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President Trump's Critical Trip to Asia; Major Changes in the GOP Tax Plan; Brazile: DNC Was Rigged for Hillary Clinton. Aired 5- 5:30a ET

Aired November 3, 2017 - 05:00   ET


DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: North Korea is the focus for President Trump as he readies for the longest foreign trip of his presidency. He leaves for Asia this morning, and a show of force overnight raising tensions with Pyongyang.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: The biggest tax overhaul proposal in a generation. What's in it, what it means for you? How good is it for business? Can Congress even pass it?

BRIGGS: Very good for business.

ROMANS: Good morning and welcome to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs. Friday, November 3rd. It's 5:00 a.m. in the East. It's 11:00 p.m. in Hawaii, where the president will be soon, and 5:00 p.m. in Tokyo.

President Trump taking off this morning on this marathon overseas trip. Air Force One departing at Joint Base Andrews at 9:00 a.m. So, just five hours wheels up, on route to Hawaii, then to Japan on Sunday, followed by South Korea, China, Vietnam and ending in the Philippines on November 12th.

Ahead of this trip, the president spoke out on the North Korea threat, touting America's relationship with Japan.


[05:00:05] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Japan is a warrior nation and I tell China and I tell everyone else that listens, I mean, you're going to have yourself a big problem with Japan pretty soon if you allow this to continue with North Korea.


ROMANS: National security adviser H.R. McMaster says the president is thinking about putting North Korea back on the list of state sponsors of terrorism as a, quote, threat to the entire world. We also learn Pyongyang may be getting ready to carry out new missile and nuclear tests.

For the latest, let's bring in CNN's Matt Rivers live for us this morning from Beijing. Set the table for us, Matt, as the president in just about four hours is going to wheels up for this Asia trip with all of these developments


And the number one topic in each stop that the president's going to make over the next ten days or so will be North Korea, and given what we've seen over the last 24 hours, he's going to have plenty of fresh material, if you will, to talk about.

It was on Thursday that the U.S. military announced they flew two B-1 bombers over the Korean peninsula. It's the kind of drill we've seen before. Military said it was pre planned.

The North Koreans didn't see it that way. And their state media KCNA, as it's called, they put out a statement saying that they believe it was a dry run for a future nuclear strike against North Korea. Of course, the U.S. denied that.

And at the same time, what you're seeing in the same day, actually on Thursday is South Korean intelligence agency put out a report saying they've seen activity in North Korea that would suggest there will be another missile test quite soon and that the North Koreans are ready at any moment to conduct another nuclear test. That's what the president's going to be wading into as he tries to come up with a long-term solution to this ongoing crisis in the Korean peninsula.

That said, while there's also a lot to deal with North Korea, there's a lot of other things that he's going to have to talk about. Look at trade for example. The United States pulled out of the Trans Pacific Partnership under the Trump administration and so they're going to be starting from square one with countries like South Korea when it comes to potentially negotiating a bilateral trade deal.

The president also wants to come to China and talk about opioids and military expansion. Yes, North Korea's important, there's plenty of other things that the president is talking about.

ROMANS: Oh, yes, absolutely. All right. Thanks for that, Matt Rivers for us in Beijing.

The GOP tax plan is out and debate amongst lawmakers and tax experts is now heating up. What does it mean for your tax bill?

Well, the cornerstone of the plan, four new tax brackets down from seven. Couples making up to there is 90,000, individuals making up to 12 percent there. I flipped that backwards. Higher income households would pay 25 percent and 35 percent. The top rate stays the same at 39.6 percent for the highest earners.

Another big change the standard deduction. It's nearly doubled in the new plan, $12,000 for single filers, $24,000 for couples. This will cut down the number of people who itemize ands reduce the deduction they would have taken. But the plan would eliminate the personal deduction. Some taxpayers could see little benefit to the larger standard deduction.

Other big changes that could affect your money, the child tax credit being boosted by $600. It allows for more people to claim that credit. As for housing, the popular mortgage interest deduction will be capped at loans up to 500 grand and homeowners can only de duct $10,000 worth the property tax.

The state and local tax deductions, those are known as SALT, they will disappear. And the estate tax by the year 2024. There are some interesting new benefits I think for working families. But the cornerstone of this, really, honestly, is the corporate tax.

BRIGGS: Absolutely. There's a lot to digest here. Helping us do that is political economist Greg Valliere, chief strategist at Horizon Investments.

ROMANS: Hi, Greg.

BRIGGS: Good morning to you, Greg.


BRIGGS: One thing is clear. Republicans see this as a political imperative, because Lindsey Graham said if they don't get it, they lose their majority. The president could be impeached.

BRIGGS: My question is, when you stick back from this, the president talks about the stock market, all time highs, 3 percent growth, back- to-back quarters and all economic indexes are strong and positive. Is this what the economy needs right now?

VALLIERE: Well, that's quite a question, isn't it?

The fact that the economy is improving, Trump brags about it all the time, you would think that you needed a big tax cut when the economy was in bad shape. I think everyone agrees we need tax reform. Especially the way corporations are taxed internationally. But to go another trillion and a half dollars into debt for a tax cut with a decent economy? That's a legitimate issue.

