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Possible Connection between Russian Bank and Trump Campaign Under Investigation; House Health Care Bill Debated Among GOP Lawmakers; Interview with Rep Keith Ellison. Interview with Rep. Carlos Curbelo Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired March 10, 2017 - 08:00   ET


[08:00:00] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- repealing and replacing Obamacare.


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

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to your NEW DAY. It is Friday, March 10th, 8:00 in the east.

Up first, FBI Director James Comey's meeting behind closed doors with eight powerful lawmakers who have access to the nation's most sensitive data. That information about Russia's alleged meddling in the U.S. election is also expected to be shared soon with the entire Senate Intelligence Committee.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: CNN has its own reporting, learning that federal investigators are continuing to examine whether there was a computer server connection between a server of the Trump Organization and one of a Russian bank. One U.S. official calling it odd. All this unfolding as the health care battle on Capitol Hill is now in high gear. Day 50 of the Trump administration. Let's begin with Joe Johns live at the White House. Joe?

JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Chris. I think you can take what's going on on Capitol Hill as a sign that lawmakers have picked up the pace of their investigation into Russia's interference in the last election. But the question is the extent to which the FBI director is willing to share all he knows with members of Congress.


JOHNS: FBI director James Comey heading to Capitol Hill as tension builds between the Justice Department and lawmakers over President Trump's unsubstantiated wiretapping claims. The Justice Department under pressure to deny or provide evidence of the president's allegation. Comey meeting with the gang of eight, the bipartisan group of lawmakers cleared to receive access to the nation's most highly classified intelligence.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF, (D) CALIFORNIA: As part of the gang of eight, we want to be informed on a periodic basis. JOHNS: This intelligence now set to be extended to all members of the

House Intelligence Committee. Prior to the meeting, the House intelligence chairman and the committee's top Democrats both taking issue with Comey, saying he hasn't been forthcoming with intelligence regarding Russia's interference in the election.

REP. DEVIN NUNES, (R) CALIFORNIA: Clearly we have some questions about whether or not last year we were read into everything we should have been read into.

SCHIFF: There's no way that we can discharge our responsibilities if the FBI isn't willing to cooperate with us and tell us about any counterintelligence investigation that is going on.

JOHNS: Congressman Adam Schiff accusing Comey of stonewalling in a briefing last week.

SCHIFF: There were very large areas that were walled off. And those walls are going to have to come down if we're going to do our job.

JOHNS: But the Justice Department continues to decline comment on whether President Trump is or is not the subject of an investigation, once again leaving his press secretary Sean Spicer spinning.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The Justice Department is saying, though, they never gave you the assurances that you gave us.

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: OK. The assurance I gave you, Margaret, was that I'm not aware. And that is 100 percent accurate.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So when you said "no reason to believe," it was "I'm not aware"?

SPICER: That's right. I don't know that they're not interchangeable. I'm not aware, I don't believe -- I'll look up in a thesaurus to find other ways. But I don't know that there's a distinction there.


JOHNS: We're expecting an opportunity to at least pose a question or two to the president of the United States himself today, likely to see him in a couple of photo-ops. He's also meeting with his homeland security secretary as well as the CIA director. Alisyn?

CAMEROTA: OK, Joe, thank you very much for that.

This morning CNN also learning new information concerning a possible link between computer servers belonging to a Russian bank and the Trump administration. CNN's Pamela Brown was part of the team that broke this story. She is live in Washington with the details for us. Pam, what did you learn?

PAMELA BROWN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Alisyn, we learned the FBI probe remains open between as possible computer connection between the Trump Organization and a Russian bank called Alpha Bank according to several officials familiar with the investigation. This is the same server mentioned in a Breitbart article that a White House official said sparked President Trump's series of tweets last Saturday, accusing investigators of tapping his phone. We are told that there was no FISA warrant on this particular server.

And questions about the connection between the server and the Russian bank were widely dismissed four months ago as an attempt by Alpha Bank to block spam. But we learned the FBI's counterintelligence team, the same one looking into Russia's suspected interference in the 2016 election, is still looking into it. One official I spoke with said the server relationship seems odd. Investigators are not ignoring it, but the FBI still has a lot more work to do to determine what was behind the unusual activity and whether there's even any significance to it. The FBI did decline to comment and the White House didn't respond to our request for comment. Alisyn?

CAMEROTA: So Pamela, when you say the relationship was odd, what was so peculiar about those communications?

