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Confusion over Possible Trump/Putin Meeting; Comedian Louis C.K. Admits Sexual Misconduct Reports Are True; Showdown Ahead Over House & Senate Tax Bills; Tillerson's Stern Warning to "Foreign Elements" Intervening in Lebanon's Internal Affairs. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired November 10, 2017 - 13:30   ET



[13:34:00] WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Will they or won't they. That's a question of President Trump's stop in Vietnam. He's at the Asian- Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit. And thereby, take a look at the Russian President Vladimir Putin timing it up for a quick hand shake and hello. No discussions, at least not yet, on any important issues. President Trump said he expected to have a formal meeting with President Putin. The White House said scheduling conflicts are preventing that from happening. The Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, was asked why he responded this way. He said, quote, "Why are you asking me? We heard President Trump express a wish to meet President Putin, and I don't know what the rest of his pen pushers are saying."

We want to bring in retired U.S. Ambassador Thomas Pickering, who is former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and Russia and Israel, among other places as well.

Mr. Ambassador, thanks very much for joining us.


BLITZER: Should there be at least an informal meeting between the president of the United States and the president of Russia.

[13:34:59] PICKERING: One would hope so. You have a lot of business to do. U.S. and Russia are -- Putin and Trump and two of the three most important men in the world. Nuclear power on each side, which is still enormous. Wed have uncertainties in our relationship. We have a period where seemingly, since the last meeting, there hasn't been much contact. They usually tell us if there have been phone calls. No much in that department. We have a lot of work to do. The fact that a scheduling conflict in a two-day meeting has somehow made it impossible for these two people to meet over these important issues is a little bit stressful.

BLITZER: They say there's not going to be a formal sit-down


BLITZER: Let's say it's on the sidelines. What's the difference if they sit formally on some chairs or sit informally someplace else? PICKERING: You said it beautifully. Not much. The question is can they have a conversation? Is it an effective conversation? Do they have an agenda of meaningful stuff to talk about? And maybe there's some problems figuring that out. We're all guessing. It's kind of strange that we've had this -- if this were inside baseball, there would be rain, no game. And the real question is why. Hopefully they will find an answer.

BLITZER: Major issues. North Korea. Major issue. Syria. Major issue. Ukraine, Croatia.


BLITZER: Major issue. So how do you work all those major issues in with Russian meddling in the U.S. presidential election?

PICKERING: You have to be, because, in fact, the Russian meddling questions is a cloud hanging over this relationship. I'm sure it has disturbed President Trump, who hasn't said a bad word about President Putin, I don't think, in the whole time we've seen. He's trying to keep the door open. I wish him success. This is very, very important. There is a material attitude towards this in some ways that has held things back unfortunately. Putin is a man vicariously, one way or another, may be in trouble economically, more than he likes. He tries to ignore that. Something useful with Putin and Trump to move things ahead would be a feather in the president's cap. It would be something Putin could obviously use to say, look, I'm a great man, I'm a co-equal, I've solved this problem with President Trump. It's a good thing for both of us.

BLITZER: Ambassador Pickering, thanks very much for your assessment.


BLITZER: Always good to have you here.

PICKERING: Always great to be with you.

BLITZER: Thomas Pickering, former U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Don't leave yet.

Breaking news coming into CNN. The comedian Louis C.K. is responding to allegations of sexual misconduct saying these stories are true.

Let's bring in CNN's Brian Stelter, our senior media correspondent.

Give us the latest. He just issued, I take it, a lengthy statement.

BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT & CNN HOST, RELIABLE SOURCES: Yes, a blunt statement, 24 hours after the story hit, detailing accusation of misconduct from five women, four on the record. Louis C.K. is saying, bluntly, these stories are true.

Here's part of the statement he released a couple of minutes ago. He said, "I have been remorseful of my actions, and he says, learned from them. Sorry. "I tried to learn from them." He said, "Let's be clear. I run from them and now I am aware of the extent of the impact of my actions. I learned yesterday through the "New York Times" story the extent to which I left these women, who admired them, feeling badly about themselves and cautious around other men who would have never put them in that position."

He acknowledges the effects of what the acts caused. Not just in the moment, but down the line for these women, and how it affected them and affected their careers in some cases.

You might read this statement, Wolf, and say it's refreshing to see one of the men who is being accused speak forthrightly and say all the stories were true. You will recall, in some of the other cases, like Harvey Weinstein, he said, "Some of it is true, some is not. I caused pain, but I'm seeking help." We're not hearing that from Louis C.K. He said this is true, and I'm sorry. I'm going to step back and listen.

This is a statement he just released 24 hours after the "New York Times" story came out. We have seen his movie premier canceled, not to be released next month. We've seen Netflix and HBO back away from him. Louis C.K. deciding he is going to issue a long statement where he said he is very contrite. At the same time, he talks about how the women admired him. Some viewers might say he is coming across as egotistical, but he acknowledges the accountings of the women who said he masturbated in front of them a number of years ago. He said, simply put, these stories are true.

[13:39:33] BLITZER: Brian, thanks very much. Brian Stelter giving us the latest on that.

Up next, we will go to a different subject, the Senate's latest tax plan. And it includes more individual tax brackets than the House version, but which bill would do more to help middle-class Americans?


BLITZER: Dueling tax plans on Capitol Hill. We have the details from both Republican tax plans. There's several key differences setting up the Senate and the House for potentially a dramatic showdown in the upcoming weeks. When it comes to cutting the corporate tax rate to 20 percent, the House wants it to happen immediately, but the Senate wants to delay it by a year. A big problem potentially for President Trump who insisted immediate tax cuts are necessary to spur the U.S. economy. Another difference, the House bill would eliminate deductions for medical expenses and student loan interest. The Senate bills keeps those. Both preserve the adoption credit. When it comes to state and local tax deductions, the House bill would partially repeal this, while the Senate completely repeals it. What does it all mean?

