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Senator Mark Water Warns Trump Against Firing Special Counsel Mueller; Interview with Senator Roger Wicker; U.N. to Vote on Trump's Jerusalem Decision; Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired December 21, 2017 - 10:30   ET

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


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[10:30:43] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: New reaction from Capitol Hill over the Russia probe and the future of Special Counsel Bob Mueller's job.

Our Manu Raju is live on Capitol Hill.

You just spoke to Republican, Democrat, what are they saying?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. That's right. We're actually outside a closed hearing right now where the FBI deputy director is meeting with two different House committees and will undoubtedly get a grilling particularly from Republicans who believe that the FBI investigation into the Clinton e-mail server issue was not handled properly, they're concerned about potential FBI impartiality when it comes to the Robert Mueller investigation.

And there are concerns about the FBI's relationship with Christopher Steele, who is that British agent who put together that dossier including the allegations of Russia and Trump connections. This is the second hearing that McCabe will -- has faced this week. Earlier this week he met with the House Intelligence Committee as well, but Democrats here on this committee are raising concerns that this is all part of an effort to undercut the key institutions, the investigations, to undercut Robert Mueller's own investigation as a way to either discredit him or try to move to potentially fire Robert Mueller.

Now the top Democrat on the committee -- on the Oversight Committee, Elijah Cummings, just spoke to us about what his concerns are. Here's what he said.

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REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D), MARYLAND: This is a fight for the soul of our democracy. Nothing less. And so I'm going to work hard to make sure we save that democracy and I will fight until I die.

RAJU: What do you mean, save our democracy?

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RAJU: Now he was raising concerns about the potential of firing Robert Mueller. The White House, of course, has denied that they're even considering that action and one member of the House Oversight Committee, a Republican member, Mark Meadows, as he entered this hearing and said he had this conversation with the president about this, about firing Robert Mueller, he said he wouldn't do that. This is what Meadows said.

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REP. MARK MEADOWS (R), NORTH CAROLINA: There's not a concern in terms of trying to discredit the special prosecutor that has been not only established but continues to investigate and so Robert Mueller is not a subject of our investigation.

RAJU: How would you react to the president takes steps to get rid of Mueller?

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RAJU: And some members, some Republicans are taking it a little bit further. Bob Corker we heard today said there would be an uprising if the president did fire Robert Mueller and I can tell you that speaking to Republican members up here, senators in particular, they don't want the president to go that route which is probably one reason why the White House is sending signals that they're not taking that step.

But, still, on the House side there are a number of Republicans who don't like the way Robert Mueller has moved forward. They think his team has been impartial and they also think that the FBI has had its issues, too, which is why Andrew McCabe, behind closed doors, is going to get an earful, particularly from Republicans, on these two committees -- Poppy.

HARLOW: Manu Raju, on the Hill, thank you for that reporting. Important.

It was sold as a middle class tax cut. You heard it over and over from the president. So why then did President Trump say corporate tax cuts were actually, quote, "the biggest factor" in the GOP tax plan. He said that yesterday.

Also the major part of the bill that the president told Republicans not to talk about. Ahead.

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[10:38:25] HARLOW: All right. You're looking at live pictures of the United Nations General Assembly where all of the members are voting now on a resolution to reject the president's naming of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, recognizing that by the United States.

The U.N. -- the U.S. saying it will be taking names on this one for any country that goes against them. Pretty much all are expected to. We'll keep an eye on that, see if Nikki Haley makes any comments.

Meantime, several Republican lawmakers are now floating the theory that the Department of Justice and the FBI led by former FBI director James Comey were part of a coordinated plot against candidate Donald Trump.

My co-pilot typically on the show, John Berman, spoke to one of those lawmakers last night, Republican Congressman Jim Jordan. Here's the exchange.

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JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Was James Comey part of a plot to keep Donald Trump from being president?

REP JIM JORDAN, (R), OHIO: We'll find out. We'll find out. All I know is the text message from Lisa -- from Peter Strzok to Lisa Paige sure points to that being --

BERMAN: Again --

JORDAN: Being what looks like took place.

