Return to Transcripts main page


Trump Sides With Assange; President Obama Addresses Armed Forces; Battle Over Obamacare. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired January 4, 2017 - 15:00   ET



SHIRLEY FERRILL, RESIDENT OF FAIRFIELD, ALABAMA: I can certainly appreciate and understand the band members wanting to go and exercise their talent, but I think a larger purpose and focus ought to be on the school, which is why they were invited, not because they are such great individual musicians, but because they're part of Talladega College's marching band.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: We will wait to hear from the decision on the college's president today on whether or not they will be there on the 20th of January.

Shirley, thank you so much.

Oh, and, by the way, forgive me. I'm now learning the president will be revealing their decision on Don Lemon's show tonight. Shirley, thank you so much.

All right, top of the next hour. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

Let's go to Capitol Hill. We begin with a dramatic showdown there today now playing out, as President Obama coined the phrase Trumpcare. Today, the president and the vice president-elect, Mike Pence, visited with lawmakers in split-screen meetings to strategize on the future of Obamacare.

Governor Pence declared repealing and replacing Obama's signature law will be -- quote, unquote -- "the first order of business" in Trump's administration. But it's the replacement piece of that that the Democrats are seizing upon. President Obama directly his party to -- quote -- "Don't rescue Republicans on Obamacare. Don't help them with the replacement, even advising to call whatever program takes its place Trumpcare."

Much more on the president's Capitol Hill trip, but first moments ago Governor Pence spoke about his party's plans.


MIKE PENCE (R), VICE PRESIDENT-ELECT: The president-elect has strongly supported efforts popularly advanced in the Congress in years past of health savings accounts, allowing Americans to purchase health insurance across state lines, association health plans. The architecture of the replacement of Obamacare will come together, as it should, through the legislative process in the weeks and months ahead. Obamacare has failed. All the promises of Obamacare have been shown to be false and broken promises.


BALDWIN: CNN's Phil Mattingly joins us now from Capitol Hill.

We are hearing from, what, sources inside the Democrats' meeting they were fired up. Tell me why exactly.


It was described at least what the president was going for according to at least one member in the room I spoke to as kind of a pep rally of sorts, a need to rile the troops up for the upcoming fight on this issue, and with good reason, Brooke.

Just yesterday, the Senate and the House were once again sworn in as Republican controlled. Just 16 days from now, the White House becomes the same. So the president's message kind of nailed the top-line points.

But the source in the room was saying kind of an interesting rumor here. This wasn't a policy-based message. This wasn't about specific details that needed to be defended. It was about defending it en masse and using techniques that were actually used against Democrats.

One member who was in the room said the president more or less said you need to co-opt what the Tea Party did to us back in 2010 and 2011, a strategy that was extraordinarily effective in legislative races in 2010, 2014 and again 2016.

The president essentially saying that you need to do things like that. You need to rally your base. You need get to town halls. You need to fight this tooth and nail. He actually said -- this is a direct quote -- one member texted me -- "I envy you so much right now because I would love to be on the field."

The question now is if the members of Congress will respond. This is what Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer had to say.


CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), MINORITY LEADER: Republicans are plotting and soon will be executing a full-scale assault on the three pillars that support the American health care system, the Affordable Care Act, Medicare and Medicaid.

The Republican plan to cut health care wouldn't make America great again. It would make America sick again and lead to chaos, instead of affordable care.

(END VIDEO CLIP) MATTINGLY: Brooke, you listen closely right there, you caught a catchphrase that I think you're going to hear over and over and over again.

BALDWIN: Make America sick again.

MATTINGLY: There you go. They had it on a placard after the meeting with the president today.

They're trying to use similar tactics that were used against them. What is most interesting, I think you talked about the crazy dynamic of the meetings going on at the same time. The vice president-elect made clear to his members, according to one source in the room, that that's exactly what the Democrats were going to do and it was incumbent upon Republicans to fight against that.

