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Trump Wins First Major Legislative Victory; Trump Threatens Placing Out Over U.N. Vote On Jerusalem. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired December 20, 2017 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[18:00:00] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, breaking news. Celebrating tax cuts, after a volatile year in office, President Trump is savoring his first big legislative victory in a Congress controlled by his party. But will the unpopular tax bill comeback to hunt Republicans in the midterm election?
Getting played, a key Republican senator skips the back slopping event over at the White House after she reluctantly agreed to vote for the tax bill. Was Susan Collins given promises that the President and the Republican leadership aren't prepared to keep?
Maligning Mauler, as the President's ally's wrap up their attacks to the especial counsel, a top Democrats now warning that any attempt to fire Robert Mueller would be an abuse of power. Is there a growing risk that the Russia investigations will be shutdown?
And luck of the draw, we're following a stunning twist in a consequential election recount in Virginia, a race that appeared to have been decided by a single vote is now suddenly tied. Tonight, we're learning the unique way the winner will be decided.
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in "The Situation Room."
We're following breaking news on the Republican tax bill now heading to the President's desk and what comes next with the possible government shutdown looming over the next 48 hours or so? Tonight, the President invited Republican lawmakers to the White House to celebrate final passage of the first overall of the tax code in three decades.
Republican sending a message to middle-class tax payers that relief is on the way. But top Democrats are blasting the $1.5 trillion bill warning that big business and the wealthy will benefit most. And they're mocking the President success in pushing through legislation that's unpopular with the American public.
Also breaking, a new warning about threats to the special counsel's Russian investigation and possible moves to shut it down. Tonight, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, Mark Warner, is demanding that lawmakers in both parties draw a clear redline and declare that any attempt by the President to fire Mueller would be a gross abuse of power. And we're also following a clip under election recount in Virginia that will determine which party controls the statehouse of delegates. Earlier, the Democratic claim victory by a single vote. But tonight, a three-judge panel declared previously uncounted vote for the Republican was valid. And now, the statehouse races tied and the winner will be determined by the luck of the draw.
This hour, I'll talk with Senator Richard Blumenthal, he's a key delegate (ph) of the Judiciary Committee and the White House Director of Legislative Affairs, Marc Short, and our correspondent specialists are also standing by.
First, let's go to our Senior White House Correspondent Jim Acosta. Jim, this is certainly a long awaited much needed win for the President.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE CORRESPONDENT: They wanted when they needed one and they got one, Wolf. President Trump celebrated the passage of his first signature legislative achievement over here at the White House with Republicans in-charge of Congress. The easy part was passing this tax cuts. Now comes the hard part, selling it to Americans who aren't buying that this package is really for them.
ACOSTA (voice-over): The president who promised, if elected, Americans would be winning so much, they would be sick of it, finally scored a victory.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So it's a lot of fun when you win. If you work hard and lose, that's not acceptable.
ACOSTA (voice-over): GOP leaders delivered on their tax cut plan promise after the last second glitch forced the House to vote on the package a second time. But House Speaker Paul Ryan vows taxpayers won't view the bill as a mistake.
REP. PAUL RYAN, (R) SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: The message to the families in America who've been struggling paycheck and paycheck, your tax rates are going down and your paychecks are going up. This is the kind of relief that Americans deserve.
ACOSTA (voice-over): The tax plan does offer modest cuts to middle- class families, but there are far bigger gains for the wealthy and large corporations while creating uncertainty in the nation's health care system by repealing the mandate to buy insurance in Obamacare and adding more than a trillion dollar to the deficit over 10 years. The President relished the idea of taking down Obamacare.
TRUMP: I hate to say this, but we essentially repealed Obamacare, because we get rid of the individual mandate which was terrible.
ACOSTA (voice-over): The GOP bill also spares the so-called carried interest loophole, preserving a massive break for billionaire investors, something White House Economic Adviser Gary Cohn blamed on Congress. GARY COHN, WHITE HOUSE ECONOMIC ADVISER: We would have cut carried interest. We've been trying to cut carried interest. Man, we probably tried 25 times.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And what happened?
COHN: We hit opposition in that big white building with the dome at the other end of Penssylvania Avenue every time we tried.
ACOSTA (voice-over): Democrats are accusing Republicans of rating the treasury to reward their contributors.
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D), MINORITY LEADER: There are only two places where America's popping champagne, the White House and the corporate boardrooms.
ACOSTA (voice-over): Now, Republicans have to sell their plan at a critical time with the upcoming midterm elections looming next year.
[18:05:02] SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), MAJORITY LEADER: Absolutely. I mean, we're looking forward to it. My view of this, if we can't sell this to the American people, we ought to go into another line of work.
ACOSTA (voice-over): A new CNN poll finds a big majority of Americans now want Democrats in control of Congress.
RYAN: -- is laid upon the table.
ACOSTA (voice-over): That may be White House Speaker Paul Ryan is not guaranteeing he's sticking around after 2018.
RYAN: I'm not going anywhere anytime soon. I'm so focused on getting our agenda done. On questions on way down the line, I'll address those way down the line. But in the meantime, we've got a lot of work to do. I'm here to stay. I'm not going anywhere. If something changes down the road in the future; I'll address that down the road.
