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Puerto Ricans Struggling in Wake of Devastating Hurricane; Trump Bashes San Juan Mayor, Praises Federal Response; Price Forced Out After Private Plane Scandal; Trump Promises "Middle-Class Miracles" in Tax Plan; Officials Update Situation in Puerto Rico; New Trump Tweet Hits "Politically-Motivated Ingrates". Aired 8-9a ET
Aired October 1, 2017 - 08:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[08:00:15] JOHN KING, CNN HOST (voice-over): Devastation in Puerto Rico. And now, a blame game. The president lashing out at San Juan's mayor because of this.
ELAINE DUKE, ACTING DHS SECRETARY: I know it is really a good news story.
MAYOR CARMEN YULIN CRUZ, SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO: Dammit, this is not a good news story. This is a people are dying story.
KING: Plus, Health Secretary Tom Price is forced out for using tax dollars to travel by private jet.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think he's a very fine person. I certainly don't like the optics. I don't like seeing is anybody even have a question about, you know, flying.
KING: And after another Obamacare defeat, can the president sell his big tax cut?
TRUMP: The era of economic surrender is over. And the rebirth of American industry is beginning.
KING: INSIDE POLITICS, the biggest stories sourced by the best reporters, now.
KING: Welcome to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm John King.
To our viewers in the United States and around the world, thank you for sharing your Sunday.
We now know President Trump can't keep his promise to repeal Obamacare this year, nor will the president get the massive infrastructure spending he promised.
So, it's on to tax reform -- his last chance to keep a big first year legislative promise.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: This is a once in a generation opportunity. And I guess it's probably something I can say that I'm very good at. I've been waiting for this for a long time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Plus, there's more turmoil on team Trump this Sunday. One cabinet member forced out after wasting tax dollars on private jets. Several others face questions about their high-flying ways.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RYAN ZINKE, INTERIOR SECRETARY: I would just like to address in the words of General Schwartzkopf, a little B.S., on travel. All of this travel was done only after determined by multiple carrier professionals at the department that no commercial options existed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We begin this Sunday, though, with the pain and devastation facing American citizens in Puerto Rico. And the president's angry response to any suggestion he and his team were too slow to understand the urgency of Hurricane Maria's impact.
In a series of tweets on Saturday, the president attacked San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz for, quote, poor leadership ability, claiming that Democrats were telling her to be, quote, nasty to Trump. And he said the mayor and other leaders on the island, quote, want everything to be done for them.
The mayor earned her place as the latest Trump Twitter target by taking issue, right here on CNN, with an upbeat assessment by the president's point person on disaster response.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DUKE: It is really a good news story in terms of our ability to reach people and the limited number of deaths that have taken place in such a devastating hurricane.
CRUZ: Well, maybe from where she's standing it's a good news story. When you're drinking from a creek, it's not a good news story. When you don't have food for a baby, it's not a good news story.
Dammit, this is not a good news story. This is a people are dying story.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: With us to share their reporting and their insights, Julie Pace of "The Associated Press", Karoun Demirjian of "The Washington Post," Perry Bacon of "Five Thirty Eight", and "Bloomberg's" Jennifer Jacobs.
We'll get to this new political fight in just a moment. But, first, the facts, how Puerto Rico is doing 11 days after Maria made landfall. Gas stations are on the mend. Sixty percent now up and running. Grocery stores also coming back. Forty-nine percent now open.
A little less than half the island has drinkable water, though. The electricity situation, even worse, only 5 percent, 5 percent of power has been restored, nearly 10,000 federal aid workers on the ground in Puerto Rico. Seven daily flights now bringing commodities and 11 regional staging areas set up around the island. Officials say 843 people have been rescued and 11 highways cleared.
CNN's Brynn Gingras is on the ground in San Juan.
Brynn, 70 percent of the ports now back open. That means you can get supplies there, but are they getting where they're needed?
BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we are seeing, John, supplies are getting to these communities, especially outside of San Juan. But here's the thing, John, right, it's always going to be a battle. That's exactly what we found out. We drove an hour and a half outside of San Juan to a community or a city rather called Utuado. Now, this is a very mountainous area. They have a river that runs through this city and that river flooded by more than 20 feet during the storm.
It knocked out bridges. It caused landslides in that area. So there are literally communities that are islands on an island. They are constantly going to need supplies and it's very difficult to get those to them.
So, these are people that are, you know, just doing what they can to help themselves. We saw people that were creating pulleys on their own, just to bring water from the -- the spring water from the mountains into their homes.
[08:05:03] We saw them making benches that they could send a runner across every day to get supplies for themselves. So, they are really doing what they can.
