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China's President Reveals New Leadership But No Successor; U.S. Team in Niger Was Collecting Intel on Terror Leader; Breaking Down President Trump's Tax Plan. Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired October 25, 2017 - 06:30   ET


[06:30:05] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: But there's something missing from the unveiling. We have a live report from Beijing next.


ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: We do have some breaking news right now out of Louisiana. A manhunt is under way for a killer who gunned down two men at Grambling State University. Police say the victims were found in a courtyard between two dormitory buildings on campus. They believe the shooting stemmed from a fight inside one of those adjacent dorms.

CUOMO: Chinese President Xi Jinping, already the most powerful is tightening his grip. Here's what happened. He unveiled a new Communist Party leadership.

Something was missing from his announcement. What was it?

CNN's Matt Rivers is live in Beijing with details. What do we know, Matt?


Basically here in China over the last week or so, Xi Jinping has kind of formalized what he's done over the past five years, and that would be amassing more political power than any other Chinese leaders since Mao Zedong, the founder of communist China.

[06:35:11] He's done that in two ways. One would be actually enshrining his name under Xi Jinping thought into the communist party constitution. Only Mao Zedong has done that as well.

And then we get to what you mentioned earlier, the standing committee, the top leadership here of politburo of the communist party, they were unveiled earlier today. On that committee, big-time allies of Xi Jinping. But what wasn't seen on that committee was an obvious successor to Xi Jinping when traditionally he would be expected to step down in 2022.

Why does this matter? Well, it could mean that Xi Jinping is not only going to stay on until 2022 but even longer than that. This is an incredibly stable leadership here in China. And don't forget, in just a couple weeks, President Donald Trump will be making his first state visit to China for some very high-stakes diplomacy and issues including North Korea. Xi Jinping is going to be walking into that meeting feeling very confident, secure in his domestic stability up.

You probably can't say the same right now about President Donald Trump with all the chaos going on right now in the United States -- Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Matt, thank you very much for all of that reporting for us.

So, there are new details emerging about the deadly ambush in Niger. What U.S. Special Forces were doing when they came under attack? That's next.


[06:40:52] CUOMO: All right. So, on NEW DAY, what we do is we test arguments and opinions, right? The way to do that is, you have to go with the premise. That's what facts first is all about. You have to know what you just can look at and say is objectively true and then everything should evolve from there.

Let's do that right now with this issue for the authorization for use of military force. What do we know? Four American heroes are dead and others are injured despite being sent to Niger to, quote, only advise and assist. But when you're in the middle of a war, there is no benign task. That's why the AUMF is so important.

The law is clear, fact, Article One, Section 8 of the Constitution lays out powers of Congress and one of the most prominent is the power to declare war. They're supposed to hear a case from the president, military advisers and vote on whether or not to put U.S. blood on the line.

So, what happened? In 1973, in the wake of the horrors of Vietnam, Congress reaffirmed its role with something called the War Powers Resolution. It repeated the president can only send armed forces into action after a declaration of war with specific statutory authorization, AUMF, or in the case of an attack upon the United States.

That, of course, is exactly what happened on September 11th. So, a week later, Congress passed an AUMF allowing the president to strike back, get after the 9/11 perpetrators, or as every president since has interpreted it, associated forces.

It turns out that has meant everyone from ISIS to Bashar al Assad to Saddam Hussein. Speaking of which, in 2002, Congress passed another AUMF, and this is an important fact, all right? This one allowed President George W. Bush to attack Iraq. It's used as part of the justification. Because why? Al Qaeda was there, tied it back to the original 9/11 AUMF.

But what happened in Iraq? We all know what happened there. Many in Congress felt burned by the intel failures and as a result, they didn't want to own this anymore and it would be the last use of force Congress has actually authorized. The most glaring example of Congress punting on a constitutional duty

is what happened in 2013. Syria's Assad was believed to have used chemical weapons against his own people. The story would be that Obama vacillated on his own red line. There was room for criticism there. But he did go to Congress and ask for an AUMF. Congress wanted nothing to do with it, the bill stalled. Nothing happen.

