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CNN NEWSROOM

JetBlue Plane Skids Off Icy Taxiway In Boston; Dow Poised To Record Best Year Since 2013; Trump Back to Work, Takes Aim at FBI Again. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired December 26, 2017 - 09:00   ET

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


[09:00:00] ALISYN CAMEROTA: Fantastic to be with you. Time now for "CNN NEWSROOM" with Pamela Brown.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Well, good morning to you. I'm Pamela Brown in for John and Poppy this morning. A lot going on already.

The president says he's back to work in Mar-a-Lago and that apparently means he's back to taking aim at the FBI on Twitter, of course, repeating the message the agency is tainted and there was no Trump Russia collusion.

Let's get right to CNN's Sara Murray.

So once again, repeated attacks here, Sara Murray.

SARA MURRAY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, yes, that's right, Pam. And we were expecting the president to turn today to some more pressing issues perhaps on his agenda, including his legislative agenda, and he did send a tweet to that affect, I'll get to that first before we get into Russia. The president seems to be hint there could be some kind of bipartisan effort on health care coming based on the -- he said based on the fact that the very unfair and unpopular individual mandate has been terminated as part of our tax cut bill which essentially repealed over time Obamacare. The Democrats and Republicans will eventually come together and develop a great new health care plan.

So that seems to be on the president's wish list for 2018. But yet again, Pam, as we have seen time and time again from this president he seems to be distracted from the Russia investigation. Apparently he was taking in some FOX News this morning and there was a discussion about this dossier that the president was briefed on before he took office. The president took to Twitter to complain once again about that dossier saying they used this crooked Hillary pile of garbage as the basis for going after the Trump campaign and disputing that anything in this dossier was true.

Now a couple of things worth noting there. One, the dossier is not what Robert Mueller's investigation into allegations of collusion or potential collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian officials is based on, but you, Pam, as you know, U.S. investigators have corroborated some of the items in that dossier, although there are plenty of salacious items in it that have remained uncorroborated, but I think the key point here is that this is a president who is on vacation here in Mar-a-Lago, supposed to be turning back to his legislative agenda, yet again distracted by the Russia probe.

BROWN: Yes. Not surprisingly he continues to be fixated by the dossier and the FBI.

Sara Murray, thank you so much. Live for us in West Palm Beach.

Joining me now to discuss Susan Hennessey, CNN national security and legal analyst.

First, I just want to get your reaction, Susan, to Trump's tweet this morning saying that basically the dossier is garbage, that nothing in it is true?

SUSAN HENNESSEY, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY AND LEGAL ANALYST: Right, so from the outset, you know, former Obama intelligence officials, FBI officials have been really clear that they didn't use that dossier as the basis to obtain any kind of search warrants. They didn't -- sort of the notion the FISA warrant, from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance court, and that's not the kind of evidence those courts issue, probable cause warrants based on.

I mean, look, this dossier was always sort of -- I think the best way to understand it was kind of raw intelligence product. It's some mix of facts and fiction and rumor and what's true. Just because one piece of it is disproven doesn't mean the rest of it is false. Just because one piece turns out to be true doesn't mean the rest of it is true.

By all accounts this is a privately produced document. The intelligence community and the FBI really had kind of put it off to the side so even though it really has dominated the public conversation especially because there are the sort of salacious details, you know, by all sort of accounts it actually pretty much nothing to do with the FBI's own investigation.

BROWN: And the investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, and to be clear, to our knowledge, investigators have not corroborated some of the most salacious allegations in the dossier, but the broad assertion that the Russians had waged a campaign to interfere in the U.S. election has indeed been corroborated by the U.S. intelligence community publicly, right?

HENNESSY: Right. You know, so much of sort of our public debate has focused on just this really narrow question of collusion, to one extent to an American -- a U.S. person or the Trump campaign actually sort of get involved and assist in this Russian effort, that's separate from the fact that there was a Russian effort, you know, to interfere in the elections.

We have the intelligence community assessment. They put forth a very, very detailed account of what occurred. We've seen lots and lots of information come out over the past 12 years about sort of the extent of that meddling, how worrisome it is, and frankly the fact that the Trump administration, you know, either for reasons that the president's own ego or because there's somewhat particular policy preferences really are not sort of stepping up to the plate to counter, you know, Russian interfere not just in our own elections but also those of our allies and in future elections.

BROWN: And let's talk a little bit more about that because there was some new insight this morning into Russia's interference in the 2016 election from the "Washington Post." The government according to the report underestimated Russia's capability to meddle in the U.S. election despite warning signs over several years, and according to this report one of the Russian trolls the FBI was tracking was so high on the radar, Susan, they actually gave that troll a code name, yet that same troll continued to post false stories.

