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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
WH: President Has No Regrets About Wiretap Accusations; Intel Chair Suggests: Don't Take Trump Literally; Interview with Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut. Aired 8-9p ET
Aired March 7, 2017 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[20:00:06] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening. Thanks for joining us.
Tonight, no regrets, no proof, and potentially more repercussions. White House spokesman Sean Spicer today had the chance to walk back the president's tweets claiming that President Obama ordered wiretaps on his phones at Trump Tower during the campaign. Instead, he told reporters the president had no regrets for leveling the allegation. What he did not do was offer any evidence to back it up.
Meantime, the chairman of the House committee that's going to be investigating it, even though the president could clear this up with the few phone calls, he suggested people shouldn't take presidential tweets literally.
That is where we begin tonight.
CNN's Jim Acosta begins.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's now a question that won't go away: Where is President Trump's proof that his predecessor, Barack Obama, broke the law and tapped his phones? The White House still doesn't have an answer.
(on camera): Where is the evidence? Where is the proof that President Obama bugged President Trump?
SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Nothing has changed --
ACOSTA: Do you have proof --
SPICER: No, it's not a question of new proof or less proof or whatever. The answer is the same. And I think that, which is that, I think that there is a concern about what happened in the 2016 election. The House and Senate Intelligence Committees have the staff and capabilities and the processes in place to look at this in a way that's objective, and that's where it should be done. And frankly, if you've seen the response from especially on the House side, but as well as the Senate, they welcome this.
ACOSTA (voice-over): And White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer made it clear the president is not about to take any of it back.
(on camera): Will the president withdraw the accusation? Does he have any --
SPICER: Why would he withdraw it, until it's -- I mean, until it's adjudicated? That's what we're asking.
ACOSTA: No regrets from him about raising this accusation?
SPICER: No, it's not -- absolutely not.
ACOSTA: Spicer insisted the president's unsubstantiated accusation should be taken at face value.
SPICER: There's nothing, as I mentioned to Jim, it's not that he's walking anything back or regretting, he's just saying that they have the appropriate venue and capabilities to review this.
ACOSTA: Spicer refused to say whether he personally believes the president's stunning charge.
REPORTER: Do you believe that President Obama order --
SPICER: You know, I get that that's a cute question to ask. My job is to represent the president and to talk about what he's doing and what he wants. And he's made very clear what his, what his goal is, what he would like to have happen. And so, I just -- I'll leave it at that. I think we've tried to play this game before.
I'm not here to speak for myself. I'm here to speak for the president of the United States and our government.
ACOSTA: Democrats are furious and perplexed over the still baseless allegation.
SEN. RICHARD DURBIN (D), ILLINOIS: Donald Trump is destroying the credibility of the office of president 140 characters at a time.
ACOSTA: As top Republicans on Capitol Hill withhold judgment.
REPORTER: Do you think it was appropriate for the president of the United States to accuse his predecessor of wiretapping him?
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER: Well, I think we have an existing committee, the intelligence committee, looking at all aspects of what may have been done last year, related to the Russians or the campaign. And we'll leave it there.
REPORTER: Have you seen any evidence of that?
MCCONNELL: No, I haven't.
COOPER: Jim Acosta joins us.
Jim, is the White House offering any more public support for FBI Director Comey today?
ACOSTA: Well, not really. The White House, Anderson, was being very careful about questions of confidence in the FBI director, who, as you know, privately raised questions over the weekend about these unfounded claims from the president of bugging Trump Tower and asked if the president still supports Jim Comey, Press Secretary Sean Spicer said he has no reasons to believe that the president does not. That's hardly a ringing endorsement. It's sort of a non-answer.
But you heard the White House press secretary say time and again today, Anderson, that he would like to not answer those questions anymore, but I don't think that's not going to happen, Anderson.
COOPER: Jim, was Sean Spicer asked at all at the White House today about whether the president -- why the president wouldn't just call up the Department of Justice and find out about whether a FISA court warrant was requested?
ACOSTA: You know, he has been asked that question and that option is available to the president, but from what we understand and from what White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said today, is that the president has not talked to the FBI director about this, has not put that request forward. And it does feel like, if you were to sit in that briefing room today, that they sort of wish that all of this would just go away.
But, of course, now we know that with the White House asking these congressional intelligence committees to investigate all of this, this may be the last thing that they want, is for these committees to dig into these questions, specifically whether the president can back up these claims. So far, he hasn't been able to do so.
COOPER: Yes. Jim Acosta, thanks very much.
More breaking news: Congressman Devin Nunes, who chairs the House Intelligence Committee, announced today he'll launch public hearings on the 20th. He says he plans to look into the wiretapping charge, but has yet to see any evidence backing it up.
Over on the other side of the Capitol, Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut member of the Judiciary Committee. He'll be voting on the nominee who would control any Justice Department investigation into Russian meddling of the election and/or contact with the Trump campaign. He joins us now.
Senator Blumenthal, we heard Sean Spicer say today that the White House stands behind the president's accusation against President Obama and that the whole thing is very serious, merits a congressional investigation.
[20:05:02] I want to play a clip of something the Republican House Intelligence Committee chairman, Devin Nunes, said this afternoon. Let's listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. DEVIN NUNES (R), CHAIRMAN, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: The president is a neophyte to politics. He's been doing this a little over a year. And I think a lot of the things that he says, you guys sometimes take literally. Sometimes he doesn't have 27 lawyers and staff looking at what he does, which is, I think, at times, refreshing and at times can lead us to have to be sitting at a press conference like this answering questions that you guys are asking.
