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House Prepares to Pass Tax Reform Again; NTSB Investigates Train Accident; Locomotive to Be Removed Today; Interview With Rep. Leonard Lance, R-N.J.; Defeat by One Vote. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired December 20, 2017 - 09:30   ET


[09:33:04] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, this morning, the House of Representatives is getting ready to pass the big tax reform bill again. They have to do it all over again.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: This is a weird, funky procedural thing. It's expected to pass on partisan lines. A dozen Republicans, though, voted against it in the House last night. Republican Representative Leonard Lance of New Jersey is one of them. He joins us now.

It's nice to have you back on the program.

So why are you a no?

REP. LEONARD LANCE (R), NEW JERSEY: I'm a no because I want to continue the deductibility of state and local taxes in their entirety. That's important for quite a few states, including New Jersey. New Jersey has the highest property taxes in the nation. We have a steeply graduated state income tax. And our new governor, Governor Murphy, is suggesting that that income tax increase on upper income New Jersians to a marginal rate of 10.75 percent.

I also don't like the fact that this may extend the debt and deficit in the country. And I tend to be a deficit hawk.

BERMAN: It could boost the deficit anywhere between $1 trillion and $1.5 trillion depending on what estimate you look at there.

The minority leader, Democrat Chuck Schumer, says this would be an anchor around the ankles of Republicans, saying that they will rue the day. Do you think it will have political impact?

LANCE: I think that there will be many Americans, John, who will benefit because the standard deduction is doubled. But I do think that it is not a winning situation for all states. And I don't want a situation where some states are winners and other states are losers. And, obviously, that is why I'm voting as I am voting.

HARLOW: The white House says that perhaps the president and his family's companies, like the Trump Corporation, for example, and all their real estate holdings will benefit from this bill. But, no, no, no, the president personally would not in any way enrich himself because of this legislation. Is that not a distinction without a difference? [09:35:05] LANCE: I have not analyzed the recent addition to the bill

on the real estate matter and -- because I'm voting no for reasons that I have suggested. That may be the case. But the original bill had eliminated the federal estate tax. And the bill that comes to us from the Senate increases that, but it does not eliminate the federal estate tax. And so I think that should be taken into consideration as well.

BERMAN: But he's going to make money off of this.


BERMAN: I don't think there's really any dispute --

HARLOW: It's the pass-through.

BERMAN: About whether or not he makes money off this, between the rake -- the rake out (ph) of the top end and the pass-through's, correct?

LANCE: I do not criticize the president for being successful financially. John, I have not analyzed the real estate provision.


LANCE: But the president has had a career in real estate and in other investments and I examine this matter as to how I think it will affect the people in the congressional district I serve.

HARLOW: So there is a new survey out of Yale and they talked to a lot of Fortune 500 CEOs. Only 14 percent of them, congressman, said they're actually going to spend the savings from this tax bill on major capital investments, and that means hiring and jobs. Should we be sitting here astounded, shocked, dismayed, or say, yep, that's what history shows us happens?

LANCE: That is what history shows has happened under the tax cuts initiated under President Bush. I hope that CEOs will re-examine that because we all want there to be greater job opportunities in this country. I think that the stock market has baked some of this in, and that's why the Dow Jones average is, at the moment, at its height.

BERMAN: Congressman, I want to play something for you that Speaker Paul Ryan said this morning. He was on the "Today" show talking about issues of sexual harassment. Savannah Guthrie asked the president if the speaker supported congressional investigations into accusations against the president. This is the exchange.


REP. PAUL RYAN (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: Well, as you know, the person charged with that -- of that committee, Trey Gowdy, has given a very articulate response, which is, those are criminal matters that are -- and congress doesn't do criminal investigations.

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE, "TODAY" SHOW: The White House position on the -- on the president's accuser is that they are all liars. Is that your position as well?

RYAN: Look, I don't even know what all of these accusations are. I'm focused on fixing Congress.


BERMAN: I don't even know what these accusations are. He's the speaker of the House. One of the leaders of the party and a human who has walked on planet earth since election time, you know, last year. Shouldn't he at least know what these accusations are? Shouldn't there be a curiosity and perhaps some oversight here?

