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Interview with Representative Steve Russell; Trump Arrives in Florida to Survey Irma Damage. Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired September 14, 2017 - 10:30   ET



[10:32:51] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: You're looking at live pictures of the podium where Nancy Pelosi will speak at any moment following that dinner she had with the president last night. We'll bring it to you as soon as it begins.

Of course, Pelosi had dinner, Chinese food, we hear, and chocolate pie, with the president and Chuck Schumer last night and they talked mainly about DACA and Dreamers. This morning the president said that he is working on a plan to keep Dreamers in the country. He also importantly noted that GOP leadership -- Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan -- are, quote, "on board."

Joining me now Republican congressman of Oklahoma, Steve Russell.

Congressman, it's nice to have you here. The White House this morning says this is not amnesty. Just flat-out not amnesty. Steve King, your fellow Republican in the House, says this is clearly amnesty and it's so bad that it's going to blow up the president's base. Which is it? Is DACA legislation amnesty or not?

REP. STEVE RUSSELL (R), OKLAHOMA: Well, I think what you've got to recognize two administrations now have placed these minors in a quasi legal status. They have executive protection but no authority of Congress. So we have to decide, do we give them some legal protection in a permanent status or in a temporary status, or do we deport them? Those are the two choices.

I just don't see deportation ever on the table. I think one of the solutions would be give them a temporary legal status and then whether or not they become citizens will be based upon their own merits as any other person might obtain citizenship.

HARLOW: Is that amnesty or is it not?

RUSSELL: You know, we treat minors differently under the rule of law. As long as we've had our nation. For example, if you had a 12-year- old commit a capital crime, we would not send them to the -- you know, to the gurney for execution. We would treat them different. And these individuals did not make the decisions and that's why the executives in two administrations now have struggled with the legal protections for them and so the president is correct to give it back to Congress. We have to solve it. We've got some time. I think coupled with it we

have to have a border security, coupled with the issue, otherwise it's like a spill if you don't turn off the faucet, you've got a future problem.

[10:35:11] HARLOW: All right. A couple of things, one, you're completely correct that they were brought into the country as minors, most of them at the average age of 6 1/2 according to a recent study. Most of them now are in their 20s and early 30s so they're not juveniles anymore. But again, I just want your answer, yes or no, on how you see this as a Republican lawmaker. Is it amnesty as Steve King says or is it not amnesty as the White House says this morning?

RUSSELL: Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution says that Congress has the power to and one of those is to establish a uniformed naturalization rule. If we establish the rules and the policy constitutionally we've set immigration policy and then it's not amnesty.


RUSSELL: We -- yes. We have -- I can speak for myself, I'm not going to speak for my colleagues or for the president, but I do support what the president has done. It is Congress' purview.

Now moving forward I think that we can work together to provide a temporary status and whether or not they become citizens is on their own merits and then that would be earned.

HARLOW: OK. You bring up -- so you say it's not amnesty. You bring up the importance here to you very much and your constituents, border security. OK.

RUSSELL: Yes. Absolutely.

HARLOW: Now our reporting this morning from our team in Washington, Jeff Zeleny, Phil Mattingly, Jim Acosta, is that right now a senior White House official says that the president is so firmly dedicated to getting DACA legislation through that it is more of a priority to him than funding a border wall.

The border wall was promise number one on the campaign trail. Is the president right on that? Is DACA more important than a border wall being funded right now?

RUSSELL: As a former Warrior I don't look at physical barriers as security necessarily. I think you have to have a combination of technological means, balloons, you've got unmanned aerial vehicles, you've got high-speed cameras, you've got walls.

We have all of that in combination. And so we can do that economically, we can support the president. I think he should keep that on the table, coupled with this DACA problem. Until we first secure the border we're not going to prevent future problems of this nature from occurring. So the two have to be intertwined. We have six months. We can get the president's funding. I support Mike McCaul's border security plan. He's the chairman of

Homeland Security. We use technologies like this in Iraq and Afghanistan in my combat experience. They work. So we can get to border security to support the president and we can also do what's right by these that are in a quasi legal status by two presidents and now we, the people, the duly elected representative set that immigration policy.

HARLOW: All right. Let me get you on taxes because the president certainly surprised some of your fellow Republicans yesterday when he said definitively that on taxes he is not looking to lower taxes for wealthy Americans. He wants to keep them where they are or potentially higher, the wealthy Americans would pay more. That is in contrast to what he and the administrations previously said. It certainly caught fellow Republicans like Kevin McCarthy off guard. Do you support the president on that? Should wealthy Americans pay more?

