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Remembering Hugh Hefner; Trump Unveils Tax Plan; Puerto Rico Crisis. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired September 28, 2017 - 04:00   ET


[04:00:13] CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Remembering Hef. Hugh Hefner has died. And we look back on the life and legacy of the "Playboy" icon.

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: And President Trump looking to reverse the tide in a rough week. His tax plan is out. He's planning an executive order on health care.

Good morning, everyone. And welcome to EARLY START. I'm Dave Briggs.

ROMANS: Nice to see you all this morning as early or as late on the West Coast. I'm Christine Romans, it's Thursday, September 28th. It is 4:00 a.m. in the East.

We begin with the news breaking overnight. "Playboy" founder Hugh Hefner has passed away at the age of 91. He died of natural causes at the "Playboy" mansion surrounded by his family.

Hefner was a true American icon. He introduced the world to "Playboy" in 1953, building the company into one of the most successful and recognizable American brands.

BRIGGS: This morning tributes are pouring in for the man affectionately known as Hef.

Jenny McCarthy, one of many celebrities who posed for "Playboy" tweeting, "Rest in peace. Thank you for being a revolutionary and changing so many people's lives especially mine. I hope I made you proud." The #PMY94 meaning Playmate of the Year, 1994.

Hugh Hefner survived by a wife and four children.

CNN's Stephanie Elam has a look back at his remarkable life and career.


STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): He was one of the original American "Playboy"s, a magazine tycoon who helped spark a revolution. One that challenged the nation's views on sexuality.

HUGH HEFNER, "PLAYBOY" FOUNDER: I have cell braided the romantic connection between the sexes. That's part of what "Playboy" is all about. ELAM: Hugh M. Hefner who liked to be called Hef was born in Chicago

in 1926 and raised in what he said was a strict household by conservative Protestant parents.

HEFNER: I felt there was something more to life than the world I saw around me.

ELAM: In 1953, with just $8,000 the aspiring publisher produced the very first issue of "Playboy" magazine on the kitchen table of his Chicago apartment. The cover featured a photo of Marilyn Monroe and sold more than 50,000 when it hit newsstands in December of 1953. Hefner now had the funds to finance another issue and the "Playboy" empire was born.

HEFNER: Well, I have never really thought of "Playboy" as a sex magazine. What I've tried to do is create a lifestyle magazine for men.

ELAM: Hefner divorced his wife Mildred Williams in 1959 and during the early days of the magazine's success decided he would not only promote the fantasy he helped create but he would live it as well. Audiences got a taste of Hefner's good life in an early 1960s television show called "Playboy's Penthouse."

HEFNER: Come on in and meet some of our guests.

ELAM: Having already established himself in Chicago, Hefner made the move out west. In the early 1970s when "Playboy" magazine was selling seven million copies a month he made his permanent home at the now famous "Playboy" mansion in Los Angeles. In 1989 Hefner uttered the two words many thought he'd never say again when he married Playmate of the Year Kimberly Conrad.

The couple had two children but separated in 1998. Hefner said he realized he was much happier as a bachelor.

HEFNER: I am essentially a romantic, so I think my life revolves and all has, revolves around women.

ELAM: Hefner continued to live out the "Playboy" fantasy even in his later years. Often seen in his trademark silk pajama surrounded by busty blonde lingerie clad women while hosting extravagant parties with celebrity guests. He even returned to television in 2005. This time sharing the small screen with three live-in girlfriend in the reality show "The Girls Next Door."

In the late 2000s he began an on again-off again relationship with Playmate Crystal Harris, 60 years his junior. They tied the knot on New Year's Eve in 2012.

Hefner sold his beloved "Playboy" mansion for $100 million in 2016 on the condition that he be allowed to live there for the rest of his life.

"Playboy" and provocateur, Hugh Hefner wanted to make the world a happier, sexier place. ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: What's your definition of obscenity?

