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Trump Vows Biggest Tax Cuts Ever in U.S. History; Interview with Senator John Hoeven; Interview with Barbara Lee; Murder Trial Being in Kate's Law Case; Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired October 23, 2017 - 10:30   ET


[10:30:00] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Pennsylvania.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: That is correct. So will this added White House presence deliver the president a win for his agenda?

Sunlen Serfaty is live on the Hill this morning.

Good morning, Sunlen. Ivanka Trump is going to be pushing for this tax credit for parents, paid leave, et cetera, but do they have the votes on this thing overall?

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That is the big question up here this week, John and Poppy. Good morning to you. And the president's personal involvement in addition to his family members really underscoring the political imperative that Republicans in the White House know that is facing them, that they have got to get this done. They've got to get this passed, potentially by the end of the year.

The president hopped on that conference call with House Republicans over the weekend where he delivered a very direct message saying we have to get tax reform passed this week -- this year or else we potentially face a blood bath next year in the midterm elections.

He's also headed up here to the Hill on Tuesday to meet with Senate Republicans, but certainly there is no absence of political pressure that they're creating to get this done but it definitely should be noted that the policy here is still being crafted. There is still no firm tax bill written and there still is not a consensus on the specific within the Republican Party.

Now that said, we have seen President Trump really ramp up the pressure pushing back over the weekend on the Democratic talking point here that they believe that this tax reform proposal as it stands right now would hurt the middle class.

Here's President Trump over the weekend.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I call it tax cuts. So it is tax reform also but I call it tax cuts. It will be the biggest cuts ever in the history of this country. I will say the fact that health care is so difficult, I think makes

the taxes easier. The Republicans want to get it done. And it's a tremendous tax cut. I mean, especially for the middle class and especially for business.


SERFATY: Now as the Republicans up here work on the details there's one proposal that had been floated, that Republicans were considering a cap on contributions to 401(k). Well, President Trump weighing in this morning over Twitter vowing that will not happen. He says, quote, "There will be no change to your 401(k). This has always been a great and popular middle class tax break that works and it stays."

But again all of this underscoring that there is still many details to be worked out. The president for this idea of hopping that troubled balloon, that very short time, a lot of details to be worked out -- John and Poppy.

HARLOW: Sunlen on the Hill, thank you very much for that.

Joining us now is Republican Senator John Hoeven of North Dakota.

Senator, thank you for being here. It's nice to have you live from Bismarck. So you're going to lunch tomorrow with the president. Good to have you. You're going to talk about taxes and a lot else I'm sure.

Let me get you specifically on this. Axios is reporting this morning that, you know, Republican leaders in Congress may add in that top bracket once again, the 39.6 percent, for Americans making a million dollars or more. Could you support that?

SEN. JOHN HOEVEN (R), APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE: Well, you know, if it's -- we'll have to see what happens. You know, there's still a lot of details to be worked out and -- so we'll see.

And Poppy, I just have to tell you, in my earpiece, everything I say is --

HARLOW: I can hear that.

HOEVEN: -- coming back at me so it's really hard to hear you guys.

HARLOW: Yes. I can hear that.


HARLOW: It's called mix minus and it happens to us, and we're going to fix it. It's fixed. So go ahead and answer that question.

HOEVEN: Well, like I said, if necessary, but we've got to see the whole plan. What we want to do is provide tax relief focused on the middle class and not just tax relief so they keep more of their take home pay, but tax cut that's pro growth so you get the economy growing and that creates higher wages and income so that people are helped both by the lower taxes but also a higher income and wages.

BERMAN: So not ruling out that you would support a tax bracket of 39 percent for people making more than a million dollars right now. What about the idea of this being revenue neutral right now? Because there are estimates that this tax cut insofar as we know what's in it, could add $1.5 trillion to the national debt. Do you have a comfort level with that?

HOEVEN: Well, first, John, we believe that it's actually going to create revenue because you're going to grow the economy and so you have to look at what you do what's called static scoring or dynamic scoring. On a static scoring model it's about $1.5 trillion that would need to be created through growth. If you look at just a 2.6 percent growth rate, which is lower than the growth rate we've had since World War II, which is about 3.3 percent, we generate well more than that $1.5 trillion.

So again, with growth we think it will actually help shrink the debt and deficit for a 10-year scoring period.

BERMAN: Just a point of reference, the Reagan tax cut, you know, the CBO estimates that it did not add revenue. The Bush tax cut, George W. Bush estimates it did not add revenue. So you know, whether it's static or dynamic scoring, those estimates that didn't work out that way doesn't mean it can't ever, but history shows it hasn't.

HARLOW: But it's a really important question. Why do you think it would be different this time?

[10:35:02] HOEVEN: We're approaching it in a very conservative way. If you look at the growth rate we're using, like you said, 2.6 percent, the average since World War II has been 3.3 percent. At 2.6 percent we generate $1.8 trillion, well more than the $1.5 trillion cost, so we think we're being very conservative in how we approach it if we get the growth rate we expect over 3 percent. And remember just with the regulatory relief we've already done the current rate of growth of the economy is about 3.1 percent. We would have more money to put towards deficit reduction.

