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GOP Tax Deal; McConnell's Flip Flop; Salma Hayek: Weinstein is a Monster; Jones and Goodell Bury the Hatchet. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired December 14, 2017 - 05:00   ET


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: The winner is you. That's what I'm excited about. They're making all these investments, but the winner really is the consumer.

[05:00:03] RYAN NOBLES, CNN ANCHOR: I still don't feel like I can trust same-day delivery quite yet. They still need to work out some kinks, I think.

ROMANS: The boxes, what do you do with the boxes in your garage?

NOBLES: I know, exactly.

EARLY START continues right now.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: A giant tax cut for Christmas. And when I say giant, I mean giant.


ROMANS: Republicans closing in on a deal to reshape the tax code. The House and Senate bridging key differences on corporate rates, the mortgage deduction and a whole lot more.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER: What I think is clear that there will be no further action in the Senate until Scott Brown is sworn in.


NOBLES: That was then, but this is now. Cries of hypocrisy as the Republicans force through the tax plan knowing they're about to lose a vote in Alabama.

ROMANS: And another Harvey Weinstein accuser with a startling accusation. Salma Hayek says Weinstein demanded a sex seen in her movie after she rejected his advances.

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

That was a powerful op-ed by her. NOBLES: Yes, yes, no doubt. We're gong to talk about that in just a

minute. I'm Ryan Nobles. It is Thursday, December 14th, and it is 5:00 a.m. in the East.

The GOP moving at full speed on its tax plan, sprinting to get a bill passed as soon as next week. House and Senate Republicans have now hammered out a deal, reconciling the top-line differences between their two bills. There's some smaller details that need to be worked out within the GOP, leading to a hoped-for vote before the holiday recess.

ROMANS: Democrats are calling on GOP leaders to slow the process until newly elected Alabama Senator Doug Jones could be sworn in.

The very latest on the emerging shape of the tax plan, we go to Phil Mattingly on Capitol Hill.


PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Christine and Ryan, you can name them, it's the president, the Senate majority leader, the speaker. Republicans say they are on the verge of passing their overhaul of the U.S. tax system, something that hasn't been done in 31 years. Negotiators struck a deal on all of the top-line elements about how to reconcile the House and Senate plans. So, the details are extremely important, and a lot of them diverge from where the House and Senate were.

Take the top individual rate. That will move to 37 percent. You remember, the House had it at 39.6 percent, the current rate. The Senate, 38.5 percent.

Now, take a look at the corporate rate. That, both the House and Senate Republicans said they wanted to move from 35 percent down to 20 percent. That will end up at 21 percent. Why? Well, one percentage point equals $100 billion in revenue, that helps pay for a lot of the issues in the plan.

They also have something like the mortgage interest deduction. The House dropped the threshold to $500,000 and the Senate left it untouched at $1 million. They'll compromise on that at $750,000. The state and local tax deduction, that will be expanded, still capped at $10,000, but now it won't just include a property tax, it will also include income as well.

Guys, all of these things are hugely important as Republicans in the House try and get to 218 votes to pass this and Republicans in the Senate try and get at least 50 or 51.

Now, what's the timeline? House Republican leaders have made clear they want this done by the end of this week. They want to vote on it as soon as Monday in the Senate, as soon as Tuesday in the House. That means they want it on the president's desk by Wednesday of next week.

Yes, they're moving very fast -- Christine and Ryan. (END VIDEOTAPE)

ROMANS: All right, Phil Mattingly.

Of course, critics say this is all about corporate, corporate, corporate, and the donor class. Cutting the top income in the corporate rate helps the wealthy and businesses. They're not the only two provisions in the compromise that are very pro-business and pro- rich.

Doubling the estate tax exemption, raising the threshold for the individual alternative minimum tax, and repealing the corporate AMT and reducing taxable income for pass-through businesses, essentially lowering their tax rate. The GOP argues lower corporate taxes will help workers. Now, there's no guarantee it will add jobs or raise wages, which contradicts President Trump's closing argument that the bill is a tax gift for the middle class.


TRUMP: We want to give you, the American people, a giant tax cut for Christmas. And when I say giant, I mean giant.


ROMANS: Well, one problem, that giant middle class tax cut is smaller than advertised. We can't know for sure without seeing the final bill, but in past versions, middle class tax cuts were modest and temporary. In fact, many middle class families pay more by 2027 under the Senate plan.

