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Trumps Wants Tax Reform by Year End; Trump Makes Push for Tax Cuts After Promising Biggest Tax Cuts in History; EPA Chief's Expensive Security Detail; On the Front Lines of War on ISIS in Syria; Bill O'Reilly Paid $32 Million to Settle Sex Harassment Claim. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired October 23, 2017 - 09:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[09:30:00] REP. STEVE RUSSELL, R-OKLA.: When is it that we unite on things that we actually could agree on?

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: How is it class warfare to ask whether or not Americans makes over $1 million a year, who now pay nearly 40 percent in income tax, should continue to pay that? How is that class warfare in any way? It's a question. I mean, you're an elected representative who will have to vote on this thing, so, which way would you go?

RUSSELL: Well, not being a millionaire, I guess I would have to study the issue myself. Having been a soldier most of my life, I never accumulated that kind of wealth.

But what I will tell you is that people that do and people that have large corporations or even small businesses or farms or ranches that might create that sort of wealth, what you'll find is that they also pay an inordinate amount of taxes that people never see, when you add excise taxes, corporate taxes, add individual income, and you add all of that. It's easy to throw rocks at somebody simply because they have money. And that's what I'm trying to address. We don't need to create this class warfare of, you have and I don't, therefore, I'm going to punish you and use the government as the punishment tool. We're better as a country than that. And we want a country that creates innovation and creates hope, so that somebody growing up in poverty can be successful, could be wealthy, if they invent an idea and they take it all the way to success. Why do we have to continue to divide our country along these lines? It's a mystery to me.

HARLOW: Congressman Steve Russell, come back when you have studied that issue, because I think we're not done discussing it. We appreciate it.

RUSSELL: Well, let's study it together, how about that?

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Let's go all make a few millions and then study it together.

(LAUGHTER)

RUSSELL: I'm with you there. See, that's the success story we could all agree on. BERMAN: Thanks, Congressman. Appreciate it.

HARLOW: Thanks.

RUSSELL: Thank you.

BERMAN: All right, his security detail was already unprecedented, and now the EPA chief is getting even more protection. Why? And at what cost?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:36:15] BERMAN: All right. President Trump this week making a big push for tax cuts. This, after promising to bring the biggest tax cut ever in U.S. history.

HARLOW: That's right. And he wants to get it done in 10 weeks.

Some perspective here. Remember back to the late '80s, it took more than a year to rewrite the tax code.

Let's go to Capitol Hill, where we find our Suzanne Malveaux.

He could get some bipartisan support on this one, but this is a fast timeline.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. And they're not really counting on that bipartisan support. They're really using a legislative tool to make sure that they can get at Republicans only. This is something they hope to get in short order by the end of the year. Republicans desperate to put a win on the board here. And also the president very much involved in the process, unlike health care. We saw just over the weekend yesterday, a conference call with House Republicans, a 10-minute pep talk, some people are saying. The first step is to get this budget passed. The Senate passed it last week. The House just has to sign on to what the Senate did to move that forward. That could happen this week. And that allows for the process of just a simple majority in the Senate to get some sort of tax cut or tax reform package through. So that is -- what they are hoping for, that is the wish list.

And the president this weekend, again, promising that this is going to be historic.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm calling it tax cuts. It is tax reform also, but I call it tax cuts. It will be the biggest cuts ever in the history of this country. I will say the fact that health care is so difficult I think makes the taxes easier. The Republicans want to get it done. And it's a tremendous tax cut. I mean, especially for the middle class, and especially for business.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MALVEAUX: So how would that happen? Some people estimate it could cost $5 trillion if they get the tax cuts that they want.

One idea that was being floated around, Republicans saying perhaps cap the amount of income that you can just right off that is tax free on your 401K plan. With the president weighing in on that this morning, saying in a tweet that that wasn't going to happen. "There will be no change in your 401K. This has always been a great and popular middle- class tax break that works, and it stays."

The president is going to be having lunch here on Capitol Hill with Senate Republicans to make that point and to also pushed for on this timetable -- Poppy, John?

