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Trump, Governors To Talk Obamacare Replacement Monday; Trump To Address Joint Session Of Congress Tuesday; Fallen Navy Seal's Dad Sends Message To Trump; Thousands Of Civilians Flee Fighting In Mosul; Perez Vows To Make Trump A One-Term President; Millions Could Lose Coverage Under New Repeal Draft; Controversy Erupts Over Transgender H.S. Wrestler. Aired 3-4p ET

Aired February 26, 2017 - 15:00   ET


[15:00:04] FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: The president is set to meet, Monday, with a group of governors at the White House where worries about replacing the Affordable Care Act is expected to dominate the discussion. CNN's Athena Jones joins me right now from the White House. So, Athena, the governors are expecting a replacement plan from the president. Will there be specifics?

ATHENA JONES, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Fred. That is the big question. We're not getting a lot of indications that the specifics have been worked out. We know what is one of the president's main campaign promises and I don't think speech is -- a big speech has gone by that he hasn't mentioned the need to repeal and replace Obamacare.

Of course, this has been a main goal of Republicans on Capitol Hill for several years now, and House Republicans voted more than 50 times to repeal and replace the law. But the big question right now is what exactly to replace it with. And so this is both a big priority for this White House and also a big challenge.

Take a listen to Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders talking about what the administration hopes to do.


SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY: I know that the goal is that we make sure that people don't lose their coverage and that we have to put a high priority on the people that need it most. We have to lower costs and we have to make sure that the people that need insurance the very most are covered.

But at the same time, George, we cannot survive under the current system. We have to make massive overhaul to the health care system in America because it's simply just not sustainable, and everybody agrees with that. There's nobody that argues that we're on a track that we can maintain. So we're looking at every possible way to do exactly that, repeal a terrible, failed system and replace it with something better.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC HOST: Again, so how -- I'll just have to ask this one more time. You keep saying replace it with something better. So will the president guarantee that he will not sign a plan that will cause people who have coverage now to lose it?

SANDERS: Look, I'm not going to speak specifically for the president on that topic. But what I can say is he's made it a high priority and a number-one focus that we make sure that people that have insurance continue their insurance, particularly those in the highest need.


JONES: So, Sarah Huckabee Sanders there wouldn't be pinned down on whether the president would guarantee everyone would be covered. But, Fred, remember this is something that he said repeatedly on the campaign trail. He would replace Obamacare with a terrific plan that would cover everybody and cost less. That sounds good, but the challenge is actually doing it.

And I've got to tell you, the former House Speaker John Boehner talked about this just last week. He said that he never should have called it repeal and replace because that is not what's going to happen. He believes that's what ultimately is going to happen is that they're going to -- he calls it fix Obamacare, improve the law and put a conservative box around it.

And he said the reason that it's not going to be totally repealed is that in his 25 years, the 25 years he served in the United States Congress, he said Republicans never, ever, one time agreed on what a health care proposal should look like. Not once. So that's the challenge, Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right, Athena. And the president, you know, has been saying that this White House is getting a lot done. We know that he also likes, you know, admiration. He likes to be accepted. But these new polling numbers are rather mixed on how he's doing.

JONES: That's right. Let's take a look at this latest poll from NBC news and "The Wall Street Journal." You can see that his approval rating at 44 percent. That's a little higher than some recent polls we've seen, but he's still underwater. There are still more people disapproving of him at 48 percent than that approve of him.

One more interesting nugget from that poll has to do with the media. We know the president complains a lot about the media. Well, the public does believe -- 53 percent believe that the media exaggerates problems, 45 percent disagree. So it is interesting to see there. It sounds like, at least, some people in the public agree with some of what the president says when it comes to criticizing media coverage. Fred?

WHITFIELD: All right, Athena Jones at the White House. Thank you so much.

All right, we're going to talk a little bit more about the president's big week ahead with our panel. Joining me right now, CNN Political Commentator Jack Kingston. Also with me, CNN Political Commentator and Democratic Strategist Maria Cardona. Thanks to both of you. Good to see you.



WHITFIELD: All right. So, jack, let me begin with you. The president's meeting with governors tomorrow to discuss his plans for replacing, repealing Obamacare, the president has yet to say what this replacement plan is going to look like. Must he have specifics when he meets with these governors? Is it time for that now?

