Return to Transcripts main page

ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT

Blame Game Inside White House After Roy Moore Loss; Doug Jones Says He Got "Gracious" Call From Trump; Omarosa To Leave W.H., Trump Tweets "Thank You"; Roy Moore Refuses To Concede Alabama Senate Race. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired December 13, 2017 - 19:00   ET

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


[19:00:01] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in The Situation Room. Erin Burnett "OUTFRONT" starts right now.

JIM SCIUTTO, OUTFRONT HOST: OutFront next, Republicans slamming Republicans for the stunning loss by Roy Moore. From Bannon to McConnell to Trump, who's really to blame? Plus, the Deputy Attorney General tells Congress there is no reason to fire Bob Mueller. Could Trump do it any way?

And drama at the White House, Former "Apprentice" star Omarosa is out and the secret service is now weighing in itself. Let's go OutFront.

Good evening. I'm Jim Sciutto in tonight for Erin Burnett. And OutFront tonight, the blame game. Republicans scrambling in the wake of Roy Moore's devastating defeat for Alabama. Senate state seat are now pointing fingers at each other. A top target, Steve Bannon. Who campaigned relentlessly for Moore and played a key role in convincing Trump to back and accuse child molester for the Senate.

Here's New York Congressman Peter King today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. PETER KING (R), NEW YORK: This guy does not belong on the national stage. It looks like some disheveled drunk that wandered on to the political stage.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: But the Bannon defenders have Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in their sights. Fox News hots Sean Hannity tweeting, "McConnell deserves a lot of the blame for Alabama. Mo Brooks would have won by 20 percent of the vote and McConnell interference hurt badly."

Inside the White House, sources tell CNN the finger pointing is rampant with some Trump advisers blaming the White House political director, Bill Stepien. Source close to the White House says Stepien wasn't the one who advise Trump to endorse Moore, but he failed the talk him out of the toxic endorsement. No leadership, he doesn't have any juice, one source said.

Let's be clear though. The buck stops with the President. It was Trump who went all in for Moore in the last crucial weeks of the campaign. And despite the extremely troubling allegations against Moore of making sexual advances to teenage girls. Here he is just days before the election rallying supporters near the Alabama border.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We cannot afford this country. The future of this country cannot afford to lose a seat in the very, very close United States Senate. We can't afford it, folks. We can't. So get out and vote for Roy Moore. Do it. Do it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: And then in the hours before voters went to the polls, Trump's robocall.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Hi, this is President Donald Trump and I need Alabama to go vote for Roy Moore. We're already making America great again. I'm going to make America safer and stronger and better than ever before. But we need that seat. We need Roy voting for us.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: To be clear, there is no evidence that anyone forced President Trump to hold that rally or record that robocall or tweet multiple messages of support for Roy Moore. And yet despite a shattering loss for his party, one that a Republican official calls a wake up call, the President is still insisting that he was right about Moore.

Tweeting, "The reason I originally endorsed Luther Strange and his numbers went up mightily, is that I said Roy Moore will not be able to win the general election. I was right! Roy worked hard, but the deck was stacked against him."

Jeff Zeleny is OutFront tonight at the White House. Jeff, the blame game, they are getting more vicious tonight.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Jim, there's no question the blame game is in full force. They are finger pointing all around here. A bit of a circular firing squad if you will. But there's no doubt that if you simplify all of it, it really gets down to two people. We talked to many Republicans throughout today here.

The reason that President Trump got behind Roy Moore so, you know, in a full-throated matter really increasing his support over the last several weeks was Steve Bannon. He said Steve Bannon, he saw him go down. They had conversations about this and Steve Bannon thought that Roy Moore could win.

Steve Bannon was interested in picking this fight with Mitch McConnell of course, so in a sense, you know, he had a different objective than the President. But there's no doubt here the question tonight at the White House and on Capitol Hill, will the President listen to Steve Bannon in the future? What will his role be in 2018 and those midterm races?

There are signs, at least early signs tonight that Steve Bannon's wings will be clipped in some respect in terms of recruiting other candidates. Because the President also tweeted today that strong candidates win elections. Roy Moore was not a strong candidate.

But at the end of the day here, there is a sense of lemonade being made here, Jim, because the President reached out to Doug Jones in a phone call this afternoon shortly before that tax speech in the White House. He congratulated him for the victory. There's one reason for that. And he invited him here to the White House.

They need his vote. Now it's a 51-49 split after the holiday, after the New Year.

[19:05:06] And suddenly, Doug Jones, the most conservative Democrat in the Senate or at least representing the most conservative state, he could be a vote for this White House. We'll see if that actually happens. He's invited him here to the White House.

