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House to Vote on Measure to Repeal Obamacare; Biden Confirms Obama, V.P. Were Briefed on Claims Against Trump; Trump's Cabinet Picks Keep Contradicting Him. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired January 13, 2017 - 07:00   ET


JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Exactly one week before the president- elect is sworn in, and he tweeted last night that, quote, "the Unaffordable Care Act will soon be history." The House Republican leadership saying they're cautiously optimistic they have the votes to approve the budget resolution that gets the ball rolling on appeal but what continues to cause heartburn among legislators is that the Republicans so far don't have a single go-to plan to replace Obamacare.


[07:00:30] JOHNS (voice-over): The House of Representatives is set to vote as early as today on a measure to begin dismantling the Affordable Care Act, one day after the Senate approved the same measure. It would set into motion a complicated process to repeal and replace the president's signature law.

Much of the criticism has been on the lack of a replacement plan by Republicans.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I), VERMONT: We damn well are not going to see it repealed and have no replacement there at all.

JOHNS: But there are real consequences. The healthcare coverage for 20 million Americans is at stake.

REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: The law is collapsing, and so we've got to rescue people.

JOHNS: House Speaker Paul Ryan, pressed by one of those Americans last night at a CNN town hall.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, I'm standing here today alive. Why would you repeal the Affordable Care Act without a replacement?

RYAN: We wouldn't do that. We want to replace it with something better. We want to do this at some time and, in some cases, in the same bill. So we want to advance repealing this law with its replacement at the same time. We're going to move on this as quickly as we can.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: First 100 days.

RYAN: Yes. Yes, it's something -- definitely it is a plan within the first 100 days.

JOHNS: Ryan also pressed on GOP plans to defund Planned Parenthood.

RYAN: We don't want to commit taxpayer funding for abortion. And Planned Parenthood is the largest abortion provider.

TAPPER: Tax rate dollars don't fund abortions right now. Right? Because of the Hyde Amendment?

RYAN: Right. Because of the Hyde Amendment.

But they get a lot of money, and money is fungible, and it effectively floats these organizations.

JOHNS: And breaking several times from the views of the president- elect, Ryan delivering tough talk on Russian President Vladimir Putin.

RYAN: Russia is a menace, a global menace led by a man who is menacing. Vladimir Putin does not share our interests.

JOHNS: And on Russia's election hacking.

RYAN: Donald Trump won it fair and square, clearly and convincingly, but the fact that a foreign government tried to meddle in another government's election is wrong. And so I do think sanctions are called for. I think we have to step up our game with respect to confronting Russia.

JOHNS: The House speaker vowing there won't be mass deportations for millions of undocumented immigrants.

RYAN: I'm here to tell you, in Congress it's not happening. Secure the border and the people who are violent criminals, repeat offenders who keep coming back in, we've got to focus on that.


JOHNS: So Speaker Ryan says that replacement measure, when it's all said and done, should be passed simultaneously with the bill to repeal Obamacare.

Vice-President-elect Mike Pence has said a draft of the replacement would be available in 30 to 60 days. And talking with lawmakers, the possibility exists there could be a number of incremental replacement bills. Not just one umbrella solution -- Chris and Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: All right, Joe. Thank you very much for all of that.

Let's discuss it now with CNN political analyst David Gregory and senior congressional correspondent for "The Washington Examiner" and host of the "Examining Politics" podcast, David Drucker. Great to see both of you.

David Gregory, I'll start with you. We just had Congressman Tim Ryan on who spoke for the Democrats in saying there's no need to repeal it. Let's fix it together. And if they insist on repealing, basically, he's saying, it's

political grandstanding, and Democrats aren't sure they want to help. What do you think?

DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it's very difficult to know what's going to happen, and I think that argument, "Don't replace it," means that you're going to have to negotiate with Democrats to come up with a fix, some kind of repair.

