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Trump's Budget Compromise?; Trump's Tax Plan; State Dept. Removes Blog Post Promoting Mar-A-Lago. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired April 25, 2017 - 04:00   ET


[04:00:10] CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: President Trump looking to strike a compromise to keep the government open. He is said to be ready to wait to fund the border wall, at least, for now.

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: The president ready to dramatically slash the top corporate tax rate. How low will he propose? And what can stand in his way?

ROMANS: And why is the State Department giving promotion to the president's Mar-a-Lago resort? We'll show you the explanation for the controversial online post.

And we'll spend the next two hours looking for Dave's voice. It is somewhere out there. I know it is.

Good morning. Welcome to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs. I'm looking for it in this cup of tea. I haven't found it yet. A bit under the weather on this Tuesday, April 25th. It's 4:00 a.m. in the East.

The president showing some flexibility on funding for his promised border wall in talks to fund the federal government past Friday's deadline.

White House officials now signaling that an offer from Democrats for funding border security measures rather than the wall itself would be enough to satisfy the president.

ROMANS: The president telling conservative journalists at a Friday meeting that he is open to delaying funding for wall construction until September. So, there's no deal yet. But a strong sign in the White House may not force a showdown over the wall as the Friday deadline for the funding bill nears.

Now, the new wiggle room eases back earlier administration demands that at least sounded like the White House was insisting on funding for the wall, as part of any deal to keep the government from shutting down.

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer put it this way to our very own Jim Acosta, who asked why wall funding is even an issue in this budget process if Mexico is supposed to pay for it. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Well, I think, Jim, that the president has made very clear that, initially, we needed to get the funding going. And there's several mechanisms to make sure that that happens. We feel very confident the government is not going to shut down. Number two, is I think the president has been clear in the past, about the fact that -- and this is not a new thing. He talked about this. That in order to get the ball rolling on border security and the wall, that he was going to have to use the current appropriations process. But he would make sure that that promise would be kept, as far as the payment of it.


ROMANS: Some Democratic support in the House and especially the Senate, where 60 votes are required, will be needed to pass the spending bill. Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer put out a statement late last night. This is what he said. "It's good for the country that President Trump is taking the wall off of the table in these negotiations. Now, the bipartisan and bicameral negotiators can continue working on the outstanding issues."

White House is floating the proposal to cut the corporate tax rate to 15 percent. Fifteen percent is the number floated out there. Here's why -- the U.S. has the highest corporate tax rate among developed nations, at 35 percent. The average worldwide is something like 23 percent.

Critics will tell you this makes the U.S. less competitive. They say, it forces companies to use innovative tax practices and keep huge piles of cash overseas.

But cutting the corporate rate, simply cutting it, won't solve those problems entirely. Two main issues. First, the effective corporate tax rate is 14 percent, 14 percent, Dave. That's how much big profitable companies paid between 2006 and 2012 on average, according to the government accountability office.

So, they use -- they use all kinds of tax strategies to not pay that advertised 35 percent corporate rate. One in five companies paid no tax at all. Tax credits and loopholes allow these companies to legally reduce their tax burden.

If the administration leaves those in place, and reduces the corporate rate, revenue will plunge. That's the second issue. Tax cuts are extensive. If companies pay less, individual taxpayers will be on the hook to make up the difference.

A Tax Policy Center study from last year which looked at Trump's initial 15 percent proposal shows it will cost $2.4 trillion in lost revenue over the next decade. That's about $240 billion a year. That's about the same the government spends on food stamps, jobless benefits and child nutrition.

So, the big question now, how will the administration pay for it? The proposals have to be revenue-neutral to be passed as part of the budget process. Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, has said they will pay for it through growth.

BRIGGS: Can they?

ROMANS: Well, a lot of tax scorers say no, you can't. The White House says you can. So, get ready for a fight in Congress about that.

BRIGGS: All right. Another busy day ahead for President Trump as he marches towards day 100, that's on Saturday. This afternoon, he hosts a roundtable with farmers and signs an executive order establishing a task force on obstacles that farmers confront.

ROMANS: We also expect Sonny Perdue to be sworn in as secretary of agriculture, after his confirmation Monday. On the subject of the 100-day milestone that the president once emphasized, by the way, the White House now claiming it's not a big deal.

[04:05:02] Even as Sean Spicer touted early administration's accomplishments, he downplayed the focus on 100 days with a big qualifier.


SPICER: When you look at the immigration piece in particular, border crossings are way down. The number of executive orders and pieces of legislation the president signed, I think we feel very proud of what we've been able to accomplish and fulfill the promises that he's made in the American people.

But I think it's got to be kept in context and I think that's the resort of this artificial number that gets thrown out and we feel very good about what we've done as head up to this 100 days. But I think you're going to continue to see a lot of action and a lot of results going into the second 100 days, the third 100 days, you know, all the way through.


