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Problems for Price; Help for Puerto Rico; Packers, Bears Lock Arms During Anthem. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired September 29, 2017 - 05:00   ET


DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: And for his part, Secretary Price vowing to personally reimburse taxpayers for the private charters, sort of.

[05:00:05] Price will pay nearly $52,000 covering only his seat.

Not the total cost of the charter flights, estimated to be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Those military flights Price took require a sign-off from the White House. Charter flights are only subject to approval by the HHS lawyers.

Now, the military jet White House signoff procedure began under President Obama. Since, the inauguration, the White House has authorized 77 military flights for cabinet officials. But compare that to the same time period in 2009 when the Obama administration approved 94 flights, 17 more than the Trump administration. Important context in this controversy.

BRIGGS: Very important. Meantime, we're learning tensions are running high at the Department of Health and Human Services. A source tells CNN there's a witch hunt for leakers, and people hiring lawyers at their own expense.

Reports this morning also say Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and his aides have taken several flights on private or military aircraft, including flights to his home state of Montana and private flights between two Caribbean islands.

Four cabinet members have now been found to be using non-commercial planes at taxpayer expense.

ROMANS: All right. Let's bring in Julian Zelizer, CNN political analyst, historian, and professor at Princeton University.

Nice to see you.


ROMANS: You know, when these cabinet officials get into the bubble right away, you know, their time is very valuable, and they know their time is valuable, six hours at a commercial airport, you know, waiting get through and have a flight cancelled is a problem, when you're trying to get a new administration up and running.

But are these flights appropriate to go from Washington to Philadelphia on a charter flight.

BRIGGS: It's a three-hour drive, mind you.

ROMANS: Right, and there's Acela.

To take a government flight from Maryland, to Monrovia, Liberia, to Berlin, then Geneva with a stop in Ghana, Beijing, Saigon, Hanoi, Tokyo, multi-stop foreign trips on a military aircraft. Is that appropriate?

ZELIZER: Well, I think there are trips that require either military aircraft, or special accommodations for cabinet members in this day and age, but it's hard to fathom why all of these trips were necessary, especially with an administration claiming they're there to clean up the swamp. And I think this is part of a culture that we have seen with President Trump where the question of ethics is simply not central.

The question is did he set a tone for his cabinet officials with these kinds of trips were OK.

ROMANS: I think one thing a really important part of this. Dave and I have mentioned before. You know, Tom Price has criticized others for taking private jets, again and again. As said that someone who would take, you know -- let's listen to him do it.


TOM PRICE, HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES SECRETARY: Don't you fly over our country in your luxury jet, and lecture us on what it means to be an American.

Washington does not need to take more from hard working Americans. It needs to start living within its means.

We must be constantly asking how we can deploy the precious resources that we have and people and in treasure to the most efficient and effective use on behalf of the American people.


ROMANS: So, in defense of Tom Price, there are fewer flights taken in the Trump administration like this than the Obama administration, but the hypocrisy is right there.

ZELIZER: Right, if you're going to be a fiscal conservative, if you're going to criticize others for talking these flights, you don't want on the front pages to see that you yourself are doing this. And so, this kind of hypocrisy matters. And even the numbers comparing what happened under President Obama to President Trump might be fair, but given the rhetoric and tone of what he has said, and his own -- the questions about his ethics that came up during the confirmation, I think this becomes a bigger problem for the administration.

BRIGGS: But given the president's own travel habits, tens of millions of dollars to fly to and from Mar-a-Lago and now to and from Bedminster because that looks a little better, how would he fire him? And will he?

ZELIZER: No. That's part of the problem. When people say you need to set an ethical tone for your administration, and he didn't, it's then hard for him to be outraged. Look, he has been using his own properties for many presidential events and using them almost as an infomercial whenever he goes back.

So, how can he then criticize Secretary Price and say he's outrage when he has done things far worse. He has never fully separated himself from his own business, so this is not a surprise.

ROMANS: Don't forget we're in the $40, red, make America great again, a USA hat that's for sale in the Website for the reelection campaign as well.

