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NEW DAY

Trump Unveils Tax Plan, Leaves Out Key Details; Health Secretary Under Scrutiny for Private Jet Use; Trump: 'I Think NFL Owners Are Afraid of Their Players'; Hugh Hefner Dead at 91; Island off Puerto Rico Virtually Destroyed by Hurricane. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired September 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)

REP. PAUL RYAN (R), WISCONSIN, SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: We are taking the next step to liberate Americans from our broken tax code.

[07:00:21] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is a once in a generation opportunity.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D), CALIFORNIA, MINORITY LEADER: Behind Republicans' vague framework, the American people find a billionaires first tax plan.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There is so much need here in Puerto Rico. People are going hungry. They are going thirsty.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When I say a humanitarian crisis, it's not in place (ph). You can feel the life just coming out of people.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: "Playboy" founder Hugh Hefner died of natural causes, 91 years old.

LARRY KING, FORMER CNN HOST: What do you want your legacy to be?

HUGH HEFNER, FOUNDER OF "PLAYBOY": Somebody who plays a positive part in the changing of socio-sexual values in my time.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: We'll talk more about Hugh Hefner coming up. I mean, obviously, what a legend; you know, changed -- changed the culture in some ways.

CUOMO: In a lot more than the obvious ways that people think. We'll get into it.

CAMEROTA: OK. Meanwhile, good morning, everyone. Welcome to your NEW DAY.

President Trump kicking off an ambitious plan to cut taxes. But the plan is light on some key details, like for instance, how to pay for it. The president says his plan will help lower -- the lower and middle classes. But economic analysts say the wealthy stand to benefit the most.

CUOMO: The president is also juggling several controversies right now. Three cabinet members are under fire for spending taxpayer dollars on private jets when cheaper options were just easy if they wanted to go that route. So, yes, of course you're going to pick up the tab. That's why we care, right? Because whatever they do, you pay for it while they're in government.

President Trump is defending his criticism of NFL players. as well. The new surprising reasoning that he is giving for his continued attacks.

Let's begin with CNN's Joe Johns, live at the White House -- Joe.

JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Chris, the White House has had just a brutal week, and so has the president. He's come under criticism for his response to the hurricanes in the Caribbean. His attempt to revamp health care has gone down to defeat. And he backed a losing candidate in the Alabama Senate race.

Now they're hoping this tax plan will be a crowd pleaser that helps them turn the page.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TRUMP: There's never been tax cuts like what we're talking about.

JOHNS (voice-over): President Trump kicking off the Republican Party's ambitious push to slash tax rates and revamp the tax code, unveiling a nine-page framework that includes reducing the number of tax brackets from seven to three, doubling the standard deduction, increasing the child tax credit, reducing the corporate tax rate from 35 to 20 percent, creating a new tax rate for pass-through businesses, and eliminating the alternative minimum tax and estate tax.

Trump's plan lacks many key details, including what the income levels are for the new tax brackets, and how they plan to pay for the tax cuts. The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget estimates they will add $2.2 trillion to the deficit.

TRUMP: This is a revolutionary change, and the biggest winners will be the everyday American workers.

JOHNS: Mr. Trump attempting to cast the proposal as a boon for the middle class. But Democrats say it is is wealthy Americans who will benefit the most.

PELOSI: Behind Republicans' vague framework and deceptive math, the American people find a billionaires -- billionaires first tax plan that fails the middle class.

JOHNS: Mr. Trump also insisting that Republicans have the votes to repeal and replace Obamacare, despite the fact that the co-author of the latest bill refutes that. The president says Congress fell short because of Republican Senator Thad Cochran's absence.

TRUMP: We have the votes to get it done. You can't do it when somebody's in the hospital.

JOHNS: Senator Cochran tweeting that he is not hospitalized but recovering from a medical ailment.

All this as several controversies consume the White House. The president facing growing questions about the federal response to hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

As three of the president's cabinet secretaries are under fire for spending taxpayer dollars on costly flights. The president scolding Health Secretary Tom Price over his repeated use of private planes, foregoing cheaper commercial options.

