Return to Transcripts main page


Obamacare Repeal Faces A Tough Road; GOP Leaders Confident ACA Repeal Will Pass; Explosive WikiLeaks Document Dump. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired March 8, 2017 - 05:30   ET



[05:30:35] CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: President Trump makes his pitch to get Republicans to line up behind the new health care plan. Party leaders are confident, the rank and file needs some convincing.

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: The White House still trying to explain the president's wiretapping claims after Republican lawmakers were left without any answers to fend off the growing questions.

ROMANS: And purported CIA hacking tools are revealed thanks to WikiLeaks. Could cell phones and T.V.'s help the CIA gather intelligence? Welcome back to EARLY START this morning. I'm Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: And I'm Dave Briggs, and I'm a bit of a neophyte. It's only really my second week here on the job so don't take my words literally.

ROMANS: I won't. You're quoting -- you're quoting Congressman Nunes.

BRIGGS: I'm quoting Devin Nunes on the president and how he handled those wiretapping allegations. It was a surreal moment. I don't mean to poke fun at it --

ROMANS: That really got you. That one got you.

BRIGGS: -- but 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 for the health care plan. A lawmaker at the president's meeting with House Republican leaders tells CNN his endorsement came with a stern warning. We're told the president said failure to pass legislation after seven years of promises would lead to a "bloodbath" in the 2018 mid-term 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.

(END VIDEO CLIP) ROMANS: All right. President Trump's effort to get resistant Republicans on board hasn't done the trick, at least not yet. These are early days. We're at the starting block here, folks. New objections voiced by rank and file lawmakers, powerful conservative groups, and key senators -- all that signals threats to the bill's very survival. One aide to a conservative House member telling CNN, "The bill's 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 mark-up sessions. CNN's Phil Mattingly will be watching closely from Capitol Hill.


PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Now, Dave and Christine, it took less than 24 hours for that big, bold House Republican Obamacare repeal plan to get in some very real, 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), HOUSE SPEAKER: We will have 218 votes. This is the beginning of a legislative process. We've got a few weeks. We'll have two -- we'll have 218 when this thing comes to the floor, I can guarantee you that.

MATTINGLY: And guys, that's a clip and save moment right there, a bold guarantee from the speaker but one that comes with 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 kind of hope right now is what they're seeing from the White House.

President Trump, Vice President Pence, Health and Human Service Sec. Tom Price, all getting in full 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 conference going forward. But, obviously, the House was just the first step, then 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: I want to bring in the managing editor of "CNN POLITICS DIGITAL," Zach Wolf. Good morning, Zach. And, you know, you remarked this was kind of a remarkable rollout for something that for seven years Republicans have been promising. They've been promising to repeal Obamacare before Obamacare was actually a law, so this has been sort of a mission critical.

And, I mean, I hate to beat up on Jason Chaffetz -- Congressman Jason Chaffetz, but this remark from him yesterday morning on "NEW DAY" which he has since walked back, really, I think, to opponents of the Republicans, crystallizes what they don't get about Obamacare. Let's listen.


REP. JASON CHAFFETZ (R-UT), HOUSE OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: Well, 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 on that, maybe they should invest it in their own health care. They kind of make those decisions themselves.


[05:35:00] ROMANS: He later said that he didn't say that very well, but this is about choice for consumers. Health care economists point out that very poor people who get big subsidies under Obamacare, they don't buy health -- they don't buy iPhones in the first place. They're buying a cheaper phone with a crappy little plan. I mean, they say it just shows that he -- that the GOP doesn't understand how tough it is for people who are -- depend on Obamacare.

ZACHARY WOLF, MANAGING EDITOR, CNN POLITICS DIGITAL: Well, and you saw that with Republicans -- were also coming out and criticizing Chaffetz for that and he pretty quickly walked it back --


WOLF: -- on a subsequent interview on a -- on another network. So he sort of realized the problem of what he said. But it does -- you know, you point out that lower-income people predominantly supported Donald Trump so we're sort of dealing with these people who are Trump supporters and will now deal with the repercussions of the Obamacare repeal that they -- that they voted for, in a lot of cases.

BRIGGS: So you've got opposition, mainly in the Senate. The House, certainly some, but CNN's latest calculation shows they only need 216 votes to get it through the House, not the full 218. But they can only have two defections, Zach, in the Senate, as opposed to 20 in the House. What can they offer those moderates that are concerned about Medicaid expansion and those Rand Paul, likely, Ted Cruz types concerned that this is Obamacare-like. How do you please both factions?

