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White House Press Briefing; Trump's Safety Overseas; North Korea's Missile Capability; Trump Says Terror Suspect Should Get Death Penalty; Trump Speaks About Tax Plan. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired November 2, 2017 - 14:00   ET

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


[14:00:00] H.R. MCMASTER, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Five million refugees, mass murder of their own people with chemical weapons. Who stood up against Assad to prevent even further murder of chemical weapons? The president did.

I mean, if you look at -- at the policy toward Venezuela, a regime that is -- that -- that -- that is consolidating its grip on power and denying their citizens their rights, the president's taken a very strong stance, along with our great Latin American partners, and on -- on -- on Venezuela.

So I -- I would just say, look at the actions, right? Look at the Cuba policy. Look at the shift from the old Cuba policy, that enabled an autocratic regime, and a new Cuba policy which incentivizes human rights and the development of free enterprise. For example, in Cuba...

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) excuse me, sir, but I've -- I've asked you, actually in this room several times because -- I'll bring it up again -- because you mentioned Venezuela, that, you know, the president and this administration has on many occasions condemned what's going on in Venezuela, but has not done the same thing with other leaders in the Philippines, and in Turkey, and also in Russia. The president seems to have no problem with some authoritarian regimes but problems with others.

And I'll ask you one more time: Why is Venezuela different from Turkey or Russia or the Philippines?

MCMASTER: Well, I think -- I think what the president's focused on is -- is being effective; effective in advancing and protecting human rights and advancing the rule of law. You've seen him -- him do that in his -- in his relationship with -- we've seen him do it quietly in every relationship.

And so -- so did -- how much does it help to -- to -- to yell about these problems? It -- it hasn't really delivered, in recent history anyway.

And so, I -- I don't think that you should assume anything because -- because you're not in the meetings, you're not in the phone calls. And -- and -- and the president has done quite a bit and will continue to do more to advance and protect human rights, across -- across all of our relationships. (CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: With the president in the region, is there any concern or expectation that it could cause the North Korean regime to ratchet up their aggression? And are we doing anything proactively to prepare for some sort of acceleration of tensions?

MCMASTER: Yes, well, the -- the -- the only -- the only thing that is -- is -- is ratcheting up North Korea's aggression is -- is that -- is the North Korean itself.

And so, what's important is for us to -- to have the capabilities necessary and to have them in the right locations to deter conflict and then, if necessary, to be able to respond to North Korean aggression.

And -- and we're doing that really with -- with our allies and -- and partners in the region; primarily our great South Korean allies, who live literally under the gun of that regime and -- and have since the armistice in 1953. And so -- so we are working together with our South Korean allies every day to make sure the -- we have the highest degree of readiness.

And, of course, you've seen the -- the -- the -- the most recent -- or some of the most recent provocations involving missile launches over Japan. And -- and -- and North Korea poses a great threat to -- to our ally Japan as well.

MCMASTER: But as I mentioned, this is a -- a global threat that -- that -- that requires a global response. Improving our military readiness, ensuring that we have the right assets, including strategic assets, in -- in the region, is -- is immensely important to preventing conflict. And then, making sure that we're prepared to respond.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: General, there are some foreign policy experts, some intelligence experts who believe that the only route to a negotiated settlement between the United States and North Korea that would have China's support would be a very strong pledge from the United States not to seek regime change in North Korea, and also to remove U.S. forces from the Korean Peninsula and provide other methods for South Korea's defense.

Is that something that this White House would even entertain?

MCMASTER: Well, we're always assessing our strategies and policies based on the degree to which we think they're effective.

Now, right now, we've said the goal is denuclearization of the peninsula, period. And what you've seen is just the very beginning, maybe the end of the beginning, of -- of the president's strategy, in the form of new sanctions in place now. Much more work to do to isolate the regime diplomatically and economically, and I think we have to be a little patient here at least for a few months to see, you know, what more we and others can do, including China, as some of you mentioned at the beginning.

So I -- I don't think we need to reassess our strategy now. I think we have to give it a couple months -- few months and then see what adjustments we might need to make.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: Can I ask you about bilateral trade? (inaudible) obviously made that a point of this visit.

