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North Korea Tensions; Warning to Sanctuary Cities; President Trump Signs Financial Executive Orders. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired April 21, 2017 - 15:00   ET



DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: -- including our incredible women entrepreneurs, who are doing better and better and better.

We want opportunity for everyone and in every single part of our country.

Secretary Mnuchin and my entire administration are working around the clock to help struggling Americans achieve their financial dreams, earn a great paycheck, have a job that they love going to every single day, and have real confidence in the future.

Together, we will restore prosperity to this nation, a nation that we so dearly love, and to bring people who call this home into a great, great way of living and a great way of life. They're going to be thrilled. We're going to be thrilled, and you're going to be seeing some very, very major changes.

You have already seen them. I don't know if anybody has looked recently, but you looked at optimism indexes that are just coming out, manufacturing in particular, where it's up to the highest point it's ever been, 93 percent. It was a 27 percent increase over the past, over the last one.

So, I just want to thank everybody for being here. This is such a privilege for me to sign. This is really the beginning of a whole new way of life that this country hasn't seen in really many, many years. I want to thank you, and I want to God bless America.

Thank you. Thank you, everybody.

So, this is identifying and reducing tax regulatory burdens. That covers a lot of territory, believe me.

You get the first one? Can you handle that?




TRUMP: Oh, that's even better. I like that. Thank you, a great boy.

This is the subject of financial stability, the oversight council, very important.

Thank you.

This is quarterly liquidation authority. Doesn't sound like much, but it is. That's a biggie. It doesn't sound good, but it is.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Financial services.

TRUMP: And we will be having a big announcement on Wednesday having to do with tax reform. The process has begun long ago, but it really formally begins on Wednesday.

Thank you very much, everybody. Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you for being here.

ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: We were just watching live President Trump signing three executive orders dealing with the banking industry, taxes, and there at the end also saying there will be a big announcement next Wednesday dealing with tax reform, one of his campaign promises.

I want to bring in former Wall Street executive and financial expert Alexis Glick joining us now to discuss what just happened.

There was a lot of pomp and circumstance there, but what I heard him say is some of what signed simply is to review what the current system is and then figure out a plan moving forward. Did he just do anything that changes where we are currently at?

ALEXIS GLICK, FINANCIAL EXPERT: It doesn't change where we're at, at this moment in time, but it was really shrewd. And let me explain a couple of reasons why.

Number one, he called the tax simplification identifying and reducing tax regulation and the burden for consumers. What is going to allow his treasury secretary in this tax reform process, which we know is going to take far longer than that initial August timeline, it is going to allow him and the Treasury to really to get to work to scrub some of those tax regulations that were put into effect into 2016 and see how, as they reform the tax code, what are those things that are the most cumbersome?


For example, as he talked about corporate taxes, some corporations are doing their filing overseas because of tax breaks. Let's bring their money back into the United States. That's one. Number two, when you think about what he is talking about, the liquidation of banks or asking the Financial Stability Oversight Council to look at what are systemically risky institutions, what's really important about this is the Financial Stability Oversight Council is a representation of Treasury, the Federal Reserve Bank, OK, and the other core financial institutions.

But what's most important about it is, it will give them insight into, are there more systemically risky financial institutions that we should be overseeing or not? And ultimately at the end of the day, should it be at the taxpayer's risk to be the one to stand there if a financial institution were to go out of business?

CABRERA: Is that a good thing for taxpayers, the fact that they are really trying to identify that?


GLICK: Yes, that they are really trying to scrub it.

So just to really contextualize this for you and make it super simple, to me, at the end of the day, what this is saying is, we're going to look at the way that financial institutions are set up today, and you know what? Maybe we need to go look back at Glass-Steagall and ask ourselves, should commercial banks and investment banks be together, number one?

Who is responsible for them if they are too big to fail? What does the unwind process look like and how does it affect the taxpayer? And ultimately the reason they are looking at this right now -- and I think this is extremely intelligent -- is because we want to create jobs. We want to get small businesses back out there to get the lending that they need to create investment in the economy.

CABRERA: We heard that from the secretary of the treasury there, Steve Mnuchin.


GLICK: Right.

And in order to do that, you need these banks to have a little bit of a loosening of the regulations, so that they can offer out that capital to people. So, at the end of the day, this is a really smart process that they are undergoing right now.

CABRERA: All right, Alexis Glick, thank you for simplifying what we just witnessed.

GLICK: Thank you.

CABRERA: And I want to bring in right now CNN senior White House correspondent Jim Acosta, because I know you have some reporting and some insight into this tax reform package, which we heard the president allude to, at the very least, at the very end of that press moment -- Jim.