RUSSELL: I think that we have to stop the class warfare. We're all Americans. We want all of us to pay our fair share. We want investment to come to the United States. We want things that are offshore to come to the United States and work here. All of us benefit as the American people if our tax rates are lower and we have the ability to put that back into the economy.


RUSSELL: So if we turn this into a class warfare issue we're not going to solve that diversity between taking seven schedules down to three and making taxes lower for individual Americans that work every day like we all do.

Look, if we turn this into class warfare, guess what, they were going to be negotiating non-negotiables, nothing will get done.


RUSSELL: The American people will be angry.

HARLOW: Congressman, I hear you. I'm sorry to interrupt, as we watch Air Force One land here. Just quickly before we go, though, Congressman, yes or no, should the wealthy pay more in taxes like the president is saying this morning or no?

RUSSELL: I refuse to make it a class warfare issue and I won't support any --


RUSSELL: Any policy that makes this a class warfare issue.

HARLOW: All right. I'm not doing that. I'm asking you if you agree with what the president said. But thank you --

RUSSELL: I can speak -- I can speak for myself.

HARLOW: Thank you for your -- RUSSELL: I don't support a class warfare issue.

HARLOW: All right. Thank you for your time. Let me get straight to John Berman as we look at Air Force One landing here -- John.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: : All right, Poppy, thanks so much. The president touching down in Ft. Myers. This is his third visit to a hurricane ravaged area in the last three weeks. Two visits in the aftermath of Harvey, now arriving in Florida to sort of take a look at the devastation for himself after Hurricane Irma. He's in Ft. Myers. That is the west coast of Florida. He will also travel to Naples.

He will not come down here where I am in Big Pine Key because this is the area that has been most devastated by Irma and it would get in the way of the relief effort.

[10:40:11] Alex, let's go to you. Tell us what we're seeing right now as the president arrives.

ALEXANDER MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. The president making these three trips after back-to-back historic hurricanes. Air Force One touching down just moments ago here at Ft. Myers airport right on schedule. They have taxied down the tarmac that way just out of sight. A couple of minutes earlier, Air Force Two landed with Vice President Mike Pence on board. They will be greeted by Governor Rick Scott of Florida as well as Senators Rubio and Nelson.

The president has a pretty packed schedule while he's here on the ground, as you mentioned. He won't be going to the most destroyed places, the most devastated places, because that would tie up a lot of resource in terms of emergency services and local law enforcement. But he is visiting the west coast, which was hit the hardest by Hurricane Irma.

So as he steps off the plane with First Lady Melania Trump, he will be going into a briefing with FEMA and the Coast Guard. That's due to last around half an hour. They will then all be getting on Marine One heading a short distance south to Naples which was ravaged by Hurricane Irma.

Now this also comes after a lot of criticism, after those trips to Houston that you mentioned. The first trip that he made down there, he was accused of not visiting with any of the victims, of not going to any of the ravaged areas, of holding this rally-style speech in which he talked about crowd size.

So the White House, in addition to clearly wanting to come here and see the damage, is also somewhat in damage control. They have put forward a very active -- proactive effort to show that the president has been monitoring this storm every step of the way, posting photos of him getting his briefings.

We know from local officials here and state officials that he has stayed in regular contact with them and he has gotten good reviews from people here on the ground. The big question that the president is going to face a lot today when he meets with people on the ground is when is our power coming back?

There are still millions of Florida residents without power. Some 2.7 million customers at the last count. That translates into many more millions of actual people. On top of that we have flooding that we have seen all over the place, all over the state. We were -- we saw some devastating flooding yesterday not too far away at a place called Bonita Springs and of course where down where you are in the Keys, lots of devastation, John.

So we are hearing from the power companies. They are making good progress. We also heard from the president as he was leaving Washington saying that the power companies are making good progress in terms of getting that power back up online. The biggest utility company here, Florida Power and Light, says at the latest here on the west coast power will be restored by next Friday.

John, it is very hot out here. It's over 80 degrees. It is not even 11:00 in the morning. It is sweltering and I can tell you from my own experience but also in speaking with many people, they are suffering. So they want the power to come back on as soon as possible. But as I mentioned the power companies are making good progress.

The president due to spend just around three hours here on the ground before heading back to Washington, but the White House has said that he will not visit just Florida, but also Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands because they are also suffering in the wake of Hurricane Irma -- John.

BERMAN: That's right, Alex. The first Americans hit from Hurricane Irma were, in fact, in the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. They cannot be forgotten down there.

