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President Trump, GOP Celebrate Passage of Landmark Tax Bill; Warner: Firing Mueller Would Be "Gross Abuse of Power"; Interview with Congressman Jim Jordan of Ohio. Aired on 8-9p ET

Aired December 20, 2017 - 20:00   ET


[20:00:08] JOHN BERMAN, CNN HOST: President Trump calls his tax overhaul in his own words a historic victory for our people. Keeping them honest, the question is, which people is that, exactly?

John Berman here, in for Anderson.

Clearly, the bill the president will sign next month is a political victory for him and his party. A simple fact that he got it done at all fulfills in a broad sense a campaign promise, namely to make major changes on taxes. He did. So, for him, it's a win and, yes, it is historic, putting him, for better or worse, in a company of tax cutting presidents like George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan.

As for who the other winners are and how that compares with who he promised the winners would be, namely middle class Americans looking for lower rates and a simpler system, the picture looks more nuanced. The uncertain remarks by the president suggests that he's OK with that. As you know, from the campaign and through the year, in fact, right up until the measure passed, everyone from the president on down sold the bill first and foremost as a boom for the middle class.


REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: The focus is on middle class tax relief. The focus is on directing that tax relief to the people in the middle and the people who are trying to get there, and that is why we put our emphasis on that tax relief for those people who are in the middle.


BERMAN: House Speaker Paul Ryan back in November and here's President Trump over the weekend.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is going to be one of the great gifts to the middle income people of this country that they've ever gotten for Christmas.


BERMAN: Now, keep them honest, though, the biggest thing we've learned today from the president himself, that for him, the biggest factor -- and those are his words -- wasn't really the middle class after all.


TRUMP: Our plan also lowers the tax on a business from 35 percent all the way down to 21 percent. That's probably the biggest factor in this plan.


BERMAN: Probably the biggest factor in this plan. Would you know that from listening to his campaign promises and all the statements he and his surrogates have said since then?

You can decide that for yourself. Certainly middle income Americans do get a tax break, not just nearly as big a tax break or as permanent as the break that wealthy Americans get or businesses get. The personal cuts expire. The business rates do not. Those are, after all, the biggest factor.

And it's not just rate cuts. In the second presidential debate and throughout the campaign, candidate Trump appealed to middle class voters by promising to end a tax provision that exclusively benefits the very, very rich, such as himself.


TRUMP: One thing I do is get rid of carried interest. One of the greatest provisions for people like me, to be honest with you, I give up a lot when I run because I knockout the tax code.


BERMAN: So, that never happened. He didn't get rid of it. It wasn't in the bill.

What is in the bill, though, are provisions that not only benefit certain businesses but very, very certain businesses, just like the kind that the Trump and Kushner family run. And for the record, he made no secret of the fact that he wanted lower corporate taxes and got them, but it was only today that we learned what a prime motivation it was, the biggest factor, his words.

We also learned this.


TRUMP: 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. Now that it's 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.


BERMAN: He claims this as a victory. The question is, was it achieved, if not under false pretenses, then at least by subterfuge? And, is that OK with you?

CNN's Jim Acosta at the White House tonight. He joins us now.

Jim, it was absolutely unequivocally a banner day for the president. He got what he wanted here. Do we know when the bill will actually arrive on his desk for him to sign?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, there are a couple of factors there, John. One is, we do think the president wants to sign it by the end of the week. I just talked to an official here and the hope is that he'll do it bit end of the week, but it may have to wait until after the New Year.

There are some arcane rules, legislative rules that say if the president signs before the end of the year, that that may trigger some spending cuts that they don't want here at the White House or up on Capitol Hill. So, that's something that they have to sort through.

Some of it depends on, if they can get a government funding bill passed by the end of the week and they still have to work on that as well. So, even though the president and Republicans sounded jubilant today, if you listened to the president at times, it sounded as if he was not talking about repealing Obamacare but just repealing Obama because so many things they had wrapped into this tax bill that they are very, very ecstatic about what happened over here at the White House today, but they still have some things to sort out before they actually put pen to paper, Jim.

BERMAN: You know, Jim, I understand one person not at the White House, not at the celebration ceremony, Senator Susan Collins.

ACOSTA: Right.

BERMAN: Do you have any understanding of why that happened?

ACOSTA: Nothing definitive from her office whether she skipped it because she's upset about what happened up on Capitol Hill. Essentially, she was promised by the Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell he would make every effort to get some Obamacare bills put in place that would shore up that program and that did not happen.

[20:05:13] The so-called stabilization bills that are pending up on Capitol Hill, that did not happen and she made no bones about it, she was not happy with that. Although she did put out a statement with Lamar Alexander saying we understand this is going to be taken up next year and, as a matter of fact, Marc Short, who is legislative director over here at the White House, told CNN earlier that the president would sign some of these Obamacare stabilization rules, which may become very critical, John.

