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Draft Shows Heavy Edits To Comey's Clinton Remarks; Democrats: GOP Rushing To Wrap Up Russia Probe; GOP Hits Roadblocks In Race To Pass Bill; President Trump to Speak at FBI National Academy; GOP Hits Roadblocks in Race to Pass Bill. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired December 15, 2017 - 09:00   ET



[09:00:19] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Top of the hour. 9:00 a.m. Eastern, good morning, everyone. I'm Poppy Harlow in New York.

Any moment President Trump leaves for Quantico, Virginia. He will speak there to a graduation ceremony at the FBI National Academy. This after the president said just a few days ago that the FBI was in tatters and is in the worst standing in history.

We are watching, of course, to see when the president departs the White House and heads to Marine One. If he makes any comments we will bring them to you here.

And will he address new major roadblocks that Republicans face as they race to pass tax reform? Republicans scrambling to lock in the votes. They have just hours, hours until noon to make the changes.

Let's begin at the White House where we find our Joe Johns this morning. Do we know if the president is going to say anything as he heads to speak to these members of the FBI?

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: We really haven't gotten any advance text on the president's speech, Poppy. But what we do know is the president's visit to the FBI National Academy is going to be a speech to state and local law enforcement officers, managers who came here to get specific training but it's still the setting.

That's the issue and the president goes to the setting after many on Capitol Hill have said the president as well as congressional Republicans have been at the very most trying to discredit the FBI, especially its role in the Russia investigation and perhaps the very least to raise questions about the reputation of the FBI.

As you know, there have been tweets from the president and colluding of tweets suggesting that the FBI's representation is in tatters, the worst in history, and more recently on Capitol Hill, Republicans have raised questions about a couple FBI agents who were assigned to the Russia investigation and who had to be removed by Special Counsel Mueller because they transmitted disparaging texts, text disparaging the president of the United States.

So we have talked to the administration about this. They say the focus of the president's tweets has been on the issue of optics and not operations, they say to focus on the word reputation as opposed to the functioning of the bureau.

Poppy, back to you.

HARLOW: A bit of semantics there in that explanation.

Joe Johns, thank you.

To Capitol Hill now where a GOP senator who voted for the Senate version of tax reform now says you do not have my vote yet. This is due to some major changes he wants and those would need to happen in the next few hours.

Suzanne Malveaux on the Hill with more. Marco Rubio, complicating things here a little bit for his party.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, absolutely. And this is really down to the wire, if you will, because they want the ink to dry and they've got until noon for the Senate and the House conferees to get together and make sure that every single thing is locked in step, the House GOP hoping they can unveil this around 5:30 this evening, but Senator Marco Rubio from Florida, yes, he has a concern.

This is about the child tax credit. Originally it started at $1,000 then doubled to $2,000. He wants more of that refundable. He wants this for working families. Those with children. He wants this big tax plan to give something to the working families and to the poor. That is his contention as recently as last night, saying no, he wants a little bit more. Negotiators trying to give him what he needs.

Senator Mike Lee, same concern, with that child tax credit. Senator Bob Corker, not likely that he is going to pass as he was certainly a no before in this whole process. He's looking at the deficit, the federal deficit, $1.5 trillion over 10 years is the cost of this plan. He is not convinced of this argument Republicans are putting out that it's going to be growth that is going to allow the economy and allow this tax bill to actually be paid for, so we'll see whether or not he is actually a yes.

And then finally Senator John McCain, sadly, as you know, at Walter Reed Hospital undergoing side effects for the chemotherapy radiation for his brain cancer, not very clear whether or not he is going to be able to participate in a vote next week. He may need to take some more time to recover and that is also something that people are looking at.

So Republicans very much set on getting this passed, but a very narrow margin, and the president hopefully will get this on his desk, he says, optimistically, by Wednesday -- Poppy.

HARLOW: We will see, and of course we're all thinking about John McCain and his family right now.