KINGSTON: Well, I don't think he has to have every state's problem addressed. But what he has to do is tell them, "I'm going to let you address your own problems," because if you listen to Terry McAuliffe and Scott Walker, both Republican and Democrat gubernatorial leaders, they both want to take control in their own states and say, "You know what, in Virginia, we may want to do it differently that Wisconsin." And, certainly, in Georgia and Nathan deal has lots of ideas when it comes to Medicaid and handling it locally and cashing in on savings and reducing --

[15:05:12] WHITFIELD: But then it does having a plan. Does that live up to the promise of having a plan to now say, "Well, I'm going to leave it up to you, states?"

KINGSTON: Well, I actually think part of the plan can be, I leave it up to you, but in addition to that, you know, there are things agreed adult, children living at home pre-existing illnesses. Some of that has not had the controversy that other parts sort of had.

The way I always describe it is, you know, Mitch McConnell showed a picture of Obamacare in hard copy. It was seven feet high. Let's say three feet of that we all agree on because it was their old ideas. Maybe there's another three feet that you got to compromise on and another foot you've got to eliminate. But it's that big of a piece of legislation, its one-seventh of the economy.

And so, I think it would be ridiculous to say, well, Washington is going to replace 100 percent of it with 100 percent differently. I think there will be some commonalities, but that still fulfills the repeal and replace promise that virtually every Republican has run for office has made.

WHITFIELD: OK. So former House Speaker John Boehner says there's a word for that. He says it will be fixed, but, you know, it's a pipe dream to think that it will be repealed. This is what he had to say specifically.


JOHN BOEHNER, (R) FORMER HOUSE SPEAKER: They'll fix Obamacare. I shouldn't have called it repeal and replace because that's not what's going to happen. They're basically, like, you know, fix the flaws and put a more conservative box around it.


WHITFIELD: So, Maria, does that kind of take the wind out of the sails of some in the GOP?

CARDONA: Yeah. Fredricka, this, I think, was one of the most astounding moments this past week in terms of this issue of the Affordable Care Act because let's just think about this. This was former Speaker of the House John Boehner, who is saying now finally that he's out of office, he is sharing with the world the truth, that Republicans are not going to be able to repeal and replace Obamacare the way that they have not just been promising to do, Fredricka, but under Speaker Boehner actually passed repealing Obamacare more than 50 times in the House of Representatives.

They had six years, actually now more than that. They've had eight years to come up with a so-called plan after deriding Obamacare as the worst thing in the world and now he's at his highest percent approval rating because 20 million Americans have coverage that they want and need. And Republicans are up against the wall because they have no plan after eight years and they know that now their former speaker who led them to repeal it six -- more than 50 times in the House has finally said the truth, that they cannot repeal and replace it the way that they have been talking about for so long.

WHITFIELD: So then, Jack, how powerful are those words from Boehner? How much of that is a, you know, come down to earth kind of moment when he says that?

KINGSTON: You know I'd have to disagree with John Boehner. I like John Boehner. I had the honor of working with John Boehner, but I absolutely positively disagree with him.

Let me say this. Paul Ryan, Mike Pence, Tom Price, and Kevin Brady, the four key players, have a plan right now. I can promise you they could roll it out tomorrow if they were given the green light to do so. As you know, they're trying to figure out -- OK, Paul Ryan not only has to pass it in the House, he'll be able to do that, but how do you get 60 votes in the senate, and how do you take care of the political nuances and check all the boxes that you need to check in order to get some of the Democrats on board?

But I can promise you, Tom Price and Mike Pence and Paul Ryan and Kevin Brady, they just haven't thought about this. They've been thinking about it for years. This thing has been in gestation. They're ready to roll. They do -- but the politics is a little bit trickier.

And so, you know, I think we're going to see a good plan. I think that it is going to empower the states. It is going to reduce the cost of health care, give consumers more choice and get bureaucrats out of the way between their relationships with their doctors.

WHITFIELD: OK. So then Tuesday might be a good moment, a good time for the president to kind of roll out some of that. Do we expect that he might be able, you know, share some detail with the American people, if not with the governors tomorrow then, perhaps, Maria, Tuesday?

