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Trump to Speak with Putin About Syrian Civil War; Border Patrol Agent Killed, Another Injured; DOJ Investigating Harvard Over Affirmative Action; Interview with Representative Tom Reed; Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired November 21, 2017 - 10:30   ET



[10:33:41] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right. New this morning, a big phone call for President Trump. He'll be speaking with the Russian leader Vladimir Putin. Of course the last time they spoke Putin told the president that Moscow did not meddle in the U.S. election and the president chose not to push back because he said that Putin really seemed to believe what he was saying.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: And Putin probably did believe what he was saying. The question, did the president believe what he was saying and the rest of America?

So the call today is not expected to focus on that. It's expected to focus on the situation in the civil war in Syria. We don't know if President Trump will once again discuss election meddling with Putin.

Let's bring in our global affairs analyst Kimberly Dozier.

So election meddling aside but noting it's important to be discussed and dealt with, Syria. Where is it that the two presidents can actually get something done for the people of Syria?

KIMBERLY DOZIER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, this is the task that acknowledgement, Poppy, that Russia holds all the cards to negotiating the peace there. In that Russia is the only one that can negotiate both with the Assad regime and with the Iranian forces on the ground. The only one that has any influence in them -- with them. But it also shows the U.S. has no levers to pull and is essentially ceding this to Moscow.

The U.S. could say we hold all of the areas in the east of the country and we want to negotiate some sort of independent rule there.

[10:35:06] They'll probably put that forward. But it still means that this means Moscow will be the one basically calling the shots.

BERMAN: What is the outcome that the United States wants at this point?

DOZIER: Well, they would like the U.N. brokered peace talks to resume and to come up with some sort of agreement that would keep the areas that have already been taken by Kurdish and other anti-Assad forces to have some sort of autonomy. They'll also want to work out some sort of an arrangement in those cases where Russian and U.S.-backed forces come into close proximity as they continue to try to beat out the last vestiges of ISIS that they have some sort of protocol to engage or disengage with each other.

HARLOW: So on North Korea, the president announced yesterday he is now adding North Korea back to the United States' list of state sponsors of terror. It was removed in 2008 under President Bush. President Obama decided not to add it back. The response from North Korea this morning is in part, quote, "The hideous crimes committed by the lunatic president of the United States are a blatant challenge the dignity of the supreme leadership of the DPRK."

A significant response but rhetoric that shouldn't surprise us from North Korea. What's your take?

DOZIER: Well, if it stays at the rhetoric level that would be welcome. The fear is that after a two-month hiatus of testing any missiles or things related to its nuclear weapons program, that Pyongyang could go back to testing the missiles.

This move has been seen, though, as part of the Trump administration just following through with a diplomatic checklist. If you're telling all of your allies, which the Trump administration just did in the tour through Asia, that you are going to take every possible measure before choosing military action, this is one of the things that you just have to do.

It also signals China, how serious the U.S. is about it, but increasingly we can go back to the fact that China may not have as much leverage with North Korea as the U.S. thinks it does and relations have been increasingly icy. China sent an envoy there over the weekend who reportedly had no luck, came back empty handed, so again, we go back to that conversation between President Trump and Putin today. They may also talk about North Korea.

BERMAN: All right. Kimberly Dozier, great to have you with us. Thanks so much, Kimberly.

DOZIER: Thank you.

BERMAN: Major questions this morning surrounding the death of a border agent. What happened?


[10:42:07] HARLOW: We have new details on what FBI is calling a tragic incident that left one Border Patrol agent dead, another badly hurt. This happened in southwest Texas and not a lot is known but what we do know is that both agents received traumatic head injuries.

Our Ed Lavandera joins us now live from El Paso, Texas.

Do they know who could have carried this out or why?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We don't know anything officially yet as to exactly what happened with these two Border Patrol agents who were on patrol late Saturday night, about 12 miles east of the small west Texas town of Van Horn. Now according to President Trump, Senator Ted Cruz of Texas and the

governor of Texas, Greg Abbott, as well as the union that represents Border Patrol agents, they've all described this as an attack on these two agents out in this remote area.

