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Trump Speaks at Cabinet Meeting; Trump Praises Tax Cuts; Trump's Pat on the Back. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired December 20, 2017 - 12:00   ET


[12:00:11] JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm John King. Thank you for sharing your day with us.

Rigged system, deep state, Donald Trump Jr. says there are people at the highest levels of government who -- these are his words -- don't want to let America be America.

Plus, the president is celebrating Christmas early. Republicans are about to vote, final passage of their big tax cut plan, and they're all invited down to the White House for an afternoon pep rally.

And, of course, today's big vote frames a huge political question.


QUESTION: Republicans seem convinced that this is going to help them win elections in 2018. Do you think the tax bill is going to help Republicans?

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D), MINORITY LEADER: Let them think that.


KING: You see House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi in a good mood there, but Republicans are in even higher spirits today. The president of the United States, speaking just moments ago at the top of a cabinet meeting at the White House, speaking, number one, about the big achievement he's about to get today, the Republican tax cut plan. We'll bring you the tape from the White House momentarily.

The Republican plan to overhaul the tax system just about a done deal. We're watching for a vote right now. Both the House and the Senate approved it last night, but the House will revote at any moment -- any moment. They have to cleanup of minor technical issues with the Senate bill, then it will be on the way to President Trump for its signature in the days ahead. A huge promise made and promise kept by the Republicans to the American people.

A big win for the president. No small feat for Republicans themselves. Many, of course, well before President Trump came to town, spent their political careers working toward this moment. Perhaps the only person more excited than President Trump today, watch right here, the House Speaker Paul Ryan speaking on Fox News.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What did it feel like to hold that gavel and you slammed it, we all saw it, and so had you lost it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You made it drop.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What did that moment feel like for you?

REP. PAUL RYAN (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: I got a little carried away. You can see that. I was very excited. It was a very emotional time because I used to be -- you know, Jack Kemp was my mentor and I've been working on this issue pretty much my adult life because I just feel so passionately that this is going to help get people from welfare to work. It's going to get people higher wages, better jobs. It's going to help put the American economy in the lead in the global economy again. So I feel very passionately about it. I was a little passionate -- I scared the heck out of the parliamentarian sitting next to me.


RYAN: And I almost broke the thing. But I just got a little excited.


KING: You might say the speaker actually is excited. He also joked they had so much fun passing the bill yesterday, that's why they're doing it twice.

Again, we're going to watch the House floor. That vote about to take place a few minutes from now. We'll take you there live when that happens.

We're also about a minute away from hearing from the president of the United States who's at the White House.

Let me introduce my guests before we do that.

With me here -- it's 15 seconds until we get to the president. Phil Mattingly is standing by live on Capitol Hill.

Phil, you're going to have to wait until after the president. We know you've had a long day. A little bit of patience there.

With me here in studio, CNN's Abby Phillip, Carl Hulse of "The New York Times," Sahil Kapur of "Bloomberg," Eliana Johnson of "Politico."

Let's listen to the president.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you very much. I appreciate everybody being here at the cabinet meeting. And this looks like it will probably be our last cabinet meeting until the new year. But who knows. You never know what happens with cabinet meetings. We have had some really great and productive ones. And this will be one of celebration because of what took place last

night. We had a historic victory for the American people. It will go through final passage today in the House. Then the congress men and women in the Senate will be coming over, the Republican Senate. Unfortunately, the Democrats don't like to see tax cutting, they like to see tax increases, and they like to complain, but they don't get it done, unfortunately, but they complain a lot.

So we're going to have the Republican senators come over. We're going to have the Republican members of the House come over. We're going to have a news conference and people are starting to see how great this historic victory was. The passage of the massive tax cuts and reform that's a lot of reform in there, but the tax cuts supersede.

And I said very specifically, use the word tax cuts. You know, for 34 years, they've been trying to do this. And they haven't. And they used the word "reform." Well, there is reform, but I said, we're going to be talking about tax cuts.