Again, most interesting part, this wasn't a policy discussion on either side of the Capitol. This was about strategy, this was about P.R. and a recognition that the message might actually win this fight, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Branding, counterbranding, split-screen scenes on the Hill.

Phil, thank you so much.

Let's have a bigger conversation about all of this.

Let me bring in senior politics writer for "U.S. News & World Report" David Catanese and CNN senior political reporter Nia-Malika Henderson.

Guys, great to see both of you.


Out of the gate to the fact that President Obama went in this meeting, talked to his fellow Democrats and said, hey, you know what? You should start referring to Obamacare as Trumpcare, turn the tables on the Republicans.

David, do you think that's a winning strategy?

DAVID CATANESE, "U.S. NEWS & WORLD REPORT": I think it's the best strategy they have right now.

They want to make Donald Trump continue be unpopular, so they're flipping the script and they want to put the burden on the Republicans now. Remember, Democrats have had the burden for the last eight years of defending this thing. They have gotten whiplashed through elections.

Now they feel like the burden is on Republicans for them to do something. We all know Republicans want to repeal this. They're likely to repeal it. But a Senate leadership aide me today the question -- and they're going to have their own inner party debate for Republicans on how exactly to do it. So what Obama wants to do is say, OK, you don't like my health care plan. We're going to make you own the repeal and replace and make Donald Trump own it. I think that is their best strategy, because, look, they're winning the branding debate right at the outset.

BALDWIN: Make America sick again, as Phil pointed out

Nia, on the flip side, though, we've heard from president-elect Trump in a succession of three tweets. This is what he's saying. He's warning his party to be "careful in that the Dems own the failed Obamacare disaster with its poor coverage and massive premium increases, like the 116 percent hike in Arizona. Also, deductibles are so high that it's practically useless. Don't let the Schumer clowns out of this web. Massive increases of Obamacare will take place this year and Dems are to blame for the mess. It will fall of its own weight. Be careful."

What is he saying when he means it will fall on its own weight, do you think, Nia?

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it's really unclear, because this essentially has been the Republican argument all along, that it is a disaster, that it will fall on its own weight.

But guess what? The Republicans are now in control, right? They're going to have control of both houses and obviously a president who will go along with replace. The burden now is on them. They have had six years to come up with some sort of plan.

And there had been plans floating around, but the fact they don't have a plan I think speaks to the difficulty of dismantling this massive program.

BALDWIN: They don't have a unified plan.


HENDERSON: Exactly. Exactly. There's the Paul Ryan plan. There's the Orrin Hatch plan. But they can't come to any agreement.

And partly this is because there are a few different versions of the Republican Party. Some Republicans don't necessarily think that the government should have anything to do with health care. And then you have Donald Trump really sounding at times like Obama in terms of the provisions that he wants to keep.

So it is a real mess at this point. And I think if you're a Democrat, you think that at this point basically if anything at all goes wrong in terms of premium hikes, in terms of anything with the health care system, now Republicans could shoulder some of that blame.

It certainly will be Democrats' strategy to tie them over and over to whatever missteps go on in the health care system over these next many months. BALDWIN: As the quandary will be the unified plan and then

specifically how to replace David, the number I saw today in terms of pennies, nickels and dollars, as far as what it would cost the replace, $350 billion over the course of the next decade.

That's according to this analysis from bipartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. Is that at the heart of why Republicans do you think haven't come up with one unified plan?


CATANESE: Yes, I think that's part of it.

You have already seen divisions over whether they should repeal all the taxes. I don't know how you repeal a law without repealing the funding that is providing the law. Look, I think the replacement has to come from one person, Donald J. Trump. The president, president- elect, has an amazing ability to rally Republicans around this issue. They have been united around this issue.


BALDWIN: For seven years.

MATTINGLY: For seven years.

And if you remember when President Obama put forth Obamacare, he was the driving force in that. He was the one going to the Finance Committee and the Democrats had a big debate, should we have a public option, should we not? What should actually go in here?