And then we'll have to see where the consensus is on all of that, and that really is in the weeds about why premiums are going up, how the subsidies work for people who are not on insurance; and of course, the whole issue of Medicaid expansion, which has been controversial around the states. You have some Republican-led states who have taken those extra Medicaid dollars, and more people are on Medicaid getting health care as a result.

But here's a broader issue, Alisyn, which is the president-elect has said, "No, you're going to do this at the same time. Congress is either going to go along with that. And then you have other issues, where he's saying, "We're going to do this. Going to build a wall. We're going to, you know, repeal DACA. We're going to deport people," and then he's saying -- they're saying, "No, no, no, we're not going to do that."

So what is the influence of the president-elect on congressional Republicans? That's going to be very interesting to watch.

CUOMO: And also, look, we're seeing jujitsu here, David Drucker. That's what we're seeing. The idea of, yes, we're going to repeal. We're going to replace very quickly. Impractical, and some healthcare experts would tell you impossible.

So what did you hear from Paul Ryan last night? Yes, in the first set of bills, what is happening? This is political jujitsu. They're not going to have a replacement plan that's ready to go where everybody has a new system in place any time soon. Fair point?

DAVID DRUCKER, "THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER": It is a fair point. You're redoing the U.S. economy. Healthcare reform is difficult and takes time.

[07:05:21] Look, I think this is going to look, if they can get it done, a lot like Obamacare looked. They passed the bill. There was a big ceremony. Everybody patted themselves on the back. And then it took them a few years to implement it.

And so what you're going to see from Republicans is the same sort of thing, and then they're going to go about implementing this thing. Now, one of the things they're going to have to do, as well, is take their replacement plan when they've settled on it, and actually turn it into real legislation.

But one of the reasons why they're going to do this is because Obamacare isn't popular enough for them to leave it alone. Republican voters and there are many independents who want this thing fixed. Now, I don't think necessarily a broad majority of the country cares

whether you fix it or you repeal it and replace it. But they do want it fixed. And when you're looking at Republicans and Democrats on an issue like health care, they have irreconcilable differences. Democrats are focused on extending coverage. Republicans are focused on making the best quality coverage available to people who want to access...

CUOMO: The numbers. You've got 20 million plus people who are covered. You've got two million people who are affected by these spiking premiums.

But it is fair to say the mandate was never popular. Even Democrats, when they passed the mandate, which helps make their bill actuarially sound, where they can pay for all the goodies.

COOPER: Was the cheaper way to do it the high-risk pool. That's why they did it.

DRUCKER: But they didn't want to make the penalty too onerous if they couldn't get healthcare. Because they say they want people to be angry at them. And so you haven't had a rush in of healthy people to sign up for health insurance, because they know that they can wait until they get sick, then go get it, so the system isn't working the way it's designed.

GREGORY: But quickly, it's just important to remember, this is happening every day, not just in Washington. And there has been a measure of certainty with Obamacare beginning to be implemented. So there's real stakes here for not only individuals but say hospitals who are doing well and they're getting a lot more money under Obamacare. They were not, so there's all of these component parts that get tricky.

CAMEROTA: Also, there's -- it costs money to repeal it. The -- there are estimates that, just by repealing it, it could end up costing in the billions of dollars. Something like 350 billion dollars, somehow, so the House Freedom Caucus doesn't -- wants to make the math work before they sign onto repealing.

DRUCKER: Right. So I think this is a good point, Alisyn, that where you're going to see a lot of the internal Republican battles are going to settle on, what does this mean for the budget. You're going to see some differences among Republicans over exactly how much coverage the government would be responsible for guaranteeing.

Obviously, President Obama won the argument on things like preexisting conditions, keeping your children under healthcare until you're 26 years old. There are a lot of Republicans that don't like that, and they're going to fight against it, and I think ultimately, Donald Trump is going to be the referee. And I think the House Freedom Caucus and conservatives who want this thing to be a lot leaner are going to have to lump it, and I think that's what he's going to tell them to do; and I think they will do it.

