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President Trump's Claims of President Obama Wiretapping Trump Tower Examined; House Republicans Unveil Health Care Bill; Interview with Congressman Chris Collins; House Republicans Unveil Plan To Repeal & Replace Obamacare. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired March 7, 2017 - 08:00   ET


[08:00:00] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: The first draft of their plan to replace Obamacare. Critics pouncing from their own party, from the Democrats, saying it doesn't go far enough, it goes too far, but the reality is millions may well lose their coverage.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: All of this as President Trump continues his unsubstantiated claims that former president Obama illegally wiretapped him during the campaign. FBI chief James Comey reportedly is, quote, "incredulous," over Mr. Trump's allegation. Will Comey speak out about Trump's claims? This is day 47 of the Trump administration.

We begin our coverage with CNN's Sunlen Serfaty. She is live on Capitol Hill. Good morning, Sunlen.

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to you, Alisyn. House Republicans finally unveiling their bill to repeal and replace Obamacare. But already there are some major fault-lines emerging, some criticism and concern coming from some top Republicans, and even the White House isn't yet fully embracing and endorsing this bill. President Trump taking to Twitter just a few minutes ago saying, yes, this is a wonderful bill, but notably he also said this bill is now up for negotiation.


REP. KEVIN BRADY, (R) TEXAS: It is Obamacare gone.

SERFATY: 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 at least of the last 20 years.

SERFATY: Central to their bill, the American Health Care Act, the elimination of the individual and employer mandate, tax penalty for people without insurance, the replacement of 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 preexisting

conditions, and adult children can remain on their parents' plan until the age of 26. Some are already divided, calling the bill Obamacare 2.0.

REP. LOUIE GOHMERT, (R) TEXAS: I've already from some constituents upset about you are 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, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The plans will be much less expensive than Obamacare. They'll be far better than Obamacare. It will be unbelievable.

SERFATY: The White House releasing a statement calling the bill an important step toward 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 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 of this will formally start turning on Wednesday. That's why two House committees will start marking up this bill. The goal from House leadership is to have this bill on the floor within the next few weeks. Alisyn?

CAMEROTA: Thanks so much, Sunlen, for all of that.

Well, President Trump finally unveiling his revised travel ban while at the same time repeating those unsubstantiated claims that he and Trump Tower were wiretapped by President Trump. CNN's Joe Johns is live at the White House with the latest for us. Hi, Joe.

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Alisyn. Some call the charge unsubstantiated, some have called it evidence free. What is clear that the aides for the president of the United States have been working very hard to try and defend it or to at least call for it to be investigated, which brings us to the Justice Department which is under increasing pressure to speak out.


SERFATY: 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.

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We have 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 surveillance, is it a wiretap or whatever. But there has been enough reporting that strongly suggests that something occurred.

[08:05:01] JOHNS: As for the fate of President Trump's relationship with the FBI director --

SPICER: I have not asked him that yet. I think obviously he is focused today first and foremost on his 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, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: If the president of the United States said that, he's got his reasons to say it. He has got some convincing evidence that that took place.

JOHNS: Meanwhile, the president circumventing cameras for the rollout of travel ban 2.0.

REX TILLERSON, 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 resized 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 hard 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 so we can carefully review how we scrutinize people coming here from these countries of concern.


JOHNS: This morning the top prosecutor for Maryland will be on the hot seat on Capitol Hill and is going to be in a confirmation hearing for deputy attorney general. He's likely to get some tough questions about the Russia investigation and called on to say that he would want a special prosecutor to look into those questions. It's also likely that he could get some questions about the president's position on wiretapping. Chris?

CUOMO: Joe, appreciate it.

Let's talk about the state of play with Republican Congressman Chris Collins of New York, a member of the House energy and commerce subcommittee, one of those responsible for the new health care bill. We will talk to you about that. Congressman, always a pleasure.

REP. CHRIS COLLINS (R), NEW YORK: Good to be with you, Chris.

CUOMO: On the wiretapping, help me understand this one. Unlike some of the other claims that came out of citizen Trump, candidate Trump, and even President Trump, this one can actually be answered by the man asking the question, President Trump. He can know whether or not there was a FISA warrant with his name or his associate's names or organization's name on it. So why doesn't he know the answer?

COLLINS: Well, I think as Sean Spicer said, whether it was actually wiretapping with a FISA order or whether it was another type of surveillance, I don't think it's unreasonable to say, as we are investigating other charges on the Russian front, let's put this into the mix, this would be a House investigation, not a special prosecutor. So if we are going to do investigating, let's investigate this. I don't personally have any knowledge, whatsoever, Chris. I am just hypothesizing.