As you know, the president, as part of this tax reform bill, signed a repeal of the Obamacare individual mandate. So that program, Barack Obama's signature legislative achievement, is going to be flailing somewhat in this New Year because of that and it's going to need that kind of assistance. The question is whether or not that's going to happen. You heard this town called a swamp. It was more like a farm this week

with all of the horse trading going on. Keep in mind, Jeff Flake expecting a DACA bill signed in the New Year as part of a deal to get his support for this tax cut bill. And so, you may see the president coming under a lot of pressure from Republicans to honor these promises that the White House and congressional leaders made to these Republicans to get them on board for this tax cut bill.

BERMAN: All right. Jim Acosta at the White House, Jim, thanks so much.

ACOSTA: You got it.

BERMAN: A perspective now from the two Davis, Axelrod and Gergen. Both presidential advisers. David Axelrod also hosts "The Axe Files."

David Gergen, this was really the first significant legislative victory for the president and the Republicans and it's a big one. This is a big tax bill, in some ways, delivering on many of the promises they made.

The significance tonight?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, first of all, it is the most positive moment that President Trump has had since his inauguration. This is a big, big win for him legislatively. It's one of those major league kind of bills that presidents like to pass and their legacy heavily depends on it.

I -- so, I think we have to say appropriately and legitimately, Donald Trump is doing what every president would do, and that is proclaim victory and say it's massive and it's historic. That just goes with the territory.

Having said that, it is extremely odd to have a president with this big of a victory on a bill that is so unpopular. You know, it's like a CNN poll has its 55 percent disapproval to the 30s on approval. So, this is a big win for the president at the very time when his leadership is being questioned.

He has a lot riding -- a huge amount riding on now. Does the economy get better, do we have high growth or do we see us sort of limping along? And you can judge that for yourself about the political implications.

BERMAN: You know, David Axelrod, you wrote earlier about all of this. This is what you wrote: you can certainly argue whether the things that the president of the United States has done have been good or bad or between, I have my thoughts parenthetically right, but you can't argue they haven't been consequential."

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. Look, I mean, the fact is, this is a consequential bill. It's a major rewrite of the tax law. It does greatly reduce corporate taxes. It shifts the tax code a little bit more in favor of wealthy Americans. It is advertised, as David suggested, as something that will spur

growth. We'll see the Fed and most experts suggest only modest growth and modest job gains from this. It's good for shareholders.

But we'll see. All of that will reveal itself in the future. But it is a big policy shift, as these things often are. Certainly on health care it's going to make a big difference. It's added some preferences, taken some preferences out of the tax code.

So, this is big, his sort of rapid deregulation of the environment of consumer protection, of finance, huge. Pulling out of global agreements, very, very big. I mean, he is doing consequential things.

You know, I have doubts as to whether the consequences are going to be positive, but you cannot deny that this is an impactful piece of legislation and he's had impact with some of his other policies.

BERMAN: And some of the impact came today, right? I mean, AT&T announced a $1,000 bonus to 200,000 workers. Comcast did the same. There was a bank that did it as well.

David Gergen, this is the type of thing that Republicans promised, if you give a big corporate tax cut, these corporations will put some of the money back. So, at least today, it does seem some of those corporations are doing so.

AXELROD: Well, that's true. If you see a big stream of these corporations announcing that, that would be good news for the president and, frankly, good for Americans. So, we have to say, let's see how it works out.

I would point out that "The Washington Post" has a piece and you can say, well, they are being surly but they've interviewed the biggest corporations in America, top ten, and they find most corporations are planning to give their shareholders more of a break. Some will reinvest but they're not very many are saying they are going to create new jobs, only a couple.

BERMAN: Surveys say exactly just that. Today there were examples of the other side. But who knows? We'll have to wait going forward.

David Axelrod, the point that David Gergen made of the unpopularity of this bill, 55 percent against it, it's curious, is this bill unpopular because the president's unpopular and will those two things ever separate or will they forever be married?

AXELROD: Certainly if the president were more popular, his proposal would be more popular. I will say this, that when I look back to the passage of the affordable care act, it was not a popular piece of legislation and we told our members when they voted for it, by next November, all of the benefits will reveal themselves to people and it will be much more popular and it won't be the albatross you thought it was.

Well, we lost 63 seats. Now, it is more popular today because the law actually has been enacted but this is not -- this is a big gamble for the president and for the Republicans and it could be a big problem next November.

BERMAN: Ax, let me ask you about Obamacare because the president brought this up today. He said Obamacare has been repealed in this bill, which isn't actually true. The individual mandate, though that could have a major consequence. I'm wondering, as someone who was part of passing Obamacare, you know, what does this mean to you?

AXELROD: Well, look, any time you're told that 13 million -- fewer people will have health coverage, that is a big concern. You know, to me, it's less about the Obama legacy and more about whether people get the coverage that they need.

It was odd that he said that, though, because the fact is, the American people made it very clear that they don't want to repeal the Affordable Care Act. And that was one of the reasons why he had such trouble passing that full-scale repeal as it was. So, he's claiming more than what this bill actually does, but it does damage the Affordable Care Act.

