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Trump Defends Condolence Call with Offended Widow; Trump: 401K Changes May be Part of Tax Talks; Entrance Fees May Double for National Parks; CNN Anchor Describes How Gold Star Coverage Hits Home. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired October 25, 2017 - 14:30   ET

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


(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[14:30:00] TERRENCE MCGUFF, FATHER OF SGT. LA DAVID JOHNSON: That's the way I feel as a father. Because me, no family member has seen no body yet. The comment I heard Trump made about my son, it was crazy to me. It was really crazy. I felt some type of way. But his comment and how people are taking it is not going to solve the problem. The bigger issue is with my son.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Let's talk about this. Is with me is CNN national security analyst. She also served on President Obama National Security Council.

And she was serving the White House, you said you were in the West Wing --

SAMANTHA VINOGRAD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Right.

BALDWIN: -- when Benghazi happened.

VINOGRAD: Yes.

BALDWIN: So thank you for coming in.

First, hearing the president say, no, no, he didn't specifically authorize the mission. There are a lot of missions that happen around the world. Is that odd or is that normal?

VINOGRAD: I think we need to put this into the context of why we have troops in Niger in the first place. General Dunford briefed on Monday these troops are part of global campaign against terrorism. They are specifically authorized to partner with Nigerian armed forces, to support them in conducting counterterrorism operations. The reconnaissance mission of the patrol, gathering intelligence on a terrorist leader may be authorized under that train, advise and assist mission. They were not authorized to conduct combat. The questions that investigators need to look into is whether the nature of that mission changed. Did they go from supporting Nigerian armed forces to armed combat? And I really think that at the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing tomorrow, which is closed, that the Senators are going to ask the witnesses for specific information about whether that mission changed, and if so, whether authorizations came.

BALDWIN: But isn't it possible, you explain there to me, if they were in the middle of doing intel gathering on a high-value target, come under attacked, a combat situation, is someone supposed to stop, ask for authorization? The fact that it took an hour to call in for backup, we don't know why that happened yet.

VINOGRAD: We don't. And we won't know. And there will be some details that we may never know. But there's a distinction between self-defense and combat operations.

BALDWIN: OK. OK. What about the real possibility that the villagers in this part of Niger gave this ISIS affiliate a heads-up that they were in on this attack?

VINOGRAD: There's a lot of possibilities. As we saw in the aftermath of Benghazi, there's a lot of raw intelligence likely coming in to the intelligence community right now. The intelligence community needs time to sort through all that information. The investigators need to speak with witnesses. And I would imagine that the national security team is also engaging in discussions with the French. The French have 4,000 troops in Niger and significant intelligence operations.

BALDWIN: Samantha Vinograd, thank you so much.

VINOGRAD: Thank you.

BALDWIN: Thanks for your assessment on a tragic story. Thank you.

Moments ago, the president also stating to reports, discussing tax plans, including 401(K). What he said about the possibility of making changes to retirement accounts, and why the president is not hitting the road to sell his tax plan to the American people.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[14:37:43] BALDWIN: As Congress considers capping how much you can contribute to your 401(K) accounts, President Trump says he may use it as negotiating tool for his tax plan.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And 401(K)s, to me, are very important, and they are important because that's one of the great benefits to the middle class. I didn't want that to go too far. That's why I ended it very quickly.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE QUESTION)

TRUMP: Well, maybe it is. And maybe we'll use it as negotiating.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: This, as president's daughter, Ivanka, is out selling her push for child tax credits directly to lawmakers.

So with me to chat more with me, Alexis Glick is back with us, financial expert and former Wall Street executive.

Good to see you.

ALEXIS GLICK, FINANCIAL EXPERT & FORMER WALL STREET EXECUTIVE: Great to see you.

BALDWIN: Can we talk about 401(K)? We all try to maximize it for taxes. Now will he, won't he, with the cap on the 401(K)s, mixed messages is what I'm getting from the president.

GLICK: Yes. This is the whole brinkmanship. This is the issue of can we stop the president from tweeting about things that could be related to tax reform, because we actually want tax reform to happen.

BALDWIN: People are paying attention when you say 401(K) --

GLICK: Everybody is

BALDWIN: -- that matters, right?

GLICK: Everyone is paying attention because you are trying to save for your future. And I think you know this better than anybody.