CUOMO: I am with you, but you know what, you are in the same boat as everybody who has talked about this on behalf of the president. Nobody can point to anything, they come to the same conclusion of let's put it in the mix. The reason not to put it in the mix is it would be a distraction, is that it would add to the mix, meaning that they couldn't focus as much on the other questions that maybe the president doesn't like as much.

And it takes you back to the same premise. He knows the answer to this. Even if you go with Spicer's, you know, his whole jumble of answer there, whatever the answer is, the president is a phone call away from knowing the answer.

COLLINS: Well, again, the investigation can't hurt. I don't agree that it would be a distraction from what they are doing. It's not like they don't have the resources to do, if you want to call it, both at the same time. So let's let it play out. Again, many of us, myself included, I don't have any details. An investigation, whatever conclusion it comes to, it may not take --

CUOMO: Right, but you guys speak out all the time about pointless investigations that just besmirch people's reputations and unfairly go after people. You and I talked about that. Isn't that what this would be, trying to track down whether President Obama put a hit essentially on Trump through wiretapping or some other mechanism? You've got Comey coming out, having his people go to the DOJ to squash it. Why waste time on this unless there's proof which the president should already have?

COLLINS: Well, I guess we'll see. And I think Director Comey is speaking about a FISA order. Those of us in Congress that are not on the intelligence committee, we never know if there's a FISA court order or not. Those are ultra-secret type of situations. So let's let it play out. I really -- again, I don't have any information. We are going to be doing an investigation on the Russian investigation, so throw this in the mix.

[08:10:06] CUOMO: All right, on health care, is it a true proposition while there are specific advantages for certain people under this plan, people are going to lose coverage if this plan is put into effect? Will you own that?

COLLINS: I don't agree with that. Many people are talking about the expansion of Medicaid which is not being touched until 2020. That's two years and 10 months from now. And after 2020, January 1, 20, states like New York that did choose to expand can continue the expansion indefinitely, but they will be reimbursed at their standard reimbursement rate from the federal government at 50 percent instead of 90 percent.

I would argue it was unconscionable that we were compensating 90 percent for healthy adults who were working, and only 50 percent for the blind and the disabled and the elderly. That never made any sense to me whatsoever. So this is going to say to a state if you want to expand, you get 50 percent, you get 50 percent. So it's up to the state's personal choice. So it doesn't mean anyone is going to be knocked off of the expansion, and I suspect they won't. Most states that chose the expansion, I believe, are going to keep it.

CUOMO: It's not just your governor. My brother in New York state and the governors of other states that did the expansion, they are all saying the same thing. Yes, sure, Collins, you won't knock them off with your federal bill but I will have to as the governor because you are not giving me as much money anymore, and you are saying to the states, you will have to make it up. We don't have the money so we're going to have to take people off the rolls. And the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities did a review of this, and they say that 11 million adults in 32 states who gained coverage through the expansion will lose it and become uninsured.

COLLINS: I disagree, and I would like anyone to explain to me why the federal government was paying 90 percent of the cost for able-bodied adults who were working but didn't have a high enough income or they had a lower income versus 50 percent for the blind and disabled and the elderly? That I don't think you can defend. So all we are saying is if a state in their best judgment want to cover people through the expansion, in the case of West Virginia, they will get 73 percent instead of 90.

CUOMO: But you are still assuming they don't have the money. In your case, 73 percent, you would still be asking them to pay an amount of money they say they don't have. A lot of these on the individual level, now their tax credits, there are no more subsidies, the Urban Institute did an analysis of similar tax credits proposed by then Congressman Tom Price, obviously the man now holding the reins at Health and Human Services. They found it could results in plans with deductibles as high as $25,000 for individuals and even higher for families because it's not enough money for people who don't have money to put into a health savings account to buy care, and they will wind up not having coverage. Don't you have to own that to also own the cost savings?

COLLINS: Well, it goes back to the fundamental question. Do we want a single-payer, socialized medicine, which is what the Democrats want, or do we want individual accountability and personal choice, letting businesses decide what coverage works for their employees, letting them get that coverage through trade associations and through chambers of commerce? That's the fundamental divide where the Democrats believe in the socialized medicine model, the single-payer system, and the Republicans do not. We believe in personal accountability and personal choice.

CUOMO: Right, but don't you have to own the accountability with that policy position? I totally get what you are saying. People will be in favor of it. You can argue that a lot of people made Trump president on the basis of repeal and replace. Now, he seemed to suggest people would keep their coverage, he seemed to suggest everybody would get what they wanted. But if you do what you want to do in this plan, people are going to lose coverage. You seem reluctant to own that, or isn't that just straight talk?

