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Trump to Rally House GOP Ahead of Big Vote on Tax Reform; Opposition Leader Says President Mugabe's Exit a Done Deal; Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired November 16, 2017 - 10:30   ET


[10:30:00] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Tax cut bill, but it is the Senate where this seems to be facing some major problems. At least one conservative, Republican senator, now says he is a no. Another one says they're concerned.

Here now, CNN political commentators Alice Stewart, Patty Solis Doyle and Nathan Gonzalez also joins us now, editor and publisher of "Inside Elections."

It's nice to have you all here.

So, Alice, I mean, you're a conservative, you're looking at this on the Senate side and you're saying wow, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin says no, Susan Collins says, you know, I have concerns, and then you've got toss-ups in Corker, Flake and potentially John McCain like on health care.

How do you see it?

ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It will be a strong battle to the finish, without a doubt. And look, I think that the things that most of the conservative Republicans here in Washington can agree on is that we do need tax reform, and the goals for the president and many of them is to reduce the tax burden on middle income Americans and reducing the corporate tax rate.

Now Ron Johnson's concern is with the corporate tax rate reduction. It puts too much emphasis on corporate tax cuts and reducing that rate from 35 to 20, and he says it does so at the harm of the small and middle sized businesses across the country which he was a small, middle-sized business owner in this country. So he understand the economics of it.

But he also says at this point the way the bill is written now he is not for it, but he's willing to talk and willing to have negotiations. And I think at the end they will come together and have some kind of consensus where it will benefit all business owners which will help the economy overall and in turn help all Americans.

HARLOW: Except they have some tricky math they're dealing with in terms of how much they can add to the deficit on this one. So that's part of the reason for the higher rate on those pass-through businesses. Nathan, Lindsey Graham, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham's words, if

we fail on taxes that's the end. He's talking about the end of the GOP majority in Congress. Is it really? Is it do or die?

NATHAN GONZALES, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, there's certainly a lot of pressure on Republicans and this is pressure from even within their own party because they believe they have to deliver on some of the campaign promises and they weren't able to deliver on repealing the Affordable Care Act so that's why it's come down to taxes and we're seeing that it's not easy.

I think what's fascinating on the House side and with your conversation recently with Congressman Lewis is he is one of the most vulnerable Republican incumbents in the House right now, and I think he's feeling that pressure to pass something, but some of his colleagues who are also vulnerable are saying that they can't support it in its current form, specifically some House members in New York, and so politically I'm not sure how that works.

If -- you know, if Republicans feel like they have to demonstrate something to voters but these members vote against it, is that good if they're voting against the bad plan or do they go to the voters and they still don't have anything to show for it?

HARLOW: Yes. And he said to me, look, I don't think that -- you know, Congressman Lewis of Minnesota, I don't think the corporate tax rate should be the only ones that are permanent, which is how it was in the Senate bill. He wouldn't go so far as to say whether that would preclude him from voting for it.

But some of his other criticism of all this, Patti, to you as the Democrat on this panel, is he says the Democrats aren't doing anything. They're not helping us, they're not coming to the table the way they did before in the '80s. How much onus is on the Democrats or do you think it behooves the Democrats to sit back and watch?

PATTI SOLIS DOYLE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Look, I think it's a -- in its current form, certainly on the Senate side, it's a bad bill. And as a Democrat I ask myself, what is worse for the Republicans right now? Not passing anything and not having one major accomplishment to show in the midterm elections or passing a bad bill, a bill basically that takes 13 million people off insurance rolls because they're trying to add the repealing of the individual mandate and a bill that really benefits the rich and CEOs.

You know, their tax rate is permanent in this bill and the tax cuts for the middle class, for those who do get a tax cut, expires in seven years. So if I'm a Democrat --

HARLOW: The individual rates -- the individual rates are temporary and sunset across the board no matter how rich you are in the Senate bill. But the corporate tax rates, I hear you.

I would just say, though, Patti, on the 13 million number, yes, the CBO says if you pull the individual mandate requirement, 13 million fewer people will have coverage than they do now in a decade but a lot of those are because they won't be buying insurance but then that sends premiums up 10 percent. So you've got an issue here on both sides.

SOLIS DOYLE: Exactly. And look at Virginia two weeks ago. The number one issue for people in Virginia that caused them to come out and vote in the droves that they came out was health care. They wanted to keep their health care. They did not like the attempts to repeal and replace, at least not the versions that the Republicans came out with, so again, if I'm a Republican, I'm asking myself what's worse at this point for them.

HARLOW: How do you see it, Nathan, as a political reporter? I mean, you know, tax reform is not just a Republican agenda item. I mean this is something that pretty much all American voters want.

[10:35:04] It's not number one on their list, but they want some sort of tax reform and a lot of Democrats want it, too.

Does it behoove -- same question I asked Patti -- Democrats right now to sit by on this one?

GONZALES: Well, I think Democrats have to find a line. I think, you know, the plan that's out there right now isn't particularly popular and so being against it is good, but also I don't think voters want a party or a politician to reflexively in opposition to everything. So Democrats have to find a balance.

