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Dunford Promises Transparency In Niger Investigation; NYT: O'Reilly Paid $32 Million To Settle Sexual Misconduct Claim; Who Benefits Most From Trump's Tax Plan? Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired October 24, 2017 - 07:30   ET


[07:32:11] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Joe Dunford, answering questions for nearly an hour about the ambush that killed four U.S. soldiers and injured others in Niger nearly three weeks ago.

The Pentagon says it's going to brief members of the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday in a classified briefing.

Let's discuss the specifics and what Niger says about our larger military strategy with Sen. Gary Peters of Michigan. He is a member of that committee. Senator Peters traveled to West Africa just this past August as part of a congressional delegation.

It's good to have you on the show, sir.


CUOMO: So, specifically with the Niger ambush, what are your concerns at this point?

PETERS: Well, I just think we need to have more facts of what happened. What went into that mission before the mission left the area and went into hostile territory. What sort of intelligence backed up that mission?

It sounds as if it was a surprise. At least some of the indications that we've heard is that folks didn't think there would be any kind of aggression involved in that kind of mission. But I think we need to know precisely what went into the planning of the mission and what was the objective of the mission.

And then, was there adequate support provided to those folks on the ground. We know the French did respond with aircraft but it took quite a bit of time to respond. So it's questions of when they called for that support and when it came.

I think there are a lot of specific questions that members are going to want to ask.

CUOMO: Senator, are you a member of the 'who knew' coalition? Senators who say they weren't told -- that they didn't know about what was happening in Niger and troop levels, not as of August. I'm saying that obviously, you better know. You were just there in the region -- PETERS: Right.

CUOMO: -- and being briefed.

But do you understand the senators who were saying yes, I didn't know?

PETERS: Well, I'll say there has not been a lot briefing of what's been happening in West Africa. You know, we've been focused -- and I sit on the Armed Services Committee --

CUOMO: Right.

PETERS: -- but a great deal of the work that we do relates to what's happening in North Korea and what's happening in Iraq, what's happening in Afghanistan. So there's no shortage of things that we have to deal with.

In fact, when I came back from Nigeria and the briefing that I received, I thought at that time my colleagues aren't really aware of what's happening here in West Africa. We need to have a briefing.

I talked to the chair of the subcommittee that I sit on and hopefully, we're in the process of actually having a more specific briefing on what's happening in the northeastern region of Nigeria. But, it impacts what's happening in Niger, as well as Chad.

CUOMO: All right. So, two questions on that.

The first one is back in March, Gen. Waldhauser went before the Armed Services Committee and gave a briefing on what was going on in Niger and the mission. Were you there for that?

PETERS: It was a broader briefing, is my understanding, about a variety of topics.

CUOMO: But they did give details in that briefing about what was happening there so members of the committee should have been aware.

[07:35:00] PETERS: Yes. I think members of the committee are aware but I believe --

CUOMO: But they say that they're not aware. That they didn't know, you know, what was going on and that's why McCain is very exorcised about this.

PETERS: Well, I think we need to have a -- what we need to have is a much deeper briefing, I think is the point that Sen. McCain is making, and he's talking about a broader discussion of the AUMF, which I believe we need to have. We need to have that kind of broad discussion of what's happening in West Africa.

And that's why you have to do a deep dive in this and we have not had the kind of deep dive I would feel comfortable with had I not been in Nigeria myself.

CUOMO: Right.

PETERS: In fact, when I heard the briefing there and to open my eyes to the threat there -- and it is a growing threat that we should be aware of, but members of Congress need to know that.

And I think that leads to the broader discussion that we have to have discussions about when we are deploying United States service members --

CUOMO: Right.

PETERS: -- overseas in dangerous missions. We have to understand that and understand it is an obligation of us -- for all of us in Congress to be thinking about this and more importantly, debating it.

CUOMO: Now, Congressman Will Hurd out of Texas, Republican, was just on the show and he says no, you guys do support the military because you fund the operations, so it's there.

But I think there's a larger kind of support that is absent, which is what you're talking about, which is the debate which everybody says they want to have but you never have.

PETERS: Right.