LANCE: I am on the Ethics Committee, and I want to assure you, John, that we are proceeding expeditiously in matters that affect members of Congress. I'm not permitted to go into details. But this is completely bipartisan. And we will perform our responsibilities in that regard.

Regarding the president, it's my understanding that several of the women involved have sued him regarding information of perhaps defamation. And, obviously, I believe that those suits should move forward if appropriate. And as was true with President Clinton, I think that President Clinton got into trouble in conduct while he was in the White House, and I hope and expect that President Trump will uphold the traditions of the White House and there will be no untoward conduct. And I want to assure you that we on the Ethics Committee are pursuing our responsibilities in a deliberate and bipartisan fashion.

HARLOW: But, congressman, respectfully, Savannah's question to, you know, your leader, to House speaker Paul Ryan, was, is there really no role for Congress here to at least look at these and do you agree with the White House that all these women are liars? And he punted. He said, I don't even know what you're talking about. I mean are you comfortable with that position?

LANCE: No, I -- I have chosen to say that I have no reason to disbelieve the women, but I believe that this should be a matter appropriately, as the suits that have been brought. I am aware, in general terms, of the charges of the women. And I do not intent to punt. And that's why I respond to your questions directly.

HARLOW: Representative Leonard Lance, appreciate your time. Thank you.

LANCE: Thank you very much to both of you, and Merry Christmas.

BERMAN: Merry Christmas.

HARLOW: Merry Christmas.

New questions about that deadly train derailment in Washington state. Was the engineer distracted? Where was he during the crash, ahead.


[09:44:08] BERMAN: This morning several unanswered questions in the Amtrak train derailment in Washington state. The train, as we know, was traveling 80 miles per hour in a 30-mile-per-hour section of the track. It derailed, killing three people, injuring 100 more.

HARLOW: Stephanie Elam is live in DuPont, Washington, continuing to follow this.

And, Stephanie, you've been there since the hours after this happened. What more have investigators learned at this point?

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, there's a couple of things that are new, John and Poppy, worth noting. First of all, the positive train control, which we talked so much about yesterday that we had been told was implemented on the train tracks and just had not been implemented on the train cars. We now realize -- have now learned from the NTSB that that was not activated and was not in place on the train's tracks either. So that's one update. And that technology is really developed to help slow down a train if it's moving too quickly. Not to say that this necessarily would have stopped this accident from happening, but that's one development.

[09:45:02] The other development I can just tell you about that we've just learned here from the Washington Department of Transportation, I'm just going to show you really quickly here, they have the locomotive up on a sling right now. This was the heaviest part of the train that they've been trying to remove. They realized a flatbed truck wasn't going to work, so they had to bring in a specialized piece of equipment from Oregon. It got here in the last hour or so. And so they're going to use that to remove that locomotive and get it out of the way.

Once that's happened, then the Washington State Department of Transportation says they will begin working on fixing the roadway. There's some gouging they've said by the side there. There's also some guard railing that needs to be fixed as well. They are going to work on removing all of that and getting the road open. They said, fingers crossed, that's a direct quote, that they'll be able to open up some of the highway today. They're saying as soon as they get one lane open, they're going to do that. But fingers crossed at this point. Not sure exactly when that's going to happen.

Now, back to the investigation. The other thing that is worth noting here is what we've learned, is that it was not the engineer in the cab that pulled the emergency brake. That seemed to be automatically started.

The other issue here is that we have learned that there were two people that were actually in the cab, the engineer and also a conductor. A conductor who was getting familiarized with the terrain, which the NTSB says is part of what a conductor does. The other conductor who was actually working this train, and there's always one, was in the passenger cabins with the passengers at the time of the accident.

We also learned that all of the crew members on the train have been hospitalized. And so that is why it's taking longer for them to interview the crew members to find out what happened.

We also know that there were two cameras in the cab, one facing outward and one facing into the cab. The NTSB saying both of those were heavily damaged and so they're sending them to their labs in Washington, D.C. to see if they can extricate any of that video to give them any more clues as to why this happened.