TRUMP: I'm going to look at it. I am not happy about it, and I let him know it.

JOHNS: But a White House official says Price's job is safe for now. And the president continues to sound off on the NFL not doing anything to stop players who kneel during the national anthem.

TRUMP: In my opinion, the NFL has to change. Or you know what's going to happen? That business is going to go to hell.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

JOHNS: President Trump has a number of meetings on tap today, including one with the acting homeland security secretary. Very likely to talk about the situation in the Caribbean, and Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands.

[07:05:07] Also, Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina has said he does expect to sit down with the president to talk about the next steps on health care -- Chris and Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: OK, Joe, thank you very much.

Let's discuss all of this with our political panel. We want to bring in CNN political analysts David Gregory and John Avlon.

David Gregory, let's start with this tax plan. What do you see?

DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I mean, I think the president has got an ambitious road to get it done as large tax reform. I think there is every bit of potential for some kind of tax cut.

But, you know, I've been through covering these battles before, and they break down along similar line, which is who benefits? How do you pay for it? And does it really meet the promise of providing more jobs and raising economic growth?

You know, economists have talked a lot about how hard it is to effect economic growth in this country, to get it to be more robust than the very modest level that it's at right now. And the president's defenders on this, the president himself, said this will unleash, you know, a new round of economic growth, because businesses will be free to start spending and investing more money.

Businesses have already been making a lot of profit over the past, you know, many years now. And the stock market is doing so well. Their shareholders are doing so well. So it just becomes a pitched ideological battle over whether it's fair and whether it's going to be achievable.

Having said all of that, I do think this is the one sweet spot for a -- a conservative populist president to be right with the conservative core of his party to get something done.

CUOMO: Right. But look, we're going to hear there are not a lot of details, John. Got to wait for the details. But what they have put out in terms of details just flies in the face of what the president said he was going to do with this.

He said this is going to be about the the middle class. There was all this reporting that we had and others that he doesn't care if it takes a bite out of the behind of the wealthy. He's OK doing that. He'll take that on.

None of that is in this. They don't even give small business the same tax treatment that they give big businesses, which is odd when small business are the engine of our economy. Everything: getting rid of the AMT, the alternative minimum tax. Trump, it costs him $31 million just as one example. Getting rid of the estate tax. You know, those are things that are going to help the wealthy and not the middle class.

Why put out even a bones structure of this plan that doesn't have ideas for the middle class?

JOHN AVLON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think this reflects Republican consensus such as it is, which is tax cuts go to the wealthy. That creates a trickle-down effect. This is an argument they've been making for a while.

But does it really reflect the president's principals? And is he going to fight for the things he's apparently said in private and public over and over, right?

You know, he'd said that he wanted to focus on the middle class, not cut taxes for the wealthy. Well, right now, this outline is -- will exacerbate income inequality, and it doesn't do any of those things.

Is it going to balloon the deficit by $2.2 trillion? Are they going to close loopholes? Look, we need tax simplification. Middle class could use a tax cut that's really sustainable. But those are the things that should be focused on.

You talked about taking carried interest off the table, which was a pretty revolutionary gesture for a Republican president during the campaign. Is that going to make it in? Because right now this is an ideological documents. It's a play-to-the-base document. And is the president actually going to shake things up and try to readjust the coalition? If he does, he might get an unexpected win. CAMEROTA: Let's look at the graphic, David Gregory, that we have that

helps explain that -- how they're trying to simplify it at the moment. So it goes from the seven different current tax rates and simplifies it to 35 percent, 25 percent, 12 percent.

But as usual, the devil's in the details. And it goes, as you can see, for the wealthiest, who are paying 39.6 percent, they would then pay 35 percent. So they get a break. And then the poorest, who are paying 10 percent, would hop up to 12 percent. So how does that work?

