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Trump Admin Vows "Biggest Tax Cut" With Few Details; Speaker Ryan: "On Same Page" With Trump On Tax Cuts; Trump To Order Review Of "Overstepping" In Education; White House: Sanctuary City Officials Have "Blood On Their Hands"; GOP Tries To Revive Health Care With New Amendment; Some Senators "Grumbling" Over North Korea Briefing; Soon: Trump Signs Controversial Order On Federal Land. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired April 26, 2017 - 11:00   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: -- very, very much.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: And thank you all for joining us. I'm Poppy Harlow.

BERMAN: And I'm John Berman. "AT THIS HOUR" with Kate Bolduan starts now.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. The race for a win. President Trump facing a pivotal day in the lead-up to his 100th day in office from taxes to health care and a big meeting with the entire U.S. Senate. That's coming up.

But moments from now, the president is going to be speaking live signing what's become a controversial executive order that would review past presidents' decisions to designate national monuments. This could pave the way for this president to roll back that protected status for tens of thousands of acres of federal land. We're going to bring you his remarks live.

But first, just a short time ago, the treasury secretary is pulling back the curtain a bit on President Trump's big tax plan. In doing so, Steve Mnuchin made a pretty big promise.


STEVE MNUCHIN, TREASURY SECRETARY: This is going to be the biggest tax cut and the largest tax reform in the history of our country, and we are committed to seeing this through.


BOLDUAN: How is that for bold for you? The treasury secretary also confirming this morning a big cut to the corporate tax rate and potentially big savings for millions of Americans will be part of their proposal.

Before the big rollout this afternoon, let's get the very latest view from Capitol Hill where, of course, the rubber will have to meet the road on any tax plan?

CNN's Phil Mattingly is there with all of this. So Phil, what are you hearing there this morning?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, first and foremost, the treasury secretary not exactly ratcheting down expectations here, but look, what the White House will propose today and they will be principles. It will not be a fully flushed out plan and draft language, and top-line principles will be a dramatic change in the U.S. tax code.

Now Kate, as you noted, one of the biggest issues that they are pointing out right now is the drop in the corporate tax rate. They'll drop it from 35 percent to 15 percent. They will also drop that on pass-throughs, which currently sit at around 39 percent dropping those to 15 percent.

That's pretty much all small business in the country. Those are major changes. We are also told it will significantly increase the standard deduction for individuals so benefits there and the big question is why? Well, this is what Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin has had to say and it's all about economic growth.


MNUCHIN: I would say in terms of economic growth, the president and I and others in the administration fundamentally think we can get to 3 percent sustained economic growth. That's very achievable.


MATTINGLY: Now Kate, that's important for a couple of reasons. One, first and foremost, you might remember the president himself when he was Candidate Donald Trump kept talking about 4 percent growth. So they're ratcheting it back a little bit, but when you talk about growth and its importance on this plan specifically. The administration today will not be releasing any pay fors or ways to pay for this plan. Economic growth --

BOLDUAN: And that's huge! That's huge.

MATTINGLY: Absolutely huge. Economic growth will be the driving force right now at least according to White House officials on how they plan to pay for some of this. How much will they have to pay for? Well, just the corporate cut and the pass-through cut would equal $4 trillion.

That is huge money and money that Capitol Hill are very skeptical they can actually make up. I will know the treasury secretary ingest proposed naming the plan the 2017 tax reform for economic growth and jobs to make America great again plan.

That is one hell of a hash tag. I'm not sure that's going to stick, but you get a sense of where the administration is at least on the top line messaging -- Kate. BOLDUAN: I'll work out the acronym later. I'm good at them, but that one is a little tough for me to do on the fly. Great to see you, Phil. Thank you so much.

Phil is where all of the action will be because that is where all these details when the president does find to roll them out. It's where this all going to get worked out.

So let's take a closer look at the president's tax proposal principles with CNN global economic analyst, Rana Foroohar. She's also will a columnist with "The Financial Times." Rana, it's great to see you. This is a big day --

RANA FOROOHAR, CNN GLOBAL ECONOMIC ANALYST: Great to see you. A very big day.

BOLDUAN: So far and it's still perfectly points out, this isn't a fully flushed out plan. This is principles coming from the White House, what they would like to see in the plan. What we've heard so far, any surprises?

FOROOHAR: Well, no, in the sense that this is what a lot of Republicans have done in the last several decades. They've cut taxes, but they haven't cut spending, Kate, and that is really, really crucial here. This is a very old line way of doing things.

You know, you saw during the Reagan administration, actually and some of Trump's advisers are from that old-school camp. You saw taxes cut, but you didn't see spending cuts which means the deficit blooms.

And you look at how many Republicans are committed to a neutral plan and this makes me think this is not just contentious on the left, but on the right.

