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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER
Mueller Hopes to Talk to Publicist at Center of Trump Jr. Meeting; Republicans Promising Tax Cuts Now, But Not Forever; Gillibrand: Bill Clinton Should Have Resigned Over Lewinsky; Moore Defiantly Vows To Stay In The Race; Medal Of Honor Recipient Opens Up About His Heroic Act. Aired 4:30-5p ET
Aired November 17, 2017 - 16:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[16:32:17] JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: And we're back with some breaking news in the Russia investigation.
Special counsel Robert Mueller wants to talk to the music publicist who set up the now infamous meeting between Donald Trump Jr. and that Russian lawyer in 2016. It comes as the judiciary committee in the Senate is demanding that Jared Kushner, the president's son-in-law and top adviser, turn over documents related to e-mails about WikiLeaks and also a, quote, Russian backdoor overture.
CNN justice correspondent Pamela Brown joins me now.
Pamela, what specifically is Mueller looking for?
PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, and also you have Mueller's team and then you have the team on the Hill, Judiciary Committee. They released a laundry list of things they're looking for.
So, now, President Trump's son-in-law, senior adviser Jared Kushner, is under scrutiny as these lawmakers on Capitol Hill reveal he failed to disclose numerous key documents related to the Russia investigation. They include communications related to Michael Flynn, the former national security adviser, including documents about his firing and his registration as a foreign agent. Documents about Jared Kushner's security clearance -- you'll recall he had to update that clearance form three times to include his meetings with foreign entities, including Russians.
The committee also asking for an e-mail chain that we know involved Donald Trump Jr. related to his direct messages with WikiLeaks in which Kushner then forwarded to Hope Hicks. The committee said Kushner didn't hand that over, along with communications with Sergey Millian, he's a Russian businessman who "The Washington Post" say was a source for the Trump dossier. The committee says Kushner was copied on some of those emails with Millian.
And they want documents about attempts to establish a backdoor line of communication with Russians and a dinner invite from September of 2016. And they're also asking for phone records as well that have shown up in documents others have provided the committee. We did receive a statement from the Kushner's attorney which says in
part, we provided the Judiciary Committee with all relevant documents that had to do with Mr. Kushner's calls, contact or meetings with Russians during the campaign, which was the request.
It's worth noting here, Jake, that others were given the same request, including Don Jr. It appears they all handed over all of these documents, which allowed the committee to realize that Jared Kushner didn't hand everything over --
BROWN: -- that they were looking for.
TAPPER: He's not exactly establishing himself as somebody with a reputation for disclosing everything when he could.
Now, tell me more about special counsel, Mueller issuing a subpoena to the Trump campaign for more documents. What exactly is Mueller looking for?
BROWN: So, apparently, a source tells my colleague Gloria Borger that they've expanded the search terms in the subpoena asking for more documents. And we're told that it could take the campaign months to actually turn over these documents because the request is so wide- ranging.
We should note here, Jake, that subpoenas are not unusual. Mueller has issued a lot of subpoenas, but clearly what the campaign has turned over so far wasn't satisfactory to the Mueller team and it doesn't answer all of their questions as part of the Russia investigation.
[16:35:04] TAPPER: All right. Pamela Brown, thank you so much. Appreciate it.
Also in politics today, as the White House applauds today the Senate Finance Committee for clearing a major hurdle on the Republican tax bill, we're examining what might be a false impression of the tax cuts Republicans are so eager to pass. Their goal: stay on budget, add more no more than a mere $1.5 trillion to the deficit over 10 years and that may mean promised tax cuts won't last forever. In fact, most of the individual tax cuts in the Senate Republican tax bill include a sunset provision.
They will expire in 2025. And as history has taught us, no majority party down the road is going to let rates go up on their watch.
CNN's Brianna Keilar joins me now.
Brianna, aren't Republicans essentially kicking the can down the road and probably raising the deficit at the same time, two things that they constantly criticize Democrats were doing?
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Yes, but Republicans, Jake, want to get this done. They need and they want a win ahead of a crucial midterm election. But their tax plans are propped up by frankly dishonest math. They violate the very promise that the GOP has made time and time again, that they will not saddle future generations with more debt.
KEILAR (voice-over): Republicans are hard at work trying to overhaul the tax system.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're working to give the American people a giant tax cut for Christmas.
KEILAR: And it has a giant price tag, $1.5 trillion over ten years. Even as Republicans argue questionably that economic growth will help cancel out the big addition to the national debt, it's a costly plan for Republicans like House Speaker Paul Ryan who have built their brand on fiscal conservatism.
REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: We face a crushing burden of debt which will take down our economy.