ACOSTA (voice-over): Other distractions won't help the GOP from the President son, Donald Trump Jr., claiming forces inside the U.S. government are trying to sabotage his father --
DONALD TRUMP JR., DONALD TRUMP'S SON: There is and there are people at the highest levels of government that don't want to let America be America.
ACOSTA (voice-over): -- to the Russia investigation and its impact on members of the Trump family, like president son-in-law, Jared Kushner.
GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: I'm telling you that he deserves scrutiny, you know why, because he was involved in the transition and involved in meetings that call him to question his role, OK. Well, then if he's innocent of that, then that would come out as Mueller examines all the facts. And if he's not, that will come out, too.
ACOSTA (voice-over): Still, the President said their prayer should go to the media heading into the holidays. TRUMP: So with that, I'm going to ask Ben Carson, and you can stay if you wanted 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?
ACOSTA: Now, there is no word on when the President will sign this tax bill. It could have been done at Mar-a-Lago, his winter retreat. White House officials aren't ruling that out even if his ritzy resort may not be the best backdrop for signing this bill that is supposed to be helping working families.
There's also still the matter of preventing the government shutdown at the end of the week. The White House and GOP leaders are confident that they will get a short-term spending bill that would keep the government running into January.
And Wolf, it's important to point out the President said essentially Obamacare was repealed with this tax cut bill, that is not exactly the case. There are key provisions in Obamacare that are still the law of the land, including that provision that protects people with pre- existing conditions, Wolf.
BLITZER: Jim Acosta reporting from the White House. Thank you.
Republican Senator Susan Collins was conspicuously absent from the White House celebration tonight, even though her yes vote certainly pivotal in helping to get the tax bill passed.
Let's bring in our Congressional Correspondent Phil Mattingly. Phil, promises were made to Senator Collins to assure her yes vote. Where does that stand?
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf, it was the promise that basically got Senator Collins over the finish line when it came to the tax bill. The idea that along with specific provisions in that bill to specific pieces of healthcare legislation. One, they've refund the cost sharing subsidies in the Affordable Care Act. Another one, they would provide $15 billion for reinsurance fund would move forward after the tax bill was done, most notably by the end of year. That was the promise Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell made Susan Collins. That is a promise, Wolf, that will be unfulfilled.
Senator Susan Collins and Senator Lamar Alexander who work with her on this proposal, putting out a statement earlier today saying that because of the state of the short-term funding process they will now not try and push forward on that. They recognized House Republicans are deeply opposed to the idea were threatening to potentially have a government shutdown over the idea itself. They are now pulling back, and Wolf, they will try again in January.
But again, this underscores the point, Senator Susan Collins supported the tax bill in large part because of this promised and as of this moment she is not going to get what she asked for, Wolf. BLITZER: And she says she remember (ph) that statement she released and I have it in front me. She was promised by the majority leader that he would support passage of these two important pieces of legislation before the end of the year to mitigate these increases of -- all right, so we're going to get back to that.
Congress still also, as you know Phil, has to address this looming government shutdown with a deadline this Friday to pass some sort of temporary spending bill. Any chance the lawmakers won't be able to reach on a deal on that and the government will shutdown?
MATTINGLY: Wolf, you know as well as anybody that anything can happen up here these days. But, look, when it comes to talking to Republicans and Democrats who are involved in this process; they do agree on one thing, there won't be a shutdown. They're just totally sure how to get to that point right now. House Republicans, Wolf, as I speak are meaning downstairs in the basement of the capitol trying to map out the way forward.
The tax bill has been a hurdle for this. Democrats not willing to really talk about the way forward until they get a solution there. What I'm told from inside that meeting, going to people that are in the room, House Republicans leaders trying to coax their members along saying, "Look, we can't step on what we just did on taxes. We can't have the fight right now agreed to a short-term funding bill through January 19th potentially add the disaster supplemental for Puerto Rico, in Texas, in Florida for hurricanes and then just get out of here."
Now keep in mind, Wolf, just a couple of days ago, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell want to do attach a litany of major items onto that, most notably a lengthy reauthorization of the Children's Health Insurance Program that lapse, a reauthorization of a key surveillance program that lapses at the end of this year.
[18:10:05] Right now, there are open questions about what can actually get done if all of those things will be punted into next year. As we know right now, House Republicans pushing for that short-term solution just to get them to January. We'll have to see where Senate Democrats and Senate Republicans end up there, Wolf.
BLITZER: Phil Mattingly, reporting for us from Capitol Hill. Thanks very much.
Let's talk about all of these and more with the key member of the Trump administration. We're joined by the White House Director of Legislative Affairs, Marc Short. Marc thanks very much for coming in.
MARC SHORT, WHITE HOUSE DIRECTOR OF LEGISLATIVE AFFIARS: Thanks for having me.
BLITZER: Well, is there going to be a short-term spending bill pass so the government doesn't shutdown?
