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New Audio Recording of ISIS Leader Baghdadi; Vital Aid Stranded at Puerto Rico's Main Port; Obama, Bush, Clinton Together at President's Cup; White House Daily Briefing. Aired 2:30-3p ET
Aired September 28, 2017 - 14:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[14:30:00:] JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHEIF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: That is because he makes references to events that have only taken place in the last few weeks. For instance, he references North Korean threats to nuke the U.S. and Japan. He references Russian military activity in Syria. The fact Russia is still in Ukraine in defiance of the West. So all these things, because of that timely information, giving some confidence that this is, in fact, the ISIS leader.
In addition, typically, Brooke, when you get an audio recording like this, analysts listen to his voice. The have other recordings of his voice. They look see if there is a voice match. I'm told that assessment is not complete. But as I said, they have no reason to doubt the authenticity of this.
BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: OK. As you get more, we'll bring you back on authenticity. Perhaps this will come up in the briefing at the White House. I have to imagine it will.
Jim Sciutto, stand by for that.
The White House holding its briefing any moment now as millions of Americans are waiting for food, water, gas, et cetera, just to arrive to them. It's been eight days since Hurricane Maria shredded Puerto Rico and help is so close. This is the insane piece of this. There are like 10,000 containers here holding vital supplies sitting in San Juan. But they are not going anywhere. At least, the vast majority hasn't been so far because of lack of fuel to get the trucks up and running to go on these impassable roads. Puerto Rico's governor says officials can't locate enough drivers even to take these critically needed goods out to the people who need them.
As we wait for this briefing to begin, I have with me a number of great voices here, including our chief political correspondent, Dana Bash, and CNN political commentator, Errol Louis, sitting with me.
So I don't know if you were sitting to General Honore with me. He was saying, break the rules, this is B.S. All kinds of criticism has fallen on the president for waiting too long, not having a bold enough response. What do you make of this today?
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Look, there have been a lot of criticism, some of it is justified. Some of it I think maybe is not. I think if you take a step back, the federal government has been dealing -- had been dealing with not one, but two major hurricanes on the continental U.S. Having said that, that is what the federal government is supposed do. It's supposed to figure out when a place in the country or in the territory needs it. And clearly a place like Puerto Rico which already because of the debt crisis and everything else was in very dire straits with even the basic infrastructure to give it the kind of help that it needed from within the island would need the federal response. So I think it's pretty obvious that the federal government was caught flat footed. The president himself just even in terms of the appearance ever giving help was caught flat footed. The fact that he tweeted umpteen times on the NFL which is ok, fine, he will do that, that is his shtick. But not showing the same kind of leadership or showing leadership, not the same kind, but leadership on Puerto Rico, you know, certainly sends a message to the world that he wasn't at the time that they need him focused enough.
BALDWIN: I was talking to a mother, who we will air the interview the next hour, whose son was down in Puerto Rico helping his grandmother. And she hasn't spoken with them in eight days. And she just -- through tears. I said, you know, what would you say to the president and she said, please stop talking about kneeling or not kneeling and go get my son. Please treat this as these are your children.
ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Sure. And she has every right to be. Look, because of the nature of Twitter, we can look hour by hour and see what he was doing, what he was tweeting about and sooner are on later CNN and other news organizations will do a time line of what was happening in the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico while he was doing all of this stuff. The whole NFL controversy happened at a political rally, so he'd already made one important choice to be at a political rally rather than in The Situation Room trying to save 3.5 million Americans. So he's already kind of behind the eight ball and then you look hour by hour and you see more and more of the tweets about this political controversy. And then we see the president going to a political fundraiser for his re-election campaign at a fancy restaurant. And all the while reports are coming out, I'm reporting, you're reporting, local stations in New York are reporting, everyone is reporting that there is an evolving humanitarian disaster on our hands. Members of Congress are standing in front of the cameras. The governor of New York took National Guard Apache helicopters and went down there and reported directly. So it's not as if the federal government didn't know that there was a problem. The president made some choices. He will have to live with those choices. Things will be a little bit harder for the federal government both politically and logistically because they got off to such a slow start.
[14:35:20] BALDWIN: Let me hit pause on this conversation and ask you to stand by.
David Chalian, waiting in Washington.
