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Senate Takes On Trump's Tax Plan; Puerto Rico's Water Crisis; Packers QB Aaron Rodgers Breaks Collarbone; Report: Russians Learned U.S. Politics From "House of Cards." Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired October 16, 2017 - 07:30   ET


[07:31:43] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: All right. A lot of work to do in D.C. The Senate is set to tackle President Trump's tax reform proposal this week. Can they make it or anything else happen?

Let's discuss with Republican Sen. John Kennedy of Louisiana. Senator, always a pleasure to have you on the show.

We were reporting on that oil rig fire that's going on and the search efforts in Lake Pontchartrain, so our best to the communities that are dealing with that.

SEN. JOHN KENNEDY (R), LOUISIANA: Thanks, Chris. Thank you, Chris.

CUOMO: All right. So when we're talking about Washington, D.C., what is your take on the possibility for progress on any of these hot issues?

KENNEDY: I'm an optimist. I think on tax reform I would give us a 55 to 60 percent chance right now.

CUOMO: So --

KENNEDY: I would like to think we'll get some Democratic support, and we might if we get the 50 votes. I don't think any Democrats will provide the fiftieth vote. I regret that but that's just political reality.

CUOMO: So you thinking this happens this year? And we've been saying tax reform but it seems, really, this is about tax cuts. That'll seem like --


CUOMO: -- a semantical interest to most of the audience but it's a real one from your perspective. These aren't long-term policies that are going to be put in place, they're probably shorter-term cuts.

But do you think it can get done this year?

KENNEDY: Well, it better, Chris. It better, for two reasons. Number one, our economy needs it. Number two, the people in charge at the moment here in Washington, my party, we need it.

Now, that doesn't mean we need to just pass anything. We need to do it right.

But I believe that if we reduce everyone's taxes, including and especially ordinary Americans -- but not just them -- businesses as well -- then I think -- I think you'll see the economy grow. It's not going to bust through the ceiling but I think you can see a half to a point of GDP growth.

It will get us back to average, which is supposed to about three percent. We're at about 1.9 percent now and that's why we don't have the jobs we should have.

And more importantly, that's why you haven't seen wages going up. That, and the fact that businesses have had to spend so much money on health care they haven't been able to give people a pay raise.

CUOMO: Let's deal with the politics and then we'll get into some of the policy considerations that you're putting together here for us.


CUOMO: Lindsey Graham seemed to up the urgency, especially for the GOP in getting something done on taxes. Here's what he said.


JOHN DICKERSON, HOST, CBS "FACE THE NATION": Are you going to get tax reform done?

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Yes. If we don't, we're dead.

If we don't cut taxes and we don't eventually repeal and replace Obamacare, then we're going to lose across the board in the House in 2018, and all of my colleagues running in primaries in 2018 will probably get beat. It will be the end of Mitch McConnell as we know it.


CUOMO: Truthful hyperbole, as the president said in one of his earlier works, or do you think the stakes are as dire as the senator lays them out?

KENNEDY: I wouldn't have put it exactly like Lindsey put it, but I think it is urgent and here's why. Forget the politics.

There are too many people in America who aren't sharing the great wealth of this country. And they're ordinary people and they tell me every day Kennedy, I look around and I see too many underserving people at the top getting bailouts and I see too many undeserving people at the bottom getting handouts.

[07:35:05] And I'm stuck in the middle and I can't pay anything more because my health insurance has gone up, and my kid's tuition has gone up, and my taxes have gone up. But I'll tell you what hasn't gone up, my income. And they're angry and they're on both sides of the aisle. They're Bernie Sanders supporters and they're Donald Trump supporters. And we need to help those ordinary Americans believe in the American dream again. And to me, that's what tax reform is all about.

Now --

CUOMO: But, Senator, how do you look those people in the eye who -- let's say, the Trump base part of them -- when the proposal he just put out -- state taxes, helping out those at the top, big businesses getting cuts that little businesses that are the engines of this economy are not getting? Payroll taxes not touched.


CUOMO: That's how you help working-class Americans. I don't need to tell you this. You've been talking about it for decades.

But that's what the president's putting out. That is not designed to help the working-class. The estate tax doesn't help the working- class.

KENNEDY: Well, a couple of points.

Number one, the president put out an outline. That's not necessarily what the Senate's going to do. The bill is being drafted right now.

Number two, you've heard me talk about it. The quickest way to help the middle-class, double the standard deduction. For a couple making $70,000 a year, that's going to give them a couple of thousand dollars extra in their paycheck.

CUOMO: Yes, sure, that would help. But I'm saying he put it out and said this helps the --

KENNEDY: I understand.

CUOMO: -- middle-class. How? It's not doing the things that you're talking about.

