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Trump's Tax Reform Plan; Interview with Rep. Jim Renacci; Lawmakers To Be Briefed on North Korea; Trump Voters on Benchmark. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired April 26, 2017 - 09:30   ET



[09:31:21] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, taking a look at the numbers right now. Wall Street up about 12 points. Perhaps a reaction to the president's proposed tax cuts. Markets have actually been way up over the last several days in anticipation of these proposals. What do they like? Well, they like the fact that corporations and pretty much all businesses will see tax cuts down to 15 percent and a tax code the administration claims will be so simple you'll be able to file on a big postcard.


BERMAN: A big postcard.

HARLOW: Just to note there, point of fact. But how can this president pull that off without increasing the national debt a lot, which, by the way, now stands at $20 trillion. That, my friends, is where your elected representatives come in.

Let's bring one in. Ohio Republican Jim Renacci. He sits on the House Budget Committee.

So nice to have you, my friend.

So as John Berman likes to put it, let's put this to the Goldilocks test. Fifteen percent for all businesses. What do you think? Too big? Too small? Just right?

REP. JIM RENACCI (R), OHIO: Well, first off, we have to -- it's a great question, but here's what I believe. Not only am I on the Budget Committee, I'm on the Ways and Means Committee and I'm a businessman for 30 years. If we don't get our rates down, businesses will leave. So the number one goal we have to do is be competitive. We have to make the United States the most competitive place in the world to do business. By doing that, as a businessman, you drop your price down, you drop your rate down and you get businesses to want to come here. When businesses come here, they employ more people.

So I guess the argument would be, well, if you drop the tax rates, are you going to increase the deficits? That's the other side of it. But, remember, in the business world, same identical thing, if you drop your prices down, you increase your losses. So what you've got to hope is, you sell more. But, at the same time, you've got to bring your costs down, you've got to bring your expenses down.

So I hope that -- that appears to be the direction this president is going. He's a businessman as well. And I think that's where we need to go. We have to make sure companies stay here because the greatest value is employment and jobs, which will occur by the more businesses that are here.

BERMAN: You know, you talk about what businesses need to do. They also need to be fiscally responsible. They need to pay for the various things that they propose. And fiscal responsibility has been a central tenant to your whole political career. On just Monday you wrote, "I'm deeply concerned about the fiscal state of our country. Our national debt has grown from $8.6 trillion in 2007 to nearly $20 trillion today."

The estimates -- the early estimates are that these tax cut the president is proposing would add maybe $2 trillion to $4 trillion, and that could be the low end, $2 trillion to $4 trillion to the national debt. Isn't that exactly the kind of thing that just on Monday you wrote you were deeply concerned about?

RENACCI: Well, I still am deeply concerned about. But, remember, if we don't do anything, which is just nothing, we will continue to lose businesses, which will also continue to increase the national debt. As employees and employers leave and employees go overseas, we'll continue to grow the national debt.

So we are at a time here in Washington where we have to look at what works. And I think it's a little bit of everything. We have to bring rates down to keep businesses here.

HARLOW: So -- right.

RENACCI: We have to look at our expense side. We have to look at a number of things.

Look, I proposed a tax plan as well and I continue to say, we have to look at ways of bringing this rate down so we can keep businesses here.

HARLOW: So, congressman, just an empirical fact, most businesses, big, profitable businesses, don't pay anywhere near 35 percent in federal taxes. They pay, according to the Government Accountability Office, 14 percent in federal taxes, 22 percent when you add in state and local. And I'm not arguing that America needs to be more competitive. It does. But you keep talking about businesses leaving as though Apple or General Electric are just going to get up and leave. What business can you point to that has just left this country in the last decade because of the tax code?