But, yesterday, I do want to mention, we went around with a search and rescue task force group. Now, these are the people that come in first, right, they respond to medical needs. They see if there are buildings that are collapsed that people need to be rescued inside.
And their mission, a good number here, their mission is almost 100 percent done, finished. But we went around with these people to this one community and I want you to see their reaction when they finally saw those supplies come to them.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MYRIAM ROSARIO CRUZ, STRANDED UTUADO RESIDENT: When I saw them come the first time, I saw heaven.
MARILYN LUCIANO, STRANDED UTUANDO RESIDENT: So, finally, we knew that they knew about our situation.
GINGRAS: What do you want to say to your daughter in Texas?
GILBERT SERRANO, STRANDED UTUADO RESIDENT: We're safe. GINGRAS: You're surviving?
SERRANO: We're OK, because -- we appreciate your help.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GINGRAS: I mean, can you imagine that, John, that man has not talked to his daughter for 11 days. He was grateful to have our cameras there to just be on-air. So maybe his daughter in Texas sees that he is doing OK. That's a serious issue here. 11 percent of telecommunications is complete. That's not much.
We drive down highways and there are cars lined up on the highway with their cell phone, pinned, you know, up against the windshield, hoping that they'll get even one bar to call to their loved ones. So, serious issues still here in Puerto Rico, especially in the outer cities that really need to be addressed, John.
KING: Brynn Gingras on the ground for us in San Juan. Brynn, appreciate that very much.
Let's bring the conversation in the room. Number one, I should tell you, we're standing by for the daily FEMA briefing in Puerto Rico. We'll take you there live when that happened. We expected it around the half hour mark.
Number two, the president goes on Tuesday. And it was remarkable yesterday, if we go back through the first nine days, the first nine days of Maria, the president tweeted 14 times about Puerto Rico. Yesterday, he tweeted 16 times about Puerto Rico. Most of these tweets, attacks on the mayor, who came, you saw the emotional response.
The acting homeland security secretary, Elaine Duke, said something that since was a little tone deaf and easy to take out of context. That she meant it's a good news story that so many people are helping. That neighbors -- what you just saw from Brynn there -- neighbors are helping neighbors, people who -- strangers are helping strangers, but it sounded tone deaf to say this was a good news story in the middle of this devastation.
Why is the president picking this fight?
JULIE PACE, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS: Because for the president, everything comes down to winning and losing. And he watches the coverage right now, he is seeing people, either officials or Puerto Ricans who are being critical of the federal response and he believes that that reflects poorly on him. So, he wants to push back and make it sound like he is actually winning this.
But in doing that, in framing it in that context, he's really losing sight of what we're actually talking about. Look, this is a difficult situation, as Brynn was talking about, when you get outside of San Juan. It is difficult to simply travel to these areas. It is difficult to get supplies in. That is something that the president could be talking about. He could be talking about the difficulties that the federal government is facing. He could be showing more empathy for the situation of people on the ground who haven't been able to communicate with their families.
But he simply in these situations doesn't seem to be able to frame his response in that way. It is all about how a situation reflects on him and how he tends to be viewed
KING: Right. He says, she has poor leadership, and then he expands the argument. He sees the mayor on television. You saw her emotional response on CNN. She's doing other interviews as well.
Then he goes on to say, though, not just her, other leaders on the island, quote, with want everything to be done for them. This is reminding me in the last several days of what happened in the days after Katrina, when people started pointing fingers at Mayor Nagin, people started asking questions about Governor Blanco, a lot of people started pointing fingers at Washington.
One thing President Bush did not during that time was he did not, some of his people pushed back a little bit, but the president of the United States did not get involved in personal fights with people that he felt disappointed in, that he thought weren't doing everything they could do. He was, you know, you need to help me more.
What is about this president where he decides to make this personal?
JENNIFER JACOBS, REPORTER, BLOOMBERG POLITICS: Listen, there's one thing we need to keep in mind here and this is important. The comments he made on the departure on Friday, when he was leaving for Bedminster, he made it clear he wants to save lives. He talked about that.
But he also made it clear, he hasn't decided yet whether he wants to make Puerto Rico whole. As you know yet, he said something about, this is a territory, implying it's not a state. He said, these are great people, but this would be a massive investment to improve -- he said, you know, this territory already had $74 billion in debt, even before Maria struck 11 days ago. And he was saying, it would be a huge amount of money to reinvest in this power grid and to make it whole again.
So, that is what he's wrestling right now, is how much money he wants to invest in a territory.
KING: And on the island, people take that as, you don't think of us as full citizens. You don't think of us as your brother and your sister, like you did for the people of Texas, like you did for the people of Florida. So, the president has a logistical challenge and a response challenge.