SHORT: Wolf, I don't think anybody is advocating for shutdown. Right now we think that Congress will do the right thing. We'll get a short-term continuing resolution to get us into January. I think you'll see a large vehicle coming together in January that has a spending bill and some of those other priorities. Phil has mentioned a minute ago that leader McConnell has, but also some the Democrats (INAUDIBLE).
BLITZER: So none of those provisions that he was talking about, the Children's Health Insurance Program continuing some of the intelligence surveillance program. Some of these other things that some wanted to attach to this temporary (INAUDIBLE), none -- it's going to be clean. There's not going to be anything there.
SHORT: I think there'll be short-term patches in each of these programs, Wolf, that basically provide a 30-day patch and then a longer extension that comes in January, yes.
BLITZER: Listen to what the President said today about Obamacare, because he suggested that for all practical purposes, even though you couldn't repeal and replace it, he suggested its dead. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: 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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Well, that's not exactly music to the ears of Senator Susan Collins, the Republican Senator from Maine, who says she got that commitment from Mitch McConnell to go ahead and find these other subsidies so that people would be able to still -- to deal with Obamacare.
SHORT: Right. So there are a couple important issues there, Wolf. One is even Senator Collins' said that the individual mandate is the most onerous part of Obamacare that 80 percent of people paying penalty earning $50,000 or less. So this is consistent with our promise to provide actually to middle income families.
Separately, we did have conversation with Senator Collins in good faith in which she said, "I can get to the point of accepting individual mandate being in the tax bill, but I want to have a provision that as you said, the cost sharing reductions we authorize." As you recall, what happened in the previous administration that was ruled by the courts that those cost sharing reductions were not ever appropriate by Congress and, therefore, illegal.
The Obama administration continued to pay them. We felt they're illegal and we stop. But in order -- because of the grander amount of the tax relief bill repealing individual mandate, we felt that there was a transaction to make with Senator Collins. We look forward to fulfilling that commitment. The President said that when that bill gets to his desk, he will sign it. BLITZER: Because she said in that statement that she released, "I am very pleased that majority leader committed to support passage of two important pieces of legislation," the legislation you're referring to, before the end of the year to mitigate these increases because of the elimination of the individual mandate. There will be increases in the premiums. Individuals have to pay for Obamacare, but that commitment is not going to be lived up to, at least not yet.
SHORT: Well, let's keep a couple things in mind. The Obama administration was paying cost share reductions and premiums continue to go up. So the assumptions that they'll initially go down if you make those payments--
BLITZER: Well, with all those people no longer having to buy health insurance, healthy people, the cost is further going to go up.
SHORT: Wolf, there is I think the principal about being forced to buy something that you don't want and it's the reason Republicans took that --
BLITZER: I understand that, but the purpose of the individual mandate was to make sure there would be enough money for elderly people, for example, to get competitive (INAUDIBLE).
SHORT: Keep in mind that this cost sharing reductions actually go to insurance companies and the provision it has have been amended. We'll paint these payments in 2019 and 2020, not 2018. So waiting until January does not impact when those payments would be made.
BLITZER: So if Susan Collins was in played, do you think she was played to get her vote, even though she might not necessarily get what she was promised?
SHORT: No. She was -- we negotiate with her in good faith. We are anxious to complete that. The President has agreed that he will sign --
BLITZER: Will the President makes sure she gets what he wanted?
SHORT: The President said, if that bill gets to desk, he will sign it. That is the commitment we made to here.
BLITZER: But not just sign it, but we lobby members of Congress to support it saying, "I made a promise to Susan Collins, we're going to deliver."
SHORT: Wolf, we've been doing that. We will keep doing that.
BLITZER: You will be working on behind the system.
SHORT: We have been and we will keep doing that. BLITZER: Jeff Flake, the Republican Senator from Arizona, he says he supported the tax bill because he got a promise that the so-called Dreamers, the children who were brought here illegally by their parents and have grown up here in the United States, the DACA provision as it's called, that they will be allowed 700,000, 800,000 to stay. Is the President committed to Jeff Flake to make sure that the Dreamers will be allowed to remain in the United States?
[18:15:02] SHORT: We are committed to getting resolution on the DACA situation. But, I also hope that Jeff Flake voted for the bill in part because he is always been somebody from any of the government and lower taxes. So, we think he might actually build too. But, yes, the Present is always been consistent ever since he was sent to Congress, his decision back in October to say, this program also was unconstitutional. I can't keep it up. I'm giving you six months to come you with solution so, so I can sign into law a way to make sure that these DACA recipients stay here.
BLITZER: So, the President will live up to the commitment to Jeff Flake and make sure that those 700,000 or 800,000 DREAMers will be allowed to have legal status here in the United States?
SHORT: Wolf, as you -- some has been reported. General Kelly and I have been sitting down and many of the senators were working on this on bipartisan basis to talk about a pathway forward. We've been entering in these negotiations. We are anxious to complete them.
BLITZER: But, will it -- it will happen, is that what you're saying?
SHORT: Wolf, we are doing everything we can to make it happen. I cannot guarantee to you to what Congress will do when. I work hard of that. And we are working hard to get it done.
BLITZER: Because you're the Director of Legislative Affairs. You know that, when the President, when the Majority Leader in the Senate, they make commitments that aren't necessarily fulfilled that will raise questions down the road to other Republican senators. Can they really trust the word of the Republican leadership?