[09:05:13] Do you find this reporting concerning? What does it tell you?

HENNESSY: Right. So it certainly is concerning. You know, this is something that over the past several years, certainly our NATO allies and allies in Europe have warned us, you know, have warned the United States about the threat of Russia. You know, this has been sort of a major Republican beef with President Obama's National Security team and policy that they weren't taking this threat quite seriously enough.

So one of sort of -- you know, as to the account of what occurred in 2016 is coming out, one of the things we're seeing is that, you know, that Obama team, you know, as they started to understand sort of the nature of the threat they really were so concerned about potentially sparking a cycle of escalation, you know, really didn't have great options in that cyber domain to which they are pretty new, and so therefore didn't respond strongly enough.

By the time they realized that hey, this really is a broad concern. It's not about who's going to win the election or lose the election, but just about that basic integrity and legitimacy, you know, it seems like it was too late.

BROWN: Yes. I talked to one official who said basically they even saw the threat on social media, but basically it was just the tip of the iceberg and that they were blindsided by the scope of the way Russians were using social media to interfere in the election, and then the "Washington Post" says -- just lays it out there, saying that the government never fully grasped the breath of the Kremlin's ambitions.

One of the people quoted in the article, Tony Blinken, said that basically they were naive. Do you agree with that assessment?

HENNESSY: You know, look, it's always, you know, you can't know sort of the counter factual, right? And so is sort of, you know, hindsight is 20/20, you know, that we should have understood. You know, certainly there were lots of voices, lots of credible voices for a number of years that were really sort of raising the alarm here, and saying this is something that we need to take more seriously.

You know, I don't think that anybody, including the Obama team could have predicted, you know, not only that those efforts would manifest the way they did, but also that, you know, Donald Trump would actually be elected president. You know, we have to remember that it's Trump who's in the driver's seat now, he's at the helm of the intelligence community. This threat has not gone away. It's not like what Russia wanted was for Donald Trump to become president and now they're done.

What they want to see is a weakened United States and so what we really should be focused on now is what is the United States' current national security policy.

BROWN: Right.

HENNESSY: Are we seeing that pushback against Russian interference both home and against our allies abroad? You know, those are sort of the issues, you know, the current signs out the White House is that they appear to really not be taking this threat remotely seriously enough, you know, regardless of what sort of valid criticisms there might be about that past the Obama team.

BROWN: Right. And just looking ahead to 2018 how concerned are you that Russia will continue this behavior and in elections to come? Can you hear me, Susan? OK.

We lost Susan but we hope to get her back later in the show. Thank you so much, Susan Hennessy, for your analysis there.

And joining me now, CNN contributor, Salena Zito, national political reporter for the "Washington Examiner" and "New York Post" columnist, and CNN political reporter, Rebecca Berg.

Let's just start here again with this tweet from the president. Here we are a day after Christmas, he said he wants to get to work at Mar- a-Lago, focus on his legislative agenda, yet, Rebecca, here he is tweeting about the FBI and the dossier.

REBECCA BERG, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Right. So not exactly focused on his agenda for the next year, Pamela. And of course he will have an opportunity at the end of January to really clarify and highlight what he wants to get done in 2018 when he delivers his State of the Union address. That's always a great opportunity for the president to amplify his policy goals for the coming year.

But of course that clearly is not top of mind for him at the end of this year, even though he just had a huge victory and Republicans did with their tax reform push. He's not really taking that victory lap, at least not at this moment. But the president does have plans for the next year, big policy pushes he wants to make on infrastructure, potentially returning to health care. There isn't necessarily an appetite for that in Congress but the president will be making those pushes.

BROWN: So just looking at the tweet here, Salena, he's claiming that this was the basis for the Trump campaign investigation which is simply not true. It was one piece of evidence early on, since then there has been a lot of developments and we are told by our sources that there's other evidence they're looking at but this is in the main piece.

So do you think that it's to the president's advantage, Salena, to keep talking about the dossier and everything surrounding it?

SALENA ZITO, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: It's probably not in his best interest to leadoff with that right after Christmas. I think that his base gets it and they understand it and they have a way of projecting themselves with him and thinking to themselves being attacked that way by what they believe is mostly a false document.

[09:10:13] I think to Rebecca's point, I think it's incredibly important for the president to focus on talking about his victory with the tax reform bill, but also talk about, as Rebecca pointed out, the infrastructure bill that he's planning and working on with Bill Schuster, a representative here in western Pennsylvania. That's a really important sort of blueprint for him to take forward with these House seats.

You know, most modern presidents with the exception of 2002 have lost seats in their midterm election. That should be his biggest focus is to hold on to the majority. There are 25 seats that Hillary Clinton won in Republican districts. Those are things he needs to worry about. He could lose the majority right there with that subset of numbers. But there's also 12 seats that he won in Democratic districts that he could go in there and talk about bridges and buildings -- not buildings but roads and retainers.