But the president was the definer in that role, in the same way you have all these House members, Senate members that are going to have different proposals, different timing. President-elect Trump, soon to be President Trump in, what, 15 days now, he is going to have the define this debate, he is going to have put forward a plan.

I think that's why it's so important that Mike Pence was up there today, because he's going to be the governing negotiator in this administration. And I think just being up on the Hill today talking to Republicans, they want to see more of Mike Pence, because that's their route to Trump's brain and what he thinks should go in any type of replacement.


BALDWIN: Took his office today on the House today. Saw Reince Priebus over his shoulder. We could see much more of him, to your point, on the Hill.

Nia and David, thank you both so much.

HENDERSON: Thanks, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Meantime, the president-elect -- thank you -- appears to be taking the word of WikiLeaks fonder Julian Assange over that of U.S. intelligence agencies, tweeting -- quote -- "Julian Assange said a 14- year-old could have hacked Podesta, that's Hillary Clinton campaign chair, so why was DNC so careless? Also said Russians did not give him the info."

Trump reacting to an interview that Assange gave to FOX News last night, and here is just a piece of that.


JULIAN ASSANGE, FOUNDER, WIKILEAKS: We can say and we have said repeatedly over the last two months that our source is not the Russian government and it is not a state party.

Why such a dramatic response? Well, the reason is obvious. They're trying to delegitimatize Trump administration as it goes into the White House.


BALDWIN: Now, Mr. Trump also mocked the intel community when he tweeted "The intelligence briefing on so-called Russian hacking was delayed until Friday. Perhaps more time needed to build a case. Very strange!"

Joining me now, Jim Sciutto, CNN chief security national correspondent, and Andy Greenberg, a senior writer for "Wired" magazine. Both of them have personally interviewed Julian Assange.

But, Jim, let me just begin with you, and I know you feel passionately about this and specifically just on how Trump tweeted delayed. It wasn't delayed. This whole time, this briefing was supposed to be Friday, correct?


There's no truth to this idea that there was a meeting with Director Clapper, Director Brennan of the CIA for yesterday. I'm told this by several U.S. officials. It was always planned for later in the week.

One reason is that the review ordered by President Obama of Russian hacking isn't complete yet. When it is complete, the current sitting president, President Obama, will be briefed first and he hasn't been briefed yet.

And just to be clear, this is the first of several stories about this review that Donald Trump and his team have told just in the past several days. Remember, on the weekend, it was special information that only he had. That was then walked back by his advisers.

Then it was this idea that the briefing was somehow delayed. That we're told is just frankly not true. The newest line are the series of tweets we saw today saying, in effect, trust Julian Assange over these 17 agencies of the U.S. intelligence community, but also just calling into question U.S. intelligence in general, taking the step of putting it in quotes in his tweets. And I'll tell you, speaking to folks on the inside of the agencies, they are reacting with confusion, certainly, but also a fair amount of dismay at this, the incoming president throwing them under the bus, for lack of a better expression here.


So you have the I.C. piece of this, but, Andy, let me just turn to you. You also have the Julian Assange piece of this. And first and foremost, what I understand struck you is the fact that Assange is even talking about his sources.

ANDY GREENBERG, "WIRED": This really goes through everything that Assange stands for.

The WikiLeaks sort of innovation in the first place was to use technical means to prevent even WikiLeaks, even Assange himself from knowing who his sources are. So for him to be talking about the fact he knows who the source is, saying details about the source, that is just so bizarre, and it goes against everything WikiLeaks stands for.

Imagine that the source was not the Russian government, which I actually doubt, because of the 17 intelligence agencies and other public evidence. But imagine that it wasn't the Russian government, that it was some kind of DNC insider or something like that.

Assange has essentially thrown the investigation off of this red herring that they believe that they had found this was the Russian government and he's helped them to find the real source. And that goes against the kind of mantra of source protection that WikiLeaks has always espoused.

BALDWIN: Trump is siding with Assange here, as per this tweet, instead of, as Jim points out, the 17 or 18 intelligence agencies.

