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Trump Vows to Release Inside Information on Hackers; Obama, Pence to Visit Hill on Obamacare. Aired 7-7:30a ET
Aired January 4, 2017 - 07:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CARROLL: ... community knows what it is talking about and once again, Alisyn, Trump took to Twitter to let everyone know just how he feels.
[07:00:09] 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 (via phone): 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 cyberattacks.
TRUMP: 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.
BRENNAN: 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.
MATTINGLY: Trump has pointed out the intelligence community has done -- been wrong before, especially when it pointed out that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. But the CIA director says that the intelligence community has learned much since then, especially in terms of how it analyzes information. Having said that, Russia says it is not behind the hacking. Also it should be pointed out that Julian Assange, the WikiLeak founder, also says Russia is not the one -- Chris, Alisyn.
CAMEROTA: Thank you very much for all of that information.
So let's discuss all of this with our panel. We want to bring in CNN chief political correspondent Dana Bash; CNN political commentator and senior contributor for "The Daily Caller," Matt Lewis; and politics editor of TheRoot.com and professor of political science and communications at Morgan State University, Jason Johnson.
Great to see all of you.
Jason, I'll start with you. Why do you think Mr. Trump has not met with the heads of the top intel agencies since he was elected? We know, as we heard in Jason Carroll's piece there, that Barack Obama did two days after his election in 2008.
JASON JOHNSON, POLITICS EDITOR, THEROOT.COM: Well, I think it's because this is not a priority for Donald Trump. His priority has been going around and doing his victory tour. His priority has been talking to leaders of foreign countries. He is clearly not a president-elect who is interested in or wants to establish a good relationship with the intelligence community.
And I tell you this. The real concern about this is not whether he met with them last week or this week or he was going to meet with them this Friday. It's if you continue to insult the very intelligence communities that you will rely upon once you're elected president. There will not be the kind of relationship he needs to have, where there are clear and present dangers against the United States. It's a dangerous and irresponsible president on his behalf.
CUOMO: So Dana, what is your best sense of why he's doing this? It can't just be his desire to run into a buzz saw. Are you hearing anything from the people down there who are close to or who are involved with these intel briefings, who are saying, you know, is this alternative theory? Or is it just that his buddy, Sean Hannity, talked to Julian Assange? I mean, what is it? BASH: It very well could be what you just said. But the answer to
your question is no. I have not heard anybody who has access to the intelligence community, and what they have found, who does not think that Russia -- that the overwhelming conclusion is that Russia was very likely behind this hacking.
So the question is why is he doing this? Is he just trying to run into a buzz saw? No, that is not -- not Donald Trump's style. I think what he is trying to do is to -- is to sort of blow up any -- any semblance of normalcy when it comes to all of the institutions here in Washington. And the intelligence community is one of them.
[07:05:11] But I tend to agree that it is dangerous business to say, "You know what?" -- in public, by the way -- "we have to remember that it's kind of obvious, but it's worth saying that the intelligence community is, by definition, a secretive place. And...
CUOMO: And he put "intelligence" in quotes in his tweet.
BASH: There's that.
CUOMO: It's as if "You're not so smart to begin with."
BASH: Not smart, exactly. But -- but they don't like this kind of public attention at all. Never mind getting, you know, kind of the back of the hand from the president-elect and, you know, hopefully for his sake, Donald Trump's sake, it won't come back to bite him. Because they've got power and know how in places that Donald Trump could only hope for.
CAMEROTA: Matt, is this all connected to the notion that Donald Trump wants a reset with Russia? He has spoken favorably about Vladimir Putin. He wants to see Russia as an ally and to have -- make Russia an ally. And so are these two things mutually exclusive? That he can't meet with the intelligence heads if that's his goal with Russia?
MATT LEWIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I don't know that that should be mutually exclusive, but rationally speaking, that probably is the only argument that really makes sense. We've seen Donald Trump be very hard on China, North Korea, other countries, Iran. And yet, for some reason, he doesn't want to accept this consensus that Russia was behind the hacking. It's very curious.
Why wouldn't you go along with what the vast majority of experts say is true?
Now, the only working theory that I have is that he sees now the big paradigm is not forces of freedom versus tyranny but instead western civilization versus Islam. And in that struggle, he sees Vladimir Putin and Russia as an ally.
CUOMO: Professor, let's switch topics here. Obamacare. Repealing, easy. Replacing, hard. What are you seeing in terms of the main obstacles to success with this move with the GOP?