Jim, that's what used to happen. I remember freshman Senator Barack Obama from Illinois being invited here to see President George W. Bush. That hasn't happened lately. We'll see if bipartisanship happens. I wouldn't count on it. Jim?

SCIUTTO: Yes. Maybe not especially since they're trying to squeeze in that tax vote before they seat him. Jeff Zeleny at the White House.

ZELENY: Sure.

SCIUTTO: And OutFront tonight, Gloria Borger, Chief Political Analyst, Mark Preston, Senior Political Analyst and April Ryan, White House Correspondent for American Urban Radio Networks. Gloria, if I could start with you. The President seems to be acting like he had nothing to do with Alabama. A little revisionist history.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. No fingerprints here. You know, one of his early tweets was that Moore had the deck stacked against him, and of course, the President had a lot to do with it as Jeff is pointing out. He completely endorsed Roy Moore. He took the advice of Steve Bannon. And he may actually have helped this race tighten for Roy Moore.

But don't forget, even in the state of Alabama, which he won by a 2 to1 margin, the President's approval, disapproval rating is about a tie under 50 percent or so. And you had a huge turnout in this state for this kind of election, 40 percent turnout. And while there was passion on both sides, the people who turned out are the people Republicans and this President has to be concerned about and that is African-American voters, women, suburban women. SCIUTTO: No question. And there was evidence of that same phenomenon, though, in the bluer state or at least a swing state, Virginia, as well.

BORGER: Yes.

SCIUTTO: Mark, regardless of the case, the President is making now, and you might say it's a confusing case because he gave a lot of different excuses today via twitter and other statements. Does the President own this, whether he likes it or not?

MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, there's no question he owns it. And what's really confounding I think is moving beyond the fact he was with Mitch McConnell when they backed Luther Strange in the Republican primary. Of course, Strange loses to Moore. Moore goes on to lose last night.

Is that when it got to the point of backing Judge Moore? Judge Moore, who had a numerous allegations lodged against him from women who said that he dated them when they were teenagers or that he have sexually assaulted them. Donald Trump chose to break from his Republican establishment, from the Republican congressional leaders and endorse Judge Moore. I think that is very, very hurtful now for Republicans heading into 2018.

I can tell you this, Jim. The only thing that happened that was good for Republicans in the last 24 hours is that Judge Moore lost. Because if you imagine what they -- how they would be able to deal with an election in 2018 having him as somebody that the President endorsed and he won.

SCIUTTO: No question, or being photographed with him in the Senate chambers. April, when you look at Trump's track record with who he's backed in races, just in the last couple of months, let's look at the list. He backed Ed Gillespie in Virginia. That didn't work out so well. Of course, he backed Luther Strange first in the primary in Alabama then Roy Moore lost on both accounts.

Ed Gillespie said the Trump's support was a big factor in his loss. That is a Republican candidate for governor in Virginia saying that the President endorsement actually hurt him. I mean, can you argue that the President is becoming more of a liability than an asset for GOP candidates?

APRIL RYAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. That's, the President is weak. He is a liability. He's weakened by the fact that Ed Gillespie, who was once in the Bush administration once the head of the RNC lost Virginia.

Also, the two candidates that the President backed for Alabama, a sitting president is supposed to have the momentum or in the past, has had the momentum to help at least bring at least a couple of the candidates to the finish line. For this President, he is now taking an assessment of how to move forward. You know, it does not help that Steve Bannon, who was thought to be a king maker, actually brought the President in on Roy Moore and Roy Moore was another loss. So this President has to really rethink how he is pushing forward. His approval rating is down at 32 percent. And now he's got losses for candidates. He really has to go back and reassess and refigure how he can move forward if he's going to continue trying to back candidates.

SCIUTTO: Gloria, I wonder if some of this is somewhat predictable. As April mentioned, 32 percent approval rating, I mean, does the laws of gravity still apply that an unpopular and arguably very divisive President weighs down candidates on his own party?

[19:10:00] BORGER: Sure, he does. But, you know, I mean, if you look in a state like Alabama where his approval rating is just below 50 percent, that's higher than the national level as you just said. So, you would have thought that in Alabama, it might have had more weight. The problem in Alabama also was the candidate. Let's not forget.

Roy Moore was a bad candidate with a bad history and the President supported him any way taking his party down that road with him. I mean, you know, the Republican National Committee went along with it. And you know, I think now, the fight is going to be on in this Republican Party over who's going to control the future. Is it going to be Steve Bannon and Donald Trump, who sided with him? Or is it going to be folks like Mitch McConnell and other Republican leaders who say you've got to nominate people who can get elected.

