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House Passes Budget, Clears Path For Tax Reform; Trump To Declare Opioid Crisis A Public Health Emergency; Firm Used By Trump Campaign Asked Wikileaks For Access To Clinton Emails; McConnell Allies Declare War On Steve Bannon. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired October 26, 2017 - 11:00   ET




KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. Happening right now a critical test of Republican unity and a critical moment for a president and a Congress who say 2018 is now on the line and a critical first step to the tax overhaul that Republicans have long promised.

The House is voting right now to pass a budget plan, but maybe more importantly here, that vote allows for a fast track for any tax reform bill that they would put together down the road and for Republicans, already worried about next year's midterms, a failure here could be fatal.

President Trump is worried, he is not showing it. Minutes ago, he tweeted, "Do not underestimate the unity within the Republican Party." That's quite some statement after the week that we've had already.

CNN's Sunlen Serfaty is on Capitol Hill with more. Sunlen, where are things standing right now with this vote?

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, right now, Kate, officially in just the last few moments, Republicans have the votes that they need to get this budget passed and to move towards tax reform. We saw Speaker of the House Paul Ryan on the floor moments ago casting his vote for this budget.

Something that a speaker typically doesn't do underscoring how important this vote is and frankly how narrow of a victory that they had. Republicans could only afford to lose 22 votes. They were close to that number but, of course, they got over the magic number 215 that they needed to pass this budget through.

So, what happens next? They still have certainly considerable issues still to be ironed out as they move towards now putting pen to paper and writing this tax reform bill. A lot of concerns from the New Jersey and New York delegations, who as you saw on the floor moments ago, voted against this budget.

Concerns over the SALT issue, the state and local tax deductions issue, that was a major concern that led them to vote against this budget. That has to be solved going into next week in the Republican committees writing this bill when they unveil their big tax reform vote.

Also over the 401(k)issue, that's a big issue still hanging out there. So, a lot of details to be ironed out but certainly a big partial victory for Republicans today in their march towards advancing tax reform -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: Yes. I mean, and this is -- especially in these days on Capitol Hill, take a victory where you Can get it. Republicans I'm sure are breathing a sigh of relief as they have just passed this one but essential hurdle. This happening as we're coming to air right now. Sunlen, great to see you, a lot more to come.

Now, the big work, when it comes to tax reform. We're also watching breaking news on the other side of Pennsylvania Avenue we want to tell you about. President Trump is set to declare the opioid crisis in the country a public health emergency with more than 140 million Americans dying of opioid overdose every day.

The president has long promised action. Is he making good on that today? Let me bring in right now, CNN chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, for much more on this. This announcement is going to be coming a little later this afternoon, Sunjay. You have followed and documented this crisis extensively. What does this declaration mean today?

SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, we're going to find out. I think there's going to be some details hopefully as to what this means because I think there's a lot of question marks right now.

First of all, it's a public health emergency we're hearing, not a national emergency. You may remember the -- that was the term used earlier, these are two different things, a national emergency typically has money attached to it, usually lasts about a year.

A public health emergency doesn't have any federal money attached to it. It's basically telling the agencies this is really important, pay attention to it, and do it for at least 90 days. So different lengths of time and different money. That's what we know, but how it translates I think, Kate, we are going to wait and see.

BOLDUAN: Well -- and that's the big question. You point out it seems in the weeds, but it is an important distinction between a public health emergency that's being announced today, a national health emergency that seems to be what president has previewed in the last few weeks.

It's not as broad as what we're likely to see today. There's not additional funding immediately attached to it. So, in your view does this fall short of what the country needs?

GUPTA: Well, I think there's, you know, specific solutions that have been long discussed by many within the public health community, you know, being able to get additional resources for counseling, rehabilitation, even for things like medically assisted therapy for people who are addicts, as you pointed out.

I mean, there are more people dying unintentionally this way than any other cause in the United States. It's remarkable. So, you know, if you're serious about it and there are solutions out there. We know those solutions cost money. We know they can be implemented.

