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House Committees Prepare Healthcare Bill for Final Vote; White House: No Regrets about Wiretap Accusations. Aired 6-6:30a ET
Aired March 8, 2017 - 06:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's a complicated process, but actually, it's very simple. It's called good health care.
[05:58:43] SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: We are united on repeal but we are divided on replacement.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Trumpcare is here. And you are going to hate it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where is the proof that President Obama bugged President Trump?
SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We have no further comment.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A lot of the things that he says, you guys sometimes take literally.
SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D-CA), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: 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.
PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: This is a bigger revelation than people understand.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: WikiLeaks publishing what could be the biggest exposure of U.S. intelligence gathering measures.
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 states and around the world. This is NEW DAY. It's Wednesday, March 8, 6 a.m. 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. CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: 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 is 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, CNN has every angle covered. Let's start with Sunlen Serfaty, live on Capitol Hill -- Sunlen.
SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to you, Chris.
Today is such a critical day for the fate of this healthcare bill. Two House committees will begin marking up the bill, trying to get to a final product that can eventually pass on the House floor, but there is still an avalanche of criticism coming from many Republicans. And even the power of the presidential bully pulpit hasn't been able to twist many arms just yet.
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're going to take action.
SERFATY (voice-over): President Trump convening with top House Republicans, warning them they could face a blood bath in midterms if they don't repeal and replace Obamacare.
TRUMP: There's going to be no waiting and no more excuses by anybody.
SERFATY: But divisions in the GOP over their replacement bill could derail the proposal only one day after its release.
SEN. MIKE LEE (R), UTAH: This is not the repeal bill we've been waiting for for all of these years. This is a huge opportunity that's been missed.
SERFATY: Conservative lawmakers dubbing the American Healthcare Act Obamacare Lite, some calling for a complete gutting of the plans for fundable tax credits in Obamacare's Medicaid expansion.
REP. JIM JORDAN (R), OHIO: The first thing Republicans are bringing forward is a piece of legislation that says we'll repeal it but keeps Medicaid expansion and actually expands it, that keeps some of the tax increases. That is not what we promised the American people we were going to do.
SERFATY: Senate Republicans finding fault elsewhere. Four GOP senators will oppose any bill that doesn't protect Medicaid enrollees in their states.
The president promising to put his weight behind the replacement. Unsurprising since he campaigned on a full repeal.
PAUL: I think the repeal bill probably won't pass unless we take replacement off of it.
SERFATY: The president tweeting at one of the bill's most vocal conservative opponents, Senator Rand Paul, Mr. Trump writing, "I feel sure that my friend Rand Paul will come along with the new and great health care program."
And Republican leadership is rallying around the bill. House Speaker Paul Ryan confident they'll get the votes.
REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: We have a few weeks. We'll have 218 when this thing comes to floor, I can guarantee you that.
SERFATY: And the number of votes he actually needs is 216, as opposed to 218, like he just said. That's due to the number of -- a number of vacancies that were created when many members of Congress took other positions.
And while Speaker Ryan, he certainly seemed very confident there, many others don't agree. This bill faces a very, very steep climb in the House and even a steeper climb when it potentially reaches the Senate -- Alisyn and Chris.
CAMEROTA: OK, Sunlen. Thanks so much for laying all of that out for us.
Let's bring in our political panel. We have CNN political analyst and White House correspondent for "The New York Times," Maggie Haberman; CNN political commentator and political anchor of Spectrum News, Errol Louis; and CNN political commentator and "Daily Beast" senior columnist, Matt Lewis. Great to see all of you this morning.
So Sunlen laid it out, but let's just put it up visually for everyone, the different factions in Congress who -- some like this new bill; some don't like this bill.
The people who are against it, some think it's not conservative enough. That includes the House Freedom Caucus. That includes Rand Paul, as you just heard there. In the middle, there's the chunk of people who don't think it goes far enough.
Then there are people who are against it who think that it goes too far; it leaves too many people uninsured. You see them on the right: Rob Portman, et cetera.
Maggie, President Trump has some work to do with reeling in these recalcitrant Republicans. He is, as we know, a particularly persuasive person. So how is he going to do this?
MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I'm not really sure. It's quite a magic act, considering the objections that came out from the right, including groups that the White House works with like -- like Heritage, Club for Growth was opposed to this. The list goes on.
It's been interesting. Over the weekend, I had heard from senior administration officials in the White House that they were resentful of the idea that the White House was going to have to essentially nudge along the Freedom Caucus members and get people on board and act as the whip.