Suzanne, thank you. Let's discuss and debate with Stephen Moore, CNN senior economics

analyst, former Trump economic adviser, and Austan Goolsbee, Democratic economist and also former adviser to the Obama team on all things taxes and everything else.

[09:05:09] Thank you both for being here very much.

Stephen, here is what the president and his Treasury secretary promised.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Tax reform will protect low income and middle income households, not the wealthy and well- connected.

STEVEN MNUCHIN, TREASURY SECRETARY: There will be no tax, absolute tax cut for the upper class.


HARLOW: There is. It went from almost 40 percent to 37 percent. Is this tax bill the middle class tax bill that the president and the Treasury secretary promised?

STEPHEN MOORE, CNN SENIOR ECONOMICS ANALYST: Well, good morning, Poppy. Look, I think this is going to be good for everyone. I think it's going to be good for the economy, for jobs, for bringing a lot of businesses overseas back to the United States so we can start in- sourcing jobs rather than outsourcing as we have been doing for the last 20 years.

Now are people of higher income going to get a tax cut? Yes, although some of the friends that Austan and I have in states like New York and Illinois and California, you know, they have been complaining because they're going to lose their state and local tax deduction, but look, the big aim of this was always jobs and growth and I think that -- you look at what's happened in the stock market, Poppy. Look at how the growth has already increased.

HARLOW: Well --

MOORE: I believe that we can maybe get to 4 percent growth next year.

HARLOW: Maybe. There will be a counter argument, though, some were against it, saying do you really need this right now. And I also remember, Stephen Moore, when the president said on August 23rd of 2015, "Face the Nation," "The hedge fund guys are getting away with murder. They're going to get to keep this carried interests loophole that stays in this bill," which means the rich stays the rich.

MOORE: Yes. I hate that.

HARLOW: Who are going to pay less.

MOORE: That's -- I know. You know, that's one of the things I don't like about this bill. I don't love everything in this bill, Poppy, you're right. And I think they -- if there's still a chance to fix that I think they should because I think that the carried interest, some of the hedge fund managers are getting away with murder here.

HARLOW: Me thinks that's not changing in the next three hours. I'm just saying. Austan --

MOORE: We'll see.

HARLOW: Austan, I am old enough to recall when President Obama liked corporate tax cuts in 2012. He said yes, bring them down to 28 percent.

AUSTAN GOOLSBEE, ECONOMIST: Well, hold on. First, Poppy, I agree with you. They ought to change the name of this bill to how to get away with murder.

HARLOW: I didn't say that.

GOOLSBEE: That is the most appropriate name for the bill. Now when Barack Obama proposed cutting the corporate rate, you will recall it was not a massive tax cut for corporations. It was to be paid for by closing the deductions and loopholes on corporations themselves, that we would broaden the base and lower the rate.

This is an old-fashioned smash and grab job in which they are trying desperately to get this bill passed before people have a chance to see what is in it. What is in it is a huge tax cut for high income people and big corporations and very little for the middle class and for millions of people their taxes go up.

HARLOW: So there is something --

GOOLSBEE: That's why it has a 29 percent approval rating.

HARLOW: Hold on, guys, there is something --

MOORE: Poppy, can I --

HARLOW: Yes. But, Stephen, I want you to address this.

MOORE: That's not the issue of the middle class.

HARLOW: It gets to his question in helping the middle class on this. OK. When Erin Burnett last night asked the White House chief -- you know, head of the Economic Council of Advisers, right, why was there no condition put on what we would do with all of the savings that corporations are getting because of this? Put that to its higher wager, job creation, et cetera.

Here's what Kevin Hassett said.


KEVIN HASSETT, CHAIRMAN, WHITE HOUSE COUNCIL OF ECONOMIC ADVISERS: We can't make them do that, you know, it's a free economy and we're a democracy. But what we can do is give them the incentives to do the right thing. And what we've done right now is give them an incentive to locate factories here in the U.S.