SHORT: I don't see any reason not to trust the word of leadership. Leadership is lived up to his word. We will continue living up to our word. We were living up to where we make the American voters last year. If you look at the things the President committed to doing, repealing the individual mandate, providing tax relief will impact regulations and making sure that America is safe abroad. He is living up to his commitments we're going to keep living up to our commitments.
BLITZER: Let's talk about the commitment that the President made often including to me during the campaign, a commitment that there would be no cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid down the road. Even though, Paul Ryan and a whole bunch of other conservative Republicans, they want entitlements called entitlement spending to be on the cutting board. Listen to the President during the campaign.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Save Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security without cuts, you have to do it. Get rid of the fraud, get rid of the waste and abuse but save it. People have been paying him for years and now many of these candidates want to cut it.
I'm not going to cut Social Security like every other Republican. And I'm not going to cut Medicare or Medicaid.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: That was during the campaign, is the President still committed to that?
SHORT: The President is in commitment, Wolf.
BLITZER: He's not going to cut Social Security, Medicare and --
SHORT: He's not --
BLITZER: -- because you know a lot of -- and you work with these Republican lawmakers. A lot of them say, there's going to be a huge deficit as a result of the tax cut, maybe a trillion or a trillion and a half dollars. The next step has to be finding ways to reduce that deficit and a big chunk of the federal budget as you know are those entitlements spending that Medicare, and Medicaid and Social Security. So, they're looking for ways to reduce at a minimum, the rate of growth of those programs.
SHORT: The President remains committed to looking for ways to get rid of waste, fraud and abuse, but he is not looking to make cuts to the programs. He has made that clear. I do think that you will see an effort on welfare reform that we think is important will save money too.
But Wolf, when we submitted a budget to Congress last year, we submitted a budget over 10 years of balance. We will do so again. This administration remains committed to making sure that we are not piling on debt to the shoulders of our children, and grandchildren.
BLITZER: You know, you're going to upset a lot of your Republicans on the Hill when they hear the President still committed to no cuts in Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. You're smiling -- you know they're going to be upset when they hear that, including the speaker. He has wanted to do so for a long time, maybe not affect people in their 50s or 60s but people in their 40s and 30s they're cat going to get the same benefits as some of the older people.
SHORT: We have a great working relationship with the speaker and there's a lot of (INAUDIBLE) we worked on together.
BLITZER: Let's talk about this Children's Health Insurance Program. Not a whole lot of money but 8 or 9 million kids get their kind of health insurance this way, is the President committed that it will be funded for the duration of the next year?
SHORT: The President is committed to that, absolutely and we look -- we believe that that's going to be solved in January, Wolf. It's a position of actually Republican.
BLITZER: What's taking so long, because in several states they are already running out of money?
SHORT: The Republicans were looking to add that to the CR right now. Frankly, I think the Democrats had a position and said, there's a lot of things we want to get done, we're running out of time. Let's do this in January. And so --
BLITZER: Because it's only -- I mean, only, in the scheme of things it's not lot $3.1 billion to get it done and make sure these kids have health insurance.
SHORT: And as you know, Wolf, in the Senate that requires 60 votes. Right now, Republicans have 51 or 52 to work done and --
BLITZER: Yes, but they supported that. The Democrats will support health insurance program as well.
SHORT: No, they will support it, you're correct, but they want other things added to the C.R. as well. Not just that one program.
BLITZER: But why not just have a clean bill on the Children's Health Insurance Program --
SHORT: We're not objecting that.
BLITZER: You support, you would support?
BLITZER: And that include other experiences extraneous because that's an important issue, it's a very sensitive issue, but would you agree?
BLITZER: The President would support the outside of --
SHORT: Yes, he has.
BLITZER: Right away?
SHORT: He has.
BLITZER: All right, let's talk a little bit about the next step. Where do you see the next step? You're the Legislative Director, isn't going to be infrastructure? You mentioned welfare reform, what does the President want to achieve next?
[18:20:05] SHORT: Well, I want to try to relish at least a couple hours of today but I think we're going to quickly move into making sure that government stays funded. And so, we move into January, you will see the President looking to roll out infrastructure plans. You'll probably see the administration working with Speaker Ryan on welfare reform package. I think you'll also going to see us, look to try to solve the question you raise earlier on DACA. We want to make sure that the borders are secure but also making sure there's a legislative solution for these DACA recipients.
BLITZER: Yes. Are you going to encourage a lot of people out there when they heard you say, the President totally supports making sure those DREAMers will be allowed in legal status stay in the United States. You've reassure a lot of people by saying the Children's Health Insurance Program will continue. The President is totally on board on that and the President on board with Susan Collins?
SHORT: It's great to be on CNN.
BLITZER: A lot of our viewers are going to be happy, Marc, with what they heard from you. Thanks so much for joining us.
SHORT: Thanks for having me on.
BLITZER: Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
SHORT: Same to you, sir.
