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Trump Speaks Amid Tax Fight, North Korea ICBM Launch; Pentagon Says North Korean Missile Flew Higher Than Last One; Trump Did Not Discuss Roy Moore in GOP Lunch. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired November 28, 2017 - 15:30   ET



BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: Back to the other breaking story here, North Korea, this update on this intercontinental ballistic missile launch, we are told President Trump was briefed in this launch while the missile was still in the air. We also learning other bits and pieces like it actually was in the air for just under an hour, travelled about 600 miles and the altitude is actually higher than the previous launch in July.

With me right now, CNN's military and diplomatic analyst, John Kirby, he is also the former State Department spokesman and we will have Ivan Watson momentarily. Admiral Kirby good to see you sir.

Listen, we have been talking so much about North Korea in the sense that it had been mighty quiet up until now. And now we have the news of the ICBM, we know it did not fly over Japan, it splashed down just west of Japan but what you make of the news, an ICBM in how high it flew.

[15:35:00] JOHN KIRBY, CNN MILITARY AND DIPLOMATIC ANALYST: Yes, this is significant, I mean a good long distance, a thousand kilometers, it definitely flew higher than the last one by some 500 kilometers or more higher, so it flew higher and it flew a pretty good long distance. We know it was an ICBM. What we don't know is how well it was targeted to come down in Japan's economic exclusive zone. That's something we need to figure out whether or not this was specifically targeted and precisely landed where they wanted to. So what kind of reentry capabilities do they have?

But clearly, Brooke, this is a continued effort by Kim Jong-on to develop this capability, to strengthen it, to streamline it. And this one is absolutely significant and obviously will need to be paid attention to. Not only by Japan and our allies in the area but the entire world.

BALDWIN: Admiral, stay with me. We have got Ivan Watson now, he is our senior international correspondent in Hong Kong. And so, Ivan when we talk about altitude, why is that so significant when we talk about ICBMs?

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I mean it helps figure out how far a missile like this could fly and whether which kind of nations, which kind of countries it could potentially threaten. The responses that we have heard thus far from NORAD are this would not threaten North America. We have heard from the Guam homeland security that it is not a direct threat to Guam and the Marianas Islands, United States territories, which have been directly threatened rhetorically by North Korea in the past.

It just gives us another sense of the capabilities that the North Koreans have with this missile now that has splashdown to the east of Japan, notably not like the missile that North Korea fired on January 15 which flew over the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido. This latest missile launch is definitely seen as a provocation, as a threat to Japan but at least he did not fly over Japanese territory which you could probably understand is of much more concern to a country like Japan.

BALDWIN: OK, so west of Japan, I'd also Ivan, South Korea had come out initially and said that the nuclear program, the North's nuclear program was more advanced than previously thought. Can you tell me more about that?

WATSON: Yes, I mean there are estimates that North Korea might be able to put a nuclear warhead on one of these missiles within a matter of years. So that is a very serious concern, we know the North Koreans can test nuclear weapons. They did this as recently as early September, that was their sixth nuclear test.

And we know they have been working on their ballistic missiles, the question is can they stick one of those warheads on the tip of the missile, fire it and get it to land anywhere near its intended target. And each time they conduct quantities missile tests they learn a bit more about what they can do. I think that a couple of years ago the assessments were they were years and years away from being able to successfully fire a missile with a nuclear warhead would be a threat to North America. And I think the assessments are now kind of decreasing that time when they think that they might be capable of launching one these weapons of mass destruction, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Yes, Admiral Kirby, we know that when the president was in the region, he had some tough talk for North Korea when he was addressing the national assembly there in Seoul, but he was also in China and met with President Xi. And more recently touted that this Chinese envoy heading to North Korea, the fact that this ICBM has launched, is that a sign that that envoy did nothing?

KIRBY: No, I would not say that, Brooke, it was a significant things that they were able to get that high-level envoy to Pyongyang. In fact, the North Koreans publicized that which they rarely ever do. So that was a significant step. And I do think China has stepped up to increase more pressure. There is more that they can do absolutely but they have done more just recent months and these latest rounds of sanctions proved that. But I do think we overestimate the influence that Beijing has on Kim Jong-on, and even the Chinese will tell you the same thing.

