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Obamacare Fight; Grading Trump. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired March 1, 2017 - 15:00   ET



BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Hi there. I'm Brianna Keilar, in for Brooke Baldwin.

And we begin with breaking news. Sources are telling CNN top foreign policy advisers, these ones right here, to President Trump are urging the White House to remove Iraq from the list of banned countries in its new executive order.

The first travel ban was stayed by the courts, you may recall. This designated a temporary ban of citizens from Iraq and then these six other Muslim majority nations.

Let's get right to CNN White House correspondent Sara Murray.

Sara, why Iraq? And I also understand you have breaking news coming to us out of the White House there.

SARA MURRAY, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: First, let's talk about this travel ban, because the president is, you know, hearing this from some of his senior advisers, his secretary of state, his national security adviser, suggesting to him that Iraq should not be part of this travel ban, in large part because of their role in helping to fight ISIS.

Now, we have yet to see what the new travel ban is going to look like. We were expecting it today. The White House punted on that because. They sort of wanted to bask in the glory of the positive reviews of the president's speech and they haven't set a new timeline, Brianna.

Today, Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, was asked what the new timeline would be. And he dodged questions on that and didn't lay out what the new time frame would be.

It's unclear when we're going to see sort of the decision falls on this. But on another issue, on the issue of immigration more broadly, we have seen the president sort of to a lot of pivots in the last even 24 hours. He had his lunch with television anchors, where he suggested that now is the time for comprehensive immigration reform, that he would be open to a path to legal status and that that would be something that would come up in his speech to Congress.

Well, immigration reform did come up in his speech to Congress, but he hit on very different points when he was speaking in front of that audience, talking about how he wanted to cut low-skilled immigration, how he essentially wants to move away from family immigration and focus more on skilled immigrants, focus more on border security.

These are more of the immigration talking points that appeal to some of the harder-line folks that might be better received by Republicans in that audience. And a senior administration official describes this to me as sort of a misdirection play, a way for the president to get positive press in part out of this lunch, but also to speak to whatever group he's in front of at the moment and give them what they want.

He may have felt like the path to legal status would be more appealing or better received in an audience of anchors than he felt like it would be received in front of this joint address of Congress, which, again, brings us to the question of what does the president actually believe on immigration reform and what is he prepared to do from this White House?

Is this something we could see him championing? As of right now, I think their focus is clearly on health care reform, tax reform. But we will see. Maybe it's something that they could pop up later down the line, Brianna.

KEILAR: We saw Republicans up on the Hill do a double-take when they heard about the pathway to legal status yesterday. So maybe not surprising with the change. All right, Sara Murray at the White House, thank you so much for that.

We're going to talk now about President Trump and Republican lawmakers huddling together over lunch today about how to repeal and replace Obamacare, as they have promised. We have just learned that their focus today is how to sell the plan and get it through Congress.

I want to get now to CNN congressional correspondent Phil Mattingly. He's on Capitol Hill for us.

What are you hearing, Phil, from Republicans about their concerns over the current House GOP plan?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We're currently trying to define, Brianna, what an endorsement actually is if one actually occurred last night.

Speaker Ryan, absolutely, the president in his remarks about Obamacare endorsed what House Republican leadership is pushing as their plan, most notably, refundable tax credits. Brianna, that's an issue has really started to hang up conservatives, who don't like the idea or are opposed to the idea, think that it will end up becoming a large federal program somewhat akin to Obamacare actually.

That's not what they leadership wants them to think, obviously. And I think the key issue here right now is conservatives. I just spoke with Senator Ted Cruz. He said he did not take is as an endorsement. His concerns still stand.

But at that meeting today with congressional leaders, with President Trump, the big issue was, how can they work together to actually move this forward? And we're starting to see some of that happen behind the scenes.

Health and Services Secretary Tom Price, obviously a former House member, a very conservative former House member who led their health reform plans while he was in the House, has started reaching out to some of those skeptical conservatives, trying to assuage their concerns, trying to make clear that it was, in fact, an endorsement last night of the House Republican leadership plan.


