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Trump's Confidant Discusses Wiretapping Allegations; House Committee Approves Portion of Obamacare Repeal; Pence Dodges Question on Wiretapping Claims. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired March 9, 2017 - 07:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


RUDDY: I actually think what he's doing is creating a negotiating position with the press. Basically, the press has acted like an opposition party.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: But it's a negotiating position. Where does it leave us? What are we supposed to be negotiating?

RUDDY: OK, well, let's start with the fact, Alisyn, that Obama holdovers leaked super-secret conversations President Trump had with heads of state. You can't get more classified than that.

Within hours of the conversation to embarrass the president when he spoke to the president of Mexico, the prime minister of Australia. That was a criminal offense.

CAMEROTA: There were also White House sources.

RUDDY: No, it was intelligence sources. I doubt the supporters of the president in the White House. We're sending -- why is there no conversation in the press about an investigation of those leaked documents?

CAMEROTA: We are talking about some of that in the press. Chris...

RUDDY: But not a lot. Not a lot.

CAMEROTA: We agree to disagree, but we do appreciate you coming on.

RUDDY: I appreciate you allowing me to have a discussion with you and the American people.

CAMEROTA: Thanks for being here.

Thanks to our international viewers for watching. For you, "CNN NEWSROOM" is next. For our U.S. viewers, NEW DAY continues right now.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This bill suffers from an identity crisis. Is this healthcare or is this a tax cut?

REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: This is a conservative wish list. The solutions that we put forward in this bill are the right ones. CAMEROTA: Major healthcare groups lining up in opposition to the

GOP's plan.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They are taking the Obamacare framework and trying to call it a Republican piece of legislation.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We can blame that on the Democrats. Let it implode.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: The current president has accused the former president of wiretapping his campaign. The country needs an answer to this.

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA: We keep this going with no proof. I think it's really very dangerous.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's really important that we talk to every witness and access every document.

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president has made clear he has no interest in Russia.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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

CAMEROTA: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to your NEW DAY.

First, we do have some breaking news. Just hours ago, after an all- night debate Republicans declaring a small victory in the healthcare battle. The House Ways and Means Committee approves its portion of the new Republican healthcare bill. This is the first steps towards repealing Obamacare.

CUOMO: All right. A very long night on Capitol Hill has turned into an early morning for another committee, though. The House Energy and Commerce Committee, they have a portion of this bill they have to look at, as well. You see Tim Murphy from Pennsylvania right there. It's still going on.

Now, they're pleading with members to go home. That's what the committee vice chair was doing. He even offered to get everyone Waffle House if they could just leave, but the debate continues. Trump is trying to unite his party behind this plan, making his pitch to skeptical conservatives.

But if the new bill fails to make it through Congress, the president does have a Plan B. Sources telling CNN he's prepared to let Obamacare implode and blame it on the Democrats.

Forty-nine days into the presidency, CNN has the angles for you.

Let's start with Suzanne Malveaux live on Capitol Hill. The Waffle House appeal, seldom used but highly influential.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The Waffle House appeal is not working. Not quite yet, but, you know, there's still some time here. People are getting a little bit hungry, Chris.

High drama on the Hill as those two overnight debates. One of them lasting until 5 in the morning, the other, as you saw, continuing into the morning now. The Democrats are using everything they have to delay the process if they can, because being in a minority, they're bringing up the Trump tax returns. They're also debating the efficacy of health of artificial tanning while Republicans are desperately trying to fast-track this legislation.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MALVEAUX (voice-over): As opposition grows to the GOP plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, President Trump coming up with a back-up plan. Sources inside an Oval Office meeting with conservative and Tea Party groups say the president announced if the plan fails, he'll allow Obamacare to fail and let Democrats take the blame.

TRUMP: Let it be a disaster, because we can blame that on the Dems that are in our room; and we can blame that on the Democrats and President Obama. But that's not the fair thing to do for the people.

MALVEAUX: The president telling these skeptical right-wing groups he is, quote, "open" to discussing some changes for the American Healthcare Act, like moving up the rollback of Medicaid expansion to 2018 instead of 2020.

The president also chastising them for their opposition, according to sources. The president claiming they're, quote, "helping the other side."

RYAN: Good afternoon.

MALVEAUX: Conservatives opposing the bill, backed by House Speaker Paul Ryan, argue the proposal doesn't go far enough in getting rid of Obamacare.

REP. JIM JORDAN (R), OHIO: I believe when you look through it is Obamacare in a different form.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is a lump of coal.

