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INSIDE POLITICS

Senator Cohn Faked Bad Connection To Get Off Trump Call; Top Dem Calls On Conyers To Step Down From Judiciary Post; Trump Goes On Another Mar-A-Lago Twitter Rant. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired November 22, 2017 - 12:30   ET

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


[12:30:00] JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: -- wrote something to Fairbanks Daily News-Miner that tells me she's preparing to vote for the Republican tax cut bill. Now, her office says she's still undecided. But on the question they added in the repeal of the Obamacare individual mandate.

She says I've always support the freedom to choose. I believe that the federal government should not force anyone to buy something they do not wish to buy in order to avoid being taxed. I won't read the rest of it. But you can see it up there.

Now, again, her office says this is not a final, yes, on the tax cut bill but that tells me she's certainly leaning that way. Correct?

TOLUSE OLORUNNIPA, BLOOMBERG: I don't think that's correct. And this is probably the least popular portion of the Obamacare law. Democrats didn't love the idea of mandating anyone to buy taxes but you have to eat your spinach if you get the full health care coverage.

You have to sort of force people to have coverage if you're going to be able to keep the cost down. Republicans haven't figured out a way to override the entire law. But they're taking away the most unpopular piece which is probably one of the reasons at Lisa Murkowski is OK vote for this piece of the law even though she voted against the full overhaul. So, getting rid of the spinach is easy but overhauling the entire plan is something that Republicans haven't been able to do yet.

JULIE DAVIS, THE NEW YORK TIMES: But I think what we're seeing more broadly with that statement that Senator Murkowski put out, is she's leaving the door open. She's leaving herself room to come around to this tax bill. Now, as her office says that doesn't mean she's there yet. But it has to be encouraging for the Republican leaders on the Hill who are really, really working in this and vote by vote to know that she's a possibility for the yes column.

And this basically accepting the notion of having the individual mandate repeal in there puts her that -- puts her in play. And then, it gives her a lot more power to negotiate on what she needs to have in the bill in order to get her to all the way to yes.

KING: But especially because this math hopefully is familiar to you at home right now. Fifty-two Republican senators, remember the Obamacare debate in the different issues but still half a dozen, maybe 10 or 11, maybe 12, maybe 14 Republican Senators who have differences about it.

For some it's image of Susan Collins domain. I don't want to take out the individual mandate. Others senators doesn't cut the deficits enough or actually increasingly debts. So, we have to go through this again. But increasingly it seems apparent because of adding the repeal in the Senate. It's very hard to get any Democratic votes.

You see some Republican senators there who have concerns. The White House has tried to get Democrats. I want to take you here. This is Senator Tom Carper, Democrat of Delaware. He's taking you inside a meeting in the White House.

Remember the president was off in Asia during his trip last month but he called into this meeting. Tom Carper is there with a bunch of other Democrats trying to see if there's any possibility they can find common ground on taxes. Here's what Tom Carper says, I want to have conversation with to president's top advisers. I need don't need to listen to the president. Here you go.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. TOM CARPER (D), DELAWARE: Gary, why did you do this? Why don't you just take the phone from, you know, your cell phone back and just say, Mr. President, you're brilliant and we're losing contact. I think we're going to lose you now, so good-bye. And that's what he did and he hung up.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Are you saying Gary Cohn faked a bad connection to get the president off the phone?

CARPER: I wouldn't -- I don't want to throw him under the bus, but yes.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: I think you just did.

BERMAN: You said that's the bus. I think the bust drove past right there.

HARLOW: The bus just passed.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: High drama if it happened that way. Interesting, Gary Cohn who already has tensions with the president now if I want to from the White House Spokesman Raj Shah, Senator Carper's claim is completely false.

Gary Cohn left the room, continued to speak with the president privately for several minutes before they concluded the call. But essentially you have a Democratic senator saying, look, we wanted to have a conversation with the senior staff. The president wasn't helping things. Just get rid of him.

RYAN LIZZA, THE NEW YORKER: And just showing a sort of lack of respect for the president certainly. It doesn't seem like Cohn got Carper's vote. I think that's one of the lesson there. I think he's going to be a, no, on the tax bill if he's saying that story. And this statement, I mean, it's not fully a denial of exactly -- they're saying it didn't happen but it does comport with what Carper said. He got him to leave the room and not to interrupt their meeting anymore.