You heard the president there at the end of the event with the treasury secretary, Steve Mnuchin, which was really about unwinding banking regulations, something that the president has made a priority for his administration, you heard him there say that we're going to have an announcement on Wednesday on tax reform.

He said something similar about this earlier today to the Associated Press. When checking on this within the last several minutes, I contacted a White House official who told me, well, that timing is a little bit squishy. It could be Wednesday. It could be, as the president said, shortly thereafter in his comments to the Associated Press.

The indication I was given is that this may not even happen next week. But, of course, just in the last several minutes, you heard the president of the United States say over at the Treasury Department, no, we're going to be having this announcement on Wednesday.

So, perhaps this may be a situation when the president says it's going to happen on Wednesday, it's going to happen on Wednesday, but just to give our viewers some caution on this, Steve Mnuchin, the treasury secretary, said in the last several weeks that, yes, they definitely want to do tax reform. It's a high priority for this president.

They had indicated earlier on in this administration that they wanted to start doing this and get this done by August. But just in the last several days, the treasury secretary has said, well, August may not be a realistic deadline. It may not happen until 2018.

And so I think it's safe to say at this point this is not exactly nailed down, although you heard the president say there that there is going to be an announcement next week.

CABRERA: All right, Jim Acosta reporting from the White House, our thanks to you.

I want to bring in our panel, CNN political a analyst David Drucker, senior correspondent of "The Washington Examiner," also CNN political analyst Jennifer Granholm, who served as the Democratic governor of Michigan, and CNN political analyst Alex Burns, national political reporter for "The New York Times."

David, you hear what we just learned about tax reform package. Can it really get done next week?

DAVID DRUCKER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, the president could introduce it next week, but what we really don't know yet is, are we dealing with a tax reform package that would try and simplify the code and eliminate a lot of carve-outs and deductions that have a lot of very supportive and vocal constituencies, or are we talking about a tax cut plan, cut corporate taxes, cut taxes for individuals, which would also affect many small businesses that file as individual taxpayers?


And so that to me is the key there. What exactly is the president going to introduce? And are we going to find out for the first time -- and we have known for a long time that he favors tax cuts and reducing regulations broadly, but we have never really been given an indication from the White House about where he stands on broad reform that would overhaul a lot of the ways in which people file their taxes, get things deducted and things of that nature.


CABRERA: Right, so it's about simplification of the taxing system?

DRUCKER: Yes, that is correct.

And don't forget, House Republicans have been working for several months on a huge tax reform plan that would include what we call border adjustability, that would completely overhaul how we tax imports and exports. And we're still not totally clear on whether or not the president supports that plan. It's very contentious on Capitol Hill.

Republicans in the Senate hate it. And so there's a lot of unanswered questions here. Next week could be a very interesting week, in which we could at least learn where the president stands if he unveils something that's more broad in scope, rather than simply relying on cuts.

CABRERA: Jennifer, is this a 100-day win if this tax reform legislation is introduced next week?


I mean, the 100-day calendar for him means that he's going to have to jam about 40 items through Congress to be able to meet the promises that he made. He actually made 44 -- he said he was going to do 44 things in the first 100 days. Some of those have been -- have begun, for example, the Muslim ban, et cetera.

Some of them have completely come off the table. This tax reform piece is a part of that. But he's not going to certainly -- as Dave suggests, it's way to complicated. And, also, if he just did tax cuts, it would be trillions and trillions of dollars added to the deficit.

This is going to -- we thought health care was hard. Tax reform is going to be so much more difficult. Dave Camp from Michigan two years ago did a whole very long effort of trying to figure out how to simplify the tax code, remove the loopholes. But he, behind the scenes, could not get everybody to agree.

And, in fact, you're not even going to get close to anybody agreeing, because every single loophole is something that somebody is attached to. You're not going to eliminate, for example, mortgage deductions, which is a huge part of what the federal tax code allows.

So, bottom line, if he just does tax cuts, it's a huge addition to the deficit. I'm not sure those who are focused on deficit spending are going to like that. CABRERA: You mentioned in there somewhere health care, which is what

we were talking about and the possibility of revisiting health care before the 100-day mark, which has been some of the discussion among the GOP who are in the House, as well as the president himself, though, Alex, now he comers out with this headline on taxes.

Does this take some of the heat away from trying to get something accomplished on health care?

ALEX BURNS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think, as David alluded to, we don't know a lot about what exactly the president supports on taxes or even the timeline that he wants to enact tax reform.

He initially suggested after the first health care proposal crashed and burned that he was going to move on to taxes, and then he suggested that he really needs to do health care first. And we really need clarity on this in the next week.