If I were him, I would stay away from the repeal language but he's so desperate to say, see, you said I couldn't do it and I've done it and here it is, and it's a good applause line in very partisan audiences. But it's not very good with the majority of Americans.

BERMAN: David Axelrod, David Gergen, thanks so much, guys.

GERGEN: Thank you.

BERMAN: Just ahead tonight, a member of Congress who thinks the FBI has it in for Donald Trump. We'll talk as well about a whole string of conspiracy theories now making the rounds.

Plus, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee draws a red line and warns the president not to cross it.


[20:16:29] BERMAN: You could practically hear it through the Capitol Dome, the drumbeat of criticism of Russia special counsel Robert Mueller and the FBI. Republican lawmakers questioning the impartiality of these investigators and investigation, some calling for a special counsel to investigate the special counsel.

One lawmaker who joins us momentarily goes further, accusing the FBI of actively trying to, in his words, stop Donald Trump from being president of the United States.

Another lawmaker, Democratic Senator Mark Warner, is also speaking up. He took to the Senate floor late today in defense of the special counsel with a warning to the president.

CNN's Jim Sciutto joins us now with more on that.

Jim, what did Senator Warner have to say today?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: A remarkably stern warning to the president and to those Republicans you mentioned who have been criticizing the special counsel. There's been great concern. I've been hearing it from a number of Democratic members on the Hill, House and Senate, that this is laying the political groundwork for the president to fire the special counsel or perhaps pardon some of the people who have been charged by the special counsel.

So, Senator Mark Warner, the ranking Democratic on the Senate Intelligence Committee, drawing literally a red line in the sand.

Have a listen.


SEN. MARK WARNER (D-VA), VICE CHAIRMAN, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: I believe it is up to every member of this institution, Republican or Democrat, to make a clear and unambiguous statement that 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 and a flagrant violation of executive branch responsibilities and authorities. These truly are red lines and simply cannot allow them to be crossed.


SCIUTTO: Note there that he mentioned both the possibility of firing Robert Mueller and also pardoning some of the people, Michael Flynn and Paul Manafort and others who were charged there. They would consider both of those, Mark Warner and others, an abuse of power by the president.

BERMAN: Jim, do we know anything about why Senator Warner decided to give this speech today?

SCIUTTO: We do, in fact. I mean, he told reporters, including our colleagues up on the Hill, Manu Raju, Jeremy Herb, that it's his concern that they will use the holiday when Congress is out of town with their families to issue pardons. That may sound out there but, I'll tell you, John, I speak to a lot of folks on the Hill and they are genuinely concerned about this.

BERMAN: All right. Jim Sciutto for us in Washington -- Jim, thanks so much.

Just a few moments ago, the White House did put out a response to Senator Warner. The key phrase from Ty Cobb: There's no consideration being given to the termination of the special counsel.

Now, a congressional critic of the first magnitude who level a charge against the FBI we want to ask him about, appearing on a Fox News radio show referring to those text messages between the two FBI agents, Ohio Congressman Jim Jordan said this: You had, I'm convinced now, the FBI actively seeking now with intent, actively trying to stop Donald Trump from being president of the United States.

Congressman Jordan joins us now.

Congressman, thanks for being with us.


BERMAN: If I can, I want to ask you first about something Senator Warner said.


BERMAN: He said there's a coordinated effort to discredit the Mueller investigation. Are you part of a coordinated effort?

JORDAN: I think the senator gave his speech today because of all the facts we've learned in the last several weeks, facts like the DNC and Clinton campaign paid for the dossier.

[20:20:02] BERMAN: Congressman, Congressman --

JORDAN: Facts like Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, the text messages that they exchanged. That's why he gave the speech today. It has nothing to do with the fact that he's worried about the president getting rid of Mueller. It had everything to do with all of these facts that are coming out that go to the heart of this issue and --


BERMAN: I want to talk to you about the facts and issues in a second. I'm asking you right now about this charge that there was a coordinated effort. Have you had conversations or has your office had conversations with the White House about the Mueller investigation?

JORDAN: I have not called -- we just had Mr. Sessions, Mr. Rosenstein, Mr. (INAUDIBLE). I did not talk to the White House about what kind of questions I was going to ask. I'm basing them on the evidence and the facts that have come out, like I just did -- how do you get around the text message --


BERMAN: Have you had conversations with the White House, not about the questions you asked but about the Mueller investigation in general?

JORDAN: Well, I talk to the White House about all kinds of things. We've had talks at the White House about tax policy, about welfare policy, talks about Obamacare. Of course, we've had talks with the White House.

But my questions in those committees was driven by the evidence we've received in the last several weeks like the text message from Peter Strzok where he says we can't afford to take the risk that the American people are going to elect Donald Trump so we need an insurance policy?

BERMAN: OK, Congressman -- JORDAN: That doesn't go to intent --

BERMAN: I want to talk about this for a second. I want to talk about your argument here in a second, but I'm trying to get to the issue of coordination. You just said, of course, you talk to the White House -- of course, we talk to the White House about the Mueller investigation.