Is it going to be enough to actually get those solutions going? You know, more so with the force that it needs? I don't know. It's tough to say. You would think they would require extra money.

BOLDUAN: Yes. But recognition on presidential level is important no matter what to talk about putting a highlight on the crisis. You've done so much work on this and we talk about it a lot, but lay out from your view how bad is the crisis right now? Where is it?

[11:05:12] GUPTA: Yes. And let me just point out, you make a good point, I think, you know, even now there are people who still look at this issue and going to hear today and say wait a second this opioid crisis is that big?


GUPTA: But, you know, even though we've been talking about it for years, I think it's still really coming into a lot of people's spheres just now. So, it's the number one cause -- accidental overdoses from drugs, number one cause of unintentional death in America today more so than car accidents and opioids are the biggest part of that.

So just think about that. All the advances we make in medicine and health this sort of erases a lot of those things, this American- manmade problem. We consume 90 percent of certain opioid classes in the United States.

We are 5 percent of the world's population, we consume 90 percent of some of the opioid classes. So, you get an idea of the problem, the demand, and the consequences.

BOLDUAN: Ninety percent, that is an astounding number and it's really just the beginning of it. Every data points that you see with this crisis is more and more astounding that you see. Great to see you, Sanjay. Let's see what president lays out today. Thank you so much.

GUPTA: Got it.

BOLDUAN: Let's discuss this and much more, joining me right now, CNN political director, David Chalian, Eliana Johnson, national political reporter for "Politico," and CNN senior political analyst, Mark Preston. Great to see you guys.

Let's get to just all the kind of breaking news that just happened in the past couple of minutes. Let's start with where we were with Sanjay, Mark, this is a moment that the president has kind of teed up for a month or so now.

Something that he talked about on the campaign trail with the opioid crisis, something that folks have been waiting to see on what he would deliver with how he has previewed this. Is he delivering today?

MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it remains to be seen. You know, as Sanjay said, this is a very complicated issue that we're dealing with right now. But as we talk about partisanship here in Washington, it seems to be an issue that everybody can rally around whether they are Republicans and Democrats.

This isn't a partisan issue. This is really, as Sanjay said, a health public crisis and many ways even though it's not going to be called a national crisis, it is a national crisis. You know, we all are affected by this. We all know somebody who has been affected by this.

It is so pervasive at this point. When people look to Washington, they're looking to Washington to help them with issues like this. We'll see now if when President Trump unveils everything, what he plans to do. Will Congress work in concert with him to really try to overcome this real terrible epidemic.

BOLDUAN: And David, this is a crisis that hits the whole country, but it also hits very hard parts of the country and parts of the electorate that supported very much Donald Trump.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: It does without a doubt and you noted, it does hit the entire country. It's just one of those horrific, you know, epidemics that just go -- I don't know a family, a neighborhood, a community, not touched by this and you are right, Donald Trump encountered this time and again on the campaign trail.

He talked about it all the time when he was in New Hampshire, his voters at rallies. He noted we are experiencing this. So, you are right it hits the communities that supported him as it does, every community.

And that gets to Mark's point about now will be the test to see. If that is the reality, can something like that bust through the partisan log jam that exists? And you heard today also, going into this event with the president, the big question that hangs out there is sort of this is the message and this is the photo op, I don't say that pejoratively.

This is, you know, the president using the bully pulpit today. What comes next after that is do you back that message up with money and medicine?

BOLDUAN: Eliana, let's talk taxes. How important was this step that happened just now in the House of Representatives in getting this budget approved?

ELIANA JOHNSON, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, "POLITICO": This step is important, but it is merely a means to the tax reform bill that is supposed to be unveiled on November 1st and I think the proof is in the pudding with that.

And we are already seeing some obstacles, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady, yesterday really struggling with whether he can lower the amount that Americans put away in their 401(k), it's $18,000 now, is he going to lower it.

He's butting heads with the president on that and some other issues. So, this was an important step, but it is merely a step. The pot full of gold at the end of the rainbow is the tax reform bill, which is supposed to be unveiled November 1st.

