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Soon: Trump Heads to Capitol Hill to Rally GOP Senators; Trump Calls Warren "Pocahontas" at Navajo Event; Trump Honors Navajos in Front of Andrew Jackson Portrait. Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired November 28, 2017 - 10:00   ET


[10:00:30] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Good morning, everyone. I'm John Berman.

Here we go, a big morning for the president. In just minutes he heads up to Capitol Hill to rally Republicans on the tax plan. Last time he spoke to Congressional Republicans he bragged about a standing ovation. This time he needs more than that. This time he needs votes. He might also need to explain his comment that many deemed racist. The president was speaking at a ceremony honoring Native American war heroes and he thought that was the appropriate time to take a shot at Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts. Warren did fire back.

We're covering all the developments this morning. I want to begin with Abby Phillip at the White House. Abby, the statement from the president still reverberating today.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right. It should have been an event that was all about heroes of the World War II. Heroes the Native American code talkers, but instead it became just another political controversy, the president referring to Elizabeth Warren by a nickname that many have called a racial slur. Take a listen to some of the back and forth between the two of them yesterday.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You were here long before any of us were here. Although we have a representative in Congress who they say was here a long time ago. They call her Pocahontas.

REP. ELIZABETH WARREN (D), MASSACHUSETTS: I really couldn't believe it. President Trump couldn't even make it through a ceremony to honor these men without throwing in a racial slur.


PHILLIP: Well the White House is saying that the president's use of Pocahontas in that setting was not a racial slur. But of course, Native American groups have been condemning this for a very long time. Some of those leaders saying, pointing out pretty clearly that Pocahontas is a real person who really did exist and is an important figure both in this nation's history and also in Native American history. So the White House here, pushing back on that. But Native American leaders still some of them disappointed by the president using this opportunity to honor those heroes, to pursue a political dispute with Elizabeth Warren.

BERMAN: All right, Abby Philip for us at the White House. Abby thank you very much. As we said, a very big day for the president, he heads up to Capitol Hill shortly. He needs to secure votes for the Republican tax plan, loses one vote in committee and this thing will be stalled.

So let's go up to Capitol Hill. We're joined now by CNN's Suzanne Malveaux, also Phil Mattingly. Suzanne, give us your sense of where things stand right now.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You know there's lot of anticipation about this visit. This is the third visit in just more than a month that the president is making on Capitol Hill. It's always interesting to get the back story afterwards and what unfolds here. As you know, the president has a rocky relationship, if you will, with the Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and others in that room. So this trip, weekly luncheon, is going to be interesting to see how effective he is.

His Legislative Affairs director Mark Short saying that, of course, he is going to be pushing for the tax plan, saying you got to finish the job here, you've got to get this done, you promised this for the people. That might actually go over well for some of the senators in the room, Ron Johnson, who may have actually been in contact with over the last weeks or so but others in the room like Senator Jeff Flake or Bob Corker clearly big Trump critics are not really going to be listening all that much to what the president has to say at this point.

The other thing that Mark Short said that likely will come up is the very controversial race, the Alabama race, Senate race, there and Roy Moore. The president is not going to be out on the campaign trail, but clearly has expressed some support for him. Many senators inside that room in that luncheon feel very uncomfortable with Roy Moore if he wins, if he will be here, and have even suggested some punitive actions if he ends up here on Capitol Hill.

And finally, we do expect that the president is going to push for the need to come up with some sort of budget, a way to fund the federal government before that deadline, that critical deadline that's coming up December 8th. That it would be very embarrassing to have a government shutdown with Republican Party in power. John?

BERMAN: All right, Suzanne Malveaux. Phil Mattingly also up there. Phil, this thing is very much in flux. What it is this morning, may not be where it is this afternoon.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. That's very true. But look, as it currently stands Senate Republican leaders don't have the vote. Now you hinted on what kind of the big issue is today, the Senate Budget Committee will meet to consider the tax proposal. Something they have to do before they can actually put it on Senate floor which they want to do as soon as tomorrow. [10:05:02] Here's the rub where it comes to that. Republicans have a 12 to 11 advantage on the committee. Right now there are two Republicans who are very opposed to the current plan, want some changes before it actually moves forward who sit on that committee. If they lose one of those Republicans, well I'm not a Math major but you can recognize that they have some problems there.