BERMAN: Why then did he come out again and reopen the investigation of Hillary Clinton's e-mails and never even tell us before the election about the investigation into alleged Trump collusion? If he was trying to keep Donald Trump from getting elected, don't you think he might tell voters that?

JORDAN: We'll have to find out. Yes. We'll have to find out.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARLOW: You should watch the whole exchange, it's about 20 minutes long online.

Joining me now, Republican senator of Mississippi, Roger Wicker.

It's nice to have you. Thanks for being here, sir.

SEN. ROGER WICKER (R), MISSISSIPPI: Glad to be with you.

HARLOW: So what do you make of assertions like that, like what we heard from Representative Jim Jordan last night? These Republican colleagues of yours in Congress making assertions like this, not based in fact that we see.

[10:40:08] Is it responsible?

WICKER: I haven't heard much talk about it but I have to agree with Jim Jordan. We'll see. The questions will be asked and a lot of information comes out when people start poking around.

HARLOW: So you're OK with Congressman Jim Jordan and others making assertions and allegations that there was a coordinated effort at the top levels of intelligence including at the FBI to, you know, campaign against then candidate Donald Trump?

WICKER: Well --

HARLOW: Because that's what he kept saying over and over again. WICKER: OK, that's not --

HARLOW: Are you comfortable with that?

WICKER: That's not what I just heard him say. What I just heard him say was we'll see, we'll ask questions, we'll investigate and see what comes out. So I'll go back and listen to the full 20 minutes. It's probably a good interview. But the part that you just showed, I have no problem with. Let's find where the information leads and see to what extent there was or was not any bias.

HARLOW: It is a good interview and I think you'll enjoy watching the whole thing.

WICKER: Good.

HARLOW: It's very important. As you know, your fellow senator, Mark Warner, on the floor of the Senate yesterday said he's alarmed by what he calls this coordinated nature of attacks against the Special Counsel Bob Mueller and he said any attempt by the president to remove him or pardon witnesses would be a gross abuse of power.

Are you, sir, in your position as senator, aware of any coordination between your Republican colleagues in the White House to attack or discredit the Mueller investigation? Any coordinated effort?

WICKER: No, I'm not. But let me just make a prediction here four days before Christmas. Robert Mueller is not going to be fired. The president made that clear two days ago. And also, in case anybody is worried about it based on reports, there's not going to be a government shutdown. So that's my prediction. I think I'm -- I think I'm 99.9 percent certain that I'm going to be right on that and we'll have a nice Christmas and get back after the new year. Mr. Mueller will still be in place and the government will be funded.

HARLOW: Let me get your take on the tax bill that was passed yesterday that's headed to the president's desk today. So the president came out as you know and he talked about it yesterday and he said about corporate tax cuts, quote, "that's probably the biggest factor in our plan." That's much different than the promise over and over again that this would be a broad-sweeping middle class tax cut.

He also said that repealing the individual mandate as part of Obamacare, he said that he told Republicans to be quiet about that. Don't talk about that too much, be quiet about that. Were the American people at all misled in your opinion by the president on those two big fronts?

WICKER: OK. Well, the lowering the corporate tax rate was always a big part of it and it's something I've always talked about. You know, we had a 35 percent corporate tax rate, Europe was down around 20 percent, the same for Asia, give or take a point or two. So we were out of competition with the rest of the world. So --

HARLOW: Look, President Obama wanted to lower the corporate tax rate -- WICKER: -- I've been happy about that.

HARLOW: -- to 28 percent in 2012. I get that. What I'm asking you is the president and his team kept selling this as no cuts for the wealthy and a big middle class tax cuts, and then he said yesterday the biggest part of this was the corporate tax cuts. Did he mislead the American people?

WICKER: Well, look -- no, he didn't and I think it's unfair to mischaracterize that. This is an incentive for job creators and basically what we've been doing the last few years is taxing job creators at 35 percent while the rest of the world was down around 20 percent.

HARLOW: How do you know they're going to create jobs?

WICKER: We've been proud of that.

