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President Trump Holds Press Conference; Interview with Rep. Marsha Blackburn; Interview with Rep. Seth Moulton. Aired 8-8:30a ET
Aired February 17, 2017 - 08:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[08:00:00] DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Honestly it was out of control. I want to find a friendly reporter.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can control the bully pulpit, can't control the facts.
TRUMP: Russia is fake news put out by the media.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If the information coming from the leaks is real, then how can the stories be fake?
TRUMP: The reporting is fake.
I didn't direct him but I would have directed him.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Admiral Bob Harward taking a pass on the job of national security adviser.
TRUMP: This administration is running like a fine tuned machine.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: While we're in this back and forth, the world is getting more dangerous.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, welcome to your NEW DAY. Up first, President Donald Trump returning to the scorched earth politics that got him elected. The president said no more press secretary, forget about the surrogates. It's me and the media and my favorite work, "fake," airing grievances and sparring with reporters in a long and very important news conference.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: So questions about Russia continue. Though President Trump tried to dismiss those as, quote, "a ruse." This as we learn that the president's top choice to replace Michael Flynn for national security adviser has turned down the job. Some people see chaos. Mr. Trump says it is a finely tuned machine.
We are 29 days into the Trump presidency. So let's begin our coverage with CNN's Joe Johns live at the White House. Good morning, Joe.
JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Alisyn. It was Bob Harward who was that top pick to replace Michael Flynn as national security adviser. He said he didn't want the job. The administration insisting it was about spending more time with his family, but friends of Harward said he didn't want to get involved in the White House swirl, a swirl that reached a peak just yesterday with the president's news conference.
DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The press honestly is out of control. The level of dishonesty is out of control.
JOHNS: President Trump unloading on his critics.
TRUMP: I turn on TV and open the newspapers and see stories of chaos, chaos. Yet it is the exact opposite. This administration is running like a fine tuned machine.
JOHNS: Blaming others instead of himself for what been a rocky four weeks in the White House.
TRUMP: To be honest, I inherited a mess. It's a mess.
JOHNS: Holding court for more than an hour, the president defending former national security adviser Michael Flynn, fired this week for lying about discussing sanctions with a Russian ambassador.
TRUMP: I fired him because of what he said to Mike Pence, very simple. Mike was doing his job. He was calling countries and counterparts. So it certainly would have been OK with me if he did it. I would have directed him to do it if I thought he wasn't doing it.
JOHNS: And lashing out at the intelligence community over leaks.
TRUMP: What he did wasn't wrong. What was wrong was the way that other people, including yourselves in this room, were given that information, because that was classified information and was given illegally. That's the real problem.
JOHNS: The commander in chief sparring with the media about reporting on leaks.
TRUMP: The leaks are absolutely real. The news is fake.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If the information coming from those leaks is real how can the stories be fake?
TRUMP: The reporting is fake. The whole Russian thing, that's a ruse. That's a ruse.
JOHNS: And defending his post tour on Russia after a CNN report that his campaign aides had constant contact with Russian intelligence operatives.
TRUMP: I have nothing to do with Russia, haven't made a phone call to Russia in years. Don't speak to people from Russia, not that I wouldn't. I just have nobody to speak to.
JOHNS: Even joking about his response to recent Russian provocations.
TRUMP: The greatest thing I could do is shoot that ship that's 30 miles offshore right out of the water. Everyone in the country is going to say that's so great. That's not great. That's not great. I would love to be able to get along with Russia.
JOHNS: The president defending the rollout of his now halted travel ban.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On the travel ban, would you accept that that was a good example of the smooth running of government?
TRUMP: Yes, I do, I do. Let me tell you about -- wait. I know who you are, just wait.
JOHNS: Insisting it went smoothly and blasting federal judges again.
TRUMP: The only problem that we had is we had a bad court. The rollout was perfect.
JOHNS: The president also touting again a false claim about his electoral win margin.
TRUMP: We got 306 because people came out and voted like they've never seen before. So that's the way it goes. I guess it was the biggest Electoral College win since Ronald Reagan.
JOHNS: President Trump raising eyebrows for asking a reporter to set up a meeting with him with a Congressional Black Caucus.
TRUMP: Do you want to set up the meeting? Are they friends of yours? Set up the meeting.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I know some of them --
TRUMP: Set up a meeting, I would love to meet with the black caucus.
JOHNS: And again, failing to condemn a rise in anti-Semitic attacks happening across the U.S.
[08:05:05] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What we are concerned about and what we haven't really heard being addressed an uptick in anti-Semitism and how the government is planning to take care of it.
TRUMP: I am the least anti-Semitic person that you've ever seen in your entire life. Number two, racism, the least racist person. In fact we did very well relative to other people running as a Republican. Quiet, quiet, quiet.