Let's talk about the use of private e-mail. One would think, after this election season, you would be very careful about using private e- mail for government business. Turns out not so much.

We're learning more about Jared Kushner's use of private e-mail and other members of the administration.

[05:05:01] Is this hypocrisy?

ZELIZER: Yes. It's hard to say it isn't. They made this the central theme of the campaign. They chanted lock her up to Secretary Clinton who admitted it was a mistake, after all this came out. And here you have high level officials in the middle of an investigation going on who are obviously knowingly using private e-mail to communicate. And so, this is not what we expect under the Presidential Records Act.

There's a reason we have that law. We want to make sure the administration is accountable and want to have a record of what they do.

BRIGGS: Jared Kushner did not tell Senate investigators about using that private email, but you're not by any means comparing what they did to what Hillary Clinton did, having a private server in her home. These are apples and oranges.

ZELIZER: They are apples and oranges, but they made the issue of private e-mails the centerpiece of the campaign. Go back to the RNC and listen to the speeches. And so, here they are, after that, using private e-mails themselves. It's hard to under stand and hard to explain.

ROMANS: We're learning more every day about Russian interference in the election using social media. These Facebook, Twitter and others have been criticized for being too slow or being too, maybe, you know, libertarian about saying we're the platform, we don't police it. They are starting to police it now.

Now we know these black activist accounts were linked to Russia, really meant to sow division and anger in America's communities. Do you have any sense we're going to make sure this doesn't happen again or are the Russian's going to morph the tactics? Because it clearly works.

ZELIZER: Well, it does look like the heads of these companies are now going to take this seriously, in part because of the political pressure. But this is going to require government. It will start with the administration acknowledging what happened. That's the first step. Then it will require both the administration and Congress really looking into what happened and working with the private sector to make sure you at least curtail this in the next election. But look, the clock is ticking. Midterms are almost here. Soon people will be running for 20. So, you can't wait, wait, wait because it's clear the Russians had an extensive operation and will do it again.

BRIGGS: It's going to take a real effort from the private sector to make sure it doesn't happen.

Julian Zelizer, thank you. We'll see you in about 30 minutes.

ROMANS: One wonders if Jon Huntsman now confirmed to be the ambassador to Russia, he's a little more of a hawk, Russia hawk than the president. Maybe he'll do something.

BRIGGS: Perhaps.

ROMANS: All right. The White House defending its tax plan. The president called it a middle class miracle. Critics say the plan favors business and the rich. And some middle class Americans might potentially even pay more.

Economic adviser Gary Cohn insists, look, no tax package guarantees zero tax increases.


GARY COHN, CHIEF ECONOMIC ADVISER: Our tax plan is aimed at making sure we give middle class Americans a tax cut. Remember, we have 50 states, we have counties, we have cities, we have long-term capital gains, we have short term capital gains. We have all different types of structures.

I'll guarantee you, I'll guarantee you, you could find someone in this country -- maybe one person -- who their taxes may not go down.


ROMANS: All right. Taxes, of course, are complicated and the plan lacks details on purpose actually so the tax-writing committees can figure out the best thing here. So, there's no telling how it benefits the middle class. Two things, though, we know for sure, a higher child tax credit and doubling of the standard deduction.

All other tax breaks, though, gone, including the tax break for state and local taxes. Who uses that? Mainly middle class Americans in high tax states like California, New York, New Jersey. So, House Republicans are already pushing back worried their constituents will pay more. Gary Cohn yesterday saying, look, family of four, 100,000 in income,

that double standard deduction and the child tax credit, this could be a $1,000 tax benefit for them. They could pay $1,000 less in taxes.


ROMANS: Good. And again, there's a lot of --

BRIGGS: Blanks to be filled in.

ROMANS: Right. Because the tax writing and the committees. It's their turn. This is the opening argument of the tax reform.

BRIGGS: Framework, right?

All right. With Puerto Rico out of power expected for many months, millions still waiting, critical supplies. Some wading through knee- deep waters for limited groceries. More on that, next.