The heart of our bill is a tremendous amount of relief for the middle class, including a doubling of the child tax credit and a nearly doubling of the standard deduction. That's going to be tremendous to people. They're going to start seeing the results in February.

This bill means more take-home pay. It will be an incredible Christmas gift for hard-working Americans. I said I wanted to have it done before Christmas. We got it done.

I want to thank all of the leaders. I want to thank Mitch McConnell. I want to thank Paul Ryan and so many other people. And we'll go through the official ceremony in a little while when they come over to the White House. But you've had -- we have a tremendous amount of talent in the House, a tremendous amount of talent in the Senate, I can tell you that, and they love this country.

[12:05:05] The bill also includes a new family tax credit for dependents. It makes the vast majority of family farms and small businesses exempt from the estate tax. The estate tax was killing the farmers. They were forced to sell farms at bargain-basement prices. They don't have to do that anymore. And it brings overseas corporate profits back to the United States.

Our plan also lowers the tax on American business from 35 percent all the way down to 21 percent. That's probably the biggest factor in this plan. We've become competitive all over the world. Our companies won't be leaving our country any longer because our tax burden is so high because now we're down toward the lower end of the spectrum as opposed to being the highest. We were the highest.

And it's really above all else it's a jobs bill because these corporations that are already coming into the country but they're going to start pouring into the country, it's about jobs. And they're going to build some really great companies and a lot of jobs.

We've already created over two million jobs since the election. The stock market, as you see, it's at an all-time high yet again. I think that's 86 times since I got elected. Eighty-six times we're at an all- time high. Unemployment is at a 17-year low.

We've liberated the American economy from Washington overreach, cutting 22 regulations for every one new regulation, the most in history by far. We've cut hundreds and hundreds of regulations, allowing people to have their businesses, work their businesses, and hire people. And we still have plenty of regulation, don't worry, we have plenty of regulation. Regulation is not the worst thing. But overregulation is -- was stifling in our country. You couldn't do anything.

We've unleashed U.S. military might on ISIS and today the coalition to defeat ISIS has recaptured nearly 100 percent of the territory once held by the terrorists in Iraq and Syria. We're close to 100 percent. We'll be finished pretty soon with the ISIS situation in those two countries. And we're making it very difficult for them to come here, believe me. We're fighting them very hard. Homeland security and our great military.

We're restoring immigration enforcement at levels that our country has never seen before and taking the fight to the criminal gangs, like MS- 13, where we're decimating those animals. They're animals. What they do is horrible. Horrible. And we're making the immigration system work for Americans. But we're cleaning out towns of those MS-13 gangsters.

That's why we're calling on Congress to fund the border wall, which we're getting very close to. We're working on that. We have a great wall. We've put up, as you know, six different varieties of wall. We want to be able to see through. We have a lot of help from the border patrol and from the ICE agents. We're getting their input on the wall because they -- who knows better than them? But we want vision. We want to be able to see through who's on the other side of the wall. And we have some wonderful prototypes that have been put up and I may be going there very shortly to look at them in their final form. And we'll be building the wall and we'll be doing lots of other things.

We will, very importantly, be funding and closing the loopholes that undermine our enforcement and we will get rid of chain migration and the visa lottery program. We have a lottery program where we take in a lottery people from other countries. In some places we are bringing in some very bad, bad people. And through chain migration and through the lottery, the man that ran over people on the West Side Highway in Manhattan a month ago, two months ago, he came in through the visa lottery.

We don't want this group of people anymore. People met him in the neighborhood. They all said he was horrible, nasty, mean, wouldn't talk to people. They could see it coming. They could actually see it coming. When they went back to his area where he lived, they could see it coming. They said, what's he doing here?