Let me kind of back up on the policy side lay out what the actual issues are and where you're seeing the primary complaints right now are on the deficit side and on something called passers. Now passer income is essentially how it's taxed. It's basically business entities that pass-through their income to be taxed on to the individual side. So they're simply paying individual tax rates. These are things like partnership, S corps, LLCs, lots of small businesses but also a lot of very wealthy institutions and entities as well. People like doctors, lawyers, hedge funds.

The issue right now is both in the House and Senate plan, John, they are trying to cut that rate for pass-through dramatically. And the House down to 25 percent, in the Senate, they're doing something where they basically have a 17.4 percent credit that can be added on it to the individual rate.

What Senator Ron Johnson and Senator Steve Daines of Montana want is for that to go further. They wanted to expand, whether that means up to 20 percent or some other iteration there. Their goal is to try and provide parity to the corporate rate which would be dropped from 35 percent to 25 percent.

Here's the issue on that right now. That costs money like tens of billions, potentially hundreds of billions of dollars and that runs head long into where Bob Corker who is also on the Senate Budget Committee stands. He is a deficit hawk. He doesn't want this $1.5 trillion plan to add to the deficit in the long term, particularly in the wake of economic growth. So you have Republican leaders right now with a very careful balancing act trying to appease one side and assuage the other sides when those two sides run head long into one another.

How they actually manage this over the course of the next really six, seven, eight hours is going to be huge. I'm also told when you talk to Republican aides while sometimes they're weary of the president coming up to Capitol Hill, the president trying to sell the conference on things. As Suzanne hinted at, the president has been very involved in the administration in reaching out to Senator Johnson over the course of the last 10 days or so. They put a lot of effort in, trying to understand his concerns, trying to see where he is.

So if they don't come up with a solution before that Senate Budget Committee mark of a 2:30 p.m., remember, the president will be meeting with all the senators including Senator Johnson, right before that meeting actually starts. There's some hope that maybe the president can push this along. Again, the end game for today, just get it to the Senate floor. As it currently stands, they don't know if they can do that, John.

BERMAN: Right. Just to be clear Senator Johnson may move to block this today, which at least stalls it for now, correct?

MATTINGLY: Yes. And look, I think this is the surprising thing. You kind of assume that the idea of let's just keep moving it forward, we will get the changes on the Senate floor, Senate Finance Committee Chair Orrin Hatch has made very clear. Changes will come on the Senate floor. Changes will come on the Senate floor. Open amendment process, anybody can at least put on the floor what they want.

Senator Johnson has been steadfast. He wants the changes now before it goes to committee out of concern that he won't get anything on the Senate floor. That is a problem. One that I think leaders assume that eventually he would kind of back off. We'll deal with this later. No, they have to deal with it now, at least according to where he was last night. Don't be surprised if they call him on this and actually hold the vote. That's what I was told last night from aides.

But, John, you know this as well, as anybody when it comes to this institution people get riled up. They're riled up last night. There's a lot of frustration on both sides. Cooler heads generally prevail. But right now, they don't have a firm solution and the vote will be likely in just a couple hours.

BERMAN: There could be some committee drama ahead. Phil Mattingly you will be there. Thanks to Suzanne Malveaux as well.

Joining me now, Angela Rye, CNN political commentator, Matt Viser, CNN political analyst and conservative commentator Carrie Sheffield. Matt Viser, you know first to you, this is a big day. This is a big day for the president on Capitol Hill. Right now all the chips for Republicans in the White House and on Capitol Hill are on this tax cut. And it could stall in the next few hours. The question is do these Republican senators, is there anything they want to hear from the president when he walks in that room today?

