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Trump Seeking $54 Billion Increase For Military, Cuts Elsewhere; Details On W.H. Leak Crackdown; Trump; Nobody Knew Health Care Could Be So Complicated; Father Of Slain Navy Seal Demanding Answers; George W. Bush Weighs In On Trump. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired February 27, 2017 - 21:00   ET



[21:01:17] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: At the top of this hour of "360," "The Axeman Cometh" preview of the first White House budget a big bump for defense and cuts nearly everywhere else that a new reporting on the Russia's story and more on both from our Jim Acosta.


JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Trump's message to Washington, get ready for the budget ax.

DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: We're going to do more with less. We're going to do more with less and make the government lean and accountable to the people.

ACOSTA (voice-over): In a preview of the Trump administration's first budget White House officials say the president plans to ask for a staggering $54 billion increase in defense spending, offset my massive cuts in non-defense programs, as well as foreign aid. The budget boost for the Pentagon is so big, it eclipses what the federal government spends at the State Department and EPA.

MICK MULVANEY, DIRECTOR, OFFICE OF BUDGET AND MANAGEMENT: We are taking his words and turning them into policies and dollars.

ACOSTA (voice-over): The peak of the president's budget comes as the White House is still grappling with questions about the Trump campaign's contacts with Russia before the election. Over the weekend, California Republican Congressman Darrell Issa, a Trump supporter suggested a special prosecutor may be necessary to put the matter to rest.

REP. DARRELL ISSA, (R) CALIFORNIA: You're right that 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.

ACOSTA (voice-over): The White House response to that --

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I guess my question would be a special prosecutor for what? How many people have to say that there's nothing there before you realize there's nothing there?

ACOSTA (voice-over): Spicer also defended the White House decision to enlist the two GOP Intelligence Committee chairman in Congress as well as the CIA director to talk to reporters about the Russia controversy.

SPICER: All we've sought to do is to actually get an accurate report out.

ACOSTA (voice-over): House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes was careful to say he's yet to see proof of any wrongdoing.

REP. DEVIN NUNES, (R) CHAIRMAN, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: We still have not seen any evidence of anyone that from the Trump campaign or any other campaign for that matter that's communicated with the Russian government.

ACOSTA (voice-over): When asked about the prospect of a special prosecutor, the president gave this curious reply.

TRUMP: I haven't called Russia in 10 years.

ACOSTA (voice-over): That's odd, considering Mr. Trump just spoke to Russian President Putin for an hour a few weeks ago. Not to mention his own trip to Russia in 2013 to promote his Ms. Universe pageant there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you have a relationship with Vladimir Putin, a conversational relationship or anything that you feel you have sway or influence over his government?

TRUMP: I do have a relationship and I can tell you that he's very interested in what we're doing here today. He's probably very interested in what you and I are saying today, and I'm sure he's going to be seeing it in some form, but I do have a relationship with him. And I think it's very interesting to see what's happened.


COOPER: Jim, do we know what President Trump is expected to say in tomorrow's speech?

ACOSTA: We have some hints, Anderson. Some senior administration officials were briefing reporters earlier this evening at the White House. They said the president and his teams are still finalizing the speech at this point, but consider the theme of the address, Anderson, it's going to be called renewal of the American spirit, an optimistic vision for all Americans, contrast that with the president's talk of American carnage in his inauguration address.

So, perhaps, they're taking some of those criticisms to heart that the president's inaugural address was too dark in tone. And they also say over here at the White House that the president's address is going to be focussed very heavily on national security issues, but also economic opportunity for Americans in those forgotten corners of the country. But also, Anderson, what we're going to be hearing from the president tomorrow night is he's going to be talking about how he has making promises and he's keeping those promises in whether you like President Trump, what his done in his first month of being in office or don't like it, it's hard to argue with the fact that he is keeping his promises that he made out on the campaign trail. Anderson?

COOPER: All right. Jim Acosta, Jim thanks very much. Now inside details of the White House warn (ph) and leaks as you might imagine in fact that we have such details that's kind of telling.

[21:05:04] CNN's Jeff Zeleny has more.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you very much.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The job of White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer increasingly includes being President Trump's enforcer.

SPICER: We get our job about --

ZELENY (voice-over): He's leading a crackdown on leaks inside the White House, going as far as launching a random check of staffer's phones during an emergency meeting last week to see if they were sharing information by text or e-mail or using encrypted apps to do so.

The White House Counsel's Office authorized these checks and CNN has learned President Trump directly signed off on the move, eager to send a signal across the administration that he is furious at leaks during his first five weeks in office.

Spicer also had the president's blessing last week, CNN has learned, from blocking reporters from several news organizations from a White House news briefing.

SPICER: I'm not going to discuss what we did internally.

