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AT THIS HOUR

Soon: House GOP Unveils Tax Reform Plan; Pelosi Slams "Half- Baked" GOP Tax Plan; New Video Captures Horror, Shock Of Mangled Bus; Trump: Suspect "Should Get Death Penalty"; Clovis Withdraws Name From Running For Agriculture Post; Complaint: Suspect's Phone Filled With ISIS Material; Lawmakers Release Some Russian-Linked Facebook Ads. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired November 2, 2017 - 11:00   ET

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


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[11:00:17]

ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: Hello. I'm Ana Cabrera in for Kate Bolduan. Thanks for joining us.

At any moment, on Capitol Hill, a landmark moment for Republicans and a major test for a party struggling to come together. House GOP leaders about to unveil what they hope will be their party's signature achievement of the Trump era, a bold tax reform plan.

Lawmakers themselves have a lot at stake here. GOP squabbles delayed yesterday's planned rollout and some Republicans fear if this goes south like the failed Obamacare repeal, it could doom them in the next year midterm election.

Now CNN Sunlen Serfaty is joining us on Capitol Hill. She is getting new details about this tax plan. Sunlen, as we wait for the official announcement from House leaders what more are you learning?

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Ana, I can tell you members were briefed on the contours of the tax bill just moments ago. So, they too are still learning the nuts and bolts of what is actually in this massive tax bill.

Now, we do know some details. We know that this reduces the number of individual tax rates from seven now down to four. It permanently lowers the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 20 percent.

And also, one of the biggest, most contentious issues that have been on the table throughout this debate leading into them actually releasing the bill text today is the issue over the SALT provision, State and Local Income Taxes.

A lot of members leaving the briefing this morning still grumbling about the deal that was brokered through according to this tax bill that repeal -- that repeals state and local tax deduction but it gives them one concession.

It allows them to deduct property taxes that would be capped at $10,000. I talked with one congressman from New York, Dan Donovan, who is not sure if that's going to be enough to essentially win his support to have him sign on to this bill.

And I have to tell you a lot of members just calling this an opening salvo saying that in essence this has largely been crafted behind closed doors and largely shrouded in secrecy leading into today, so they have to take time to actually study everything.

And an incredibly ambitious schedule ahead of them, Ana. We know leadership who will speak in just a moment from this room behind me, they are going to lay out a very ambitious schedule.

We are going to bring it for markup next week and then potentially to the House floor the week after. They want to get it passed at least in the House by Thanksgiving and they want this process wrapped up by the end of the year -- Ana.

CABRERA: We are going to take those comments live as they try to make their case, sell their plan to the American people. But meantime, as you and also Democrats are just getting a look at the details of the plan, we are now hearing reaction from Capitol Hill from Nancy Pelosi. Let's listen.

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REPRESENTATIVE NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), MINORITY LEADER: Today, they have started to unveil a tax bill designed to plunder the middle class to put the -- to put into the pockets of the wealthiest 1 percent more money. While Republicans ambush the American people with the half- baked tax bill written in the dark to be raced through Congress before it is understood, we already know some of what to be the truth.

It raises taxes on the middle class, millions of middle-class families across the country, borrows trillions from the future, from our children and grandchildren's futures to give tax cuts to the wealthiest and encourages corporations to ship jobs overseas, and the budget ransacks Medicare.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: She just slammed the bill, pretty stunning reaction.

SERFATY: It is. It is no surprise coming from Democrats. I think they're, of course, is a realization they will need Republicans to get this through and certainly Democratic support would be nice, but they don't expect it here.

You heard Nancy Pelosi there saying this was written in a dark of night. That is a criticism that I expect we'll hear a lot from Democrats. And I have to say, it has been privately expressed from many Republicans up here on Capitol Hill.

That said, it is all systems go. They are pushing ahead. Republican leadership know their most -- their chief concern right now is making sure that their Republican caucus gets on board with this bill -- Ana. CABRERA: All right. Sunlen Serfaty, we'll let you go as we prepare for that official rollout. As soon as we see the speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, and others take the podium, we will take you there live.

Also, new this morning, chilling details on New York's deadly terrorist attacks since 9/11. Investigators have provided a shocking glimpse now of what the suspect is telling them. And President Trump's tweets could now complicate the legal case.

