Return to Transcripts main page

State of the Union

Republicans Pass Tax Bill; Interview With Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders; What Do Bush and Obama Think About Trump?; Democrats Warn President Trump Not to Fire Special Counsel. Aired 9-10a ET

Aired December 24, 2017 - 09:00   ET




JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Sweeping tax bill. President Trump celebrates his first major legislative victory.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's the largest tax cut in the history of our country. It is always a lot of fun when you win.

TAPPER: But Democrats are hoping voters won't buy what the Republicans are selling.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I), VERMONT: It is a victory for billionaires like Donald Trump. This is a disaster for the American people.

TAPPER: One of the biggest critics of the new tax law, Senator Bernie Sanders, is here next.

Plus, another swipe, President Trump taking aim at his predecessors.

TRUMP: We have done a job like no administration has done.

TAPPER: So, how do the two most recent presidents feel about the current commander in chief? Their top advisers join me in minutes.

And don't do it. The top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee issues a stark warning about the Russia investigation.

SEN. MARK WARNER (D), VIRGINIA: Any attempt by this president to remove special counsel Mueller or shut down the investigation would be a gross abuse of power.

TAPPER: What will President Trump do next?


TAPPER: Hello. I'm Jake Tapper in Washington, where the state of our union is taking a well-needed break.

President Trump enjoying some downtime, as he spends the Christmas holiday at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida. He's fresh off a big legislative win, finally passing the much-talked-about tax bill.

Before leaving town, he took a victory lap.


TRUMP: Thank you, everybody, very much. And these are the people right behind me. They have worked so long, so hard. It's been an amazing experience, I have to tell you. Hasn't been done in 34 years, but actually really hasn't been done, because we broke every record.


TAPPER: Of course, when the president gets back to Washington, he will have a lot to deal with, including the ongoing special counsel investigation on Russia, plus a brewing battle over dreamers, illegal immigrants brought to this country by their parents when they were children.

And another potential issue for the president, a soon-to-be sworn in Democratic senator, Doug Jones of Alabama, who will make another major legislative win for Republicans even more difficult.

Joining me now to talk about all this is independent Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont.

Senator, good to see you. Thanks for being here.

I understand you're not a fan of the tax bill. You don't like the large corporate tax cut, and you are not happy with the tax cuts for the wealthy. But, according to the Tax Policy Center, next year, 91 percent of middle-income Americans will receive a tax cut.

Isn't that a good thing?

SANDERS: Yes, it is a very good thing. And that's why we should have made the tax breaks for the middle class permanent.

But what the Republicans did is made the tax breaks for corporations permanent, the tax breaks for the middle class temporary.

And according to the Tax Policy Center, that same organization, at the end of 10 years, 83 percent of the benefits go to the top 1 percent. Sixty percent of the benefits go to the top one-tenth of 1 percent.

Meanwhile, at the end of 10 years, well over 80 million Americans will pay more in taxes. Thirteen million Americans, as a result of this legislation, are going to lose their health insurance. Health care premiums are going up. We have got a $1.4 trillion deficit as a result of this bill.

And Paul Ryan is going around saying, oh, we have to offset that deficit by cutting Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

To answer your questions, should we have focused on the needs of the middle class? We should have. But the bulk of the benefits in this legislation go to large profitable corporations and to millionaires and billionaires.

TAPPER: Well, let's talk about the corporate tax cut, because, in the hours after the bill passed, major corporations such as AT&T and Comcast promised $1,000 bonuses for workers, while companies like Wells Fargo and Fifth Third Bancorp hiked their company-wide minimum wage wages to $15 an hour.

And Republicans say this is evidence that the tax cut is working, not just for corporations, but for their employees.

SANDERS: Well, there are other corporations, by the way, who are involved now in corporate buybacks, where dividends are going up for the CEOs of the largest corporations.

Nobody denies that we have right now a tax system in which one out of five major profitable corporations pay zero in taxes. This legislation makes a bad situation worse, and it drives up the deficit. Many large corporations are going to use their tax breaks to make CEOs wealthier and do very little for workers.

TAPPER: Another provision of the bill that was very interesting had to do with elimination, the repealing of the individual mandate in Obamacare requiring individuals to buy health insurance.