BLITZER: Just ahead, we're going to get Democratic reaction to the tax bill in from the President's claim that it repeals Obamacare. Senator Richard Blumenthal, he's standby live. And why another top Democratic senator now sounding the alarm tonight, warning that the Special Counsel's Russian investigation may be in very serious danger?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARK WARNER (D), SENATOR, VIRGINIA: Any attempt by this President to remove Special Counsel Mueller from his position or to pardon key witnesses in any effort to shield them from accountability or shift down the investigation would be a gross abuse of power and a flagrant violation of executive branch responsibilities and authorities.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[18:26:13] BLITZER: Breaking news tonight, the Vice Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee delivering an urgent new warning about possible moves by the President and Republicans to shutdown the special counsel's Russia investigation.
Let's go to our Senior Congressional Correspondent Manu Raju. Manu, very strong words from Senator Mark Warner on the Senate floor.
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right. We called up with them right after he made those remarks. I ask him why he decided to do this today and he said that, he is concerned about what he views as coordinated efforts to undermine the Special Council's investigation by Trump allies both in the media and elsewhere who have try to discredit Bob Mueller.
And he said that he wanted to go to the floor of the United States Senate and make these remarks, to raise concerns and commits Republicans to join him and say that, look, we will not stand for this particularly, if it happens next week when lawmakers are back home over the Christmas holiday during their end of the year recess from Mark Warner making these remarks, Wolf, just moments ago on the Senate floor.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WARNER: Firing Mr. Mueller or any other of the top brass of this investigation would not only question this administration's commitment to the truth, but also to our most basic concept, Rule of law.
It also has the potential to provoke a constitutional crisis. In the United States, no one, no one is above the law. Not even the president.
Congress must make clear to the President that firing the special counsel or interfering with this investigation by issuing pardons of essential witnesses is unacceptable and would have immediate and significant consequences.
I hope my concerns are in founded in many ways, I hope I had that would never have to have make this kind of speech that there are troubling signs. It is critical to all of us, as elected officials and as citizens speak up against these threats now before it's too late.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RAJU: Now, just a few days ago, Wolf, I asked Warner's counterpart on the Senate Intelligence Committee, the Republican Chairman Richard Burr, if you had any concerns about these efforts to discredit Mueller and whether or not he is concern about efforts to fir e to Muller and he didn't go there, yet, she swag those questions away, called that speculations that we're going to do deal with our own investigation.
Any issues doing with Bob Mueller that the Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein can deal with this well, and perhaps, one another area where the two men are actually diverging in a key point of investigation, Warner just said earlier to me, that he doesn't want to bring back some of these Senior Trump Associates back for interviews from members, interviews with the -- the senators can interview given that they had already been interviewed by staff of the Senate Intelligence Committee Richard Burr so far, Wolf, has not made that same commitment when we've asked him about. He said, they will bring back people, if we feel like we need to bring them back, Wolf.
BLITZER: Manu, I understand you are also learning about another Trump nominee, a high-level Trump nominee who may be in jeopardy?
RAJU: Yes, that's right. That's K.T. McFarland. She was nominated by President Trump to be ambassador to Singapore but I am told by senators in both parties that her nomination is going to be sent back to the White House as soon as this week when the session for the year wraps up. That's because her testimony from earlier of this year to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee appears to be at odds with the Special Counsel Robert Mueller's plea agreement that he reach with Michael Flynn, the Former National Security Adviser. Now, K.T. McFarland was a Deputy under Michael Flynn and according to the documents that were unsealed, earlier this month, the Michael Flynn plea agreement, there is an unnamed senior transition officials with a conversation with Michael Flynn about sanctions on Russian, the conversation that would occur between Flynn and Sergey Kislyak.
[18:30:10] Now when K.T. McFarland was asked about whether or not she had any conversations with Michael Flynn about Kislyak which was asked by Senator Cory Booker during the confirmation proceedings. She said she was not aware of that.
Well, it turns out that according to that court document, she is the unnamed senior officials who did have a conversation with Michael Flynn about Sergey Kislyak. Now, she has not yet explained this discrepancy. She has not provided any amended testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. And as a result, senators are not going to agree to quickly confirm her nomination this week. That means they're going to send it back to the White House. And the White House will have to make a decision, Wolf, about whether or not renominate her next year.
But, I'm told that from senators that her chances of confirmation are exceedingly grim especially she does not answer these questions. And Wolf, that would make her the second nominee who has been essentially derailed by the special counsel's investigation.
The other one, Sam Clovis for a senior level of USDA job yet to withdraw from the position after, it was revealed he had campaign conversations with that foreign policy advisor George Papadopoulos. Papadopoulos himself also pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Manu. Thanks very much Manu Raju up on Capitol Hill. Joining us here in the Situation Room, Senator Richard Blumenthal, he is a Democrat at the Judiciary and Armed Services Committees. Senator, thanks very much for coming in.
SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D), CONNECTICUT: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: Do you agree with your Democratic colleagues Senator Warner that the firing of the Special Counsel Robert Mueller on his words or other top investigators for that matter could lead to a constitutional crisis?
BLUMENTHAL: It certainly could. I agree with him totally. In fact, more than could, it will lead to a constitutional crisis. If there is a firing of Robert Mueller or pardons, both would cross a redline and undoubtedly lead to a firestorm matches. There was in the Saturday night massacre when Richard Nixon tried to do the same.