HARLOW: How do you know they're going to create jobs? Because I know you saw that Yale study that came out yesterday that said that of the Fortune 500 CEOs that they surveyed, only 14 percent said they're going to use the savings from this tax plan for capital investments and that means job creation.

WICKER: Well, that was --

HARLOW: I mean, you have no guarantee, do you?

WICKER: That was a study by Yale University. Look, I think --

HARLOW: Yes. It's a good university, is it not, Senator?

WICKER: OK. Let me answer your question. I think job creators respond to incentives and when you tax job creators at 35 percent and other countries can get the job done at 20 percent or 19 percent, that is a huge incentive to ship jobs overseas.

HARLOW: But then why aren't these CEOs saying --

WICKER: I am absolutely convinced about that.

HARLOW: Why aren't -- I hear you and I hope you're right. I hope for the American people that want these jobs, you're right. But there is nothing in this bill --

WICKER: Well, thank you for that. That would be great.

HARLOW: Of course. There's nothing in this bill, though, that mandates the companies use any of this for hiring.

WICKER: Well --

HARLOW: There's nothing in the bill that says it can't all go back as history has shown that it has, to dividends and share buybacks. And as you know your Democratic colleague --

WICKER: The approach --

HARLOW: -- Sherrod Brown tried to put that in, tried to put a mandate in that would have guaranteed some hiring and these CEOs, the majority of them aren't saying they're going to hire.

[10:45:07] So I'm just asking you, how do you know this is going to create jobs?

WICKER: I believe it's going to create jobs, and, of course, the approach of the left would be to do some mandates on what businesses should do. I think they respond and basically how do I know this, because they have responded in past years to incentives and I'm convinced they're going to do so again. You know, that's not the only thing about the tax bill.

HARLOW: That's not.

WICKER: We also -- we cut taxes on the middle class, we doubled the standard deduction and we doubled the child tax credit. So there's a lot more to it.

HARLOW: You did. And look, Brookings says 80 percent of American families are going to get a tax cut next year because of this and I've said that over and over again. It's also true --

WICKER: And we ought to celebrate that at Christmas time.

HARLOW: -- that the wealthy are going to get more. That the wealthy are going to get more.

Let me ask you, in your state of Mississippi, has any CEO told you, I'm going to create jobs because of this?

WICKER: I haven't asked them, but I'm convinced they will.

HARLOW: Why? But why wouldn't you ask them?

WICKER: Well, you know --

HARLOW: You're voting on a belief, Senator. You said I believe they'll create jobs.

WICKER: Now, Poppy, what if I told you that before I voted on bills I went around asking CEOs what they thought. I've talked to hundreds, thousands of recipients.

HARLOW: You said this will create jobs. You said this will create jobs.

WICKER: I've talked to thousands of my constituents and they say it's a good idea.

HARLOW: Those are the folks that create jobs.

WICKER: They celebrate it.

HARLOW: I think -- I think it would be a pretty apt question to say if this happens would this lead to job creation, no?

WICKER: I've talked to thousands, hundreds or thousands of Mississippians. This tax cut is wildly popular back home and I think most people share my conviction that job creators respond to incentives and we're lifting a huge burden on people that want to create more jobs.

HARLOW: OK. Our polling shows the most recent polling out yesterday shows 33 percent of Americans favor it. Only 33 percent of Americans favor it.

WICKER: I'm not surprised -- I'm not surprised at that based on the misstatements that have been said. But the reality is, in January or February of next year, people are going to start seeing more take-home pay, less taxes taken out of their paycheck, and then in the coming months I think the economy is going to boom.

Perhaps I'm wrong and if I am I'll stand corrected. But that would be contrary to what's happened as a result of many, many tax cuts in the past.

HARLOW: Let's hope the economy keeps booming as it has been. Let me get you on one other thing, switching gears to the very important issue of sexual misconduct and mistreatment of women across sectors and within Congress clearly.

Yesterday on the "Today" show Savannah Guthrie had Paul Ryan on talking about taxes and she also asked him very importantly about the women that have come forward with these allegations against the president including three women, Senator, who have asked Congress to investigate these claims. Here's what the House speaker said.

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