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Trump to Declare Opioid Crisis Public Health Emergency; Firm Used by Trump Campaign asked "WikiLeaks" for Access to Clinton E- mails; Bannon Fights Establishment for Future of GOP; New Airport Security Measures Kicking In. Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired October 26, 2017 - 10:00   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: The president set to declare a public health emergency to fight the opioid epidemic, but he had been promising to declare it a national emergency.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: And the difference is significant when it comes to the funds and resources available for recovery. Let's go to the White House. Our Joe Johns is there. Joe, talk about the difference in a public health emergency versus a national emergency. And why the White House made this decision?

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Right, Poppy. The difference really is, the president apparently is going to say he's going to do something about the opioid crisis, as he has promised repeatedly but it's not exactly what we thought he was going to do and not exactly what he said he was going to do. The president could have declared a national emergency under the law that provides for FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and millions of dollars there potentially, even though we all know FEMA is quite busy right now dealing with hurricanes and such in a variety of locations.

So, what the president is going to do, we're told, is declare a public service emergency, or a public health emergency. What that means is that money available through a certain fund can be used to fight the opioid crisis. The problem is the fund that goes to public health emergencies is pretty much empty right now.

So, they have to go to Congress and ask for money to fund the battle against the opioid addiction crisis in the United States. We're told the administration is looking to get up to a billion dollars to do that, but right now there's not money apparently in the fund to fight this. It's a problem for the administration because, despite what they say to us, it's a big difference. It's a big difference between a national emergency and a public health emergency. Back to you.

HARLOW: All right. It's good to have the attention on it regardless, but we'll stay on this. Let us know if you hear more. Joe Johns at White House, thank you.

Also, new details this morning on the Trump campaign and "WikiLeaks." We now know that a data analytics firm hired by the Trump campaign, months before the election, paid almost $6 million by the Trump campaign reached out to "WikiLeaks" to get help hacking Clinton's 30,000 plus deleted e-mails.

BERMAN: Now, there is no sign that "WikiLeaks" ever had those e-mails. And its leader, Julian Assange says he rejected the overture from the Trump team. "WikiLeaks" of course, did release some hacked e-mails for the Democratic Party, Democratic National Committee, and Hillary Clinton's campaign share which then-candidate Trump talked about for months and months and months and months. CNN's Shimon Prokupecz is on this story. Shimon, what can you tell us?

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, John. The head of Cambridge Analytica, a data firm hired by the Trump campaign contacted "WikiLeaks" founder Julian Assange to see if he had obtained e-mails connected to Clinton's campaign. Now, Assange confirmed so much in a tweet that the chief executive -- Alexander Nix reached out but said the request was rejected. Nix, we're told, then sent an e- mail to several people including top Trump donor, Rebekah Mercer, reeling that he had e-mailed Assange.

A source tells CNN that no one from the Trump campaign was copied on the e-mail, but the attempt is the closest known link between the Trump campaign and "WikiLeaks". Now, you recall that "WikiLeaks" was responsible for releasing hacked e-mails from the DNC that U.S. Intelligence has said were stolen by Russia and handed over to "WikiLeaks" through an intermediary.

The Trump campaign has responded to the report by distancing themselves from Cambridge Analytica stating, "We as a campaign made the choice to rely on the voter data of the Republican National Committee to help elect President Donald J. Trump. Any claims that voter data from any other source played a key role in the victory are false."

BERMAN: Well, here's the thing though. We know for a fact that Cambridge Analytics was a key player in terms of data for the Trump campaign, isn't that true?

PROKUPECZ: Yes, that is, in fact, correct and based on some records that we've pulled, some election records, we found that these filing, the FTC filings, that just after Trump won the nomination, his campaign started a series of payments to Cambridge Analytica totaling some $5.9 million. So, it's clear that there was more of a relationship there than what was conveyed in that statement.

And now, also Jared Kushner, who headed up one of the data operations, also told "Forbes" magazine in an exclusive interview just after the election in November, that after the president won the nomination, they "kept both data operations going, simultaneously, and a lot shared between them. And by doing that, we could scale to a pretty good operation." Kushner said.

