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Interview with Senator Tom Carper; U.S. Classifies Myanmar's Violence Against Rohingya Muslims as Ethnic Cleansing; Jerry Jones Speaks Out on President Trump; Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired November 22, 2017 - 10:30   ET


[10:32:36] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right. New this morning, the Republican push for tax reform might be getting a key boost.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: From Alaska. Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski says she does support, including the repeal of the individual mandate of Obamacare in this bill. While her spokesman says it's not clear if she's made a decision on how she will vote, she is certainly seen as a crucial vote for Republicans who want to get their tax cuts through.

Joining us now, Democratic Senator Tom Carper. He is on the Finance Committee.

Thank you for joining us. So you were --

SEN. TOM CARPER (D), DELAWARE: Good morning, Poppy.

HARLOW: Good morning. You were part of this call with the president while he was in Asia on taxes. And at one point, it's reported that you looked over to his chief economic adviser, Gary Cohn, and said to him, quote, "We're not going to have a real conversation here. Can you just tell the president he's brilliant and say we're losing the connection and hang up?" Seriously?

CARPER: Seriously, and he did. And we've been having about a half an hour conversation with Gary, with Marc Short and with Sharira Knight, the three people from the administration. We had a great conversation. They're asking questions about more moderate Democrats and trying to see if there's some kind of middle ground on tax reform.

About 30 minutes into the call, Gary gets up and takes a call on his cell phone, comes back into the room, he says, we have somebody calling in from Asia, and it was the president, which was the nice. Nice of him to do that. Fifteen minutes later, the president is still talking. And we -- I said to Gary, it was a room where we're all sitting around this big squad table, and I said, Gary, why don't you do this? Why don't you just take the phone from, you know, your cell phone back and you say, Mr. President, you're brilliant.

And -- but we're losing contact, and I think we're going to lose you now, so good-bye. And that's what he did and he hung up. And we went back to having the kind of conversation that we needed to, where they ask a question, looking for consensus, looking for common ground, and we -- I think we've identified a little bit. BERMAN: Sir, are you saying that Gary Cohn faked a bad connection to

get the president off the phone?

CARPER: I'm sorry, say again?

BERMAN: Are you saying Gary Cohn faked a bad connection to get the president off the phone?

CARPER: Well, I wouldn't -- I don't want to throw him under the bus, but yes.

HARLOW: I think you just did.

BERMAN: Yes, that's the bus. I think the bus just --


CARPER: He was interested in a greater good.

HARLOW: The bus has passed.

CARPER: He wanted to make sure he could have the kind of conversation, and that's what we need to do. There's areas where we can agree --


BERMAN: All right, Gary Cohn --

CARPER: -- and be a good listener.

BERMAN: Gary Cohn, call your office right now, because you might be getting a call from Florida shortly.

Let me ask you, sir, Lisa Murkowski says she supports the repeal of the individual mandate. Do you think this puts the Republican plan closer to passing in the Senate?

[10:35:05] CARPER: I don't know. What really starts off as tax reform has ended up being in part some more repeal of the Affordable Care Act. One of the keys in the Affordable Care Act is establishing exchanges in every state for people who don't have access to health care through their employer, through Medicaid, through Medicare. So it's the Republican idea to have the exchanges.

One of the keys for success in the exchanges is you have to have a healthy mix of people to insure. And one of the ways that we do that is through the individual mandate. Other ways, as well. But this administration has spent the last eight, nine months trying to destabilize the exchanges. So they're driving insurers out of the marketplaces.

We have not enough competition in a lot of counties, a lot of states, and as a result, prices have gone up, which is not what we want to do.

HARLOW: Senator, Republicans we have on this show constantly talking about the need for corporate tax cuts. And to be honest so do a number of Democrats. I mean, they see 35 percent corporate taxes as anti-competitive and they see inversions that are happening and companies leaving the United States. Do you agree the corporate tax rate needs to be lower?

CARPER: There are a couple of things I think we can agree with, Democrats and Republicans. The idea of doubling the standard deduction. That will actually help a lot of people who don't have to file -- they would have to file, but they wouldn't have to itemize their taxes.

I think that's a good idea we can agree on. I think the effective tax rate for corporations in this country is between 15 percent and say, 20 percent. A number of companies do pay 35 percent. That's not very competitive with the rest of the world. So to the extent that we can bring -- ratchet down a bit is good.