And we also heard from that meeting with House lawmakers and the president today that as they work forward on this, President Trump is going to get more involved. I have spoken to senior administration officials who have assured me that that's going to happen soon, there will be speeches and there will be public rallies related to moving this process forward.

But I think a key issue is not necessarily just how the public views this effort, but also those skeptical lawmakers. It's one thing to say you're opposed to what Speaker Ryan is going to do. It's another thing when the president calls you, and he's very popular in your district, and tells you to get behind Speaker Ryan, to maintain that opposition.

And I think when I talk to House Republican leadership aides, they make clear that at some point President Trump is going to have to do just that. That was exactly what was discussed at this closed-door meeting at the White House today , making it clear President Trump is ready to ramp up his effort both publicly and behind the scenes to make sure Republicans move on this.

A really crucial point here, Brianna, is even though conservatives have some hangups and have some issues with Speaker Ryan's broad proposal that they're not necessarily sure they want to move forward with, when it comes to repealing and replacing Obamacare, this is the train.

And it's moving. If they're opposed to it, this is their one shot. Republican leaders willing to take the risk that their plan is going to work, because, frankly, there's no other alternative at this point.

KEILAR: Well, Phil, one of the big hangups is just the tax credit, what is a subsidy from the federal government to help people based on income to purchase health insurance.

And you have Republicans who say, I don't want that, that's an entitlement. And then you have Republicans who say if we get rid of that, we're in big trouble, because we're taking a benefit away from people and they're going to be outraged at us.

But isn't it that you're either going to have a tax credit or you don't have the tax credit and someone's going to get sort of hung out to dry here?

MATTINGLY: That's essentially the position of leadership right now. This is in the plan. The refundable tax credit is going to be in the

House plan. There are certainly ways they can massage it and perhaps broaden it out a little bit. But conservatives that are opposed to the refundable tax credit are going to have to essentially grin and bear it, because it's going to be in there.

And I think the question right now comes right now as Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price starts reaching out to his former colleagues, as President Trump starts reaching out to those individuals as well, if they say, look, this is the plan, this is moving forward, will those conservatives start to fall in line?

The calculation by leadership is yes. Those conservatives, they haven't quite fallen in line yet, Brianna.

KEILAR: Phil Mattingly, thank you so much.

Let's have a bigger conversation now about this.

With me now, Matthew Continetti. He's the editor of "The Washington Free Beacon." And CNN political analyst Abby Phillip, who's also a reporter for "The Washington Post."

I want to talk about immigration in just a moment, because that's another big thing. We're hearing yesterday that the president talked about a pathway to legal status. Maybe now that's not where he's at.

But let's talk about Obamacare, which we just discussed with Phil Mattingly.

Abby, are Republicans who are not in line with this plan, will they respond if President Trump calls them and says, hey, this is where you need to be?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think some of them certainly will, for the reasons that Phil outlined, that they're running in districts that Donald Trump did extremely well.

Donald Trump is the leader of the Republican Party right now. His base is their base. But, on the other hand, there are definitely some Republicans who will not go along with this. Even if some don't go along with this, it will have a really hard time getting through Congress.

This was signaled not too long ago by House Speaker John Boehner, who knows the Republican Caucus very well. He said Republicans have never agreed on how to move forward and fix health care. And that remains true.

The refundable tax credit is a central part of this plan. This is one of the few things that will allow the Republicans to achieve coverage levels that are similar to what Obamacare achieves right now. It also will help to keep insurance companies afloat and to cover people who need to be covered, especially if they're going to keep preexisting conditions. Without it, I think the whole house of cards falls apart. And so

Republicans are going to push really, really hard. But some of these folks, including some people who are now on Trump's side, have spent years and years railing against plans like this, so it's going to be very, very difficult.


Matthew, this is -- it's the crux of Obamacare. So, if you don't get rid of it, are you really getting rid of Obamacare?

MATTHEW CONTINETTI, EDITOR IN CHIEF, "THE WASHINGTON FREE BEACON": Well, I think it's important that you have some type of plan to replace Obamacare.

And that's certainly the feeling on leadership in the House and the Senate. And it seems like that is the feeling coming from the White House as well, President Trump slowly walking up to basically embracing the Ryan/Price plan in his speech to Congress yesterday.