Those not only create jobs in building them, but they also draw in companies to want to invest in areas who have good infrastructure to support their businesses. That's what -- and from my point of view and I think from a lot of the point of view of the people who would vote for Republican members of Congress, those are the things they want to hear about, those are the job creators.

BROWN: But yet here we are talking about the tweet about the dossier in Russia.

Rebecca, one more question on this before we move on to the other items, but, you know, in this "Washington Post" article hitting on Russian interference and the lack of action taken by previous administrations and the current administration, there's a quote here from a senior Trump administration official who told "The Post," If it changed one electoral vote, you tell me, the Russians didn't tell Hillary Clinton not to campaign in Wisconsin, tell me how many votes the Russians changed in Macomb County, Michigan, the president is right."

So basically downplaying the concern of Russian interference, and saying, look, there's no evidence it changed the vote, why should we care? Your reaction to that.

BERG: What it has always come down to, Pamela, for the president and for his close allies and advisers is not Russian interference so much as whether this throws into question the legitimacy of President Trump's election, and that's why this issue has bothered him so deeply, and why he hasn't necessarily addressed it to the satisfaction of many Republicans or Democrats because he cares about this on a personal level.

He feels that as long as we're talking about Russian interference it's questioning the legitimacy of his election, the legitimacy of his presidency and that might be one of the reasons why this administration has not made this a national security priority.

BROWN: And Salena, Trump also tweeted about health care this morning saying, "Based on the fact that the very unfair and unpopular individual mandate has been terminated as part of our tax cut bill, which essentially repeals over time Obamacare, the Democrats and Republicans will eventually come together and develop a great new health care plan."

But listen to what Mitch McConnell said about repealing Obamacare.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), MAJORITY LEADER: We obviously were unable to completely the repeal and replace with a 52-48 Senate. We'll have to take a look at what that looks like with a 51-49 Senate, but I think we'll probably move on to other issues.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BROWN: So where does the Obama fight go from here as we look ahead to 2018?

ZITO: Well, I mean, the president -- that was a great tweet by the president. That's something that's really important to voters, to fix this health care problem because Obamacare for all, its support -- it also, even people that deeply supported it knew there were a lot of flaws and a lot of holes that left people, you know, sort of out in the cold or paying way too much.

So most people believe that that's something that people should work together. On the other hand Mitch McConnell knows what it takes to get a vote to make something happen. He knows -- and he does not like to lose. So he knows that if he can't get that vote to pass there's no reason to bring it up, and suffer the humiliation that he suffered last summer when they couldn't get health care reform passed within a Republican majority House and Senate.

BROWN: So when we look ahead to the midterms here, Rebecca, the president has told his aides that he wants to hit the campaign trail hard in 2018. But do you think that that will be beneficial for Republicans who are running given the president's low approval rating of 35 percent?

BERG: Well, it certainly depends on the district, if you're talking about House races and it depends on the state. If you're talking about Senate races, there are some races where you're looking at states like Utah, for example, where Mitt Romney could be on the ballot depending on what Orrin Hatch decided. And Utah is a state where the president is very unpopular. He wasn't popular when he was running in 2016 and is even more unpopular now even though it's a Republican-leaning state. You look at some of these swing states but then if you look at the Senate races where Democrats are on the ballot in these Trump states where Trump won, you could certainly see him being useful, getting out there and campaigning against Senator Claire McCaskill in Missouri, Joe Donnelly in Indiana.

[09:15:00]

Those are some ways that I think the administration could look at using the president to get the vote out for the Republican candidates. But in some of these tight House races, you look at these races in California, New York, where Republicans are on the ballot in very difficult races.

I think those are races where you are not necessarily going to see the president being used to get out on the campaign trail and get out the vote.

BROWN: All right. Rebecca, Salena, thank you so much, ladies.

President Trump makes a 2018 prediction, Democrats and Republicans working together on a new health care plan. I will ask a Republican congressman for his predictions.

And white Christmas means a white-knuckle landing. A JetBlue skids off a Boston taxi way, and passengers share their stories.

And seeing green, retailers cash in this holiday with big sales numbers, the Dow flirting with 25,000. Does the president deserve credit for a strong economy?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:20:17]

BROWN: A scare for holiday passengers aboard a JetBlue flight in Boston, the plane hit a patch of ice as it was landing making it skid and spin off the runway ultimately ending up in a snow bank.

CNN's Rene Marsh is live in Washington with all the details -- Rene.

RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION AND GOVERNMENT REGULATION CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Pamela. The snow and ice in Boston made travel very complicated for people trying to get to their destinations on Christmas night.