GREGORY: Well, something I read this morning sticks with me. It's the idea of flattening the curve. So if wealthier Americans pay the largest share of taxes right now, the intention here is to bring that down.

But those people who are paying less taxes kind of remain more stable. There's the question of deductions. You know, doubling the personal exemption. And eliminating other deductions that might offset the decrease in the rate for wealthiest Americans. I haven't seen the details on that in terms of how it would actually work out for those in the highest tax brackets.

I think ultimately where the fight -- because we'll automatically revert to this helps the rich and not the middleclass. We don't know a lot of details about the middle class. The question is the promise that's been made by Republicans pushing for tax cuts over the decades, which is that it won't balloon the deficit. The opposite has proven to be true. And that it will lead to economic growth.

You know, look, there is a -- you talk to Republicans who run businesses. They will tell you they feel that there's been a war on business within the Obama administration in terms of regulation and corporate tax rates. Even Obama administration had talked about lowering corporate tax rates. So there's a feeling that the animal spirits in corporate America in terms of investment and job creation is something that could be freed up with corporate tax rates. It's just all going to be part of the fight.

AVLON: If you close loopholes. Because the effective rate for corporations is nowhere near the 35 percent rate that gets discussed. That's where these things break down.

And Republicans need to show that they actually care about reducing the deficit and debt at times when they're in power, rather than Democrats.

You know, we had a surplus in this country at the end of the Clinton administration. And that was squandered, in part but not an insignificant part, by the Bush tax cuts that occurred. So you know, they can go -- the president can be ambitious about this and do some things that really need to be done. Get some of the overseas money back here. But invest it in infrastructure. Do things that are constructive for the country. And in the process could follow through on some of his promises.

CUOMO: I'm just saying, this is his plan. This isn't what the Republican Congress brought to his desk. So you would think that he would have frontloaded it with the ideas that backed up his promises during the campaign. And that's just not in this, so it's odd.

David, let me ask you about something else. The controversy that is bubbling up right now about what kind of stewards of the people's money we're seeing these cabinet officials be. Tom Price, you know, gets the biggest capital "H" for hypocrisy because he was always such a pork chaser. And it seems like he was taking a lot of flights on the public dime that he didn't need to.

What impresses you most about this situation? Is it what they did or is it how Trump is responding, by saying, "Yes, I'm open to firing the HHS secretary"?

GREGORY: No, it's that. I think, you know, this is where the transparency of the president sometimes blows you away. Because he's not taking a lot of time to, you know, think about this and reflect privately. He's, you know, kind of very openly saying, "Yes, we'll see." You know, it sounds like he wants to fire Tom Price.

This is such irresponsible use of taxpayer dollars, particularly at a time when you're trying to lead a middle-class tax relief fight over tax cuts and are facing criticism about this just benefiting the wealthy. This is irresponsible. And I think, you know, we just should look to what the president has said about it, which is that he doesn't like it. He's personally looking into it. And I suspect we haven't seen the last of this in terms of how angry he was about it.

AVLON: But let's also look at what Tom Price said about this.

CAMEROTA: Would you like to?

AVLON: Yes, please.

CAMEROTA: OK, let's go back to--

AVLON: Like the ask (ph) on that?

CAMEROTA: Thank you very much. That was a good tease. Let's go back to 2010 when he railed against Nancy Pelosi for flying in a private plane.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TOM PRICE, HHS SECRETARY/FORMER CONGRESSMAN: Well, I want to say to the speaker, don't you fly over our country in our luxury jet and lecture us on what it means to be American.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: Finish the joke.

CAMEROTA: "Let me do it."

CUOMO: There it is. AVLON: I mean, that's the key thing, is that Price is railing against

this when he's in Congress and in opposition; and when he's in power, all of a sudden he's availing it to go on, you know--

CAMEROTA: It's either 11 trips that he's taken or 24, depending upon if you look at the HHS documents or you trust his word.

AVLON: Yes.

CAMEROTA: He says 11. But either way, he took a private plane from D.C. to Philadelphia. You can drive faster than even waiting for your private plane.

