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Father Of Slain Navy SEAL Refuses To Meet With Trump; Trump Vows To Repeal And Replace Obamacare; Trump Navy Secretary Nominee Withdraws. Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired February 27, 2017 - 06:30   ET



CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: The father of the Navy SEAL killed in a terror raid in Yemen refused to meet with President Trump when his son's body came home. His name is Bill Owens and now, of course, he is a Gold Star father of Chief Petty Officer William Ryan Owens. He is demanding an investigation into his son's death.

CNN Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr, live with more -- Barbara.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, Chris, as you say a Gold Star father, his grief must be respected and condolences offered. We have seen this before, though, where parents want to know more about how their loved ones fell on the battlefield. This is a dad who wants to know everything.

Let me read you a couple of quotes about all of this from an interview he gave to the "Miami Herald" and he says and I quote, "Why at this time did there have to be this stupid mission when it wasn't even barely a week into his administration," the Trump 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."

Mr. Owens goes on to say, "Don't hide behind my son's death to prevent an investigation. I want an investigation. The government owes my son an investigation."

Well, there are three reviews going on right now into the civilian causalities that occurred during this incident into the crash of an aircraft during the incident and a standard fact finding investigation into the Navy SEAL's death.

What his father wants would go much further. An investigation into the White House decision making about why they did this mission in the first place -- Alisyn.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Yes. The father makes a compelling argument and it's of course heartbreaking to hear from him. Barbara, thank you very much for all of that.

Well, the president is talking health care reform with governors today. What's the latest plan to repeal and replace Obamacare? Our panel explains why governors are so concerned.




DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: There are some big problems in the world, you know that very well. But we're very happy with the way things are working and again, we've met a lot of promises over the last two years and many of those promises are already kept so we're very honored by that and I -- thank you.


CAMEROTA: That's President Trump addressing the nation's governors at a dinner at the White House last night. Today, he is expected to discuss health care reform.

Let's bring back our political pane. We have David Drucker, Jen Jacobs, and Abby Phillip. Abby, where is the White House with repeal and replace of Obamacare?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, by and large, they're really allowing the Hill to do most of the heavy lifting on this. The Republican plan is going to essentially be what Republicans have been proposing for quite some time now. They're going to call it repeal and replace.

I think most experts that look at the situation will say they're making some changes to it. Some of those changes are circumstantial but the White House itself is not weighing in on the sort of like a detail by detail stuff.

You know, I am told that the president is very concerned mainly about coverage levels. He wants to know that that number of people that are covered under health insurance when they're finished making changes to the plan does not drop under his watch.

Other than that, they're allowing the Hill to do the big lifting and the president is also, you know, in meetings one-on-one with, you know, Governor Kasich on Friday and others over the weekend.

Governors last night and today is taking in information about this so we really don't know whether he is going to personally weigh in on some changes based on what he is hearing over the last couple of days and over the next few days.

CUOMO: David, the issue is very clear here especially for the governors, all right? How are they going to ensure their low income people? If you pull the grants, the money that's being sent for Medicaid expansion then they're going to have to pay. The governors almost to a man and woman are saying we don't have the money.

They heard presentations from McKenzie (ph) and Co, Avalere Health, and two other organizations that said if you pull the expansion money right now you're going to lose coverage. If you do tax credits instead of subsidies, which a lot of Republicans want to do, you will have people lose coverage, is that acceptable?

DAVID DRUCKER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, we're going to find out. Look, I think that the president is concerned about coverage levels. He's going to be disappointed because Republicans on the Hill are less concerned with coverage levels than they are ensuring that people have access to coverage they want if they choose to go and get it.

Which is different than what Obamacare does, which is more of a guarantee of broader coverage levels and the conflict here is that Republican governors in states that have the Medicaid expansion that go beyond the 50/50 fed state split for the poor and fully pay for the expansion that gets into the middle class, they don't want to see that roll back and not be able to pay for it.

In other words, they don't want to have to pay for it with state money. So the question here is with conservatives on the Hill that want to roll back Medicaid and certainly don't want to provide extra money to pay for the expansion under whatever the new health care system is, are they going to win or are the Republican governors going to win?

[06:40:05]And probably the most difficult thing here is that Republicans are in a sense afraid to move on health care even though they're going to because they don't know what the president wants and the president isn't telling them what he wants.

Because I don't think he really knows because if left to his own devices, he's really more of a leftist on health care. He wants everybody to be covered and he's really fine with the government paying for it.

CAMEROTA: Jen, Ohio Governor John Kasich met with the president and he spelled out his concerns for Ohio so listen to this.


GOVERNOR JOHN KASICH (R), OHIO: There's very conservative Republicans in the House that are going to say just get rid of the whole thing and that's not acceptable when you have 20 million people or 700,000 people in my state because where do they go? Where do the drug addicted go?