MATT VISER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I mean you're right. It is probably one of the biggest days of President Trump's presidency in terms of legislative movement. I mean there are a lot of meetings today in addition to him going to Capitol Hill. He's meeting with the big four, with the Democratic leaders and the Republican leaders at the White House. There's a lot on his agenda today.

And I think part of this is a cheerleading exercise you know with Republicans today, to try and move them to push this over the finish line. What we know about President Trump is he tends to not get into the weeds legislatively. So you know to the degree that he's going to be talking about pass-throughs and, you know, other sort of legislative fixes. I doubt that. But he will try and get people to move and move now to pass something and give him really his first legislative victory.

BERMAN: You know Carrie Sheffield, to you, Ron Johnson. He's a no, at least right now. Because of this action on pass-throughs that he wants to see. You know, you are a supporter of President Trump, what's your message to him?

CARRIE SHEFFIELD, CONSERVATIVE COMMENTATOR: I am supportive of his tax reform bill. I am broadly supportive of what's happening. I represent organization and we are very supportive along with Americans for prosperity and 20 other conservative grassroots groups. They're pushing forward on this bill. We support President Trump's support of this bill 100 percent.

[10:10:03] We believe that this is different. Looking at what's happened in some other initiatives this year, this is different. This is going to get across the finish line because people want to get to yes. People were upset, the reason why conservatives took over Congress in full and as well as the White House because people feel the system is rigged.

What this tax bill does is unrig the system. It deletes all of these -- people who are, you know, deductions and the way you get the deductions through an army of lawyers, people who can -

BERMAN: We're talking about -- for people making less than 30,000. They're going to see an increase in 2019 or they're going to be worse off, the CBO says, by 2027, people making $75,000, you know, they may be gimmicks, they may be cuts you think that you know, that are important here but it does affect real people.

SHEFFIELD: Sure. I think that I would certainly dispute the CBO analysis and "The Wall Street Journal" has done great accounting and looking at sort of the methodology behind the CBO and disputing that as well as, you know, economists with Princeton, Harvard, Stanford have all signed on to a major letter with "The Wall Street Journal" saying how this would across-the-board be a growth driver for people from all walks of life. This is exactly what we need.

BERMAN: All right. Angela Rye, the president has another meeting today and it is with the joint Congressional leaders, Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer will be there. And the president is writing about it already. He says, "Meeting with Chuck and Nancy today about keeping government open and working. Problem is they want illegal immigrants flooding into our country unchecked, are weak on crime and want to substantially raise taxes. I don't see a deal!"

People remember back in September, where Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi did reach a deal with the president, Angela, to keep government funded at least until December. We're pretty much there. Do you think or what would you want Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer to work for? Do you think they should be looking to get something done with this president?

ANGELA RYE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think that what they should remind him is that at least during the Reagan administration when there was also a tax reform proposal pushed forward, via legislation, that there were hearings, there were tax experts who were allowed to testify and people were allowed to criticize the process within due time. And right now we're in a situation where because the president has no substantial legislative achievement under his belt, we are pushing through without real consideration for the lives of the poor people in this country who will be substantially impacted as well as small business owners, as well as the middle class, all for the sake of having a legislative achievement. And I think that all legislative achievements are not made the same. But we definitely need to slow down this process so that people have the opportunity to really see what's in this tax bill. I would argue there are some proponents of this bill that don't even know how it would impact some of their constituents. And therein lies the problem.

BERMAN: Matt Viser, of "The Boston Globe" the hometown paper to Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, President Trump yesterday once again called her Pocahontas, and with we have spoken to Native American leaders. We've heard from many, many people who say this is, you know at best, in poor taste, at worst, racist. You know, how do you think this color the president's relationship with the Senate? Will Republicans just shrug this off when he walks in that room today?

VISER: I mean, I think, you know, for Senate Republicans, they do seem to overlook this, that this is just sort of President Trump being President Trump. But I don't think we should get used to hearing the president of the United States use sort of racial slurs like this. And -- but it's not going -- this is not the first time he's done it and won't be the last. And to the extent that Elizabeth Warren has presidential ambitions in 2020, you know, this fight will only escalate.