We were missing a plan and then we were missing the president. But now that the president is involved, I think the chances for some type of repeal and replace are great.

KEILAR: But if there's a repeal, doesn't it have to actually appeal the key tenets of Obamacare? Isn't it just Obamacare by another name if you keep the tax credit?


CONTINETTI: I don't think so.

The way that Obamacare works, those are subsidies. This is an individual tax credit to individuals. So it's used to be paid for their insurance plans.

So I think the operation of the program is different, though it's a bridge too far for many small government conservatives. The key question is when President Trump does that person-to-person contact and starts operating like he's used to and kind of the wheeling and dealing of real estate politics, right now, he's going to go in there into the Republican Caucus.

He's going to have tradeoffs. He's going to have negotiations. AT least now we have a baseline from which he can operate.

KEILAR: Yes, maybe twist some arms there. I think we expect that.

Abby, I think you probably heard Sara Murray's report. She was talking about how the president as of yesterday appeared to be on board with a comprehensive immigration plan that would have included a pathway to legal status, not to citizenship, to legal status.

But, still, speaking of bridges too far, a lot of Republicans were saying, what? That's not something we would like to see. And now we're hearing from Sara Murray that her sources are telling her this may have been a misdirection play on immigration. What do you make of that?

PHILLIP: Well, it's not uncommon for the president to go into meetings with people and come out of those meetings with those folks believing that the president agrees with them on one issue or another.

This is the second time in a couple of weeks he's done virtually the same thing. He's gone into a meeting with Democrats and said, hey, why don't you guys look at that Gang of Eight bill again, even though he opposes the Gang of Eight bill and his administration opposes the Gang of Eight bill?

That being said, I do think the president at some point potentially would not be opposed to revisiting comprehensive immigration reform, especially if, in the course of a negotiation, he can achieve, like what his advisers Steve Bannon and Stephen Miller want, reductions in legal immigration, in addition to a resolution to the problem of undocumented people in this country.

But, at the same time, there is no evidence that the White House is prepared to move the ball forward, to go to Congress and say get me a plan. Until that happens, I think this is mostly talk.

KEILAR: Matthew Continetti, Abby Phillip, thanks, guys.

Next, the emotional moments when the widow of a Navy SEAL killed in the deadly Yemen raid was honored by Congress. Hear what happened after the speech.

Plus, CNN's Van Jones said this was the moment that Trump became presidential. His fellow Democrats do not agree. They disagree a lot, in fact. Van and Angela Rye joining me live.

And breaking news from the Pentagon, we're getting word that Russia has accidentally bombed U.S.-backed forces inside of Syria. This is major breaking news. We are going to getting details. We will bring them to you after a quick break.



KEILAR: One of the president's harshest critics is praising his speech.

CNN political commentator Van Jones is applauding what he calls the moment Trump became presidential. Trump dedicated part of his speech to honoring fallen Navy SEAL Ryan Owens. He was killed during a recent military raid in Yemen.

And his wife, Carryn, seated next to first daughter Ivanka Trump, overcome with emotion.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: "Ryan was a part of a highly successful raid that generated large amounts of vital intelligence that will lead to many more victories in the future against our enemies." Ryan's legacy is etched into eternity."

Thank you.


TRUMP: And Ryan is looking down right now. You know that. And he's very happy, because I think he just broke a record.


TRUMP: Ryan laid down his life for his friends, for his country and for our freedom. And we will never forget Ryan.



KEILAR: And Van Jones joining me now. Also with me, CNN political commentator Angela Rye.

So, Van, you said that this -- quote -- "That was one of the most extraordinary moments" you have ever seen in American politics.


VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, because of the ability for the emotionality to connect with the political agenda of Donald Trump.

Usually, the emotions that he's playing on are very dark, very fear- based. What I think liberals have to take away from it is that the virus is mutating. He's developing new weaponry that I don't think liberals expected him to be able to develop so quickly.

Most of his speeches are terrible. You have Twitter Trump, which is terrible, and then you have teleprompter Trump, which is barely any better. This was an effective speech. He was able to do things you haven't seen him do before.