CUOMO: And that's why you have the same AUMF that you've had since 2001 -- 2002, if you count the Iraq War.

I want to play for you what Will Hurd said about why he's not a big fan of needing an AUMF debate.


REP. WILL HURD (R), TEXAS: Well, you know, an authorized use of military force is not, you know -- is not the only way to take responsibility for activities overseas. Supporting our military with training and funding is one way to do that. Making sure administrations, past and present, have the tools they need in order to do their job.


CUOMO: See, here's the problem. You're giving them the money, arguably. I know that many in the Pentagon and in the military would argue with that and say you're not giving them enough money, but that's a side point.

You don't own the political reality of these decisions because you don't debate it, you don't vote on it, and you're not on record about it.

And it seems to me that's why there is no debate because, Senator, with all due respect, you -- every lawmaker we have on this show says yes, yes, we've got to get after this, except Will Hurd. He's really the only one I've heard that he doesn't think it's that important. Everybody else says it's very important but it never happens. Why doesn't it happen?

PETERS: Well, and I will agree with you. It has to happen. It should happen.

And I guess from the previous comments, it's true. We support our military. We are the appropriators to make sure that they --

CUOMO: Right.

PETERS: -- have the resources, but you just can't write a blank check.

To me, that's not responsibility. That's not really functioning as the Congress should, which is an oversight.

CUOMO: Right.

PETERS: Then, the Congress has the constitutional authority --


PETERS: -- about putting the United States into war situations and you should be voting on it.

CUOMO: Right, and yet you punt and that's what I don't understand because it seems to me to be what you call in politics a ham and egg situation. The money is the eggs.

PETERS: Right.

CUOMO: A chicken can give eggs.

PETERS: Right.

CUOMO: But when a pig has to give ham, that's a very different situation. That's a sacrifice, not a contribution. And you don't want to have this debate because quid pro demonstrato you don't have the debate.

Do you think these lives are enough blood to make Congress remember what its constitutional duty is and stop giving away power to presidents because this isn't on President Trump, Senator? He's new there.

PETERS: Oh, yes. Right, right.

CUOMO: These troops were put there by President Obama. You gave him the power that he wanted, you gave Bush the power that he wanted, but it was your power. And you could argue it wasn't yours to give away.

Do you think we'll see a real debate here this time?

PETERS: I certainly hope so.

And you say we haven't taken a vote, we did. As you know, there was an amendment to repeal the AUMF and then start with a fresh discussion. That just occurred last month.

I was one of those individuals that voted for that. I think there were three of us.

CUOMO: But it didn't happen.

PETERS: Well, there were 30 of us. We have to get to over 51, so --

CUOMO: Why? Who -- why are they holding out?

PETERS: I can't speak for others as to why they won't want to do it, but it may be for the reasons that you mentioned. That if you aren't voting for it, then you're not on the hook and that's irresponsible. It's not what we should be doing here in Congress.

It's why I voted the way I did. I hope we get another 20-plus colleagues in the Senate to vote with me and the others who believe that we need to have this kinds of discussions and certainly, after this tragic incident.

Our heart goes out to the families who had a very tragic loss in Niger and the American people deserve to have answers. Those folks who serve in the military every day, as well as the public, as to where our activities are.

And it should be up to the Pentagon to make the case to members of Congress as to why we're there and then make sure that we buy in and have support if that's something that we believe we should do.

And, you know, I want to say these are very dangerous places and being in Nigeria there is some serious challenges that the Nigerian government has to deal with. We don't want craft safe places where terrorists can operate.

But it's ultimately the responsibility of countries like Nigeria, and Niger, and Chad, and others to make sure that they have the ability to enforce the rule of law in their country --

[07:40:06] CUOMO: Right.

PETERS: -- and we can be very helpful in providing resources.

CUOMO: Right.

PETERS: Particularly, intelligence resources, which is why we have the drone base there to try to provide more information in real time to folks on the ground.

For those who say --

CUOMO: But we're seeing the reality now as you saw when you were there. We call it advise -- well, we don't -- you guys call it advise and assist, and it makes it seemingly be benign.