COLLINS: You don't know that.

CUOMO: People say it's impossible for it not to happen. You won't have enough money in the system for these people to get the coverage that they now have.

COLLINS: Well, the people today on a bronze plan with a $10,000 deductible in Arizona don't have insurance. They don't have insurance that provides them any coverage with a $10,000 deductible. The companies who have stopped insuring people because under the essential benefit program they couldn't afford the insurance and that threw some of these people in some of the Medicaid expansion where they then couldn't find a doctor who would take Medicaid. Obamacare has failed.

And what we're coming up with is putting people back in charge of their health insurance. The tax refundable credits allow them to negotiate and pick a policy that works for them.

[08:15:06] It's only going to be given to them as they purchase a policy. This isn't a check that they can use to go buy a new suit of clothes. So it's again personal choice putting companies back in charge, all those folks who had their hours cut from 39 hours to 27 can go back to working 39 hours. They don't have to have two part- time jobs. Those were the failures of Obamacare that we've addressed in the American -- the healthcare act. And I think America once they actually come to understand the glide path that nothing is changing on the expansion until January 1 to 20.

CUOMO: Right.

COLLINS: States can keep the expansion. They're going to get reimbursed with 50 percent, but they also have a lot of control, we're shifting Chris, a lot of control on Medicaid back to the states. New York decides to send taxicab to pick up people on Medicaid to take them to the doctor. I don't know of any other state that does that. That's the kind of optional program that's New York is going to have to look in the mirror and say why are we doing something no other state in the nation does?

CUOMO: The question will be, is different better? There's no question that this proposal was different. We'll have to get into it and see if you get your lifetime cabs.

COLLINS: That's correct.

CUOMO: If you get the same kinds of coverage that you had before and what access really means. Chris Collins, appreciate you making the case as always.

COLLINS: OK. You're very good Chris.

CUOMO: Alisyn.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: All right Chris, as you and Congressman Collins were just discussing, the hard work is just beginning for the GOP law makers to replace Obamacare. So who are the winners and losers in this new plan? One of the architects of Obamacare is here to find that next.



[08:20:13] DONALD TRUMP (R), U.S. PRESIDENT: The plans will be much less expensive than Obamacare. They'll be far better than Obamacare, you'll get your tax, you'll get everything that you want to get. It will be unbelievable.


CAMEROTA: Also a lot of unbelievable promises. That was then Candidate Donald Trump just over a year ago describing what healthcare would look like in a Trump administration. So how does the new Republican Replacement plan square with that vision? Joining us now is Jonathan Grouber, an economics professor at MIT and one of the architects of Obamacare. Good morning Professor.

JONATHAN GRUBER, ECONOMICS PROFESSOR, MIT: Good morning, good to be here.

CAMEROTA: Good to have you. What are the pros and cons as you see them having read the first outlines of this Republican replacement plan?

GRUBER: Well, I think base through the question is why does this plan exist? Essentially, you got a plan that, yes, reduces protections for the poor, the sick and the old. All this in order to get a tax cut to the rich.

CUOMO: How so?

GRUBER: So I just don't quite understand what this -- why this proposing does.

CUOMO: Explain how that is true, and what you read in the proposal.

GRUBER: Sure. So once again we're all reacting quickly to something read last night. But let me focus on what I said in particular. How does that reduce protections for the sick?

First of all, a recent removing individual mandate, the law pulls the healthy out of the insurance pool, raising premiums for the sick. Second of all, it reduces the essential benefits that are key to protecting the health of the sick.

How does it hurt the old? It now says insurers can charge the old five times what they can charge the young for health insurance.

CAMEROTA: Why? Why are they doing that? Why should the old be charged five times the amount?

CUOMO: Because they are sick and the young are healthy and strong and they get priced cheaper which is a push back if the mandate was unconstitutional forcing people to gave a product and --

CAMEROTA: But the healthy people carries the burden for the sick people, I get that part, but in terms of the elderly having to bear the brunt, how does that going to make sense to elderly voters?

GRUBER: It is not. And especially when you realize the third group which is the sick which obviously many elders face illness risk. You got, you know, you got that situation and you have on top of that the treatment of the poor. Let's focus on this because this is really striking.

Under the Affordable Care Act no poor person has to pay more than 10 percent of their income for their health insurance premiums. Under this alternative you can have someone near the poverty line paying 25 percent learning from our more for health insurance and if that person should happen to lose their job and suddenly be unable to pay that 25 or 30 percent of their income and be uninsured for two months, then if they ever want to get insurance again, they have to be charged 30 percent more that everyone else.

