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President's Sales Pitch; White House on Wiretap Claims; WikiLeaks Bombshell on CIA. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired March 8, 2017 - 04:00   ET


[04:00:10] CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: President Trump all in on the House plan to repeal and replace Obamacare. He says he is proud to support it. Now, the sales pitch begins, try to get his party aligned.

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: The White House left to fend for the president's wiretapping claims after Republican lawmakers are left without any answers themselves.

ROMANS: And this -- are cell phones and TVs helping the CIA gather intelligence? Documents released by WikiLeaks appear to back up that claim. See what the former CIA director has to say about it.

Good morning. Welcome to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

I've heard about these baby monitors. Hackers getting into baby monitors. They get into phones. They can see your car TV --

BRIGGS: Cars, TVs.

Hey, everybody. I'm Dave Briggs, it's Wednesday, March 8th -- March 8th, it is International Women's Day.

ROMANS: Thank you. Thank you. Rashad (ph) brought me a tulip.

BRIGGS: Just one.

ROMANS: Just one.

BRIGGS: That was nice.

ROMANS: You did nothing.

BRIGGS: How about a bouquet?

Four a.m. in the East.

This morning, the future of the Republican plan to repeal and replace Obamacare depends on who you ask. President Trump now giving 100 percent support to the health care plan. A lawmaker present at president's meeting with House Republican leaders tell CNN his endorsement came with stern warning. We're told the president said failure to pass legislation after seven years of promises will lead to a, quote, "bloodbath in the 2018 midterm elections." Mr. Trump even channeled President Obama's most famous unfulfilled health care promise.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This will be a plan where you can choose your doctor. This will be a plan where you can choose your plan. It's a complicated process, but actually, it's very simple. It's called good health care.


ROMANS: So, President Trump's effort to get resistant Republicans on board has not done the trick, at least not yet. New objections voiced by rank and file groups, powerful conservative groups and some key senators signal threats to the bill's very survival.

One aide to a conservative House member telling CNN, "The bill is dead. Too many conservative groups are coming out against it. There's no way they'll have the votes to pass it in its current form."

This morning, two House committees with jurisdiction over the measure will have their say at markup sessions.

And who will be there, our Phil Mattingly. He has more from Capitol Hill.


PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Dave and Christine, it took less than 24 hours for that big bold House Republican Obamacare repeal plan do get into big bold trouble, more or less, conservatives, not just in the House but also in the Senate rejecting it outright. Some saying they will be opposed to it no matter what, even if there are potential changes that are made.

But an interesting element here -- House Republican leadership, aides and lawmakers that I've spoken to over the course of the last couple of days say they are confident going forward. How confident? Well, listen to Speaker Paul Ryan.

REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: We want 218 votes. This is the beginning of the legislative process. We've got a few weeks. We'll have 218 when this thing comes to floor, I can guarantee you that.

MATTINGLY: Guys, that's a clip and save moment right there -- a bold guarantee from the speaker, but one that comes from knowing everything that's working behind the scenes. Obviously, House leaders, House chairs are working behind the scenes to bring their members along. But what gives them the most hope right now is what they're seeing from the White House -- President Trump, Vice President Pence, Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price all getting behind this plan over the course of the last 24 hours, and that matters.

The belief is that with those individuals behind it, especially with President Trump behind it, they'll move those conservatives into line. Unify this going forward. But obviously, the House is the first step. And they have to go to the Senate. There is a lot of battles to come and there are a lot of roadblocks ahead -- Dave and Christine.


BRIGGS: Thanks, Phil.

Some good news for Republicans. They only need the 216, as opposed to the 218 you talked about there. But a top House Republican walking back a comment about low-income Americans access to health care that some found sensitive, even offensive.

It all started on "NEW DAY" when House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz said this to our Alisyn Camerota.


REP. JASON CHAFFETZ (R-UT), HOUSE OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: Well, we're getting rid of 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 to that, maybe they should invest in their own health care. They've got to make those decisions themselves.


BRIGGS: As you might imagine, the out congressman took a beating on social media and from fellow lawmakers. Chaffetz later explained the remark to FOX News saying, maybe he didn't say it smoothly as he should have, but that he believes in self-reliance and people have to make those decisions.

ROMANS: Oh, yes, there's a lot of chatter about that yesterday.


ROMANS: Wealthy Americans are set to get a sizable tax break understand the GOP's health care bill. We mentioned this to you yesterday. The ultra wealthy will see an even bigger tax cut.

What are we talking about here? Under the Affordable Care Act, that's Obamacare, individuals making more than $200,000 pay a Medicare tax, a 0.9 percent Medicare tax on income above that level.

[04:05:09] Same with families bringing in $250,000 a year. So, for individuals making $200,000 and for families making $250,000, they have to pay more taxes so that they can help pay for Obamacare.

Now getting rid of Obamacare, that means those taxes disappear under the GOP plan. Those taxes were used to pay for the Obamacare subsidies. The subsidies go away.

There's also a tax surcharge of 3.8 percent on investment income. That means the richest Americans who were making a lot of money in the stock market right now, that tax on those earning will go away. Some of those in the top 1 percent of incomes will get a tax break.