CARDONA: No, because, you know, Congressman Kingston, of course, is trying to wrap this all around happy talk because, again, they've had so much time to put together a plan. They have not been able to put it together. And you're right, Congressman, they might have plans, but those plans are not going to be to the like of the 20 million Americans who have been able to get health care, who now you guys are poised to take it away because here's the problem.

KINGSTON: Maria --

CARDONA: Here's the problem, hang on a second, Congressman. You say that you want to continue to keep pre-existing conditions, that you want to keep children on their health care until the age of 26, that you want to keep lifetime caps, but guess what, you want to keep all the good things, but yet you don't want to say how you're going to pay for it, right?

[15:10:09] The reason why this has worked thus far -- and, yes, you need to be fix this --

KINGSTON: OK. Maria, let's talk about paying for it.

CARDONA: -- but it's because you have to have a way to pay for it.

KINGSTON: The debt under Barack Obama doubled and tripled. There's nothing remarkable about free stuff from the government. You can create a constituency for everything. If you want to start paying for my automobile insurance I'd say, "Hey, that's wonderful," but that doesn't mean it's sustainable and that's the problem with Obamacare. It is going to fall under its own weight, because it was too much of a giveaway. People have to step up --

CARDONA: It was not a giveaway. Absolutely not.

KINGSTON: Well, how is it paid for? It is not paid for. It's not sustainable.

WHITFIELD: Well, we'll see what more may or may not be revealed tomorrow, Monday, when the president does meet with the governors --


CARDONA: I promise you, it will not be.

WHITFIELD: All right, Maria.

CARDONA: I promise you it will not be revealed, Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: Maria Cardona, Jack Kingston, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

CARDONA: Thank you, Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right, meantime, after that Monday meeting with the governors, there's Tuesday when President Trump will be addressing a joint session of Congress. And you can watch that speech live right here on CNN followed by the Democratic response and reaction from across the country. Our coverage starts 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: Welcome back. The father of fallen U.S. Navy Seal Ryan Owens is calling for an investigation of a U.S. raid in Yemen. The raid was the first under President Trump, who gave his approval just six days into his term. The operation was targeting Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, but quickly ran into trouble and came under fire from all sides.

36-year-old Owens was killed along with more than 20 civilians. Now his father is sending a message to the president. CNN Washington Correspondent Ryan Nobles is joining us now with more on this. So, Ryan, what is Bill Owens, the father, saying?

[15:15:08] RYAN NOBLES, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well, he's not holding back in his criticism of President Donald Trump, Fredricka. It's a man he concedes in an interview with "The Miami Herald" that he did not vote for.

Bill Owens is a military veteran himself and he questioned the motivation for this mission and it's planning, telling the Herald, "Why at this time did there have to be this stupid mission when it wasn't even barely a week into his administration? Why? For two years prior, there were no boots on the ground in Yemen, everything was missiles and drones because there was not a target worth one American life. Now, all of a sudden we had to make this grand display."

Now, Owens is not the only one with concerns about this particular mission. Republican Senator John McCain was also critical of its execution and necessity in the days after the problems with the mission were revealed.

Now, at that time White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer evoked the death of Owens as a way to rebut McCain's criticism. In his interview with "The Miami Herald," Bill Owens warned the White House to, "Not hide behind my son's death to prevent an investigation."

At this point, the White House is being careful to not be too critical of the Navy Seal's father. Here's what White House Spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders said this morning on ABC.


SANDERS: I know that he paid the ultimate sacrifice when he went on that mission, and I know that the mission has a lot of different critics, but it did yield a substantial amount of very important Intel and resources that helped save American lives and other lives. And as much as -- again, I can't imagine what this father is going through. I think he' a true -- his son is a true American hero, and we should forever be in his son's debt.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Does the president want any investigation?

SANDERS: I haven't had the chance to speak with him directly about that, but I would imagine that he would be supportive of that. (END VIDEO CLIP)

NOBLES: Well, in fact, those investigations are already under way according to the Pentagon. A standard set of investigations takes place after the death of any Seal, including one that specifically will look into his death in particular.

And, Fred, you may remember that President Trump made a special trip to Dover Air Force Base to be there when Owens' body returned to the United States. His father telling "The Miami Herald" that he refused to meet the president. Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right, Ryan Nobles, thank you so much.