You know, there is another point too, which is that the Trump administration will say hey, tax cuts are going to create growth and growth will create revenue and that will offset all this deficit. There is no real evidence in the last 20 years that that has happened.

[11:05:00]If you look at the tax cuts in 2001 and 2003 under Bush that didn't create long term growth. The Obama tax cuts didn't create growth. So I think that this mythology that there's some kind of tax cuts equal growth formula is just incorrect.

BOLDUAN: First and foremost, how this is going to be paid for. That's what people on Capitol Hill are waiting to hear right now.

FOROOHAR: Absolutely.

BOLDUAN: That's a big question right now. But what we've heard so far is all about tax cuts and tax cuts do not equal tax reform and that is something that has eluded Congress for decades. Why is this so tough?

FOROOHAR: Yes, well, basically because tax cuts are something that sounds good to everybody. I mean, the bottom line is Americans like government programs, but they don't like taxes. So tax cuts are easy to pass. Tax reform means closing loopholes that a lot of us benefit from.

The mortgage interest tax deduction on homes. A lot of different kinds of the tax-subsidized corporate debt. There are various political vested interest groups that you have to take on to do that. It's a much harder job, but it's necessary in order to get to that place where you're not creating more deficit by cutting taxes.

BOLDUAN: What are the big questions that you have, Rana, as the White House is preparing to kind of roll out their principles and flushing out a little more this afternoon. What do you hope to clear up this afternoon?

FOROOHAR: Well, I would really like to hear more about these suppose lead dynamic models where you plug in these tax cuts and you get growth. I mean, I would look at what happened in Kansas, Kate. That's a state where you've had a lot of tax cuts. They were supposed to create growth, they haven't.

You know, we have a lot of evidence that this is not a simplistic formula. I would also like to hear more about fiscal stimulus. You know, last week at the IMF meetings in Washington, one of the reasons that the U.S. growth projections were pretty optimistic is because everyone thought that Trump would push fiscal stimulus.

If we're just getting tax cuts, but we're not getting an infrastructure plan and things that are going to grow Main Street then I don't see how we'll get to 3 percent, let alone 4 percent, which clearly is off the table.

BOLDUAN: Kind of, bottom line as you've watched tax debates, every Congress, if this -- if this isn't paid for, are Republicans going to be able to sign on for this, if this adds significantly to deficits, are Republicans going to sign on to this?

FOROOHAR: You know, I think there will be a lot of wrangling. I think Republicans are in a very tight spot because let's face it, they've promised tons of tax cuts and that's how a lot of them got elected, but the first essentially tax cut plan which was repeal and replace Obamacare that was supposed to get tax benefits that would be rolled over into a tax reform plan.

That has failed and if they fail again that will put folks in a tough spot come to midterm elections, but again, I just don't think that these tax cuts that we're hearing are going to get us to the kind of growth where you will see a really robust economy and a robust recovery for the next couple of years.

BOLDUAN: A lot of what we're hearing right now is about corporate tax cuts. What does this mean for every individual and how will they file their taxes on a large postcard as the secretary of the treasury says and that we'll talk about later today. Don't laugh. I think it sounds fabulous. We will see.

FOROOHAR: I love it. I am waiting to see. BOLDUAN: Rana will stick around and she'll come back and we'll have a lively discussion with Stephen Moore, who feels a little bit differently than you about that dynamic, to say the least.

FOROOHAR: Can't wait.

BOLDUAN: Thanks, Rana. More breaking news that we are following right now, word of another executive order coming down the pike. This one involving whether the federal government is overstepping its authority when it comes to education.

Let's go live right now to Joe Johns who is at the White House for us. Joe, what can you tell us about this? What are you learning?

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Kate. This is very much about getting to the point where state and local leaders control what goes on in the classroom and this is an old and standard issue for conservatives and Republicans who have worked many years on the theory that someone sitting in Washington with a 10,000-foot view of education is never going to do as good a job in educating kids K through 12 than someone who is at the local level.

So the executive order is expected to empower the secretary of education and the department to do a review to determine if the federal government has been overstepping its authority especially looking at things the Obama administration did and this information first dug up by CNN's Dan Merica.

The one thing that's important to say, Kate, is that existing law already empowers the secretary to do many of the things that this order suggests she needs to.

BOLDUAN: Yes. This fits into a list of executive orders that have pushed for reviews and you wonder how much is needed for the executive order to ask for that review of these cabinets. Great to see you, Joe. Thank you so much. We're going to keep an eye on that and have more discussion about executive orders in just a moment.

But also this, the latest battle brewing over immigration. This is now the third immigration order coming from the president to be blocked by the federal court.

[11:10:09]This latest one having to do with the president's threat to cut federal dollars from sanctuary cities. The White House after this ruling came down accusing the judge involved of egregious overreach and accusing local officials of having blood on their hands.