But at the end of the day, I think tweets are very transparent way for a politician of any rank to communicate with their constituents. So, I don't think we should -- I don't think we should attack the president for tweeting.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: So, Senator, the White House says, take the president literally, and then you have Nunes saying, don't take him literally. The media is taking him too literally.
Should you take -- do you take the president literally?
SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D), CONNECTICUT: These statements are really surreal and strange and scary. They are scary because we're dealing here with wiretapping and surveillance, which goes to the core privacy rights of all of us as citizens. And the president of the United States is making a charge that he was illegally wiretapped by his predecessor and now saying, through the White House, that there is no need for him to provide any evidence right away and it should be investigated by one of the congressional committees.
Well, there is an investigation. It's by the FBI. It's into Russian hacking, a massive cyber attack on our democracy, that may have been tied to the Trump campaign. And then to the Trump transition and now to the Trump administration. And that's why we need a special prosecutor, because these charges are profoundly serious, Anderson. And to kind of brush them away in the way that's done, I think, is really a disservice to our democracy.
COOPER: Chairman Nunes also argues that the sitting president of the United States, who we should point out, waged an incredibly successful campaign that lasted well over a year is a political neophyte.
Do you buy that or do you think the president understands the political consequences of what he's doing?
BLUMENTHAL: The president must understand the political consequences of what he's doing. Anybody who's campaigned for president and won is no longer a neophyte and must know, also, now that he's president, he has access to all of the intelligence information about, in fact, whether he has been wiretapped. So --
COOPER: He could call up the FBI, right away.
BLUMENTHAL: He can call the FBI or he can call in the FBI and the other intelligence folks in the administration and some of them are in place, some not. But the point is, he's the president of the United States. And the kinds of warrants that are necessary for wiretapping this kind of surveillance are issued and approved only by a court, either a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court or an Article III district court.
So, we're not talking here about something done lightly or haphazardly or easily by any president. In fact, presidents alone cannot order wiretapping. They do need a warrant.
COOPER: You've said that your support of the president's nominee for the deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein, who would be overseeing the Russian investigation, because Attorney General Sessions recused himself, obviously, that your support is contingent upon him making a promise to appoint a special counsel. He has said, and we should point out, he has a bipartisan background, he says he isn't read in on the case and can't make that call.
Does that seem understandable to you?
BLUMENTHAL: You know, Anderson, this nominee, Rod Rosenstein, is a career professional prosecutor. He should know better than anyone how important it is to have an independent, credible special prosecutor in this role. How can he investigate his own boss? As deputy attorney general, how can he investigate the attorney general or the president of the United States?
And he has to make a commitment to follow the evidence where it leads. And that can be done only by a special prosecutor. And I support, by the way, the work of the intelligence committee. It should continue and conclude its investigation. There may be a need for a select committee or a special commission who reports findings or recommendation.
But only a prosecutor can go after criminal wrongdoing. And that's why an independent prosecutor is necessary.
So, I understand the reasons that he may be unwilling to commit. But my view is, he has to show more than just poise and pedigree, real independence are necessary here. The best way to show it is by committing to a special prosecutor. And if he doesn't, I will oppose him.
[20:10:01] COOPER: Senator Blumenthal, I appreciate your time tonight. Thank you.
I want to bring in our panel, Democratic strategist Jonathan Tasini, Republican consultant Margaret Hoover, Ryan Lizza, Washington correspondent for "The New Yorker", also Trump supporter Jeffrey Lord, who is also a senior contributor to the "American Spectator", which dates back to the Reagan administration, as does he.
New York political anchor, Errol Louis, joins us, so does "Daily Beast" senior columnist, Matt Lewis.
We always try to mention Ronald Reagan basically.
(CROSSTALK) COOPER: We like to be the first ones to mention Ronald Reagan.
I mean, Ryan, you know, it's interesting, the Democrats clearly want an independent counsel to lead this investigation. The fact of the matter is, though, under the Justice Department regulations, the deputy attorney general, if confirmed, would be the one to decide.
RYAN LIZZA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: He would appoint them. And there's no independent counsel laws, you don't have that.
I mean, look, it does seem like an independent investigation is what is needed. There's just a cloud surrounding all of the questions about Russia. But I have to say, I'm a little confused listening to Senator Blumenthal as to what exactly is the crime or the target of the special counsel.
COOPER: Right. Usually, there's a natural crime that's clear.
LIZZA: It hasn't really been articulated, right? We know from anonymous sources and a lot of good reporting that the FBI has had some investigation of Trump associates, of the connections with Russia. But it's also been very vague, right? We don't actually have the Justice Department clearly saying, this is an ongoing investigation targeting these people.
So, for a senator to call for a special counsel without knowing that is a little bit unusual.
MARGARET HOOVER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: But it's -- the senators who are doing that and the members of Congress who are doing it are partisan Democrats who are trying to plant a flag to rally their troops in order to sort of engage in this sort of hyper-partisan rhetoric, which is polarizing and is just definitively against the president.
Look, if there were to be a special counsel right now, it would be a witch hunt. They would be empowered to go to look for things and they would probably find some -- I mean, you do need probable cause. You need to know what the crime is that you're investigating.