HEFNER: Racism, war, bigotry, but sex itself, no. What is sad and cold world this would be if we weren't sexual beings. I mean, that's the heart of who we are.


BRIGGS: Hugh Hefner. 91. His last tweets about hurricane relief, no matter what you think of him.

ROMANS: Interesting.

BRIGGS: That's his final tweets.

ROMANS: Certainly one of these people of the 20th century that helped define kind of a generation in America.

BRIGGS: An icon. And Larry King said in his tweet, he was a giant and publishing journalism free speech and civil rights.

ROMANS: And friend.

[04:05:02] BRIGGS: No doubt about that.

ROMANS: All right. Five minutes past the hour. President Trump finally unveiling a tax plan proposing the biggest overhaul in decades.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is a once in a generation opportunity, and I guess it's probably something I could say that I'm very good at. Our framework includes our explicit commitment that tax reform will protect low income and middle income households, not the wealthy and well-connected.


ROMANS: Wow. Some disagree with that claim. This plan, it does favor business and it favors the rich but most Americans will get tax cuts. This is tax reform and this is lower taxes for just about everybody. Still, this is simply a blueprint, omitting critical details that the tax writers on the tax writing committee. It will be their job to fill that in. That could take months or longer.

But here's what we know. For business, tax cuts, the corporate rates slashed to 20 percent, pass-through income cut to 25 percent. For individuals, a simpler tax code. The seven tax brackets collapsed down to three.

Now we don't know the income ranges yet. Again, the tax writers will have to decide that. But it cuts the top tax rate to 35 percent. It allows lawmakers to add a fourth tax bracket above 35 percent if they decide that's necessary. You know, and Trump has said he is open to raising taxes on the rich.

The lowest rate is actually 2 percentage points higher. But the White House says most low-income earners won't pay taxes, that's because the plan doubles the standard deduction, meaning it won't tax the first 12,000 of income for individuals and 24,000 for couples.

How can the plan double that deduction by eliminating personal exemptions along with most tax breaks, only two tax breaks look like they're safe here. The mortgage interest deduction and the charitable deduction. And it boosts the children tax credit. But student loans, medical expenses, state and local taxes, all of those write-offs are now gone.

The last one will hurt people in high tax in mostly blue states. That will draw criticism as will eliminating the estate tax and the alternative minimum tax. Both of those help rich people.

Also a concern the plan doesn't say how it will pay for all these cuts. About $5.8 trillion over the next 10 years. Killing tax loopholes will help. That will only raise $3.6 trillion, leaving a $2.2 trillion deficit.

So that's the framework. And then the politics gets all nutty after that. We're going to do the first trade to figure out what stays, what goes. The president has said he wanted a 15 percent corporate tax break. It looks like that Republican-White House plan didn't quite go that far.

BRIGGS: Right.

ROMANS: But this is tax reform. I have been concerned that they wouldn't do --

BRIGGS: Not just cuts.

ROMANS: Yes. This is tax reform.

BRIGGS: Still a lot of questions in terms of where they put the income on those three brackets.


BRIGGS: The child tax credit.


BRIGGS: But let's start with the middle class miracle. How's the middle class better off?

ROMANS: Trump says it's going to be a middle class miracle. That he's going to lower that tax rate to 25 percent. That's what he said he's going to do for that middle tax bracket. And he also says that you're going to be able to do this on a postcard. The simplification of this I think is what is going to be -- I mean, it's going to change the industry of doing taxes, by the way, too. By making it much --

BRIGGS: Tax professionals. Yes.

ROMANS: Yes. Much simpler for people to do this and understand where their taxes are going. Via the child credit, the child tax credit there, interesting.

BRIGGS: Undefined. Right?

ROMANS: Undefined. Look, a lot of this is still undefined. That's because we're told that's on purpose. That's not because they're trying to -- they said it's huge, we're told that's on purpose so that there's room to negotiate. There are a lot of different opinions and a lot of different constituencies in tax reform.


ROMANS: So that's on purpose we don't have some of those details.