[08:10:02] But does he have an empathy challenge here and an affinity challenge here? They're Americans.
PERRY BACON, REPORTER, FIVETHIRTYEIGHT: I think very clearly he said -- you know, he seems to be implying that people are not doing enough to help themselves, the people and the mayor, as well. It's not only the mayor he's criticizing. His tweets yesterday were pretty critical of the people, at least in my reading as well.
And I think it goes to a question of, he seemed much more prepared, whether you think, for what happened in Texas, what happened in Florida. He seems to be, you know, beyond his sort of personal reaction yesterday. Even before that, it seems like he's not been as engaged in the issue.
"The Post" had a good story, describing how the first five or six days, he just was not being briefed -- he was being briefed, I'm sorry, he was just not as engaged in the situation and not focused on it. He was not -- you showed his tweets were not about this.
You could tell, in Texas, he was very focused on it from the beginning. And that goes to the fact that he doesn't think of Puerto Rico as part of the United States or just the part that he just wasn't paying attention here. He was focused on tax reform or the NFL. He just has not reacted the way you would hope he would in this situation.
KING: And he has a chance to -- every day is different. We know with this president, he has a chance on Tuesday, but now, he goes to Puerto Rico, and the first question everyone is going to have is he going to have a public fight with the mayor?
KAROUN DEMIRJIAN, REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Right, is he going to have a public fight. And also, this is Donald Trump. Is he going to say, oh, my gosh, I was so wrong if he sees stuff that's way worse than he's been portraying it as?
I mean, look, Puerto Rico has had a few things working against it, unfortunately. It was the third massive hurricane to hit the United States and the president does not have the longest attention span. So, to keep that up when other stuff happening like NFL players taking a knee during the national anthem, that's a little bit difficult.
Also, you know, he's thought about Texas, he's thought about Florida, in a campaign context and an electoral map context, probably a lot more than Puerto Rico. And that is not enough of an excuse, it's not an excuse to ignore what's going on in Puerto Rico right now or take a less engaged response when the situation is so dire.
But that's what we're kind of facing right now and it's raising all kinds -- the thing that the president is not quite seeing is that this is raising all kinds of backlash, not just about whether he thinks Puerto Ricans are American citizens, but what that says in general about what he thinks about, you know, certain parts of the country where they have -- you know, maybe don't look like what they do in middle America, coming off of the summer that we had and everything else. I mean, this is -- it builds on itself and builds upon itself and there's -- it's very hard to silo off Puerto Rico, which is clearly what the president is trying to do in his dealings with it and accusing the local officials of not playing ball.
KING: Let's listen to the mayor's response, because not only did the president attack her on Twitter, there were some other administration officials saying, look, she should show up at more of the meetings, hey, she should be in closer contact with us and she might understand a better or faster or more streamlined way to get what she needs, what's available and how to get it. Here's the mayor's response to Anderson Cooper.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You woke up this morning to a tweet of the president of the United States. What did you make of what he said?
CRUZ: I smiled. I smiled. Really, I have no time for small politics or for comments that really don't add to the situation here.
COOPER: The president also said in a tweet early this morning that you had been nice to him early on, but that Democrats told you, you have to be nasty toward him.
CRUZ: You know, I don't know. Maybe he is used to women who have to be told what to do. But, you know, that's not who we are here in San Juan.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: And so, what you have in the middle of a devastating disaster and challenge for Puerto Rico, we've seen this same political argument play out here on other issues about policy.
How does it impact -- look, whatever side you're on, if you're a Trump supporter, you see the president. If you support that mayor, thinking the president is being mean and nasty and attacking her, there are people who need help. If you have this personal feud, does it affect the delivery of services and disaster relief?
PACE: Well, you hope it doesn't. I mean, that would be the worst outcome of this, is that you have this personal feud going on, a political feud, and that it actually either slows or stops some of the recovery efforts that could be happening. That would be the worst- case scenario.
And the president, as we were saying earlier, does have a chance to turn the direction of this when he goes to San Juan on Tuesday. Will he meet with the mayor? That could be a moment where he could bridge this divide, where he could have a conversation with her, where she could air her grievances, he could air his.
But as long as they're focused on the actual response, I think this could move in a different direction. But, you know, with Trump, he tends to take these personal fights and let them just snowball and suddenly that becomes the biggest driver of the story, not what's actually happening on the ground.
BACON: In terms of getting attention to what's happening in Puerto Rico, it's hard for me to say the mayor is doing the wrong thing, going on national television does bring attention to things, particularly a president who watches television a lot. So, it's hard for me to say that what she's doing is taking away. My -- you saw the tweets, 14 before, 16 yesterday. It seems to me
she's drawing attention to the issue. And my guess is he will feel more need to do something about it now. It's hard for me to say she has a bad strategy here.
