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Trump Talks At Cabinet Meeting; Trump Designating State Sponsor of Terror; America's Big Tax Break; Moore Sexual Assault Allegations; Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired November 20, 2017 - 12:00   ET


[12:00:00] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Spectacular for growth and spectacular for the people of this country.

Our tax plan will bring urgent relief to hardworking families. We'll reduce rates, increase the amount of income taxed at a rate of zero, expand the child tax credit -- very important -- and simplify taxes, as most families will be able to file on a single sheet of paper.

We'll restore America's competitive edge so we can bring back our jobs. We want to bring our jobs back to our country. We were decimated over the last 40 years. We want to bring our jobs back to the United States.

We'll go from being one of the highest taxed nations in the world, to one of the lowest taxed nations in the world. Corporate rates will be reduced from 35 percent all the way down to 20 percent, which will make us competitive again and companies won't be leaving our country.

Finally, our tax plan will return trillions of dollars in wealth to our shores so that companies can invest in America again.

At the same time, we're working to reduce wasteful government spending. We will hear from Budget Director Mick Mulvaney, who is working with my cabinet to find taxpayer savings in each and every department. The cabinet members that are with us today are working on getting reductions to their various departments that we think we're going to be able to save a lot of money, even lower than the budgets, and the budgets that we're submitting.

We 'll be working on health care, infrastructure and welfare reform. We're looking very strongly at welfare reform. And that will all take place right after taxes. Very soon, very shortly after taxes. So we'll be submitting plans on health care, plans on infrastructure and plans on welfare reform, which is desperately needed in our country soon after taxes.

Today we'll also discuss the opioid epidemic that is ravaging so many American families and communities. Last week I was proud to nominate Alex Azar to serve as the next secretary of Health and Human Services. I urge the Senate to swiftly confirm his nomination. And I want to thank Acting Secretary Eric Hargan for serving with such devotion and for doing such a great job in the meantime.

Thank you very much, Eric.

Finally, I want to wish the American people a truly happy and blessed Thanksgiving, especially to our brave men and women serving in our military and our border patrol and ICE agents along the very dangerous southern border.

As you heard, we lost a border patrol officer just yesterday. And another one was brutally beaten and badly, badly hurt. It looks like he'll make it. But very, very badly hurt.

And we talk about the wall. We're going to have the wall. It's part of what we're doing. We need it. That's tough territory. That's where the drugs are coming in.

A lot of things are happening along the border, the southern border, and we're going to straighten it out. We've already reduced the numbers. And you see the number, they're back to 78 percent down from what they were. And those numbers will get better and better, but we have to stop the massive drug flow from pouring in. And my respect to the families that were so badly hurt yesterday, because they were devastated. Those two families were devastated.

I just want to wish everybody a very, very happy Thanksgiving. We're going to be working very hard during the recess in Florida. We're going to Florida. And I want to thank you all for being here. And let's start our meeting.

And to the media, to the press, thank you very much. We appreciate it. Thank you, Thank you very much.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thanks, everyone.

QUESTION: Can you comment on the Roy Moore --




TRUMP: Thank you very much.


JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm John King. You're just watching there, the president of the United states, Donald Trump, in the cabinet room at the White House, beginning a cabinet meeting with a big statement, the breaking news, the president says the United States will now re-add North Korea to the list of state sponsors of terrorism around the world. The president also going through a laundry list of domestic proposals, chief among them tax cuts, praising the House for passing its version of the tax cut bill last week, saying he wants to give Americans a huge tax cut for Christmas, imploring the Senate to continue its business when Congress comes back to work next week. The president also saying at this meeting they will discuss health care reform, immigration efforts, infrastructure efforts as well, welfare reform, a proposal he says will come from the administration after the tax cut debate.

With us here in studio to discuss this, to share their reporting and their insights, Mary Katharine Ham of "The Federalist, Seung Min Kim of "Politico," Matt Viser of "The Boston Globe," and Julie Hirschfeld Davis of "The New York Times."

Let's start with the breaking news that the president -- it's largely symbolic, but the president calls it part of his maximum pressure campaign on North Korea, to put them back on the list of state sponsors of terrorism. And as he did that, the president mentioned the tragic case of the young American, Otto Warmbier, who was held as a prisoner in North Korea, released, but sent home in a coma, died soon after.

