tv The Lead With Jake Tapper CNN December 13, 2017 1:00pm-2:00pm PST
accused of molesting a 14-year-old girl. the president now has three perceived losses to show for his involvement in this alabama race. there is the primary loss where he backed luther strange who lost to roy moore, the election loss last night where he full-throatedly backed moore against the advice of senior republicans and his own aides. the president tried to explain this 0-2 alabama scoreboard in a tweet today writing, quote, the reason i originally endorsed luther strange and his numbers went up mightily, i said roy moore would not be able to win the general election. i was right. moore worked hard but the deck was stacked against him, unquote. but beyond the primary loss and the general election loss the president suffered, there is also a third possible loss worth contemplating. it could haunt the president if voters see his decision to go all-in for roy moore as emblematic of a loss of standards and basic human deepestcy.
the president chose party tribalism when no other senior republican leader was doing so. this is a candidate about whom his own daughter said there is a special place in hell for those who prey on children. by the time democrats are done with this decision by president trump, voters might think that roy moore is donald trump's running mate. now, of course, we're going to see what the fallout is. my panel is here to discuss all of this. let's begin with cnn's jeff zeleny. he's at the white house. jeff, president trump trying to pivot today to tax reform. he wrapped up his speech just minutes ago. you have to ask, though, how does this loss in alabama, a huge win, impact the trump agenda going forward and any other possible implications there might be in terms of staff shake-ups or more? >> reporter: well, jake, the margins were already very narrow with the 52-48 senate republican majority. now that changes to 51-49. that means any piece of new legislation this white house tries to get through, they need to thread the needle very carefully or perhaps start working in a bipartisan way on bills like infrastructure and other matters.
it's hard to imagine that happening at this point, but it's interesting to know if the white house will be reaching out to doug jones. of course, he will be one of the most conservative democrats in the senate, at least for the next three years or so. in the short-term, it probably means any big ticket items are not going to happen on the table. that's why they're moving so quickly on tax reform. but earlier today, the president had this to say about that republican race in alabama. >> a lot of republicans feel differently. they're very happy with the way it turned out. but i would have, as the leader of the party, i would have liked to have had this seat. i want to endorse the people that are running, but i will tell you that to me it's very, very, just very important to get this vote. not because of that. >> reporter: so it was important to get the vote. of course, in this tax bill that they're talking about, the alabama senate seat was never in question, whoever was going to win was likely to be seated after the holidays here. so the president went after the republican here, following the lead of steve bannon.
against the advice of so many republicans here at the white house, indeed on capitol hill and elsewhere. so that is what they're left with here going into the 2018 midterm elections. jake? >> jeff, inside the west wing, is this any sort of wake-up call in terms of who the president takes political advice from? >> reporter: it certainly should be a wake-up call and that was the exact phrasing that a top republican here said it should be a wake-up call, in terms of how the president deals with steve bannon. will the president still follow his lead? indeed the former white house chief strategist steve bannon was urging the president to go all-in on roy moore. he could have stayed on the sidelines like the vice president did. he did not talk about that race at all. it's still an open question if their going to rebuild the political operation here or defer more to establishment republicans. jake, at the very least, steve bannon is wounded by this and the president sees that. it all depends, though, if they keep having those conversations and who has the president's ear more. >> all right. jeff zeleny at the white house for us. thank you so much.
my panel joins me now. kristen, let me start with you. how long do you think the stink of being attached to roy moore, of endorsing roy moore, how long can that last with president trump? is this something that voters who were turned off by moore but they might forget about or be willing to accept the president's explanation eventually? >> there is always a tendency to think that the story that's big in the news today will be the story that's big in the news for the next year, two years, three years. i think there is a chance that the roy moore saga fades as other issues come to the forefront, but i think the lasting impact is voters who call themselves republicans may have called themselves republicans, but who find themselves extremely dismayed with the moral compromise that saying with, yes, roy moore, he represents us. i don't think that will fade. i think especially for younger voters in the party, the idea that their elders and these supposed leaders were willing to make this sort of a compromise
in exchange for one senate seat is just too far, it's not what they want to be about. and i think that's what will have the long-term effect. >> j.d., what do you think? how important is this loss for the president in terms of his association with roy moore going forward? >> well, one of the things i think the loss shows is that republican voters are especially unenthusiastic right now. if you look at the exit polls, about half of the alabama electorate supported the president, about half of the alabama electorate disapproved of the president's job. these are pretty striking numbers in a deep, deep red state. >> alabama, yeah. >> absolutely. so the takeaway isn't necessarily that half of alabamans disapproved of the presidents job, it's those who approve of the president's job are not enthusiastic about it. they're not actually getting out there and voting. i think there is a tendency to overinterpret a single election. there always is when you have these special elections. the biggest takeaway is the republicans seem to be pretty unenthusiastic and that can be
