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Report: Intel Chairs Offer Conflicting Views of Trump-Russia; SEAL's Dad to Trump -- Don't Hide Behind My Son's Death; Trump, New Adviser Disagree on "Radical Islam" Term. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired February 27, 2017 - 15:30   ET


[15:30:00] HILARY ROSEN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Jump out there and say, no, no, no, let me give you the full panoply of our evaluation and our conclusion. Until Jim Comey does that here and does that forthright with the American people we are probably not going to get a conclusion. The second thing is Democrats are simply saying to the Republicans on The Hill, do not be the White House's mouthpiece. You are elected separately to evaluate separately and get all of facts here and provide oversight until they do that, Rick, I don't think that anyone can argue they are doing their job.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: Let me ask you this, Hillary, because one of the criticisms of Jim Comey from Democrats has been that he has weighed in on things. And we heard Adam Schiff there. I mean, he was really questioning the independence, the impartiality of the FBI. One of the big criticisms Democrats have of President Trump is they feel like he has raised questions about whether you can believe in institutions. And you have Adam Schiff raising a question about whether you can believe the FBI even though the feedback from the FBI to the White House was actually, you know what, we can't say anything about that, that's not what we're supposed to do under the guidelines. What do you say to that, considering the FBI demurred?

ROSEN: I think we have a twofold problem as Democrats. One is we don't want to be seen as constantly relitigating the election. But we have seen Jim Comey get very political. He did it with Hillary Clinton's issues twice. Not just once. What we have seen, though, is this problem where the Trump White House is trying to push people to move along. But to what? We are about to have a budget that might decimate the EPA and regulation of our clean air and clean water. Double defense spending and take away health care for people. It's like how many fronts can we be fighting here? I think what we are trying to do is to say let the intelligence committee do its work. Give them the documents. Give them the witnesses. We can stop talking about this and stop proclaiming innocence or guilt until they finish that work. We have other things to get started on here.

KEILAR: I want to bring in Gloria Borger to talk about the showdown over Obamacare. You heard, because it's sounding like congressional Republicans not necessarily on the same page with the White House exactly on this.


KEILAR: We also heard at the budget today to combine a couple of thing that I think are important, that Donald Trump is not going to touch entitlements. That's something House Speaker Paul Ryan, that's his dream, to get the pocketbook in order. That in his belief means you have to tackle entitlements which are responsible for so you heard Sean Spicer saying the President intends to stand by his statement not to touch that. But then you heard Ryan saying repealing and replacing Obamacare is entitlement reform.

BORGER: There you have it. We are doing entitlement reform, but not really. I think Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell, none of whom were close to President Trump during the campaign, who didn't particularly like him during the campaign are now embracing him with open arms because they believe they can start getting their agendas passed with control of the house and the Senate and the presidency. And that Donald Trump is their vehicle to do that. And so, you saw Mitch McConnell come out today saying our agenda is the same as the President's agenda. And then you saw as you point out, Paul Ryan, say, well, you know, repealing Obamacare is entitlement reform. And I think they are going to have problems. I know they are having it on the house side, for example, with some of their conservatives who are --

KEILAR: Correct.

BORGER: -- look I am not going to vote for the plan that is circulating now because these refundable tax credits are in fact the beginning of a new -- you know, a new entitlement and we are not going to do that.

[15:35:00] KEILAR: Gloria, explain that just so that we are very clear on it. The refundable tax credit, meaning this is basically about your right from the government if you qualify to help you purchase health insurance to offset the cost if you are someone who is more in need. The point that we are hearing from the house freedom caucus is OK, that is -- that is an entitlement program. Now that is the crux of Obamacare, really, that voucher in a way.

BORGER: Sure, sure.

KEILAR: So how do you even, without a complete overhaul of Obamacare that would gut it and actually upset a lot of people who do like the plan -- I mean, what would Congress be able to do?