Here to break down the plans, we have "New York Times" tax and economics reporter, Jim Tankersley, joining us right now.

Jim, thanks very much for joining us.

Let's go through the differences in these two plans. A key difference between the two plans is the number of tax brackets between the House version and the Senate version. Explain who it helps and doesn't.

[13:45:26] JIM TANKERSLEY, TAX & ECONOMICS REPORTER, NEW YORK TIMES: The House wanted to collapse the number of brackets down to four to make it simpler. The idea being you can file taxes on a postcard. The Senate wants to have more brackets. The practical effect for the middle class is you will see people in the Senate bill getting a little fewer tax increases than in the House. What they have done in the House and Senate is eliminate some deductions and double the standard deduction and it, overall, works out a little bit better for the middle class in the Senate bill.

BLITZER: Looks like the Senate avoided the rocky roll out on the House version because they preserved the more popular tax breaks.

TANKERSLEY: Yes, like you mentioned medical deductions as something popular and you saw quite an outcry. On the other hand, the Senate completely eliminates state and local taxes, which will end up increasing taxes in blue states, high-income areas of blue states for people who make, say, $100,000 to $300,000 a year. Much more so in the Senate bill than in the House bill.

BLITZER: Which plan seems to be better, the bottom line for the American public?

TANKERSLEY: It's tough to say right now, and in particular, we can't make that argument because neither of these plans can pass the Senate. Under the Senate's rules, the Senate plan would have to be changed and the House bill would have to be changed. What that change might be, including maybe sunsetting some of the tax cuts, would have a dramatic impact on the overall tax of the American people.

BLITZER: It looks like, assuming the House can get the votes, they will pass their version and the Senate will work on a different version, some significant differences, as you point out. Then they go to conference committee to try to resolve differences, and then they have to vote once again on a final package.

TANKERSLEY: That's one way. Or the House could pass something first and the Senate could pass something, and the House can choose to pass what the Senate has passed already. So you might avoid a conference committee that way. But, yes, in the end, the House and the Senate will have to come to the same view, and that will be difficult.

BLITZER: Do you think they have the vote in the Senate and the House? There's some nervous Republicans. In the Senate, Republicans only have a 52-48 advantage. They need 50. If they lose three, it's over.

TANKERSLEY: The House Republicans seem confident they have the votes. The Senate, as we saw on the health care debate, is a rockier ride. Any individual Republican Senator could really change or kill this bill if there is three of them. I think the Senate is a tougher road, but I think the Senate Republicans are confident they will get there.

BLITZER: Assuming all the Democrats oppose. And they can only lose two Senate Republicans. They lose three, as in health care has failed, at least for now, this could fail as well. We will see what happens.

Jim, thanks very much for joining us.

TANKERSLEY: Thanks for having me.

BLITZER: Appreciate it.

The U.S. secretary of state is offering support to a troubled ally. Rex Tillerson's stern warning to, quote, "foreign elements who may try to intervene in Lebanon's internal affairs. Dramatic developments unfolding. We will explain when we come back.


[13:52:42] BLITZER: Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is warning Lebanon's neighbors to stay out of its politics. This comes hours after allies of Lebanon's prime minister demanded his safe return from Saudi Arabia.

Let's go to our senior international correspondent, Ben Wedeman, in Beirut.

This is complicated story. Explain why the prime minister's think he may be held against his wishes in Saudi Arabia.

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, this was an allegation made by his political opponents. But now we are hearing from a senior ministerial source affiliated with the former prime minister is that they believe he's not free to express himself, he's not free to move around. And even his own political block, the future movement, say they have no idea what is going on with the former prime minister.

Now, today the president of the Republican, Michel Aoun, who is political ally of Hezbollah, summoned the Saudi to Beirut and told them the manner in which Saad Hariri put in his resignation is unacceptable, and he demanded that Hariri come back to Lebanon immediately.

Now, what's interesting, of course, is that Hariri, who has his own television station, has not appeared in the Lebanese media. He has not spoken with any Lebanon press. And the feeling is, in Lebanon, across the political spectrum, everyone is calling for him to return and he's simply not responding to that call -- Wolf?

BLITZER: Because earlier in the week, Saad Hariri, the prime minister, announced he was resigning as prime minister. Made the announcement in Saudi Arabia, saying he was fearful of being assassinated by, I take it, by Iranian-backed Hezbollah forces inside Lebanon. Is that right?

WEDEMAN: Well, he didn't specifically point to any sort of Iranian involvement in that particular alleged claim. But what's interesting is that the Lebanese security forces, the army, say they know of no such plot against his life. But obviously, the concern is somehow the current crisis could deteriorate to the point where might be some hostilities between Israel and Hezbollah. Keeping in mind that after he came out with the statement in which he accused Iran involvement and interference in Lebanese affairs, the Israel prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, called that a wake-up call. The worry is there could be repeat of the 2006 war between Hezbollah and Israel. So that's really one of the causes of these jittery nerves at the moment -- Wolf?

[13:55:42] BLITZER: Yes, lots going on. A tense situation. We'll stay on top of it.

Ben Wedeman, reporting from us from beirut. Thanks very much.

More news we are following, including this. At 68, she is still one of the world's great athletes. Now the swimmer, Diana Nyad, is speaking out about enduring sexual assault at the tender age of 14. A must-see interview. That's coming up.

A lot more news. We'll be right back.