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Trump Heads to Capitol Hill to Sell Senate GOP Tax Bill; Trump Calls Senator Warren "Pocahontas" at Ceremony for Navajo Veterans. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired November 28, 2017 - 07:00   ET

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


(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's going to be a tremendous tax cut. We're really interested in getting it passed.

[07:00:17] REP. KATHLEEN RICE (D), MINNESOTA: It's a giveaway to the rich on the backs of the middle class.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Republicans don't have the votes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Republicans right now are scrambling.

TRUMP: They call her "Pocahontas."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This kind of crack is better left for a sitcom.

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think what most people find offensive is Senator Warren lying about her heritage.

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D), MASSACHUSETTS: The Native American community has spoken clearly and loudly that they were offended.

SANDERS: The president addressed this. This was litigated and certainly answered during the election.

MAGGIE HABERMAN, "NEW YORK TIMES" REPORTER/CNN POLITICAL ANALYST (via phone): He was looking into hiring people to entertain whether it was his voice.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How do you apologize for something and then renege on it?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to your NEW DAY. So in a few hours, President Trump heads back to Capitol Hill to rally Senate Republicans on their tax bill. A critical vote today in the Senate Budget Committee, and that could advance the plan, or it could halt it. So how will two of the biggest GOP opponents vote today?

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Also going on, the president is under fire for using a slur to attack a political rival. It was at a White House ceremony honoring a group of Native American war heroes. That was the backdrop for this Oval Office event that's raising serious questions about sensitivity and judgment from the president and his staff.

We have it all covered. Let's begin with CNN's Suzanne Malveaux, live on Capitol Hill -- Suzanne.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Chris.

This is a big test for the president as well as his party, Republican leaders here on Capitol Hill really trying to secure the support for their Senate tax plan, this coming before the Senate Budget Committee's critical vote expected later this afternoon. At the same time, the president will be here, having lunch with Senate Republicans ahead of that vote, trying to push forward the need to have any kind of legislative accomplishment before the end of the year.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TRUMP: I think the tax bill is doing very well, and I think the Republicans are going to be very proud of it.

MALVEAUX (voice-over): President Trump headed to Capitol Hill today to shore up support for the Senate tax plan as Senate Majority Whip Jon Cornyn tells reporters that Republicans do not yet have the votes needed to pass the bill.

Senate Republicans can only afford to lose one vote today in the Budget Committee, but at least two senators are still expressing concern, including Ron Johnson, who said Monday that he is a "no," because the bill is unfair to millions of small business owners. If Johnson votes against the bill today, it will stall in committee until more changes are made. And addressing Johnson's concerns could further increase the national debt, possibly generating opposition from deficit hawks.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Failure is not an option. When it comes to the Republican Party cutting taxes, the fate of the party is in our hands.

MALVEAUX: If the bill passes through committee, the tax plan could go up for a full vote on the Senate floor this week, where they can only lose the support of two Republicans.

Senator Steve Daines has also expressed reservations about the impact of the bill on small businesses. Three Republicans remain a wild card, and five others have raised concerns about issues like the bill's repeal of Obamacare's individual mandate and the impact on the national debt. These deficit hawks are pushing to include an automatic trigger into the bill that would increase taxes if the legislation fails to generate as much revenue as expected.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our estimates are a 0.4 percent increase in the GDP. We think it's a pretty conservative estimate. My statement is if that doesn't happen, if you even don't get a 0.4 percent increase in GDP, how do we create a backstop to be able to help protect us on the debt and deficit?

MALVEAUX: Further complicating the Republican effort, a new estimate from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office says the latest Senate bill would increase the deficit by $1.4 trillion over ten years.

The report also shows that the bill will hurt more lower-income Americans than originally thought while benefiting higher earners. Those earning less than 30,000 are predicted to be worse off by 2019, but those making less than $75,000, worse off by 2027.