KENNEDY: And -- well, but the outline's not the law yet. We're going to draft -- we're drafting the bill now.

CUOMO: I know, but I'm saying if I present it to you and say this is for the middle-class and most of it is helping the upper tier, you know, it's going to be hard for you to take my intentions.

KENNEDY: But let me hit your point well on -- or hit on, Chris.

Ten percent of all Americans -- all taxpayers -- pay 71 percent of the taxes. Many of them are small business owners.


KENNEDY: It's impossible to do meaningful tax cuts or tax reform or whatever you want to call it without the so-called wealthy, if you define wealthy the top 10 percent.

But among those wealthy are folks who are heads of large C corps. I want to help them but I also want to help the small business winner.


KENNEDY: Now, the S corps and the LLCs.

CUOMO: The outline helps them but doesn't help them the way it helps it helps the C corps -- the big corporations. How is this targeted -- I mean, that was the promise.


CUOMO: That's what the president said. You're in his party. This is his outline. It is not set up to focus on the people that you're saying it's set up to focus on.


CUOMO: Where's the disconnect?

KENNEDY: Well, if you look at what I'm talking about doing, and I think the Senate will go in that direction, we're talking about lowering the tax for a C corp -- the large C corps -- to somewhere in the neighborhood of 20 to 25 percent. And the same for small business people and LLCs and some S corporations.

If you're the president of a small sub-S corporation right now, you've got 10 people working for you -- let's say you make $150,000 year. You're paying about 43 percent in taxes.

CUOMO: Understood.

KENNEDY: And so, I want to help both of them. But --

CUOMO: Senator, I totally hear you. We'll see how you guys bang out the details. I'm just saying the outline as it came does not give equal treatment --


CUOMO: -- to C corps and smaller ones.

KENNEDY: Valid point.

CUOMO: But let's see what you do with it.

Senator, you're always welcome here to argue the case.

KENNEDY: Thanks, Chris. Take care.

CUOMO: Be well. Poppy --

KENNEDY: You, too.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Such an important discussion. Thank you, both.

All right. Desperation leading some Americans -- Americans citizens in Puerto Rico to drink water from a hazardous waste site. A live report with the sobering details, next.


[07:42:25] CUOMO: Crisis in Puerto Rico. That's just the fact. People are in dire need of electricity, food, and clean water. We are a month after Hurricane Maria.

We're now learning that some Puerto Ricans are drinking water from a federally-designated hazardous waste site, and not because they want to. It's because it is their only option.

CNN's Ed Lavandera is live in San Juan with more. Tell us the story.


Well, this has to do with a site that is called a Superfund site. For those of you not familiar with what that means it's a designation from the Environmental Protection Agency that says this is on a list of one of the most contaminated waste sites in the country. And for the last several weeks, we've come across people who have been using this as a source of drinking water.


LAVANDERA (voice-over): Nearly a month after Hurricane Maria hit, residents around the town of Dorado have been tapping into this water faucet behind a chain-linked fence with a sign that reads "Danger, Do Not Enter." And despite the warnings from a police officer they come here to fill containers of water.

But few of them know this well sits in an area designated by the Environmental Protection Agency as a Superfund site where the ground is known to contain dangerously high levels of toxic chemicals. It's located on the northern edge of the island, west of San Juan.

In the Dorado Superfund site, there are at least six wells that residents have reportedly tapped into for water. One of the wells is accessed in a shopping center parking lot and there have been long lines of residents waiting to fill up what they can.

The governor of Puerto Rico insists that the water is safe. He says the territory's Department of Health has tested it.

RICARDO ROSSELLO, GOVERNOR, PUERTO RICO: Well obviously, if it's non- drinking water we're not -- we're not going to be serving it. But if it complies with the Clean Water Act then it is going to happen.

LAVANDERA: But it's not clear if the other wells are safe and Environmental Protection Agency teams spent the weekend gathering water samples for further testing.

GARY LIPSON, INCIDENT COMMANDER, EPA, PUERTO RICO: We're not saying that somebody is in immediate danger by drinking this water. We are considering it a long-term risk.

LAVANDER: Gary Lipson is the EPA incident commander in Puerto Rico. He says they're looking for signs of industrial toxins often linked to serious health problems, including cancer. And EPA documents show that as late as last year, dangerous levels of those industrial toxins were found in the ground.

LAVANDERA (on camera): How concerned are you about what might happen to them?

LIPSON: We're concerned because it's not absolutely clean, you know, pure water. There are some contaminants.

[07:45:06] LAVANDERA (voice-over): Right after the EPA team left and locked the site, Juan Carlos Oquendo and his brother showed up, peeled back the fence, and filled up dozens of containers with water.