JOHNSON: Well, I've said this all along, Chris. That the president was very, very smart when he put this together. Obamacare is -- it's like Jenga. You can't pull out pieces without the whole thing falling apart. And they know this, which is why I think what Republicans are likely to do is they're going to attempt some sort of repeal, but it's not going to kick in until, say, 2018, after the midterms, because if you just kicked 20 million people off their health insurance, you're not going to be able to get away with it.
One other thing I'll say is this. Right now they're saying we're going to keep the best parts. We're going to get rid of the parts. You can't -- you cannot keep things like a pre-existing condition and keeping kids on til 26 unless you have the laws and the taxes to back it up.
And the GOP doesn't want to answer that tough question right now.
CAMEROTA: But Dana, I mean, it's just like Jason just said. The timing might actually be in Republicans' favor, because nobody gets kicked off for the next year, even if they were to repeal it tomorrow.
And by then, they will have cobbled together some plan.
BASH: Possibly. And probably.
But what the Democrats are counting on, and one of the things that they're going to talk about in this joint caucus meeting on Capitol Hill with the man whose name is on this healthcare plan, Barack Obama, is the idea of sort of rhetorically and messaging the -- the fear, frankly, that they have and that Americans should have about several things.
One is the insurance markets. And even if the changes don't go into place for a year or two years, markets tend to get jittery. And the insurance market is certainly -- is not immune to that. And so what if they say, "OK, we're going to repeal but not replace and not change it or even not take you off the healthcare rolls for a year or two," the insurance market right react to it regardless, and premiums might get even higher.
Now, Republicans argue they don't have a choice, because this puzzle, this jigsaw puzzle that is Obamacare wasn't entirely done right in that the mandate that is supposed to force people to get healthcare, that brings healthy people into the insurance market, isn't really working, because the penalty isn't high enough.
So young people are not going in and out, which is what premiums are already going up. It's incredibly complicated, which is why healthcare reform wasn't done for so long. And it is going to be a very messy process to try to fix it, even though Republicans are deadset and united in the notion of doing so.
CUOMO: And the big reason that the mandate may not be working goes hand in hand with Medicaid expansion and whether or not that would be funded, and the states that haven't funded it are the ones that see the spike.
But Matt Lewis, are you happy with that situation going into 2018 if the Republicans have not been able to replace the plan yet? Do you think that gives you leverage? Or do you think it puts at a disadvantage?
[07:10:09] LEWIS: No, because if you postpone it, what about 2018, right? I mean, you can't kick the problem down the road, because there will be an election at some point, and if you botch this, you will be held accountable. Would you rather use the presidency than lose the midterms?
So look, I think that -- here's the good news for Republicans. No. 1, they basically control everything. So whether it's through reconciliation or whatever, they can repeal the law. That should not be a problem.
You have Tom Price, the former budget committee chairman, at HHS, where he can have sort of massage regulation and implementation of whatever new law it is. You have Paul Ryan as the speaker of the House, who's a budget expert who obviously understands this as well as any Republican could. And then you have Mike Pence being the liaison. They have to fix it, but I think they have a shot. And the American public needs it fixed.
CAMEROTA: Panel, thank you very much. Great to talk to all of you.
CUOMO: Cannot underestimate the impact or the magnitude of this battle. It starts today on Capitol Hill. You've got President Obama and Vice-President-elect Mike Pence, each going to their respective teams, essentially, to talk about how to approach the battle over Obamacare.
The backlash over the ethics cast a vote over the new Congress's first day, as well. What happened with that? Why did it turn around?
CNN's Phil Mattingly live on the Hill with the latest. Did we see the power of the people in action? Everybody is talking about Trump's tweet. But he wasn't against the gutting. All those phone calls to the congressman. Maybe that made a difference.
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Chris. That's what I'm hearing when you talk to House officials, House aides. They're saying, look, president-elect's tweet made a difference. It certainly probably accelerated the calls that they were getting.
But it was those phone calls ringing off the hook on Capitol Hill offices that made the real difference, some old-school lobbying, if you will. Lobbying is something we're also going to see on the Hill today. As you mentioned, two high-profile and even higher stakes meetings as the battle lines over Obamacare are set.
Today, President Obama and Vice-President-elect Mike Pence heading to Capitol Hill. It's an effort aids say to prepare their parties for the looming battle over Obamacare.
MATTINGLY (voice-over): Today President Obama and Vice-President- elect Mike Pence heading to Capitol Hill. It's an effort, aides say, to prepare their parties for the looming battle over Obamacare.
