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Bannon Quietly Pushing to Raise Taxes on Rich; What Trump's Juvenile Tweet Says about State of Mind; McConnell Compares Health Care Fight to Rubik's Cube. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired July 3, 2017 - 11:30   ET


[11:31:49] KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Steve Bannon back in the headlines. According to Axios, he is working hard behind the scenes, quietly pushing a radical approach to tax reform for Republican, raise taxes on the rich to pay for tax cuts for the middle class. Bannon even suggesting he wants to see the top income tax bracket jump into the 40 percent range. Right now, of course, it stands at 39.6 percent. Populist? Yes. Republican? Stand by. Maybe a question mark on that one.

With us now, Rana Foroohar, a CNN global economic analyst, global business columnist and associate editor for "The Financial Times." She's also the author of "Makers and Takers, The Rise of Finance and the Fall of American Business." Also with us, Adam Michel, policy analyst at the Heritage Foundation.

I made someone laugh today with the copy that I wrote. Everything is starting off right.




BOLDUAN: I'm just so funny among some people.

Rana, how is this going to fly in a Republican-led Congress?

FOROOHAR: I think not very well with the majority of Republicans. But it's important to note, Kate, at the state level, things are starting to change. Kansas is a great case example of this. This was a state that cut taxes, whole Reagan-esque, we're going to cut taxes, get growth. Didn't work at all. So you're starting to see Republicans at a state level say, hey, maybe these economics are not really in our favor.

Politically, frankly, Steve Bannon, I disagree with him about many, many things, but he's kind of a political genius because people do feel that the rich are getting a break here.

BOLDUAN: But, Adam, my friend, try this bumper sticker on for size. Raise taxes on the rich. Or an alternative bumper sticker, raise taxes on anyone for that matter. Is this going to fly? ADAM MICHEL, POLICY ANALYST, HERITAGE FOUNDATION: No. The idea is

preposterous. We shouldn't be talking about paying for tax cuts. The problem resides in how much we spend. We didn't get $20 trillion in debt because we didn't tax people enough. It's a spending problem. Any time you hear politicians talking about paying for tax cuts or trying to get to revenue neutrality, it's a trap they're putting themselves in. We shouldn't be bound to this idea that the only -- the only variable we can change is how much tax revenue comes in the door. It's really a spending problem at its base.

BOLDUAN: Go ahead, Rana.

FOROOHAR: Can I jump in here? Because, actually, there's a lot of research to show that Americans don't have a problem with the tax rates that they themselves are paying. There's been a great Brookings study about this recently. But most Americans think that somebody, either the very rich or, in some cases, the poor, are getting a break somehow. I think that the majority of Americans actually think that the rich are getting an unfair deal when it comes to paying the kind of tax rates that they do. And they would like to see loopholes closed and it's totally appropriate for them to pay more.

By the way, American growth was far higher in the '50s and '60s when tax rates on both the rich and corporations were much higher. So the whole Laffer Curve, Reagan-esque cut taxes to get growth thing is just bankrupt at this stage, and even Republicans know that.

BOLDUAN: Go ahead, Adam.

MICHEL: So when we talk about what Americans think about taxes, it's important to always start with how much taxes people already pay. The top 1 percent pay close to 40 percent of income taxes already, which is a huge portion of the amount of tax revenue that --

[11:35:03] FOROOHAR: Hardly any of them pay that.

MICHEL: When we talk about closing loopholes --


MICHEL: When we talk about closing loopholes, we agree. There's things like the state and local tax deduction that can be closed, which can be used to lower rates for everyone. We shouldn't be talking about closing loopholes and raising rates on people. The process of simplification and lowering rates can benefit everyone across all of America.

BOLDUAN: Just because tax reform is tough --

FOROOHAR: For sure.

BOLDUAN: If it wasn't, it would have been done since '86 at some point.