[12:05:17] What does it do?

JULIE DAVIS, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Well, I -- as you said, it's mostly symbolic. North Korea is already among the most sanctioned countries in the world. So putting them back on this list -- they were taken off it in 2008. And that was really amid efforts to try to get them to make concessions and give up elements of their nuclear program.

This president has taken a very different approach. Much more pressure. Much more outward rhetoric about how we're willing to ratchet up our military stance. And it really is a signal on the part of the administration to the leadership in North Korea and also to the countries in the region that the United States is going all out to try to pressure North Korea, not to offer them a concession to come to the table, but try to pressure them to essentially signal to them that there is no other option for them other than to come and negotiate on giving up their nuclear program.

KING: And it suggests to that point that if there is to be diplomacy, it will only be on President Trump's term, in the sense that during the Asia trip, the president said there might be some progress. And I don't want to talk about it, but there might be some progress. And this would indicate that there's no diplomatic progress in the sense -- although the president has praised China since coming home from the trip saying they are putting new initiatives, new pressure on North Korea. But -- it's symbolic but important in the sense if you're President Trump saying, I'm not backing down, you only get to the table if you agree up front, no nuclear weapons.

MARY KATHARINE HAM, "THE FEDERALIST": Well, even if it is largely symbolic, it is also literally a material thing that came on the heels of this Asia trip. And I think that is something that people were asking. What exactly does come out of this Asia trip? And all the making nice with various leaders is one thing and building relationships is one thing, but what is the thing that comes out of this? This sounds like one of the signals that will come out of it.

And it is worth noting that concessions have not worked.

KING: Right.

HAM: And so that is their philosophy, that we are doing this a very different way. And there's a solid argument for doing them a very different way.

KING: And is it -- is it -- does it matter, I guess is the question? There was some thought the president might do this on the trip, might announce it in his speech to the South Korean parliament, for example, might announce it in some other step along the way. He clearly waited perhaps to judge the reaction of the other leaders, perhaps to judge North Korea. I would just note, we are in the longest stretch of the Trump presidency without a North Korean missile test. No one has been able to -- no one can figure out just why Kim Jong-un does what Kim Jong-un does. But does it make a difference that he waited a few days until he got home as opposed to doing it on the trip.

MATT VISER, "THE BOSTON GLOBE": I don't think it matters that much. But it is, you know, an incremental step. There's only three other countries that we consider state sponsors of terror, which is Iran, Syria and Sudan. So adding North Korea to the list, when we've kind of already treated them as if they're on that list, it doesn't do a whole lot. It would be a bigger deal if China or some other country were joining us in cracking down on sanctions, which presumably the Trump administration is still hoping might happen.

KING: All right, let's move on to the other thing the president talked about, a huge tax cut as a Christmas gift for the American people he says. It will be interesting to watch this week. Congress is gone. The House passed its plan last week. The Senate has a different plan. Some similarities but a different plan before it. We all know from the Obamacare debate the math. Republicans have 52. They can't afford to lose them.

So the question is, does the president take advantage of this opportunity where he has the entire stage of Washington to himself, or does he complicate things, which he has done in the past? To that question he says, we're going to get this through the Senate. The American people will get a huge tax cut for Christmas.

Listen here. Here's the Treasury secretary. One of the things added in the Senate bill is a repeal of the Obamacare individual mandate. That requirement that if you're an individual you must buy health insurance. The Treasury secretary says this is a great part of the bill, good policy, keep it.


STEVE MNUCHIN, TREASURY SECRETARY: This isn't a bargaining chip. The president thinks we should get rid of it. I think we should get rid of it. It's an unfair tax on poor people. To think that you put a penalty on people who can't afford to buy medical policies, it's just fundamentally unfair. That's what this is all about.


