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Funding Bill Deal Would Avert Shutdown; Trump Invites Philippines Leader To White House; Tax Plan Targets Wall Street Loophole. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired May 1, 2017 - 05:00   ET



DAVID BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: The deal features some big wins for Democrats and funding for the president's border wall is out.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Isn't that the job, by the way, to pay the bills, keep the lights on?

BRIGGS: Good job, government.

ROMANS: Good job, doing your job.

And there is pushback over the president's decision to invite the authoritarian president of the Philippines to the White House. Why the White House is defending it, and will Rodrigo Duterte even show up?

Good morning and welcome to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: And I'm Dave Briggs. It is Monday, May 1st. It's 5:00 a.m. in the east.

And breaking overnight, congressional negotiators from both parties reaching a deal on a huge spending bill that, if approved, will fund the government through the end of September.

Now, the deal includes several significant wins for Democrats. It would add billions for the Pentagon and border security, but nothing for President Trump's promised wall along the Mexican border.

Democrats rejected border wall spending as premature, since the president has not detailed plans for building the multibillion dollar barrier, which he has vowed Mexico will at some point pay for.

ROMANS: Also, the bill has no money for a deportation force or federal cuts to sanctuary cities. There's no funding cut for Planned Parenthood and there is a $2 billion increase for the National Institutes of Health.

Votes in the House and Senate are expected by the end of the week. No response to the agreement yet from the White House, but the deal is, we're told, the product of steady negotiation between the administration and both parties on Capitol Hill to avoid a government shutdown. BRIGGS: The authoritarian strongman leader of the Philippines now has an invitation to the White House. There is growing pushback against President Trump's invitation to President Rodrigo Duterte. In less than a year in office, Duterte is accused of major human rights abuses and once called President Obama a "son of a whore." He has encouraged the extrajudicial killings of some 7,000 Filipino suspects suspected of using or dealing drugs.

ROMANS: He's also moved to realign the Philippines away from the U.S. and toward China, saying "America has lost." White House chief of staff, Reince Priebus says human rights do matter, but cooperating with Asian partners to deal with the North Korean threat takes precedence.


REINCE PRIEBUS, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: This is a different level of problem that we need cooperation among our partners in Southeast Asia. The issues facing us developing in North Korea are so serious that we need cooperation at some level with as many partners in the area as we can get to make sure that we have our ducks in a row. So that if something does happen in North Korea that we have everyone in line backing up a plan of action that may need to be put together.


ROMANS: CNN's Ivan Watson is monitoring the situation from Hongkong and joins us now live. Ivan when you think about one of the most coveted invitations in the world, to be invited to the White House, the center of democracy, western-style capitalism, and thinking of, you know, the Philippine leader as basically a strategic partner in the North Korea situation, not something that is, you know, top of mind.

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. It's debatable whether the Philippines really has any political or economic or military leverage when it comes to the North Korean conflict.

One of the issues that these two leaders who like to position themselves as strongmen, one of the things they discussed was Rodrigo Duterte's controversial and very deadly war on drugs, one that has claimed the lives by many estimates of more than 7,000 people in his first ten months in office with the police taking responsibility for the killings of at least 2,500 drug-offending suspects, all, they claim, in self-defense.

But on top of that, you have the fact that Duterte is essentially a self-confessed killer. Listen to him talk about his time as mayor of Davao City.


RODRIGO DUTERTE, PHILIPPINES PRESIDENT: I did kill. I was only three months mayor in 1988, at least I kill to protect people. I am not a dictator killing my political opponents to stay in power.


WATSON: So, how would it look to have a self-confessed killer in the White House? That's a big question and part of why human rights activists, and of course, Democrats like the senator from Connecticut, Chris Murphy, has tweeted, quote, "We are watching in realtime as the American human rights bully pulpit disintegrates into ash."

But one thing to point out, the U.S. and Philippines, longtime allies. Philippines, the closest thing the U.S. has ever had really to a colony, and Duterte was democratically elected. He enjoys a great deal of popular support in his country, figures that President Trump would really kill for popularity among his own electorate -- Christine.

ROMANS: Two very good points. The very complex history between the United States and Philippines, close history. And also, this is a democratically elected leader of the Philippines, people there very concerned about crime and drugs. Thank you so much for that, Ivan in Hongkong this morning.

[05:05:12]BRIGGS: All right, to break down all these latest developments, let's bring in CNN politics reporter, Eugene Scott, and CNN contributor, Salena Zito, who has a new interview with President Trump out this morning in "The Washington Examiner." Good morning to both of you.

Salena, we read your piece. It is fantastic. Another insightful interview with President Trump, but let's talk about the latest developments, inviting Rodrigo Duterte into the White House.

During the campaign, he talked very glowingly about Vladimir Putin. He invited Egyptian President El-Sisi. He calls Kim Jong-Un a very smart cookie, and this Filipino president, again, an admitted killer, a man who once offered himself as a gift to brides in the Philippines. What's behind -- how do you connect the dots on all this?