BOLDUAN: And David, I mean, with this outcome, now fast tracking how Republicans can get any tax bill through, do all the concerns of the state and local taxes, the 401(k)s, do they go away? Did members of Congress just lose all their leverage?

CHALIAN: I think those concerns only get amped up now, Kate. I don't think they go away at all. I think now as the actual details get revealed next week, state and local taxes, 401(k), whether or not there's an additional bracket in the millionaire category.

[11:10:07] This is -- these are going to be the hot button issues that get very, very hotly debated in Congress. So, I think all those concerns, look at the list of 20 Republicans who voted against this budget today.

Those -- they're not going away, and their votes are still going to want to be wooed. Republican leaders are going to want to see if they can bring them on board. So, it's exactly the issues that you outline that if you look at that list, you see where the leadership and the White House has their work to do.

BOLDUAN: Yes. And in speaking about the White House on this, yes, the White House laid out priorities, Mark, but has the president laid out what he's for and what he's against? Because when it came to health care kind of where this ended up was Mitch McConnell saying, tell us what you'll sign, and we'll get to it. Has the president laid that out yet?

CHALIAN: Yes, and yes, but when I say that, by doing so he's only created more confusion, right. He said 401(k)s would not be touched, which caused a lot of heartburn within the halls of Congress because they were trying to figure out how do they pay for it and by doing so could they tax 401(k)s on the front end.

And then he was -- it seemed to be against it if possible. The bottom line is that the best role right now for President Trump, for the Republican Party, is just to show leadership and stand behind the likes of Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell to let them get all the details on this squared away and then to stand behind that.

Otherwise, what it's going to do is create more chaos, more confusion and look, I think I say this and I think we know this, he's not much of a policy guy, President Trump. He doesn't really go into the details. He only looks for victories.

So, if he wants a victory, he should probably step back and allow Congress to work it out themselves and then stand behind whatever they come up with.

JOHNSON: I will say really quickly, you know -- BOLDUAN: Well, can I ask you just about the deadline because I keep

hearing about the deadline over and over again, they want -- they've got to get this done -- they want it done by Thanksgiving. They need to get it done by the end of the year. There really isn't a deadline here. Why is speed so good in and essential?

JOHNSON: You know, yes. The administration has moved the deadline several times, you know, two or three times. Now we're starting to see Congress impose some deadlines on itself and I think that's because they really see the 2018 elections on the horizon and they haven't had any legislative achievements.

So, now it's not the White House so much as House leaders, as Republican leaders in Congress, who want to see this done and I will say, the administration and the president have been absolutely unmovable on one thing and that is reducing the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 20 percent.

That does seem to me like something they are sticking by and not going to move from and the tricky thing is, while Republicans can agree on lowering tax rates, what they are squabbling about is how to make up that money elsewhere.

BOLDUAN: Yes. Who's going to feel the pain? The spinach as Bob Corker likes to say. Who is going to take the spinach? Great to see you, guys. I love spinach. Nothing against spinach.

All right. Coming up for us, we know President Trump loves Wikileaks because he has said so himself. Now we know that a firm that worked for his campaign reached out to Wikileaks with a big ask. Details on that ahead.

Plus, new shots fired in the GOP civil war, allies of Senator Mitch McConnell now responding to White House chief -- former White House chief strategist, Steve Bannon's attacks and they are not holding back. That's next.




DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Russia, if you're listening, I hope you're able to find the 30,000 e-mails that are missing.


BOLDUAN: Who could forget that moment from the campaign? July 2016, campaign -- campaign Trump -- also that, Candidate Trump during the Democratic convention actually asking Russia for help against his political opponent.

A lot of people thinking back to that today with this news coming out, a data analytics company hired by the Trump campaign contacted Wikileaks about getting access to Hillary Clinton's e-mails.

CNN crime and justice reporter, Shimon Prokupecz, is here with the details. Take us into the details. Lay it out.