ZELENY (voice-over): At his briefing today, Spicer would not directly say whether he asked the director of the CIA to help push back on news reports about alleged contacts between the Trump campaign and Russian intelligence operatives.

SPICER: Respectfully, I have -- I think it's interesting that I'm being asked what's appropriate when what we're doing is actually urging reporters to engage with subject matter experts who can corroborate whether or not something's accurate or not.

ZELENY (voice-over): But the White House did enlist the Republican chairman of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees to talk to reporters urging them to speak out against news accounts of reported Russia links.

SPICER: I think we did our job very effectively. It was about the accuracy of the reporting and the claims that were made in there.

ZELENY (voice-over): The extraordinary moves have added tension to an already combustible environment in the west-wing. From the moment he stepped into the briefing room on the second day of Trump's presidency, Spicer has been a lightning rod.

SPICER: This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration period.

ZELENY (voice-over): He soon became an easy caricature on "Saturday Night Live," with comedian Melissa McCarthy amplifying Spicer's anger.

MELISSA MCCARTHY, COMEDIAN: You know what that was, that was me blowing away their dishonesty.

ZELENY (voice-over): He's become one of the leading faces of the Trump White House, which can be tricky terrain, serving under a president who has long managed his own press.

Republican's close to the White House say Spicer is trying to prove his loyalty to the president.


ZELENY: Now, there's no question that they have gotten the attention of people here at the White House and across the administration about cracking down on leaks. But Sean Spicer tells me this evening, it was actually his decision. He said the president did not sign off on this.

Anderson, we are told differently. Audible (ph) sources have said the president is intent on cracking down on these, but, as you know, the meeting on leaks actually leaked. So I think they have some work yet to do. Anderson?

COOPER: All right. Jeff Zeleny, Jeff thanks.

Now, our bipartisan panel, two veteran leak loggers (ph), Jen Psaki is back. She worked for President Obama. And joining us, President George W. Bush's White House Spokesman Ari Fleischer.

Jen, I mean, you and I talked in the last hour. The administration obviously, likes leaks, but targeting your own staff like this, have you ever heard of anything like this and does it work?

JEN PSAKI, FORMER WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR FOR PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, no, it's not normal. I think it's probably something that's demoralizing to staff, no doubt about that. It's not something I was ever a part of. But I think there's a larger objective here, Anderson, and that's to distract from a discussion and coverage of the Russia story, the Russia investigations and the connections reportedly between senior officials that are close to President Trump and the Russian government.

COOPER: So you think leaking the story about the leaks is actually an attempt to distract? PSAKI: That's correct. I think its part of the continued effort by the Trump administration to distract from the more problematic story, which is the ongoing investigation into the connections with Russia that are problematic. And you've heard Republicans and Democrats speak out about and even in the last 24 hours.

COOPER: Ari, do you think there's any truth to that -- the idea that Machiavellian maneuver? And, also, do you think cracking down on leaks or asking to see employees' phones actually works?

ARI FLEISCHER, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY FOR PRES. GEORGE W. BUSH: Well, I'm with Jen on 4/5 of what she said. It's demoralizing, it's unusual, it's something I never went through, and it's a sign to the fact the White House is serious about cracking down on leaks, but it has nothing to do with Russia. It has everything to do with this White House being frustrated by the number of leaks that have taken place.

And I can understand why there's frustration. You know, you never want to go into a meeting, and in this case, Anderson, was a planning meeting to go through future events. Sean was in the meeting. Information got out right after the meeting, and so it would directly resulted from his frustration and should have been a closed meeting.

But, I'll tell you, the reason people don't leak in a White House is because everybody gets along well, and everybody's got each other's back. And if people are leaking so much in this White House, it's because there are factions, and that's really the cause of these leaks.

COOPER: So faction -- so it's what? It's to curry favor? It's to kind of show your faction in the best possible light or cast doubts on other factions?

[21:10:02] FLEISCHER: It's typically because people are jockeying. You need to do it my way. No, you need to do it my way. I have the better argument. No, I have the better argument. And because the process isn't smooth enough yet so people saying, "Well, whether I win or lose, the process is sound. I know I got a fair hearing, so I accept the result win or lose." That's what leads to no leaks.

When you have a situation where people are jockeying for their position, in their rival positions, and then they feel as if they weren't given a fair listening to, that typically -- and I don't know if this is the exact case in this instance, but that typically is what makes people go outside the system and leak to the press because they're frustrated.

COOPER: Jen, does that sound to you like a reasonable explanation of what's going on? This does seem to be a White House with a lot of different camps?

PSAKI: Yeah. Look, I think that the difference that you see in this White House that's different from what I experienced as part of the Obama team and I think probably what Ari and many of the Bush team experienced is that we were a family. You know, we could, you could punch your own brother or sister or tease them, but you didn't want other people to. I think a lot of them didn't work on the campaign together. They're still getting to know each other.

