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Trump on Skipping White House Correspondents' Dinner: 'I'm Not a Hypocrite'; Trump to Address Joint Session of Congress; House Intelligence Committee Agrees on Scope of Trump-Russia Probe. Aired 7- 7:30a ET

Aired February 28, 2017 - 07:00   ET


ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: A lot of people liked that we could forget about it for a night, but I don't know that President Trump is wrong to sit this one out.

[07:00:11] BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: It's the moment for a reset. You know, throughout journalism, it's about going back to basics right now. And it's time to go back to basics for this dinner also.

CAMEROTA: Brian, Bill, thank you.

CUOMO: There is something to be said, though, by being decent enough to come and address the people that you take on, on a regular basis.

STELTER: That's the other side.

CUOMO: Always appreciate it.

Thanks to our international viewers. For you, CNN NEWSROOM is coming up right now. For our U.S. viewers, there's a lot of news. What do you say? Let's get after it.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER: We're looking forward to a positive upbeat presentation.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think you're going to like what you hear.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), MINORITY LEADER: If past is prologue, the president will use populist rhetoric in his speech, but he won't back it up with real action.

TRUMP: We're going to do more with less.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is a true America-first budget.

REP. DARRELL ISSA (R), CALIFORNIA: You're going to need to use the special prosecutor's statute.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: We haven't called in a single witness or reviewed a single document. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The only serious crimes we have are leaks that have come out of our government.

TRUMP: I think that President Obama is behind it. I also understand that's politics.


ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.

CUOMO: Good morning. Welcome to your NEW DAY. President Trump just hours away from a very, very big moment, his first speech before a joint session of Congress. This is his chance to start again and lay out a vision for the American people.

The White House says the president is going to be optimistic. He's going to offer real solutions. The question is a political one at this point. Can the president sell his Congress and his budget and health care plans, even to his own party.

CAMEROTA: Meanwhile, President Trump is blaming Barack Obama for some of the damaging leaks that are plaguing his administration and for being behind those rowdy town halls. All of this as lawmakers spar over investigating the Trump campaign's alleged ties to Russia. We're now in day 40 of the Trump presidency. Let's begin with CNN Washington correspondent Joe Johns. He is live at the White House.

Good morning, Joe.


This first address to Congress, a great opportunity for President Trump to rise above the daily drama and the swirl here at the White House and take his message directly to Congress and the American people. We are certainly expecting some specifics, some policy guidance, but with this president, he's been so unpredictable for so long, it's really difficult to say what to expect.


JOHNS (voice-over): The White House says President Trump's speech will lay out an optimistic vision and bold agenda. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle looking for the president to outline specifics on the many campaign promises that got him elected.

TRUMP: This budget will be a public safety and national security budget.

JOHNS: The president unveiling his budget outline Monday, which aims to boost defense spending by $54 billion--

TRUMP: We're going to spend a lot more money on military. We really have to. We have no choice. And a lot of people think it's a tremendous amount of money. It could be, actually, $30 million, $30 billion more than that.

JOHNS: -- while slashing other government departments, like the EPA and State Department, with a big focus on cutting foreign aid.

TRUMP: We're going to do more with less and make the government lean.

JOHNS: Democrats say the president faces an uphill, nearly impossible battle.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I), VERMONT: The priorities they are pushing are way out of touch.

JOHNS: President Trump's budget outline doesn't touch Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, which puts him at odds with House Speaker Paul Ryan, who wants Congress to tackle entitlement programs.

The president also facing mounting pressure to deliver specifics on how he will repeal and replace Obamacare. But Mr. Trump now admits that it's unbelievably complex.

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

JOHNS: Meanwhile, President Trump is pointing the finger at his predecessor, without evidence, for White House leaks.

TRUMP: I think that President Obama's behind it, because his people are certainly behind it.

JOHNS: And for scenes like this--




JOHNS: -- at town halls for Republican lawmakers across the country--

TRUMP: I also understand that's politics. And in terms of him being behind things, that's politics. And it will probably continue.