BROWN: So what's odd about the communication is this Russian bank repeatedly looked up the unique Internet address of a particular computer server in the U.S. being used by the Trump organization.

[08:05:01] In fact, last summer during the presidential campaign, the Russian bank looked up the address to this Trump corporate server some 2,800 times, more lookups than the Trump server received from any other source. The only other entity doing so many Internet lookups for a Trump server was Spectrum Health, a medical facility chain led by Dick DeVos, the husband of Betsy DeVos who was later appointed by President Trump as U.S. education secretary.

So those two entities alone made up 99 percent of the lookups. So computer scientists we spoke to find that plain weird. All the corporations involved say they never communicated by email with the Trump Organization and they have different explanations of the server activity, but they haven't provided proof and they don't all agree. For example, the Russian bank thinks it was receiving Trump hotel e- mail marketing last summer but it hasn't provided CNN with a single e- mail to back that up.

Meanwhile, the American marketing company that would have been sending those Trump e-mails said it wasn't doing that at the time. Alpha Bank, for its part, stressed that none of its top executives have any affiliation at all with President Trump or the Trump Organization, saying neither the bank nor its principals including Mikhail Fridman and Petra Evans (ph) have or have had any contact with Mr. Trump or his organizations. So this potential computer link remains a mystery, doesn't mean anything nefarious went on, no evidence of wrongdoing. There are still just a lot of unanswered questions here.

CAMEROTA: There sure are, Pamela. Thanks for sharing all of your reporting with us this morning. We'll check back.

CUOMO: All right, so you have the political questions, then you also have a policy battle over repealing and replacing Obamacare. It is intensifying as the bill inches closer to the House floor. You're going to see a showdown in the Senate for sure. Many Republicans there saying this bill would be dead on arrival.

Now, the White House is trying to figure out what to do to get this party together to take on the Democrats. Let's bring in CNN's Suzanne Malveaux live from Capitol Hill. This was at least an intensity that couldn't have been expected within the ranks of the GOP.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. And it looks like they very much are split here. And you have the health care bill at least going through two hurdles now, the two House committees, sending it one step closer to the full house floor, but it has a long way to go, Chris. At issue here we're talking about how many federal dollars go to the states for Medicaid. That is the issue that threatens to really pull apart the moderate as well as the conservative Republicans.


MALVEAUX: The White House undermining Republican leaders with mixed messages on their party's plan to repeal and replace Obamacare. The president publicly giving solid support to the American Health Care Act.

DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have a plan that is going to be I think fantastic.

MALVEAUX: But privately telling hardline conservatives he's open to negotiations centered on Obamacare's Medicaid expansion, potentially changing the bill to phase out the Medicaid expansion years sooner than currently called for. A speedy rollback would win over some conservative critics.

REP. JIM JORDAN, (R) OHIO: It says we're going to repeal Obamacare, but we're going to keep Medicaid expansion and we're going to extend it. That's not what we told the voters we were going to do.

MALVEAUX: But it could doom the bill in the Senate. Several moderate Republicans backing the current bill says that could change their vote.

SEN. SHELLEY MOORE CAPITO, (R) WEST VIRGINIA: The expansion of Medicaid is tremendously important to 184,000 West Virginians.

MALVEAUX: Rolling back the expansion would also likely infuriate Republican governors whose states get federal Medicaid funding through the expansion.

GOV. JOHN KASICH, (R) OHIO: There are very conservative Republicans in the House who are going to say just get rid of the whole thing. And that's not acceptable.

MALVEAUX: Cutting the expansion, which covers 11 million Americans, could also anger voters after then-candidate Trump made promises like this one during the 2015 presidential announcement.

DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Save Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security without cuts. Have to do it.

MALVEAUX: But Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan continues to roll up his sleeves to pitch to the GOP that it's now or never.

REP. PAUL RYAN, (R) SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES: This is the closest we will ever get to repealing and replacing Obamacare. The time is here. The time is now.


MALVEAUX: Speaker Ryan is really stressing the sense of urgency because he believes there's momentum. He says this is what Republicans and the president ran on during the campaign, repealing and replacing Obamacare. And at the same time senior administration officials are saying President Trump now has a renewed interest in selling this plan. He really sees it as a test of his negotiating skills, as his skills as a dealmaker. And later today we're going to see the president meeting with key members of the House. Alisyn?

CAMEROTA: Suzanne, thank you very much for all of that.

Joining us now is Democratic Congressman Keith Ellison. Representative Ellison is also the deputy chair of the Democratic National Committee and the co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. Good morning, congressman.

