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House Health Care Bill Moves Through Committees; Some in Congress Calling for Investigation into President Trump's Accusation of Wiretapping by President Obama; Interview with Congressman Adam Schiff; GOP Showdown Over Obamacare Repeal. Aired 8-8:30a ET
Aired March 9, 2017 - 08:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[08:00:00] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Trumpcare is a mess.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Let it be a disaster. We can blame that on the Dems.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president asked Congress to look at whether or not his campaign was wiretapped. I will take up that challenge.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What we have right now is recusal with absolutely no basis in fact.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is no reason we have to think that the president is the target of any investigation.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Be careful what you wish for.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. Welcome to your NEW DAY. It's Thursday, March 9th, 8:00 in the east. And up first we do have breaking news. Just hours ago, after an all-night debate, Republicans declaring a victory on their first step in the health care battle. The House Ways and Means Committee, remember, different committees are looking at different portions of this new Republican health care bill, they passed it. So those first steps are going towards appealing -- repealing Obamacare.
But the very long night on Capitol Hill turned into a long morning for the House Energy and Commerce Committee. They're looking at a different part of the bill, 22 hours, still going. The vice chair asked them to please leave and he would even give them Waffle House if they did so.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, but they did bring in Dunkin munchkins to stay. So you can see the conflict.
CUOMO: It shows which people like best.
CAMEROTA: Meanwhile President Trump trying to unite his party behind the plan, making his pitch to skeptical conservatives. But if this new bill fails, the president says he has a Plan B. Sources tell CNN he is prepared to let Obamacare stay in place and if it implodes, as he believes it will, blame that on the Democrats. It's day 49 of the Trump administration and CNN has every development covered starting with Suzanne Malveaux live on Capitol Hill. Good morning, Suzanne.
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Alisyn. It is high drama on the Hill. He saw these two marathon debates taking place, these two different committees, House Ways and Means after 18 hours approving of the legislation. But still the Energy and Commerce Committee on its 22nd hour of debate here. The Democrats doing everything as a minority in their power to delay the process, introducing amendments as well as calling for Trump's tax returns and debating the health of artificial tanning while Republicans are desperately trying to fast track this legislation.
MALVEAUX: As opposition grows to the GOP plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, President Trump coming up with a backup 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 rightwing groups he is, quote, "Open to discussing some changes for the American Health Care 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." 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, it's Obamacare in a different form.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is a lump of coal.
MALVEAUX: Ryan claiming otherwise, pitching it to his own party Wednesday.
REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: 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.
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 Health Care Act as drafted because of the expected decline in health insurance coverage."
(END VIDEOTAPE) MALVEAUX: While all eyes are on the House, the key battle is going to take place in the Senate among Republicans. One of those key senators, Tom Cotton, releasing a flurry of tweets this morning saying "House health care bill can't pass Senate without major changes to my friends in House. Pause, start over, get it right, don't get it fast. GOP shouldn't act like Dems did in O-care. No excuse to release bill Monday night, start voting Wednesday with no budget estimate. What matters in long run is better, mosh affordable health care for Americans, not House leaders' arbitrary legislative calendar." And what makes this important is the White House can't afford to lose more than three votes on the Senate side or the legislation dies, Alisyn.
CAMEROTA: Yes, high stakes, Suzanne. Thank you very much for all of that.
Add Vice President Pence to the list of administration officials offering no evidence of President Trump's claims that he was wiretapped by President Obama during the campaign. Mr. Pence dodging the question when asked if he believes his boss. CNN's Sara Murray is live in Washington with the latest. Hi, Sara.
[08:05:08] SARA MURRAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning. It might be a simple way to clear this up if the White House would say what inspired the president to make these wiretapping allegations. But they still aren't doing that, instead kicking it over to Congress, saying you guys should look into this. Now two senators say they're willing to do just that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: There's no reason to believe that he is the target of any investigation.
MURRAY: 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, the other is an investigation. They are two separate issues.
MURRAY: Vice President Mike Pence dodging questions about his boss's wiretapping accusations.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president alleged that the former president committed a felony in wiretapping Trump Tower. Yes or no. Do you believe President Obama did that?
MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, what I can say is that the president and our administration are very confident that the congressional committees in the House and Senate that are examining issues surrounding the last election, the run-up to the last election will 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. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 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."
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: 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.
SEN. MARK WARNER (D), VIRGINIA: 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.
