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Obamacare Repeal Faces A Tough Road; White House on Wiretap Claims; WikiLeaks Bombshell on CIA; China Suggests DPRK Suspend Nuclear Activity; Dirk Nowitzki Scores 30,000 Career Points. Aired 5- 5:30a ET

Aired March 8, 2017 - 05:00   ET


DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: President Trump all in on the House plan to repeal and replace Obamacare. He says he's proud to support it, now the sales pitch to get his party in line.

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

[05:00:07] BRIGGS: And are cell phones and TVs helping the CIA gather intelligence? Documents released by WikiLeaks appear to back up that claim. Hear what the former CIA director has to say. A terrifying story for Americans.

ROMANS: You know, there's no question that the stuff in your house can be hacked. And we usually are reporting to how hackers are gaining access to your baby monitor, to your cell phone. But this is a story about the CIA and that makes it much more scary.

BRIGGS: Well, thanks for getting an EARLY START with us. I'm Dave Briggs.

ROMANS: I'm Christine Romans. It is Wednesday, March 8th. It is 5:00 a.m. in the East.

This morning, the future of the Republican plan to repeal and replace Obamacare depends on whom you ask. President Trump now giving 100 percent support to the health care plan.

A lawmaker at president's meeting with House Republican leaders tell CNN his endorsement came with a stern warning. We are 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.


BRIGGS: 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 lawmakers, 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."

CNN's Phil Mattingly 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.


ROMANS: All right, Phil Mattingly. With a lot of scrutiny of what this bill looks like, right?

So, wealthy Americans are expected to get a sizable tax break under the GOP's health care bill. And the ultra wealthy will see an even bigger tax cut. Under Obamacare, the Affordable Care Act, it's paid for by taxes on the rich, among other provisions.

Individuals making more than $200,000 a year under Obamacare pay a 0.9 percent Medicare tax on income above that amount. Same with families bringing in $250,000. They pay extra. They pay a tax. That tax will disappear under the GOP plan because it's used -- that tax under Obamacare is used to pay for subsidies. The subsidies go away. You don't need the tax.

And there's also a tax surcharge in Obamacare, of 3.8 percent on investment income. All of these people making gobs of money in the stock market rally are being taxed on that to pay for health care. That will go away under the GOP plan.

Some of those in the top 1 percent of incomes will get a tax break of around $33,000.


ROMANS: Those in the top 0.1 percent will get an average tax cut of about $197,000 under the GOP plan. That's according to a study of the original plan from the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center. What we saw this week is very similar. We need the Congressional Budget Office, of course, to score this. That could be soon.

Now, this would also double the amount of people that could help contribute to savings accounts. You know, the Republican strategy is to get people to save for their own health care.

But health care economists say that is a tool used mostly by Americans with higher incomes. And middle or lower income Americans, they don't have cash to stash away in health savings account for future medical expenses. If you don't have a lot of money, you're using that money to live on, not to invest with.

[05:05:03] And that is sort of the problem with trying to push people on health savings accounts, that they don't make a lot of money.

BRIGGS: Yes. And some say the irony here is that the president won on the backs of those who make less than $50,000 a year, they might be the ones impacted the most by this.

Let's bring in the managing editor of CNN Politics Digital, Zach Wolf, this morning.

Good morning to you, Zach. All right. So, you've got conservative groups, freedom works across the board here, they all oppose this. You've got flank on the right and the left. What's the biggest obstacle to this bill's passage, do you think, for Paul Ryan?

ZACHARY WOLF, CNN POLITICS DIGITAL MANAGING EDITOR: I mean, you heard him say it, 218. He needs to get enough team to vote for it. And he made a good point, though.

I mean, this is the beginning of the process. They put the bill out there. Nobody had seen it. Everybody dislikes it. The question is, over the coming weeks and potentially months are they

going to be able to change minds about it. Are they going to be able to change it so that enough Republicans get on board? This part of it, they're looking to just pass with Republican support.

So, the Democrats who are pretty much universally united against it are an afterthought here. There are some things they can say. They can say this is an iterative process. There are going to be more elements of this bill.

ROMANS: Right.

WOLF: So, just stay with us for this part and we'll fix it in the next part.

So, I wouldn't put this one, you know, out just yet, even though there's so much opposition.

ROMANS: You know, it's interesting, Zach, I was listening to Sean Spicer yesterday, Zach. And I felt like he started to talk about the second and third phase, and how different issues will be addressed in phase two and phase three, which seemed to me like he was saying, when we get the CBO score, this whole sentence hasn't been written yet. Do you think there could be setup for what could be criticism there?