REP. KEITH ELLISON, (D) MINNESOTA: Good morning. Good to see you.

[08:10:00] CAMEROTA: There so much news to talk about this morning. Let's talk about something that I know you feel particularly strongly about and we haven't talked about it much this morning, and that is the White House's revised travel ban. To remind people of what this new version looks like, let me just pull up some of the tenets of it.

It will exempt legal permanent residents, meaning green cardholders. Visa holders also exempt now. It will avoid any priority of religious minorities as had been in the first one. There will be a phase-in period, so there won't be the confusion we had seen at airports. And that ban on Syrian refugees that had been indefinite has now been reduced to 120 days. You still don't like it. What's the problem?

ELLISON: Well, it starts out with bad intentions. He campaigned on a Muslim ban. He said that explicitly. One of his deputies, Rudy Giuliani, came out and said, look, he wants to ban Muslims but he wants to lawyer it up so that it passes muster. So we know the intent of the thing has not changed.

CAMEROTA: I just want to stop you for one second, congressman, because now in terms of the language and in terms of what it sets out to do, maybe originally that was the intention. I hear you, he did say that. But now it has gone through different iterations and there isn't anything about Muslims in it. So it's changed.

ELLISON: It has changed, but it's not changed to the point where it's no longer intended to harm and block people based on their religion. Here is the thing. So what's the national security justification for this thing? Because we know that there's been no Syrian refugee who has been associated with terrorism, who has committed acts of terrorism in the United States. We know there are countries -- if you look at the three countries where terrorists came from and committed acts of terrorism in the United States, it's Saudi Arabia, UAE, and Egypt. They're not on the list. So the list is actually irrational.

So the problem with trying to cleanse it from its original taint is that then you end up with just an irrational policy that doesn't have any real point other than to -- and so that's what we have right now.

Let me also make one more point, Alisyn, that I think is key. Right now east Africa is going through a major drought and famine. Refugees who live there who literally are dying, starving and dying of thirst, need to be able to get some relief. With this ban, those people would be barred. And let me tell you, days count when it comes to drought and famine. I have a lot of people from Somalia in my district and they have loved ones in the middle of this drought. These people are going to be held up because of this irrational ban which started out as being a very negative thing.

CAMEROTA: Well, we'll see what happens. Already Hawaii has launched a lawsuit. But we have many legal experts, including our own Jeffrey Toobin, who believe that it will pass legal muster. But that remains to be seen.

ELLISON: Just because it's legal doesn't make it right.

CAMEROTA: Fair enough. But I want to ask you now about another thing that obviously is brewing on Capitol Hill, and that is the repeal and replacement of Obamacare. What's the Democrats' plan? This thing is being fast-tracked through the House. Obviously we heard dissension on both sides. But what are the Democrats doing?

ELLISON: We're trying to, one, make sure the public understands how harmful and dangerous Trumpcare really is. We're trying to point out to people how it abandons the commitment to fill a doughnut hole, how it will restrict the expansion of Medicaid and cut Medicaid in some cases. We're talking about how it cuts Planned Parenthood just completely and harms women's health. And we're making the point clear that perhaps as many as 10 million people, perhaps more, will be abandoned without health care when they had it before.

And on top of that, wealthier people who were being taxed to help support this program are going to get a tax bonus with this repeal and replace. They're going to get bumps in terms of HSAs. They're going to get bumps in terms of even insurance company executive salaries. So it's helping the rich, it's hurting the poor and the middle class. It's a bad thing.

CAMEROTA: So your plan is to talk about it as often as possible, raise awareness, as you would say, and then I guess you expect town hall -- grassroots and constituents of these folks to confront them at town halls.

ELLISON: Absolutely. Well, the First Amendment is a very important piece of our American landscape. People have a right to express their outrage and their support, if that's the case, to their elected representatives. And we encourage people to use their first amendment rights, freedom of expression, freedom to get news from a free press. We support these things and believe that this is the right time to express yourself if you think health care should be something that everybody can get.

CAMEROTA: OK, let's move on to the allegations of Russia possibly meddling in the presidential election. Director Comey of the FBI was summoned to Capitol Hill. He met with the gang of eight, those lawmakers who have access to the most highly classified information. What do you want to hear from Director Comey?

