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CNN NEWSROOM

Trump Celebrates Tax Overhaul; Historic Tax Cuts Trump's First Major Legislative Win; Franken To Resign on January 2. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired December 20, 2017 - 15:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[15:30:00] SEN ORRIN HATCH (R), UTAH: -- and we're going to keep fighting, and we're going to make this the greatest presidency that we've seen, not any generations have made these ever. God bless all of you.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Paul Ryan just said, how good was that. Another very special man worked so hard, knows it inside out and backwards, Kevin Brady.

REP KEVIN BRADY (R) CHAIRMAN, WAYS AND MEANS COMMITTEE, TEXAS: Thank you. OK, guys. Thank you, Mr. President. This is a historic day. It's an exciting day. And I knew I was going to be here with you to mark this momentous occasion. So, I wore my Houston Astro's tie because they're still the champion of the world series. I figure today you would give me some slack on that.

Look, this is a historic day in so many ways. And it didn't happen just by itself. People often ask, when did you know, when did you know tax reform could be achieved in America for the first time in 31 years? And my answer is always the same. November 8th, when President Trump, you were elected president of the United States. That's when I knew it was real. And when you put together the great ideas on tax reform from inside and outside Congress -- and I see many of you here today with us -- remarkable leadership and courage from the men and women behind me in the Senate, and especially my colleagues in the House. When you put together remarkable leadership in the House and the Senate of the work that was done in the White House, Gary and Steve, vice president Mike Pence and Mr. President you're willing to make this your commitment to go across the country to sell the need for tax reform and stay at the table with us, and on the phone with us to get this done, but for your leadership we would not be here today. Thank you so much.

[15:35:00] And let me finish by speaking directly to the American people. There are three dates you need to put on your calendar. The first is New Year's Day, because on New Year's our country will have a new tax code for a new era of American prosperity. New Year's Day.

In February look to your paychecks. Hard working Americans will see the result of the hard work of this President and this Congress to make this tax reform possible. It will show in your paychecks. And then April 15th, that hated day, this April 15th will be the last time you ever file your taxes under this horrible, broken tax code. Because you'll have a new one for the future of your family and your small business. So, this is a great day for your country, a great day for our economy, and great day for America. Thank you, Mr. President.

TRUMP: Thank you. You did a fantastic job. And another man who is with us all the way, no matter when I called, he was there, or he would get back within minutes, Kevin McCarthy.

REP KEVIN MCCARTHY (R), MAJORITY LEADER: To the president and vice president, during that campaign you listened to voices no one else was listening to. You listened to those that were trying to get a pay raise or that parent that was fighting for their children. Or to that person who always dreamed of being an entrepreneur of creating a small business, like you did, Mr. President. And you know what, for all those people, you heard them. We would not be standing here today if it wasn't for you. Doesn't matter if you were overseas fighting for America, so many people back here got your phone call fighting for tax reform. This is a big day for America. This is America's comeback. Come February, check your check, because that will be the pay raise of the vote for Donald Trump. That will be the beginning of the next century, America's century. Thank you and God bless.

TRUMP: So, I just want to conclude by saying this will indeed be a very big day when people look back at our country. It's a whole different attitude. A whole different way. And I really want to end by looking back and thanking all of those people standing behind me that worked for years. This was the culmination of a few month's work, but they've been working on getting this done, whether it's Mitch or Paul or Kevin or Kevin, or Orrin, they have been working on this for years, years and years. And I just want to turn around and I want to thank them all. They are very, very special people. Thank you very much, everybody.

[END OF VIDEO TAPE)

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: I just want to sit on that for one second longer. Nothing like a massive tax victory to -- oh, he's just saying thank you. Nothing like a tax victory to bring a bunch of Republicans together. David Chalian, I just want to start with you. Just a couple months ago when, what was it August recess, and we were talking about some shouting phone call between the Senate Majority Leader and President of the United States and the Senate Majority Leader was the first person the President name checks to thank you. My goodness what a tax victory does for these men and women.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yes, this is basically sort of a proof of purchase for the November 2016 election being offered to voters. This is why it's such a victorious day for Republicans. Why you sense that real sense of celebration inside the Rose Garden despite the bill being unpopular, despite potential problems selling it. They are so thrilled to be able to say we have delivered on a promise we can actually get big things done as a Republican President, Republican controlled majorities in both the House and the Senate. That's not something, Brooke, they've been able to prove all year. So, to end the year on this kind of high note, I mean you just see it on their faces and their remarks, that they feel they are now able to go to voters and say you did give us your vote and we are now delivering for you. BALDWIN: You can tell you just see it on their faces. It looks like