BERMAN: Suzanne Malveaux, on Capitol Hill, thanks so much.

New this morning, CNN has learned that security for the EPA's top official, Scott Pruitt, was just beefed up.

HARLOW: So now he has, apparently, an around-the clock-security detail because of the high number of threats he has received. Some in Congress are questioning if that is a correct use of taxpayer dollars.

Rene Marsh is on the story and has more.

So he's had a number of threats, death threats, as well?

RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION & GOVERNMENT REGULATIONS CORRESPONDENT: Ye, that's right, Poppy and John. That's what we're told from the independent I.G.'s office. But when you hear this, it really sounds like the security bubble you would expect around the CIA chief or even the FBI director. But this is the EPA administrator, responsible for protecting the environment and regulating pollution.

And CNN has learned, as you said, that the 24/7 security around him is being beefed up. They're hiring more agents. They're installing new security equipment.

I want you to take a look. According to a source familiar with the decision, the EPA is in the process of hiring and training some 12 new agents for that team. Again, 24/7 protection. Based on the dollar figures we've seen in the job postings, salaries for the job will cost at least $2 million.

The EPA is also stepping up security outside of Pruitt's office. The EPA recently made arrangement for access card readers and even an alarm system. A source tells us that they were also even considering biometric security systems that would check fingerprints or palm prints. It's unclear at this point whether that's been installed or if it's under consideration.

The EPA not commenting on all of this, but we're hearing that the death threats against Pruitt, more than many of his predecessors.

[09:40:21] HARLOW: Rene Marsh, thank you for the reporting. Please keep us updated.

Ahead, the de facto capitol that ISIS claimed has fallen, so where is the terror group's leader now? CNN is on the front lines, ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:44:54] HARLOW: This morning, another victory in the war on ISIS. Less than a week since the liberation of Raqqa, U.S.-based forces say they have captured Syria's largest oil field back from ISIS.

BERMAN: Meanwhile, a new battlefield is taking place in the eastern city of Deir ez-Zor. Some believe the ISIS leader, Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, may be hiding out there.

CNN's Nick Paton Walsh traveled close to the front line.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This may be where ISIS leader, Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, is hiding. He probably wishes he wasn't. Russian and Syrian regime airstrikes pound ISIS's remnants in the city of Deir ez-Zor. But they aren't alone in the skies or on the ground here. Banking hard and keeping out of the Russian's way, a U.S. jet, assisting these U.S.-backed Kurdish fighters to keep the nearby countryside from ISIS, just a day before.

ISIS collapsing, leaving in their wake an almost Cold War standoff.

(on camera): ISIS may be holding out in a pocket of a town of Deir ez-Zor behind me, over there, surrounded by the Syrian regime. But they've been kicked out, too, of this area by American-backed Kurdish SDF forces. Now, they've advanced to this river here, which puts them literally meters away from the Syrian regime, who are backed by Russian air power. We're told, in fact, these Kurdish American-backed forces have held face-to-face meetings with Russian military officials to be sure they don't clash around here. Now, in the end game against ISIS, Moscow and Washington's forces literally meters away from each other.

(GUNFIRE)

(voice-over): The Kurds are so relaxed with their new neighbors that fishing is this afternoon's task, with hand grenades.

Five years in, and Syria is ground to dust. And this is what they're still fighting over.

It's unclear who is left inside Deir ez-Zor. Those who fled estimated recently at 10,000 a day, dot the skyline. They try to filter them, but last week, a suicide bomber struck. And yesterday, they found 30 ISIS fighters. They're followed around by the horror of what they fled, but also suspicion. A simple question, are the last to flee the most loyal to ISIS or just the least fortunate?

"We saw everything in my village," she says. "Airstrikes and children and people dying. My relative just last week. The children couldn't stop crying from fear. I could only stand there. What could I do? I don't know if our home is still standing or even who's bombing us."

Youssef is 10 and doesn't have any superpower powers here, just dust and bad dreams.

"When I hear the shelling," he says, "I hide in the ground. The hardest part about living in the desert is I'm not at home."