Take a listen to what President Trump had to say about this.


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


TAPPER: Your response?

SANDERS: That a president celebrates the fact that 13 million Americans will lose their health insurance.

TAPPER: Well, willingly. They -- they will...


Jake, we are the only major company on Earth not to guarantee health care for all people. As a result of the repeal of the individual mandate, 13 million people will lose their health insurance.

Now, some of these people who are healthy today, you know what? They can get hit by a bus tomorrow. They could be diagnosed with leukemia the next day. Who do you think is now going to pay the bill as a result of the repeal of the individual mandate? You are, I am, and everyone American who has health insurance.

Instead of bragging about more Americans without health insurance, we should join every other major country on Earth, guarantee to all people, and end the absurdity of paying twice as much per capita for health care as any other nation.

TAPPER: Sources tell CNN that the White House and Republican leadership plan to meet in January to discuss their legislative priorities.

And one of them is welfare reform. Republicans think they can get some Democrats on board with welfare reform by funding job training programs for people who have been unemployed for long periods of time.

Is that theoretically something you might be willing listen to?

SANDERS: Well, I don't know exactly what welfare reform means.

If welfare reform means, as Paul Ryan is talking about cutting, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, no, I'm not going to listen to that. If welfare reform means improving child care for working families, so moms now have the opportunity to go out and work and know that their kids are in safe and secure child care facilities, that's something we can listen to.

Right now in this country, there are many, many jobs not being filled because workers don't have the training in order to go out and get those jobs. If the Trump administration wants to address that issue, I'm sure he's going to have cooperation.

Right now, we have got hundreds of thousands of bright young people who cannot afford to go to college because the cost of college is so high. Most of the new jobs require a higher education.

If the Trump administration wants to work with us on that, I think we can make some progress. We can create up to 15 million decent-paying jobs by rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure, roads, bridges, water system, wastewater plants, airports.

The Trump administration wants to work with us on that, I think we can make some progress as well.

TAPPER: Take a look at something Republican Senator Jeff Flake tweeted after the Senate passed the final tax bill.

He wrote: "Bipartisan DACA bill will be on the Senate floor in January."

That's a reference to the bill that would allow people who are in this country illegally, but were brought here when they were children by their parents, to stay here to have some sort of legal status.

Is a DACA fix going to be good enough? Or do these people, in your people, need to have permanent citizenship?

SANDERS: That's much too vague a statement.


SANDERS: Let's look at what is going on.

We've got 800,000 young people, often really bright, wonderful young people, they're in school, they're working, or they're in the United States military.

As a result of Trump's effort, successful effort, to repeal DACA, their legal status is now in doubt. And every single day, every single day people, these young people, these dreamers are losing their legal status.

If we not act, you're going to have 18,000 people with no legal status who will be subject to deportation, thrown out of the only country they have ever known. This is a moral outrage.

And, by the way, this is not just Bernie Sanders talking. A recent Quinnipiac poll came out. You may have seen it; 77 percent of the American people, overwhelmingly, Democrats, Republicans, independents, say that we have got to protect the legal status of these young people and that we have to move them toward citizenship.

This is widely popular. That's what the American people want. Even people like Charles Koch, who funds the Republican Party, believes in this.

That the Republicans have been so busy trying to give tax breaks to billionaires and ignoring this crisis is a very, very sad state of affairs.

So, to answer your question, we need, absolutely, to protect the dreamers and pass that legislation.

TAPPER: I have many more questions for you.

Stick around, Senator, if you will, including some of -- these are the topics I want to talk about, your fellow Democratic colleagues who think that you and others have gone too far by calling for President Trump to resign.

We will discuss that next.




We are back with independent Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont.

Senator, in the wake of Senator Franken's resignation, you and many Democratic senators have been calling for President Trump to resign due to his own sexual harassment and assault accusations.

Take a listen to what two other Democrats have to say about this issue, though.


DOUG JONES (D), ALABAMA SENATOR-ELECT: Those allegations were made before the election, and so people had an opportunity to judge before that election.

I think we need to move on and not get distracted by those issues.

QUESTION: So, yes, an investigation for the president, or no, you have moved on?

SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D), WEST VIRGINIA: I have moved on. I really have moved on.


TAPPER: Senator-elect Doug Jones and Senator Manchin say that they have moved on, and they don't think this is a worthwhile spend -- spending the time.

SANDERS: But -- yes, of course that is not an issue we're kind of focusing on. That was a question I was asked by the media. And I responded.

And the response was that, if Al Franken felt that he acted appropriate -- inappropriately, you have a president who was on television in a widely seen tape boasting about his assault of women.

If Franken could resign, I think it would be appropriate for the president to do the same.


TAPPER: Some senators say that they regret pushing for Al Franken to resign, that he's accused -- that what he's accused of might be awful, but not worth ending his Senate career.

Do you have any regrets?

SANDERS: Look, Al Franken indicated that he was going to resign.

And I think what Franken did touches on an issue of enormous consequence for this country. And what I worried -- what I worry about, Jake, is not just what happens with regard to the famous people. We see that in the papers every day, whether it's in the media, the corporate world or in politics.

Right now, as we speak, in restaurants all over this country, in offices all over this country, there are folks who are not famous who are harassing women, making demands on women that are obscene.

And we need a revolution in the way we treat women at the work force from the bottom on up.

TAPPER: I want to ask you about the Russia investigation.

Take a listen to what your colleague, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, Mark Warner of Virginia, said about the special counsel investigation.


SEN. MARK WARNER (D), 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 shut down the investigation would be a gross abuse of power.

These truly are red lines and simply cannot allow them to be crossed.


TAPPER: After Warner's comments on the floor of the Senate, a White House lawyer said -- quote -- "There's no consideration of the president setting into motion the firing of Mueller."

But we have heard an increasingly loud chorus of President Trump's supporters in Congress and the media attacking Mueller, calling his integrity into question, saying that the president should fire Mueller.

How concerned are you that President Trump might actually take this action?

SANDERS: I'm very concerned.

Look, what Mueller was asked to do -- and, by the way, before this investigation, as you recall, Mueller had widespread support all across the political spectrum for the very fine work he did as FBI director.

What he was asked to do was to deal with a very serious issue. Did the Trump administration collude with the Russians in the campaign? Very important issue. That is what he's trying to do. And to attack his integrity in order to protect the president is unacceptable.

Furthermore, it is equally unacceptable for the president or any of his advisers to be thinking about granting pardons to those people who have pled guilty.

TAPPER: If he did, if he fired Mueller or set into the motion the process to fire Mueller, if he pardoned Flynn or Papadopoulos or Manafort, what steps would you be willing to take as a United States senator?

SANDERS: I think, to say the least, it would be provoking a constitutional crisis.

TAPPER: A constitutional crisis?

SANDERS: I believe so.

TAPPER: I want to ask you how you view the election of your newest colleague, senator-elect Doug Jones.

Do you think that this is part of a blue wave, or is this just a one- off because of the horrific allegations against Roy Moore?

SANDERS: Well, of course Roy Moore was not a strong candidate. That goes without saying.

But if you look at this election, if you look at the election of November 7, what you are seeing all across this people -- all across this country are people catching on to the fact that Donald Trump ran for president saying that he was going to defend the interests of the working class and middle class. And it turned out he lied.

You have a president who told us that he was going to provide health care to everybody. Then he proposed 30 million people being thrown off of health insurance.

His tax plan was going to benefit the middle class. The bulk of the benefits go to the rich and large corporations.

He was going to take on the drug companies. And then he appoints the guy to head the Health and Human Services agency who comes from the drug companies, et cetera, et cetera.

So, I think what you're seeing is a referendum on Donald Trump about a man who said one thing during the campaign, and his actions are very, very different -- different.

He wanted to drain the swamp. Well, it looks like the swamp now has more billionaires in his administration than any president in American history.

So, I think the -- what we're seeing in Alabama, what we are seeing in Virginia, New Jersey and in states all across this country are large voter turnouts, where people are standing up and fighting back, and demanding that we have a government that represents all of us, not just the 1 percent.

If I were the Republicans, I would worry very much about 2018.

