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Trump's Questionable Comment; Trump Appears To Support Short- Term Obamacare Fix; What's Next In Raqqa?; Putin "Chef" Believed To Be Behind Fake News. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired October 18, 2017 - 05:30   ET


[05:30:00] CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: President Trump reached out to the families of the slain soldiers and one of those calls is drawing outrage from a Florida congresswoman who said she heard it.

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: The body of Sgt. La David Johnson arrived home in Florida Tuesday where his widow met the casket. Moments earlier, she received a call from the president.

Democratic Congressman Frederica Wilson says she listened to the call and relayed part of that call to CNN's Don Lemon.


REP. FREDERICA WILSON (D), FLORIDA: We were in the car together -- in the limousine headed to meet the body at the airport, so I heard what he said because the phone was on speaker.

DON LEMON, HOST, "CNN TONIGHT": What did he say?

WILSON: Well, basically he said well, I guess he knew what he signed up for but I guess it still hurts.


ROMANS: Congresswoman Wilson telling "The Washington Post" the remark made the widow break down in tears. As you might imagine, it's a tearful, tearful ride to pick up your husband's body.

The White House only saying quote, "The president's conversations with the families of American heroes who have made the ultimate sacrifice are private."

CNN has been unable to reach the family for comment.

BRIGGS: Meantime, the Defense Department is conducting an initial review of the mission in Niger and the deadly ambush by ISIS- affiliated fighters. Officials says the investigation is an effort to quote, "get all the facts correct." And let's hope the focus remains there as we move forward.

ROMANS: All right. Mixed reaction on Capitol Hill after that new bipartisan agreement to preserve Obamacare subsidies -- subsidies that the president planned to kill. Senators Lamar Alexander and Patty Murray reaching a deal in principle

that would restore cost-sharing payments for two years and in exchange give states greater flexibility in Obamacare. More on that policy in just a moment.

BRIGGS: President Trump appears to support the move. Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer tweeting the plan has broad support in his conference.

Still, there are serious doubts about whether the plan can pass Congress. Some GOP leaders in the House and Senate are not sold on it.

ROMANS: All right. Let's bring back Zach Wolf, CNN POLITICS digital director.

And I guess it looks as though the president used some pretty serious leverage here when he killed those subsidies. He said look, I'm going to kill these subsidies. Now Democrats, give me a call. Let's work on this.

So maybe is this brilliant negotiating by the president?

ZACHARY WOLF, DIGITAL DIRECTOR, CNN POLITICS: Well, I think that these negotiations were going on for some time before that and a lot of people -- he'd been teasing that he was going to kill the subsidies, so I'm not sure that you can say that he made this happen, first of all.

And second of all, I'm not sure this is going to happen, largely because a lot of Republicans don't like it on Capitol Hill and we've kind of got some mixed messages from the White House. So it's not clear that the -- even bringing Democrats to the table if, in fact, that's what he did, is going to get a bill through Congress.

BRIGGS: The politics are one thing but there's just so much uncertainty. The one thing that the business community ensures everyone hates because the president said Monday that there's no such thing as Obamacare anymore. It's virtually dead. It's in its final legs.

He called those payments to insurers bailouts for insurance companies and bailouts for members of Congress. But now, Obamacare is alive and those payments are back.

So where does health care remain in this country? That's the most important part.

WOLF: I can't answer that question because I don't think we know where it's going right now, and that's exactly the problem.

And we're coming up to open enrollment when people are going to -- you know, on the individual insurance market are supposed to be choosing plans. So a lack of knowledge -- a lack of confidence about what's going to happen is probably not what we want to have right now.

TEXT: Alexander-Murray Deal.

Restores cost-sharing payments for two years. Restores $100 million for Obamacare outreach. States can customize Obamacare rules.

Keeps core requirements for what plans must cover. Consumers 30+ can buy catastrophic 'Copper' plans.

WOLF: And we should add that one of the things in the bill is money to help sell Obamacare.

ROMANS: Right.

WOLF: To, you know -- Christine talked about it -- the navigators. You know, the advertising so that people know that this is out there because otherwise, people might forget that it's open enrollment.