MURRAY: Now, we know former President Obama wasn't exactly thrilled about these wiretapping allegations, and there have been conversations between President Obama's former chief of staff, Denis McDonough, and President Trump's chief of staff, Reince Priebus. So far we're not aware of any conversations between President Trump and former President Obama. We'll see if they hop on the phone and hash it out or if this is a rift between two men who had a better relationship I think than many expected as President Obama was leaving the White House.
CUOMO: When you call a former president bad or sick, it's not a great starting point for conversation. We'll see where it goes.
Joining us now is Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff. He's the top Democrat on the House permanent select committee on intelligence. That committee is investigating Russia's alleged hacking of the election. And with your investigative hat on, I want you to help try to understand what Sean Spicer said about this at a briefing. Let's play the sound.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SPICER: There is no reason that we have to think that the president is the target of any investigation whatsoever. The one question dealt with whether or not -- the tweet dealt with wiretaps during the thing, the other is an investigation. They are two separate issues, and there is no reason to believe that there is any type of investigation with respect to the Department of Justice.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CUOMO: That was a confused situation. He got handed a note during it. This has gotten very complex. You have the Russian allegations. You have the president injected the wiretapping allegations which he could answer more quickly than you could, that's for sure. But he's chosen not to according to Sean Spicer. But now you've decided to add that to your investigation. Why?
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: I think the way to interpret Sean Spicer's remarks is essentially we have no idea what the president was talking about, so we're going to give this to Congress and please don't ask us about this.
But look, we have accepted that invitation from the president. We're going to van open hearing on March 20th where we're going to have the opportunity for Director Comey, Director Brennan, Director Clapper and others to respond quite directly, if the press reports are accurate, that Director Comey wanted the Justice Department to speak out on this. He will have the opportunity during our opening hearing. We have also, the chairman and I, made a similar request as the bipartisan request in the Senate, for any documents, any FISA court orders that would back up this claim.
CUOMO: The pushback is why spend time on something that none of you believe is true? You've used the line, be careful what you ask for. What do you believe this could yield?
[08:10:05] SCHIFF: Here is what I mean by that. I think what Sean Spicer and the president wanted was to take this spurious claim and try to bury it in a closed hearing in the intelligence committee. We're not going to allow that to happen. We're going to air this very publicly. And if the president is going to make outlandish claims like this in the future, he needs to know he will be exposed and high ranking people within the U.S. government like the director of our intelligence agencies and the FBI will be forced to say the president wasn't telling the truth.
If we don't confront him on this, you can expect he's going to make other equally false claims in the future. And this is not only hurting him but it's hurting the presidency. It's hurting our credibility around the world, and this has got to come to an end. But I think there are profound questions about whether this president is capable of growing with the job.
CUOMO: So, All right, you're going to have it out there, and it will be part of a broader investigation about what connections there were. The pushback that you guys are getting is, yes, you have proof that there were contacts, but contacts aren't that unusual. You don't know what they were about. We've heard leaks from the intelligence communities saying they have no proof of collusion. When will you know whether there's anything there between the administration of President Donald J. Trump and Russian efforts to subvert the election?
SCHIFF: There's certain things we know I think with great certainty already. We know, and it was described earlier in the broadcast as the alleged Russian hacking. We know the Russians hacked. We know the Russians were responsible for the dumping of documents. We know the Russians have used a variety of techniques in Europe in the same way they have here. And in Europe they have used native citizens of European countries. They've used blackmail, they've used extortion.
We want to find out what else did they do if anything in the United States to influence our elections. And what we need to do is an expeditious but thorough and non-partisan investigation to find out, are these contacts innocent or are they part of collusion of U.S. persons in this Russian campaign? And I think it should be in everyone's interest to get the truthful answers to those questions as quickly as we can.
But I have to say this is difficult. This investigation obviously that goes well beyond our borders, that involves trying to get evidence from a hostile government. And we have to try to assess what did the intelligence community do? What leads are left to be investigated? Right now, Chris, as you know, we're having trouble getting answers from the FBI about what they have investigated, and we're going to need their full cooperation or this is going to be a lot harder and take a lot longer than any of us would like.
CUOMO: You said that you want to interview the man behind the assembling of the dossier that wound up being briefed -- that wound up being the subject of a briefing to President Trump and President Obama, then president-elect Trump. Why?
SCHIFF: Look, there have been public reports, and I can't comment beyond the public reports, that this is an individual that has been found to be credible by the intelligence agencies. If that's accurate, I think we ought to talk with him. I think we ought to find out to the degree he's willing to share what his sources of information are so that we can try to go to those sources and verify whether materials in the dossier he put together are accurate or not. We ought to do our due diligence.