HARLOW: OK. The thing is, it sounds like the White House to me, Stephen Moore, is saying, trust us, trust the companies. They're going to do the right thing.

MOORE: Well, first, I want to address this issue because it comes up, you know, all the time about the middle class. And I just want to assure people like if you're making between, say, $50,000 and $100,000 a year, there's going to be a fairly significant saving for you because we do three things that are really important for the middle class.

Number one, we double the standard deduction, Austan, so that means the first $24,000 for a family is tax free, up from $12,000 up. That's a big saving. Number two, as you just mentioned, Poppy, we increased the child credit from $1,000 to $2,000, so that means for -- let's say if you're a family of three with -- I mean, with three kids, you are saving $3,000 off your taxes right there, and then we lower the rate.

So, Austan, how is that not a tax cut for the middle class?

GOOLSBEE: You're simply covering up and not admitting the things that are raising taxes on the middle class.

MOORE: Like what?

GOOLSBEE: And all of the things you just described expire by the end of the tax bill.

MOORE: Like what? What raises tax for middle class?

GOOLSBEE: You no longer get them.

HARLOW: They're not permanent.

GOOLSBEE: All of those things that are cuts for high income people last. And the things that are given to the middle class, they get rid of them.

MOORE: That's just -- that isn't true. I mean, let's -- for example, because I've looked at these numbers, Poppy. Let's talk about one of the biggest pay-fors in this bill.

HARLOW: So have I and so has Austan.

[09:10:03] MOORE: The state and local tax deduction. The vast, vast majority of the benefit of the state and local tax deduction goes to very, very high income people in very, very high income states.


MOORE: So that's making more progressive. And look --

HARLOW: I get that, Stephen.


HARLOW: But I do want you to answer my question that I asked about two minutes ago.

MOORE: Your question about the businesses. Right.

HARLOW: Exactly because they could have done something.

MOORE: Right.

HARLOW: They could have added in the Senator Sherrod Brown -- Sherrod Brown from Ohio, his amendment, and you know what his amendment did, the Patriot Employers Tax Credit. That would have incented companies that kept jobs, created jobs in the United States because of this lower corporate tax rate to get even more of a benefit. They could have put that in so the White House, though, they're not being disingenuous by saying well, there's nothing we could have done, this is a democracy, we can't make them do certain things with their money.

You can put qualifications on it, can you not?

MOORE: Well, they -- but I agree with what Kevin Hassett said. We want companies to do what is best for the company and the shareholders. Now a lot of these companies are going to bring that money back to the United States, and by the way, this is going to attract a lot of not just money but a lot of physical plant and equipment that are going to come back here. But, you know, some of them will expand their operations and hire workers and pay benefits.

HARLOW: But --

MOORE: Some of them may --

HARLOW: But very quickly, Austan -- because I want to him to get the final word in here.


HARLOW: He is saying this -- sort of taking the Milton Friedman line that the -- you know, that the business of business is business. Do what's best for the business and shareholders. The other argument would be, Austan, is there are some responsibility to the American taxpayer here?

GOOLSBEE: Look, I think you could make give -- make them do something good for workers, for the middle class in order to get these big tax cuts. I don't understand why you could look at the last 30 years and say what went wrong as we didn't cut taxes for high income people and big corporations enough. I think people understand that and that's why only 29 percent of America supports this bill.

HARLOW: OK. GOOLSBEE: They know that they are going to watch their wallets

because they are coming for the middle class.

MOORE: They're going to be happy next year.

HARLOW: But 66 percent of Republicans like it. I got to leave it there. Someone's phone is ringing in the background so why don't you go answer that.

Stephen Moore, Austan Goolsbee, thank you both very much.

MOORE: Thank you.

HARLOW: All right. Rushing the Russia probe? It's a question the Democrats have this morning, some of them saying Republicans pushing to wrap up this investigation far too quickly.