KEILAR: That was back in 2011 when Ryan was House budget chairman. In 2013, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called the debt and deficit --
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: The transcendent issue of our era. Until we fix that problem, we can't fix America.
KEILAR: But now, Republicans are championing a plan that many deficit hawks say is anything but fiscally responsible. The tax plan's $1.5 trillion price tag is a lowball figure. It's price tag they need to come under in order to use special Senate rules requiring them to need only 51 votes. The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, a fiscally conservative advocacy group, puts the real cost at $2.2 trillion.
MAYA MACGUINEAS, PRESIDENT, COMMITTEE FOR A RESPONSIBLE FEDERAL BUDGET: There are a lot of gimmicks slipping into the bill to make the costs look less than they actually are.
KEILAR: Here's one major gimmick, while the corporate tax cuts would be permanent, the tax cuts for American taxpayers would expire after 10 years, on paper anyway, even though it's expected Congress would ultimately just make the cuts permanent. That fishy math allows Republicans to claim a smaller price tag.
MACGUINEAS: On one hand, they're saying, sure, there are all of these expiring tax breaks, but don't worry, we fully intend to extend them and you won't have to worry about your taxes going up. And on the other hand, they're saying don't worry about the cost of the bill. Sure, we're borrowing $1.5 trillion, which I would say everybody should be worrying about, but we're not going beyond that limit, when really they are.
KEILAR: Some Republicans say they are not quite as committed to this charade that the bill won't add more than $1.5 trillion to the deficit, such as retiring Senator Bob Corker.
SEN. BOB CORKER (R), TENNESSEE: If I believe it's going to add to the deficit, I'm not going to vote for it.
KEILAR: Critics say it will add significantly to the deficit, just as the Bush tax cuts did. Exactly what Republicans warned against in the past.
RYAN: It is unconscionable to leave the next generation with a crushing burden of debt in a nation in decline. Washington's obsession with the next election has come at the expense of the next generation.
KEILAR: There is also a dubious promise that the White House is making about the tax overhaul. The congressional liaison for the White House Marc Short saying that every income bracket will see a decrease in taxes and every working family will see a decrease as well.
That's not fully true. Independent analysis shows that in the long term, American families earning less than $75,000 a year are overtime going to pay more in taxes, Jake.
TAPPER: All right. Brianna Keilar, thank you so much. Our panel returns to talk about all this news and more.
We'll be right back. Stay with us.
[16:43:34] TAPPER: We're back with our politics lead and our great panel.
I want to read for you a tweet from the Reverend Franklin Graham. He said, quote: The hypocrisy of Washington has no bounds. So many denouncing Roy Moore when they are guilty of doing much worse than what he has been accused of supposedly doing. Shame on those hypocrites.
Now, just to remind people, he's accused of sexually assaulting a 14- year-old and a 16-year-old.
KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes.
TAPPER: So, what is he talking about?
POWERS: I don't know. That doesn't make any sense.
But this is the game that everyone is playing, pointing the hypocrisy finger back and forth at each other.
TAPPER: And they're both right.
POWERS: And both sides are being hypocritical. It's just sort of incredible watching a bunch of hypocrites accuse each other of hypocrisy. There is hardly anybody who is consistently calling out both sides when they do something.
And that's the -- that's the problem. This really should not be a political weapon. It should be if you sexual assault a woman regardless of your political position on any issue, it should be wrong.
But that's not what happens. It becomes immediately a way for one side to beat the other side over the head.
TAPPER: And yet we've seen this reckoning that the left and Democrats have been making with the Bill Clinton era in the last few weeks because of this exact inconsistency.
Take a listen to Kirsten Gillibrand, the Democratic senator from New York, who has campaigned with both Bill and Hillary Clinton. I think she was a finance chair of the Hillary Clinton campaign.
Listen to her talking to "The New York Times."
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
REPORTER: Is it your view that President Clinton should have stepped down at that time given the allegations?
SEN. KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND (D), NEW YORK: Yes. I think that is the appropriate response.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
TAPPER: Now, the response from longtime Clinton aide Philippe Reines in on Twitter, "Over 20 years -- speaking to Kirsten Gillibrand -- you took the Clintons' endorsement, money, and seats. Hypocrite. Interesting strategy for 2020 primaries. Best of luck." So, you know, it's not easy I think for people to burst out of the hypocrisy shell.
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: No, it's certainly not. It's calling it Hillary Clinton seat since she took it. And I thought Gillibrand's comment was pretty stunning. We haven't seen something like that from someone like that who has been pretty close with the Clintons before. And I think it's something that other Democrats should be asked if they agree with her. And I think that's something that's going to come into play more and more moment as we're seeing you know, this watershed moment of all these sexual assault allegations and people are going to go back to reevaluate how they covered this whenever it was the Bill Clinton era when all of that happened and how they handled that and who they focused on. If they focused on maybe he should step down, he should apologize or did the, you know, focus on demonizing his accusers.