JOHNS: The president heads out to Charleston to tour a Boeing plant today, and tomorrow he holds what is being referred to as a mega rally in Florida. Chris? CUOMO: Joe, thank you very much. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are still trying to digest the significance of that ballyhoo that we lived for over an hour yesterday. Some have problems with it, some don't. CNN's Sunlen Serfaty live on Capitol Hill with reaction. One thing is for sure, all are distractions by it.
SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's absolutely right. This is must-see TV up here on Capitol Hill, Chris. A number of House Republicans in fact were working in the House watching the press conference as it unfolded all together. Sources describe they were glued to their TV and described their reactions in varying levels of dismay and shock.
One Republican senator telling CNN's John King this is something Trump should have done in front of a therapist, not on live national television. And then there was this, one reaction from say Republican lawmaker who said, quote, "We're just trying to manage this bleep. The people that love him will love him more. The people that hate him will hate him more, and the people in the middle probably will look at it the way we look at it here in Congress, which is that's just the new normal. That's just the bleep that happens. I don't know how else to manage it."
And that really speaking to the frustration of many Republicans up here on Capitol Hill as they try to operate this new normal with this very unpredictable president. They do have these big ticket items of repealing and replacing Obamacare, doing tax reform, all of that top on the agenda, but there's a worry and sense that all of these daily distractions coming from the White House, Chris, could derail their plans for what they have ahead.
CUOMO: The irony, Sunlen, that a lawmaker finally shows that they get where most Americans minds are and what's happening before their eyes in politics and they don't even give their name. Thank you for the reporting.
Joining us now is Republican Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee. She was with the president before he did this ballyhoo tour de force yesterday. And I know, congresswoman, it's always good to have you on the show, that you think I want to talk about why he did it and what does it mean and why does he say this. I'm not asking you about any of it because I don't think it matters. Let's talk about what we can show as fact and what's being done for the American people.
You want to talk about the ACA, so do I. Here's my question, the control is, how do you take away the funding mechanisms and revenue generating mechanisms that are in place right now and still keep costs down?
REP. MARSHA BLACKBURN, (R) TENNESSEE: One of the things that you find in the Affordable Care Act, Chris, is that over 1,400 times it gives discretion to the secretary of HHS. And so as Secretary Price has taken the reigns which will help us as we get started on addressing the Affordable Care Act issue, what you're going to see is rule changes. He's already done four this week. One of those was a piece of legislation I've had that addresses verification before individuals go on the plans in special enrollment periods.
What we do know is this, is that out of the 9 million people in the Obamacare exchange, only 2 million of those can afford that product without a subsidy. We also know that the cost of insurance has escalated. The rate this year for premium increases across the board, not just with Obamacare, but across the board is over 25 percent. So what we will do is a phase out and a face in --
CUOMO: Let me stop you right there just so we can keep the record clear.
CUOMO: I've read the same number that you just offered. It does demand context though. The rate of increase overall during the period of the ACA has been less than it was in periods prior. It's not idea. It's been too high for some. We see random spikes in random different markets, and there are good and bad reasons for that. But it takes me back to that original question -- yes, the rates are too high, but what right now do you see that will bring down those rates, because the allegation is that if you take away the subsidies and revenue generating parts of it you're going to have rates go up more, not less.
[08:10:00] BLACKBURN: See, and I disagree with that. The way you bring down the rates of insurance and rate of increase in the insurance, and yes, escalation rates have been enormous, what you do is to open up --
CUOMO: But less than prior periods.
BLACKBURN: You open up the marketplace and do across state line purchase of health insurance. You also --
CUOMO: In the states that have done that, congresswoman, you know the rates aren't much better? There are several states that allow across line sharing right now, and we haven't seen them having a great benefit.
BLACKBURN: That is through a compact. But it is not a change in the structure of the marketplace. And those are two different things. You also will have expanded health savings accounts. Individuals like the ability to have that option.
CUOMO: Right, but it doesn't bring down costs.
BLACKBURN: Yes, it does bring down costs.
CUOMO: How so?
BLACKBURN: It brings down costs because you change the way an individual looks at the marketplace and utilizes health care. You bring transparency to bear so that people know what -- what it's costing. One of the main --
CUOMO: That doesn't bring down your costs or change how -- BLACKBURN: Yes, it does.
CUOMO: How does it change how a provider will price a policy if I have a health savings account?