Can you talk about who is going to be leading the U.S. conversations about trade since we know that Secretary Mnuchin is not going? That -- we don't have confirmation whether it's Ivanka or Jared or -- or even the USTR. Can you talk about who's going to be leading those conversations?

MCMASTER: So -- so our -- certainly our USTR is going to be leading those -- the -- the discussions on trade. In terms of trade, economic development, economic practices, it'll be our USTR and then at times will be reinforced by other -- other members of the president's team.

[14:05:22] MCMASTER: But, really, it is the president's trip, so the president is actually going to be leading the discussions on trade and on security. And the rest of us are there -- just there to support really his engagements and to make the most out of the visits as we can.

So, thanks everybody. Thanks, everybody.

QUESTION: Sarah, will you stay for a couple of others?

QUESTION: Hey, Sarah.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: OK. Wow, right, no Sarah Sanders. That was H.R. McMaster taking center stage for us in -- in the hot seat in the briefing today. National security adviser here on the eve of the president's big Asia swing. He said the president is thinking about putting North Korea back on the list of state terrorist sponsors. He said that that is something that the cabinet is looking into.

Plus, he weighed in on the president calling for the death penalty for the New York City terror attack suspect.

So we've got a lot to delve into this afternoon, but let's go first to our Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr, who has some new reporting.

But I want to ask you about that in just a second. But, Barbara, you know, in addition to H.R. McMaster talking about potentially, you know, thinking about putting North Korea on this, you know, terror sponsor list, he was also asked about the president's safety.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: You know, he was. And sometimes this is a question that comes up when any president travels overseas. It needs to be said time and again that the United States Secret Service is responsible for the protection of any president of the United States. And that military forces are on standby around the world wherever the president is if any help is need. South Korea has some 27,000 U.S. troops. I don't think the Secret Service at this point anticipates that they would not be able to protect the president.

He goes to Asia, obviously, with North Korea topping the list of national security concerns, and North Korea missile and nuclear warhead program. H.R. McMaster being very clear, as the national security adviser, that the U.S. would continue to have the policy to defend itself and use every method, every option it has to do so against North Korean aggression.

But where do we stand right now as the president's about to take off? Well, what we know, officials are telling CNN, North Koreans are moving ahead very fast on their missile and warhead program. They're trying to develop an even more advanced intercontinental ballistic missile that can strike the United States. They're trying to improve their nuclear fuel, their rocket motors, their targeting, their accuracy, the ability to have warheads that can reenter the atmosphere and actually reach a target at intercontinental ranges. All of these things add up to this accelerated North Korean threat that you are hearing so many leaders talk about, Brooke.

BALDWIN: All right, so all of your reporting and knowing this here in the background of this huge, huge swing through Asia.

The other big topic, H.R. McMaster weighing in on the president's call for the death penalty for this terror suspect here in New York City. So I've got Gloria Borger joining me, our CNN chief political analyst, and Joan Biskupic, our CNN legal analyst.

But, Gloria, to you first.

You know, when H.R. McMaster was asked about it, he essentially said it was more of a generic answer. I wrote something down to the effect of, you know, the president just wants to make sure the American people are safe. And that's why we're seeing, you know, in big capital letters on his Twitter feed, you know, should get the death penalty. But, obviously, there are questions about whether that jumps in the way of prosecution and maybe even helps the defense.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Sure. I mean that -- it does raise the questions. Look, I think it sort of unnecessarily complicates matters to a degree. But he wouldn't be the first president who, after a terror attack, has jumped in and said somebody deserves the death penalty, they ought to be brought to justice, you know, et cetera, et cetera. I think that it's sort of a political -- it's a political statement.

Of course, you know, a defense -- the defense can say, yes, you know, the president of the United States has put his thumb on the scales of justice and should not -- and should not be doing that. But I think that particularly when you consider that this is in the state of New York, I think that, you know, what the president says is not, you know, is not going to be dispositive one way or another.

BALDWIN: Joan, I want to hear just how -- how his words may matter when it comes to court of law.

JOAN BISKUPIC, CNN SUPREME COURT ANALYST: Yes, and it probably will matter. It probably will not wreck the option for prosecutors, but it will complicate it. Because what happens is that they're going to have to make a case to the judge in the situation to say, we want the death penalty if indeed prosecutors decide to do that. And part of making their case is to show that it arose from a deliberative, thoughtful process that involved this particular defendant in these particular circumstances. And the last thing that any judge wants in a capital case with the ultimate penalty is sort of a knee-jerk response. So that's where it will hurt, not, as I said, not wreck, but potentially hurt prosecutors as they make the case to say, we've thought it out, this is why this individual definitely deserves the death penalty.