Plus, disturbing new video of shell-shocked witnesses coming upon the school bus that was mangled on the rampage by that suspect slamming into it. There were children still trapped inside. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[11:05:09] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're stuck in here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are they OK?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you OK? My God, oh, my God.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey. I need -- can you call 911? I got -- oh, my God. Oh, my God! OK. I need an ambulance right here. Right here. The guy t-boned. Come on. There's a kid right there.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: You see the police were already on scene. Let's begin with the investigation. Now CNN's Alex Marquardt is at the site of this attack. Alex, the suspect apparently is expressing no remorse?

ALEXANDER MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: None whatsoever. And frankly that dramatic video if he had not crashed into that bus, this whole incident could have been a lot worse. There could have been a lot more dead.

We are learning more from the attacker himself about the planning, about how much more he wanted to do and the reason that we're learning so much so quickly is that he has waived his Miranda Rights and he is opening up to investigators.

But as you say, he is expressing no remorse. We know that this attack has been in the works for around a year, but it's only in the past two months that the attacker says he decided to use a vehicle.

And that's likely because he looked over at Europe where all those horrific attacks have been taking place in places like Berlin, London and Barcelona where cars have driven into crowds and killed and injured so many people.

So, we understand that on October 22nd, which is just under two weeks ago, he went to Home Depot in New Jersey and rented the same type of vehicle that he used to carry out this attack to practice.

And then on Halloween, two days ago, he rented that vehicle, just after 2:00 p.m., driving across the George Washington Bridge, and then down the Westside Highway, along the west side of Manhattan, down that bike path, mowing down pedestrians and people on their bikes.

That is when just after 3:00 p.m., he ran into that school bus coming out of the vehicle and being taken down by a young police officer named Ryan Nash, who then stopped the attack, shooting the attacker in the abdomen.

But we do know that he had then planned to go across the -- go east across the southern tip of Manhattan over to the Brooklyn Bridge to and I'm quoting the criminal complaint, "kill as many people as possible."

Now, once the attacker was taken down, the authorities discovered that he had a bag full of knives. So, that could imply that he had planned at some point getting out of the vehicle with knives and going about a stabbing spree, something that we've also seen in at least one attack in London over in Europe.

They also found two cell phones, one of which contained some 90 ISIS related videos including videos of execution and beheadings as well as some 44,000 photos. So, among the many questions that investigators have for the attacker, one of them has been answered, his allegiance to ISIS.

We know that he pledged allegiance to ISIS in a note that was found near the site of the attack. We also know that he requested ISIS flags to be hung in his hospital room. Clearly that's something that did not happen.

We also know that he had considered using ISIS flags having them waved from the vehicle as he carried out this attack. He decided not to in the end because that would have drawn too much attention to him.

Ana, one more thing, we have not seen, surprisingly, a claim of responsibility from ISIS. Normally in these types of situations where someone has at least claimed allegiance to ISIS, you do see a claim of responsibility. That we have not yet seen -- Ana.

CABRERA: Important to note that. Alex Marquardt, thank you for that update.

Meantime, President Trump facing some blowback over a series of comments that could make it more difficult to prosecute the suspect. Just before midnight the president tweeted, "New York City terrorist was happy as he asked to hang ISIS flag in his hotel room, his hospital room. He killed eight people, badly injured 12, should get death penalty."

CNN's Joe Johns is at the White House. Joe, the president is back at it on Twitter this morning.

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: That's absolutely right. And it's interesting there are sort of two prongs to this story. On the one hand, the president, yes, certainly making it potentially more difficult to get this case successfully through the judicial system by giving ammunition, for example, to a defense attorney, who might be representing the suspect.

Because the president of the United States carries so much weight, so many people listen to him, there would be an argument there that it would be impossible or at least very difficult to get an impartial jury, and then there's a second half of it about Guantanamo Bay.

The president suggested yesterday he wanted to send the suspect to Guantanamo Bay and then he backed off of that in tweets this morning. Just read it, "I would love to send the New York City terrorist to Guantanamo but statistically that process takes much longer than going through the federal system."

And there is something appropriate about keeping him in the home of the horrible crime he committed should move fast. DEATH PENALTY," the president writes in caps.

