president, because of their big victory on tax reform. Of course, there wasn't a government shutdown this week, which was not a foregone conclusion. There was only a spending deal reached at the very last minute for Republicans. And so they're feeling good there was not that crisis, they got a big victory on tax reform. But when they come back, as I mentioned a few minutes ago, Congress is going to have to deal with some hairy issues, including the CSR payments deal that Susan Collins exacted as a concession as part of this tax reform plan, and some other big spending issues. It's not going to be easy going for Congress when the lawmakers return. And it's going to be an election year. The pressure is on, tension is heightened, and the president clearly has his own list of things he wants to get done, which is going to add pressure, of course, to Republican leaders to deliver on the agenda items. Everyone is feeling very good at the end of this year, right now. Democrats seeing the polling and Republicans with this big policy victory, but I think it's going to be back to reality when they return to Washington at the beginning of next year.

HILL: It will be interesting to watch for, as well while this is a vacation period for many folks around the country, just how many of their constituents are speaking up on both sides and letting them know exactly what they think the agenda should be heading into the new year.

Thanks to all of you for sticking around and walking through that with us and happy holidays.

BERG: Thank you.

CHALIAN: Happy Holidays.

INSENSTADT: You, too. [11:44:56] HILL: Still to come, after signing his tax reform bill,

passing on a party line vote, the president apparently turning his focus to infrastructure and predicting he will be able to bring Democrats to the table. I will ask one Democratic lawmaker if he's on board.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HILL: We just heard President Trump saying he is ready to work with Democrats next year, making that statement after signing the GOP tax overhaul bill into law. He also signed that stop-gap spending bill that was passed, which keeps the government open through January 19th. It also sets the stage for showdowns next month on spending, immigration, health care, and national security. Are Democrats ready to deal?

Democratic Congressman Joe Crowley joins me now. He's chairman of the House Democratic Caucus.

Sir, good to have you with us.

REP. JOE CROWLEY, (D-NY), CHAIRMAN, HOUSE DEMOCRATIC CAUCUS: Thank you. Great to be with you.

[11:50:03] HILL: You ready to deal with the president? Are you game for bipartisan work on infrastructure, as he suggests?

CROWLEY: I think this has been a year of lost opportunities, squandered opportunities. We're here at the end of the year. The president just signed a tax bill that will really open up the nation's bank and take out a loan against our debt of over $1.5 trillion. Actually, $2.2 trillion to $2.3 trillion when you include interest. That money has just been spent to give one of the biggest tax cuts to the wealthiest, most powerful people in the nation, including the Trump family and special corporate interests, at the expense of working men and women. That money could have been used, quite frankly, Erica, to help support a bond program or as I call it a Marshall Plan to rebuild America, an infrastructure bill. Where will we get that money from now? That money that we are borrowing from future generations, we could have invested in infrastructure to help the generations prepare for the new economies. That's an opportunity squandered by this president and the Republican Congress.

HILL: To be clear, I know you're saying the funding is not there for that, obviously, a major hurdle to getting any sort of legislation done, because it has to be paid for. But would you be open to the idea of working with the president?

CROWLEY: We have always been open to working with the president when we believe it benefits the American people. He's failed to demonstrate anything so far that we agree with in terms of helping move the agenda forward. He promised that we would deal with the issue of the DREAMers and the DACA and those 800,000 individuals, those souls who, right now, this Christmastime, are languishing, wondering whether or not they will able to remain in the United States as productive individuals. Those are almost a million people that the president left in a state of limbo. Merry Christmas to all those folks. That's incredibly unfortunate.

HILL: I want to move on to what we saw yesterday, which also speaks to your concerns. The House passing another stop-gap funding measure, which the president just signed, as well as a separate disaster aid bill. You voted against both. Now these included an extension of the CHIP program, the Children's Health Insurance Program, keeping the government agencies open into January, the disaster aid relief. You voted against them because you didn't feel they did enough. At this point, is a little something better than nothing?

CROWLEY: We have a number of priorities that were not met in the negotiations on the extension of government and the continuing resolution. You mentioned a number of them. What are in the concerns of Democrats today, as I mentioned before, DACA, pension protection for pensioners in this country who are threatened to lose upwards of half of their pensions. There are a number of myriad issues we are concerned about. And Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, their needs were not met either in the extension of the government bill or in the supplemental bill that passed yesterday, too.

HILL: That's why you are voting against them.

CROWLEY: That's right.

HILL: Is there -- are you going to find -- the president is talking about he thinks there is room for bipartisan work. Do you think there is bipartisan work on some of those things that are important to you and your constituents?

CROWLEY: It's my hope, as we move forward, especially his commitment to Jeff Flake, his promise that he would address the issue of DACA, and my hope is that Mitch McConnell and Speaker Ryan come to the table and deal with that issue. That's one of the promises he made. Look, we stand ready to work and move forward an agenda that is positive for the American people, and we just haven't seen that from this president yet. Hope springs eternal. You never know with this guy.

HILL: One other thing I want to get you on the record about, we heard that, this week, we would see a bipartisan effort in the House dealing with an overhaul of how sexual harassment, discrimination and other claims are handled. Again, a bipartisan effort. I know you are a big supporter of it. Why didn't it come to fruition this week? What's the delay?

CROWLEY: You would have to ask Speaker Ryan that. At this point, we need not a gold standard, but a platinum standard when it comes to the issue of sexual harassment in the workplace. We need the beacon on the hill for the rest of the country to see, for corporate America and academia and for those in Wall Street and the media and those in entertainment, across the board. It's something that it's time has come. And why Speaker Ryan did not have a bill on the floor this week is beyond me. I don't know why.

HILL: Is this still a priority, you believe?

(CROSSTALK) CROWLEY: I believe it is a priority. I think the American people expect the Congress to hold a higher standard, not the weakest.

HILL: We will continue to watch to see where that goes.

Representative Joe Crowley, appreciate your taking some time for us. I know you are anxious to get home.

CROWLEY: Thank you. Merry Christmas and happy holidays. Thank you.

HILL: Merry Christmas and happy new year.

CROWLEY: Thank you.

HILL: Lots to discuss in 2018.

CROWLEY: Yes, indeed.

[11:54:57] HILL: Still to come, a significant update in the Russia investigation this morning. The second in command at the FBI apparently backing up James Comey's claim that the president demanded his loyalty. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)