DAVIS: Well, and it's just also an example of what you hear privately from members of Congress all the time which is and someone who's his own staff which is that they don't think the president is helpful in this deal cutting moments when the rubber is hitting the road and you really need to talk Turkey on specifics of a policy issue.

The president weighing and has not helped in the past. It didn't help on health care bill. He hasn't gotten very far into the weeds on the tax bill. But clearly that's not something that at least some of the centrists or more conservative Democrats want. It may not be something that even people like Gary Cohn who are charged with getting this deal want.

OLORUNNIPA: And the White House is incredibly sensitive to this idea that the White House is an adult daycare center for the president that he needs to be managed that, you know, you have to take the phone away and get him off the phone or, you know, there was a story this week about the national security adviser saying the president lacks the wisdom to understand foreign policy and he has the wisdom of a kindergartner.

So, that's why the statement came out so quickly. The White House is really trying to push back against these stories that the White House has become this adult daycare center where the president needs to be controlled and managed and sort of talked to.

LIZZA: Let's be honest. These stories drive Trump crazy. We know that he pays attention to these stories. And if he reads about a staffer doing something like this, we know from covering this White House that it's not a happy day for Cohn today.

[12:35:04] KING: Keep an eye on the inter web, Twitter thing.

Up next, the much serious subject, Democratic John Conyers, the longest serving member of Congress is facing new pressure over sexual harassment allegations.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Welcome back. There's new pressure today on Congressman John Conyers, the dean of the House of Representative. His hometown newspaper says the Democrat should resign in the wake of word he used taxpayer money to settle a sexual harassment complaint.

And as a second allegation surfaces, a Democratic colleagues and fellow member of the Congressional Black Caucus says Conyers deserves a chance to defend himself but should step aside as the lead Democrat on a Key Committee until an investigation can be conducted.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

[12:40:08] REP. GREGORY MEEKS (D), CONGRESSIONAL BLACK CAUCUS: I really think that probably appropriate thing right now is he should step down as the ranking member of the Judiciary Committee and be subject to this ethics investigation. So it can be determined whether or not there's a practice or pattern. And then appropriate consideration should be made at that time as soon as the Ethics Committee finishes its review.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: That's a very important statement from the Congressman Meeks there in the sense that number one, he's a senior Democrat in the Congress. Number two, a colleague friend of John Conyers who serves with him in the Congressional Black Caucus, a friend of John Conyers, colleague of John Conyers saying, "Do the right thing for your self and your party and step aside."

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: I mean I think theirs is a lot of controversy right now on Capitol Hill and a lot of concern that this is just one of many issues that could drop. And Democrats want to make sure they are on the right side of history here. And that they are calling on their members in the same way they have called on Republican members when they have been in the spotlight on this issue.

And I think, you know, with the Roy Moore accusations they don't want to be perceived as being hypocrites on this. And I think that that's part of the reason why you see Democrats saying we're not going to mess around with these allegations. We're going to have an investigation. And if the findings are that you've done nothing wrong then we can restore you to the committee. But for now I think you need to step aside.

OLORUNNIPA: And there's also the potential that some of these members of Congress have heard more privately than what we know publicly. There is some reporting that some of these issues have been sort of an open secret in some members' offices. And I believe that may be behind some of the calls for, you know, action to take place quickly.

I think a number of these Democrats want to be able to have consistency when they, you know, call for Roy Moore to get out of the race or when they attack President Trump. If they don't call for their own members to do the same or at least have some form of punishment then they can easily be accused of hypocrisy. So I think that's one of the reasons you're seeing more Democrats come out against members of hair own party.

LIZZA: And I think they're struggling to figure out what is the proper response to an allegation. Is it the death penalty? Immediately call for the person's resignation? Do the facts, the underlying facts obviously matter, right? The severity of what the offense is. I mean, you know, Mendez, Senator Mendez was in a corruption trial and no Democrats asked him to step down.

So I think, you know, the Franken Case. I think a lot of Democrats are trying to figure out what is the severity of what the underlying allegations are there. Therefore that's a ethics committee. Some people think that's kind of burying it that maybe the punishment should have been more severe. Maybe more people should have called his resignation. I think they're struggling to figure out what is the proper response and how to apply it fairly in all of these cases.

