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Campaign Rally in Nashville; Jamming Health Care Plan Through; Ownership of Bill; Trump's Big Sell Push; Washington State Moves to Block Travel Ban; Illegal Border Crossings Down. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired March 9, 2017 - 14:00   ET


[14:00:00] SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Thank you, guys. Have a great day. I look forward to seeing you tomorrow. I think tomorrow is going to be one question Friday. Thank you all.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Has the president spoken to the FBI director about the wiretapping thing?

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, here we go. You've been listening to the White House briefing.

Here we go. You've been listening to the White House briefing there. Sean Spicer.

The overarching part and point he kept making over and over and over, that the White House is standing by this latest plan defending the health care plan there that we have out of Washington.

So, let me bring in a couple of voices. A.B. Stoddard, we have you with me. I know Jim Acosta's going to pop a microphone on himself and get in front of the camera momentarily. I believe Gloria Borger may be joining me as well.

But, A.B., first to you. Hearing Sean Spicer over and over, you know, saying, we're not jamming it through. And, control room, get in my ear and let me know if we have that sound bite because I'd love to roll it. But - in fact, we have it. A.B., standby. Let's roll the Sean Spicer piece of sound.


SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We're not jamming this down people's throat. We're welcoming ideas and thoughts. We think this is a great - the vehicle to restore a patient-centered health care bill to drive down costs. And I think Senator Cotton clearly recognizes that the current version of health care that's out there right now is not sustainable. And so we welcome him - his input into this process. We think that the work that we've done prior to putting this together with the House is something that reflects a lot of the best ideas. And we would continue to welcome his input on this.

QUESTION: Are you open to -

SPICER: Hello, Charlie.

QUESTION: Are you open to -

SPICER: I'm not - it's not - I'm not open to - I think the president -

QUESTION: (INAUDIBLE) major changes or is it -

SPICER: I think the president has said before, he wants to hear members' ideas. He believe that this bill encompasses the best of ideas and the best way forward. But, again, we're going to let the process work its will through the House and then subsequently through the Senate. And if members have ideas, we want to hear them and want them to be part of it. It's not - this isn't getting jammed through.


BALDWIN: Not getting jammed through. He said that a couple of times.

A.B., do me a favor and stand by because we do have Jim Acosta now, our senior White House correspondent who was in the briefing.

And what were your biggest takeaways, number one?


BALDWIN: And, number two, there was mention of some sort of campaign event next Wednesday in Nashville and my question is, what is that about?

ACOSTA: Right. And let's deal with that one first. This is -


ACOSTA: The second time that they've had a campaign event, Brooke, scheduled. And so this one is going to be on Wednesday of next week in Nashville, Tennessee. And as April Ryan - our friend April Ryan asked during the briefing, who's the campaign? We all know what the campaign apparatus is that is - that is launching these events, but it is up on And so there is - there is some kind of campaign apparatus and they're going to hold a rally next week. How they're going to difference between what the president says at these campaign events, which I guess presumably are for 2020, versus what he says at official White House events selling the health care plan, that will be something interesting to watch.

But in terms of takeaways from this briefing, Brooke, I think you were just playing a very interesting piece of sound there.


ACOSTA: The White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer saying we're not jamming this bill through, this health care bill through. Well, when you have committees working almost through the night, when you have members of Congress being asked to weigh in on a proposal that has not been scored by the Congressional Budget Office, I think you would have a lot of people up on Capitol - and also, by the way, you have a lot of the stakeholders that were involved in the formulation of Obamacare, doctors, hospitals and so on, they really have not been part of this process. That pretty much meets the definition of jamming things through, Brooke. So the White House may be saying we're not jamming it through, but they are jamming it through at this point. They want this on a fast track because they know how incredibly difficult this is going to be with so many conservatives.

We were reporting last night and this morning the president had a group of Tea Party and conservative activists over at the White House. And, you know, the president was basically saying to them, listen, this is our best shot here. Don't call it Obamacare-lite. You're just helping the other side. And, oh, by the way, if this effort fails, we're going to let Obamacare collapse and blame all of that on the Democrats. And so there is a sense of urgency over here.


ACOSTA: And I think you noticed that in the press secretary's comments during this briefing.

BALDWIN: Yes, Jim, stand by. Let me - A.B., just following through with you and then we'll get to Gloria and Brian, who have been seated with me here in New York.

But to Jim's point, that that is the epitome of jamming it through. You also have say, you know, a Senator Cotton essentially saying, paraphrasing, slow your roll. You know, this is - you introduced this on Monday. There's just been one change on Wednesday. This is the definition of jamming. What do you think?