SCIUTTO: Mark, I have to ask you on that, because it's not like the sides (ph) of backing off here. You had Steve Bannon talking today about the fight is going to continue to be vicious here. I wonder, can a divided, really more than divided, but an internally competitive and internally angry, combative Republican Party, can it win in 2018 and 2020?

PRESTON: Well, it all depends where you think they can win. I think the House of Representatives is very much in danger now of going Republican. You know, Jim, until last night, there was very little talk that Republicans could potentially take back the United States Senate, but there's a little sliver of hope now for Democrats at this point.

Heading into 2020, I can't imagine that President Trump is not going to get a real primary right now. To your point, to Gloria's and to April's point, the party is so divided at this point. 32 percent approval rating nationally with Republicans, he's probably still in the high 70s, but that's still going to tick down. I do think you're going to see a primary against President Trump heading into 2020, but they have to deal with what's in front of them. And that's 2018 and it doesn't look good right now for Republicans.

BORGER: Yes.

SCIUTTO: April, before we go tonight, there was some drama inside the White House last tonight. The White House announcing today that Omarosa, former contestant of course on the "Apprentice", now was an aide to the President leading the administration. You have some new reporting on this. RYAN: Yes, we found out the trigger. The trigger was that General Kelly saw Omarosa last night and wanted to talk to her about her access to the President. She continued to call the President and it was causing a problem and then that was where everything blew up.

Apparently, she said if I don't have full access, meaning walk in privileges in the Oval Office to be able to go in and out of meetings at will or as she wants, there will be all hell will break loose. And he said, OK, all hell is going to break loose. And that's where it all started. And sources say it started at one of the two Christmas parties at the White House last night and it continued on. But there's also new reporting.

The White House did reach out to me. The only thing that they had a complaint about was the fact that one of the sources said that Omarosa's aide, her assistant, was fired. The assistant that they were talking about left allegedly three months ago. The other one is still there.

And then the secret service has come out saying that they were not involved in escorting Omarosa Manigault out of the White House. So who did? And also, they said they did deal with the deactivation, they deactivated her hard pass to get in and out of the White House. So, she's supposed to stay until January 20th. Her hard pass has been deactivated. We'll see if she comes back.

SCIUTTO: That does not sound like a friendly departure at all. Thanks very much April for that new reporting.

RYAN: Not at all.

SCIUTTO: OutFront next, Roy Moore is still not conceding. While the rest of his party, rest of the country, rest of the state moves on. Plus, Robert Mueller's boss says the Special Counsel has done nothing to warrant his dismissal. But will Trump -- could Trump fire him any way?

And Republicans rushing to pass a tax plan before Doug Jones takes his Senate seat. A new tax deal making the rich even richer.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:17:58] SCIUTTO: New tonight, Roy Moore refusing to concede despite his stunning loss in Alabama special election against Doug Jones. Moore not ready to congratulate Jones on his win even though he lost by nearly 21,000 votes, that is 1.5 percentage points. And Jones tonight with this message.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DOUG JONES (D), ALABAMA SENATE-ELECT: Do the right thing, Roy. It's time that we heal. You know, it's time that we get together.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: OutFront, Margaret Hoover, she is former George W. Bush White House staff and veteran of two presidential campaigns and Amy Kremer, she is co-chair for women for Trump and she endorsed Roy Moore. Amy, Roy Moore showing again no sign tonight that he is ready to pack it in. On what basis is he holding out?

AMY KREMER, CO-CHAIR, WOMEN FOR TRUMP: You know, Jim, I honestly have no idea. I haven't talked to him or anyone with the campaign. And earlier today, we called on him to concede the race. We think it's time to put this behind us and move on. I think that everyone else has and the people of Alabama and the rest of the country are ready to do so. So we do think he should concede.

SCIUTTO: Margaret, I want to go to the broader implications of this race. The allegations against Moore certainly hurt Moore when it came to women. Look at some of these numbers here. Women with children made up one in five voters in Alabama and Jones had 66 percent of their vote, to Moore's 32 percent. That's 2 to 1.

And when you look at how black women voted, just overwhelming. 98 percent voted for Jones, just 2 percent voted for Moore. Fact is, beyond this race, if you look at Virginia as well, the numbers and suburban women voters for the Democrat over the Republican there, in your view as a Republican Party led by President Trump, irreparably damaged when it comes to women voters?

MARGARET HOOVER, REPUBLICAN CONSULTANT: You raise a very, very good question that I seriously hope Republican leaders, really the elected leaders of this party in Washington are really taking very seriously tonight. Certainly, there has been an, a cascading effect after the women's march, after the loss of Hillary Clinton, but this seems to be reaching a new level because of the allegations of Harvey Weinstein.