Removing Obamacare's original mandate would also result in 13 million Americans having health coverage over the next decade.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MALVEAUX: And after the president meets with Senate Republicans this afternoon, he has another critical meeting with congressional leaders for both parties. They have to strike a deal to fund the federal government. That deadline coming up December 8 or potentially face a government shutdown -- Alisyn, Chris.

CAMEROTA: OK, Suzanne, thank you very much.

So, let's bring in our CNN politics reporter and editor at large, Chris Cillizza; and CNN political analyst Karoun Demirjian. Great to see both of you guys.

Let me put up for you and everyone the people to watch today, the people who are still on the fence, the lawmakers who are still on the fence. And you can see Corker. I mean, there are people who are actually on this committee that it has to make it out of that we don't know how they're going to vote today.

[07:05:14] So, Karoun, you talk to these folks all the time. Is this just typical horse trading that we're seeing or are there still real philosophical differences with this bill?

KAROUN DEMIRJIAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: There are -- I mean, this is a fairly serious moment of decision for these people. Because the GOP has campaigned for years about being mostly concerned about the deficit, about really wanting to make sure that they, you know, have a balanced budget that doesn't grow the national debt. And yet that question that they're grappling with as they actually weigh the options here. Because this will.

And the changes that they're contemplating in order to be able to make this more palatable to people from various states, representing various constituencies, concerned about things like small businesses as Senator Johnson is, are going to add to the overall price tag of this, and that is basically cutting right to the heart of what the GOP philosophy has been about budgeting for a long time.

So for people like Corker, who are on their way out, who has talked for a long time about how they thing the biggest concern for them is the deficit, are they just going to leave that at the doorway and say, "OK, I'll join the party on this bill"? Or are they going to say, "No, I'm going to hold the line"?

And so for various members that you showed there, this is a -- this is a question of them examining what their own priorities are. And also that list includes many people who are not necessarily beholden to the party line and who have broken with it before. You may see Susan Collins going over things like the individual mandate. I mean, there are a lot of things here that are monkey wrenches for these people. And some of them may decide to stick. But when you have somebody like Ron Johnson already splitting off, that may provide cover for others.

CUOMO: Strong point. Chris Cillizza, Ron Johnson has been one of the most out there in terms of his resistance, but he's one of the easiest issues to fix, in terms of what they can offer in this plan.

The CBO is coming under attack by some Republicans, saying they don't have their numbers right, but people have another resource. I know you don't like when we give homework. But people have to be empowered by good information. You've got to do your own research, because there's so much spin.

The Joint Committee on Taxation goes through the numbers. And one thing is clear: you may like it or not. It's not a tax cut geared to advantage the middle class. That's not what it is.

So as they move through the layers of resistance within their own party, the business thing with Johnson, they can negotiate it.

The deficit thing, either people are going to build in this provision that Johnson is talking about as kind of a claw back of these current rates if they don't get the revenues they need, maybe they can get that in there.

But once you get to what Karoun said about the mandate and about the distribution of tax benefits, you get into problems that the president can't fix, no matter what he offers.

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN ANCHOR: Well, the only -- I mean, honestly, I'm more skeptical about the deficit, I think, than you are, Chris. Because I -- I'd put that in that same category of unfixable problems. Basically...

CUOMO: The only reason I say it, Chris, just so you know...

CILLIZZA: Yes.

CUOMO: ... is you can't be for any tax cut if you're going to be a deficit hawk. Because the economic theology, that the point is growth through tax cuts wouldn't work on you.

CILLIZZA: But I feel like that's a similar argument to what they're making on other things, which is, "Well, the CBO misunderstands the plan, and it actually helps the middle class more."

I mean, look, you have resources, which take some criticism. CBO joint committee on taxation. But are the resources that are universally used saying this is going to add $1.4 trillion to the debt and does not realize the middle-class tax cut that Donald Trump is promising.

On the other side, you have, "Well, these projections are wrong and things are going to be better; and they're misunderstanding the bill." That may be true. But if past is prolog, what we know is that it is very hard to simply grow your way out of these deficits, that all of a sudden growth will sky rocket because of tax cuts.