But do you talk about talking points? Are there talking points on the Mueller investigation?

JORDAN: Of course not. Of course not.

But here's the coordination. The Clinton campaign and the DNC, now that we know those are one in the same, paid the law firm, who paid Fusion GPS, who paid Christopher Steele, who paid Russians to give him this dossier, to get this dossier, that was we think taken to the FISA court and was the basis for securing warrants to spy on Americans. The coordination between the Clinton campaign and Russians to --


BERMAN: I'll get to the dossier and the FBI, your charges on the FBI in just a second, but I want to finish up --

JORDAN: Those are not charges. Those are facts.

BERMAN: I want to get to issue. I want to stay on the issue for coordination for one second.

JORDAN: I want to talk about the coordination we know. Here's the coordination we know.

BERMAN: Hang on. Hang on.

You've been on Fox News when you say that the FBI was acting to keep Donald Trump from being president of the United States. Before you go on Fox News, do you talk to them? Do you talk to them about these claims that you will make?

JORDAN: No. I talk to my colleagues, I look at the evidence and I talk with our press people who book us on your show and we talk about the coordination that exists between the Clinton campaign and the Russians.

Now, think about this. We know for a fact that the Clinton campaign paid Russians to do what? To influence the election. And yet we've had this month-long investigation by Bob Mueller with no evidence that President Trump worked with Russians in any way --


BERMAN: Hang on. But President Trump's son Donald Trump Jr. had a meeting in Trump Tower where he was promised dirt on Hillary Clinton.

(CROSSTALK) BERMAN: So, that happened. Let me ask you what you're saying now about the FBI, because I want to get to this. You say you believe there was a plot in the FBI to prevent Donald Trump from becoming president. If that's true, if that's true, was this not the worst plot ever, that the FBI director days before the election reopened the investigation into Hillary Clinton's e-mails?

JORDAN: Yes, because you've got to remember the context at that time. Mr. Comey reopened it after he had done the exoneration letter, after he went public with something that never before done, after he made the decision, not Loretta Lynch, after Peter Strzok ran the entire investigation and changed the exoneration from a criminal standard, gross negligence, to noncriminal standard extreme carelessness. After all of that -- everyone, remember the context when Mr. Comey does that, everyone thought Clinton was going to win.

This was like, oh, no big deal, he can do this with the Abedin and Weiner messages back and forth. Those emails, he could do this because he thought that she was going to win.

BERMAN: All right. Listen, Strzok was on the team that changed it, we know that much. We don't know whether he was the actual one who changed it. Again, I say to you, so you're suggesting that part of this plot to keep Donald Trump from becoming president included James Comey?

JORDAN: I'm not suggesting that at all. I'm just saying, I'm just saying he reopened it a few weeks before the election.

BERMAN: Wouldn't that be a lousy way to plot defeating Donald Trump to reopen the investigation into Hillary?

JORDAN: So back in October, before the election, you guys didn't like Jim Comey and now you like him? I don't get the point.

BERMAN: It's not whether I like him or not.

JORDAN: How about focusing on the text messages last week? How do you dismiss the idea that Peter Strzok said we can't afford to let the American people decide who's going to be the next president, we need an insurance policy. How do you dismiss that?


BERMAN: I haven't dismissed anything. The only one who has dismissed --


BERMAN: Excuse me, excuse me. The only one who has dismissed Peter Strzok is Robert Mueller who pushed him off of his investigation because of this.

JORDAN: No, no, no, Robert Mueller -- remember, he first put him on the team, John.

BERMAN: And then when he found out, he got rid of him.

JORDAN: He put the guy who ran the Clinton investigation, who interviewed Mills, Abedin, who interviewed Secretary Clinton, who changed the exoneration letter from a criminal standard to a non- criminal standard, he's the guy who ran the Russia investigation, he put him on the team.

[20:25:02] And then we kicked him off, did he tell anyone? No. When did we find out? Only when Strzok was -- when they were talking about bringing him in front of the Intel Committee, only then did we find out about these text messages and why he was dismissed.

BERMAN: So, are you questioning Robert Mueller, the special counsel's integrity here for the way he handle this?

JORDAN: I have not criticized Mr. Mueller, except I will say this, the one interaction I had with him prior to him being special counsel was when he was FBI director three weeks after the IRS scandal broke he testified in front of the Judiciary Committee and could not answer one question even though it was the biggest story at the time.

So, my experience with Mueller wasn't a real positive one that one time, but I have not criticized him. What I'm criticizing is --

BERMAN: You're criticizing him right now.

Hang on, Congressman, Congressman, all right, you're talking about Peter Strzok. You're talking about an FBI coordinated effort to defeat Donald Trump. I want to read you something that came out in the story this week in "Vanity Fair." Quotes from a former FBI agent. It says: The FBI is anti-Clinton, period, this former FBI agent said. I have a lot of friends that worked the Hillary investigation and they freaking hated Hillary's guts.

So, that's a quote from a former FBI agent. I haven't heard you discuss that.