[19:20:08] Because of the sort of tipping point and the awakening and the awareness that people across the country have with respect to sexual harassment, sexual assault and these issues as they've catapulted. Certainly, this election was not a referendum on any of those issues related specifically to women. But it played a significant factor in the confluence of issues that put the first Democrat in 25 years over the top in Alabama.

SCIUTTO: Amy, I wonder what your answer is to that. I mean, this is the reddest of red states. It has to be a danger sign for Republicans writ large, but particularly when it comes to women voters.

KREMER: Well, what I would say to that is it's kind of like Scott Brown in 2009, 2010. This seat is only going to be held up through 20, and then I do think a Republican will come in and take the seat.

Look, there was a lot more. I'm not saying that the allegations didn't play into it. Don't get me wrong. I think that they probably did. But this was a flawed candidate and there was no campaign. I am not aware of any get out and vote effort and we all know with election, it's the science of addition and when you are only looking at your base and not trying to reach anybody else. When you are leaving town Thursday, Friday, and Saturday before Election Day to go to an army navy game, there's a serious problem there.

SCIUTTO: But your endorsed Moore for the Senate. Why didn't you use (INAUDIBLE) reservations during the race?

KREMER: We originally endorsed Mo Brooks. We got behind Mo Brooks early on. But I want to say this.

SCIUTTO: But before Election Day, you put your stamp of approval on Roy Moore.

KREMER: We did. We endorsed him when he was in the run off with Luther Strange. We did. But I want to say this. That the Republicans still control the White House, the Senate, and the House and we still control the majority of governorships across the nation.

So while everything may seem doom and gloom, we have won five special collections in the House. We've lost one Senate race. I mean, it's very 2reminiscent of the --

SCIUTTO: Well, you want (INAUDIBLE) in Virginia and the Virginia House --

KREMER: Jim, let me finish.

SCIUTTO: -- state House went almost flip from a 2 to 1 advantage.

KREMER: This is very reminiscent of when the Tea Party movement started. And I'm not surprised that they have momentum and energy on their side. You know it's to be expected. But the important thing here is that the GOP takes this and learns from it. That's what's important going forward.

SCIUTTO: Margaret, I know you want to pipe in. What's your response?

HOOVER: Well, the question I think Amy and I would probably suggest that there are fundamentally different lessons to learn from this experience. And I think the lesson that needs, the most obvious one that is true to all of us is this is a major repudiation.

This isn't just about women, Jim. This is about women voters. That's a part of it. This is a repudiation of Bannon, of Trump, of this play to the base, divisive. I mean, the way Roy Moore ran, by the way, he was running for decency, for common ground, of getting things done in Washington.

This Republican President was a unified Republican control. As Amy pointed out, hasn't gotten anything done and the tax bill that they're about to get done is fundamentally undermines everything Republicans have stood for, for the last 25 year or 30 years since (INAUDIBLE).

So the issue is this is a repudiation of Bannon, this is a repudiation of this idea that you can take over the Republican Party with white nationalism, with, you know, veiled racism and it should give the leaders of the party Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan, people who have stood for fundamentally different things for as long as I've been a Republican part (ph). That they should find some moral courage and moral decency that they should not check their political expediency or what they think is short-term political expediency, their values. Because they need to offer something to Republicans that we can be proud of moving forward and that was not this.

SCIUTTO: Margaret -- and well quick thought before we go.

KREMER: No, I was just going to say, I completely disagree with you. We controlled the Senate and the House. Because President Trump and the -- he won that election overwhelmingly and the reason he hasn't gotten a lot of his agenda done is not because he hasn't tried, but because of lack of leadership especially in the United States Senate.

And let's remind everybody, Mitch McConnell had his choice, Marco Rubio, Pat Toomey, Ted Cruz, would not be in the United States Senate.

SCIUTTO: We're going to have to leave it there both of you. Thanks very much.

KREMER: Thank you.

SCIUTTO: OutFront next, should Robert Mueller be fired from the Russia probe? His boss says absolutely not.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROD ROSENSTEIN, DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR UNITED STATES: It would be very difficult, Congressman, for anybody to find somebody better qualified for this job.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: And the Republicans reach a deal on tax reform. The details just stunning. Last minute changes making the rich even richer.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:28:32] SCIUTTO: Breaking news, Donald Trump Jr. exiting a marathon session with the Senate Intelligence Committee just moments ago. Trump Jr. ignoring shouted questions about whether he refused to answer questions.