ROMANS: You know, when you listen to Paul Ryan, the House speaker, when you listen -- you know, the House Ways and Means Committee chairman, everyone was talking about how this is for the paycheck to paycheck worker. This is for the middle class.

Is that what this is, Greg?

VALLIERE: Not really. I mean, it helps a bit. But for most people, not all, but it helps a bit.

[05:05:02] And I think for the very, very wealthy, there's not going to be as much tax relief as perhaps they expected a few months ago. But no, make no mistake. This is about corporations really dramatically lowering corporate taxes, repatraiting that are stashed abroad, liberalizing the treatment of immediate deductions. It's the major reason or a major reason why the stock market has done

so well, because corporate earnings are going to do better with rates this much lower.


BRIGGS: A surprise the business-friendly "Wall Street Journal" calls this half a tax reform this morning. They say it's much needed form of business taxes, marred by a, quote, mess on individual taxes. That makes that part of the code even worse than it is now.

So, can the president sell this as the Christmas gift the largest middle class tax cut ever?

VALLIERE: He's very good at selling and I'm sure he will. What I think, Dave, "The Wall Street Journal" editorial was headed for was the Senate. Everyone's talking as if this is a done deal but I think there are so many moving parts that are going to get changed in Senate or maybe in a house Senate conference committee during the winter.

So, I think "The Wall Street journal" and a lot of other critics are trying to get in the best shots and really there will be changes.

ROMANS: I think biggest sticking point the high tax states. I mean, if you look at somebody who has in New York or New Jersey or California, where you have 13 percent state income tax, no longer be able to deduct, that's where they're going to be hearing from those folks. There is a very important trip for the president. He's going to the backyard for the trade deals that were blown up when we walked out of TPP and had to start from scratch.

What are you expecting, what are the stakes for the president on this trip?

VALLIERE: I think it's pretty high, Christine because for the financial market the which have to digest the departure of Yellen and the tax bill, and what Mueller is doing. There's also the issue is Donald Trump a protectionist or isn't he? And I think his trip to Asia will answer a lot of questions. I think deep down in, he doesn't favor NAFTA. He doesn't favor, of course, the Trans Pacific Partnership.

So, unless he gives a full-throated defense of free trade, I think that's going to be a signal for the markets that protectionism may be a new fear as we go into 2018.

BRIGGS: Crucial trip.

Back here, I want to ask you about this DNC scandal we'll talk about later in the program, but essentially what Donna Brazile is saying in this book is Barack Obama left the DNC in a mess, tons of debt. So, what happened, does Hillary Clinton gave them money, but control the DNC and the words of high profile Democrats, rigged the nomination in favor of Hillary Clinton, playing some serious hard ball or is there more to it and who's in a bigger mess here? Republicans with their civil war or Democrats? VALLIERE: It's really an interesting story. You've got now Elizabeth

Warren, who very bluntly said yesterday that the nomination was rigged against Bernie Sanders for Hillary Clinton. So, you've got the Republican Party in a civil war, the Democrats now in a civil war and I think both parties may yield to the populist, the Steve Bannon populist, the Elizabeth Warren/Bernie Sanders. And the center in both parties seems to be collapsing.

ROMANS: Fascinating. All right. Greg Valliere, so much to talk about. Come back in a half hour. We'll talk some more. Thanks, Greg.

BRIGGS: All right. The Internet red alert has been canceled, folks. The president's Twitter account is back up and running this morning after briefly going offline. How is this for a plot twist? It was not a glitch. Turns out an unnamed Twitter employee pulled the plug on the account on his or her last day at work.

The president's account was restored in 11 minutes but was down long enough to trigger a tsunami of sarcastic jokes and conspiracy theories online, including this tweet from Brian Fallon, former spokesman for the Clinton campaign. Human error is a better check on Trump than General Kelly.

It was a fascinating 11 minutes that actually continued on through the night.

ROMANS: President Trump does not seem troubled by a staffing shortage at the State Department.


TRUMP: The one that matters is me. I'm the only one that matters.


ROMANS: We'll tackle that next.


[05:13:32] ROMANS: All right. New signs this morning special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation is reaching the president's inner circle and it may be extending beyond Russian meddling in the 2016 campaign. Now, CNN has learned investigators have started asking about senior adviser Jared Kushner, the president's son-in-law. Sources tell CNN investigators want to know about Kushner's role in the firing of the FBI director and events surrounding that meeting at Trump Tower, the one between Russians and top Trump campaign officials including Kushner.

BRIGGS: What's not clear is how Kushner's advice to the president might relate to the Russia investigation or to possible obstruction of justice in Comey firing.

Justice Department Evan Perez with more from Washington.


EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Dave and Christine, sources tell us that Jared Kushner voluntarily turned over documents that he had from the campaign and the transition, and these related to any contacts that he had with Russia. Now, the documents are similar to ones that Kushner gave to congressional investigators.

This all comes as investigators have begun asking witnesses about Kushner's role in the firing of FBI Director James Comey. Now, we heard different accounts from sources. Some say Kushner was a driver of the president's decision. Others say that he simply didn't oppose it, and it was something that the president had already made up his mind about.