ROMANS: And if you don't get insurance and you are uninsured, right -- you don't buy insurance on the exchanges, you will face a fine. It comes out of your tax return next year. It is still the law of the land, right, Zach?

WOLF: That's right, theoretically.

BRIGGS: And let's remind everyone the president continues to say he has the votes for the Graham-Cassidy bill which is their path forward to block grants to the states. Again, there are not the votes. We're not sure where he's getting the additional votes but there are not those votes in place.

We want to talk a bit about this military story and move past what was said to a widow, relayed from a Congresswoman. But I do want to ask you about the president, when asked about all of this, how he calls the families of -- you know, troops' families, how, when, and why.

But this part about Gen. John Kelly, his chief of staff who also lost a son on the battlefield -- this also a bit controversial this morning -- listen.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You could ask Gen. Kelly, did he get a call from Obama? You could ask other people. I don't know what Obama's policy was.


[05:35:07] BRIGGS: OK, let's go back to the very beginning of this when Sara Murray -- CNN's Sara Murray just asked the president about the details of those four Green Berets lost in Niger and why the president hadn't address it. What does his reaction to all these questions tell you?

WOLF: I think it tells me that he has, you know, a chip on his shoulder about this. That the idea -- you know, it's uncomfortable for him. He's clearly talked about it with Gen. Kelly because otherwise, how would he know that President Obama didn't immediately call Gen. Kelly.

That he's been thinking about this and it's something that weighs on him, which I think is interesting to see play out. And usually when something frustrates him he pushes it back at Obama.


WOLF: We've seen this with a number of things. It's just unfortunate that the thing he's pushing back at Obama right now is something like this.

ROMANS: Well, you made an interesting comment last half hour, you know. This is -- the president is very personal and he's very competitive. Things are very personal and competitive for him. It's almost like this is a contest and this should not be a contest.

WOLF: Right.

BRIGGS: On either side.

ROMANS: Right, absolutely, this should not be. I think one of the reasons why this is newsworthy, you know, and the politicization of the death of soldiers is just horrific, but the president has sort of this long pattern of behavior of criticizing the military even though, as you rightly point out, increasing funding for the military --

BRIGGS: Across the board.

ROMANS: -- cleaning up the V.A.

I mean, in policy his stance is much different than what he has said and that's why so many people, Zach, I think are critical of the president when he tries to talk about the military.

WOLF: Right. I mean, you go back with Khizr Khan in the -- during the Democratic --

ROMANS: The Gold Star father, right.

WOLF: Gold Star father after the Democratic Convention -- John McCain -- but I would say you said criticize the military. I would say criticize people with ties --


WOLF: -- to the military who criticize him --

ROMANS: Right.

WOLF: -- and that's an important distinction.

ROMANS: Yes, it is.

BRIGGS: You can tie John McCain to that --

ROMANS: Yes. BRIGGS: -- and his criticism of the senator.

All right, it's a tough issue. Zach Wolf, we appreciate you weighing in on all this. Thank you.

ROMANS: All right, a lot of news -- gosh.

The third Trump travel ban not taking effect today as planned. A federal judge in Hawaii blocking travel ban 3.0. He says the revised plan quote, "Suffers from the same maladies as its predecessor and plainly discriminates based on nationality."

Now, the new restrictions would have covered eight countries. White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders calls the ruling dangerously flawed. The Justice Department will appeal.

BRIGGS: This morning, an ethics watchdog group who slapped President Trump with a civil lawsuit heads to court. They're accusing the president of violating the foreign emoluments clause in the constitution since his businesses accept cash from foreign governments without the consent of Congress.

Now, before the inauguration, the president refused to sell his business holdings, instead placing them in a trust. That means Mr. Trump can technically withdraw cash payments from his businesses anytime he wants.

Lawyers for the Justice Department asking the judge to dismiss the case.

ROMANS: And there's nothing blind about that trust. When he goes someplace it is --


ROMANS: -- bringing up business for -- you know, he can see how his own behavior profits his own businesses. That's what makes it just so unique.