Well, when we take people in a lottery, they're not putting their best people in the lottery. It's common sense. They're not saying, oh, let's take our best people and let's put them into the lottery so that we can send them over to the United States. No, they put their worst people into the lottery. And that's what we get in many cases. So that's not going to be happening anymore. We're going to end it. So we're ending the lottery. We're ending the chain migration where, in his case, they say he might have had up to 24 people come in with him indirectly, aunts, uncles, cousins, grandfathers, grandmothers and they come in because one guy gets in, then you bring the whole family. And not a lot of jobs there, either, I want to tell you. Not a lot of working jobs.

[12:10:04] We're rebuilding our nation. We're rebuilding our confidence. And we're standing in the world as a different country. We're being respected again. Today the entire world can see that America is coming back and America is coming back rapidly and strongly. They see that with what's going on economically. This is even before the tax cuts have been approved. And I have to say that a lot of people thought the tax cuts have been approved. I heard a couple of our folks, Steve and Gary and a few others this morning and they're thinking that the market hasn't fully digested what they've got here. I don't think the market's even begun to realize how good these are.

Like, for instance, full expensing and other things. We have things in there that are so incredible. One of the great things is bringing back perhaps $4 trillion back into our country. $4 trillion of money that we couldn't get back because of our tax code and because of regulation. We were unable. That money now can flow back into our country and produce jobs and go into our companies where they want to spend it. They want to spend the money here. They weren't allowed to.

Americans are filled with excitement for the future, optimism like they haven't seen. You've seen all the charts. And enthusiasm for the incredible possibilities that lie ahead for our country.

At this wonderful time, it's a blessed season, and we have a blessed country. We're renewing our bonds of loyalty to each other and to this nation.

This nation is a nation with tremendous spirit again. You see that. Housing confidence is the highest it's been in many years. Just came out. Manufacturing, the highest level of confidence they've had since they started doing it many years ago. And business has the highest level of confidence. So we're doing a lot of things.

So we'll be meeting again, the cabinet will be meeting again shortly. But we have done a job like no administration has done. We get the final passage and we are waiting for that final passage. As you know, we do have to go through one more vote in the House, and that's being done virtually as we speak.

So when that's done, you add all of that to what we've done in terms of regulatory, in terms of military. We've -- as you know, we're going $700 billion for military. We're rebuilding our military. We cannot have a weak military in this time and age. So we're rebuilding our military.

But when you add it all up together, and then you add two things, the individual mandate is being repealed. When the individual mandate is being repealed, that means Obamacare is being repealed, because they get their money from the individual mandate. So the individual mandate is being repealed.

So in this bill, not only do we have massive tax cuts and tax reform, we have essentially repealed Obamacare and we will come up with something that will be much better. Whether it's block grants or whether it's taking what we have and doing something terrific. But Obamacare has been repealed in this bill.

We didn't want to bring it up. I told people specifically, be quiet with the fake news media because I don't want them talking to much about it because I didn't know how people would -- but now that it's approved I can say, the individual mandate on health care, where you had to pay not to have insurance. OK, think of that one, you pay not to have insurance. The individual mandate has been repealed.

The other one is Anwar. So a friend of mine who was in the oil business said, I can't believe it, Anwar, they've been trying to get in for 40 years. Forty years. And I didn't know that. We have Anwar. We're going to start drilling in Anwar, one of the largest oil reserves in the world. That for 40 years this country was unable to touch. That by itself would be a massive bill. It will be one of our biggest -- one of our biggest oil reserves. One of the biggest in the world. It puts us at a level that we're not even at now, and we're doing very well in terms of, as you know, energy. But Anwar by itself would be a big bill.

But that's when it hit me when he said, you know, they've been trying to get that, the Bushs, everybody, all the way back to Reagan. Reagan tried to get it. Bush tried to get it. Everybody tried to get it. They couldn't get it passed.

That just happens to be here. And we did that at the request of the two great senators from the state of Alaska, which is a very special place. But I will tell you, Anwar is a big, big deal. It's not ever mentioned by the press. And that was fine, until now. Now you can mention it. So we're going to have tremendous energy coming out of that part of the world and people have wanted to do it for 40 years.