Now, sources close to the White House say that base on what they know, Kushner is not a target of this investigation. White House official says there's no surprise that the Mueller team would be asking questions about Kushner.

[05:15:02] They also say that Kushner would be among a list of people that investigators would be asking about.

A lawyer for Kushner did not comment and the White House declined to comment for the story -- Dave and Christine.


ROMANS: All right. Thanks for that Evan Perez.

The president lamenting his lack of influence with the Justice Department. Mr. Trump spoke to radio host Larry O'Connor who said his listeners want the feds to go after Hillary Clinton and the president with this.


TRUMP: The saddest thing is that because I'm the president of the United States, I am not supposed to be involved with the Justice Department. I'm not supposed to be involved with the FBI. I'm not supposed to be doing the kind of things I would love to be doing and I'm very frustrated by it.


BRIGGS: President Trump himself under scrutiny concerning his interactions with the Justice Department. We learned last week he wanted a gag order lifted on an undercover informant in a case that could involve Hillary Clinton, and it's still not clear if the president did anything improper by firing former FBI Director James Comey.

ROMANS: If you ever have the feeling president Trump believe the only person in the federal government is him, he's no you confirming it. In his latest interview with FOX News, the president was asked about open positions at the State Department going unfulfilled. His response? No problem. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: We don't need all the people that they want. You know, don't forget. I'm a business person. I tell me people we don't need to fill slots don't fill them, but we have some people that I'm not happy with --

INTERVIEWER: But assistant secretary of state, you're not getting rid --

TRUMP: Let me tell you, the one that matters is me. I'm not only one that matters because when it comes to it, that's what the policy is going to be. You've seen that, you've seen it strongly.


BRIGGS: President Trump is has nominated 79 people for State Department jobs with 33 confirmed, way behind Barack Obama and George W. Bush at the nine-month mark of their presidencies. We've heard reports of low morale over there at the State Department for months now. That probably won't help.

ROMANS: Yes. All right. A well-known university says it will no longer provide bits control for students and faculty. Tell you where next.


ROMANS: ISIS is claiming the attacker in this week's deadly truck ramming in New York City is a, quote, soldier of the caliphate. The terror group's weekly newspaper did not name that suspect nor claim direct responsibility for the attack. The article also stopped short of providing any credible evidence ISIS had knowledge of the attack before it happened or even played a role in its planning. This is the first time ISIS made such a claim in its newspaper before boasting through its regular news agency.

BRIGGS: The University of Notre Dame announcing it will no longer cover birth control for students, faculty or staff. The Catholic institution making the move less than a month after the Trump administration added a loophole to Obamacare's contraceptive mandate.

ROMANS: New rules allow employers to stop covering birth control if they have a sincerely held religious objection. The school says it honors the moral teachings of the Catholic Church. Employees will lose contraceptive coverage starting December 31st. Students, August 14th.

BRIGGS: Allegations of sexual misconduct against actor Kevin Spacey now reaching the set of "House of Cards". Eight current or former show employees tell CNN Spacey created a toxic work environment through a pattern of sexual harassment. All eight people describing the actor's behavior to CNN as predatory.

ROMANS: It follows the accusations by actor Anthony Rapp who says Spacey made unwanted sexual advances toward him when Rapp was just 14 years old. Spacey issued an apology to Rapp's account. And now, the talent agency parting ways with the actor without officially saying it's base of those allegations.

BRIGGS: Houston Astros get to celebrate the historic World Series title with the fans today. Victor parade will be held this afternoon in downtown Houston. The Astros won their first ever World Series beating the Dodgers in seven games, plenty of kids on hand because the Houston independent school district has closed all schools today. Bravo.

Not all good news for Houston sports fans. Deshaun Watson will miss the rest of the season after tearing an ACL in his right knee. The story of this NFL season is either the anthem protest or devastating injuries. It has been unfortunate. He was the bring story of the NFL this year.

ROMANS: All right. Twenty-three minutes past the hour.

Just about four hours from now, President Trump takes off for a big trip to Asia focused on North Korea. We're live in the region, what to expect. We're also going to break down the Republican tax plan. What it means for you.

A young entrepreneur wanted to make razors more affordable. Here's how a frustrating experience inspired the innovation.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Harry's was born out of a personal experience that I had, just a really frustrating experience going to a drugstore, finding the razor blades locked behind the case, spending $25 for four-razor blades and some shaving creams.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Today, we sell a line. You can just order whenever you want to. We sell it retail stores. We bought a razor blade factory in Germany to find out how we could make them better. We invested tens of millions of dollars in continuing to improve that process.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The actual name was a grandfather like figure for Jeff. We sort of liked the idea of shaving being passed down from grandfather to father to son, a lot of ways guys are marketed to in this category and is sort of traditional view of what it means to be a man, which is sorted like rooted in sports or sex or bathroom humor which for me as a guy doesn't resonate that much.

[05:25:15] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We want to be a brand that shares the beliefs of our guys that is able to sort of have an honest and warmed conversation of what it's like to be a guy today, what it's like to shave and get ready.