BRIGGS: There were requests for it to be a blind trust --


BRIGGS: -- but it's just clearly not.

ROMANS: All right. The president, once again, framing his tax plan as a gift for everyday Americans.


TRUMP: You understand that lower taxes mean bigger paychecks, more jobs, and stronger growth. At the heart of our plan is a tax cut for everyday working Americans.

(END VIDEO CLIP) ROMANS: So, most Americans do get tax cuts but, you know, the biggest cuts go to the wealthy and go to business. So the White House is selling corporate tax cuts as a raise for the middle-class, trying to draw that thread through here. They say a lower tax rate will spur companies to bring overseas cash home and that money will boost worker pay.

Now, a new survey though found most companies will use tax savings on share buybacks or debt. And, Economic Adviser Gary Cohn, he says he's OK with that.


GARY COHN, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL ECONOMIC COUNCIL: If they buy back stock, OK, so they buy back stock. That means the government collects a tax on the capital gains or the ordinary income from whoever they buy back stock from. It's called 23.6 percent. The government gets 23.6 percent.


ROMANS: Still, got to try to make that link to the government gets that capital gains tax, how does that create jobs?

Cohn added that the administration wouldn't put conditions on that returning cash. That was the case for a similar tax holiday back in 2004. Most of that money went to shareholders, not business investment.

You know, the White House economists have been saying that look, the broken tax code is why wages in America haven't been growing for a generation. So fixing the broken code will let the genie out of the bottle.

BRIGGS: Yes. Steve Mnuchin, yesterday, citing a study that said if you lower that corporate tax rate that 70 percent of those gains will be felt by the workers, not by the shareholders.

ROMANS: Yes, that's why economics is not an exact science.


ROMANS: Right? You can find --

BRIGGS: No, it is not. A lot of assumptions here.

OK. The self-declared ISIS capital no longer in ISIS hands. The city now liberated by U.S.-backed forces. What's next for the city and for ISIS as it tries to rebuild?


[05:44:24] BRIGGS: So what's next in the fight against ISIS? That's the big question this morning after a major victory by U.S.-backed forces driving ISIS terrorists out of their self-declared capital of Raqqa, Syria. Syrian Democratic Forces are still working to clear remaining threats. How does this change the battle as ISIS loses territory and moves underground?

CNN's Arwa Damon near the Iraq-Syria border with more.



Well, a spokesperson for the Syrian Democratic Forces that is the fighting force on the ground that is backed by the U.S.-led coalition says that the clearing operations are still ongoing. They're still trying to comb through the city and root out any potential remnants of ISIS fighters that the coalition estimates to be at around 100 there, suspected to be hiding out in the rubble, in the burnt out buildings.

[05:45:13] And then, of course, they're trying to undertake the monumental task of clearing Raqqa from any sort of improvised explosive device that ISIS may have left behind in buildings, roads, or alleyways.

We did see some footage -- exclusive drone footage obtained by CNN of the SDF already celebrating, especially in one of Raqqa's main squares. This is a square where we saw some of the worst ISIS atrocities unfolding. The public beheadings, the executions, the crucifixions.

And what you also see is the sheer scale of the destruction. Trying to even restore a false sense of normalcy to this city is most certainly something that lies well ahead in the future. And the population in that flood right now languishing in refugee camps.

And while this is a blow to ISIS territorially speaking, let's not forget that its ideology is still very much alive.


ROMANS: All right, Arwa Damon. Thank you so much for that.

Former White House press secretary Sean Spicer now the third official from the Trump White House to be interviewed by investigators in Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation. Spicer was interviewed Monday.

BRIGGS: And this CNN exclusive. We're learning more about an ally to Russian President Vladimir Putin believed to have financed a Russian troll factory that spread fake news during the 2016 election.

CNN's Jim Sciutto has more.


JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: CNN has learned that the company of Yevgeny Prigozhin, a Russian oligarch dubbed chef to President Vladimir Putin by the Russian press, financed a Russian troll factory that used social media to spread fake news during the 2016 presidential campaign. This, according to multiple officials briefed on the investigation.