Inside, the President's eldest son back on Capitol Hill one week after he met with the House Intelligence Committee. All this about his controversial Trump Tower meeting during the campaign with a Russian lawyer who was offering damaging information on Hillary Clinton as well as about his contacts with WikiLeaks.

Senator Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the committee, telling CNN that he wants Trump Jr. to come back again. Saying, "I still have more questions. When we're talking about the principles, the members are going to want to hear from him directly."

Also tonight, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein making it clear that he sees no good cause to fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller, this during in a hearing on Capitol Hill. In the face of a concerted Republican effort to discredit Mueller. Laura Jarrett is OutFront tonight.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) LAURA JARRETT, CNN JUSTICE REPORTER (voice-over): Tonight, a top Justice Department official coming to the defense of the special counsel he appointed to lead the Russia investigation amid claims Robert Mueller's team is biased.

ROSENSTEIN: I think it would be very difficult, Congressman, for anybody to find somebody better qualified for this job. Director Mueller has, throughout his lifetime, been a dedicated and respected and heroic public servant. Based upon his reputation, his service, his patriotism and his experience with the department and with the FBI, I believe he was an ideal choice for this task.

JARRETT (voice-over): While President Donald Trump had called the investigation a witch-hunt, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein told House lawmakers today that no one has asked him to fire Mueller.

ROSENSTEIN: I am not going to be discussing my communications with the president, but I can tell you that nobody has communicated to me a desire to remove Robert Mueller.

JARRETT: Rosenstein batted away claims the probe is stacked against the president as Republican lawmakers pointed to donations Mueller's team members made to Democrats over the years.

REP. STEVE CHABOT (R), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: How with the straight face, can you saw this group of Democrat partisans are unbiased and will give President Trump a fair shake?

JARRETT: And to newly disclosed text messages between two top officials at the FBI.

REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: This is unbelievable. I'm here to tell you, I think the public trust in this whole thing is gone.

JARRETT: The messages show FBI lawyer, Lisa Page, and counter intelligence agent Peter Strzok trashing Trump throughout the 2016 presidential campaign. Page texting in March 2016, after a primary debate, this man cannot be president. Strzok saying in another, God, Hillary should win 100 million to zero. Strzok led the FBI's investigation into Hillary Clinton's email server which closed without any criminal charges and was later part of the FBI's investigation into contacts between Russian operatives and Trump campaign associates.

REP. TREY GOWDY (R-SC), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: So, he's openly pulling for the candidate he had a role in clearing and he's openly investigating a candidate that he has bias against.

ROSENSTEIN: When we have evidence of any appropriate conduct, we're going to take action on it. And that's what Mr. Mueller did here, as soon as he learned about this issue, he took action.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

JARRETT: Rosenstein went on to later distinguish between a legitimate political affiliation on the one hand and pure bias on the other, saying that he and Mueller recognize that they haven't fully eased with different political viewpoints and it's their responsibility to make sure that those opinions don't influence their actions -- Jim.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN HOST: Laura Jarrett in Washington.

OUTFRONT now, Congressman Jerry Nadler of New York. He is the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee which, of course, held today's hearing with the deputy attorney general.

Thanks very much, Congressman, for joining us tonight.

REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Thank you. It's a pleasure.

SCIUTTO: You heard those words there in the room. Rosenstein saying there are no grounds for firing Mueller. I wonder if you read that to some degree as a message to the president?

NADLER: Well, I think what Mueller said was completely correct. Republicans, really a conspiracy led by Fox News, the Republicans on the Judiciary Committee, many others in the White House, have been carrying on a concerted campaign to discredit this special prosecutor, to discredit the FBI, the Justice Department and anybody threatening the president or getting in his way.

And I think that today's hearing was part of that and Mueller, very correctly said that nothing they were talking about is any grounds for firing counsel Mueller or -- and that there's no evidence that he or anybody with him has done anything improper whatsoever.

SCIUTTO: You mentioned those comments from your Republican colleagues about Mueller. Here are some of them so our viewers can hear.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHABOT: How with the straight face can you say that this group of Democrat partisans are unbiased and will give President Trump a fair shake?

JORDAN: This is unbelievable. And I'm here to tell you, Mr. Rosenstein, I think the public trust in this whole thing is gone.

REP. MATT GAETZ (R), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: What do you have to see in terms of the actions of people, with demonstrated bias against the president of the United States before you will appoint a special counsel to investigate the clear bias that has infected this investigation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: Republican members there on point. Are you concerned that they're laying the political groundwork for the president to fire Mueller?