But what has struck me is that a lot of the leaks that we've seen, current story aside, are pretty malicious about staff and who's up and who's down. We're talking about that because, one, they're not putting policy proposals forward, and so there's not lot a lot of other things to talk about. But it also strikes me as a different tone in a different kind of leaks from past White Houses.

COOPER: Ari, if there are leaks also coming from top people in a staff, I imagine, then, people lower down also feel, well, if the people, you know, running the show are doing this, its fine if I do it too.

FLEISCHER: That's exactly right. You know, George W. Bush had the luxury of watching his father's administration where there were a lot of leakers and a lot of power centers. And then he hired a staff that was much more team-oriented.

And Jen is right out that point. We had each other's backs. We were a family. I was very proud to go in the Oval Office watch staffers clash with each other to get their position to the president and not a word ever got out. And that's served the president well, so he could hear unvarnished opinions from two different factions in an Oval Office, and yet nobody turned on anybody because they served the president well.

I was very proud to be part of an operation like that. I hope the Trump people get there, because it's going to make the day a much easier day. It's always a hard place to work, but it's much harder if you are worried that the people you're working with are going to leak what you said to somebody outside. You never need a White House or want a White House that runs like that.

PSAKI: It's never the press people who are leaking, because it's against their own interests, too. So that would be a surprising turn of events.

COOPER: All right. Jen Psaki, appreciate. Ari Fleischer thanks very much. Stay with us, more to talk about with you. Well, actually, with both of you. I want to get Jen Psaki's take as a former State Department spokesperson on what's being reported as massive cuts to the State Department proposed. Later, the president says nobody knew health care could be so complicated. We'll look at that. His efforts at changing it so far, we'll be right back.


[21:16:36] COOPER: More now on the proposed spending plan that President Trump is billing as a national security and public safety budget. Late this evening, Republican Senator John McCain called it a good first step, but not enough. As for the proposed cuts elsewhere, those will be substantial, including at one department that many of the national security community says vital to keep the country safe. More and all of that now from our Michelle Kosinski. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Without any further adieu, Director Malvaney.

MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN SENIOR DIPLOMATIC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Today, the director of the Office of Management and Budget spelled out generally what would be slashed from the State Department's budget.

MULVANEY: There's going to be a lot of program that, again, you can expect to see exactly what the president said he was going to do. Foreign aid for example, the president said we're going to spend less money (inaudible) here.

KOSINSKI (voice-over): The exact target number did the State Department specifically hasn't been made public yet. Reuters quotes officials saying it would be around a whopping 30 percent cut to the department's total spending. Employees are already calling it devastating.

SPICER: The savings in our budget will come from looking at outdated and duplicative programs. The reduction spending will be sensible and rational, but they will also be tough.

KOSINSKI (voice-over): To offset the $54 billion increase in defense spending bill, even if the administration removed all aid the U.S. gives other countries, which in 2015 was more than $27 billion, foreign assistance is still less than 1 percent of the total U.S. budget. The State Department's entire budget for 2017 was not even $54 billion.

MULVANEY: You see these reductions, you'll be able to tie it back to a speech the president gave or something that president has said previously. He is simply going to -- we are taking his words and turning them into policies and dollars.

KOSINSKI (voice-over): The State Department's many programs include development, democracy, education, disease prevention, climate change, helping women. And today, more than 100 retired top U.S. military officials spanning multiple administrations, including John Allen, David Petraeus, and former CIA Director Michael Hayden wrote a letter to Congress stating their strong conviction that elevating and strengthening diplomacy and development alongside defense are critical to keeping America safe, even quoting the current Defense Secretary James Mattis on Capitol Hill back in 2013.

JAMES MATTIS, DEFENSE SECRETARY: You don't fund the State Department fully, then I need to buy more ammunition ultimately. So, I think it's a cost benefit ratio. The more that we put into the State Department's diplomacy, hopefully the less we have to put into a military budget.

KOSINSKI (voice-over): The generals and admirals ending their letter with, "Now is not the time to retreat."

(END VIDEOTAPE) COOPER: Michelle, Congress, obviously, ultimately is going to have to approve what the president proposes. Is that likely given those numbers?

KOSINSKI: Well, with some Republicans on the Hill tonight are saying they don't really want to respond to this until they see detailed numbers. What came out today was just this very preliminary blueprint.

You could say there aren't too many people on either side of the aisle who wouldn't like to see the U.S. government function more efficiently, eliminate ways, bring down the national that -- by that same spoken, there are plenty of Republicans who see State Department programs as enormously important for national security.

