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Interview With New York Congressman Chris Collins; President Trump Dealt Another Legal Defeat; North Korea Briefing; President Trump Unveils Tax Plan; Senate Briefing on North Korea Just Ended; Trump Calls Sanctuary City Ruling "Ridiculous". Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired April 26, 2017 - 16:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: We have the details, but we don't have the tab yet.

THE LEAD starts right now.

Breaking news: just minutes ago, the White House revealing what it is calling the biggest tax cut proposal in history. What's in it for you? And how is Uncle Sam going to pay for it?

More breaking news: an urgent and unprecedented meeting, all 100 U.S. senators invited, attendees bused to a briefing at the White House to discuss North Korea. What's going on?

Plus, the judge won't budge. One legacy of the president's first 100 days? Losing in federal court, the president responding, on the attack again after another immigration order is shot down.

Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

We are going to begin with the politics lead, day 97 of the Trump presidency, a pivotal day for him as commander in chief and as tax cutter in chief. Not too long ago, the White House gave the public details on a tax proposal that the treasury secretary called the biggest tax cut in U.S. history.

It would, according to the administration, reduce the number of tax brackets from seven to three. It would create bigger breaks for child care costs, repeal the estate tax and the Alternative Minimum Tax, and end most itemized deductions.

What we do not know, what many Republicans still don't know is the effect it will have on another priority that the president talked a lot about during the campaign, the $19 trillion national debt.

This is all happening at the same time that nearly the entire Senate is headed to the White House for a special and perhaps unprecedented briefing on North Korea.

And let's start with this major announcement on tax cuts.

CNN's Jim Acosta live for us at the White House right now. Jim, one top Republican aid is already saying that this isn't even

close to tax reform. What does he mean by that?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, he means, Jake, that they don't have all the details yet and the White House is talking up this tax reform plan as a big boost to middle-income families, but the president's proposal could also lead to a large increase in the federal deficit, something aides don't really want to talk about over here, as that flies in the face of Mr. Trump's vows to get the national debt under control.


ACOSTA (voice-over): Get ready for Trump-onomics.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're returning power back to the people.

ACOSTA: Just before he hits 100 days in office, President Trump is unveiling a tax plan that would be a boon to big business and potentially make the deficit go boom.

STEVEN MNUCHIN, U.S. TREASURY SECRETARY: So, 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.

ACOSTA: The White House tax plan includes what officials are calling tax relief for middle-income families and help with child care costs through the tax code, as well as a massive reduction in the corporate tax rate, which would plummet to 15 percent. That tax relief for middle-income families would come in the form of doubling the standard deduction and creating three basic tax rates, while repealing the Alternative Minimum Tax and estate tax, a big break for wealthier Americans.

The Trump administration would pay for those cuts by eliminating some deductions, but not on mortgages or charitable giving, raising the big question raised even by fellow Republicans, just how is the White House going to pay for any of this?

MNUCHIN: Will it pay for itself? Again, as I think we have said, we're working on lots of details as to this. We have over 100 people in the Treasury that have been working on tax and scoring lots of different scenarios. This will pay for itself with growth.

ACOSTA: During the campaign, then candidate Trump promised to eliminate the national debt.

TRUMP: I will bring our energy companies back. They will be able to compete. They will make money. They will pay off our national debt. They will pay off our tremendous budget deficits, which are tremendous.

ACOSTA: And he slammed President Obama for failing to bring the debt under control. TRUMP: We have doubled our national debt to $20 trillion under

President Obama. In less than eight years, $10 trillion have been added. Think of it. And we haven't fixed anything.

ACOSTA: Democrats blasted the White House tax plan as wildly unrealistic, another example they say of providing too little detail about the president's proposals.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The fabricator in chief can't talk his way through the next four years.

ACOSTA: But the White House is offering to make good on one campaign vow, warning that it is now considering withdrawing from NAFTA, the Clinton era free trade agreement with Canada and Mexico that angered so many Trump voters. For the president, that would be a promise fulfilled.