Just one other point, people here in the Keys have been asking me. They've been saying, hey, is the president coming to Florida and we've been telling them yes, but not here to the Keys. It is important to note that other than hearing it from us as we drive by or they drive by us, they're not going to see him. They're not going to see the pictures of the president in Florida because they have no power. They have no cell service, certainly no cable.

But they will know that there is a federal presence and the federal government has their back. That is what is so important to them. The timeline of the last 36 hours since I've been here when I first arrived, people were upset. They said, we see no signs of FEMA here. Where's FEMA? But then hours later, I had one woman who told me that, she made a point of coming back to me to say you know what, I just saw them. They're here. I was able to get water. I can see them out.

We saw a FEMA truck drive by, a DHS truck, drive by for the first time late yesterday and we have seen a big FEMA setup right on U.S. 1 here. That is where there is this new mobile cell tower where if you stand near it you can get cell service for just a few minutes. Certainly not all the way up and down the Florida Keys.

Again, the president arriving at this moment in Ft. Myers. We are watching this arrival. Hopefully I will get a sense soon of when he will be getting off the plane.

Alex Marquardt, back to you, if you are still with me. You said his first order of business is a meeting with the officials overseeing the relief and recovery efforts here. How will the Ft. Myers visit be different than Naples?

[10:45:10] MARQUARDT: Well, Ft. Myers is much more official. This is where he's landing. This is the biggest airport in the area. There certainly is devastation. We can see devastation everywhere here. There's a lot of power out. So this was clearly the easiest place for Air Force One to land, for Air Force Two to land, for them to hold this briefing.

The president has been keeping up to date every step of the way we're told and so this briefing isn't going to last all that long, just about half an hour before he does get on Marine One. It's just a 10- minute chopper ride south down to Naples.

Naples as we saw over the weekend with our colleagues Ed Lavandera and Chris Cuomo, suffered a -- it was just absolutely walloped by Hurricane Irma, so it is an extremely relevant place for the president to go visit.

What he's actually going to do there, we don't really know. The White House hasn't been very transparent in terms of the plans. We really just know the destinations. We're told that he will meet with first responders. We have to imagine that he's going to meet with some of the victims of Hurricane Irma, especially after that criticism from Houston.

You have to imagine that he is going to be getting out there and touring some of the devastation, but as you noted, this White House, every White House, very concerned about tying up local resources so they will be trying to do it in the most sensitive way, but also in a way to show people that they do care.

John, what has really been remarkable in the wake of Hurricane Irma is that people have been incredibly understanding. First of all, I think what we saw was there was so much warning, there was so much preparation for this storm, everyone is ready for it to be so bad and the devastation would be so bad that many people here on the west coast in the early days after the storm were telling me well, we're just happy to get back in our homes, we're just happy that our homes weren't totally destroyed.

Yes, we may have lost a fence, yes, we may have lost a tree, but we're just happy to be back. Now it's been a couple of days since the power has been out and with every passing day, you can sense that frustration getting a little bit higher and that will slowly turn to anger.

So the officials from the local all the way up to state, all the way up to the president are going to have to have answers today as to when that power is coming back -- John.

BERMAN: And Alex, I'm being told the president now deplaning Air Force One. And just a reminder, you know, we're down here getting our signal out with coat hangers and masking tape. So I cannot see for myself what the president is doing. I'm being told as it's happening but the president getting off the plane now in Ft. Myers. If I get any more details I will certainly pass them on to all of you.

Alex, you made a good point about the people of Florida who are now returning home. Here in the Florida Keys the only people we have seen are the people who stuck out the storm, decided to ride out the storm. And those who did decide to stay, and you can argue whether or not it was a wise decision, they were told that they really should leave, but those who decided to stay were prepared in the sense they had stocked up on supplies, they had filled their houses with water, they had filled their houses with food that they could eat for several days if they had to, and in some cases they kept a lot of fuel, too.

We've had people offering us fuel, which we refuse to take. They needed so much more than we did, but the spirit down here is of folks banding together and they're very, very hearty folks. '

Florida Senator Marco Rubio, also with the president. Florida Governor Rick Scott, who was ubiquitous in the run up to the impact of Hurricane Irma. Democrats and Republicans, every Florida politician that we saw in the run up to the storm and during the storm, trying to get the message out first to evacuate if you're told to evacuate, second if you're told to stay home, stay safe, and in the aftermath of the storm these same officials are still out trying to deliver these messages, points of contact for people in need so they know where to go to get help. So they know that help is on the way.