All right, coming up, a heavy heart in Hollywood on this Oscar Sunday after the sudden death of Bill Paxton. Details after the break.


[15:21:23] WHITFIELD: All right. Right now there's a sea of civilians trying to escape the embattled city of Mosul in Iraq. 2,000 just in the last 24 hours, they're trying to flee the battle going on between ISIS and Iraqi forces in the western part of the city.

The Iraqi army launched an offensive last year to rid Mosul of ISIS fighters. As ISIS fighters flee Iraq, they're often leaving a trail of destruction behind as CNN's Ben Wedeman report from the city of Nimrud once known for its rich cultural heritage has been utterly decimated.


BEN WEDEMAN, SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was an orgy of obliteration wrapped up in usual slick production. No one boasts barbarity like ISIS. In the spring of 2015, the extremists meticulously documented their destruction of the ruins of the ancient city of Nimrud.

Founded in the 13th Century B.C., they took their sledgehammers to the city's famous winged bulls, the lamassu, reducing them to a pile of rubble. Iraqi forces recently retook Nimrud just south of Mosul. We came to have a look, lone visitors to a lonely hilltop that hasn't seen a tourist in years.

(on camera): The scale of the vandalism that took place here boggles the mind. Only ISIS could turn ruins into ruins. By some estimates in Northern Iraq, the extremist group destroyed or severely damaged around 80 sites, archaeological ones like this one as well as Muslim and Christian shrines.

(voice-over): Through the warped lens of ISIS' logic, all idols must be destroyed. Their every action here nothing less than other contempt for Iraq's rich multi-millennial history and that includes the remains of the vast Syrian empire that once stretched from the Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean Sea, the ruthless super power of its day. The statues, the cuneiform and descriptions now lying pieces exposed to the element.

(on camera): In ancient Mesopotamia, ordinary structures like houses or shops were made out of mud bricks. With time, they simply turned into dust. But for the statues of the gods and the kings, they used stone. The purpose was that they would last for eternity. That is, until ISIS came along.

(voice-over): Archaeologists may someday be able to piece some of this together, but that won't happen until the war against ISIS comes to an end. There is gold in this hill. In 1989, Iraqi archaeologists uncovered what became known as the treasure of Nimrud. More than 600 pieces of gold jewelry and ornaments considered to be one of the greatest archaeological finds in history. No doubt ISIS not above the love of money was searching for more treasure when their cameras weren't rolling.

But the Assyrians built their tombs here with a curse, damning the souls of those who violated their sanctity to wander in thirst through the opening countryside, restless for eternity, a curse that may soon come true.

Ben Wedeman, CNN, Nimrud, Northern Iraq.


[15:25:02] WHITFIELD: And our thanks to Ben Wedeman there. We'll be right back.


WHITFIELD: There will be an unexpected cloud over the Oscars tonight following the surprising news today that actor Bill Paxton has died at the age of 61. According to a family representative, Paxton passed away due to complications from surgery. His family released a statement saying, "Bill's passion for the arts was felt by all who knew him, and his warmth and tireless energy were undeniable." CNN Sarah Ganim has more on the beloved prolific actor and director.


BILL PAXTON, ACTOR: Game over, man. Game over.

SARAH GANIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Bill Paxton was a star of some of the biggest Hollywood blockbusters of the 1980s and '90s.

PAXTON: Three hours by the checklist.

GANIM: His illustrious career beginning with character roles in smash hit movies.

PAXTON: Are you ready to go back to titanic?

GANIM (voice-over): And a starring role in the cutting edge 1996 film "Twister." The Texas native was a versatile actor, but also true to his roots with that deep, rustic voice.

PAXTON: I grew up in Texas.

GANIM (voice-over): Telling comedian Marc Maron on his podcast just this month that he spent a good part of the seventh grade in bed, battling rheumatic fever. As an 8-year-old, he witnessed history, waving to President Kennedy in Dallas moments before he was assassinated.

PAXTON: My dad said, "We'll go watch the motorcade drive by." It was something about seeing him in color.


PAXTON: You know, he's in a blue suit, and his hair was red.

GANIM (voice-over): Paxton, alongside Tom Hanks, would later help develop a film called "Parkland," about the chaos of that day. Later in his career, Paxton moved from the big screen to the small screen, playing a polygamist Mormon husband in HBO's "Big Love," and then helping to elevate the history channel with his Emmy-winning role in the series "Hatfield and McCoys".