DAVIS: Well, and I also think we're seeing unfolding in real time that members of Congress are grappling with how to do this publicly, because these allegations have happened in the past. And it's been dealt with in a very secretive process that was shielded from public view. Mostly constituents didn't know about it. Mostly the public didn't know about it. The media wasn't reporting on it. There's an office that had paid out some of the settlements in the past. We now know.

And it's not that it was some state secret. But there was a mechanism and there is a mechanism that exists to deal with these sorts of claims that was very much shielded from public view. And we're in a moment now where the public is learning about these allegations across the board in a range of different industries. And I think that what they're coming to realize is that this can't be a secret anymore. They have to figure out a way to be able to deal with these allegations publicly in a way that's defensible and consistent across party lines. And that really have existed up until now.

KING: It's an interesting. It's a very important point because there's a conduct question and then there's a process question. And the process question, to your point, I think that these people are paid by the American people. They're elected by the American people. The money paid out for these settlements so far come from taxpayer funds. Should that be the case going forward, one of the questions?

But some of these victims also would like privacy. And that's been an issue. In the second complaint, there was a second complaint against Congressman Conyers, a lawsuit was filed. And a staffer said he repeatedly coming to her desk, rubbing her on the shoulders, kissing her forehead, making inappropriate comments, covering and attempting to hold her hand. That case was filed and withdrawn because she could not have the case sealed, one of the case to proceed under seal.

Conyers office says the former staffer voluntarily decided to drop the case. So there's a process question here that has to be handled that well -- as well, one, to give the public transparency about public officials. But two, to respect the privacy of victims who's want to come forward but should have a process that is respectful to them.

FOX: Exactly. And I think that one of the problems we've seen from the congressional process is that a lot of these cases, individuals come forward and then have to go through mediation for 30 days. The person who is alleging this happened to them.

Now, that's a deterrent. A lot of young women are not going to want to come forward knowing that they're going to have to continue working perhaps in their office while undergoing mediation. I don't know if you've been into many of these house offices are tiny. You're going to be working in very tight quarters with someone who you may be alleging, you know, assaulted you or harassed you. That's difficult. That's very tough.

[12:45:13] KING: One question going forward. I should note before I move on. The "Detroit Free Press Editorial" today said the congressman should resign. And the point thing, it was not just the allegation. But they said, "The revelations of his harassment, scandal, and documented use of taxpayer dollars to bury the scandal" the way they put it. Important question the congressman has said he has no plans to proceed. But the editorial has any impact.

One of the conversations even before this if you look back at the Virginia results just from a couple weeks ago and the New Jersey results for that matter was. Is the current conversation but also the election of Donald Trump creating a backlash effect or a political effect? Please call it what you will, where 2018 will end up being a year of the women.

We did see a great impact on Virginia results, dramatic impact of women voters, suburban voters, not just but not limited to that. But the turnout was a huge factor women candidates winning in a lot of delegate races in the state of Virginia. In 2018, for the United States house, 354 female candidates, in 2016, only 181, U.S. Senate candidate's women in 2018 38, 2016 19.

LIZZA: Yes, I think Emily's list, the Democratic organization that supports female candidates, they -- these numbers are rough. But I think they said in a traditional cycle they'll recruit maybe a couple thousand female candidates. In this cycle it's something, you know, off the charts many times that. And that of course is frankly a lot of that recruitments and a lot of these female candidates that jumped into these races happened well before the post Weinstein era that's that we're talking about now.

DAVIS: Right. I mean I think this was in the pipeline. But the big question is going to be, are we going to see success on the part of these women candidates? And are we going to see a swell effect in terms of turnout and intensity among women voters to elect women candidates in response to this. I mean these are not policy issues right now. This is -- these are people's personal lives.

And I think it's an open question whether people translate their feelings about the allegations against Donald Trump, the allegations against Roy Moore and allegation against Al Franken and John Conyers into actual votes for political candidates. It's just -- it's sort of an untested thing that I think will be -- we'll see the effects maybe in a year and a half from now.

KING: Untested, but a fascinating question. Everybody sit tight.

