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Omarosa Manigault Leaving the White House; Marco Rubio May Be a No on Tax GOP Bill; House Speaker Paul Ryan May Leave After 2018 Midterms; Trump Still Doubts U.S. Intelligence on Russia; Man with ALS Confronts Senator about Tax Vote; Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired December 14, 2017 - 15:00   ET


[15:00:00] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: -- color, you know, on the senior staff, and they couldn't.

KWAME JACKSON, COMPETED AGAINST OMAROSA ON "THE APPRENTICE": I never saw any individual of color in his organization when I was on "The Apprentice." You know, obviously on the senior staff you don't see that in the White House. And to put Omarosa in as your kind of, you know, minority whisperer, or, you know, black person whisperer, I think that was the wrong choice.

BALDWIN: As far as what exactly happened.


BALDWIN: And we may never fully know. There are multiple versions of the story. Let me read for you what the Secret Service tweeted because they were worried that perhaps she was escorted off the property. That maybe she was trying to get into the residence. We're talking to April Ryan who had this great reporting.

The Secret Service tweeted that they were not involved in escorting her out. But if there was indeed a dramatic confrontation as our sources say, walk me through what would have happened or how this would have been handled.

WACKROW: Well, this is an organization. So this comes down to access control. After she was terminated, and I just kind of find there is a little sweet irony in this termination that it happened in the situation room, which is a board room, that she was terminated there. So I kind of see it as a little ironic. You're asked to leave. So, yes, escorted out but it doesn't mean escorted out by the Secret Service. Just that you're terminated from CNN, they will -- take your stuff and you will leave. You will hand over your pass and move on. There was no, you know, physical removal of her across the North Lawn and dragging her off the complex. First of all --

BALDWIN: Does that mean that someone else might have done that or not necessarily?

WACKROW: No, that's --


WACKROW: If someone else does it, it's assault. So let me just be perfectly clear.

BALDWIN: Thank you.

WACKROW: From the Secret Service standpoint, they are not putting hands on somebody to remove them from any facility unless there was, you know, actually violation of law. I mean, they're not going to -- they're law enforcement officers. New York police officers didn't just walk around the streets and grab people and drag them down the streets. Nor does a United States Secret Service, you know, agent or officer of the White House. That didn't happen.

I spoke to the Secret Service this morning.


WACKROW: They were very candid in their information that they gave me. I believe them 100 percent. And I don't know one agent or officer, quite frankly, that would put their job on the line to physically remove somebody without actually pressing charges against them.

BALDWIN: OK. Jonathan, thank you.

WACKROW: Thank you.

BALDWIN: Kwame, thank you.

JACKSON: Thank you very much.

BALDWIN: Great travels to you, my friend.

JACKSON: Thank you.

BALDWIN: And Claudia, thank you so much. Appreciate it all of you. Let's roll on.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.

BALDWIN: We continue on. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin. We do have breaking news here. As Republicans are on the cusp of this historic tax overhaul, the buzz is that two senators are now a no, which could keep this Republican bill from passing. You have Senator Bob Corker who has been against it and now this new opponent Senator Marco Rubio.

Moments ago the president said this.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think he'll be there. He's really been a great guy and very supportive. I think that Senator Rubio will be there, for sure.


BALDWIN: Let's go to CNN's Abby Phillip at the White House. And so obviously the president is confident. He is committed. He

wants this win. What more do we know about this no from Marco Rubio?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Marco Rubio has made it pretty clear publicly and presumptively privately that what he wants is more money for this child tax credit that he's been advocating for. Worth noting also that the president's daughter Ivanka Trump has been with Marco Rubio on this one, wanting more money for that child tax credit.

So the White House is actually saying that the credit has gone up quite a bit from the original proposal. It's gone from about $1100 to about $2,000. Rubio wants more money. And what he really wanted was some of that money coming from the corporate tax cut going to the child tax credit instead.

It's not clear whether exactly that will happen or if he will take sort of a little bit more, maybe not everything that he wants, but the White House seems to think that Rubio is not going to be a no on the final bill. And the reason for that is because it's going to be very hard for someone like Rubio to vote no on maybe the only major thing that this Congress is going to do this year.

They believe that at the end of the day he's going to maybe take a little bit more of this -- of the money that he wants and vote yes at the end of the process.

BALDWIN: All right. Abby, thank you so much. At the White House.

Let's have a bigger conversation. With me now, CNN special correspondent Jamie Gangel, CNN senior political analyst, Mark Preston, David -- Hoppe?


BALDWIN: Hoppe. Forgive me. I --

HOPPE: No problem.

BALDWIN: Hoppe, former chief of staff for House Speaker Paul Ryan.

