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Obama Arrives on Capitol Hill; Trump Claims Briefing Delayed; Interview with James Woolsey; WikiLeaks Says Russia Not Its Source; Obama and Pence Visit Capitol Hill; Interview with Fmr. Sen. Jim DeMint. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired January 4, 2017 - 09:30   ET


[09:30:00] MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: And then he said Happy New Year. So he didn't quite go there about what he thinks the next step should be. But he was standing next to the two Democratic leaders, Chuck Schumer, Nancy Pelosi, walking into the room. And those two leaders do not want to work with Republicans to replace the law. They say if you break it, you own it, it's your problem. You try to figure out how to fix it. So that's the -- the battle lines are being drawn. I think you'll probably hear some message of that inside the room in just a few moments, Carol.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: All right, everybody stand by. I have to take a break. I really do this time.

Mike Pence has arrived, as I told you. He arrived just a few moments ago. And he's going to meet with the House Republicans. He's on one side of the Capitol Building. The president has arrived as well. He's going to meet with Democratic lawmakers. He's on the other side of the Capitol. Both are underneath the building. We don't think that they'll accidentally meet on purpose, but the meetings should be interesting and, of course, we're going to continue to cover this. But I've got to take a break. I'll be back with much more in the NEWSROOM.


COSTELLO: And good morning. I'm Carol Costello. Thank you so much for joining me.

I want to take you right to Capitol Hill because we've got these incredible pictures this morning of the president of the United States, President Obama, arriving at the Capitol. He's going to go into a meeting with Senate and House Democrats to talk about saving Obamacare. At the very same time, a meeting will be taking place with Republican House members with the vice president-elect, Mike Pence. He has also arrived at the Capitol. Way apart. The rooms are way apart. Like President Obama's on one end of the Capitol. Mike Pence is on the other. Both will be talking about Obamacare. But one is going to talk about saving it, the other about repealing it. We're going to continue to follow this. We'll keep you posted. These meetings are expected to last just about an hour.

[09:35:11] President-elect Donald Trump taking to Twitter to launch a fresh assault on the very U.S. intelligence agencies he will soon rely on as commander-in-chief. Trump suggesting that officials delayed the briefing on Russia's hacking on the election, but the intelligence community is pushing back saying a briefing was never scheduled until later this week.

CNN's Jason Carroll is following this story. He's live outside of Trump Tower.

Hi, Jason.


As you know, it's very important for any incoming president, or president for that matter, to have a solid, positive working relationship with the intelligence community. To say that Donald Trump has gotten off on the wrong foot might be an understatement.


CARROLL (voice-over): President-elect Donald Trump striking a conspiratorial tone yet again against U.S. intelligence. In a new cryptic tweet, Trump writes, "intelligence briefing on so-called Russian hacking was delayed until Friday. Perhaps more time needed to build a case. Very strange."

But U.S. intelligence officials say there's no delay. They say the meeting was always set to take place later this week, adding President Obama has yet to receive the full briefing on Russian hacking.

Trump vowed to release inside information he says he has about the hacks by today.

Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff responding to Trump's claim, tweeting, "this week @realdonaldtrump promises new info about Russian hacking only he knows. Next week, what really happened at Roswell."

One U.S. intelligence official telling CNN, the director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, was not scheduled to be in New York City, where Trump is, until later in the week.

SEAN SPICER, INCOMING WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY (voice-over): Later this week, they will, once the final report on the current situation in Russia is made final by the intelligence community, they will ask for -- they have asked for a briefing from senior members of the intelligence community.

CARROLL: Officials noting that until now Trump's team has not scheduled a meeting with the heads of top intelligence agencies. By contrast, President Obama met with the intelligence leaders shortly after being elected in 2008.

For months, Trump has continued to cast doubts over the conclusion reached by 17 U.S. intelligence agencies that Russia was behind the election cyber-attacks.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT-ELECT: Well, it could be somebody else. It could be Russia, but it could also be China. It could also be lots

of other people. It also could be somebody sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds, OK?

Maybe there is no hacking.

CARROLL: A conclusion the CIA director says is ironclad.

JOHN BRENNAN, CIA DIRECTOR: I would suggest to individuals who have not yet seen the report, who have not yet been briefed on it, that they wait and see what it is that the intelligence community is putting forward before they make those judgments.


CARROLL: And Russia -- and, Carol, Russia says it is not behind the hacking. And one of Russia's senior senators has weighed in on U.S. affairs. Aleksey Pushkov releasing the following statement saying, "Trump is surprised that U.S. intelligence has postponed a briefing with him on Russian hackers. Apparently its data is not convincing to anyone but Obama."