The Republicans are in the majority and so the pressure is on them to deliver and if they don't -- it's not just about passing something. I think then Republicans are going to have to convince voters that it was the right bill and voters have to feel it. If voters don't feel like this is impacting them in a positive way and we head into the 2018 elections then voters are going to be looking for a change and that's where Democrats are hoping to rise up and say hey, we're here, you don't like what's going on, give us a chance.

HARLOW: Alice, to you on Roy Moore, the Alabama Senate candidate. The president still has not weighed in, and he's been back from Asia now for, you know, 48 hours. His daughter used very strong language to condemn Roy Moore, saying there's a special place in hell for people that prey on children.

Why do you believe we are still not hearing from the president on this one?

STEWART: Well, to be honest, I mean we can all agree that he doesn't really have the moral high ground when it comes to objectifying women and comments that are disrespectful to women, but at the end of the day we can all agree that the behavior and the accusations against Judge Moore are disgusting and in my view they're disqualifying.

But clearly he is remaining defiant, he is standing up to the accusers, and he is casting the blame and shadow of a doubt on the accusers and their attorneys and the press, and if he continues to make this about a war on the media and war on the accusers, people in Alabama will more than likely stand with him. Here's the problem, President Trump is the leader of the Republican

Party. He is the -- it's time for him to show leadership. He needs to put aside any other qualms he may have about stepping in but he needs to step in. We need to put principles and character above party. The outcomes of what will happen.

And in my view, Judge Moore needs to step aside. We need to get behind a quality Republican candidate to be a write-in in Alabama to have someone that the people of Alabama can be proud of and has the type of values that the GOP represents and stands for.

HARLOW: Exactly.

STEWART: But at the end of the day clearly the people of Alabama have the decision to make, but as a party, we need to put principles above all.

HARLOW: They are the ones, the voters of Alabama, are the only ones at this point who will decide in 26 days who they want to represent them.

Alice, thank you. Patti, nice to have you, and Nathan, appreciate you joining us.

A big part of the Republican tax plan would allow, as we were talking about, corporations to repatriate money, bring it back to the United States, at a significantly lower tax rate. Possibly trillions of dollars. The thinking is that would create jobs. That is not the answer the White House chief economic adviser Gary Cohn got from a number of CEOs this week when asked how would they use the tax savings. Watch this.


JOHN BUSSEY, ASSOCIATE EDITOR, WALL STREET JOURNAL: If the tax reform bill goes through, do you plan to increase investment -- your company's investment, capital investment? Just a show of hands. If the tax reform goes through. OK.



HARLOW: That's a big optics problem for the White House. So the CEO of a big billion dollar technology company Salesforce says that is why there have to be restrictions on how this money can be used if it's brought back from overseas. Here's what Marc Benioff told me.


MARC BENIOFF, CEO, SALESFORCE: I do think the repatriation would be a very healthy thing for our economy. First of all I think it's a very healthy thing for the government because the government should be able to ring the register as that money is coming back. I'd love to see the government be able to take 15, 20 percent right off the top, which is great for taxes and great for the government in terms of the Treasury, but number two, I think it's great for these companies because they can take this cash and they can use it to invest.

Now some of them might want to use it for buyback, stock buybacks, I think that should be restricted, maybe they're going to -- maybe they're going to just use it to distribute the cash to their shareholders. I think that the cash needs to be used to actually grow our economy, to hire locally.

I'm sure, you know, Salesforce is a company that builds most of its technology already in the United States. I think it's a great opportunity when they bring this cash back, to really focus on growing these companies right here in the United States. I think it's a huge opportunity.

HARLOW: That's interesting. I mean, you put some qualifiers on it. You say, you know, you can't just do buybacks and dividend payouts. You got to, you know, invest it in ways that will better society.


HARLOW: You can hear much more of what he has to say on that and a lot more in my podcast "Boss Files."

[10:40:00] You can subscribe on iTunes. We will be right back.


HARLOW: The president of Zimbabwe is under house arrest this morning after the military seized control of state institutions yesterday. The opposition leader says this is not a coup, but he also says President Mugabe's exit is, quote, "a done deal."

Let's go to our CNN international correspondent Farai Sevenzo. He joins us now from Zimbabwe.

So who is in charge right now?

FARAI SEVENZO, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Poppy, I have to say that things haven't really changed in the 48 hours since this apparent coup took place. The army, the men in camouflage, are the people running the country.

As I've driven to Harare this morning, there's a marked absence of ordinary Zimbabwe Republic Police but what is on the streets are soldiers.

[10:45:08] They are in charge of key installations. And now the opposition are talking about a possible done deal, but we have yet to hear from the 93-year-old leader Robert Mugabe himself. And whatever deals are being talked about there is nothing for us as reporters to verify their veracity.

First of all you have to remember that one of the key people missing in this conversation is the man Robert Mugabe fired a few days ago, Emmerson Mnangagwa. It's highly unlikely that the army took the move they did to arrest Mr. Robert Mugabe or rather to put him under house arrest without Mr. Mnangagwa's knowledge. So there are various players still to speak, to sort this out, and of course remember, Poppy, Zimbabwe is due to have an election in -- in 2018.