I then heard that the president was going to enthusiastically throw himself into this. And I think that he may, but I think that the president only has one speed in terms of selling, as we've seen over the years, which is, you know, full steam ahead; "This is a fabulous bill."
You've seen other people, like Tom Price, talk about, "Well, this is the beginning. This is just the first step."
And so I think you are going to see some potential daylight between how hard the president is actually going to go with this and what perhaps people around him want to do, because at the end of the day, no matter how hard the president wishes -- and to be clear, he can be very effective, as you say -- this is still a really hard sell.
CUOMO: He can also be very sensitive to critics. I mean, you've got two big obstacles here. One, you have whether or not the president, Errol, knows the product well enough to sell this. Right? Healthcare is a different animal when you get down in there. You have to know the nitty-gritty; hasn't been a demonstrated strong point of his.
He says, "Don't worry. Across state lines is going to be introduced in phase two and phase three." A lot of people Alisyn just put up on that list aren't going to be impressed by that, because crossing state lines is not going to change the cost profile for people. It's somewhat of a myth.
[06:05:14] So how big a challenge is this for the president to show he knows this well enough to sell it?
ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, it's interesting. You raise a good point. You made that statement that just recently said, "Gee, nobody knew how complicated this was." It's like, well, some people did know how complicated this was. Some people, in effect, have been wrestling with those complexities for seven years and still haven't arrived in a way to square this circle.
So I think he's -- he is pushing -- the product, we have to keep in mind with Donald Trump, is not necessarily, politically speaking, a perfectly crafted replacement plan that everybody is going to love. The product politically for President Trump is to get some motion on this, to get a vote, to get some action to sort of make some things happen whether or not he's going to take responsibility if the thing crashes and burns or is, as is I think most likely, they simply don't have support by a majority in the Senate. We've already got four Republicans saying that they're absolutely not going to sort of throw the Medicaid expansion overboard; and you can't do that in Ohio and Alaska and West Virginia. These are senators who sort of know their business. And I think
they're going to educate the president that this is not going to happen. He can get a quick vote, and I think that's what he wants. But I -- I can't quite imagine that there's going to be repeal and replace happening, you know, in some realistic way starting next week.
CAMEROTA: How do you think?
LOUIS: It's not going to happen.
CAMEROTA: How do you think it's going to go, Matt?
MATT LEWIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It's going to go very badly. I've never seen a rollout worse than this. You think back to some of the things that went bad in the last decade. George W. Bush's Social Security reform didn't. I don't remember it starting out this bad.
Immigration reform became incredibly toxic on the right. Actually started out very good. People like Marco Rubio and Rush Limbaugh and Mark Levin saying good things about it. The fundamental problem here is that Barack Obama, whether Obamacare is ever repealed or not, did something really important. And that was he changed the paradigm.
It is now expected that health care is now, you know, generally accepted, and even President Trump accepts this notion that health care is an entitlement. Once you believe that it's a responsibility of the government to provide healthcare, then all of a sudden, you're in the business of how do we make sure more people get healthcare? How do we entice people to sign up? We can't have a mandate, but how do we throw money at them to incentivize them signing up?
Now, all of a sudden, you've got a bill that, if you're a free-market conservative, if you're -- if you're a Liberty Caucus guy, you can't support. So I just don't see how this comes together.
CUOMO: Also, Maggie, they have a fundamental problem. They have to own what this is. Whether it was Jason Chaffetz or Chris Collins or any of the litany of people you saw come out yesterday. They don't want to just honestly look into a camera and say, yes, fewer people will get coverage. We don't believe...
CAMEROTA: ... around that. Jason Chaffetz around that today...
CUOMO: It took them three iterations, and you got them with a possibly. You know, well, there is no "possible" about it. Chris Collins' tack was to deny the economic realities of what happens. It is not a maybe. They have to own it in order to get any buy in from Democrats, because the Democrats will never get on board with something that fixes current problems if that proposition isn't owned. People are going to lose coverage, probably millions.
HABERMAN: Right. And even if that is owned, then I think the Democrats have the reason to not buy in. I'd be surprised to see Democrats buy into anything, that there's such opposition from the Democratic base to doing anything that looks like compromise right now, the Trump administration with the GOP caucus. This is where you are also seeing the problem with the myriad different and often conflicting statements the president has made. I was thinking as I was talking that, A, yes, you had this sort of strange rollout yesterday. Nobody really took ownership of this yesterday in a prominent way, except the president who, I think, has a lot of advisers who would candidly rather. He isn't doing that. He has made several statements during transition, I think since he took office, as well, that there would be healthcare for everybody.