David Chalian, moving off of Puerto Rico, we have new pictures in of multiple presidents hanging out together today. Was it today? What was this? DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL EDITOR: Yes, this is the President's Cup
golf tournament, I believe, a golf club in New Jersey. They are honorary chairs of this event, the President's Cup. And I think you will find the honorary chairs decided to show up. But you're getting to see 42, 43 and 44 all together there. And actually, you said apart from Puerto Rico, but these men have been part of an effort to try to raise big sums of money as you notice with each hurricane, first Harvey, the presidents club got together all of the living former presidents, the two not here, jimmy carter and George H.W. Bush got together to raise funds and now they added Irma and now Maria and devastation in Puerto Rico as another opportunity for them to continue to raise huge sums of money to try to help people. So they actually have been working together for the last month on trying to do what they can with their notoriety and their unique position to get as much money to the right hands as possible.
BALDWIN: My thought bubble is, can you imagine 45 with those three?
BASH: Right. No.
But my thought bubble is also just having covered -- I covered the Bush White House, and also the Obama White House from up on Capitol Hill, and they had issues very much like what we're seeing right now. Obviously, the most infamous is --
BASH: -- Katrina. I was covering the Bush White House, watched first hand as they were very, very flat footed, not understanding how --
BALDWIN: Huge criticism.
BASH: Never mind the federal government, which is obvious, but the presidential role is so critical. And then, even Obama when the -- in the gulf with the oil spill. They were slow there.
So look, this is not easy. This is really hard stuff. Not only with the actual recovery, but again, certainly not as important as saving lives, but making the country and the world understand that you get it, that the people who are citizens of your country, and that is a way that this president who tries to have his finger on the pulse of that kind of thing didn't in this case.
LOUIS: One thing the president, even now, could do -- and I'm just sort of putting it out there because I know he watches television.
BALDWIN: Go ahead. LOUIS: When you see a poll showing that most Americans realize that Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens, that is something that the president can and should put Twitter, on Facebook, every time a camera is in his face. he should tell everybody these are American citizens. This is the equivalent of -- Puerto Rico is bigger than like 20 states. If the state of Wyoming had no fresh water or power, everyone would understand that it was an emergency of the highest magnitude. This is no different in a way. And the president can and should focus the nation's attention on that fact.
[14:40:00] BALDWIN: Stand by.
David Chalian, stand by.
We have General Honore standing by as well.
A quick break. We're waiting for the White House briefing to begin any moment now.
BALDWIN: Live pictures inside the White House briefing room. Waiting for this to begin any moment now.
As we were in commercial break, I was handed this piece of paper because we will talk next about how the HHS Secretary Tom Price is under fire for taking these private jets, something like 24 since May, which racked up hundreds of thousands of dollars of your taxpayer money. And so we've just gotten this quote from a Republican Senator, not to be named, from a source. This is a quote, "I think the president's mad as hell," the Republican Senator told me. "What the "F" was he thinking? It's just stupid," the Senator said of Price's choices. "I think Price can probably survive this, don't know."
David Chalian, Errol Louis, Dana Bash, all here.
Dana Bash, will he survive this?
BASH: I don't know. The fact that you have the president coming out and saying --
BALDWIN: He's in trouble.
BASH: -- saying he's in trouble. Saying he's not sure what he will do. That doesn't bode well for Tom Price. The sentiment given by the Senator is right, what was he thinking. We were talking about it in the break about that I'm trying to figure out as somebody who covered tom price as a con man Congressman, watched him and others go after members of Congress who used private jets and I understand that he understands the rules, that you can't and shouldn't spend 25 grand of taxpayer dollars to fly from D.C. to Philly, for example.
BASH: I can't figure it out.
LOUIS: All I can say is there is an ancient word called huberous. Greeks identified this. It's a common affliction among men in power.
BALDWIN: But he's been in government. It's not the excuse of, didn't know.
LOUIS: Rick Perry abolished that the Department of Energy. He was introduced to his staff and his chauffer and his perks and privileges, and, all of a sudden, his story changed. Happens all the time.
BALDWIN: David Chalian, why do think the president saying yesterday, I don't know what I'll do with Secretary Price, and he's in trouble. But you look back to the not-so-distant past of the Steve Mnuchins of the world, Scott Pruitt, why is it Price?
CHALIAN: Well, Price's story is egregious. Mnuchin has paid back and has asked for permission for his honeymoon travel, and didn't end up taking it. There are gradations. But collectively, it's a huge problem in terms of so against the grain of the Trump brand. This is the guy that got elected to the office --
BALDWIN: David, sorry to cut you off.