Whether that election will go ahead without Mr. Mugabe, or whether he will resign peacefully, or whether Mr. Mnangagwa will take over there's still very many questions left to answer. But the capital is calm, people are going about their ordinary business, foreign embassies have asked their citizens including the United States to stay indoors and to stay calm, but at the moment this city is very calm. The sun is setting on a fairly wet day. The springs have begun. And this story is still to unravel, Poppy.

HARLOW: It certainly is. I mean, you think of someone like Mugabe who's held power so tightly for so long, just stepping down, you know, ahead of these elections, it's hard to wrap your head around that.

I will ask you, though, how other world leaders are responding to this, clearly watching it very closely.

SEVENZO: They are watching it very closely. Of course there's been noises coming out of the British Foreign secretary, out of Washington, but the most important thing within Zimbabwe and Africa is that the wheels of diplomacy have started to churn. There are people meeting in the Southern Africa Development Cooperation in Angola. The African Union is talking about it.

They're trying to resolve the situation as peacefully as they can because of course if it tips the other way the whole region stands to lose because people will be fleeing in their numbers. But at the moment we're not there yet. It looks like it's going to be contained diplomatically.

HARLOW: Farai Sevenzo, we appreciate the reporting on the ground there from the capital Harare in Zimbabwe. Thank you very much.

So ahead for us, President Trump tweeting some life advice to the three UCLA basketball players arrested for shoplifting in China. More in this morning's "Bleacher Report" next.


[10:51:57] HARLOW: The UCLA players who were arrested for shoplifting in China thanked President Trump yesterday for helping them. This morning the president tweeted, "You're welcome," and also some life advice.

Andy Scholes has more on this morning's "Bleacher Report."

Good morning.

ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Hey, good morning, Poppy. This "Bleacher Report" presented by the new 2018 Ford F-150.

And President Trump asked for a thank you yesterday from the UCLA players and he got it and this morning he tweeted to those players, "You're welcome. Go out and give a big thank you to President Xi of China who made your release possible and have a great life. Be careful, there are many pitfalls on the long and winding road of life."

Now President Trump spoke with Chinese President Xi on the three UCLA players' behalf while he was in China last week and the players expressing their gratitude yesterday.


LIANGELO BALL, UCLA BASKETBALL PLAYER: I would also like to thank President Trump and the United States government for the help that they provided as well.

CODY RILEY, UCLA BASKETBALL PLAYER: To President Trump and the United States government, thank you for taking the time to intervene on our behalf.

JALEN HILL, UCLA BASKETBALL PLAYER: And thank you to the United States government and President Trump for your efforts to bring us home.


SCHOLES: Now UCLA's athletic director confirming that the players stole from three different high end stores in China and Coach Steve Alfred said that three are suspended indefinitely from the program.

All right. Power struggle within the NFL taking another turn. The league sending a cease and desist letter to Cowboys owner Jerry Jones if he doesn't stop meddling in the Roger Goodell extension talks. The league is threatening fines, loss of draft picks and the suspension for Jones.

There are multiple reports that owners have actually discussed removing Jones as the owner of the Cowboys. Now in the letter from the NFL to Jones' attorney, the league says Jones has, quote, "antics, whatever their motivation, are damaging the league."

Now Jones has threatened to sue the NFL if Goodell is given a contract extension.

Now in the meantime Ezekiel Elliott's suspension, that whole saga, officially over. He's decided to end the appeals process and serve his six-game suspension. Elliott missed his first game this past Sunday against the Falcons.

And finally the Panthers' Devin Funchess played with extra purpose on Monday night. Before the game he told Tina Palmer that he'd score a touchdown for her and Palmer is the mother of 22-year-old Army Sergeant Dillon Baldridge who died while fighting in Afghanistan last June. And Funchess wore Baldridge's initials on his helmet during the game. He scored not once but twice in that one and the Panthers tweeting out these pictures of Funchess meeting with Palmer.

As you can see they shared a hug and Funchess gave her the ball that he scored a touchdown with.

And, Poppy, you know, Funchess said the Baldridge story really hit home for him because he's just two months older than Baldridge and he said it was an honor to meet his mother.

HARLOW: I love seeing that. Way to end it with good news, Andy. Thank you, my friend.

SCHOLES: All right, Poppy.

HARLOW: All right. We are minutes away from the president's visit to Capitol Hill. He is set to meet with House Republicans on tax reform. Maybe he should take a trip over to the Senate side, a bit more problem there for Republicans on the Senate version of the tax bill.

Kate Bolduan has much more ahead for you right after this.



ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. We are following breaking news. In just minutes President Trump is heading to Capitol Hill meeting with House Republicans for a last-minute pep talk or could it be more of a victory lap before the victory?

As the House approaches a huge moment, now hours away from voting and likely passing their overhaul to the nation's tax code. Good news for Republicans there, but on the Senate side signs of trouble. Their version of a tax plan is still in the works but one Republican --