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House Republicans Reveal Obamacare Replacement Bill; Comey 'Incredulous' Over Trump Wiretap Allegation. Aired 7-7:30a ET
Aired March 7, 2017 - 07:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... you repeal and replace Obamacare. Now to the biggest entitlement reform in at least the last 20 years.
[07:00:08] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The biggest concern I have, will it lower healthcare costs and premiums?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are going to pass this.
JEFF SESSIONS, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: This executive order responsibly provided a needed pause.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's not a Muslim ban. There will probably be other countries we're going to look at.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The president firmly believes that the Obama administration may have tapped into the phones.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: FBI chief James Comey is reportedly, quote, "incredulous" over Mr. Trump's allegations.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He is very strategically trying to distract us.
GEN. JOHN KELLY, U.S. SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY: Jim Comey is an honorable guy. The president must have his reasons.
ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.
CAMEROTA: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to your NEW DAY. House Republicans finally revealing their plan for the future of your health care. Chris has it right here. He is combing through it, and it's heavy.
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Good beach reading.
CAMEROTA: They have released the first draft of their plan to repeal and replace Obamacare. Some critics already pouncing, saying it will likely to leave millions of people uninsured.
CUOMO: Fifty-three pages of your future is right here. You can get it online. You should read it, because you need to understand it to judge it.
All this is going on as President Trump is refusing to back down from his unproven claim that former President Barack Obama wiretapped him during the campaign. The FBI chief, Jim Comey, is said to be incredulous over Mr. Trump's allegation. Comey has not said anything directly or formally. Will he? We'll see.
Day 47 of the Trump administration. We'll begin our coverage with CNN's Sunlen Serfaty on Capitol Hill -- Sunlen.
SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to you, Chris.
House Republicans finally unveiling their bill to repeal and replace Obamacare, but already there are some major fault lines emerging from within the Republican Party already within hours. Criticism and concern coming from Republicans, and even the White House isn't yet fully endorsing this bill, simply calling it an important step forward.
REP. KEVIN BRADY (R), TEXAS: It is Obamacare gone.
SERFATY (voice-over): House Republicans unveiling their long-awaited replacement of Obamacare.
REP. GREG WALDEN (R), OREGON: When we repeal and replace Obamacare, it will amount to the biggest entitlement reform probably in at least the last 20 years.
SERFATY: Central to their bill, the American Health Care Act, the elimination of the individual and employer mandate, a tax penalty for people without insurance.
The replacement, a continuous coverage incentive, a 30 percent surcharge on premiums for consumers for one year who let their coverage lapse, levied by insurers.
The plan phases out Obamacare's expansion of Medicaid, eventually capping federal funds to the program for each state in 2020. Obamacare subsidies now replaced by refundable tax credits determined by age and income.
What will stay? Obamacare's protections of those with pre-existing conditions. And adult children can remain on their parents' plan until the age of 26.
Some Republicans are already divided, calling the bill Obamacare 2.0.
REP. LOUIE GOHMERT (R), TEXAS: I've already heard from some constituents, upset about "You're creating another entitlement program?" We're calling it tax credits that we actually send people checks.
SERFATY: The House Republicans proposing the bill did not offer any estimate of how much their plan would cost or how many people would lose coverage.
REP. MARK MEADOWS (R), NORTH CAROLINA: The biggest concern I have, will it lower health care costs and premiums to those people that I serve?
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The plans will be much less expensive than Obamacare. It will be far better than Obamacare. It will be unbelievable.
SERFATY: The White House releasing a statement calling the bill an important step towards restoring health care choices and affordability.
Democrats are now gearing up for a fight, rallying against the bill's provision to strip all federal funding to Planned Parenthood and arguing millions of poor and working-class individuals who will lose or be unable to afford health insurance under the plan.
Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi calling it the "make America sick again" bill.
SERFATY: And the wheels on all this will formally start turning on Wednesday. That's when two health committees will start marking up this bill. The goal coming from House Republican leadership is to have this out of committee and on the floor sometime in the next few weeks -- Chris.
CUOMO: All right, Sunlen. The bill is out there. If you want to read it for yourself, maybe it's like 120 pages. The things are numbered weird, because there are different, competing versions of it. But just get in there and read it, and you'll know for yourself.
So President Trump unveiling his new travel ban, as well, and refusing to back down from his evidence-free claim at this point that President Obama wiretapped Trump Tower. That allegation leaving the FBI director, we are told, in disbelief.
Let's go live to the White House and bring in CNN's Joe Johns -- Joe.
JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Chris, an unsubstantiated charge by the president and the president's aides, who have been working hard to try to either defend it or call for it to be investigated.
But the focus this morning is on the Justice Department, which is under increasing pressure to say something about it.
[07:05:09] JOHNS (voice-over): FBI Director James Comey was, quote, "incredulous," after President Trump's weekend Twitter tirade, accusing former President Obama of wiretapping his phones during the 2016 election, a person familiar with the matter told CNN.
Comey, concerned that the president's unfounded allegation would make the FBI look bad, directed staff members to reach out to the Justice Department, asking them to publicly knock down the president's story. The Justice Department's silence on the matter now frustrating Comey.
SPICER: We've only heard unsubstantiated anonymous sources make those claims. I don't think Director Comey has actually commented.
JOHNS: White House press secretary Sean Spicer doubling down Trump's accusation, but he, like the president, offering no proof.
SPICER: There's no question that something happened. The question is, is it -- is it surveillance, is it a wiretap or whatever? But there's been enough reporting that strongly suggests that something occurred.
JOHNS: As for the fate of President Trump's relationship with the FBI director...
SPICER: I haven't asked him that yet. And I think, obviously, he's focused today, first and foremost, on this -- this effort to keep the country safe.
JOHNS: Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly says he doesn't know anything about the president's charge but he, too, is backing Trump's explosive claims.
JOHN KELLY, SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY: If the president of the United States said it, he's got his reasons to say it. He's got some convincing evidence that that took place.
JOHNS: Meanwhile, the president circumventing cameras for the rollout of travel ban 2.0.
REX TILLERSON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: This revised order will bolster the security of the United States.
JOHNS: Signing his executive order behind closed doors, the White House releasing one photo. The revised 90-day ban includes six instead of seven Muslim-majority countries.
Iraq, a crucial partner in the fight against ISIS, is now off the list, after the president's advisers urged him to remove it. The order now clearly stating that current visa holders and those with a green card from the six countries can travel to the U.S., and Syrian refugees are no longer banned indefinitely.
JEFF SESSIONS, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: This executive order responsibly provides a needed pause we can -- so we can carefully review how we scrutinize people coming here from these countries of concern.
JOHNS: This morning, the Russian investigation, deputy attorney general nominee is expected to come up in a big way in a Senate hearing for the deputy attorney general, the man in the hot seat, will be Maryland's top federal prosecutor. He is expected to be pressed on naming a special prosecutor to investigate the Russia issues. Also will be very interesting to hear what he has to say about the president's wiretapping claims -- Chris and Alisyn.
CAMEROTA: Yes, it will, Joe. Thank you for all of that reporting. Joining us now, Republican Congressman Jason Chaffetz. He's chairman
of the House Oversight Committee, also a member of the Judiciary Committee.
Congressman, thanks for being here in studio.
REP. JASON CHAFFETZ (R), UTAH: Good morning. Good morning.
CAMEROTA: Great to have you here. Let's start with the president's accusations of wiretapping. Do you believe that President Obama illegally wiretapped President Trump?
CHAFFETZ: Well, we don't know. The president asked for an investigation, and he's going to get it. That will be led by the House Intelligence Committee, Devin Nunes. We will play a supporting role in the Oversight and Government Reform Committee. I'm not going to presuppose the conclusion of this. We'll look at the evidence, if there is evidence, and we will...
CAMEROTA: Have you seen any evidence thus far?
CHAFFETZ: Well, we're just -- we're just starting this. I mean it caught us all by surprise over the weekend, and we're just starting that process and we'll look -- we'll look closely at it.
CAMEROTA: Does it require an entire investigation? Can you, as the chairman of the House Oversight Committee, pick up the phone and call the FBI, or the Department of Justice, and say, hey, was there a FISA warrant for this?
CHAFFETZ: Well, I wish it was that easy. I did contact Director Comey over the weekend. He did not call me back. I hear these reports about what he believes and what he says. I find them with little to no credibility. The director...
CAMEROTA: Wait, so this is interesting. So you called -- you called him. You called...
CHAFFETZ: I texted him.
CAMEROTA: You texted Director Comey...
CAMEROTA: ... to find out if he is, in fact, incredulous?
CHAFFETZ: Yes, I would like to talk to -- I said please call me if you can. And I'd like to know that. And -- and...
CAMEROTA: And you got no response?