And it comes into play, for example, in the selection of jurors.

BORGER: Right.

BISKUPIC: And I think that an argument might be made that he could be tainting a jury pool, but some other people might think, well, no, he's -- you know, there's so many factors to this episode on Halloween and most people will be thinking about how individuals were mowed down rather than the president's tweets.

BALDWIN: Right.

BISKUPIC: But then it will affect, obviously, the sentencing phase, if we get to that point.

BALDWIN: Right. Right. Some people pointed out, on a much lesser degree, the travel ban --

BISKUPIC: Right.

BALDWIN: And how, you know, ultimately it was the president's words, right, that were used against him.

BISKUPIC: That's right. Yes.

BALDWIN: Gloria and Joan, thank you.

BISKUPIC: Sure.

BALDWIN: We have so much more to discuss. I have three people sitting next to me now. We're going to discuss both sides of this and whether past presidents, as Gloria pointed out, they have indeed done the same thing.

Also new details in this investigation, including what the suspect is requesting from his New York hospital room and why he was targeting additional places.

You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[14:16:02] BALDWIN: All right. We're back. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

Just moments ago, we saw the national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, weighing in on President Trump's controversial tweets calling for the death penalty for the terror suspect accused of running over innocent people, bikers, in New York City. Here is his response to a question from CNN's Sara Murray just moments ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SARA MURRAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'd like to talk for a second about the president weighing in on the man who's been charged with mowing down pedestrians in New York City. He called for the death penalty. Have there been any conversations in the White House about how that could complicate prosecutors efforts and even help the defense claim that this person can't get a fair trial?

H.R. MCMASTER, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: What the president wants is to secure the American people from this -- from this threat and from mass murders like this, murders like this. And so what he's asked is for options to take a look to assess if our tremendous law enforcement teams and our judicial system has all the tools they need to be able to combat this threat to the American people. So what we owe him now is we owe him options. You know, options to take a look at to see if this is -- if this is the time to reassess, change our capabilities in this area, in the area of law enforcement in particular.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: So McMaster's words coming after the president tweeted last night, NYC terrorist was happy as he asked to hang ISIS flag in his hospital room. He killed eight people, badly injured 12. And then in all caps, should get death penalty.

And then the president wakes up this morning, sends out another tweet here. Again, you see it highlighted, death penalty.

So I've got Peter Beinart, CNN political commentator and a contributing editor at "The Atlantic," Samantha Vinograd, CNN national security analyst and former adviser on President Obama's national security council, and Ed Martin, CNN political commentator and co- author of "The Conservative Case for Trump."

Good to see all of you.

PETER BEINART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Good seeing you too, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Let's dive right in. Ed Martin.

ED MARTIN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes.

BALDWIN: The death penalty tweets.

MARTIN: Yes.

BALDWIN: Good idea? Do you support it? MARTIN: Well, I -- I enjoy and support the president's energy. And so

here's what I'd say. Two things. One is, New York got rid of the death penalty, so there's no state option for the state prosecutor. So when the president's saying as the head of the federal government, he's the head of the Justice Department, it's not independent, he's saying, this is our preference.

I respect Joan's point about how it may complicate a jury --

BALDWIN: He's the head of the executive branch, referring to the president.

MARTIN: Yes, the president.

BALDWIN: Right.

MARTIN: So he's the guy that gets to say that. He can say his preference. He may -- we may wish -- some people may say, don't tweet it, but he's the one saying, I'm the guy who's in charge of enforcing this law. We're going to go after this guy with the death penalty. And I think McMaster is right, people want to know they're safe.

BALDWIN: Forgive me. Actually, here's the president. Let's dip in.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The next level.

Before we begin, I want to make a brief announcement.

I had an excellent meeting today with Chairman Grassley and other lawmakers on immigration reform following the terrorist attack in New York. I'm calling on Congress to immediately terminate the diversity visa lottery program. It's a disaster for our country.

This program grants visa not on a basis of merit but simply because applicants are randomly selected in an annual lottery. And the people put in that lottery are not that country's finest.