TRUMP: And if they don't agree to a renegotiation, then I will submit under Article 2205 of the NAFTA agreement that America intends to withdraw from the deal.


ACOSTA: Now, you're looking at live pictures over here at the White House just outside the Eisenhower Executive Office Building. A bus has just pulled up to pick up those senators who were here for a briefing this afternoon on the threat posed by North Korea.


Jake, from what we understand, President Trump spent about 14 minutes over there during this briefing from the time he left the West Wing and was inside the EOB and when he went back inside the White House.

And as for the domestic matters that they're tending to over here at the White House, once again, there are rumblings over another vote in the House to repeal and replace Obamacare at the end of this week. The president was asked about that. In fact, I asked him about that during an event earlier this afternoon.

And his response to whether he would like to see a vote on health care by the end of this week, it was -- quote -- "always," not exactly a ringing endorsement -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Jim Acosta live at the White House for us, thank you so much.

Joining me now to discuss this whole mess of issues, Congressman Chris Collins, Republican from New York.

I don't know where to start.

REP. CHRIS COLLINS (R), NEW YORK: Yes, there you go.

TAPPER: But I guess let's start with the tax cut plan.

Do you support what you know about it?

COLLINS: I do, Jake.

And it goes back to the plan that we put forward back in January. It is very much in line with the tax plan that we heard from Kevin Brady at our Republican Conference, certainly a few differences in the numbers. We were at 20 percent corporate. The president's at 15.

I certainly like 15 more than 20, but we're in the same ballpark. And we had a top rate of 35 -- or 33. The president is 35. So we're talking from the same page. And that's what we will ultimately negotiate.

But myself and other fiscal conservatives have said we need to be budget-neutral on this. We are OK with dynamic scoring, looking at the growth factor, which would then take people and put them back to work, potentially getting them off of food stamps, getting them off of Medicaid, because now they have good jobs, getting the economy rocking and rolling, corporations making more money.

And if you make money, you do pay taxes. So, on a dynamic scoring basis, not static scoring, if we can get this revenue-neutral, I have been a supporter of the border adjustment tax, which clearly was not part of the president's proposal, as one of the pay-fors, which is going to support made in America with a small tariff, if you will, on goods and services not made in America.

So is the beginning, I think, Jake, of many weeks, if not several months, discussion of actually filling in the details, crossing the T's and dotting the I's, but clearly the administration and Congress in the House, we are on the same page. There's no two ways about it.

TAPPER: So tell me what some of your concerns might be, just because you know the president watches a lot of cable news, so as if he's watching right now, what are some of the things that Republicans in the House might push to change or refine the plan?

COLLINS: Well, at the top level, I would say we could support it right as. If it's 15 percent, instead of 20, I'm OK with that. If it's 35, instead of 33, I'm OK with that. It's the pay-for, Jake.

And we do not have the luxury of driving up our deficit and adding to our debt. The president confirmed that on the campaign trail. I'll go back to the word of dynamic scoring. Where does that get us? Does it fill the gap or not? And if not, what is another way to raise revenues?

And certainly we have talked about the unfair trade practices certainly of Mexico and China. Whether it's a tariff or a border adjustment tax, those are revenues that encourage made in America, jobs in America, so I think we need to continue the discussion on the revenue side, whether it's a BAT, border adjustment tax, or whether it's something else called tariffs, as a potential revenue raiser, as well as repatriation of all those moneys that are currently stuck overseas.

You know, a 10 percent repatriation of $2.4 trillion, that raises $250 billion that could be used as a revenue source.

TAPPER: Right.

Congressman, just because there are so many issues going on right now, there's talk of a health care vote possibly by the end of the week. What do you know about that? Are the votes there?

COLLINS: Well, we were just whipping the votes on the House floor during this last vote series.

The MacArthur amendment, which seemed to be bringing some folks from the Freedom Caucus over -- the Heritage Action, which some people pay attention to, have now endorsed the new plan. They were opposed to the other American Health Care Act. They are now supporters. That will certainly move some of our more conservative members into the yes column.