CHAFFETZ: No -- no response. And so -- but that's not atypical. I mean that -- that's not out of the ordinary. Sometimes he calls me back. Sometimes he doesn't. He has been very accessible to members of Congress, and he was just up on Capitol Hill talking to the House Intelligence Committee. And so, again, they're in the best position. They will lead out on this. But we can support them in that effort.
CAMEROTA: But is there a way to circumvent an entire committee investigation? Can the president, for instance, pick up the phone and call the Department of Justice and say, was there a FISA warrant issued when I was running my campaign?
CHAFFETZ: So we have the whole spectrum here, right? You have the -- the Democrats flailing and saying that there are Russian ties in collusion with the Trump campaign. Well, give us some evidence. I don't see any evidence of that.
CAMEROTA: Well, I mean but...
CHAFFETZ: And on other end of the spectrum, the...
CAMEROTA: Yes, but I mean -- but what about -- and you're asking for evidence. What about the Michael Flynn conversations? What about the Paul Manafort having resigned? Isn't that evidence?
CAMEROTA: Some sort of contact with the Russians.
CHAFFETZ: Again, the House Intelligence Committee is going to lead out on that. But it's flimsy at best. There's some incidental contact. But to make that leap and say that there was some degree of collusion, we haven't seen anything yet that would lead you to believe that, yes, indeed, other than incidental contact, that there was some sort of collusion.
[07:10:28] And on the other end of the spectrum, to be fair, what President Trump has said, you know, we're at the very beginning of that. That happened, I think, on Saturday, we want to see evidence of that. So anybody in the government can come forward, particularly to House Intelligence, but also to the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, and provide us that evidence. We would like to see it.
CAMEROTA: How often do you wake up in the morning and read a President Trump tweet and go, "Uh-oh"?
CHAFFETZ: You have to get up kind of early. Well, it is interesting. It is a different and new dynamic. And, you know, he chooses how he wants to -- to communicate. But he does certainly make it interesting, yes.
CAMEROTA: Yes, but, I mean, as the chairman of the Oversight Committee, then you have to -- there's going to have to be action. I mean, do you think...
CHAFFETZ: No, not on everything. Not on everything.
CHAFFETZ: The president said that he thought that there was widespread, you know, voter fraud.
CAMEROTA: Voter fraud.
CHAFFETZ: I don't see any evidence of that. We're not doing an investigation into that. So, sometimes you do, sometimes you don't.
CAMEROTA: You will pass a ruling (ph) for an investigation into voter fraud?
CHAFFETZ: Well, I -- I...
CAMEROTA: But you're not doing that?
CHAFFETZ: I'm not doing that.
CAMEROTA: Because you think that that one was...
CHAFFETZ: I really haven't seen any -- any evidence of that.
CAMEROTA: So that one was specious?
CHAFFETZ: Yes, so, look, we -- the federal government has 2 plus million employees. We have 70. So we have to judiciously look at this one at a time. We can't just investigate everything that's ever thrown out there...
CAMEROTA: I understand.
CHAFFETZ: By the Democrats, by the Republicans. We have to pick and choose.
CAMEROTA: Sure. So you've seen no evidence of the voter fraud. That one's specious. You've also seen no evidence that President Obama illegally wiretapped President Trump. Why investigate that one?
CHAFFETZ: Well, the president is directly asking and calling for that. We -- I've talked with Devin Nunes. They're leading out on that. And we're going to look into it.
CAMEROTA: Do you think that President Obama was illegally wiretapping?
CHAFFETZ: Well, I -- I've learned long enough that you don't presuppose the outcome. You -- when you look around the corner, sometimes you find something you didn't expect to find. So I think it's a legitimate question. The president is emphatic about it. We're going to look at it and try to figure it out.
CAMEROTA: Let's talk about the Republican replacement plan for the Affordable Care Act.
CAMEROTA: Do you like what you've seen?
CHAFFETZ: I do. I do like what I see. Look, we campaigned on this. We assured the American people that, if you put Republicans in charge, we would fix what is in a death spiral. The premiums are going up. I think 25 percent on average across the
board. In Arizona, some of them are as close as 100 percent. Deductibles have gone up. Choice has gone down. A third -- almost one-third of the counties in this country have only one choice.
And so we've got to save health care in this country for the American people; and they elected us to solve and tackle difficult problems.
CAMEROTA: Some of the experts who have looked at the Republican replacement plan see problems with it. Here's the Kaiser Foundation, what they say about it yesterday. "With Medicaid reductions and smaller tax credits, this bill would clearly result in fewer people insured than under the Affordable Care Act. The House GOP proposal seeks to reduce what the federal government spends on health care, and that inevitably means more people uninsured." Does that worry you?