TAPPER: Senator Sanders, happy Hanukkah, merry Christmas, happy new year. Best wishes to you in 2018.

SANDERS: Best to you and your family.

TAPPER: Always a pleasure to have you here.

As President Trump took a victory lap on taxes, he also took a swipe at his predecessors.

What do those former presidents think about it? Close confidants to Presidents Obama and Bush are here to tell us next.



TAPPER: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION. I'm Jake Tapper.

President Trump brought his bombastic attacks from the campaign trail to the White House in 2017.

One of his frequent targets? His predecessor, President Obama.

And President Obama has been of late hitting back. He invoked Nazi Germany when talking about the current political environment.

And President George W. Bush, who rarely spoke out during Obama's presidency, has also, on occasion, voiced his concerns about the current climate.

Joining me now, close confidants of those two presidents, Mark McKinnon, former strategist for George W. Bush, and David Axelrod, former Obama senior adviser.

Welcome to both of you.

I want to start with a question for both of you.

This has been a remarkable year, the first year in what has been the start of a very unconventional presidency. You both worked for the two previous presidents, Obama and Bush.

David, let me start with you.


In just the past few weeks, President Obama has been, I think it is fair to say, increasingly vocal in some of his criticisms of President Trump, not just about policy, but also about the tone and tenor. Recently, he even invoked Nazi Germany in reference to the current political climate.

Does President Obama see a danger in the Trump presidency?

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, look, I think that the big concern -- you know, elections happen, and policies change. And that is democracy. But democracy also depends on sustaining our institutions.

One of the things that President Obama most appreciated -- and, certainly, I did -- was how President Bush handled the transition from one presidency to the next and the period after. We weren't particularly kind to President Bush in the campaign, but he kept -- he kept his counsel as to what his views were after he left office.

And what you -- but what you see now is a president who delivers hammer blows again and again to fundamental institutions of our democracy and adds to cynicism about our democratic institutions.

And I think that's what President Obama was speaking to. And President Bush has spoken to it as well.

Policies change, views are different, that's part of the system, but our institutions have to be sustained. And that is something that this president doesn't always appreciate.

TAPPER: And, Mark, your former boss George W. Bush did something unusual for him. He made comments in the wake of the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville that seemed, in some ways, to be a rebuke of President Trump.

Take a listen.


GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Bigotry seems emboldened. Our politics seems more vulnerable to conspiracy theories and outright fabrication.

We have seen nationalism distorted into nativism, and forgotten the dynamism that immigration has always brought to America.


TAPPER: Now, since he left office, President Bush has really tried to stay out of politics.

What is he thinking when he says something like that?

MARK MCKINNON, FORMER MEDIA ADVISER TO PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Well, you're right, Jake. He's been staying off the radar screen, to his credit, I think. But I think this is testifying to how strongly he felt about that moment.

You know, it's interesting. When you look at the speeches of George W. Bush in 1999 and Barack Obama in 2007, if you mixed them up and handed them to somebody, you couldn't tell which was which, because they both campaigned very strongly on the notion of changing the tone in Washington, and had a real respect for the institution of the White House.

So, I mean, that's one thing that we have seen with Donald Trump, is that -- that I think that both Barack Obama and George W. Bush worry about the institution of the White House itself and what is happening to it right now.

And, in a lot of ways, when it comes to tone and tenor of the White House, we have really kind of clawed our way to the bottom.

TAPPER: Let me ask you.

The president, Trump, had an ambitious legislative agenda coming into office. So far, he's been able to deliver on only one major legislative victory, this tax bill. And there have been a string of high-profile failures along the way.

The Republicans control Congress. They control the White House. Why do you think this president has had difficulties that President Obama didn't have with a Democratic Congress and President Bush didn't have with a Republican Congress?

MCKINNON: Well, I was surprised that he didn't do what both Barack Obama and George W. Bush and most presidents do, which is find an issue where you can reach across the aisle, at least when you start your presidency. And that's why I thought that he might start with something like infrastructure.

Instead, he went right to the base, right to strip out Obamacare and really just poked a sharp stick in the eye of the Democrats. So, the problem after that is that, once that happened, the Democrats said: Well, why should we want to work with you, if that's the way you want to start this presidency?