AVLON: You're halfway there driving just to Dulles to take the private plane. Get on the train, man.

CUOMO: And yet, I don't think Price is going to get the award. Obviously, that's a blast from the past. But I don't think he gets the most provocative sound bite of the day award.

CAMEROTA: No? Which one are you nominating?

CUOMO: The president won't let the NFL go, because he thinks it's good for him. That's what this is about. Be clear about that. Here's what he said this morning defending it and making it worse.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What prompted that in Alabama?

TRUMP: Well, I have so many friends that are owners. And they're in a box. I mean, I've spoken to a couple of them. They say, "We are in a situation where we have to do something."

I think they're afraid of their players, if you want to know the truth. And I think it's disgraceful. And they've got to be tough, and they've got to be smart, because you look at the ratings. The ratings have gone way down. The stadiums are -- I've seen a couple of stadiums over the last few weeks. There are lose -- there are a lot of empty seats.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: Look, we can talk about the ratings all day and go after the president for how accurate that is. But let's talk about it in a different way, David, if you might.

They're his friends, so he put them in a box. It's got a big "T" on it. He created this. It was not bubbling up without his help.

And then, the "they're afraid of their players." I know it's provocative to put it this way, but I don't know how else to hear it. "Control your dog"--

CAMEROTA: He's doing it again. CUOMO: -- is what he seems to be saying to these owners. I don't know how else to take it. We know what this is about. We know this is about their feelings about racial oppression and policing in this country. That's where they're doing it. It's not to disrespect the flag. How do we know? To a man they say that. That it's not: "I respect the country. I just want to draw some attention. This is my way to do it."

So when he says they're afraid of their players, they're in a box, they have to do something, how else are you supposed to interpret that?

GREGORY: Well, and I suppose, you know, afraid of the reaction. I mean, afraid of -- afraid of the players in terms of what they can do publicly. Look, I don't dispute. I mean, you know, you're talking about, you know, white owners, many of them billionaires. A majority, like 75 percent African-American league.

[07:15:20] I mean, what I don't like about all of this, is the president is setting this up as some kind of test of their Americanness, of their patriotism. There is a legitimate disagreement to be had about whether this is an appropriate way to protest. It should not be a test of whether you're legitimately American or have some standing.

AVLON: Yes, look, it's a peaceful protest, obviously, that should be covered by the First Amendment. But this is a president who cannot resist the opportunity to ignite culture war debates, because he thinks it's good politics. He thinks it's good for, quote unquote, "ratings."

This is the mindset of someone who should be a TV show host, not consistent with the responsibilities of being president. There are real issues on his plate, but he'd rather talk about this.

CAMEROTA: John, David, thank you very much for these spirited conversations.

CUOMO: Another social provocateur in our society lost to us this morning. "Playboy" founder Hugh Hefner's died of natural causes at the ripe old age of 91.

He certainly helped spark the sexual revolution of the '60s, but he was also an ardent supporter of civil rights and free speech. Celebrities are paying tribute to the Hef.

CNN's Miguel Marquez is live at the Playboy Mansion in Los Angeles with more. A great deal: he sold it for 100 million in cool cash with the deal that he got to live in it for the rest of his life.

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Precisely, and that day has come. He actually sold it to his neighbor, who is the co-owner of the Hostess cupcake empire, who's going to combine the properties to the way it was originally built.

CUOMO: A lot of Twinkies. MARQUEZ: So a little bit of interesting L.A. history there, yes. A

lot of Twinkies, my friend. I'm sure some jokes are going to be born out of that one.

At the mansion today, there have been some people dropping off flowers. When news spread through Hollywood last night, interestingly enough, for as controversial a figure as he was, this is somebody who women still said, "Oh, I've never been to the Playboy Mansion. I'm so sorry that I missed the party there."