BLITZER: Well, we know that some of the President's supporters are encouraging him to fire Robert Mueller but he keeps saying he has no such intention. Why you're so concerned about this when the President says, he doesn't have any plans to fire Mueller.
BLUMENTHAL: The President really is proceeding on two tracks. On the one hand, he has saying, as he gets on Sunday, or earlier this week, I had no plans to fire Mueller. On the other hand, he has encouraged this chorus of subservient defenders in the Congress principally on the Republican side to attack the FBI, FBI agents and the deputy FBI director to attack the investigation itself, and Mueller personally and others around him.
So, this kind of concerted and coordinated attack on the special counsel is an indication that there is coordinated effort. And Senator Warner's warning today was powerful and eloquent. And I think it will attract a lot of support.
BLITZER: What type of actions does Senator Warner referring to? What does he have in mind in setting this redline if the President were to fire Mueller?
BLUMENTHAL: I think that there would be a legislative effort to protect him. There is legislation that I have helped to lead; its bipartisan and I think there would be legislative effort. There are also very likely would be an effort in court to stop because the regulations actually prevent the President. They bargain from firing Robert Mueller right now under the regulations without just cause. The problem is a lack of enforcement mechanism. That's what our legislation tries to correct.
BLITZER: Well, the President could tell the Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to fire Mueller.
BLUMENTHAL: And then, it would be Rod Rosenstein's decision whether he wants to cave, and in effect, subvert the rule of law because this effort is not only to sabotage the investigation as to stop the fact- finding that is uncovering the truth but also to sabotage the rule of law.
And we know Wolf, indisputably, the intelligence community is in total agreement that the Russians attacked our democracy to help Donald Trump. The question is whether there was collusion by the Trump campaign with the Russians. The order came from the top, from Vladimir Putin.
BLITZER: That's what the U.S. Intelligence Community has concluded. I know that Donald Trump Jr., the President's son, he spoke yesterday and he said that high-level FBI officials, in his words, helped create the Russia a dossier as an insurance policy against the President. If the President, President Trump won the election.
And he also said people in his words at the highest level of government are part of a rigged system against his father. What do you make at that?
BLUMENTHAL: I think again Donald Trump Jr. statement is part of a coordinate campaign to raise doubt to subvert the credibility of the investigation references vaguely to the highest levels of government.
[18:35:02] And the denial of the opportunity for America to be America are not only vague but also damaging to Robert Mueller's investigation. And he is conducting this investigation methodically and meticulously and it has produced already to convictions, major criminal justice events and indictments.
BLITZER: That he suggested Donald Trump Jr., he suggested that high level officials were -- I think he was referring to one not FBI agent named Peter Struck who was sending sort of, all sorts of e-mails to another FBI official in which they were very negative as for Donald Trump is concerned. Let me read to you.
I want to believe the path you have throughout for consideration at Andy's office. That's an apparent reference to the Deputy FBI Director Andrew McKay that there is no way he gets elected but I'm afraid we can't take that risk. It's like an insurance policy in the unlikely event you die before your 40. But, when Robert Mueller learned of these e-mails from Peter Strzok, he was demoted moved to H.R. and some unrelated position but you understand the concern.
BLUMENTHAL: I fully understand the concern but let's recognize Robert Mueller took swift and decisive action because he recognized the danger of attacks on his investigation and there is no evidence, none, that the views of these FBI agents and one of them actually was a lawyer had any impact on the investigation. There's no evidence that the investigation has been in any way affected by those two FBI employees.
BLITZER: I wanted to just switch gears and get your thoughts on the -- what Marc Short, the White House Legislative Director just told me, he said, if there's legislation, clean legislation that would extend the Children's Health Insurance Program, the CHIP program as it's called, the President would support it, he would sign into law, if it's clean, it doesn't include extraneous measures.
Are you with -- would you support a clean bill like that to keep Children's Health Insurance going for about 8 million or 9 million kids?
BLUMENTHAL: I support extending the CHIP program. Children's Health Insurance serves a vital meeting Connecticut and elsewhere in the country but we also need a DREAM Act and enact extending --
BLITZER: Why not just have a clean bill, get the CHIP passed in a bipartisan way and then on the DREAMers, the DACA legislation you work in another venue along those lines, why do you have to bring all that together and endanger both?
BLUMENTHAL: Both should be clean and we should do both and we should do both. By the end of the year, we should not lead Washington D.C. without fulfilling that.
BLITZER: Well, why if they can't do it by the end of the year, they do it next in January, let's say, you would support?
BLUMENTHAL: I would support doing the DREAM Act before the end of year. I think it is a fundamental obligation. There should be an extension of government funding. There should be a supplemental funding for disaster relief for Puerto Rico and Florida and Texas. There should be a variety of measures, and I support the DREAM Act as a condition of what we do going forward. BLITZER: As a condition, what support in short-term spending bill to keep the government operated?
BLUMENTHAL: There's bipartisan support for the DREAM act. And there's no reason that we can't come together and do it along with CHIP funding. These are basic tasks that we still have time to do.