Remember, that was the argument for George W. Bush, the last major tax cut we had, George W. Bush tax cuts. And that did not come close to being realized in terms of the deficit.

So I think, yes, the most important way to look at those senators that you guys have popped up on the screen is that about half of them, I think, fall in the -- are doing it to try to get something, check a box. Their problems can be solved. I put Ron Johnson there. I would be stunned if Steve Daines or James Lankford votes against this bill. I guess it's possible but very unlikely.

But Corker, McCain, flake, these are people not friendly to Donald Trump but also people who have been very hawkish on deficit. I remember when John McCain was the nominee, talking again and again and again about how we are burdening our children and our grandchildren with this deficit. You know, I mean, I tend to think that those are the smaller group that are really going to matter.

CAMEROTA: So Karoun -- yes, go ahead.

DEMIRJIAN: I was going to say, it's the GOP, remember? We can talk about what the debate is across, you know, both parties, and then you have, actually, those numbers that the CBO is putting out, potentially carrying a lot of -- a lot more weight, because Chris was just putting it in a different category than deficit.

[07:10:07] But when you're talk about GOP ideology/philosophy, what is really cutting to the heart of where they feel sick in the pit of their stomachs, the deficit really does matter to a lot of these people, especially those people that are on that short list.

CAMEROTA: I remember all those conversations, Chris Cillizza, in 2008. I mean...

CILLIZZA: Right?

CAMEROTA: Constantly about what your grandchildren will be making on the dollar and what the burden will be for them and, you know, we're just forcing it onto the next generation.

CUOMO: Then you wouldn't vote for this.

CAMEROTA: Well, this is -- therein lies the rub, I mean, of what we're seeing.

CUOMO: You wouldn't vote for almost any tax cut if you were a real deficit hawk, because you wouldn't have the offset in revenue. So there's always an accommodation. CILLIZZA: I just think the best argument I've heard for this -- I

shouldn't say the best. The argument that you hear time and again, and Karoun can correct me, because she talks to more members than I do.

But the argument I hear again and again on this is, well, we have to do something before 2018, which is a very interesting argument for a large-scale tax cut that would add -- you know, without -- in normal circumstance would add $1.4 trillion to the debt and, according to neutral observers, would not -- again, would not be that middle-class tax cut that Donald Trump has promised time and time again.

CAMEROTA: Karoun, is that what you hear, something is better than nothing?

DEMIRJIAN: The party needs a win, right? The party needs to do something, get something on the board. If they had managed to be more successful in any of the agenda items before this point there wouldn't be quite as much pressure. This is complicated.

But again, to your point that you're just making, Chris, if you're going to be a real stickler on the deficit, you're not going to be able to vote for any tax reform cuts. Why is it so hard to get tax reform done? It's a really, really difficult thing.

And so the idea that -- you know, that this would be an easy decision or an easy compromise is kind of belied by the fact that it's taken so long to get to this point. We are always, when we're talking about tax rates and tax shifts, you know, last time we did this was new year's. It was past the 11th hour sort of negotiations scenario.

So -- so, yes, they want a win badly. But are they willing to basically eat what their positions have been for the last several years in order to get it? That's the question.

CUOMO: That's always the problem with the proposed magic giveback at the end of this process, which is the mandate, Chris Cillizza. Mulvaney the other day -- a week or so ago, talking to Jake Tapper on his Sunday show, saying, "Hey, look, if the mandate doesn't work, we'll take it back. We want it in." It's not that easy. Because they are depending on revenue shift from withdrawing the mandate to make the deficit people a little bit more comfortable.

CILLIZZA: That's 100 percent right.

CUOMO: Because they're going to get a lot of money. So just saying, "Well, we'll take that out," well, now you're going to give them one more reason not to like it.

CILLIZZA: Well, yes. Make no mistake. Yes, the individual mandate repeal is in there because it's been a priority. But it's really in there because it's a way to save money. It saves $338 billion, which makes the -- what you have to swallow, if you are a Republican deficit hawk, slightly smaller with this bill.