JOHNS: Also today, in advance of the speech, what could be a very interesting moment, given the back and forth between the president and the media. He's supposed to sit down with the anchors of the big TV networks, as well as representatives of some smaller and very influential networks like Christian Broadcasting and Telemundo -- Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Yes, it will be fascinating to see how that luncheon goes, Joe. Thank you very much for the preview of all this.

Meanwhile, lawmakers are trying to figure out how to move forward with congressional investigations of the Trump campaign's alleged ties to Russia. The House Intelligence Committee is agreeing on the scope of a probe, even as the Republicans and Democrats differ on what has been uncovered so far.

[07:05:06] CNN's Sunlen Serfaty has more for us, live on Capitol Hill. What have you learned, Sunlen?


Well, the investigation up here on the Hill is starting to come together. You have members of the House Intel Committee, who have now signed off on a plan to look at any contacts between the Trump campaign and Russian officials.

But going into this, there is a big split of opinion. You have the top Democrat on the committee, the top Republican on the committee both leading this probe, who are basically giving contradictory views on what they found so far.


SERFATY (voice-over): Devin Nunes, the Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, says there is no evidence of contacts between President Trump's campaign and Russia during the 2016 race.

REP. DEVIN NUNES (R), CHAIRMAN, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Right now I don't have -- I don't have any evidence that would -- of any phone calls.

SERFATY: But the top Democrat on that committee, Adam Schiff, calls that verdict premature.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), RANKING MEMBER, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: We have, I think, reached no conclusion, nor could we in terms of issues of collusion, because we haven't called in a single witness or reviewed a single document on that issue as of yet.

SERFATY: One thing the committee agrees upon: investigating any connection between Trump's campaign and Russian officials and leaks coming from government and intelligence officials.

NUNES: No one is focusing on major leaks that have occurred here. We can't run a government like this.

SERFATY: As calls grow for an independent prosecutor to investigate potential ties to Russia.

SCHIFF: If we get to the point where there's a criminal referral, then yes, I think the attorney general has to recuse himself.

SERFATY: Republican congressman and Trump supporter Darrell Issa joining those who say Jeff Sessions can't lead the probe.

REP. DARRELL ISSA (R), CALIFORNIA: You're going to need to use the special prosecutor's statute.

SERFATY: Issa doubling down in a new statement, saying, quote, "Right now we have speculation and assumptions, but not clarity and fact. Any review conducted must have the full confidence of the American people."

The president dismissing questions about a special prosecutor. TRUMP: I haven't called Russia in ten years.

SERFATY: A bizarre response, considering Mr. Trump spoke to Russian President Vladimir Putin just a few weeks ago.

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: How many people have to say that there's nothing there before you realize there's nothing there?

SERFATY: White House press secretary Sean Spicer zealously defending the president, Spicer even leading the White House crackdown on internal leaks. Sources telling CNN that the president signed off on checking aides' cell phones to make certain they weren't texting reporters or using encrypted apps during an emergency meeting last week. But Spicer denies the president was involved in that decision.

TRUMP: I would have handled it differently than Sean, but Sean handles it, and I'm OK with it.


SERFATY: And Attorney General Jeff Sessions for the first time speaking out about those calls for him to recuse himself in the Russia probe, Sessions telling reporters overnight, "I will recuse myself from anything I should recuse myself from," but not offering any more specifics or anything more definitive than that -- Chris.

CUOMO: All right, Sunlen, thank you very much. The president's there. They're saying he's OK with it. Our reporting is he signed off on it.

So let's now discuss what's going on today and tonight with Republican Congressman Scott Taylor of Virginia. He serves on the House Appropriations Committee and is an Iraq War vet.

Always a pleasure to have you on the show, sir.

REP. SCOTT TAYLOR (R), VIRGINIA: Good morning, Chris. Thanks for having me.

CUOMO: All right. So this is a huge night for the president. First address to a joint session of Congress, a chance to reset, put out his vision, be positive. The big political question going into it is, do you believe he has his party, including the Tea Party faction behind him, with these budget priorities that may wind up being a kick to the -- a kick to the deficit?