So welcome to all of you. And Mark, just to you first, I mean, if Rubio remains a no, and we can't know if there is wiggle room or not yet in this whole negotiation. You know, reports indicate that the president, as he's working behind the scenes, he's on the phones, he wants this bill on the desk by Christmas, told aides he's planning for a victory lap. How do you see this? Is it a done deal or not necessarily?

[15:05:03] MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, right now it's not a done deal. But I do think by the end of next week it will be a done deal.

BALDWIN: You do.

PRESTON: Marco Rubio is doing something that's very smart right now. He's using what political capital he has to try to get what he wants. Now whether he's successful in getting it all remains to be seen. The fact is, this bill has to come in under a certain number in order for it to pass. When I say a certain number a -- it has to come in under $1.5 trillion for it to pass. But the bottom line is Marco Rubio I think at the end is going to be a yes vote.

As Abby was saying right there, you can only lose two Republicans right now. Anything more than that then the bill goes down. But they've worked so hard, the Republican Party has, in trying to get this done. They need an accomplishment. I think this is going to be the accomplishment.

BALDWIN: OK, Jamie, let me just turn to you because we know that Mike Pence has stayed behind on this trip, going to the Middle East. His vote may be needed in this. The other wild cards, certain other Republicans, but also Senator John McCain who I know you have been reporting on who is increasingly ill, he's in the hospital.

JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: Right. So we've been hearing that he's been absent for the last week. He's been in Walter Reed. Doctor Sanjay Gupta reported medically much better than I can that this has to do with side effects from chemo and radiation that he's being given.

But, that said, our sources in the Senate tell me that his colleagues have said that he is looking increasingly frail. And that at things like the Republican luncheon where he always spoke up, that in recent memory he has not been speaking up much.

Now I don't want to say that has nothing to do with mental acuity, it may simply be his energy level. We asked his office and we are waiting to hear back about whether he's going to make it for a vote. Officially what they've said is he wants to be back at work as soon as possible. And you can be sure.

We know one thing about John McCain. He's very tough. And he is doing -- going to do everything he can to be there. But no question, we heard from Paul Ryan in this press conference this morning, they are being flexible on scheduling this vote because of possible absences. So they are working to make sure that they can do this when he gets back.

BALDWIN: OK. You brought up Paul Ryan, David Hoppe, here's my question for you. It's on the status of the House speaker, right, that there were reports earlier that perhaps he may be ready to go after the 2018 midterms. That piece of information came to the White House press briefing.

You heard Sarah Sanders answering this question where essentially she reported that the president was very recently on the phone with the House speaker and expressed his displeasure, how he would be incredibly unhappy if the reports were true, and the House speaker said, no, Mr. President, paraphrasing, they are not. But it is -- actually I'm being told we have the sound. Let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president did speak to the speaker not too long ago and made sure that the speaker knew very clearly and in no uncertain terms that if that news was true, he was very unhappy with it. The speaker assured the president that those were not accurate reports.


BALDWIN: First of all, you know, David, it's a headline in and of itself if the case that the president said to the House speaker, I wouldn't be happy if you left.


HOPPE: Well, obviously, they are working together right now very closely together, and have been for the past six months on this tax reform tax cut. And that's very important issue they want to get through.

The speaker has said today several times he's not leaving. And for those people, the meme was sort of, gee, this is the thing he wanted most in life was tax reform. And that's probably true. But there are a number of other issues which the speaker has been very involved in. One of them is very dear to his heart. He's trying to reform our welfare program so that people who, as they climb out of welfare and back into jobs, aren't given higher taxes or aren't discouraged from doing that because of the welfare system that exists in this country and the tax system that exists.

So part of that is being handled through the tax code reforms we're having right now. Another part has to be handled through welfare reform which the speaker is very invested in, very involved in and wants to look at next year as something to solve some of the problems with welfare that will help people get out of it and make that a ladder onto jobs and opportunity which this tax cut hopefully will provide for these people.

BALDWIN: Sure. I mean, I'm sure he thought once upon a time the biggest and greatest job would be, you know, chair of House Ways and Means.

HOPPE: Right.

BALDWIN: And now, you know, here he is, we remember the -- maybe some of the hesitancy, and does he want this job, and we all covered that a little while ago. And now here he is with these possible reports, could be a swan song. And let me just take it a step further. And again, you know, the White House is saying that he's saying this isn't the case. But maybe presidential aspirations, perhaps, would be, you know, understandable if he wanted a little distance between himself and the president?

[15:10:08] HOPPE: I don't think that's a part of any calculation.