[12:15:01] So with that I'm going to ask Ben Carson, and you can stay if you want to because you need the prayer more than I do, I think. You may be the only ones. Maybe a good, solid prayer and they'll be honest, Ben, is that possible? So Ben we'll ask you to say grace.

Thank you.

BEN CARSON, HUD SECRETARY: Our kind Father in heaven, we're so thankful for the opportunities and the freedom that you've granted us in this country. We thank you for the president and for cabinet members who are courageous, who are willing to face the winds of controversy in order to perhaps provide a better future for those who come behind us.

We're thankful for the unity in Congress that has presented an opportunity for our economy to expand so that we can fight the corrosive debt that has been destroying our future. And we hope that that unity will spread even beyond party lines so that people recognize that we have a nation that is worth saving. And recognize that nations divided against themselves cannot stand.

In this time of discord, distrust, and dishonesty, we ask that you would give us a spirit of gratitude, compassion, and common sense and give us the wisdom to be able to guide this great nation in the future.

We ask in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, amen.

CROWD: Amen.

TRUMP: Thank you, Ben. Beautiful. Thank you very much.

Mike, would you like to say a few words?

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, I appreciate it, Mr. President.

As I told you last night, shortly after the Senate vote, I know I speak on behalf of the entire cabinet and of millions of Americans when I say congratulations and thank you.

TRUMP: thank you.

PENCE: Thank you for seeing through the course of this year an agenda that truly is restoring this country. You described it very well, Mr. President, from the outset of this administration, we've been rebuilding our military, putting the safety and security of the American people first. You've restored American credibility on the world stage. We're standing with our allies. We're standing up to our enemies.

But you promised economic renewal at home. You said we could make this economy great again. And you promised to roll back regulations. And you signed more bills rolling back federal red tape than any president in American history.

You've unleashed American energy. You've spurred an optimism in this country that's setting records.

But you promised the American people in that campaign a year ago that you would deliver historic tax cuts. And it would be a middle class miracle. And in just a short period of time, that promise will be fulfilled. And I just -- I'm deeply humbled as your vice president to be able to be here.

Because of your leadership, Mr. President, and because of the strong support of leadership in the Congress of the United States, you're delivering on that middle class miracle.

You've actually got the Congress to do, as you said, what they couldn't do with Anwar for 40 years. You've got the Congress to do with tax cuts for working families in American businesses what they hadn't been able to do for 31 years. And you've got Congress to do what they couldn't do for seven years in repealing the individual mandate in Obamacare. I know you would have me also acknowledge people the people around

this table, Mr. President. I want to -- I want to thank the leaders in Congress once again for their partner in this. I want to thank your outstanding team, your secretary of the treasury Steve Mnuchin, for Gary Cohn, for Ivanka Trump, for your great legislative team. All the members of this cabinet who partnered to drive your vision forward over the past six months after you laid out that vision for tax reform.

But mostly, Mr. President, I'll end where I began and just tell you, I want to thank you, Mr. President. I want to thank you for speaking on behalf of and fighting every day for the forgotten men and women of America. Because of your determination, because of your leadership, the forgotten men and women of America are forgotten no more and we are making America great again.

TRUMP: Thank you.

PACE: Thank you, Mr. President, and God bless you.

TRUMP: I appreciate that. Thank you very much.

Well, I also want to thank all of the members of the cabinet and I think we have a fantastic team and next year we're going go on to really some amazing things. We're going to -- we're making ourselves very strong again, right, general?


TRUMP: Strong. He was not so happy that first week when I met him. He was saying, it's really depleted. Well, we're building it up rapidly. And we'll be at a level like never before.

[12:20:10] But the members of the cabinet, you've been outstanding. I like the message that Nikki sent yesterday at the United Nations, for all these nations that take our money and then they 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.

Well, 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.

And I've had a lot of good comment on it, believe me. People are tired of the United States -- the people that live here, our great citizens that love this country, they're tired of this country being taken advantage of and we're not going to be taken advantage of any longer.