NADLER: Oh, I'm very concerned about that. I think they are trying to do exactly that with completely bogus facts and reasoning. The fact that someone is of personal political opinion is irrelevant. The fact that an FBI agent may have contributed to a Democrat or Republican in the past is irrelevant. In fact, Congressman Liu brought up the fact that I think it was Director Wray of the FBI and Mueller himself had given thousands of dollars in contributions to Republicans, and some of their subordinates to Democrats, all of which is irrelevant as long as you have an unbiased investigation.

Personal political opinions, everybody has personal political opinions. Political opinions expressed by Agent Strzok, they were talking about, are opinions that were shared by probably the majority of the American people.

SCIUTTO: Yes, and we should note that Bob Mueller himself, a lifelong Republicans, he's, of course, at the top of the investigation.

Now, you mentioned those anti Trump text messages, which are the basis of this criticism there and it caused Mueller to in effect fire this FBI agent. Rosenstein explained in his testimony, I suppose the point you were trying to make here, that political opinion does not equal bias.

[19:35:02] Here's how he explained it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROSENSTEIN: We recognize we have employees with political opinions, but it's our responsibility to make sure those opinions do not influence their actions. Pardon me. And so, I believe that Director Mueller understands that and he is running that office appropriately.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: And trouble is making that argument in the current environment when it's so polarized, I mean, you heard your colleagues there today. Is that argument going to fly?

NADLER: Well, that argument is going to fly, because it's a true argument. People have opinions. Police officers have opinions. FBI agents have opinions. And if they express it in private e-mails to their girlfriends or their wives or their friends, that's irrelevant.

You have to -- if you want to say that the investigation is biased, you have to show some bias. And what we really see here is a concerted effort to discredit the FBI, to discredit the special investigator, to discredit the press, all in the service of eliminating a threat to the president as he feels the wall is closing in on him.

SCIUTTO: Congressman Nadler, thanks very much for taking the time.

NADLER: Thank you.

SCIUTTO: OUTFRONT next, fast track for the GOP tax plan. Now that there's an apparent deal, President Trump's big rush to make it law.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We want to give you the American people a giant tax cut for Christmas.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: And a CNN exclusive, new allegations against an embattled member of Congress tonight. This time, it's a male ex-staffer making the damning claims. Can Congressman Blake Farenthold continue to hold his job?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:40:36] SCIUTTO: New tonight, Republicans make a deal. GOP lawmakers in the House and Senate reaching a tentative compromise on the party's sweeping tax reform plan, now racing to pass it before Democrat Doug Jones is seated. The plan will lower the corporate tax rate dramatically to 21 percent from 35 percent. It also lowers the top rate for individuals so 37 percent from 39.6 percent. Translation, big break for the wealthy.

Still, President Trump today insisted the plan will give the average American family a massive tax break, fulfilling a major campaign promise.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: We're just days away, I hope, I hope, you know what that means, right? From keeping that promise and delivering a truly amazing victory for American families. We want to give you, the American people, a giant tax cut for Christmas. And when I say giant, I mean giant.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: OUTFRONT now, former senior economic adviser to the Trump campaign, Stephen Moore. He's an informal adviser to the White House now on tax policy. And former labor secretary under President Bill Clinton, Robert Reich; his new movie is on Netflix now.

Secretary, if I could begin with you. President Trump, as you heard there, says this tax deal, giant tax cut, big gift for Christmas. You say?

ROBERT REICH, FORMER LABOR SECRETARY: No. There won't be anything under the tree for the average working family will see nothing in its stocking. Maybe even a little tiny lump of coal, Jim. And by 2025, according to almost every study that has looked at this, that little lump of coal for the average family, the average working family in the middle is going to be much, much larger.

The big beneficiaries are people at the top and also large corporations. And people at the top because they own most of large corporations are going to get a double break.

SCIUTTO: Steve, I want to give you a chance to push back. I just want to put some statistics up on the screen because it's confusing for people to understand this. This is from the joint committee on taxation. By 2019, you have one-third of the country with little or no change in their taxes. 2021. You see it rising there. By 2027, two-thirds of Americans really aren't getting much at all.

So, how do you argue, how do you support the president's argument that this is a big gift to middle class families?

STEPHEN MOORE, FORMER SENIOR ECONOMIC ADVISER, 2016 TRUMP CAMPAIGN: Well, people are really going to feel it right away. In fact, one of the announcements that Donald Trump made in that press conference you just played a clip from was he said that, you know, the IRS is going to change the withholding tables right away so by February of this year, people are going to start to feel the effect of this.

Now, my friend Robert Reich said --

SCIUTTO: But you need a tax cut, for the withholding to make a difference, you need to an actual tax cut, you know, going to be paying less taxes.