Up next stop for us, would you like some politics with your pumpkin pie? Perhaps some tweets from your president?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:51:59] KING: Welcome back. If you're already settled in for the Thanksgiving holiday, well, first, you're lucky. You're probably dusting off the recipe books, maybe setting the dinner table, getting ready to eat yourself into a turkey coma. Its written right there, I'm reading it. But according to a new Marist Poll, you're bracing yourselves for a bruiser of a fight maybe over the green beans. The Marist Poll showing a whopping 58 percent of Americans dreading the thought of having to talk politics around the Thanksgiving table. And again that one in three Americans actually eager to have a debate, I'm guessing a few of those sitting around the table right here today on -- no, no politics.

As for the president himself, safe to say he prefers his turkey with a heaping side of tweets, spending the holiday at Mar-a-Lago Resort down in Florida, we will see if he ends up getting himself a little carpel. But he is tweeting already when he got -- he tweets anywhere. But when he goes Mar-a-Lago, they tend to start earlier about 5:00 something in the morning, the first one today.

Here's one from today, "Will be having meetings and working the phones from the Winter White House in Florida. Stock market hit new Record High yesterday, 5.5 trillion gains since E." That's election. "Many companies coming back to the U.S., military building get very strong." President upbeat there about the meetings and the phone calls, it was not too long after that am I correct, that he went to the golfing or to the golf course? They don't tell us he's actually golfing.

OLORUNNIPA: He did go to the gold course, there was a White House pool report that went out with the reporters, they were following the president where one of the communications people at the White House said it was going to be a low key day. That went out of the pool report and there was a quick correction because there was sensitivity to the idea that the president was not going to be having a bunch of calls and meetings but instead was kind of sort of be relaxing.

They had to correct that to say, it was going to be a low key day for the reporters that were there but it's not going to be a low key day for the president. Shortly after he went to the golf course, so we're not sure what he's up to. But apparently he's down in the Florida weather enjoying some of the sunshine. And it looks like they're a little bit sensitive to the idea he's having a holiday.

But when you see these tweets, it's clear the president is focused on things like the NFL and his controversy with the family of UCLA players who were imprisoned in China. It's clear that the president is focusing on a lot of things other than the tax bill and tax reform and policy issues. But the White House is a bit sensitive to the idea that he may be focusing on something else other than policy.

KING: And I was saying this during the break, you know, I covered White House for nine plus years. Any president has every right to relax and have recreation. I just wish they would be transparent about the president wants to gulf, go, the president should golf. To your point about LaVar Ball, the president tweeting this morning at 5:00 something a.m., 5:20 something I think.

It wasn't the White House, it wasn't the State Department, it wasn't father LaVar's so-called people on the ground in China that got his son out of long term prison. All caps, it was me. Too bad. LaVar is a poor man's version of Don King but without the hair. Ouch, my ouch, my ouch, not the President. Just think LaVar, you could have spent the next 5 to 10 years during Thanksgiving with your son in China. But no NBA contract to support you. Remember LaVar shoplifting not a little thing. It's a really big thing especially in China, ungrateful fool.

LaVar Ball should be thankful that the President helped get his son and those other players out of prison. Why the president has to be thanked so much and he's so mad he hasn't been thanked is an interesting snapshot of the president I guess.

[12:55:08] LIZZA: I mean, when you read a tweet like that and it just, I mean, I guess previous presidents, they would like leak a story to "The New York Times" about all the things that the president did personally to make this happen. And so in one sense having a President who's fully transparent and has no unventilated thoughts and they just go straight out to Twitter is helpful in understanding who this guy is. But I don't understand why this President needs to be the kind of praise that he constantly craves and why he takes a gratuitous shot at this poor guy and compares him to Don King. It seems beneath the office of the presidency.

DAVIS: It's also, just, you know, it's Thanksgiving week. He did the turkey pardoning yesterday. I think he was making a go of being, you know, kind of presidential and wishing good tidings to the whole country and putting politics aside and it's just -- and to bring up something like this just a --

KING: He is in the --

DAVIS: -- takes away from that a little --

KING: He's in the 31 percent eager to talk politics, Julie. Everybody at the table have a wonderful Thanksgiving, to you at home as well. Thanks for joining us in INSIDE POLITICS. Jim Sciutto takes over after a quick break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[13:00:14] JIM SCIUTTO: Hello. I'm Jim Scuitto in for Wolf Blitzer. It's 1:00 p.m. --