they've been through this legislative war, that they were burned when it came to trying to repeal Obamacare, but they got it here. Actually, I'm being told Jim Acosta, who is in the thick of it all, he's with us, our senior White House correspondent. Jim, what was it like to be, you were there in the mix listening to all the different speeches. What was that like? What was your impression?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think this is the happiest Republican party has been visibly all year long. I mean we saw that in the South Lawn of the White House. You saw every major Republican leader come up and take the microphone and praise this president. You heard the House Speaker, Paul Ryan, praise what he called the exquisite leadership of President Trump. You heard Orrin Hatch, a very powerful Senator who is intimately involved in all of this. Essentially describing the president as perhaps one of the greatest presidents in American history, if things continue to go the way they are going.

So, they're feeling very good inside the Republican Party at the White House. But keep in mind, Brooke, as people are watching this, this is a celebration that is being held by one half of Washington. This tax bill attracted zero support from Democrats. There were no Democrats on board for this. And as you heard the president here in his remarks, described it as not only tax cut bill but repeal of it Obamacare. Now there are a lot of Americans that rely on the Affordable Care Act who may want to know while the individual mandate in Obamacare has been repealed, there are other provisions inside that law that have not been repealed. Which include allowing kids to stay on their parents' health insurance, which protects against discrimination and pre-existing conditions and so on. So, when the president says, well Obamacare was essentially repealed today, he's not exactly giving people the straight scoop. That's not what's happening here. Only a portion of Obama care, the individual mandate, is being repealed.

And at the same time another thing that was avoided altogether at this event here at the White House, Brooke, is how they are going to have to sell this tax cut plan by measure of 2-1, Americans have said in poll after poll that they viewed this tax cut plan as giveaway to the rich.

[15:40:00] That wealthier Americans will be prospering as opposed to middle class Americans getting the long end of the stick here. They feel like that wealthier Americans and corporations are going to be doing better out of this tax cut plan. And so, this is one of those things you heard the House Majority Leader, Kevin McCarthy, say, well when you see the tax cut in February you'll feel a lot better about this. Keep in mind also not mentioning what's going to happen to the deficit. A trillion dollars added to the deficit. And it's been projected over the next ten years and so on. And so, this is something that the Republican Party is not only they'll have to sell over the coming months, they're going to have to answer for when it comes to the November midterm elections if people are not entirely sold on the tax cut that they gotten in their paycheck every couple of weeks. If that's not enough to win them over, over the course of next year, you may see very different expression on the looks of Republicans come a year from now.

Now, we should mention one thing that did not happen at this event, Brooke, there was no press conference. The president tweeted overnight there would be a press conference out here. We still don't know whether or not he's going to have a press conference at the end of the year. That is something that president's typically do before they go on their holiday vacation. We have not been apprised of that by this White House as to whether or not that is going to take place. As soon as we find out about that we'll let you know. But as you saw here no questions asked of the President. He wasn't really within earshot of us. He was pretty far away. And they struck up the band just as soon as he was finished with his remarks -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: Yes, and we also it sounds like we don't know, although you were reporting earlier perhaps this thing gets signed as he's down in Christmas vacation in Mar-a-Lago. And we can get to the optics of that.

But Chris let me go back to you. Jim, thank you so much.

ACOSTA: Sure.

BALDWIN: We want to give the president and Republicans their due and Jim is exactly right. Half of Washington right now is absolutely elated over what's about to come. There was a moment that's catching fire online and I think it's important to point it out. Guys, play this sound when the president mentions member of congress who was shot and could have been killed just a couple months ago, Steve Scalise, listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Steve Scalise, he's braver than all of us. [ applause ]

Boy, I don't know. He had a rougher year than most of us, but it's a hell of a way to lose weight, Steve. Not a good way. We love you, Steve. Great job. Great job.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: Hell of a way to lose weight. He was shot and could have been killed. And I know this is only a piece, I don't want to take away from the celebration, but it tells us a little bit about the president and his character. And Chris Cillizza, and nothing about that is appropriate.

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER: Yes, I mean, so my former colleague at "The Washington Post" Paul Kane tweeted out a little bit of context there, that is a joke that Scalise has made in private to lighten some mood. Obviously, this is someone who was shot at a Republican practice for the congressional baseball game in the we didn't necessarily know that time was close to death.