Again, want to note that this meeting was not postponed. Apparently it was never scheduled until later this week.


COSTELLO: All right, Jason Carroll reporting live from Trump Tower.

So let's talk about this some more. With me now is the former CIA director and national security adviser to Donald Trump, James Woolsey.

Welcome, sir.

JAMES WOOLSEY, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: Good to be with you, Carol.

COSTELLO: Nice to have you here.

So, President-elect Trump tweeted this, you heard Jason say it, quote, "the intelligence briefing" -- and intelligence is in quotes -- "on the so-called Russian hacking was delayed until Friday. Perhaps more time needed to build a case. Very strange."

But intelligence officials say the meeting was never scheduled before Friday. So why is Mr. Trump tweeting this?

WOOLSEY: I have no background, competence or interest in getting in the middle of people's scheduling exercises and when they're going to -- were going to do this and when they are going to do that.

I want to step back from this for a little bit about Russian interference in western democracies. The Russians have been practicing something called "disinfamatzia" (ph), disinformation, political lying essentially, since the 1930s, probably at least since the 1940s. They have put out all sorts of false stories for years in eastern Europe especially. They doctor photographs. They have hundreds of people working on this sort of thing and they try to milk it for as much as they can. That's been going on for decades.

Now, what's new is it looks as if they may be adding to their repertoire some utilization of cyberattacks. How much? How much of this were they behind? How much were they just a participant in along with somebody else? I think it's hard to say. If --

[09:40:14] COSTELLO: Well, but the briefings might tell us that though. And I do want to go back --

WOOLSEY: Well, they may.

COSTELLO: I do want to go back to this scheduling thing because you just heard in Jason's tag, the Russians are now poking fun at our intelligence services, right, because of this scheduling snafu. I mean the director of the National Intelligence Service, James Clapper, he says he was never even scheduled to be in New York City before Friday. He's perplexed by Trump's tweet. So, again, why is Mr. Trump tweeting this?

WOOLSEY: Carol, I've got to leave it up to you the scheduling harass mess. I --

COSTELLO: But doesn't it --

WOOLSEY: I'm just not going to get into that.

COSTELLO: But doesn't it bother you that the Russians are now -- are now like tweaking U.S. intelligence services?

WOOLSEY: The Russians use every opportunity they can, and they have for decades, to try to needle, lie about, fiddle with all sorts of things for American --

COSTELLO: But isn't Mr. Trump opening the door for them to do that even more forcefully?

WOOLSEY: I don't know. I'm not going to get into the middle of that. To me it's -- it is the least -- absolutely the least important aspect of all this. What -- what matter --

COSTELLO: OK, well let's talk -- let's talk about the -- what's important.


COSTELLO: There seems to be this full-court press, though, by Russia and the WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, and Trump supporter Sean Hannity of Fox News, to deny any involvement that Russia had any part in this election hack. Here's Julian Assange and what he said on the "Hannity" show.


JULIAN ASSANGE, FOUNDER, WIKILEAKS: We can say -- we have said repeatedly over the last two months that our source is not the Russian government and it is not state party. Why such a dramatic response? Well, the reason is obvious. They're

trying to delegitimize Trump administration as it goes into the White House.


COSTELLO: OK. So Trump tweeted in support of what Julian Assange had to say, but in your opinion --

WOOLSEY: Well, let's --

COSTELLO: As a former CIA director, is Assange, as one Democratic lawmaker said, a useful idiot, or is he telling the truth?

WOOLSEY: Let me say something that may be shocking to a number of viewers, which is that the Russians and indeed a lot of intelligence services frequently work through third parties and they don't disclose. And with respect to hacking, it's especially easy to do that because it's easy to mask your identity and operate through a different server and through a different country and so on. The key thing here is that we ought to be able to understand what the Russians have done, as well as any other countries, China or any others who may be in the middle of this.

COSTELLO: So I just want to go back to Julian Assange for just a second. So what you're saying is Julian Assange may not know that Russia was behind a third party that was actually feeding information to WikiLeaks.

WOOLSEY: I don't know what Julian Assange knows. This really ought to be a situation in which we get at the facts and understand them before we start making judgments it seems to me. And --

COSTELLO: And just my -- my final question to you, as a former CIA director, if the incoming president were saying things about you that Donald Trump is saying about James Clapper, how would you handle it? How would you feel?