JORDAN: I mean, that's kind of funny. One quote from "Vanity Fair", anonymous source saying there were a few people who didn't like Clinton --


BERMAN: Rudy Giuliani --

JORDAN: Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, both of them at the FBI, we have text messages that show this huge anti-Trump bias and some that point to intent to actually try to make sure Donald Trump wasn't the president, and you're quoting some anonymous source from "Vanity Fair"? I mean, I don't think that compares to the text messages we have from Peter Strzok and Lisa Page.

BERMAN: All I'm saying is your concern about FBI bias seems partisan.

(CROSSTALK) JORDAN: No, no, no. The vast majority of the FBI are great people doing the Lord's work out there. I'm talking about the guys at the top. I'm talking about Andrew McCabe, I'm talking about Peter Strzok, I'm talking about Lisa Page, I'm talking about the guy over at the Justice Department, top official at the Justice Department, Bruce Orr, who was meeting with the author of the dossier Christopher Steele who met with Glenn Simpson's Fusion GPS, the people who paid for the dossier, both and before.

I'm talking about those individuals. That's where the concern is, not those folks who are doing the great job.

BERMAN: I hear you talking about those individuals and only those individuals.


BERMAN: All I'm asking is in the investigation -

JORDAN: They're the ones who ran the investigation, they are the key people -- oh, my goodness.

BERMAN: So if it came out that there were FBI agents in the New York field office, and there's been a lot of stories about agents in the New York field office who didn't particularly like Hillary Clinton. If it came out that they were sharing anti-Clinton messages, would that concern you as much?

JORDAN: Of course it would. Of course it would.

But it's not the anti-Trump messages that bother me about Peter Strzok. Most of Mueller's team is anti-Trump. We know that.

What concerns me is the intent to carry out a plan to disrupt the election because as Mr. Strzok said, we can't afford to leave this in we the people's hands. That is a problem. And if it happened and all the evidence seems to be pointing at that direction --

BERMAN: Congressman --

JORDAN: -- this is as bad as it gets, John. This is scary stuff.


BERMAN: We don't know that Robert Mueller's team is anti-Trump, first of all.

JORDAN: Oh, come on.

BERMAN: Christopher Wray, you know, the head of the FBI, donated to Republicans. Is he anti-Democrat?

JORDAN: We're not talking about Christopher Wray. We're talking about the folks on the Mueller team.

BERMAN: We're talking about bias, congressman. You said -- JORDAN: I am not saying bias --

BERMAN: You just said to me, Mueller's team is anti-Trump.

JORDAN: John, I said this. You got to keep -- I said, look, if all we were focused on was anti-Trump, there wouldn't be anyone left on the Mueller team. That's not my focus. I said this in committee to Christopher Wray.


BERMAN: Congressman --

JORDAN: The focus is what Peter Strzok did and what he wrote. That's the concern.

BERMAN: Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, was appointed by President Trump, was, you know, appointed by Republican George W. Bush at one point. You know, he has oversight over the Mueller investigation right now. Is he anti-Trump?

JORDAN: I wish what Rod Rosenstein would do is answer our questions.

BERMAN: Is he anti-Trump?

JORDAN: I don't know. All I know is, I wish he'd answer our questions, which he wouldn't do. I wish Mr. Sessions would answer our questions. I wish Mr. Wray could answer our questions.

I wish we could get the documents that we requested at the Judiciary Committee that we're entitled to so the American people can get the answers, so you can get the answers even, John. That's what I want.

We're not getting that. We're going to keep pushing. Andrew McCabe is scheduled to be deposed in front of the Judiciary Committee tomorrow. So, we're going to be doing that tomorrow.

We're going to keep digging to get the answers. But all know is what's come out thus far looks pretty bad. The DNC paid for the dossier --

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

JORDAN: We'll find out. We'll find out.

All I know is the text message from Peter Strzok to Lisa Page sure points to that being what looks like took place. And that's what we're going to investigate.

BERMAN: You think James Comey was part of an effort, that went all the way to the top of the FBI to keep Donald Trump to being president?

Why then --

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

JORDAN: Yes. We'll have to find out. But why did James Comey take over the investigation, why did he go public, why did he change the exoneration letter, why did let --


BERMAN: That's all his --

JORDAN: -- sit in on Hillary Clinton's interview? All of those things that took place in that investigation. We're trying to get to the bottom of those.

BERMAN: But you said the FBI was trying to defeat Donald Trump. All I'm saying is, if you're going to make a statement that bold, wouldn't it just be logical for him to tell the American people he was investigating him before the election?

JORDAN: You'll have to ask Mr. Comey. We're going to try to find that out. What I know is the text messages that came out last week sure point in that direction. And that's what I said.

Well, and I think commonsense says when you look at the history of Peter Strzok, when you look at what he said in those text messages, if that doesn't show intent --

BERMAN: You said the FBI was part of an effort to stop Trump from becoming president of the United States.