FOROOHAR: That's right. BOLDUAN: But if you look just at the promises that this White House has made, right. I'm looking at the one sheet they had in April. And it said, reducing the tax brackets, the top rate going to 35 percent. It's 39.6 percent. So this would be absolutely changing from what they promised. And also it could -- Steve Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, when they laid this out, if they would move this direction and raise taxes on the rich, couldn't they still claim what they did and lay down the marker this is the biggest tax cut in history as a way to thread that needle?

FOROOHAR: The core point is that all Americans, on the left and the right, want tax reform. And business, by the way, really wants that. In fact, a lot of CEOs that I'm talking to, they still believe that there's a chance to do a tax reform plan. But if it doesn't get done this year, I think that this White House will lose a lot of business support. If health dies, frankly, they should just set that aside and go for tax reform. We could do -- I could imagine a politically feasible way in which you could do a tax hike for the wealthiest Americans and still do a corporate cut and close some loopholes. And you might get Democratic support for that, too.

BOLDUAN: Adam, go.

MICHEL: So when we talk about raising the rate on the highest income earners, we're also talking about raising taxes on businesses, as you pointed out.


FOROOHAR: Oh, hedge funds, please.

MICHEL: It's not just hedge funds. Small businesses across America pay their taxes through the individual income tax. And that high rate hits a lot of them, which is part of this business tax reform discussion we're having, which is incredibly important. We agree. So this is one of the many reasons why we can't continue to just jack up the highest marginal tax bracket.

BOLDUAN: Which is why it's fascinating that reports re that suggestion is coming in from the White House to the president. Let's see where this ends up.

And, of course, timing is always important --


BOLDUAN: -- in all of this. How quickly they could get it done? And this is with the assumption something would happen with health care and they could move on.

Stand by. We'll see when this becomes a real conversation.

Great to see you guys. Thanks so much.

FOROOHAR: Thank you.

MICHEL: Thanks for having us.

BOLDUAN: Coming up, questions about the president's state of mind after he tweets the bizarre and juvenile video of himself laying the smackdown -- that's a technical term -- on a CNN logo. This, as a poll finds that most Americans think civility is plunging between Democrats and Republicans. Did you need a poll for that?

President Trump is now making the case also for repeal now, replace later. Mitch McConnell, the top Republican in the Senate, of course, says the Senate is committed to not doing that. They are going the path of getting both done at the same time. This as Republican lawmakers head home to face their constituents. The latest on the Obamacare fight. Where is this going?

We'll be right back.


[11:42:39] BOLDUAN: Juvenile, outrageous, dangerous, yeah, even dangerous -- those are some of the words being offered up by critics about President Trump's bizarre tweets against CNN over the weekend. The president of the United States tweeted this, a video of himself wrestling to the ground a man with the CNN logo superimposed on his head. But the bigger question is not just the tweet, and can Donald Trump body slam someone. It is, the question is, really, what does it say about the president's state of mind at the moment. What he is spending his time focused on while inside the White House or at one of his properties while he is over this weekend, as he faces the world's most serious problems?

Let me bring in two voices right now, CNN political commentator, Ana Navarro, and New York city councilman, a Republican commentator, Joe Borelli.

Great to see you.


BOLDUAN: You're not a Democrat, let's put it that way. Glad we confirmed that, Joe.

Ana, first to you.

Trump's advisers, when they were shown this tweet, this video over the weekend, they say they do not see this as a threat. You do. Why?

ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Listen, Trump advisers and Trump supporters don't see anything that Donald Trump does under any flawed light. That is just kind of part of the cultish mentality that Donald Trump has brought out in people. And as far as the people around him, I think they're afraid to say the truth because they know that he will fire them. That's what he likes to do. They want to keep their jobs. And they are -- they're willing to cede their principles and convictions and knowledge of what's right or wrong in order to be close to the seat of power. It's a hell of an exchange they're making, if you ask me. You know, I see it as dangerous because, Kate, we all know there's a

lot of unstable people out there in America. Some people may think this is funny. Some people may think this is a call to action. And this is why it's dangerous, because you and me and so many others in the media, unlike Mr. Trump, do not have a Secret Service detail.