I was -- the former Defense Secretary Robert Gates who's a Republican who said that development programs contribute to stability and could eliminate the need for U.S. soldiers to go into a bad situation town the road. As he put it, development is a lot cheaper than sending soldiers. Anderson?

[21:20:06] COOPER: Michelle Kosinski thanks very much.

Back now with Jen Psaki, who once served as State Department spokesperson and Jeffrey Lord. It's interesting -- I mean, I've been in Afghanistan number of times out with marines and others in Helmand Province. A lot of what they're doing is development work. Its going to villages, it's meeting with elders. Its work that the State Department was supposed to be doing and never really got around to it, the level it was supposed to happen in Afghanistan. And since you heard General Mattis say, "Look, you don't have diplomats, we got to ban more ammunition."

PSAKI: That's exactly right. And, actually, Secretary Gates used to make the argument when he was the defense secretary for President Obama and for President Bush that, you know, one of the lessons learned from the war in Iraq and the war in Afghanistan is that we couldn't win it all with military might.

And we're not fighting World War II anymore, we're fighting different wars with much more different enemies who are diffuse around the battlefield. And we need to do a lot more of working with countries. We need to address needs on the ground. And these are pivotal programs that I think you saw retired members of the military really make clear that this would be devastating to the wars that Donald Trump says he wants to win.

COOPER: Jeffrey, what about that, because I had said, Ronald Reagan now I think never cut the State Department budget if memories (inaudible) occur.

JEFFREY LORD, TRUMP SUPPORTER: Well, he may have cut a little bit here or there, but there's two points here. Number one, (inaudible) says, when military folks make the argument for the State Department as opposed to the diplomats --

COOPER: Right.

LORD: -- making for themselves, that carries more weight, I think with the president. But number two, the budget director's job is frankly terrible. And no matter what administration you're in, but particularly if you know Republican administration, where you're talking about bloated government and waste, fraud and abuse, et cetera. There is enormous pressure on this person to be maximized then cut out and just go as fast and deep as he can. And there will always be bureaucratic resistance in there.

You've got people who are so devoted to their programs way down in the vows of the Housing and Urban Development Department. So, this is the perpetual battle and this is what we're going to see (inaudible).

COOPER: It's interesting, though, because a lot of administration -- I mean, George W. Bush early on was, you know, he ran against the whole idea of nation building.

LORD: Right.

COOPER: And ends up, you know, nation builds up in Afghanistan and Iraq.

LORD: Exactly.

COOPER: And a lot of that, again, ends up being done by the military, because it's so dangerous that -- and they're not really, you know, ideally, that's not what --

LORD: If this is where something like General Mattis can really have an effect here.

COOPER: Right.

LORD: Because this is the guy with serious experienced in this field. As you just heard from that testimony there, he can really give an excellent point of view on this.

COOPER: Jen, the folks out of this is -- there are a lot of voters who voted for Donald Trump, and a lot of Americans say, "Look, why are we giving all this money to foreign countries overseas that are not our friends or not voting with us, in the U.N., or whatever it may be. You know, we have problems here at home, we're giving a lot of money overseas."

PSAKI: Well, look, I think that's an argument that's been around for a long time. I think the problem you see here with this budget is that the 10 percent increase for the Department of Defense. I think it may be hard for us to find someone who thinks that the Department of Defense doesn't have enough funding, so that's why they're need to be fund.

COOPER: Well, I think there are a lot people who say -- I mean, the military just say, look, you know, John McCain said it tonight, General Hertling, we had on early, I mean, I like to say, look, the equipment's not up to date. There hasn't been the kind of update -- PSAKI: Is that -- does that require 10 percent increase? I mean, that's why you have to cut all these other programs. I think there is always going to be opposition. Nobody cares really about foreign aid and that's something that when I was at the State Department we really worked hard to change, but it's complicated and it's hard to explain to people that it's about the security of our diplomats. That it's about the work we do in countries that --


COOPER: That is also 20 (ph) percent of the budget.

LORD: It's political hard cell.

PSAKI: It's a very small percentage.

COOPER: It's a political hard cell, even though it's 1 percent its till hard.

LORD: Exactly. I can't tell you how many conversations just over the decades I've had with regular folks and then we get (inaudible). That is one of the first things that they zero in. Why are we giving our money to, you know, fill in the blank here --

COOPER: Right.

LORD: -- when it's better spent on bridges, roads or what have you here.

COOPER: Yeah. Jen Psaki, thank you. Jeffrey Lord, as well.

Just ahead, overhauling Obamacare, House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell met with President Trump today. Were they able to convince him to support replacement plan? Details in that ahead.


[21:27:58] COOPER: The week six of the Trump presidency is beginning with a laser focus on one of President Trump's core campaign promises, repealing Obamacare. At the White House today, the president met with key players, some stakeholders in the health care debate. Republicans in Congress are working on a plan to replace the Affordable Care Act reaching a consensus on what the plan should be. That continues to be a challenge. Phil Mattingly has more.