Plus, will Biden run? Signals this week that are getting a lot of people talking.

And one year after flipping the state from blue to red, voters in Michigan still holding out hope for President Trump's campaign promises.



HARLOW: This morning new questions about the FBI's handling of Hillary Clinton's now closed e-mail investigation, where Republican senators are demanding answers over who watered down the statement that fired FBI Director James Comey gave when he announced the case was close. The original draft shows the key language was actually edited out of Comey's remarks that came right before the 2016 election. Let's talk to our national security and legal analyst, Susan Hennessy, about all of this. Susan, thank you for being here.

So, we now know this drip, drip of information about all of this. We now know the language that was originally in Comey's announcement that the Clinton e-mail investigation was closed was to say that it was reasonably likely that hostile actors hacked Clinton's e-mail account.

That was then changed subsequently to it was possible. This will infuriate Republicans who have had questions in the last two weeks about the independence of these investigations. They are not saying exactly who changed the language.

They are mentioning that FBI Agent Peter Strzok, who led the investigation and had those anti-Trump texts among others as part of that team, but not saying who it was that changed the language explicitly. How important is this?

SUSAN HENNESSEY, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY AND LEGAL ANALYST: Well, the Republican lawmakers are trying to make sort of quite a bit out of these various changes that occurred in these documents. You know, it's important to understand that difference. What was being edited was Comey's public statement regarding the decision to not recommend charges to the Department of Justice.

Now there is no indication that what these changes reflects is a change in actually the legal conclusions that they've drawn or about whether or not to make that recommendation. So, what we are seeing here is really a process of really careful messaging to the public.

So you know, keep in mind, this was an incredibly unusual statement in the first place and usually the FBI doesn't make a public statement when they decide not to recommend charges so it's not surprising that Comey's team would want to be very careful and think about every word, every message that he was conveying to the public.

You know, he was trying to walk that very, very careful line saying, look, we saw a lot of troubling things here, but we didn't believe it rose to the level of criminal conduct. So, I really think it is an over read to suggest that these edits reflect anything untoward.

HARLOW: OK, so also you have the House Intelligence Committee one of the probes leading the Russia investigation now on the Congressional side coming to New York and they are going to interview two people, one of them is Rona Graft (ph), who is sort of the assistant forever to Citizen Donald Trump before he was candidate and President Donald Trump.

And then you have the ranking Democrat on the House Intel Committee saying this to Wolf Blitzer last night. Here's Adam Schiff.


REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: if they are willing to go to that length to discredit the FBI and Justice Department and Robert Mueller, they will have no compunction about shutting down the House investigation indeed. I think they view shutting us down as a prerequisite to shutting Bob Mueller down, and we see some very disturbing signs that that's what they intend to do.


HARLOW: Partisan politics only or do you see some of the signs that Republicans are rushing this?

[09:20:09] HENNESSEY: Right. So, we have been seeing quite a bit of signs of sort disfunction out of the HPSC investigation in particular as supposed to SSCI, and have to notion -- you know, Congressman Schiff objected to the notion of having interviews in New York when voting was going on.

You know, staff usually conducts those interviews. Maybe this particular thing is not the end of the world, but it is yet another sign that this not a bipartisan investigation. It's not a cooperative investigation.

And so really what we are seeing is lots and lots of partisan disfunction. We are seeing fewer signs of that on the SSCI side. I mean, it's certainly not without politics or political consideration or even some conflicts among the chair and ranking, but that appears to be a little bit more of a serious and credible investigation.

It's also important to keep in mind, you know, Congressional investigations and Special Counsel Bob Mueller's investigation, they are different things and serve different purposes. They actually are not duplicative.

The purpose of Special Counsel Mueller is to decide was there a crime, should there be a prosecution here? You know, the Congress is really about informing the public and bringing those key facts out into the public space and debate them, and deciding if there's legislative measures that should be taken.