TAPPER: Yes. I want to take issue respectfully of course with something you said, NIA. I think obviously if Hillary Clinton were President right now, that would be a much gutsier thing what Kirsten Gillibrand had said. But I don't think it's fair to say that it comes no price to make that comment because Bill and Hillary Clinton remain incredibly popular with the Democratic Party, with Democratic voters, with fund-raisers. You know, barring someone from seeing circumstance, they're still going to raise a ton of money for Democrats in 2018 and 2020. So there is -- there is a price for that, I think.
NIA MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: You know, I'm not really sure. I don't know -- I mean, if you look at 2018 for instance, how many people are going to want to have a Bill Clinton out on the stump for them? How many people are going to want to have Hillary Clinton out on the stump for them? I don't think that many. I mean, I could be wrong, particularly now at this point. You know, I think it's --
TAPPER: You mean post-sexual harassment.
HENDERSON: Post-sexual harassment, post-loss, right? I mean, post- people are moving on the from the Clinton era. Donna Brazile, for instance, think that's in some ways -- there has been a signal from many Democrats that they are very willing and want to move on the from the Clinton era. And I think this was part of that. She might have problems now with Clinton donors because they are certainly a part of the kind of Democratic machine and she might have alienated some of those folks.
But at this point, you know, I think people are seeing less and less the value of having kind of the Clinton imprimatur in terms of their political futures. And so that's why I think, you know, it would have been hard and very hard for her to do that a year ago, two years ago. You know, the question is does she give up money that she helped -- you know, that Clinton helped her raise or anything like that? It's also like she's also not saying that Democrats themselves should have behaved differently, right? She's saying Bill Clinton should have resigned.
TAPPER: He should have stepped down.
HENDERSON: Should all of those Democrats voted for his impeachment?
KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think that she's speaking for a lot of Democrats who have long had anger towards the Clintons for having to basically having to basically stay silent or, you know, not be critical of this kind of behavior and look like hypocrites. Now, people made a choice to do that, but, look, even at the time people were very, very angry when it happened you know, with the Monica Lewinsky situation and him lying. And we're not even getting into -- she's just talking about Lewinsky. We're not even getting into the other accusations against him, Juanita Broaddrick --
TAPPER: Sexual assault, rape, sexual harassment. Yes.
POWERS: And this has -- and this has been something that's been hanging over the Democratic Party for the last 20-plus years. And honestly, you know, Bill Clinton should also have to come out and apologize and have some sort of reckoning at some point, you know, for the accusations against him if we are supposed to believe every woman that makes an accusation, and that would still be true of Juanita Broaddrick and Kathleen Willey and Paula Jones. And instead we're sort of told well, those -- you know, that didn't happen, let's not pay attention.
TAPPER: Gillibrand is giving all the money that Al Franken raised for her from his PAC to a charity that combats sexual assault and rape in the military. But I do wonder, Kaitlan, do you think Donald Trump is almost an umbrella over him in the sense that you could see a Democrat arguing, well, why should Al Franken have to resign when Donald Trump's in the White House?
COLLINS: Well, that's when this hypocrisy thing comes into place. Because if you're calling on Roy Moore to be expelled if he makes it into the Senate, then are you also going to call on Al Franken to step down? And there's a very good chance Donald Trump was accused of sexual assault and he made it into the White House. There is a very good chance that in one month Al Franken is still a Senator and Roy Moore has become a Senator. So it really could be an umbrella to where -- they have to live up to what they're saying. If they call for one of these people to step down, then they also have to call for Al Franken to step down.
TAPPER: We can't -- we can't even just draw a line under 18? That can't be -- that can't even be a line I suppose? I mean --
COLLINS: I think that's a dangerous --
HENDERSON: I mean, you know -- it is different, right? I mean, if you were accused of assaulting a 14-year-old, 16-year-old, you know, trolling the malls in search for young women, it is I think legally different and I think for a lot of people it's of, you know, kind of a severity that is a little bit different from what others have been accused of.
[16:50:02] TAPPER: Kirsten, Kaitlan, Nia, thank you so much. I appreciate it. He grabbed a suicidal terrorist wearing a bomb, took the blast himself to save his fellow soldiers. A medal of honor recipient opens up next about his heroic act. Stay with us.