BOLDUAN: Joe, you saw this video and you thought what?

JOSEPH BORELLI, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I want to correct Ana. Not everyone who's a supporter of Trump agrees with everything he does. I've been on this network 100 times. When there's things he's did that I disagreed with, I've been very vocal about that.

However, this video, I didn't see much problem with it. This is the WWE. This is acting wrestling, just like the way the Julius Caesar play a couple of weeks ago was acting and it simulated the assassination of Donald Trump. If you had no problem with the acting and the simulation of the assassination of the president, we can't be sanctimonious and say this is a threat against media and journalists. This is the president trolling. He knows, in 15 seconds, he'll copy, past, and tweet something that will dominate the news cycle for 48 hours.

[11:45:19] BOLDUAN: Ana, much ado about nothing?

NAVARRO: No, I don't think that's true. I don't think that's true. I also don't understand this comparison of some play in Central Park that got seen by, what, a couple of thousand people or something to a tweet by the most powerful man in the world. A tweet from the leader of the free world. A tweet from the guy who's got, what, almost 40 million followers. A tweet from the guy who's got the biggest bully pulpit in the United States, possibly the world. You cannot compare the power of Donald Trump's words. And they have told us, they have told us at the White House that anything he tweets we should take as official statements. You cannot compare the power of Donald Trump, of the president of the United States to basically anything else.

And there has been plenty of calls to violence from the left. A lot of them have had to apologize, people like Kathy Griffin, people like Johnny Depp. The list is endless. And a lot of us have called that out when it has happened. But you cannot make a comparison with the power, the bully pulpit, the reach, the access, the influence of the president of the United States. It's apples and oranges.

BOLDUAN: Here's -- let me try to be apples to apples on this because I am curious on this, Joe. If this is tongue in cheek, if this is the president trolling, then that means that the president -- from the president on down, they are now supportive of artistic expression. That is basically where I'm trying to understand this. So if that is the case, so when the next comedian or the next version of "Hamlet" takes the stage that folks don't like, from the president on down, do they need to also accept it as artistic expression?

BORELLI: Yeah, I think they did accept it.

(CROSSTALK) BOLDUAN: They did not.

BORELLI: You had some protesters who were unaffiliated with Trump go and protest this Julius Caesar play.

BOLDUAN: No, they did not. Kellyanne Conway --


BORELLI: There was no sanction --


BOLDUAN: Off the top of my head, Kellyanne Conway and many of presidential advisor, they were rightfully outraged. If -- that's their position. They were rightfully outraged when they did not like the depictions of the president.


BOLDUAN: So if this is tongue in cheek --

BORELLI: But being outraged and saying that it should stop or this is somehow going to lead to violence against journalism is not the same thing.

BOLDUAN: But if they are OK with the president doing this, don't they have to be OK with other artists expressing themselves?

BORELLI: I didn't see one person on Donald Trump's White House staff come out and say that this "Julius Caesar" play should be unfunded or, rather, cancelled because if it was speaking out against the president. There's one thing to criticize that. And I think it's fair to criticize what the president does. I think Ana and a lot of folks make a career out of that. There's another thing to say it simply should not exist. It's free speech.


NAVARRO: Joe, I would ask you, if you're at CNN's New York bureau, I would ask you to stop around the tables and maybe go talk to some of the anchors, go talk to some of the folks that work at CNN and ask them about the kind of threats and social media reaction they get on a daily basis.


BORELLI: And I've gotten death threats, too. And some of them have needed the police department to intervene. I just don't go around talking about it.

NAVARRO: Well, you should. You know, you are a city official. You may have access to things that most of us do not. But I have seen colleagues of mine get death threats. I have seen the type of violent things that come my way. So if people think this is a made-up thing and one of those wackos writing those things does not mean it and would not execute it if they could, that's a chance I'd rather not take.