problematic in 2018. >> symone, what do you think? how did roy moore lose this? how did it happen the way it did? >> he was a bad candidate to begin with but doug jones won this race because of the surge of african-american voters that came out. but also multicultural coalition. you had moderate republicans who either wrote in a candidate or maybe even pulled the lever for doug jones. you had a coalition of young people, but this coalition was absolutely led by black women. i definitely think republicans would love for the stench of roy moore to fade away into the blind and roses to come back, but they're not coming back, because when the republican party had a choice, the rnc and the republican president wrapped their arms around an alleged pedophile, someone who holds -- who names himself as a segregationist and that is not going away. we're going to make sure, democrats, that the voters know that in 2018. >> what's interesting about this is that so few republicans in washington other than president trump and the rnc, including members of his own family, took
this course of action. mitch mcconnell, the senate majority leader opposed. paul ryan opposed. corey gardner, head of the republican senate committee opposed. i can go on and on. we only have an hour show. but, i mean, it really is remarkable. this was the insurgent, this was trump and his team, steve bannon and no one else. none of the republican establishment. >> yeah, and richard shelby i'd add to that list really gave a kick to roy moore the sunday before the election. but that's absolutely right. if you look at the folks -- at the leadership of the republican party, they by and large tried to distance themselves from roy moore. even going into the election, they were saying that perhaps the worst outcome of all is that he could win. >> right. >> because then he becomes effectishly a specter that the democratic party tries to hang over republicans for the next few years. so at the end of the day, roy moore definitely has done damage to the republican party. but i think there is a good argument to make it would have been worse if he had won because he would continue to be part of
the national conversation. you can hope at least now he'll go away. >> do you agree? >> i think take a look at what senator corey gardner did. he's head of the nrsc. >> i have to interrupt. we'll come back to you. the senator-elect is speaking, doug jones. let's listen in. >> i know there are a lot of questions and i'll try to do what i can. let's see when we do it we can try to get an orderly process. i really want to get to as much as we can. let me just start out by saying how thrilled that my family and i are for this win last night. it has been a fun campaign. despite what people say and despite all of the things that get thrown at you, it was nothing that we didn't fully expect. most important thing, we've had an opportunity to travel around this state, talking to so many people from so many walks of life, listening to their cares, their concerns, their joys, their happiness, and that's been
so gratifying. it is especially gratifying to know that in this day and age here in the state of alabama that a message of inclusiveness, a message of equality, a message of dignity and respect, and importantly, messages of issues that really are at the end of the day those issues that people care about. the kitchen table issues that we've talked about, that you guys have heard me preach about over and over. it has been an amazing night for us. it has been an amazing day today. i have received calls from so many well-wishers, of friends and family, but also future colleagues in washington on both sides of the aisle. i've received calls from democratic senators, i've received calls from my longtime friend senator shelby, leader mcconnell, leader schumer and calls from the president of the united states, president trump.
all very gracious. congratulating us on the way we have run this race, the way we portrayed ourself in the campaign and all expressing a desire to look forward together to try to work for the betterment of the state of alabama and this country. to do as we have said from the very beginning of this campaign, to try to find the common ground so that we can move forward. so i very much appreciate all of those senators and the president for reaching out to me today. it's very heartwarming and gratifying, and now the process begins of trying to get a transition in. by the way, one of the calls i received last night, i should have said this a moment ago. one of the first calls i received last night was from an old friend senator luther strange. he left a message. i returned that call as i knew he would be very gracious as well. congratulating me, telling me how proud he was of the campaign that we ran and working together
to try to start a transition, for us to move into that office to build our staff and to start working to continuing the work for the people of the state of alabama. so with that, i'm going to try to field a few questions here and try to figure out the best way to do it. i see my old friend there in the blue tie with his little hand raised. so i'll go to you first. yes, sir? >> congratulations. >> thank you. [ inaudible question ] >> i have not. >> do you think that he should concede? >> i'm going to leave that to him. i think that as most people, including the president, believe that the people of alabama spoke, and after elections it's a time for healing, it's a time for reaching out. that's what i intend to do once i can be sworn in. i have told people that i'm going to try to be accessible to do town halls to try to reach out. i know that this was a close vote. and that this state, if you just look at the numbers, one would