BALDWIN: You don't? HOPPE: Not at all. Because I think Paul has been -- always been

interested in policy and policy issues. And these are the things he's, right now, getting to work on this on taxes and hopefully within the next week they will be successful in doing so. He's already talking about next year what he needs to do, wants to do, things we have to address. And as I said earlier, one of those big problems is making the welfare system work for people on welfare to help them get out of welfare. That's been something that Paul has focused on for 15 to 20 years in his public career.

So there's a lot of issues he wants to do. I think those are the things that are driving him more than anything.


HOPPE: He sees the opportunity to do this and wants to pursue those. So those are the big things. I really don't think the politics is part of this for him.

BALDWIN: What are you thinking and hearing?

GANGEL: I just wanted -- look, he knows what he's talking about.

BALDWIN: Yes, he does.


GANGEL: And the speaker -- the speaker said no.


GANGEL: But I do want to add this thing. We have been talking for the last couple of days about the 2018 midterm elections. If the House is no longer in Republican control, and he is no longer the speaker, then a lot of those things that we were just hearing about that he wants to get accomplished --

BALDWIN: Maybe not so possible.

GANGEL: Maybe not so possible. And he may not want to be -- it's one thing to be speaker and to feel he has a chance to get some of that done. But if the House goes Democrat, he may not want to be minority leader.

BALDWIN: Jamie Gangel, thank you. Mark Preston, David Hoppe, thank you all so much for the conversation.

Coming up next here, nearly a year since President Trump took office, not a still single Cabinet level meeting on Russian meddling in U.S. elections. A new "Washington Post" report explains why and how explosives some of those conversations have been within the White House walls.


[15:16:14] BALDWIN: A stunning new "Washington Post" report today claims that President Trump is still rejecting evidence of Russia's meddling in the presidential election. The one he won more than a year ago. And administration official tells "The Post" that President Trump is insulted by the idea that Russia's President Vladimir Putin has helped him win in 2016 and that President Trump has never held a Cabinet meeting about Russian interference in the election.

That official says instead, quote, "President Trump has waged his own campaign to discredit the case that Russia poses any threat and he has resisted or attempted to roll back efforts to hold Moscow to account."

So Samantha Vinograd is with us, CNN national security analyst who served on the National Security Council under President Obama, in that time dealing with the Russians, many a meeting.

Good to see you again.


BALDWIN: You know, when you read some of these details in this piece about how it was perceived to be an affront to the president, to bring it up in the meetings would change the way he would be briefed so as not to lead with this. In your four years, have you ever heard of any of this?

VINOGRAD: That's just a hard no.


VINOGRAD: This story today paints a picture of the president censoring his own National Security Council. I worked at the White House for many years. At no point did the president ever declare a topic off limits. The reporting today says that Trump isn't getting intelligence updates on Russia. He hasn't had a National Security Council meeting. That's not in the best interests of the American people. It means that he's not getting the most up-to-date --

BALDWIN: The full picture.

VINOGRAD: -- intelligence analysis. And the National Security Council isn't meeting to come up with the most efficient strategy for deterring another Russian attack.

When I was at the White House we met internally on Russia, we had National Security Council meetings. We had intelligence briefings. That's just basic good housekeeping. And that was when we hadn't suffered a direct Russian attack.

BALDWIN: To be clear, I don't know if it was clear in "The Post" whether the president has officially said never bring this up. I think that according to the people who were quoted, it was just clear how the president would react when they would read.

Let me read something from President Trump's approach toward Russia. A Trump senior administration official telling "The Washington Post," quote, "Our approach is that we don't irritate Russia. We deter Russia. The administration had it exactly backwards." What are the risks there?

VINOGRAD: Well, I haven't actually seen the administration take any steps to deter Russia. Now they could. There are some sanctions that are due to go into effect in January. But if the administration is really focused on deterrence they need to hold Russia accountable for their direct attack on the United States. And President Trump needs to stop appeasing President Putin. You know, President Putin gave a really major press conference this morning.

BALDWIN: Yes. Tell me about that.

VINOGRAD: And Putin is a trained KGB officer. And I think a lot of the statements that he made this morning were focused on one primary intelligence target, and that's President Trump. The intelligence community has assessed with high confidence that President Putin directed an influence campaign, a messaging strategy against the United States. And earlier today Putin used phrases like espionage mafia and said that allegations of collusion were being dreamed up.

I think he was purposely stoking President Trump's paranoia about internal threats. It's no secret that President Trump is quite focused on internal threats to his presidency and I think that President Putin knows this and went ahead and spoke to it.