There is a limit to that. And Kim Jong-on views the United States specifically as an existential threat that is why he is developing this program. Ivan is

exactly right, they continue to perfect it, they learn even from failure. And I don't think that any of the negotiations today or any of the visits that we might've had or even the pressures from sanctions are going to derail his continued effort to get this capability more streamlined, more efficient and more effective, to give him an upper hand at any negotiations that might ensue.

[15:30:00] BALDWIN: All right, gentlemen thank you so very much. Were going to take a quick break but again just a reminder to all of you, we are waiting to hear from President Trump where he will be addressing the nation there from the White House. We do have new behind the scenes details on the president's lunch with Republican senators. What was and maybe even more significantly what wasn't discussed. In which senator got into a pointed exchange with the president up on Capitol Hill. We have all of that for you in just a moment.


[15:45:00] BALDWIN: As we are waiting to hear from the president, we are getting some new details about the lunch that President Trump just had with Republican senators up on Capitol Hill. So, let us go to Manu Raju who is live there, who just talked to Alabama Senator Richard Shelby. What did he share with you, Manu?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Of course, in his state is the Alabama Senate race in which Roy Moore the candidate is looking to replace Jeff Sessions. Roy Moore of course facing all of these allegations of sexual misconduct including with a minor, and we are told that the issue of that race did not come up in the meeting. Even though President Trump has endorsed Roy Moore and the Republican leadership has abandoned Roy Moore. And Shelby himself said he voted for someone else who is not Roy Moore.

That issue did not come up at all in this lunch, in fact the only time Alabama was mentioned we are told is when the Alabama Auburn football game from Saturday was discussed by President Trump in a conversation with Richard Shelby. Also, Brooke, what was not discussed were any concerns about a government shutdown next week in light of the breakdown of these talks between Democrats and Republicans.

Trump however did talk a little bit about healthcare saying that he endorsed a bipartisan healthcare plan by Senator Alexander of Tennessee and Senator Murray of Washington state, saying that he would get behind that idea if the individual mandate was repealed as part of the tax bill. Much of the focus was on the tax bill, in one pointed exchange occurred between Senator Ron Johnson and President Trump. Johnson raising his concerns we are told, Trump pushing back on that, ultimately Johnson voted to advance that bill in the committee, who knows what he will do on the floor. But that certainly was the most tense exchange and what was a largely positive session that we are told, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Let we ask you not related to taxes, but I know you also have reporting on Democratic Congressman John Conyers who has been certainly feeling the heat over sexual harassment allegations there on the hill. What do you have on that? RAJU: Yes, that is right, sources are telling both our colleague Deirdre Walsh and me that several Congressional Black Caucus members are trying to figure out a way to urge John Conyers to resign. A graceful exit after more than 50 years in the House. They believe these allegations are mounting and mounting and mounting, it is going to become insurmountable and he has to figure out a way out.

Another concern that they have, they don't want to trample on what they believe has been a very positive legacy particularly over civil rights issues, he is more than half century of service to the house. There trying to figure out a way to get him out the door without really trampling his legacy. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi we are told is not leading the effort, but she is tacitly supporting the notion of pushing Conyers to have a graceful exit. We are told that he is having more meetings this afternoon, it will see what he ultimately decides to do if he step down from that ranking position atop the House Judiciary Committee over the weekend, Brooke.

BALDWIN: OK, Manu, thank you so much on Capitol Hill. Again, just a reminder we are waiting here for the president speaking from the White House momentarily presumably on the Republican tax plan. We know we passed at least committee just a bit ago, which is a big win for Republicans. It also potentially addressing this intercontinental ballistic missile that was launched from North Korea in the middle of the night. We are waiting for, back in a moment.


BALDWIN: Here's a breaking news this afternoon, that the Senate Budget Committee has advanced this Republican tax plan, meaning they have passed it, it has gotten through a committee after getting these yeses from these two Republican senators both Bob Corker and Ron Johnson.

For Senator Johnson at least, the key sticking point is about what is known as pass-through rates. Pass-through rate, I know you are thinking, well, what does that mean exactly? So here is CNN business correspondent Christine Romans with more on precisely that. Hi, Christine.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Brooke, let's start with how these pass-through businesses work. These are companies large and small but mostly small and midsize companies where corporate earnings are paid through their personal income taxes. So, the company earnings pass to the owners, the profits are taxed as personal income instead of paying the corporate tax rate of 35 percent.

