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Trump Fuming Over Price's Travel; Returning To Puerto Rico; Scalise: "Miracles Really Do Happen." Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired September 29, 2017 - 05:30   ET



[05:30:42] DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: Growing scandal around Health Secretary Tom Price who used military planes for two foreign trips in addition to chartering private planes. He now says he'll reimburse the government, but not entirely.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: And in Puerto Rico, a change in leadership for military recovery efforts. The Homeland Security chief heads there today but a flash flood warning could make a bad situation worse for millions of Americans.

Welcome back to EARLY START this morning. I'm Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs. It is 31 minutes past the hour.

Up first, Tom Price facing even more scrutiny as new details emerge about his high-cost travel habits on the taxpayer dime. In addition to chartering private jets for official business, the Secretary of Health and Human Services also traveled on government aircraft for two multi-stop international trips. "Politico" reporting those two trips alone cost more than a half a million dollars.

ROMANS: Price, already under scrutiny for chartering private planes, insists all the flights were approved in advance.


TOM PRICE, U.S. SECRETARY, HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES: All of these trips were official business, all of them were within budget. All of them were approved by the normal processes that every other administration's gone through prior to the trip, not after.


ROMANS: President Trump is said to be fuming over the new revelations and all the negative press.

For his part, Sec. Price is vowing to personally reimburse taxpayers for the private charters, sort of. 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.

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

The military jet White House sign-off procedure began under President Obama. And since the inauguration, the White House has authorized 77 military flights for cabinet officials.

Compare that to the same time period in 2009 when the Obama administration approved 94 flights. I'm no math major, but that is 17 more than the Trump administration at this time.

ROMANS: Meantime, we're learning tensions running high at the Department of Health and Human Service. A source tells CNN there's a witch hunt for leakers and people are 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.

BRIGGS: All right. Let's talk about all of this with Julian Zelizer, CNN political analyst, historian and professor at Princeton University. Good morning to you, sir.


BRIGGS: Draining the swamp is getting awfully swampy. The problem here really appears the optics -- the hypocrisy of it.

Here's what Tom Price has said in the past about such private plane usage.


TOM PRICE, U.S. SECRETARY, HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES (then-Rep. Price): 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 hardworking Americans. It needs to start living within its means.

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


BRIGGS: That first clip there, he was lecturing Nancy Pelosi --


BRIGGS: -- to don't fly over our country in your luxury jet. Let me do it, apparently was the part that he would continue on that. Now, the HHS has a $12 billion budget cut proposed in the new budget.

What's the optics here for the HHS secretary?

ZELIZER: Well, they're terrible. Here's an administration that promised to be a populist administration. It promised to cut government spending and it promised to drain the swamp. And here, you have a very high-profile cabinet member who is doing all the things President Trump promised wouldn't happen.

So, in terms of the optics, it certainly doesn't look good and it will be hard for people to understand it.

ROMANS: You know, but, President Trump, when he was on the campaign trail, rode his own plane all around the place. I mean, his cabinet secretaries -- Wilbur Ross, for example, who's a guy who uses private -- not that he is now --


ROMANS: -- but he's a private jet guy, you know. This is the private jet administration, you know.

And when you look at the numbers -- I mean, I'm playing devil's advocate here. When you look at the numbers compared with the Obama administration they haven't taken as many as the Obama administration did in 2009.

Is this the tempest in a teakettle?

ZELIZER: Well, it shouldn't be a surprise, for sure. These kinds of issues have been there from the beginning.

[05:35:00] Even in the campaign, President Trump didn't really give any indications he was going to change the ways of Washington, even though he said he would. So, in some ways, people are getting what they paid for -- or they're paying --

ROMANS: Right.

ZELIZER: -- for what they elected.

BRIGGS: All right, let's talk about what's happening with Facebook. And what we are finding out is that the Russians may not necessarily have been trying to get President Trump elected, but trying to just sow chaos in our political system. This Blacktivist account actually had more likes than the official verified Black Lives Matter page.

Have the Russians succeeded in doing exactly what they wanted, which is chaos, division?

ZELIZER: Absolutely. We don't know yet if they leaned toward one candidate. There is evidence they preferred President Trump once the campaign started.

That said, I think their principal goal was to find all these divisions in American politics and make them worse --

ROMANS: Right.

ZELIZER: -- using social media, using Facebook, using fake news to divide America even further and create a certain kind of chaos and tension that was already there but make it much worse.

ROMANS: Which, in turn, undermines democracy --

ZELIZER: Absolutely.

