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Harris Dodges Border Visit Question; Lawmakers Tour Audit in Arizona; Bill de Blasio is Interviewed about Ending Solitary Confinement; Wealthiest Americas Paid Little to No Taxes. Aired 9:30- 10a ET.

Aired June 9, 2021 - 09:30   ET




JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Vice President Kamala Harris' first foreign trip to Guatemala and Mexico raised questions about her not yet visiting the U.S./Mexico border. She wasn't able to answer that question, such as this one, from Lester Holt.


LESTER HOLT, NBC NEWS: Do you have any plans to visit the border?

KAMALA HARRIS, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: At some point. You know, I -- we are going to the border. We've been to the border. So this whole -- this whole -- this whole thing about the border, we've been to the border. We've been to the border.

HOLT: You haven't been to the border.

HARRIS: And I haven't been to Europe. And, I mean, I don't -- I don't understand the point that you're making.


POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Harris now says that she will go to the border. The controversy over this and the little bit of concern inside the White House over that answer continues, John Harwood, is at the White House with more.

She's been, at the past, but I -- but not recently is the point here. What does the White House think of all of this?

JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Poppy, it's no surprise that the White House was not thrilled by that answer. A little bit confused as to why she handled it that way, the obvious discomfort with Lester's question, the nervous laughter there.

It's hard to understand because this is a question that the administration's been dealing with for months as she's been tasked with the diplomatic assignment, with Guatemala and Mexico and other countries in the northern triangle, rather than dealing with the border. They've had a ready answer for it. She eventually gave that answer to our colleague Jeremy Diamond.

Take a listen.


KAMALA HARRIS, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The reality of it is that we need to prioritize what's happening at the border and we have to prioritize why people are going to the border. And so let's talk about what's going on in the places that are causing the issue at the border. I think it's shortsighted for any of us who are in the business of problem solving to suggest we're only going to respond to the reaction as opposed to addressing the cause.


HARWOOD: Now, the underlying fact of why this has been a difficult issue for the administration is that immigration itself is not a politically beneficial issue for Joe Biden and his administration at the moment. They're trying not to emphasize the problems on the border, but the irony is that that answer that she gave is ultimately going to escalate a tension to that. And, of course, by the end of the trip she said she would go to the border, although didn't give a date, guys.

HARLOW: John Harwood, thank you very much. And I'm glad you played that second answer. That's important context. Thank you.

All right, Republicans from a growing number of states are traveling to Maricopa County, Arizona. They are going to see this so-called audit, this partisan audit in Arizona. The most recent visitor, state lawmakers from Georgia and Alaska. Yesterday they toured the coliseum, met with groups conducting it.

SCIUTTO: We have to say every time we do this story, those results have been audited, confirmed by Republican and Democratic state election officials. They've been certified. This is a partisan count here, really.

Of course, President Trump has continued to sell the big lie that the election was stolen. A lot of people are buying it.

CNN's Dianne Gallagher live in Charlotte, North Carolina, this morning.

So, Dianne, basically you have state legislatures now in other states, Republicans in those legislatures, they want to duplicate what is, in effect, a show going on in Arizona right now. How many other states? How does this play out?

DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Maybe we can call this a partisan pilgrimage at this point, Jim. We are seeing lawmakers from different states, especially those that

the former president has raised the most interest in after he lost those states in 2020, visit this site in Arizona. Last week there were lawmakers, Republican lawmakers, from Pennsylvania that visited and one of those state senators afterward noting that it's something he would like to see happen in his home state.

On Monday, the chairman of the Nevada GOP visited and said that he was very impressed and that he would like to duplicate the effort in Nevada.


And then yesterday there were lawmakers from Alaska and Georgia. Now, of course, Georgia holding a special place of contention in former President Trump's heart, losing that state and then, of course, those two senators who were elected in January, both Democrats there.

Now, the two state senators who visited the floor from Georgia in Arizona were State Senators Brandon Beach and Burt Jones, both big proponents of the big lie, both of them signing on to a petition that would have overridden the results in Georgia. They have not spoken out about their tour with State Representative from Alaska David Eastman yet, but we are seeing a bit of a pattern here.

And the media representative noted that they have been in talks with lawmakers from Wisconsin and possibly Virginia as well, though nothing is, quote, firmed up yet about visits. It is something that we are seeing this additional interest trying to add credence to what's happening in Arizona.

Poppy. Jim.

SCIUTTO: And it's happening that some state legislatures are actually changing laws to allow partisans to interfere with the count in elections going forward. That's a real change.

Dianne Gallagher, good to have you on the story, as always.

New this morning, the winner of the gubernatorial primary in Virginia is former Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe. He beat four other challengers to become the state's Democratic nominee. As you can see there, it wasn't close.

HARLOW: He will face Republican Glenn Youngkin, a first-time candidate, in November's general election. If McAuliffe wins, he will be the first person in decades to serve multiple terms as governor of Virginia where consecutive terms are barred.