This is a guy who made smoking jackets and silk pajamas cool. He brought the word "centerfold" into the lexicon across the country. Sixty years as editor-in-chief of "Playboy" magazine, a record for him, with the magazine born in 1953 on a kitchen table in Chicago for 600 bucks that he put in and a few -- a few thousand more that he raised. Marilyn Monroe on that front cover. And he turned it into an enormous empire.

I want to read you a little bit of what he wrote in that first magazine: "We like our apartment. We enjoy mixing up cocktails and hors d'oeuvres or two, putting on a little music on the phonograph, and inviting a female acquaintance for a sexual discussion on Picasso, beachy jazz and sex."

This is a guy who left quite a legacy. And people are going to have a lot to say, certainly, about Hugh Hefner in the hours ahead -- Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Look, he lived life on his own terms. I think we can say that. Some of what went on in there many people categorize as gross. But he loved it. And going to work in your pajamas is -- you know, who's against that?

Miguel, thank you very much.

Miguel was going to agree with me right there. I saw that.

All right. Meanwhile, back to one of our top stories. CNN is, of course, all over Puerto Rico covering the destruction of Hurricane Maria. Up next, our Bill Weir is going to take us to a tourist destination. It's an island that has been devastated. You need to see what's been going on there. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[07:22:44] CAMEROTA: We have a CNN exclusive for you. A look at the devastation in Vieques. That's the small island east of Puerto Rico that has been cut off by Hurricane Maria.

CNN's Bill Weir was one of the very first reporters on the ground there, and he joins us live now from San Juan.

What did you see, Bill?

BILL WEIR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is the roughest I've seen in, you know, half a week here. We're over a week since the storm. Just for perspective, Vieques is an island off an island. As bad as it is here, it's worse there. They feel even more cut off. For years it was a U.S. Navy bombing range until President George W. Bush told them to move and clean all that munitions up. Now it's a playground for the rich and famous but also home to about 10,000 natives who work there and support that tourist economy.

And for the last week, no one knew anything about their fate. They were in this black hole of information. So luckily, we found an angel with a small Cessna to take us on a journey into that heart of darkness.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WEIR (voice-over): We lift off from San Juan, a route Steven has flown hundreds of times. But this is the scariest sky traffic he's ever seen.

(on camera): You said you could sense the tension in the air traffic controller's voice?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Absolutely.

WEIR (voice-over): The airports have no working radar. So every slow Cessna and every fast jet is flying by sight in a dust-filled sky.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The air space is so crazy, it's actually dangerous right now.

WEIR: We cross over resorts and neighborhoods, all shattered by Maria. And eight miles later, touch down amid shattered airplanes. Some of the first outsiders to reach Vieques since the storm.

(on camera): Just picked up by Maria and thrown here. And look at these over on this side.

(voice-over): Broken planes are just the first signs of Maria's strength. The entire island is ravaged, from the swanky W Hotel to the boats of Mosquito Bay.

(on camera): That is the cabin of a catamaran for tourists called the Naughty Mermaid. And if it looks a little bit odd, it's because it's flipped upside-down by what the locals say were 200-mile-an-hour winds.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Three, two, one.

WEIR (voice-over): In happier times, the glow-in-the-dark plankton that lives in this bay helps lure the tourists who drive the economy. There is no salvaging the upcoming high season. But that is a worry for later. Right now is about survival.

[07:25:16] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're out of food. We're running out of food and water.

WEIR (on camera): That is the kind of heartbreaking, soul-draining scene that's getting played out again as people look at her cry. As she gets on a sat phone for the first time. Oh, my God. It crushes your soul to watch that. And this is the line. This is a two-hour line of folks waiting to give proof of life to a wife or a husband or a father. It's rough.

How does that feel? Can I see your eyes? Can you remove your sunglasses for me?

RICK DAILY, VIEQUES RESIDENT: We're doing all right. It's tough. So go back and tell them.

WEIR: That's why I'm here, brother. That's why I'm here.

DAILY: Go back and tell them we need help. Tell the president, our senators. Everybody needs help here.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Pretty much I lost everything.

