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Heated Debate on Healthcare Bill; The President Taking Back his Words. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired March 13, 2017 - 22:00   ET



[22:00:00] DON LEMON, CNN HOST: Breaking news, President Trump promised everybody would have health insurance. Well, maybe not everybody.

This is CNN Tonight. I'm Don Lemon.

A stunning 24 million more people will be uninsured 10 years from now under the GOP health care plan. What will the president say to his supporters who lose coverage?

Plus, the House may subpoena the administration if they don't get answers to their questions about President Trump's wiretapping claims by next week's hearing. That is as Sean Spicer exclaimed the president, President Trump wasn't accusing president Obama being personally involved in wiretapping despite the inconvenience fact to him that's exactly that's what the president claimed.

So can we really take President Trump -- President Trump and his administration at their word? Let's get to the report, though, today out by the GOP plan to repeal the Obamacare, to repeal Obamacare.

And joining me now is CNN's Mark Preston, David Gergen, and Gloria Borger. Also with me, CNN senior economic analyst, Stephen Moore, a former senior economic adviser to the Trump campaign. Good evening to all of you. So, Gloria, let's dive right into this, shall we?


LEMON: So, 14 million more Americans would be uninsured under the House GOP health bill by 2018. That's according to a nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. Twenty four million more uninsured by 2026. Is this the report that they were expecting?

BORGER: Well, it was the report they were bracing themselves for, because they were trying to undermine the credibility of the CBO last week and this week. Because they knew they were going to get some bad numbers. And what they were saying is that, look, this is the first step of a three step process. There are still regulations that we have yet to proposed that are, that will be enacted and there are fixes we want to do.

So this isn't the, you know, be all end all. But this is a real big problem, Don. LEMON: Right.

BORGER: I mean, that you've got more uninsured, you got older people who are going to end up paying more. You've people in red states who are blue collar who are going to end up paying more. I mean, there's a -- there's a lot...

LEMON: Trump supporters.

BORGER: There's a lot of problem here. Working class voters, I mean.

LEMON: Yes. We're going to dive into this deeper. We'll talk more specifics but I want to get to premiums, Mark, and I'll go to you after that. They're expected to jump 20 percent in individual market in 2018 and 2019. But by 2026 the average premiums would decrease 10 percent compared to the current system.

Republicans hammered Obamacare over increasing premiums. Now people are going to have to wait for savings it looks like.

MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICS EXECUTIVE EDITOR: Yes. And I think that most people thought when Obamacare was going to be overhauled they would see immediate savings, that they see actually that their premiums would go down.


PRESTON: That they would get better coverage, that there would be more access because you would see more insurance companies going into one states where's only one, perhaps two insurance companies in some states. But the fact to the matter id, Don, you're absolutely right. I think that there's going to be an incredible sticker shock, political sticker shock for a lot of folks who supported Donald Trump based upon the idea that he would repeal Obamacare.

LEMON: Stephen Moore, the White House and congressional leaders have been trying to discredit the CBO ahead of this estimate. But the Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price said the numbers aren't believe. But here's the speaker, Speaker Ryan today. Listen to this.


PAUL RYAN, UNITED STATES SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Well, actually if you read this entire report. I'm pretty encouraged by it. It actually exceeded my expectations. We're saying the government is not going to force people to buy something that they don't want to buy. And if we end in Obamacare mandate that says you must buy this government one size fits all plan, guess what. People aren't going to buy that.


LEMON: So republican leaders, Stephen, says that this is about a choice. Do the numbers really show that, or is this taking away insurance?

STEPHEN MOORE, HERITAGE FOUNDATION VISITING FELLOW: Well, I don't agree with Paul Ryan that this is somehow -- there's some kind of, you know, silver lining in this report, because there isn't one, but I just don't think it's credible. What I think Paul Ryan should have said it is true if you just got rid of Obamacare and did nothing. Then people got all these subsidies and were put on Medicaid.

