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  This Week With George Stephanopoulos  ABC  April 30, 2017 8:04am-8:18am PDT

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>> does that mean military action? >> you'll soon find out. >> joining me now is reince priebus, white house chief of staff. welcome. >> thank you. >> what did the president mean by that, soon we'll find out? how is the u.s. going to respond to north korea? >> first of all, the administration and the country and the president always seeks peace. the other piece to this is, the president is someone who has made it very clear that he's not going to telegraph his next moves. not going to put out the plan for north korea in "the new york times" or "the washington post." he's working with general mattis. with rex tillerson. with general mcmaster and his team. in making determinations of how to move forward in a pretty delicate, complicated matter. >> the president has interesting
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remarks about kim jong-un this week in his interview with reuters. is there any scenario where you could see him in direct talks with kim jong-un? >> i'm not sure about that. i don't want to get ahead of him or the foreign policy team on that matter. certainly, we have a situation where lots of administrations before us and many others have just watched this transpire. watched north korea build the capability it has today. watch them put missiles into mountainsides. and here we are today. we've got a president that means business. and he's used his, i think, negotiating skills very wisely. befriending and becoming very close to president xi in china a. working with china to put pressure on north korea. working with our allies. yesterday, he had a conversation with the president of the philippines. today, he'll talk to singapore and thailand. he keeps in close contact with the president in japan, president abe. this is a mission-driven president who spends a lot of time working with our allies and talking to our experts on how the handle the situation wisely
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and do it right for the american people and the people around the world. >> i want to ask you about the call with the president of the philippines. rodrigo duterte. the white house put out an official readout of the call praising duterte for fighting very hard to rid his country of drugs. this is a president of the philippines that so many say has blood on his hands. just take a look at what human rights watch said last month. since the inauguration of president rodrigo duterte and his call for a war on drugs, philippine national police officers and unidentified vigilantes have killed over 7,000 people. his outspoken endorsement of the campaign implicates him and other senior officials in possible incitement of violence, instigation of murder and command responsibility of -- this is a man who said of president obama a, he was the
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son of a whore. why is president trump honoring president duterte now with a visit to the white house? >> i'm not so sure it's a matter of honoring this president. it's a matter for potential of nuclear and massive destruction in asia and the potential, at least according to north korea, of developing an icbm that could, at some point down the line if we do nothing, could potentially reach the united states. this is a different level of a problem that we need cop ration among our partners in southeast asia. >> does that mean human rights don't matter? >> absolutely not. it doesn't mean that human rights don't matter. what it does mean is that the issues facing us, developing out of north korea, are so serious that we need cooperation at some level with as many partners in the area as we can get to make sure we have our ducks in a row, so if something does happen in north korea, we have everyone in line
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backing up a plan of action that may need to be put together with our partners in the area. >> help me understand how the president sees this. when you're looking at the list of priorities when you're dealing with a foreign power. a foreign country like the philippines, where does human rights, promotion of democracy, all those things that reagan put center, george w. bush put front and center in foreign policy, where does that stand in the list of priorities? >> look, it stands high at the top of the list. >> was it even mentioned? >> when you have north korea, and you have them flagrantly talking about developing nuclear warheads, which they have already done, and wanting to -- putting up videos of how they're going to launch these things to the united states and across the globe, that has to remain at the highest level. when it comes to human rights, look what president trump and his team did in syria. i mean, that was a matter of
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human rights. the president said enough was enough. he wanted to make a statement assad and the rest of the world that there are some lines you don't cross. the president's shown his willingness to stand up for human rights. >> let's to back to the official readout of the call with duterte. it praises him for working very hard to rid his country of drugs. this is somebody with an abysmal human rights record who has been accused of basically mass extrajudicial killings. did that not come up in the phone call? why is it not mentioned? >> i didn't sit through the entire call. this is something that the president in the philippines is claiming that he's working towards. obviously, we want to encourage him to do better. but this call, the purpose of the call is all about north korea. the purpose of all of these calls, as you have seen on the schedule. i know you watch every little move that happens, and you should, that's your job. he's been speaking a lot to all of our partners in southeast asia. the issue on the table is north
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korea. and there is nothing right now facing this country and facing the region that is a bigger threat than what is going on in north korea. and if we don't have all of our folks together -- whether they're good folks, bad folks, people we wish would do better in their country, it doesn't matter. we have got to be on the same page. >> let's turn to a different matter. you unveiled the outline of the president's tax plan. you have heard critics say, this is a giveaway to the rich. i want to ask you, are you open to a compromise that would actually raise the top rate, raise the rate on the very wealthiest in the country to, say, 40%? is that something you would be willing to do as part of a final compromise? >> i'm not going to get ahead of where we're at. on the negotiation side. obviously, we have to work with our leadership on the hill in the house and the senate. we have to talk to people across the country affected by whatever tax plan is signed into law. if you look where this tax plan