I'm part of the Tuesday Group, which are the moderate group. Some aspects of this are troublesome to a few of our members, not me, because this would not impact New York in the least. So, at some point, you have got to compromise, you got to take a tough vote.

And the main thing is we got to deliver on this promise the president and all of us made to America when they elected us with majorities in the House and Senate and put Trump into the White House. So I am going to be guardedly optimistic.


TAPPER: Guardedly optimistic.

COLLINS: Not a deadline this week, necessarily, although I would certainly support that.

We got to get the appropriation bills done this week to fund the government. Health care this week would be a great win. But if it's next week, that's OK as well.


Republican Congressman Chris Collins of the great state of New York, thank you so much. Appreciate it, as always.

COLLINS: Good to be with you, Jake. OK.

TAPPER: A live look at White House grounds, where senators are being briefed on the situation in North Korea, the meeting expected to wrap up any moment. Was there any indication that the United States military might be taking some action soon?

We will talk to one of the lawmakers in the briefing. Stay with us.


TAPPER: We're back with breaking news in the politics lead now. And a rare meeting just wrapped on the White House grounds to address escalating tensions with North Korea. You're looking at live pictures there. Every member of the U.S. Senate got the invitation to attend and hear from President Trump's national security team.

Ahead of the briefing, North Korea called the meeting -- quote -- "a risky act, short of lighting the fuse of total war" -- unquote.

[16:15:00] The issue is so alarming, members of the House will hold their own closed door briefing this evening.

Let's go to CNN's Jim Sciutto who is live on Capitol Hill where the House will meet in less than an hour.

And, Jim, these meetings with the entire congressional body, they are rather unusual. What are lawmakers saying?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, a lot of them saying, not only unusual but possibly unnecessary. I spoke to Senator Chris Murphy on the way down, and I said, listen, we have secure facilities here on the Hill. It would have been very easy to get a briefing up here rather than drag the whole body down there.

We now have a sense of what the White House's intention was with this. We're told by a senior administration official that it was to convey the seriousness of the problem, to give senators a chance to ask questions, but also talk about the White House options going forward, their response so far and their options going forward.

So, not -- and this has been a question going in -- not a major revelation in there, for instance, building support for an immediate military strike for instance, but more a general conversation, in light of the fact of something that both parties agree on, Democrat and Republican, that the threat is very serious. It's getting more serious and you have to begin to talk about what you're going to do to keep allies, South Korea, Japan, safe and the U.S. safe as North Korea makes progress towards a weapon that could conceivably hit the U.S. coastline as well.

TAPPER: And, Jim, there's now talk, as you know, of putting North Korea back on the United States' terror list. Would that make a difference, and why do it now?

SCIUTTO: Well, it's interesting, because they were on the terror list and they were removed by the Bush administration in 2008 at a time -- sort of a concession to North Korea as they were trying to ramp up talks again to freeze North Korea's nuclear program. Of course, those nuclear freeze talks, concessions, et cetera, haven't gone anywhere. North Korea has continued to proceed. So, they're talking about firing up that option again.

But it is a measure of this, that there really are no simple solutions, and if the White House is thinking in those terms, it's really far short of many of the options that had been discussed, say, a surprise or an immediate military strike. It does not appear that the administration is at that point yet. TAPPER: All right. Jim Sciutto, on Capitol Hill for us, thank you.

We're going to talk to one of the senators who just left that White House briefing on North Korea. What did lawmakers learn about any future possible action against the communist regime?

Plus, President Trump firing harsh words after being reminded that he can't use executive orders to do everything he wants. He actually, in many cases, needs to go through Congress.

But is calling out judges the right move? We'll discuss. Stay with us.


[16:21:32] TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

We're back with the national lead now.