PAXTON: I'm considered a working actor.

[15:30:02] You know, you see the big stars who work all the time. And, you know, I've never had that one movie that really put it all together for me.

This franchise officially close closed due to numerous fire code violations.

GANIM (voice-over): He was currently starring in the movie "The Circle," and the CBS crime show, "Training Day." His family releasing a statement saying, "His passion was felt by all who knew him. His warmth and tireless energy were undeniable."

Sarah Ganim, CNN, New York.



WHITFIELD: All right, welcome back. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. Democrats have a new party leader, and he's already vowing to deny President Trump a second term. Former Labor Secretary Tom Perez told Jake Tapper how he plans to lead the charge to win back disenfranchised voters.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST, THE LEAD: President Trump told CPAC on Friday that the Republican Party from now on will be the party of the American worker. And in November, President Trump carried white voters without a college degree, working class voters, by a staggering 37 percentage points. What is your plan to win these voters back into the Democratic fold? TOM PEREZ, CHAIRMAN, DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE: We lead with our values, and we lead with our actions. We talk to them about how literally hours into the Trump administration, he was a fraud.

[15:35:02] He made it harder for first-time home buyers to buy a home, hours into his administration. Days later, he made it harder to save for retirement. He nominates a justice -- a judge for the Supreme Court who wants to eviscerate collective bargaining.

When we lead with our values as Democrats and talk about what we've done to make sure we're protecting social security, protecting Medicare, growing good jobs in this economy, if you want good jobs, elect a Democrat. That's the message that we have to communicate. It's a message that is true. It resonates in every zip code, and that's what we're going to be doing all over this nation.


WHITFIELD: All right, Perez is also joining the calls for an independent investigation into the Trump campaign's contact with Russia. Leaders on both sides of the aisle argue that Attorney General Jeff Sessions cannot possibly be unbiased.


PEREZ: The American people need to understand whether the Russians, in cahoots with the Trump folks and others, rigged the election. And when Sessions and Flynn are out there together campaigning, they clearly lack the authority and the objectivity to conduct that investigation.

REP. DARRELL ISSA, (R) CALIFORNIA: You cannot have somebody, a friend of mine, Jeff Sessions, who was on the campaign and who was an appointee. You're going to need to use the special prosecutor's statute and office to take -- not just to recuse. That's -- you can't just give it to your deputy. That's another political appointee.

SEN. NANCY PELOSI, (D) MINORITY LEADER: The attorney general must recuse himself. But let's just take it back a step. You have seen a flurry of activities that are completely inappropriate, encouraging lawmakers, encouraging intelligence officials to say that something is one way or another. Let's have the investigation and find out the truth.


WHITFIELD: Meanwhile, the White House is pushing back saying, "It is way too soon to make that decision." And former Trump Campaign Adviser Chris Christie says a special prosecutor only muddies the water.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you agree with Darrell Issa that a special prosecutor is needed?



CHRISTIE: I don't, because the justice department over the course of time has shown itself with the professionals that are there to have the ability to investigate these types of things. I just think, Jake -- and this is whether you're a Republican or a Democrat. We've seen it happen on both sides.

When a special prosecutor gets involved, the thing gets completely out of control. And I think that doesn't serve anybody's purposes. We have a lot of important problems to deal with in this country and this is -- I'm not saying that's not one of them. But I believe the justice department can handle it.


WHITFIELD: All right, back with me now, CNN Political Commentators Jack Kingston and Maria Cardona.

So, Maria, does Chris Christie have a point that it only becomes more complicated once there's a special prosecutor, that the justice department can handle it just fine?

CARDONA: Well, it certainly becomes more complicated. But, complication is what Trump faces when the issue of Russia comes up. And that is his problem and his administration's problem right there is the massive, massive conflicts of interest that have existed because he does so much business in Russia.

It exists because there's zero transparency in terms of what his dealings have been and what his campaign's dealings have been with Russia. We know that many of his aides have had connections with and have had business dealings throughout their careers in Russia. It's why Paul Manafort stepped down early on in the campaign.