[09:35:01] RENACCI: Well, actually, go to Ireland. If you ever -- you want to take an interesting trip, fly to -- fly --

HARLOW: Sure. Google. A lot of these companies do a lot of business through Ireland, but they haven't totally left the country. RENACCI: Well, they haven't, but what they've done is they've moved

their operations overseas and their tax jurisdiction overseas, and we're going to continue to lose business moving overseas. Look, I'm also a CPA. I can tell you that the best advice I would give a business that can move its tax jurisdiction is to move it. And the answer isn't -- you know, there's a lot of people that say, well, let's just penalize those businesses for leaving. I'm telling you, as a businessman for 30 years, businesses will find ways to move and what we have to do is make our country the most competitive place. That is the answer. We have to have a competitive rate. We have to work toward that.

BERMAN: And it's worth -- it's worth expanding the deficit and the debt, sir? I -- just to be clear, if this passes as is, will it increase the national debt?

RENACCI: Well, look, if you're just going to lower taxes, if you're just going to -- look, I'll go back to the business model. If you're just going to lower the price and you don't look at the other side of the ledger, the expense side, you're right, it's going to increase things. But at the same time, we have to start -- it's one of the reasons why I want to bring the controller general in. I have a bill that the fiscal state of the union (INAUDIBLE) --

BERMAN: But -- but, sir -- but, congressman, can you vote for this unless the White House comes in and says we're going to get revenue from somewhere else or unless we're going to cut somewhere else? Because, as of now, they haven't proposed any broad based spending cuts, no entitlement cuts at all. So without that, could you vote for a tax cut this big?

RENACCI: Well, first off, I have to look at the entire proposal. You're right, do I believe we need to reduce taxes? Yes, I do. Do I believe every member of Congress realizes we have to reduce the corporate tax rate? Yes, I do believe they understand that. In the end, we have to look at the totality of the package. I don't know what else we're talking about, but I do know one thing, we have to get rates down. So that's a starting point.

And we can't just keep sitting around and not doing that. I've been here six years now and I can tell you, we continue to talk about tax reform. We continue to talk about bringing rates down. We have to do it. After six years, the frustration level for me is high. As a businessman, it's even higher.

BERMAN: Congressman Jim Renacci, great to have you with us, sir. Appreciate your time.

RENACCI: Thank you.

BERMAN: All right, big day for Congress. The entire Senate getting ready for a trip to the White House for a briefing on the escalating tensions with North Korea. That meeting comes a day after North Korea conducted its largest artillery drill in history. We have a live report from North Korea coming up.


[09:41:32] HARLOW: Senators getting on busses today, an unprecedented road trip this afternoon. Every senator has been invited to head to the White House for a classified briefing on the escalating tension in North Korea. The president is expected to at least drop by.

BERMAN: So this briefing comes one day after North Korea says it conducted its largest ever artillery drill and the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, was standing by watching.

CNN international correspondent Will Ripley inside North Korea in Pyongyang.

And even as they conduct these huge military drills, Will, a sort of a strange message of peace from the North Korean leader?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, they say that they want peace and stability on the peninsula, but they also say that the actions of the United States make that impossible. And they are watching very closely the outcome of this Senate briefing. They're watching what's going to be happening at the U.N. Security Council. Of course, always watching whatever may be coming out of China.

And then they have their own show to put on for the world. These new images coming out, pretty remarkable. North Korea is saying that this is their army's largest military drill ever. There were 300 pieces of long-range artillery fired simultaneously. The North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un presiding over this whole thing. There were submarines firing torpedoes. There were bombers doing test runs. All of this deliberately sending a message to the U.S. and its ally, South Korea, that the North is ready for war, even as they say that they want peace.

I spoke on the record today with a North Korea government official, an interview that will be airing later today on CNN, and it's rare that we get to actually speak with officials about this kind of thing. And I asked about the possibility of a sixth nuclear test and also a potential ICBM launch because, of course, there's been a lot of speculation that either of these things could happen. But the latest U.S. intelligence is that the -- the North Korean nuclear test site at Punggye-ri is not going to be having a nuclear test at any time. I asked if this perhaps is because of mounting international pressure from the U.S., and the answer I got, absolutely not. This official said North Korea will conduct another nuclear test, but they're not going to tell us when.

HARLOW: And, Will, at the same time as this artillery show is taking place in North Korea, South Korea also doing their own military drills?