MALVEAUX: Ryan claiming otherwise, pitching it to his own party Wednesdays.

RYAN: This is a conservative wish list. It repeals Obamacare's taxes. It repeals Obamacare's spending, Medicaid expansion and the Obamacare subsidies. This returns power from Washington back to doctors and patients.

[07:05:09] MALVEAUX: But the backlash is also coming from the nation's leading hospital and doctor groups, concerned about the more than 20 million Americans currently enrolled in the system. The American Medical Association writing, "We cannot support the American Healthcare Act as drafted because of the expected decline in health insurance coverage."

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MALVEAUX: Well, all eyes are on the House. It really is going to be key to see where this goes in the Senate. That is critical. We're hearing from a concerned Republican, Senator Cotton this morning, tweeting this, saying, "House healthcare bill can't pass Senate without major changes to my friends in House. Pause, start over. Get it right. Don't get it fast."

Significant, Chris, as you know, they can't afford to lose three Senate votes. Otherwise, they lose the legislation altogether.

CUOMO: Yes, Suzanne, I'm looking at Cotton's tweet right now. Boy, such a different story than we're hearing from Speaker Ryan. A lot of work left to be done. Appreciate the reporting, my friend. Waffle House on me.

Vice President Mike Pence now added to the list of administration officials dodging questions about President Trump's wiretapping claims.

We're still in this bizarre situation, where lawmakers on both sides are looking for proof of the allegation. The allegation is made by the man the president of the United States who can most easily get that proof.

CNN's Sara Murray takes us through this odd and winding course -- Sara.

SARA MURRAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Odd is the right way to put it, Chris. The president, this White House, they're still not offering any evidence to back up his claim of wiretapping; but they have said, look, the House and Senate should look into this. Now a couple of senators are taking up the challenge.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: There is no reason to believe that he's the target of any investigation.

MURRAY (voice-over): The White House attempting to clarify President Trump's unfounded claim that former President Obama ordered wiretapping of Trump Tower during last year's election, marking yet another day of distraction stemming from Trump's tweets over the weekend.

SPICER: The tweet dealt with wiretaps during the thing (ph). The other is an investigation. They are two separate issues.

MURRAY: Vice President Mike Pence dodging questions about his boss's wiretapping accusation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president has alleged that the former president committed a felony in wiretapping Trump tower. Yes or no, do you believe that President Obama did that?

MIKE PENCE (R), VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, what I can say is that the president and our administration are very confident that the congressional committees in the House and Senate are examining issues surrounding the last election, the run-up to the last election. We'll do that in a thorough and equitable way.

MURRAY: Now Trump's claim might be backfiring, inspiring a bipartisan group of lawmakers to look for proof.

SCHIFF: Be careful what you wish for.

MURRAY: Republican Senator Lindsey Graham and Democratic Senator Sheldon Whitehouse penning a letter to the Justice Department and the FBI, asking the intelligence agencies for evidence, writing, "We would take any abuse of wiretapping authorities for political purposes very seriously. We would be equally alarmed to learn that a court found enough evidence of criminal activity or contact with a foreign power to legally authorize a wiretap."

GRAHAM: The president has asked Congress to look into whether or not his campaign was wiretapped by the Obama administration. I will take up that challenge.

MURRAY: Meanwhile, the investigation into Russian meddling in the election continues. Four senators taking their search directly to the CIA to review raw intelligence.

WARNER: We've got even more questions now. We've got more information we've got to get access to.

MURRAY: As the Trump administration continues to forcefully deny any collusion between Russian officials and their campaign.

SPICER: The president has made clear he has no interest in Russia; and yet a lot of these stories that come out with respect to that are frankly fake.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SPICER: Now we know former President Obama has not been particularly thrilled about these wiretapping allegations, and there have been discussions between Donald Trump's chief of staff, Reince Priebus, as well as President Obama's former chief of staff Denis McDonough. So far no conversations between President Trump and President Obama. But who knows? Maybe the two will hop on the phone and hash it out -- Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Or maybe they'll eat pancakes. I'm just running with a theme here, Sara.

MURRAY: Just go with it.

CAMEROTA: Thank you.

So as Suzanne mentioned, Senator Tom Cotton is tweeting about the House healthcare bill. He's saying this: "House healthcare bill cannot pass Senate without major changes to my friends in the House. Pause, start over. Get it right. Don't get it fast. GOP shouldn't act like Dems did in Obamacare. No excuse to release bill Monday night starting vote Wednesday with no budget estimate."