Prigozhin, who owns several companies, is one of the Kremlin's inner circle. Putin even had him cater birthday parties and visits by U.S. President George W. Bush.

His company believed to be the main backer of the St. Petersburg-based Internet Research Agency, or IRA, a secretive technology firm that created and distributed fake news.

Prigozhin was sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department in December of 2016, but this for providing financial support for Russia's military occupation of Ukraine.

My colleague Tim Lister, Mary Ilyushina, and I examined scores of documents leaked from Prigozhin's companies. The monthly budget for IRA was around $1 million in 2013. That's every month, split between departments that included Russian language operations and the use of social media in English.

One part of that factory had a really intriguing name. It was called quote "Department of Provocations" dedicated to selling fake news and social divisions in the west. This, according to internal company documents obtained by CNN.

And its mission, as stated in those documents, was quote "How do we create news items to achieve our goals?"

We should note that several e-mails and calls from CNN to Concord Consulting -- that is Prigozhin's firm -- went unanswered and the IRA no longer exists since the U.S. election.

Jim Sciutto, CNN, Washington.


ROMANS: That's just fascinating reporting -- it really is. Thanks for that, Jim.

All right. Google maps facing backlash online in concern over cupcakes -- mini cupcakes to be exact. This one has Dave's head exploding. Details on "CNN Money Stream," next.


[05:53:00] BRIGGS: Growing fallout for a noted investor over racist remarks. Marc Faber, often referred to as Dr. Doom, said in the October edition of his newsletter it's a good thing white people colonized America.

I'm quoting here. He said, "Thank God white people populated America, and not the blacks. Otherwise, the U.S. would look like Zimbabwe, which it might look like one day anyway, but at least America enjoyed 200 years in the economic and political sun under a white majority." ROMANS: So, Faber has resigned from three boards -- CNBC, Fox Business, and Bloomberg T.V. all confirming to "CNN MONEY" they do not plan to book Faber in the future. He is off the list.

Meantime, Faber, in case you're wondering -- he's standing by his comments. At first he said he's not a racist but now he tells CNN by e-mail, quote, "If stating some historical facts makes me a racist then I suppose that I am a racist."


Two Chicago airport security officers fired after forcibly removing a passenger from an overbooked United flight back in April. You all remember the cell phone footage from -- showing Dr. David Dao being dragged down the aisle by his arms and legs before the flight took off from O'Hare. Dao was left bloodied and bruised.

Two other security officers have been suspended. Investigators found they made misleading statements and deliberately removed material facts from their reports.

ROMANS: All right. Opening night of the NBA marred by gruesome leg injury to Boston's Gordon Hayward. It happened just minutes into Hayward's very first game as a Celtic.

It was this play. We're not going to show you up close because it's just so awful.

BRIGGS: Brutal.

ROMANS: Players and fans on both sides distraught about this. Coach Brad Stevens says Hayward suffered a dislocated ankle and a broken leg. Reports say he'll have surgery today.

BRIGGS: You can see the fans and the stars of --

ROMANS: Everyone upset.

BRIGGS: -- both teams just -- just a terrible injury to watch -- first night.

All right, to baseball. The defending World Series champs, the Cubs, now on the brink of elimination from this year's playoffs, Romans. The L.A. Dodgers beating the Cubbies 6-1 to take a commanding three- nothing lead in the NLCS.

[05:55:05] The Dodgers can punch their ticket to the World Series by sweeping the Cubs in game four tonight at Wrigley. L.A. perfect this post-season, six and zero. That's the longest post-season winning streak on franchise history.

Meantime, the ALCS is now tied at two games apiece. The Yankees are racing a four-run deficit to beat the Astros 6-4 last night.

Aaron Judge, that monster homer, second in two nights, put the Yankees on the board. Then, four runs in the eighth, taking a lead on that double by Gary Sanchez.

The pivotal game five of the series today at Yankee Stadium. What a thrilling series that has been.