RIPLEY: Yes, it was really to see these two -- on two sides of the DMZ, these military drills happening within 24 hours of each other. In South Korea they had 2,000 soldiers, they had fighter jets, helicopters, tanks on the ground. Again, the South and the U.S. saying that this is just routine practice. But, of course, North Korea interprets this as a dress rehearsal for an invasion, which only motivates them to act in a more provocative manner. This is why tensions on the Korean Peninsula right now are at their highest level in years.

HARLOW: Will Ripley in Pyongyang for us. Thank you so much for the reporting. We look forward to seeing that interview, a rare interview, with a North Korea official coming up a little later today on CNN.

Still to come for us, taking measure of the Trump presidency as we near the 100-day mark. CNN is across the country speaking with some of the president's biggest supporters and voters about their choice. Are they happy?


MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: One hundred days in, how do you feel he's done?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One hundred days in, I'm not pleased.

SAVIDGE: Really?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm not pleased.



[09:49:06] BERMAN: All right, Saturday marks the 100th day of the Trump presidency, what the president likes to call a ridiculous standard. But others consider it a traditional milestone to measure an administration's achievements.

HARLOW: So, CNN has crisscrossed the country talking to the voters who helped elect President Trump. Are they happy so far? Our Martin Savidge has their answers.


MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Asheville, Alabama. The sun's been up for three hours and Greg Weston's been up for six. He's a farmer. What he grows he and his wife Brandi sell at an old gas station on the edge of town.

GREG WESTON, FARMER: This is a Weston Farm Tomato Shack (ph).

SAVIDGE: Around here, the only thing redder than the maters (ph) is the politics. The county where Greg and Brandi live voted 89 percent for Trump.

SAVIDGE (on camera): How do you think Trump's doing?

G. WESTON: I think he's doing good.

[09:50:01] SAVIDGE (voice-over): They like Trump even though his first actions haven't really helped them.

Trump's tough immigration talk has made it harder for Greg to find migrant workers to harvest his crops.

G. WESTON: If you can't get it picked, then you're -- you're in trouble.

SAVIDGE: Then there's Trump's efforts to replace Obamacare, which Greg and Brandi are on.

SAVIDGE (on camera): What do you like about it? Why do you like it?

G. WESTON: Well, I pay $88 a month for me and my wife, where I was like, before Obamacare come in, I was paying like $660.

SAVIDGE: Obamacare is working so well, Brandy feels guilty. She says she knows people who can't afford their private insurance or who can't get insurance at all. She's OK with Trump's efforts to replace it.

BRANDI WESTON, FARMER: It still doesn't make sense to pay so little and still the poor people get nothing.

SAVIDGE (on camera): You think you should pay more?

B. WESTON: Ah, yes. In other words, yes.

SAVIDGE (voice-over): In Birmingham, it's also another long day for Quinton Posey, a cab driver. In the past, he's voted Democrat. But in 2016, voted Trump.

QUINTON POSEY, TAXI DRIVER: The thing about a businessman is that it's action and it's not policy.

SAVIDGE: Black Trump voters are rare in the south, only about 9 percent. Quinton is even more rare since he is black and gay.

SAVIDGE (on camera): One hundred days in, how do you feel he's done?

POSEY: One hundred days in, I'm not pleased.

SAVIDGE: Really?

POSEY: I'm not pleased.

SAVIDGE: What don't you like?

POSEY: He's a little too brash, is that the word?

SAVIDGE (voice-over): Quinton hasn't seen as much change as he expected and he worries about what a Trump budget might cut.

SAVIDGE (on camera): I mean, do you wish you hadn't voted for him?

POSEY: I don't wish I hadn't because, I mean, according to our alternatives, I don't have any regrets.

SAVIDGE: Right, you were not going to vote for Clinton.

POSEY: It's -- no, I'm not going to vote for Clinton. SAVIDGE (voice-over): In Des Moines, Iowa, I find another surprise

named Alberto Alejandre, a 32-year-old public school teacher who teaches Spanish to inner city kids.

SAVIDGE (on camera): Who did you vote for this go around?