SCIUTTO: Still ahead, New York City just voted to end solitary confinement for prisoners. The mayor of New York joins us live, next.


[09:41:16] SCIUTTO: New York City says it is now going further than any other jail system in America by banning the imposition of solitary confinement on prisoners. Starting this fall, there will be more time allowed outside of cells as well as more access to mental health staffers and attorneys.

Joining us now to talk about this, other issues facing New York City, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.

Mayor, thanks for taking the time this morning.


SCIUTTO: This has been an issue, solitary confinement, you've been pushing for some time. You see this as a mental health issue in large part. Explain why ending this makes sense now.

DE BLASIO: You know, a few years ago the city was gripped by the tragedy of Kalief Browder, a young man who committed a very small crime, was held in Rikers Island for way too long and kept in solitary confinement. He later took his own life.

It's one of many examples of why solitary confinement corrodes the human soul and creates immense mental health challenges. When we're supposed to be, in fact, rehabilitating people and preparing them to re-enter society and live a peaceful life. It literally is counterproductive. It makes us less safe, not more safe.

So we made the decision that it was time to end solitary confinement in our jails once and for all and we really believe this is ultimately how we can better rehabilitate people and have a safer city in the future.

SCIUTTO: Speaking of New York, safer city, like many urban areas in this country, it is seeing a rise in violent crimes. Shooting incidents, for instance, in New York City up 73 percent last month when compared to the same time last year.

Now the police commissioner, as you know, blames a perfect storm of circumstances for this, but one piece, bail reform, which basically reduces the number of people who are -- who can't get released because they can't afford even a small cash bail payment.

In your view -- some amendments have already been made to it. In your view, should that policy be reversed?

DE BLASIO: Not reversed, Jim, no. It's a good reform. But I think it should be tweaked. And it's something that needs to be continued to work on because, really, with any law, you always look for unintended consequences and improvements you can make.

But the commissioner's right, a perfect storm, COVID, every city in the country, regardless of what laws they passed, experienced the same thing, growing violence. It's unacceptable. We have to turn it around.

We lost a young boy. He would have been 11 years old yesterday, Justin Wallace. I was with his family on Sunday. And they were showing me the texts he sent planning his birthday party. He was killed in an act of senseless gun violence. I have to tell you, the NYPD did an amazing job. It has apprehended the suspected killer.

But this is what this violence means. It's taking the lives of not only adults but our youngest New Yorkers. That's unacceptable. So to end it, it's going to take continued, smart deployments of police officers. It's going to take a deeper engagement with communities again. We had a rough time last year. We're re-bonding police and community. It's going to take investments in communities to address some of the root causes, and getting our court system back.

This is only the first time, the last few weeks, that our courts have been operating in New York state since over a year ago. All of these things coming together is how we turn the tide.

SCIUTTO: You have heard the criticism from Republicans. They say this is a Democratic problem. That this is a result, in part, of targeting police, right? And I wonder what your response to that argument is.

DE BLASIO: Jim, we have the best police force in the country right here. Our officers, even in the height of COVID, were out there doing an extraordinary job, getting more guns off the street. This is important, more guns were taken off the street this year in New York City than any time since 1996.


Our officers are out there doing the work.

But we do need to rebuild the relationship between police and community, which took a big hit last year. For six years we reduced crime in New York City through neighborhood policing, through actually creating that deeper bond, that communication, that mutual respect between police and community. Last year was tough for everyone. But we're rebuilding it now. And I think that's the way forward. I don't think it's a Democrat or a Republican problem, I think it's about getting police and community on the same page going forward.

SCIUTTO: One way you're going to attempt to address the gun issue is by an increased partnership between the NYPD and the ATF here. But you see other changes happening. You saw in California a federal judge there reversed a state law banning assault weapons. You have a very conservative Supreme Court, as you know now, with a liberal view of the Second Amendment.

I wonder, are you concerned that cities and states will lose their ability to enact their own gun control measures going forward?

DE BLASIO: Yes, I am. We had an extraordinary day yesterday having the ATF, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms here in New York City now keeping their agents posted with the NYPD at the front line here in New York City. A common effort to stop guns. It's inspiring to see what can be done when federal government, local government works together. But, at the same time, you're right, Jim, there's a gathering storm.

If the tools that have been used to stop the trafficking of weapons and to keep the most dangerous weapons out of the hands of criminals and terrorists and the mentally ill, if those tools are further weakened, then you can predict more violence in America.

So I'm very worried about that. Our law enforcement officers are out there fighting this fight, but the laws on guns give way too much power, bluntly, to the criminals because it's too easy to get a weapon in this country.

SCIUTTO: Final question --

DE BLASIO: So I've talked to so many law enforcement people who say, regardless of politics, they'd like more tools to work with.

SCIUTTO: Yes. And, by the way, I hear that from police officers as well.