HARLOW: Let's switch gears here. As you know, Myesha Johnson, the widow of the fallen soldier, La David Johnson, in Niger, spoke this morning and she reiterated how many questions she has. She doesn't have answers from this administration on how her husband died, why his body was left for 48 hours, why she hasn't been able to see or identify her husband yet.

Do you have questions for the administration on this as well?

HOEVEN: Well, first, we need to honor the fallen soldier, Sergeant Johnson, and his family, and tell them how much we appreciate his sacrifice and sacrifice of the family and for all our men and women in uniform and their family. How much we appreciate them and honor them.

I understand there's some questions, hopefully there can be more answers, and also as you know, we're looking into, you know, the military effort in Niger and we'll continue to do that and get more facts.

BERMAN: Senator, you know, it's a delicate question here but Myesha Johnson was on TV this morning and is clearly still hurt by the conversation she had with the president. Our reporting from the White House is, is that the president has no intention to reach out to her again, whether a phone call or a letter or, you know, having an aide reach out to her and saying hey, we're sorry you feel that this wasn't the conversation that you wanted to have at that time.

Do you think that someone ought to just touch base with her and say hey, we're sorry you feel this way? Forget the politics of this but a human level, you shouldn't be hurt by a conversation like this?

HOEVEN: Yes, I believe the president was trying to reach out to her, to Myesha and the family. And I think there will be -- you know, we have an ongoing effort through our military and others through the military groups, the support groups, to try to help our Gold Star families and support them and that's ongoing and will be ongoing for the Johnson family and for all of our families.

Again, the thing we have to keep in mind here is that we are all grateful for the sacrifice of our soldiers, our men and women in uniform, and particularly when they pay the ultimate sacrifice for them and for their families. And that's the key, that we all recognize that and honor them.

BERMAN: And we want those families to know that we all feel that way and to be left feeling that they have the support of the country's leaders and the people.

Senator John Hoeven, thanks so much. Sorry for the technical issues at the beginning but now you get to hear your -- you know, your booming baritone voice just like we do, thank you.


HARLOW: Thank you.

HOEVEN: Yes. Thanks.

HARLOW: Have -- enjoy lunch tomorrow. Let us know what comes of it.

BERMAN: All right. Members of the Congressional Black Caucus demanding that Chief of Staff John Kelly apologize to Representative Frederica Wilson. Will they get that apology? Stick around.


[10:42:35] HARLOW: This morning the women of the Congressional Black Caucus are calling for an apology from White House Chief of Staff General John Kelly.

HARLOW: In a statement they say his comments about Representative Frederica Wilson were reprehensible. General Kelly said last week, you remember, being at a speech where Representative Wilson took credit for something she didn't do, grandstanding essentially is what the general accused her of. Now video of that speech contradicts General Kelly's account, in fact really and in spirit. And in their statement the Congressional Black Caucus Women continued, "Congresswoman Wilson's integrity and credibility should not be challenged or undermined by such blatant lies."

Joining us now to talk about this, one of the members of the caucus, Congresswoman Barbara Lee of California.

Representative, thanks so much for being with us. What exactly do you want to hear from General Kelly?

REP. BARBARA LEE (D), CONGRESSIONAL BLACK CAUCUS: Well, first, of course, our hearts and our prayers go out to Mrs. Johnson at this terrible loss of Sergeant Johnson as well as all of the family members who lost their loved ones.

We want to make sure that General Kelly apologizes to Congresswoman Frederica Wilson. She is a woman of integrity, she's a woman of respect, she's brilliant, she has a long history of service to children and their families, and she has mentored so many young African-American boys and males and young men.

And I just have to say, what he said and what he -- how he -- General Kelly conducted himself against this woman in terms of trying to malign her character is reprehensible and he needs to apologize and needs to do it right away.

HARLOW: I will say she gave about a nine-minute speech at that dedication of that building in Florida, almost four minutes of that speech were spent, you know, giving effusive praise to the two fallen FBI agents that the building was eventually named after.

Something else we want to get you on and that is the sort of extraordinary sentiment we heard this morning from Myesha Johnson, the widow of fallen Sergeant La David Johnson. Here's what she said.


MYESHA JOHNSON, WIDOW OF SGT. LA DAVID JOHNSON: I heard him stumbling on trying to remember my husband's name. And that is what hurt me the most because if my husband is out here fighting for our country and he risked his life for our country, why can't you remember his name?


[10:45:04] HARLOW: So the president responded to that, just minutes later, and here's what the president writes. Let's pull it on the screen for you. "I had a very respectful conversation with the widow of Sergeant La David Johnson and spoke his name from the beginning without hesitation."

So he's saying what she said didn't happen. What's your response?

LEE: Mrs. Johnson is a widow in mourning and I believe her. I believe Congresswoman Wilson. We need to reach out. The president needs to stop it. This is a moment of grief, it's a moment of mourning. We need a full investigation first of all. We need to understand what took place, how it took place.