BLITZER: But on the CHIP funding, you would support a clean bill simply funding the Children's Health Insurance Program for another year, what, about $3 billion. You would let that go forward and keep some of those other issues in separate legislation.
BLUMENTHAL: I would support funding the CHIP program to go forward on --
BLITZER: As you heard Marc Short say the President would support that as well.
BLUMENTHAL: And I'm very encouraged. At the same time, the President has said that we repeal the Affordable Care Act a totally bogus and fictional claim in the in the tax bill. I believe Mark is telling the truth as he sees it but I want to see it from the President.
BLITZER: Why not introduce legislation? You and I'm sure, you get a lot of colleagues, Democrats and Republicans to pass a clean CHIP bill keeping Children's Health Insurance going.
BLUMENTHAL: One of our strength, both has been that we join together and we are unified as Democrats. And we need a strategy, not just to achieve CHIP but for the DREAMers for the community health centers for disaster relief. Each of these tasks is a fundamental obligation and we need a strategy that combines them, not just pick one of them or a couple of them along with a continuing resolution that enables the government to keep going.
BLITZER: You heard Marc Short and I've got to leave it at this. You heard him say, the President wants to keep the DREAMers. He wants legislation to allow the DACA legislation to go forward. He supports the CHIP, the Children's Health Insurance Program and he want to live up to Susan Collins to make sure that those subsidies for Obamacare continue which we should all see and what happens and --
[18:40:12] BLUMENTHAL: When the President says and I believe it.
BLITZER: Yes, we heard Marc Short say. Thanks so much.
BLUMENTHAL: Thank you.
BLITZER: Senator Blumenthal for coming in.
BLUMENTHAL: Thank you.
BLITZER: Just ahead, more on the Russia investigation, the Democrats growing fears that the President and his party will try to shut down Robert Mueller's prob. And while the President still sees the tax bill is a big win on Election Day next year? (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: It's always a lot of fun when you win. If you work hard and lose, that's not acceptable.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[18:45:13] BLITZER: The Breaking news tonight, President Trump and Congressional Republicans celebrating big-time. The passage of their tax overhaul bill law, but the party could be over within days. Lawmakers have until midnight Friday to pass a spending bill to avoid a government shutdown.
Let's dig deeper with our correspondence and our specialists. And David Swerdlick, enormous celebration at the White House, everybody smiles a great day. But look at the CNN poll, 55 percent of the America Republic, according to our CNN poll, oppose the GOP tax reform bill, 33 percent favorite 11 percent unsure. How are Republicans planning on selling this and changing those numbers?
DAVID SWERDLICK, AMERICAN JOURNALIST, WASHINGTON POST: Well, where's two things, Wolf. One, yes, it's unpopular overall but Republicans know that if you look in the cross tabs, it's more popular among Republicans and far less popular among Democrats.
So, Republicans are going to focus on Republican voters on their base first to get their base enthusiastic and work from there. The NRSC just released a statement that they said they're going to pressure Democrats with which is this idea that, look, we all voted for this Democrats voted against a tax cut that's going to put more money back in American's pockets. That's the message that they want to get out in front of before Democrats can.
BLITZER: Ron Brownstein, listen to the President tout another aspect, another important part of the tax bill which was passed today. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: When the individual mandate is being revealed, that means Obamacare is being revealed because they get that money from the individual mandate. So, the individual mandate is being revealed. So, in this bill, not only that we have massive tax cuts and tax reform, we have essentially revealed Obamacare.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Ron, is not really the case?
RONALD BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: No, I mean, revealing the individual mandate is a blow to Obamacare but it's not a fatal blow. You still have the Medicaid expansion which provides most of the coverage increases that we seen since 2010. You still have the subsidies for individuals to buy insurance and you still have the fundamental changes in the insurance regulations that require for example, insurance companies to cover people with pre-existing conditions at the same price.
Ironically, what the main impact of repealing the individual mandate which is something that Barack Obama by the way, did not run on in 2008. He wanted the plan without to begin with. The main impact of it is to pull healthy people, Wolf, as you noted out of the pool.
And what that does is increase the prices for insurance next year for older people with greater health needs at a time when the Republican coalition is centered on whites over 45. So, you know, in a strange way, the biggest loser in removing the individual mandate will be many people, particularly in these interior states, who tend to vote Republican.
BLITZER: You know, Rebecca Berg, Senator Susan Collins, the Republican for Maine, she voted for the tax bill. She said, in part because she was promised that to Obamacare stabilization bills would come up. Mitch McConnell promised to her would come up before the end of the year. That doesn't look like it's happening. Was she played.
REBECCA BERG, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER FOR REALCLEAR POLITICS: Well, she and Senator Lamar Alexander, who's been leading the committee working on this issue. Wolf, released a statement today trying to put out to rest and say, this is still coming but originally the plan was to make this part of the year-end spending bill, which now, we believe is going to be pushed until next year for Congress to deal with.
They're kicking the can down the road. And so Senator Alexander and Senator Collins released a statement saying, we have received assurances from Republican leaders, including McConnell, including Speaker Paul Ryan that they are going to come back to this. But they are still going to support this compromise. So, they believe this is just a matter of time.