HARLOW: Exactly. I'm glad you point that out. Susan Hennessy, nice to have you. Thanks so much.

Still ahead, Omarosa continues to speak out very publicly about her very public departure from the White House this week, and now she's saying the lack of diversity could be very lonely at times in the White House. More of that ahead.



HARLOW: There is a lot to get to this Friday morning. Let's bring in our political panel, CNN political analyst, Jackie Kucinich and Amie Parnes, and White House reporter for "Bloomberg News," Toluse Olorunnipa. It is nice to have you all here. Thank you very much.

Guys, let me just begin with this. Omarosa Manigault who had a pretty high-ranking job at the White House on her way out, and she's speaking out not only to "Good Morning America," last night to "Nightline," and here's what she said on diversity.


OMAROSA MANIGAULT NEWMAN, FORMER SENIOR ADVISER TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: There's a lack of diversity that I would acknowledge, and at times it was very lonely, because a majority of them were white men and had their own agendas, and many of them had never work with minorities, that know how to interact with them.

So, at times, they would say very little unless it was policy driven or decision driven or there was a presidential action, I didn't have a whole lot of conversations with many of them. On the other hand, there were some who became very great friends. It has been very, very challenging being the only African-American woman in the senior staff.


HARLOW: All right. Toluse, she also was the only African-American woman in the White House making that top salary bracket and now on her way out. This is looking like it's going to be a pretty big potential headache for the White House. How do you see it?

TOLUSE OLORUNNIPA, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, "BLOOMBERG NEWS": Yes. This is not a message the White House wants to be hearing right now. You have to remember that in Alabama the African-American vote and turnouts specifically among black women is part of the reason that Trump's preferred candidate, Roy Moore, did not win.

And now this message is getting out from someone who is part of Trump's inner circle, who just recently laughed and now is going on tv circuit talking about the lack of diversity within the White House.

The fact that she was made uncomfortable by the lack of diversity and some of the issues that President Trump and some of his allies were bringing up during her time in the White House.


OLORUNNIPA: A number of African-Americans have seen what President Trump has done trying to erase the legacy of President Obama talking about very fine people on both sides of Charlottesville. And it's made them very uncomfortable and it could result in a reckoning in the 2018 during the midterms.

HARLOW: You know, and Jackie, when you just think about sort of what the Republican Party needs, and you know, just to be fair they didn't actually need it this time around to win the presidency, but they need to broaden the base. I mean, they need more minority support across the board and that's only going to get more and more true as this country gets more and more diverse every election cycle. How do you see this Omarosa thing playing out?

JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I mean, it seems bigger than Omarosa frankly because this is a White House that has never targeted anyone other than their base and they don't really show signs of changing. I mean, let's not forget during the campaign, their message to the African-American voter was what do you have to lose? That's not really very inspiring.

They have not reached out at all to that particular community. So, they haven't seen -- there has not been a reckoning yet, and Alabama has been a part of that, but there is not a reckoning yet for this White House to show them that they do need to broaden their horizons here. There has not -- that lesson has not been learned yet.

HARLOW: Amie, I think the White House would much prefer to talk about tax reform this morning than Omarosa. So, let's talk about tax reform because it matters also for a lot of American people. If the president can pull this thing off, and it's not -- there's no check in the "w" column yet, we don't know if the numbers are there.

But if the White House can pull it off in the president's first year, it hasn't been done since the mid-1980s in this country. How big of a political dividend do you think that actually is for the president?

AMIE PARNES, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It's huge. I think that's why he was really pushing for it for months at a time. This was his big grand plan. He tried for other policies and it failed. They needed to put points on the board very badly here and this is what they are aiming to do. And I think going into 2018, a year where Republicans, you know, they don't have a lot of momentum right now. They really desperately need some kind of momentum going forward.

HARLOW: The issue is, and Toluse, I was just talking to voters in Michigan and Kentucky, Trump voters about this. They are really hopeful for this president, tax reform.