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Congress strikes budget deal to avert government shutdown; Senator Brown Writes NAFTA Letter To Trump; Trump: "Never Spoke" To Mnuchin About His Taxes; Respect The Office, Not The Man? Aired 7:30- 8a ET

Aired May 1, 2017 - 07:30   ET


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: Without compromising the coverage for as many people.

REP. JIM JORDAN (R), CHAIRMAN EMERITUS, FREEDOM CAUCUS: I believe so. I believe that's the bill.

CUOMO: Congressman --

JORDAN: Thank you, brother.

CUOMO: -- the more details we get, the more we'll discuss it. Always appreciate your participation.

JORDAN: Thank you.

CUOMO: All right, Alisyn --

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: All right, Chris. The bipartisan budget deal appears to have more wins for Democrats than it does for Republicans, as you've just heard. So what's in it that has one Democratic leader really excited? He's here to tell us, next.


CAMEROTA: Congress striking an agreement overnight on a spending deal to fund the government until September. One item included in that deal, permanent health care benefits for retired coal miners and their families. Our next guest fought for a long time to keep those benefits, and joining us now is Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio. He serves on the Finance Committee. Senator, great to have you here.


CAMEROTA: So, what took so long to get the health benefits for coal miners, and I know you're happy that you finally got it last night.

[07:35:00] BROWN: Well, we had bipartisan support with Senators Manchin, and Casey, and Capito, and Portman from my state. We didn't have Republican leadership initially, and then when we finally convinced them to make it -- to make it a pretty much a party position with both parties in the Senate, Speaker Ryan stood in the way. We convinced him, and it's part of the deal. And it means -- it means thousands of coal mining families -- retirees and widows of coal miners can rest assured that there won't be these every four months your health care coverage expires. I mean, imagine that. You think -- you get a letter in the mail every three of four months saying six weeks from now your insurance is going to expire, and this is a group of people that are more likely to have health problems --

CAMEROTA: Right, sure.

BROWN: -- than your average 40-year-old. And so, this was really, really important and it's a huge victory for the mine workers. I was in Steubenville, Ohio a couple of weeks ago just sitting around a table with mine worker retirees and a couple of active mine workers and one guy said just put yourself in our shoes and think about what this is like. And you've got a bunch of members of the Senate who have good taxpayer-funded -- subsidized taxpayer-funded insurance that have refused to take care of these mine workers, and it's been a plan in effect for seven decades so it's finally done right.

CAMEROTA: So, good for you. That was a victory for you. You know, Democrats, this morning, are saying that there are a lot of victories that they feel, for them, in this spending bill. Planned Parenthood is not being cut after so many Republicans have said that they really wanted to. There's no funding in here for the border wall which, as you know, was a mainstay of President Trump's campaign. So how did Democrats pull this off --

BROWN: No --

CAMEROTA: -- with a Republican president and a Republican-led Congress?

BROWN: Well, I think a couple of things. One is that the public knows that government shutdowns are always caused by Republicans. I mean, it's just fact over the last five, 10 years that whenever there's a shutdown it's usually the Tea Party that pushes for it, so they knew didn't want to do that. But I think, second, it's -- you know, we have dollars in there for border security, we're just not building that wall and it's pretty hard to argue.

You take money from the clean-up of Lake Erie, you take money from Meals on Wheels, you take money from Planned Parenthood, and then you use it to build a border wall that the House and Senate members along the border in both parties think is kind of absurd. So, in the end, that just wasn't going to go because the public overwhelmingly thinks the border wall is silly. More security is important, the border wall not --

CAMEROTA: But, you know, we just had Congressman Jim Jordan here who says that conservatives do not like this spending deal that was reached last, so are you certain this is going to become a reality?

BROWN: Well, Jim Jordan is a friend of mine. I know him from Ohio for years, but he's out of touch. His Tea Party views are out of touch with mainstream America. That's why Planned Parenthood is still funded. That's why we're going to keep Meals on Wheels. That's why Sen. Portman and I, and members of both parties are protecting the clean-up of Lake Erie. We know what that lake looked like when it -- when we didn't put federal involvement and engagement in it.