And by the way, that's what Obamacare really was, which is the vast extension of Medicaid, which is the worst health insurance system in the industrialized world. If you take those people off of Medicaid, of course they're going to lose their insurance.

I think the flaw in this study is, Don, it doesn't assume something is going to follow. That we're not going to have the kind of reforms that republicans have talked about. Expansion of medical savings accounts, allowing people to buy insurance across state lines, malpractice, medical malpractice reform, which was missing from Obamacare.

One other point, Don, that I think really -- I find kind of infuriating about this report.


LEMON: So, then it...

MOORE: So if Obamacare is crash -- so if Obamacare and burning.

LEMON: OK. OK. I get...


MOORE: We stay with the current system millions of people are going to lose their health insurance. Because nobody can afford it, insurance, when you talked about 20 percent increases in premiums. That's Obamacare, that's not what's going to happen. Yes.

LEMON: But this is saying it's going to increase as well. It's expected to jump 20 percent in the market in the market 2018 and 2019, then by 2026 the average premiums would decrease, compared to 10 percent under the current system.


[22:04:57] LEMON: So, I mean, up front it's a sticker shock, but you know, who knows if it's going to get that far, where people actually see a decline in what they're going to pay. My question is, if you said, if you said you don't agree with Paul Ryan, is this lipstick on a pig, you think?

MOORE: I think he is trying to put lipstick on it. Look, it's a bad report for the republicans, there's no way to deny that. I think republicans have to say, look, we have a plan that's going to keep people insured. What I would do, and I think this is a number of the republican plans, is to say, look, the first two or three years, people who have coverage now will continue with that coverage. Until we come up with a new system that is free market oriented.


MOORE: The reason I have faith in the fact that premiums are going to fall, is because that's what competition does, when you have competion in any industry, Don.


MOORE: What happens? They clash and they fall.

LEMON: OK. David, you've been sitting by patiently. But here's what republicans do like about this, right, $337 billion savings according to the CBO by 2026. They like that figure, but I mean, at what cost?


LEMON: Of this savings.

GERGEN: We're about half of the savings comes from the wealthy, from the affluent. We cut their taxes, and then guess what, a lot of people who are poor or not affluent, lose their insurance. Is that really what the republicans want to go to the country with? This is a blockbuster report. I don't think they can cure it rhetorically, I think they have to come over it in fresh thinking. And if they have additional plans like medical savings accounts, which I happen to support. Bring them on. Let's get those score, too.


GERGEN: Let's not dance around put the thing out there, and figure it out. I do not think. I think the real dilemma is this. The bill the changes that would be required to make this come in much closer to zero under CBO, those changes will not pass the House and Senate led by republicans. That's their central dilemma.

LEMON: Why is that?

BORGER: Exactly. And I don't think this is going to pass either at this point. You know, it's very difficult.


BORGER: To do health care reform, the president himself said you know, you wouldn't believe how complicated it is.

LEMON: But it's easy.

BORGER: But it is complicated.

PRESTON: Not as easy.

BORGER: As he has been saying.


LEMON: That's what he said, you wouldn't believe, I didn't think it was going to be so complicated. But it's really not that complicated. BORGER: It's really not. But guess what.

LEMON: It really is.

BORGER: And what they are discovering is, that you can't propose this as one step, and then say, but the rest is coming, trust us. It will all -- it will all...


LEMON: You can't trust if there are...

BORGER: ... a rising tidal lift. And you can't, because people want to know what they're going to pay, and when you tell people who are not on Medicare yet, but say they're in their 60s, and you tell them that they're going to have a 20 to 25 percent premium increase, when they've been promised that you're not going -- they're not going to suffer financially, which is what Dr. Price, the head of HHS has said, they're going to -- they're going to be upset about it.

So now you have to see republicans going home...


MOORE: But Gloria.

BORGER: ... and trying to figure out how to sell this to their constituents when they don't believe it themselves.

LEMON: Stephen, hold on. Mark wants to jump in.