But, yes, look, the problem with complex bills is that they're complex. You pull one string over here, and you -- maybe you gain someone, but you likely lose someone. You shift the individual mandate out, I have a really hard time believing Rand Paul, who's a "yes" on this bill, stays as a "yes."

And that's the problem. For every one addition, there's at least one subtraction. And that's the difficult math here.

DEMIRJIAN: Also, the balance sheeting that you're doing at this point on the bill, you have to remember that these are people, especially when you're talking about 13 million people basically losing their health insurance. And that -- OK, that matters in a macro sense. But let's just keep it at politics. That matters when you're looking down the barrel of a next election cycle.

And you can bet Democrats are just praying, if this passes with this individual mandate repeal in there, to use that to go after the people who are disadvantaged, which include a lot of Trump supporters in various parts of the country.

CUOMO: So how does that play into, Karoun, to the CR, the continuing resolution? Do you think that they can cut a deal on time and the money? None of them benefits from a shutdown at this point. But what about DACA? What about the temporary residency program affecting the Haitians, most specifically right now. Do you think those get folded in?

DEMIRJIAN: I mean, I think that that is -- it's going to be a lift for some of those, right? Especially because you have more of a -- you have a DACA deadline that is a few months out. To think they're going to be able to tie together all the loose ends into this particular CR, what you may end up seeing is a far more short-term extension to buy them more time to do all these things.

Because they not only have to work out policy issues like DACA, like the temporary protected status. They have to work out how to actually do the defense spending. They have to work out a fairly critical surveillance program reauthorization.

And a lot of things will basically take some claiming -- it's going to take some gnashing of teeth to get some of these things actually resolved. If you are focused most of your energy on the tax reform question, the December 8 deadline is approaching and you may just need to buy yourself more time to work out some of the more critical issues, DACA being at the top of the list.

[07:15:03] CAMEROTA: All right. Karoun Demirjian, Chris Cillizza, thank you very much for helping us understand what we'll be watching today on Capitol Hill. Thank you.

CAMEROTA: And join us tonight for a CNN debate on tax reform. Jake Tapper and Dana Bash moderate this debate with senators Bernie Sanders, Ted Cruz, Tim Scott and Maria Cantwell. Lots of different voices. That's 9 p.m. Eastern, only on CNN.

CUOMO: All right. The president going back to the game of division, reviving a racial slur to attack a political foe. And that's what it is when you call Elizabeth Warren "Pocahontas." That's what it is. Do you know who says that? Native Americans say that.

But it wasn't the only sensitivity on display at this ceremony. You're looking at another one right now. We'll explain.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: You were here long before any of us were here. Although we have a representative in Congress who they say was here a long time ago. They call her "Pocahontas." But, you know what? I like you, because you are special.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[07:20:12] CUOMO: Context. The president was there to celebrate Navajo veterans who helped during World War II to create a code for the American military that the enemy could not understand. He took that opportunity to talk about Elizabeth Warren and called her "Pocahontas," which is a slur. And he delivered it to a group of Native Americans. You can't make it up. But it's too offensive to ignore.

Let's bring back Chris Cillizza and Karoun Demirjian and discuss what was going on here. Now there was another aspect of what was going on there in terms of the portrait that was overseeing all of it. But one slight at a time.

Karoun Demirjian, is calling Elizabeth Warren "Pocahontas" a slur?

DEMIRJIAN: It -- yes, basically. I mean it -- to invoke the name of Pocahontas generally is to talk about an historical figure. In the context in which Trump used it, it was to take a dig at Elizabeth Warren the first time, because she talked about trumping up her Native American credentials back, I think, before her Senate campaign.

At this point, it has become Trump has owned this so much that it's more about him. People kind of forget about the things that led up to it almost, because he's used it to describe the senator in a disparaging way. And that is using an ethnic term to describe somebody in a disparaging way. I think that's basically what the definition of -- you know, at least the character of a slur, because it's not a tradition word that people use, because it actually describes an historical figure.

