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EARLY START

Trump Plans To Get Tax Reform Done This Year; Trump Escalates Gold Star Family Feud; Trump Admin Has Blind Spot On Russia; Debris Disaster In Puerto Rico; Fundraiser For Marijuana Farms Shut Down; Revelation Bad News For Fox News and O'Reilly. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired October 23, 2017 - 04:30   ET

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


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[04:30:25] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Tax cuts will be the biggest cuts ever in the history of this country.

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CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: President Trump wants tax reform done and soon. The he says Republicans are on the verge of history and he is going to do it in year's end.

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: The President still going after Democratic congresswoman who publicized his call to a gold star widow. Now she is demanding an apology after the chief of staff called her an empty barrel. Welcome back to Early Start everybody I am Dave Briggs.

ROMANS: And I am Christine Romans. It is exactly 30 minutes past the hour, it is Monday morning. The President urging House members to pass the Senate's budget this week paving the way for tax reform. He said the move would be historic during a GOP conference call on Sunday. Telling the Fox news he wants it done by the end of the year. The President dismissing the critique that his plan would predominantly benefit the rich. He called that a Democratic talking point. Zeroing in on senate minority leader Chuck Schumer.

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TRUMP: I like Schumer, but before he knows the plan he says this is for rich. He doesn't even know what the plan is. And he is swimming for the rich.

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ROMANS: The White House has been selling tax reform as a boom to the middle class. We know this has got big corporate tax cuts in it. That is what really is the center piece of Wall Street is interested in. Ivanka Trump is traveling to Pennsylvania today to pitch the expanded child tax credit. Still the biggest tax benefits got to the wealthy. Many key details disproportionately favor the rich. House Speaker Paul Ryan said Friday that House Republicans will proposed a new top income tax rates, raising taxes on the highest earners. The President seemed to walk back this promise in his interview with Maria Bartiromo. The President also said he wasn't concerned his plan leads to a larger deficit explaining it will spur economic growth, it will pay for the cuts. Many economists disagree with that projection. They're still wondering how this can be a deficit neutral.

BRIGGS: Achieving any of the President's legislative goals will require Republican unity on Capitol Hill. Something Party leaders say they're confident they can achieve. Senator Majority Leader Mitch McConnell down playing, sniping between the president and congressional Republicans. Appearing on CNN State of the Union he emphasize their shared agenda, but after seeing the President waiver on a bipartisan health bill last week McConnell says Trump needs to be clearer on what he actually willing to sign.

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SEN. MITCH MCCONNEL, R-KY.: We need a bill the President will actually sign. And I'm not certain yet what the President's looking for here, but I'll be happy to bring a bill to the floor if I know President Trump would sign it.

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ROMANS: McConnell sharply critical of former White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon and others who are working to defeat what they call establishment Republicans. "Fox News" ask the McConnell about Bannon's crusade to back primary opponents for nearly all senate Republicans running next year.

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MCCONNEL: This is not about personalities. This is about achievement and in order to make policy, you have to actually win the election. The kind of people that are supported by the element that you just have been referring to are specialists in defeating Republican candidates in November.

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BRIGGS: To McConnell's point Bannon did back a winning challenger in the Alabama senate primary Roy Moor, but in a recent Fox news poll that deep red state has more tide with Democrats unthinkable.

In December election McConnell also told CNN he trusted President Trump as a negotiating partner. As about Trump's attacks on him, McConnell replied quote, not particularly concern.

ROMANS: The widow of slain Sergeant La David Johnson said to give her first national interview since her husband and three other soldiers were killed in ambush in Niger earlier this month. She expected to discuss the condolence call she receive from President Trump in an interview that airs this morning with ABC. The controversy from that condolence call publicized by Democratic congresswoman has not subsided.

BRIGGS: Certainly not. The President tweeting whacky Congresswoman Wilson is a gift that keeps on giving Republican Party a disaster for Dems, watch her in action and vote R. President says his chief of staff John Kelly was outraged by Congressman Wilson listening in, in his words, on the condolence call.

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TRUMP: He was so offended that a woman would be, that somebody would be listening to that call. He was, he actually couldn't belief it. Actually, he said to me, sir, this is not acceptable. This is really not acceptable.

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[04:35:04] ROMANS: We should know the congresswoman was invited by Mrs. Johnson to listen in on the President's call. It was on speaker phone in the car. They were on their way to receive her husband's body. It did not take long for Congresswoman Wilson to hit back at the President. She claims the tragedy in West Africa will come back to haunt him.