And certainly I think what he has alleged in that report is very serious. Some of it ought to be capable of corroboration. Others will be very difficult given the hostile environment it would take to work in Moscow to try to prove or disprove things. But he may be a key figure. We'd like to know what he has to say.
CUOMO: I know that you're not going to tell me what the substance of it is, but have you come across anything yet that makes this more than a fishing expedition?
SCHIFF: Well, absolutely. Let me say this. I think you can see from the public information already that one of the byproducts of all this has been the resignation or the firing of Mike Flynn, the fact that Mike Flynn lied to the vice president. The vice president in turn misled the American people about a surreptitious conversation with the Russian ambassador.
CUOMO: Congressman, how do you know Mike Flynn lied to the vice president? I know that's what the White House says. But do you know that's what happened?
SCHIFF: I can't go into what we've been briefed on. But I do think this has reached the point of rightness where we need an independent council, not the current attorney general, to make a decision about what the facts are about something that may lead to a prosecution.
CUOMO: But that would mean that you suspect there's an underlying crime, which would be what? If you're going to have an independent prosecutor, you need a crime. What's the crime?
SCHIFF: Well, the question is whether the false statements of Mike Flynn in any form were prosecutable. And I think --
CUOMO: The FBI said that they weren't going to charge him and they didn't think he was misleading, which is why I'm asking the other question, by the way.
[08:15:01] The FBI gave the White House such great cover to keep Mike Flynn. They said we heard the same story he says he told Mike Pence. We don't think he was misleading. He may have forgotten it. He didn't think that the context to the election or the sanctions were relevant or a big part of the conversation with the Russian ambassador. So, he was innocent. We're not charging him. We don't think he was misleading.
Yet the White House chose to get rid of him. That's why I'm asking the question.
SCHIFF: It's a good question, Chris, but I obviously comment by what I can discuss publicly.
But let me make a few observations.
SCHIFF: First, the FBI hasn't said anything publicly about this. There have been reports of what the FBI is saying privately, but we don't know and don't have a public record about what the FBI's position is. And second, it's not the FBI's position to make a prosecutorial decision. That's a decision normally for the Justice Department.
Obviously, we saw a big aberration with that last year when Loretta Lynch essentially said I'm going to defer to the FBI about the Clinton case, but in the ordinary course of events, it is the Justice Department that makes a prosecutorial decision and the FBI presents whatever facts to the department.
Here you have Jeff Sessions saying I'm recusing myself, but not from everything, but only from things pertaining to the campaign. Well, the Flynn conversations with the Russian ambassador took place after the campaign. I don't think Jeff Sessions can make those decisions.
I think an independent counsel ought to be reviewing these facts and determining whether anything in Mike Flynn's conduct should be prosecuted. I'd like somebody independent to make that judgment. I don't want to make that judgment. I don't want Jeff Sessions to make the judgment. But I do want someone that the public can have confidence to look at those facts and decide, yes, this is a prosecutable offense or no, there's simply not enough evidence here.
CUOMO: Do you even have a guess how long it will take for you to get information that you can give to the American people to substantiate any of this?
SCHIFF: You know, here is the challenge, Chris, and I feel a real sense of urgency, I think we all do, but this is a very big, complicated investigation. I mean, after all it involves a Russian hacking operation, all of different cyber evidence that goes into that, the dumping information, the use of cutouts, use of WikiLeaks, the use of its propaganda arm, the -- all of the issues that I think most people are concerned with about collusion.
My GOP colleagues want to investigate the leaks, Democrats also have a concern about leaks. We want to look at the U.S. government and FBI response. Did they respond adequately when we new the Russians were in our computers?
This is not something to be done overnight. It can't be done overnight. And so, I think people need to understand the magnitude of what we've taken on. This is not something we're going to be able to come to next week and say, OK, we've reached a firm conclusion.
CUOMO: All right. Congressman Schiff, thank you very much. You know, I'm testing you on these things because the implications matter so much, that we have to make sure the facts drive it all. Appreciate it.
SCHIFF: And you should, with me and with everyone else. Thank you.
CUOMO: All right. Alisyn?
CAMEROTA: All right. So, what did President Trump tell conservative leaders to sell them on this new GOP plan? We're going to talk to someone who was in the room about how President Trump tried to win them over, next.
[08:21:51] CAMEROTA: Conservative leaders do not like the GOP health care plan. So, President Trump called those conservatives to the White House yesterday to try to get them on board. How did that go?
Joining us now is one of those conservative leaders, co-founder of the Tea Party Patriots, Jenny Beth Martin.
Good morning, Jenny Beth.