And we keep being told well, U.S. troops aren't the ones out in front. Well, they're dead now and they're dead because they were out in front. They were in an ambush and they were doing advise and assist and it was an intel mission.

PETERS: Right.

CUOMO: So, it ain't safe --

PETERS: That's right.

CUOMO: -- and it should be debated --

PETERS: Absolutely.

CUOMO: -- and it should be laid out. And you guys should be on the record.

I hope, Senator, that you're one of the senators that owns this initiative. I know you'll get political cover because the media and the left and the right would much more talk about the feud between Trump and Congresswoman Wilson. But it's hard to say that these families are respected when they're not respected enough to have this debate.

Senator, thank you for being on the show. We'll stay on this. I'll check with you on a regular basis.

PETERS: Appreciate that. Thank you.

CUOMO: Be well -- Alisyn.

PETERS: Thank you.


Bill O'Reilly is back in the news and he's fighting back, calling reports about a $32 million sexual harassment settlement a smear campaign. We have all of the latest for you, next.


CAMEROTA: Bill O'Reilly is fighting back. He says a "New York Times" report about him paying a $32 million settlement to a Fox News legal analyst to settle a sexual harassment claim is all politically motivated.

[07:45:08] But, his former colleague Megyn Kelly is telling a different story.

CNN's Brian Stelter is here with more.

It just continues -- I mean, as I said yesterday, the plot thickens --


CAMEROTA: -- because it just continues. Every single day there are new developments.

The $32 million settlement is so jaw-dropping, of course, it begs the question what evidence could possibly be worth $32 million?

STELTER: Right. We know that there were e-mails that she had with O'Reilly back and forth that she was citing.

CAMEROTA: Text messages.

STELTER: Text messages. This raises the idea was there a video, was there audio, was there something else?

We know that Gretchen Carlson, when she received that $20 million settlement from Fox last year in the Roger Ailes scandal, she apparently had audiotapes, so she had some convincing evidence that was compelling.

But in this case it may always be a mystery why Bill O'Reilly was willing to pay $32 million.

You know, he says this was a hit job. That people are out to get him and try to take him down.

CAMEROTA: But why do you pay $32 million if it's all false accusations? Has he ever paid $32 million for that?

STELTER: I can't figure out the answer to that, you know. I think he wants to attack the messenger and blame the media rather than taking responsibility. I mean --

CUOMO: Equal pay settlements --

CAMEROTA: That much?

CUOMO: -- in order to -- no, and that's the point. But they pay settlements to avoid --

CAMEROTA: I understand.

CUOMO: -- scrutiny that they believe they can't escape. You know, that you can't prove the nonexistence of a fact. So sometimes, there's a reason that's practical.

CAMEROTA: I get it.

CUOMO: Thirty-two million dollars speaks to one of two things.

One, what you're talking about is evidence or just having such an immensely deep pocket because of the money that he has, and a little bit of it is relevant, right? If you don't have the money you can't pay the 32. He was able to.

But the larger thing is where's Bill's head at on this? He's not saying it didn't happen.


CUOMO: He's saying that people outing him is politically motivated. And if it is, good because it should be part of our political dialogue. It's been ignored too long.

Megyn Kelly was talking about it on her show. Do we have sound of that?

STELTER: Yes, that's right. Let's take a look at that.


MEGYN KELLY, HOST, NBC "MEGYN KELLY TODAY": O'Reilly's suggestion that no one ever complained about his behavior is false. I know because I complained.

This must stop. The abuse of women, the shaming of them, the threatening and the retaliation, the silencing of them after the fact, it has to stop.


CUOMO: Your take?

STELTER: She is one of the highest-profile examples of someone who was harassed by Roger Ailes at Fox who has been able to speak publicly about it because remember, some of the women who were harassed by Ailes and who were allegedly harassed by O'Reilly, they received these settlements -- these confidential settlements, so they're not able to speak publicly.

I think it's significant whenever someone like Megyn Kelly is able to do so. And it's a reminder to me of the snowball effect of these scandals. You know, the Ailes scandal is 15 months old and yet, it's still being talked about today.

There's this ongoing federal investigation of Fox News. Who knows what the Department of Justice will eventually do.