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is going, while the top rate is lowered to 35%, there's also a lot of deductions that have been taken off the table. a person like donald trump or a person like our -- some of our folks that -- like steve mnunchin and others are not going to see much of a reduction in their taxes because a lot of the deductions that they enjoy -- >> the president could see a big deduction. >> a lot of the deductions they enjoy are taken away. it's a massive tax deduction and what the president cares most about the is middle class. this is a targeted tax deduction for the middle class. it's also targeted at attracting business in the country and making sure businesses can pass on savings to their employees so people can put more money in their pocket. they can enjoy the american dream, put their kids through college, and retire like people used to do like back where i grew up, you could work 30 years at american motors or chrysler
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and you could have a great life. that's the way things used to be. the president cares about the middle class, the american dream. that's what's in his heart. >> i remember quite well, many times over the course of the campaign, candidate donald trump talking about how he was going to raise taxes on the hedge fund guys. as he called them. he said the hedge fund guys are getting away with murder. now i want you to take a look at the way the tax plan was leaved when it was released this week. reuters, fist bumps at hedge funds over trump's tack plan. "new york times." tax plan silent on carried interest, boon for the very rich. axios -- trump plan would lower taxes on some hedge fund managers. so, i mean, itd it looks to me, at least initially here, that the hedge fund guys are still going to be getting away with murder? >> that balloon is going to get popped pretty quick. stay tuned on that. carried interest is on the table. >> this is the loophole that
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allows the hedge fund managers to get a much more -- >> the president wants to get rid of carried interest. that balloon won't stay inflated very long. i can assure you of that. >> this brings me to the question that's been asked a lot. now we have some news. i want to ask you about the president's own taxes. secretary -- treasury secretary mnunchin speaking about whether or not the president would release his tax returns, said the president has no intention of releasing his taxes. was he speaking for the president there? because until then, i had been hearing you all say and the president saying that he needed to wait until the audit was done. first of all, audit? no audit. >> his position is the same. he's under routine audit. when the audit is done, he'll look at releasing his taxes. let's go back for a second. first of all, this was an issue on the table for the american people. they didn't care. i hate -- >> polls suggest they would like
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to -- >> same polls said he would lose and he won. hang on. you care. other people apparently that are involved in -- in the news and journalists. >> i don't want -- i don't want to debate this. >> the one tax release that was released showed that our president paid $38 million. >> did the president release it? >> someone released it. that he paid $38 million in his taxes. no, the president didn't release it. someone obtained it illegally. he paid $38 million in taxes. that was supposed to be such a big night for msnbc. >> no, i remember well. i remember well. he paid a lot of taxes in 2005. >> spent $38 million in taxes. it was about a 25% rate. and everyone said, aw, shucks. you know what? he paid a ton in taxes. >> i want to clarify the president's position on this. i asked sean spicer two weeks ago whether or not it was just
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now -- let's play it. you always talk about, under audit. the president says under audit. is it time to say once and for all, the president is never going to release his tax returns? >> um, we'll have to get back to you on that. >> you won't -- i mean, really? >> really. >> so he may? >> no, i said i would have to get back to you on that. >> i want to clarify. button this up. we never have to ask you again. is he never going to release his taxes, with or without audit, no audit. is it now the policy he won't release the taxes? >> what the president has said is he's under routine audit. when the audit is over, he'll look at releasing his taxes. here's my other point. nobody cares, jonathan. you care. nobody else cares. >> don't the american people have a right to know how the tax plan will affect the president personally? >> this issue is litigated before the american people. the american people issue a judgment in november. president trump won one of the most historic presidential victories in the history of our country. the only people asking me this question are people like you.
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>> okay, so let's -- on let's -- i think you'll hear someone in congress ask you as well. >> like who? nancy pelosi? chuck schumer? >> the democrats are saying they would like to see you make this a condition of a tax plan. you need democratic support. >> and the democratic party is in the worst shape it's been since -- >> i want to move on. before you go. we have a segment coming up with ann coulter and robert reich. a big controversy at berkeley over freedom of speech. i want to ask you about two things the president has said on related issues. first of all, there was what he said about opening up the libel laws. tweeting the failing "new york times" has disgraced the media world. gotten me wrong for two solid years. change the libel laws? that would require, as i understand it, a constitutional amendment. is he going to pursue that? >> i think it's something we have looked at. how that gets executed or whether that goes anywhere is a different story. but when you have articles out
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there that have no basis or fact and we're sitting here on 24/7 on cable companies writing stories about constant contacts with russia. >> you think the president should be able to sue "the new york times" for stories he doesn't like? >> i think that newspapers and news agencies need to be more responsible with how they report the news. i'm so tired. >> i don't think anybody would disagree with that. it's about whether or not the president should have a right to sue then. >> i already answered the question. the president is looking at it. as far as how it gets executed. where we go with it. it's another issue. i think this is a frustration of unnamed sources of things that the fbi has told me personally is complete b.s., written in a newspaper article, in my office, one on one, this, here, is not true. and guess what? it's sitting there on the front page. so how is it possible? and what do we have?
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24/7 cable about a story about intelligence that the actual intelligence agency says is not true. but yet we deal with it every day. >> quickly. the other thing he talked about is flag burners should possibly go to jail or have their -- >> people need to stand up for our flag. >> is he going to pursue that? >> the one thing we have in common as americans is our american flag. it's something that is again probably going to get looked at. our flag should be protected. donald trump talks about that issue. it's a 70% issue in the country. he wins every day and twice on sunday on our flag.