consider it to still be divided. i don't believe that that is going to be the case so i'm going to reach out. i'm going to let him make that decision. let's just kind of move this way a little bit. yes, in the back. >> would you say this result is a reflection of -- >> i think this is alabama issues. to some extent and we've talked about this, you know, think alabama issues are the same as around the country in terms of jobs and education, particularly health care. i think the c.h.i.p.s. program that i mentioned last night is an issue that crosses political lines and it crosses from one state to the other, but at the end of the day, this has been an alabama race. this is a race that we have focused on in the state of alabama and we have talked straight to the people of alabama about my record and about the issues that they care about. that's how we've seen it and that's how i will continue to see it because my job is really to represent the folks in the state. [ inaudible question ]
. >> you know, i think that this election shows that people across this country, i mean, i want to see people work together. i think that's a message for democrats and it's a message for republicans and independents. i think when the people of alabama elect a senator who runs on a platform of trying to find common ground and reaching across aisles, i think that's a message that both political parties should take heed. how my colleagues recognize that and fund that c.h.i.p.s. program, take time out from whatever they're doing right now, fund that program. i think it's a message a lot of people can take a lot out of. yes, sir? >> senator-elect, you may have seen the democratic leader schumer, his urging to hold the vote on tax reform after you're seated. do you agree with him on that? >> well, you know, look, i think there is a process that has to take place here within the state of alabama for certification. i think historically if you look
back at what happened when senator brown won in massachusetts, i think senator reed held the affordable care act vote, if i remember correctly, but there is a combination of things. there are a lot of moving pieces that involve the certification of this election, the recesses of the senate and how they're going to go as we're approaching the holidays. so i think we'll let that play out a little bit and see. i think that both senator mcconnell and senator schumer are going to end up doing the right thing. i spoke to both of them today. they want to work with me and my transition team on committee assignments and those kinds of things. so we'll see how to goes and i'll go with it either way. i want to get involved as soon as i can, obviously. yes, sir? >> the state will not automatically change overnight from a very conservative state to a democratic state because of the victory last night. will your decisions in washington reflect the ideology of the state? >> i think they will.
i mean, that's why i ran. i think that's why i won. because think i'm a lot more center of the road political figure, public figure. i think people are looking for somebody that can find that common ground. somebody to listen to them. i think people forget often times that, you know, citizens are not always looking for someone who agrees with them all of the time, they want somebody to just listen to them and talk to them and learn from them, and i think we demonstrated that we would do that during the campaign. i think my history has been that i'm going to do that as a united states senator. and i think that's the most important part of this. so i'm going to be that voice for the people of alabama to try to do what i believe is right for them and we'll just see how that plays out in the politics of things, but i think more importantly, people have been looking for someone that they can talk to, someone that they feel like can best represent them and their interests. if you can't always find that common ground, you can maybe just move on and agree to
disagree but don't be disagreeable and let's find common ground on the next one. yes, sir? >> what did the president say to you in the call that you had? did he address any of the criticisms he had voiced about you? >> it was a very gracious call. i very much appreciated it. he congratulated me on the race that we won. he congratulated me and my staff on the way and manner in which we handled this campaign and went forward, and we talked about finding that common ground to work together and he invited me over to the white house to visit as soon as i get up there. so it was a very nice phone call, very pleasant phone call and i appreciated him very much reaching out to me. let's go on this side. anybody over here? okay. speak up. y'all got to speak up, now. i didn't mean to throw too much cold water on all of you guys. >> what would you say to moderate alabama voters that may have voted for you but don't necessarily agree with you on your positions on the issues?
>> well, i say exactly what i said just a moment ago, you're not going to agree with me. i mean, even some in the democratic party that voted for me and have been very enthusiastic about this campaign are not going to agree with me on every issue. i think the key is trying to find that common ground. i know i'm sounding like that broken record to talk about that, but i just think that it is so important that we try to sit down at a table and talk about issues and talk about the things that matter in a big picture and then we can find and hone down on what it will take to get that agenda accomplished. and so for those folks and even those that may be even more conservative than that, you know, let's just talk. i believed and i've said it over and over that the people of this state have more in common than they have to divide us. i want to try to find those issues more and more that we can find common ground on and let's just agree to disagree on those issues that are so divisive that
it's hard to eaven talk to peope about. yes, ma'am? >> in recent years for the state there was a difficulty fielding candidates. was that a hurdle you had to overcome? how important was national democratic support for your campaign? >> well, i mean obviously there has been some concern locally. we knew that going into this race and we built this campaign from the ground up. our state party provided whatever support they culd. but we knew that we had to reach out to our own, you know, democratic leaders in the counties and the cities and we had to find others, independents, folks that had not been engaged in the political process as much to try to build that. so, you know, i think we built that up. i think it's going to be a lot better going forward for folks. the national democratic party was very helpful to us. they provided the support that we needed. they were always there to give us advice.