We know that the program presents significant vulnerabilities to our national security. It's a very unsafe program for our country. And we're not going to allow it to happen. We're going to end that program. So I think Congress will take that up very quickly.

Additionally, Congress must end chain migration so that we can have a system that is security based, not the way it is now. And we want a system ultimately that's merit based so we can bring in people that will help our country, grow our country, and be safe for our country. We want to select people based on their ability to contribute to our country, not choose people randomly, we have no idea who they are, or based on extended family connections. You have people bringing in 24, 25, 26 people when they come in. We have to end chain migration.

[14:20:15] With that being said, this is a big tax cut day. And I want to thank some of the people. Naturally, Paul. A great press conference you just had -- fantastic job.

SPEAKER RYAN: Thank you, appreciate it. TRUMP: Paul Ryan has really led an effort and he had some awfully good help. He said, "Do you mind calling Diane Black?" I called Diane Black, and you came through, Diane. (Laughter.) Although let's wait about a month and a half -- (laughter) or less. It could be less.

And Peter -- where's Peter? I saw you on television. Peter, you were fantastic today, and we appreciate it very much. I know how hard you work.

Kevin McCarthy -- we just did one where Broadcom is moving back to the United States -- into the United States -- one of the top companies; it's a Fortune 100 company. And we just had a news conference with Kevin McCarthy and -- hello, Kevin.

MAJORITY LEADER MCCARTHY: Hello.

TRUMP: It's been a long time.

MAJORITY LEADER MCCARTHY: I know. (Laughter.)

TRUMP: But, Kevin, you were -- really have been fantastic. And a man named Kevin Brady -- boy oh boy.

CHAIRMAN BRADY: Thank you, Mr. President.

TRUMP: He doesn't stop. He doesn't stop. And there's nobody like him, and we really appreciate it, I have to tell you.

But it's really a great team. We have a great team. And it's a team that loves what they're doing, they love the American people, they love this country, and they're going to get it done. It's tax cuts, it's tax reform, and we added the word "jobs" because it's all about jobs. We're going to have tremendous numbers of jobs pouring in.

So in a few days I'll be traveling to Asia to advance America's economic and national security priorities. I will miss you folks. (Laughter.) I will miss everyone at this table. (Laughter.) I'll be back in 11 days, but I know things will go well because there really is -- there's a great spirit, there's a great popularity for what we're doing in this country. They want it, they need it, they have to have it. So it's been terrific.

But I'm counting on all of you to help maintain a momentum on the tax cuts and tax reform during that time. I have no doubt you'll be able to do it.

While I'm in Asia, members of the Cabinet will be traveling around the country talking directly to taxpayers and focusing on the regional media, which I actually find to be a very, very honorable media. We do very nicely with the regional -- I love regional media -- these folks. (Laughter.)

Of course, Secretary Mnuchin, Director Cohn, and my entire economic team will remain totally focused on tax reform and will continue to work closely with all of you. And I think for all, they've been working extremely closely. The relationship, Kevin, has been terrific.

CHAIRMAN BRADY: Absolutely.

TRUMP: We'll be with you all the way, 100 percent.

I want to also have a bill on my desk, hopefully, Kevin, by Thanksgiving. If that's possible. And I want everybody in this room standing by my me, and we'll add some others, as we sign.

And thank you, again, for the incredible job you've all done. Some of the tax cuts and simplification work that we're going to be doing for families, they include a doubling of the standard deduction, so more income is taxed at the zero rate. The first $24,000 for a married couple and $12,000 for singles, will be completely income or tax free.

So, that's something. That's a tremendous thing right there. So, we're going to be having a big zero in front of a lot of people who are working very hard and they can't make ends meet.

We're going to reduce income tax rates for individuals, increase the child tax credit, and extend it to more middle-income families -- a far larger group; repeal the alternative minimum tax; end the estate tax, or the death tax as it's commonly called; retain tax incentives for mortgages, charitable contributions, work, higher education, retirements. We have a lot things that are the important generators in our economy.

Most Americans will be able to file taxes on a single sheet of paper. What do you think about that, Kevin? You still there, or is it going to be a paper and a half?

CHAIRMAN BRADY: -- start with (inaudible).

(The President is given a document.)