WOOLSEY: How would I feel? Like a lot of guys, I'm not real good at describing feelings. I think that -- I've got to say, Carol, I think that what we need to do here is understand who made what judgment when and whether it was accurate or based on some confused assumptions. For example, insofar as anyone was the west, the Russians, anybody --

COSTELLO: Oh, no, no, I understand that. I'm just saying that if the incoming president was questioning your ability to do your job, which Donald Trump is, right?

WOOLSEY: It would depend on how well --

COSTELLO: Wouldn't that make it --

WOOLSEY: It would depend --

COSTELLO: Wouldn't that make it more difficult for you to work with that guy? WOOLSEY: It would depend on how well I had done my job, if I had made

a mistake or done something wrong, then it ought to be called to people's attention.

COSTELLO: All right, I have to leave it there. James Woolsey, thanks for being with me this morning.


COSTELLO: And, again, we're keeping an eye on Capitol Hill, where two extraordinary meetings are taking place, one with Vice President-elect Mike Pence and House Republicans, and one with President Obama and House Democrats and Senate Democrats. Both are talking about Obamacare, one to repeal and one to save. I'll be right back.


[09:48:01] COSTELLO: A remarkable morning unfolding now on Capitol Hill. President Obama and Vice President-elect Mike Pence holding separate meetings with their party's lawmakers. The dueling sessions focused on the Republican pledge to repeal Obamacare.

Phil Mattingly live from Capitol Hill to tell us more.

Hi, Phil.


Look, this is kind of the opening pitch, if you will. Obviously the second day of Congress. A Congress that Republicans have made very clear repealing the Affordable Care Act is goal number one and something that they're very focused on right now. They actually already started the process of it yesterday in the U.S. Senate.

Now, when you talk to aides really on both sides of the aisle that are going to be involved with these meetings, they say these meetings aren't necessarily deep strategy sessions or even in the weeds policy discussions. What they're trying to figure out top line is how to approach this really massive undertaking that both are going to go. So the Republican side trying to repeal and replace. The Democratic side, trying to stop that from happening for the most part.

Now, it's worth noting, there are splits on both sides here on how to handle the way forward. Most notably, on the Republican side, how to actually replace the law that they're trying to repeal very quickly. Those are incredibly important dynamics to keep an eye on.

What you're going to see, and what members have said they expect to hear from Mike Pence, the vice president-elect today, is to remain unified. Through all of these disagreements, try and find that path forward. And, frankly, it's the same thing you're going to hear on the Democratic side.

And, Carol, that's very interesting for one reason. Obviously Democrats control 48 seats in the U.S. Senate. At least one individual who is a Democrat is skipping President Obama's meeting today. I talked to West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin. Obviously coming from a state that the president-elect won by 43 points. Joe Manchin up for re-election in 2018. He's trying to figure out kind of a bipartisan path forward. At least that's what he told me earlier this morning. He said he's disappointed that President Obama and Mike Pence are even having these meetings, saying it pushes both sides to the opposite sides of the table here. So at least some problems for Democrats as they look for unified opposition to that repeal plan.

COSTELLO: All right, Phil Mattingly reporting live for us this morning. Thank you.

So let's talk some more about this. With me now, Jim DeMint, president of The Heritage Foundation, and former Republican U.S. senator from South Carolina.

[09:50:06] Welcome, sir.


COSTELLO: Good morning. Thank you for being here.

You've been fighting for the repeal of Obamacare ever since it was passed. So, does this day taste especially sweet to you?

DEMINT: Well, Obamacare has proved to be unworkable and unaffordable and it's created a dangerous instability in the insurance market. And the most important thing for people to know now is that the repeal of Obamacare this month will not change anyone's plan this year. It just allows people and the insurance market time to adjust to changes that can be made during this year to make health insurance more affordable. And that's our goal, to make it available to every American.

COSTELLO: Uh-huh. So before we get into that, because I know you wrote an op-ed and you said that lawmakers should write legislation right now to repeal Obamacare before President-elect Trump takes office, but it seems that Mr. Trump, he wants a replacement plan before it's repealed, as you've suggested. This is what he said on "60 Minutes" back in December, and I'm going to quote him. He said, quote, "this is an un-Republican thing for me to say, I am going to take care of everybody. I don't care if it costs me votes or not. Everybody is going to be taken care of much better than they're taken care of now." So that sounds an awful like -- an awful lot like Obamacare, except he's not calling it that.