TAPPER: Welcome back. We're going to end today with a remarkable tale of battlefield bravery. Army Captain Flo Groberg was on patrol in Afghanistan back in August 2012 when he noticed a suspicious man approaching. Quickly realizing that the man was a suicide bomber, Captain Groberg ran over and hugged the terrorist who was wearing the bomb, shielding his comrades from the blast. Four people were killed that day and Groberg sustained serious injuries, but if not for his heroism, many more lives would have been lost. This week marks the two-year anniversary of President Obama awarding Groberg the Congressional Medal of Honor, the military's highest recognition of valor. Captain Groberg writes about his experiences in a new book titled 8 Seconds of Courage. Joining me now is Retired Army Captain Flo Groberg. Captain Groberg, thanks so much for being here and thank you, more importantly, for your amazing service to the nation.
[16:55:29] FLO GROBERG, RETIRED ARMY CAPTIAN: Thanks for having me.
TAPPER: So the book starts -- your mother's family is originally from Algeria and the book starts with you talking about your beloved Uncle Abdu who was killed in Algeria fighting radical Islamic terrorists. And he inspired you. Tell us about him.
GROBERG: So my uncle is -- was my rock star as a child and he was a preacher of the Muslim faith. He was an Imam. And when the GIA, this terrorist organization came in the late '80s, the early '90s, he didn't believe that that was the right way of serving his country anymore which was you know, to preach because these individuals came out there and they're telling a false story of his faith. And he realized that he needed to stand up against such you know, hatred the way -- that's how he saw it and he enlisted in the army.
TAPPER: And after 9/11, you decided to do the same. You were awarded the Medal of Honor for hugging a suicide bomber in Afghanistan to protect the people around you, to protect your battle buddies. How often do you think about that day? And what do you think about when you think about it?
GROBERG: I think about Command Sgt. Griffin, Major Gray, Major Kennedy and State Department USAID Ragaei Abdelfattah.
TAPPER: Those were the guys who didn't make it.
GROBERG: Those were the guys who didn't come home that day. I wear the bracelet that I have here that -- look at this right here, it's a constant reminder. So you ask me how often I think about it? I think about it every single day. I have a responsibility to make sure that I live my life to the best of my ability and that I make something of myself so that I can honor them and their gold-star families, their families.
TAPPER: You saved countless lives, though, obviously, I understand that you would feel bad about the ones that were not saved but you saved countless lives.
GROBERG: You know, it was a team effort. I think every single individual that was part of that patrol played a very important part in terms of doing our jobs job and saving each other. I was the closest to the bomber, and so I had the most direct path towards the suicide bomber and I just did my job, just like Mahoney did his job, just like Brink did his job, Ochart did his job, Balderrama did his job, and (INAUDIBLE) did his job. That was our duties.
TAPPER: You went through a rough time both physically and emotional after the incident, understandably. You write very movingly in the book about your encounter with a quadruple amputee Staff Sergeant Travis Mills upon your return to the States at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Tell us about that.
GROBERG: You know, it's kind of funny because you look at -- I never would ever consider al-Qaeda, ISIS or the Taliban, you know, my toughest enemies. My mind was my toughest enemy. My demons, internal demons, the survivor's guilt, the nights in the hospital where no one's around and you're thinking about, hey, why are you here when four incredible Americans are gone? And you start thinking about, I don't belong here. I don't deserve to be here. And so I was in a very dark place. And with the addition to all of the drugs I was receiving for my injuries, I was thinking about, you know, ending my life, but Travis Mills came in with four prosthetics, both arms and both legs into my room in November of 2012 and in 15 minutes he changed my life. He reminded me of the importance of honoring my brothers, of the oath that I took when I put on the uniform to serve my nation to the best of my ability. He said, look around.
Look around you. And just pretty much stop complaining and stop feeling sorry for yourself and go out there, get up, get out of this bed and go make something of yourself again. Honor your brothers. Honor their families. And he had a smile on his face. And he looked at me -- I looked at him and he was just motivated the heck out of me. And somehow he was that one piece of light that I needed to really get out of this really dark, dark place that I was in, and he was it, he was it.
TAPPER: That's incredible. Captain Flo Groberg, the book is 8 Seconds of Courage, A Soldier Story From Immigrant to the Medal of Honor. It's a really well-written book, very, very moving. And of course, your story always inspiring. Thank you so much for being here.
GROBERG: Thanks for having me.
TAPPER: Be sure to tune in to CNN this Sunday morning for "STATE OF THE UNION." My guest will be Democratic Senator -- I'm sorry, Independent Senator Bernie Sanders and Republican Senator Susan Collins. It all starts at 9:00 a.m. and noon Eastern on Sunday right here on CNN. That's it for THE LEAD, I'm Jake Tapper. Have a great weekend. I'll see you Sunday morning. I turn you over now to Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM." Thanks for watching.