What is not good is this. We're looking at essentially tax cuts that help more wealthy people than not help the corporations, bigger corporations, than middle-sized corporations. And there's a fear that a lot of people have that corporations, what they'll do if they have more money to spend, they won't necessarily invest it in plant and equipment, in their workers. They'll actually use it for stock buybacks and drive up the stock and the value of the companies and help actually boost compensation for very senior members of the company.

BERMAN: That is something we have heard in some cases from these corporate boards.

Senator, I want to ask you a little bit about what's going on right now in Alabama. Senator Roy Moore, Judge Roy Moore running for Senate there. The president all but backed him yesterday. I want to get your reaction to that.

CARPER: Believe it or not, this is one -- it's up to the people in Alabama to make the decision of who they're going to choose like it is in Delaware and other places. But on matter of sexual harassment, whether it's Alabama or whether it's state fair or whether it's Capitol Hill, whether it's Hollywood, sexual harassment has no place.

And I'm a big golden rule guy, treat other people the way we want to be treated. And I always like to say, how would you want to treat this woman if this was your sister that was involved or your mother was involved? And we use it as a standard, as a rule, as a guide.

BERMAN: But you think -- just to be clear, you're saying, you know, it's up to the people of Alabama. Does that mean if he is elected that you would vote against removing him from the Senate?

CARPER: Well, actually, we have the right, as members of the Senate, once the people of a state have spoken, so whether or not we believe that person is actually made out of the right stuff. And we almost never say no. Almost never say no. And in this case, we need to find out more of the details and make sure that we know what actually did happen, actually listen to the witness. HARLOW: Well --

CARPER: And maybe even meet with the witnesses.

HARLOW: Hold on. Hold on, Senator.

CARPER: And then make a decision. But we're getting ahead of ourselves.

HARLOW: But on that --

CARPER: Let's have an election first and let the people of Alabama say what they think. I just think sexual harassment doesn't have an appropriate place anywhere in this country.

HARLOW: On that point, you say we need to figure out what happened. There may be no more that you find out. You have the accounts of these women, eight of them, against Roy Moore, and you have the accounts of Roy Moore. And this is far passed a place where it can be litigated in court. But it's ultimately going to come down to, isn't it, do you believe these women or not?

CARPER: Mm-hmm. Well, believe it or not, we have other issues that we are working on, tax reform is just one of many of them, budgets and stuff like that. So we don't spend every minute of every day looking at what's going on in the election in Alabama.

I have to say, clearly, sexual harassment, bad. Make it very clear. It's not acceptable where I work, it's not acceptable any place in this country.

Let the people of Alabama, if they want to make their choice, I hope they -- they have a very good candidate, a Democratic candidate.


CARPER: He's a centrist. He's a moderate. He's I think very highly regarded. My hope is he'll be elected. And if he's not, then we'll see what follows.

HARLOW: OK. I get that. We did spend the first five minutes talking about the issues, like tax reform. And we do that all the time. But sexual harassment and child molestation accusations are also an issue here and what we're asking is you're someone who has power to vote to remove someone from the Senate, if he is elected, and we're just asking you, would you do that?

CARPER: My inclination would be, and I'm one of those people who actually says, let sort of regular order, regular order here, and regular order is for them to have primaries in Alabama, runoffs in Alabama, elections in Alabama.

[10:40:08] If they want to send somebody who we think is unfit to serve, that person, man or woman, will not be allowed to serve.

BERMAN: All right, Senator Tom Carper of Delaware, thanks for your time, sir.

CARPER: Yes. Thanks. Happy Thanksgiving to you and to all your viewers.

BERMAN: Happy thanksgiving to you.

CARPER: God bless you.

HARLOW: You, as well.

BERMAN: And we know to be careful whenever you say there's a bad connection from now on. Appreciate it.


HARLOW: Thank you.

BERMAN: I've got a very serious story to tell you about now. Women and children raped and killed, entire villages burned to the ground. The violence against Muslims in Myanmar worsens and the refugee crisis widens. Today the U.S. takes steps that could help put an end to the violence. That's next.


[10:45:01] HARLOW: The U.S. State Department has just made a major move, classifying the violence against Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar as, quote, ethnic cleansing. This is a major step in pressuring the Burmese government to do something about the deadly attacks on that country's Muslim minority.

BERMAN: Now CNN has been following this crisis. Nearly 1 million Rohingya Muslims have fled Myanmar and they're finding they have nowhere to go.

Our Clarissa Ward literally waded into the water off the coast of Bangladesh to talk to refugees when the coast guard in Bangladesh refused to let their rafts reach the shore.