WOLF: I think that there will be things that they do in the coming days and weeks where they sort of try to -- try to allay both of those outlines of their -- of their party which have very different wants and needs. But I think, ultimately, this is going to get down to -- if you think about it, we've been running for, you know, seven years on the repealing Obamacare. This is the Obamacare repeal. So if you want to say that you repealed Obamacare you're going to have to find a way to like this bill or some version of this bill that we have in the next couple of weeks.


WOLF: And I think that's going to be the most -- you know, the best argument they can make for a lot of these people.

ROMANS: The other big story this morning is this WikiLeaks revelation and the "New York Post" calls it "iSpy." It's, honestly, the top story in every single newspaper in America this morning. A file that it says reveals the CIA has these amazing hacking tools right in your own home -- your television, your phone, that can be turned on to spy on you.

Here's what the former defense secretary Leon Panetta said about that to Wolf Blitzer yesterday.


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.


ROMANS: I failed to mention, Zach, he also used to run the CIA, so he's someone who knows its tools and its methods. What do you think of the timing of this?

WOLF: Well, I just want to also say you didn't hear Leon Panetta deny anything --

BRIGGS: Right.

WOLF: -- in that clip that we just played, you know. He referred to it as, you know, things that are, you know, things the CIA does or might be. You know, I think the timing is interesting. WikiLeaks has always had a -- in recent months has timed things seemingly to coincide with the efforts of Donald Trump.

He obviously made the unfounded claim that the CIA or, you know, the U.S. intelligence had been spying on him or wiretapping him at the behest of Barack Obama. That's not something anyone on Capitol Hill has supported, we should point out, but it is interesting that they come out with this -- this report on the heels of that -- or this document dump, rather -- WikiLeaks -- on the heels of his claims.

BRIGGS: Yes. Some have suggested it's worse than the Snowden leaks regarding NSA in 2013. But finally, I want to ask you about the wiretapping allegations from President Trump to President Obama over the weekend. Sean Spicer made it clear it's his final public comments on the subject. No one, not a single lawmaker, has provided any evidence that the wiretapping allegations are true, so where does this go next? Is the story over for now?

WOLF: Well, they had said that Congress should investigate it but we've heard the people who are in charge of the committees who would be investigating it on Capitol Hill kind of say well, you know, maybe the president didn't know what he was talking about. We'll wrap this into some other investigations. It doesn't seem to be at the top of their list. And I also -- I think Sean Spicer will be challenged on not addressing this again. He's probably going to have to say something else.

BRIGGS: You're right about that, no doubt. He'll be on camera today, again.

ROMANS: Oh, great. Zach Wolf, nice to see you this morning, bright and early -- thanks.

WOLF: Thank you.

ROMANS: All right. There's a lot that businessman Bob Nardelli sees from President Trump that he likes. Nardelli is a leadership guru. He's the former CEO of Chrysler and Home Depot. He has a bold idea for tax reform. I asked Nardelli, what if cutting companies tax rates and letting them repatriate money stashed offshore at lower tax rates -- what if all of that windfall goes right into the pocket of investors and not workers? Nardelli has a solution.

[05:40:00] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BOB NARDELLI, FOUNDER AND CEO, XLR-8: The average American sees stock buyback as a way of increasing cash in the pocket of the senior leadership team. So, I mean, one of the thoughts about this is let's take 25 percent of the money that comes back and put it into the infrastructure fund. Let's make sure that it's backed with government bonds so that they get the tip of the hat, seven-eight percent, but they're assured of getting that money back.


ROMANS: He has some other ways to explain what to do with that money but it's fascinating to think of tying that -- repatriating money to the infrastructure. And he says he knows there's a lot of smart people advising the president right now who have some bold ideas how to make sure that that money doesn't go right into shareholders' pockets.

BRIGGS: Do you get a sense that these big corporations are going to repatriate --

ROMANS: Look, their first --

BRIGGS: -- billions and billions of dollars?

ROMANS: Their first responsibility is to their shareholders. Their first responsibility is to their shareholders.

BRIGGS: Right. ROMANS: We have seen repatriation. I think it was in 2004, there was some money that was brought back -- you know, a tax holiday for overseas money -- and there were no net new jobs created but there were a lot of share buybacks and the investors were paid out.

BRIGGS: Right.

ROMANS: So the question here is if you are going to give this big important goody to these big companies you have to make sure that it's going to translate into job growth and investment in the U.S., and that will be the challenge for this administration and its advisers.

BRIGGS: Got to get some legislation through first.

ROMANS: Yes, that's true.

BRIGGS: A lot of challenges for President Trump. With the U.N. set to take up the growing threat from North Korea, China now offering a suggestion to get Pyongyang to slow its nuclear program. A live report from Seoul is next.