TRUMP: Nobody knew that health care could be so complicated.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Tonight, President Trump ramping up his pledge to undo and replace the cornerstone achievement of his predecessor.

TRUMP: The Obamacare is a failed disaster. MATTINGLY (voice-over): Meeting with Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell behind closed doors to map a path forward.

REP. PAUL RYAN, (R) HOUSE SPEAKER: This is a risky mission. We have to step-in and prevent Obamacare from getting worse, from collapsing, and we will replace it with a law that's better.

MATTINGLY (voice-over): And huddling with insurance executives in the White House.

TRUMP: If things aren't working out, I'm blaming you anyway.

MATTINGLY (voice-over): Shortly after a sit down with Republican governors to key constituencies as Republican struggle to get behind a single plan. Insurance executives are uneasy about an unstable marketplace. GOP governors increasingly split over how to handle Medicaid reform in any new proposal.

GEN. SCOTT WALKER, (R) WISCONSIN: There's nothing happens, problems happen for people in this country and in our states.

MATTINGLY (voice-over): Those meetings a precursor to Trump's prime time speech to a joint session of Congress tomorrow night. Aides tell CNN a robust call to repeal and replace the law will be a central component of the remarks.

TRUMP: We have a plan that's going to be, I think fantastic. It will be release fairly soon and we'll be talking about it tomorrow night during the speech.

MATTINGLY (voice-over): House Republicans have their own repeal proposal they plan to release as soon as next week. The first hands recently leaked showing it will replace Obamacare subsidies with tax credits, increase the amount insurers could charge older Americans and likely cost some their coverage altogether. Democrat says the GOP effort will ultimately fail.

SEN.CHUCK SCHUMER, (D) MINORITY LEADER: I predict that discord in their party will grow as Republicans turn to Washington after this last week of angry town halls.

[21:30:06] I believe the odds are very high. We will keep the ACA. It will not be repealed.

MATTINGLY (voice-over): This as Obamacare is consistently polling better than ever, something Trump sought to play down today.

TRUMP: There's nothing to love. It's a disaster, folks.

MATTINGLY (voice-over): But the numbers reflect a pressure on GOP officials that is only growing, something clear in the town halls they faced just last week.

(END VIDEOTAPE) MATTINGLY: And, Anderson, the town hall outcry the rising approval numbers for Obamacare really adding to the urgency right now for Republican leaders. There's a recognition that they need to move quickly. The window is closing, and this is exactly why they need the president support on their specifics, now. If they don't move quickly, there's a recognition that their members could start disbursing -- could start leaving them right now. They're already seeing one.

Mark Meadows, the chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, the conservative caucus in the House Republican Conference already saying, he would be opposed to the leaked draft of the repeal bill that we saw last week. If they start losing members in mass, this whole process collapses, that is exactly what Republican leaders are trying to avoid and exactly why they want President Trump tomorrow night to be very explicit in his support for their path forward. Anderson?

COOPER: All right. Phil Mattingly, thanks.

Joining us now, CNN Senior Political Reporter, Nia-Malika Henderson, also CNN Political Commentator and Washington Correspondent for the New Yorker, Ryan Lizza.

Nia, I mean, it's so interesting to hear -- I want to get the quote right. President Trump saying today, "Nobody knew health care could be so complicated."

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: He's the only person to ever -- utter those words.

COOPER: I mean, it seems like everyone kind of knew health care is complicated, I thought.

HENDERSON: Yeah. Everyone knew that this was complicated. I mean, it's always he can be forgiven for thinking it was simple, because the approach to health care at least from the Republican's point of view has been repeal and replace. I mean, it's a bumper sticker. It sounds so easy and he, of course, adopted that approach to it as well.

And early on he said, you know, you could repeal it and then replace it on the same day, you could just swap it out. But the tentacles of health care so embedded into the economy. And, obviously, Obamacare is the health care system at this point, so he is learning on the job and we see that all time.


COOPER: Right. He said it about terrorism. He said it's a number -- yeah.

HENDERSON: Yeah. And you can see even -- I mean, when he's reading about Obamacare, it's almost like he's learning the information for the first time.

COOPER: I want to play something that President Trump said. I think he said on the campaign trail back in October before he became president. Let's watch.


TRUMP: My first day in office, I'm going to ask Congress to put a bill on my desk getting rid of this disastrous law and replacing it with reforms that expands choice, freedom, affordability. You're going to have such great health care at a tiny fraction of the cost, and it's going to be so easy.


COOPER: I mean, it's clearly, you know, he's -- I mean -- and to be fair, a lot of politicians say one thing when they're campaigning when they're actually in office its all other thing. But it's clearly not so easy.