The stream is endless, like the bombing they flee, and this war, which keeps finding new chapters and adversaries around them.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HARLOW: Nick Paton Walsh joins us now.

Nick, that's an extraordinary look. And just looking at those children and the looks on their faces, the humanity behind all of this and the people left behind. When you look at sort of this next wave of fighting, how close could this put the U.S. and the Russian-backed forces to conflict?

PATON WALSH: For conflict between the U.S. and Russia, the issue is whether or not those forces they are backing end up disputing territory or resources. And that's already happened. The U.S.-backed SDF, the fighters you saw there, have moved into a very important oil field called al Omar, just not far, actually, from where you saw that report, in the last 48 hours. They say they fought ISIS out of there and lost people doing so, therefore, they want that valuable oil resource one of the key ones before the war in Syria. The regime, of course, have eyes on it, as well. So we're into a situation now where there's a rush for territory when ISIS leave it, a rush for resources, and at times, too, misunderstandings. The SDF we were with said they were hit by a rocket that injured four, killed one recently. They didn't know if it was the Russians or the regime, because there were so many different forces in operation around there. But it shows you how these things can get potentially out of hand. Remember, too, in the skies there, you saw U.S. and Russian jets at times literally in the same battle space around each other in the same skies -- John, Poppy?

[09:49:31] BERMAN: Nick Paton Walsh for us.

Again, Nick, fantastic reporting there. Those pictures, just amazing.

Other news for us, Bill O'Reilly lashes out at "The New York Times" report that he paid $32 million to settle one woman's sexual harassment claim against him. Hear his new reaction, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: All right. New this morning, we are hearing Bill O'Reilly in his own words as he says he will fight back, denying that he did anything wrong at FOX News. This comes in the wake of "The New York Times" reporting a previously unknown Bill O'Reilly sexual harassment settlement. This took one woman to $32 million.

HARLOW: Making it all the more extraordinary is that the "Times" reports that after that settlement was paid, and FOX News brass knew about it, they renewed his contract and gave him a pay raise.

Joining us now, Brian Stelter, CNN senior media correspondent, host of "Reliable Sources."

Even if FOX didn't know it was $32 million, they knew it was sexual harassment and resigned him and gave him more money anyway.

BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT & CNN HOST, RELIABLE SOURCES: Maybe they didn't want to know how much the settlement was worth. Maybe they were happy not to find out. The bottom line is, like the Weinstein scandal, it's a story about money and power. Bill O'Reilly had a lot of power and made FOX an enormous amount of money. For Bill O'Reilly, paying $32 million seemed like the price, the cost of doing business.

Here's a part of O'Reilly's defense. He said this to "The New York Times" in an interview that was audiotaped last week. He says, he's the victim.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[09:55:22] BILL O'REILLY, FORMER FOX NEWS HOST (voice-over): We have physical proof that this is bull (EXPLETIVE DELETED). Bull (EXPLETIVE DELETED). OK. So it's on you if you want to destroy my children further. All right. Because it's all crap.

Why don't you be human beings for once? This is horrible. It's horrible what I went through, horrible what my family went through. This is crap. And you know it. It's politically and financially motivated. And we can prove it with shocking information.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STELTER: O'Reilly has been saying this for months, he did nothing wrong and he can prove there's a conspiracy against him. But honestly, the $32 million figure is a fact. It is not a claim. It is a fact. And it is shocking.

BERMAN: Someone new this morning saying it's not true he did nothing wrong, someone who worked at FOX News for a long time, Megyn Kelly.

STELTER: Yes, Megyn Kelly came out this morning describing her experiences with O'Reilly and with the culture of retaliation at FOX. Of course, we know other women settled with Roger Ailes and FOX and Bill O'Reilly. She says the abusing of women, the shaming of them, the threatening, the retaliation, this must stop.

HARLOW: Much more in Brian Stelter's reporting. Go to "CNN Money" for that. Pretty unbelievable.

Brian, thank you.

BERMAN: The widow of fallen U.S. soldier in Niger said the president couldn't remember her husband's name. And now, might be more amazing, the president has responded. The emotional interview, next.