[05:45:45] ROMANS: All right. Breaking overnight, three people are dead, at least 50 injured in a deadly attack at a military hospital in Afghanistan. This is happening near the U.S. Embassy in Kabul. Officials say a suicide bomber detonated at the hospital's gates while three attackers disguised in medical uniforms went inside and opened fire. There are still two attackers, we are told, inside -- an active situation, but all of the patients have been evacuated. An ISIS- affiliated news agency says that ISIS is responsible.

BRIGGS: And members of the U.N. Security Council, today, discuss 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 with the escalation. The continuing testing and augmenting of its -- 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.


BRIGGS: Now we hear China is suggesting that North Korea suspend its nuclear and military activities, but exchange for what? CNN international correspondent Alexandra Field joins us live from Seoul, South Korea with answers. Good morning to you, Alexandra.

ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hey, there. Good morning, David. It's certainly going to take more than a suggestion, it would seem. Let's break down the politics of this a little bit. U.S. officials, including President Donald Trump, have long looked at China and said that China can do more to rein in North Korea and its missile attempts and its nuclear ambitions. China is, of course, North Korea's strongest ally.

But now you have China's foreign minister coming out and pointing the finger at the U.S. and South Korea, saying that the North Koreans should agree to suspend their missile program and their nuclear activities in exchange for agreement from the U.S. and South Korea to suspend their annual joint military exercises. These are two months' worth of drills that happen every year and they consistently rankle North Korea which perceives these drills as preparation for an invasion.

Look, U.S. officials, in light of the missile launch this week, came out and said that they are committed to their allies here in the region. You had President Donald Trump speaking to South Korea's acting president, saying these drills will go on and both parties have affirmed that they will continue with the deployment of THAAD. That's a U.S.-designed missile defense system which will be deployed here on South -- in South Korea. The first pieces of that system actually arrived on the peninsula this week.

China also registering their objection with the THAAD system, saying it's an infringement, it's an attempt to box them in. The U.S. Secretary of State will arrive in the region for his first official visit next week to address these issues and the mounting threat posed by North Korea -- Dave.

BRIGGS: Alexandra, thank you. A complicated region, indeed.

ROMANS: Yes, it really is. All right, time to take a look at what's coming up on "NEW DAY." Chris Cuomo joins us this morning. Good morning, sir.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR, "NEW DAY": Good morning, my young friends.

BRIGGS: Morning.

CUOMO: How are you this morning, well?

ROMANS: I'm a lot younger than you.

CUOMO: I know, I know. Rub it in, Romans. Take a compliment. Learn how to take a compliment.

ROMANS: Thank you, Chris.

CUOMO: You got it. Boy, oh boy. So, what you were just hearing from Alexandra Field and what's going on abroad, it all ties back into the United States' credibility and that's a big issue right now in the wake of the latest peddling by our president of something that he can't prove. We have new reporting about what was behind the motivation for this wiretapping fiasco that went on and what it motivated, what the reaction was within the White House, who is stepping up to try to check the president's wild accusations? We're going to take you through that.

And then, how it filters into the president's ability to sell this health care plan. This is a big test for the famous dealmaker. So many people within his own party rejecting this first offer. What tactics are at play? What's on the table to be changed? And what will it mean for the American people because this isn't just, you know, a gambling expedition here? This is going to have real implications for people.

And then, of course, we'll finish, my friends, with what happened with the CIA hacking. What did they get this time, how did they get it, and there's some really interesting things. We have Phil Mudd on, counterterrorism expert.

ROMANS: Oh, good.

CUOMO: We want to ask him, like, what is behind -- if this stuff is true -- if it's legit, the ability to manipulate the device in your hand, the device on your wall with our smart TV's and spy on us, what is that about?

[05:50:05] ROMANS: Chris --

CUOMO: We'll get it from someone who knows.

ROMANS: We have seen hackers do it, and can I tell you that security experts have told me to put a Post-It note on the little camera on the top of your smart TV so that somebody just can't randomly turn it on. I mean, in many cases, it's a criminal who's trying to do that. But, literally, someone told me that. A security expert told me to put as Post-It note over the -- over the camera on your smart TV.

BRIGGS: That's --

CUOMO: Unnamed sources, don't buy it. Unnamed sources.

ROMANS: Oh, stop, stop.

CUOMO: Big news.

ROMANS: All right. Chris Cuomo, nice to see you. Thank you.

BRIGGS: But also Russia's tie in all this --

ROMANS: Oh, yes.

BRIGGS: -- and how they can make it look like --


BRIGGS: -- a Russian hack job.