And when you talk to Republicans in Washington who are somewhat closer to the details of the legislative process, they hear these pronouncements from the White House, and they see them as really totally detached from the actual mechanisms of government, because, if you did drop a tax bill next week, and ask Congress to take some kind of serious action on it in short order, and demand a vote on health care, and actually pass legislation to fund the government, that is a recipe for, you know, the legislative equivalent of an 18-car pileup.

GRANHOLM: It ain't going to happen.

CABRERA: You don't think it's going to happen, Jennifer.

GRANHOLM: It ain't going to happen.


CABRERA: Well, let's say it could happen, though. Let's pretend it could happen. Let's pretend for a second.


GRANHOLM: We live on Mars.

CABRERA: The question is, that would be huge, right?

I mean, David, is that the Trump administration that has a lack of experience in governing and so that's why they are throwing out these huge pieces of legislation that are very complex and saying that they can do it by this day, an arbitrary deadline?

DRUCKER: Well, look, there's always a tension between the White House and Congress. We saw this with the Obama administration when he had a Democratic Congress and there was always a lot of frustration there.

And that's part of what we see in Washington. I think what's different here is that often this White House has put out general goals, but not a lot of parameters or principles by which they want Republicans in Congress to deliver.

And I think that has created a lot of confusion and it has sometimes made things more difficult. And I do think with some of these high- stakes negotiations on health care, for instance, the fact that the president's point men did not have any experience in negotiating high- level legislative deals, or low-level legislative deals, for that matter, played a huge part in why the deals didn't necessarily come together the way they might have.


So, I don't think we should make too much of the fact that the White House wants things that Congress may not be in a position to deliver. I do think it's important for the president to start to tell Congress what it is he wants as tax reform, what is he for and what is he against?

I think that would help Republicans in Congress deliver for him. And I think his failure to do that, other than to say I want a win and I want to get it done, is part of the problem that Republicans in town have been dealing with.

CABRERA: Jennifer, really quickly.

GRANHOLM: I agree 100 percent on that.

The president does not have a core. His core is about getting a victory in Congress or somewhere. He's not going to come and say, I will only accept this. He just wants to be able to show at 100 days that he has more than five things that he's been able to achieve. And that's a big problem.

CABRERA: David Drucker, Jennifer Granholm, and Alex Burns, we have to leave it there. Thank you.

Up next, for the fourth time in a week, Russian military planes flew close to the Alaskan coastline amid reports that the Russian troops are being mobilized between the Russia and North Korean border -- how the Kremlin is responding.

Plus, new details about how the Mother of All Bombs was dropped on Afghanistan and what the top brass at the White House knew and when.



CABRERA: We have this just in.

Sanctuary cities have just received a new warning that they may lose federal funding. The Justice Department sent letters to several cities telling them to prove they're complying with federal immigration enforcement laws, or else.

Laura Jarrett is joining us now. She's CNN justice reporter.

Details coming into Washington there, where you're at. You received the letter. What do you know about it?

LAURA JARRETT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Ana, the Justice Department is escalating its approach to so-called sanctuary cities today, writing to a number of major cities, like Chicago and New York, that they must formally certify that they are complying with enforcement laws in order to receive federal funds.

Now, in a statement accompanying these letters, the Justice Department said that many of these jurisdictions are crumbling under the weight of illegal immigration and violent crime. They even called New York City soft on crime.

President Obama's Justice Department also required compliance with the statute for grant funding. But, as we know, President Trump has taken a very hard-line stance on sanctuary cities. And the attorney general, Jeff Sessions, reiterated that threat last -- a couple weeks ago, I should say, that they're going to withhold federal funding from these cities that hinder any efforts to document -- or to deport, I should say, undocumented immigrants.

Now, a number of sanctuary cities have sued President Trump over this executive order. And we're going to be closely watching the local reaction on this. Already, the NYPD's assistant commissioner tweeting out, "Did DOJ really just say the NYPD is soft on crime?"

So, we're going to be watching this closely, Ana.

CABRERA: All right, Laura Jarrett reporting, thanks for that update.

Overseas now, China is denying reports they put forces on high alert over North Korea. But there's another issue, coal ships. President Trump said China was turning the North Korean ships away. Turns out they are still docking in China.

China rejects the premise, though, that they're violating these sanctions. And the president seems confident that China can do something to rein in North Korea.

Joining me now, Retired Admiral John Kirby, CNN military and diplomatic analyst and former State Department spokesman and Pentagon press secretary.

Thanks so much for joining us.

What do you make of what is playing out with China?