KING: A pretty clear message there from the secretary of the Treasury to senators thinking about their vote. But here's the White House budget director saying, well, we like it, but it's a bargaining chip.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MICK MULVANEY, WHITE HOUSE BUDGET DIRECTOR: I don't think anybody doubts where the White House is on repealing and replacing Obamacare. We absolutely want to do it. If we can repeal part of Obamacare as part of a tax bill and have a tax bill that is still a good tax bill that can pass, that's great. If it becomes an impediment to getting the best tax bill we can, then we're OK with taking it out.


KING: Your -- you count the votes in the Senate every single day. They go up. They go down. Does it matter? That's a mixed signal. Some might say, so what. Does it matter?

SEUNG MIN KIM, "POLITICO": And it's worth noting that this isn't the first time that Mnuchin and Mulvaney have been on different pages of an economic issue. As you'll remember, their stances on the debt limit and whether we should pay for that with spending cuts.

But certainly correct that adding the health care fight into the mix certainly complicates matters here because, for example, you take Susan Collins of Maine, she's always going to be an influential vote on tax cuts, but she was starting to get there. The tax writers had addressed her concerns about the estate tax and the highest rate for the wealthy. But you throw an Obamacare debate back into the mix and it gets her further away from "yes."

[12:10:08] But -- and also the health care isn't even the -- it's only the start of all the concerns there are with the Senate tax bill because you have the group with the deficit hawks who are worried about the price tag of the bill, you have concerns from people like Ron Johnson about the way the tax bill treats small businesses. So there are -- I mean there are many pockets of concern among Republican senators right now that if you add them all up, I mean there's no way that it can pass in its current form.

KING: Right. You can only lose two. We can show you a list of I think seven or eight Republicans, and there are more, but seven or eight who have publically expressed their concerns about this. And that's part of the bargaining.

KIM: Sure.

KING: Until you have to vote, you express your bargaining, as we show you the list right there. Some senators -- and, as you noted, they're different concerns. Some are about the deficit. Some are about this program. Some are about that program. And in that you do have, as you said, Susan Collins who -- that's one. That's one.

And then you have Jeff Flake, who the president goes after on Twitter. If you're going to -- if you're about to maybe lose Susan Collins, do you want to test your math by going after Jeff Flake. Senator Jeff Flaky (ph), that's the president of the United States, who is unelectable in the great state of Arizona, quit race, anemic polls, was caught purposely on mic saying bad things about your favorite president. He'll be no on tax cuts because his political career anyway is toast. Well, Jeff Flake's not a "no" yet.

DAVIS: Exactly.

KIM: Are you sure?

KING: Well, he says he's not a "no" yet and he says he won't be influenced by the president. But if you're trying to do the simple math, this isn't complicated, you can only afford to lose two. You lived this in Obamacare and you think Collins might be a "no" because of the individual mandate. Why would you do this?

KIM: Exactly. And also remember, people who have vocally expressed concerns about the tax bill, people like Senator Fake and Senator Corker, there are people who are freed from any concerns about being reelected since they're both retiring. So he has -- the president has to keep that in mind.

KING: She rolled her eyes at my question. Why would you say this? Because you've heard this before.

HAM: There's no answer. There's no answer.

I do think -- you know, Flake is not a guy who's likely to be pushed away from his principals, which are pretty solidly conservative and in favor of tax reform over a tweet.

But it's a dangerous game to be playing. And I would say that the difference between the health care debate and this one has been, until some of these tweets, has been that the president seems more engaged, more interested in this. They have been spurred to action in Congress, as opposed to inaction by Virginia, and that he's been mostly sort of on message and/or quiet about it. So they feel -- on The Hill they feel better about where they are here than they were on health care, but that could get blown up if we're not careful.

KING: Could change at any moment. And, remember, the president has the stage to himself, at least in this town this week.

We've got to take a quick break, but up next, one of Roy Moore's accusers sits down for her first television interview and explains why she's speaking out just weeks before the Alabama Senate race.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Roy Moore denies these allegations and further says he does not even know you.

LEIGH CORFMAN, RAY MOORE ACCUSER: I wonder how many mes he doesn't know.



[12:17:09] KING: Welcome back. Three weeks now until Alabama's special election for the Senate and a powerful account today for voters to consider as they weigh their vote. Leigh Corfman spoke to NBC this morning and gave a detailed, firsthand account of how she says Roy Moore sexually molested her when she was 14 and he was 32. Corfman says she met Moore, he drove to his house, and then this.