CUOMO: Well, they can be. There's a penalty put in place which they say is the replacement for the mandate, that if you don't have coverage for 63 days or something like that, you can then be charged your premium plus 30 percent. But I'm given a point to push back form the other side.

They all say that healthcare is not a right and you can't force me to buy something just because it's good for somebody else, and if this comes down to single payer versus choice within a system and if that's what people wanted, that's what the election determine and yes, some people may not get the same coverage, but everybody will have access and that's what freedom is. GRUBER: So couple response to that. First of all, access is meaningless, we all have access to many things but if we can't afford them it's useless. Really, it's about making health insurance affordable and if you do not bring everyone into the insurance pool you do not make insurance affordable. Ultimately we're all sick we're all old we all work and then need healthcare, so we're all in this endeavor together.

Now, that doesn't mean a single payer system, under the mandate if you chose not to buy heath insurance you pay the penalty which is a small fraction of the cost you're posing on society. If you couldn't afford insurance you we're not subject to the mandate and you can just stay out of the system, OK.

So this was a system designed to bring society into the kind of health insurance arrangements that works for you at CNN and works for all large employers. It's just trying to make that work for those who don't have access to that kind of high quality insurance.

CAMEROTA: And Professor Gruber not to bring us a source subject, but of course you remember a couple of years ago when you got into some troubles we're suggesting publically that one of the advantages of Obamacare was said it was sort of so dense and the lack of transparency would help because, you know, most Americans win sort of put in the time and energy to have to read through to really see what they were getting.

Do you -- the reason I bring it up is because is that relevant again? This morning I have here what Chris printed out last night of the multiple pages, do you think that voters and all of the people that you think would be disadvantaged, do you really understand what this replacement plan means for them because, you know, we've seen people all the anger, a town hall meeting where they think that something is going to be taken away from them, but who will put in the time to sift through this dense stuff and really get it?

[08:25:00] GRUBER: So let's be clear. That's not really what I said, the point I was making in those televised comments was that sometimes when laws are complicated it's hard to follow them and that basically, that can sometimes be necessary to increase the wheels of a political process.

However here is the big difference, when the Affordable Care Act was passed, it was done with unprecedented transparency. There were hundreds of hearings and there were dozens of this congressional budget office course. Now, in the move of incredible hypocrisy, especially to me personally given the attacks that were landed on me, they wanted to talk about jamming through a bill without even having any hearings or any score from migrational budget office.

We have no idea how many more Americans will become uninsured, what it's going to do with the deficit? Is it going to go up, is it going to go down, who is going to win, who is going to lose? There were months of debate about the Affordable Care Act covering all these exact topics. There is nothing on this law and that is outrageously hypocritical. CUOMO: How big a deal is it that the politics of Obamacare do have a lot of apparent negatives? You do have this test case that they love to point out on the other side from you about spiking premiums in places like Arizona and that you said you could keep your doctor, you said you could keep your plan and it round up not being true. Are you kind of dead in the water because of those situations?

GRUBER: Well, I don't think -- I don't know what you said dead in the water I mean certainly, you have uncertain cases premiums have gone up a lot. Those happen to be the cases where the Republicans have most strongly oppose the underlying working of the law. If they just allow the law to work as designed that is expanding Medicaid for the poor citizens and encouraging health to your citizens to sign up rather than discouraging them the law would have worked much better.

So I don't think your dead in the water or any sense they're simply saying when we took the efforts undermining the law it didn't work. Oh, no surprise. If that actually allow the law to have he conditions to succeed if would've succeeded.

CAMEROTA: Professor Gruber thank you for putting all of this in Layman's terms and helping all of us understand this better this morning, nice to see you.

GRUBER: Nice to see you too.

CUOMO: And this is just the beginning. So as we get into the details we'll have Gruber back well, the other side back and we'll do some of the work for you, but as Alisy say, "You got to do your own work if you want to know how it's going to--

CAMEROTA: Or you can just stay up later 1:30 I the morning and read it for us.

CUOMO: I did.

CAMEROTA: You don't have to -- I know I--

CUOMO: I did but, you know, they have to be involved. We saw this the last time, is that you can't trust anybody else as much as you can trust yourself. I have to go now.

Trump aids doubling down on President Trump's wiretap claims. FBI Director Comey said to be incredulous by the alligations, but he hasn't said anything himself. Reaction from Democrat's Senator Dick Durbin, next.