CUOMO: David Gregory, "The Wall Street Journal" has an op-ed, calling on James Comey, the director of the FBI to resign, and if he doesn't resign, he should be asked by the incoming A.G. to re-sign. And if he doesn't re-sign, then the president should fire him. What do you make of that?

GREGORY: I was -- I was quite struck to see that by "The Wall Street Journal," and it does show you that Comey is a new, a very controversial figure here. The fact that there's going to be an investigation that speaks to the public pressure, the pressure from Democrats to really take a look at what was extraordinary, that he would apparently be in violation of all the Justice Department rules and FBI practice by going so far out as he did by talking about an investigation, talking about whether she should or should not be prosecuted and talking about Hillary Clinton.

And let's remember that Donald Trump has not expressed real confidence in Comey so, look, this is a big deal, and it's just a part of this war that is apparently going on between Trump and the existing intelligence community with the current heads of the intelligence community. So we're going to have to see how this plays out.

CUOMO: Trump accusing them of leaks again this morning and putting intelligence in quotes again this morning.

CAMEROTA: Should Comey re-sign?

DRUCKER: Well, I think that Comey has to decide where he fits into the new world order in Washington. Look, I think Donald Trump can fire anybody he wants. We've already seen him move quickly to replace Obama's diplomats. That's rather unprecedented. I don't really think it's a big deal.

With the FBI director, I think that Trump would need some good justification politically so that the public would digest this. The interesting thing about Comey, and I never understood this, he did Democrats, whether he wanted to or not -- Republicans, whether he wanted to or not, such a favor by that press conference in which he detailed Hillary Clinton's carelessness with her e-mail server and then again with the letter on October 27, the release of the 302 notes. So I never understood the animosity towards him coming to the right.

[06:10:18] CUOMO: Clinton removed an FBI director but with significant cause. The Constitution says Congress could remove the FBI director as one of their civil servant battles. They'd have to have a trial.

DRUCKER: They got a lot to do. Do they want that fight?

GREGORY: This guy has a ten-year term, Comey does. The fact that he's become such a political figure is antithetical to what the FBI director is supposed to be.

CUOMO: Well, I think a big platform is what he said to Angus King yesterday. We're going to have Angus King on, and we'll play through that conversation. Explains a lot.

CAMEROTA: Gentlemen, thank you very much.

CUOMO: Vice President Joe Biden is confirming a CNN report that he and President Obama were briefed last week on unsubstantiated claims that Russia may have compromising information about President-elect Trump. President-elect Trump has dismissed our reporting as fake news.

CNN justice correspondent Evan Perez live in Washington with more. It seems that if you don't like things these days, you call them fake.

EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: There's no doubt, Chris. The vice president, Joe Biden, says intelligence officials briefed them and President Obama last week about unverified claims that Russia may have compromising information on President-elect Donald Trump.

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

Now, the U.S. intelligence agencies still haven't verified these allegations, but Biden said in an interview that intelligence officials felt compelled to share that information with Trump.


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 it would be -- I use the word "derelict" -- but it was their obligation to inform not only us but the president-elect that this was out there.


PEREZ: Four of the top intelligence chiefs met with Trump last Friday to brief him on Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election. Sources tell us that James Comey, the FBI director, briefed Trump on the Russian claim in a one-on-one conversation at the meeting. It's the FBI's counter-intelligence division that's leading the investigation into what the Russian spy agencies are up to here.

We're told the investigation -- the conversation, rather, was a cordial one and the FBI did decline to comment on our reporting. Now Trump has said that these allegations are all false -- Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: All right, Evan. Thank you for the update on your reporting there. Very helpful.

Meanwhile, many of President-elect Trump's cabinet picks disagree with him on some very big issues, so whose position will win? We discuss, next.


CAMEROTA: Confirmation hearings for Donald Trump's cabinet picks resume next week, but many of them are already expressing different views from their future boss on key issues. CNN's Sunlen Serfaty is live on Capitol Hill with more. Good morning, Sunlen.