The other way to do it, though, Anderson, is that Congress can pass a law that would then empower a three-judge panel to investigate. And then they can pass a law -- right, but --
COOPER: A Republican-led Congress, that's unlikely to happen.
HOOVER: It's unlikely to happen, but again, if there were enough cause, right? If it were clear enough that something needed to be investigated, there are checks and balances. It's not only through the executive branch that this could happen.
COOPER: Jeff, when you hear Nunes saying, don't take the president of the United States literally, does that --
JEFFREY LORD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I --
COOPER: Do you take him literally?
LORD: I go with the former Attorney General Mukasey, that you can be not right, but correct on this.
Look, Anderson, I am just astonished at this media, for months, has been playing this Russian game and taking information clearly from people who are getting information from surveillance. "The New York Times," January 20th, headline, "Wiretapped data used an inquiry of Trump aides." Well, how does "The New York Times" know that? What are their sources?
Clearly, their sources are some people in the government who knew this. And there's headline after headline after headline with this.
I'm all for an investigation. Let's get into it. Let's see where this information is coming from.
And one other thing --
COOPER: But, but -- but back to the "literally," -- the literal thing. Should the president of the United States be taken literally? Should his word be taken literally?
LORD: Seriously, I mean, I think the American people -- I think Corey Lewandowski said something like this earlier. Should -- the American people understand him. He communicates in a way that I think the modern media is not accustomed to.
And one thing I specifically want to say here, about the direct accusation against President Obama. You mentioned the earlier, Jon, Iran Contra before we went on the air. I was there in Iran Contra and President Reagan was repeatedly accused of doing this deliberately.
In point of fact, it wasn't the president at all. It was staff members. It was Admiral John Poindexter and Lieutenant General Oliver North. He didn't know.
So, it's totally possible that someone in the Obama administration could have authorized this, absolutely yes.
COOPER: But it sounds like, just but back to the actual question, it sounds like you're saying, don't take the president literally, take him seriously.
LORD: I am saying, always take him seriously, because I think he is playing three-dimensional chess and the media and his opponents are playing checkers. And when he -- when they bring up fake news, he's turned that around on them. When they bring up the Russians and that sort of thing, he's now turned this around. And time after time after time, they end up on the losing end of the stick.
LIZZA: Jeffrey, he accused the president of wiretapping him. That's the fake news here, right?
LORD: "The New York Times," wiretapped data.
LIZZA: What's a serious or literal way to take that statement that makes it more correct than it is?
LORD: Then why is "The New York Times" reporting this? It says, quote/unquote, "Wiretapped communication have been provided to the Obama White House."
JONATHAN TASINI, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: You're avoiding the question that Ryan --
LIZZA: That's one accusation that he's made that there's been no evidence provided --
LORD: The president is in charge of his administration, Ryan.
LIZZA: Jeffrey, he said that Barack Obama tapped his phone. Is there any evidence of that or not? Is there any evidence --
LORD: According to "the New York Times" -- yes, there is! Wiretapped communications have been provided to the Obama White House.
LIZZA: He said Barack Obama tapped his phones.
COOPER: -- tapping his phones.
[20:15:01] I mean, even --
LORD: Guys --
COOPER: -- even the thing that Mark Levin is talking about and Breitbart is talking about, the president has taken --
LORD: I don't -- look! Mark Levin said, a friend of mine, for the record, said he doesn't know. He's not Nostradamus. But let's find out. Let's go do it.
COOPER: He doesn't know, but the president seems to think he knows.
LORD: Look, the president, I assume reads "The New York Times". I assume he reads "The Washington Post." He has to see all these stories that his administration is leaking like a sieve --
COOPER: I get that.
LORD: Well, so then, why --
COOPER: But he's blaming the former president. There's no evidence.
LORD: Well, former president was in charge of his administration. That's the way it works.
TASINI: Jeff, we're forgetting something, a normal person --
HOOVER: That's not how it works.
TASINI: -- someone who's not a pathological liar and nuts, would call up the FBI and call up -- hold on. Let me finish. Who says, would call his staff and say, no, I have some serious concerns, I think there was a wiretap, they would go through the process.
He wouldn't attack the former president on Twitter without going through some process. This is a very serious accusation --
LORD: The former president was in charge of his administration, Jonathan.
TASINI: But you don't --
COOPER: I mean, can't the president call up the FBI and find out?
LORD: He just had his attorney general --
COOPER: Or even declassify anything in a FISA court.
LORD: And you can imagine the headlines of that. Let's now wait, because we've had to have the attorney general --
COOPER: But if he uncovered that President Obama did, in fact, do this, that would be the headline.
LORD: Clearly, I think he knows something here. That's going on within the administration. It's a --
COOPER: We're going to get to the rest of the panel and continue this discussion after the break. More on this question, why can't the president just clear this up himself. We'll talk about that.
Later, an avalanche of new WikiLeaks and what they claim to reveal about the tools the CIA uses to conduct surveillance. It is pretty stunning stuff. You have a mobile phone, use apps, you have a TV, which I presume you'll do, since you're watching, you'll want to see this report.
[20:20:02] COOPER: Before the break here, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee said that tweets are in his words a, quote, "very transparent way for a politician to communicate." He also chided people for taking the president's tweets literally, or at least he pointed out the media takes them literally. Just another day at the office.