Today, President Trump is once again attacking federal courts after a judge blocked part of his executive order on sanctuary cities. It was a district court judge who stopped the Trump administration from withholding funding for cities that don't enforce federal immigration laws. On Twitter, President Trump echoed the tone of a scathing White House statement that had been issued between the two, calling the ruling ridiculous, an overreach, a blow to the rule of law.

Let's bring in CNN's Jessica Schneider.

And, Jessica, the president has suggested he's ready to take this fight over sanctuary cities and whether or not he can withhold funding to them, all the way to the Supreme Court.


President Trump promising to take that fight to the Supreme Court repeatedly, both over Twitter and at the White House today. It is a familiar refrain for the president, disagree with a ruling, slam the court system, and then pledge to fight all the way to the nation's highest court.


SCHNEIDER (voice-over): President Trump is back on the attack, taking aim at a familiar target, the judicial branch. Around 6:00 a.m., the president blasted out three tweets, tearing into a California judge's decision to block his executive order that threatened to cut funding to so-called "sanctuary cities" that limit cooperation with federal immigration enforcement.

First, "The Ninth Circuit rules against the ban and now it hits again on sanctuary cities, both ridiculous rulings. See you in the Supreme Court."

The White House called the ruling an example of an egregious overreach by a single, unelected district judge. Press Secretary Sean Spicer said sanctuary city officials have the blood of dead Americans on their hands. President Trump vowed to fight back.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm never surprised by the ninth circuit. As I said, we'll see them in the Supreme Court.

SCHNEIDER: But this latest decision wasn't from the Ninth Circuit. It came from the federal district court in northern California. Any appeal would be heard by the Ninth Circuit.

The decision was determined in part by the president's own words. Judge William Orrick, an Obama appointee, writing, "If there was any doubt about the scope of the order, the president and the attorney general have erased it with their public comments."

The judge pointed to the president's threat to defund sanctuary cities in February.

TRUMP: If they're going to have sanctuary cities, we may have to do that. Certainly, that would be a weapon.

SCHNEIDER: Attorneys for San Francisco and Santa Clara, California brought the suit and said the courts need to keep the executive branch in check.

DENNIS HERRERA, SAN FRANCISCO CITY ATTORNEY: And I think what we've learned as a result of this decision was this dramatic overreach by both the president and the attorney general.

SCHNEIDER: President Trump has repeatedly railed against federal judges.

TRUMP: But I have a judge who is a hater of Donald Trump. A hater. He's a hater. His name is Gonzalo Curiel.

SCHNEIDER: And has taken to Twitter to criticize the judges who have thwarted his travel ban. The president aimed this tweet at Judge James Robart in Seattle after the judge halted the first travel ban in February, "Just cannot believe a judge would put our country in such peril. If something happens, blame him and court system. People pouring in, bad."

But the administration isn't backing off its immigration crackdown. The Department of Homeland Security has opened a new office to assist the victims of crimes committed by undocumented immigrants.

JOHN KELLY, U.S. HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: There are casualties of crimes that should never have taken place because the people who victimize them should never have been here in our country.


SCHNEIDER: And immigration advocates argue that this office though isn't needed. They cite statistics that show that immigrants here in the country commit crimes at much lower rates than people actually born here -- Jake.

[16:25:06] TAPPER: All right. Jessica Schneider, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

Senators just left the White House briefing on North Korea at the White House. They're starting to make their way back to Capitol Hill. We'll get one lawmakers reaction to what they heard from the president's national security team. Stay with us.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD.

We have so much to talk about in politics. Let's bring in the panel.

A.B., let me start with you. This tax cut proposal, there are still rules, and they still need, I think, right, and correct me if I'm wrong, they still need eight Democratic senators to vote for this. Does it have a chance of becoming law?

A.B. STODDARD, ASSOCIATE EDITOR & COLUMNIST, REAL CLEAR POLITICS: Right. We don't want to bore people, but back to the Bush tax cuts, Republicans lament that they expired after ten years because they use a special process to get them and through they boosted the deficit after a certain window of time.