His agenda is still just as awful. His speech was still full of lies and the same kind of stuff he always does, but he now has a set of weapons you have not seen him do before. If he starts doing this kind of thing, instead of the crazy rallies, over and over again, you begin to create problems for Democrats that I don't think they're ready for.

KEILAR: Do you agree, Angela, with Van that this was presidential?

ANGELA RYE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I definitely don't think this is presidential.

It could be that I just don't understand the standard that we're using. If by presidential, we're talking about becoming a leader on the world stage, one that Americans everywhere could be hopeful about and supportive of, then I think the answer is a resounding no. Donald Trump took 61 minutes to tell 51 lies. And they're not just

lies about his record.


KEILAR: What about that specific moment that we're talking about?

RYE: Sure. I think that that just demonstrates his ability to be a decent human being, but I don't think that overall, his speech, his joint address to Congress, demonstrates his ability, nor was it presidential.

Again, I think we have to go back to the fact that he talked about creating jobs that he did not create. He talks about this wonderful record he has had so far while he's been office that pales in comparison to my president, Barack Obama.

So, I think, again, when he talk about the standard of being presidential, he's not met that standard. And I'm not willing to give him a pass because the bar is low.


JONES: Listen, I appreciate the passion.

Part of the thing is President Obama set a standard as far as I'm concerned that's not likely to be met soon.

RYE: That's fair.

JONES: I don't think President Obama is the standard.

We have had some great presidents, and we've had some awful presidents, and then we have President Trump. The problem you have with President Trump is President Trump has not even touched -- until now has not even touched the shoe of the worst of them.

And suddenly, though, I think Democrats have expected he was going to stay that bad. So much of what the liberals have made an issue of isn't just his agenda, but it's his temperament and his tone and his team. He now seems to have developed a team that since that awful inaugural address, that carnage address, has now been able to come up with a different playbook for public addresses.

Everybody got mad at me for saying this, but I'm going to tell you, watch the bounce he gets out of that speech and watch how he starts to use a different playbook. Liberals are going to have to -- we're going to have to reset. He's not always going to just hand us opportunities to go after him.

If he starts to improve his performance like that, liberals are going to have to reset how we deal with this guy.


RYE: Go ahead, Brianna. KEILAR: Go on, Angela.

I guess is it undeniable, as Van is saying, that this was just a better Trump and that is a challenge to Democrats?

RYE: No. I think it was a different Trump. And he's demonstrated his ability to read off of a teleprompter before.

I think that Van is right that we shouldn't expect that he's going to be as predictable as maybe we once thought he was. Shame on us if any of us thought he was anything but predictable.

But I think the reality of it is, the same day that he delivered this address is the same day he signed an executive order that makes our waterways far more treacherous. And Flint is still an issue.

The same day that he delivered this address, Jeff Sessions was talking about dialing back on lawsuits against police departments that have harmed black and brown bodies. This is within a week of them saying they're going to federally come after folks who use utilize recreational marijuana in states where it's legal.

This is the same Donald Trump. And regardless of if he's screaming or he's trolling media on Twitter, this is the same one. So, we have to recognize the tone, but recognize it's not the message. It's the policy. And that's what we have to continue to fight against.

And we have to be woke. We can't be distracted by the tone at all.

JONES: Let me say a couple of things here.

It's liberals that have made an issue of two things, both his policies, which are terrible, and his tone, which is often terrible. What you see now is, he is showing he can address the tone question.

It's liberals who -- so now all I'm saying is, listen, you now have potentially a prettier wrapper on the same poison, and so you can't say, as liberals have been saying, his tone is terrible, his temperament is terrible, and then when it changes, say, well, it doesn't matter.

All I'm trying to point out to liberals is if we thought we were going to get a twofer, terrible policy and terrible delivery, we may be in a different environment. What does that mean?

First of all, it means I think the liberals have not internalized some realities here. He is collapsing with liberals. It's true. Liberals -- 20 percent down to 12 percent. But he is actually holding strong with Republicans, 90-plus percent. And independents are moving his way even before the speech.