ROMANS: -- which is the goal.

And anyway, let's talk about tax reform here because we were hearing the administration yesterday really trying to sell this as a middle- class miracle. It is cuts for the wealthy. It is cuts for everyone, really, and it's cuts for corporations.

Do you see real tax reform here or will this end up being tax cuts because already today you're seeing a real pushback on some of these elements?

ZELIZER: The heart of the plan is tax cuts, not tax reform. This is about cutting corporate taxes and cutting upper bracket taxes.

There are reforms in there. Likely, the reforms that are in there are going to fade away as we're already seeing. That happens in the tax- writing process.

But that's not the centerpiece and President Trump has been pretty explicit about this in many of his talks. He sees this as red meat for the Republican Party. It's an issue that matters to him and tax reform is simply rhetoric.

BRIGGS: But in all fairness, there is pretty much universal agreement that we need simplification and that we need corporate tax cuts.

What are the most controversial elements -- the parts that will really involve a fight as we move forward?

ZELIZER: Well, already, the deduction for property taxes is front and center in the newspaper, including "The Wall Street Journal." Lobbyists are mobilizing, especially lobbyists and representatives from many blue states -- republican representatives who don't want that exemption removed.

So that's going to be the first part of this fight and I don't think President Trump can put together a coalition that includes these Republicans if he doesn't abandon that. This happened in 1986 and it will probably happen again.

ROMANS: Yes, the state and local tax deduction -- if you are listening right now from California --

ZELIZER: Yes. ROMANS: -- from New York, from New Jersey, from Connecticut, you know very well that the state and local tax that you write off on your federal return matters.

ZELIZER: And as we saw on health care, he doesn't have the numbers that allow him to do many controversial things.

But again, I don't think that's at the heart of what he wants to do. The heart of what he wants to do is that corporate tax cut --


ZELIZER: -- and my guess is that that has a better chance of going through.

ROMANS: And the business world thinks it's going to happen, right?

ZELIZER: Exactly -- that's exactly.

ROMANS: All right. Julian Zelizer, nice to see you.

ZELIZER: Thank you.

BRIGGS: Thank you. Have a good weekend.

ROMANS: The president -- staying on taxes, the president claims he will not benefit from the tax plan.

Another real estate mogul -- New York real estate mogul Don Peebles told me, actually, this whole plan is great for the rich and that his tax cut will boost jobs.


DON PEEBLES, CHAIRMAN AND CEO, THE PEEBLES CORPORATION: Most high- income earners pay on taxes and earn their income through pass-through entities. And so, this will be a tremendous tax cut, say, from 39 percent down to about 25 percent. And entrepreneurs tend to take most of their free capital and put it back in their businesses.

ROMANS: So, also killing the estate tax, killing the alternative minimum tax, lowering that top bracket, you say this is great for rich people.

PEEBLES: It is. It's great for entrepreneurs. I like the elimination of the estate tax because it allows us to orderly transfer wealth that we work for to the next generation.

ROMANS: Are you concerned at all about how we pay for it?

PEEBLES: Yes. I think one -- I think that's going to be a big fight, by the way, because the elimination of the deduction for state income taxes is going to be huge. And so, you're going to have New York and California fighting tooth and nail because they're the two highest tax states in the country. So I think that's going to be a big issue.


ROMANS: And that's the fight we were just talking about with Julian Zelizer. How already, you're seeing those House members from those states pushing back on this.

Peebles also told me that the plan is particularly good for real estate developers. We have a story on "CNN MONEY" about four reasons why the tax proposal from this president is good for the Trump family.

BRIGGS: Well, and if you take away the salt -- state and local -- then his tax cut, it would be massive, wouldn't it?


BRIGGS: From what we know -- from the one page we've seen, he paid AMT --


BRIGGS: -- almost exclusively.


BRIGGS: And if you take away that and the state and local tax, what would he be paying?

ROMANS: You know, I would really love to see his tax returns.

[07:40:01] BRIGGS: I know. I mean, we're never going to.

ROMANS: I would love to be -- I would love to see his tax returns.

BRIGGS: You wonder if that will be something that the Democrats try to frame ahead. All right.

It's not just people in Puerto Rico struggling post-Maria, it's people still trying to get home to Puerto Rico. CNN joined one family on the long journey back to the island. Their emotional story is next.


[05:45:00] 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.

There's widespread confusion surrounding the delivery of lifesaving supplies.