[10:05:10] BERMAN: All right, fascinating details. Again, on what people close to the Trump campaign really working for the Trump campaign, wanted to do, tried to do, reaching out to "WikiLeaks."

Shimon Prokupecz thanks so much for bringing us that story. Joining us to discuss this but really much more about what's going on right now in the U.S. Senate, Republican Senator Richard Shelby of Alabama. Senator, before we move on to other subjects, just want your reaction to this report this morning that this analytics firm working for the Trump campaign did reach out to "WikiLeaks" and its founder Julian Assange looking for some kind of cooperation, does that concern you?

SEN. RICHARD SHELBY (R-AL), SENATE BANKING AND APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE: Well, I don't have any information on that other than what you just told me, but everybody's looking for the edge in a political race, if it's a Senate race, a House race, a Governor's race, and especially a presidential race and they're looking for -- to get ahead and the Democrats and Republicans. What went on I personally don't know.

HARLOW: OK. But what went on is that our reporting is "The Daily Beast" reporting is, Senator, that Cambridge Analytica, this firm, paid $6 million by the Trump team, had people embedded in the Trump campaign at one point in time, reached out to Julian Assange, who you know is no friend of the U.S., and said will you helps us hack, get these Clinton e-mails. Knowing that, that's the reporting are you comfortable with that or is that more than just trying to get an edge?

SHELBY: Well, I think it's all about getting an edge, whether it's the Democrat or Republican. And if you look at both sides, they're trying to get ahead, they're trying to win a big battle and a lot of things happen, lot of things we don't like, but I think -

BERMAN: Right.

SHELBY: -- part of it is politics, part of it maybe you go too far. But I don't know all the facts. We'll see. But we ought to bring them out.

BERMAN: We ought to bring them out. I do want to get to tax cuts. But just to be clear, do you think it's OK looking for help from the Russians to get an edge?

SHELBY: Oh, no. I didn't say that. I just said that people look for it, including the campaign run by Hillary Clinton and anybody else. They're looking for help any way they get it.

HARLOW: OK. A lot of -- lot more that we want to get through with you. We just learned that the White House this morning is not going to declare the opioid crisis in this country, at least today, a national emergency. Now this is something the president has promised to do again and again. You know why that's important, right? Because you can tap a lot of money, you can tap FEMA money, you have a lot more liberty with how that money is spent to help in recovery, maybe he will do it next week as he told Lou Dobbs last night. We'll see. Should the president do that? Should he declare this national emergency?

SHELBY: Well, it is an emergency. It's -- and it affects just about everybody in this country, every community, to some extent. You know, this is real. I know I chair the subcommittee over the Justice Department and Senator Shaheen from New Hampshire who's ranking on that. We've been trying to make sure that the law enforcement people, the FBI and the Justice Department, and the state and local, have the tools to fight this epidemic. But it's going to take more than just law enforcement. It's going to take a massive effort. Otherwise, we're going to be inundated more than we are today.

BERMAN: Senator, you know, obviously, the chair of the Banking Committee and you will be involved or at least very interested in the finances of this country and the banking industry going forward. One of the issues being discussed in terms of the tax cut is whether or not 401(k) contributions should be capped. People should be limited to how much they can contribute to the 401(k). The president says no. Kevin Brady over in the House says maybe. Where do you stand?

SHELBY: I think we shouldn't tax 401(k). I personally don't think we should tax social security benefits and savings account, you know, dividends and dividends from corporate things because we ought to encourage people to save rather than spend. This encourages people to save. Builds capital for investment and creates jobs in the future.

HARLOW: Steve Bannon, speaking to the "Financial Times" in a new interview this morning. Here's what he says, "The establishment Republicans," and I would qualify you in that, "The establishment Republicans are in full collapse. They're not even fighting back. They're out of ideas, guts and out of money." You say, sir?

SHELBY: Well, I don't think we've collapsed at all. I think you're going to see pretty soon in the next weeks ahead, a tax cut unprecedented in this country. We're going to continue to fight and try to deregulate a lot of the financial institutions because we need -- we got $5 trillion lying around for investment in this country. We want to give people an opportunity to get this economy going again. We can do better than we're doing, but we're going to have to do it by hard work.