This is how they score it, around $33,000. So, the richest Americans, by getting rid of Obamacare, they will have $33,000 more. Those in the top 0.1 percent will get an average tax cut of about $197,000 under the GOP plan. Remember, part of Obamacare was funded from taxes of rich people.

This is all according to a study of the original GOP plan from the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center. The plan proposed this week looks very similar to what TPC scored. It will also double the amounts people can contribute to health savings accounts. Critics say that's a tool used mostly by Americans of higher incomes and middle or lower income workers don't have the cash to stock away for future medical expenses to take advantage of those health savings accounts.

BRIGGS: This, of course, why many say we need to have this thing scored by the CBO before we have debate.

ROMANS: Right. Yes. I mean, I think there are some in Republican circles who are concerned about making it look like a tax cut for the rich. I mean, I know that's something they've been talking about because the optics of that are difficult.

BRIGGS: Well, the difficulty is you have fire from the right and left considered -- Republicans. Moderate Republicans have problems with it as do conservatives. So, it will be a difficult task for Paul Ryan.

But this morning, the White House on its own defending President Trump's blockbuster charge that President Obama had him wiretapped. Not a single Republican lawmaker could be found to back up Mr. Trump's claim which he tweeted Saturday without any proof, urging Congress to investigate.

Press Secretary Sean Spicer on the hot seat Tuesday explaining why it is the lawmakers' job to look into the president's apparently baseless claim.


SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: It's not a question of new proof or less proof or whatever. It's -- the answer is the same, and I think that -- which is that I think there is a concern about what happened in the 2016 election. The House and Senate Intelligence Committee 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.


BRIGGS: Even House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes, a strong Trump supporter says there's no evidence yet backing the president's wiretapping claim, but he says his committee will look into it. The panel holds its first public hearing on Russian election interference on March 20th. ROMANS: Senator Al Franken says he now believes Attorney General Jeff

Sessions committed perjury at his hearing, when Sessions failed to reveal two meetings he had with the Russian ambassador. The Minnesota Democrat telling CNN's Jake Tapper he wants Sessions to return to the House chamber to explain himself.


SEN. AL FRANKEN (D), MINNESOTA: I asked him a bright, clear question which is if this information turned out to be true, that members of the Trump campaign had been talking to the Russians, what would you do? Meaning what would you do as attorney general? And he just answered in a completely different question. It's hard to come to any other conclusion that he -- that he just perjured himself.


ROMANS: All right. Franken would not say whether he believes Sessions should resign and he called the attorney general's written explanation for his testimony insufficient and, Dave, ridiculous.

BRIGGS: WikiLeaks claims its latest document dump reveals how the CIA hacked its way into TVs, telephones all over the world to spy on people. According to documents purported to be from the CIA's internal records, the agency used a spying techniques that make them appear to be hackers from Russia. WikiLeaks claims nearly all of the CIA cyber weapons had been stolen and are now in the hands of foreign adversaries.

Former CIA Director Leon Panetta offered up this warning.


LEON PANETTA, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: What WikiLeaks is doing and continues to do is to leak the most sensitive information about how our intelligence operations conduct their business. So, I would think that if the president is truly concerned about leaks, he would not support WikiLeaks, nor would he support any other kind of intelligence leaks that damage our country.


BRIGGS: Of course, he was a big support of the president of WikiLeaks on the campaign trail. The CIA citing standing policy, declining to say whether the documents are genuine.

Many, Christine, feel this is worse than the Snowden NSA leak to 2013 because it's technically a blueprint of what CIA does.

[04:10:00] ROMANS: It's fascinating when you look at all of the stories we've done lately about hackers who have been getting into baby monitors, getting into phones, getting into televisions, you know. The stuff in your house, the smart environment --

BRIGGS: Right, wait until driverless cars are all over the road.

ROMANS: Right, right, fascinating in a lot of levels.

OK. Organizers of January's women's march are planning a nationwide protests today dubbed "A Day Without A Woman". It's billed as a show of economic solidarity with walkouts, rallies and marches planned in cities like New York, Washington, San Francisco and Los Angeles.

Today is International Women's Day. That's I think why the day. Women are being asked to skip work to demonstrate their clout.

And Lady Liberty appears to be behind them. The statue mysteriously went dark for two hours last night before the lights came on.

Social media lit up as the Grand Old Lady went dark. Look, they were saying she must be taking a stand against the Trump administration.

But National Park Officials infusing a dose of reality, telling us this outage was likely caused by work being done on a new backup generator.

BRIGGS: Really? That's convenient.

ROMANS: And, you know, not very far, not very far from where she is, another little lady sprung outside of the Wall Street bull, the famous iconic Wall Street bull, this little bronze statue of a defiant fearless girl showed up. I'll tell you later in the program what happened there. Why she came. It's a really fascinating story on that one, too.

BRIGGS: Thank you for showing up for work today. I know you support women's causes but I appreciate you being here.

ROMANS: So, happy 88 cents on your dollars, ladies.

BRIGGS: Well, what would it take for North Korea to suspend its nuclear development? China has an idea, and it could affect the U.S. Live report from Seoul, next.