KING: Going to be fascinating to watch on Tuesday as the president heads down there.
Everybody, sit tight.
Up next, this seems an easy call. Fifty bucks to gas up the SUV or $25,000 to go buy a private jet.
[08:15:00] How Tom Price went from Mr. Secretary to unemployed.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I want the entire corrupt Washington establishment to hear the words we all, I'm your messenger, just a messenger, doing a good job, but just a messenger. We all are about to say. When we win on November 8th, we are going to drain the swamp.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Memorable line. But if you're keeping score at home, mark that drown as a broken promise, at least through these first eight months. Remember candidate Trump railing against Hillary Clinton's private e- mails, promising to restore honesty and integrity to Washington?
[08:20:00] Well, his chief of staff this past week ordered an internal review after "Politico" reported at least a handful of senior administration officials are conducting government business using personal e-mail accounts. This despite not only the president's campaign words, but a warning from intelligence officials that personal phones are easier to hack.
CNN is told the Senate Intelligence Committee leaders are now mad at president son-in-law Jared Kushner, because in his recent interview with committee staff about Russian election meddling, Kushner did not disclose his use of personal e-mail. Swamp not drained.
And then there's this, one cabinet secretary forced out, several others under review, and a president described as furious at headlines about his team using taxpayer money to fly around on private jets. The health and human services secretary, Tom Price, forced to resign Friday night because his behavior was especially egregious, not to mention hypocritical.
As a member of Congress, then Congressman Price preached penny pinching. He railed against Democrats who flew private jets. But once in a seat of power, repeated private jet travel to cost taxpayers, political reports, in the ballpark of a million dollars.
One trip from Washington to nearby Philadelphia, enough to make your blood boil. It's about 125 miles, so 50 bucks round trip to drive. A train ticket can be had for $123. A commercial flight, from $450 to $725, depending on when you can become and remember, cabinet secretaries can skip the TSA line.
But Price chartered a jet, spending $25,000 of taxpayers' money. Swamp not drained, president not happy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I felt very badly, because Secretary Price is a good man. I think he's a very fine person. I certainly don't like the optics.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: I certainly don't like the optics.
KING: Is he mad that it happened, that a cabinet secretary was just blowing taxpayer dollars to fly around in a private jet. Is he mad at that or is he mad he got caught? The optics, the headlines?
JACOBS: It was all of it. There were so many hints that he was going to push Price out. The first hint we got was that the White House was just refusing to defend Tom Price, either in private conversations with us or publicly, you remember, Sarah Sanders at a briefing last week when she was asked about it, said this was not White House- approved travel. And the other big hint we got when the president kept calling Tom Price a good man, to kind of soften the blow a little bit.
We knew at that point that he was probably doomed. I was getting messages from White House staff saying, yes, be watching for it. This is coming.
Because as you remember, he -- when we were asking the president questions about is Bannon in or out, he said, oh, but he's a good man, the media mistreats him. He said the same thing exactly about Reince Priebus. So, we knew it was the kiss of death when he said, Tom Price is a good man.
KING: And at the top of the program, you had the interior secretary saying, some of this is B.S.
Now, it may well be in the sense, I don't like the term, but some cabinet secretaries do. Sometimes you need to take a private jet, sometimes you are in a hurry, sometimes it is urgent, sometimes it is to a far-off, remote place and it's the best way to go.
However, when others are bad actors and doing -- spending $25,000 to go to Philadelphia, that's a bad thing. But in Mr. Zinke's case, he did take a $12,000 charter flight, might have been necessary to take a charter flight, but he took on an oil executive's plane.
Again, if you're going to do this, why don't you just call up one of the private companies that do this for a living. Why get on a flight so we can say, why? Are they trying to curry favor with you? What decisions do you have in front of you that affect these people?
I mean, shouldn't there be somebody -- some of is kind of obvious.
PACE: It's really obvious. And what you're seeing right now is John Kelly, the chief of staff, with stepping in and saying that he is going to have approve all cabinet travel, which is that an amazing thing a chief of staff would step in and have to do that. But that's how serious the White House is taking this right now, because it gets to the core promise that Trump made, which is that he was going to cut down on all of this -- all of these weird conflicts of interest, overspending on the taxpayer expense. That's what he was going to get rid of.
And his voters, that promise means a lot to them. And he knows if he has these optics and yes, some of this is optics, that some of his voters won't view that very kindly. But the Price travel is really amazing, given the rhetoric from him when he was in Congress.
KING: We could fill the hour with it.
PACE: We could play clips for the whole hour of him talking about wasting taxpayer money.