REP. KEITH ELLISON (D), MINNESOTA: I want to hear Director Comey talk about exactly what this server connection might represent and what the facts indicate that it does represent. Why is there a computer server link between the Trump Organization and Alfa Bank, what was it doing? Did somebody try to shut it down when they got discovered? Why would they do that?

How come -- not only to Flynn and now Sessions have been found saying things denying they were in contact with Russian diplomats when, in fact, they demonstrably were.

I'm not -- I mean, I want to know why they were misrepresenting the truth. We know they were, but why were they.

And these are things I think the FBI could shed light on. I hope they're in it for the long haul. I don't think the truth is going to be forthcoming, because if it were, you know, Mr. Sessions would go back to the committee as Senator Franken has invited him to do and clarify exactly what he meant when he denied any contact with Russia or Russian representatives.

So, that's what I'm hoping we can get from Comey's presence on this.

I'm glad we're trying to get to the bottom of this. Look, this is stunning when you think about it, far worse than Watergate when you believe a hostile foreign power engaged in an attempt and with the collusion of the sitting administration to manipulate --


CAMEROTA: Well, you don't know that. Hold on. Congressman, you don't know that --

ELLISON: We don't know it. We don't know it.

CAMEROTA: Congressman, you said collusion. There's no evidence there's collusion.

ELLISON: Alisyn, if people in the Trump administration are having meetings with Russian officials and it is around election time and we know that there's been -- Russia has wanted to turn this election to a certain direction, those meetings are important. I'm not saying there was collusion. I'm saying those meetings indicate that there could be, and I think that needs to be investigated. You see what I'm saying? I'm not making an accusation. I'm saying

there's ample basis for an investigation. That's what I think Comey can help clear up right now.

CAMEROTA: Thank you for clarifying that. Congressman Keith Ellison, nice to talk to you this morning.

ELLISON: Thank you.


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: All right. So, we have heard from those against the House health care bill, but what about what we expect to see that excites in this bill? We're going to speak with a Florida congressman who voted to move the plan ahead, next.


[08:21:07] CUOMO: All right. So, House Republicans' plan to repeal and replace Obamacare has cleared a couple of committees as the GOP is trying to fast track this bill through the reconciliation process. But, as President Trump tries to sell the plan, you have all these different factions popping up. Who is going to fall in line?

Joining us now to discuss is Florida Congressman Carlos Curbelo. He's part of the House Ways and Means Committee. They spent 18 hours debating the health care bill earlier this week.

You want to move the bill forward. What do you say to the members of your party who are saying, "No way, this bill is not what we promised the American people, it is just Obamacare light"?

REP. CARLOS CURBELO (R), FLORIDA: Chris, good morning from the Hill. I'm still recovering from that 18-hour hearing but very happy to be with you this morning.

And what I tell my colleagues, and not just them, but really the American people, is that all Americans deserve something better than the current system. We know that we have increasing premiums, fewer choices. There are a lot of counties including a county in my district down to Florida keys where there's only one insurance provider. Clearly, the current system is broken and we need something better.

The approach that we take in our health care bill is different than the ACA. For example, the ACA punishes and threatens individuals and really tries to coerce them into buying health insurance. Still millions of Americans don't do it and have to pay a fine.

We come in from a different angle. We encourage Americans to take care of themselves. We empower them with advancable, refundable tax credits to buy the health care that's best for them and for their families without threatening them, without fines and without all these burdens and government regulations.

CUOMO: Right. CURBELO: So, this is entirely different, and more importantly, I

think it's going to be much better for the American people.

CUOMO: Well, there's a premise that underlies what you call better which is it assumes that people will have the means to buy this health care that is supposed to be more affordable. In Florida especially, that's a tricky proposition. Your population that are the hardest to cover, disabled people, low-income seniors, they have been rising faster, those populations, than the national rate. And Florida is a state that did not expand Medicaid though offered under the ACA. And the rates of problematic growth, you know, premium increases, are higher now in Florida than they were before Obamacare.

So, what do you say to that?

CURBELO: That's exactly right. That is why we have to change it.

One of the things that the ACA did which to me makes no sense is they proposed to reduce health care costs and increase quality, and then they added all these taxes into the health care system. In Florida, for example, Medicare Advantage is popular with seniors, yet the ACA imposes a tax on every single Medicare Advantage plan in the state. So, of course, health care costs have gone up for seniors.

And that's why we want to empower the consumer.

CUOMO: Right.

CURBELO: We really believe the only way you're going to contain costs in health care is if the patient, the consumer, has a greater role. And what better way do to do that than empower that consumer with the resources he or she needs to buy the health care plan that is best for him or her? That's the goal of this policy.