we wanted to make sure that this race remained local. we wanted to make sure, and i'm not just -- we didn't just, you know, push them away, we didn't do any of that, but we wanted to make sure we were fortunate enough that we raised enough money that we could keep this race local, but i can't say enough for what they did in terms of the support, the advice, the help. this was not their first rodeo in an election, but they also now that they needed to be careful because we had a message. and they didn't want to interfere. and i think that's the thing that i will complement dnc chair tom perez the most about, is that he knew that we had a message, that it was a message that was consistent with the party but it was also a message that he felt like and we felt like would be consistent with the folks in the state of alabama. that's what it was. so we stayed true to that message through the primary and into the general election and i think that's the one thing i've told my staff and my campaign
officials that i am the most proudest of. we didn't have to alter. we didn't move. we were true to ourselves. and i think that was a very important piece of winning this election. people in alabama do not like to see folks that flip-flop and do things. they want to see somebody who stays true to themselves because that's somebody they know they can talk to, reason with and discuss with. yes, sir? way in the back. you. yes, you. >> so one big factor in your win was the minority vote. which, you know, a lot of people have sort of criticized your campaign's outreach to them. what do you think brought the minority vote out for you? >> well, let me say, first of all, you know, i didn't read all you folks in the national media with that criticism because i knew you were wrong. just flat-out, i knew you were wrong. i knew what we were doing. i knew that we had boots on the ground. this campaign, the volunteers that we had in this campaign was
extraordinary. they were not like any other campaign that the state has ever seen. we knocked on 300,000 doors. we rang 1.2 million phones across this state. we knew what we were doing. we knew the importance of minority votes and we reached out. and i think they responded. but i also believe this, i think we had a lot of support from the leadership in the african-american community. those leaders knew me. we've been -- this is -- i've been around for awhile. i mean, look, i may look young and pretty, but i'm really not. i've been around for a long time. those leaders knew me and they knew my background and they knew they would have a partner in the united states senate. they felt like they haven't had one for awhile, except for congresswoman terry suele who was instrumental in making sure that turned out. i'm grateful to those folks who spent a lot of time and effort trying to get folks out to vote.
everything that's happened in this state, in this country, people across the country are now realizing, you know, look, elections have serious consequences. when you realize that, you tend to turn out the vote. yes, sir? >> could you talk a bit more about the infrastructure in the democratic party here in the state. the future of it. what you're going to do about that. >> i don't know what the future is going to hold. we'll just see. woo we're going to have obviously some discussions. i think some of that will take care of itself in the coming months because we've got statewide elections that will come up next year. they'll be qualifying for that. the one thing i think is going to happen for sure is that this campaign has given a lot of people a reason to believe. they have a reason to hope. they know that, you know, even though things might be a long shot, it's possible and they all know, too, that you can create a lot of momentum, you can create things in a positive way if you run the right campaign. even if that campaign might not
have succeeded and there was a time last night i was convinced we wouldn't. i was prepared to talk about the fact, you know, that this was not the end, it was the beginning, as coach saban once said famously. so i think going forward what i'm hoping you will see in both parties is competitive races. this state is going to be progressed as far as we can because beginning today, beginning with this election, i believe we're on the road to having a competitive two-party state without one-party domination, and i think that that helps every state if you look around this country. that's what i want to see. i want to see that with the democrats. i want to see that with the republicans. it doesn't help anybody to see one -- it doesn't help a state, it doesn't help a country to see one major political party at civil war with itself. so i think this election can send a message to a lot of folks, to reach out and do some things to try to help. so i'm looking forward to that
in 2018 for our general elections on both sides of that aisle. yes, sir? >> did you win it or did roy moore lose it? >> i think it's a combination. you know, look, in every election, in every election there is a segment of the voters who vote for you. and i think from what i saw on some of the exit pollings last night, there was an overwhelming number of people who felt very positive and the number one reason for the vote for me was how they felt about our campaign and the issues we ran on. look, there is also this segment of this population who voted against roy moore. i understand that. i get that. but, you know what, that's not a bad thing. with that kind of politics for a segment of the population in alabama to help reject that kind of history and that divisive rhetoric, think that's a good thing. yes, sir?