CNN's Laura Jarrett has the very latest for us. She's been watching this ruling and this case very closely. What is behind this ruling, Laura, and where is it headed next?

LAURA JARRETT, CNN JUSTICE REPORTER: Well, it feels like deja vu all over again, Kate. Once again, this morning, the president railing on against a district court ruling on Twitter. This time a decision to block a key portion of his executive order on immigration, as you say. He is saying, "First, the 9th Circuit rules against the travel ban and now hits again on sanctuary cities. Both ridiculous rulings. See you in the Supreme Court."

And even before he sent out this tweet this morning, Kate, the White House also slammed the ruling last night saying once again, a single district court judge has ignored federal immigration law to set a new immigration policy for the entire country.

Now a couple of points to keep in mind here, Kate. While this war of words continues on Twitter and elsewhere, this is what federal courts do, right? We have a system of checks and balances for a reason.

And district courts regularly apply nationwide injunctions like this, but we are also seeing the way in which the president's words really matter in court, Kate, in both this case and the sanctuary city case, I should say, and the travel ban decisions.


JARRETT: The parties and the judges are citing his interviews, his speeches and then the Justice Department is in a tough position forced in briefs and otherwise to say that shouldn't matter and he's just exercising his bully pulpit, if you will. So it's not as if these tweets don't have consequences -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: Laura, great to see you. Thanks so much. We'll have much more on the story later in the show. The San Francisco City attorney who won this ruling against the president and the White House will join me in just a few minutes with reaction.

Also, though, new word of a breakthrough in the Republican effort to repeal and replace Obamacare. What is different this time? I think I've said that before. Hear what happened that are offering signals and signs that a vote could be coming soon.

Plus, what happens when you put 100 senators in a big room in the White House or in a building right next to the White House. We're about to find out. The entire Senate invited for a briefing on North Korea. Why are critics calling this just a dog and pony show? We will discuss.

Moments from now the president will be signing a controversial executive order giving the power to roll back protection to tens of thousands of acres of federal land. We'll take you there live for the president's remarks.



BOLDUAN: Just three days before President Trump hits the 100-day benchmark, one key campaign promise still in the incomplete column, repealing and replacing Obamacare. It's back in the spotlight today, but is there new optimism on Capitol Hill? CNN national politics reporter, M.J. Lee, has been following all of it. M.J., how things can change. Where is the optimist today? What are you hearing?

M.J. LEE, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER: Well, as you're saying, just three days away from that symbolic 100-day mark and Republicans are badly trying to make some progress on health care. Here's where things stand today.

We now have an amendment to the original Republican health care bill that was yanked from the House floor several weeks ago. It was crafted by Tom Macarthur, a leader of the Tuesday Group and Mark Meadows, a leader of the House Freedom Caucus.

Now what exactly would this amendment do? It would allow states to get waivers to weaken certain Obamacare protections for people with pre-existing conditions and it would also allow insurance -- insurers rather to charge older any relief more than the younger ones.

The most important question, Kate, right now is whether this amendment can get 216 Republican votes and so far, a number of previously no Freedom Caucus members have said that they would support the bill with this amendment in place.

And what is encouraging to these conservatives is the fact that a number of outside groups like the Club for Growth, for example, have now said that they would also support the new bill.

But the amendment is not sitting well with moderates particularly because of the negative effects that the bill is expected to have on people that are sick and people with pre-existing conditions and what is for certain right now, Kate, is this.

There is absolutely no appetite and zero interest in bringing this bill up for a vote. Again, unless leadership is absolutely certain that they have the votes this time. So until they reach that 216 magic number we can ignore the buzz right now about a possible vote next week on this bill -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: On pre-existing condition, the president has promised that provision was going to stay in whatever they did. That's an important point to keep an eye on. M.J., great to see you. Thanks so much. We'll have more on this in just a moment.

Also in just a few hours, all 100 U.S. senators are invited to the White House for a briefing on North Korea. The move in and of itself is an unusual one. Typically White House and administration officials head to the Hill to brief when it's such a large group like this.

So maybe no surprise then that some are grumbling about the invitation. One Democratic aide wondering basically aloud if this is another dog and pony show, in their words.

But Republican Senator John McCain sees no problem in it saying that the White House is an adequate place for the president and his national security team to brief everybody. CNN Congressional correspondent, Sunlen Serfaty has been watching this from Capitol Hill. What do we know, Sunlen? Are they all going do we know?

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We believe that the majority -- both the Republican senators and the Democratic senators are headed up there, Kate. But as you set up so perfectly, there certainly is a lot of grumbling up here on Capitol Hill coming from Senate Democrats.

Many of whom, yes, are going to accept the White House and their offer to go over today, but they're bringing up the very unusual location and setting for this briefing.

The fact that as you said is taking place over at the White House complex and not up here in the secure location that was set up for these sorts of briefings up here on Capitol Hill.