So many other people, including Trump himself, have these dealings with Russia, have had these connections with Russia, have had these conversations with Russia, including Flynn, which is why he stepped down. And we don't know what the extent of it is.

So complication is certainly the name of the game. But that, to me, is a reason why a special prosecutor should absolutely be appointed, get this out once and for all. If he's worried -- if they're worried about complications, this is exactly what they would do to take it off the table. If they're innocent, prove it.

WHITFIELD: So, Jack, given all of that, doesn't it looks bad that the White House would not advocate a special prosecutor?

KINGSTON: Let me just quote Maria, "If you're innocent, prove it?" Boy, that's a strange twist on justice in the United States of America. But let me also quote Deputy Director Andrew McCabe of the FBI who said at "The New York Times'" allegations are a bunch of bull. And if you had the FBI unsolicited come into the White House in saying that, "Hey, this is a bunch of bull, then I think that --" WHITFIELD: But that comes by way of Reince Priebus. That doesn't come directly from --

KINGSTON: Well, actually, as you know, what Mr. Priebus did is said, well, can you say that publicly, which is a legitimate question by the way, because I've dealt with the FBI on public matters. They can talk about a general public matter. But -- and properly McCabe says --


WHITFIELD: But it was Reince Priebus who ended up doing it, not the FBI.

KINGSTON: But it still -- I mean, are you going to just question? Are we going to question everything this White House does? I think, frankly, this is a partisan witch hunt. I think the Democrats are mad because Hillary Clinton did not go to Wisconsin. They can't get over the fact that they wrote off the entire Rust Belt.

[15:40:05] And now they've elected somebody as DNC chairman who is nothing but a government union lackey, somebody who also was in the pocket of the trial lawyers, somebody who will never, ever connect in that strange space in between the East and the West Coast that we call middle America, the fly over country.

WHITFIELD: But if there's nothing to it, then, Jack, you understand why if there's nothing to it, then why wouldn't the White House just say, "Go ahead and investigate, there's nothing to it."

KINGSTON: Well, a special prosecutor means subpoena powers outside of the congressional system, and it slows it down. It makes a big sideshow. And, frankly, I think it's a cop-out. I think the American people are not as upset about this as the political establishment is. I think the American people are saying, "You know what, bring down the costs of my health care. Get those jobs working. Renegotiate our trade agreements and make our schools safe --"

WHITFIELD: And you don't think it casts more doubt or more suspicion, Jack?

KINGSTON: No, I absolutely do not. I think that the whole Washington establishment has spun themselves up on this issue. And, again, Andrew McCabe, FBI director, says "The New York Times'" allegations are a bunch of bull. Why would he say that if he did not mean it? I can say this, I've dealt with the FBI --

WHITFIELD: But, again, he said that by way of chief of staff. OK. So, Maria, you know, the president did weigh in on this again via tweet because that's --

CARDONA: Of course he did.

WHITFIELD: -- he likes to do that. And he says, you know, "Russia talk is fake news put out by the demes and played up by the media in order to mask the big election defeat and the illegal leaks." CARDONA: See, that to me tells you right there how concerned and worried he and his administration and his supporters are that people are actually looking into this because, I'm sorry, it's not just Democrats. You have Lindsey Graham. You have John McCain. You have many, many Republicans on the hill that have said, "Yes, this needs to be looked into."

The possible collusion between the Trump campaign during the campaign and Russia needs to be looked into. There's a reason why there's an ongoing FBI investigation. And then on the connections between when the White House and Reince Priebus tried to get the FBI to knock this down from a press standpoint, can you just imagine, Fred, if Hillary Clinton had done anything like that, there would be calls for her impeachment right now.

KINGSTON: You mean like if Bill Clinton met with Loretta Lynch --

CARDONA: So, you know, let's talk about --

WHITFIELD: Well, Loretta Lynch can refuse herself. She removed herself --


CARDONA: That's right. Loretta Lynch refused herself --

WHITFIELD: But, then I wonder--

CARDONA: -- and so, therefore this is why this needs to go to special prosecutor.

WHITFIELD: And then, Jack, given you have a Republican-led Congress and a Republican-led White House, wouldn't it be really important for them to be in step if you have some leading Republicans who are saying there needs to be an investigation that, you know, Sessions needs to recuse himself from it. Doesn't that make the White House -- does not look bad that they are not --


KINGSTON: I think the FBI is looking into this. If they came back and said there are some serious problems here, then that's a different matter. We're not there yet. As Maria said, and I think she was speaking of all the Democrats. If the White House is innocent, make them prove it. What a strange statement.