JORDAN: John, he said -- well, look at the full text message. He said, today in Andy's office -- Andrew McCabe's office, so, Andrew McCabe, Deputy Director of the FBI, Lisa Page, Peter Strzok in his office talking about how they don't want Donald Trump to be president, we can't afford to take that risk, we need an insurance policy. Commonsense --

BERMAN: Mike Conaway is running the Russia investigation, you know, over at House Intel., the Republicans say he has no problem with Andrew McCabe now after talking to him, you know, for a full day.

JORDAN: But, you know what, we're going to talk to him tomorrow, John. We'll find out.

BERMAN: Congressman Jim Jordan thank you so much for being with us. Have a happy holiday, sir.

JORDAN: You bet, you too, merry Christmas.

BERMAN: All right, joining us now, former FBI and CIA Senior Official Phil Mudd, Brian Stelter, host of CNN's "Reliable Sources," former FBI Special Agent Asha Rangappa, and Matt Lewis, senior columnist for "The Daily Beast."

Matt Lewis -- no actually, Phil Mudd. Matt I just want to say hi to you, Merry Christmas, Matt.


BERMAN: Phil, I'm going to ask you the first question. What do you make of what we deserve from Congressman Jordan there?

PHILIP MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: You mean after about for Tylenol? This is why people don't trust either Democrats or Republicans. They come and yell at us about what is relatively simple. Let me give you some facts. There's 35,000 people in the FBI. Dozens or hundreds of them were involved in an investigation.

Are you surprised that some of them have views about either Hillary Clinton or the President of the United States? I'm not. In a politicized America, everybody has views. They should not have shared them on government computers but of course they have views.

Let's be clear here. A Republican-nominated former FBI Director Robert Mueller runs the investigation. That investigation has been certified by a Republican Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. And the key senator on this, last I checked, is a Republican, Senator Burr. And you want to tell me that this is a biased investigation?

Look, there are people who are going to have views on politics. They should have been removed because they discuss them in a government space. They are going to talk about them at home just as every single American does. That doesn't tell me this investigation is bias.

And the fact that the people looking at this investigation are largely Republicans tells me this is nonsense from the hill and I'll never pay attention to a Democrat or a Republican talking about it.

BERMAN: We pay attention to you, Phil Mudd, and we're going to pay attention to everyone else after the break. Much more, next.


[20:36:44] BERMAN: A moment ago you heard from Ohio Congressman Jim Jordan and his theories about the FBI which join conspiracy theories and cool alligations on Fox News and elsewhere.


JORDAN: The vast majority of the FBI are great people doing the Lord's work out there. I'm talking about the guys at the top. I'm talking about Andrew McCabe, I'm talking about Peter Strukz, I'm talking about Lisa Page, I'm talking about the guy over the Justice Department, top official of the Justice Department Bruce Orr who was meeting with the author of the dossier Christopher Steele who met with Glenn Simpson, Fusion GPS, the people who have paid for the dossier both before and after that. I'm talking about those individuals.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BERMAN: He bread crumbs to follow some of those arguments. You know, Matt Lewis, I want to bring you into this conversation right now. I just don't think there's any question at this point that there are Republicans trying to discredit the Mueller investigation right now.

I asked Jim Jordan. And I tried to get him to say whether or not he coordinated that message with the White House. He said he talks to the White House, he has talked to the White House about the Mueller investigation but not in any coordination. Your thoughts?

LEWIS: Well, I think very clearly, Donald Trump wants and Donald Trump supporters want to discredit institutions that hold them accountable. They want to discredit the "deep state." They wanted this credit, the media. The problem I have is that these institutions are going out of their way to help Donald Trump do that.

And if you look at Robert Mueller, six of the 15 lawyers on his team were Hillary Clinton donors. You have the one tweet coming, you know, from, you know, the guy having an affair who says we can't take that chance that Trump will get elected.

You have the senior department of justice official who was meeting with the Apple Research Team behind the Trump dossier. His wife, he didn't disclose, but his wife actually at one point worked for this Apple firm.

What you have is basically -- I think, I mean, somebody else on Mueller's team. I think at one point was a counsel to the Clinton Foundation. I mean, it is ridiculous that Robert Mueller has done this, I think, to his team. He has helped Donald Trump in the process of attempting to discredit this investigation.

BERMAN: You know, Asha, what do you see here? I mean, do you think that this has somehow tainted the special counsel's investigation? Do you think there was a plot to keep Donald Trump from being elected president?

ASHA RANGAPPA, CNN LEGAL & NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: People need to understand exactly how investigations work. And I'm going to give you three points that your viewers can take into account. So, the first thing is that everything that the FBI does happens in teams. So interviews, investigative techniques always happens in teams of two or more.

And it's precisely so that if anybody's integrity or honesty comes into question, there are always other witnesses who can attest to whatever happened. And I guarantee you that happened both in the Hillary investigation and with whatever is happening now with Mueller's.