LIZZA: It's not so easy. If that were true, if we could all have great health care at a fraction of the cost, I think somebody would have figured that out and done it before, right? I mean, there's a reason this is an incredibly difficult issue and health care reforms is all about tradeoffs, right?

So the Obama administration spent a lot of money, raised taxes and ensured a lot of people. At the end of the day, that's what Obamacare did, right? There's a trillion dollar bill that ensured tens of millions of people.

If you're going to dismantle that, someone is going to lose, right? And so now they're in the -- finally getting to the nitty-gritty of, OK, if we get rid of Obamacare, and help ensure all of this people, you know, there was a cost associated with that, what are the tradeoffs? Who's going to lose health care? Who's going to pay more for health care? Who's going to pay less? And so, he's finally grappling with that in a way he never did during the campaign.

COOPER: And then there's the question of what political price the president would have pay if he doesn't follow through on campaign promises or if whatever the Republicans come up with, you know, fails.

HENDERSON: Yeah. It's just as bad as what they say Obamacare is now. I mean, we see some of that already playing out in these town halls and Republicans dismiss that as though that's just sort of angry liberals or activists.

I talked to some folks in Iowa, real hard core Republicans, they want to see this move forward really quickly in terms of making good on Trump's promises, making good on Republicans promises as well. So, they all know that there's some sort of price to pay. Democrats have said, you know, there's no such thing as Obamacare anymore. It's essentially Trump Care --

LIZZA: Yeah.

HENDERSON: -- at this point.

COOPER: Well, that's actually what they'd like. HENDERSON: That's what they like, like voters to believe in all of the problems associated with it. Democrats hopes are now are going to be at the feet of Republican.


LIZZA: If he can't do it, I mean, he does have an escape hatch if he wants to push it, if the right would let him he can make some -- rather minor fixes --

COOPER: Right.

LIZZA: -- to Obamacare, call it Trump Care and move on.

COOPER: And that's it. I just want to change subject because we've been reporting tonight on leaks coming out of the White House. The president actually talked to Fox News this afternoon about it. They just released that portion of the interview. We're seeing it for the first time. Let's play that.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can we talk about President Obama?

[21:35:04] You said you personally get along with him. You guys were going out each other for three or four or maybe eight years. It turns out his organization, since we're doing a lot of the organizing, since some of the protest that a lot of these Republicans are seeing around the country and against you, do you believe President Obama is behind it and if he is, is that a violation of the call -- so-called unsaid presidents' code?

TRUMP: No, I think he is behind it. I also think its politics. That's the way it is. And look I have --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But Bush wasn't going after Clinton, Clinton wasn't going after Bush?

TRUMP: Well, you never know what's exactly happening behind the scenes. You know, you're probably right, or possibly right, but you never know.

You know, I think that President Obama is behind it, because his people are certainly behind it. And some of the leaks possibly come from that group. You know, some of the leaks, which are really very serious leaks, because they're very bad in terms of national security. But, I also understand that's politics. And in terms of him being behind things, that's politics and it will probably continue.


COOPER: Interesting to hear President Trump, basically blaming Obama holdovers for some leaks, which, you know, come -- I guess, he's talking about leaks which aren't coming from the White House, which there are some of those.

HENDERSON: Yeah. I mean, the hidden hand of Obama. And you will hear this theory for a while in terms of blaming leaks out of the intelligence community. I mean, in some ways it borders on paranoia.

LIZZA: Yeah. He was sort of pushed into agreeing the idea -- with the idea that Obama was behind the protests, which I don't really see much evidence of that.

On the leaks of intelligence, if you read the stories carefully, there's no doubt that a lot of the sourcing on some of the more blockbuster stories do say, according to current and former administration officials. So just reading between the lines, there's no doubt that some of that information is coming from officials of the previous administration, which is exactly what you would assume, because those are the people who knew about this.

COOPER: Whether the idea of President Obama pulling the strings, that's unclear, but people --

LIZZA: I doubt it very much. And so, you know, the former CIA Director Brennan was on T.V. on Sunday and people have accused him of somewhat leaking and he said he has not had any conversations with any reporters about this. But, there's no doubt that there are current and former administration officials in intelligence community that are talking to reporters.

COOPER: All right. Ryan Lizza and Nia-Malika Henderson thanks very much.

Just ahead, the father of Navy Seal Ryan Owens is speaking out demanding answers about the raid that took his son's life in Yemen revealing that he refused to meet President Trump at Dover Air Force Base. Details on that ahead


[21:41:34] COOPER: As we reported, President Trump plans to propose a budget that ramps up defense spending by $54 billion. He said today that our military needs to start winning again. Just six days into his term, he gave the go ahead for a raid in Yemen that two days later claimed the life of Ryan Owens, a U.S. Navy Seal, the first combat death of the Trump presidency.