BLACKBURN: You're talking then there are two separate issues, Chris, to understand. One is the insurance marketplace, and the second is the delivery of care. The third component is the reimbursement of care. Now something that is going to help in that delivery system is a bill we passed last year, which is 21st century cures, which changes us from one size fits all approaches to medicine to precision medicine. Once you do that with CMS changing their reimbursement models of course you're going to see a change in pricing. Transparency yields a change in pricing because people right now when it's third party pay, they don't know what they are paying for something. What they do now --
CUOMO: How does a health savings account address any of that? I'm not saying there are bad points you're making about what goes into pricing, but it will help me if I have money. But if I'm trying to figure out who's going to give me care for the least possible price, an HSA is irrelevant.
BLACKBURN: An HAS is a funding mechanism. When you pair that --
CUOMO: For me. I'm saying that doesn't make my cost --
BLACKBURN: From your employer. From your employer or from another entity that is helping to fund that health savings account. And I think it's time for some innovation --
CUOMO: But if my employer is giving me care, that's not really our issue right now. Yes, you have about -- there are different numbers, but you have over half of the country getting their care from an employer. But that's not your urgency. You're not getting rid of the Obamacare model because private funders of insurance and those who get work from their employer are getting hit hard. It's about everyone who has to go through the exchange. That's the motivation. Again, I'm not saying you don't want HSAs. I'm saying that's not going to reduce the cost of health care from providers.
BLACKBURN: When you insert competition into the insurance marketplace, what you're going to see is prices come down. When you get rid of the essential mandated benefits so that you can have different products in the marketplace such as HSAs and increase that ability for participation in the HSAs from in a third party entity and from the individual, of course you're going to see an individual carefully work with that money when there's transparency as to what the delivery system is going to charge. Then individuals have the ability to be a better consumer of health care because now they know if a test is really a $50 test or if it's $150 test. They can choose an option that they like. And that kind of consumer information always serves the marketplace well.
CUOMO: Maybe, but I don't think economically there's any connection between my ability to save for care and what a provider is going to provide for me as a cost basis, but we'll see when it's in the details.
Let me ask you one other question here. Yesterday, does it matter to you that while the president has strong feelings about the reporting about Russia, that he said as far as he knows nobody on his staff had any contacts with Russia during the campaign? We have multiple sourcing of constant contact. Are you concerned about this disconnect about what is known and what was done with respect to Russia?
BLACKBURN: I know that you claim to have multiple reports. I have seen no classified briefing, have had no classified briefing. We have been shown nothing that shows that there were multiple individuals with multiple contacts.
[08:15:00] I do think it is of tremendous concern to every member of Congress, and we look forward to getting details, as to what is happening with the leaks of classified information.
We go through a tremendous amount -- a tremendous number of safeguards when it comes to dealing with classified information. And yesterday when some of us met with the president, of course he was concerned about that as are we. He was also concerned about our moving forward with the repeal of the Affordable Care Act and our work on making certain that we preserve access to affordable health care for all Americans, which is a shared goal.
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Yes.
BLACKBURN: And of course, those of us in the House are a little bit frustrated with the Senate because we want them to pick up their pace. We'd like to see the president's Cabinet approved just as it has been done for previous presidents.
CUOMO: Right. Right.
BLACKBURN: And we would also like for them to begin to kind of pick up their tempo and take up some of the legislation that we're sending them.
CUOMO: Right. Congresswoman, thank you for making the case on NEW DAY. You were pushing for them to confirm Puzder also and he wound up resigning for questionable ethical issues so we'll see what happens as the voting continues and thank you for sharing details on the show as always.
BLACKBURN: Absolutely, thank you.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Does Michael Flynn's resignation put the issue of his ties to Russia to bed? Well, one Democrat goes so far as to call what he's seeing treason. He's going to join us next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) [08:20:05] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And you can talk all you want about Russia, which his all, you know, fake news fabricated deal to try and make up for the loss of the Democrats. If the Democrats who have -- all you have to do is look at where they are right now. The only thing they can do is delay because they screwed things up royally, believe me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAMEROTA: That was President Trump slamming Democrats at his press conference blaming them for reports about his campaign staffers being in contact with Russian operatives and for delaying confirmation of his Cabinet picks.
Joining us now is Democratic Congressman Seth Moulton of Massachusetts. He is an Iraq war vet.
Congressman, good morning.
REP. SETH MOULTON (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Good morning.
CAMEROTA: You were on CNN with Wolf Blitzer earlier this week and you said something very dramatic about how you feel about the relationship, whatever it is, between the Trump campaign and the Trump administration and Russia. And now that Michael Flynn has resigned, I want to know if you still feel as strongly as what you said earlier and that was that you thought it rose to the level of treason.
MOULTON: Well, it certainly might. And I do feel the same way. And that's why we have to have a serious bipartisan investigation into what exactly the ties are between the Trump administration and Russia.
It's very obvious that this goes beyond Michael Flynn. There have been numerous reports about contacts throughout the campaign. Trump's campaign chairman resigned due to his contacts with Russia, and it's just very odd that Trump can literally go out there and slam everyone, not just Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill, but war heroes like John McCain, Gold Star families, he can't sleep through the night without tweeting about, you know, young women and whether they are overweight or not.