So yes, that is -- if the president thought he was being funny, it's the wrong context, certainly, to be funny. I think the public opinion has already adjudicated this one, that people don't find it funny. People find it offensive. And why he's bringing it up again is something that he can only explain.

CAMEROTA: And in fact, Chris, we just had the president of Navajo nation on. He said that he found it disparaging and disrespectful.

And so -- so what does this mean? I mean, you know, look, so a population is disrespected. And what does President Trump do about that?

CILLIZZA: I just -- so, I was watching yesterday. And we heard that he may have said something. And, you know, I just -- I don't know why he does these things.

CUOMO: Yes, you do.

CILLIZZA: I mean, he's so -- in a way I do, Chris. In a way I do. You're right. I think what he does is he is, by nature, sort of a bully. He is someone who has built his campaign and his candidacy and his presidency on name calling and on insults. It's the only way that he knows how to interact with people.

I think he was -- Karoun is right, he was playing for laughs. Why he thought that that would go over well in that group, I don't know. My guess is he used it many times on the campaign trail and always got a laugh. I'm sure there were some people who heard him say it yesterday and laughed. I'm sure those same people think that we are overreacting in the media to this.

But it's just -- it's just instability. It's just name calling. It's insults. It's grade-school bullying. I mean, I don't -- I don't know what else to call it.

And that the man who is -- you know, or at least the man who was in the position that we have traditionally looked to for moral and sort of broader leadership in the country chooses again and again and again to take the low road in every possible circumstance, you know, I think is, at this point, Trump's legacy in the White House. And I think will have a damaging effect well beyond the four or eight years that he is in office.

CAMEROTA: All right.

CILLIZZA: Sorry. I know that's super depressing. But I just -- I don't know -- I don't know how else to put it.

CAMEROTA: I know.

CILLIZZA: You can't -- you can't continually engage in -- remember -- do you remember when he said, "I'm going to be so presidential you'll be bored"? Right? The theory was, well, see, Donald Trump is being this kind of, like, name-calling bully. But once -- once he wins the nomination, he'll stop. But once he wins the presidency, he'll stop. Once he's beyond his first 100 days, he'll stop.

I mean, there's no -- this is it. This is who the person is. And this is a great example of that.

You're in an event honoring Native Americans who helped us win World War II by developing a code that the Germans couldn't decipher. And in that, you used that opportunity to make an aside about a political opponent by referring to her in a derogatory tone. Who does that?

CUOMO: Also, the insensitivity, though. The insensitivity. It's an insensitivity. Karoun, the portrait that was there, Andrew Jackson. DEMIRJIAN: Yes.

CUOMO: Now, this is probably attributable to poor advance work and a lack of foresight. They put Andrew Jackson in the Oval Office why? Because it appeals to Trump's self-definition as a populist. So he's en vogue. Great.

[07:25:04] For Native Americans he obviously invokes a very ugly period in the 1800s, the Trail of Tear -- Tears. The tens of thousands who were forced to evacuate their land, and the death and disease that followed.

Now, did they think it through? Obviously not. Otherwise they probably wouldn't have...

CAMEROTA: Why are you -- why are you thinking this one was oblivious but the other one is deliberate?

CUOMO: Because if your intention is to celebrate the Navajo Americans who helped...

CAMEROTA: Yes.

CUOMO: ... you wouldn't intentionally disrespect them while you were celebrating their accomplishments.

CAMEROTA: Yes, but you're saying he intentionally used the "Pocahontas" slur.

Go ahead, Karoun.

CUOMO: Yes, but his intention wasn't to celebrate Pocahontas -- to celebrate Warren. If he were there to celebrate Warren, he probably wouldn't build in an insult. That's what I'm saying.

DEMIRJIAN: Let's be charitable. Let's be charitable and say Chris is right, and the intention was to be respectful; the intention was to honor the code talkers; and the intention was not to distract from that.