The bright spot here, deductions. Some of the most controversial eliminations are not in the final deal. Keeping deductions for medical expenses, that's super important for a lot of working families, as welcome as education tax breaks for student loans, grad students and teacher spending.

NOBLES: And fresh off their big win in Alabama, Democrats want to put off the vote on tax reform. Minority Leader Chuck Schumer insisting that Senator-elect Doug Jones should be involved in the process. He and other leading Democrats demanding that lawmakers wait until Jones is sworn in.


SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), MINORITY LEADER: This was a referendum. The middle class and suburban middle class people said we want change.

[05:05:04] And when that happens in Alabama, that's happening everywhere in America. It would be wrong for Senate Republicans to jam through this tax bill without giving the newly elected senator from Alabama the opportunity to cast his vote.

SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D), WEST VIRGINIA: What's the rush? What's the hurry? We don't have a crisis on our hands. The market's stronger than ever. We don't have double-digit unemployment. It's lower at 4 percent than ever. What's the hurry? Why can't we do what Ronald Reagan did? He worked it for two years.


ROMANS: In 2010, the Senate faced a similar situation on Obamacare after Republican Scott Brown won a special election in Massachusetts. Mitch McConnell was the minority leader at the time, and he insisted Brown had to be included in the voting.


REPORTER: The Democrats say that they want to continue to go forward and make sure that his bill passes.

MCCONNELL: Well, at the risk of being redundant, what I think what's clear is there will be no further action in the Senate until Scott Brown is sworn in.


ROMANS: All right, joining us for the very first time, Siraj Hashmi, commentary writer and editor for "The Washington Examiner."

Welcome to the program. I think there's pretty much no chance in hell they wait on this tax bill, right? I mean, they're moving fast.

SIRAJ HASHMI, COMMENTARY WRITER & EDITOR, WASHINGTON EXAMINER: Right. Republicans at this moment need a legislative win. 2017 has been ripe with legislative losses, particularly focusing on the repeal of Obamacare and also with respect to DACA. I mean, there are few things that Republicans can really, you know, hang their heads high on, and the tax bill, really trying get that done before Christmas, it seems likely that they'll get it done, but this is really not meeting the standard for at least a lot of conservatives and a lot of people in Trump's base that this really meets their standard for a tax cut.

ROMANS: Well, I'll tell you, because a lot of folks are saying, look, it adds to the deficit, it is a corporate tax cut, it is for business and the donor class. There are some temporary middle class tax relief, but there's no guarantee really that this is going to explode the economy, right?

HASHMI: Right. I mean, we're looking at the corporate tax rate lowering from about 35 percent, 37 percent to 21 percent. They wanted to get it down to 20 percent, and the conferences agreed to get it to 21 percent.

I mean, yes, of course, tax cuts are great for everyone, but you know, for the individuals and those in the middle class and lower classes as well, there's no guarantee that everyone will benefit. So, you might have some individuals whose taxes will go up, some will remain unchanged, and others will go down. And you know, it's certainly possible that jobs and companies will come back to the U.S. because of the lowering of the corporate tax rate.

ROMANS: Look at that approval.

HASHMI: But again, there is no guarantee that that will actually happen.

NOBLES: Yes, and we're showing right now that, right now at least the American public is not really all that enthusiastic about this tax plan. And, Siraj, this is also about the president hoping for a legislative victory. He has only one real victory of note, and that's the confirmation of Neil Gorsuch as a Supreme Court justice.

Let me show you what the president's approval rating looks like right now, according to a Monmouth University poll. This is the lowest it's ever been. He's at 32 percent.

Do you think there's a feeling in the White House that if they push this tax bill over the finish line that Americans actually do, at least, get the feeling that there's more in their paychecks, that somehow this low approval rating's going to turn around before the 2018 midterms?

HASHMI: I mean, the biggest thing for Trump's base right now, no matter what president Trump does, they're going to stick with him. So, about a third of the voters in this case, you know, 32 percent-33 percent, are still with him. And you know, even when he did that deal with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and house minority -- I'm sorry, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi on DACA, they were actually hurt by it, but they still stuck with him.

In this case, this will probably invigorate them in some ways. I'm sure Trump will probably go on the campaign trail with a campaign- style rally like he did with Pensacola this past week for Roy Moore. But you know, when it comes to taxes, it's a very nuanced type of legislation that you really have to dig into the weeds for. And with Republicans, at least in congress, turning back to their constituents with nothing in their hands, it's going to be hard for them to convince them in the midterms that this is actually something they should be continuing to vote for, in this case, the Republican majority.