WOLF: Oh, absolutely. But I also think it's going to be a bargaining chip for people who oppose this bill. We know you don't like it, we know it's not perfect, but please stick with us here and we can doll more later.

Now, I will say the parts they want to do later, those are going to require 60 votes in the Senate and that's going to be much harder.

SPICER: Here's in part Sean Spicer's selling of this bill yesterday in a press conference at the White House.


SPICER: To all of the people who have concerns about this, especially on the right, look at the size. This is the Democrats. This is us. I mean, you can't get any clearer in terms of this is government this is not. Our bill which is a tenth of the size does repeal and replace what their bill just did in massive government bureaucracy and that is a big difference.


BRIGGS: You talk about a surreal moment, an administration who is all about size, the size of their crowds, how big they are, how big the ratings, selling the small size of their bill. I found out more than a tad ironic.

But again to get back to the biggest obstacle, when you look at the Senate, Zach, you have those that are concerned about expansion moderate Republicans and then you have those that called it Obamacare light, like Rand Paul, Mike Lee, Ted Cruzes of the world. Who will be harder to convince?

WOLF: Oh, I think harder the Mike Lees and Ted Cruzes of the world especially the Rand Pauls are going to be hard to convince on this. They've made sort of careers out of saying Obamacare is a bad thing. So, to pass a version of Obamacare is going to very, very difficult.

On the other hand, they've been saying for so long, we need to repeal this. So if the one thing that is moving through Congress to sort of repeal this law is the only thing to vote for, it might be hard not to.

ROMANS: The president tweeting about Rand Paul. "I'm sure my friend Rand Paul will come around, come along with the new health care program because he knows Obamacare is a disaster."

He also threatened them, basically he said, look, you're going to have a bloodbath in 2018 if we don't get this right.

I have a counterintuitive question for you. I mean, the assumption among Republicans is that Donald Trump rode to the White House on the wave of hatred of Obamacare. The polling shows that the hatred of Obamacare isn't as great as they thought. In fact, some people, what they dislike about Obamacare is because it didn't go far enough.

WOLF: Yes, I think that's right. The point you made earlier, a lot of the people who might be affected by this are people who might be benefitting from insurance from Obamacare.

On the other hand, I think it's really expensive for people in certain states. It's gotten more expensive and it continues to get more expensive. You look at polling, it's gotten more popular since the election, Obamacare has. And now that sort of people are looking it not having it anymore, it continues to grow in popularity.

That doesn't mean that vast majority of Americans support it. No, it's very split, just like the country.

BRIGGS: Of course, to their point, they ran on the repeal of Obamacare. They say this is what they have to do to please their voters.

ROMANS: You're right.

BRIGGS: But looming over the entire agenda for President Trump are these attacks, comments -- the tweets rather about wiretapping by President Obama.

[05:10:04] And here is what Devin Nunes of the House Intelligence Committee said about the accusations made over the weekend on Twitter.


REP. DEVIN NUNES (D), CALIFORNIA: The president is a neophyte to politics. He's been doing this for a little over a year. I think a lot of the things 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 also lead to us have to be sitting in a press conference like this answering questions that you guys are asking.


BRIGGS: That is one of the most staggering statements about a sitting president I have ever heard. As opposed to taking the president literally, what ought the press do, Zach?

WOLF: Well, I'm going to disagree with the congressman here. I think we have to take him literally. He is the president of the United States. I think he knew exactly what he was doing when he made those tweets. And it's interesting, you saw Sean Spicer yesterday say similar things to Devin Nunes.

You can -- there is not one person in government who has backed up these claims that he made about President Obama. And yet it looks like Congress is going to spend a little bit of time investigating them which is a pretty remarkable thing. I mean, the president is going to make things that are unprecedented and now that he's the president, the wheels of government follow behind him in a remarkable way.

ROMANS: Fascinating. Zach, we'll talk about a bit about the CIA report this morning about, you know. We'll talk about that and other headlines when we come back in a half hour. Get a cup of coffee. See you soon. Thanks for getting up early for us.


ROMANS: What will it take for North Korea to suspend its nuclear development? China has an idea and could mean something for the U.S. A live report from Seoul, next.


[05:16:02] 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.

Council today discussed North Korea's ballast lick 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 with 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 nuclear and military activities. But in change for what? You just don't ask nicely and they stop, right?

CNN international correspondent Alexandra Field joins us live from Seoul.

Tell us about the China angle.

ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hey there, Christine, yeah, do you more than ask nicely as you point out. But the foreign minister for China did speak out today calling for restraint from all sides as tensions rise here in the region. The suggestion from Chinese foreign minister was that North Korea should suspend its missile and nuclear activities if in change for that, the U.S. and South Korea agree to suspend their joint military annual exercises.