But I want you to now juxtapose that with what he told -- he was on TV. This was 2010. Role it.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You had nothing to do with the leaking of those facts.


DONALD TRUMP, CHAIRMAN & CEO, TRUMP HOTELS & CASINO RESORTS: No, but I think it was disgraceful.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You do think it's disgraceful?

TRUMP: I think it should be like a death penalty or something.


BALDWIN: This should be death penalty or something.

Jim Sciutto, to you. What has happened here?

SCIUTTO: Let's be clear.

Julian Assange and WikiLeaks has attacked the U.S. government under both Republican and Democratic administrations. It's exposed the details of U.S. soldiers in the field, putting them in danger. It's exposed the details of U.S. intelligence sources in the field, putting them in danger.

It's exposed thousands of U.S. diplomatic cables, getting at conversations between U.S. diplomats in the field, potentially damaging those relationships.

And now it's targeted, in effect, a political party in the midst of a race. And just to be clear -- and my colleague here knows this as well as me -- Julian Assange's philosophy is to attack what he calls secrecy based-authoritarian conspiracy government, his phrasing, not mine.


He includes the U.S. in that list. His goal is to undermine the U.S. and other governments. So for an incoming U.S. president to in effect ally himself with Julian Assange is really just -- it's just remarkable.

BALDWIN: Do you think Julian Assange salivating over all of this?

GREENBERG: I think that Assange is just happy that Hillary Clinton is not going to be the next president.

He knew that pretty much guarantees indictments, that he faced off with her as secretary of state in 2010. He knew that she was probably going to pursue crimes against him, not just for the sex crimes he's accused of, but for espionage. He even might end up in a U.S. prison.

I think for Trump for him is a kind of wild card and he might just walk free, he hopes. On the other hand, I have to hope that Assange knows that Trump has secrets too, his tax returns among them, and that we may see some WikiLeaks on the Republican side in the next four years.

BALDWIN: That's exactly what Senator Lindsey Graham was saying earlier today on CNN, saying, hey, if he doesn't say this is wrong, and this is what is happening, Iran, North Korea could be hacking the Republicans. That's exactly his point to your point I think as well.

Andy Greenberg, thank you very much. Jim Sciutto, thank you as well.

Coming up next, the racist murderer behind the Charleston church massacre speaking out in court about his sanity and why he just told the entire jury to ignore his lawyers.



BALDWIN: Welcome back. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

We were just talking about how president-elect Donald Trump has once again cast doubt on U.S. intelligence while at the same time appearing to support the founder of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange.

Let's talk about the politics piece of all of this. Kristin Tate is back with us, conservative columnist and author of "Governor Gone Wild," and Angela Rye back as well, CNN political commentator and former executive director for the Congressional Black Caucus.

Ladies, happy new year.


BALDWIN: Kristin, why do you think the president-elect is choosing what Julian Assange is saying over 16 or 17 U.S. intelligence agencies?

KRISTIN TATE, CONSERVATIVE COLUMNIST: Well, look, I agree that Assange is not a friend to the U.S..

Nobody is saying that. And Trump doesn't think that either. He's come right out and said he doesn't think Assange is good for America. That's not the point, though. The point is that WikiLeaks revealed damaging information about Hillary Clinton and the DNC because the Democrats were so incompetent with their own cyber-security.

BALDWIN: Sorry. Forgive me. I have got to interrupt you and go to the president of the United States.

This is the farewell from the armed services, Joint Base Fort Myer in Virginia. Let's listen to the POTUS.



OBAMA: Thank you. Please be seated.

Well, good afternoon.

Turns out these are easier when you're talking about somebody else.


OBAMA: In moments like, this I think of all the times that I have stood before our men and women in uniform, commissioning our newest officers, presiding over promotions, presenting the Commander in Chief's Trophy to the best football team in the military. I will let you argue over that one.


OBAMA: I have never taken sides. Secretary Carter, I could not be more grateful for your gracious

words, but, more importantly, for your outstanding leadership, across, as you noted, more than three decades and nearly all of my presidency.