[05:13:29] ROMANS: A flash flood warning in effect for Puerto Rico threatening to compound the misery on the island. Acting Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke travels to Puerto Rico today. She'll meet with the governor and FEMA officials to discuss response efforts. There's widespread confusion surrounding the delivery of life-saving supplies.

BRIGGS: According to the governor of Puerto Rico, there are 3,000 containers stuck in ports, some may not be related to hurricane relief. Earlier, CNN had been told by shipping officials as many as 10,000 containers were stuck. Either way, distribution remains a critical issue.

ROMANS: Now, the Pentagon has just appointed Lieutenant General Jeffrey Buchanan, a three-star, to lead all military relief efforts in Puerto Rico, trying to improve the distribution networks of relief supplies. Listen to the president's homeland security adviser Tom Bossert when he was asked why it took so long to appoint Buchanan.


JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Do you acknowledge it was a mistake looking back to not have this on the ground earlier?

TOM BOSSERT, HOMELAND SECURITY ADVISER: No, not at all. In fact that doesn't affect the way we stage equipment and the way we handle area command and field operational commands. This is textbook and it's been done well.


BRIGGS: About 7,500 U.S. troops and 10,000 federal relief workers are on the ground in Puerto Rico. Right now, there are more than 10,000 people in 160 shelters. The island's power grid is not expected to come back fully online for months, though. Ninety percent of the cell sites also out of service.

ROMANS: We heard from the podium from Sarah Huckabee Sanders yesterday that this is a good news story. The Puerto Rico response is a good news story.

[05:15:02] According to Puerto Rico's governor, an airplane with cash will soon be arriving to ease pressure on banks running low on money. The U.S. Department of Transportation is sending $40 million to help restore essential services on roads and bridges. Buses in San Juan resume limited service this morning with more routes expected to reopen next week.

BRIGGS: U.S. Virgin Islands still facing trouble as well. Two thirds of the cell service on the island still knocked down. St. John no self-service at all. This weekend, Royal Caribbean's Adventure of the Seas cruise ship will evacuate 1,000 residents from three islands with medical needs. Now, priority being given to high risk pregnant women, the elderly and those with illnesses or injuries requiring urgent care.

ROMANS: In Florida, the first FEMA trailers arriving in Key West for Monroe County residents who lost their homes to Hurricane Irma. So far, FEMA officials have already approved 84 of the trailers for storm survivors. Irma pounded the region nearly three weeks ago, leaving the Middle and Lower Keys badly damaged. The next goal for FEMA is to install the trailers on pads so they can become inhabitable as soon as they are hooked up to utilities.

BRIGGS: The EPA confirms the flooding from Hurricane Harvey caused a leak in one of the most dangerous and vulnerable superfund sites, the San Jacinto waste pits. The protective cap has been damaged and samples show underlying waste material was exposed. The pit is full of waste from a paper mill that's been deposited for decades. Now, the test results from one of the 14 areas tests uncovered dioxins at more than 2,300 times the acceptable level.

ROMANS: All right. It appears the leader of ISIS is still alive. Breaking 11 months of silence in a long audio recording, Abu Bakr al- Baghdadi mocks the United States. He calls on jihadists to rally against the Syrian regime.

He insists the terror group remains viable despite the rapid loss of territory. The speech seems to have been recorded recently. It references North Korea's nuclear threats against Japan.

A national intelligence spokesman says the recording is being examined.

BRIGGS: That's the only video we have of him. So, you know --

ROMANS: After he gave that sermon there in Mosul, he's sort of -- he's on the run.

BRIGGS: He disappeared.

ROMANS: He's on the run after that. BRIGGS: All right. A second massive rock fall in two days at Yosemite national park. Officials say one person was injured in the fall Thursday on Yosemite's popular climbing destination. El Capitan, it happened along the same exact climbing route as Wednesday's rock fall in which one person was killed and another injured.

All the victims said to be British tourists. This picture taken by a climber who had just reached the top of El Capitan when the rocks broke loose below.