Here is Sarah Huckabee Sanders.
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I'd like to start by saying that the president and all of us at the White House were thrilled to see Congressman Scalise back on the House floor today. Our thoughts and prayers have been with him and his family for many weeks now, and we'll continue to root for him as he works toward a full recovery.
Today, the president is actively engaged in monitoring the recovery efforts in Puerto Rico.
This morning, he received an update from FEMA Administrator Brock Long. Administrator Long has also briefed members of the Senate this morning and members of the House this afternoon.
The full weight of the United States government is engaged to ensure that food, water, health care and other life-saving resources are making it to the people in need.
At the request of the governor, who is doing a terrific job, the president waived the Jones Act. This will ensure that ample resources are making it to the island. But we will continue to focus on the challenge of distributing those resources.
The island setting -- the island setting presents logistical hurdles that do not exist on the mainland, where trucks from around the country can cover -- converge on disaster areas.
Ten-thousand federal government relief workers are there, including 7,200 troops are now on the island and working tirelessly to get people what they need.
We have prioritized life-saving resources to hospitals and can report that 44 of the island's 69 hospitals are now fully operational.
The Army Corps of Engineers is spearheading a massive mobilization to restore power, and this began with providing the diesel fuel necessary for sustainable emergency power generation. They are also working to restore long-term power generation and distribution around the island.
There's a long way to go, but we will not rest until everyone is safe and secure.
Our message to the incredible people of Puerto Rico is this: The president is behind you; we all are, the entire country. Your unbreakable spirit is an inspiration to us all. We are praying for you. We are working for you. And we will not let you down.
As you all know, the president traveled to Indianapolis, Indiana, yesterday to roll out a framework for delivering tax relief to hard- working Americans. Our framework is based on four key ideas.
First, we will cut taxes for the everyday, hard-working American. Second, we will make the tax code simple, fair and easy to understand.
Third, we will cut taxes on American businesses to restore our competitive edge and create more jobs and higher wages for American workers.
And finally, our framework encourages American companies to bring back the trillions and trillions of dollars in wealth that's parked overseas.
Robin -- Robin Heldman owns a small printing and digital services business in Indianapolis. Robin and her husband, Roger, bought the business in 1991 and have since tripled in size. They both work full- time in the shop and employ three additional people. As Robin describes it, her family is living the American dream.
However, Robin feels small businesses in our country have been neglected, and in her words, "put on the backburner."
But she's now excited about what the president and congressional leaders are proposing. She believes this tax cut will be a boon not just for her small business but also for her customers.
Robin relies on small businesses to take risks and make investments in marketing campaigns that require printing services. Robin is thrilled about the possibility of the tax code being simplified to allow the average taxpayer, such as herself, to save time and money, and that they can invest in their families and their business.
People like Robin are at the heart of the president's tax relief plan.
To talk more about the tax relief plan, I'd like to bring up NEC Director Gary Cohn. And after Gary takes a few of your questions, we'll also have Tom Bossert up to answer some questions specific to the hurricane relief efforts. And then I'll come up for a more general -- if you guys are insistent and have other topics you want to cover.
COHN: Thank you, Sarah. I was going to make some opening remarks; I think I won't because you covered a few of them.
A couple things I will say is, like, the president's made his goals very clear what he wants to achieve here with tax reform and cutting taxes in the United States. I think you know where we are in the process.
The group of six has been working really well together. We're now in the hands of Congress. We want to go through a normal, regular process, both in the Senate and the House. We're working well with both tax-drafting committees. And the committees will continue to work, and they're working really, really well and really quickly. And we're trying to drive tax reform as quickly as we can.
I think you know the basic premise behind it. I'm not going to take you through what we've talked about before.
Again, a question we get asked a lot so I'll say it right now, we have to make some base assumptions right now on where we're going to end up with the brackets. But I'll tell you, based on our assumptions, a typical family earning $100,000 with two children that has been a standard deducter, who uses the standard deduction, continues to use the standard deduction, they can expect a tax cut of about a thousand dollars. That's where we're headed and that's where we're going to continue to be.
And with that, I think I'll open it up to questions and see what's on your mind. Go ahead.
QUESTION: Gary, the big criticism -- well, there's been some criticism that it's a giveaway to the rich. But the one criticism that seem to be relevant for your home state, Connecticut, California, other states, is that by eliminating the state and local deduction, there are certain people who will suffer double taxation. Now, these are obviously itemizers.