A.B. STODDARD, ASSOCIATE EDITOR & COLUMNIST, REALCLEARPOLITICS: Well, it's very noticeable that - and significant that Senator Cotton would take to Twitter and make declarations instead of just sort of say in passing, we shouldn't rush and that kind of thing. So there's a lot - if you look, Brooke, at the breadth and the strength of the opposition, people aren't saying, well, I'll just hear out the president and keep an open mind. They're saying, this will not fly.

[14:05:04] And so when you look at that you know that whatever gets passed will be different and probably very different. It would not be surprising if President Trump said, this is the bill. We told you we would pass it. Even if it's radically changed I can see him saying, see, we won. You were naysayers and we got it over the line. Whatever gets to 218 in the House is going to be very different from this. The opposition is just too deep on all sides of the ideological spectrum within the Republican Party and again this sort of question that Jim raised is a pertinent one, how can you really just sell something. Put it in a legislative process without that official estimate, that CBO score -

BALDWIN: Right. Right.

STODDARD: Which talks about the number of insured, the number who will lose insurance and the cost and get people to try to defend it. It's not possible.

BALDWIN: And was - isn't the head of the CBO - and, Gloria, let me just - you're nodding. You know where I'm going to go with this. GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes.

BALDWIN: The head of the CBO is essentially, you know, appointed or endorsed by the now HHS secretary, Dr. Price.

BORGER: Right. Right. And a conservative senator, Mike Ensy (ph), yes, at the time.

BALDWIN: And a conservative. Yes.

BORGER: Worked for W. Has conservative credentials. And so it's kind of head scratching.

BALDWIN: Without a price tag on this major piece of legislation.

BORGER: Right. And they're trying to discredit it. You know, do a prebuttal as we call it in Washington, right? They're trying to discredit the numbers before the numbers even come out. So it must give you a sense that they understand that the numbers are not going to be what they want.

BALDWIN: What did you think of, just staying with you, you know you take what Sean Spicer said and maybe when, you know, Mr. Trump is in Washington next week this is going to be a public appeal to this new iteration of health care.

BORGER: Right.

BALDWIN: But then you had Paul Ryan today, sleeves rolled up -

BORGER: Right.

BALDWIN: PowerPoint presentation, the explainer Paul Ryan. Is he the better salesman?

BORGER: I think he has a lot at stake in this. He may be a better salesman because he understands it better than anybody else.


BORGER: But, you know, I think his speakership is on the line here in many ways. This is - Paul Ryan has been wanting to do this for years. He's is a policy person. He wants to repeal Obamacare. And he's had to cut some deals here to try and do it. And he's got to be the explainer in chief because Donald Trump isn't going to be the explainer in chief on this issue. And he has an awful lot at stake here. And it's very difficult when you have a speaker of the House who's got to explain, as Sean Spicer tried to explain -

BALDWIN: Yes. Yes.

BORGER: Why are we doing this under reconciliation, which is not a kitchen table word? And the short answer is, because they want to pass this with 50 votes in the Senate so it can't be filibustered.

BALDWIN: Yes. To your point, though, on his speakership being at stake, I have that in my head, and so, Carol Lee -

BORGER: Yes. Yes.

BALDWIN: Let me just pivot quickly to Carol Lee with "The Wall Street Journal," who's been doing all kinds of reporting.

And, Carol Lee, on the - on the presidential side, what has - what has President Trump been doing in the meantime behind the scenes, dinners, lunches, promises of bowling, and drop by, you know, to get this through - I speak the truth, you know, to get this thing through?

CAROL LEE, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, "THE WALL STREET JOURNAL": Yes, well, we've seen him do a number of things in terms of engaging Capitol Hill, whether it's lunches or dinners or just inviting people over. He's also known to pick up the phone and just call members of Congress. It's something that when you look - step back and you look at this, you can see a lot of similarities to 2009 and President Obama trying to get health care done. And he didn't do a lot of those things. And so that's one of the differences that we're seeing now is this - a president who really wants to engage and give the hearts out and is going to do it member by member if he has to. And he's using all of the different perks of the presidency to do that.

BALDWIN: Why do we think, Brian Stelter, the president hasn't done press events, especially now on this?

BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: It's worth noting how uncharacteristically quiet he's been. Other than weighing in on Twitter and saying don't believe the press, everything's going well with health care, we've seen him avoiding situations where journalists can yell questions to him or ask questions as recently as 12:30 today. He's having this legislative luncheon. And at the last minute what's called a pool spray situation where the cameras are brought in for a minute to take pictures of the meeting, it was cancelled at the last minute. Apparently the White House does not want a situation where journalist cans shout and attempt to ask questions of the president. Sometimes he'll answer, sometimes he won't. But normally when journalists are in the room, they have a chance to try. He does not want to be asked questions about WikiLeaks, about those CIA revelations.


STELTER: He does not want to be asked about his claims about wiretapping by President Obama. There's a lot of topics he does not want to talk about right now. So if you notice what we're not seeing on TV this week, it's President Trump's voice. We're not really hearing him engage with journalists.

BORGER: Well, and, you know, it's in distinct contract to Barack Obama when he was selling health care, because he was the wonk in chief for his health care reform plan.

BALDWIN: Right. Now that role is Paul Ryan's role.

BORGER: And he - you know, he had a big - he had a big session on health care reform and they were - you know, they got down to the nitty gritty details. And the president doesn't want to do that either because he's the big picture guy and Paul Ryan is the - is the detail guy. You know, in many ways this is Ryancare more than -

[14:10:11] BALDWIN: But no one's owning it. No one's owning it.

BORGER: Well, no one's - it's a - it's an orphan at this point until it -

BALDWIN: it's an orphan.

BORGER: Until it - until it passes.


BORGER: At which point the people who voted for it are going to have to take ownership.

BALDWIN: Ryan Lizza, you're another voice. I know you've jumped in this. What do you - what do you think?

RYAN LIZZA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I mean, look, there - in the last 25 years, there have been two big efforts to reform health care, right, Clinton and Obama.


LIZZA: Clinton was a spectacular failure. Obama's was a relative success, although he also paid a political price by passing it. So far this looks a lot more like the early '90s and Bill Clinton. And what do I mean by that? Two things. You have a deeply divided party that is trying to push this through and when you try and appease one faction, you end up alienating the other, right? So you have moderates who love - not love but like the Medicaid expansion and you have conservatives who want to pull the plug on it completely. That's a very difficult circle to square.

And then secondly, the industry opposition. What Obama learned in 2009 was you had to co-op the major industry groups. We - the last couple of days, the AARP, the doctor groups, the hospital groups, they have all come out uniformly against this bill.


LIZZA: And there seemed to have been no effort to bring them in line. That - so those are two major ominous signs for this legislation so far.

BALDWIN: You're nodding. You want to put a punctuation mark on that?

BORGER: Yes. No, I think - I think Ryan's right. I think that they're called the so-called stakeholders in this.


BORGER: And President Obama got them all around the table. Now, afterwards, they complained that they each didn't get everything they want, of course, because that's the way it always was.


BORGER: But he brought them into the room because he knew that he couldn't get anything passed without them. And the question is, will the stakeholders who are opposed to it, AARP, et cetera, will they put their money into this now? Will they run ads? Will they go in congressional districts? Will they really, really start to lobby against this? We don't know yet.

BALDWIN: Let's turn the page and talk about with a couple other of you the - we could call them frenemies (ph), right? These are the friend- enemies of the president, some of whom he's reaching out to, some of whom he's appointing, some of whom don't quite make the cut. Take a listen to this and then we'll talk.


SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: Donald Trump is the most unusual frontrunner we've ever had. He is someone that can't be elected in November. He will be a disaster for the conservative movement. He would be a disaster for America. He would split our party in half.

GOV. JOHN KASICH (R), OHIO: Donald Trump, in some of his rhetoric at these rallies that I just read yesterday was the first time I read them, is atrocious. It is not the mark of a leader of the United States of America. I am deeply disturbed.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: I'm going to tell you what I really think of Donald Trump. This man is a pathological liar. He doesn't know the difference between truth and lies. He lies practically every word that come us out of his mouth.

JON HUNTSMAN, FORMER GOVERNOR OF UTAH: I think what Trump represents is the ultimate loud, brash, big protest vote. It doesn't matter that he doesn't have specific policy proposals. It doesn't matter that he's not as glib and presentable maybe as some of the professional politicians.


BALDWIN: Carol Lee, the last sound bite was Governor Huntsman, who Trump is selecting as the U.S. ambassador to Russia. My point is, we play - there are all these criticisms from these various members of Congress, governors, some of whom make the cut to become members in the cabinet or whatnot and some absolutely don't, i.e. an Elliot Abrams did not make the cut to be number two at state.

LEE: Right.

BALDWIN: But you have Governor Huntsman, who will have this very key role with Russia. How does certain people who criticized the president make it through and others not at all?