ROMANS: If you get a situation where you've got share buybacks and investors in the stock market benefiting from tax reform and really not a big, noticeable impact on jobs or wages in particular, that's something that could play against passing the tax bill as you head into 2018. You could get a situation where these Democrats are running on this was a gift to the Kochs and the Mercers and donor class and corporations and really was never about the little guy.

HASHMI: Well, yes, I mean, you can make that argument, for sure.

[05:10:01] I think one of the things, though, is that when you bring jobs and companies look from the United States is that it does provide jobs and higher wages to the little guy. So it may not necessarily mean that everyone will, you know, enter the middle class, but it will certainly give the working class opportunity for upward economic mobility.

And through manufacturing jobs, I know a lot of manufacturing plants have gone overseas. That's just the reality of it. Bringing those back, I'm sure that's what Trump wants, and that would actually help the little guy in this case.

ROMANS: And maybe if it's through the tax code, a lot of those companies moved over there because of cheap labor. It wasn't about taxes. It was about really cheap labor.

HASHMI: One thing I will say is that for conservatives, adding $1.5 trillion to the deficit is not something that this federal government should be doing anyway --

ROMANS: At a time when the economy's booming.

HASHMI: Exactly.

ROMANS: We're supposed to be cutting deficits when the economy's doing well.

NOBLES: And shifting to a different topic, kind of the fallout from this race in Alabama, now there's a Democratic senator from Alabama, first time in 25 years. And I want to take you back to something that Donald Trump, long before he was president, said about a candidate from a different political party in a blue state winning a race when there was a big piece of legislation on the docket.

Take a listen to Donald Trump back in 2010.


TRUMP: Health care, he pulled back. He said now we have to give Massachusetts their vote, which was a very smart thing for him to say, but that may kill his health care plan.


NOBLES: So, now Republicans are faced with a situation here where they can push this tax bill through before Doug Jones gets seated, or they can follow Chuck Schumer's recommendation, the same recommendation Mitch McConnell made in related to Scott Brown, something that president Obama agreed with.

Any chance that they hold this back? I mean, I think that Mitch McConnell thinks he's got to get this done now, right?

HASHMI: Right. No, there's no chance that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's holding this back. This is politics as usual. When you're in Washington, you're just going to have to get used to the ebbs and flows of, you know, when Mitch McConnell called for a delay in vote to get Scott Brown on into the Senate versus Doug Jones right now and Chuck Schumer calling for it.

You know, Republicans need a win. They have the extra cushion right now with Alabama Senator Luther Strange who is now a lame duck at this point. But again, the Senate and House, they've had lame duck votes all the time. You know, even Susan Collins, the senator from Maine, she completely dismissed the subject, who's, by the way, pretty much moderate on this issue when it comes to Republican consistency on these issues. NOBLES: Yes, and it's also not just the Doug Jones that you have to

worry about. There could be some wayward Republicans that if they go home over Christmas and have to listen to their constituents, maybe not so enthusiastic about this tax bill.

ROMANS: Yes, $1.5 trillion in added deficits is a tough sell.

All right. Siraj Hashmi, commentary writer, editor at "Washington Examiner", come back in about, get a cup of coffee and come back in 15 minutes. A lot of stuff to talk about.

HASHMI: Great, sounds good.

ROMANS: Some more polls, too.

All right. A new Harvey Weinstein accuser and Salma Hayek's story is harrowing. Escalating rage, a death threat, so much distress, she took a tranquilizer that made her sick just to get through a scene. More of Salma Hayek's story, next.


[05:17:25] BRIGGS: A state representative from Kentucky accused of molesting a teenage girl found dead in what the coroner calls a probable suicide. The body of 57-year-old Dan Johnson found near a bridge with a single gunshot wound to his head. In a since-deleted Facebook post, Johnson denied molesting a female member of his church when she was 17, writing, quote, I cannot handle it any longer, but heaven is my home.

State leaders from both parties have been calling for Johnson's resignation after the Kentucky Center for Investigative reporting published an expose on Monday detailing how Johnson allegedly woke his daughter's friend during a sleepover in 2013 and forced himself on her.

ROMANS: Oscar-nominated actress Salma Hayek coming forward in a "New York Times" op-ed, calling disgraced Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein her monster, too. The star opening up about years of sexual harassment and abusive behavior, including a threat to kill her. Hayek writes that on the set of "Frida," Weinstein demanded a sex scene with another woman with full frontal nudity or he would shut down the production.