Just final question very quickly because I like to end where I can on good news. There's going to be a big concert in New York August 21st as sort of a, you know, reopening of the city after the worst of the pandemic. I'll put you on the spot here. Who are we going to see perform?

DE BLASIO: Jim, I can tell you this, literally it's going to be a once in a lifetime lineup. It's going to be one of the great, historic concerts in Central Park. You do not want to miss this if you're in New York City or can come to New York City. It's going to be amazing. And we're going to be announcing artists as they each come on board.

Clive Davis, legendary music figure in the industry, from Brooklyn, New York, is assembling the greatest all-star team you've ever seen. So there's your teaser.


DE BLASIO: More to come. Great homecoming for New York City in August.

SCIUTTO: We'll be watching. And Broadway opening up soon as well.

DE BLASIO: This month.

SCIUTTO: Mayor Bill de Blasio, thanks so much for joining us.

DE BLASIO: Thank you, Jim.

HARLOW: Nice to end on that good news. Something tells me we'll be here on August 21st, Sciutto.

SCIUTTO: Now I will be.

HARLOW: I will be.

All right, the rich keep getting richer. A new report reveals how the most wealthy Americans were legally able to pay extraordinarily low federal income tax rates.



HARLOW: So there's a fascinating new report by ProPublica and it reveals just how little of their wealth some of America's richest people pay in federal income tax. On that list is Jeff Bezos, the world's richest person, along with Elon Musk and Michael Bloomberg. The raw data comes from an unidentified source but all verified by ProPublica.

SCIUTTO: Yes, a lot of the numbers in here will blow some smoke out your ears if you see how small a percentage of their wealth they pay taxes on.

ProPublica's senior reporter and editor, Jesse Eisinger, says the tax data of richest Americans shows how unfair the system is.


JESSE EISINGER, SENIOR REPORTER AND EDITOR, PROPUBLICA: I think the larger thing here is that you and I and most of the viewers are in a tax system. We get salaries. We get our taxes extracted from that. And these guys are completely outside the system. When you're ultra- wealthy, you are outside the tax system as it is constructed in America today.


SCIUTTO: Outside? Therefore, not paying.

CNN's Christine Romans joins us now from New York.

And, listen, it's been in the conversation for a while.


SCIUTTO: Go back to the 2016 presidential debates. President Trump said proudly, I don't pay taxes.


SCIUTTO: Or, not a lot of taxes because I'm smart.

What more can you tell us about what these numbers reveal?

ROMANS: Well, look, I would encourage everyone to take a deep dive in this. This expose is really, really rich here. And it shows you that the super rich are not like us. Their wealth is not taxed like your earnings. This anonymous source sent ProPublica years of tax returns from thousands of the wealthiest Americans, including Buffett, and Bezos and Musk.

From 2014 to 2018, Musk's wealth grew by $13 billion, but taxed at a rate of just over 3 percent. Michael Bloomberg's wealth grew more than $22 billion, taxed at just 1


Bezos wealth grew $99 billion. He paid taxes of $973 million. That's a rate of less than 1 percent.

Warren Buffett's wealth grew by $24 billion. You can see the very low tax rate there, just 0.1 percent of his wealth.

Again, we're talking about taxing overall wealth, not taxing earnings.

And all of this is legal. The tax code taxes wages, your wages, at a higher rate than investments and property and the growth of the things that are driving the wealth of these people. It's something that billionaires can take advantage of, along with complicated tax loopholes and a lot of write-offs.


Now, ProPublica, guys, distills it this way. The 25 richest Americans were worth $1.1 trillion by the end of 2018. It would take 14.3 million regular wage earners to make up that same amount of wealth. The personal federal tax bill for those top 25 in 2018, $1.9 billion. The same tax bill for those wage earners, a much bigger $143 billion.

Now, White House Spokesperson Jen Psaki said the leak of this private information will be investigated. This is private information. But she reiterated that the president wants to raise taxes on these super rich people to pay for his agenda.

Buffett telling ProPublica, tax codes should be changed substantially. He says the huge dynastic wealth is not desirable for our society.

No comment from Bezos or Musk.

Musk actually replied to ProPublica with a question mark but didn't reply to their detailed questions.

And a spokesperson for Soros said this, between 2016 and 2018, George Soros lost money on his investments, therefore, he did not owe federal income taxes in those years. And, Mr. Soros has long supported higher taxes for wealthy Americans.

The question, Jim, is how do you do it? How do you tax wealth? Elizabeth Warren, the senator, when she was running for president, said everything over 50 -- the first $50 billion is free. After that, tax your wealth 1 percent or 2 percent.

SCIUTTO: It's also a question for corporations, right, because Bezos' company, Amazon, pays barely any taxes as well. And this is one of the questions out there. You move money around the world. They have a lot of tools you and I don't have.

ROMANS: Yes. Yes.

SCIUTTO: Christine Romans, thanks very much. ROMANS: Well said.

SCIUTTO: And we'll be right back.