Hurricanes are nonpartisan. Storms are nonpartisan. Disasters are nonpartisan. And the people of the Keys, the people of the Keys who by the way have some complicated politics in and of themselves they don't care right now if the Democrat or Republican helping them. They just want to make sure they get the help.

FEMA director Brock Long also on the scene. He has had his work cut out for him the last few weeks, starting with Hurricane Harvey, now with Hurricane Irma.

Harvey, you know, the restoration of Houston not done. The people of Houston still need help to get back up on their feet as the floodwaters there have receded and even as FEMA still involved in the recovery there, here in Florida FEMA and the entire federal government has new work to do.

But it's not just the government that needs to get to work here. Not the federal government, the state government stepped in, local county governments have stepped in. We talked to the superintendent in Miami-Dade schools yesterday who said he was going to open his doors to as many as 13,000 students here from the Florida Keys.

The idea being that a lot of the parents of students here work up in Miami-Dade anyway, a lot of the people who live in Monroe County, which is the Florida Keys, evacuated to Miami-Dade and would be able to go to school up there. [10:50:12] So as soon as next week, students down here in the Florida

Keys who may not have a structure, a school to go, will be able to go to school in Miami-Dade County. So again, you know, you see the response of the federal, state, county, and local level as well.

If I can get a better sense of what's happening on the ground right now in Florida -- all right, let's listen to the president right now.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It doesn't have to be here, but they can't obstruct the wall, whether it's in a budget or something else, when we're ready.



UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Your response to amnesty --

TRUMP: We're not looking at citizenship, we're not looking at amnesty. We're looking at allowing people to stay here. We're working with everybody, Republican, we're working with Democrat. I just spoke with Paul Ryan. He's on board. Everybody is on board. They want to do something. We're not talking about amnesty. We're talking about -- we're talking about taking care of people, people that were brought here, people that have done a good job and were not brought here of their own volition, but importantly what we want, we have to have a wall.

If the wall is going to be obstructive when we need the funds at a little bit later date we will be determining how much we need, then we're not doing anything.



UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: What do you say, Mr. President, to Steve King who says that the promises came to be believes? What do you say to Senator Charles Grassley who said you undercut what he does in the Judiciary Committee by talking with Pelosi and Schumer last night about all of this?

TRUMP: You know, what we're doing is we're doing it in conjunction with the Republicans. We have a very, very good relationship with a lot of people. A lot of people want this to happen, they expect it to happen, and we'll see if it happens. But we'll only do it if we get extreme security, if we get not only surveillance but everything that goes along with surveillance, and ultimately we have to have the wall. If we don't have the wall we're doing nothing.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Why did the Democrats say there was a deal at dinner?

TRUMP: There was no deal and they didn't say they had a deal. In fact they just put out a statement. They didn't say that at all. UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Mr. President, if Republicans aren't able to

get something in six months will you continue the DACA program on your own?

TRUMP: You know, we'll talk about that. But I think a deal will be made before six months.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: So no relief for DACA recipients unless you get the wall? Is that what you're saying?

TRUMP: The -- at some point they're going to have to -- they cannot obstruct the wall. The wall to me is vital. If I don't get the wall, then we will become the obstructionist.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: What has to come first? The wall? The agreement --

TRUMP: We have to have an understanding that whether it's in the budget or some other vehicle, in a fairly short period of time, the wall will be funded. Otherwise we're not doing any deal.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: On tax reform, Mr. President, can you clarify what you said yesterday when you said that the wealthiest Americans will stay the same, maybe pay a little more. Some people interpreted that to say that you may actually raise rates on them?

TRUMP: So the wealthy Americans are not my priority. My priority are people in the middle class and that's where we're giving the big tax reduction to. It's about the middle class and it's about jobs and it's about bringing jobs back to the country. Bringing back the companies back. So that companies can get a reduction.

Right now we're paying the highest tax rate in the world. We want to bring that to around 15 percent. That would make us competitive with China and to other countries. So my priority is bringing companies back, bringing money back into the country. There's trillions of dollars outside of our country that we could bring back, but the taxes don't allow it to happen.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: But would you raise rates --

TRUMP: Just so you understand, my priority is jobs, very simple, it's jobs and it's the middle class. Taking care of both.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Would you possibly raise rates on the wealthiest of Americans?