BORGER: Look, as the President said himself today, this is very complicated. And so, what you have got -- what you have got are conservatives saying wait a minute -- and maybe Rick Santorum can talk about this a little bit because not only would you get these refundable tax credits. It would be dependent on your age and not on your income for example. So, that's a problem.

ROSEN: Here's the issue -- here's the issue, which is that essentially if you repeal Obamacare you essentially put a huge amount of money, billions of dollars back into the federal treasury. Because the subsidies for purchasing health care would no longer be available. But at the same time, you would be taking health care away from millions of people. And so, what the Republicans -- conservatives have wanted to do, take health care away from millions of people get that back into the treasury and indeed some are even saying that can help pay for their tax cuts that they are looking to do later on, which is one of the reasons they want to do healthcare before tax reform.

KEILAR: I want to hear what the senator has to say. You know, and Republicans, most are very aware that's not going to fly. It's why you hear the President talking a lot about we are going to make this even better.

RICK SANTORUM, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: First off, Republicans aren't interested in taking health care away from people and providing tax cuts. What Republicans are trying to do and conservatives are trying to do is put together a plan to fix a death spiral Obamacare, a plan that is in its -- really, in its last stages. If --

KEILAR: Wait, wait, you are saying it's dying.

SANTORUM: It's absolutely done. Rates are increasing.

KEILAR: Paul Ryan said it's collapsing under its own weight.

SANTORUM: It is collapsing. There is no question it is collapsing under its own weight. So, we are in a position of having to save this plan that is basically collapsing at this moment. How do we do this? One of the big concerns, Gloria mentioned this, is not the refundable part of the tax credit. They are concerned about this idea of putting money out there in advance. So, advance refunding. There is huge fraud in programs that do advance refunding. Upwards of a quarter to 30 percent fraud historically. That's a huge red flag to Republicans.

ROSEN: There is no evidence that there is no fraud there. Come on, Rick, you know better.

KEILAR: I want to hear the final word from Gloria Borger.

SANTORUM: Let me just finish what Republicans are saying.

KEILAR: OK. Real quick,

SANTORUM: That's number one. They are concerned about high income people. Gloria mentioned based on age, not based on income. They don't want to give subsidies to wealthy people for their health insurance. I'm pushing this. We shouldn't try to fix Obamacare. That's what Ryan's plan I think essentially does. I think ultimately what Republicans should be for is doing what we did in the 1996 welfare bill, let's give this problem to the states, give them more money, not less money, more money. We did it in '96, put a cap and let them innovate and be able to deal with the problems in their own state. That to me is a simpler solution to this problem.

KEILAR: Gloria Borger, quick fact check before we go to break here, that narrative that we are hearing, Obamacare is in a death spiral, fact check that for us.

BORGER: Look, you have seen people see their premiums going up. They were upset about the premiums going up. And what the Democrats have said and maybe now the Republicans are thinking about it is look you have to fix this because you have had insurance companies back out. I mean, the Obamacare isn't working as it was envisioned. Right? The question is do you need to throw it out? Or can you just fix it without people losing the benefits that they want and that they already have.

This is the problem Republicans are having at their town halls. Of course, if they had a plan it would have been easier for them last week as they faced constituents. But the bigger picture here, Brianna, the bigger picture is you have a President who wants to spend at least $54 billion in fiscal year 2018 on defense. He wants to build a wall for $23 billion. And we're -- people are asking the question, conservatives among them, Rick Santorum, where are we going to get the money?

KEILAR: That's a very good question. Gloria Borger, Hillary Rosen, Rick Santorum, thank you all.

Next, we are going to talk about the father of a Navy SEAL killed during a terror raid in Yemen. He is speaking out, demanding answers, telling President Trump, quote, don't hide behind my son's death. We will talk to the reporter who interviewed him next. Plus, the White House response.