BRIGGS: According to the governor of Puerto Rico, there are 3,000 of these 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 here remains a critical issue. The Pentagon has just appointed Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Buchanan, the three- star general, to lead all military relief efforts, trying to improve distribution networks and supplies.

The president's Homeland Security adviser Tom Bossert 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 three-star general on the ground earlier?

TOM BOSSERT, WHITE HOUSE ADVISER, HOMELAND SECURITY: 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: Buchanan will join "NEW DAY" later this morning.

About 7,500 U.S. troops and 10,000 federal relief workers are on the ground in Puerto Rico. Right now, there are over 10,000 people in 160 shelters.

The island's power grid not expected to come back fully online for months. Ninety percent of the cell sites also out of service.

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

BRIGGS: Desperation not limited to the people on the island. There are also many folks trying to get home to Puerto Rico.

CNN's Brynn Gingras met up with one family traveling home for the first time since the storm. She has more on their emotional return.


BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Christine and Dave, we met up with a couple, Carmen Delgado and her husband, Eduardo.

For the past week they've been trying to get to Puerto Rico. No idea what their house looks like, they haven't seen their family, and their flights have been canceled three times.

Finally, they got on a flight on Thursday morning from Philadelphia to San Juan. They called it a miracle flight and I can tell you it was an emotional one. We took it with them.

At times, we watched Carmen look out the window -- she cried. When we actually land there was cheering in the entire cabin. And then, when we actually got into the airport here in San Juan it was just chaos.

The couple was frantically searching for their two children who were meant to pick them up. But, of course, communications here on the island are dismal at best and they weren't able to connect.

So what we did is we got in a car and we traveled about an hour outside of San Juan to Humacao. It's where they live. It's actually one of the first places Maria hit.

And as we were really driving around, Carmen would look out the window and she says it looks like a fire tore through this area.

And to be honest, it didn't get much better when we actually got to her house. She walked up the steps to her house, she was gasping for air. There was no ceiling, there were no walls.

And at one point she turned to me and she said I have to sit down. And this is the house that she lived in for 20 years with her entire family and Maria just completely wiped it out.

And remember, they hadn't seen their children -- it was three weeks. And for an hour we waited at that house, which seemed like a lifetime to them, and then finally Carmen saw the car coming down the road -- and watch this emotional reunion.

And one thing Carmen told me after all of this was that I might not have a house but I have a home, which means to her that she has her family back together again.

And she used three words. We now pray, we wait, and we hope, and that is what they are doing in the near future until hopefully, they can rebuild -- Dave and Christine.


ROMANS: Wow, Brynn, what a story.


ROMANS: What a story. And what do they do now? That's what -- I mean --

BRIGGS: Like now you're home, now you have no roof. You probably can't find anyone to fix that home. And that story is multiplied by the tens of thousands, if not worse.

ROMANS: All right.

BRIGGS: All right. Many more of those stories coming up on "NEW DAY." Alisyn Camerota joining us. Good morning, Alisyn.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: That was a brilliant -- I mean, that was just beautiful, that reunion, catching that. And as you point out, Dave, there's, you know maybe millions so obviously, we're going to be talking more about that.

We're also going to dig deeper into HHS Sec. Tom Price. What was he thinking taking private planes repeatedly?

And, we're going to talk about the president's son-in-law, Jared Kushner. What was he thinking using private E-mail?

And what is the president thinking about these things?

[05:50:00] And then, we are going to speak to the general who is now on the ground in Puerto Rico about what needs to be done. What about those containers that are trapped at that, you know, holding lot? When are they going to get supplies out to the people who so desperately need them?

BRIGGS: And, Tom Bossert, too, the Homeland Security adviser?

CAMEROTA: Oh, yes. We need to --


CAMEROTA: Yes, we'll hear from him about what the federal response is because we keep hearing that they're doing a great job. And obviously, what we hear on the ground tells a different story.

ROMANS: Yes, that's exactly --

BRIGGS: There's a disconnect, yes.

ROMANS: What we're hearing from the White House is that this is a good news story.

BRIGGS: That's from the administration.

ROMANS: The Puerto Rico response is a good news story. We have, I think, our second-largest foreign bureau right now happens to be in Puerto Rico where we have all of these people who are filing reports pretty much hourly that tell a different -- paint a different picture.

All right, thank you. Nice to -- so nice to see you this morning. We'll talk to you soon.

Elon Musk wants to colonize Mars and she just unveiled the next phase of his plans. Details on "CNN Money Stream," next.


[05:55:05] ROMANS: Welcome back.