But I don't think we can underestimate -- the tax bill is a big deal. It's a big win for the Republicans and for Donald Trump. And, you know, they got it done before the end of the year, and maybe rushed it through too quickly. Maybe we will see that in the long run.

But, right now, at the end of the year, Republicans can say, we have relative peace, we have relative prosperity, and that -- and, for us, given the way things started out this year, we are happy to end on this note.

TAPPER: David, President Trump has made it his mission to unravel President Obama's legacy, including so many things you worked on, including Obamacare.

He succeeded in repealing the individual mandate, removing the United States from the Paris climate accords, working to decertify the Iran deal.

How does that look from the perspective of President Obama and people like you who worked closely with President Obama to get this agenda passed?

AXELROD: You know, Jake, I'm always reluctant to speak of it in terms of the Obama legacy, because it makes it personal to him. And these issues shouldn't be personal to him. They should be considered in the context of their impact on the country and their impact on people.

So, when you talk about striking the mandate in this bill, which the president touted as one of its great features, although he said he didn't want to talk about it until after it passed because he knew it wouldn't be popular, it wouldn't be popular because 13 million people will lose their health care estimated as a result of that. That's concerning. Talking about undermining the Iraq agreement is concerning, not because it was an Obama legacy, but because it could be very destabilizing and lead us into a greater period of conflict.

And -- so all of these policies have implications that are serious, but I just want to say, I am not one who says that the president hasn't been impactful because he hasn't been able to pass major legislation until this tax bill. This tax bill is incredibly impactful and we'll see if it is impactful in a positive way. I have my views on that, but certainly the steps he's taken to withdraw America from, as you mentioned, Paris, environmental standards that have been -- that have been rescinded regulations, consumer regulations rescinded, financial oversight regulations undermined. You know, these are big, big things the appointments to the courts. These may please some in his base, but they have long- term implications.

Those are the things should be concerning to people, not anyone's legacy.

TAPPER: A recent CNN poll found that President Trump's approval rating was at 35 percent. I want you both to take a look at the list of presidential approval ratings through December in the first year of office.

You'll notice that President Trump is at the very bottom. Bush 2001 he was at 86 percent. Of course, that was after the 9/11 attacks. Obama 2009 was at 54 percent.

Mark, what do you think is the real reason why President Trump is so low on that list?

MCKINNON: Well, it just has been a chaotic year. And -- and Donald Trump has governed largely to his base. So he has governed directly -- the base is about 35 percent. So everything that he has done in the first year is unlike most president presidents who -- when they -- when they get into office seek to broaden their -- broaden their mandate by reaching out across the aisle, reaching out to independents, reaching out to Democrats.

And Donald Trump has just decided for a variety of reason, strategically and otherwise, that he's going to -- he's going to govern directly at his base, attack the media, attack Democrats, attack Republicans sometimes in order to achieve what he has so far, which is a, you know, a tax bill with a 100 percent Republican votes and zero Democratic votes.

So listen, the media has attacked him mercilessly. And some would say he deserved it. But, you know, the media like to gang up and they'll (ph) jump (ph), that hasn't helped of course, and so he has set the bar at a new low.

TAPPER: David, what do you think?

AXELROD: Well, look, I think -- I agree with everything that Mark said.

I think a lot of it has to do with the style of the president and this constant sense of besiegement and -- you know, the thing you hear, even among his supporters, is, gee, I wish he would get off Twitter. And, you know, there is this impulsive quality to his behavior that makes people uncomfortable in a president of the United States.

You know, the words of a president mean something. And he seems to fire them off without a whole lot of thought. And oftentimes creates controversies that are needless.

So he, in addition to all of the catering to his base, I think he's also making people even within his base uncomfortable because of his style, which doesn't have -- doesn't fit the grave responsibilities of the office that he holds.

TAPPER: David, happy Hanukkah. Mark, merry Christmas. To both of you --


TAPPER: -- happy New Year. Best wishes for 2018, really appreciate it.

AXELROD: Thank you, Jake.

TAPPER: The key to President Trump's heart praise, praise and more praise. The simple formula to get on Trump's good side and everyone from Republican leaders to Vice President Pence and Vladimir Putin they've all figured it out.


REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Something this profound could not have been done without exquisite presidential leadership.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER: It's been a year of extraordinary accomplishment for the Trump administration.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: All friends, I mean, look at these people, it's like we're warriors together.





MCCONNELL: Thank you, Mr. President, for all your doing.

RYAN: Exquisite leadership. Mr. President, thank you for getting us over the finish line.

REP. DIANE BLACK (R), TENNESSEE: Thank you, President Trump, for allowing us to have you as our president.

SEN. ORRIN HATCH (R), UTAH: Mr. President, I have to say that you're living up to everything I thought you would.

REP. KEVIN BRADY (R), TEXAS: November 8 when president Trump, you were elected president of the United States, that's when I knew it was real.

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA), HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER: We would not be standing here today if it wasn't for you.


TAPPER: President Trump was proud to include part of drilling in Alaska as part of the tax bill, but he also seems to have found his own renewable energy source, praise from Republicans on Capitol Hill.

My panel is with me here now.

And I have to say this is, Senator Santorum, a way to get to work with the president. He likes praise. This is not new to politicians, but he sure likes these public demonstrations --


TAPPER: -- and it seems to have worked. And you have this big tax bill victory as a result.

SANTORUM: Well, hopefully, I think everyone -- one of the things I learned when I said when I was in United States Senate they always say, what's the most important vote?


And the answer is the next one. And so yes, they won the tax bill but that's not the most important vote. It's the next one.

And they want to -- they want to tee up the president to say, hey, look what happens when you win. Looks what -- you get lots of people saying lots of nice things.

You feel good. Your poll numbers are going to go up, the American public is going to be jazzed.

And so this was more of a pep rally for the president to make him feel like, hey, we want to do this again and maybe working with this is a good idea. So I give him a lot of credit. I know for some it's hard to take, but it was -- I think it was very well designed.

TAPPER: Do you think that there is a lesson for Democrats -- President Trump's going to be president for the next three to seven years as far as we know, do you think that there is a lesson there for Democrats if they want a chip funding, if they want an infrastructure bill, or is that just a bridge too far, this praise?

NINA TURNER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I mean, nobody should be surprised that the president is getting this praised, but what tax bill is showing that money really can buy you love. And that kind of love is coming from the Republican Party to a president who has talked about everybody, from Speaker Ryan to Leader Mitch McConnell like --

TAPPER: Insulted them.

TURNER: Right. Like a dog. I mean, the whole time. But now all of a sudden it's all about love. For me, Democrats, we really got to get out there and connect with the people. And really show that this plan, the GOP tax plan, is really a giveaway for most of the wealthy people in this country at the expense of the working, poor and middle class in this country.

TAPPER: Vice presidents are known for praising presidents.


TAPPER: In attending (ph) (INAUDIBLE). But I have to say, Vice President Pence does take it to a new level twice this week he did it. Take a listen to one of them.


MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I truly do believe Mr. President that this will be remembered as a pivotal moment in the life of our nation. A day when the Congress answered your call and made history. But honestly, I would say to the American people, President Trump has been making history since the first day of this administration.


TAPPER: What do you think?

AMANDA CARPENTER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Technically, everything he does make history in some sense.

But listen, I think, Pence has to constantly prove to the president that he's not a threat to the president. But moreover for all the Republicans who continue to praise Trump, talk is cheap. And lot of Republicans have to take the opportunity to stand by Trump when it is convenient and when it is easy to do because many times they can't.

So I think that is why you see this kind of over pouring sentiment of when it comes to a real accomplishment because they don't get to do it that often.

BEGALA: And what they say behind and do behind the scenes, there's been reporting, for example, that Mike Pence during the campaign was ready to coup Donald Trump and take his place on the ticket.

TAPPER: After the "Access Hollywood" tape and people thought Trump might have to step down. Yes.

BEGALA: Right. There was reporting that Kevin McCarthy, who we saw there, one of the top Republicans of the House, once joked that President Trump was on the Russian payroll. Bob Corker, the senator from Tennessee, did not joke when he said he questioned President Trump's stability and confidence. The secretary of state reportedly called him a moron.