This whole tax reform issue is about three primary concerns right now. Number one, look, everyone is talking about what does it mean for midterm elections. Let's be clear. Nancy Pelosi, if she wants to be majority leader, they need 24 seats. Right. So they are going to do everything in their power to get this to what they think is a bipartisan solution and drag their feet. But when it comes to the middle class American, they are looking for answers. They're looking for what is in this for me, which is why we see Ivanka Trump pushing the child tax credit. And in the eyes of corporate America, they need to sweeten the deal. All of corporate America is hearing about is the idea of a cut in corporate tax rates from 35 percent down to 20 percent. But so far, nothing has happened. Right. So the stock market has been rallying on the hopes of profound tax reform that's going to bring a lot more investment and growth to the economy. And thus far, we haven't seen that. So they are waiting and hoping.

[14:40:04] BALDWIN: Let's talk about banks and the vice president's tie breaking vote on this. The Senate overturned the rule that allowed Americans to sue banks and credit card companies. Trump is expected to sign this. Why give the banks the win here?

GLICK: This comes down to this whole issue of whether or not folks can file a class-action lawsuit.

BALDWIN: All together?

GLICK: Precisely. Versus closed-door arbitration. And I'll tell it like it is. This is tip of the hat to those within corporate America, largely banking industry, to give them something in the wake of this discussion around tax reform. It doesn't mean that you won't have the right to sue the bank or have legal due process. It just means that it's going to be a closed-door arbitration process. Now, those on the pro side and those on the negative side, many will say class-action lawsuits put a lot of money in the lawyer's hands.

BALDWIN: Right.

GLICK: And that, ultimately, it's more costly for the consumer, and a lot of other fees for those increased legal fees that the bank has to take on. And then there's plenty who would argue on behalf of the consumer, thinks like Wells Fargo --

BALDWIN: Wells Fargo.

GLICK: -- or the data breach at Equifax.

(CROSSTALK)

GLICK: In the wake of that, how can we do away with class-action lawsuits? This comes down to, what can the administration do to get those within the industry and corporate America excited and on board with many some of those promises that have been made? And so I think, ultimately, that's what this really comes down to this at this stage in the game.

BALDWIN: OK. Alexis Glick, thank you.

GLICK: Thank you very much. Great to see you.

BALDWIN: Thank you.

Coming up here, planning on visiting one of the country's great national parks? I love national parks.

Don't you love them?

GLICK: They're beautiful.

BALDWIN: Grand Canyon, Yosemite, Yellowstone, why a proposal to hike interest fees at some of these parks is facing all kinds of criticism.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[14:46:35] BALDWIN: A Grand Canyon visit may soon cost you twice as much as it normally does for park entrance fees. The National Park Service wants to charge $70 for admission. That is more than double the current prices to 17 popular parks during peak season, that includes Yellowstone, Yosemite, Mount Lanier. The hiked fee would help pay for infrastructure improvements. Critics say it could become unaffordable for a lot of Americans. The National Park Conservation Association say, quote, "The administration just proposed a major cut to the National Park Service budget, even as parks struggle with billions of dollars in needed repairs."

With me now, Don Hafner. He and his wife have visited all 59 national parks in 59 weeks.

I'm so jealous. I said my New Year's resolution was to visit more parks. So I'm jealous of you Don Hafner.

Can you tell me your favorite park and why?

DON HAFNER, HAS VISITED ALL U.S. NATIONAL PARKS: Hi, Brooke, and thanks so much for having me today.

That's a question that we get all the time. And it's really difficult to pick a favorite. But I would suggest to everyone, if you can get to Denali National Park in Alaska, it's a very special place.

BALDWIN: That's a good one. Bucket list. Bucket list.

HAFNER: Yes.

BALDWIN: All right. So the fact that potentially the entrance fee could go up to $70. I understand you are saying it's a necessary evil. Why?

HAFNER: My understanding of the history of the national parks is that they have been chronically underfunded for 100 years. And that's an indication to me that Congress is not going to do a lot to fund them further. So it's really going to be up to the people of the United States, whether it's through charitable contributions or user fees, to help fill in that gap a little bit.

BALDWIN: OK.

HAFNER: I'll tell you I was a little surprised yesterday when I read the amount.

BALDWIN: You were?

HAFNER: But a lot of the money is going to have to come from us.

BALDWIN: I understand you do have a solution of sorts, you know, advice to other potential park goers. What is that? The wake of this rate hike?