What matters in the long run is better, more affordable healthcare for Americans not House leaders' arbitrary legislative calendar.

All right. Joining us now is Democratic senator of Oregon Jeff Merkley. He is the member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the Senate Budget Committee.

Senator, are you about to write a thank-you letter to Senator Tom Cotton for sounding like a Democrat there?

SEN. JEFF MERKLEY (D), OREGON: Well, what's become absolutely clear is that this Trumpcare bill is losing support on both sides of the Republican spectrum, and it certainly has no support from Democrats. It's -- it's more expensive healthcare. It's a loss of healthcare for those who are struggling for working families. For seniors. It's really pretty much a disaster, no matter which way you slice it.

CAMEROTA: But it's not exactly that it has no support. In fact, it's being fast-tracked at the moment through Congress. They pulled an all-nighter last night, as you well know, and the House Ways and Means Committee passed it. So it is on track at the moment for what they had planned.

MERKLEY: Yes. No support for Democrats, but also, it is being opposed by -- by Republicans on both ends of the spectrum. In the middle, perhaps they're supporting it.

But I'll tell you, the reason they're fast-tracking it is because it has so many problems. You know, when we were working on Obamacare in the health committee, Health Education Labor Committee, we spent five weeks in front of cameras. We had over 100 Republican amendments adopted, and that was just the beginning of an additional year of work with other committees in the Senate.

It was an extended public process with tons of bipartisan involvement. And this is being rammed through as a partisan act, almost in the dark of night. Because the Republicans are so embarrassed about this.

CAMEROTA: Well, look, obviously, the Republicans say that that's what you guys did. I understand that your time line was different than what you see happening now. But you know, as you know, they always hold up; and Nancy Pelosi said, "We have to pass it. You know, then we can figure out what's in it."

But I guess my question is today this morning what are Democrats doing? Are you trying to work with your Republican colleagues to fix Obamacare, or are you trying to obstruct what they're doing right now?

MERKLEY: Well, it hasn't come over to the Senate yet, but the plan when it comes to the Senate is to put it on the floor without any committee involvement. The Republican leadership in the Senate has no plan to have a bipartisan discussion or a bipartisan examination of this bill.

It may melt down before it ever gets to the Senate. But certainly the philosophy being put forward by the Republican leadership is one of partisan, we're going to ram this through. We're going to get those 51 votes and stand aside. No discussion desired.

And certainly, at this point, it's so -- there isn't a foundation here to see, well, if we tweak this or tweak this, it will -- it will be better. This is going to be destroying Medicaid expansion. In Oregon, that's 400,000 people who have been able to gain access to affordable healthcare in the last few years. And it's rural -- it's rural healthcare clinics that are thriving that before couldn't afford to have their doors open. It's rural hospitals that, because of uncompensated care, were on the verge of closing, that now are on sound financial footing.

And this is going to effect a red America as powerfully as it's going to affect blue America. And that's why this bill, I don't think this bill is going to make it.

CAMEROTA: Well, President Trump from our CNN reporting, has a Plan B. And what he has been saying to sources is that, if it doesn't work, if the Republican repeal and replace plan doesn't go through Congress then, OK, let Obamacare continue. And he believes that it will sort of fall under its own weight, and then he'll blame the Democrats.

Let me play for you what he said a couple of weeks ago to the same tune.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Let it be a disaster, because we can blame that on the Dems that are in our room and we can blame that on the Democrats and President Obama. Let it implode and then it will implode in '18 even worse. Don't do anything. And they will come begging for us to do something.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CAMEROTA: What's your response?

MERKLEY: Well, the president is living in a world of his own imagination, because it's certainly not a disaster across America. Twenty million people have been added to healthcare or health institutions that are in much better shape than they were previously.

The idea that, if you get sick or your loved one gets sick, you're going to be able to get the care that you need and not end up bankrupt is now a reality for millions of Americans who before just lived in a period of high stress, praying every day that no one would get -- would get ill.

And so they've greatly over-inflated the problems. There's certainly improvements that can be made. We'd like to see more competitive exchanges. Very helpful to have a public option on these exchanges. Very effective to take on the high cost of medicines from -- that are really driving healthcare costs in this country. That's something we should team up with the president. Let's take on those high costs of medicine. CAMEROTA: Yes. Let's move on to another big story percolating, and

that, of course, the president on allegations of the wiretapping from the Obama administration of Trump Tower during the presidential campaign.