The second is, that there are very strict legal standards for opening the case and for closing a case. So-and-so is an idiot is not a basis for opening a case. If it were, the FBI would have too many cases on its hands. You have to have a legal basis to open a case and you have to articulate the facts. The last thing is, that a case could actually not stay open for more than six months legally unless there are facts that support a violation of federal law or a serious threat to National Security.

[20:40:11] Now, the Mueller investigation, he took it over. It started in June 2016. It is now December 2017. You do the math. So these are the facts. Jim Jordan should know this and if he doesn't, then he shouldn't be on the judiciary Committee. But if he really wants to get to the bottom of it, he should read the rules.

BERMAN: You know, and Brian Stelter, again, this is not the only person delivering this type of message. You have other members of Congress doing it and a lot of people on TV right now trying to discredit the Mueller investigation particularly on Fox News. I want to play you a little bit of one of the things that we heard last night.


KEVIN JACKSON, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Well I think they're going to say "Is it -- what was his intent?" Right? Because that's exactly what FBI director -- Former FBI Director Comey said when he was letting Hillary Clinton off the hook. And his intent regardless of whether it was an assassination attempt or whatever, it was definitely something --


JACKSON: -- and I'm just saying, we don't know what it was. We don't -- when you say we've got to make sure that this guy, you know, doesn't get in at all costs, what does that mean? So I'm saying there's a spectrum of what does it mean but one thing that we know for sure is that he was plotting in an election against a candidate and there's FBI fingerprints all over this.


BERMAN: Assassination attempt, Brian Stelter coup d'etat, other words that we've heard on that network.

BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: You know Fox says that that particular moment with Kevin Jackson has been addressed but I think this is a Trifecta, as a triangle. There are Trump allies in the media all over Fox News discrediting the investigation. Then GOP lawmakers like Jim Jordan and then Trump himself and his aides. The interview with Jim Jordan is so striking because he doesn't seem to want to know what really happened before Election Day. He doesn't seem to want to know what Trump campaign aides may or may not have done. He doesn't seem to want to know if President Trump is somehow compromised. It's as if, John, we are all out on the woods and we can see somewhere in front of us is a fire, a burning fire. We can't quite reach the fire but we smell the smoke and see the smoke.

And there are these folks in right-wing media and near the White House who are saying, don't look at that fire. Look over there. Look in the opposite direction and, actually, beyond that, let's lay off the firefighters. Let's not even have the fire get the extinguished.

LEWIS: These are crazy --

STELTER: -- that was so disturbing about this moment.

LEWIS: Yes but these are -- I would just say, I think that's a valid argument. But these are not crazy things to bring up. When Robert Mueller, who is highly respected, has a team that consists of only like 15 people or less and almost half of them have donated to Hillary Clinton --

STELTER: Which means half of them didn't. But more importantly, these people who are doing this investigation, if all you ever talk about is how evil and how tainted this probe is and how to take down the President --


BERMAN: All right, guys --

LEWIS: These institutions are helping, whether it's the FBI or the media, I would argue, are helping Donald Trump discredit these institutions. And that's very bad for America.

BERMAN: Obviously this discussion isn't going to stop tonight. Thanks, everyone. I do wish we had more time. But coming up, the latest on the deadly train derailment in Washington State and the amazing story of three heroes, soldiers, who happened to be driving by and risked their lives to help these strangers who were trapped in this unimaginable scene.


[20:46:47] BERMAN: Amtrak is apologizing for the high-speed train derailment in Washington State that killed three people and hurt 100. The co-CEO called it "unacceptable" saying quote we are terribly sorry to the people that are involved. At least 24 people are still hospitalized. Tonight I want to bring you the story of three other people. Soldiers who just happen to be driving by and risked their lives to help strangers. First, Kyung Lah joins us with the latest on the investigation. Kyung?

KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well John, you can see that Interstate 5 is now open. That is because all parts of this train that derailed have now been moved off the freeway. They are going to be looked at. The black boxes are now at the NTSB Lab. They are being analyzed.

Investigators that we are told at the very last news conference that they have not yet been able to interview the staff of the train. They hope to learn much more there. We're also getting word tonight that the governor of the state says that Amtrak has committed to pay for everything, medical costs, the damage to the freeway, everything that is, as far as response, all of that is going to be covered by Amtrak.

And you mentioned, John, that we're also now tonight hearing many more stories about the heroes who risked their lives to save passengers they simply never knew.


ROBERT MCCOY, 2ND LIEUTENANT, 62ND MEDICAL BRIGADE: I hear a loud noise and I look up and I see the train and it's hitting the concrete barrier and it hits the concrete barrier, it gives away and the train just toppled.

CHRISTOPHER SLOAN, LIEUTENANT COLONEL, MADIGAN ARMY MEDICAL CENTER: I told my wife, oh, my goodness, that's a train wreck. That's a mass casualty situation.

LAH (voice-over): Three soldiers driving on the highway all from different directs now in the middle of an unfolding disaster.