WHITFIELD: When is anyone there?

KINGSTON: The truth of the matter, though, is the American people right now are far more concerned about their schools. They're concerned about crimes in the inner city. They're concerned about their jobs. The president is going to be speaking about this week to the nation. And I think that's what they would like to see and Democrats and Republicans get down to the business at hand.

CARDONA: You know what, I agree that Americans are concerned about all of that. So why is the president tweeting about this and trying to make us not look into it? And when Congressman Kingston says the American people aren't concerned about this, I think he needs to substitute the American people for Trump supporters because there's a reason why this president is at a record low approval rating in polling history. You have polls with 38 percent approval rating for a president who is not yet 40 days into his administration.

KINGSTON: Those are the same polls who said Hillary Clinton would win Wisconsin by six points. Those are the same polls that were quoted over and over again this fall, except the two of them they were wrong.

CARDONA: So then, Jack, when you go to talk about Hillary, that means that you don't have a response to what's going on in the Trump administration. I'm sorry.

KINGSTON: I'm talking about the polls. These polls said Hillary Clinton was going to win Wisconsin by six points.

WHITFIELD: And so here are the polls that we're talking about, at least for today, by the NBC News and "Wall Street Journal," talking about the opinion of President Trump's job performance. 44 percent approve, 48 percent disapprove.

I think there was yet one more poll that we have ready. Yes? No? OK, we'll just stick with that one. OK. So, you know, approval rating is pretty low, Jack. Do you believe it's in direct response to these ongoing questions about when --

KINGSTON: Absolutely not.

WHITFIELD: -- when America is there in terms when you talk about we're not there yet for investigation? Does that impact --

KINGSTON: First of all, I want to underscore, there's something wrong with polling when just -- I think all about two polls said that Hillary Clinton was going to be the next president of the United States.

[15:45:04] I don't know of any change in polling that has said, "Oh, we realize what we did wrong for the entire year of 2016. We've changed our methodology." So, I don't think the president should be swayed by polls one way or the other. And as you know, polls --

CARDONA: You know what, though, Jack? Those polls that showed that Hillary Clinton -- the national polls that she would win the election were actually right because, guess what, she won the popular vote by more than 3 million votes.

KINGSTON: 6 percent at least in Wisconsin.

CARDONA: So, those national polls were right on. These are national polls that show the president at a record low approval rating.


KINGSTON: We're already off to la-la land and the Oscars when we talk about those polls being accurate.


CARDONA: And that's a good description for the Trump administration. They are in la-la land. They're not in reality.

KINGSTON: You can't steal my land, Maria. I already used that one.

WHITFIELD: All right, thanks so much to both of you. Appreciate it. We will leave it right there.

CARDONA: Thank you. Thanks Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right, straight ahead, the topic of Russia and so much more likely to come up this week when Republican Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham share the stage in a CNN town hall moderated by Dana Bash. Our coverage starts Wednesday night, 9:00 p.m. Eastern Time.


[15:50:18] WHITFIELD: Welcome back. Tonight, health care is expected to be a big topic of discussion in Washington, D.C. A new Republican replacement plan obtain by CNN could lead millions without coverage.

President Donald Trump actually just tweeted saying, "Big dinner with governors tonight at White House, much to be discussed including health care." The debate over health care has triggered fiery debates at town halls and protests across the country. Here's what Senator Bernie Sanders had to say on State of the Union this morning.


SEN. BERNIE SANDERS, (D) FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The bottom line here right now is that yesterday among other things there were 150 rallies all across this country, most of them in front of Republican congressional offices, where citizens of this country are telling their members of Congress have the guts to come out and meet with us, explain to us why you're going to repeal the Affordable Care Act, throw 20 million people off of health insurance, do way with preexisting conditions. Don't hide. Don't simply run to your wealthy campaign contributors, talk to your constituents.


WHITFIELD: All right. Joining me now to talk more about this is CNNMoney Senior Writer Tami Luhby. So, Tami, you've actually seen this Republican draft bill, what's in it?