Thank you very much. Thank you all very much. Thank you. Appreciate it.


TRUMP: Thank you very much, everybody. Thank you.

KING: The president ignoring questions at the end of a long statement from him, then from the vice president, a prayer by the housing secretary, Ben Carson. A year-end cabinet meeting in which the president gave himself and then asked his vice president to give him a glowing report card on the year end.

As the president meets with his cabinet at the White House, we're just moments away from the final House vote. In just moments we'll take you live to the floor of the House of Representatives. They will pass their big tax cut plan and send it down to the president. That was what the president talked most about, saying that the economy, he says, is unleashed in his presidency. He says tax cuts will do even more to it. The vice president adding, as we bring the conversation to the table, that this is a middle class miracle and that the president, in the vice president's view, deserves much of the credit.

It is a big day for the president. He has gone through a year in which he promised an infrastructure plan in year one. He now says that will be year two. They promise to repeal and replace Obamacare. Interesting in what the president said there. He's calling getting rid of the individual mandate, in his way, sort of a shadow repeal of Obamacare. We'll talk about that in a second.

But the bigger picture -- the bigger picture there, the president essentially saying, you know, it's been a tremendous year, we have ISIS on the run, we're getting tougher on immigration, the economy is gangbusters and now I'm about to be -- this afternoon celebrate a big tax cut.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I mean I think it's a huge psychological victory for him and for his people because up until this point everything that they have said about how much they've done, how much they've accomplished has always been counterbalanced by the fact that they've not gotten anything significant through Congress really and now that is not true anymore. Now they have got this really big tax bill. Something that virtually every Republican is on the same page about. And he took a victory lap or two victory laps today just a little bit of a preview of what we're going hear from him later this afternoon. I think they are not --

KING: That was just a warmup.

PHILLIP: Yes. That he is not going to hold back.

KING: Right.

PHILLIP: Because this is the moment he's been waiting for. And rightfully so. It's been a tough year. They have not figured this thing out.

I think the next step will be, can they figure out how to actually raise the approval rating of this bill, raise the president's approval rating, gin up public support for the policy, not just get it through, but let people feel like it's good for them. And I think that remains to be seen. ELIANA JOHNSON, "POLITICO": I think it goes a little bit beyond that. What's interesting with the Trump presidency is that normally presidents get this grace period right after they're in office to pass legislation, get something done. This president's accomplishments in Republicans' eyes really all came in the final three months of this year. But, for the first time, his self-assessment really is in line with the assessment of other Republicans who saw him decertify the Iran deal, declare Jerusalem the capital of Israel and get some domestic things done, the tax bill.

But also the repeal of the individual mandate is a big for Republicans. The opening of Anwar. The Bush administration, the George W. Bush administration tried to do, unsuccessfully. So there are a number of things, including the confirmation of judges, that the president has done.

But I think because of how distracting his tweets are and the distractions of the Russia investigation, people are only really starting to take stock of it now. And the fact that so much of it was done in the past three months helps the fact that people are only really starting to notice right now.

KING: And you raised what I think is sort of the defining question of the Trump presidency is, will he get credit beyond his base in the sense that if you look at the polling on the tax cut, if you look at the polling on him personally, we're heading into a midterm election year, which is usually defined almost singularly by how the president stands with the American people. You see what happens to his party. And that's one of the things that frustrates the president. That's when he lashes out at the fake news and everything else.

Look, we've talked about the Obamacare repeal being in this tax bill. We've talked about Anwar being in this tax bill. So what the president says would flunk a lot of fact checking in terms of how this has been covered. But, to the point, where he does not think he gets enough credit, and what the Republican Party, yes, they have to bet that they can somehow improve the poll numbers for this tax cut bill, but, more importantly, if the president's numbers don't change, the Republican fate in 2018 won't change.


CARL HULSE, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Well, if the president doesn't get credit, it won't be for lack of trying, right? They are going to really push this over the next few days.