JACOBS: Remember, Trump wanted price to help with the Obamacare repeal. And that didn't happen. So --
KING: So he had a scar anyway.
JACOBS: He already had a mark against him. So there's definitely a void in leadership. So that will be part of the job description for replacing him now as health and human services director, who can help Trump in the future to get Obamacare repealed.
KING: Who could help -- and what's the signal? How aggressive is that person on record in the past about repeal pleas?
DEMIRJIAN: It is remarkable, though, that the two people coming out of the power that seem to be abusing this or seemed to be abusing this are Price and Zinke. They were both members of Congress. When you are in Congress, you are the guardians of the taxpayer dollars, the GOP loves railing about this.
Yes, there's all that Price tape. But, I mean, it's -- the fact that these two would be the first is just kind of --
KING: When you're a back bencher in Congress, when you're a back bencher in Congress, it's easy to give speeches promise excess things and railing against.
[08:25:04] Is this part fair? I want you to listen to this. This is a former ethics official, Walter Shaub, he's left the administration. He says, why wouldn't Tom Price do this because of the signals that the president sends?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WALTER SHAUB, FORMER DIRECTOR, OFFICE OF GOVERNMENT ETHICS: When you have a president not only not divesting his private properties, but traveling to them frequently at great expense to the taxpayer. Every one of these trips they take to one of his properties almost every weekend it seems is just racking up an enormous bill from the taxpayers, so why would Secretary Price get any other message from the White House?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BACON: This is a really important point. We got a story that we know that the treasury secretary inquired or thought about asking, you know, basically have a government plane to take him on his honeymoon. So, this is not -- Tom Price may have been the most egregious, but we know there are other allegations or examples of this.
I think Jennifer is really right. The point here is that Tom Price did something bad and failed at his core job. If you look at the stories we all wrote in November, Tom Price is here. He knows health care. He's a doctor. He will help get Obamacare repealed.
He was so ineffective. He wasn't even involved in the process even at the very end. And I think that's the key.
Remember Trump talked to the Boy Scouts in July. And he said, if we don't do Obamacare repeal, Tom, you're going to be fired. And then we saw it. So, there you go.
KING: So, he meant what he said.
BACON: He meant what he said.
KING: We'll keep our eye on this one.
OK. Turn the page, Republicans again come up short in their efforts to repeal Obamacare. So, it's on to tax cuts, and who knew? It's complicated.
[08:30:57] JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Welcome back.
We know the President fashions himself as a gifted salesman.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: At the very center of that plan is a giant, beautiful, massive, the biggest ever in our country, tax cut.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: As you see there, he likes big, dramatic words.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TRUMP: Democrats and Republicans in Congress should come together, finally, to deliver this giant win for the American people and begin middle class miracle. It's called a middle class miracle.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Those speeches from the President just the beginning of a White House and a Republican Party effort to sell and to pass tax reform.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. TIM SCOTT (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: If I could say it as simple as possible, I would say that this tax reform conversation is about #KeepYoMoney.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: But it isn't so simple. Number one there are big pieces of the tax policy framework that are tough to sell in Congress. Number two the political stakes are enormous.
Remember, the President and the Republican Congress began this year with two big shared goals -- repealing Obamacare and reforming taxes. The President promised one more first-year big-ticket item -- massive infrastructure spending.
Obamacare repeal is now dead for the year. It won't happen in 2017. Infrastructure was never really alive.
So as the conservative "Weekly Standard" put it regarding the GOP's last 2017 hope, tax reform, quote, "If the party of free enterprise and low taxes can't pass it, it's not clear what they're there for."
That is the stake for the Republican Party right now, right, in the sense that you're not going to repeal Obamacare this year. Some people say they'll come back to it next year. We might get to that in a minute or two.
The President' infrastructure plan -- he promised that to voters in year one. It's not happening.
This is it, right? This is it. Why are they here if they can't cut taxes?
KAROUN DEMIRJAN, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Right. I mean this is -- and this is the thing that they're supposed to be the best at. The President has said he's excited about this coming. They've been talking about tax reform in details for many, many years in a way that they were not with health care. Even though they were saying repeal Obamacare, there was not an alternate plan there that people were kind of chomping at the bit to be able to roll out.
So this really is, you know, if you've got anything there, show it to us right now. And the problem is, tax reform, as we all like to say about everything, it's complicated. It's not going to be that simple to do. You do not have cohesive agreement even in the GOP about what you should actually do.
And if you do not manage to come up with a plan that does not -- what is it -- does not add to the deficit more than ten years out, you can't do budget reconciliation, meaning you need 60 votes, not 50 votes. And then you've got a whole new can of worms.