But is that a hard and fast red line with you? Or would you be willing to give that up in congressional negotiations?
COHN: Our plan is based on lowering rates and expanding the base. It's very simple if you think of what we're doing.
You expand the base by getting rid of the loopholes, the loopholes that the wealthy taxpayers have used to pay tax on less of their income.
So, we have designed a plan where you're going to pay a lower rate, but you're going to pay it on more of your income. That is a basic core premise of our plan. And we're stuck -- we're committed to it, and we're sticking with it.
QUESTION: But the criticism is that there are some people in the middle income for whom the tax cut is supposed to be beneficial. Because they itemize, they might get (inaudible) on that
COHN: So, just to remind everyone in here, 25 percent of American families today itemize; that's it. Seventy-five percent of American families do not itemize. So when you're talking about itemizers, you're talking about 25 percent of the population.
We also have many things that we're doing in the tax plan to help out American families. We're lowering tax rates. We're going from seven rates to three rates.
We're expanding the zero rate up to $24,000 for that family. First $24,000 of income, they will pay zero on.
We're lowering the 15 percent rate down to 12 percent, so the next rate will be 12 percent.
We're doing things to help that family. We're expanding the parameters for childcare greatly. We're really going to move the upper bound to who's eligible for childcare up to a substantially higher income level, so that family may be eligible for more and more credits there (ph).
You have to look at this plan in its entirety. The one thing I -- I -- I would -- I would beg you all to do is don't look at any one piece; look at the plan in its entirety. That's how we're looking at -- at tax reform. We're looking at it -- in its -- in its entirety.
QUESTION: A follow-up on what John (ph) was asking, the standardized deduction versus itemized, there are people who think that if you dissuade people from itemizing, that you're going to suppress the real estate market; that people won't be interested in buying homes, because they won't need to use itemized deductions.
Can you address their concerns?
COHN: First of all, we're protecting the mortgage interest deduction.
And second of all, the -- the -- the homebuilders today came out in favor of our tax plan.
The number one reason while -- why people buy homes is they're excited and optimistic about the economy. They have a job today. They feel confident they're going to have a job tomorrow, and their kids are going to get a job, and their spouse has a job. They feel like there's upward wage pressure, they feel like there's mobility in their job, and they feel good about the economy. That's when people go out and buy homes.
We've not been in that situation in America for the last decade. We have to get America back to a place where people feel excited and exuberant about the economy. When they do that, they'll go out and spend money, they'll buy homes.
People don't buy homes because of the mortgage deduction. Again, 75 percent of families don't use itemized deductions.
Yeah, right here.
QUESTION: How are you going to ensure that wealthy taxpayers don't abuse the lower pass-through rate?
COHN: So it's a great question.
We have spent an enormous amount of time on the anti-abuse language for pass-throughs. The last thing we want to see is wealthy individuals, or wealthy groups or families, move their tax rate down from the 35 percent rate to a 25 percent rate.
We are spending time on that. The tax writers at both the House and the Senate are acutely aware of this issue. We've got language on it. You will be seeing the language as we -- we deliver more of the details.
QUESTION: (inaudible) specifics today, though, on how you're doing that?
COHN: No, we're -- but I'm -- but the specific is, and we're acutely aware of that. Guys like myself should not be allowed to put their assets into a partnership, and reduce our tax liability by 10 percent.
QUESTION: Just two things about -- one thing that you said this morning, and something the president said yesterday.
You said that you couldn't guarantee, necessarily, that no middle- class taxpayers would actually pay more taxes under this plan. And because of the details that you were talking about just before, that is a real possibility. Some of the calculations are that some lower- income people could see a very small to, kind of, a few dollars, or not more than that.
So is it a red line for you and for the president that the -- all middle-class taxpayers see a cut under this plan? And then secondly, the president said yesterday that this tax cut would not help him. In fact, he said in Indiana that it would be bad for him. Based on what we know, what little that we know about his finances, he'd get a -- a big cut on the AMT. I think he -- he'd save something like $31 million. On pass-through income, he'd -- he'd -- he'd save $16.5 million. He'd obviously save a lot not paying the estate tax -- his -- his heirs would.
So how can he say that this is not a plan that would help him? COHN: I think what the American people are concerned about is their financial position. I think what they're concerned about is, when they go to work every week, and they get their paycheck at the end of the week, how much do they get to keep? How much goes in their pocket, versus how much goes to the government? How much do they get to spend, versus how much do they send to the government?
