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Interview with Representative Jackie Speier; House Takes First Step Today to Kill Obamacare; Doctors Mixed on Future of Healthcare Law; Cabinet Picks Break With Trump on Key Issues; House Lawmakers to Get Closed Door Intel Briefing. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired January 13, 2017 - 09:00   ET


[09:00:08] CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: And good morning, I'm Carol Costello. Thank you so much for joining me. Inauguration Day getting closer but the President-elect's Cabinet picks, they are keeping their distance from some of his key campaign positions.

The President-elect is in New York City today for more meetings at the Trump Tower. This, after a week packed with hearings on the Hill exposing just how far those nominees are from Trump on major issues. And we're talking about major issues. CNN's Sunlen Serfaty live in the Capitol with more.

Good morning.

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to you, Carol. Yes, this was one of the big takeaways from the week of confirmation hearings on Capitol Hill that Trump and many of his nominees are not in line on many key issues that the country is facing. And the President-elect this morning pushing back a bit on that, kind of trying to frame this as something of a good thing, saying that he wants his nominees to be themselves and express their own thoughts.


SERFATY (voice-over): In the first week of confirmation hearings for key members of Donald Trump's Cabinet, his nominees breaking from some of his biggest campaign promises and policies like the President- elect's soft stance on Russia.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT-ELECT OF THE UNITED STATES: If Putin likes Donald Trump, I consider that an asset.

SERFATY (voice-over): Trump's nominees for Defense Secretary and Secretary of State taking a more adversarial stance.

GEN. JAMES MATTIS, NOMINEE FOR SECRETARY OF UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE: I would consider the principle threats to start with Russia.


SERFATY (voice-over): If confirmed, Rex Tillerson would become America's top diplomat, but he says he hasn't even spoken with Trump about Russia.

SEN. ROBERT MENENDEZ (D), NEW JERSEY: I would have thought that Russia would be at the very top of that considering all the actions that are taking place. Did that not happen?

TILLERSON: That has not occurred yet, Senator.

MENENDEZ: That's pretty amazing.

SERFATY (voice-over): After months of doubting the conclusions of U.S. intelligence, Trump now believes Russia was the culprit.

TRUMP: I think it was Russia.

SERFATY (voice-over): CIA Director Mike Pompeo says Russian cyber hacking is going to need a robust response.

SEN. MIKE POMPEO, NOMINEE FOR DIRECTOR OF CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY: This was an aggressive action taken by the senior leadership inside of Russia, and America has an obligation and the CIA has a part of that obligation to protect that information.

SERFATY (voice-over): Some appointees also breaking from Trump's call to bring back illegal interrogation tactics.

TRUMP: Would I approve waterboarding? You bet your ass I'd approve it.


GEN. JOHN KELLY, NOMINEE FOR SECRETARY OF UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY: Absolutely not. I don't think we should ever come close to crossing the line that is beyond what we as Americans would expect to follow in terms of interrogation techniques.

SERFATY: His promise to build a wall on the U.S./Mexico border.

TRUMP: We're going to build a wall.

KELLY: A physical barrier in and of itself will not do the job. It has to be really a layered defense.

SERFATY (voice-over): And Trump's vow during the campaign to temporarily ban all Muslims entering the U.S.

SESSIONS: I have no belief and do not support the idea that Muslims as a religious group should be denied admission to the United States.

KELLY: I don't think it's ever appropriate to focus on something like religion as the only factor.

TILLERSON: I do not support targeting any particular group.

(END VIDEOTAPE) SERFATY: And next week will be another big week up here on Capitol Hill for the incoming Trump administration. Seven confirmation hearings are scheduled at this time, including Trump's pick for Interior Adjudication, Commerce, and Education Secretary, Carol.

COSTELLO: All right, Sunlen Serfaty reporting live from Capitol Hill this morning. Thanks so much.

So let's talk about this some more. With me now is Tamara Keith, White House correspondent for NPR and David Lauter, Washington bureau chief for the "Los Angeles Times."

Welcome to both of you.


COSTELLO: All right. So as you might expect, Trump already tweeted about this this morning, among other things. He tweeted, "All of my Cabinet nominees are looking good and doing a great job. I want them to be themselves and express their own thoughts, not mine."

David, do you think Mr. Trump means that?

DAVID LAUTER, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, LOS ANGELES TIMES: Well, he may. I mean, you know, he does, to his credit, seem to want people who have strong views. He's picked people who have long careers and are not simply, you know, ciphers. But these are core issues that Trump campaigned on, and one after another, you see his nominees walking away from positions that he took during his campaign, the ones that we just heard about. And there are others as well.