SALENA ZITO, CNN COMMENTATOR: Well, again, I can't totally get inside the mind of the president, but what I can tell you is in our interview, North Korea was weighing heavily on his mind, and you know, he was incredibly concerned about it.

And he talked about the importance of diplomacy and lining up people on sort of his side. Now, I think it's an important point that the Philippines has been a strong ally with the United States and we have had a close relationship with him, with them.

I suspect that what the president may be doing is lining up everyone that he can on his side and with China as a show of force against North Korea, but you know, the comments that the president of the Philippines have said are incredibly concerning as well as his actions.

ROMANS: Yes. I mean, just the murder comments alone, human rights violations, then there's a whole sort of trove of sexism through there as well. But let me -- but you said North Korea was front of mind in the interviews, but also front of mind was the electoral map. Just like the Reuters reporters who talked to him last week, he showed you the map of the states that he won, all that red on that map, was boasting about it. He's still worried -- he's worried about North Korea, but he's still looking behind, too.

ZITO: Well, the Reuters interview was after mine, and that -- to put this in a little bit of context, that may have been actually a little bit of my fault that he had that map out, because I wanted to talk about counties.

Because I drive across the country and I go to the counties, especially the ones that President Obama won twice and that he then won and flipped, so that's where that discussion began, and so, that might have a little more context as to why the map was there.

But you know, he's very proud of what he accomplished. He's very proud of the new sort of alignment that he started to build. We don't know if that alignment sticks, but the alignment that he started to build with last year's election cycle. And so, that's what that discussion was about.

BRIGGS: And that's fair, but two weeks prior, on a Sunday, he tweeted that the election is over. But anyway, I want to move past it. We'll try.

Eugene, I want to ask you about something the president said both with Martha McCowan from Fox and in that "Face The Nation" interview, regarding the archaic rules of the Senate and how they get through legislation. Listen.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: I think the rules in Congress, and in particular, the rules in the Senate are unbelievably archaic and slow moving, and in certain cases unfair. In many cases, you're forced to make deals that are not the deal you'd make. You'd make a much different kind of a deal. You're forced into situations that you hate to be forced into.


BRIGGS: Eugene, is he suggesting we do away with the Senate filibuster for major pieces of legislation?

EUGENE SCOTT, CNN POLITICS REPORTER: I think he's not clear on the rules, quite frankly. He didn't explain very clearly what he was most frustrated with. I think from what I could gather, what disappoints him is this idea of compromise, it's this idea of having to work with people who disagree with you, which some critics say is something he has a lot of experience with in his corporate world.

I think if he could communicate very clearly as to how the rules that exist in the Senate are harming the American people, if that's actually what they are doing, he may get some buy-in, but that came off at its worst to critics as I just don't like that I can't get through what I want to get through. ROMANS: Something that he's criticized President Obama for as well, saying he doesn't know how to work with the rules, can't get anything done, shows he's a weak leader. Now he finds himself in that position.

SCOTT: Sure.

ROMANS: Can we talk about the government funding, the spending bill?

SCOTT: Sure.

ROMANS: For the record, Dave and I, you know, that's their job to keep the government going, and the whole last-minute six-month extension is not the way a good business or country should be run. What do you make of the Democratic wins in that spending bill?

[05:10:11]SCOTT: I think what was most interesting to me when I looked at the spending bill were some of the environmentally minded things regarding energy, regarding, I believe it was clean air and maybe coal mining.

And I thought that was very interesting, because on the 100th day, we saw this huge march against climate change, President Trump's climate change policy specifically.

And I think what some people on the left were hoping to see was this administration back away from some of the things that they had previously said that seemed to imply that they weren't going to be supportive of more environmentally minded issues.

BRIGGS: Yes. Every time you think he's going to back away, he goes to this speech in Pennsylvania where he makes clear, they will build that wall. And as we close, Salena, let's get back to your piece, you say the president has been humbled. How?

ZITO: Well, we were talking, again, we were talking about the map and he said he is very humbled. You know, I asked him about how he feels about, you know, winning the election and his connection with the people that, especially that voted for him.

He says he feels very humbled by the people who put their trust in him, the people that had confidence that he could go in there and make change.

And while he did admit to saying it's a lot harder than he thought it would be, he also said that that difficulty comes with knowing that people's lives, every decision that he makes, it involves someone's life, and that weighs on him every time he signs a bill or says anything.

ROMANS: You say he was humbled, but then he tells you he takes this unbelievable credit for his Supreme Court decision, that it's all about him. Let's listen what he says about Neil Gorsuch, "I think that the Supreme Court is very important because every 5-4 decision is because of me and that could go on for 40 years." ZITO: Well, the context of that question was, I said, what are the three things that you would like to accomplish if you are lucky enough to be there for eight years or even four? And he said, the most important things are the Supreme Court and building that out and peace, and he talked about create -- he wants to be a legitimate jobs creator.