The national security adviser, General McMaster, called him idiot, according to reports. This is what they say behind his back.

TAPPER: Yes. There are some denials of various charges you just said.

BEGALA: I know but (INAUDIBLE) with Rex Tillerson, the secretary of state --


TAPPER: -- deny it. That's right.

BEGALA: -- who refuse to deny it because he's not a liar.

TAPPER: So listen to what the former director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, has to say about Vladimir Putin praising the president.


JAMES CLAPPER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: I think this past weekend is illustrative of what a great case officer Vladimir Putin is. He knows how to handle an asset, and that's what he's doing with the president.


TAPPER: General Clapper clarified, he met that figuratively, not literally, but he means that in the sense that foreign leaders -- and I think there is some validity to this, and not necessarily the most nefarious way necessarily, but the Japanese, for example, have figured out how to deal with President Trump.

You complement him. You flatter him. You work with him behind the scenes.

You don't take a stand against him publicly. There's something to this.

SANTORUM: Yes. Look, Donald Trump is not a complex man. I mean, I think that is fairly certain.

But that really goes to your question to Nina. How the Democrats blown this? Because they have gone out and driven Donald Trump into the arms of Republicans and conservatives.

I mean, I'm sitting here a year into this term stunned at all of the conservative things Donald Trump has been able to do. And it's because he's getting no quarter from the Democrats.

The Democrats are just going after him hammer and tongue. And he has no choice but to go and drive the conservative agenda. And all the -- I mean, speaking -- all the regulatory things he has done, I mean, this is an impressive line of things.

The Democrats are screaming about the one chance and they did. They had this -- I forget where Schumer and Pelosi did the short-term --

TAPPER: Over government funding, yes.

SANTORUM: And Trump was talking right after that because they said nice things about him.


Oh, we should work together more. And they basically slammed the door on him. And he has now gone back into the arms of Republicans.

So to answer Nina, you can complain about this tax bill, you complain about everything, but you have blown this. You have blown the opportunity to work with this president.

BEGALA: I just think that's -- I'm sorry. That's just a-historical. It's a counterfactual.

It is false, Rick. The Democrats would gladly work with him --


BEGALA: -- Donald Trump is a conservative ideologue.


BEGALA: He's an autocrat who is trying to enrich himself in office and he's succeeding. The Republicans seem to want to help him with that, passing a tax bill that lines Trump's pockets. Democrats unwilling to do that.

But the Democrats have done very well politically in the year of Trump. They won a landslide in Virginia. They swept -- maybe even the majority of the House of Delegates. So a huge landslide in New Jersey, much more a blue state, and they won a Senate race in Alabama.

Now, I know there was (ph) allegations of child molestation, probably not the best --

SANTORUM: Minor (ph) issue there, yes.


BEGALA: But if you just explain it like that, it's like when Scott Brown won the Senate seat in Massachusetts. All the Democrats owe it to one office, no big deal. But then we rolled into the worse (ph) landslide we've ever had in the midterm.

This is what's going to happen in 2018.

TURNER: That's what I thought.


BEGALA: A landslide, a new wave.

SANTORUM: A substance that --


TAPPER: Do you think that a Democratic wave is coming? TURNER: One would hope. I mean, I saw a survey that said there are about 391 people in the queue to run for Congress in 2018 as Democrats. Now Democrats can't win with those odds, then something is definitely wrong.

There is a wave coming, but this is really going to be about who can excite their base. I mean, things are happening now what's reality today might not necessarily be reality tomorrow, but the Democrats are going to have to get out there and make the strongest case possible using this tax plan as one of those things.

The chip program, I mean, for God sake, how do you -- 9 million children land, you know, right there at the mercy of Republicans and you don't say that we commit to coming together for 9 million children in this country?

CARPENTER: Yes, but I think one point on upcoming races, I think Donald Trump drama does cover up a lot of the internal strife going on within the Democratic Party right now.