Well, that sounds to a lot of people like Obamacare. And so I think the problem is reconciling what he, to your point, about you know, the entitlement paradigm.
I think when you -- when you look at Donald Trump's politics over many years, he tends to be something more of a big government guy. Right? We're not talking about somebody who has looked at paring down government in a Paul Ryan way or a Club for Growth way.
And so I think watching him, trying to reconcile what he actually believed with what his new, you know, colleagues in the Republican Party, remember, he really is running on -- ran on a borrowed line as a Republican. And he is now having to take ownership of something that I'm not sure he completely wants to. He is getting some cover. There is, in the conservative blogosphere on the right, in a lot of media outlets. There is a lot of anger about this bill, and that may actually help them.
CAMEROTA: Panel, stick around. We have many more subjects to discuss with you.
CUOMO: A big issue for the president in selling this is going to be his credibility, and there's a sharp focus right now on his credibility because of the continuing fallout from the president's stunning accusation that President Obama had his tower, Trump Tower headquarters wiretapped during the campaign. There is no proof of that presented by the president. Republican lawmakers charged with investigating the claim say they've seen no evidence of this as yet, but that investigation is just getting going. The White House insists that the president has no regrets.
[06:10:29] CNN's Joe Johns live at the White House with more. No proof, no regrets. They only go together with this administration.
JOHNS: That's a fact. And look, the White House staff has been doing what it can to sell a message with such shaky evidence, but it's starting to look extremely likely, as you said, that members of Congress will now use their time and resources to investigate the conclusion about wiretapping that the president announced over the weekend on Twitter.
JOHNS (voice-over): White House press secretary making clear the president doesn't plan on backpedaling his unsubstantiated claim that former President Obama wiretapped his phones during the election.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Will the president withdraw the accusation? Does he have any...
SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Why would he with draw it until it's adjudicated. That's what we're asking.
ACOSTA: No regrets from him about raising this accusation?
SPICER: Absolutely not.
JOHNS: Still offering no evidence.
SPICER: It's not a question of new proof or less proof or whatever. The answer is the same.
JOHNS: Despite denials of wiretapping from former top intelligence officials.
JAMES CLAPPER, NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE DIRECTOR: There was no such wiretap activity.
JOHNS: Spicer continuing to insist on an investigation.
SPICER: There is a concern about what happened in the 2016 election. The House and Senate Intelligence Committee have the staff and the capabilities and the processes in place to look at this in a way that's objective, and that's how it should be done.
JOHNS: Now the House Intelligence Committee moving forward with public hearings on Russia's interference in last year's election.
REP. DEVIN NUNES (R-CA), HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: I want to conduct as many of these hearings in open in the public, and as you know, that's a little rare for the intelligence committees to do.
JOHNS: The committee's chair, Representative Devin Nunes, inviting officials from the national's top intelligence agencies to testify beginning March 20. The top Democrat on the committee, Representative Adam Schiff, confirming the alleged wiretapping will be part of the investigation.
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: We accept. We will investigate this.
JOHNS: Despite three top Republicans saying they haven't seen any evidence of it.
NUNES: As you know, I think a lot of that was maybe a little bit -- the multiple tweets were perhaps a little bit strung together.
JOHNS: Nunes even implying that the president's allegation-filled tweets were maybe questions instead of outright declarations.
NUNES: The president is a neophyte to politics. He's been doing this a little over a year. And I think a lot of the things that he says, you guys sometimes take literally. JOHNS: Meanwhile, President Trump's pick for deputy general refusing
to say whether a special prosecutor should investigate Russia's election meddling.
ROSENSTEIN: I'm simply not in a position to answer the question, because I don't know the information that they know. And the folks who are in the position to make that decision.
JOHNS: If confirmed, Rod Rosenstein would head any Russia probe after embattled Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself for failing to disclose two meetings he had with the Russian ambassador, during his confirmation hearing. Something Senator Al Franken took issue with.
SEN. AL FRANKEN (D), MICHIGAN: It's hard to come to any other conclusion that he -- that he just perjured himself. I think he should come before the committee and explain this.