Both Tillerson and Mattis talked about how the Iran nuclear deal, maybe they didn't support it because it was the best that could be done right now and probably ought to be kept. They both talked about keeping sanctions against Russia. Rex Tillerson talked about feeling that global warming is real not a hoax as the President-elect has referred to it.

So there clearly is a gap here between what the President-elect has, at least, said he believes and what his chosen people to run the government say they believe.

COSTELLO: And, Tamara, David is exactly right. We're not talking about the small stuff here. We're talking about stuff like the Iran deal and torture tactics.


COSTELLO: Sean Spicer, Trump's pick for the White House Press Secretary, told Fox, when you come into a Trump administration, it's the agenda that you are implementing, not your own. So does it sound like Sean Spicer has it right and that's going to happen?

[09:05:11] KEITH: Well, you know, the thing about Donald Trump is that he has shown himself at times to be persuadable. So for instance, on waterboarding, during the campaign on multiple

occasions, he said we should bring it back, seems like a good idea. Well, then there was that interview that he did with a large group of "New York Times" reporters at the "New York Times" headquarters, and he said that when he spoke to General Mattis for his interview, General Mattis had said he opposed waterboarding boarder, and Donald Trump expressed some surprise and said, well, you know, I guess I have to consider that.

So he has, at least at sometimes, shown himself willing to be persuaded by those around him. And, you know, he says he surrounds himself with the best people.

President-elect Donald Trump has not been in a political leadership position before. And this is one of those things that I think that he and America is and his Cabinet are going to have to feel out over the next several years.

COSTELLO: So there's also this, David. You know, Trump's pick for Secretary of State, Mr. Tillerson, he testified he had not even talked to Trump about Russia policy. So is it possible that these different viewpoints are a surprise to Mr. Trump too?

LAUTER: Yes, it could be. And, General Kelly, his pick to head Homeland Security, testified that he had not had any conversations and didn't really know where the administration was going to go on the question of what to do with the almost 800,000 people who have been shielded from deportation under the Obama administration's so-called DACA program, for the DREAM Act young people.

So it's clear that there are some big issues of policy that the President-elect has not engaged on. He has shown that he's quite interested in policies having to do with jobs. We've seen that repeatedly as he's tweeted and talked about things like Carrier Corporation and General Motors and Toyota.

But on a lot of other issues, some of which they'll be dealing with in just about a week, he does not appear to have engaged in the details and maybe not even the broad general strokes of policy. And that could be a big issue going forward about who's really running this government.

COSTELLO: Well, the other issue is, let's say the argument over policy gets heated, Mr. Trump is President. He has the final say, right. So will his nominees feel strongly enough about their positions to resign, Tamara, because that's possible, right?

KEITH: I mean, that's a ways down the road, but I think that -- I heard someone on NPR this morning who we interviewed who is close to President-elect Trump's pick for CIA, and he said that if Donald Trump asked him to do something illegal, like waterboarding, that he would resign rather than do it.

Now, that isn't Pompeo saying that himself and it's a long way down the road and it's not clear that the President would ask anyone to do anything illegal, but, you know, again, this is something that is going to be played out over the coming months.

COSTELLO: And I see you struggling because we've never had a President-elect like this, so it's hard to predict the future, right? But I do appreciate your --

KEITH: Absolutely.

COSTELLO: Absolutely. I do appreciate both of your insights. Thank you so much, Tamara Keith, David Lauter.

To Washington now where a busy day for the House kicks off in just minutes. Lawmakers are set to huddle behind closed doors for an intel briefing on Russia. Expected to lead the meeting, the heads of the CIA, FBI, NSA, and the Director of National Intelligence.

And it comes as Vice President Biden confirms what CNN has already accurately reported, that the intelligence community briefed Trump and President Obama that Russia might have compromising, unsubstantiated information on Trump and that those officials plan to tell the President-elect.


JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Their argument was that this is something that the press already had, not just here in the United States but other places, that they would be -- they didn't use the word "derelict," but it was their obligation to inform not only us but the President-elect that this was out there.


COSTELLO: CNN Justice Correspondent Evan Perez joins us now with more. Hi, Evan.

EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Hey, good morning, Carol. Well, Vice President Joe Biden says that the intelligence officials briefed him and President Obama last week about the unverified claims that Russia may have compromising information on the President-elect.