But you know it was insensitive at a moment yesterday in front of Native Americans. It's also hypocritical. President Trump has lied about his own ancestry. He was German and his family was from Germany but they said they were Swedish for decades in order -- so his father could sell apartment buildings to Jewish families in the '50s and '60s and President Trump continued to perpetuate that family myth. So he's criticizing Elizabeth Warren for something that he himself has done as well.

BERMAN: I would advise everyone to Google that article written by Matt Viser about the president and his past before. It's a very interesting read.

Carrie Sheffield, to you, standing in front of a picture of Andrew Jackson, the president thought that was the appropriate moment. It's to call Elizabeth Warren a name. And we've heard from Native American leaders who are frankly hurt that the president of the United States did that. Sarah Sanders says no, no, no, it was not racist, but they saw it as racist.

SHEFFIELD: Sure. Well, I think name calling has no place in politics and that was, you know, a reason why a lot of conservatives were upset about Trump. Trump does insult people from every walk of life. That is true. I will say the broader point here and the hypocrisy of Elizabeth Warren. She's fund-raising off this whole situation. That which means she was fund-raising off the fact that she was exploiting into those people to get ahead in her career. That is the hypocrisy.

[10:15:02] And she does the same thing at the CFPB which is now under attack here. She likes to say that she's fighting to unrig the system. She rigged the system. The CFPB has destroyed the Black banking community. It has destroyed the community banking. -- The CFPB which Elizabeth Warren said what unrigged the economy has caused so many problems. The Government Accountability Office found that within the CFPB itself, there was rampant sexism and racism within the CFPB. Her child, she has to answer these questions. These are much deeper problems. And for people to be upset about the name calling I agree, let's stop the name calling. But let's look deeper here.

BERMAN: Angela?

RYE: Yes. John, so I think it's really important for us to be able to stay on this particular issue, especially when the rhetoric is one that's not rooted in any sort of fact. The most important thing that I think we need to acknowledge about yesterday is number one, Pocahontas, in and of itself is not a racial slur. The way in which President Trump continues to insult Elizabeth Warren by attacking someone who is deemed as royalty to Indian country, to native people in this country, is very, very frustrating, it's disrespectful. I cannot imagine what the folks who were at the White House to be honored yesterday were feeling.

I think, also, it's important for us to acknowledge. Thanks to Andrew Jackson, there was the Indian Removal Act. Thanks to Andrew Jackson, people who were settled in land that they owned frankly and people in this country stole from them, were moved out of the southeast. That is inflammatory. That is insulting. That I would argue is even more egregious than him calling Elizabeth Warren Pocahontas who had nothing to do with yesterday's ceremony.

We need to begin to acknowledge this is not just about name calling. It's not about name calling in politics. It's about a bigot who sits in 1600 Pennsylvania.

BERMAN: All right. Angela Rye, Matt Viser, Carrie Sheffield, thank you all for being with us. I do appreciate it.

RYE: Thank you, John.

BERMAN: We are watching developments on Capitol Hill. A Senate majority leader set to speak in just minutes. And two weeks until Alabama voters hit the polls and Roy Moore coming out swinging.


[10:21:25] BERMAN: A new day of dueling acting directors at a federal watchdog agency and a new development. A statement released just minutes ago, Leandra English, who was installed by the recently deported director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. She said this, "Yesterday I reviewed transition materials and met with members of Congress to lay out my plans for ensuring that the consumer bureau continues to fight for working families. Today, I plan on spending the day at CFPB headquarters taking calls and meetings with external stakeholders and bureau staff."

She is one acting director. For his part, the president's appointee, White House budget director Mick Mulvaney. He is digging in as well and Justice Department is backing his claim to be the acting director in a lawsuit filed by the other side, by English. Joining me now is Democratic Congressman Dan Kildee of Michigan. Congressman thanks so much for being with us. You support Leandra English in the struggle. You joined more than two dozen current and former lawmakers who filed a brief in defense of Leandra English. Explain why you think this should matter to the American people given that sooner or later the president will get his pick in there.