Shortly before Devin Nunes said that, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer was talking to reporters when he fielded the question a lot of people had been asking, one that we've certainly touched on already tonight. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REPORTER: Why would the president want Congress to investigate for information he already has?
SPICER: I think there's a separation of powers aspect here, as I mentioned to Jonathan, that we think is --
REPORTER: Talk about resources in time. Why waste that?
SPICER: It's not a question of waste it. It's a question of appropriateness.
REPORTER: But if the president has the info -- if he's sitting on this information that he found out, he's now directing or asking or recommending that the intelligence committees look into this. And you talked about, they have resources and staff, which they do. But why expend those resources and staff if the president found out this information and has it?
SPICER: I think there's a difference between directing the Department of Justice, which may be involved in an ongoing investigation and asking Congress as a separate body to look into something and add credibility to the look. Adds an element that wouldn't necessarily be there, if we were directing the Department of Justice, for example.
But, again, I think we've made it very clear how he wants this done and where we go from there. So --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Back now with the panel.
Matt, does that answer make sense? That the president has the information, he wouldn't need to direct Congress?
MATT LEWIS, SENIOR COLUMNIST, THE DAILY BEAST: I give him credit for thinking on his feet there. A pretty clever answer. I think it's so (INAUDIBLE)
I mean, the whole thing is absurd, right? Donald Trump fired off a tweet without actually knowing the information. And it's weird and I think we would all concede that.
But I also think that Democrats are -- you know, the old expression, if all you have is a hammer, you think every problem is a nail. Democrats can't stop Donald Trump, except to try to take him down with scandal. And it sort of reminds me when Republicans were in their paranoia about Barack Obama and trying to delegitimize him via birtherism.
Sort of the similar things happening thing and the whole red scare thing that's taking place right now. Now, I'm not saying it's not weird, because it is weird, but the idea of at this point calling for a special prosecutor -- I mean, what do special prosecutors do? They look for things to prosecute. And then they have subpoenas and you never know -- once you get that special prosecutors, you never know where that might end up. Democrats are trying to take him down with this. And I -- you know, I
agree, we're not there yet. If there was evidence that would suggest a crime, then maybe you go to special prosecutor.
COOPER: Errol, for those who say that evidence of Russian hacking, according to the intelligence communities, all of them, basically, is that not evidence of a crime enough?
ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think we're in and we're teetering towards a constitutional crisis because the question becomes, when the president comes out and outrageous claims and basically making them out of thin air, who is empowered to get to the bottom of it, find the truth, and sort of reset the government in the direction that it should go?
The president then sort of throws some additional smoke by making some kind of crazy recommendation that Congress investigate him about information that his administration already has. That causes further confusion.
I mean, you know, you mentioned birtherism. Another sort of made-up claim that he's written on for years and has never announced. And, you know, we get this from him periodically, but with regularity. He just kind of makes up things and then leaves it up to everybody else to try to sort it out.
And I think it's a real problem to sort of see everything is just, you know, sort of strategy. What should the Democrats do and how do they win? You know, we have a -- again, we're sort of moving towards a constitutional crisis, when the president habitually and regularly makes things up, and we don't have a system that's intended to cope with a president who makes things up.
LEWIS: Also major insinuations that somehow Donald Trump and his administration are having secret meetings with Russian spies and all this cloak and dagger, like, it's really out of a novel stuff. And there's zero evidence --
TASINI: Wait, wait, wait.
LEWIS: I'm talking about saying, like, for example, the latest with the Jeff Sessions.
LIZZA: You're comparing this to birtherism. Birtherism is literally a made-up, manufactured accusation against the former president.
We don't know what -- and I agree, we shouldn't be conspiracy theorists about Russian stuff. But there's a lot of smoke --
LEWIS: A lot of smoke. No evidence.
LIZZA: -- the charge that Barack Obama was born in Kenya, right? We have policy changes on RNC platform. We have substantial links
between Trump aides and Russia. We have a Russian cyber campaign against the United States that the intelligence community agreed happened, right?
So, I don't think -- I think it's a little unfair to say, oh, the Democrats are just looking to take him down and it's similar to birtherism. There are some serious things.
LEWIS: I think there's some paranoia at play here, though, and there are some wishful thinking. You know what the Democrats ought to do, come up with a plan and a policy and an agenda. I think they're going to make the mistake that Republicans made for a long time, is going to --
[20:25:03] LIZZA: Accuse of being born in a country he wasn't born in?
COOPER: Jonathan, we've got to go.
TASINI: Yes, quickly, I do think you have a point that the Democrats should focus that there's a health care plan about to be rammed down people's throats that's going to cause people to die and get sick. And so, I've said before, I think the obsession around the Russian thing is not wise politically.
COOPER: All right. We've got to take a quick break.
Just ahead, more breaking news: growing signs the Republican plan to replace Obamacare is in danger, from conservative lawmakers and activist groups who say it doesn't go far enough to gut Obamacare. Is the bill dead on arrival? We'll look at that, ahead.
COOPER: There's more breaking news tonight. The Republican plan to replace Obamacare barely out of the gate is facing serious headwinds from within the GOP itself. Repealing Obamacare was, of course, a key campaign promise for President Trump. And today, he said he's proud to support the plan that House Republicans have introduced. Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price called it a work in price.