LAVANDERA (on camera): You going to drink this water?


LAVANDERA: You're going to drink it?


LAVANDERA: You're willing to take the chance?

OQUENDO: (Foreign language spoken).

LAVANDERA: So this is it? There's no water. You'll take the chance?

OQUENDO: (Foreign language spoken).

LAVANDERA: If I don't drink water, I'm going to die. I might as well drink this then.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): Juan Carlos brought us to his home where he lives with his family. The top floor was destroyed by the hurricane. His mother says they've only received two packages of water since the storm and she's been drinking the water from that potentially contaminated well for two weeks and says she now has stomach pains.


LAVANDERA (on camera): She says the stomach pains started about two weeks ago and that she's trying to ignore them.

Do you think it has something to do with the water?

ROJAS: (Foreign language spoken).

LAVANDERA: She doesn't know for sure but she thinks it might have something to do with the water she's been drinking.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): It's impossible to know for sure if the stomach pains are related but in these desperate times with every drop of water many Puerto Ricans could be flirting with another disaster.


LAVANDERA: So, EPA officials are urging residents to avoid those water wells in question. Many of the people we've spoken to say they had no idea that these wells actually sat on this contaminated site.

About 70 percent of the island, we're told by government officials here, have had their water restored. Eighty-five percent of the island still without electrical power. And since Donald Trump visited the island a few weeks ago, the death toll here has tripled -- Poppy.

HARLOW: It should make -- Eddie, thank you so much for that.

It should make every single American, as they wake up this morning, think a lot about how lucky we are when you turn on the faucet and get that clean water.

Eddie, thank you for that.

New sexual assault allegations against disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein. Three women have now come forward in London.

This, as the Producers Guild is expected to decide today whether or not to strip Weinstein of his membership. He's already been dismissed from the Motion Picture Academy.

The scandal inspiring a rallying cry on social media, the latest led by actress Alyssa Milano, encouraging women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted to tweet the words 'me, too'.

CUOMO: Green Bay Packers fans, tough morning. Star quarterback Aaron Rodgers is going to be really sore for a long time. He has an injury that's going to take him out for the rest of the season.

Coy Wire has more in the "Bleacher Report."

CUOMO: Hey look, I'd love to say it's not true but I've had this injury. You're not going anywhere, anytime soon.

COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, this is not fun, it's very painful. And it's his throwing shoulder, Chris.

And we get to add this now to this growing list of high-profile NFL players that are missing significant time due to injury. J.J. Watt of the Texans, Odell Beckham Jr. of the Giants. On and on the list goes.

Now, the former league MVP Aaron Rodgers. You see him getting driven into the turf there by Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr in the Packers loss yesterday.

That is his throwing shoulder. Now, the reports are that he will miss the rest of the season.

Who is replacing him? That's that man right there, Brett Hundley, his backup quarterback. He came in the game and threw three interceptions.

All right. Looking like he stepped off the set of "GAME OF THRONES," Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner was the Cub-slayer last night. He was the hero for L.A.

He drove in all four runs, three of them with this walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth inning. Dodgers get the four to one win and hold onto a 2-0 series lead.

The scene now shifts back to Wrigley Field in Chicago for game three tomorrow. That's on our sister channel, TBS.

Also, game three of the ALCS is tonight in Yankee Stadium. The Astros holding a 2-0 lead in that series -- Poppy.

HARLOW: Chris is -- can we get a shot of Chris here? Chris is dying over the "GAME OF THRONES."

CUOMO: He does look exactly like the guy who's the head of the wildlings from the north. Coy, you've just got the eye for it, brother. That was spot on.

HARLOW: You made my friend's morning.

Thank you, Coy Wire.

WIRE: You're welcome.

HARLOW: We appreciate it, my friend.

All right. A Russian hacker who says he was part of the effort to disrupt the 2016 election says Netflix' "HOUSE OF CARDS" was truly required viewing to figure out how to do this most effectively. Why? The reporter who broke that story will tell us, next.


[07:53:48] CUOMO: A new report says that Russian trolls studied the popular Netflix show "HOUSE OF CARDS." Why? To understand American politics.


COREY STOLL, ACTOR, NETFLIX "HOUSE OF CARDS": Keeping that shipyard open is what got me elected. Those people are my friends.

KEVIN SPACEY, ACTOR, NETFLIX "HOUSE OF CARDS": I'm not here to debate this, Peter. The base will close. The only question is will you make it a swift death or a painful one?

STOLL: No way. I won't sit on my hands.

I sympathize that this is going to be difficult for you and I don't know how yet, but I will make it up to you, Peter.

I'm a powerful friend to have right now. Perhaps your only friend. So don't defy me.