LEIGH CORFMAN, ROY MOORE ACCUSER: He basically laid out some blankets on the floor of his living room and proceed to seduce me, I guess you would say. And during the course of that, he removed my clothing. He left the room and came back in wearing his white underwear. And he touched me over my clothing, what was left of it. And he tried to get me to touch him as well. And at that point I pulled back and said that I was not comfortable and I got dressed. And he took me home.


KING: Now, Judge Moore has denied Corfman's account and those of several other women who say he pursued them when they were in their teens. The judge says this is all a conspiracy cooked up by the media, Democrats and the Washington Republican establishment. Leigh Corfman, though, in that interview, says she waited years to tell her story in part because she was ashamed, in part because she had young children, and even now she says she told "The Washington Post" she would only speak on the record if there were others who came forward with similar accounts. And others, of course, did come forward.

How does this change the dynamic in the sense that Judge Moore has said this is the media, this is the Democrats, this is the Republican establishment. He lashed out at them. Does he now have to answer her? That was a pretty powerful account.

HAM: I -- yes, I think it changes how people receive that account, to see it live like that, just as you saw with the other victim. He has been fairly good at evading questions about this and appearances about it. So I'm not sure how much it changed the equation, partly because we are in era when the tribalism around these accusations is so strident that -- despite the fact that, look, there are these contemporaneous reports that he was banned from malls for this reason. He certainly had a pattern of going after this age of young women. These women have put their names on the record and contemporaneously told friends and family about this. There are many markers for credibility here and we should look for those when we're evaluating these things, but many people will decide, this is my guy. I think Democrats in the Senate will likely decide, this is my guy with Al Franken when we hear a couple more stories about him, if we do. That is where we are and the voters will follow them.

KING: Well, we'll see what the Alabama voters decide.

I want to bring Judge Moore in. Again, he has not directly, since Leigh Corfman gave that account to NBC News, her detailed account, he has not directly addressed that. But here's the judge in a radio interview over the weekend again saying, this is all politically motivated to stop him from getting to the Senate.


ROY MOORE (R), ALABAMA U.S. SENATE CANDIDATE: Thirty days before the election. They brought up matters, supposedly of a sexual impropriety, which never happened. Never would have happened. And never would have been brought up because -- but to detract this campaign from arguing the issues which vitally affect our country. This is just an attempt to stop a campaign that can't win, they didn't win and it's a combination of not only the Democrats, but the Republican establishment.


[12:20:34] KING: It is a ruby red state. And you've had a lot of Republicans -- and we'll get to more of this in a second -- say, you know, he's a flawed candidate. I don't like it. Even Republicans say I kind of believe it, say they have to vote for the Republican. It's to the end of the point there. It's our job to call out politicians when they say things that just aren't true. He says, yes, the Democrats are -- opposed to Roy Moore. Yes, the Republican establishment is opposed to Roy Moore.

Leigh Corfman, and those other women, took the brave step of going on the record, and in Leigh Corfman's case there on camera, to say this. Will the judge succeed saying, forget the women, blaming the politicians?

VISER: I think it is more powerful seeing her say these things because it does -- I mean Roy Moore so far is been "The Washington Post" and they are, you know, making this up or they're paying this woman, you know, and is sort of throwing out all these accusations against him or Mitch McConnell. This is different. I mean there's a woman here who is speaking, you know, pretty powerfully, if you watch the whole interview, about her encounters. And I think that that does resonate in a different way than a newspaper article might come across.

I don't -- do people change their opinions? You know, I mean we've talked to lots of pastors in Alabama and even they're sort of still very much defending Roy Moore with, you know, questioning this witness (ph) account.

HAM: It actually -- it does help that Allred was not sitting beside her.

KING: Right.

HAM: Because Gloria Allred herself is such a tribal signifier of like the other side that I think sitting down with a reporter instead is a different look.

KING: All right. Fairly or unfairly if you are --

HAM: Right.

KING: If you are a member -- and she's a liberal -- she is a liberal attorney. She's anti-Trump. She was with one of the Trump accusers back --

HAM: Right.