JOHNS: The president appears to have half a dozen meetings on his schedule today, all closed to media coverage. If that happens, it will be the second day in a row that access to the president has been extremely limited -- Alisyn.
CAMEROTA: OK. Joe, thank you for that.
So you just heard there from Sean Spicer about the president's wiretapping plans, but how did other top White House officials react behind the scenes after those controversial tweets came out? That new reporting next on NEW DAY.
[06:18:26] CUOMO: White House press secretary Sean Spicer pressed during yesterday's briefing about President Trump's accusation that former President Obama wiretapped Trump Tower. What did he say? Here it is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you believe that President Obama...
SPICER: I get that that's a cute question to ask. My job is to represent the president and to talk about what he's doing and what he wants.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why would the president want Congress to investigate for information he already has?
SPICER: I think there's a separation of powers aspect here, as I mentioned to Jonathan, that we think it's...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Why waste that
SPICER: Well, it's not a question of waste it. It's a question of appropriateness.
ACOSTA: Will the president withdraw the accusation? Does he have any...
SPICER: Why would he withdraw it until it's -- I mean, until it's adjudicated? That's what we're asking. It's for them to look at this and see if there's...
ACOSTA: ... about raising this?
SPICER: Absolutely not.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CUOMO: All right. So they're hoping it will be investigated by this panel, and the answer from them is, yes, that the House Intel Committee is going to look at it.
Let's bring back our panel and discuss what's going on here.
Errol Louis, Matt Lewis, Maggie Haberman. Maggie, got a piece in "The New York Times" about this situation. The president had tweeted, "Don't listen to the media who says that there's any kind of problems in the White House about this. He put that tweet out for a reason. There are problems. What did you learn?
HABERMAN: I think there are many, many issues he was referring to with that tweet, but in this case, look, he put out these tweets. Several people that I spoke to and my colleagues spoke to, do say he is convinced that there is something there. That something happened.
But there was a mad scramble about this on Saturday among the West Wing aides, because there was a recognition among some that there is a different between the president believing this and then putting this out as a fact in a tweet. There were some consultations with the White House counsel, John McGahn. There was some discussion the president had with a number of people about how you would prove this and how the process works.
[06:20:14] I mean, it's not just, as Nunes said, that he's a political neophyte. He's a neophyte to government. He doesn't actually understand how this works on some basic level, according to everyone I have spoken to who's talked to him. And remember, he ran his own business. He was known at his business to tape his own calls sometimes. There have been reports that he would occasionally listen on calls at Mar-a-Lago.
So the framework that I think he is approaching this from is this idea that someone who's in charge comes in, and they say, you know, "Go tape that," and that's how this works. That's obviously not how this works.
Trump has often sort of trafficked in what might have some kernel of truth. But what the critics would call a conspiracy. And we heard this throughout the campaign. He did this in the case of the Senator Ted Cruz father's story in "The National Enquirer," alleging some kind of a link between the dad and the John F. Kennedy assassination.
Trump gets convinced often that there is something there. And to be clear, there are reasons to be skeptical of government narratives. And it may turn out, as it often does with Trump, that there's one kernel of truth that he can point to, where there was some activity somewhere in Trump Tower or someone who had come into Trump Tower or something. And he would use that to say, "I was right."
But there's a difference between whether that is the case, and the danger of a sitting president putting out this kind of an explosive statement about a predecessor.
CAMEROTA: Maggie, I just want to say with you for one more minute, because your behind-the-scenes reporting is so fascinating on this. And it goes to the psychology, as well, not just how these tweets happen and then the sort of reaction afterwards but the psychology.
You write he was in high spirits after he fired off those posts on Saturday morning. But mid-afternoon, after returning from golf, he appeared to realize he had gone too far. And that's when he begins the process of "But can't we find something, guys?"
It's sort of the reverse of what we're all used to. He starts with a hunch, and then he tries to find information from Congress or whoever to back it up, rather than the other way around.
HABERMAN: I think there's a couple of things that are going on, and some of it has gotten both conflated, I think, in terms of his inner circle in terms of what we are seeing coming out there.
There are a number of leaks. There are very clearly is a bureaucracy of leaks. He is not wrong in feeling that there are a number of Obama appointees and people connected to the Obama administration who are sort of placed in different areas of government, and that is a concern to them. That is true. They have been very slow in putting a lot of the people in place.
It is where you go from that to this larger point. There are people within his circle, primarily Stephen Bannon, who have long been skeptical of sort of the larger intelligence bureaucracy and the so- called deep state, which keeps getting misused in the current parlance, as it's become a political tool.