ROMANS: It's fascinating. All right, a new statue near Wall Street this morning. Have you seen this little girl? This young girl standing defiantly in front of the most iconic symbol to capitalism. I'll tell you why she's there, what she wants, and the company behind it.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [05:55:15] BRIGGS: A team of NTSB investigators heading to Biloxi, Mississippi after a deadly collision between a freight train and a charter bus carrying a group of senior citizens. Four passengers were killed, 41 others needed medical care. A spokesman for the train company, CSX, says they're cooperating with the investigation.

ROMANS: Wildfires have consumed more than one million acres in four states -- Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas, and Colorado, and those fires are blamed for at least seven deaths. The fires fed by strong winds. They have forced thousands of evacuations.

BRIGGS: A surprise for tourists at the White House. As it reopened for tours, President Trump meeting a group of school children, clearly thrilled by the appearance. Mr. Trump even pulled aside a lucky fifth grader. But look who was hovering in the background. Hillary Clinton looming over your shoulder. A portrait of her, as first lady, hanging right over President Trump's shoulder. She's not going away anytime soon.

ROMANS: I know. Still, it was a lovely photo op and that little fifth grader who got pulled out, they were -- they were really jazzed, those kids. All right.

BRIGGS: Politics -- it's always fascinating in politics.

ROMANS: Let's get a check on CNN Money Stream this morning. Dow futures are flat, a pause really this week, so far, ahead of a big jobs report Friday and an expected rate hike from the Fed next week. Right now, shares in Europe down slightly.

When the president tweets, investors listen, and the drug industry taking a hit. President Trump sending out this tweet Tuesday morning just before 9:00 a.m. "I am working on a new system where there will be competition in the drug industry. Pricing for the American people will come way down."

Several Pharma stocks came way down at the open, like Allergan, Pfizer, and troubled EpiPen maker, Mylan. They recovered somewhat but still finished lower. The president has blasted the drug industry before. No details on this new system but you're hearing talk from the White House about a second phase and third phase of health care reform.

The biggest mystery in business Tuesday is now solved. This bronze little girl -- there she is -- she showed up mysteriously overnight Monday, defiantly facing down the iconic bull that has become a symbol of capitalism on Wall Street. Honestly, she captivated tourists and bankers and financial reporters, alike. Who put her there? Turns out State Street Global Advisors is behind that statue. The bronze statue is titled "Fearless Girl" and I think there is no coincidence that today is International Women's Day.


ROMANS: The CEO of State Street says in a statement they're calling for more women on their client's corporate boards. You know, they have 3,500 different companies they invest in. State Street says leadership is dependent on diversity of thought and women are key to that success. Here are the raw numbers. Women account for about 16 percent of all corporate board seats among the largest U.S. companies. That's according to the Government Accountability Office.

BRIGGS: And we've learned that their board is full of 30 percent.


BRIGGS: Almost double that rate.

ROMANS: Dave, the everyday investigative reporter. We looked into how many women are on its boards. There are -- there's the CEO and then the chairman of the board, and then the 10 board seats. There are three women on that board so that is better -- much better than the average.

BRIGGS: Yes, setting the bar. Hopefully, an example for other countries (sic) to follow suit.

ROMANS: I mean, you know, State Street and others make good the point that when you have a lot of women in senior leadership positions you tend to do better in revenue. So that's something to think about, folks.

BRIGGS: I am all for it.

ROMANS: Good business and the right thing to do. Thanks for joining us. I'm Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: And I'm Dave Briggs. Follows us @EarlyStart on Twitter. "NEW DAY" starts right now.


TRUMP: It's a complicated process but, actually, it's very simple. It's called good health care.

SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: We are united on repeal but we are divided on replacement.

SEN. CHRIS MURPHY (D), CONNECTICUT: Trumpcare is here and you are going to hate it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where is the proof that President Obama bugged President Trump?


REP. DEVIN NUNES (R-CA), HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: I think a lot of the thing things that he says, you guys sometimes take literally.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I very much support the appointment of a special prosecutor.

ROD ROSENSTEIN, DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL NOMINEE: I don't know anything but what I've read in the newspaper.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a bigger revolution than people understand.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: WikiLeaks publishing what could be the biggest exposure of U.S. intelligence gathering methods.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These leaks are extremely dangerous.


ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is NEW DAY. It's Wednesday, March 8th, 6:00 here in New York.

Up first, President Trump warning House Republicans that there will be an election "bloodbath" in 2018 if their plan to repeal and replace Obamacare does not pass. Two House committees formally begin the process of marking up the bill today.

CUOMO: All right. The president's credibility is going to factor into his ability to make the deal and his and the White House's inability to provide any proof of his wiretapping allegation, it's going to have legs here. We have new reporting on the backlash on the president. The House Intelligence Committee leaders are now saying they're going to investigate his claim and they officially set a date to begin a hearing on Russia's alleged meddling in our presidential election.

Forty-eight days into the Trump administration.