So this is -- it's going to be an interesting competition though because you've seen in many different policy fights, there's been both the nuts and bolts debate that happens in Congress, but then the pitching debate that happens publicly.
And because taxes are so complicated and because so many people hand off their tax questions to somebody else to figure out because they're complicated, this actually might be an opportunity for if the President can build, you know, enough people around the message to get it through.
But if enough people aren't signing on to the message, because the nuts and bolts are unsatisfactory, they may not do that.
KING: Listen to the chief economic adviser here. It is a complicated issue. And there are exceptions to every rule. But you're trying to sell people, this is not a big Republican tax cut for the rich, this is a tax cut for the middle class. This probably doesn't help.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS HOST: If I'm hearing you correctly, you can't guarantee that no middle class family will get a tax increase. There will be middle class families who get a tax increase under your plan -- correct?
GARY COHN, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL ECONOMIC COUNCIL: George, there's an exception to every rule.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So that's a yes.
COHN: Look, I can't guarantee anything. You could always find a unique family somewhere.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: That's -- again, he's telling the truth. He's telling the truth but that doesn't help the political messaging.
JENNIFER JACOBS, BLOOMBERG POLITICS: Right. And what you'll hear Trump say over and over again is two words -- tax cut.
[08:35:01] He had a dinner at the White House this week with some conservative grassroots leaders and one thing he said to them privately was -- listen, let's quit calling this tax reform. Just boil it down and call it a tax cut. That's the message that will get across to Americans.
You don't want to call it reform because people will think that's too vague and maybe their taxes might go up. Let's just call it a tax cut.
But yes, there is something a little bit for everybody in -- and will this reform package increase taxes? Not sure, but it definitely will cut taxes for the rich. That's definite.
PERRY BACON, FIVETHIRTYEIGHT: We should get into this Tax Policy Center (inaudible) study about this. And this is the issue.
As Trump said throughout the campaign, middle class taxes are going to be cut, and he was pretty strong at times in saying, I'm not cutting taxes on the rich.
This report came out, huge number of tax cuts for the rich. You know -- $100,000 to $200,000 (ph) may have their taxes go up even. There are people who might have their taxes go up which even I didn't expect.
So the details of the policy here are going to be really hard to sell and are going to -- probably need to change.
KING: There are about 35 votes in the House from these high-state states. You take away the estate and local income tax deduction -- that's a hard sale.
DEMIRJAN: Right. There's no personal exemption either. You're talking about already, it's well over $10,000 for most, you know -- the average middle class, even single filers, if not you know, families, because it's even more egregious.
But the point is, this is not the detailed tax plan. This is a framework. This is a white paper about what they would like to put in the tax plan. The actual tax reform bill will look probably very little like what we've seen this week.
JULIE PACE, ASSOCIATED PRESS: And very few details in how it would be paid for. And that is what was amazing to me about the rollout this week, that Republicans, who always go to that point, how will this be paid for, what will the impact on the deficit be? They were almost silent on that point right now.
But as this moves forward, will they start to feel more pressure on that front? I think if you're going to roll out a big tax cut, you should be able to answer to the public, how it will be paid for.
KING: And so this is just a framework. Again, the details are left to the Congress. They've put out a framework that the President and the Republican leadership agree on. The committees will write the actually bill.
But in the framework, here's how it might affect you if you're lower income -- meaning you make up to $25,000 a year, you're going to save about 0.5 percent, meaning you gain about $60 in a year.
If you're in that middle income group, $50,000 to $90,000 you save 1.2 percent on your taxes, somewhere in the ballpark of $700. And again, for higher-income people, now Republicans will say, of course, rich people pay more, therefore when you cut taxes they're get more. But that's -- politically that's a hard sell when you're calling this a middle class tax cut. The middle class family gets around $700. And the upper income family gets at least $8,000, $9,000 or more depending on your income.
Again if you understand the math, you can make the case. Of course, rich people pay more, they should get more. But it's harder to sell politically.
BACON: And he's not selling it that way.
BACON: He's been saying something different. And I wonder if he's going to change his messaging effort because right now -- Gary Cohn went on TV and said this is not a tax cut for the rich. He said this, you know, unequivocally.
Mnuchin said this is going to reduce the deficit. Comments like that plagued the health care process. Comments -- this is not a Medicaid cut.
BACON: Well, every fact checker at CNN, you know, check these. You know, they either have to change the message here or change the policy because having a fight we are constantly sort of trying to mislead the public is not -- was not effective in Obamacare and probably will not be effective here either.
KING: That's an excellent point and they assign the blame on Obamacare, yes there are big policy differences but the Republican leadership will tell you that at key moments they felt undermined by things said either by the President or his team.
We'll see how this one works out.
Everybody sit tight.