[11:10:04] This is an acknowledgement of the fact that it could be difficult legally and constitutionally to send a person who is arrested on U.S. soil as a combatant or whatever to Guantanamo Bay. Back to you, Ana.

CABRERA: Joe, I want to ask you about breaking news we're just getting in. We now know that the former Trump campaign adviser, Sam Clovis, was the president's nominee to be the Department of Agriculture's chief scientist, he has now withdrawn from that position, being under consideration. Joe, how significant is this and explain what has led up to this moment?

JOHNS: Yes. I think it's important, one sentence statement coming out from the White House press office, we respect Mr. Clovis' decision to withdraw his nomination, now coming from the Press Secretary Sarah Sanders.

The significant is, he was up for the job as the top scientist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. There were some questions about his qualifications for the job, but more importantly, I think he had connections to George Papadopoulos, who is the one person who has actually pleaded guilty so far in the Russia investigation.

He pleaded false statements after an interview with the FBI and Clovis had a connection to Papadopoulos. Apparently, they exchanged e-mails, perhaps some other connections and there was a question about whether -- and the extent to which Clovis may have encouraged the idea that Trump officials might travel overseas to meet with Russia officials.

The attorney for Clovis has put out a statement of her own saying that Mr. Clovis was very much opposed to the idea of Trump aides traveling overseas to meet with Russians. Nonetheless, Mr. Clovis has stepped down from that nomination and it was clear that it could have been a tough road to how if it got to Capitol Hill. Back to you.

CABRERA: Joe Johns, thank you from the White House. Back to New York City and the terror attack now, joining us to discuss, CNN national security analyst, Samantha Vinograd, and Seamus Hughes, the deputy director of the program on extremism at George Washington University. So, Samantha, I want to start with you and some of the new details we're now learning from this criminal complaint with the suspect. One thing that really stood out to me was that his cell phone contained 90 videos, much of it was ISIS propaganda, and also almost 4,000 images, again ISIS propaganda, also an image of ISIS so-called leader, Baghdadi.

When you look at that or knowing that, that digital footprint, I imagine that is a big deal for investigators as they try to figure out exactly how he was radicalized and who else may be in his orbit.

SAMANTHA VINOGRAD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Exactly. Good news is, digital footprints don't go away. So, in the first instance in the near term the focus has to be on making sure there are no other follow-on attacks planned.

So, law enforcement intelligence officials can look at his digital footprint and say who else was he in touch with, was he urging anyone else to take similar action. At the same time, we can use technology as force for good here.

We can go back and use advanced machine learning tools to say, what was the suspect's pattern of behavior online and then look to see whether any other users are exhibiting similar patterns and that can help ward off attacks.

CABRERA: So, that's the key is preventing the next one or deterrence as well. Seamus, you have researched dozens of homegrown terrorism cases. Right now, investigators tell us they believe the attacker was radicalized during his time in the U.S. not before. Based on what he's telling investigators apparently, what they found on his phone and vehicle, what do you take away from it so far?

SEAMUS HUGHES, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY, PROGRAM ON EXTREMISM: Yes. I think that's the exact point. When you look at the cases of ISIS in America, the vast majority are U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents. We talk about homegrown terrorism we really mean homegrown terrorism.

Of course, they've looked through his phones and found the ISIS videos and propaganda, but likely this is a combination of the online radicalization and offline connection too. It's one thing to watch videos. It's another thing to have an individual next to you encouraging you to commit attacks.

CABRERA: Samantha, are you surprised he's talking to investigators? And how much credence would you give to what he's saying?

VINOGRAD: I think the investigators will handle that question and focus a little bit more on what we can do to prevent the next attack. What's really clear from what you mentioned about his access to content online, we're engaged in digital warfare here and the fact is we're losing the war in this theater and we need to completely recalibrate our approach to how we stop access to digital content that extremists are putting out. We need to reorganize and really create an anti-digital warfare entity so that we can stop this content from being published online from its source and then stop access when it's put on these digital platforms.

CABRERA: I mean, he clearly wasn't trying to hide his feelings about ISIS. Should his online activity have been flagged to someone?