And look, I don't understand everything that is going on with these town halls, but what I think it's having an impact from the standpoint of hey, the people are watching and I don't think they mind reform but don't take everything away.


CAMEROTA: There you go, Jen. I mean, that's the heart of the matter. What's happening at the town halls and what do you do if people lose coverage?

JEN JACOBS, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, "BLOOMBERG POLITICS": That's exactly right. This is such a hot topic for the president today. I know that Kasich's staff think that they've made a little bit of inroads with Kasich's argument with him and David is exactly right also that Trump is essentially, you know, more to the left on this.

How many times on the campaign trail did he say we don't want people dying in the streets for not having health care? He said we're going to take care of these people and make sure that they're covered. So that's definitely -- and he has a White House full of governors today who are going to be bending his ear on this.

He's going to be meeting with health insurance CEOs today and Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan. So we'll see what Trump's reaction to this. At the end of the day, we'll see some tweets on this.

CUOMO: Abby, just to be clear, this isn't an open question. I mean, again, they got proposals, these governors from different Republican plans. One of them had coverage going down 51 percent if you got rid of the expansion of Medicaid.

Another one had a reduction of 30 percent if it winds up being a split cost where the states have to pick it up. That's going to have to be what the political consequences here if you're going to cut these things. How is that playing right now? Is the GOP ready to own those kinds of cuts and coverage?

PHILLIP: Yes, I mean, this is a huge -- this is one of the biggest problems out there. They have to come up with not only a plan to -- what Republicans generally agree on is that they want to sort of off load some of this responsibility for health care from the federal government may be shifted to the states.

That's a good idea if you're a Republican and you're a federalist. You think that it sounds right, but that means that the states have to pay and there's just no way that the states can generally afford to cover all of these people.

So the federal government has to at some level subsidize that. What level of subsidy is going to go into the states is a huge, huge open question moving forward.

CAMEROTA: Panel, thank you for all the insights.

CUOMO: All right. CNN of course is going to carry President Trump's first address to a joint session of Congress. Live coverage begins at 8:00 p.m. Eastern.

CAMEROTA: Tomorrow night. Also one night after that address, CNN will host the town hall with Republican Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham. Dana Bash is going to moderate the conversation discussing the key issues they think the country are facing. Join us Wednesday night at 9:00 p.m. Eastern only on CNN for that conversation.

CUOMO: All right, so the White House has another key position open again. What motivated the president's pick for naval secretary to walk away? What does it mean for the military? Next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


CUOMO: College hockey player faces criminal charges after attacking a ref on the ice. Coy Wire has more on the "Bleacher Report". Hockey always has a lot of fights going on, but not like this.

COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, this is the wrong kind at the wrong time. Freshman Brandon Day of Eerie Community College was arrested and reportedly charged with assault. This happened in the final seconds of last night's junior college championship game between ECC and Dakota College. Take a look at this video.

I mean, this is unreal. His team is down 7-4. Game is essentially over, 39 seconds left. He comes out of the penalty box. Right over to the referee and drills down to the ice he goes. Game was called after the incident. The referee said that's it we're done here.

Day was taken into police custody. CNN Sports has reached out to the school for a response to see what may have caused this flare-up and this temper, but we have not yet heard back.

Kurt Busch only lead one lap of the Daytona 500 but it's the last one and that's the only one that matters. Busch made history. It's the first time in the 59 years of NASCAR's most prestigious race that a winner held the lead for only one lap. The number 41 car took the lead and never looked, well, that's because he couldn't. Listen to this.


KURT BUSCH: My rear view mirror fell off with 30 to go. I was like that's an omen. That's an omen because I'm not going to have to look at it anymore. The more that I have run this race, the more I throw caution to the wind, let her whip and elbows out.


WIRE: So why look back when the prize lies ahead. Busch finished runner up three times at Daytona over his career. He finally gets that win, Alisyn, on his 16th attempt. Good stuff for him.

CAMEROTA: Yes, elbows out -- at 10-2. All right, Coy, thank you very much.

So we have a development on this story for you. The father of the Navy SEAL killed last month in Yemen is now breaking his silence. Why he did not meet with the president and the questions he wants answered, next.



CUOMO: President Trump's nominee for secretary of the Navy has withdrawn his name from consideration. The man's name is Philip Bilden (ph). He cited challenges separating from business interests to satisfy the Office of Government Ethics.

Let's discuss this with CNN Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr, and CNN military analyst, General Mark Hertling. This isn't the first time we've heard this. We had Viola had to back out as well and again this was accommodating ethics rules being too difficult, Barbara. What's the plus-minus on this?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, you're right. It's not the first time. In fact, you know, also I would say that vice Admiral Bob Harward indicated he didn't want to be national security adviser because it might have some adverse impact on his finances and his family, a little bit different but not all that different.