[15:45:00] KEILAR: Don't hide behind my son's death. That is one man's message to President Trump. The White House face stinging criticism from the father of a Navy SEAL killed during an anti- terrorism mission in Yemen. Last month, Ryan Owens became the first combat death under the Trump presidency. Today the father is calling for an investigation into the raid that killed his son. The White House says it was an intelligence gathering mission and was a success. It resulted in Owen's death and the killing of children and other citizens. Here is Sean Spicer moments ago.


SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: When there is most importantly loss of life and people injured that it's 100 percent successful. But I think at when you look at what the stated goal of that mission was, it was an information and intelligence gathering mission. And it achieved that -- its objectives. So, again, I would express our thoughts and our prayers and our condolences to all the people and chief Owens's family and his friends and his ship mates. But it's something that as a SEAL and as someone who deployed 12 times, he knew this was part of the job and he knew what he was doing.


KEILAR: I want to bring in Julie Brown, investigative reporter for the "Miami Herald." You interviewed this gold star father, Bill Owens. And it took him a moment to come forward and talk about this. What was it that made him want to go public about how he feels about his son's death? JULIE BROWN, INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER, MIAMI HERALD: I think he wants

to get to the truth of what happened. And he's concerned with everything else that's happening in Washington, all the calls for investigations in other areas such as the Russia connections, all the chaos that has surrounded some of these executive orders it's a flurry of one story after another. And he feels -- he doesn't want what happened to his son to get swept under the rug. And he's particularly -- became concerned when he heard that the administration criticized senator John McCain and others, even the media, for trying to find out what happened in this raid, and you know, saying that that would dishonor Ryan's memory to call it into question. And he said just the opposite, that -- don't hide behind my son's death as a reason not do an investigation.

KEILAR: I wonder what questions he has. Just to be clear to our viewers at this point, what we know is that the SEALS went in. They were hoping to get intelligence there, physical intelligence there on the ground. And they came under unexpected enemy fire. They are always prepared for that but this ended up being a very bad situation where Ryan Owens was killed. You had dozens of civilians as well. And there was a rescue attempt that ended up in the downing of an aircraft that then had to be blown up. And I'm wondering, now that Bill Owens knows some of these facts what are the things that he is unclear on, that he wants answers on that he feels have not been fully aired?

BROWN: Well, he's questioning the time line of what happened. The President was only -- he was less than a week into his term of office. Number one. Number two, where was he when this happened? Was he connected? How was he connected? Number three, the timing of it as far as this executive order that he signed on the travel ban, which affected seven countries, including Yemen. And that was signed a day before this mission went off.

KEILAR: Does he feel that that endangered -- he feels that that may have endangered the team?

BROWN: He feels that they should look at whether it endangered it. I mean, he points out that there were probably allies and people who were friendly in Yemen to the United States who -- interpreters, there are medical people that are involved with intelligence people. Perhaps it's possible that when this travel ban came down and Yemen was part of it they felt betrayed. I don't think we know the answers to any of this. He doesn't know the answers. And I think the point is he believes that we have to look at this entirely and not just the nuts and bolts kind of investigation that they routinely do when they have these kinds of missions gone awry.

[15:50:00] KEILAR: Julie Brown thank you so much. You were the only reporter who has spoken to Bill Owens the father of Ryan Owens and we know you will continue to follow this story. Thanks

Donald Trump's new national security adviser says the President shouldn't be using the term radical Islamic terrorism when discussing terrorists. We're going to discuss that.


KEILAR: This just in to CNN. Sources telling CNN the President signed off on checking the phones of White House staffers in a crackdown on leaks. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer checked phones for encrypted apps and other messages that may have been used to contact reporters.

[15:55:00] We will have Jake Tapper having more on that story in a moment.

Meantime, Defense Secretary James Mattis has been meeting today with key members of the National Security Council to discuss their proposed plan to accelerate the fight to defeat ISIS. President Trump gave his generals 30 days to produce this ramped up plan. This as we are learning the President wants to increase defense and security spending by $54 billion. Overall it would bring defense spending to $603 billion if the President gets his wish. Here he was addressing the nation's governors on war earlier today.