TAYLOR: Well, it's an excellent question. I think it's high stakes for him tonight. I'm an optimist, so I hope that he performs well. That's good for the country if that happens. It's difficult, as you very well know, to get everybody on the same page, but I'm optimistic that we'll get something that will come out, even if there is a negotiation which always happens, of course, moving forward.

So he may not have them all right now, but I think we can get something together and move forward as a country. CUOMO: The big block is that, as you know, the Tea Party, the deficit

hawks, they want everything paid for. A big tax cut is addition by subtraction to the deficit. It's great for the taxpayers who get the tax cut, but it may not be the best fiscal move, especially for a deficit hawk, if it's not paid for dollar for dollar. Does not wind up making wanting to put a lot of money into the military or infrastructure very difficult with that group of Republicans as a sell?

TAYLOR: Well, listen, as you know, I'm honored to serve the district that has the most military veterans and active duty of anyone in the nation, so it's a big issue for me, because we see it first-hand. We see issues that, you know, when lawmakers couldn't come together and we had sequestration, which is indiscriminate budget cuts that hurts maintenance and hurts deployment. It hurts training. It hurts readiness, and it's really devastated our readiness as a national security apparatus.

So that being said, those budget caps have got to be lifted. But listen, I'm a budget hawk, and -- and a defense hawk. And I think that we can thread the needle. I think we can thread a needle to get cuts where we need it. The last segment, I think leading into this segment, they were talking about foreign aid. We still deliver foreign aid as though we're supplanting communism in the Cold War.

No one even knows that we're most of the time, in these countries, and I've seen it first-hand. They don't even know about our generosity. I mean, we have to change how we do that. I think we can tighten the belt on a lot of different agencies, as well, too. Defense has taken the brunt of this over the last eight years. And we've got to get our maintenance and everything back -- restored as a military.

I think we can thread the needle. Army has 30 percent of surplus infrastructure. So that has to be on the chopping block. So again, I'm a budget hawk and a military hawk. I think we can thread the needle. I think that we can look at programs that may not address threats today and tomorrow that are very big and excess infrastructure and look for cost savings.

CUOMO: McCain says the president says he's going to boost our military. He's not delivering. Three percent, $18.5 billion. He says it's not enough, that it's a hollow promise. Do you agree with McCain?

TAYLOR: Well, with all due respect to the senator who has been here longer than I have, of course, and I've listened to on him, as well, you know, it's a start and something is better than nothing. We've got to get this military apparatus and national security apparatus back functioning.

And that being said, where I would differ with Senator McCain a little bit is exactly what I just said. Looking at excess infrastructure that the Army says they don't need and looking at programs that are potentially -- you've got to give kudos to the president. He saved a lot of money helping out with the F-35 program. We've got to look at those programs to say, "Hey, are we using our money in the best way possible?"

And then you can thread the needle and get some of the budget hawks over on your side to help restate this military apparatus.

CUOMO: Another big part of fiscal planning is going to be health care. Now, we just had Representative Burgess on. As you know, he's one of the House members, Republican who's trying to architect this plan. He would not say what seems to be a reality, which is the current Republican plans -- and there are various ones -- do not guarantee coverage to all Americans. Is that true?

TAYLOR: Well, as you know, Chris, we've never been for universal health care for single payer. And you're correct. There are different plans, and there is diversity within our conference.

And you know, I think that's a good thing. This is a big deal. And health care is a huge deal for families across the nation. So we should be methodical and deliberate and have, you know, vigorous debate and conversations within our own conference and with Democrats to make sure that we get this right.

We're helping Democrats, because this is a failing law. But at the same time, you know, we have to do something for the American people, because that's leadership.

CUOMO: Failing is a defined term. It's got problems. You have premium spikes. You have inefficient markets. You've got lots of things that could be addressed. No question.

But I think that there is no secret why the idea of a mandate, if the mandate goes away, if everybody doesn't have to get coverage, the cost of health cares are going to really sky-rocket, and you're going to have to find the money to replace it.