JOE BIDEN (D), VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The Senate will come to order.
MATTINGLY: The high-profile visits coming as a group of conservative lawmakers are set to unveil the first concrete plan to replace Obama's signature achievement.
This coming just a day after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell filed a proposal to start the process of repealing the law. McConnell wasting zero time. His proposal coming within hours of the ceremonial swearing in of the new Congress.
MATTINGLY: The new session getting off to a rocky start. House Republicans forced to back down from a proposal to gut an independent ethics committee, through major backlash from Democrats and some members of their own party. Putting a scolding from the president- elect himself on Twitter. Tweeting "With all that Congress has to work on, do they really have to make the weakening of the independent ethics watchdog, as unfair as it may be, their No. 1 act and priority? Focus on tax reform, health care and so many other things of far greater importance."
House Speaker Paul Ryan challenging the new Congress, led once again by Republicans, to make things happen when Trump takes office.
RYAN: The people have given us unified government. And it wasn't because they were feeling generous. It was because they want results. How could we live with ourselves if we let them down?
MATTINGLY: Chris, the speaker of the House not exactly trying to manage down expectations and with good reason. Like, they control the House. They control the Senate and in 16 days, they control the White House, but when you talk to aides here really in both chambers. They kind of make clear one thing.
Congress is not always the most compliant institution or body in the world. And you have to keep in mind, while Republicans do hold the power up here, lost two seats in the Senate, lost six seats in the House. That means they've got limited wiggle room, as they try to attack these big-issue items, including Obamacare. So keep an eye out. Things aren't going to move as fast as people think, and Democrats, while they don't have a ton of leverage, they can certainly get in the way of a lot of priorities -- Chris.
CUOMO: Phil Mattingly, savvy as always. Thank you very much.
Programming note for you. Next Monday night, I'm going to host a special primetime town hall with former Democratic presidential candidate and current Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. The focus: the major issues facing our nation, as well as how Democrats plan to take on the president-elect. What is their plan to bring people together? What are they going to do? Are they going to be an echo of what the Republicans did with Obama or something different?
Next Monday, 9 p.m. Eastern for the one-hour town hall right here on C-ennay-ennay.
CAMEROTA: A different language. I can't wait to watch that. That will be wonderful. So I will tape it, and then you will tell me in the morning what the highlights were.
[07:15:08] So how will Republicans replace Obamacare? We will ask a longtime Republican leader, next.
CUOMO: Repeal and replace Obama. You had to hear it a million times during the campaign. That was the big GOP sell. And they're taking their first step on trying to get Obama's signature off that legislation and put a new one on it.
The question is how? The repeal is easy, but how do you replace it? That comes down to the hard work of legislation, and it is time for us to call on those who know how to do that best.
We have a great one for you today. Former longtime Republican senator, one of the best names in the business, former senator Saxby Chambliss. It's great to have you with us, Senator.
SAXBY CHAMBLISS, FORMER SENATOR: Thank you, Chris. Good to be with you this morning.
CUOMO: So repeal, relatively easy. You have the votes. You have a president willing to sign off on that. Replace, very difficult. Timing and Obamacare is a beast. What do you think the challenges are for your party in getting this right?
CHAMBLISS: Certainly, there are major challenges in doing what you say, and that is getting it right. We voted to repeal Obamacare, gosh, I don't know, 50 or 60 times and it's pretty easy to vote to do that. But we knew with every one of those votes we cast that trying to figure out a way to replace it and take the good parts of it and keep them in place and fix the bad parts was not going to be easy.
And frankly, I wish what we had today, instead of President Obama going to speak to the Democrats and Mike Pence going to speak to Republicans, why don't they both go together and speak to both Democrats and Republicans, because that's what it's going to take? You're going to have to have the ideas of both parties put together to come up with a solution to replace Obamacare.
The one thing we know is that you have to remember, this bill was written in the dark of the night. Nancy Pelosi said let's pass it, and then we'll read it. We've been through all of that. It is way too expensive. It's not working like it should be. Everybody in Washington understands that.
But fixing it is going to take cooperation from both parties, and I think it's -- it would be appropriate to get Republicans and Democrats in the room and say, OK, guys. We've got to do what's necessary to walk out of this room and say we're going to hold hands and fix this issue together.
CUOMO: Well, that -- look, that is an interesting take all on its own. Let's see if the GOP leadership is able to brook some disagreements on the Democratic side and do exactly what we say. We'll come back to you on that one.