[11:15:07] VINOGRAD: I think the answer is definitely yes and what we need to do again is go back and look why it wasn't this time around. And I think, you know, back when terrorists started exploiting the financial system as it got more modern to illicitly move money that was critical to their survival, we created dedicated threat finance units at the Department of the Treasury to work on combatting threat finance. We're now facing a situation where terrorists are moving illegal content online and manipulating digital infrastructure and we need to restructure to address that.

CABRERA: Seamus, I want to ask about the follow-up here. Since this attack happened the president was quick to call for the elimination of the Diversity Visa Lottery Program, which we now know is how the suspect came to the U.S. in 2010. If he wasn't radicalized beforehand, would eliminating this program makes the U.S. safer?

HUGHES: I think you're talking about a relatively small program about 50,000 visa applications in that program a year. Largely when you're talking about homegrown terrorism, it's homegrown terrorism.

So, you have individuals that are drawn to it here and so, yes, of course, we should take a hard look at individuals that are coming into the U.S. and we should review our processes, but we largely need to focus inward instead of outward.

CABRERA: All right. Seamus and Samantha, thank you both. We have to leave it there.

All eyes back on Capitol Hill now, where we are just moments away from the GOP's highly anticipated tax plan rollout. We will be bringing that to you as soon as it happens. CNN's Phil Mattingly will also interview Speaker Paul Ryan live immediately after the announcement. Stay with us. Much more ahead AT THIS HOUR.

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[11:20:47]

CABRERA: As we continue to await the GOP tax reform plan presser, I want to bring you more on the breaking news, President Trump's nominee for a top post at the Agriculture Department has withdrawn his name from consideration.

Sam Clovis was a top campaign official, he was up to be the department's chief scientist and now we're learning questions about his ties to former Trump campaign adviser, George Papadopoulos, who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his Russia contacts put that nomination in jeopardy.

CNN's Jessica Schneider is covering all the angles for us. Jessica, what more are you learning now about Clovis' decision to withdraw?

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Ana, really the decision of him to withdraw his name from that nomination to chief scientist at the Department of Agriculture really hits on the point of just how this Russia investigation is impacting the Trump administration itself.

Sam Clovis was implicated in those court papers that were released on Monday, all relating to the guilty plea by George Papadopoulos. So first of all, Sam Clovis to recap for you, has withdrawn from his nomination as chief scientist of the Department of Agriculture.

We have a statement that Clovis has just released. So, let me read it for you. He said, "The political climate inside Washington has made it impossible for me to receive balance and fair consideration for this position."

He continued on to say, "The relentless assaults on you and your team seem to be blood sport that only increases in intensity each day." Sam Clovis seeming to refer to President Trump and the White House administration.

But it is important to note that Sam Clovis was referenced at least two times in the documents filed on Monday. It was implicated that Sam Clovis did have a few e-mail conversations with George Papadopoulos in which the government claims that Clovis actually encouraged Papadopoulos to go to Russia, meet with Russian officials.

So, that now the fallout we're seeing, Sam Clovis has withdrawn his name. Ana, it is important to note that when the "Washington Post" revealed Sam Clovis in these court documents because he was only referred to in the documents as campaign supervisor, Sam Clovis' attorneys pushed back saying that, no, he wasn't really encouraging him.

That was sort of misread, he was just being polite as he would be to any campaign volunteer. So, his attorneys tried to push back on this earlier in the week, but, of course, we have seen the fallout with Sam Clovis withdrawing from the nomination as s chief scientist at the Department of Agriculture -- Ana.

CABRERA: Meantime, we have Manafort and Gates back in court today, two more witnesses will be testifying before the House Intel Committee. What can we expect?

SCHNEIDER: Well, that's right. Right now, we know that Carter Page is behind closed doors, he is talking with the House Intel. You know, Carter Page has been on their radar for quite some time.

Of course, he had disclosed to the Senate Intel that he had been in touch with Russian officials in the 2013 and also that he had gone overseas to Russia at the height of the campaign when he was serving as a foreign policy adviser to the campaign and he went over there in July 2016.

Now Carter Page has said that when he went over there he did not meet with Russian officials, but now there's renewed interest in Carter Page because he admits he had e-mail conversations with George Papadopoulos.

And Carter Page's meeting, his travel overseas to Russia, it did come right around the time that George Papadopoulos was pushing those e- mails on the campaign, asking for campaign members to meet with Russian officials.