CHAFFETZ: We're always worried. But what we want to do is make sure that people have access to the quality of health care that they want. This does push it more out of Washington, D.C., and back to the American people. It does align financial incentives, particularly through the health savings accounts. It does limit and cap what we're doing with the states, but gives them more flexibility, which is what we heard the governors who were in town literally last week, they told us, "We want more flexibility." So there's a lot to like about this.
And you know what I really like about it? We're going to do it in an open and transparent way, unlike what the Democrats did with the Affordable Care Act where they slammed it through in less than 24 hours...
CHAFFETZ: It's going to go through a mark-up. You've got two committees of jurisdiction that will offer amendments, and we'll have this debate over the next several weeks.
CAMEROTA: What if it leaves lower income Americans uninsured?
CHAFFETZ: Well, we want them to be able to provide -- have a method so they can get access to it. There are things that we really do like, for instance, dealing with pre-existing conditions, allowing people up to the age of 26 to stay on that.
CAMEROTA: You're going to keep those tenets, yes.
CHAFFETZ: Yes, get rid of the -- the arbitrary lines of states.
CHAFFETZ: So I think there's a lot of good things that we can do.
CAMEROTA: But access for lower income Americans doesn't equal coverage.
CHAFFETZ: Well, it -- we're getting rid of the individual mandate. We're getting rid of those things that people said that 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 in that, maybe they should invest in their own health care. They've got to make those decisions themselves.
CAMEROTA: So, in other words, for lower income Americans, you're saying that this is going to require some sacrifice on their part?
CHAFFETZ: Well, we've got to be able to actually lower the cost of health care. I mean, one of the things we're concerned about is health care inflation is just consuming the American budget, both in the families and at the federal government. We have to be able to drive those cost curves down and provide good, quality access. We do think that with more choice, that you will get a better product at a lower price. And that will be good for everybody in the entire spectrum of income.
CAMEROTA: But you're not willing to say that more people won't become uninsured?
CHAFFETZ: Well, we've lost, I think it was 4.7 million people or so, actually lost the doctor that they had last year. The access is way down. When the cost and deductibles go up, you're not serving the American people well. And we have heard definitively that people know that this is not working. So we're going to try something different.
We do think we can expand the coverage so that people have access to a quality health care product that they want.
CAMEROTA: More access, but possibly less coverage? That might be the byproduct?
CHAFFETZ: Well, yes. Yes. I think that's fair. But we're just now consuming this. So more of the analysis has to happen. That's premature. We just saw the bill as of yesterday. We're just starting to consume it. So we'll have to look at how that analysis moves forward.
CAMEROTA: Fair enough.
CHAFFETZ: Thank you.
CAMEROTA: Congressman Jason Chaffetz...
CHAFFETZ: Thanks for having me.
CAMEROTA: ... thanks so much for being here...
CHAFFETZ: Thank you.
CAMEROTA: ... in studio. Great to have you.
CHAFFETZ: Yes, thank you.
CAMEROTA: Chris. CUOMO: All right. So that's health care. The White House also doubling down on the president's wiretapping claims. We have Democratic reaction from Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal next.
[07:20:36] "Incredulous," that is the word that sources used to describe FBI Director Jim Comey's reaction to President Trump's tweets, claiming his predecessor had bugged the phones at Trump Tower.
Let's get reaction from a prominent Democrat, Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal.
You had a very strong tweet yourself that plays into the political tug of war over accountability down there in Washington. But let's start with -- there's your tweet for the audience to digest. I'll use every possible tool to block DOJ deputy A.G. nominee unless he commits to appoint independent special prosecutor. We'll get to that. But on the wiretapping allegations, the president can answer his own question here, can he not?
SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D), CONNECTICUT: The president can answer his own question, because he has access to the intelligence and information that would show whether or not a warrant was issued, and there would have to be a warrant, either through a Title III court or the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court for any wiretap to be imposed. And incredulous is the right word to describe the reaction many of us had to this allegation that's bizarre and apparently baseless.
CUOMO: If it's so baseless and bizarre, do you think Jim Comey should have said that to everybody and not just behind closed doors or through sources?
BLUMENTHAL: My preference would have been for Director Comey to actually issue a statement and to directly controvert this unfounded claim. At least there's no evidence that anyone can see for the allegation that there was wiretapping by former President Obama.
Remember, this allegation is very, very serious, because there are specific legal restrictions on how a wiretap can be requested from a court, what has to be shown to do it, and so my preference would have been for a clearer statement.