BERMAN: Roy Moore who is the nominee to be the next Republican senator from the state of Alabama, you say you will support that candidacy. There are a number of things that he has stood for that I'm sure you're full aware of. He calls Islam a false religion. He says that Muslim Congressman Keith Ellison should not sit in Congress because of his religious belief.

[10:10:00] He says homosexual conduct should be illegal. I'm not saying you support any of those comments, sir, but do you wish he would change his mind at a minimum on those once he gets to the U.S. Senate?

SHELBY: Well, Roy Moore is Roy Moore. You know, he - we know him well. I know him fairly well. He's unique. He's got a different agenda from a lot of us, but he hadn't been -- he hadn't won the race yet. I believe he will in December. I support him because he's the nominee of the party and I'm a Republican and that's what I'm about.

But I would hope that once he comes up here, that we will get behind things that matter like creating jobs, creating opportunities for people, helping children go to school, and building a strong defense. If we do all this, then it will be worthwhile for him.

HARLOW: But don't things like that matter if you think one's religion precludes him from being able to serve the United States and Congress.

SHELBY: I think all of it matters. I think that we have to have an open society. I think we've benefited from it. I think we've -- shouldn't be biased and prejudiced against any group as long as they support the basic principles of this country.

HARLOW: Senator Richard Shelby, as you say, the election is not over yet. We'll be watching. We appreciate your time.

SHELBY: Thank you.

HARLOW: Soon a key vote expected to take place today as Congress tries to fast-track tax reform. We're on it.

BERMAN: Plus, new airport security measures set to go into effect today. They could affect thousands of flights. What you need to know?


[10:15:57] BERMAN: All right. Any minute now, the House is expected to vote on a budget resolution that would allow Congress to get to action on tax reform. You're looking at live pictures from the House for now. This is the last procedural hurdle standing in the way of the Republican, putting their plan together - exactly what's in it. -We don't know yet.

HARLOW: It would be nice to know, wouldn't it?

Let's go to our Sunlen Serfaty with the breaking news. Sunlen, can you tell us everything that is going to be in the tax bill, please.

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I think some members of Congress, Poppy, would be asking the same questions. The House bill has not been unveiled yet. That's not until next week. But as you said, this budget vote today is an important and overall tax reform because that has to happen. It provides the framework for tax reform and importantly, provides the ability for Republicans to pass tax reform with only Republican votes.

Certainly heading into today, House Republican leadership is confident. They believe that they do have the votes to get this budget passed, but certainly it's going to be close. And as we've seen in recent days, some of the side fights already bubble over about very specific issues in this budget because it is, of course, members, essentially, planting their flag in the ground on the broader issue going into tax reform. There's this state and local income tax issue, known as SALT.

Republicans in high tax areas say they don't want that to be scrapped, that of course, on the table to raise some revenue. They say that they would be hit and hurt disproportionately to other states. So they're kind of saying potentially we need to have a partial scrap of that tax deduction but not the full thing. Those negotiations continue. Also, the issue of 401(k), President Trump has essentially been all over the map about that. He said capping those contributions as it's being considered up here is something he's not going to budge on. But then yesterday, him saying maybe we'll use this as a negotiating tool and leaders up here have been very firm that this is something very much on the table, capping those 401(k) contributions. All this to say, there is a lot of moving pieces on this up here, today is an important procedural step and then next week, is when the nitty gritty, the actual tax bill will be unveiled and we'll know a lot of the details. John and Poppy?

HARLOW: Sunlen, thank you so much. And as we're looking -- on the floor, Steve Scalise, speaking, it's good to see him standing up like that.


BERMAN: At work doing what he wants to be doing.

HARLOW: -- Doing at work, serving the American people after he was shot just a few months ago in that attack on the Congressional baseball practice.

All right, joining us now, CNN political commentator, Matt Lewis, CNN political analyst, Rebecca Berg, CNN senior political analyst, Ron Brownstein. Nice to have you all here, there's a lot to get through.