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REP FREDERICA WILSON, (R) FLORIDA: I think ethic is going to be this administrations Benghazi. This is going to be Trump's Benghazi, Trump's Niger.

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BRIGGS: Congresswoman Wilson is demanding an apology from the chief of staff Kelly for calling quote, empty barrel, and the women of congressional black caucus also calling on Kelly to apologize to Wilson.

ROMANS: Part of that empty barrel comment that angered her so much is that he said that he was appalled listening to her at the dedication of an FBI facility where he said she was just talking about her own accomplishments and taking all the credit for it. The video of that very event does not show her taking credit for her at all.

BRIGGS: He mischaracterized the entire situation.

ROMANS: That is sort of the crux of that part of the argument there. All right. Details of that deadly raid that took the life of Sergeant Johnson and three other soldiers, details are really murky this morning. Senator Lindsey Graham told reporters the Senate Armed Services Committee will hold hearings this week. "New York Times" reporting soldiers from the U.S and Niger, who were on the patrol are giving conflicting accounts about whether they were ambushed or they were attacked by trying to chase down Islamic Insurgents.

BRIGGS: Military officials from Niger tell the Times a lightly armed convoy of about 50 soldiers from the U.S. and Niger pursued the insurgents on motorcycles. Americans service members insist they did not chase the insurgents, but simply noticed them. Meantime the senior state department official tells officials CNN, the U.S. Ambassador to Niger did not deny support or protection from military personnel involve in the ambush. L.A. Times reported Thursday that ambassador had resisted military requests to add surveillance flights and military medical support in Niger.

ROMANS: All right. Republican Senator Lindsey Graham accusing the Trump administration having a blind spot when it comes to Russia. During an interview on NBC Meet the Press, Graham called on the President to go after Russia to say its meddling in U.S. election wouldn't stop otherwise and Graham predicted, it could get even worse.

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SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, R-S.C.: I think that the Trump administration is slow when it comes to Russia. They have a blind spot on Russia and still can't figure out, but I can tell you what happen (inaudible).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At what point is that circumstantial evidence to you, sir?

GRAHAM: All I can say is where the Russian investigation takes us, it will take us.

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BRIGGS: Blind spot for Russia. Earlier this year, congress overwhelmingly passed a bill which Trump sign in the law that included restrictions on him, unilaterally removing sanctions on Russia, but the administration missed an October 1st deadline in the bill to put new sanctions in place, drawing criticism from some in congress who want the administration to take a harder line.

ROMANS: All right. Senator John McCain seeming to take a new swipe at President Trump, not the by name, but he did this interview about Vietnam for a historical perspective and the one time prisoner of war criticized the wealthy young men at the time who avoided the draft. Listen.

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SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, R-AZ.: One aspect of the conflict by the way that I will never ever (inaudible), is that we drafted the lowest income level of America and the highest income level found a doctor that would say that they had a bone spur. That is wrong. That is wrong.

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ROMANS: The President attended the private New York military academy as a teenager. He had five draft deferments during the Vietnam War including a medical deferment for bone spurs in his foot. There has been no response yet from the President about this particular history, you know history interview. The President has spoken of this in the past. Occasionally when asked about it and has told buy biographers and journalists that his bone spurs have healed over time.

BRIGGS: They clearly have, because he is awfully busy in the golf course.

ROMANS: We are going to talk about Puerto Rico here. No shortage of problems in debris removal. Just the latest on that trash proving to be a health hazard now. More from San Juan next.

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[04:43:44] TILLERSON: The Iranian militia's that are in Iraq, now that the fight against dash and ISIS is coming to a close, those militia's need to go home. Any foreign fighters in Iraq need to go home and allow the Iraqi people to regain control of areas that have been overtaken.

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ROMANS: Secretary of State Rex Tillerson calling on Iranian backed militias in Iraq to leave the country. Shiite militias back by the Iranians were critical and helping the Iraqi army drive ISIS out of Mosul and several other strongholds. That accomplished Tillerson insists those militias no longer did belong on the battle field. Let's go live to Erbil Iraq and bring in Ben Wedeman. Nice to see this morning Ben. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson seems a bit concern about Iran's growing influence in the region. What can you tell us?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I think Christine that American concern about growing Iranian influence in the region is a bit late at this point. Don't forget when the United States toppled Saddam Hussein in 2003, they essentially eliminated the biggest counter balance to Iran and the region and since then they have seen very gradually Iran gaining a bigger foot hold in terms of influence on Iraqi affairs. The Iranians, they don't have actually, there are no Iranian militias in Iraq.