Access to care is not a guarantee of coverage. And there seems to be dancing around that, and you are not a dancer.

TAYLOR: I'm not a danger.

CUOMO: And I want to hear it from you straight, because Burgess wouldn't give it to us straight. Right now it's not about single payer, universal. It's whether or not everybody will get coverage. You're saying no.

TAYLOR: I'm saying that there's going to be access to coverage. Look, you said I'm not a dancer. I'm not a dancer. You wouldn't want me on your show dancing. That's for sure. But, you know, things are still -- things are still getting worked out. And again, I think that is a good thing. And I would encourage and urge our Democrat counterparts.

Listen, I listened to my senator, Mark Warner on his re-election talk about the big problems with the ACA. Let's get it -- let's get it fixed. Let's work together for the American people. And if they're just saying no, no, no, that means they don't have a seat at the table, which means the American people and their health care don't have a seat at the table.

CUOMO: The reason that access is different than coverage is -- and you know this -- is that as soon as you make that shift to access, people are going to lose coverage. You're going to have a lot of people lose coverage on the lower income levels, many of whom voted for President Trump in states that turned this election. So we don't want to leave anybody behind. That's a deal. You can't bring everyone with you if you don't give care to everyone.

TAYLOR: What I'm saying to you, Chris, is I believe that we can do it better. I think that we can actually reduce the cost curve, which the ACA clearly does not. Listen, the vast majority of people, in my district, I've asked them. And the vast majority of people who were for the ACA, who were worried about pre-existing conditions. We support that.

And I co-sponsored a bill that says that we will -- we will deal with people with pre-existing conditions. My mother has a pre-existing condition. Sorry, Mom.

But on the other side, the -- you have to -- most people are getting killed. Working families, the premiums are skyrocketing. They're making tough decisions. Sometimes -- and I've seen these -- they've brought to my town halls. Their premiums are as much as mortgage payments. And that's a big deal, man. We've got to get relief. And I urge Democrats to come to the table with Republicans to make sure that we do the best thing for the American people that we can.

CUOMO: That was on you, not me, by the way. I take enough heat. Be well. I'll see you soon.

All right. So please, stay with CNN for President Trump's first address to a joint session of Congress tonight. The stakes are very high. Live coverage begins at 8 p.m. Eastern -- Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: All right, Chris. Now an update on the North Korean murder mystery. Two women suspected of poisoning North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's half-brother will face murder charges this week. Malaysia's attorney general says a third suspect is being investigated. South Korean intelligence suggests the North Korean leader ordered this assassination of his estranged half-brother. South Korean lawmakers also say five other North Korean officials have been executed by anti- aircraft guns. It is believed the government executed them for making false reports to Kim Jong-un.

CUOMO: Investigators are trying to determine what caused a small plane to crash in a Southern California neighborhood. Take a look at the surveillance video. This is the moment the plane goes down in Riverside. Fire and thick black smoke are going to start pouring from the site. The plane slamming into two houses. Three of the five people on board died. It's amazing that not all five were gone. No one on the ground was hurt. That may be the most amazing part of this.

CAMEROTA: An update now to the epic Oscar screw-up. PricewaterhouseCoopers identifying the man, Brian Cullinan as the accountant who handed Warren Beatty the wrong envelope before Beatty announced the Best Picture winner erroneously. The accounting firm says Cullinan was tweeting backstage just before the mistake.

The company issuing a second apology Monday, saying we failed the academy and taking full responsibility for breaches of established protocol. Can you imagine somebody tweeting while they were supposed to be doing their job?

CUOMO: I think it depends on if that is actually part of your job. For him it isn't. You were talking about the president of the United States. You should have the guts to say him by name, and I would.

CAMEROTA: Can you imagine the screw-ups if somebody is distracted tweeting while they're supposed to be doing their job?

CUOMO: Or that equally could apply to me, by the way.

CAMEROTA: Are you kidding me?

CUOMO: Look, you know, was that part of Cullinan's job? You know, and our job is to communicate and interface with people. I wonder why they called him out by name. That's a good question. Would you if you were his employer?