CNN was first to report that the nation's top intelligence chiefs presented both the President and President-elect with a two-page written synopsis of these claims, which came from a 35-opposition research dossier. It was compiled by a former British intelligence operative, and it was based on Russian sources.

[09:10:08] The U.S. intelligence agencies haven't verified these allegations. And Leon Panetta, the former CIA Director and Pentagon Secretary, explained to Erin Burnett last night why they would include that kind of information. Take a listen.


LEON PANETTA, FORMER DIRECTOR OF THE CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY: The fact is that it is extremely sensitive. And I think the problem is that the intelligence agencies would have felt that they would be at fault if they didn't bring that to the attention of the principals. And this is what happens in intelligence briefings.

If we have information that is unsubstantiated but very sensitive, it's important to bring it to the attention of the key people so that they know that this information is out there, even though you make very clear that it is unsubstantiated and uncorroborated. It's still important information for them to have.


PEREZ: The four top intelligence chiefs met last Friday with Trump to brief him on the Russian meddling in the presidential election. Sources tell us that James Comey, the FBI Director, briefed Trump on the Russian claims in a one on one conversation at the meeting. It's the FBI's counterintelligence division that's leading the investigation into what the Russian spy agencies are up to here, Carol.

But we're told the conversation was cordial. The FBI, by the way, has declined to comment on this matter, and we know that Trump has said the allegations are all false, Carol.

COSTELLO: All right, Evan Perez reporting live from Washington. So let's talk some more about this three-page addendum with unsubstantiated allegations in it. With me now is Democratic Congresswoman Jackie Speier of California.

Good morning.

REP. JACKIE SPEIER (D), CALIFORNIA: Good morning, Carol.

COSTELLO: Good morning. There's an intel briefing with House members on this unsubstantiated report that Russia has information on Donald Trump that they could use against him. You were briefed earlier this morning on that. And I know you can't get into it, but what can you tell us about the briefing?

SPEIER: And as a member of the Intelligence Committee, I am continuously briefed on the issues around the world that the intelligence community is aware of. The briefing this morning is going to go into greater detail in terms of the hacking that went on by Russian operatives, so it's going to be much more granular than the unclassified briefing and report that people have received.

COSTELLO: Did the intel chiefs bring it up at all, these unsubstantiated claims?

SPEIER: Actually, he did not. These were stories that had been circulating. Obviously, "Mother Jones" through David Corn had carried references to some of these earlier, but, no, it was not brought up in our original briefing this week.

COSTELLO: Why was it important for the intelligence community to bring that brief to the attention of Donald Trump and President Obama?

SPEIER: I think that the I.C. community feels compelled to brief the President and, in this case, the President-elect on anything and everything that they have been made aware of. So they had been recipients of this information from news sources and from others in the intelligence community around the world, so it was incumbent on them to brief the President-elect about what might surface publicly.

COSTELLO: And in your mind, should the public know about this, or would it have been better if the public had been kept in the dark?

SPEIER: Well, the public always wants to know. And the real question here is, can any of these be substantiated? And that's really what the question is now for all of us. The question becomes, will the I.C. community actually investigate this, and will they inform us?

COSTELLO: Do you think it should?

SPEIER: Well, I certainly believe that the Intelligence Committee should be informed as to whether or not they have completed an investigation and whether they have found anything that merits our concern.

COSTELLO: As far as Russia's role in the DNC hacking, what more needs to be done about that that's not being done now?

SPEIER: Well, the President has taken actions overtly. He is certainly not going to telegraph to anyone what he does covertly. But I believe a strong message needs to be sent to Russia. It's never happened before that there has been an effort to so undermine our democratic system.

You know, if you remember during the campaign, it was Donald Trump who kept saying the electoral process was rigged. It was rigged. And that was all, I believe, coming in part from Russia.

[09:15:06] And as soon as he won, everyone dropped the term "rigged." Well, it was rigged. And we need to recognize that our system is not failsafe, and we must take steps to protect the electoral process, to protect the tallying of votes and I still don't think we know for sure whether or not they were effective in doing more harm than has been established so far.

COSTELLO: So Donald Trump's nominees for various positions, you know they've been going through these confirmation hearings, all of them definitively say Russia was behind the hacking. They've said that more definitively than Donald Trump, the man who nominated them. What do you make of that?

SPEIER: Well, it's disconcerting. I must tell you that, you know, we elected a president, not a king. And we want him to rely on the experts, we want him to rely on his Cabinet. I'm hopeful that he will listen to his Cabinet. They appear to understand very clearly the ramifications of Russia trying to infiltrate our election system.