DEMINT: No, not -- well, people aren't being taken care of now. Most of those who supposedly have policies have just been pushed onto Medicaid. And there are millions of Americans whose premiums are up 25 percent with huge deductibles. Yes, we can take a lot better care of Americans by repealing Obamacare and replace --

COSTELLO: So how do you -- how do you take care of people much better than they are taken care of now? How can everybody be covered? And Donald Trump also added that the government would pay for that.

DEMINT: Well, we know that you can -- we never needed a new health care system. We needed to make it more affordable and available. Obamacare came in and replaced our system with something that's been totally unworkable and unaffordable. So, step by step, over the next year, Congress can pass and the president can sign legislation that will make insurance more available. And he can make insurance available to every American that's more affordable than what we have now.

COSTELLO: So the insurance companies will just go along with that? Especially if you want to keep the part where, you know, they have to accept people with preexisting conditions and that people can keep their kids until they're 26 years old on their policies. So the insurance companies will just say, sure, whatever you want?

DEMINT: The insurance companies don't have to go along unless they want to stay in business. What we have to do is create competition. Donald Trump has talked about more competition across state lines, which we have not allowed in the past. We can create a vibrant, competitive insurance market that will make health insurance much more affordable and create a lot more choices.

Since Obamacare was implemented --

COSTELLO: So who has that plan? Who has that plan? Because, you know, Republicans in Congress have voted to repeal Obamacare 60 times. They were supposed to come up with some sort of plan to replace it, but they haven't come up with one plan that everybody can agree on. So is it only going to take a year?

DEMINT: Well, Carol --

COSTELLO: Because I find that hard to believe.

DEMINT: No, the last thing they should do is pass another 2,000-page comprehensive bill. There are a number of things we can do, like interstate competition, the tax deductibility of individual plans. There are a lot of things that they can do with individual pieces of legislation that allow people to own their own plans, to keep it from job to job, to keep it into retirement that a lot of people would like to do right now. But this is not all one big plan. What we need to do is make the health care system America has work better for every American. And we can do that.

COSTELLO: No, you're absolutely right. You're absolutely -- you're absolutely right that there are problems with Obamacare. But there are also pluses. For example, and this is according to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office and the Federal Reserve in Dallas. Preventive care provide by Obamacare, paid for Obamacare, saves money and health care costs overall. In 2015, the cost of health care services increased 0.5 percent. The typical price increase before Obamacare, it was around 3 percent to 4 percent. Obamacare will lower the deficit by $143 billion over the next ten years. So there are pluses to Obamacare. So how do you keep the pluses and get rid of the minuses?

DEMINT: Carol, you can put all that under the category of fake news. I can tell you, we've spent almost $2 trillion on Obamacare -- COSTELLO: This is according to the Congressional Budget Office.

DEMINT: Obamacare costs people more than they paid for their plans before. Now, it may have saved some hospitals some money. I don't know where these savings have come from. But we know Obamacare is unaffordable to Americans, it's unaffordable to businesses who are trying to provide insurance for their people. It's not working, Carol. No one can say that Obamacare is working. Even the administration has to admit that --

[09:55:16] COSTELLO: So all of those 20 million people enrolled in Obamacare, they're all going broke and it's not working for any of them?

DEMINT: Listen, there are only about 2 million -- 2 million to 3 million Americans who did not have health insurance before who now have private health insurance because of Obamacare. There are 15 million who are -- who have no subsidies, whose plans have gone up 25 percent. If you look at all the numbers, Carol, most Americans have come out much, much worse under Obamacare than they've been better off. And even those --

COSTELLO: Even those who have -- even those Americans who are on Obamacare who have catastrophic illnesses like cancer? Even them?

DEMINT: Well, you -- cancer is covered by private insurance as well. And we -- what we need, Carol, instead of saying --

COSTELLO: What if you can't afford private insurance?

DEMINT: Well --

COSTELLO: Because it ain't cheap unless your employer -- you get it through your employer, which most Americans still do, by the way.

DEMINT: We need to make health insurance available to every American. But we don't need to be waiting until people are 26 years old to make available a plan that they can buy. That's part of what we need to do in America is make health insurance available to young people, give them good reasons to buy affordable plans that doesn't have all these regulations that make the plans so expensive. We can do this, and there are ideas that I've introduced, I know Republicans have introduced, that we can step by step create a health care system in America that will make health insurance available to every American.

COSTELLO: Many Americans hope you're absolutely right and hope that maybe there can be some compromise on Capitol Hill, and things will be better for all of us.

Thank you so much for joining me this morning, Jim DeMint.

The next hour of CNN NEWSROOM --

DEMINT: Thanks, Carol.

COSTELLO: You're welcome. The next hour of CNN NEWSROOM after a break.