Hayek writes: It was clear to me he would never finish this movie without him having his fantasy one way or another. There was no room for negotiation. I had to say yes. By now, so many years of my life had gone into this film.

I arrived on the set the day we were to shoot that scene that I believed was save the movie and I had a nervous breakdown. I began to shake uncontrollably, my breath was short and I began to cry and cry, unable to stop as if I were throwing up tears. Since those around me had no knowledge of my history with Harvey, they were surprised by my struggle that morning. It was not because I would be naked with another woman, it was because I would be naked with her for Harvey Weinstein, but I could not tell them.

In the end, "Frida" earned six Oscar nominations, including best actress nod for Hayek.

This reckoning over sexual harassment started with Weinstein but has spread to affect a wide swath of powerful men in film, media, politics, and elsewhere.

In that piece, she writes about how he just badgered her again and again for just ridiculous behavior, you know, massages and watching him take a shower, and finally, you know, at every step, he made her jump through hoops to get that movie made, and then that was his final payback.

NOBLES: With every revelation, it's hard to believe this story stayed quiet for as long as it did.


NOBLES: Well, how much would you pay to play golf with Tiger Woods? One person's paying quite a bit, and it's for a good cause. Coy Wire has this morning's "Bleacher Report," coming up next. There's Coy.


[05:24:20] NOBLES: Well, good news. It looks like the feud between Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell is over.

ROMANS: Yes, I was losing sleep over it.

NOBLES: You don't have to worry about it anymore.

ROMANS: Coy Wire has more in this morning's "Bleacher Report."

Hey, Coy.

COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Hey, good morning, Christine and Ryan.

Two of the most powerful men in football have been butting heads for months, but after yesterday's NFL owners meeting, Goodell and Jones say it's all good.


ROGER GOODELL, NFL COMMISSIONER: My relationship with Jerry has been great. We don't always agree, and I'm not paid to agree and he's not paid to agree with me. I think that's, again, what the strength of our league is.

JERRY JONES, COWBOYS OWNER: I know how much Roger Goodell loves the national football league, and he should love it even more after right now.

(END VIDEO CLIP) [05:25:04] WIRE: All right. According to reports, Jones tried to block Goodell's contract extension for months, but the commissioner ended up signing a new five-year deal worth a reported 200 million bucks. Well, a league's spokesperson says that 90 percent of Goodell's contract be incentive based.

Now, I'm wondering what Ryan Nobles would do if he goes back to homes town of Buffalo, New York, to do a news report and all his friends just started booing him. Listen to this.


WIRE: OKC's four-time NBA all-star Paul George being serenaded by the boobers in Indianapolis where he played for the Pacers for seven seasons. They didn't like the way he left the team. Maybe it got into his head -- turnovers, just 12 points in the game, but in the end, look at this, he would get the last laugh, a vital steal at the end of the game and then the game-winning free throws. Afterwards, the crowd got the sush sign from George, 195 victories, snapping the pacers' four-game win streak.

How much would you pay for a round of golf with Tiger? Well, Houston folks are still struggling in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, and a golf event in Montgomery, Texas, raised more than $1 million to help the people. Well, the biggest auction item was a lesson with Tiger Woods for which one person paid $210,000, all for good.

All right, Pelicans' four-time NBA all-star Anthony Davis surprised a New Orleans family with a vehicle full of gifts as part of the NBA's season of giving, from toys to tablets. Davis told the kids not to wait, open them right here and now. He told the mom her gift wasn't in the vehicle, it's the vehicle!


WIRE: Now, I know we have other important things to talk about, but I wanted to let this sound go, because that mom kept screaming for about 30 more seconds, the elation that was brought to that family. Incredible stuff we wanted to share with you this morning.

ROMANS: I love it!

NOBLES: Coy, when you left Buffalo to go to Atlanta, did you ever go back and play in Buffalo again?

WIRE: First of all, my heart never left. It's still there. I love Buffalo, New York, and I love those chicken wings and I've got to get back up there more often, Ryan.

NOBLES: All right. I'm sure you wouldn't have been booed, that's for sure, Coy.

All right. Thank you, sir.

Special elections can wreak havoc on legislation in Congress.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The Senate certainly shouldn't try to jam anything through until Scott Brown is seated. People in Massachusetts spoke. He's got to be part of that process.


NOBLES: That was President Obama when a Republican won in a blue state eight years ago. Now that a Democrat has won in a red state, will Republicans force their tax plan through before Doug Jones is sworn in in Alabama?

We'll be right back.