WEIR: After the storm blew through, you flew down here with a bag of satellite phones?

ROBERT BECKER, RELIEF ORGANIZER: The first flight. We had a lot of folks in the U.S. that were stepping up and contributing. And we decided the most important thing was to establish communications. We weren't hearing from anybody.

WEIR: When is help coming?

DAISY CRUZ CHRISTIAN, DEPUTY MAYOR, VIEQUES: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

WEIR (voice-over): "There are a lot of people WHO promise to bring supplies, but it hasn't arrived yet," the deputy mayor tells me. Red tape seems to be their biggest enemy.

MARK MARTIN, VIEQUES CONSERVATION AND HISTORICAL TRUST: The relief efforts and the aid, some of it may be coming. We're here, and we're trying to get those coordinations, those clearances, those orders to be issued so we can get them. Because the island is feeling this type of pressure. And the tensions are running high.

WEIR (on camera): Do you feel American at moments like this? Do you feel neglected in moments like this? Somewhere in between?

SEN. EDUARDO BHATIA, MINORITY LEADER, PUERTO RICO SENATE: I think we have to take a deep breath and say, you know, we are U.S. citizens. It's been 100 years since Woodrow Wilson in 1917 made us U.S. citizens. It should mean something. And right now we are -- we are the forgotten island, and that shouldn't be.

WEIR (voice-over): For years the U.S. Navy used this island for target practice until the locals got fed up. What better way to make it up to them, by storming the beaches with aid instead of bombs?

BHATIA: This is something that needs and requires someone who knows how to distribute goods in the middle of almost a war zone. WEIR (on camera): So you're making a plea for martial law?

BHATIA: I am making a plea for martial law. I am making a plea for -- for having three, four, five days where we can distribute diesel, where we can distribute water, we can give food. And I mean, it's been six days after the hurricane, and it's just a horrible scenario in Puerto Rico.

BRITTANY LUKOWSKY, VIEQUES RESIDENT: I just need to tell my mom I'm OK. Do you have her number?

WEIR (voice-over): Brittany moved here from Brooklyn four years ago. Now she's helpless, because she has no cash in a cash-only society.

LUKOWSKY: Thank you. Bye.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Everything's going to be all right.

LUKOWSKY: I have no (EXPLETIVE DELETED) money. They won't let us get money. And I can't use my debit card. We're all screwed. I don't even know what to do.

WEIR (on camera): Here's a few bucks. Oh, my God.

LUKOWSKY: We're OK. We're not going to die, but, like, there's no help. This is the only help. Robert Becker's saved everybody here. I don't know what else to say. But private citizens have come through for us, and no one else really has.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WEIR: If it wasn't for the mainland Americans who had the means and organization to get those sat phones down, they'd be even in a worse state right now.

What's even more frustrating, I ran into four sailors from the USS Kearsarge amphibious ready group, who had just done an assessment of the island. They said, "Yes, they're desperate for diesel and water."

I said, "How long will this take?"

And this young sailor said, "That is above my pay grade."

So somebody high on that pay grade needs to make the call to get those people supplies. Because today that place could completely turn. Society is already unraveling. We're at the point now, Chris and Alisyn, where the line between looting and survival disappears for even the most decent people out there.

CAMEROTA: Yes.

WEIR: And the senator I spoke to, he tweeted early this morning, "They're stealing diesel and generators and water. They robbed the morgue's electrical plant." The morgue's electrical plant on Vieques. "No law and order. And no one recovers." So I can't stress enough, these are 10,000 Americans sitting on this

rock waiting, hoping that this is the day help comes.

CAMEROTA: Bill, you are sounding the alarm. And obviously, you're showing us all these stories of desperation. You showed us the story of the man a couple of days ago who had one bottle of insulin left. And we're so happy to report that, because of your reporting, a veterans group was able to find him and get him medication.

So you are sounding the alarm. And hopefully, the right people and officials are listening. Thank you, Bill, for all of your reporting.