CAMEROTA: Somebody's head had to roll. We knew that.

CUOMO: All right. That's a good insta-poll question for you guys. Were they right to throw Cullinan under the bus?

CAMEROTA: Tweet us.

CUOMO: What do you think?

So weather news for us. The eastern United States is bracing for a wild temperature swing. You've got a big warm-up that is expected to spark severe storms. Even the good news can be bad news. CNN meteorologist Chad Myers tells us why. Why, my friend, why?

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Chris, because the calendar says winter, but Mother Nature thinks spring. And it's just so on warm out there in so many spots. This weather is brought to you by Purina. Your pet, your passion.

There will be severe weather this afternoon and this evening across parts of the eastern half of the country. Temperatures are going to be in the SC, even 60 in Chicago. Shouldn't be anywhere near that. That's the fuel to the fire that will cause the severe weather to pop up anywhere from Chicago to St. Louis. And some of these storms with the potential for tornadoes will be after dark.

Those are always the most dangerous. Look at D.C. Tomorrow you go 77. And by the end of the week, 47. So a 30-degree temperature drop. Here is what the map looks like for today.

Here's what the severe weather is. Chicago, Indianapolis, St. Louis all the way down to Little Rock. That's the buffer zone. That's the area that we really want you to watch out if you live there. Or West Virginia, Kentucky, all the way down to Nashville tomorrow -- Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Chad, thank you very much for all of that.

Well, President Trump vows to repeal and replace Obamacare, but he says it's complicated. In fact, he now says no one knew how complicated it could be. We will ask the governor who just met with the president about this. What he thinks is next.



[07:23:12] TRUMP: I have to tell you, it's an unbelievably complex subject. Nobody knew that health care could be so complicated.


CAMEROTA: That was President Trump, conceding that replacing the Affordable Care Act is complicated. The president making that statement in a meeting with governors on Monday, and one of those governors joins us now.

He's the Democratic governor, Jay Inslee, of Washington state. He is also the incoming chair of the Democratic Governors' Association. Governor, great to have you here in the studio.

GOV. JAY INSLEE (D), WASHINGTON: It's nice to be here. Thanks for having me.

CAMEROTA: Great to have you. It's no Bellingham, Washington. But it is--

INSLEE: NO, but it will do. We're still helping the country lead the way, and we are leading the way in our state in health care and everywhere else.

CAMEROTA: OK. Let's talk about that. Let's talk about health care. What did you think when you heard -- you met with President Trump. When you heard him say that, wow, replacing the Affordable Care Act will be more complicated than anybody knew.

INSLEE: I think that, when you get into an airplane, and you look at the cockpit and you see the pilot, saying, "Boy, look at all these gauges. This is really complicated," you know you have a problem.

And we have a big problem here because the president, basically, has tried to tell us that whatever is coming -- and we don't know what's coming, because they don't know what is coming. It's confusion wrapped around chaos right now. He said that he won't take away people's coverage.

But during this weekend what we found out is a very good analysis by neutral economists find out this is going to take away coverage from people. It would take away 60,000 people's health insurance is in my state. We've had 20,000 is cancer survivors get cancer treatment because of the Affordable Care Act. And this is going to take away people's coverage.

CAMEROTA: Did you tell the president that?

INSLEE: I told that to Dr. Price twice. I had two conversations with him, and I showed him--

CAMEROTA: He's one of the architects of, supposedly, the new plan--


CAMEROTA: -- that will be unwrapped (ph) in the next two weeks, they say.

INSLEE: Yes. So--

CAMEROTA: And what did he say when you say there's 60,000 people in my state that are going to lose coverage?

INSLEE: So I showed Dr. Price this review that was done on behalf of the National Governors' Association. This is the bipartisan group.

[07:25:06] And a review presented at that group showed that that would take about 60,000 people's insurance and rip it away from them in my state. And I said, "We are not going to allow that in my state. This is so important to our people's physical health and fiscal security." And I said, "Can you can give us assurance this is not going to happen?" He could not give us that assurance.