The liberal momentum that we have that we're so proud of, with the rallies, with the town halls, with the airports is not yet translating to a breakup of his support with even independents. And that was before this speech. All I'm saying is, listen, when I

say he's presidential, that's frankly a bare standard. I'm not saying he's George Washington or Barack Obama. But I'm saying he did crack now that bare standard, and we're going to have to take him more seriously. That's all I'm saying.

RYE: Yes, and I'm not doubting the fact that we need to take him more seriously. I think that we also need to be aware that he's just as dangerous regardless of how he speaks.


JONES: He's more dangerous.

RYE: Agreed, Van.

I agree with you on that point. And I wonder, what is our obligation then to tell the truth about what he is saying? The fact that it's exactly the same, it does not matter what the tone is. I have not been a tone person. I have been all about what he says and the impact of what he says.

So, him and this Muslim ban that he says is not a Muslim ban, that he tells the courts I'm going to see you in court, they're going to maybe take out Iraq and it's still just as treacherous.

We just have to still acknowledge the dangerous nature of the words that he speaks and the policies that they hope to push forward.

JONES: Listen, you and I are in complete agreement. I think part of the thing is, we're pretending the standard of -- when I say this guy has not met the standard of a president, we have had some awful presidents and he couldn't even catch them.

He has now caught them. He can at least do the things that presidents are supposed to do. He can stand up and give a speech that is effective. He can pull on some of Reagan's tricks to use American stories to advance his agenda.

He hasn't done any of that stuff before. All I'm saying is if you're used to playing a team and you are used to just saying all he can do is drive to the basket, all we got to do is stop him from driving to the basket and we can stop, and then they start raining some threes down on you, you have got -- OK, hold on a second, that's some new stuff.

He showed new stuff yesterday. So what my big hope is going forward is that we have to get very surgical as liberals. First of all, I think that so much of -- you're different, but so many people come on, and what they talk about is proper protocol and politeness, that this guy does not follow proper protocols and he's not polite.

They don't get to the substance of issues, and then guess what? He might change on that. Now you're going to have deal with -- and you have been there, but others have not -- with the actually substantive impact. What we're not talking about is the fact that frankly the prices of

groceries is going to go through the roof if you chase off all the immigrant labor. There's a lot of practical issues that we don't talk about because we're so busy policing his tone. Last night, he didn't even let us do that.

RYE: And, Van, I guess the thing that I would say back to you, as my brother and my friend, is that you are brilliant, and you have the ability to translate the dangerous nature of the impact of his policy agenda.

And I would just continue to urge you do that. Like, it is so important for us to have these conversations, to talk to folks who are Trump supporters who we were tuning -- and I'm owning that -- tuning out and blocking out and thinking it was just ignorance.

And he won, to your point from during the election. What do we do to have these conversations to say, listen, Trump supporter A or B, this is just as dangerous for you, this is going to impact you just as much as it does someone in the inner city, just as much as it does in rural Appalachia?

This is a problem for all of us. This isn't about a partisan divide. This is just the difference between wrong and right. He sounded like a decent human being yesterday. But those policies are still not decent human policies. I think we have to emphasize that.

KEILAR: Angela, why were liberals so upset by what Van said, by acknowledging that this was more presidential?

RYE: Because I don't think, Brianna, that a lot of people thought it was more presidential.

I think the tone is one piece of this. And Van talked about that. There are a lot of folks who just said, he's mean old Donald Trump. But there are many more of us who are saying, no, you have to look at their record. Look at what he did just yesterday.

This is dangerous. This is troubling. This is causing -- this is literally causing people to live in fear. We have to acknowledge that. It's not about him sounding presidential. It's about him being presidential and pushing forth policy that protects people on our soil and beyond. That is a reality.

JONES: Let me just make a -- it might be a minor point. It might be a major point.

Being presidential, you could be presidential and have terrible policies. Nixon behaved before he got in trouble. It was the first term. You know, he fulfilled the basic functions of being a president. He just had terrible policies.

I disagreed with Reagan's policies. Donald Trump has terrible policies. And he's behaved in a way that is completely unpresidential, including most of his speeches, including his inaugural address, which was basically just an amped-up rally speech. So, when I say that he's now behaving in a more presidential way, I'm not making a judgment about his policies. His policies are awful.