[04:15:38] ROMANS: Members of the U.N. Security Council today discussed North Korea's ballistic missile launch after condemning the launch in a statement. It was a big focus at the first State Department briefing under the Trump administration.


MARK TONER, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: We are very concerned that the escalation, the continuing testing and augmenting of its weapons program is of great concern. And it's getting to the point where we need to do -- we do need to look at other alternatives.


ROMANS: Now, we hear China is suggesting that North Korea suspend its military nuclear activities but in exchange for what.

CNN international correspondent Alexandra Field joins us live this morning from Seoul.

Hi there.


All of this is all the elements for the first foreign policy crisis for the Trump administration to face. They've been prepared to face North Korea crisis since taking office. And you're seeing this ratcheting up of tensions right here in the region.

China weighing in today, the foreign minister saying that both sides here need to essentially pump the brakes as you point out. He's calling on the North Koreans to put an end to their missile and nuclear activity in exchange, he says, for the U.S. and South Koreans to stop their joint military exercises. These are annual exercises that every year rankle North Koreans. Their dictator says these exercises as preparation for an invasion.

But President Donald Trump spoke to South Korea's acting president this week after North Korea's missile launch and the two parties agreed that they will carry on with these joint military exercises.

At the same time, the missile test from North Korea will now be the subject of a U.N. Security Council meeting later today. They have, of course, strongly condemned this action. They have talked about North Korea's zee stabilizing behavior in the region and their flagrant violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions. All of that again will be discussed today.

And this will partially be the discussion when the U.S. secretary of state making his visit to the region just next week. Secretary Tillerson plans to stop in Tokyo, Beijing and Seoul. A big topic on the agenda will be shared security concerns and also how to counter missile and nuclear threats posed by North Korea.

At the same time, China also sending another message to the U.S. today. Foreign minister again registering with his discontent with the THAAD system that is being deployed. That is a missile defense system. It is a U.S.-designed system that will be installed in South Korea. China has made it very clear that they object to the system. They feel it's hemming them in, boxing them in in their own region. And they pointed out that they believe that the radar that comes with the THAAD system has a reach that goes well beyond the Korean Peninsula.


FIELD: They call this an infringement, a violation of their own security concerns. They'll talk at those discussions next week, I'm sure -- Christine.

ROMANS: Yes, a lot on the agenda. OK, Alexandra Field in Seoul for us, keeping track of it all. Thank you.

BRIGGS: A letter signed by 100 U.S. senators calling for increased security at centers, state schools and synagogues nationwide. It follows a new wave of bomb threats against JCCs and Anti-Defamation League offices in seven states. Since January, there have been more than 100 reported in the U.S. and Canada. The letter from the senators to the president expressing concerns about anti-Semitic acts, including vandalism and desecration of headstones at Jewish cemeteries in major cities.

ROMANS: All right. This Wednesday morning, breaking overnight, a coordinated terror attack on a military hospital in the Afghan capital, not far from the U.S. embassy. We go live with the details, next.


[04:23:37] BRIGGS: Breaking news: A deadly attack in a military hospital in Afghanistan. This came near the U.S. embassy in Kabul. The attack is still ongoing at this hour.

Let's bring in CNN senior international correspondent Nick Paton Walsh.

Good morning, Nick. Is this unprecedented in nature at a hospital?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, obviously, central Kabul has been penetrated before but this is deeply symbolic and now in its four and a half hour. Since 9:00 in the morning, medical -- well, people disguised as medical personnel got their way inside the hospital compound.

This is the Sardar Mohammad Daud Khan Hospital right in the heart of the capital, a stone's throw from the American embassy where loads of Afghan soldiers are taken for treatment. Some civilians too. Terrifying images showing people cowering on balconies outside of the hospital, trying to get away from these attackers.

Afghan commandos inserted now, they claim to have isolated the attackers and put most of the patients in a safe area. But this comes at a very bad time for the Afghan military. About half of the country contested or Taliban controlled record casualties in their numbers -- 6,000 dead between January and November last year. That's way more than the U.N. suffered in their entire campaign. This is still America's longest war.

And the question, of course, now is who is behind this attack? Well, the usual suspect, the Taliban, said it's not them. Instead, ISIS, who is strong in the country's east and often claim the attacks opportunistically, they stepped forward and said it's their commando.

[04:25:07] We don't know the truth of this yet. The casualty number has two dead and four injured may well grow, because this has now been a lengthy attack. But this is a symbolic blow in the very heart of what should be the securest diplomatic area of the Afghan capital at the time when the country really is experiencing the deepest level of crisis for the last decade -- David.

BRIGGS: Awful stuff.

Nick Paton Walsh live in Lebanon, thank you.

ROMANS: All right. President Trump warning of dire consequences for Republicans if they can't pass a health care overhaul. Can he get it done? Well, depends on who you ask. The latest.


BRIGGS: President Trump makes his pitch to get Republicans to line up behind the new health care plan. Party leaders are confident. Rank and file, not convinced.

ROMANS: White House still trying to explain the wiretapping claims after Republican lawmakers left without any answers to fend off with some growing questions.