ROMANS: All right, Salena Zito, sort of the President Trump whisperer, thanks. She really does -- I'm serious!

BRIGGS: Translator.

ROMANS: Yes, she really is. All right, thanks. And Eugene, the one and only Eugene Scott.

BRIGGS: We'll see you in about 30 minutes, guys.

ROMANS: Another member of the president's national security team expected to leave the White House. Who and why, that's next.



BRIGGS: Another shake-up in President Trump's national security team. Sebastian Gorka may be on his way out of the administration. Officials tell CNN the controversial deputy assistant to the president has been generating too much controversy.

He's been linked to far right extremists and is a former national security editor for "Breitbart." Gorka has been serving on the National Security Council.

His expected departure follows the firing of former national security adviser, Michael Flynn and the removal of Steve Bannon from the NSC's Principals Committee. Current deputy national security adviser, K.T. McFarland also reportedly leaving for an ambassador post.

ROMANS: All right, a tax break to benefit Wall Street investment managers may be on the chopping block. That's according to White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus. He was speaking on "ABC News Sunday," and he said this about something called carried interest.


PRIEBUS: The president wants to get rid of carried interest, so that balloon's not going to stay inflated very long, I can assure you of that.


ROMANS: Priebus provided no further details but said the administration would target the deduction in its tax overhaul. What is carried interest? Well, it's the share of profits that hedge funds and other investment managers collect from clients due to a tax loophole. It's taxed at 23.8 percent, well below the top rate of ordinary income. This rate is controversial since we're talking about big money. Private equity managed $4.2 trillion in 2014 alone and critics say these are the last people that need a tax break.

The president have been critical of that break on the campaign trail. When the White House released its initial tax plan last week, it did not mention carried interest. The omission initially had some on Wall Street celebrating.

In fact, while the entire proposal was pretty sparse on details, what was revealed in general was very pro-business. One of the reasons why so many Wall Street thought, hey, this is going to be great.

BRIGGS: On Friday, he said the middle class will be the biggest beneficiary of my tax reform bill, but there was no follow-up question, no pushback about how exactly.

ROMANS: Yes. We do need more details.


BRIGGS: He would like to give people tax breaks. He has said that all along. What are the details? That's what we need to know.

BRIGGS: We shall all see.

Well, when the mic failed, this anthem singer before the Ducks/Oilers playoff game in Edmonton got by with a little help from his friends, his Canadian friends. Coy Wire has the details in this morning's "Bleacher Report." Great story on the way.



BRIGGS: All right, we will get to that incredible anthem in a moment, but first, in hoops, one day after his sister's funeral, Celtics star, Isaiah Thomas, puts his grief aside to lead his team to another victory.

ROMANS: Coy Wire has more in this morning's "Bleacher Report." Hey, Coy.

COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Christine, Dave. Isaiah Thomas delivered the eulogy at his sister's funeral on Saturday and took a redeye, arriving back in Boston at 4:00 a.m. on Sunday, nine hours before game one against the Wizards.

Talk about roller coaster of emotions. His Celtics off to a rough start, falling behind 16-0 in the first quarter. Then Thomas takes an elbow to the face and his tooth comes flying out of his mouth!

Thomas calmly picks up his tooth and carries on, indicative of how he's managed to pick up the pieces and keep fighting all throughout the playoffs. He drains two consecutive three-pointers and finishes with a game-high 33 points in the Celtics' 123-111 win. And after the game, Isaiah talked about how he's been able to carry on.


ISAIAH THOMAS, CELTICS GUARD: Basketball and when I'm on the court, it just keeps me going, so I do everything for my sister now, and that's all I can do.


[05:25:11]WIRE: Other playoff action. Game seven in L.A. for the Clippers. Jay Z and Beyonce with twin babies on board, sitting courtside to watch future hall of famer Paul Pierce's final game. The Jazz win 104-91, earning a date with golden state in the next round, but 39-year-old Paul Pierce thanking fans of every NBA city after the game, saying he has no regrets, that he gave everything he had every single day of his illustrious 19-year career.

Great moment before last night's NHL playoff game between the Anaheim Ducks and Edmonton Oilers in Canada. The microphone stopped working during the national anthem, so country music singer, Brett Kissel asked the fans for some help.


WIRE: Goose bump action there. The Oilers lost the game but still lead the series 2-1, and those 18,000 fans in that arena in Edmonton singing the national anthem for their neighbors to the south. Outstanding stuff, guys.

ROMANS: That's what friends are for.

BRIGGS: You know, I had goose bumps. That was a wonderful moment. Imagine if a mic went out here. We'd know "O Canada," and that might be it.

ROMANS: Two words. But I could sing it for a long time.

BRIGGS: Could you? By the way, Anthony Randon wonders how he gets in this morning's "Bleacher Report," he went 6 for 6 with ten RBI against the Mets, a job well done by the Washington Nationals Slugger.

WIRE: Great shout-out.

ROMANS: Thanks, Coy.

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