JENNY BETH MARTIN, CO-FOUNDER, TEA PARTY PATRIOTS CITIZENS FUND: Good morning.
CAMEROTA: So, when you laid out at the White House your criticisms of the GOP bill, what did President Trump say? MARTIN: Well, when I was at the White House meeting with the
president, I talked about my concern that the Obamacare law is not being fully repealed and that the bill we're seeing from the House of Representatives is going to drive the cost of health insurance up even further.
He talked -- he addressed those concerns. There were others in the room who addressed other issues and more detailed policy aspects of the bill.
He said that they will go back and address some of our concerns in what they're calling phase three. What we have now is phase one, which is the reconciliation bill that the House of Representatives is marking up right now.
MARTIN: Phase two is what health and human services secretary tom price will do through regulations. Phase three is another bill we have yet to see that does not require -- that is not reconcilable and would require 60 votes in the Senate to pass.
CAMEROTA: OK. That's interesting. Did you get the sense that he was trying to sell you? Was he saying come on, conservatives, get on board?
MARTIN: I think that what -- I'm sure that there was some of that going on, but I felt like more than anything he was listening to our concerns and is looking for a way to try to address some of those concerns.
CAMEROTA: What was his tone? Was he annoyed that you guys were expressing your criticisms? Was he understanding?
MARTIN: He did not seem annoyed at all. He was listening. I didn't expect anything different than that. We all know that President Trump is known to be a negotiator. When you're no negotiations, if you want to win people to your side, it's helpful to listen to what they have to say and try to meet them somewhere in the process.
So, it was --
CAMEROTA: Yes, did he say to you at any point, look, you guys, you're only helping the other side?
MARTIN: I don't remember those words being said. I know you reported that a few minutes ago, but I don't remember that being said.
CAMEROTA: How big of a deal did you get the sense of this is for the president?
MARTIN: This is a very big deal for the president. It's a very big deal for his voters as well, and for those of us who have been advocating to have more health care freedom in our country to repeal Obamacare and to make sure that the prices of health insurance don't continue to spiral or skyrocket upward. And right now, the bill in the House of Representatives is going to do that.
In fact, I would go so far as to say that the bill in the House of Representatives, if it passes the way it is presented right now, the hardworking taxpayers of this country will be forgotten once again.
[08:25:02] CAMEROTA: I know that you say that you've gotten something like 3,000 e-mails from fellow Tea Party folks. What are they saying to you?
MARTIN: I received 600 e-mails in less than 12 hours and over 3,000 e-mails in less than 48 hours about this bill. And the vast majority of them, I would say 9-1, are people saying they don't like the bill the way it is. They're very concerned about it.
People are reminding me that we've stood in the snow, in the rain, in the hot summer heat again and again and again to oppose Obamacare, to work to get it repealed and to stand for health care freedom. What we're seeing out of the House of Representatives is not what we expected when we voted for majorities in the House and Senate who promised us they would repeal Obamacare.
CAMEROTA: But if you repeal Obamacare, you know, you get more freedom, but costs will definitely go up.
MARTIN: If you repeal Obamacare the way that the house is doing it right now, it's not full repeal. What will happen is the individual mandate does go away, but the mandates on insurance companies stay in place, and that means that they will be forced -- they will be required by law to take the people who are most at risk and insure them while at the same time they're going to lose part of their customer base because people will not have to buy the insurance, and as the prices go up, they'll make a calculated risk that is financially better for their families not to buy insurance.
So, the ones who stay and voluntarily buy insurance and the ones who need it most, their prices are going to go up even further, and that's not what we need.
CAMEROTA: So, very quickly, of all of these angry e-mails you're getting about people who feel betrayed, this isn't why you voted for Republicans and gave them the majority in Congress, what will they do? I mean, do we expect more town halls like the heated ones we've seen? What if this bill continues to be fast tracked through Congress?
MARTIN: Well, we're going to see how the bill evolves and whether the White House is able to advocate for some of the things we want. Next Wednesday, Tea Party Patriots and FreedomWorks have a Capitol Hill day planned. I hope people who are listening join us at 1:00.
And we're going to hear from some of the senators and congressmen. We're going to speak to our congressmen and senators and let them know what we think about this bill and talk to them directly. Let's see if they actually listen to the American people.
I hope that they do. I hope the house and the Senate get this right. They've got one shot to do it and I hope they do it the right way. CAMEROTA: Jenny Beth Martin, thank you for sharing your thoughts with
us on NEW DAY.
MARTIN: Thank you for having me.
CUOMO: So, who is to blame for this difficult rollout of the Republican house health care plan? We're going to get that in "The Bottom Line", next.