Good morning, Matt. Let me just start with you and the CNN reporting and "The Daily Beast" reporting on the data firm Cambridge Analytica that the Trump team hired, paid $6 million to, and that reached out to Julian Assange, "WikiLeaks", and said can you help us get those Hillary Clinton e-mails. How does that sit with you?

MATT LEWIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, the good news is I think that Assange said no. The good news for Trump is and the Trump campaign that Assange says he said no, that's what the reporting indicates as well, but this is not a good look. I mean it is Assange is an unseemly character, some people see him as a tool of Russia, and it's like the attempt of -- it's the appearance of the attempt at collusion. So this fits into the narrative, the bad narrative, about Donald Trump and about the Donald Trump campaign. Again, though, I think the fact that Assange rebuff the offer keeps this from being the smoking gun that some people were looking for.

BERMAN: Dan Pfeiffer, you know, Democrat, earlier said today this shows attempted collusion. You know, Don Jr. also, he took the meeting with Russians after being promised dirt on Hillary Clinton. They look at that as attempted collusion. This shows a will, whether or not they affected it is a different story, Ron.


LEWIS: I should just make the point real quick, sorry to interrupt, that Cambridge Analytica is very connected to the Trump campaign, obviously.

[10:20:05] BERMAN: Exactly.

LEWIS: But not the Trump campaign specifically.

BERMAN: No. They were subcontracted by the Trump campaign. Josh Green of Bloomberg, you know, who did extensive research on the data operation of the campaign embedded with Cambridge Analytica people during the campaign. I mean they were part of Jared Kushner's famous data team here, Ron. And this is a little bit -- there have been a lot of questions about this data team. How did they come up with the ideas that they came up with? I mean this is an area of keen interest?

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: And from the other side as well because as we are learning more and I think we're going to learn a lot more about the way the Russians targeted their misinformation, very specifically at specific kinds of voters in specific kinds of places. People have wondered from the beginning did someone, you know, to paraphrase Donald Trump, 400 pounds sitting on a bed somewhere in a basement in Moscow, figure out that Macomb County, you know, white men between 25 and 44 in Macomb County whose Facebook feeds you want to get in or did someone help them.

So, this does not directly shed light on that. It doesn't show the relationship in that direction but as you were saying, it does show the willingness to reach out in the other direction. And so, it like many other things, it raises questions more than it answers them.

HARLOW: Rebecca, I wonder what you think this does to the appearance of both parties this week in the minds of the American people. So you have what we just went through on the Trump campaign side and then you have the Clinton team and the DNC paying for the dossier and never, you know, owning up about that or saying anything. Does this just leave Americans sort of muddled, confused, disappointed and thinking both sides are kind of dirty?

REBECCA BERG, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think it's important to point out the differences between those two things. The dossier there's no indication so far that anything was inappropriate about that opposition research. It was sort of unusual opposition research in that it did use sources from Russia to draw these conclusions. But if, indeed, Cambridge Analytica was looking to cooperate with "WikiLeaks," I think that's in a different sort of category here, potential collusion with "WikiLeaks" and potentially with Russia.

But putting that aside, I mean, it does send this message to people who are already cynical about politics, that these campaigns were going to do anything they could to get the upper hand and to win this election. That's sort of what you would expect from a presidential election, but there are also certain lines that you don't want to cross and it looks like potentially some of those lines were crossed in this race.

BROWNSTEIN: You know, Poppy, can I add. I think that's exactly right. I mean both things are true. I think Americans are inclined to think that politics has become just a very dirty business. They thought that way since Hamilton and Jefferson. But, there is a bright line between colluding -- potentially colluding with a foreign power that is seeking to influence the election. Whatever you think about opposition research - whether you think it's unseemly or not, it is part of the American, you know, political framework but the idea of colluding with a foreign power, if ultimately that bears out. That is something --

BERMAN: Megan Haberman knows it also. You know, that opposition research, we're talking about --was trying to find out if the other side was colluding with the Russians. So putting them on the same plane, they're very different things.

Matt Lewis, shifting gears to the Republican Party which you've written a little bit about, I understand, there's a book that you've written. What's the title of the book, Matt?

LEWIS: "Too Dumb to Fail."