LEE: Well, if you look at Huntsman he is - at a certain point, if you back up, he just - the president has to govern. And you need somebody, given all of the large role that Russia is playing in his presidency, he needs somebody who's experienced, who can get this done. Huntsman has - was ambassador to China. He has experience in dealing with an adversarial type of relationship and -

BALDWIN: Right. Someone who the president - he has said - he gave our country away (ph) to China, remember.

LEE: Right. Yes, no, it's been - it's gone both ways between the two of them. And so the thing that's most interesting about his selection of Huntsman is that what you've seen from the president is he really doesn't like engage - people who are bringing on people who were with him and then they weren't and then they were with him and then they weren't. And that's exactly what Huntsman is.

However, he also, you know, on the policy side of this, he's pretty tough on Russia. And we've seen a number of moves that the president's made both on his own and in - in who he's choosing to join his administration that suggests he's - he's developing a much tougher policy towards Russia than people would have thought.

[14:15:04] So there's a number of really interesting things about this pick. But, you know, the other thing I would say is that this is a president who likes his - people who represent him to kind of look at (INAUDIBLE) central casting and I think you could say that Jon Huntsman plays that role too.

BALDWIN: Dually noted.

Elise Labott, to you, and I mentioned a second ago, Elliott Abrams, who we've had on the show, he said he believes he ultimately didn't get the number two spot at state because of Steve Bannon. But still you have all these vacancies at state, treasury, defense. Why?

ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, I mean, presumably it's because it's so hard. Not only does the White House have a very kind of complicated vetting process, but a lot of the people, particularly in the foreign policy realm, where I work, definitely a lot of the foreign policy establishment came out against Donald Trump. That was one of the things about Elliot Abrams. And he wasn't really even what they call a never Trumper who signed one of those letters that about 150 foreign policy former and current officials signed this letter saying that he was unfit to be president.


LABOTT: A lot of people, though, did criticize Donald Trump. And you find that a lot of the people that are being named for some of these posts are being nixed by the White House because of this. It's interesting that some people, like you mentioned, Jon Huntsman, make the cut, others don't. And a lot of people do think that Steve Bannon has a very influential role in not only persuading the president himself, but about showing him an article, you know, on the very day that maybe Elliot Abrams was supposed to be tapped for that job meeting with President Trump, a Breitbart article came out reminding everybody of what his comments were. So he's both working in - you know, right in tandem next to President Bush but also - BALDWIN: Yes.

LABOTT: President Trump -

BALDWIN: President Trump.

LABOTT: But also working behind the scenes, yes.

BALDWIN: Right. Right. Right. No, I think influential indeed, Elise. Thank you so much.

And thanks to all of you for weighing in here at the top of the show.

Coming up, what's behind the dramatic drop in border crossings from Mexico into the U.S. Is President Trump's hardline rhetoric actually playing a role into that? We'll take you live to Mexico City coming up next.

I'm Brooke Baldwin. And this is CNN.


[14:21:25] BALDWIN: Welcome back. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

We do have some breaking news here. The Washington state attorney general is holding a news conference right now regarding that state's lawsuit over the Trump administration travel ban. Let's go to our justice correspondent Laura Jarrett who's with me in Washington.

Laura Jarrett, what did they say?

LAURA JARRETT, CNN JUSTICE REPORTER: Well, the Washington state attorney general's office, Brooke, is going to ask a federal judge in Seattle to block the president's new travel ban. Now the second state that has joined that fight, you'll remember Hawaii sued on Tuesday. Attorneys in Seattle claim that despite the significant changes to the previous executive order, this new one still suffers from legal flaws. You'll remember also back in February, early February, a federal judge in Seattle blocked the implementation of the original travel ban nationwide.

Now, the Justice Department filed a notice with that judge in Seattle, Judge Robart, on Monday, essentially saying, hey, the new executive order falls outside the scope of Robart's earlier order, Brooke. And so the new executive order is substantially narrower.

Now the attorney general in Seattle says, look, Robart's order is still on the book. It's still good. Nothing has changed that. And the obligation is on the Trump administration to come forward and say why it should be extinguished.


BALDWIN: OK, Laura Jarrett, thank you very much on the latest there, Washington state A.G. Let's move on, though, to the border with U.S. and Mexico. Here are the numbers of undocumented immigrants crossing into the U.S. from Mexico. It is down. And not just by a small amount. We're talking a massive percentage, 40 percent. The numbers just released by CBP, that's Customs and Border Protection. Appear to show that President Trump's hard line rhetoric and policies on immigration appear to be having a deterrent effect.