Up next, Alabama sends a message to the Republican establishment and to the President of the United States.
[08:38:17] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
KING: We take you straight now live to San Juan -- the governor of Puerto Rico there at the morning FEMA briefing in San Juan. Let's listen,
GOV. RICARDO ROSSELLO, PUERTO RICO: -- to make sure that food, water and other supplies gets delivered to the people of Puerto Rico so that we can have an effective rotation to have hospitals working, so that they can give proper service to our most vulnerable, to make sure we establish communications and telecommunications as quickly and effectively as we can, to distribute and to provide energy to major, important areas such as hospitals and water supplies and air traffic control, as well as maintenance and accounting of the assets that are coming into Puerto Rico.
I want to remind you that if you want to help Puerto Rico, in any way, we have several vehicles to do so. UnitedforPuertoRico.com provides a platform for anybody that ho wants to donate as well as our 800 number -- it's 202-800-3134.
We want to report that in terms of the personnel, we have increased -- the DOD has increased their presence --
KING: You can see we're losing -- having some problem with our signal there out of Puerto Rico. We'll try to improve our signal.
That's the governor of Puerto Rico, Governor Rossello, giving an update this morning along with FEMA officials on the disaster response effort. You heard him speaking there about ways you can help the people of Puerto Rico. You can go to our CNN Web site as well if you want to help Puerto Rico.
As we try to reestablish that signal and track that event for breaking news, the President of the United States is also up early this Sunday morning and he is tweeting again about the situation in Puerto Rico.
Let's look at what the President is saying. Remember yesterday, he attacked the mayor of San Juan saying she was wrong in criticizing the administration.
Here's what the President is saying today. "We have done a great job with the almost impossible situation in Puerto Rico. Outside of the fake news or politically motivated ingrates, people are now starting to recognize the amazing work that has been done by FEMA and our great military. All buildings now inspected for safety. Thank you to the governor of Puerto Rico and to all of those who are working so closely with our first responders. Fantastic job."
A couple of things to unpack there in the President's tweets. I'm going to start with the outside of the fake news or politically motivated ingrates.
I'm assuming he means the mayor of San Juan there, because she has raised some questions. She was not directly critical of the President. She's actually said some things complimentary of the President.
What she was critical of is when Elaine Duke, the acting secretary of homeland security said this is a good news story. And Elaine Duke herself has said that wasn't the best way to say given the situation, given the destruction and the pain on the ground. That wasn't the best way to say what she was trying to say.
But the President is clearly, you mentioned earlier, he doesn't like to lose. "We've done a great job, fantastic job. People are now starting to recognize the amazing work that has been done by FEMA." He is defending his response -- but then outside of the fake news or politically motivated ingrates.
I'll just make one more quick point then yield to the table. Our reporters on the ground are showing you what's happening. There's no fake news. Those are real pictures. Those are real people.
Sometimes when they complain or when they voice frustration, they may misdirect it because they've lost their homes. They've lost their lives. They've lost their towns. Those are human stories. That is not fake news.
But, politically motivated ingrates -- when you're trying to turn the page, one would hope the goal is to turn the page, get everybody back on the same room and focus on the people of Puerto Rico and the problems in Puerto Rico, not your ego and your political standing. I don't think that's going to help.
[08:45:01] DEMIRJAN: The word "ingrates" is the most difficult on to swallow in that. And that's because you have people that were just ravaged by a really severe storm.
You should not expect them to say, oh, thank you, thank you so much for that bottle of water. They lost everything.
You know, yes, I'm sure that, you know, in a moment of less panic they may, you know, in retrospect say, we're so grateful that there was help. But right now in the thick of the panic, do you expect them to be, you know, saying, thank you very, very nicely because you're giving them a little fraction of what it's going to take to survive when they've lost everything else? That's not a very understanding position.
PACE: I actually don't think that we should skip past what the President has been saying in the last two days about the media. You don't want to turn this into a media story.
But what he's trying to do is basically say, don't believe what you see. When you see those photos or when you see that video from the ground in Puerto Rico and you see the devastation and you see people complaining about the response -- don't believe it. It's fake.
That is really dangerous. There are journalists on the ground there to bear witness, there to be the eyes and ears for people who are not there. That is a public service.
We should applaud journalists who are down there doing that, who are trying to bring attention to the situation on the ground.
This is something we've seen consistently from this president, through his campaign, through his presidency. I really think that that is a dangerous message for him to be sending.
KING: And some of the criticism is not fair. I mean it is a hard logistical challenge. It may be something you are yelling at the President or FEMA about that it is your mayor or your governor or everybody's responsibility and they're just trying to get their act together.