[04:45:03] There are many and very powerful Iranian back armed and trained Iraqi militias that did played a critical role in the war against ISIS. I spent a lot of time with those Iranian back militias, and their leaders would tell us that for instance it was much better to have four Iranian advisers with them in the field, as I saw and met, than 400 American advisers sitting in Baghdad in the green zone. They would tell us for instance, that when the Iraqi government would request weaponry from the Americans it would take months if not years to arrive. When they asked for equipment from the Iranians, it would take three days, so the Iranians have huge influence here that goes back many years, and let's just have a geography lesson here.

The two countries share a 911-mile land border it's only a 12-hour drive from Tehran to Baghdad, whereas it is more than 7,000 miles from Baghdad to Washington. Iran's influence is so deep that for Rex Tillerson to come along and say it's time for its influence to be removed from Iraq is asking for a lot awfully late in the day. Christine?

ROMANS: All right. Ben Wedeman, it was really important context. Thank you so much, sir for the reporting.

BRIGGS: In Puerto Rico this morning modest improvements on the restoration of vital services, officials say access to power, cell service and water all is just a bit compared to Friday. Meantime the island faces a possible health crisis caused by the huge amount of debris and garbage piled up since hurricane Maria. These giant trash heaps form a perfect habitat for rodents and mosquitos that could spread serious diseases. Now the debris removal finally getting up speed, but it's not as simple as hauling it away. Polo Sandoval show us from San Juan.

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Christine and Dave, officials here in Puerto Rico expected to pick up where they left off yesterday when it comes to facing this monumental task of clearing out debris from neighborhoods throughout this island. Yesterday we traveled to a neighborhood just west of the city of San Juan where we saw a virtual maze of rotting debris. At one point, used to be people's belongings, they sit soaked on a sidewalk waiting for crews to remove them. Which is exactly what we noticed here. After five weeks of waiting, the residents finally seeing some response as contractors cleared out some of the garbage.

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was one of the first three houses to start piling up over there and since every day getting bigger and bigger, and right now it's when they're starting to clean it up.

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SANDOVAL: There is a method to this debris removal. A local contractor has been brought on board by the U.S. Army corps of engineers essentially surveying this debris piles before removing. Their job is to pluck out any potential toxic material like paints for example or electronics. They'll stay behind to make sure that is disposed of properly. The concern this morning is all of this debris, with are is it going to go as there are self-reports from the EPA that now suggest some of the landfills here on the island are already filled to capacity.

BRIGGS: I mean just everywhere you turn, a new problem on the horizon.

ROMANS: I know. I can't decide its two steps forward and three back or the opposite. I'm not really sure. I think we need a lot more reporting there.

At least 34 marijuana farms destroyed by wildfires in Northern California. Federal regulations are keeping those farmers from receiving aid. Details on CNN money stream next.

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[04:53:27] BRIGGS: Awful lot of questions for "Fox News" and Bill O'Reilly this morning in the wake of a "New York Times" report, O'Reilly paid a staggering $32 million to a "Fox News" colleague to make per threatened sexual misconduct suit go away. Fox News under the microscope, because the network resigned O'Reilly to a lucrative deal just weeks after the settlement. ROMANS: Fox said it knew about the settlement but not the price tag.

That is little comfort to former "Fox News" anchor Gretchen Carlson, who first brought complain about the culture at Fox into the mainstream.

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GRETCHEN CARLSON, FORMER FOX NEWS HOST: I think it's horrifying and outrageous that any company after dismissing somebody from allegations such as that, would not only resign a contract, but allow that person to come back on the air.

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ROMANS: O'Reilly says he will address the issue today. Very latest let's bring in our CNN Senior Correspondent Brian Stelter.

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BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: Hi Christine, Hi Dave, good morning. This $$32 million figure is boomeranging around the TV industry. Everyone is I know is talking about why Bill O'Reilly would have been willing to pay $32 million to a woman accusing him a sexual harassment. It is something of a mystery, because we will never know exactly what Lis Wiehl was alleging. Wiehl was a long time Fox News legal analyst. A regular on O'Reilly show. She came to him in January, threatening a harassment lawsuit. The New York Times broke the story over the weekend, now O'Reilly said he is working on a response. But the facts are pretty clear. O'Reilly was willing to pay $32 million to Wiehl. I've seen the affidavit which says, she no longer has any claims against O'Reilly. This has been newly embarrassing for both "Fox News" and for O'Reilly.