We cannot be manipulated. Russia is not our friend. And it's very important that they convey that to the president and that the president accept that. He is not running a company anymore, he's running the country that is the leader in the free world and he's got to start thinking like a public servant. COSTELLO: Democratic Congresswoman Jackie Speier of California, thank

you so much for joining me this morning.

SPEIER: My pleasure.

COSTELLO: Still to come in the NEWSROOM, dismantling Obamacare. It's been a Republican pledge almost from the day it became law. Well, today the House takes its first step toward repealing the law.

Also in the NEWSROOM, her courage is inspiring and empowering. And now six months after Gretchen Carlson's bombshell sexual harassment lawsuit shook FOX News to its core, she opens up to me.


COSTELLO: When a little girl or a little boy sits back and looks at the entirety of your career and what's happened to you and what you've become, what do you want them to take away?

GRETCHEN CARLSON, COMMENTATOR AND AUTHOR: I want them to think about what I look at every day on my wrist, which is carpe diem, seize the day, be brave and be fearless, and for god's sake stand up for yourself.



[09:20:55] COSTELLO: Right now on Capitol Hill, lawmakers in the House are embarking on a pivotal day for Obamacare. They will take their very first step toward killing it.

Last night in the CNN Town Hall meeting, House Speaker Paul Ryan says he wants to prevent millions of people from losing coverage all together despite the repeal. He vows to reveal Obamacare, though, and then replace it with a new healthcare plan almost simultaneously.


REP. PAUL RYAN (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: We want to do this at the same time and in some cases in the same bill.


RYAN: So we want to advance repealing this law with its replacement at the same time.


COSTELLO: CNN political reporter Manu Raju has more on this. Good morning.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Carol. And that comment about doing this at the same time is a shift for the House Republican and Senate Republican leadership and Senate Republicans saying something similar. The reason why is because they have been getting a lot of pressure because their plan initially, Carol, was to repeal most of the law and then wait maybe a year, maybe two years to develop a replacement plan because of the procedures here in Congress makes it a lot harder to replace the law than it does to repeal it.

So now that has changed. Now you heard Paul Ryan saying this needs to be done at the exact same time. He laid out his reasoning in detail last night.


RYAN: Because we see this law collapsing even faster this year, because we see more insurance companies pulling out, people with little or no choices and another round of double-digit premium increases, we really feel we need to step in and provide better choices as fast as possible. So we're going to move on this as quickly as we can.

TAPPER: First 100 days?

RYAN: Yes, oh yes. It's something -- definitely it's the plan within the first 100 days to get moving on this legislation. There are good objectives that -- that they sought to achieve in this law, we agree with that. We think young people -- you should be able to stay on their parents' plan until they are 26. We think there needs to be a solution which we have for people with preexisting conditions. But we want more choices. Lower prices, more competition, no monopolies. That's we want to replace with and that's what we're working on right now.


RAJU: Now the challenge is there's no unanimity within the Republicans here on Congress about what exactly to replace the healthcare law with. So they're going to be under a lot of pressure to figure out what to do if they want to repeal the law at the same time as replacing it. And one of the things that they're looking at doing is adding some provisions to replace the law within that repeal legislation which they hope to put together within the first two or three months.

Now today begins that process. There's a vote in the House to clear a budget plan that would actually pave the way for a repeal vote to happen in a manner of weeks. But again, Carol, the details are really what matters here. We really don't know the details yet and that's one thing the Republicans are going to have to decide because they are going to get stiff Democratic opposition and not any -- and some opposition within their own ranks.

A lot of questions going forward here, Carol.

COSTELLO: Absolutely. Manu Raju reporting live for us this morning.

Politicians aren't the only people torn over Obamacare. Doctors are weighing the pros and cons and ultimately they think the solution begins and ends with them. CNN's chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta has more for you

this morning.

Hi, Sanjay.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Hey, good morning, Carol. Yes, I mean, look, docs are divided on this issue like most of the country. There's no question about it. But you're right, I think that they say, look, somewhat less control with government. We like that but we also want less control with third party payers and third party systems all together.

I had a chance to talk to one of the doctors, take a listen.


DR. BRIAN HILL, UROLOGIST: All yours. I love medicine. Medicine is great. And when you sit in the exam room, interact with the patient, and operate, you know, you do those things that we were trained to do, it's awesome. When I have to deal with all of the bureaucracy and the burden that's built around the system of healthcare, that makes medicine difficult.