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE PRODUCER: Kate, this was Cambridge Analytica, a data firm hired by the campaign and what we've learned is that they contacted Wikileaks Founder Julian Assange to see if he had obtained any e-mails related to the Hillary Clinton and whether or not at some point, they would share those e-mails with the data analytics folks.

Julian Assange yesterday, after this was revealed first by "The Daily Beast" tweeted out confirming that Cambridge Analytica reached out to them, asked for some information on e-mails but said he had rejected those claims, rejected the overture, did not agree to turn over any of the e-mails to them, and claimed he just did not want to work with them in his tweet.

BOLDUAN: But -- and also the Trump campaign is, I don't know, seemingly trying to distance themselves from this company at this point, but not so much.

PROKUPECZ: But not so much. They have certainly in a statement said that they relied on the RNC data for their campaign and have distanced themselves, but we went through some of FEC records, election records, and found that the Trump campaign paid Cambridge Analytica a substantial amount of money, some $5.9 million, in November, for some of their work. So, while they may be trying to distance themselves, there are these payments to the group.

BOLDUAN: All right. Let's see where this goes. Great to see you, Shimon. Thank you so much.

All right. Joining me now, Bryan Lanza, CNN political commentator and former deputy communications director for Donald Trump campaign, and Paul Begala, CNN political commentator, former Bill Clinton White House adviser, of course. Great to see you both of you. Brian, welcome to the contributor team.


BOLDUAN: It doesn't mean I can be any nicer to you, I'm just saying. Just ask Paul.

LANZA: It is what it is.

BOLDUAN: What do you say to this, Paul?

[11:20:09] LANZA: Yes. Listen, two things happened yesterday, you had the disclosure of Cambridge Analytica reaching out to Wikileaks and then saying we're not interested, and you also have the disclosure of Fusion GPS that has now been further tied to the Clinton campaign and the DNC and actually Fusion GPS does have some, you know, Kremlin clients.

So, if we're looking for collusion, I think the dots got a little bit closer but not with the Trump campaign but specifically with the Clinton campaign.

BOLDUAN: Let's get to -- OK, I guess, let's just go there. Are --

LANZA: Please.

BOLDUAN: Are the -- Paul, are these two things the same? The Fusion GPS and the dossier, and what we're -- what we are hearing, what we're learning about with Cambridge Analytica?

PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No. It's like saying that firefighters are the same as the arsonists. They both show up at the scene of the crime. Yes, but the Trump campaign -- now this is one more dot. If you --

BOLDUAN: You're saying is one was asking -- one was looking for help in doing something illegal taking someone's e-mails. The other one was investigating --

BEGALA: Opposition research to try to find out was Donald Trump compromised by the Russians. He is acting like he is.

BOLDUAN: How so wrong, Bryan?

LANZA: Well here, one was a simple question, like a vendor to the Trump campaign said hey, you know, Wikileaks, is there anything you can share. By the way, that's not a crime as I understand it. So, it's, you know, it's an optics problem for Cambridge Analytica, not necessarily an optics problem for the Trump campaign.

But with the Clinton example is they actually hired, and they tried to hide the hiring of Fusion GPS. Now why do they try to hide that --

BOLDUAN: Well, wait, couldn't folks say the same, that the Trump campaign is trying to distance themselves from Cambridge Analytica is the same thing, like our hands aren't on this but they are.

LANZA: Not at all because I'll tell you what, the meetings never took place. Whereas with the Clinton campaigns, we know that direct payments went into, well -- went through a third-party vendor to hide the Fusion payment and Fusion itself has some Kremlin clients. I think that's been widely reported. The intelligence community sort of has an eye on this organization. So, I think you're looking at direct tie between the Kremlin --

BOLDUAN: A direct tie?

LANZA: Direct tie. Direct tie.

BOLDUAN: There you go.

LANZA: It's certainly closer than anything Democrats have been saying about the Trump campaign.