And I think this late date when they've voted 40 times to take Obamacare and as yet have voted once to have any replacement is very, very disturbing. So this is an important moment. We need to stand up and say we're not going to yield on this. We're not going to give up. And Republicans and Democrats have to both give the Americans assurance that they're not going to let this travesty hurt our health care.

CAMEROTA: As you know, Democrats in Congress don't have a big hand to play. So if, in two weeks, Congressman Price comes up with a replacement plan and it does affect your constituents, then what?

INSLEE: Well, actually, Democrats can have a role to play, because what is happening right now, Republicans are having a head-on collision with reality.

For years and years and years, they thought they could preserve the very popular parts of this law that will protect us against discrimination based on pre-existing conditions; to allow all our kids to remain on our insurance. And they thought they could do this and still save money. They still want to save the money, but you cannot take all this money out of healthcare, put it into tax cuts for wealthy, which is the real desire her.

The effort here is not to improve health. It's just to have a piggybank to give tax cuts to the wealthy. And what they have found out is you can't do that. They're running into reality.

But the Democrats, some Democrat vote is probably going to be needed to do whatever replaces Obamacare. And yes, maybe there's improvements. Improvements might be appropriate. But do not take away health care for Americans.

CAMEROTA: So just to be clear: when you met with the president and you're using -- you're likening it to seeing a pilot who doesn't understand all the controls, you did not feel that he had his arms around any coherent plan?

INSLEE: No, I have zero confidence in that. In part because the president has never addressed the real subject matter here. He continues to shuck and jive, if you will, about the specifics of this. And at this late date, not to have a plan that he can articulate is very, very disturbing, NO. 1.

No. 2 to have the architect of the White House, which is Dr. Price, be unable to assure us governors, Republicans and Democrats alike, that they would not take away people's health insurance, that is a red warning sign; and the red flags are going up big time in this effort.

CAMEROTA: I want to ask you also about what we expect will be announced tomorrow and that is the new and improved Trump travel ban. Yours was the first state to sue the Trump administration over the last travel ban that you didn't feel was constitutional. What do you expect from the new travel ban?

INSLEE: Well, we don't know yet. This is an extremely unpredictable president, so we don't know what to predict. But we are going to stand up for our businesses so that they can do business and sell our high-tech products around the globe. And we're going to stand up and fight any -- every effort to intrude on our businesses. We're going to fight any effort to stop researchers from traveling to do great research. We have researchers trying to cure AIDS that have been prevented from moving about -- into our country.

CAMEROTA: So there were researchers who were trying to cure AIDS, who were stopped at the airport and sent back?

INSLEE: We had a researcher during HIV research at the University of Washington. They were stopped from coming back to do that research. We had a World Health Organization keynote speaker at the University of Washington coming to give the key note speech who was sent back. And because of our lawsuit, I'm glad Washington is standing up. And it's led the country, in many ways. And we're leading the country again on this. We were able to get this researcher in doing great work.

CAMEROTA: It's day 40 of the Trump presidency. So of course, the chattering class in Washington, D.C., is already talking about 2020 and who will be running. Are you considering a run in 2020?

INSLEE: I'm committed to being governor. I've said this. The only better job than the one I have -- I love this job of the great state of Washington -- would to take Russell Wilson's job as quarterback of the Seattle Seahawks. So I'm sticking with this. Thanks for asking, though.

CAMEROTA: Governor Inslee, thanks so much.

INSLEE: Thanks very much.

CAMEROTA: Great to talk to you.

INSLEE: You bet.

CAMEROTA: We have a programming note for you. CNN will host a town hall tomorrow with Republican senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham. Our Dana Bash will moderate this conversation. It will be, of course, on the key issues facing the country and their thoughts on how to get through them. So join us tomorrow night, 9 p.m. Eastern -- Chris.

CUOMO: All right. Ohio taking matters into its own hands. Is there voter fraud? They answer that question. Then they answer the more important question. How much and what can be done about it? Ohio's secretary of state joins us next.