I've been calling for a new authorization to use force, a debate and a vote on the floor, we have no idea and so these investigations must go forward. And it is just horrible, it's sad, it's unbelievable that the commander-in-chief could perform and act in this way.

General Kelly needs to offer an apology right away and we need to move forward with this investigation and the president unfortunately has shown who he is once again and it's very, very tragic.

BERMAN: So on that subject of who he is, because, look, if you watch the speech that Representative Wilson gave in 2015 it is not how General Kelly described it.

HARLOW: Right.

BERMAN: He was wrong in his description of that. The question is, why was he wrong? What were his motivations? And one of the things that Representative Wilson has suggested is that some of his comments were racial -- were racist, and she even told "The New York Times" that the White House itself is full of white supremacists.

Now that's a very serious charge. Do you agree with that?

LEE: We don't know what his motivations were. We don't know why he won't apologize. That's the point. He needs to apologize. When you look at this White House, they put Steve Bannon and Steve Miller and Gorka in.

When you look at the president's response on so many issues, you know, I think that right now, what we are saying as members of the Congressional Black Caucus, 16, 17, 18 of us who are women, we're saying that General Kelly must apologize to Congresswoman Wilson because she told the truth. She's respected, she's a woman of integrity, and we cannot allow this White House and General Kelly to malign her character.

HARLOW: To be clear, two of those three men you just mentioned, though, no longer working at the White House, Sebastian Gorka, Steve Bannon. Stephen Miller is. But the charge, to John's question, the charge that the congresswoman leveled in this "New York Times" interview, quote, "The White House itself is full of white supremacists," a very serious charge.

Do you agree with her?

LEE: What Congresswoman Wilson has said and what she believes reflects what many of us see as the policies of this White House. When you look at what they're doing in terms of rolling back civil rights, human rights, when you look at the attacks on African- Americans and other people of color, when you look at their immigration policy, when you look at their backwards policies as it relates to our young immigrant children, when you look at the terrible, terrible initiatives of Jeff Sessions now, trying to target as they say, quote, "black extremists," when you look at the FBI and what's taken place. You have to really question the direction of this White House and do

they really believe in equal justice under the law and do they really care about people of color? And do they care about freedom and justice for everyone, one nation under God, with liberty and justice for all?

BERMAN: Representative Barbara Lee, come back, we'll keep having this conversation with you and let us know what you hear from General Kelly over the next few days.

LEE: Thank you.

BERMAN: All right. It is the case that fueled a whole lot of controversy over sanctuary cities. A trial getting underway.


[10:53:26] HARLOW: Today opening statements begin in the trial of an undocumented immigrant accused of shooting and killing a woman in San Francisco.

BERMAN: This case really became the flashpoint in the 2016 presidential campaign.

CNN's Dan Simon has the story.


DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The bullet struck her as she took a summer stroll with her father.

JIM STEINLE, FATHER OF KATE STEINLE: This is evil. Evil personified.

SIMON: It entered her back and pierced Kate Steinle's heart. A 32- year-old with a big smile and contagious laugh.

NICOLE LUDWIG, KATE STEINLE'S BEST FRIEND: Kate was an amazing soul. Everyone that met Kate knew she was very special.


SIMON: More than two years later her alleged killer, who had been deported to Mexico five times, is just now going to trial in a case that helped bring the term "sanctuary city" to the forefront.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My administration is launching a nationwide crackdown on sanctuary cities.

SIMON: President Trump and conservatives have used the case as a rallying cry.

The bill, known as Kate's Law, passed by the House but hung up in the Senate, would enhance penalties for deported criminals who illegally reenter the U.S. Kate's father testifying in Congress. STEINLE: The U.S. has suffered a self-inflicted wound in the murder

of our daughter by the hand of a person that should have never been on the streets of this country.

SIMON: Fifty-four-year-old Jose Inez Garcia Zarate was a seven-time convicted felon. He would have been deported for a sixth time but San Francisco, a sanctuary city, does not honor federal detention requests and let him go. Zarate, who was homeless, said he found the gun wrapped in a T-shirt.

[10:55:04] He admitted to the shooting but claims it was an accident. Defense experts claiming the bullet ricocheted off the ground.

JIM NORRIS, FORMER DIRECTOR, CRIME LAB, SAN FRANCISCO POLICE DEPARTMENT: This is not the way you would try to shoot somebody. I mean, you wouldn't -- you can't ricochet bullets off of surfaces and try to hit somebody. You'd aim the gun at the person and shoot them.

SIMON: But the prosecution charging Zarate with second-degree murder contends it was no accident. Now it's up to a jury to decide in a case that will once again reignite the volatile debate over the country's immigration laws and sanctuary cities.

Dan Simon, CNN, San Francisco.


HARLOW: Dan Simon, thank you for that. We will stay on that trial as it gets under way.

Meantime, the widow of a fallen U.S. soldier says she still has no idea how her husband was killed or why he was left for 48 hours. Her interview you will hear next.