MOORE: This is my point. Robert Reich says these are little lumps of coal. No, actually, the average family, if you make, let's say, two earners and make between $60,000 and $100,000, you're going to see about $2,500 to $3,000 off your taxes. Now, maybe that's not a lot for Robert Reich, but for a lot families struggling to pay their bills, that's a lot.

Now --

SCIUTTO: On those numbers because the numbers, people at home, they're hearing numbers coming from both sides. One side says a few thousand dollars, another side says a few hundred. Is it correct that Steven Moore says that a family in that is going to get $2,500 because I've seen estimates that show it's just a few hundred dollars?

REICH: No, look, there are estimates, you're absolutely right, Jim, they're all over the place. But you have to trust at least the congressional budget committee, the joint tax committee, you've got to trust, you know, the tax policy group. They're reputable groups that have looked at this very, very carefully, some of them are right there in Congress, and nobody has found a big tax cut for the average family, the middle class or working class family.

The most they found, maybe a couple of hundred bucks. And Steve Moore, you know, don't go into ad hominem attacks on how much money I am going to save or you're going to save. I mean, the question is, is this good for the country? The way you build an economy is not through trickle down economics. The way you build an economy is through investing in education and health care and also the productivity of average people and an infrastructure. You make people more productive.

Now, instead of trickle down economics, it's rising up economics and that's -- we know this from history.

(CROSSTALK)

[19:45:00] SCIUTTO: One thing for Steven, just to tee it up, at the end of the day, if I'm sitting home and watching this, corporations get a cut from 35 to 21 percent. That's a big cut, right? That's not a few hundreds. We're talking hundreds and hundreds and millions and billions of dollars. For Americans at home, how is that going to benefit them directly?

MOORE: This was always the center piece of the plan, was trying to help American businesses be more competitive, Jim, and how do we -- you know, every American company is competing on a global marketplace. We have the highest statutory tax in the world. So, we're up at 35 percent and the rest of the world is closer to 20 percent. That's just an un-American --

SCIUTTO: Just called it a corporate tax cut rather than a cut for middle class.

MOORE: That's a good question. We want to help businesses.

By the way, Robert Reich, what's wrong with helping American businesses become competitive, whether it's Microsoft or Apple or Federal Express or any of these great companies so they can hire more workers? You need healthy companies to have good jobs. I mean, it's that simple.

And, by the way, one other quick thing.

(CROSSTALK)

MOORE: Bob, let me just say one thing. They're 26.5 million small businesses in this country. And as you know, you're the labor secretary, 60 percent of Americans are hired by small businesses. We provide a big 2tax cut for the small businesses, too, so that they can hire more workers.

SCIUTTO: Stephen Moore, we're running on time. Robert, you get the last word.

REICH: Let me just say, we have now in this country, corporations, most of them big corporations, they are making more money than ever before in history. They don't know what to do with all the money they earn.

MOORE: They're in China and India.

REICH: They are buying their own shares of stock. They are buying other companies. They are inflating executive pay. There is no trickle down. They -- if you give them more tax cuts, they're just going to be more involved in buying back their shares of stock and most of that is going to go to executives.

MOORE: Robert, why is it every other country in the world --

(CROSSTALK)

SCIUTTO: We got --

MOORE: Come on.

SCIUTTO: We're going to have to leave it here.

REICH: The effective tax rate in the United States is just as competitive. Why do you say American companies are not competitive.

SCIUTTO: Mr. Secretary, unfortunately --

REICH: They are enormously competitive.

MOORE: We're going to make them more competitive.

SCIUTTO: We have to leave it there. Thanks to both of you as always.

OUTFRONT next, breaking news. New allegations tonight against Congressman Blake Farenthold. That is tonight. He is accused of abused sexist vulgar behavior by a male ex-staffer. This is a CNN exclusive.

And more on Omarosa, the woman viewers love to hate on Trump's "Apprentice", all of a sudden leaving her White House job. Why?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:51:27] SCIUTTO: Breaking news, a former male aide to Republican Congressman Farenthold, the same congressman involved in a secret $84,000 sexual harassment settlement, is accusing him of making lewd and abusive comments. Michael Rekola, a former communications director, now approaching the House Ethics Committee to share his account.

We should warn you, this story is graphic and has many graphic details.

MJ Lee is OUTFRONT with a CNN exclusive.

So, MJ, what exactly is he alleging?

MJ LEE, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: Well, Jim, we're hearing a new damning account from a former senior Capitol Hill aide who describes an intensely hostile environment inside the office of Texas Congressman Blake Farenthold's office. Thirty-one-year-old Michael Rekola was Farenthold's communications director in 2015, and he tells me that the congressman who was a Republican was verbally abusive, made sexually demeaning comments and jokes and regularly berated his staff.