ROMANS: All right. A rainy day on tap for the southeast, stormy weather in the northwest. Let's get more from meteorologist Pedram Javaheri.


PEDRAM JAVAHERI, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Dave and Christine, watching what's happening right now across Florida here. Blustery weather, breezy weather, and definitely see some showers scattered about this region as well.

But beyond that, really, north of this region it is generally dry. You notice a few pop-up thunderstorms enter the forecast into the early morning hours of Wednesday. And that is about it as far as significant weather on the East Coast.

How about these temperatures. Enjoy it, my friend. In Boston, the lower seventies, room temperature on Thursday afternoon. In New York City, as uniform as it gets when you're talking about 71 degrees each of the next three days.

Look at the western U.S. We have much cooler air in place now around part of say San Francisco eventually down to 62 for a high. In Los Angeles you see a shift as well. More of a marine influence brings their temps down into the middle seventies.

But the Santa Ana's pick right back up come Saturday afternoon and temps go back up into the middle eighties, potentially up around 90 by Sunday. And around the Pacific Northwest, the storm door, it is propped wide open here.

We're watching a tremendous source of moisture come in with a lot of rainfall, upwards of eight inches over an expansive area and potentially, up to a couple of feet of fresh snow into the higher elevations as well -- guys.


ROMANS: All right, Pedram. Thank you so much. That's your weather.

How about some money this morning?

Global stock markets are higher after the Dow cruised past 23,000 for the first time ever. It closed just below there but still, record high again for the Dow.

You know, the Dow has cruised past 21,000, 22,000, now 23,000 this year and spurred lately by strong economic data and renewed hope for tax reform. Corporate tax cuts is what Wall Street wants to see.

Driving things this week as well, earnings. Stocks driven higher yesterday by strong results from UnitedHealthcare and Johnson & Johnson. Today, expect reports from American Express and United.

Facebook also hit an all-time high. It bought a polling app aimed at teens. TBH is the polling app -- to be honest.

BRIGGS: To be honest.

ROMANS: For the cool kids.

BRIGGS: You learn something new every day.

ROMANS: Investor George Soros has given away the majority of his money. Soros gave $18 billion of his $24 billion fortune to his foundation, the Open Society Foundation. The group combats authoritarianism, it promotes human rights.

Soros has been heavily involved in philanthropy for decades. He has donated more than $30 billion to various causes.

All right, Google facing an uproar over cupcakes. Google maps removing a new addition, a calorie counter.

It shows users how many calories they burn if they walk. It then converts those calories into mini cupcakes. For example, 300 calories is almost three mini cupcakes.

Now, Google intended this feature to promote healthy living, but then there was this backlash online where users claimed it triggered those with eating disorders or shamed people who didn't walk.

A Google spokeswoman told CNN it pulled the feature due to the strong feedback.

What do you think? People are too --

BRIGGS: I think it's ridiculous. Relax, people.

ROMANS: I think it'd be cool --

BRIGGS: I don't think it was extraordinarily effective but --

ROMANS: I think it would be cool if you're like -- whatever your vice is. Like mine is hamburgers so like how many hamburgers do I -- will I walk -- can I walk?

BRIGGS: It means you could customize your particular vice.

ROMANS: Cupcakes, hamburgers, kale. Whatever it is you want.

BRIGGS: Beers, yes.

ROMANS: Beer and Bloody Mary's. OK, now we're going down the wrong path.

Thanks for joining us. I'm Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: And I'm Dave Briggs. That will do it for us. "NEW DAY" starts right now. We'll see you


We're having cupcakes and beers right now.


WILSON: He said well, I guess he knew what he signed up for but I guess it still hurts.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president just has shown inability to empathize.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Relaying a private conversation is just an absolute disgrace.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How low are going to set the standard for this president?

TRUMP: You could ask Gen. Kelly did he get a call from Obama.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) drive-by slap at President Obama. The use of Robert Kelly (sic) is just terrible.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The president is intentionally trying to blow up health insurance markets.

TRUMP: I commend Senators Alexander and Murray. Congress must find a solution.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: None of that matters if the president doesn't end this temper tantrum.