CAMEROTA: I want to ask you about NAFTA. I know that this has been very important to you and President Trump just seems to have done an about-face on his position on NAFTA. He had said that he was on the verge of pulling out of NAFTA and then something happened this weekend where he changed his mind. Let me play that moment for you.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They said please, would you rather than terminating NAFTA -- I was all set to do it. In fact, I was going to do it today. I was going to do it as we're sitting here. I would have had to delay you. I was going to do it today. I was going to terminate NAFTA but they called up and they said would you negotiate? And I said yes, I will negotiate. If I'm not able to renegotiate NAFTA, I will terminate NAFTA.


CAMEROTA: OK, so where are you on the president's thinking about where he is on NAFTA?

BROWN: Look, I don't know, obviously, what's going on in the inner machinations of the White House but I'm sending him a letter asking him to do four things in the negotiations. All four really matter for a better trade agreement among Canada, Mexico, and the United States. First is get up-front commitments on 'Buy America' and anti- outsourcing provisions. Second, make sure that you don't -- you don't turn one -- play one American worker against another.

CAMEROTA: Meaning farmers and manufacturers?

BROWN: Farmers against manufacturers.

CAMEROTA: But how do you not? I mean, they have different interests.

BROWN: Well, you -- that's important that the president mediate that in these negotiations because I've seen that happen far too many times. You get workers at the table on these provisions and make sure in the negotiations --

CAMEROTA: Right, but I mean, I guess my question is what's good for farmers may not be good for manufacturers.

BROWN: Well, you've got -- the president's got to figure that out. I mean, that's why -- that's why you hire -- you hire negotiators that work through that. It's not -- it's not going to be perfect. You know, the last provision is important that these provisions have something called "investor-state dispute settlement" which pretty much gives corporations way more power to veto and to overturn Democratic rules and regulations, especially in the environment and labor. And I want to -- I want to make sure that workers have the same standing as multi-national corporations in these agreements and that's what my letter to the president today says. CAMEROTA: I want to ask you particularly about the environmental stuff because in your letter you spell it out pretty clearly. Let me just read that for people. "Both -- all countries involved in NAFTA must comply with multilateral environmental agreements, including climate agreements, and agree to negotiate binding disciplines regarding trucking emissions and safety wildlife and timber trafficking and fisheries." Are you concerned about given what the president -- some of the things that the president has done with his executive orders about where the president is one some of these environmental concerns?

[07:40:20] BROWN: Well, I'm -- the purpose of the letter was to make sure the president stands strong on American laws. Not on what his opinion of American laws is, but what American laws actually say. And the environment and worker standards -- the Canadians have high standards, we have high standards, sometimes the Mexicans don't and, I mean, that's the problem on trade, generally.

The reason a lot of these jobs are outsourced on sort of new last 30- year American phenomenon where U.S. companies shut down production in the U.S. go overseas to take advantage of low wages, and weak environmental laws, and low worker safety standards and protections, and then get a tax break to do it. That's been, in too many cases, a business plan and too many American companies have filed.

That's why in talking about trade I don't play off country against country and worker against worker like many do on these -- many, including, sometimes, the White House. What I want to see is lifting up of standards and that's using American environmental worker standards to raise standards in other countries. That will make us -- that makes us more competitive, too, instead of pulling all our standards down in this race to the bottom as some large corporations want to see us do.

CAMEROTA: Senator Sherrod Brown, thanks so much for being here in the studio.

BROWN: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: We'll be very interested to see what happens next.

BROWN: Thanks for having me.

CAMEROTA: Chris --

CUOMO: All right. President Trump says he will pay more under his own tax plan. Is that true? Christine Romans crunches the numbers, next.


[07:45:08] CUOMO: Will the president ever release his tax return? Well, President Trump says he never told Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin that he had "no intention of releasing his tax returns." The president is actually offering a clue as to when he may reveal them and he also offered a clue as to how much he'd pay under his tax plan. CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Yes.

CUOMO: CNN chief business correspondent Christine Romans, do you have some numbers for us?

ROMANS: Keeping the tax suspense alive, this president. When we he release his taxes? Soon is all we know. Here's what the president said when asked when his audit will be over and what he'll do once that happens.


TRUMP: It could happen soon, I don't know.


TRUMP: I think it's pretty routine, to be honest with you, but then I'll make a decision.


ROMANS: Here's why we want to see those returns. Releasing those tax returns is ever more important. Last week, the administration released the first outline of a tax plan and while it lacked details, experts tell us a few items on his wish list could save him money -- could save the president tens of millions of dollars on his own personal taxes.