CUOMO: I don't know if you watch but let me tell you, that's not the kind of friends you wind up wanting in Washington. Frank wound up doing that guy dirty.

So, a former member of the Russian operation tasked with meddling in the 2016 election says that he and other Internet trolls were forced to watch the show to learn about America's problems and use that knowledge to turn Americans against each other.

Chief investigative correspondent for "Yahoo News" Michael Isikoff broke the story. He joins us now.

[07:55:00] I've got a smile on my face when I'm saying this but maybe it's because I'm on a punch-drunk. I cannot believe this.

Take us through your sourcing on this and the man, Maksim, that you interview, and what this means to you.

MICHAEL ISIKOFF, CHIEF INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT, YAHOO NEWS: Yes. First of all, actually it was a Russian -- independent Russian T.V. station that tracked this guy down --

CUOMO: Right.

ISIKOFF: -- and he laid out the story.

The -- he -- what's interesting about him is he was part of the English language department of the Internet Research Agency.

Now, that's the same St. Petersburg troll farm that has been suspected or believed to have placed those Facebook ads. The 3,000 ads, $100,000 that Facebook just recently disclosed that it discovered was on its platform.

And the English language department was the sort of elite section of the Internet Research Agency. They were more polished, they were more studied. They spent a -- what really leaps out is how meticulous their operations were.

Maksim talks about how they -- you know, every comma was reviewed by his bosses to make sure it was in the right place so it sounded like an American -- posting by Americans.

Primarily, what he was doing was placing comments on the Web sites of major news organizations -- "The Washington Post", "The New York Times" --

CUOMO: Right.

ISIKOFF: -- and others.

Now look, I don't know how many people actually read the comments on articles. It may be they had an exaggerated view of what impact they would have. But it is interesting the lengths to which they went to try to post these comments, disguising themselves as Americans.

They were not allowed -- they were chastised if they were ever found to have used a Russian I.P. address in placing the comments. It had to be done through VPNs -- virtual private networks to conceal where these were coming from.

But certainly, the most interesting --

CUOMO: So --

ISIKOFF: I'm sorry, go ahead.

CUOMO: No, no. Michael, this is all fascinating. I'm taking you deeper down into the rabbit hole with this question.


CUOMO: So, what was their motivation and why "HOUSE OF CARDS?"

ISIKOFF: All right. Well, first of all, much of what he is saying is totally consistent with what the U.S. Intelligence Community has said was the purpose of the Russian meddling campaign to denigrate Hillary Clinton.

He talks here about how to place comments along the lines of aren't you tired of the Clintons? Haven't we had enough of them? Talk about the Clintons' wealth, talk about her private e-mail server. All the criticisms that Hillary Clinton was getting during the last election.

But, the "HOUSE OF CARDS" element is new. We hadn't heard that before.

CUOMO: No, right.

ISIKOFF: And, you know, in some ways, the vision of American politics on "HOUSE OF CARDS" probably more closely resembles Russian politics than American politics.

CUOMO: Right.

ISIKOFF: We don't have evidence of major American politicians ordering the assassinations of political foes or journalists, which we do have in Russia. So, you know, that part of it -- the Russians may have -- you know, there may have been a sort of weird --

CUOMO: Right.

ISIKOFF: -- projecting on their part.

But also, many other elements of "HOUSE OF CARDS," although it's a caricature, does ring true to American audiences.

CUOMO: True.

ISIKOFF: That's why it was so popular for so many years. CUOMO: That's true. In fact, I don't watch it the same way that I used to because I believe that the reality of what you and I are covering every day --


CUOMO: -- has kind of eclipsed that need for like, this absurdity. You know, the caricature nature of what "HOUSE OF CARD" does --

ISIKOFF: Right. It no longer --

CUOMO: -- is not all that far-fetched anymore, just in terms of level of rancor and the deceit that we see playing out on both sides all the time.

Let me ask you something though, Mike, because look -- Michael, you look at this stuff so closely. You're such a trusted source.

When you read through this reporting and you developed the story, what does it do in terms of putting meat on the bones for you of the suggestion that this was -- yes, in a state of play where the United States does spying, Russia does spying, there's always meddling, how different do you believe these efforts were during this campaign?

ISIKOFF: Well, they do seem, you know, in some respects more sophisticated than we might have imagined. The meticulous nature of the way Maksim, the troll, describes what he was instructed to do, how he was instructed to do it, you know, does -- it does seem pretty elaborate.

On the other hand, you do have to take a step back and say, you know, what -- we still don't know what impact all this had. Like I said, you know, look, I don't know about you but I tell my colleagues, especially younger ones, not to bother reading comments on the Web. They're often inane, they go off in wild directions, and it's frankly, a waste of time.