So with me now, Vanessa Yurkevich, who's a CNN Money reporter, and CNN's Leyla Santiago, who's live in Mexico City.

But, Vanessa, just turning to you. You were just down at the border talking to people. And who knows if we'll ultimately know if it is the president's rhetoric that's forcing the numbers down, but what did you find in having conversations with people there?

VANESSA YURKEVICH, CNN MONEY REPORTER: Well, we spent two days with border agent down there is McAllen, Texas, which is in the Rio Grande Valley sector, one of the busiest sectors, if not the busiest sector, down in the southern border area. And what we found was that they were very much noticing a drop right when President Trump took office.

BALDWIN: They were? Wow (ph).

YURKEVICH: Almost immediately in the past month or so. And we did a ride along with them and we asked them that exact question that you're posing and this is what they had to say.



YURKEVICH: You said that there was a big influx in 2014 and then again recently of women and children coming across just turning themselves in. But in the past two months, or past month or so, has that changed at all?

CHRIS CABRERA, NATIONAL BORDER PATROL COUNCIL: It has. It's - as far as people turning themselves in, it has slowed down - it has slowed quite a bit. It hasn't stopped.

YURKEVICH: So why is it slowing down?

CABRERA: Because there's talk of while - the president - when President Trump came out and said - first off he said we were going to end catch and release. And then he started signing documents and you started seeing more things taking place where people were starting to get deported or the mandatory detention. So they went back to the old method of getting smuggled. They haven't stopped coming, they've just stopped turning themselves in.


BALDWIN: That's so interesting, they haven't stopped coming, but they've stopped turning themselves in. YURKEVICH: And what's interesting is, the type of person that's coming

across is changing. So it was people come across asking for asylum, that's changed. That's dropped dramatically. People are now using smugglers. The Department of Homeland Security has said that smugglers are now charging more to bring people across. That means people are a lot more desperate. There's a lot more violence, especially assaults on agents.

[14:25:10] And I spoke to Chris, who you saw on camera just there -


YURKEVICH: Just a couple moments ago and he said, this week alone, two assaults on agents in that area -

BALDWIN: That's awful.

YURKEVICH: Which doesn't sound like a lot, but sometimes they go stretches with no assaults over a couple weeks. So definitely a difference that they're seeing down there.

BALDWIN: I'm so glad you went and talked to him. But then we also have sound from the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell. This is what he said.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), MAJORITY LEADER: There are some places along the border where that's probably not the best way to secure the border. But I'm a - I think General Kelly know what he's doing. I think the president picked an outstanding person to be in charge of Homeland Security. And my suspicious is that we will take his advice.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you believe that Mexico will pay for it?



BALDWIN: OK, so the laughter and the no, Leyla, this question is to you. Has Mexico at all budged on this whole notion of paying for the wall? And to the conversation I was having with Vanessa, how are they responding to this 40 percent drop?

LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Listen, Mexico has said very clearly it is not paying for that wall. I have yet to hear from one person here who has said that. But, you know, one of the important things to talk about when it comes to the U.S./Mexico border is the majority of people crossing that border and apprehended by border patrol come from Central America. They're not from Mexico. So it's very important to also talk about Mexico's other border, the border with Guatemala and Mexico. And there, as we looked at the numbers today, they, too, are seeing a decrease in numbers. If you look at month to month, they saw a bit of a surge right around October, and then those numbers drop off through December, which are the latest numbers available. But it's also important to acknowledge that that's something that they saw the previous year. Sort of a drop off from October to December.

I spent some time with one man from El Salvador. His name is Roberto. And he told me that it is becoming increasingly difficult to get through Mexico to the U.S. We talked to him on this side of the border. It was at the border with U.S. and Mexico. And he was saying, look, I'm going to cross that border regardless. I have a dream. I have family. I need to get away from the violence in El Salvador.

But, yes, President Trump's rhetoric is a concern. And when we talked to some of the people at the shelters on Mexico's southern border, so, again, going back to that Guatemala border, we spoke with one priest who's run a shelter there for 20 years and he said he, too, has seen a decrease. And when you ask him what the deterrent is, he says it's Trump, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Maybe it is Trump and maybe to Vanessa's point, and some of these border patrol folks, though, that people are just getting creative using smugglers and such as well.

Vanessa, thank you. Layla, thank you.

We do have news just in. Some senators revealing who they want to talk to involving this investigation into the Trump campaign's ties to Russia. We have that for you coming up. Stand by.