BERMAN: All right. So, Tom Coburn, former senator from Oklahoma, talks about the president of the United States and this is what he says. He says, "We have a leader who has a personality disorder, but he's done what he actually told the people he was going to do, and they're not going to abandon him."

So, here's a former U.S. Senator, siding with both teams right now in this ongoing Republican dispute. You sort of get the sense he's with Jeff Flake and Bob Corker on the personality of the president. On the other hand, he doesn't see the party leaving the president.

LEWIS: Well, I mean, you know, I think that he's being a very good political analyst there. I think he's factually correct, Senator Coburn is. I think that Donald Trump is, at the very least, lacking character and the temperament that you want and expect in a president. By the same token, I think he's right where the Republican base is right now. It's, in fact, Jeff Flake, the really decent, upstanding guy who's out of touch with the Republican Party and the conservative base.

That's why my book is called "Too Dumb to Fail." It actually, you know, the Trumpism doesn't fail. It's actually winning and working right now and if you want to succeed in this political environment, you would be better to sort of move in the Donald Trump populous direction and away from the Jeff Flake direction.

BROWNSTEIN: Except, to a point, can I just say, I mean the Donald Trump agenda, the balance they're trying to strike is an economic agenda that primarily benefits the upper income voters and the party and a cultural agenda that's aimed at the blue collar voters and the culturally conservative voters in the party. The problem is he is not entirely delivered in the sense that the health care plan that they put forward -


BROWNSTEIN: -- would have pulled health care away from many of the voters who are most attracted to the cultural agenda.

[10:25:00] And on the other side, you see more business executives who like aspects of the economics. They want their tax cut. They don't like the way he talks about race. They don't like what he's doing on NAFTA. They don't like what he's doing on immigration.

So, there is tension on both ends. His approval rating is down relative to his vote among both whites with and without a college education. Yes, most Republicans are still with him, but only Republicans didn't elect him. The coalition is larger and that is contracting to some extent.

HARLOW: Good point. Rebecca, we had Steve Law on earlier, last hour, and he runs the PAC that loves everything McConnell, hates everything Steve Bannon. But even though they're invested in this war which has splashed across the front page of "The Washington Post" today, he said, we the media, everyone, is overblowing this so-called civil war within the Republican Party. You sort of -- doesn't look like you agree with that?

BERG: Well, clearly when you have sitting U.S. senators who are Republicans speaking out against the president, that's a pretty significant, if not a historic civil war. Especially when you consider that Republicans are in power in the Senate, in the House, and in the White House. Usually you see these kinds of disagreements among a party when they're out of power, when they're trying to sort through their differences and figure out, how can we get back to controlling Washington. Republicans are in control of Washington and they're still having these disagreements.

But I think it's important to note that much of this is really stylistic. Republicans and the president are on the same page policy wise for the most part. If you look at tax reform, health care, the big issues of the day. They pretty much agree on the prescriptions for moving forward, but it's really just the president's rhetoric, his style, the way he has approached this office. That is really frustrating Republicans and that's where you see this disagreement. It's over tone and style. Do they want to be the angry populous party or do they want to be more civil, pragmatic, problem solvers?

BERMAN: Matt Lewis, we've got 30 seconds left. Steve Law and the team behind Mitch McConnell going directly after Steve Bannon calling him a white nationalist, calling him an anti-Semite, going after Bannon will that work?

LEWIS: I don't think it will, actually. You know, what are you going to do? What's your strategy? You're going to sort of roll over and let the Bannon forces take over your party? Or are you going to fight back? Fighting back worked for Mitch McConnell and other mid-terms and past cycles. But I think that right now, this is Bannon's party more than McConnell's party and when you do that, you're actually reinforcing that you are the establishment and they are with the people.

BROWNSTEIN: That can happen institutionally but voters won't stay where they don't feel welcome and ultimately, if that is the verdict that it is Bannon's party and not McConnell's party, voters will move whether in 2018 or 2020 or beyond.

BERMAN: Ron Brownstein, Rebecca Berg, Matt Lewis, thanks so much for being with us. Happening now new enhanced security measures in place for international flights to the United States. This will affect thousands of travelers including Americans and what they do with their electronic devices.