And a lot of Democrats questioning politics at play, the motives of the White House behind this. One Democrat calling this a stunt. Another one questioning is this a show?

And another Democrat telling me last night that this feels like something that President Trump is doing and dragging us all up there for a White House photo-op.

[11:20:07]But going into this meeting, the White House is pushing back on the criticism, emphasizing that this is an important briefing and saying that it was a logistical decision and not an attempt to convey any sort of message in terms of where this briefing is happening.

And we heard earlier today Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, on the Senate floor talking about today's briefing.


SENATOR MITCH MCCONNELL (R), MAJORITY LEADER: The president has made clear that a North Korea that is armed with a nuclear armed missile, a capability they have yet to test is unacceptable to us and threatens our vital national security interest.

Thus, in order to allow the Senate to better understand this threat, I ask the administration to brief all senators on the issue. And the president graciously offered to hold the meeting down at the White House. So I would encourage all of our colleagues to attend this afternoon's meeting.


SERFATY: There also will be a second briefing over here in the capitol for all House members this evening by members of the administration, and the secretary of defense and the secretary of state.

But in the midst of all of the politics about the location, Kate, there certainly is a lot here that senators and House members want to learn in talking to members yesterday and many of them say I hope that we actually learn something new.

I hope the classified setting of this briefing will actually give more information about what the White House is planning in these provocative times -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: There's the important part. The fact that they are questioning even the motives of the location for this meeting is a perfect statement of exactly how things are going between Congress and the White House right now. Great to see you, Sunlen. Thank you.

Any moment now, President Trump will speak live and sign a controversial executive order that rolls back protections of federal lands from previous presidents. We will bring you there live. This is a pivotal day for this president. This could be a big move from him.



BOLDUAN: Moments from now, President Trump will sign a controversial executive order about national monuments. He wants to review -- he wants a review of the law that gives the president power to set aside lands for federal protection.

This could pave the way for a big change in what's allowed and not at nearly 30 national monuments designated as protected by Presidents Clinton, Bush and Obama.

For more on this, let's bring in Rene Marsh as we are waiting to hear from the president. He could be taking to the microphone any moment. Rene, what do we know about this review? Lay it out for us.

RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION AND GOVERNMENT REGULATION CORRESPONDENT: Right. So the president is calling for this review of what is really a century-old law that as you stated it allows presidents both Democratic and Republican have used it to unilaterally protect just large swaths of both land and water for cultural, historical, environmental reasons.

Here's the catch. They don't need congressional approval and they also don't need state or local approval from the officials there. As you mentioned, George W. Bush has used this law. Clinton has used the law and Obama most recently used the law.

So why is President Trump doing this today? It essentially frees up land that states would like to use for energy exploration. We're talking about mining, drilling for fuel, states like Utah.

We know that Senator Orrin Hatch and the governor of Utah, they were furious when President Obama essentially used this law to protect 1.3 million acres in Utah. It's called the Bear Ayers Monument.

These states argue that it's essentially preventing them from economic growth, but this move that we're about to see any moment now really will set up quite a fight, another fight between environmentalists and the administration.

The White House is saying that this will allow a little bit more, you know, economic growth for many of these states, but the environmentalists are essentially saying this will prevent states from protecting valuable land for tribes.

It also will be problematic for the outdoor industry which they say generates hundreds of billions of dollars. So you really do see a fight that's shaping up here once the president any moment now, signs that.

BOLDUAN: Real quick, Rene. On the most basic level, does the president need to sign a presidential executive order to ask the interior to do such a review?

MARSH: Well, here's the thing. A lot of lawmakers say they would rather see this go through Congress. The reason why they'd rather see this go through Congress is because they feel like it would have a lot more staying power.

If you signed an executive order, what will happen is perhaps four years from now we'll be right back here where you have another president who may not agree, be able to just reverse this.

But one other issue that's really problematic to some environmentalists is that this review that the president is about to sign will allow the interior secretary to either rescind land that was already protected, kind of strip that away and that was a decision of prior administrations, or it would allow them to reduce the protections of a specific site.

That something we've never seen before where you have a segment of land that's been designated as protected by another president and now President Trump would come in and essentially wipe that off the slate. That's something that is uncharted territory.

BOLDUAN: So very clearly, as you lay out, setting them up for a fight. Rene, thank you so much. You'll be sitting by with us as we wait for the president to take the microphone.

As we wait for that, let me bring in right now, Jason Miller is with, CNN political commentator and former senior communications adviser for the Trump campaign, Kevin Madden, a CNN political commentator and former senior adviser for Mitt Romney's presidential campaign, and Matt Bennett, a Democratic strategist and former Clinton administration official.

Guys, thank you so much for being here. We'll wait to hear from the president because we could learn a little bit more about what he is looking --