Right move, wrong issue is not the issue. It's that Congress didn't want to do its duty. Obama did eventually bomb ISIS targets in Syria and ironically claimed he was authorized by, you guessed it, the 2001 AUMF.

So, right now, we have troops all over the world in ugly conflicts you don't even know about, but the duty to make the case and vote on this risk of blood and treasure has been avoided by this weak rationale that it is all related to 9/11 and that AUMF.

Our troops are just advising, like in Niger, where they died. Advisers like the four men and their families were told their sacrifice is sacred. So, the question becomes, when will our lawmakers respect what is sacred and do their duty by fulfilling this need to debate and authorize military force?


CAMEROTA: OK. Chris, thanks so much for all of that background.

We do now have details emerging about the mission. The U.S. troops were on in Niger when they were ambushed by Islamic fighters three weeks ago today. Military officials tell CNN the team was gathering intelligence about a suspected terror leader.

Joining us now is CNN military and diplomatic analyst John Kirby and CNN national security analyst Samantha Vinograd.

Great to have both of you here.

So, John Kirby, let me reiterate what was in the headline. Three military officials told CNN that the team was gathering intel on a terror leader. They were not there on orders to kill or capture any terror leader.

[06:45:01] How does this fresh perspective change the way you see this mission?

JOHN KIRBY, CNN MILITARY AND DIPLOMATIC ANALYST: Well, it doesn't change a whole lot in my mind, about the mission itself. I mean, this is a foreign internal defense mission that they were on. They got retasked, it sounds like, while they were out in the field.

That's not unusual. It's not uncommon for retasking to occur. The fact they were asked to gain more intelligence or to gain more situational awareness, all of that is part and parcel of a train, advise and assist mission, or a foreign internal defense, which is all about making the local forces better at defending their own citizens and about -- and going after these terrorists.

CAMEROTA: Samantha, it's great to have you here and your experience and perspective. To let the viewers know since you're new to the CNN family, you were in the -- you were a national -- you were a senior adviser to the national security adviser Tom Donilon in the Obama administration.

You, in fact, were in the West Wing when word came in about the Benghazi attack. It was you who went with a note of this alert to General Dempsey and to Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta. So, you know what happens in the White House when a crisis is unfolding.

What do you think as you've watched all of this information trickle out about what they were doing in Niger?

SAMANTHA VINOGRAD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: I think that it's probably helpful to compare the two situations, but we did learn a very important lesson in Benghazi, and that is, politicizing tragedies undermines our national security. It distracts us from finding out who's responsible, holding them accountable and mitigating any additional risks to U.S. personnel that are deployed overseas.

These are not Democratic tragedies. They're not Republican tragedies. They're American tragedies.

CAMEROTA: But do you feel that this one is being politicized to the detriment of finding out what's really happening?

VINOGRAD: I think right now, there are bipartisan calls for answers and General Kelly has responded and said he would like to be more transparent. There's a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing tomorrow morning that I think is going to be instructive. The important point is we have to let the investigations proceed. They're going to be looking into the tough questions that many of us are asking.

CAMEROTA: There is actually a lot of new colors so let me read that for everyone and have you both weigh in.

Here's what these military officials have shared with CNN. It's interesting. This 12-member team was conducting routine patrol alongside 30 Nigerien soldiers when they were asked to check on a site where a high-value target was believed to have previously been. The official emphasized that the terrorist leader was no longer at the location, something the U.S. military continues to believe and the team was tasked only with collecting possible intelligence.

The mission's perceived threat level was not changed because the military leaders still believed the team would not encounter any enemy fighters. So, that's interesting. We didn't know why the threat level wasn't changed, why they didn't call sooner. But the team did not encounter any enemy forces at the site. They left the location.