JOHN KIRBY, CNN MILITARY AND DIPLOMATIC ANALYST: Well, it's hard to say in terms of their pronouncements that they are not violating sanctions. China has a spotty history of implementing sanctions.

They do it some of the time, and some of the time, when it's not convenient for them, they don't. So, I would be careful to take these denials at anything more than face value. I'm not completely convinced that their denials are true.

But it's right that the path to Pyongyang goes through Beijing. And it is right that the president is continuing to try to put pressure on China to do more, because they can do more.

Now, obviously, you need international consensus around pressure that is being put on North Korea, but China's a key player in that. So, I think it remains to be seen.

Now, on the placing their aircraft on high alert, folks I have talked to in the Pentagon, they are kind of pooh-poohing that as well. They see what China is doing there to the south near their border with North Korea more as a prudent military planning and not necessarily escalatory.

CABRERA: So, do you believe that China is even willing to try to solve the North Korea problem?

KIRBY: I think that China is -- China has for a long time been concerned about what is going on in Pyongyang and their nuclear ambitions.

They have been of late been kind of content to favor stability there, because the other thing they don't want is a reunified peninsula that is allied with the West and potentially Western troops or American troops on the other side of the Yalu. That's also something that they are very concerned about.

But I do think that they are getting increasingly concerned about the direction that Kim Jong-un is going. And they are -- appear to be, anyway, willing to do more.

Now, there's a lot more that they need to do. They are the only nation state in the world that has this kind of influence on Pyongyang. But even that influence is slipping a little bit. The missile launch that they did just before President Xi's visit, that was really a message to the Chinese more than it was to us.

CABRERA: So, I want to ask you about something else.

"The New York Times" is now reporting that U.S. Army General Nicholson had not requested permission from President Trump, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, or the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, before dropping that MOAB, the Mother of All Bombs, in Afghanistan.

KIRBY: Right.

CABRERA: CNN has not confirmed this.

But would it surprise you if he didn't clear it up the chain?

KIRBY: Not necessarily, no. Look, he has the authority. This is a tactical weapon. It was in theater in Afghanistan. And he has the authorities that he needs because he's a commander in that area of conflict and operations -- combat operations to use it.


Now, you would think, given that it was the first time a weapon of this size was used in Afghanistan for this purpose, that it would have been floated up the chain of command.

And folks Itt have talked to have confirmed for me that in fact he did raise this up the chain of command in terms of I'm going to do it, informing them, not necessarily asking for permission.

But there was nothing in his rules that would have required him to ask permission to use this particular bomb.

CABRERA: All right, Admiral Kirby, thank you.

KIRBY: My pleasure.

CABRERA: And we have this just in.

We are hearing again from President Trump while leaving the Treasury Department. We brought you many of his remarks live. But here's what he said moments ago about health care and tax reform.


TRUMP: It's going to be great. It will happen.

QUESTION: You're going to do health care and tax reform?

TRUMP: We will see what happens. No particular rush, but we will see what happens. But health care is coming along really well. Government is coming along really well. A lot of good things are happening. Thank you, folks.


TRUMP: It doesn't matter if it's next week. Next week doesn't matter.

QUESTION: Are you going to do Dodd-Frank this year, Dodd-Frank reform this year?

TRUMP: We're doing very well on Dodd-Frank, believe me. Thank you.


CABRERA: So, again, that was just moments ago, as he's leaving the Treasury Department.

I want to bring in CNN political analyst Alex Burns sitting with me here in CNN.

You were there too when we heard his remarks when he signed some of those executive financial orders. We at the end of that him saying Wednesday is going to be a big day, you're going to hear a big announcement on tax reform. Now it seems like he's dialing it back a little bit.

BURNS: Well, this is part of the sort of confusion that is emanating from the White House right now, that on the one hand, you hear from the president. We heard from him on Twitter this morning that 100 days is a nonsense deadline. Next week, we just heard him say, is not a big deal. On the other hand, the White House clearly is using next week and this 100-day deadline as a way to try to spur some of these slow-moving members of Congress to do something. Right?

And it's the something that's the big question mark right now.

CABRERA: You think it's to put more pressure on Congress through some of the rhetoric we're hearing?

BURNS: I think it's a combination of applying pressure to Congress and then, frankly, just galvanizing themselves to get moving again on some of these big issues that have really just been frozen in place or seemed frozen in place over the last month since the collapse of the first health care legislation.

CABRERA: All right. Thanks so much, Alex Burns, for your take. We appreciate it.

Up next, Hillary Clinton speaking out again publicly against the Trump administration at a fund-raising dinner in New York. But is she the right voice for the Democrats moving forward? We will debate her next move and the future of the party.

Stay with us.