He can't get through a phone call with the Australian ambassador, one of our oldest allies, without criticizing him and yet he praises Vladimir Putin. He raises him up like a hero. There's obviously something going on here. It seems that Donald Trump is getting played by the Russians. We need to make sure the rest of us aren't as well.
CAMEROTA: Look, you hear what President Trump says which is what's so wrong with my wanting to have a good relationship with Russia?
MOULTON: What's wrong with it is that Russia is an enemy of the United States and they are working to undermine our allies and own troops across the world. And so you can't just play nice with Russia. Other people have tried that, it's never worked. We've got to stand up to Russia and stand up to our allies and Trump isn't willing to do that. CAMEROTA: Your Republican colleague in the House, Jason Chaffetz, has
said that now that Michael Flynn resigned, the matter has taken care of itself. No need for more investigation.
MOULTON: That's exactly what Trump wants him to believe. Now do you honestly think that Michael Flynn made five calls to the Russian ambassador, talked about sanctions and his boss Trump didn't know about it? Because, look, Trump found out about this three weeks ago. If Flynn had made those calls and Trump didn't know about it, he would have fired him immediately. Instead he sat on it until it was leaked.
And now Trump is going around calling these leaks fake news. Well, let me tell you. The definition of a leak is that it's real. That's the definition, otherwise it's a story or a rumor, so there's obviously a lot more going on here.
CAMEROTA: Yes, but --
MOULTON: And it's clear that Trump and people like Jason Chaffetz are just trying to cover it up.
CAMEROTA: But, Congressman, I mean, you say that Mr. Trump would have fired Flynn immediately. Not according to his press conference yesterday. He said if I had known about it I would have been fine with that.
MOULTON: Yes. Well, obviously he changes his story based on the day because earlier he said that it was a lack of trust in Flynn that led him to be fired. And that's the reality with Trump, he's a serial liar, and unless the press and we here on Capitol Hill cut through that, we won't find the truth for the American people.
And you know what? We deserve the truth. We Americans deserve the truth about what's going on between the Trump administration and Russia. And you know, let's also not forget that if Flynn becomes a distraction, it will take our eye off the bigger picture, which is what is going on with Trump's tax returns? You know, that's the thing -- that's the thing that -- that's the elephant in the room no one wants to talk about here.
Trump still won't disclose his tax returns. The widely assumed reason for that is that because it will show ties to Russia. Financial ties to Russia that have him beholden to Putin. If he says that that's not true, then Mr. Trump, release your tax returns and prove to the American people that there's no connection.
CAMEROTA: You're an Iraq war veteran, as we've said, and I want get your take on something that President Trump said during the press conference about this Russian spy ship that is currently sitting off the U.S. coast basically near Connecticut, the furthest north that it has been to date. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: The greatest thing I could do is shoot that ship that's 30 miles offshore right out of the water. Everyone in this country is going to say, oh, it's so great. We're very powerful nuclear country and so are they. I've been briefed and I can tell you one thing about a briefing that we're allowed to say because anybody that ever read the most basic book can say it, nuclear holocaust would be like no other.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[08:25:07] CAMEROTA: Congressman, what did you think when you heard that?
MOULTON: I think that Trump is playing with fire. And all joking aside, it shows how dangerous it is to have someone like that being the commander-in-chief. You know, the SOCOM command, the Special Operations commander for all of the world came out the other day and said this government is in chaos, it's dysfunctional. Senator McCain has said the same thing.
When you have someone like Donald Trump with his finger on the nuclear button, then we all have to be worried. And that's why again it's so important that we rise above partisan politics here and do a serious independent, bipartisan investigation of what's going on.
I'm not standing here as a Democrat saying only Democrats should investigate this. I'm saying Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill should sit down together and find out what the connection is between Trump and Russia.
CAMEROTA: How are you going to convince your Republican colleagues to do that?
MOULTON: Well, I'm working on it and more of them are coming along. You see several senators with the courage to stand up and say we've got to put our Constitution and our national security ahead of partisan politics and just catering to whatever Trump wants in the White House, and I think we'll have more House colleagues come along as well.
But you know, there's a lot of fear among Republicans of retribution from the Trump administration. They are afraid to speak out. And what we need to do is find the courage to stand up on both sides of the aisle to find the truth.
CAMEROTA: Congressman Seth Moulton, we always appreciate you coming on NEW DAY. Thank you.
MOULTON: Thank you.
CUOMO: All right, Alisyn. President Trump is heading to Florida tomorrow for a campaign style rally. Why is he campaigning three years early? We think we know. The bottom line next.