The Border Patrol Union actually going one step further describing the incidents as an ambush. However, federal investigators just simply aren't going that far. They say that both of these agents, one agent Rogelio Martinez who was one of the first out at that scene Saturday night, just before midnight on Saturday night and then his partner showed up and then his partner made a phone call requesting assistance and that when the teams showed up, that these agents were found in need of medical attention.

So a lot of questions surrounding exactly swirling around what exactly happened Saturday night out in this remote area of west Texas and why have some politicians and leaders gone so far describing this as an attack while federal investigators aren't quite going that far.

FBI -- officials of the FBI is the lead agency investigating this case. They're scheduled to hold a press conference here in El Paso later on this afternoon -- John and Poppy.

BERMAN: All right. Ed Lavandera for us in El Paso. Ed, thanks so much.

So we learned this morning the Department of Justice is looking into who gets into Harvard and why, using the university's admission policies discriminate against Asian Americans.

Our justice reporter Laura Jarrett has the details on this.

This is an interesting suit -- Laura.

LAURA JARRETT, CNN JUSTICE REPORTER: Yes, John. This is shaping up to potentially be the first major legal battle over Affirmative Action during the Trump administration. According to a set of letters I obtained just this morning, the Justice Department sent Harvard last week it makes it clear not only is the school under investigation for its admission policies but DOJ is now threatening to sue the school if it doesn't turn over records by late next week.

Now the Justice Department's interest in Harvard's policy stems from a 2015 federal complaint that accuses the school of discriminating against Asian Americans in admissions. Now the "New York Times" reported back in August that DOJ was actually looking for lawyers to look into these types of cases but this is the first confirmation we have that a true investigation is under way.

No word yet from Harvard's attorney and the Justice Department has declined to comment. John, Poppy.

[10:45:06] HARLOW: Really interesting. The first official word that this is, indeed, an investigation into Harvard. All right. We'll wait to see what Harvard says.

Laura Jarrett, thank you for the reporting.

Quick break. We'll be right back.


BERMAN: All right. Lawmakers are back home in their districts for this Thanksgiving holiday, but not every constituent giving thanks on every subject, including the proposed tax cuts. Listen to this.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You were quoted being the only -- in one of the only, in papers recently as saying, look, $1600, you know what's that going to do? That will allow a family of four to go to Disneyland.

[10:50:02] We're talking $1600 in cuts, going to Disneyland, versus huge cuts for the wealthy, huge cuts for corporations. What I want to know is, does this bill that's being sold out as once in a generation opportunity, does that really address wealth disparity?


HARLOW: That was a question the congressman -- Republican Congressman Tom Reed of New York and he is here with us to give us his answer.

So, thank you, sir, for being here. That was one of your constituents. Of course you sit on the House Ways and Means Committee, you voted yes on the House Republican tax cut bill. What did you say to her concerns?

REP. TOM REED (R), CO-CHAIR, PROBLEM SOLVERS CAUCUS: Well, as we had the conversation, obviously, a lot of passion last night at the town hall but we're going to continue listening to the folks we represent, and what it indicated was there was a lot of philosophy displayed that they wanted to take from the 1 percent to give to the lower income folks and my answer to that is look, what I do believe, is as we do tax reform, keep the high rate, 39.6 on the books, and look at growing the economy so that people have a better job, higher income, higher salaries. That will do a lot in my opinion to bridge that difference of income inequality in America.

BERMAN: So you've said that you're 100 percent convinced that when we get through tax reform, hard-working people will benefit. And this gets to the last point you were making. Many hard-working people will benefit, but some won't. Right?

I mean, the Joint Committee on Taxation says that those making between $10,000 and $30,000, some will start to see tax increases by 2021. There are different people in different income brackets in different states, well, actually, your state, who will see tax increases within the next 10 years. Again, so some will see benefits, but not all. Does that concern you?