This is an administration that really has to worry about dog whistles. Because this is a thing. They have been caught on this kind of front many times in many different situations where racial politics are at play. And charitably, if they didn't want to make these mistakes, they'd have to think about what might be perceived as a mistake.

It's not the first time that we've seen this president of this administration kind of copping like, "Wait, did they mean to indicate that about" -- you know, this is a ceremony honoring -- honoring code talkers, honoring Native Americans, and you've got the Andrew Jackson portrait hanging there.

But when you have these issues, when you have the Pocahontas name thrown out there, it recalls things like the Charlottesville rally and the president's response to that. Like other episodes when people are wondering in the administration or the campaign about when it was -- how they felt about Jews. I mean, like, there are multiple episodes in which the president had to clean up and say, "Oh, that's not what I meant."

And so people, that question is out there. Don't set things up in a way -- part of the advanced planning for this stuff should be "Let's not step in that if we're not meaning to step in that." And that's the situation you've got right now when you're talking about what went on there. And so that's both for the advance team when they're trying to figure out, what's the backdrop?

CAMEROTA: Yes.

DEMIRJIAN: Should it maybe not be Andrew Jackson's portrait. It's also for the president if you're going to make a joke about Pocahontas, make it more self-deprecating than you did. That's the mistakes you've made in the past.

CILLIZZA: He doesn't do self-deprecating.

DEMIRJIAN: Exactly. But then he just kind of revived a thing that we've already declared public opinion is not good on that one.

CAMEROTA: Well, you also have to, if you're going to do something like this, figure out what your message is after the fact. So here is Sarah Sanders, the press secretary, trying to explain it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why did he feel the need to say something that is offensive to many people while honoring the Navajo code talkers, these genuine American heroes?

SANDERS: I think what most people find offensive is Senator Warren lying about her heritage to advance her career.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was a racial slur. She said it was a racial slur. What is your response to that?

SANDERS: I think that's a ridiculous response.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: I like when white people get to decide what members of minorities find offensive. You know, it's a whole other problem. You had the head of the Navajo nation here saying, "I think it's a slur. I think it's offensive." That kind of ends that discussion.

But here's the layer problem once again. Trump says something that's a device that works with his base. That's what Sanders is talking about, when she says, "I think what most people..."

CAMEROTA: It's that bubble. Right.

CUOMO: Most people in that bubble who say, "Well, we believe the president that Elizabeth Warren was grossly misstating her heritage, so she deserves whatever he gives them." And then you get this as the spin from the White House -- Chris.

CILLIZZA: I just -- yes. And look, again, there are people who will laugh at that, who will be like, "Ha-ha, Elizabeth Warren, she claimed she was 1/32 Native American." There's no question there will be people who laugh about that and people who revel in the fact that people like me say, "Wow, that seems like a bridge too far for Donald Trump." But just because it works doesn't make it right. I mean, I think we have to keep returning to that.

Yes, it's a -- yes, there is absolutely political strategy in this sort of racially-coded language that Donald Trump regularly speaks and that Karoun is mentioning that you can maybe dismiss once, twice. Fifteen times, it's hard to say it was -- he just bungled into it, it was accidental. But that doesn't make it right for the president of the United States to speak in those terms.

Even if it works in a political context with his base, which everyone on this panel, everyone on this network agrees -- I think most people on this earth agree -- it does work. There are people who will think that that is a great line.

CUOMO: That's why he did the "Access Hollywood" thing.

CILLIZZA: It's not the thing for a president of all the people to do.

CAMEROTA: Yes. So "Access Hollywood" has come back with a vengeance, Karoun, because "The New York Times" is reporting that President Trump had mentioned a couple of times to some people that he now didn't think that the tape was authentic after, of course, we've all heard it with our own lying ears and we -- he apologized for it and said, "I said it and I apologize."

So much so that yesterday, "Access Hollywood" had to come out and one of the hosts, Natalie Morales, had to say, "For the record, that tape is real." And here...