>> those women who came forward, what would you have to say to those women? >> i've said before, it's not just those women, there are a lot of women around the country coming forward. i think we've reached that tipping point in this country where women need to stand up and speak out. i think we have to be very careful in all of those in how we approach those issues. i said at the very beginning when the issues involving roy moore surfaced that we need to let the dust settle a little bit and not take sides immediately. but certainly i think that that was -- i commend them for coming forward. i have said before i believe them. i think they have all the credibility in the world. and i think that going forward this country has a debt that we owe to women everywhere who have had to endure the kind of treatment at the hands of male counterparts in their workplace or customers or anyone else. and i think that we are
hopefully getting to a point for my daughter and my two little granddaughters, who stole the show last night at our victory speech, that that is going to change. that is my hope for my children as well as the -- all of the children for the state of alabama. >> do you believe you would have won without them coming forward? >> well, i don't know i would have or not. i think that -- i said from the very beginning i think roy moore was disqualified from this job to begin with because he had been removed from office twice for violating the rule of law. there were serious questions about his moral foundation of law, which seemed to be nothing more than a way to enrich himself and his family. i think the last month of the election would have played out somewhat differently obviously, but i think we would have still won. i don't know if we would have ever had a debate. what i really wanted to do and where the people of alabama lost out in this race is actually having a debate and seeing the
issues, the substantive issues on health care and education and jobs. so we had to get out there and as you guys in the press know, that's what we did. we continued to get out there while he went into hiding. so i think obviously that helped us. i believed all along that we had a path to victory in this race. i believed it this summer. and i certainly believed it as we were going forward because we were getting traction and momentum in this -- in our campaign before those allegations surfaced. all right. i'm going to -- you've had one. let's go -- anybody else over here before i go back here. yes, ma'am? [ inaudible question ] >> well, i think i've already achieved something like that. i think when a -- in a special like this when a candidate wins a close race and what the eyes of the nation were and you have both the leader of your own party as well as the opposition party as well as the president of the united states, who is of a different party, call you to
say we are looking forward to it. we want to try to do that work to find that common ground. i think that that was the main thing. i think -- so this election last night from the people of alabama accomplished what i wanted to do for me, and that was very -- because i think it's very important and people across the country are getting that message. on a substantive basis, i said last night and i hope that the c.h.i.p. funding will get done soon. i'd like to be a part of that if it's not done very soon. i will try to reach out and do something like that immediately. there is a lot of work, i think, to be done in health care and other matters, the budgets. but, you know, we'll take it a day at a time, you know? i mean, six months ago i was a lawyer trying to figure out where my next client was coming from. i've been learning all summer. i've got a lot more to learn, but i am so, so looking forward to getting into the weeds with these issues.
okay. all right. y'all got to -- i mean, don't throw things at me. okay. i'll go back to you. >> i just wanted to get your thoughts on what corey gardner said last night. he said they did the right thing. >> well, i would expect a republican to say that. i expect the democrats to say i hope he does the right thing and vote for democrats, but the people of alabama expect me to do the right thing and vote for the people of alabama. so we're going to see. we're going to take every issue one step at a time. i want to sit down with folks on both sides of the aisle and both sides of an issue. i think that's what's missing here. i want to talk to people on both sides of an issue not just political parties try to learn what i can and make some decisions based on the people of alabama. everybody's going to say that, but i've made to clear to everybody in this campaign, i'm going to continue to make it clear that the people of alabama hope that i do the right thing
by voting in their best interest. yes, sir? >> another -- a lot of people were thinking that folks just won't come out to the polls and vote. after last night, what message would you give to the people of alabama and maybe encourage everyone that voting is your right and you should take part. >> you know, look, i think you just answered your own question there. elections have consequences. we've been getting that message out for the last five or six months since we've been involved in this campaign. and it's not just in a bitter way. i don't mean that that way. some people are going to be upset and they're thinking, oh, my gosh, my candidate didn't win, i should have gotten more people to the polls. but the fact of the matter is, that is one of the most sacred rights that we have in this country. and there are people in this state in particular who lost their lives trying to get that right to vote. so you don't have to count jelly beans in order to get that right. so you don't have to pay a tax
in order to get that right to vote. so it's important that i think -- and i would like to see there be some effort to get more people registered, to make it easier to vote in this state. we have a period other than absentee ballots here in this state which are fairly cumbersome to do. i'd like to make it easier for people to exercise their right to vote and i think we can do that over the course of time. but it's going to take -- in order to do that, it's going to take people putting aside how is this vote going to affect this political party or that political party? we need to be thinking about the right to vote for everyone and not just how it will enrich one party or another to give -- because that is so fundamental to everyone in this country. back to you. >> culminating on your 25th wedding anniversary, did you get to celebrate at all? >> i'm going to take the fifth on that one i think.
let me just say this, this was, you know, last night was probably the best anniversary present anybody could have. we had when we were married probably the best wedding party that i have ever been to. but it didn't come close to the wedding -- to the anniversary party that we had last night with about 2,000 of our closest friends. so thank you. yes, sir? [ inaudible ] >> cory booker said president trump should resign over the sexual assault allegations. >> i'm going to just let senator booker and other senators make that judgement right now. i have been focused so much on the state of alabama. i'm not going to go there on this right now. i thank president trump for his call today and i look forward for he's putting forth things that help the state of alabama for me to work with him. i'll talk to him as i can only talk to him if those issues
don't affect the state. yes, sir? we'll go back to you again. all right. we're starting to recycle here, folks. >> you campaigned with randall woodfin. he just won and that was -- >> all right. that is senator-elect doug jones, democrat of alabama taking questions from the press. he continues to take them. let's turn to our panel and talk a little bit. symone, you heard him say there he was asked about how media reports were, in his view, wrong about how there wasn't enough of a ground game in alabama from the democratic party. >> yeah, i mean, i knew the media reports were also wrong, but i also, frankly, i thought it was a long shot. but the dnc, the democratic national committee, had 30 staffers on the ground. the jones campaign ran their own operation. then there was a coordinated operation of allied alabama groups, 27 groups across the state, that were particularly focused on getting out african-american voters.