CLARISSA WARD, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: How are you? How many hours have you been on the boat? Since early in the morning? Do you know how to swim?

(Voice-over): No one does. Yet the raft is full of children.

"Of course we are worried. Look, she has two babies," this woman tells us. "The kids were practically slipping off the raft."


BERMAN: All right. Our senior diplomatic correspondent Michelle Kosinski is at the State Department.

Michelle, aside from the fact that declaring it ethnic cleansing is on its face apparently true, what's the diplomatic significance here?

MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN SENIOR DIPLOMATIC CORRESPONDENT: Yes. A very strong statement, the strongest one yet from the State Department. But you could also see this as a way of saying something very strong in the nicest way possible. I mean, calling it ethnic cleansing doesn't carry any implications under either international or domestic law.

The State Department isn't blaming anybody in particular. They're just referring to some elements of the military security forces and other vigilante groups. And the State Department also isn't blaming the civilian government in Burma. Under the current way the government structures its power sharing between the civilian government and the military, they feel like the government doesn't have a lot of power anyway, but the State Department says it's still pushing that government to do more.

So what then is the purpose of this designation? Well, they say it's a way to pressure both the government and the military to control the situation better and reach an agreement so that people can start returning to their homes. They want the military to respond more quickly to situations on the ground. And they say it highlights the urgency of the situation.

But on urgency, keep in mind, it has been a full two months since the U.N. secretary-general called this a textbook case of ethnic cleansing. It has been three months since the violence started. And even though it's complicated, I mean, the U.S. believes that the violence started with an attack by a Rohingya militant group, that today the State Department referred to as terrorists.

But what this still highlights, you have to keep in mind is the fact that in today's world, ethnic cleansing does still happen, and the world can't come up with an acceptable way to intervene, at least often until after the fact, although the State Department pushed back and said, it's not as if governments were just standing by. They said there's been a lot of effort by a lot of different countries. And on the U.S.'s part, that effort continues -- John and Poppy.

HARLOW: Michelle --

BERMAN: All right. Michelle Kosinski for us following the story for us, which is very important, to say the least.

We'll be right back.


[10:52:45] HARLOW: The president tweeted this morning that the idea of NFL players staying in the locker room during the national anthem is almost as bad as kneeling.

BERMAN: Now Coy Wire just spoke with Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, a controversial soul, who gave his thoughts about President Trump.

Coy, what did he say? COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Spoken like a true Patriots fan

there, John. Good to see you and Poppy.

Now Jerry Jones explained why perhaps with everything going on in the world, President Trump is commenting on the NFL.

This "Bleacher Report" presented by the new 2018 Ford F-150. Here's Jerry Jones.


JERRY JONES, COWBOYS OWNER: Donald Trump is a longtime fan of sport and longtime fan of football, and has been involved as owner in professional football. So he has some knowledge. I certainly think that the thing that he is addressing is certainly a part of how we want to make our game better.

There's no question because of our visibility, our (INAUDIBLE), that we are looked to for social responsibility, as well. This is all a part of what I've been talking about with the commissioner.


WIRE: Now I asked Jones about Commissioner Goodell because President Trump tweeted earlier this morning about his handling of the player protests during the national anthem, saying in part, quote, "When will the highly paid commissioner finally get tough and smart? This issue is killing your league," unquote.

Now Jerry Jones has been holding back the reins on extending the commissioner's contract, so I asked him why.


JONES: Well, asking for accountability, asking for looking at some changes that have occurred while we've been in this discussion. That's not necessarily against bringing Roger Goodell back. What I do want to do is, when he comes back, have a good understanding of the direction that we're going. This is when you do those things.

Because of the power that we give the commissioner, the time to get the pot right is when you either hire him or extend him. And so I'm wanting the owners to get the pot right.


WIRE: All right. Well, President Trump has been overly critical of Goodell and the NFL, he has tweeted praise for Jerry Jones twice, calling him a winner for his handling of the protests. He told his players that they would be benched if they knelt.

[10:55:08] Now the NFL owners are set to meet, John, Poppy, on December 13th. Where? That will be just outside of Dallas.

HARLOW: All right. Coy Wire, have a good Thanksgiving. Thank you.

WIRE: You too.

HARLOW: All right, speaking of sports, that's President Trump's topic de jure, just a day after appearing to clearly endorse Roy Moore. Why a pivot to the feud, the ongoing feud with the father of that UCLA basketball player? Much more of that, ahead.