But you would think the President's goal is to lead people through that. By saying, politically motivated ingrates, he's escalating the confrontation, not looking for an off-ramp.
JACOBS: A friend of mine who was on the way to a synagogue yesterday pointed out that yesterday was a day of atonement for President Trump's Jewish daughter and his top aid, his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and what was President Trump spending his day doing but bashing the leadership of a very bruised island.
And yes, we made the point earlier that there's a lot for the President to deal with right now with Hurricane Harvey and Irma and Maria, but it's up to the President to show that his administration is not overwhelmed by this.
KING: But when he goes to Bedminster and he wakes up in the morning and starts tweeting, this is what you get. You can read them on the Internet.
Still ahead our reporters share from their notebooks. It's your choice whether to stand or take a knee. Yes, it's NFL Sunday.
[08:47:13] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
KING: Let's head one more time around the INSIDE POLITICS table and ask our great reporters to share a little something from their notebooks to help get you out ahead of the big political news just around the corner.
Julie Pace. PACE: There's been a lot of great reporting in the last few weeks especially with my AP colleagues on these really mysterious health attacks on U.S. diplomats in Cuba. And on Friday, we saw the Trump administration announcing a travel warning to Americans and a drawdown of U.S. embassy staff.
But it's notable that the Trump administration actually hasn't blamed the Cuban government or anyone, really, for being behind these attacks. And when you talk to lawmakers and others who are supportive of the Obama administration's detente with Cuba, there's some fear that what the White House is doing is essentially using these attacks as a cover to roll back some of that detente that Trump just wants to do anyway.
So you're going see a real push from the Hill and from advocates to try to get some answers as to who's behind what is really one of the biggest mysteries in diplomatic circles right now.
KING: Amazing spy story.
DEMIRJAN: A lot of what's going on in Washington D.C. with these Russia investigations this -- after right now -- depends of Silicon Valley. You saw Twitter come to Capitol Hill last week. That did not go so well. A lot of lawmakers are really upset with them.
You have Twitter, Facebook and Google executives who have been invited back to appear in public in the next few weeks. And so this is really a kind of a crunch time to see what they're going to say, what they're going to do.
Not even so much for the question of, is there collusion between the Trump team and the Russian officials but if the government is going to actually be able to do something about preventing this sort of situation from happening again where you have fake accounts manipulating public opinion and sentiment and perception of what reality is heading into an election.
They need the cooperation. Nobody is at the point yet where they could politically even say we're going to re-regulate how these social media companies can work. But there has to be some sort of meeting of the minds otherwise, there's going to be a real breakdown in the next few weeks. And we're going to see basically as a response to how last week didn't go well what they step up and try to do.
KING: It's fascinating. These companies are not known for their public transparency. It's going to be nice to see them in a public hearing.
BACON: In case you didn't miss it, the Obamacare repeal, again, did not pass. So Donald Trump is saying he's going to do some kind of executive order on Obamacare, likely this week.
The question will be, if this is an executive order it's kind of like a press release and like toothless like a lot of his orders have been this year, or if this is a real executive order that will change the policy in some meaningful way. We don't know yet.
I think it will be a big question to tell us the future of Obamacare what's in this order and what it does.
KING: Keep an eye on that in the week ahead and what kind of help he gets without a Health and Human Services secretary.
JACOBS: The White House is bracing for more reporting that proves wasteful spending on travel expenses. Some of the departments that haven't been under the spotlight yet are trying to figure out how to deal with this.
The White House did put out some instructions on what to say and what not to say -- some pretty strict instructions I'm told. But they know that more news is coming and they're trying to get a handle on it before this scandal metastasizes further.
KING: Interesting to watch that in the week ahead. I will close with this. Another Sunday of NFL games, we'll of course, be watching to see level of protests against President Trump this Sunday.
NFL owners, so far, siding with their players for their right to free speech. But they're also keeping close tabs on the financial impact and the public relations impact of this confrontation.
I'm told the owners have research clearly showing the President is right when he says the anthem protests are one factor in a TV ratings drop. And since the President weighed in, the owners are now dealing with a surge in ticket holder requests for refunds.
[08:54:55] Other sports leagues are watching this quite closely. The NBA season, for example, kicks off in a little more than two weeks. And the NBA headquarters this week reminded teams and the players of the league's long-standing policy requiring players to stand during the national anthem.
There are, however, some ongoing conversations about alternative ways for the players to show their displeasure with the President.
We'll keep an eye on all of that -- kickoff just a few hours away.
That's it for INSIDE POLITICS.
Again, thanks for sharing your Sunday morning. Hope to see you weekdays here, as well. We're here at noon eastern.
Up next, "STATE OF THE UNION" with Jake Tapper.
Have a great --
[08:55:27] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)