REP. DAN KILDEE (R-MI), FINANCIAL SERVICES COMMITTEE: Well the president would have his pick but that pick would have to be nominated and then confirmed by the Senate and then that person would be independent, would act independently, would not be subject to specific direction from the president or undue influence by members of Congress or the influences that affect them. The whole idea here behind the CFPB is that it be an independent agent of consumers and that be free from the winds of political interests, that it not be a tool of a particular administration.

In this case, what President Trump has done, has installed a person who is one of his key allies, whose interests are more focused on the president's agenda than on the core mission of the consumer financial protection bureau. So basically what this means is, the CFPB now is going to be loyal to the White House and to the Trump White House, not to consumers and that's a real problem.

BERMAN: Ultimately, he will nominate someone who will be approved theoretically by a Republican Senate so wouldn't that person be loyal to the president in two or three months, however long it takes. Aren't you just delaying the inevitable?

KILDEE: Not really because in our Democratic system when a person is appointed to a position like that to a fixed term, they do have a degree of independence and it would be a violation of the way the CFPB is structured for the president to get on the phone and say lay off this big bank or lay off this financial institution. Mick Mulvaney reports directly to the president. Not to anyone else. And to me there's a fundamental difference between a nomination by the president, a Senate appointment, hearings on that confirmation, questions of that nominee as to what their priorities might be, that is a process that is intended to ensure that there's some integrity to that organization.

BERMAN: So this will now be decided by a federal judge, Timothy Kelly, he was an appointee of President Donald Trump. If this judge rules in favor of the administration will you honor that decision?

KILDEE: I have to take a look at what the judgment says. I don't want to, you know, prejudge that. But you know we respect the process, we respect the law, that's why we filed this amicus brief. Congress can make laws, Congress can overturn laws. If they want to change this law, have at it. They haven't been able to so far. But what Congress can't do or what an administration can't do, is decide that they're going to ignore law and that's what the president has done.

[10:25:02] BERMAN: I want to ask you about an issue on Capitol Hill right now that has to do with the various sexual misconduct accusations going around. And some concern your fellow Michigander John Conyers who was the ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee. He has stepped down as ranking member of judiciary. You know, have you spoken with him recently and do you think he has gone far enough? Do you think he should step down as a member of Congress?

KILDEE: Well, first, I have not had a chance to speak with Representative Conyers. I presume that I will see him, you know, later today. We have votes tonight. And if I have a chance I will speak with him.

Look, this is really serious. Regardless of one's seniority, regardless of one's partisanship, the kind of behavior that is being alleged here is really serious. I read another story this morning that was quite concerning. I'm -- I think Representative Conyers made the right decision to step away from ranking member of Judiciary and I think it remains to be seen and I'm going to have to come to my own conclusion, he will too, as to whether or not that goes far enough.

BERMAN: What remains to be seen given you did read the new account this morning which you say is disturbing. You know we have quotes from a Miss Melanie Slone. Nancy Pelosi said she met with Melanie Slone. She's deeply concerned. There are these women who coming out now. Some of them on the record, so what do you need to hear?

KILDEE: Well, I mean, other than reading one or two news reports, I want to have a specific look at the information. Look, as to what the caucus might do, we've essentially seen our authority respected. He is no longer the ranking member of judiciary. That's a caucus decision, a decision on whether or not he stays in Congress really rest with him his conscience and the voters that elected him.

I do want to take a further look at this, because look, John has, you know, a great history, but that does not exempt anyone from the kind of allegations that are being made. It's a sad thing to see, but it's not something that we can look away from.

Congressman Dan Kildee in Michigan thanks so much for being with us.

KILDEE: Thank you.

BERMAN: Roy Moore back on the campaign trail. Two weeks before voters get to decide his fate. What is he now telling supporters about the accusations against him?


ROY MOORE, ALABAMA CANDIDATE: Politicians will stop at nothing to win in an election.