HAFNER: Well, there are a lot of things that people can do to lower their costs. For example, Yellowstone has an annual pass just for that park of $60. And that's one way that you can save some money. But the national parks offer an annual pass. And the highest cost that anyone would have to pay for that is $80. And that gives you access to the parks that have a fee for an entire year unlimited.

BALDWIN: Did my annual pass last year in Wyoming in Tetons National Park. So there you go. I just have like 53 more to go.

Don Hafner, thank you so very much.

HAFNER: You can do it.

[14:50:40] BALDWIN: Nationalparks.com.

I can do it. I'll get to Alaska.

Thank you so much. Let's continue on our breaking news. A day after the divide in

Republican Party appeared to be going deeper, the president of the United States said, moments ago, he believes there's great unity in the Republican Party. Coming up next, my CNN colleague, Breanna Keilar, joins me to do a story that hit close to home, when she was filling in for me as anchor chair a week ago. It happened amid an ugly feud that dragged Gold Star families into the public eye. Do not miss this. That's coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[14:54:53] BALDWIN: Moments ago, the president said he has great respect for the widow of Sergeant La David Johnson. And yet, the president once again refuted what she said about that condolence call.

Here she is at her husband's funeral over the weekend. Myeshia Johnson's husband was one of the soldiers killed in combat during an ambush in Niger. She said she was offended because the president said he knew what he signed up for.

Here is more from the president.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I respect her. I respect her family. I certainly respect La David who, by the way, I called La David right from the beginning. Just so you understand, they put a chart in front, La David, says La David Johnson. So I called right from the beginning, there's no hesitation, one of the great memories of all time.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: This sad controversy has brought Gold Star families into an ugly debate over the president. What has been in the past a private moment, sacred for military families, has been pushed into the public.

For one of my friends from CNN, this has been extremely personal.

Brianna Keilar is with us now. She's not only the senior national correspondent on CNN, but a military wife.

So thank you so much for joining me.

And let's go back to last week. I was away. You were filling in for me sitting in this anchor seat when the White House daily briefing began. And it was that General John Kelly, started talking about the process of what happens when a soldier's body comes in to Dover. And you started thinking about your husband.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and I imagine a lot of military family members were thinking the same thing, Gold Star families and Blue Star families. And as you know, Brooke, it was something that we weren't expecting. We thought it was going to be a normal briefing, then General Kelly was describing what happened. And his point in doing so was to remind a lot of people who don't necessarily have a connection to the military exactly what military families and Gold Star families are going through. So it was really difficult to listen to. I really struggled to keep it together and was just hoping he went on for several more minutes so I could compose myself and get out of it and do my job and discuss with my panel.

But one of the things that struck me is there's a difference when you have a personal experience with the military. I am a new military spouse but my husband is on his sixth deployment. This is the first one that I have --

BALDWIN: Let me say that again, sixth deployment.

KEILAR: Yes, six combat deployments, but this is new to me. So I've spent time certainly observing and, at times, covering recent conflicts without a connection to the military community, but now it hits home. And this debate has been going on, I've been thinking about how different it is for military families as they watch this. And how we need to keep that in mind. Everyone needs to keep that in mind as this goes on.

BALDWIN: So as you are sitting there listening, you are emotional, the chief of staff mentioned this film "Taking a Chance" about -- Kevin Bacon film about the process and Dover and incredibly emotional. And you went and watched it. And as you are watching it, there was some tweets that started flying. And there was a tweet that you received from some critic, who was commenting on you sitting there watching "Taking a Chance."

Let me read the tweet and I want you to tell me more about it. They wrote, "It's telling that you are only now watching this. Been out for years. More evidence that you and other media are in a bubble and don't know real people."

Tell me how you responded.

KEILAR: I realized I was in sort of jeopardy of descending into this Twitter back and forth, but didn't want to let it go, because they didn't understand my personal situation. And I said my husband is on his sixth deployment. That's not unique to me. There are a lot of people who are wearing both hats. And in my family, we are represented by the professions of journalism and also in the military.

And what was amazing about that tweet, Brooke, was that he responded with an apology, like a full apology, which is something that you don't often get on Twitter. And it just sort of speaks to the fact that you don't necessarily know what someone's personal story is. Here at CNN, there are other people who have seen their spouses through deployment, who have served themselves. So they bring all these different perspectives.

And I think one of the things I was thinking as it was going down on Twitter how connected we all are. Because the military swears an oath to uphold the Constitution. So does the president, who is entrusted to make decisions, sometimes life and death on the part of the military --