CUOMO: And they're on T.V. over there hammering on Harvey Weinstein, who deserves to be called out. But they have their own situation they have to deal with.

STELTER: Just need some consistency.

CUOMO: They're awfully quiet. They're awfully quiet on it.

And remember, you know, there's Alisyn, Megyn, Gretchen Carlson. These are high-profile, empowered women.

How about all those who aren't, you know? Who don't have the cover of being on T.V. and mattering to the network on that way. How many of them haven't been able to say anything because they're afraid?

CAMEROTA: And we hope the conversation helps them, as well. The more we talk about it, we hope it helps.

Thanks, Brian.

STELTER: Thanks. CAMEROTA: Thanks so much.

CUOMO: All right. So our next guest worked in Washington as President Reagan's senior policy analyst.

What does he think about President Trump's tax plan? Is it really about the middle-class? We're going to ask him, next.


[07:52:40] CAMEROTA: President Trump heads to Capitol Hill today to meet with Republican senators to push what he claims will be the biggest tax cut ever.

The president's adviser and daughter, Ivanka Trump, is pushing this tax plan, saying the middle-class will win.


IVANKA TRUMP, ADVISER TO THE PRESIDENT: There are many elements of this tax plan that I think are squarely targeted at creating jobs in this country and creating growth in this country, and offering relief to our middle-income families.

You have to support the American worker. We have to create jobs, we have to create growth, but we also have to support that American worker's family.


CAMEROTA: So, is she right?

Joining us now is an expert on this.

We have Bruce Bartlett. He worked as a senior policy analyst for the Reagan administration and is the author of the new book about how to spot fake news. It is called "The Truth Matters."

Bruce, it is so great to have you here.


CAMEROTA: So you now -- OK, so you were one of the brains behind the Reagan tax cuts, which did spur growth.

You say basically, that the Republicans have been, you know, relying on that model for all of these decades and you now believe, and correct me if I'm wrong, the idea that tax cuts will always spur growth is a myth.

BARTLETT: Yes, it's just complete nonsense. I think you have to look at the economic fundamentals and see what is appropriate under these particular circumstances.

CAMEROTA: But why did it work so well with Reagan and you think it won't work now?

CUOMO: But who says it worked so well?

CAMEROTA: He does.

CUOMO: In the aftermath, when you look at it, I mean, you're left with record deficits there and the growth was very uneven. You had a bigger gap between the middle-class and the rich than you had had before that day, so where was the success?

BARTLETT: Well, one -- there were a lot of other things going on in the 1980s other than cutting taxes. The Federal Reserve slashed interest rates. You had a huge bounce back from the 1981-82 recession.

And the defense buildup, which hardly anybody ever talks about, but that was a very powerful spur to economic growth.

And so, the tax cut was just one of many elements. And yet, in the decade of the 1980s, overall growth was actually less than it was in the 1970s --

CUOMO: Right.

BARTLETT: -- or the 1990s --

CUOMO: Right.

BARTLETT: -- after taxes were increased.

CAMEROTA: Right. Bill Clinton raised taxes and growth was the highest after that.

[07:55:01] BARTLETT: That's right.

CUOMO: But he, too, had a supervening factor, right? When Bruce talks about there being a complexity to the --


CUOMO: -- economic landscape that's true because he had the bubble.

CAMEROTA: Well, sure.

CUOMO: So he had revenues like we hadn't seen before.

But this has always been to economists a no-brainer that you can't say that tax cuts drive growth every time. It is an element of a larger analysis.

BARTLETT: Well, just recently during the George W. Bush administration we had tax cuts almost annually and yet, that was the worst decade economically, I think, since the 1930s.

CAMEROTA: So why is Donald Trump going back to that trough? BARTLETT: Because it's Republican dogma and because Republican contributors, the ultra-wealthy who fund the party, that's what they want. And they especially want to get rid of the estate tax and so Republicans feel obliged to at least give it the old college try.

CUOMO: Besides, it sounds good, too. You don't want a tax cut?

CAMEROTA: Not if it doesn't work, I don't.

CUOMO: Well, for you it would work. You know, I mean, that's the political salability is when you tell me I'm going to get my tax cuts.