GUPTA (voice-over): On a typical 14-hour day, Dr. Brian Hill is constantly immersed in the realities of healthcare. His conclusion --

HILL: The Affordable Care Act has to go away.

[09:25:01] GUPTA (on camera): A year from now.

HILL: Right.

GUPTA: 2018, what do you think this looks like?

HILL: I think it's going to be the same political morass that it is today.

GUPTA: That's not very encouraging.

HILL: That it was yesterday, and that it was eight years ago.

GUPTA (voice-over): It's safe to say most doctors like Brian Hill are not shy when it comes to expressing their views on Obamacare.


GUPTA: And just like the rest of us, studies find doctors tend to like or dislike the law based on their existing political preference. There are other factors, your age, for example.

DR. BENJAMIN SOMMERS, HARVARD T.H. CHAN SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH: Younger physicians were generally more favorable towards the Affordable Care Act and more supportive of the idea that the government has a role to play in helping citizens afford their access to healthcare. GUPTA: So how do doctors feel about Obamacare? Well, a little stuck

because surveys show only 3.2 percent give Obamacare an A grade and yet most of the major medical organizations are urging no repeal without replacement. Worried about the loss of coverage for millions of people.

SOMMERS: I think the AMA has it right. This is the biggest drop in the number of people without health insurance since the creation of Medicare and Medicaid 50 years ago.

GUPTA (on camera): For people who are out there who've been beneficiaries, some 20 million of them, what would you say to them as a doctor?

HILL: Did we really solve the problem? Co-pays are going up, deductibles are going up. They're giving you insurance but are they really giving you access to healthcare?

GUPTA (voice-over): As Dr. Hill and many other doctors see it, the same exact care now cost more than it should.

HILL: I look at my office and I've got a code or I've got a bill or I've got some prior authorization, precertification, all of those things have raised the cost of healthcare to the point where physicians went, I'm out.

GUPTA: Last year, Hill got out. His practice swallowed by one of Atlanta's largest hospitals, a growing trend across the country. That did reduce his cost but now he worries about his patients. Why? Because big hospitals can charge more money.

(On camera): For example, we decided to join Dr. Hill in the operating room. We understand that now that he's partners with the hospital, he can be doing the same type of operation on the same type of patient literally in the same operating room except the costs will now be 20 percent to 30 percent higher.

(Voice-over): The hospital that's partnering with Hill refused to comment for the story. So what is the solution? For Hill, it's about giving the market back to the consumer and letting doctors earn their trust.

HILL: Why do I need 535 people in Washington, D.C. to fix things? We're going to fix it. I have faith in that. I think the solutions are going to come from us.


GUPTA: And that's what we hear a lot, Carol. A common theme, saying, look, we have to play a role in terms of how healthcare goes forward. Two big ideas sort of that come out from this, again, it's not for all doctors but a lot of doctors talking about full cost transparency. How much do you really know about how much healthcare costs, how much do drugs cost, the procedure, hospitalization, most people don't know that. Transparency of costs could help people be more cognizant to that

drive costs down. And also when it comes to markets, Carol, they say, is it possible that patients and potential patients could be dealing directly with doctors and hospitals instead of through the government or insurance systems?

Again, not everyone is on board with that but those are some of the ideas or at least types of ideas you're hearing.

COSTELLO: It's such a tough problem to solve. And just to be clear because some people don't realize this, if you're enrolled in Obamacare, you're still dealing with a private insurance company. The government isn't setting the cost. The private insurance company still is doing that, right?

GUPTA: Absolutely, and that's one of the things that people got to remember because this isn't a government sponsored or government paid system like singer-payer systems. This is still a private healthcare insurance country with the government offering subsidies and offering sort of incentives in various areas. But you're absolutely right. Important point.

COSTELLO: Well, and some people believe that's the problem, right?

GUPTA: Including these doctors.


GUPTA: Including these doctors who are saying, hey, how about -- you want healthcare, how about you contract directly with me or the hospital as opposed to going through this third party system, however you want to define it?

Now, again, I don't want to suggest that every doctor thinks this way but that is something that we hear a lot as we're talking to more and more healthcare professionals.

COSTELLO: Interesting. Dr. Sanjay Gupta, thanks so much.

GUPTA: You got it. Thank you.

COSTELLO: Still to come in the NEWSROOM, Ben Carson absolutely grilled on the hill by Senator Elizabeth Warren. And guess what comes up? Donald Trump's conflicts of interest. Ben Carson's non-answer, next.