that included folks like woke vote, but also the working families party, individual group, righteous vote. then you had folks like priorities usa and the senate majority pac that put $1.5 million separately into african-american digital turnout program. >> he has this seat for three years. he's just filling out the remainder of jeff sessions' term. that's going to be a difficult seat for any democrat to try to keep in 2020, specially with president trump on the top of the ticket. he remains very popular, generally speaking, although not last night with the electorate in alabama. you heard him sound that he wanted to build bridges and be a problem solver, i'm not necessarily going to caucus or vote with one party all the time. we'll see if he can actually pull that off. >> one of the most interesting things about he said is he doesn't seem in a special hurry to actually take his seat. that's interesting because, of course, we have tax reform, which is pretty controversial in the national democratic party. there is almost a piece of me --
>> for everyone. >> for everyone, sure. but there is a piece of me that wonders if doug jones would like to get seated after the tax reform vote so he doesn't have to take a controversial vote as his first act as u.s. senator. >> what did you think about him, his first display of himself as senator-elect? >> so i think i noted when we were discussing as he was talking, he sort of struck me as a temperamental tv. the -- conservative. there is a process. and i want to go through the process and follow the rules and do the right thing. not a bomb-thrower, not a fire-breather. there has been this notion in politics as of late, i think pushed by the sort of steve bannons of the world, it's all about the fire-breathers who say they're going to bring down the establishment and tear up the rule book. that's kind of the opposite what we just saw from doug jones. maybe it is that there are voters who say i'm willing to go for someone who is a nice, a
little bit of a boring guy and i'd rather have than that a fire breather. you saw that in the virginia election with ralph northam, just being a nice guy. maybe voters are not necessarily looking for the fire breather. if we take the lesson from the trump era to be that's what voters really want, i think these two special elections prove differently. >> jake, this tax bill is historically unpopular and what we have is mitch mcconnell bending and changing the rules to fit his agenda. they did it with merrick garland and now they're attempting to do it with the tax bill. no one in the streets of the united states of america are taking to streets with signs saying, please, cut taxes for the wealthy. no one is doing that. that is what this tax bill does. so i actually don't think it's dangerous or even politically problematic for senator-elect doug jones to be seated and have to vote on the tax bill. but i just want to reiterate -- >> i think j.d.'s point was he wasn't eager to take a position on it. >> i don't think he also wants to get caught up in the beltway
bickering that's currently going on with the republicans literally trying to change and bend the rules to fit their agenda and the democrats asking for some decorum and decency and returning to the regular order of the senate. this tax bill is not popular. it is absolutely a tax cut for the wealthy and republicans are going to have to answer for this thing. >> you heard the senator-elect talk about a nice, gracious phone call he got from president trump. i want to bring in cnn's senior white house correspondent jeff zeleny who has some new reporting about that phone call between president trump and senator-elect doug jones. >> reporter: jake, we are getting some new information on the timing of that phone call. i'm told this happened shortly before the president gave his speech earlier this afternoon on the tax reform plan. before he walked into the grand foyer and into the east room of the white house. they spoke privately in from the phone in the oval office for a short period of time. you heard doug jones say it was a gracious phone call and they talked about moving forward. that will be a test for this president and this white house
if they are indeed serious about working with democrats. the president, a former democrat himself, has talked often times about working with democrats. doug jones could be a central example of that. he could be. he's an instinct creature in some respects, a democrat from a conservative red state. that, of course, gives the white house an opportunity here. but even in this divided town, it's hard to imagine that, but doug jones said the president invited him over here to the white house. jake, that's what used to happen all the time. when barack obama, that freshman senator, was first sworn in, president bush had him right here to the white house. jake? >> all right. jeff zeleny, thanks so much. i guess it is possible that this could be an opportunity for a reset for president trump. i doubt it. just based on the past is prolog, but he could seize this moment. >> i don't expect that. we've seen a couple of situations early in the trump presidency where people have said, is this where the pivot's going to come and, of course,
the pivot never really comes. i do think to symone's point about the unpopularity of the tax legislation, it's important to keep in mind one of the things that made donald trump especially the nominee of the republican party and eventually the president of the united states, he connected with middle and working class voters in a way that past republican nominees hadn't. in a way that certainly mitt romney hadn't only four years earlier. and i do think one of the critical problems that the roy moore election or the controversy over roy moore's candidacy overshadows is that the president has lost a little support with that core demographic of working class and middle class voters. and unless you repair that problem then democrats are going to have a pretty successful 2018. >> everyone, thanks. we have a lot more to talk about. we're going to take a quick break. we're also going to talk about steve bannon and how he's reacting to last night's loss for his candidate. i'm so frustrated. i just want to find a used car without getting ripped off. you could start your search at the all-new carfax.com that might help. show me the carfax. now the car you want and the history you need are easy to find.