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to you, Alisyn. The president-elect this morning is pushing back on the daylight that has emerged between him and his cabinet nominees at their confirmation hearings on Capitol Hill this week, trying to frame it as a good thing.

Trump tweeting just a few minutes ago he wants his nominees "to be themselves and express their own thoughts. Not mine." And on Capitol Hill this week, that is certainly what we saw many of his nominees do.


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 (R), PRESIDENT-ELECT OF THE UNITED STATES: If Putin likes Donald Trump, I'd consider that an asset.

SERFATY: Trump's nominees for defense secretary and secretary of state taking a more adversarial stance.

JAMES MATTIS, DEFENSE SECRETARY NOMINEE: I would consider the principle threats, to start with, Russia. We're not likely to ever be friends.

SERFATY: 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 have taken place. Did that not happen?

REX TILLERSON, SECRETARY OF STATE NOMINEE: That has not occurred yet, Senator.

MENENDEZ: That's pretty amazing.

SERFATY: After months of doubting the conclusions of U.S. intelligence, Trump now believes Russia was the culprit.

TRUMP: I think it was Russia.

SERFATY: CIA director Mike Pompeo says Russian cyber hacking is going to need a robust response.

MIKE POMPEO, CIA DIRECTOR NOMINEE: This was an aggressive action taken by the senior leadership inside Russia. And America has an obligation. And the CIA has a part of that obligation to protect that information.

SERFATY: Fellow 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.

SEN. JEFF SESSIONS (R-AL), ATTORNEY GENERAL NOMINEE: Absolutely improper and illegal.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Absolutely not.

GEN. JOHN F. KELLY, NOMINEE FOR SECRETARY OF DHS: I don't think we should ever come close to crossing a line that is beyond what 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: 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.


SERFATY: And next week will be another big week up here on Capitol Hill for the incoming Trump administration with seven confirmation hearings scheduled for picks for interior, education, commerce, EPA, health and human services, energy and his ambassador to the U.N. -- Chris.

[07:20:07] CUOMO: All right, Sunlen. Thank you very much.

Let's bring in independent Senator Angus King of Maine. He sits on the selects committee on intelligence.

Senator, good to have you, and quite like the crunchy crustacean on your tie, you had two members of power in your claws this week. You had Pompeo and Comey, where you had very telling exchanges. Let's play the one with the nominee for the CIA director, Mike Pompeo, and you first.


SEN. ANGUS KING (I), MAINE: You sent the following Twitter. Quote, "Need further proof that the fix was in from President Obama on down. Busted; 19,252 e-mails from DNC leaked by WikiLeaks."

Do you think WikiLeaks is a reliable source of information?


KING: And the fact that you use the word "proof," need proof, that would indicate that you did think it was a credible source of information.

POMPEO: I have never believed that WikiLeaks was a credible source of information.


CUOMO: Did you believe his answer, Senator?

KING: Well, you know, it is what it is. In the tweet last summer, he said -- he said what I read, and he certainly relayed it and conveyed it to all of his followers. So, you know, he can say that he didn't think it was a credible source, but he did last summer. It was -- it was somewhat tense exchange.

It's not enough to necessarily sway my opinion one way or the other on the final issue of his confirmation. I'm still weighing that. That's not going to come up for some time. It hasn't been voted out of the committee yet, but yes, if you're going to -- if you're going to live by tweets, you know, you've got to understand they have consequences.

CUOMO: Well, let's test it for one second. Why isn't it enough? If you now have a reasonable suspicion that Pompeo would lie about what he believes is credible to suit his current ambition, what does that tell you is a message of how he might be as the CIA director?

KING: Well, Chris, I don't like to use the word "lie" except in very extreme circumstances. I think he...

CUOMO: If you put it out, Senator. You're not here to defend Pompeo. I get that. But if you say...