BLITZER: Phil Mudd, I want your thoughts on what's happening up at the United Nation tomorrow. The U.N. General Assembly is going to have a big meeting and there is a resolution to condemn the United States for the President's decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital, to move U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv.
Listen to how the President reacted in advance of that big vote tomorrow. Listen to what he said today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: For all of these nations, that take our money and then they vote against us at the Security Council for 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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: What do you make of that tone or the substance of the warning by the President?
PHIL MUDD, FMR. CIA COUNTERTERRORISM: We don't care. Are you kidding me? Why do we give people money, Wolf? Is it because they vote for us in a resolution at the United States and United Nations that relates to Israel and Jerusalem?
If a child is dying because he doesn't have food, if a child is dying because of disease, if there's a place that's divided by Civil War in the American people, can send money to help a mother raise a child, are we to say because that country doesn't vote with us in one resolution that we won't help that child?
[18:50:14] I think the President speaks with emotion, not with thought. He has already told us in one way what he thinks. When he sent missiles into Syria, one of his comments was, you know and I'm paraphrasing, you know children are dying. Children will die if Americans don't provide assistance with other countries including the Europeans, the Japanese and others to other countries that are divided by things like Civil War and that are damaged by things like disease and poverty.
Are we not going to provide money for that child? I don't think that's going to happen Wolf and I do not think the President thought through what he was saying.
BLITZER: Do you think Ron Brownstein, the President really meant that threat? For example, let's say, a country like Jordan, a close friend of the United States which gets hundreds of million of dollars in foreign aid or Egypt for that matter which gets hundreds of million of dollars in foreign aid. Do you think the President would really cut that kind of aid to countries like Egypt and Jordan if they vote for this resolution tomorrow at the U.N. General Assembly?
BROWNSTEIN: I think it's unlikely that he would go that far but the direction, directionally, what he said, I think is actually reflective of his view of the world, which is that essentially the United States relations with the other countries are immediately transactional. They are about what, you know, what can you do for us as opposed to the U.S. playing a linchpin role in providing the architecture of global stability and security.
And it is one, it is one -- it is an approach that increasingly America first, you know, as people of argued has translated into America alone in many parts of the world particularly in Asia where the decision to withdraw from trans pacific -- trade deal created more openings for China to exert regional influence.
So, while I doubt that he is going to cut off Egypt if it opposes this, the direction of those comments I think reflect the general kind of foreign policy he has and we'll continue to pursue.
BLITZER: We'll soon find out what he means when the vote or the roll call, the General assembly takes place. So let them vote against us, the President said, we'll save a lot, we do not care. Everybody stand by. There's more breaking news. We're following a cliffhanger race comes down to the luck of the draw with political control of one's State House at stake.
[18:57:14] BLITZER: Breaking news tonight. A remarkable development in the high stakes race in Virginia where the Democratic and Republican candidates for a delegate seat are once again tied, and now elected officials say the race will be decided by the draw of a lot. CNN's Ryan Nobles working the story for us.
So Ryan, it's pretty amazing. The impact could be who controls this house in Virginia?
RYAN NOBLES, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: That's right. Right now, it stands that the Republicans have a one seat lead in the House of Delegates in this race now a tie after a three-judge panel Richmond decided that one ballot that wasn't counted during the recount should count, drawing the race into a tie.
And that means, the ultimate winner of this race could come down to this. That's right, a film canister that Virginia State Board of elections Chairman James Alcorn telling me, Wolf, that they're going to use film canisters like this one, though have two of them they'll put the names of the candidates in these canisters, put them into some sort of a receptacle maybe a hat or a box, pulled the name out, open it up and then whoever is the name that comes out first will be the winner of that election.
The winner of that election, Republican or Democrat will then decide who controls one House of the legislature there in Virginia. It really will be one of the most watched lot draws in American history.
BLITZER: Yes, that's really significant there international implications.
NOBLES: There are certainly are, Wolf, when you take into account that this decision could change the course of a numerous policy decisions in Virginia and it really shows just how divided the country are. There are numerous examples of very close races all across the country. It really shows us how important every vote counts and this is certainly happening in Virginia but this is something that could happen anywhere in the country.
BLITZER: And it's -- the Democrats really did well on this most recent election in Virginia.
NOBLES: That's right. On election night, Wolf, we didn't expect there could be any chance that the Democrats would have any shot at taking control of the Virginia House of delegates. Republicans have been in control for more than two decades. It was really a landslide victory on the legislative side coupled with the Democrat winning the governor's race. This could mean a historic shift in how Virginia handles a policy and their legislature in the coming year.
BLITZER: So, when -- let me see that again. Now, this is going to be it.
NOBLES: A film canister. This is something that millennial --
BLITZER: When are they going to use this and determine who is going to be the leader in the house of delegate?
NOBLES: Well, they still have to figure it all out. This is uncharted territory that were going down, Wolf. So, many of the officials that are involved in this have never dealt with anything like this but James Alcorn told me that they hope to have something decided next week after Christmas but not before.
BLITZER: Ryan Nobles, we'll watch it together with you. Thanks very much.