REED: No. I believe overall -- and we've got the sunset effect on the five years, that's inside D.C. bean counter rules that require us to sunset some individual provisions as well as some expensing provisions on the corporate side. That create that cliff effect if you would. But I'm very confident once we get to that period of time we're going to avoid that tax increase and so the bean counters should not restrict us from doing good policy and that immediate relief of $1600 for that family of four, that's hard math.

That's based on doing the math but the typical family in our district, they're going to see that immediately and I'm very confident they're going to see that through the entire 10 to 20 years that we have in front of us on the budget windows.

HARLOW: The issue, Congressman, is that that does not assuage the concerns that your constituents there voiced to you last night. I mean, she said, why are the big corporations, the wealthiest getting big cuts, and you're talking about $1600 for the rest of folks, and John is completely right, this nonpartisan analysis shows that for the poorest Americans, that are paying taxes, it bumps up from 3.7 percent to 4.2 percent in 2021 for some of them. So that's not 100 percent of those who need it most getting relief.

REED: Yes. We'll take a look at that analysis that you're referring to. But every analysis, every fact that we've checked, shows that they're going to see that relief and we'll double check that to make sure because the intent is to provide that relief for hard-working Americans. That's why we kept the 39.6 percent rate on the books and that bubble rate that you've heard a lot of folks at the 44 percent that are going to get impacted by it.

And when you deal with the corporate rate obviously we are reducing corporate taxation because we are the highest taxed nation in the world and we still do it on a worldwide basis. We're the last country that does that. That's why you've seen a mass exodus of American business to Ireland and other countries like Great Britain, et cetera, that are getting ahead of us in regards to their tax competitiveness.

BERMAN: Corporate taxes, you know, lowering, corporate tax cut is one complete argument, but Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan have both had to back off claims that are somewhat similar to this that 100 percent of the people in the middle class would see a tax cut because it's just not true. Everyone will not see a tax cut within that group. Maybe most, but not all.

Congressman, I want to shift gears if we can because there's a lot of news. And a lot of it deals with Congress, it deals with the media, it deals with entertainment. And I'm talking of course about sexual harassment, sexual assault in some cases, allegations of that, certainly in Alabama. I know this is something you thought a lot about personally and to a certain extent some of the worse of it has affected your family somewhat directly.

REED: Yes.

BERMAN: As it pertains to Congress right now, is Congress doing enough to address this issue? REED: No. I think we have to do more. I think, you know, we've been

proud supporter of the No More Campaign as you bring up the personal situation that impacted our family with a rape in our family for one of our loved ones. I can tell you we're going to stand with victims. We're going to make sure that their voice can be heard across the country. No more can we speak about this in silence and in the dark of night.

We need to have open and sunshine on these issues and stand with our victims and not re-victimize them again and again as we see often in history. It's time. I'm glad this is happening across America. This is good for America to get this out into the open.

HARLOW: And does that mean that you will vote yes if it is brought to the floor of the legislation by Democrats Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Representative Jackie Speier, that would really change the way that reporting, transparency, accountability work for sexual harassment claims on the Hill against members of Congress and staff?

[10:55:05] REED: Absolutely. I do support the mandatory training. We've had our office go through additional training on a volunteer basis over the last few weeks. I went through an hour of the training myself.

This is important. And I will stand with Senator Gillibrand. She's done great work in regards to the military issue, when it comes to sexual assault and victimization, and we'll continue to stand with her. And this is an area we can find common ground and bring people together and that's a positive development for this issue going forward.

HARLOW: That's bipartisanship.

Congressman, we appreciate your time. Thank you.

REED: It is.

BERMAN: Have a Happy Thanksgiving, Congressman.

REED: You too. Thanks, John and Poppy.

BERMAN: All right. President Trump, Vladimir Putin, set to speak very shortly by telephone. You know what happened last time they spoke. President Putin told them that Russia did not meddle in the election. Will that come up this time? Stay with us.