KING: You're right about the visuals. People going to their silos based on the visuals.

Striking today, the White House has tried to keep its distance from this and said different things at different times. Ivanka Trump, the president's daughter, as essentially borrowed a quote from Marc Short, the legislative director, saying there's a special place in hell for people who commit such conduct, as Roy Moore is accused of.

But listen to Kellyanne Conway, who earlier sounded pretty tough when these accusations came up, but then just today seemed to say that tax reform matters more to the Trump White House than the character of the candidate.


KELLJYANNE CONWAY, WHITE HOUSE CONSELOR TO THE PRESIDENT: Whatever the facts end up being, the premises, of course the principal, the incontrovertible principle, is that there's no Senate seat that's worth more than a child.


CONWAY: I'm' telling that we want the votes in the Senate to get this tax bill through.


KING: So is she saying the president doesn't believe the accusers? And she speaks for the president. Is she saying the president now has decided he -- on the day one of them went on camera like this, the president doesn't believe them or is she saying the tax cuts are more important than the child?

DAVIS: Well, it certainly sounds like she's saying that whatever the facts, to borrow a phrase from that first interview that you showed --

KING: Right.

DAVIS: That the idea of getting this tax bill through was important enough that if you are perhaps not sure or if you don't believe these women, then you should absolutely vote for Roy Moore.

Now, that's something that the president hasn't been willing to say. We heard the president, just earlier today, not respond to questions about Roy Moore again, as he did when we were in Asia with him. He said, you know, I haven't had time to see. I'm not really sure. If he did what he's accused of doing, he should, you know, of course, he will step aside.

But we haven't heard anything definitive from this White House, a values statement about how they -- what they consider this kind of conduct to be and what the logical consequence should be for a candidate. And it's really notable, the fact that the president of the United States is not coming forward and saying something definitive this close to the election about this behavior. And that, in fact, is, you know, what his senior counselor is out there on TV basically advocating, you know, we should really be focusing on a policy issue, tax cuts, rather than the facts of the case.

KING: It's stunning, but for Republican on Capitol Hill who wanted the president to deliver that final -- what they hoped would be a final nudge, it's not going to happen.

KIM: It's not going to happen and Mitch McConnell has tried probably everything under the books, not a lot of them legal, and very -- all of them very far -- a long shot to try to see what Trump can do to either nudge Roy Moore out of the race or look for other options. But we've tried talking about moving the election. That doesn't seem legal. We've talked about a write-in campaign for Jeff Sessions or another Alabama figure. That's been ruled out for the most part. So the only option really left is to perhaps expel him when he -- when -- if Roy Moore does win the election then arrives on Capitol Hill. And, you know, going back to Kellyanne Conway's first argument that she seemed to make this morning that I mean who knows if a Senator Roy Moore would even be in a cooperating mood with Republicans should he be elected? I mean this is a (INANUDIBLE) body that runs on unanimous consent on everything. He -- one person can shut everything down.

[12:25:01] HAM: Well, and Trump also did plenty of nudging on behalf of Luther Strange.

KING: Yes. Right.

HAM: And that did not work with the voters of Alabama because there's this mood that is so anti-establishment that they turned more Trumpy than Trump himself in that particular race. And so I'm not sure how much power he actually has in the end.

KING: How much power he actually has or is he willing to test in the sense that he's the president, which makes him the leader of the Republican party? But, on this one, I guess we'll just -- Kellyanne Conway's the last word, at least at the moment.

Coming up for us ahead, the Russia investigation. Jared Kushner's lawyer pushes back against suggestions that he's been less than forthcoming with the facts.


KING: Welcome back.

Jared Kushner, villain or hero? An attorney for President Trump's son- in-law and senior advisor says Kushner is the hero and the Senate Judiciary Committee is playing political games. He's pushing back against claims that Kushner failed to turn over documents relevant to the Russia investigation of that committee, including withholding e- mails about WikiLeaks. Here's the attorney, Abbe Lowell.

[12:29:59] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ABBE LOWELL, ATTORNEY FOR JARED KUSHNER: The committee investigations unfortunately are devolving into political gotcha games.