Went through a number of surgeries and now returned to congress. You know, this is who Donald Trump is. We shouldn't be surprised. If Barack Obama made a comment like that, it might overshadow or at least get equal coverage with the broader point here. With Donald Trump, you know, I think most members of congress will play it off. David Chalian made a great point about proof of purchase.

There was a lot of hold your nose and vote for Donald Trump. Not just within the Republican broad elect rate but members of congress, Republican members of congress who supported them. In that moment and broader press conference, you kind of get the all of Donald Trump. You get what they believe to be the good. Which is Hillary Clinton isn't signing this tax plan. If she's president of the United States.

You don't get this if she's president of the United States even if Republicans controlled the house and senate. You also get the Donald Trump who makes what is, you know, at best sort of an off-color joke. You heard some uncomfortable laughter. That's Donald Trump. You don't get one without the other. Republicans have made their peace with that, most of them, and they will point to this victory today on tax cuts as evidence that they chose right.

BALDWIN: So, it is a victory, obviously, for Republicans, Abby, but Chris made the point earlier saying it's also risky. We saw the CNN polling that came out yesterday 55 percent Americans don't approve of this plan. Not obviously very popular. We heard from Mitch McConnell now is the time to sell this bill soon to become law to the American people. How do they do that?

[15:45:00] ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think you saw a little bit of a glimpse of that with President Trump today. He is pitching it as, you know, telling the American people that the tax bill is what he says it is. That they are going to save a lot of money. That an important part of this, believe it or not, is the estate tax, which we know only effects a small portion of people. That businesses are already coming back. That they are pouring back into the country. The president is basically delivering to the American people the message that he wants them to hear and internalize.

Some of these things have not come to pass yet. That the businesses are not necessarily pouring back in just yet. If he ends up being accurate and that ends up being true, in six months, Republicans are going to be in great shape. And I think it's worth noting tax cuts are popular. That it is very likely that no matter what happens, people will see more money in their paychecks and they are going to be happy about it. The real question is they going to give President Trump all the credit for that?

Are other factors, questions about the president's temperament, and leadership, about the direction of the country more broadly, are they going to out weigh the questions of the tax bill? I think up until this point, you know, the economy is doing quite well. The president's approval rating is still in the mid-30s. It strongly suggests that the American people are dissatisfied about other things, not just about the economy, and that over all this administration is going to have to deliver more than just on this tax bill.

But on other issues in order for that to be reflects in the president's approval ratings and giving Republicans a better chance in some of these generic congressional ballots of besting Democrats in the midterms.

BALDWIN: Do you think, David Chalian, outside of the president's base, other Americans, conservatives, maybe even more moderates will give the president credit. Not just credit for this tax plan, but it's also repealing the individual mandate, of Obamacare, opening up ANWR, et cetera?

CHALIAN: Defeating ISIS.

BALDWIN: There you go.

CHALIAN: Yes. I do think there is a chance we can see, he has got pretty healthy support among Republicans, 85, 86 percent among Republicans, I know the over all is 35 percent there which is pretty poor number.

But you can see that number among Republicans going up perhaps and maybe giving him a little bit of a lift. But I want to go back to what Abby was saying, because it's so important, we are looking today because we see the south lawn pep rally and victory lap and we are talking a lot about how this bill will effect the midterm elections. I think it's important to remember, the midterm elections are going to be a referendum on Donald Trump in one way or another.

Not just on any one bill or piece of legislation they get passed. So, while there is no doubt they feel good today, as they should, that they got something done, there is no doubt they have a huge sales effort on this particular legislation with the American people, but believe me, Paul Ryan is aware having a Republican president at 35 percent and having a generic congressional ballot where you are minus 18, that is a potential Democratic wave building. And this bill alone is not going to save that off.

BALDWIN: So last question then, to you, Chris, Democrats will jump all over that. And we have already heard we saw Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer earlier today saying this is great for rich people, and corporate board rooms ala Trump Tower is how Senator Schumer put it earlier. And the fact we are not totally sure where the president signs this thing into law, there is a possibility he signs it down at Mar-a-Lago, that's what Jim Acosta was saying a second ago, you can already see the Democrats saying, great, helps the rich get richer and signs it at his ritzy club in Florida.

CILLIZZA: I think David is right. There it's going to be a sort of amalgam of issues. And this won't be the only one. But this will be if you look at the first two years of Donald Trump's presidency, this will be the one that will be most hotly debated in terms of television ads between both sides. Both sides think they have a winner.