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i want to bring in cnn political reporter rebecca berg and former chief of staff for the majority leader mitch mcconnell josh holmes to talk more about bannon. bannon responded to the election upset today. take a listen. >> huge turnout yesterday. and that's because of democrats hustled and people have to understand you don't turn out, they're going to turn out. hat tipped to the dnc. they slipped in here under the radar and did a great job on ground game. >> josh, do you agree? is that what happened? >> no, what happened is that steve bannon worked to nominate a candidate who was an alleged ped feel. i don't know many republicans, democrats or independents who were excited to vote for someone like that. he was pretty controversial before all of that. you'll recall when steve bannon first endorsed roy moore, he was up against luther strange who president trump endorsed and had a 100% voting record for president trump. even in the state of alabama,
you had steve bannon push forward and we got a democratic senator in alabama. >> what is the view from bannon world beyond, oh, it's the democratic ground game. they must know this candidate they picked and steve bannon helped convince president trump to support was troubled, to say the least. >> right. i think some of his allies would admit in private conversations, jake, that they weren't a perfect match in terms of ideology. roy moore was not a populist nationalist in the steve bannon mold, he was this christian conservative warrior, but they aligned in the first place, steve bannon's right-hand man told me originally, because he saw this as a proxy fight with mcconnell. he saw it as an opportunity to take on the washington establishment as he might call it and make a point. obviously he fell short in this case but that doesn't mean his greater war against the establishment is going to be over. in in fact, a source close to him told me that the war inside the republican party is only
going to get more vicious and bloodier. they see this as a battle they lost, not losing the war. >> speaking of getting more vicious and bloody. take a listen to new york republican congressman peter king talking to cnn this morning about how this election was the manifestation of the revulsion by the american people against bannon. >> this guy does not belong on the national stage. he looks like some disheveled drunk that warned on to the political stage. he does not represent anything i stand for. i consider myself a conservative republican. i consider myself an irish catholic. and he sort of parades himself out there with his weird alt-right views that's he has, and to me it's demeaning of the whole governmental and political process. >> we should point out i'm sure steve bannon would say that's republican establishment attacking him personally and not on the fact he's in touch with the populism that he thinks he stands for. >> look, steve bannon's problem is not the populism he stands for, he doesn't know what the heb he's doing.
he showed up in the last two months of the presidential election and declared himself the world's greatest strategist. we lost an "r" plus-25 state. this guy showed up at the plate with a football helmet and a basketball. it has absolutely totally unmasked this idea that he has any clue what he's up to at this point. >> and, rebecca, where else can we see some of these races? i know there is an insurgent candidate running against the incumbent republican senator in nevada. where else might bannon try to wage this war against the establishment? >> well, arizona's another big target. you have kelly ward who was supported previously by the mercer family, who are a family of donors close to bannon, close to president trump. she is probably going to be facing a more establishment candidate in arizona. those are the two key races where the question now for republicans, including president trump, is what can you do to ensure one of those candidates that maybe isn't going to be as strong in a general election setting doesn't advance, how can
you insert yourself into those contests? >> thanks so much. coming up, questions about the robert mueller russia investigation after some eyebrow raising texts from an fbi special agent about president trump are made public by the justice department. we're going to talk to the vice chairman of the senate intelligence committee next. ♪ for every hour that you're idling in your car, you're sending about half a gallon of gasoline up in the air. that amounts, over the course of the week, to about 10 pounds of carbon dioxide. growth is good, but when it starts impacting our quality of air and quality of life, that's a problem. so forward-thinking cities like sacramento are investing in streets that are smarter and greener. the solution was right under our feet.
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welcome back to "the lead." staking with politics and the man who oversees robert mueller's spoups investigation today on defense. deputy attorney general rod rosenstein pushing back at house republicans who say mueller's team is on a witch-hunt and incapable of being unbiased. some of the strongest evidence
so far, 375 politically charged anti-trump text messages sent by a top investigator who and no longer on mueller's team. one of those members by peter strzok to fbi lawyer lisa page read, quote, i want to believe the path you throug out for consideration in andy's office, there is no way, he, meaning trump, getting elected. i'm afraid we can't take that risk. it's like an insurance policy in the unlikely event you die before you're 40. in reference to andrew mccabe. this was sent a month after strzok helped close the clinton e-mail probe. although we don't know the exact context of the text, he does seem to be weighing in on the election and candidate trump. another exchange in march 2016 during the primaries. lisa page wrote, god, trump is a loathsome human and strzok replied, yet he may win. another exchange, strzok wrote, oh, my god, he's an idiot, he's awful. yet today rosenstein insisted he's standing by mueller and the work of his team.