BRIGGS: All right. Newt Gingrich tweeting, "This will be the deepest tax cuts for small business in 80 years." True or false?

ROMANS: I would say that's true.


ROMANS: I mean businesses really, really want tax reform. Look, what I've heard -- some of the arguments I heard was big companies are probably only paying 17 percent to 19 percent tax rate anyway.

BRIGGS: Right.

ROMANS: Right? So --

BRIGGS: But small business.

ROMANS: But why is this better -- why is this better for them? It's better for them because they spend so much money on tax -- you know, exploiting tax loopholes, on building their business so they can try to lower their taxes. They want a territorial tax system around the world. They'll get that under this plan. They want to be able to bring the money back that they have sitting overseas for a one-time lower tax rate. They'll be able to get that in this plan.

So this is -- I would agree with the president that this is once in a generation tax reform if they get it.

BRIGGS: And look, dynamic scoring is something that will be debated for weeks, years.

ROMANS: I know and that --

BRIGGS: Decades perhaps. Can they pay for this with growth?

ROMANS: And that's the -- that's the question. The tax cuts over the last 20 years or so have not really spurred huge growth. So is this going to be different? Is this going to help juice what has been a weak economic recovery? The White House and many economists hope it will. Some skeptics are saying, you know, maybe not. Those Bush tax cuts, we have Bush tax cuts, we have tax cuts in stimulus under the Obama administration. You still had very slow -- a slow economy, so.

[04:10:02] BRIGGS: Many more questions for you in the next couple of hours.


BRIGGS: Meanwhile, if Congress can't overhaul Obamacare, looks like President Trump is prepared to go it alone. The president revealing a plan he believes will bring immediate relief to millions of Americans who can no longer afford skyrocketing health care premiums.


TRUMP: And I'll probably be signing a very major executive order where people can go out across state lines, do lots of things, and buy their own health care. And the that will be probably signed next week. It's being finished now.


ROMANS: Ironically it is Senator Rand Paul who has been pushing the idea of allowing insurers to sell policies in other states. The same Rand Paul who helps scuttle the Graham-Cassidy bill. If the president signs the order insurers would be allowed to sell policies in multiple states but they would only have to adhere to the regulations of their home state.

BRIGGS: President Trump has no immediate plans to fire his secretary of Health and Human Services despite the uproar over Tom Price's use of private planes. The president, though, making clear he's not pleased. Says he's awaiting more information before making a final decision on Price's future.

The embattled Health secretary offering up an apology to the president but the unnecessary distraction but not his resignation.

ROMANS: A spokesman at HHS says Price is taking the criticism very seriously and to heart.

CNN has also learned EPA chief Scott Pruitt used private planes for government business this summer instead of flying commercial. We're told the EPA's general counsel approved the flight citing logistics.

BRIGGS: It's kind of that stay tuned mentality on Price that we've heard before with Steve Bannon and others.


BRIGGS: Ahead, tons of aid for Puerto Rico left sitting at the port of San Juan. Why help can't get to those who need it most? Next.


[04:15:56] BRIGGS: Welcome back. The situation in Puerto Rico grows more desperate by the day. A major challenge right now getting critical supplies to people who need them. Shortage of truckers on the island's devastated infrastructure make it extremely difficult to move aid from the port of San Juan to areas around the island.

ROMANS: There are also new questions about a century-old law critics say is making it harder to get basic supplies to Puerto Rico. The Jones Act requires all goods to be ferried between U.S. port to be carried on ships built, owned and operated by Americans.

BRIGGS: There's a bipartisan push right now to get President Trump to suspend what's called the Jones Act. The president considering it but the Department of Homeland Security says a waiver may not make a difference since the issue isn't getting the supplies to the island. It's getting those supplies off the ships and distributing them.

ROMANS: Yes. As for the recovery, Puerto Rico's power authorities say generators on the island are operational but 80 percent of the transmission system and the entire distribution system are damaged. About 44 percent of the island population is without drinking water.