Poppy and John.

BERMAN: All right, Stephanie Elam for us in DuPont, Washington.

Stephanie, thanks so much.

So, you think one vote can make a difference? One vote changed not just an election, but the entire balance of power in Virginia. We will talk to the newly-elected delegate who won by one vote. We will ask her if she voted for herself.


[09:51:44] HARLOW: Every vote counts. Every single one. And in no case is that more apparent than the Virginia House of Delegates this morning, where a single vote split control of the house for the first time in nearly two decades. Yesterday's recount found that Democrat, Shelly Simonds, has 11,608 votes compared to Republican David Yancey's 11,607.

BERMAN: Yes, she was behind ten votes before the recount. The final results head to a judicial panel today to be certified.

Joining us now, delegate-elect Shelly Simonds.

You know, Donald Trump would call this a landslide, Shelly. One vote. One vote is going to send you to the House of Delegates. How did you feel when the math was done yesterday?

SHELLY SIMONDS (D), DELEGATE-ELECT, VIRGINIA HOUSE OF DELEGATES: Oh, I was so excited. I had to take a deep breath. We had to pause, just to make sure. The registrar did the math four times.

But then we started celebrating because my community deserves better representation up in Richmond and we've got so many new legislators coming in to the House of Delegates, we can really make some changes and vote on some things that have been kind of buried and killed in committees. We can get them on the floor and find out how people really think about issues like nonpartisan redistricting and increasing minimum wage. Everybody's going to have to take a vote on those things in Virginia.

BERMAN: So do you have any friends who didn't vote, who you're saying now, look, you almost just -- you know, screwed me out of an election here!

SIMONDS: Yes, you know, it's -- it's really neat. I think everybody has a little bit of ownership in the outcome of this election now. Everybody feels like they were the one vote that put us over the edge. And, you know, I hear stories of parents getting their kids in college to vote, people at work convincing their coworkers to vote. And, really, that's the movement happening right now in the United States. People are really encouraging each other to vote.

We had a really neat initiative called Plus Three, where every activist contacted three other voters and just encouraged them to vote. And they were voters in their neighborhood.

BERMAN: If you had plus two, you would have lost. I mean so Plus Three turned out to be a good deal (ph).

HARLOW: This is true.

Looking -- turning to policy and turning to the state in general, the incoming governor, Democrat Ralph Northam, sort of pushed into office, brought into office by this wave, this ground swell, this Democratic progressive push. And now he's making a lot of them really, really mad with his comments in his first interview on Medicaid and tying Medicaid expansion to cost-saving measures on other entitlements. Do you feel as though he's turning his back on the base that got him there, that got him elected?

SIMONDS: No, I don't. I know Ralph Northam really well. And I think he probably misspoke a little bit. I know that he's really solid supporting Medicaid expansion and the delegates who just got elected all ran on that issue. And I know we're going to really push hard to make sure that Medicaid expansion happens.

I do think it's a unique moment where we need to share power with the Republicans. So we've got to find issues that we can work together on. And I think that there are a lot of issues out there that we can get done right now.

[09:55:13] I think criminal justice reform is something that Democrats and Republicans agree on. I think increasing teacher pay. And there are just many issues where we can find some common ground.

HARLOW: OK. We'll watch. I think everyone wants bipartisanship across the country.

I will say, he was given a chance to clarify the remarks. He didn't say he misspoke. But, look, we'll see what can happen. Shelly, congratulations.

SIMONDS: Thank you so much. Thank you.

BERMAN: One. One.

HARLOW: One. One.

BERMAN: One. One.

HARLOW: Amazing.

SIMONDS: I know, one!

HARLOW: All right, so today, this morning, President Trump should be in a celebratory mood thanks to what will be very soon a huge win for him on tax reform. What will he say about it? He will speak this morning. Stay with us.


[10:00:11] HARLOW: Good morning, everyone. I'm Poppy Harlow.

BERMAN: And I'm John Berman.