ROMANS: As a candidate, the president, Mr. Trump, aimed high, touting his, quote, "game-changing Contract with the American Voter, remember, the Contract with the American Voter, it's specifically laid out a plan for the first 100 days. Once in office, the president ran headlong into resistance from Democrats and the courts on several key initiatives.

BRIGGS: The State Department removing a post from its Share America site promoting President Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort. The article posted on U.S. embassy sites around the world gave a visitor's guide to the Winter White House.

ROMANS: This post says Mar-a-Lago has become well-known, as the president frequently travels there to work, or host foreign leaders. Officials taking down this post, saying, "The intention of the article was to inform the public about where the president has been hosting world leaders. We regret any misperception ad have removed the post." Of course, it was new fodder for critics, concerned about conflicts

with Trump's business interests. This is his private enterprise being touted on a taxpayer -- basically taxpayer-funded, taxpayer State Department site. Mar-a-Lago has already seemingly benefited from the Trump presidency, the club raising its initiation fee from $100,000 to $200,000 right after the election.

First daughter, Ivanka Trump, in Berlin this morning, to host a summit of female leaders dubbed the W20, that's Women 20, focused on gender equality. Ivanka is there at the invitation of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is said to be looking for a back channel to the White House, after her, let's say, very awkward photo-op last month with President Trump, who seemingly refused to shake Merkel's hand.

BRIGGS: Breaking overnight: North Korea's military staged a large- scale artillery drill, according to top military officials in South Korea. It comes the same way North Korea celebrates the 85th anniversary of the founding of its people's army.

ROMANS: This is just the latest in a series of recent escalations involving Pyongyang. Now, a nuclear-powered American submarine, the USS Michigan arriving in South Korea. One U.S. military official describes it as a show of force. The arrival coming just hours after President Trump called for more sanctions against North Korea and had tough some words for Kim Jong-un.

I want to go live to Seoul, South Korea, and bring in CNN's Alexandra Field.

Clearly, tensions are rising here. You have this new nuclear-powered sub in the region. Words have been exchanged. Where's the off-ramp here? What's the next move?

ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the next move for North Korea appears to be another opportunity to perhaps show some strength or project some strength to the world, because you've got the military officials here in South Korea, saying they are observing these large- scale arterially drills in North Korea. Of course, they coincide with this holiday in North Korea, the anniversary of the founding of the KPA, the Korean peoples army.

We know that in North Korea, these major holidays can be marked by provocative actions like a missile launch, for example. Remember, we saw that coincide with another national holiday there just about a week or so ago. There were also fears that this could be a day around which you see North Korea pull off its sixth nuclear test.

But what you're seeing right now are only drills. Again, that comes from officials here in South Korea. The president's office here in South Korea actually called a meeting following the information about those drills to assess the security situation. And that is being done really across the world because you've got President Trump now summoning senators to the White House tomorrow for a briefing on the North Korea security situation.

They will be meeting with the defense secretary, the secretary of state. All of that happening as you got this nuclear powered submarine arriving at a southern port in South Korea. Some U.S. officials are saying, that's a show of strength from the U.S. Others are saying it is still part of a routine, a previously scheduled stop. But that it does serves to underscore and underline the strength of the alliance between the U.S. and South Korea. And that its presence is surely meant to be another deterrent to North Korea.

At the same game, you've got joint training exercises still continuing between the U.S. and South Korea, part of a readiness posture. You've also recently have these joint drills between the U.S. and Japan.

[04:10:01] And you have U.S. President Donald Trump sending some very strong words across the world, telling a group of conservative journalists that he doubts that Kim Jong-un is a very strong leader as Kim Jong-un purports to be. Those are not the kinds of words that Kim Jong-un is likely to take kindly to. He had his some extreme rhetoric of his own over the weekend, threatening that he could sink a U.S. aircraft carrier, which is approaching the peninsula as another deterrent effort -- Christine.

ROMANS: A belligerent and unpredictable Hermit Kingdom, hard to understand exactly, or how to guess how it will respond.

All right. Thank you so much for that, Alex. Nice to see you this morning from Seoul.

The Trump administration is imposing sanctions on 271 Syrians, all believed to be the connected to the making of poison gas. They work for the scientific studies and research center which the White House says produced the sarin gas that killed dozens of people in a chemical weapons attack earlier this month. The sanctions freeze any money the employees might have in U.S. financial institutions.

But it's the naming of the employees that is the most significant because those individuals are now more likely to be targeted in post- war investigations. So, real tough to watch those horrible pictures.

BRIGGS: Indeed.

ROMANS: All right. New developments on the investigations into Russia's election meddling. Why are Senate Democrats suddenly voices frustration with the upper chamber's probe?