TRUMP: I don't think we'll have to do. But this is not to benefit the wealthy. This is to benefit the middle class and to benefit companies where they're going to be producing jobs.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: But if you -- TRUMP: We want to produce jobs. We want to produce jobs in this

country. We want factories coming back. And they're already coming back. But we want factories coming back into our country. Right now they're leaving our country. They've started since I've been in, as you know, you look at Michigan, you look at Ohio, you look at -- they're starting to come back. But to really bring them back we have to reduce our tax rate. So we're trying to bring it down to around 15 percent.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: But if you reduce the individual rates, sir, it will bring taxes down on the wealthy?

TRUMP: What's going to happen is the individual rate coming down will be substantial for the middle class. We want to take care of the middle class. We want to take care of jobs. The way we're going to get jobs is to make our companies more competitive. And don't forget, a lot of these companies are public companies owned by the public, owned by pension funds, owned by vehicles such as that, so they'll get a big benefit.

Our priority is jobs and the middle class. OK. Now let's go and see how we're doing because I think we're doing a good job in Florida.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you. Thank you.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Press, walk this way.

[10:55:04] BERMAN: All right. The president wrapping up a press conference upon arriving in Ft. Myers. He is here to deal with the aftermath of Hurricane Irma, but he did make some political news right there. He was asked, did he reach a deal on DACA allowing Dreamers to stay in this country. He said there's no deal yet, but he thinks it will be close, and then as to the terms of that deal, really interesting what he said and what he did not say. He was pressed repeatedly, is building a wall part of the deal?

He said at some point, we'll get that wall. But he made awfully clear that the wall might not be part of the deal to keep the Dreamers inside that country. He also insisted allowing them to stay, would not be amnesty, but I have to say, Poppy, critics of any agreement, even short of citizenship, saying that allowing the Dreamers to stay, will be amnesty.

HARLOW: Steve King of Iowa, right, John. Also headline from the president making a lot of news just there, saying on taxes, the question about his remarks on taxes and rates and what he said yesterday about maybe the wealthy will have to pay more in taxes. He said the wealthy Americans are not my priority. This is about the middle class.

John, as we watch the president depart Air Force One there, headed to see the recovery and rebuilding process in Florida, let me take our viewers to Washington. Nancy Pelosi, who had dinner with the president last night, John, as

you know, before we go to that, Nancy Pelosi had dinner with the president last night, and said they made a deal on DACA. She is answering questions now about all of that because a different word is out of the White House. I believe. Let's go to Nancy Pelosi.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D), MINORITY LEADER: -- somewhere in the middle. But it came up in the context of the suggestion that there might be other bills to be considered. And that (INAUDIBLE).


PELOSI: I'm sorry.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Did the president give any indication of whether he would fund the CSRs? And if he does, what do you think that means in terms of what the Senate Health Committee is doing and (INAUDIBLE)?

PELOSI: We put the issue of CSRs on the table because it is really essential to the well-being of the American people that the CSRs be funded. We didn't have any commitment back from the president on that. But we had an opportunity to convey how important it was to do that.

Quite frankly I believe it is in the president's interest to do it, and to fund it, and then when we have -- we had this discussion a while back I think on the subject, when we do finally our omnibus for the year, if we can arrive at an agreement, that it would include language that clarifies that Congress has the bills in doing this, which more than some of you may want to know on the subject, which is part of the court case, the uncertainty in the courts, clarifying it in the law, and that enables the president not to have to do this every month, but should he come up with his own health care proposal to have it be easier for him to do that. Yes, sir.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Madame Leader, when you say down the road on the pathway to citizenship, does that mean not in this current DACA bill that you're --

PELOSI: No, no, no. It's in the DACA bill but the path for citizenship, and even while we talk about comprehensive immigration reform, when we're talking about people are here and not fully documented and we want them to be on the path to citizenship they get way at the end of the line of people who have been here fully documented, so as I say, just in terms of timing, it's a long way down the road. That's all. Not down the road in terms of legislation. Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One last question.

PELOSI: Yes. Because I have to go. Yes. We have votes. I'm sorry, we have 14. 14, is it, votes on the floor right now?

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Regarding tax reform, the speaker yesterday said the growth was the most paramount concerning his -- when he's asked about whether it will be revenue neutral. Is revenue neutrality and thus deficit neutrality a condition in your mind for House Democrats to support tax reform efforts?

PELOSI: First of all, I would not characterize anything the Republicans are doing as tax reform. I would characterize it as same old, warm over stew, trickled down economics. Tax cuts for the wealthy at the expense of the middle class and at the expense of growth.

Now they're saying yesterday, they're not going to give any tax breaks to the high end. Well, we'll see when we see in writing. That was really news to me because it is basically in their DNA to give tax cut to the high end and have trickledown economics, as opposed to what we support which is --