[07:15:18] What are you and Democrats going to do to get to the bottom of this?

MERKLEY: Well, the intelligence committee, led on the Democratic side by Mark Warner, is doing everything it can to get to the bottom of this. All the information that the Democrats or Republicans both have turned up so far is no foundation for this allegation.

They're going to keep -- keep looking. They're asking for documents. They're asking for information. What is it the administration wants to show folks? But the administration's response hasn't been, "Yes, we've got the information." The administration response is, "We have a lot of faith that you will investigate this thoroughly." Now, they have no information to present to Congress that there is any reality to this -- to this allegation.

CAMEROTA: And so do you feel that this will be a fool's errand? I mean, do you feel will take up taxpayer dollars and time in Congress, or do you think that this is something that deserves your attention?

MERKLEY: Well, it deserves our attention, because the president has raised a very serious accusation of criminal conduct by a former president. So it certainly deserves our attention.

But if the administration can't supply any information to Congress of evidence, I think it's going to quickly be set aside and say, "OK, we looked at it." There is no information here, and so a conclusion is reached that it was a fiction developed by the president and -- and asserted. Perhaps he, you know, have widely reported from Breitbart News that this is where a president seems to go for his information. And then he got this one absolutely wrong and really, quite frankly, should apologize.

CAMEROTA: Senator Jeff Merkley, thank you very much for bringing us the Democrats' perspective on all of this.

MERKLEY: You bet.

CAMEROTA: Chris.

CUOMO: The White House planning to pull out all the stops to sell the GOP's Obamacare repeal plan. Conservatives, the farther to the right you go, the more convincing they need. One conservative critic from Iowa joins us next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[07:20:58] CUOMO: The healthcare battle raging on this morning, literally, right now. You have the House committee still going through the debate on this situation, marking up the Republicans' Obamacare replacement plan. There was a small victory in favor of the new replacement plan. You had the House Ways and Means Committee. They voted. It passed. They're one part. Remember, other committees owned different parts of this.

Let's bring in a conservative critic of the healthcare plan, Iowa Republican Representative Steve King. Congressman, good to have you here. There's some real competition right now within your own party.

I want to play to you what the speaker of the House said about this plan.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RYAN: We spent a year working on this plan. All House Republicans participated in these. We had these working groups where anybody who had an idea brought it to the table. And then we reached consensus as conservatives, as Republicans, on what that plan looked like.

We called it a better way. We put it on the Internet. We all ran for Congress in 2016 on that plan.

TUCKER CARLSON, FOX NEWS HOST: I remember.

RYAN: It was modelled on the Tom Price legislation. That's what this is. This is the legislative text of that plan that we ran in 2016 on what we would replace Obamacare with.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: Paul Ryan is saying, "You had your chance. You looked at this. This is the plan. You should not be bucking the plan now."

Your response?

SEN. JOHN KING (R), IOWA: Well, then, first of all, I've got a good relationship with Paul Ryan, and I have great respect for him. And there are a number of conservations about this issue going back multiple months and in fact years, going back when he and I first came to this Congress.

What we got, though, out of the bill, the draft that came out was not some things that some of us expected, not some things that some of us hope. They had to listen to everybody; and they put together the ideas that they thought had the best chance to pass the Congress and the best chance to receive the maximum amount of support from Republicans. So that's how I would characterize this bill that's in front of us.

And it's missing a few things, and it's got some extras in there that a lot of conservatives don't like. But the first thing is that we campaigned on the full 100 percent -- I say rip it out by the roots -- repeal of Obamacare, and we don't get that with this bill. We get some of it. We're getting quite a lot of it. We don't, though, even get as much as was repealed last year in the bill that went to President Obama, which he vetoed.

CUOMO: Yes. But you have the speaker of the House saying, "This is the bill we all agreed on. Get in line."

You have the president saying, "I will go to where you live. I will fill up a stadium with people, and I will tell them that either you are with me, Steve King, or you are against me."

Are you worried about that?

KING: Not a bit. President Trump has been in Iowa a lot, and he's been everywhere I Iowa except in my living room, and I invite him there. But I'm happy to have that discussion. But also, if you remember, our speaker said that we have to put this through the process. The bill that came out has to go through committee. Now it's through one committee. The other committee is meeting right now. And then it has to come to the floor and subject itself to the ideas then of everyone that has not had the opportunities to offer those amendments. So there's still room in this process.