The raid had been in the planning stages for months under the Obama administration. Over the weekend, Owens' father went public with his criticism of mission and the president who authorized it. He wants answers to why his son died. Boris Sanchez tonight has details.


BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Thirty-six-year old Ryan Owens was the only American service member killed when a group of Navy Seals attacked the suspected Al-Qaeda compound in Yemen. According to the White House, the mission was meant to gather intelligence. Some reports say as many as two dozen civilians or more were killed, including an 8-year-old girl. Several other service members were also injured. Days later, during Ryan Owens' dignified transfer back to the United States, President Trump extended heartfelt condolences to his family.

TRUMP: He died in defense of our nation. He gave his life in defense of our people. Our debt to him and our debt to his family is eternal and everlasting.

SANCHEZ (voice-over): But Ryan's father, Bill, has revealed that he refused to meet the president at Dover saying to the Miami Herald, "I told them I didn't want to make a scene about it, but my conscience wouldn't let me talk to him." Owens goes on to say that he believes the White House is hiding behind his son's death.

While the administration claimed the raid was a success, some lawmakers, including Republican Senator John McCain quickly criticized the operation.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R) ARIZONA: When you lose $75 million airplane and more importantly American lives are lost -- a life is lost and wounded, I don't believe that you can call it a success.

SPICER: That the action that was taken in Yemen was a huge success. American lives will be saved because of it. Future attacks will be prevented. The life of Chief Ryan Owens was done in service to this country, and we owe him and his family a great debt for the information that we received during that raid. I think any suggestion, otherwise, is a disservice to his courageous life and the actions that he took, full stop.

SANCHEZ (voice-over): But Bill Owens who did not vote for Mr. Trump tells the Miami Herald, the White House owes him an explanation, "I'd like some answers about all the things that happened in the timeline that led up to it. I know what the timeline is, and it bothers me a lot." He also questions whether the raid was politically motivated, as it just came one day after the president announced a travel ban on seven Muslim majority countries, including Yemen.

"Why at this time did there have to be this stupid mission when it wasn't even barely a week into the 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?"


COOPER: And, Boris, Press Secretary Sean Spicer was asked about this today, what did he say?

SANCHEZ: Yeah. Today's daily press briefing Sean Spicer was asked about the Miami Herald article. He said he couldn't imagine what Bill Owens is going through, but then he went on to defend the decision for going and conducting that raid. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[21:45:04] SPICER: He made a sacrifice for this country. He's on his 12th deployment. And I know that his wife when she spoke to the president knows that he did this because he loved it. He cared about our nation. And the mission was successful in helping prevent a future attack or attacks on this nation. It obtained a lot of information that will help us keep safe.


SANCHEZ: Now to be clear, Anderson, there is an investigation into the death of Ryan Owens, but whether or not it digs deeper into some of the political implications that Bill Owens is making about the raid has yet to be seen.

COOPER: Boris Sanchez, thanks very much.

Up next, former President George W. Bush breaking his silence on President Trump.


COOPER: Well, moment ago you saw a video. President Trump was asked, in fact, it looks like he was sort oppressed into saying that President Obama had violated what the Fox and Friends interviewer said was the unsaid rule against the former president speaking ill of the current one. The president declined to take debate, however, as a rule, former presidents, including former President George W. Bush rarely do talk politics except in fairly gentle terms, which Mr. Bush did this morning.

When he weighed in for the first time on President Trump, Mr. Bush covered a lot of topics tied to the new White House when he spoke with the "Today" show including Russia. Bush, 43, said there should be investigations to possible ties between the Trump presidential campaign and the Russian government. He also praised the Senate Intelligence Committee chairman, a Republican who's leading the probe. Take a look.


[21:50:02] GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think we all need answers. Whether or not this special prosecutor's the right way to go tonight, you're talking to the wrong guy. I have great faith and Richard Burr for example, he's the head of the Senate Intelligence Committee, really good guy, and an independent thinker and NRP (ph) were to recommend the special prosecutor, then I can -- I'd be, you know, then I -- is that a lot more credibility, it was me. But I'm really -- and I never been a lawyer. You know, I'm not sure the right avenue to take. I am sure, though, that that question needs to be answered.


COOPER: A lot to discuss. Former Bush, 43, White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer is back. Joining us as well is CNN Presidential Historian Douglas Brinkley, as well as, CNN Chief Political Analyst Gloria Borger.

Ari, obviously, knowing President Bush like you do, having work with him, were you surprised that -- at how candid he was?

FLEISCHER: No. You know, he is candid. And let me just say this, I didn't speak to the president today, so I'm not speaking for him. I just know kind of how he thinks. But, I think it's just fair to say, when you ask him a direct question, he gives you a direct answer.