ROMANS: Terrifying.


ROMANS: All right. Actress Julia Louis Dreyfus revealing she has breast cancer. The star of "Veep" and "Seinfeld" posting this message on Twitter: One in eight women get breast cancer today. I'm the one.

Dreyfus also saying she has a supportive family and friends and fantastic insurance through her union. She made a plea for universal health care to help others facing a similar fight. The 56-year-old Emmy winner getting plenty of support from Hollywood, her "Veep" co- stars, and real life veep, Joe Biden, who tweeted: We Veeps stick together, Jill and I and all the Bidens are with you, Julia.

BRIGGS: Ever watch "Veep"?

ROMANS: Yes, I've seen a few times. She's good.

BRIGGS: She's hysterical.

ROMANS: The company says, you know, the production schedule is going to be altered for her treatment, which is always nice to see when your bosses and your employers recognize life happens.


ROMANS: And that everyone is going to kick in and help out.

BRIGGS: She might be the funniest woman of our generation. Very talented.

All right. The NFL may be OK with the player as protests during the national anthem, but what about the NBA? Commissioner Silver laying down the law. Andy Scholes has more in this morning's "Bleacher Report", next.


[05:23:14] BRIGGS: All right. Chants of "USA" and NFL team continued to show unity. Bears and Packers locking arms during the anthem before last night's game.

ROMANS: Andy Scholes has more on this morning's "Bleacher Report". Hey, Andy.


You know, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers invited all the fans at Lambeau Field to also lock arms during the national anthem last night, but he didn't really get very good participation. Broadcast showed a very small number of fans in the stands locking arms but nearly all of the Bears and Packers did so on the side lines. And after the game, Rodgers said what they're doing during the anthem has started great conversations.


AARON RODGERS, GREEN BAY PACKERS QUARTERBACK: As much as some people want us to just shut up and play football, sports and politics have always intersected. And if we can help continue the conversation through demonstration of unity like tonight, I think that's a good thing.


SCHOLES: As for the game, Packers receiver Davante Adams on the wrong end of a very scary hit in the third quarter. Danny Trevathan launching him, hitting Adams right in the helmet. The game was delayed for about five minutes while medical personnel tended to Adams. He gave a thumbs-up as he was carted off the field. Adams is being treated for head and neck injury at a local hospital.

Coach Mike McCarthy said the news on Adams was positive after the game. The Packers won this one easily, 35-14.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said he expects his players to stand for the national anthem when the preseason starts in a few days.


ADAM SILVER, NBA COMMISSIONER: On, you know, the anthem and specifically, we have a rule that requires our players to stand for the anthem. It's been our rule as long as I've been involved with the league, and my expectation is that our players will continue to stand for the anthem.


SCHOLES: Now, Silver added he does not know how they will deal with a player that decides not to stand for the anthem.

All right. Giancarlo Stanton is on the brink of baseball history. The Marlins slugger hitting two more home runs last night to give him 59 for the season. He's got three games left to try to hit two home runs to match Roger Maris's old home run record of 61.

Finally, for the first time ever, three former presidents on hand for the President's Cup, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama, taking in the festivities, this may the greatest selfie of all time. Phil Mickelson gating a selfie with the three former presidents. The only thing he could have done better there guys was maybe frame his entire face on the whole thing. BRIGGS: Thank you.

SCHOLES: But still, that thing is got to go on the mantle, right, above the fireplace, because what a cool picture.

BRIGGS: Right. He was one chin short of that being the greatest selfie of all time. There was a little head room. He had it. Still, great stuff there.

Thank you, Andy.

SCHOLES: Have a good one, guys.

ROMANS: I wonder what they talked about.

BRIGGS: Wouldn't you kill to know what the conversation was?

ROMANS: Shooting the breeze.

BRIGGS: Got a feeling the current political environment came up.

ROMANS: Or maybe grandchild.

All right, 26 minutes past the hour. Health Secretary Tom Price facing growing scrutiny over his air travel. Not only private jets, military flights overseas. We're told the president is not pleased.