BRIGGS: And many ATMs out of cash. Needless to say it's a cash economy right now. At least half of all bank branches remained closed. That's partly because there's not enough drivers to ferry cash around in armored cars. For those who can get to them, more than 500 gas stations are fully operational. Police say 53 people have been arrested for looting or theft since Hurricane Marie.

ROMANS: All right. The Pentagon is sending in thousands of active duty troops to help with the humanitarian crisis. More than 2,000 troops are already on the island. Two military officials tell CNN thousands more soldiers are on the way.

Senior international correspondent Ivan Watson has more this morning from San Juan.

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Christine and Dave, we've got a look at some of the U.S. military support that's coming to these storm-tossed islands of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The USS Kearsarge is supposed to be an amphibious assault vessel but it's serving as a floating sea base, providing land, sea and air support to Puerto Rico and the islands. It's got a fleet of helicopters and vertical takeoff ospreys, landing craft that are shuttling heavy trucks, bulldozers, even a water desalinization unit to Puerto Rico, to try to help opening roads and providing water, drinking water.

The Department of Defense tell CNN that they have about 2500 active duty troops on the ground and they're expecting to nearly double that in the days to come. But that simply may not be enough for an island of 3.4 million people, where transport, electricity, drinking water and telecommunications have all been disrupted if not completely paralyzed -- Dave and Christine.

BRIGGS: Ivan Watson, thanks. President Trump's inaugural committee announcing a $3 million donation

to charities supporting hurricane relief. The Red Cross, Salvation Army and Samaritan's Purse will each receive a million dollars to support areas in the southern U.S. and Puerto Rico devastated by the recent storms. The committee has pledged to give excess money from the inauguration to charity. A record-setting $107 million was raised.

ROMANS: All right. Everyone is mad at Facebook. That's what founder Mark Zuckerberg says. How he's defending his company next.


[04:23:56] BRIGGS: CNN reporting exclusively that people in Baltimore and Ferguson, Missouri, were targeted in at least one of the Facebook ads bought by Russians during the 2016 campaign. The ad referenced Black Lives Matter. Sources say it was meant to appear both as supporting the group but could also be seeing as portraying them as threatening to some residents.

ROMANS: The ad first appeared in late 2015 or early 2016 as a Russian affiliated troll farm known as the Internet Research Agency tried to sell political chaos in the U.S. Facebook has said about a quarter of the 3,000 ads bought by the agency were geographically targeted. But Facebook did not reveal specific locations.

BRIGGS: Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg firing back at President Trump after this tweet where the president accuses the social media site and other media of being, quote, "anti-Trump."

In a Facebook post, Zuckerberg said, "Trump says Facebook is against him. Liberals say we helped Trump. Both sides are upset about ideas and content they don't like. That's what running a platform for all ideas looks like."

Zuckerberg also expressing regret for his comment after the election that it was crazy to suggest misinformation on Facebook changed the outcome of the election.

[04:25:10] Attorneys for legendary coach Rick Pitino say the Hall of Fame basketball coach plans to fight for his job after the University of Louisville effectively fired. Pitino placed on indefinite unpaid administrative leave after his basketball program was targeted and a federal investigation into fraud and corruption and college recruiting.

On Tuesday 10 men, including a top Adidas executive and four college assistant coaches, were charged with bribing young athletes to influence their choices in schools choose sponsorships and agents. Pitino's lawyers say he did nothing wrong, calling his apparent firing a, quote, "regrettable, rush to judgment."


BRIGGS: Story is not over.


BRIGGS: A legendary coach won titles at two schools but his career has been littered with infractions and scandal. Can't imagine he survives this one.

ROMANS: All right. The president focusing on a topic familiar to him -- taxes. His new plan is out, leaves many details to Congress. We're going to analyze who it would help and who would hurt next.

BRIGGS: And he changed attitudes of sexuality in America. We are remembering the Hef. Hugh Hefner.