KING: I'm the one that took him on, and I'm saying what was repealed in that is he tweeted it because he worked for him at the time to support Donald Trump. He called it proof. He said busted. That means he thinks it's credible.

Now he knows he's going to enter a government that does not condone what WikiLeaks does and does not believe it is credible, despite much of what it puts out is often proven to be authentic. But in that change, how do you reconcile that with trusting him as the director?

KING: Well, because when you make a decision like this you're going to take a lot of things into consideration. And one of them is, you know, does he have the qualifications?

The issue that I'm really concerned about is whether he'll give Trump the straight scoop from the intelligence agencies could. And I said that I really pressed him on it yesterday, because the foreign policy mistakes that I can think of during my lifetime, Vietnam, Bay of Pigs, Iraq, all were based upon bad intelligence which was influenced by the president or the policy makers. That's what's really important.

And that's what is -- that my criteria is, is he going to deliver bad news to the president of the United States, because that's the job of the CIA director. I haven't made a final decision. I must say, the exchange about the tweet was -- was somewhat concerning. But I'm not going to make my decision on one answer to one question.

CUOMO: Especially in light of the fact that we just had the president-elect use Julian Assange as a source of why he didn't have confidence in our own intelligence agencies. Then you had an exchange on Tuesday, I believe, with Jim Comey, which now I think may have had an echo effect. "Wall Street Journal," which has an op-ed this morning, calling for Comey to resign.

Let me play the exchange that got so much buzz.


KING: Mr. Comey, did you answer Senator Wyden's question that there is an investigation underway as to connections between either of the political campaigns and the Russians?

JAMES COMEY, FBI DIRECTOR: I didn't say one way or another.

KING: You didn't say that there...

COMEY: That was my intention, at least.

KING: You didn't way one way or another whether even there's an investigation underway.

COMEY: Correct. I don't -- especially in a public forum, we never confirm or deny a pending investigation.

KING: The irony of your making that statement here, I cannot believe, but now I'll move on.


CUOMO: How do you explain that irony, without a trace of it on his own face?

KING: You know, I couldn't -- I literally couldn't believe he was saying that. The comment that I made, the comeback about an irony was totally unplanned. It just came out, because I was just astonished that this man, of all the people in the United States of America, would say I don't comment on investigations when he had commented on an investigation back in -- back in October that had a profound effect, I believe, on the results of the election. It was just -- like I say, I was sort of speechless. I'm -- you know, I'm sort of glad I wasn't collateral damage. I was afraid lightning was going to strike.

[07:25:20] CUOMO: What do you make of "The Wall Street Journal's" assertion there.

KING: It was astonishing.

CUOMO: What do you make of "The Wall Street Journal's" assertion that he should resign?

KING: Well, I've worked with Mr. Comey for several years in the intelligence committee. I have probably met with him ten or 15, 20 times. Listened to him. He is a straight shooter. I don't think his political judgment is all that good. In fact, he alluded to that in the committee.

And I don't think he should have done what he did last fall and -- but I -- whether or not he should resign, I think that's going to be something he needs to discuss. It's really a question of whether he can be effective in his job or whether he has sort of compromised his credibility; because the credibility of the FBI has got to be unimpeachable. And I'm not going to comment on that one way or the other, but it was -- you know, it was really very troubling to sit there and say, "I don't comment on investigations" and, you know, you have certainly clearly commented on an investigation.

And I know, by the way, if he were sitting here, he would say, "Well, that was a closed investigation, and I committed to Congress that I was going to notify him." But the conclusion is, hey, what is it? Good for the -- sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.

CUOMO: Good for the goose is good for the gander.

Senator King, thank you very much. Appreciate you being on the show, as always.

KING: Thank you, Chris.

CUOMO: You're welcome. Alisyn.

Camerota: Chris there was another emotional moment in the presidential bromance. President Obama surprising Vice President Joe Biden with an unforgettable moment. This next.