CUOMO: Right. Except you're cutting what they'll get, you're not adding to it. So, that takes you back to the same question. The critics will say, hey, if Florida had expanded Medicaid, the rate of increase would be like in many other states that we see under the ACA, that the rate of increase -- nobody wants to see increases, but that's the reality of health care, the way it is right now -- is less than it was before the ACA.

Not in Florida because you guys didn't embrace the law the way you could have if you expanded Medicaid.

[08:25:01] And now, you're doubling down on your own problem, because right now you get about 61 cents on the dollar reimbursement from the federal government. You're going to cut that. So, you're going to reduce the number of dollars but say to people they'll be able to get more care.


CURBELO: You're referring to a decision that was made by the state legislature. We here in Congress cannot compel any state to take a Medicaid expansion. CUOMO: Right, true.

CURBELO: The Supreme Court ruled that way a few years ago.

So, under this legislation, states like Florida will actually benefit. Why? Because states that did not expand Medicaid will get more funding for their disproportionate share hospitals. Those are hospitals like Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami which does a wonderful job -- it's one of the top hospitals in the country. They take care of undocumented immigrants --

CUOMO: Right.

CURBELO: -- people who still don't have health insurance despite the fact that we have the ACA. Those hospitals are now going to get a boost under this legislation.

So, this legislation takes health care resource, targets them towards low and middle income Americans, the people who need the most and creates a health care market and a lot of people aren't taking that into account by creating a health care market where there's price transparency, where consumers take dollars and make the best decisions for themselves.

CUOMO: Right.

CURBELO: That is actually going to put downward pressure on health care cost, not the current system which just keeps pumping more and more taxpayer dollars into it and it keeps chasing these increasing health care costs. We're never going to win this way. That's why we need to change the equation.

CUOMO: Well, the only thing that brings down health care costs is reducing the level of risk to the insurance providers. But you guys won't touch those companies apparently, so that will be the big question, is how do you remove the mandate and incentivize healthy people to get out of risk pools and yet bring down the cost overall? But we'll have to see the details to get more into that. You're welcome back to do that on NEW DAY any time.

Let me ask you about immigration. You have another controversial measure there. You do not hear a lot of Republicans talking a pathway to anything legal, let alone citizenship for DREAMers. Who are the DREAMers?

Just to remind people at home, they were brought here young, maybe teens, by parents who are undocumented, but they came here, it is suggested unknowingly, innocently and they're living good lives. You're saying those people should be helped. Not popular within your own party.

How do you sell it?

CURBELO: Well, Chris, there's a growing consensus here on the hill and inside the Republican party that we really need to take care of these young people who were brought to this country like you said involuntarily. They came with their parents. They were brought across the border or families that may have overstayed their visas.

You've heard the president say this group needs to be taken care of. There are many, many Republicans here on the House and ten of us today are introducing this legislation that really believe we need to make sure these young people are given a change to fully incorporate themselves into our society. These are people who are contributing to our economy, working hard. Some of them want to serve in our military. Others are at colleges and universities earning degrees.

These are America's children, and it's about time that we accept them and that we give them that path to full American citizenship so that they can fully participate and enjoy in the American experience.

CUOMO: Right. You would just need to change the R to a D to make that argument. You're going to have Republicans who look at you and say they broke the law. We're the law and order party, they have to go. What do you say to them?

CURBELO: Well, like I tell you, Chris, a lot of people haven't made public statements yet, but many Republicans here on the Hill believe that is the right way to go. Some, three, four, five-year-old child brought across the border did not break any law. Many of these kids only speak English. A lot of them don't even remember their countries of origin because they were so young when they came.

So, we need to do the right thing. We need to put partisanship aside, just like we need to do in health care, and do right by these young people who in my opinion are already Americans. We just need to recognize it.

CUOMO: Well, you're going to have to define who the we is and make that fight. We will cover it. I also direct people to read the op-ed you wrote on March 1st about your concerns about the national debt, because when we get the CBO score on what this new health care proposal is, it will be interesting to see had the government's reckoning is of how much it will cost. Please come back on then.

Congressman, have a good weekend.

CURBELO: That's coming on Monday. Have a good day, Chris. Thanks.

CUOMO: You, too.


CAMEROTA: All right, Chris.

February jobs numbers are coming in. What do they look like during the first full month of the Trump administration? We have the numbers coming up for you.