There is no price tag yesterday. No word on how many people it will cover. Even so, conservative critics have found plenty of things in the bill to attack.
Phil Mattingly has details.
REP. KEVIN BRADY (R), CHAIRMAN, HOUSE WAYS & MEANS COMMITTEE: This is Obamacare gone.
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Less than 24 hours after the House GOP Obamacare repeal bill finally saw the light of day --
BRADY: This is the first and most important step to giving relief to Americans from this terrible law.
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Lawmakers from the president's own party are already threatening its very exist tenancy.
SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: Now, I think the bill as it stands really is dead on arrival. I don't think it's going to ever arrive in the senate. I think it's dead on arrival in the house.
MATTINGLY: Bolstered by pressure outside conservative groups including this rally, and hook brothers back (ph) Americans for Prosperity. It's a football field away from the Capitol building.
TIM PHILLIPS, PRESIDENT, AMERICANS FOR PROSPERITY: They're going to have the shortest lived majority in the modern era if they fail to fully repeal Obamacare.
MATTINGLY: The early revolt creating a very real math problem for Republicans, because majority in the house, given the unified opposition among democrats in five vacant seats right now, allows leaders to lose just 21 votes on the Senate. Now, Republicans can only afford to lose two of their 52 members. Moderates have long been weary of looming democratic attacks on how many people the bill will actually cover.
Something sources tell CNN the Congressional Budget Office has told GOP leaders will likely fall far short of Obamacare's projections.
REP. PAUL RYAN (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: What matters is that we're lowering the cost of health care and giving people access to affordable health care plans. Look, the government will always win the war on government-run plans saying, "If we mandate everybody buys what we say they have to buy, then the government will always estimate that they'll buy it." I just think that's bogus.
MATTINGLY: Conservatives remain increasingly skeptical of the refundable tax credits that would replace Obamacare subsidies and providing aide for individuals without employer insurance to purchase plans. Then there's the restructuring of Medicaid. A hot-button issue across the country given the program's expansion many states took under Obamacare. Four GOP senators say they will oppose any bill that doesn't protect Medicaid enrollees in their state.
This GOP aide tells CNN is the moment when some White House muscle will be needed. President Trump today meeting with top house vote counters in urgent support for the house plan.
PRES. DONALD TRUMP (R), UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: I really believe we're going to have tremendous support. I'm already seeing the support not only in this room. I'm seeing it from everybody. And I got elected to a certain extent. I would say pretty good little chunk based on the fact repeal and replace Obamacare. And many of you people are in the same boat.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Phil Mattingly joins us now from Capitol Hill. And really the only question that matters here seems to be, can this even pass the house?
MATTINGLY: Yeah, that's exactly right. And look, if you talk to House Republican leaders, they say they're in okay shape right now. House Speaker Paul Ryan guaranteeing that when the bill hits the house floor in a couple of weeks, he will have the requisite number of votes to pass it. But there's no question right now. It's kind of an open question. You talk about those conservatives not just those weary, but some who are already outright opposed and that's exactly why you're seeing a behind-the-scenes effort that's really kicked into high gear.
As I speak right now, Mick Mulvaney, President Trump's budget director is going back and forth between meetings of Conservative Republican study committee and Conservative House freedom caucus trying to bring members along. You also saw President Trump tonight take to Twitter to nudge Rand Paul himself saying he believed he would come over. But those efforts, they're only going to have to multiply in the days ahead, Anderson.
House GOP officials I've been speaking to over the last 24 hours make very clear, it's going to be the president and the president himself who can get this across the finish line. That means Twitter, that means phone calls, but it also means face-to-face meetings. One House Republican aide told me look, do you really think these individuals from their red districts will tell the president no to his face. That is a calculation they're willing to sit on right now. They feel good and eventually they'll all come around, Anderson.
COOPER: All right, Phil, thanks very much. As Phil just mentioned, just before he went on air, President Trump tweeted saying, "I feel sure that my friend @RandPaul will come along with the new and great health care program because he knows Obamacare is a disaster!"
Lots to discuss. Joining me now CNN Senior Economic Analyst, Stephen Moore, who is a senior economic adviser for the Trump campaign, also former Labor Secretary Robert Reich, author of "Saving Capitalism for the Many, Not the Few", and a professor of public policy of UC Berkeley.
Secretary Reich, I mean some lawmakers calling this Obamacare a light, others, as you heard, Obamacare gone. Which is it? Light or gone.
ROBERT REICH, FORMER LABOR SECRETARY: Well, that's exactly the problem, Anderson. I mean this is smoking out Republicans. Some Republicans who said repeal and replace actually were only -- they only cared about repeal. That's what they really wanted. They didn't want replacement.
Other Republicans including maybe President Trump because he said it during the campaign over and over again, he really did want a replacement, they are discovering that there's -- the math is not there. If you get rid of the taxes that supported the Affordable Care Act and you also get rid of the mandate that younger and healthier people have got to actually insurance, then you don't have wherewithal to replace what you had before. I mean it's very simple and direct. And therefore, republicans are in an impossible position right now.
[20:34:54] COOPER: Stephen, where do you fall on this? So I know obviously you've been a support to president and get the political arm of the organization which you worked for the Heritage Foundation. They called this bill none other thing as bad politics and bad policy.