COHN: If we allow a family to keep another thousand dollars of their income, what does that mean? They can renovate their kitchen. They can buy a new -- they can buy a new car. They can take a family vacation. They can increase their lifestyle.
That's what our tax plan aims to do. Our tax plan is aimed to return more income back to hard-working Americans. That's what we're trying to do here.
QUESTION: Speaking of pass-throughs and the president saying that this tax plan wouldn't benefit him, don't you think it would be a good idea if the president proved that by releasing his tax returns?
COHN: Like I said, what we're trying to do here, and what we're all working on at the White House, is to increase the lifestyle of American citizens, our hard-working citizens that get up every morning and work as hard as any people in the world, to try and keep more of their hard-earned income.
That's what we're all about. That's what our tax plan is about.
Our tax plan is trying to get the economy, to get the growth rate back to a normalized rate above 3 percent. Yes, we just had a quarter of 3.1 percent GDP. People didn't think we could get to 3.1 percent GDP for a while. We're at 3.1.
Can we go higher? What does 1 percent of GDP mean? One percent of GDP means $3 trillion. It more than pays for a tax cut. That's what we're trying to do with our tax plan.
QUESTION: Hey, Gary.
If you can't guarantee that all middle-class Americans won't see -- or some middle-class Americans won't see their taxes go up, does that contradict the central promise of this plan to help all middle- class Americans?
COHN: Our tax plan is aimed at making sure we give middle-class Americans a tax cut. We are going to give middle-class Americans a tax cut. That is what we are spending all of our time on doing. And we've got lots of tools at our disposal to make sure we do that, and that's what we're going to do.
QUESTION: (inaudible) all of them will see a tax cut? (inaudible)
COHN: As -- as I said this morning, and I'll say it again -- I could read my statement from this morning; I liked it so much this morning I'd say it to you again.
I cannot guarantee that. You could find me someone in the country that their taxes may not go down.
Remember, we have 50 states. We have counties. We have cities. We have long-term capital gains. We have short-term capital gains. We have all different types of structures in the tax code. I guarantee you -- I guarantee you, you could find someone in this country, maybe one person, who their taxes may not go down.
QUESTION: Gary, can you walk us through the timeline for how you think the tax-writing committees will get through this? And what confidence do you have that given what's happened so far this year on Capitol Hill that they will actually get this done?
And secondly, why did you decide to stay at the White House in the wake of Charlottesville?
COHN: So, I'm very confident that the House and the Senate are working as quickly as they can.
If you look at Chairman Brady right now and what he's doing in the House Ways and Means Committee, they are working. They came in on Sunday to start working on the tax plan. They continue to work every day. You know, Chairman Brady has said that they will get through the tax plan as quickly as they can.
We would hope that we get through the House in October. We would hope to be in the Senate in November. And we hope to have a bill done by this year.
Why am I here? I am here just for this reason. Think about the opportunity that I'm involved in with President Trump in being able to rewrite the tax code, something that hasn't been done for 31 years. The amount of impact that we can have on the U.S. economy and U.S. citizens, in changing the forward outlook of the United States -- this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I would never miss it.
QUESTION: Gary, one (inaudible) my question, which was does that mean when you're done with tax reform that you will no longer be at the White House. Did you mean to imply that? But when you talked...
COHN: There are many more once-in-a-lifetime opportunities at the White House.
QUESTION: And we'd love to hear what would make you stay.
On the child tax credit, which we have heard Ivanka Trump talk about (inaudible), can you give us any kind of description as to what that will look like? I know it's still being written, but what is the goal here? Will it be refundable? What are some of the...
COHN: I think we said in our outline yesterday, if you read it, the existing child care credit is refundable today and will stay refundable.
The additional money that we put into the credit will be non- refundable. We want to encourage people to work. We want to have people have taxable income to take the credit against.
The size of it we're still working out, as that is...
QUESTION: ... a range in mind?
COHN: We have a range in mind, yes.
QUESTION: Can you give us...
COHN: We're continuing to work on that range.
Again, we are working on delivering a large middle-income tax cut to American workers, one that they rightfully deserve.
Let me go back -- back of the room.
QUESTION: Committee for a Responsible Budget said that this plan will add $2.2 trillion to the deficit.
Are they wrong?
COHN: We think they're wrong.