Let's hit another issue here: The ethics reversal yesterday. You were very -- it wasn't your house, but the OCE was a very effective tool for House members that weren't so anxious to investigate themselves. Yes, there were some fair criticism of overzealousness, and where were these complaints coming from. But when they moved to gut it, there was a huge backlash. You even saw Donald Trump tweet about it. He complained about the timing, not the move of essentially gutting this tool. What do you think caused that reversal?
CHAMBLISS: I think it's pretty clear. They saw that, after a campaign in which Donald Trump talked about that now famous three words, "draining the swamp," to start out on the first day, removing one of the ethics committees that is responsible for investigating members of Congress is not the way to carry that mantra of "draining the swamp."
And, you know, to Donald Trump's credit here, Chris, he's the new sheriff in town. We've had a leadership void for 8 years now, pretty honestly, in a number of areas; and Donald Trump is seeking to fill that void. He did yesterday when he stepped up, and he said, "Look, this is not what you guys need to be talking about. We've got lots of problems in this country."
CUOMO: But you don't think it was the people calling, Senator? Because his tweet was, for him, pretty -- you know, pretty direct. It didn't have like a thousand different meetings. It was, "As unfair as it may be" -- he was talking about the OCE -- "don't do it first. You have other priorities."
That's not, you know, keep your own house clean. People don't trust you. I think that message came from constituents. They got thousands and thousands of calls. You can look on Google and you see the spike in searches of "who is my representative?" Do the people deserve more credit than Trump's tweet on this one?
CHAMBLISS: If Trump had not tweeted that in the early morning hours, you know, chances are pretty good this would have gone unnoticed, and it shouldn't have. So yes, I think he played a major role.
But I want to give the House credit, too. He exhibited leadership, but they stepped up to the plate, too, and said basically, "We shouldn't have done this. We need to backtrack, and we need to bring this to the -- out in the light of day if we're going to do it."
And I do give credit to the leadership of Paul Ryan and Kevin McCarthy and folks on the House side who said, "We've got more fish to fry than this. We need to move on to something else." CUOMO: Ryan -- Ryan found some bend in his back on this one, though.
Because he started out being against it and then put out a statement that he was for it. We started covering it yesterday morning. We were hitting it very heavy, Senator. Trump hadn't tweeted yet. He tweeted later in the morning. We know he likes to watch the saw. He certainly feels free to criticize it. Maybe that got the whole cycle in motion.
Whatever it was, it was a good result for people who want accountability in the House.
One last issue. Russian intelligence, can you make sense of what's going on with the president elect and his team on this issue right now? We cannot find a source in the intel community who says, "Well, maybe it was China." They keep saying it was Russia. Why Russia did it, you start to get into a field of theories.
[07:25:05] But the president-elect is bashing the intelligence community. He tweeted this morning, putting "intelligence" in quotes. And he said that they were delaying their meeting with him. They say that's not true. Why is he going so hard against the intelligence community about Russia being behind the hacks?
CHAMBLISS: Obviously, I think you have to ask him as to why he's making the statements he's making to the intelligence community. Here's what I know.
Our intelligence community, from top to bottom, is made up of very well-trained highly-skilled professionals, a lot of whom put their life in harm's way every single day just like our military does. And these folks who have done the investigation of this supposed hack by the Russians are prepared now to sit down with President Obama, with the leadership in the House and the Senate and President-elect Trump and explain exactly what they found and what they saw.
And I think that all three of those entities, once they're read, will walk away with the same conclusion. And I haven't been briefed, obviously, nobody has, to the extent that these three entities are going to be briefed. And I'm very hopeful that they will all see it the same way.
And if the Russians did this, that we do more than what's been done at this point in time, in the way of sanctions and reprisals against the Russians, because we can't have this sort of activity interfering with a democracy with the United States.
CUOMO: Right. But Senator, as you know, you've got to be on board your intel people. And they have to have confidence in you and you in them before you take that next step. But thank you very much for your perspective on these issues. When we get closer to the confirmation hearings with Rex Tillerson, we know that you're helping him out to prepare for those -- love to have you back and discuss the issues in play.
CHAMBLISS: He's a good man. I look forward to it.
CUOMO: All right. The best to you and the family in the new year, Senator. Thanks for being with us.
CHAMBLISS: Thank you.
CUOMO: Saxby Chambliss.
CAMEROTA: All right, Chris. Now to the other side, can Democrats save Obamacare with, of course, Republicans in control of Congress? We will ask a Democratic congressman about their party's strategy. Next.