STEPHEN MOORE, FORMER SENIOR ECONOMIC ADVISERM, TRUMP CAMPAIGN: Well, Anderson, first of all, I mean this -- the operative word is draft. This was a draft plan that was put forward yesterday. And everybody has been, you know, scrambling to look through this today and find out what's in it and what they like and don't like.
And Anderson, there are things I really like in this bill. I mean I think for the most part it does gut Obamacare, which is something. It was the central promise that Republicans made and it has to get done.
What they replace it with, I think Bob has a point, you know, there's not a lot of consensus right now on the Republican side about what to replace Obamacare with. This is the first strike at it. I think it's going to go -- as your reporter just said, it's going to go back and forth between the conservatives and house leadership until they have something that can get the votes. But let's not forget. Donald Trump was elected no small part because the failures of Obamacare. And that one statistic, don't forget, Anderson, that came out I think it was about two weeks before the election that premiums under Obamacare were going 22 percent.
And Bob, that's something middle class family just can't afford.
REICH: Yeah. But the question is, what can middle class families do if they lose their health insurance all together, Stephen? When we talked about this before, you said the one big thing that was going to save people money here was that insurance could be provided across state lines. That was the big reform that Republicans were going to offer and it's not in this. I've read the entire bill and it's not anywhere in this and there is nothing in this for middle class families, for families that voted for Trump, for the poor people. I mean this is basically a huge transfer of resources from the poor and the sicker to the wealthier and also the healthier. This makes no sense from any standpoint.
MOORE: No. I think that's been kind of liberal talking point on this. But the truth is, there are provisions in this proposed law that would allow people to buy insurance across state lines. I've said this many times on the show, Anderson. You know, I live in Virginia. I have Ohio auto insurance policy. Why can't you buy an insurance policy in another state? It increases competition.
One of the big problems of Obamacare right now is that one in three counties in America, there's only one insurance company left providing insurance. Now, Bob, that's not competition. That's a monopoly.
(CROSSTALK) REICH: I don't think it's competition. Steve, I think that actually argues for a single-payer plan, but that's a discussion for another day.
REICH: But I was just very -- I was interested.
MOORE: That's no competition at all.
REICH: That was right. No, no. Actually, we have no competition right now. We've got enormous --
REICH: Wait a minute. We've got enormous consolidation among insurance companies going on right this very minute.
COOPER: Secretary Reich, the fact there's no score from the Congressional Budget Office, we don't know officially just how much this plan will cost. How important is it to you to have the information before this goes any further.
REICH: There's no reason. How can you possibly vote on this if there is no information on coverage or cost? This is absurd. We're talking about tens --
MOORE: Well, wait a minute.
REICH: Wait a minute. Let me just finish.
COOPER: Let him finish and then go.
REICH: We're talking about tens of millions of people that, you know, the Obamacare, the Affordable Care Act, you had hearings, you had estimates from the Congressional Budget Office, you had OMB, you had private groups that we're actually doing analysis. Here, you got nothing and they're marking up tomorrow and they want to run this through as fast as they possible can.
COOPER: But Stephen it's interesting that argument --
MOORE: Wait, I got to make this point.
COOPER: I know, I know. I mean that argument that Secretary Reich just made, that was made by Republicans about Obamacare, the idea that this was being rammed through, rammed down people's throat.
MOORE: Exactly. Here's the point, it's been years now, Anderson. It's not like this is, you know, all of a sudden something Republicans have brought up. It's been seven years the Republican haves been talking about repealing Obamacare. Now, I thought the irony of what you're saying, Bob, is it was Nancy Pelosi who said, you know, "We'll read the bill after we pass it," which is potentially what happened. I don't want Republicans go there. Anderson, I want a very thoughtful process here. I want to make sure everybody does read the bill and knows what they're voting for. And there were problems in this current version, there's no question about it. You got to work on those and get them straightened out so that you got a plan.
And Bob, what I want is a plan that does cover every American. I think that Donald Trump is there too. But it also reduces the class for people by insurance competition.
REICH: Including preexisting condition. So we have to get the CB, the Congressional Budget Office numbers.
MOORE: Yes, yes.
REICH: You agree with that.
REICH: You agree with that.
COOPER: We got --
MOORE: I do. I believe the people and preexisting conditions are to be taken care of.
REICH: OK, we agreed, we agreed.
COOPER: All right. We'll end on that agreement. Stephen Moore, thank you, Robert Reich as well.
Coming up WikiLeaks claims to reveal the CIA's tools to fray for cyber espionage from T.V.s that can watch people to the ways to get around encryption apps. It's a high-tech spy story. It may change the way you think about your phone. The latest on that, next.
[20:42:42] COOPER: There's more breaking news tonight. WikiLeaks has released a giant pile, what it says are secret CIA documents giving window to how the agency uses technology to spy on people. The CIA is not confirming if the documents are real saying it doesn't comment on reporting intelligence document which in the documents is certainly a fascinating look at how everything from an iPhone to smart T.V. can be turned into weapons for cyber espionage.
Brian Todd, tonight reports.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Some of the CIA's most sophisticated and effective spying tools apparently pried open with the help of WikiLeaks. The anti-secrecy group says it has obtained thousands of files, hundreds of millions of lines of code from the CIA massive hacking operation. WikiLeaks says the documents show the CIA's team of hackers have developed malware to be able to hack into almost any device people use and can remotely control iPhones, iPads, Android devices, taking video from their cameras, listening with their microphones.