The Government Ethics rules are very strong and for many of the people that Mr. Trump is turning to who have deep financial interests that may be financiers in New York, on Wall Street, it is difficult for them to separate from their business activities apparently without impacting their family financial interests.

Mr. Bilden after back and forth for the last several weeks like Mr. Viola backing out.

[06:55:08]CUOMO: You've dealt with situations like this in terms of, you know, what are you going to have as leadership? What are your priorities going to be, General? Does it matter more if you're running a military branch or military department of operation than a traditional civilian?

LT. GENERAL MARK HERTLING, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: I think it does, Chris, because a lot of people are looking up to you. It's leadership by example and in Mr. Bilden's case as well as Vinnie Viola's case, they had not only -- not only do they have to meet the strict ethics requirements, but they can't invest in things they have to make decisions on.

When you are talking about the acquisition programs at both the Army and the Navy, there are billions of dollars of purchases every year and contracts that are late.

So as you go through the files and you go through the financial statements of these individuals and you say you're heavily invested in this company or that company and they're about to put something forward to the Department of Defense you can make a lot of money on this, will that sway your decision?

Everyone will say of course it wouldn't sway my decision. Those are tough. I mean, I've been in situations having to file nondisclosure agreement and financial agreements and tax reforms and it gives an insight into what the person has, what they might do and how they might be effected by various government programs. That's the point of the matter.

CUOMO: Barbara, just to be clear this is not in any way to imply that Bilden has a problem or that anything was exposed. He's doing this, he's saying, look, I have very elaborate finances. It's complicated and I don't think I can satisfy you with divestment that isn't so rapid in an extreme in a way that it winds up jeopardizing what matters to me and my family. Fair enough, so how much of a surprise is this and how quickly will they find someone else do you think, Barbara?

STARR: Well, this is going back and forth for several weeks here. There have been rumors around the building and the Pentagon and the Navy that Mr. Bilden was in the same position somewhat as Mr. Viola and was going to pull out and then Secretary Mattis issued a statement saying no.

That he had some assurances that Philip Bilden was going to stick with it. Now it looks like he's not. So they're now going back to square one and looking for two key jobs, secretary of the Navy and secretary of the Army.

The two top civilian heads of these military branches involved in acquisition and involved in billions of dollars in purchasing and we're just over 24 hours away from the president announcing a huge increase in military spending that he wants and he needs civilians heads of these military branches to make his proposals go through Congress.

CUOMO: General --

HERTLING: And it's not just that, Chris, if I may, you're talking about the acquisition programs, but until you get the secretaries of the various services, you can't get the rest of the secretariat staff and there are over 400 political appointees inside the Pentagon that worked for the secretary of the Army and the secretary of the Navy. None of those have been appointed yet. So you're talking about that issue of civilian control of the military currently does not exist.

CUOMO: And a big priority for the White House is to deal with military spending and expand it. You want somebody in there to make the case for your branch obviously.

All right, let's switch topics here. The newest Gold Star parents that we know about obviously are going to be those of the chief from the Navy SEALs who has killed in this Yemen raid. His father, Owens, coming out and saying I want a real investigation. Don't use my son's death to hide from the investigative needs here.

General, you've dealt with this before. The grief has to be tremendous. This is such a huge loss to this family. The White House did use the death by saying anybody questions this situation is dishonoring that soldiers death. That politicized the death. What do you make of this latest development?

HERTLING: Well, Chris, first of all, yes, I have done this dozens of times talking to Gold Star parents who had lost their sons or daughters in combat. It is never easy and you never want to politicize it. There's always that grief that will certainly tinge their understanding of the situation. They lost their sons and daughter and it's never easy and you never want to points higher lit size it. There's always that grief that will hinge their understanding of the situation. They want more facts. The military is very good as Barbara reported last hour at conducting investigations.

There will be a 15-6 investigation it's called on the actual death of the soldier itself or the SEAL itself. There were also be the aircraft investigation and the death of civilians on the battlefield.

But those are all done by the military. Those are all done by code in the military and you get a better feel for how to conduct operations and what happens.

I had one case actually where a guy was killed and we thought it was because of the enemy fire. It turned out to be an (inaudible) incident after the investigation was completed. So those are tough. Those are always tough.

CUOMO: All right. Barbara as you reported, what the father wants isn't so much the military side of the investigation, he wants an investigation into how the White House made the decision to launch this raid and how that process went. We'll see if that happens. Thanks to both of you for the insight as always.

And thanks to you our international viewers for watching.