Yes, they have an 18-generic ballot polling advantage, but man, are they really going to bet their races on running against Republicans on tax cuts? Are they going to depend on having a Roy Moore in every race? And if you look at the disruption that's going on the Democratic side, it gets undercover in the news, but if they're going to resort to Antifa (ph) like tactics but you continue to go on, they continue to get arrested --

TURNER: No. Democrats --

CARPENTER: -- every day in the U.S. capitol, they continue to break buildings -- it is happening. It's under --


TURNER: You are sweeping all Democrats with a broad brush like that -- no. There is not one Democrat that I know of that supports any type of physical violence whatsoever. Not at all.

CARPENTER: I see -- I saw --


CARPENTER: -- down this weekend I have seen people take over a Mike by Bernie Sanders. There's going to be more attention focusing back to that.


TAPPER: I want to ask one final question of you two, which is in the recent CNN poll, 66 percent of Americans say that they see the tax bill is doing more to benefit the wealthy than the middle class.

This is a risk. Do you think ultimately it's going to pay off for Republicans? SANTORUM: Yes. Look -- I mean, I think I just saw something, a report that 89 percent of people in New Hampshire were getting a tax cut. I mean, you're going to start to see the truth come out about this bill. There has been a lot of, frankly, inaccurate reporting going on about what this does.

You saw AT&T, Wells Fargo, a whole bunch of companies now coming forward to say, hey, by the way, we are raising our wages, we are giving bonuses. This is going to -- this will trickle through. And that will be the reality instead of the rhetoric that was leading (INAUDIBLE).

TURNER: But you also saw other corporations are giving benefits to their tax holders at the expense of the workers. And I got to --

TAPPER: (INAUDIBLE) shareholders.

TURNER: Shareholders, excuse me. But I got to say there's not one Democrat that I know of that believes in violence at any of these events.

CARPENTER: Sure. But it does keep happening. It does keep happening.

TURNER: No. There is a disruption --


SANTORUM: -- Charlottesville (ph) (INAUDIBLE) Democrat.


TURNER: Right. That's right. But there is a disruption environment going on, Jake, in this country, to really push the political elite to do something for the people. And that does not mean violence.

TAPPER: All right. Thanks one and all. Merry Christmas to everybody here.

While President Trump enjoys the holidays at his resort in Florida, the kids can enjoy his robotic replica at the Disney World's Hall of Presidents.

What if robot Trump got loose in the park and something went horribly wrong? That's the subject of this week's "State of the Cartoonion."



TAPPER: Welcome back.

After the election and the inauguration there's probably no greater honor for a president than being immortalized at the happiest place on earth. Just this week President Trump got his own spot in the magic kingdom and that's the subject of this week's "State of the Cartoonion."


TAPPER (voice-over): It's a big moment in the life of every president, getting turned into a robot at Disney's Hall of Presidents.

TRUMP: I'm honored to stand here today amongst so many patriots.

TAPPER: But with all those former presidents up there with him a simple malfunction of the Trump robot could send him off script.

TRUMP: George Washington was a slave owner. Was George Washington a slave owner?

TAPPER: Bringing up unfortunate facts about previous presidents.

TRUMP: If you look at Bill Clinton -- far worse, mine are words and his was action. His was what he's done to women.

TAPPER: Bringing up falsehoods about previous presidents.

TRUMP: I always criticize President Obama.

I heard this issue for a long time about his birth certificate or the lack thereof and about where he may have been born or whatever.

TAPPER: And what happens if the short circuiting robot Trump gets out of the Hall of Presidents and starts wandering around Disney World walking into the "It's A Small World" exhibit.

TRUMP: Really beautiful children. How are you?

Our border is no longer open to illegal immigration. And that if they try to break in you will be caught and you will be returned to your home.


TAPPER: Hitting up Thunder Mountain, Splash Mountain, Space Mountain.

TRUMP: Are you going to build the wall on the mountain? You have a mountain which is a wall.

But we're going to build a wall.

TAPPER: Giving some bad news to Aladdin.

TRUMP: Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.

TAPPER: Might cause even Mickey Mouse to lose his patience.

MICKEY MOUSE, DISNEY CHARACTER: Donald, he can blow his stack at the drop of hat.

(END VIDEOTAPE) TAPPER: Coming up, what do flying cars and preventing Alzheimer's have in common? Fareed Zakaria will tell you next.

Have a great weekend. Merry Christmas and happy New Year to all of you.