But I don't think the leadership is going to let any kind of deal breaker amendment be offered on the floor, and I don't think there are going to be any amendments allowed on the floor that -- unless they're amendments designed to get votes. And so sometimes good ideas from the outside aren't going to be any further allowed into a final package that will come.

CUOMO: So...

KING; And then they'll have to make a bet on whether they actually can produce the votes on the floor, because it would be a very damaging thing, to lose a bill like this on the floor of the House.

CUOMO: So what has to change in this bill in order for your wing of the party to go for it? What must change?

KING: Well, of course, I can't speak for anybody but myself here, but I hope that we're of a similar mind. And it's this.

We would like to see, at a minimum, the repeal bill that passed last year that was vetoed by President Obama be replaced [SIC] with the repeal they have now. We'd like to see the elimination of the refundable tax credits and replace it with the deductibility that employers have for premiums instead. That does give a level playing field.

[07:25:07] And then eliminate the mandates, the dozen or so mandates that are -- some are retained, or actually a dozen of them, at least, retained that are in Obamacare today that are retained by this bill.

And if we don't do so, then any promise that we'll later on pass the bill that's on the House calendar now Paul Gosar's (ph) bill, to sell insurance across state lines, will be -- will be not necessarily nullified but diluted in its impact, because every policy that will have to have those dozen or so mandates in it, which drives up the cost and takes away the consumers' choices.

So those are some of the things that I think would move a long ways toward getting a strong support from Republicans and maybe even universal support from Republicans.

CUOMO: I want to test the ideas of the substance, but I have one more question about the process. Senator Tom Cotton said, "To my friends in the House, pause. Start over, get it right. Don't get it fast. The GOP shouldn't act like Dems did on O-care," Obamacare. "No excuse to release the bill Monday night, start voting Wednesday with no budget estimate."

Do you agree with Senator Tom Cotton that the White House and Speaker Ryan are choosing speed over accuracy?

KING: Well, I hear what he has to say, and I think it's got merit to consider this. But also the White House and the leadership has had a discussion about how they want the timing of this to work, and so they rolled this bill out.

And we should have had more time to digest it. I'd rather have seen it out there for a week or ten days before they go to committee to mark it up. It really isn't much time for anybody to bring amendments to try to make the change. And we don't get amendments passed unless we get public support for that, and it takes time for the organizations from outside to weigh in. I'd just like to have seen more time.

This is the agenda we have, and leadership wants to build momentum. I would be, at this point, if I were leadership, I wouldn't back up; but I would have given a little more time in the beginning.

CUOMO: Do you think that the White House and Speaker Ryan are surprised by how many members like you are pushing back on this plan? It does seem to be somewhat of a botched rollout. This was supposed to get done quick. Everybody was supposed to get in line. And now you have a lot of people pushing back, even within the party.

KING: Well, I think they're a bit surprised by it, and I think they were prepared for some of it. But we should remember, too, that each one of us, and the honor and the privilege we have to serve here with that vote card, we owe our constituents and, in fact, everybody in America our best judgment and our best effort.

And so if there's a push that says get in line, that "get in line" better be followed up with a lot of logical things that have to do with policy and the best interests of the United States of America for the long-term.

So I think that we all have to use our best judgment, and part of that judgment is, if nothing gets done here in this Congress, we are stuck with Obamacare for a cycle or more; and that also is a calamity, as we know.

CUOMO: Do you agree with the president that that would be OK? Leave Obamacare as it is? He believes it will implode, and then you blame that on the Democrats. Do you accept that as Plan B?

KING: Well, I believe it will implode, but I don't like it as a Plan B. And I don't because Americans have suffered under Obamacare for far too long. And we need to provide that solution, and this is the best opportunity to provide the best solution.

But I do think that the train is racing too fast to be able to consider the best solutions that we can offer here. So if there's a Plan B, if there has to be a Plan B, let's back up and take the conservative plan, if we don't get that amended into this, as we go forward in these markets and on the floor today. And that would be my Plan B. I don't want to see Americans have to live under this any longer. I've wanted it gone for a long time, Chris.

CUOMO: You've got a lot of Americans who are afraid they're going to lose their care also with a change like this, and they want to see what's going to happen. But let's see what the details are. Congressman King, always appreciate you being on the show. Let's see where we are after the next step

KING: My pleasure. Thank you, Chris.

CUOMO: All right. Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: OK, Chris. So how did former President Obama react to the wiretapping allegations? His former communications director joins us next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)