On their way back to the operating base, they stopped in a separate village in order to enable the Nigerien troops to replenish supplies. While there U.S. troops met with local leaders as a courtesy. The official said it's quite probable that someone in that village tipped off the ISIS-affiliated terrorists that U.S. was in the village and they set up the ambush. The village elders themselves are not suspected.

So, John Kirby, that's a lot of new detail. And that's interesting to see how that unfolded. What do you think?

KIRBY: It is interesting information that's coming in, the additional detail. I think, though, in essence, while it puts a little more flesh on the bone, it does reinforce what General Dunford said in the briefing room a couple of days ago about sort of how this unfolded and what authorities they had to do their mission.

So, I think again, to Samantha's point, we need to let the investigation proceed, let the facts take us where they will. And we'll get to the bottom of it going forward.

CAMEROTA: But, I mean, Samantha, as a national security analyst, from what you hear from these, you know, scant but now more details than we've had, do you think they could have done something different?

VINOGRAD: I think we need to wait and see what happens with the investigation. The investigation is going to look at was there adequate troop readiness, was there adequate intelligence, was there adequate equipment. And before we have the answers to those questions, I think it's dangerous to jump to conclusions.

But while the investigation is under way, I think it's critical the administration continue to emphasize there is not going to be any interpretation in our counterterrorism operations. The terrorists are not going to take a break while we search for these answers and neither can we.

CAMEROTA: Samantha Vinograd, John Kirby, thank you very much for all of your expertise.

Let's get to Chris.

CUOMO: All right. So, President Trump is pushing his tax framework on Capitol Hill. Can he get Republicans to unite to get something in the win column? Next.


[06:53:45] CUOMO: All right. President Trump is on Capitol Hill pushing his tax legislation overhaul. But what is that? There are so many details that need to be filled in.

So, let's bring in CNN's Money chief business correspondent Christine Romans.

What do we know and what does it mean?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN MONEY CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: And what are the sticking points for Republicans? That's the big question, too. The tax framework is purposely very vague here. That's what the tax-writing committees can fill in those details.

The problem now, division among Republicans about the fine print. There are three key areas that are the fine print here that will be a problem.

First, adding to the deficit. Many of the GOP are deficit hawks. They don't want to see these tax cuts blow a huge hole in the deficit, an estimated 2.2 trillion bucks you guys over the next ten years. That raises a huge argument about how to pay for those cuts.

One way, you get rid of deductions, including the state and local tax break. That's another sticking point. It affects mainly middle income households in high tax states.

If you live in California, New York, New Jersey, Illinois, you know what I'm talking about here, GOP members from those states could bolt. That tax break is very popular, and to support eliminating it would be political suicide.

And the last division here for the GOP, optics. The president says this is a middle class tax cut but the biggest tax savings go to the richest Americans and corporations helped by a lower tax rate and getting rid of the estate tax.

[06:55:04] All of this while talking shrinking 401(k) savings -- the optics not good there at all. Republicans up for reelection in 2018 don't want to get hit by the Dems crying, this is a tax giveaway for companies and the for the rich.

Those are the three main sticking points right now.

CAMEROTA: That's really helpful. I'm so glad you do the math so we don't have to.

My son's fifth grade math stumped me last night.

ROMANS: No, I find that hard to believe.


CAMEROTA: Bar graph.

CUOMO: People need to pay attention to this stuff because they'll be hearing one thing but what they get could be very, very different.

ROMANS: It's all a big negotiation. They'll be trade offs back and forth. You know, your mortgage interest, we're told is safe. Charitable donations, we're told is safe. Everything else is pretty much on the table.

CUOMO: All right.

CAMEROTA: Thank you.

CUOMO: So, the GOP civil war, if that's what you want to call it, is certainly intensifying. You got Republican Senator Jeff Flake calling the president's behavior, quote, reckless, outrageous and undignified. He joins us live with why he did this and what it means for him next.



SEN. JEFF FLAKE (R), ARIZONA: We were not made great as a country by indulging our worst impulses and calling fake things true and true things fake.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president now has three people who have broken with him. He can't lose more than two on any big vote.