You have always given me, Ash, your best strategic counsel. You have made sure that we were investing in innovation for the long term and the strong force for the future.

As a physicist, Ash is also one of the few people who actually understands how our defense systems work. And I know that our troops and their families are immensely grateful for the compassion that you and Stephanie have shown them over the years.

So, to you and your family, on behalf of all of us, thank you for your outstanding service.


OBAMA: General Dunford, we have relied on you as commandant of the Marine Corps, as our commander in Afghanistan, and now as our nation's highest-ranking military officer.

I thank you and General Selva and the entire Joint Chiefs for the unvarnished military advice that you have always provided to me, for your dedication, for your professionalism, for your integrity.

Because of you, because of this team, our armed forces are more integrated and better prepared across domains, a truly joint force, which is why, as a white Sox fan, I can overlook the fan that you love the Red Sox.

Moreover, on a personal note, outside of your professional qualities, you are a good man. And I'm grateful to have worked with you. And thank Ellen (ph) for allowing me to do this.


OBAMA: To members of Congress, Vice President Biden, who, along with Jill, has known the love and the pride and the sacrifice of a military family, to Deputy Secretary Work, service secretaries, distinguished guests, dedicated civilians from across the Defense Department, my national security team, most of all, our men and women in uniform, I thank you for this honor and for the warmth and respect that you have always shown me, the support that you have shown Michelle and our daughters during these past eight years.


And so, although I recognize that the formalities require me listening to praise directed in large part to me, I want to turn the tables. I am still commander in chief. And so I get to do what I want to do, and I want to thank you.

Of all the privileges of this office -- and there are many -- I will miss Air Force One, I will miss Marine one, but I can stand before you today and say that there has been no greater privilege and no greater honor than serving as the commander in chief of the greatest military in the history of the world.


OBAMA: When I took office, I noted that presidents and those of you in uniform swear a similar oath, to protect and defend this country and the Constitution that we cherish.

And by stepping forward and volunteering, by raising your right hand and taking that oath, each of you made a solemn pledge. You committed yourselves to a life of service and of sacrifice.

And I, in turn, made a promise to you, which, to the best of my abilities, I have tried to uphold every single day since, that I would only send you into harm's way when it was absolutely necessary, with a strategy and well-defined goals, with the equipment and the support that you needed to get the job done, because that's what you rightfully expect and that is what you rightfully deserve.

I made that pledge at a time when less than 1 percent of Americans wear the uniform. Fewer Americans know someone who serves. And as a result, a lot of Americans don't see the sacrifices you make on our behalf.

But, as commander in chief, I do. I have seen it when I look into the eyes of young cadets, knowing that my decisions could very well send them into harm's way. I have seen it when I have visited the field in Bagram, in Baghdad, far from your families, risking your lives, so that we can live ours safely and in freedom.

And so you have inspired me. And I have been humbled by you consistently. And I want every American to know what I know. Through year after year after year of continuous military operations, you have earned your place among the greatest generations.

The list of accomplishments that Joe and Ash so generously mentioned, they're because of you. It's what I tell my staff. I'm the front man, but you're the ones doing the work.

Because of you, our alliances are stronger, from Europe to the Asia- Pacific. Because of you, we surged in Afghanistan, trained Afghan forces to defend their country, while bringing most of our troops home.

Today, our forces serve there on a more limited mission, because we must never again allow Afghanistan to be used for a safe haven in attacks against our nation.

It's because of you, particularly our remarkable special forces, that the core al Qaeda leadership that attacked us on 9/11 has been decimated. Countless terrorist leaders, including Osama bin Laden, are gone.

From South Asia to Africa, we have forged partnerships to go after terrorists that threaten us. Because of you, we are leading the global coalition against ISIL. These terrorists have lost about half of their territory. They are losing their leaders, towns, and cities are being liberated.

And I have no doubt this barbaric terrorist group will be destroyed, because of you. You have shown that, when it comes to fighting terrorism, we can be strong and we can