Under tax reform in both the House and Senate, the corporate tax rate will be lowered to 20 percent. So, what would happen to these pass- through entities? Well, in the House bill as it stands right now, it would lower the tax rate for pass-through businesses to 25 percent.

The Senate bill reduces taxable income for a lower tax rate, it is a little more complicated, but it reduces overall taxable income so that you drop down into a lower tax bracket. And again, lowering the taxes. And ostensibly this is a boon for small businesses and midsize business. They will have more money to spend and to grow. And that of course is the point of tax reform. Now, there is some concern that maybe big business and the super wealthy are being favored in tax reform as it is right now over the middle class and some of the small businesses.

[15:55:00] And that's why some senators would like more protection for these pass-through businesses, more tax benefits for them. Of course, you have to pay for that, and that is where much of the discussion comes from. There is also this point, as well, Brooke, that I think is really important in this conversation, University of Chicago economists found that 69 percent of all pass-through income, 69 percent of all of that income that is passed through to the owners, company earnings I go straight to the owners and are taxed as personal income, 69 percent of that goes to top one percent of earners.

So, what does favor the rich to make it more generous for those pass- through accounts. It was made for high earning professional people, doctors, lawyers, accountants with the provisions in both the House and Senate that would cap that income. So, people who are super wealthy would not be able to claim their income as pass-through income and get a lower tax rate overall. But these are just some of the very sticky and thorny details that tax writers and now the Senate committees are going to be working on.

BALDWIN: Christine, thank you, for that explainer. I have got you ladies here standing by. White House correspondent Abby Philip and CNN's chief political correspondent, Dana Bash who is on the hill there with the details. So, we know that the big news for Republicans, it passed the committee. You have some great detail on sort of holdouts, the two gentlemen who were potential no's but were the yes's.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Let's start off with what Christine was just talking about, Brooke, and that is what she explained pass-through. And Ron Johnson who was a hold out until he walked into this room, by the way, I am in the budget committee room where the vote took place a little under an hour ago. A along party line vote including Ron Johnson's yes vote, and the reason he told me coming into this room, was that he understood the pleas that were being made to him just before they came to vote in a lunch in the Capital with the president of the United States and all of his Republican colleagues' pleas to at least move the process forward. That is code for please vote for this in committee, so we can take it to the Senate floor.

He told me that Senator for example Toomey, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, was very persuasive. Obviously one of those who is really trying to convince him, please move forward with this. It does not mean that his concerns have been answered though. And they still have to be in some way, shape or form in order to get his vote.

What he is worried about is that small businesses do not have enough of a tax break. He wants them to get more of a deduction as part of that so-called pass-through.

Then on the other side of the coin, is a senator like Bob Corker who also at the last minute got to yes vote in this committee room for this. He told me coming in that he was very a very, very senator on this because of the deficit issue, said he got to yes because they agreed to, what he told me was a trigger. And in layman's terms, we don't know the details on it, but in layman's terms it means if the tax cuts are so deep that the deficit is higher than it should be that it triggers the tax cuts to in some way, shape or form to go away. The devil is certainly in the details. And all of this sort of particularly that because people are not sure how this is going to work.

But in the short term it got this committee voting yes along party lines, it senses to the Senate floor, and I think one of the sort of dynamics of that has been most interesting for me to watch up here, Brooke, is the role that the president played this afternoon here. Because we saw with Obamacare he was not all that successful in his pleas for people to come his way. But he seems to have been successful today.

Certainly, with Ron Johnson, I don't think he had any interaction with Bob Corker, but he also had a side meeting Sunlen Serfaty reported with Senator Susan Collins, the two of them are not exactly buddy- buddy, but they talk about ways that she could get to yes. Obviously one of her big issues is healthcare, so the fact that he really seems to play an aggressive role today. And to this point it was positive, I think is very noteworthy.

BALDWIN: We are, ladies stay with me, Abby, I want to come to you, but we are literally seconds away from hearing from the president, just to explain to everyone watching, the press pool was in the room with the president as the president sat there in the Roosevelt room, and taped his remarks. So, we are about to roll this tape, it is coming at any moment, we are told he did address not only this intercontinental ballistic missile that was launched by North Korea. And of course, he noted president was in the region most recently in the also addressed this luncheon actually. Let's just listen for ourselves.