[04:15:32] ROMANS: A bit of role reversal on the investigations into Russia's election meddling. Sources say the House Oversight and Government Relations Committee will get a look at classified documents related to Michael Flynn's foreign contacts. While the House investigation gets back on track, there's emerging partisan squabbling on the Senate side, weeks after they claimed to be leading the more unified investigation.

We get more this morning from CNN's Manu Raju.


Now, the Senate Intelligence Committee was supposed to be the committee that was going to conduct the investigation along a bipartisan basis. But what we've heard over the last couple of days have been complaints on party lines, particularly among from Democrats who believe that this investigation is moving too slowly from their likes and they want to move much quicker. They believe that this committee can and should immediately interview some of those Trump associates who apparently have connections, ties and contacts with Russian officials during the campaigns. And they also believe there should be subpoenas, something that the committee has not yet issued.

Yesterday, I had a chance to talk to Senator Ron Wyden, one of the top Democrats on the committee, who expressed serious frustration over the pace of the investigation.

SEN. RON WYDEN (D), OREGON: I think this must move more aggressively and particularly on the key issues, open hearings, following the money. And I have made it clear to the bipartisan leadership of the committee that this needs to move faster. And it moves more transparent.

RAJU: Now, Republicans are pushing back, saying, look, this investigation is proceeding. It's taking time to go through reams of data, including data that they just received from the intelligence committee. This has to be a thorough review in the words of Senator Susan Collins of Maine. And one senator, James Lankford, the intelligence committee Republican, also said, yesterday, said that even if there's no public report, a lot of things are happening in private.

The question is, will any of the Trump officials when they come testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee, will any of that be public? That's a question we just don't know yet -- Christine and Dave.


ROMANS: All right. Manu, thank you so much for that.

OK. Remember this guy? Former President Barack Obama, in his first public event since leaving the White House, speaking with a group of young leaders at the University of Chicago. He talked about the importance of getting involved in the state of American politics, while avoiding any mention at all of the name "Trump".


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When you talk to individuals one-on-one, people -- there's a lot more that people have in common than divides them. But, obviously, it's not true when it comes to politics and our civic life. And maybe more pernicious is the fact that people just aren't involved. They get cynical. And they give up. (END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: The former president's next scheduled public event is May 7th, when he receives the Profile in Courage Award from the JFK Presidential Library and Museum in Boston.

Ohio Governor John Kasich echoing the tone we heard from President Obama in that CNN town hall last night. The former Republican candidate for president addressing the political divide in America, clearly divisible in President Trump's approval numbers. Kasich says it's important for us not to retreat to our respective political corners.


GOV. JOHN KASICH (R), OHIO: But I think this is symptomatic. I voted for him, I wear that uniform. I didn't vote for him, I wear a different uniform. And I think people who voted for him who see things they don't like need to recognize that. And people who didn't vote for him have to recognize when he does something that's positive.

I mean, we want -- we want to be for our president, because if we're tearing each other apart, nothing will ever get done.


ROMANS: The Ohio governor tells Anderson Cooper, it is unlikely he will ever seek public office again.

Next, a CNN exclusive. Satellite images from the last ISIS stronghold in Syria. How are terrorists trying to hold on to the territory? We got live to the Middle East.


[04:23:58] ROMANS: A CNN exclusive now: a rare look at war-ravage Raqqah, the last ISIS stronghold inside Syria, and the next potential target for President Trump.

These satellite images obtained by CNN revealing ISIS flags, and checkpoints, severed bridges and tactics ISIS uses to disguise the movement of its fighters.

I want to bring in Nick Paton Walsh. He is monitoring the latest developments live from Irbil, Iraq.

And these pictures, Nick, are really revealing.

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Extraordinary of a city we'll never see until the coalition-backed forces currently nearly besieging it move in. First, the satellite images show us some of the checkpoints that ISIS have put up in the streets there. And nearby to those checkpoints, you can see partly because of its shadow, an ISIS flag, as well.

You see over the months, how coalition precision airstrikes, I should say precision because the analyst looking at the image, saying there hasn't been damage done to the city itself, how they have, in fact, severed some of the key bridges in and out of the city, helping cut it off.

[04:25:06] And then, finally and perhaps most intriguingly, they also show a tarpaulin network. It's tarpaulin hung up between buildings to cover the streets that ISIS fighters walk around. Why? Well, because they want to conceal themselves from the coalition drones above that try and target them and work out where the headquarters so they can later strike. And a fascinating series of images obtained really only from space because of how cut off this city is by ISIS repression.

Back to you.

ROMANS: Really interesting. All right. Again, maybe the last look or the only look we'll ever have there, while it's under ISIS control, must come from space. Thank you so much for that, Nick Paton Walsh, for us in Irbil.

A shift towards compromise in the White House. New signals, funding for a border wall can wait if it means keeping the government open this weekend. Has the president blinked on the border wall? Is the strategy an adjustment after threats to get health care passed went nowhere?