BEGALA: Our intelligence agencies, Bryan, as you know, have said that the kremlin, Mr. Putin, was trying to influence the election to favor Mr. Trump. What we don't know -- we know that. We know that to certainty according to our own national intelligence reports.

What we don't know is whether the Trump campaign actively participated in that crime. That is the subject of a special prosecutor. So, you know, you can spin all you want and say this about Hillary, or that, that's not going to work in a grand jury.

LANZA: Absolutely it's going to work.

BEGALA: (Inaudible) the rest of these folks are all going to find themselves under oath and my free advice as a lawyer is they best not lie to the grand jury or they will go to prison. We will find out what happened and why the Trump campaign, Mr. Trump Jr. himself, Jared Kushner and the campaign chairman, were meeting on June 9th with people who they said were Russian agents bringing them dirt on Hillary Clinton from the Kremlin itself.

Why were they doing that? Why was Donald Trump in that videotape that Kate showed us on July 27th, saying, hey, Russia please hack Hillary. Why now was Cambridge Analytica in touch --

BOLDUAN: One thing I think is important -- I'm cutting you off, Paul. One thing I do think is important is one person is a failed presidential candidate, the other one is the president right now. That is the difference in what we're discussing, and I think that's why there is maybe a difference in significance and important distinction as we have the conversation.

But Brian, I want to talk about something else. Also happening right now, allies of Mitch McConnell are now talking -- taking on Steve Bannon. The Senate leadership fund has plans to fight back against Bannon in the primary battle and war against the establishment he said, that he has promised.

I want to play for you Steven Law, the head of the McConnell-linked super PAC. Listen to this.


STEVEN LAW, PRESIDENT AND CEO, SENATE LEADERSHIP FUND: Our concern about Steve Bannon is really just limited to this, that is, that candidates who get wrapped around him will have to answer for his toxic views, things that he said, his associations with the Alt-Right when Democrats make him the star of their attack ads next fall.


BOLDUAN: So, buyer beware kind of a thing. Bryan, both sides of this are actually doing something interesting, which we are saying that other is not serving the best interest of the president as they look -- as we look towards these primaries, where do you land on this one?

LANZA: Well, I mean, I land with Steve Bannon and I find it actually disgusting to see that Republicans are picking up the Nancy Pelosi playbook of trying to demonize Steve Bannon. Why don't we have a debate about the free marketplace of ideas. I mean, that's where the direction this country lies. It doesn't lie on some third-party group attacking Steve Bannon. It lies on what the voters want and what they want at this current time, they want disruption, change, something coming out of Washington that's existed and that's the uphill battle.

That Senator McConnell is he's been too much part of Washington and the Bannon's team have finally figured out how to neutralize the money advantage that McConnell had in the past in Alabama proved not to be an advantage.

[11:25:10] I'm running scared if I'm Mitch McConnell's team. I think the dynamics have changed on them significantly.

BOLDUAN: Paul, you know a thing or two about a super PAC. How do you think this plays out?

BEGALA: Well, I think it's amazing about this it's not about ideas. This is where Bryan is wrong. It's not that they have really different ideas. It's about character. If you look at what Jeff Flake said -- Senator Flake from Arizona, votes with the president 92 percent of the time. So, it's not actually about a policy change.

They all agree that they want to screw the middle class and destroy Medicare -- but it's about character. That's really different. This could be a lot harder I think to fix. Democrats had a civil war 50 years ago about civil rights and the civil rights Democrats won, the racist Democrats were expelled from the party.

That was about ideas and I think the good guys and gals won. This is not really about idea. This is about a president who many Republicans believe is dangerous to our democracy, those are Senator Flake's words not mine.

BOLDUAN: We will see where this goes. All right. Let's see. Bryan, great to see you. Paul, great to see you, kind of.

Any moment now, House Speaker Paul Ryan will be answering reporters' questions on Capitol Hill. I think there's -- I think he might be taking a victory lap, but you don't want to speak too soon. They passed the budget by a slim margin. That's one step in the road to tax reform. It's all smooth sailing from here, right. We're going to bring you his comments live.