Now, we only have a few pages of his leaked 2005 tax returns to go off of, but here's what it tells us. A repeal of the alternative minimum tax which prevents the wealthiest Americans from paying no taxes, that would have saved the president $31 million in 2005. That was 80 percent of his tax bill that year.

Second, the proposed new business rate of 15 percent would have saved President Trump $27 million back in 2005. Why? The majority of the Trump empire is made up of pass-through business. Those are taxed on individual, not corporate tax rates. And, Trump's descendants would benefit from a repeal of the estate or the so-called death tax. That affects estates of $5.5 million. That means his family would inherit his billions, likely tax-free, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: That's nice work if you can get it. Thank you very much, Christine.

So, two CNN commentators got into this heated argument about whether it's possible to respect the office of the president but not respect the man. Our political commentators weigh in on this debate, next.


[07:51:05] CUOMO: All right. So, a fundamental question was raised in a heated exchange on CNN this weekend during President Trump's latest rally. Take a listen.


PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: If we're going to wait 1,361 days and he's still going to be the moral midget that you saw on that stand in Harrisburg tonight.

PARIS DENNARD, FORMER BUSH WHITE HOUSE DIRECTOR OF BLACK OUTREACH: I did not like probably 98 to 99 percent of the things that President Obama did but I would never call him Obama and I would never call him a moral midget.

BEGALA: You respect the office, not the man. I respect the office. If he enters a room, I stand. If he signs a law, I obey it. He is my president, but he is letting me down and the vast majority of Americans down.


CUOMO: The ways to criticize a president -- the office, the man. Let's discuss. CNN political commentators Ana Navarro and Jeffrey Lord. Ana, respect the man, respect the office -- how do you balance those two?

ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, look, we live in America and we have something called the First Amendment, which gives us free speech. So this is a country where we can actually say what we want about anybody, including the President of the United States. That's a good thing and that's a bad thing. In other countries -- in a place like Cuba, in a place like Venezuela, in a place like the Philippines, that may get you killed. In the United States, we can.

And I do think, though, that we have to have a civil discourse. I think we have to have respect for the office of the presidency, but I think that respect for the office of the presidency must begin, must be reflected by the person sitting in that office at that moment -- by the President of the United States, himself.

And when you have Donald Trump -- a President Donald Trump who calls Elizabeth Warren "Pocahontas", a person who calls Chuck Todd "sleepy eyes", who throws ad hominem attacks on a constant basis and has done it his entire life, continues to do it as president, then you have to wonder. How can you seek respect, how can you want respect if you're not willing to give respect to your American people? To the people that voted for you, to the people that are part of your country.

CUOMO: Jeffrey --

NAVARRO: But I think it goes both ways.

CUOMO: Jeffrey?

JEFFREY LORD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, FORMER REAGAN WHITE HOUSE OFFICIALS: Yes. Well, Chris,I have to say, I mean, first of all, the First Amendment is everything here in this country so that's a good thing. Secondly, I have to say there hasn't been a President of the United States in American history, beginning with George Washington, that hasn't been dumped on by their critics. I mean, this is part of life when you're in the White House. I listened to my friend Paul Begala in that clip that you just played and I have to say, with all due respect, there were plenty of Americans in the Clinton days who felt towards President Clinton more or less as Paul Begala was describing President Trump.

This comes with the territory and every president's different.Presidents do things -- Harry Truman said of a critic of his daughter, for heaven's sake, that he going to -- he hoped not to meet him because if he did he was going to, you know, punch him and hit him where he might need a supporter, and the letter went on at length. And it was a letter, by the way. It wasn't an off the cuff remark. So this kind of thing is, you know, par for the course here in America and it gets more intense than at other times and you just roll with it.

CUOMO: But at the end of the day --

NAVARRO: Jeffrey, you've got to go get some coffee this morning. You've just given an entire answer and you didn't even mention Ronald Reagan.


LORD: Well, of course, I do remember the protests of Ronald Reagan. How about that?

CUOMO: You know, look, I take -- I take the points but I guess the question becomes -- and look, this is not new. I deal with this every day with people who want -- you have two camps. One is do not normalize Donald Trump. Do not respect what he does just because he's president. It's about the man and the office. And then this other side, which is well, hold on, you cannot devalue what this office means and once somebody has won it, Ana, you must accord them the respect of that office, and if you don't like what they do, that's fine, but there must be a line.