Those are two-month long exercises that started earlier this week. At the same time, you saw that missile launch from North Korea also earlier this week. It's no secret that those exercises rankled North Korea. Kim Jong-un has called for a stop to the joint military drills repeatedly. He perceives them as preparation for some kind of invasion.

China at the same time is condemning the launch of those missiles. So is the U.N. Security Council. And they will take up the topic of North Korea later this week.

The Chinese foreign minister also condemning the deployment of THAAD, a missile defense system designed by the U.S. that is being deployed here to South Korea. China sees it as infringement and effort of containment in their own region.

With these tensions rising between several countries here in the region now, you will see the U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson making his first official trip out here next week. He'll be in Tokyo, Beijing and Seoul. A big topic on the agenda, the nuclear and missile threat from North Korea -- Christine.

ROMANS: All right. Alexandra Field live for us live this morning from Seoul -- thank you so much for that.

BRIGGS: Early congratulations pouring in for Dallas Mavericks star Dirk Nowitzki on a career milestone that only a handful of NBA players have reached before.

Andy Scholes is here on set with us. Good morning, Andy.


BRIGGS: He's got "Bleacher Report" next for us.


[05:22:54] BRIGGS: Mavs superstar Dirk Nowitzki going where few NBA players have gone before last night.

ROMANS: Andy Scholes has more in this morning's "Bleacher Report" in the house.

SCHOLES: Yes, only sixth time in NBA history. So, I had to fly into New York to report the news right next to you guys.

Guys, I have to tell you, I had the pleasure to cover Dirk Nowitzki for a couple years in Dallas, one of them being a championship year. There's no other superstar in the NBA more humble. This is Dirk's 19th season with the Mavs. And with this bucket he became the sixth player in history and first international player to reach the 30,000 point mark.

After a time-out, the 7-footer from Germany gets mobbed by Mavs owner Mark Cuban and teammates. Dirk said a very emotional moment for him. He hopefully has a couple buckets left in his career before it's time to ride off into the sunset.

Now, congrats pouring in from Dirk from all around the league. Dirk's good friend, actor Ben Stiller posted this video.


BEN STILLER, ACTOR: Hey, Dirk, I'm here on my farm and they told me that you hit 30,000 points. I don't really follow basketball, but that's incredible. And in one game, that's amazing. Anyway, I got to get back to my chores. Take it easy.


Check the cattle.


SCHOLES: Who knew Ben Stiller had a farm?

Elsewhere the NBA, Russell Westbrook, he's feeling it against the Blazers. The Thunder star poured in a career high 58 points in this one. But he did miss his last four shots that happened in the last minute and a half in the game. Despite Westbrook's career, the Thunder would fall to the Blazers 126-121.

Gonzaga officially punching their ticket to the NCAA tournament last night with the win over St. Mary's. And Zags finished the season with just one loss, likely going to earn a one seed for the second time in history. Yesterday here in New York, all of the broadcasters from Turner Sports and CBS who were going to be calling the tournament games were here for media day.

And with Gonzaga being one of the favorites this year, you know, I've got a question for them. Gonzaga's mascot is Bulldogs but called a Zag. What is a Zag?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It gives you a lot of option. Play by play, got to mix it up a little bit.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have no idea. I have no idea.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Opposite of a zig? I don't know. What is a Zag? Does anyone have an answer to that question?

SCHOLES: Not really.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're called Gonzaga. But everybody called them Gonzaga.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think they changed the name to Zags so people say, oh, Gonzaga.

SCHOLES: To pronounce the name right?



SCHOLES: And that's a life lesson for all of us because I've been caught saying Gonzaga as well before. And it's Gonzaga. You always make sure to put that Zag in there.

BRIGGS: What's the answer? There is -- Zag is nothing?

SCHOLES: It's just kind of a nickname.

ROMANS: They're bulldogs.

BRIGG: Bulldogs. Let's call them the Bulldogs.

SCHOLES: Gonzaga Bulldogs, but everyone likes to call them the Zag. That is kind of cool, right?

BRIGGS: Charles Barkley is brilliant.

ROMANS: I love that guy. I will not call them the Gonzaga again. You taught me something today. Something really important.

SCHOLES: There you go. Life's lesson here in the "Bleacher Report".

ROMANS: A mistake I will not make again. Andy Scholes, thank you so much.

SCHOLES: You're welcome. All right.

ROMANS: President Trump warning of dark consequences for Republicans if they can't pass the health care overhaul. Can it get done? It depends on whom you ask.