he was repeatedly asked about optics on special counsel mueller's team and asked 9 of 16 members who have made various political contributions. here is how rosenstein responded. >> how with a straight face can you say that this group of democrat partisans are unbiased and will give president trump a fair shake? >> we recognize we have employees with political opinions and it's our responsibility to make sure those opinions do not influence their actions. pardon me. so i believe that director mueller understands that. >> the senate intelligence committee is also closely watching mueller's work. earlier today on capitol hill, i spoke with senator mark warner. he's the highest ranking democrat on the committee. i asked him specifically about the republican claims of bias on mueller's team. republicans in the house today in their committee hearing testimony from the deputy attorney general rod rosenstein expressed some serious concerns about what they perceived to be bias in the investigation by --
headed by bob mueller. what's your response? do they not have reason to be concerned when an investigator is referring to the president using such derogatory language? >> well, let's step back and take a look at this investigation. we have an fbi director that's been appointed by president trump, who has a history of i believe giving north of $30,000 to republican candidates. we have the special prosecutor himself bob mueller, a very distinguished vietnam yet, but also a known republican. and the one individual that indicated some preference towards ms. clinton, my understanding is bob mueller when that news came to him, he immediately fired him. so i worry that there seems to be this drumbeat. my hope is that at least here in the senate, where a number of republicans senators said over
the fall, in fact, there will be all hell to pay if mr. trump did something as irresponsible as firing bob mueller. i hope they will stand by their guns. i think, you know, what we've heard from mr. rosenstein today is that he has great faith in special prosecutor mueller and i think he's going about this process in an orderly way. yes, i'd love it to move faster, but i think he's doing it in a very professional way and it would be beyond political malpractice, it would i think cause almost a constitutional crisis if mr. trump were to fire mr. mueller. >> rosenstein today refused to define the scope of the investigation. should there be limits? i mean, is it relevant for him to be looking into the finances of president trump or the trump empire? >> well, if there have been allegations, and i'm not going to weigh in on those allegations because we're having our own investigation, but there have been allegations that there were
extensive financial ties between russian-backed entities and the trump organization. that, in my mind, if it is true would be a relevant fact from a counterintelligence standpoint. >> you're the ranking member of the senate intelligence committee. which questioned donald trump jr. today behind closed doors. is donald trump jr., is he being forthcoming? >> listen, i'm not going to comment about his testimony this morning. we don't talk about that testimony, but if you simply look at the public record, whether it is the case of the meeting where russians were offering in effect dirt on hillary clinton that he participated in, when we look at the fact that it appears donald trump jr. had some level of contact with julian assange and the head of wikileaks, which was the source of a lot of these leaked information on mrs. clinton and on john podesta, you know, there are a lot of
legitimate questions that this individual needs to answer. >> and our thanks to senator warner. now to our world lead. today, a top counterterrorism official in the u.s. is saying recent anti-muslim rhetoric is making his job and the work of his colleagues more difficult. let's bring in cnn's jim sciutto. he specifically lensed the anti-muslim remarks by president trump. >> that's right. this is the head of the national counterterrorism center. that's the intelligence agency charged with preventing terror attacks on u.s. soil. while he didn't say it was one particular tweet or one statement, i was very specific with him, i pressed him. i said are you talking about trump's for instance travel ban to muslim majority country? are you talking about that kind of thing included in here? and he said very simply, yes, that makes my job very difficult. he went on, i don't think it is more difficult when the argument is contaminated by mutual suss spings. if places more challenges in our way. to be clear there when he's talking about thee communities, he's talking about muslim
communities. and he like many other law enforcement officials will make the point we need these communities to give us information to help identify these people. he was very clear here this kind of rhetoric, these policy as well maybe that job more difficult. >> he's on his way out the door, though, we should note. this is a comment he may not have made -- >> for question, he's on his way out the door. but after serving nearly a year under the trump administration, having served a slightly longer time with the obama administration, he's out the door but not within 24 hours of the inauguration. >> it struck you. you thought this was notable, a trump administration official saying the president's language makes fighting terrorism more difficult? >> absolutely. to be clear, pressed him three or four times on this to make sure we knew what he was talking about here. he's not alone in saying this. i spoke to the manhattan district attorney a few days ago who made a similar point. the folks on the front lines of terrorism worry that this makes things more dangers. >> jim sciutto, appreciate it. be sure to follow me on facebook or twitter @jaketapper or tweet
the show @theleadcnn. i turn you over to wolf blitzer. he's in "the situation room." happening now, breaking news. reaching a deal? house and senate republicans say they've reached a ten tifb deal on a compromised tax cut bill. the president says he hopes it will pass within days and that americans will start seeing savings in two months. but tonight, even president trump seems unsure if all republican senators are on board. defending mueller. amid a coordinator attack on the special counsel's russia investigation, the deputy attorney general goes before a congressional panel and defends robert mueller against gop blames of political bias. mueller's boss says he sees no reason to fire him. trump falters. the president is a big loser after banning the wrong candidate in the alabama senate race. republicans will have only a razor-thin edge in the senate after