Now, here's one especially egregious comment that Rekola says the congressman made. In July 2015, Rekola was getting ready to leave town for his wedding and he says that Farenthold, in front of other staffers, used a crude term for performing oral sex, telling him, quote, better have your fiancee do that before she walks down the aisle. It will be the last time. Rekola also says that Farenthold then joked about whether Rekola's now

wife could wear white on her wedding day, a clear reference to whether she had premarital sex.

Now, another Farenthold staffer Elizabeth Peace tells me that she was there and remembers Farenthold making the crude oral sex comments.

In another disturbing detail, Jim, Rekola tells me that Congressman Farenthold regularly referred to aides as a profanity that will shorthand on air as f-tards. Rekola said, quote, every time he didn't like something, he would call me an f-tard or idiot. He would slam his fist down in rage and explode in anger, he was flying off the handle on every little thing. I couldn't find a way to control him.

In this instance, the congressman acknowledged to CNN that he did regularly call his aides f-tards. Farenthold said the offensive word was used, quote, in gist, not in anger, and in hindsight, I admit it wasn't appropriate.

Now, Rekola describes the nine months that he worked at Farenthold's office as the darkest period of his life and because of the intense stress at one point, he says he had chronic stomach pains and was vomiting daily. I should also note that he have interviewed Rekola's wife, his friends and colleagues and have reviewed medical records, photos, correspondents and notes in Rekola's own journal that support this story -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: Now, Farenthold, he is already under an ethics investigation. So, how would these new allegations factor in? Would they also fall under a new investigation?

LEE: Well, that's right, Jim. The House ethics committee is already investigating the congressman and whether he sexually harassed another former aide Lauren Green. Now, what's potentially significant here is that Rekola told CNN exclusively that he reached out to the House Ethics Committee last week and has volunteered to help with their ongoing investigation but because the committee typically does not comment on ongoing investigations, it did not comment for the story.

And if I could just pull all of this and put all of this in context, Rekola's decision to speak out to CNN makes him a rare male staffer to come forward with allegations of misconduct against a member of Congress because most of the people who have come forward to say, me, too, so far have been women even though aides say that Capitol Hill can be a hostile workplace for both women and men.

[19:55:02] And Rekola tells me that he hopes his story can at the very least sheds some light on the fact that anyone can be the topic of sexual harassment or bullying on Capitol Hill. He told me, quote, I want staffers on Capitol Hill to know that they are not alone.

SCIUTTO: MJ Lee, thanks very much for that reporting.

OUTFRONT next, Omarosa is out and the Secret Service is weighing in.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) SCIUTTO: Just in tonight, Omarosa is out. And in an unusual move, the U.S. Secret Service is taking to Twitter to say they did not physically remove her from the White House.

Tom Foreman is OUTFRONT.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): On the president's former TV show, she was the player people loved to hate -- confrontational, controversial and finally canned.

TRUMP: Omarosa, go out and sell paintings or whatever the hell you're doing. You're fired.

FOREMAN: Now, it's happened again. Just months after she married and led her 39-person wedding party on the tour of the White House described as disruptive at best, she's resigning from the administration. At least that's the official story and CNN has found nothing to disapprove it. But various other media outlets say she was flatly fired and escorted off the grounds amid profanities.

OMAROSA MANIGAULT, FORMER WHITE HOUSE AIDE: He has to defend his wife just as strong as he will defend this nation.

FOREMAN: It's a big come down for a woman who fiercely fought all critics of Donald Trump on his way up and as president, too.

MANIGAULT: Joy, I know it's got to be really, really hard after, you know, the last year and a half of all the things that you said about Donald to see him sitting in the Oval Office.

Every critic, every detractor will have to bow down to President Trump. It is the ultimate revenge to become the most powerful man in the universe.

TRUMP: Look at my African-American over here. Look at him.

FOREMAN: Part of Omarosa's role was to answer the bitter accusations that he was too cozy with racists and too distant from minorities.

But her vigorous defense often tilted into shouting, as it did during this convention from black journalists. She never backed down.

MANIGAULT: I now work for this country and I take my job very seriously.

FOREMAN: Maybe so, but others did not. Especially after chief of staff John Kelly took over. That, according to a former administration official who told CNN, people have long been unsure what she did at the White House, what values she brought. Many of her colleagues are elated at news of her departure. 2

(END VIDEOTAPE)

FOREMAN: This business of leaving after a year in office is not really that strange, but sources say she had very little contact with the president even as her season was being canceled -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: Tom Foreman, thank you.

And thank you for joining us. I'm Jim Sciutto.

"AC360" starts right now.