ROSS SCHULMAN, CO-DIRECTOR, OPEN TECHNOLOGY INSTITUTE OF AMERICA: We should be worried if they're being used against non-intelligence targets.
TODD: The CIA is not allowed to spy on Americans inside the U.S., but privacy advocates worry other agencies may be using the same tools. WikiLeaks says there's one CIA hacking operation called "Weeping Angel" that can tap into an enemy's Samsung Smart T.V.
(on camera): They can turn my T.V. into a spying device. What happens when I turn it off?
SCHULMAN: When you turn it off, it's not actually off. A lot of people remember the little red light.
SCHULMAN: That means there's still a computer in there and listening for the remote to call back again to turn on. Otherwise it wouldn't be able to do so. So what the CIA can do is they can latch into that. And even when the T.V. is off, they can still listen to the microphone that's in the television. They call this "Fake Off".
TODD (voice-over): WikiLeaks says CIA hackers can bypass encrypted apps, like signal or telegram just by cracking the phones themselves. According to WikiLeaks, the CIA explored the possibility of hacking into the software of modern cars.
SCHULMAN: It can be accessed from outside and perhaps taken control of. And this can let you do a whole lot of things from playing music to taking control of the car entirely and crashing it if you want to assassinate somebody.
TODD: WikiLeaks says the CIA uses the U.S. consulate in Frankfurt, Germany as a secret base where CIA hackers spy on people in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. The White House and State Department wouldn't comment. The documents released by WikiLeaks have not been authenticated by independent experts. And the CIA says it won't confirm their existence.
[20:45:04] WikiLeaks says some of these hacking techniques would allow the CIA to mask their hacking to make it look like someone else did it. One former CIA analyst says if this claim is true, WikiLeaks has dealt a significant blow to U.S. National Security.
AKI PERITZ, FORMER CIA ANALYST: Every time a place like WikiLeaks blows our apps, it means that the bad guys evolve and they use counter measures to defeat the abilities of the United States to spy on them and to track them to target them and so forth.
(END VIDEOTAPE) TODD: WikiLeaks says there's a broader security problem here that if the CIA can get its hands on these hacking tools, then the bad guys can too, that cyber criminals, other hackers, hostile countries hacking teams will be able to hack into our phones, T.V.s, and computers. Contacted by CNN, the CIA says it does not comment on the authenticity or the content of reported intelligence documents. Anderson.
COOPER: All right. Brian Todd, thanks.
Joining me now is CNN Counterterrorism Analyst and former FBI as well as CIA Senior Official, Philip Mudd, and CNN National Security Commentator and former House Intelligence Committee Chairman, Mike Rogers.
I mean, Phil, some of these techniques, listening to conversations through phones, T.V.s, bypassing encryption apps. I mean from an intelligence perspective, if it's legitimate, how damaging is this to the CIA?
PHILIP MUDD, FORMER SENIOR OFFICIAL, FBI, and CIA: I think it can be quite damaging, but misunderstanding for most of the American population. Let's take a simple piece of this Anderson. If you're in North Korea or Iran tonight, what are you doing? You're looking at these documents saying, A, "Does this give us a clue about what's on our systems already?" or B, "Does it allow us to defend against something that might be installed on our systems tomorrow?" I think that's a simple question.
There's a more complicated questions I face and that is you might assume that the terrorist we chased had a high level of technical sophistication. The answer is Anderson, they didn't. So even if you don't reveal a great deal of information about what the CIA is up to, even if you say for example, that you think there's an encrypted app that allows you to communicate with a friend securely, I saw terrorists every day who had very simplistic understandings of U.S. capabilities. They had no I.T., no information technology capability.
I fear that even simple people, if there's not a lot of information revealed, will look at this and say, "Wow, I didn't understand how they could get around encrypted apps." I got to be more careful. That's what I worry about, Anderson.
COOPER: Chairman Rogers, what WikiLeaks is saying as well, though, that this doesn't just have ramifications for enemies of the U.S. that even for anybody, it makes everybody more vulnerable, the hackers if there are open doors into the technology we're using, so the phones we use, then tat the CIA knows about them that can leak out and hackers can then get access.
MIKE ROGERS (R), FORMER HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: Well, first of all, it was shocking the CIA has engaged in espionage. And so I want to talk about the cyber center real quickly. This is their job. It is to go out and collect information on very targeted individuals. The cyber center was created to make sure that the agency had the capability to keep up with technology, to go after individuals that had information of value. Some notion that this is widespread big data collection is simply wrong. It's not accurate. And you already see that out there in the folks who don't like the intelligence services saying, "Oh, this is a big conspiracy. They're doing it everywhere."
What the problem was if you're worried about iPhone or whatever app that you're may be using that was listed in the leaked documents is that, yes, Phil is right, nation states and sophisticated counterintelligence folks are actually pouring over these documents. Yes, that's happening. But also we're seeing this growing sophistication outside of nation states, international organized crime groups and others who are also pouring over this information who are saying, "Well, if they figured out how to do it, we can figure out how to do this as well." And that is equally concerning to me.
COOPER: Right. I mean, Phil that gets to what WikiLeaks has been actually critical in the CIA for that it's not just now that the information is out. It's the very fact that the CIA found these holes or whatever it is that allowed them to break into encrypted apps or the television or whatever it is, but by not closing those holes, it leaves it vulnerable for other hackers to discover it as well.