TAMI LUHBY, CNNMONEY SENIOR WRITER: Sure. Well, its 106 pages, but some of the top line figures are that people are going to get tax credits, instead of the Obamacare subsidies, which actually are tax credits, but the tax credits are going to be structured differently. They're going to be by age, rather than income.

Also an issue that's really important that people want to, you know, have been discussing, particularly the governors has been Medicaid. So it eliminates funding for Medicaid expansion and it looks to change all of Medicaid, which covers more than 70 million people into a per capita grant structure, which means there will be less money going from states -- from the federal government to the states.

And then also, it actually protects people with preexisting conditions, a bit more than we've been hearing about what the Republican plan would do, but it also will charge older people a lot more.

WHITFIELD: Oh, I don't know if that's going to be too popular. So, how much might governors who are going to be meeting with the president this evening, how might they help shape a plan?

LUHBY: Well, their key -- I mean, they're interested in both the Obamacare coverage's for everyone, but particularly for Medicaid. And, you know, you have 31 states that expanded Medicaid, 16 of them are run by Republican governors. You have 11 million people who've -- adults who've gotten coverage under Medicaid expansion. And as I said, more than 70 million people are on Medicaid completely.

Medicaid is incredibly -- an incredibly important funding source for the states. They get a lot of federal money, over $500 million, and they want to make sure that they keep getting that money, whereas, the federal government wants to try to cap it.

WHITFIELD: And it that plans that you just mention, it would be a reduction in the amount of federal money the states would enjoy on that.

LUHBY: They didn't specify in dollar amounts, but, yes, overall, per capita spending -- per capita grants are seeing to cut spending. There was one study that said that if you cut Medicaid expansion and turn Medicaid into a per capita, it could cost one point -- it could reduce federal spending by 1.5 trillion over 10 years.

WHITFIELD: All right.

LUHBY: So it's a lot like money for the states.

WHITFIELD: OK. Tami Luhby, thank you so much.

LUHBY: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: All right, we will be right back.


[15:57:29] WHITFIELD: In Texas, a controversy has erupted for a high school wrestling league in exactly what to do with a transgender athlete. CNN's Polo Sandoval explains.


POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's the dramatic end to a competitive and controversial weekend for Mack Beggs. The 17- year-old Dallas area high school student won the title of competition at the girl state wrestling competition, Saturday.

A mix of cheers and boos directed at the wrestler as he fell to his knees, (inaudible) soak in the win. Many in the audience feel Beggs has an unfair advantage on the road to victory. Beggs is a transgender athlete, boy to girl transitioning to become a boy. He takes testosterone injections to make that transition happen. Many believe that provides younger wrestler with an added competitive edge, his strength and agility are hard to miss on the matt.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So, there's a big issue right now, right? And I think if he has been taking hormones or steroids, he should be wrestling boys.

SANDOVAL (voice-over): That can't happen, though, according to the University Interscholastic League, which shall receive public high school athletic. Current UIL rule state boys may not wrestler against girls and vice-versa. And gender shall be determined base on the student's birth certificate.

For Beggs, that means he's got no choice, but to wrestle girls. Then there's the issue of the hormone therapy that would typically be disqualifying, not in this case, says UIL Deputy Director, Dr. Jamey Harrison.

JAMEY HARRISON, UIL DEPUTY DIRECTOR: The law is very, very specific that a student who is being administered performance-enhancing drugs by a physician cannot be made ineligible.

SANDOVAL: The UIL insist, it's willing to review its existing laws to see if they need to be changed by legislators. For now, the states stand by this weekend's competition calling it fair. Today, Beggs shares the gold with his peers.

MACK BEGGS, TRANSGENDER WRESTLER: I wouldn't be here today if it weren't for my teammates. That's honestly what the spotlight should've been on, my teammate.

SANDOVAL: The young athlete wrestlers with the new uncertainty next season. Will he still face off with girls as a boy?

Polo Sandoval, CNN, Cypress, Texas.


WHITFIELD: We've got so much more straight ahead in the Newsroom and it all starts right now.

Happening right now in the Newsroom, new calls for special prosecutor to investigate reported (ph) communications between the Trump campaign and Russia as the Trump administration fires back saying, "Not so fast."

PELOSI: The attorney general must recuse himself.