MCCOY: There's roughly seven to 10 individuals who have been ejected from the train and these individuals laid right under where the -- one of the rail cars was hanging and so my thought process was, if this rail car falls, it's going to land right on these individuals. My main focal point was this hanging train. I ran to the semi and I just managed to just kind of grab on to whatever I could and shimmied up the semi and I went from the semi to there was an upside down rail car that I kind of used as a bridge.

LAH (on camera): So this tilted car, you're making your way up an unstable tilted rail car?

MCCOY: You know, it was really chaos in there. It looked like a typhoon had hit in there. There was luggage everywhere, there was personal belongings everywhere, individuals were everywhere.

LAH (voice-over): A father and a baby trapped in the bathroom. A woman pinned under the seats. All the while the train car on its side.

LAH (on camera): Did you feel this train could go at any minute?

MAJOR MICHAEL LIVINGSTON, MADIGAN ARMY MEDICAL CENTER: I felt -- there was a couple times inside that I felt dizzy and I thought it was going then because I actually thought it was going to go and we're going down. So I gathered myself, we got to get those people off that train.

LAH (voice-over): These soldiers, two who have deployed to Iraq, are medics, trained to treat fellow soldiers wounded on the battlefield. Only this time, the Americans who needed help were right here at home.

MCCOY: The fact that we had individuals in the community was in need, it just feels -- it felt like the right thing to do at the time. You have two options to either lay aside and let what happens happens or take action and try to do something about it.


[20:50:05] LAH: And they decided to do something about it. They definitely took action. And John, we did ask them, does it feel strange to be back here, because it's the first time they had been back since Monday morning. They all said that it is very eerie. This is, they believe, going to have a lasting impact on them. John.

BERMAN: Wonderful people. Awful, but it could have been much, much worse. They helped so many. Kyung Lah, thanks so much.

Coming up, breaking news more follow up from the Russia investigation that could keep one of President Trump's ambassador nominees out of the job. What we're learning about Michael Flynn's former deputy, K.T. McFarland. That's next.


BERMAN: Breaking news tonight. Confirmation maybe series jeopardy for one of President Trump's ambassador nominees, K.T. McFarland who use to be former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn's Deputy, Flynn as, you know, has pleaded guilty to the lying to the FBI about his conversations with the Russian ambassador and is now cooperating in the Russia investigation.

[20:55:08] CNN Senior Congressional Correspondent Manu Raju joins us now with the latest. Manu, what are you learning about K.T. McFarland chances now of getting confirmed?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, senators in both parties are telling me, John that in fact K.T. McFarland is going to be sent back -- our nominees will be sent back to the White House as soon as this week when they wrap up the session here in Congress. Largely because of concerns that she was not straight with the committee when she testified earlier this year about those contacts that she had with Michael Flynn. She was a deputy of Michael Flynn's when she served in the National Security Council.

Now, when Robert Mueller issued and unsealed this plea agreement with Michael Flynn earlier this month, it disclosed that there were some conversations that Michael Flynn had with an unnamed senior transition official. Now, that senior transition official we now know was K.T. McFarland. And what we now know is that, according to that document that she and Michael Flynn discussed conversations that Flynn would have with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak about sanctions that time that then the Obama administration last December was issuing sanctions.

Now, when K.T. McFarland came before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee earlier this year, she was asked directly about conversations that she may have had with Michael Flynn about Sergey Kislyak.

In written correspondence from Cory Booker, the senator from New Jersey, she said she was not aware of any of this correspondence.

Now, after this plea agreement came out, Democrats and some Republicans too said she needs to clarify her testimony before they decided to move forward with her nomination.

And I'm told, John from senators in both parties that she has yet to clarify her testimony. So what does that mean? That means they're going to send her back to the White House, the White House is going to have to make a decision about whether or not to renominate her. And I'm told that her chances of being confirmed are exceedingly grim until she does so. So it sounds like she probably does not going to get this job to become the ambassador with Singapore.

BERMAN: And Manu, she would be the only the nominee that face problems because of alleged Russia ties, correct?

RAJU: Yes, that's right. I mean, earlier this fall, Sam Clovis who was nominated by President Trump to be a senior level -- take a senior level position at the Department of Agriculture had to abruptly withdraw from that position after it was revealed that he have contacts with George Papadopoulos. Of course, we now know that Trump foreign policy adviser on the campaign who had try to set up this meeting between Trump and Putin and was in contact apparently with Sam Clovis.

Now, after it was revealed -- this was revealed during this agreement in which Papadopoulos had pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI. Clovis made the decision, he did not want to answer questions about this under oath before senators and deal with the confirmation proceedings that he believe would become a big destruction. So he abruptly withdraw as well, so two nominees John, potentially being done because of the Russia investigation. Not to mention several other nominees who Trump has had to pull back or had been rejected for other reasons unusual for a President having a party in his own power here in the Senate, John.

BERMAN: All right, Manu Raju up on Capitol Hill. Thanks, Manu.

RAJU: Thanks, John.

BERMAN: Coming up, the big day for President Trump, not only did he score his major legislative victory, he also got to indulge in what seems to be one of his favorite pastimes, collect praise for himself. The latest from the White House, next.