I -- you know, I think they're getting credit, but it also -- you know, they've just barely made it. They just barely made it. They did make it. They finally got something through. It felt a little bit to me and some of my colleagues like a college student, you know, has got to get this done at the end of the year for to get his grades up there. But it has to play out now and we'll see what happens. I mean the Democrats are loaded for bear on this and they think that they can really whack the Republicans.

SAHIL KAPUR, "BLOOMBERG": There are two dimensions to all of this, right? One is the political aspect of how this will play. And it doesn't look like the politics are going to be good for Republicans even if some of these things are significant accomplishments. The tax bill polls terribly. By about a two to one margin, Americans disapprove. The CNN poll had 33 percent approval, 55 percent disapproval. Most Americans think this is going to benefit the wealthy and corporations and not really them. Half of them think this is false, but half of Americans think their taxes are going to go up.

The aspect of the accomplishments, though, this is very real and I do think it's a major -- a major shift for them. Most of the discussion all year was that they're not doing anything legislatively and that was accurate. But this is significant. If once this bill is signed into law, the Obamacare individual mandate gone, taxes cut by a trillion and a half, Anwar open to oil drilling, Neil Gorsuch on the Supreme Court, a dozen appellate court judges confirmed, which is a record, a whole lot of regulations dead. This is not a trivial agenda.

KING: Now, to this end --

JOHNSON: The problem, I think --

KING: I want to come back to -- forgive me for interrupting. I want to come back because I want to hear -- we want to hear from the president again because he just started -- he started in this celebration of the tax cut bill in this glowing report card for himself for the first year. He just opened another door, though. There's no question, through some administrative action, some regulatory actions, and now repealing the individual mandate, there is no question they have taken some pieces of Obamacare away. But it is still the law of the land.

First, let's listen to the president.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So the individual mandate is being revealed. So in this bill not only do we have massive tax cuts and tax reform, we have essentially repealed Obamacare and we'll come up with something that will be much better, whether it's block grants or whether it's taking what we have and doing something terrific. But Obamacare has been repealed in this bill. We didn't want to bring it up.


KING: I just want to bring you, as we keep the conversation going, this is a pretty quick tweet from Erick Erickson, a conservative writer, conservative activist who's not always a fan of the president, so keep that in mind. But, so stupid of him to say Obamacare's still the law of the land, but now Democrats have a sound byte to use against the GOP for a system they still hate. So, so stupid. That's a conservative reaction to the president saying that.

Clearly the president is trying to overhype -- the mandate, it's significant. It is a big deal that they are repealing the Obamacare mandate. But they're not repealing Obamacare. KAPUR: Because what's still left in the law? The subsidies. The

Medicaid expansion. The rules on pre-existing conditions. The rules that young adults can stay on their parents' plan up to 27.

This is important. It's going to create some instability in the marketplaces and there are some conservatives who want to use that instability to smash the law in its entirety. This is not a repeal of the law, but it is a significant thing that Republicans just did.

PHILLIP: Yes, I mean it's also important that this is not so much about whether it's accurate or not, it's about the president being able to say, here's the thing I told you I was going to do.

KING: Right.

PHILLIP: And, look, I've done it. Whether that is true or not. In this case it's not true. That's what -- the objective here. He wants to -- the only message today that you're going to hear from the president, from the White House, is, I kept my promise. The consequences for Republicans in 2018 will be, if that instability ends up creating chaos in the marketplace and people are very unhappy, they will be the ones to blame because half measures are not going to make health care more affordable for people or, you know, if there are problems in the marketplace resolve those issues.

KING: We often talk about the audience of one. The president wanting people around him to make him feel better about himself and to tell him how great he is. But the president also there, you're right, talking to a demoralized, at the moment, Republican base, trying to tell them, we're doing some very important things for you. Keep your energy up, we're going to need you in 2018.

To that point, we're going to take a quick break. You see there on the right hand of your screen, the House Republicans about to vote their tax cut plan and send it down to the president. They still have other challenges, though. Can they keep the government open?