A triumphant return to Capitol Hill for Congressman Steve Scalise. The House Republican Whip was shot in June at a congressional baseball practice. On Thursday, he returned to the Hill for the first time since.

BRIGGS: Scalise calls himself a living example that miracles really do happen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. STEVE SCALISE (R-LA), HOUSE REPUBLICAN WHIP: But that's why I'm so excited to be back because as we're fighting through the issues of the day let's just keep in mind that we rise above the challenges of the day and understand that it's not just us and our constituents and the country -- the United States -- that's counting on us being successful. People all around the world that believe in freedom are counting on us, as well.


BRIGGS: Scalise planning to resume his job at the Capitol while continuing outpatient rehab.

ROMANS: All right. First lady Melania Trump leading her first roundtable policy discussion on opioid -- the opioid crisis in America. Mrs. Trump says she plans to use her platform to help kids with the pressure they face growing up.


MELANIA TRUMP, FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: Drug addiction, especially opioid abuse, is one of those issues, and I look forward to working alongside the presidential opioid commission and people, such as yourself, to do all we can to teach children the dangerous consequences of drug abuse.


ROMANS: Many of those invited to the event were directly affected by opioid abuse. Others who attended work in the drug recovery field.

BRIGGS: 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 the support of family and friends, and fantastic insurance. And she made a plea for universal health care to help others facing a similar fight.

The 56-year-old Emmy winner getting support form a real-life veep, Joe Biden, who tweeted, "We veeps stick together. Jill and I, and all the Bidens, are with you, Julia."

ROMANS: We wish her the best.

BRIGGS: As are we at CNN.

ROMANS: Fifty-seven minutes past the hour. Let's get a check on "CNN Money Stream" to close out the month of September.

Global stock markets mostly higher. They're following Wall Street here. The S&P 500 hit a record high close.

You can thank tax reform. The White House's tax plan, if it becomes law, would cut the corporate tax rate, one of many business-friendly proposals in this administration. Also, the economy grew at its fastest pace in two years in the second quarter. GDP growth provides up to 3.1 percent. Now, the Commerce Department warns the third quarter will slow down because of the impact of Hurricanes Irma and Harvey.

Twitter suspended 200 Russia-linked accounts but one U.S. senator says it's not enough. Twitter met with the Senate Intelligence Committee yesterday. It's investigating Russia's meddling during the 2016 election.

Twitter told the committee it mainly removed accounts connected to Russia-linked Facebook profiles but ranking member Mark Warner says that response is inadequate on almost every level, calling the company's entire statement deeply disturbing.

Elon Musk wants to colonize Mars and he just unveiled the next phase of his plan. Musk says SpaceX aims to land two cargo ships on the red planet in 2022. The goal is to place power, mining, and life support systems on the planet. That will allow crews to start arriving in 2024, just seven years from now.

Musk admits this plan is, as he calls it, aspirational. A moon shot, if you will. A Mars shot, if you will.

BRIGGS: In a word, that's Elon Musk -- aspirational.

ROMANS: Yes, exactly. Absolutely.

BRIGGS: Another business story. The NFL game last night streamed on Amazon Prime.

ROMANS: Interesting, right?

BRIGGS: Yes, a new move here and at least 149 countries streamed that game. So it was a little choppy in the beginning --


BRIGGS: -- but in the end, I'm told, successful, yes.

ROMANS: It froze up -- it froze up here and there but it shows you just --

BRIGGS: It could be the future.

ROMANS: -- how we're consuming media is changing by the minute.


ROMANS: Thanks for joining us. I'm Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs.

More ethics questions for HHS Sec. Tom Price. He didn't just fly charter planes, he took military planes overseas. "NEW DAY" has it all covered for you right now. We'll see you next week.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The bill was a million dollars. He's paying $52,000. Who's picking up the rest? The taxpayers are.

PRICE: All of these trips were official business within budget. All of them were approved.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It reinforces every bad stereotype about the Trump administration.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm looking at that very closely. I am not happy with it.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: This is a national emergency. Millions of our fellow Americans are in peril.

ZELENY: Would you acknowledge it was a mistake to not have this three-star general on the ground earlier?

BOSSERT: No, not at all.

ELAINE DUKE, ACTING SECRETARY, DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY: It is really a good news story in terms of our ability to reach people.

RICK DAILY, PUERTO RICO RESIDENT: We need help. Can you tell the president everybody needs help here bad?


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

CAMEROTA: We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is NEW DAY. It is Friday, September 29th, 6:00 here in New York.