And when the question is dealing with the Russian interference in our election, that chased George Bush. He doesn't like the idea that Russia could have or did interfere in our election in any way. And I think he would like thing that's in the country's interest to know everything we can know about that.

COOPER: Gloria, I mean, there's obviously a president who was, you know, consciously quite during President Obama's tenure, something that he took seriously and that President Obama was clearly thankful for. Yet one month into the Trump presidency, he's already speaking out.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. You know, in his own kind of way, I think what he was doing was kind of throwing shade a little bit, more than directly criticizing Donald Trump.

It's no secret that he and his family were not supporters of Donald Trump, but he did go to the inauguration and it has been gracious. I think that, look, there are certain things that matter to George W. Bush and Ari knows this better than anybody. But he, you know, talk about the Muslim ban.

I mean, this is at which the Trump people would not call a Muslim ban, but this is a man who went right after 9/11 to a mosque to say that this does not represent Islam, this is a perversion of Islam. And so, I think Russia as Ari points out, very, very important to him. And so, I think that there's a kind of a moral temperament there that is true George W. Bush.

COOPER: Ari, do you agree with that?

FLEICHER: Well, I do -- you know, the part about the mosque and what President Bush did, you know, on September 16th, you know, George W. Bush is beyond that. He doesn't need to compare himself to Barack Obama or compare himself to Donald Trump. He recognizes times changed, it's their role now to do as they see fit. They're the president.

So, he accepts just as a given that because he did something one way does not mean his successors must do it that way. And I think that's how he -- why he is so differential. That's why he just respects their right to govern as they see fit now and he is not going to criticize.

COOPER: Doug, I mean, the fact -- the matter, though, is that the Bushes are on far better terms, I assume, it seems with President Obama than they are with President Trump. I mean, the way president -- candidate Trump treated Jeb Bush during the primaries, I can't imagine that would soon be forgotten.

DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Well, there's no doubt about that. I mean, Bush, 43, just adores Michelle Obama. They developed a great friendship. I think what's happening is George W. Bush is comfortable in his own skin. I was a co-organizer of a C-SPAN poll and I noticed Presidents' Day came out in 91 historians, you know, were asked to rank presidents and George W. Bush got a little bit of an upward tick. Why? Part of it is people say, "Gosh, compared to Donald Trump, George W. Bush looks good."

But, also, because he's handled his ex-presidency with great dignity living in Dallas, building his library, working with wounded lawyers, painting, and only talking seldom. Today, it was with his buddy, Matt Lauer, they're very good friends and I think he spoke to the heart defending First Amendment rights and said, "Yeah, I don't like the games that Trump's playing with Putin." He didn't say it forcefully, but the words were there.

BORGER: And, you know, he's not going out of his way to give a speech criticizing Donald Trump. He's on a book tour, because of his artwork. And he knows he's going to be asked these questions. And I think actually the Bush -- former President Bush spoke in a way that a lot of Republicans will be happy to hear.

COPPER: All right. I want to play for our viewers what former President Bush said when asked about the media? Let's listen.


BUSH: I consider the media to be indispensable to democracy that we need an independent media to hold people like me to account. I mean, power can be very addictive and it can be corrosive, and it's important for the media to call to account people who abuse their power, whether be here or elsewhere.

[21:55:07] I mean, one of the things I spent a lot of time doing was trying to convince person like Vladimir Putin, for example, to accept the notion of an independent press.


COOPER: It's really interesting. I mean, obviously, Ari, when he was president, you know, that he -- I'm sure there was tons of stuff that the media did that he didn't like, that you didn't like. And yet to hear and make this very full throated defense of the media, I thought it was interesting.

FLEISCHER: Well, you know, this is what you have as a luxury of a former president. I think why former presidents can easier say that now, I think when they -- who are in office they would say similar things, but then they'd also say there's a lot of information about there that's unfair or wrong or biased. So, when you're a former president, you just stick to the good stuff. COOPER: Especially when you're on a book tour.

BORGER: I think he did --

FLEISHER: You can have that do it, too. I think -- look, for Donald Trump, could that -- the question, could Donald Trump make that same statement? And a piece of me says, Donald Trump would make that statement, but then he would preface it and say after it that he'd lash out at the press too when he talk about fake news and enemy of the people. But if they do their job right, they're indispensable.

So, you know, I don't think that was a shot at Donald Trump, as much as it was George Bush just making his statement clear about what he thinks the role of the president is. I was in those meetings with President Putin in several instances and he did press President Putin about it, free press in Russia. That is important to him.

COOPER: Yeah. I want to thank everybody. We'll be back in a moment.


[22:00:12] COOPER: (Inaudible) things over to Don Lemon in CNN Tonight. I'll see you tomorrow night.