But he has felt this way for a very long time. Again, there is a difference between that and a sitting president saying this is what the person who I succeeded did to me without then offering evidence. You have to offer the evidence. This was playing to his base. There are a lot of people who heard this and said, "Absolutely, I have believed for a while the president was set up. I heard from a bunch of supporters of President Trump saying this."
LEWIS: But again, you have to them he amazing thing about the set-up is that Barack Obama wiretapped Donald Trump and then didn't use any of it. Let him get elected president, and then the master plan unfolds, and then you release. Right? Let him get elected first. CUOMO: Maybe some of his base likes it. They feel that it's right,
but that's the difference between feelings and facts. Sean Spicer yesterday said he represents the president
Well, he represents the president as a public servant, and they are doing him no favors by allowing him to go out on this ledge without any base again and again and again. It's hurting his credibility. You're going to see that now when he tries to negotiate with lawmakers that don't share his feelings.
Trump -- Spicer also said something yesterday that makes this one different, even by Maggie's reporting. He said he was asked by John Carl, I think. Did the president call the FBI and ask, and he said no? How is the answer to that question "no" when you had the ability to prove your own premise?
If you want to do anything other than muddy up the investigation, distract from the focus on you and these Russia questions, why wouldn't you call the FBI and get the answer to your own suspicion.
LEWIS: That's what you do. And the line from Spider-Man, "With great power comes great responsibility." Donald Trump is not a regular...
CUOMO: Teddy Roosevelt. But Spider-Man's a good reference.
LEWIS: But -- you know, but -- so but Donald Trump's not a regular dude out there, hombre out there with a Twitter feed. I mean, if he says something, there are ramifications and unintended consequences. And so he needs to take that really responsibly.
And the other side of it is think of the position he's putting people like Sean Spicer in every day. That is just gymnastics, trying to defend the indefensible.
CUOMO: Spicer has to make his own choice about how he does his job.
HABERMAN: I will say that, at a certain point, I mean, I think we have all started talking about how, you know, the poor White House officials that have to go defend this or whatever. I mean, to your point, they are public servants that are being taxpayer paid. They're not -- this is not indentured servitude. If people don't want to be there, they can leave.
CAMEROTA: Errol, one more point, and that is that Senator Al Franken went further than he has to date yesterday to say that he believes that Jeff Sessions actually perjured himself during his confirmation hearing when he said, no, he didn't know of any meetings with the Russians.
LOUIS: Yes. It's a -- it's sort of a tough line to walk. And you can watch Senator Franken sort of stumble through that. He didn't want to fall into the Elizabeth Warren category of, you know, clearly accusing someone in a way that sort of could draw some negative reaction from the Senate leadership. His exchange with Grassley yesterday was remarkable, actually, where they were sort of going back about, "Well, he thought you meant this." "Well, he didn't think I meant that."
And so, you know, the reality is Franken and the Democrats would love to have Sessions come back in so they can sort of poke him with a stick and make him relive the whole thing and maybe even draw up some new sort of damaging admissions. That's not going to happen, clearly.
So Al Franken is now stuck in the position of having to sort of plead with the leadership for something that they're not going to give him and also sort of point out that, you know, there's still this open question about what was Sessions, what was he getting at when he sort of volunteered? It wasn't, you know, some sly cross examination. He just asked him. He said, "Look, if you find any -- any issues of Russian meddling from the campaign, are you going to look into it?"
And then we have Sessions sort of just kind of offer that, yes, I was part of the campaign. No, I had no meetings and neither of those things.
CUOMO: He was trying to duck the original question, right? But even still, perjury is a high bar.
LOUIS: Yes, yes, look. I mean, that's intention and, you know, it's not something, you know.
Look, just a quick note. I mean, when we hear Dianne Feinstein and others saying, you know, it's time for an independent prosecutor. It sounds nice. It's a great sound bite. You don't have prosecutors without a crime, right, and nobody has identified a crime. Not even perjury, really.
So you can't just sort of stick a prosecutor loose and have them -- it really just kind of underscores that we don't have the tools to understand this situation that this White House has put the nation in.
CAMEROTA: Great insight, panel. Thank you very much. Thanks for sharing your reporting with us. So we now have the first legal challenge to President Trump's new travel ban. Find out which state is suing to block it and why lawyers argue the executive order is still unconstitutional.