DONALD TRUMP, [17:00:00] PRESIDENT: We have win. We have to start winning wars again. Have to say, when I was young in high school and college everybody used to say we never lost a war. We never lost a war. You remember. Some of you are right there with me. You remember we never lost a war. America never lost. Now we never win a war. We never win. We don't fight to win. We don't fight to win. We either have to win or don't fight it at all.


[15:55:00] KEILAR: Let's bring in retired Army Brigadier General Tony Tata to talk about this along with Peter Baker from the "New York Times." General, I know you are a close acquaintance of the new National Security Adviser, H. R. McMaster and the author of a novel "Besieged." what do you make of what the President was saying?

TONY TATA, Retired Army Brigadier General: He is looking at the Vietnam experience and the last 15 years in Afghanistan and perhaps what took place in Iraq. And I think what Mattis will bring to the table and what H. R. McMaster will bring to the table is a plan that broadly stretches across southwest Asia, the northern tier of Africa, and possibly looks at some kind of ground force to cut off lines of communication and stop the flow of recruits and arms and means of war. And also, gets in there with intelligence and communications so that our air power can be more effective. Air power alone is not as effective when it's mixed with ground troops.

And then I think you also will see aid come nothing. Remember, during the early days of the Afghan -- the war in Afghanistan we were dropping food supplies to citizens, and we were dropping paratroopers also. So, we have that capacity. And then the third thing is, elements of national power here that we have not been doing in the most recent past. I think this is what the President was really talking about, where you're leveraging your diplomatic pieces, your informational, economic, and you're squeezing your enemy from all avenues. I think that is really what the President is getting at. McMaster and General Mattis will bring great experience, because you have to do that on the battlefield. And they've done that on the battlefield.

KEILAR: Peter, one of the things that General McMaster brings is a difference of opinion. You reported on this, specifically on this term "radical Islamic terrorism." tell us about your reporting on that. It's fascinating. Also, what this portends for the future relationship between the national security adviser and the President.

PETER BAKER, REPORTER, NEW YORK TIMES: One of the things that General McMaster is known for is speaking his mind. He made a reputation in the military with a book that was very defining in terms of up-ending conventional wisdom --

KEILAR: "Dereliction of Duty."

BAKER: Yes. He is somebody who had a history of speaking his mind, what he did was, he said last week at a meeting with new staff he didn't think the term is a helpful term. He thinks it's not in fact a term they should be using even though Donald Trump, President Trump, has made a point of it over the years. You see even if the first few days he is willing to buck his own boss and give his opinion about things in a way people say they appreciate.

KEILAR: It's a term, general, that Donald Trump made a big deal out of saying and that he made a big deal out of then-President Barack Obama not saying. So, with that in mind, what does it mean with him -- McMaster potentially being seen as undercutting the President?

TATA: I wouldn't make too much of that, Brianna. I think what -- he had a staff meeting, and he talked about a couple things. One is fixing the national security adviser to make sure the chairman is back in there. The other was about Islamic extremism. I happen to disagree with H. R. I think the President is right. It's a transnational threat. You have to call the enemy something otherwise you don't know who you are fighting. You have al Qaeda. You have ISIS. You have all different kinds of splinter cells, and they are extreme. They have an extreme interpretation of the Koran. Which is Islamic and the foundation of Muslim people. It's an extreme version of that. They're transnational.

Using the term "Islamic extremism" to me helps out. Think about the 51 percent to 49 percent call you have to make when you have an Omar Mateen come to the FBI twice.

[16:00:00] And be interviewed and released and because we weren't calling the enemy anything, we have someone who was extremely radical and Islamic and he gets released, and then he does what he did in Orlando. It's that kind of thing that happens when a commander or chief executive officer -- the organization takes on the personality and the vernacular of that leader. And in the future I would think the Omar Mateen's would be held by the FBI and not released.

KEILAR: General Tata, Peter Baker, thank you so much to both of you. "The Lead" with Jake Tapper starts right now.