CUOMO: Their pushback on this is, all right, maybe the president overspoke or misspoke and overshot the claim of it being President Obama. But now Sean Spicer is saying, "Well, something happened. There was something that happened." And, obviously, they're going to be searching for anything to justify this.
But will that be satisfying to you if they show something?
BLUMENTHAL: The something is really only a matter of imagination at this point; and speculation is no substitute for hard facts, especially when we're dealing with something so serious, so very, very fundamental as a wiretap, which goes to the heart of our Constitutional guarantees of privacy as well as the statutory restrictions on how and when a warrants can be obtained.
CUOMO: Would you be that shocked if something had been done? We do see in the Obama administration legacy that they did do tons of surveillance. They did often target people that they saw as oppositional, journalists included. Is it outside the realm of possibility that something like this happened?
BLUMENTHAL: There is certainly the possibility that surveillance of Russian agents could have picked up contacts and ties between Trump officials and the Russians. In fact, one of the reasons why I think there ought to be a special prosecutor is because of those connections and even possible collusion between the Trump team before or after the election.
It is incontrovertible at this point, Chris, that the Russians interfered with our elections process...
BLUMENTHAL: ... the bedrock of our democracy. And that investigation could well have picked up some contacts between the Trump transition team or even the election team before the election.
CUOMO: Right. Two things. One, the Obama administration had some journalists in their sights that were Americans, so it's not just about foreign entities.
But to your second point, about wanting a special prosecutor, why is that a premature request? You guys just started looking at this and these three different congressional investigations. You have the FBI looking at it. Why go for a special prosecutor now?
BLUMENTHAL: That's a key question, Chris. Only a special prosecutor can pursue criminal wrongdoing. There is an Intelligence Committee that's doing its investigation, and I support it. Largely out of the public view.
There should be, as a matter of fact, a select committee and perhaps an independent commission that can findings and reports and make recommendations.
[07:25:03] But criminal wrongdoing has to be pursued by a prosecutor; and only an independent special prosecutor can do it without the potential political influence that we see in the turmoil that you just recited going to the wiretaps and the tweets. And independent special prosecutor has a precedent. When Elliott Richardson was designated as attorney general during the Watergate era, he was required as a condition of his nomination as attorney general to say he would appoint a special prosecutor, and he did, Archibald Cox.
CUOMO: Right. But it was very different -- at this point, you had an underlying felony there in Watergate, right? I mean, you had the burglary that all of this grew out of. And a lot of good reporting also.
But this is not that yet, right? You don't have this underlying crime to base this all on. And yet you said in your tweet and you said elsewhere that Rod Rosenstein, who is going to be put up for a confirmation hearing, as basically the functional No. 2 under Sessions at the A.G., you're going to hold that up unless he makes the same pledge that you're referring to during the Watergate era. Do you expect him to do that?
ROSENTHAL: I'm going to know today, because the hearing is at 10 am., and I want to put it to him very directly, as I have done privately, that he has an obligation as the deputy. Only he can do it. Because the attorney general, Jeff Sessions, has recused himself. So now it falls to him, irrefutably to exercise...
CUOMO: Right but do you expect him to say, "Yes, I will definitely do it as soon as I get in there"? I mean, he would be criticized from legal minds on both sides of the political aisle if he said that. What would be his basis for doing that at this point? You know, he has to have a jurisdictional mandate for that prosecutor as to why. You know there's a whole test involved. Do you think this situation meets that test?
ROSENTHAL: I do. Very good question, Chris. I think that it does, as somebody who's been a prosecutor myself, federal prosecutor as U.S. attorney and state attorney general. Because there are very, very serious facts here that show Russian interference. Not just a little bit. But a massive campaign of cyberattack, an act of cyber warfare on our nation, massive propaganda and misinformation and potential ties between Trump officials and the Russians, which have come to light and are growing in number and seriousness. And the danger of cover-up if there is not a special prosecutor.
And it has to be done early. Not later. Because facts and evidence have a way of, unfortunately, disappearing. Memories can fade. And a special prosecutor has to supervise the ongoing investigation. Remember, there is an ongoing FBI investigation.
CUOMO: Right. Senator Blumenthal, thank you for making the case on NEW DAY, as always -- Alisyn.
BLUMENTHAL: Thank you.
CAMEROTA: OK, Chris. House Republicans rolling out their long- awaited Obamacare replacement plan. Parts of it are already creating rifts within the GOP. So who does the plan help? Who does it hurt? That's next.