Let's look at the present plan. If you are a middle-class family, if you are a worker making somewhere around $70,000, you hear you're going to get a tax cut you're happy. You hear well, the guy who is making $700,000 is going to get a much better tax cut than you, you're still happy because at least you're getting a tax cut.

But when you look at this plan, do you believe it is geared towards the middle-class?

BARTLETT: No, absolutely not. It can't be because the middle-class doesn't pay enough taxes to get a big enough tax cut for it to really make that much difference. But I think -- and that's why the administration is trying to sell the idea that your wages will go up --

CUOMO: Right.

BARTLETT: -- because that's the only way they can really demonstrably show --

CUOMO: Companies will have more money so they'll pay their workers more. The problem with that is companies have rarely been holding as much cash as they are right now and yet, wages aren't going up the way they expected them.

BARTLETT: Well look, we had a big tax reform in 1986 that every -- all economists agree was a very, very good tax reform -- far better than what we're likely to get now. Wages fell for 10 years after that legislation was enacted.

CAMEROTA: I want to get to your book --


CAMEROTA: -- "The Truth Matters" because we agree. We here believe in facts first.

And so, I hear so many people every day say oh my gosh, there's a deluge of information nowadays. I don't know which source to trust. I don't know who to trust.

What's your answer to that?

BARTLETT: Well, there isn't a simple answer but what I think is that the average person needs to know a little bit more about how the sausage is made. That is, they need to know a little bit more about journalistic techniques.

CAMEROTA: A refresh course on the rules of news.

BARTLETT: Well, that's right. One of the chapters I discuss what exactly is the difference between on the record and off the record. And as we know, the White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci didn't know, otherwise he'd still be the communications director.

So I think we, of necessity, need to know a little bit more about how the news is made and some things that perhaps in the past they could have simply assumed. Well, the journalists know this stuff, I don't need to know it. I think they do need to know.

CAMEROTA: It's going to involve some critical thinking -- better critical thinking on everybody's part.

Where can people find your book?

BARTLETT: It should be available everywhere as of today.

CUOMO: I like the size -- I do.

CAMEROTA: Me, too.

CUOMO: I'm a big fan of little books.

CAMEROTA: I like it.

CUOMO: I like -- it makes it like I'm more likely to read this --


CUOMO: -- because --

CAMEROTA: I agree.

CUOMO: -- I'm not daunted -- I'm not as intimidated by this.

CAMEROTA: Actually, I agree. Very digestible and so valuable.

Bruce, thank you.


CUOMO: Thanks for speaking some truth to this, this morning, also.


CUOMO: Always welcome.

CAMEROTA: All right. We're following a lot of news this morning so let's get right to it.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What was the mission? Why was there a lack of support?

GEN. JOSEPH DUNFORD, CHAIRMAN, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: We do owe the American people transparency and we intend to deliver just that.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The ambush came despite intelligence that enemy contact was not likely.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: The Armed Services Committee is not getting enough information.

DUNFORD: Once Sgt. Johnson was missing we brought the full weight of the U.S. government to try to recover his body.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want answers, most importantly, for the families.

REP. MARK MEADOWS (R), NORTH CAROLINA: The president and Congress are laser-focused on making sure that middle-income wage earners actually benefit.

CUOMO: President Trump sitting down with Senate Republicans today to chart the path forward on tax reform.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're doomed to fail if they do not make a bipartisan effort.


ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.

CUOMO: Good morning and welcome to your new day. It's Tuesday, October 24th, now 8:00 in the east.

And we have new details about the ambush that killed four American soldiers in Niger and injured others just three weeks ago. America's top general now says the U.S. Special Forces didn't call for help until an hour after this firefight with Islamic terrorists began.

Did an intelligence failure lead to this deadly attack? There are a lot of open questions.

CAMEROTA: So, Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford says the Pentagon owes answers to the families of those slain soldiers.

Meanwhile, President Trump has not let go of the condolence call controversy with that Gold Star widow. The president is disputing her account of the call that she says left her in tears.

So we have it all covered for you. Let's begin with CNN's Michelle Kosinski. She is live in Washington.