I would say right now Democrats have to feel better because the perception of the bill on the day Donald Trump signs it, whether it's tomorrow, or Friday or Saturday, is negative. Twice as many people oppose the bill as support it. Two thirds of people in our polling believe it aids the wealthy more than the middle class. Same number believe it's going to help Donald Trump's family. But this is going to be a fight of the midterm elections. It's going to be -- is this bill evidence that the Republican theory

on the economy and the markets which is we are going to give more money, we are going to take money away from the government and give it to corporations, and they'll boost the economy. You know how best to spends your money. Is that the right answer the public wants?

[15:50:00] Or is this going to be portrayed successfully by Democrats as giveaway to corporate America gets, you know, the rich get richer? That's the fight. There will be other pieces to it and Donald Trump's popularity I think makes it harder for Republicans to win that fight. But this is going to be sort of the front and center debate of the 2018 midterms, and as of today, December 20th, 2017 --

BALDWIN: Yes.

CILLIZZA: Democrats start out ahead in that fight.

BALDWIN: Yep. November will be here in a blink. David and Abby, thank you so much. Chris Cillizza, please don't move a muscle. I want you to stay with me here.

Just in, after weeks of speculation as to whether or not Minnesota Senator Al Franken will actually follow through with his resignation after these allegations of sexual harassment. We now have a very significant update on his status of resignation. Back in just a moment.

[15:55:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BALDWIN: Breaking news. Senator Al Franken has just announced that he will officially resign the U.S. Senate on January 2nd after several women came forward and accused him of sexual misconduct. The Minnesota Lieutenant Governor Tina Smith will then join the senate the following day. Chris Cillizza, good enough to hang with me over a commercial break here. You know, listen, there were thoughts in recent days he hadn't given a date of resignation, maybe, maybe he wouldn't actually go. What's your reaction to this?

CILLIZZA: We should -- look, we should not be surprised that he's resigning, Brooke. Candidly, the horse was out of the barn here. You had more than half of his colleagues calling on him to resign. I would note that was led by a group, a coordinated effort by a group of female Democratic senators who did so in very sort of close order. None of those women said in retrospect they thought Franken should stay. Joe Manchin, a senator from West Virginia, probably the most conservative Democrat, who never called on Franken to resign was the one leading the charge for him to un-resign.

You know, Mark Dayton, the governor, had already named a replacement. Tina Smith, when this happened, the lieutenant governor who will be the senator there, was in Washington talking to the leadership, looking for housing. I mean, this was already too far down the road. And candidly, I'm not sure what would lead you to say he should resign and then go back on that because nothing has changed. None of the women --

BALDWIN: Maybe it was wishful thinking from some people in Washington. That's it.

CILLIZZA: None of the women changed their accusations. This was what was going to happen no matter what Joe Manchin said.

Chris Cillizza, you're the best. Thank you so much.

CILLIZZA: Thank you.

BALDWIN: Thank you.

Coming up next here, ambassador Nikki Haley warning her colleagues at the U.N. that she is, quote, taking names when it comes to their stance on Israel. Hear what president Trump had to say about her tough talk.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BALDWIN: Some pretty strong words today from the U.S. ambassador to the united nations Nikki Haley. Threatening member states who may vote in favor of a nonbinding resolution to prevent America from moving its Israeli embassy to Jerusalem. She tweeted, quote, when we make a decision at the will of the American people about where to locate our embassy, "our" in caps, we don't expect those we've helped to target us. On Thursday there will be a vote criticizing our choice. The U.S. will be taking names. The president today defending the ambassador's talk.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I like the message that Nikki sent yesterday at the United Nations. For all of these nations that take our money and then vote against us at the security council or they vote against us potentially at the assembly. They take hundreds of millions of dollars and even billions of dollars and then they vote against us. We're watching those votes. Let them vote against us. We'll save a lot. We don't care. But this isn't like it used to be where they could vote against you and then you pay them hundreds of millions of dollars and nobody knows what they're doing. So, Nikki, that was the right message that you and I agreed to be sent yesterday. I've had a lot of good comment on it, believe me.

(END OF VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: We should also just add to that, the vice president Mike Pence is set to visit Israel next month. I'm Brooke Baldwin here in New York. Thank you so much for being with me. Let's send things to Washington now. "The Lead" with Jake Tapper starts right now.