So, there is some question there, of course, he will be facing a lot of question on Capitol Hill. We know it is behind closed doors, Ana, but they will be releasing a transcript about it.

CABRERA: All right, Jessica Schneider, thank you. We are now seeing some of those Russian bought ads that millions of Americans apparently saw on their social media feeds in the lead up to the 2016 election.

Ads like this one that was likely tailor made for people who liked religious pages depicting the election as a battle between Jesus and Satan. Now lawmakers grilled officials with Facebook, Twitter and Google for their role in letting Russian trolls use the ads to stir up division among American voters.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SENATOR AL FRANKEN (D), MINNESOTA: Those electoral ads, paid for in rubles, were coming from Russia.

[11:25:03] Those are two data points, American political ads and Russian money, rubles. How could you not connect those two dots?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: I want to bring in CNN senior media correspondent and host of "RELIABLE SOURCES," Brian Stelter, to talk more about this. Brian, just want to give everybody a quick warning. We may have to dump out of our conversation to go straight to Capitol Hill. We're expecting again that press conference to start any moment as the GOP unveils their tax plan and the details.

But coming back to what we've now learned and the details about these Russian ads and that hearing yesterday, striking, when we learned 150 million people may have been exposed to those Russian linked ads through Facebook and Instagram.

I mean, that is just shocking and we heard Senator Franken there and other lawmakers were really pressing on these social media companies about how they let this or how they -- how this could happen.

BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: Yes. The numbers keep growing as Facebook comes to grips with what really happened this time last year. You know, in the run up to election day, there were so many misleading hoaxes, sensational stories, some of them were printed by Americans, written by ordinary Americans.

But some of them we now know were from these Russian trolls, both ads and we can show the ads on screen, one about Bernie, another with a woman in a casket, these are divisive messages that were intended to sow discord.

In many cases, they were aligned with now President Trump's agenda, meaning hardline message on immigration and other topics and the most important point here is that this stuff is still going on today.

CABRERA: All right. We're going to go now to Capitol Hill. You see the speaker of the House talking to somebody's little baby there, joined by other lawmakers in the room, he will step to the podium and tell us what the plan is for your taxes. Let's listen.

REPRESENTATIVE PAUL RYAN (R-WI), HOUSE SPEAKER: Good morning. All right. First, I want to thank these families for taking time out of their day to join us. Welcome. It is great to have you with us here today.

Fantastic. You are who this is all about. This plan is for the middle-class families in this country who deserve a break. It is for the families who are out there living paycheck to paycheck who just keep getting squeezed.

You know about half the country today is living paycheck to paycheck and a lot more people are about a paycheck away from living paycheck to paycheck in this country and this is going to help give people relief.

The tax cut and jobs act will deliver real relief for people in the middle. People who are also striving to get there. With this plan, the typical family of four will save $1,182 a year on their taxes.

For many families, having an additional $1,182 more will make a real difference. That $1,182 more covers about a year's worth of gas for your car, covers your family's phone bill for the year, depending on how much data, of course, your kids use.

That $1,182 more, it can help you pay down your debt faster, help you start and renovate your home faster. That $1,182 more for the average family, that will help you put more money away for college, save for retirement, it will help you save for a rainy day.

With this plan, we are getting rid of loopholes for special interests and we are leveling the playing field. We're making things so simple, we're making things so simple you can do your taxes on a form the size of a postcard.

With this plan, we are making pro-growth reforms so that, yes, America can compete with the rest of the world. But we're also making it so that families like these that are here, can have more take home pay. This is it. This is a very important and special moment for our country for all Americans.

Are we going to let the defenders of the status quo win and see our country continue down this downward spiral, or are we going to realize the promise of our country? Are we going to revitalize the American idea?

This is our chance to make sure that generations to come don't just get by, they get ahead in this country. Let me turn this over to the person who has led this effort. I am so proud of this man and this committee in this room.

I want to turn it over to what -- chairman of the Ways and Means Committee and thank all of the members of the Ways and Means Committee for bringing us to where we are, for getting us to this point, and Ladies and Gentlemen, the leader of this moment, Kevin Brady, chairman of the Ways and Means Committee.