MUDD: I think this is a legitimate question. By the way, can you ask Congressman Rogers why he didn't have that sense of humor when he grilled me during testimony years ago? But the answer to your question, Anderson, I think this raises a fundamental question. Back in the 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, the U.S. government could collect information without looking to the private sector and Silicon Valley for assistance.
[20:49:51] Now, if you look at who owns data, Google, Amazon, other country, Yahoo, I think those are the companies that own data and those companies through their congressmen, through conversations with the U.S. intelligence committee, in this case have a legitimate question. Does the U.S. government, when they identify our vulnerability in commercial information provider or commercial apps provided by Google, Amazon, et cetera, should they have a responsibility to notify that company? I personally think the answer is yes, but we don't have an answer from the government yet.
COOPER: Yeah. Phil Mudd, Mark Rogers, I appreciate your time.
Coming up, America uncovered from an Ohio company that makes baseball bats and where most of the employees voted for President Trump, do they think the president's wiretapping claims to the new health care plan are home runs? We'll take you there next in the plan.
COOPER: Our America Uncovered series where we try to get out of Washington and away from the talking heads. Tonight, we sent Gary Tuchman to the middle of Ohio in a company full of people who voted for President Trump. Six weeks since his presidency, we wanted to hear what they think about how it's going, what they make of the recent controversies swirling around the president, here's what Gary found.
GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At the Phoenix Bats Company in Plain City Ohio, they make baseball bats big league. Literally for the big leagues and the minor leagues and for others. It's a small business where most of the employees say they voted for Donald Trump. And on deck? Some of those employees.
[20:55:05] (on camera): The first hundred days of a presidency are an important barometer of how the presidency will turn out. This weekend Donald Trump is precisely at the halfway point, 50 days. How do you think he's doing so far? Are you happy with it?
SETH CRAMER, VOTED FOR TRUMP: He's making a lot of progress. He's fulfilling a lot of his campaign promises. So, I'm encouraged that he's following through when most politicians don't.
GERALD PREDMORE, VOTED FOR TRUMP: I feel like probably the Republicans in Congress aren't real happy, because now they have to do something. They've got a president from their own party that's pretty driven to get his agenda and, you know, they've been making excuses for years that they couldn't do it and couldn't do it and I think they're going to have to put up now.
TUCHMAN: This weekend on Saturday, Donald Trump tweeted, "How low has President Obama gone to tap my phones during the very sacred election process?" This is Nixon Watergate, bad or sick guy?
CRAMER: My initial reaction was, "Look, this guy gets access to intelligence that you or I don't get." And if you're going to throw out that big hand grenade, I'm pretty confident that you've got information that leads to you do that.
TUCHMAN: Donald Trump has said this, nothing else has come up. There's no evidence of it. Does that trouble you?
JOEL ARMBRUSTER, VOTED FOR TRUMP: It troubles me that he's still on Twitter and putting this stuff out there at all sort of hours early in the morning, everything and without any substantial evidence that I know of.
TUCHMAN: Do you think he uses Twitter to distract from other issues that he doesn't want people talking about?
ARMBRUSTER: I think every great politician uses anything they can to distract the real issues at any given point in time.
TUCHMAN (voice-over): We then shifted the conversation to Obamacare. And Donald Trump's lack of specificity from the campaign to this day about what he likes to see in a replacement.
RICK ANTINON: He didn't come out and say during his campaign with any specificity. He still won. So he's the president. Now, he's got to work with both Republicans and Democrats. The Republicans need to get off their rear ends and to something. He can't do it by himself.
TUCHMAN (on-camera): Regarding Obamacare, Congressman Chaffetz was on T.V. today. He said that he believes in self-reliance, but he said something earlier that I think no one has let him say it smoothly, but I want you to look at him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CONG. JASON CHAFFETZ (R-UT), HOUSE OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE: We're getting rid of those things that people said they don't want. And you know what? Americans have choices, and they've got to make a choice. And so maybe rather than getting that new iPhone that they just love and they want to go spend hundreds of dollars on that, maybe they should invest in their own health care.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANTINORI: He's just saying the truth. Unfortunately, you know, people are going to be offended by it.
PREDMORE: If we're talking about self-reliance, I'm for it. I had to.
ARMBRUSTER: I think he's categorizing a whole group of people in one category where he shouldn't have.
TUCHMAN (voice-over): When it comes to President Trump, all these men acknowledged there have been rough spots since this term has gotten under way. But shared these sentiments.
CRAMER: I think he's accomplished a lot in a short period of time, and it's refreshing, and I'm refreshed by the idea that he is not beholden to special interest groups. That's what excites me.
TUCHMAN: These bat makers, Anderson, are loyal to Donald Trump but not blindly loyal. They say he has to continue to earn their loyalty by keeping his promises, particularly about jobs in trade. Gerald, the man we talked, who's on the upper-right corner of the screen, he says he used to work for another factory in Ohio, that factory moved to Mexico and he lost his job. He's happy working at the baseball bat factory but feels that Donald Trump must keep his promises about jobs not going to Mexico. Anderson.
COOPER: Gary, thanks very much and thanks everybody who took their time to talk to you.
Just ahead in the next hour of 360, the White House standing by President Trump's tweets claiming that President Obama tapped his phones. The latest reaction from Capitol Hill, next.