BALDWIN: We have a quote from Andrew Weiss, former Russian adviser for Bush 43 and for Clinton. He said, "Putin has to believe this was the most successful intelligence operation in the history of Russian or Soviet intelligence. It has driven the American political system into a crisis that will last years."

You nodding?

VINOGRAD: Unfortunately I am nodding.

[15:20:01] And I think we have seen a variety of factors that support that conclusion including the fact that we're starting to do the Russians' job for them to an extent. The intelligence community assessed again in this January DNI report that the Russians are focused on undermining faith in our democracy.

When we see the president of the United States start poking at the credibility of our Department of Justice or FBI, we are starting to undermine faith in our own institutions and that's playing right into President Putin's hands.

BALDWIN: Especially when the president from the beginning is not agreeing with those intel agents.

VINOGRAD: Exactly.

BALDWIN: On what exactly Russia's role was in the elections.

Sam, thank you.

VINOGRAD: Thanks. BALDWIN: Very much.

Coming up next here, this man facing a life threatening disaster saw Senator Jeff Flake on a plane and took a chance to confront him over the Republican tax plan.


ADY BARKAN, BATTLING ALS CONFRONTED SENATOR JEFF FLAKE ON FLIGHT: Think about -- think about the legacy that you will have for my son and your grandchildren if you take your principles and turn them into votes. You can save my life.


BALDWIN: Senator flake was listening. That encounter led to a meeting there on Capitol Hill. Senator Collins there. The gentleman will join me live to explain what happened behind those closed doors.

And is it the end of the Internet as we know it? The FCC voting to repeal Obama-era rules on how to regulate the Internet. What this means for you coming up.


[15:26:03] BALDWIN: My next guest made headlines when he confronted a Republican senator on an airplane about the upcoming vote on the latest version of this Republican tax bill.

Ady Barkan is a 33-year-old attorney. He has an 18-month-old son, and about a year ago he was diagnosed with ALS, a neurological disease that has no cure. And as his disability benefits have quickly become a life and death issue for him, he is very concerned that the bill could lead to drastic cuts for the care he needs.

Here is his stunning plea to Arizona Senator Jeff Flake.


BARKAN: Are you happy with the process? I know that senior senator has been unhappy.

SEN. JEFF FLAKE (R), ARIZONA: No, none of us are happy with the process. It's a lack of regular order that's been going on for years now. It's been pretty dysfunctional, I would say.

BARKAN: So why not take this bill now?


BARKAN: You can be an American hero. You really can.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You're already there.

BARKAN: You are halfway there. If the votes match the speech. Think about -- think about the legacy that you will have for my son and your grandchildren if you take your principles and turn them into votes. You can save my life.

FLAKE: Well, thank you.

BARKAN: Please. Please remember this conversation.

FLAKE: You're very read up on everything.

BARKAN: My life depends on it.


BALDWIN: Well, it turns out the senator did remember the conversation. He tweeted about it after the fact. Senator Flake saying this, "I enjoyed the conversation, Ady. We won't always agree but I admire your courage and knowledgeable advocacy."

Ady also made a trip to Capitol Hill to protest the tax bill and meet with lawmakers. Ady Barkan joins me now live from Washington.

Ady, thank you so much for being with here. Nice to meet you.

BARKAN: Hi, Brooke. Thanks for having me on.

BALDWIN: So your story, and we hear part of it with the senator, how you were saying, you know, my goodness, a year ago you were out running on the beach, and then here you were diagnosed with ALS. And now I want you to explain to everyone watching why access to disability benefits is at the forefront of your life, your family's life.

BARKAN: Thanks, Brooke. Yes, so, you know, I'm going paralyzed pretty quickly. I was a healthy 33-year-old and I'm not going to be a healthy 34-year-old when my birthday comes this Monday. So I'm going paralyzed. You can hear my voice, sounds pretty crazy, very weak. And I'm going to need a lot of medical care. And eventually my diaphragm is going to give out. And in order to stay alive I'm going to be needed to be hooked up to a ventilator. And the ventilator can keep me alive for a decade or more, and I could get to see my baby boy grow up. I could get to teach him how to read and see him go to school and see him shoot a basketball.

And I love my son so much. He's so happy. And he loves people so much. So any time that I can have more with him would just be so precious. But in order to get that, I need the medical benefits that I've been paying into every two weeks out of my paycheck. You pay into it, too. Workers across the country. We commit together we're going to insure ourselves against these tragedies, right?

Because you never know it could hit you just like it hit me out of nowhere. So we have insurance. But this tax bill would force $400 billion in cuts to Medicare. And the White House, which gets to decide how to allocate those cuts, they're in charge, Mick Mulvaney says that he hates Medicare disability. So I don't know that I would get the ventilator that I need --