This was a JetBlue flight from Savannah, and it skid off of taxiway just after touchdown at Boston's Logan Airport last night. Passengers say that the plane essentially just kept on spinning until it was facing the opposite direction. Take a listen to some people who were actually onboard.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We were straight and then all of a sudden it started fishtailing and started getting rough.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Once I realized we were going off the runway, I was like, a uh-oh.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All of a sudden, we started sliding and spinning and spinning and spinning and ended up in a snow bank.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was like you were going four wheeling, and the wind was bad coming in and then he landed and hit some ice.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MARSH: Yes. So, ice was the problem there. JetBlue says that there were no injuries and passengers had to be bussed to the terminals. We do know that the airports runways were briefly shut down yesterday because of the winter weather and snow.

I have been keeping close tabs on what is going on so far at Boston's Logan's Airport, right now, it looks like delays are more of an issue than cancelations, but overall, if you're flying today, Pamela, things look pretty good.

BROWN: All right. Well, that's good news. Rene Marsh, thanks so much for that.

Already up 25 percent for the year, the Dow is now starting down yet another milestone, 25,000. President Trump listed that boost as one of his accomplishments for the year. Should he be getting the credit?

Joining me now, Ken Rogoff, economics and public policy professor at Harvard University. Ken, bottom line, should the president be taking credit for how well the stock market is doing?

KEN ROGOFF, FORMER CHIEF ECONOMIST, INTERNATIONAL MONETARY FUND: Not the lion's share of the credit, most of that goes to the fact that global growth has been good. The whole world has been growing, the U.S., and also, I think foremost interest rates are just really low.

And even though the Federal Reserve is raising them, not very much and the rest of the world is not, people don't know where to put their money. But, sure, Trump hasn't undermined the Federal Reserve as much as people worried.

He has not really passed a major bill until just now, which may stimulate growth a little bit in 2018. But mainly, the economy's a big ship and is hard to turn around quickly, and it was going forward and at least it didn't hit an iceberg.

BROWN: So, Trump seems to focus on the gains since the election last year. The markets have certainly risen since then as we discussed, but it was already going up as you mentioned for years before that as well, does this work politically?

ROGOFF: I don't know how much. I mean, the economy is doing very well, and I think in 2018 and 2019, the U.S. economy will continue to outperform with or without the tax bill that we just had. It's going to work politically to some extent. Obviously, there's a lot of things going on with this presidency besides the economy. BROWN: Right. I mean, what about, you know, of course, what goes up must come down. What happens if there's an inevitable drop to come? Will the president take credit then? Is he taking the risk of what could follow?

ROGOFF: Well, the drop isn't inevitable. I mean, it could go up more before it comes down. But, yes, one of the big risk of putting everything on, look the stock market loves me, it's way up, but it can drop 15 or 20 percent very quickly. He will say, well, it's those people in Congress, or he'll blame it on Hillary somehow.

BROWN: Right. As we wrap up, when you look at the jobs and the rate of jobs, 1.7 million jobs created since Trump took office, and that's a lot. How much credit does he give versus his -- Obama in previous administrations?

ROGOFF: Well, again, it's a big ship. It was moving forward. It was doing well. I think we would have had a good year, but let's give him some credit. He was there. The economy has done well. The stock market has done well, and it's probably going to continue to, so we don't know exactly how much credit he deserves. We can be sure it's not as much as he claims.

BROWN: All right. Ken, thank you so much.

ROGOFF: Thank you.

[09:25:07] BROWN: So, will the Dow hit a new all-time high of 25,000 today? Let's take a look, CNN correspondent, Alison Kosik is back with us. What can we expect, Alison?

ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Pamela. So, the markets opening in about 5 minutes. It looks like stocks right now are in the red so that's going away from that 25,000-mark for the Dow.

But it has been quite a banner year for the Dow, you look at the numbers. We have seen more than 80 record highs for the Dow just this year. We are seeing this pause today and we are seeing Apple shares move lower, so that's bringing the index, the Dow into the red before the market opens. This is on news that Apple have weak iPhone X demand for its latest sales.

As for what the market is focusing on today, it is the day after Christmas, so you are seeing markets focus retail sales. Today is the day that people go to return a lot of the items that they didn't want.

But, Pamela, they also wind up buying. So, you are seeing Wall Street really focus on the retail market. If you look at spending polls that tracks online sales and sales in stores the predictions are that we should see a holiday shopping surpass or be the best since the 2011 shopping season -- Pamela.

BROWN: All right. Thank you. The Dow poised to have the best year since 2013. Alison, thank you so much. The president has big plans for 2018 but will the midterm elections be a hurdle? Democrats looking for big wins, wins that could shift the balance of power. We'll be back.