NAVARRO: And I'd rather the president not --


NAVARRO: -- and not make it permissible.

BORELLI: I also saw "The New York Times," on Valentine's Day of this year, have Stephen Miller's head on a spike that they tweeted out. So the media shouldn't be sanctimonious about that.

BOLDUAN: I don't know if anybody's being -- I'm going to say this. I don't know if anyone is being sanctimonious. I think it's just purely -- it seems there's a double standard to apply who's allowed to -- you use the word "troll." Who's allowed to troll and who's not allowed to troll?


BOLDUAN: And that's the thing that needs to apply to everybody or not at all.

NAVARRO: When you become president of the United States, you take on an office that requires a standard that is higher than for anybody else. When you are a public official, you are in a different level of scrutiny. We expect different things from you because people are looking up to you. You are the example, you are representing our country, you are representing our democracy --


NAVARRO: -- with enemies and allies. So you just cannot -- that's where you guys go wrong. You continue trying to lower the standards of the presidency of the United States in order to accommodate the insane, ridiculous, absurd, dangerous, hatemongering that Donald Trump does. Do not lower the presidency of the United States. Do not diminish it in order to be able to accommodate this one man.

BOLDUAN: I will say this, before we run out time, Joe, would you come on, would say you disagree. You definitely speak out when you disagree with the president. You do not disagree with him here.

We'll see who body slams you after the show.

It's great --

[11:50:10] BORELLI: No clothes lines.

BOLDUAN: Don't get me started, Joe.

Ana, Joe, thank you so much. Great to see you.

Coming up, it's being called the, quote, "Olympian level of macho." Try that on for size. The first face-to-face meeting between President Trump and Vladimir Putin this week. And we're now learning what the president is likely and, maybe, more importantly here, not likely to bring up, and it is raising eyebrows. We'll be right back.


BOLDUAN: Rubik's Cube. How's that for, we are making progress, folks? For the record, I have never been able to figure that game out. That's just a tangent of mine. It seems the Republican Senators, though, are having a hard time with it as well. Even just trying to get on the same page when it comes to their health care plan, forget even finishing the Rubik's Cube equation. The old idea that's become new again, repeal now, replace later, that got the endorsement of President Trump last week. Some conservatives in the Senate are pushing that forward.


[11:55:00] SEN. BEN SASSE, (R), NEBRASKA: If we can do a combined repeal and replace over the next week, that's great. If we can't, though, then there's no reason to walk away. We should do repeal with a delay.

SEN. RAND PAUL, (R), KENTUCKY: I want repeal to work. The way you do it is you separate it into two bills and you do it concurrently.


BOLDUAN: But -- big but -- Senator Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is telling reporters this weekend that is not the plan.

CNN's congressional correspondent, Phil Mattingly, is on Capitol Hill.

Phil, my friend, how good are you at a Rubik's Cube?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Not very at all. I'm kind off at your ilk, completely incapable of doing those things.

Look, what happened last week, the idea that repeal and replace will be separated, is simply not the plan. You can go with Mitch McConnell's words on this. They're still working behind the scenes right now negotiating, trying to figure, when you focus on one weight, how to you keep the other weight from falling off? It's the same issues we've always talked about, Kate. One the moderate side, you need more money more Medicaid, an easier phaseout of the Medicaid expansion. One the conservative side, you want more cutbacks of Obama regulations. How they marry those two ideas will dictate whether or not this bill survives.

I think the important part here is all Senators are home. That means, during this July 4th recesses, liberal groups, Democrats, really trying to put on the pressure, not just in town halls, there aren't that many, but Fourth of July parades, visits, all these types of things. So there's the internal pressure and then there's serious external pressure. It'll be very interesting to see where Senators are when they come back in a week -- Kate? BOLDUAN: Stand by.

Phil, great to see you. Thank you.

We'll be back in a moment.