[07:55:08] NAVARRO: Well, good luck with that. Look, I saw some horrible cartoons, some horrible emails comes through when George W. Bush was president. I saw some horrible emails and cartoon comes through when Barack Obama was president, but I've got to go back to my point. The person that has got to establish the precedence of respect, that has got to behave in a presidential manner is the president, himself. That really sets a tone that I think makes a difference in America.

When you are doing things, like inviting a mad man oppressor, a corrupt leader of the Philippines to our White House, that is not presidential and people are going to call you names because they are going to be offended, rightly so.

CUOMO: Right. So, it's a little bit of the 'get what you give,' Jeffrey, and is that something that must be factored into this as well? Yes, Donald Trump won the office. He is President of the United States, but the way he has conducted himself and the things that have come out of him, and the actions and the words have generated this criticism. You get what you give. LORD: Well, all I can say is -- and Chris, the other night I was at the Washington Correspondents' -- the White HouseCorrespondent's' Dinner and right here in my adopted hometown of Harrisburg was the president, himself, and he gave that speech. And I can only tell you the reports that I got, some of them from -- that were being texted to me by a local reporter as the event was going on was that the folks who were there were thrilled with him. They love it. They love him to death.

They are most unhappy with Washington, D.C. They are most unhappy with the kind of folks that were there with me at the -- at the Correspondents' Dinner and they wanted to make it known and they love him for doing it. So there is a disconnect here and I think we just have to, you know, work with that.

CUOMO: Hey, Jeffrey, does it bother you at all when the president says I want to change some of these First Amendment protections because when I -- when they say things that are terrible and wrong, you know, we should be able to get after them, like in the U.K.? Forget about the fact that the U.K. is moving some of their statutory principles to be more like us. But the idea of because I don't like it, maybe I'll change the law to get after the media, do you like that idea?

LORD: I confess, as a First Amendment freak, that does bother me a bit. I mean, I just think give these things free rein no matter who they are. But I know that he genuinely -- he's spoken to me about this long before he was running for president and I know he feels very, very strongly about it, so we'll see what happens. But I do think we have to be careful here when we deal with the First Amendment -- absolutely.

And one other thing if I could say, Chris. You know, people at that dinner made -- which was terrific and I was a guest of CNN -- made a great deal about the First Amendment, but I didn't hear the words Ann Coulter anywhere at that dinner and here she was under physical threat from giving a speech at Berkeley. I mean, that was a pretty noticeable problem, I thought, and there were others. I didn't hear the names of other conservatives who have been attacked here and threatened, so I think that we've got to work on that.

CUOMO: Ana, let me ask you something while I have you. The first Cuban-American elected to Congress is going to retire next year. Tell us about this great lady and what people should know about the legacy of Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.

NAVARRO: She's my congresswoman, she is also my friend. She is also a mentor. She was the first Latina elected to Congress. She was the first woman to chair a major committee. She was the chair of Foreign Relations. She's also a sane, compassionate, moderate voice. She was the biggest winner -- she had the biggest swing district. Hillary Clinton won her district by 20 points and she won that same district by over 20 points. It was the largest difference and margin in the country because she has focused on her community.

It's going to be a huge loss in this environment that we have today where there is such polarization and such dysfunction. I've been amazed by the -- I've been amazed by the feedback in social media to her announcing that she's retiring. You know, I've seen people from the left, from the right, Democrats, Independents, Republicans, LGBTQ, straight people, religious people, immigrants, native-born, young people, older people, Speaker Paul Ryan, even Rosie O'Donnell call her out for somebody that has done the right thing and expressed admiration for her. Ileana, mi amigo, muchas gracias. You're going to be -- you're a little teeny woman with little teeny feet but you're going to leave very big shoes to fill.

LORD: Hey, Chris, you're missing an obvious question here. Is Ana a candidate for Congress?

NAVARRO: Oh, sweetheart, please. I couldn't afford it and they couldn't afford me.


CUOMO: All right, thank you both for the discussion. We have a lot of news this morning including what is in and out of this government new spending bill that stopped the shutdown. Let's get after it.


TRUMP: In many cases, you're forced to make deals that are not the deal you'd make.