[04:55:12] For Fox, there's an ongoing federal investigation by the department of justice into other settlement payments made by Fox involving former "Fox News" boss Roger Ailes. We don't know in these new revelations could affect that investigation. As for Bill O'Reilly, he is trying to find a new job somewhere in the TV business. I remember he went back on Sean Hannity's show last month. I don't think we're going to see O'Reilly back on Fox anytime soon, not in the wake of this revelation. $32 million is just an extraordinary sum of money. And we will never know exactly why it was paid. But O'Reilly says he is never mistreated anyone. He told the "New York Times" this whole story is bogus and said on twitter he is working on a response that will come out on Monday. Christine, Dave?

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ROMANS: It is Monday.

BRIGGS: What else is out on Monday? O'Reilly will not like this cover on the "New York daily news."

ROMANS: Oh really?

BRIGGS: This story's not over and it shouldn't be because "Fox News" deserves to be held accountable here. Their narrative about Harvey Weinstein that liberal Hollywood continues to enabled this and allow it to go on. And they knew about this $32 million settlement, maybe not the price tag but you knew about it and resigned him and still, welcome him on the air with Sean Hannity a few weeks ago, says an awful lot about the culture.

ROMANS: I wonder if Gretchen Carlson will be invited back on.

BRIGGS: No. She has not yet.

ROMANS: OK. 56 minutes past the hour.

BRIGGS: All right police in Tampa Florida growing frustrated in their search with whoever killed three people in eleven days. Anthony Nailboa, Benjamin Mitchell and Monica Hoffa, all found shot to death in Seminole Heights between October 9 and 19. Police say they do not have any leads or motive, but due to proximity and time frame they are certain the shootings are related. The $25,000 is being offered with anyone with information about murders.

Wind and rain and the forecast for the east coast is a cold front moves through, lets' bring in our meteorologist Ivan Cabrera.

IVAN CABRERA, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Guys good morning. Before the cold air gets in, got a whole lot of rain to talk about. In fact is starts this morning across the southeast. Torrential rain in Atlanta making for a massive a morning could be likewise to Nashville, notice the area of low pressure spinning up towards Cincinnati. The front does clear Atlanta, Georgia, the rest of the southeast in the next 24 hours, but that rain will continue pushing east, it's going to be a while before it clears out across the east coast rally down towards Columbia, potential for strong thunderstorms. Isolated tornados can't be ruled out. Look at the rain coming in. This is going to be a multi-day event. For New York, the cold air's not going to get to you until mid to late week, and out ahead of it, we're going to have warm temperatures but also heavy rainfall offered two to four potentially across the northeast that does include New York. There is the beginning of the drop in temperature there by Wednesday, temps in the mid 60's, much cooler later part of the week.

ROMANS: Let's get a check on CNN money stream this Monday morning. Local stock market starting the week, mixed after record highs in U.S. stocks on Friday, again. The DOW and S and P 500 that is the sixth week of gains. You can thank tax reform. The senate passed a budget resolution clearing the way for tax reform. The promise of tax cuts helped stocks rally this year. Big name companies across every sector report. Hasbro, AT&T, Coca-Cola, Microsoft, M-zone, ExxonMobil to name a few. Big Dow leaders, Boeing, McDonald's, Visa, Caterpillar, combined, their shares have soared more than 33 percent this year. Result of this week, we will see if these big gains are justified.

Recent hurricane's taking a toll on earnings. Just about 2.8 percent for the third quarter. Not as strong as the first half of the year. Over half of those companies blame hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria. Particularly the insurance industry. In fact earnings growth should be nearly 5 percent, if the insurance industry were excluded from this numbers.

At least 34 marijuana farms have been destroyed by wildfires in Northern California. Federal regulation is keeping those farmers from receiving aid. Selling marijuana is legal in some state, but it violates federal law so farms won't qualify for federal aid. Even crowd funding is out of the question, the crowd funding site ucaring shutdown the fundraiser for farmers (inaudible) counties. It says since marijuana is illegal on the federal level processing payments is technically considered money laundering. This is just been the real, you know catch 22 for anybody in the marijuana business, because.

BRIGGS: Sure.

ROMANS: It's such a cash business. With so few federal protections. No federal protections, because it is it is still prohibited on the level. BRIGGS: Don't look for Jeff Sessions to come to the rescue there, not

a fan of marijuana. Early Start continues right now.