TRUMP: Oh. (Laughter.) Great job. Thank you. I didn't know I was going to be given a prop. (Laughter.)

CHAIRMAN BRADY: Sorry about that. Sorry, Mr. President. It's yours, it's yours. (Laughter.)

TRUMP: Thank you. But we think we're going to be able to do that. And if we have it the way it is now, as of this moment, that's what we're going to be having.

CHAIRMAN BRADY: Yes, sir.

TRUMP: It's going to make life very simple. The only people that aren't going to like this is H&R Block, they're not going to be very happy. That's probably one of the only companies in the country that's not going to be thrilled.

We're going to make America globally competitive, again. Our corporate tax rate is 60 percent higher than our average competition. We'll slash the corporate rate from 35 percent to no more than 20 percent. That's truly one of the big things in the bill. What that's going to do is create tremendous success for companies and jobs. It's about jobs.

For five years, expense the full cost of new equipment in the year you buy it. Something that, personally, I've never heard about in terms of when I was a businessman. In fact, that's a great incentive for everybody to want to be business people. I think that's going to be one of the great -- you know when people talk about the different elements, Paul, that's -- they don't' talk about that. That's going to be one of the great sleepers in this bill -- expense in one year.

We're going to move from a worldwide system to a territorial system -- tremendous change. In 2016, American multinational companies kept 71 percent of their foreign-earned profits overseas. We're imposing a one-time low tax to bring back all of that corporate money.

Now, we think it's probably in the neighborhood of $4 trillion will be brought back into our economy, into our country. And that'll produce tremendous growth, and jobs, and lots of other things.

The Council of Economic Advisers estimates that the corporate tax reforms would increase average household income by $4,000. We're reducing tax rates for S corporations, partnerships and sole proprietors, which really affects a large percentage of our people and our taxpayers.

If the growth rate of real GDP increases by just 1 percent, we're talking about $2.5 trillion and millions of jobs. So if we go up to 4, as an example, we're talking about $2.5 trillion. And I personally think we can go higher. Last quarter we did 3, and that took off, I think you can figure, at least a point for hurricanes. We had five hurricanes, essentially. And we actually hit the 3 number. The quarter before we hit 3.2. When we started we were at 1 -- a little bit more than 1. And now we're at 3, 3.2, and I think we would have hit 4. People are predicting 4 for next quarter. We'll see, but I've always said that it could be quite a bit higher than that.

A lot of that is rules, regulations. In the history of our country, no President, during their entire term, has cut more regulations than we've cut. We've cut that in 10 months, and we have a lot more to do. We have some statutory requirements we have to give notice. And you know what this is, Diane. You give a 30-day, then a 90-day, you have 120-day notice, and then you can start thinking about it. Well, we've given those notices, and we have a lot of cutting left. But we've probably cut out about 48 percent, and we're going to be quite a bit higher than that. And it's one of the reasons that we're doing as well as we're doing.

The stock market has hit a new high close to 60 times during the course of this presidency, this administration, this group of people sitting around this table. We're close to 60. And that's something that's very special, and I haven't looked today, but perhaps we'll make it an extra one because I hear we're doing very well today.

But a lot of that is having to do with optimism. There's tremendous optimism. The highest they've had -- business and manufacturing optimism is the highest it's been since the chart. So I think what's going to happen is the one element that's missing is taxes. We're one of the highest-taxed countries in the world. And we're going to get really down to be one of the lower taxed. We won't be the lowest, but we'll get that maybe the next time. But we're going to be one of the lowest taxed, and we will be competitive again with the rest of the world.

You look at China, they're at 15 percent. You look at some countries, they're quite a bit lower than that. But at 20 percent, we're very, very competitive with the rest of the world. And so we're going to be -- you're going to see numbers and you're going to see growth, and you're going to see jobs, and you're going to see, really, wages going up. And something we're seeing now is, for the first time in a long time, wages are starting to rise for people. In some cases, they've been 18 to 21 years without a real salary increase or a wage increase.

So a lot of good things are happening, but this is the final element -- tax cuts and tax reform. And it's an honor to work with my fellow Republicans.

[14:30:00] I think we're going to actually have some Democrat support. I think it's going to be very, very hard for them not to support it. There was a certain newspaper that wrote today that your competition was out there trying