SAVIDGE: Born in Mexico and became an American through an amnesty program in the '80s, yet voted for a president who has called Mexicans criminals and threatens mass deportations.

ALEJANDRE: Here we are, 100 days after he was sworn in, and he has not acted against innocent, undocumented workers.

SAVIDGE: Some would disagree, but what's certain is that Alberto feels good about the administration so far, including on immigration.

ALEJANDRE: Being in America to begin with isn't a right, it's a great privilege.

SAVIDGE: Madison County, Iowa, famous for its bridges and home to a man many feel personifies America, John Wayne. Brian Downes knew "the duke" and found similar qualities in The Donald when he met Trump at a campaign event.

BRIAN DOWNES, TRUMP VOTER: Meeting him, it made a huge difference. Yes, it made a huge difference. It -- because it's somebody who -- I -- he really felt like one of us. I had that feeling.

SAVIDGE: The big campaign issue for Brian was the same as Alberto.

DOWNES: Borders, immigration and I think that national security is all part of that.

SAVIDGE: And like Alberto, Brian is pleased by Trump so far.

DOWNES: I think he's doing great.

SAVIDGE: And he also admits that Trump's had to deal with a bit of a learning curve.

DOWNES: And he has, as much as admitted, I didn't know it was going to be this complicated.

SAVIDGE: From the birthplace of John Wayne, to a scene right out of the old west, John Flortini's (ph) family's been raising buffalo since the '60s. Today, the Durham Ranch has more than 3,000.

JOHN FLORTINI, RANCHER (ph): They're a great story. I mean they have a great comeback story, you know?

SAVIDGE: Wyoming may be the cowboy state, but here, coal is king. On a King Kong scale. Wyoming produces 40 percent of America's coal, dwarfing West Virginia and Kentucky. There's also oil, natural gas and wind. MAYOR LOUISE CARTER-KING, GILLETTE, WYOMING: We are the energy capital

of the nation.

SAVIDGE: Here, if you're not mining or drilling, you're selling to those who do. This past election, only one issue really mattered, jobs and energy, and, yes, that's two, but in Wyoming, they're one in the same. Jeff Dale runs a business renting industrial generators. He voted for Trump saying Democrats were anti-energy.

JEFF DALE, BASIN ELECTRIC POWER: The path that we were on was definitely crippling this industry. So there were too many regulations and too many hurdles.

SAVIDGE: That could explain why Wyoming was the reddest state of all.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One hundred and twenty-four thousand pounds.

SAVIDGE: Michael Wandler's family-owned business has been repairing monster-sized mining machinery for decades. He voted for Trump and says things have been improving ever since.

MIKE WANDLER, L&H INDUSTRIAL INC.: Business is better now. We had our worst year in -- since 2008 last year. It's better now. We feel like it's going to be 10 percent better, maybe 20 percent better this year.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You want your spot at the table?

SAVIDGE: Stacey Moeller is a single parent, a grandmother and a coal miner. She operates a P&H 4100 electric shovel. That's larger than her house.

[09:55:06] SAVIDGE (on camera): One mistake and you really could do a lot of damage.

STACEY MOELLER, COAL MINER: Yes. Yes. We don't make mistakes.

SAVIDGE (voice-over): She also voted for Trump, even though she was reviled by his words and actions to women.

MOELLER: And I was offended, but it was not about me. It was about the people I work with and the people I love, and I had to make a choice that was bigger than me, so I did.

SAVIDGE: For Stacey and all of the voters I've talked with, Trump was not a perfect candidate and is not a perfect president. They voted for him believing he would make their lives better, and 100 days later, they still do.

Martin Savidge, CNN, Wyoming.


BERMAN: Marty met a guy who knew John Wayne. How cool is that?

HARLOW: I mean Marty is -- Marty is the best.

BERMAN: Marty's the man.

All right, we're moments away from a news conference. I think we have some live pictures right now.

HARLOW: There you go.

BERMAN: We're waiting to hear from Paul Ryan. This is his first chance to comment on what the White House is now calling the biggest tax plan -- the biggest tax reform plan in the history of ever. We will bring you this news conference live.