MOORE: Can I just say one quick ting?

LEMON: Go ahead. Go ahead, Stephen.

MOORE: I mean, look, this year premiums went up by 20, 25 percent under Obamacare. So.


LEMON: Not everywhere, though.

MOOREZ: So it's not how people are...

GERGEN: Well, Stephen, how many people have...


MOORE: Yes, but on average they did, and in a Arizona, where I was just two or three weeks ago, they went up 100 percent. They doubled.

GERGEN: So, listen to say that since Obamacare went into effect. We had 20 million new people have come on the roles. And we got a proposal in front of this and we're on the roll that back by 24 million. Is that something you think is a sustainable or is political? Objective isn't even right.

BORGER: And what about the states that have taken the Medicaid expansion money...


BORGER: ... and they're going to lose all that money.


PRESTON: A lot of republican governors.

BORGER: And those people -- and those that a lot of republican governors as Mark points out. And that's going to be a real problem for republicans.

MOORE: But look, you guys act as if the one thing is you all will laugh as is somehow the status quo is somehow sustainable.


LEMON: No, I don't think anyone here is saying that. I think anyone -- I think what they're saying, Stephen, if you'll let me jump in here.

MOORE: Right. Yes.

LEMON: Not that the status quo is great. And I don't think there's anyone who has said that Obamacare is great.


LEMON: Not even people who helped put Obamacare a law, put it into practice. But I think what they're saying is if you don't have a better plan, why this plan? Maybe you should cool your jets for a little bit, come up with a better plan, and then propose that to the American people, am I wrong with that?

MOORE: Well, I'll agree with you down that. I don't think republicans have done a very good job.


LEMON: Because eight years, six or seven or eight years, and nothing has, you know, they've been trying to repeal and replace Obamacare for years, and this is the best they can do.

GERGEN: Your definite fix made Americans...


MOORE: I agree with you, I think republicans have not done a good job of explaining what the replacement is, and that's making people nervous. I think we're all in agreement with that. But what I'm saying is as an economist, I actually think you can do this a lot better, in ways that cover everybody, but reduce costs by 25 or 30 percent, if you have a competitive market, which Obamacare didn't really create.

LEMON: Al right. Stand by, I want to -- let's listen to the president.


LEMON: And I'll get everybody in. Let's listen to the president today. Here is what he said.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We let it go for another year, it will totally implode. In fact, I told the republicans, why don't you let it go for another year, that way everybody will really understand how bad it is.

[22:09:59] By repealing it, by getting rid of it, by ending it. Everyone's going to say it used to be so great. But it wasn't great. And I tell Tom Price, and I tell Paul Ryan, I tell every one of them. I said the best thing you can do politically is wait a year, because it's going to blow itself off the map.

But it's the wrong thing to do for the country, it's the wrong thing to do for our citizens.


LEMON: David, it sounds like he knows it's a bad bill and still saying how great the bill is, it's how bad Obamacare. And no president, if you care about the American people, and especially, you know, this is dire consequences, it really is. You're not going to let something fail because of -- you're playing with people's health.

GERGEN: I don't know that. He's threatened, you know, why don't we let it fail, and blame it on the democrats. That what his position that he said 10 days ago. And we also said that I can't believe he said that.

So we don't know for certain, but I do think this, there are democrats who know that Obamacare needs to be fixed.

MOORE: Yes, of course.

GERGEN: There are definite fix in the...

PRESTON: President Obama himself said it needed to be fixed.

GERGEN: Yes, right.

PRESTON: And that there were parts of it that need to be.

GERGEN: And so if you were able to get a repeal and repair kind of solution, you might get some democrats to come in, and say, OK, you do three or four things and we might go for that.

BORGER: But that's not what he campaigned on. GERGEN: That's correct.

BORGER: He campaigned on replacing. And actually...


LEMON: Repeal and replace.

BORGER: ... I think President Trump might be right, which is, that if he had, if he hadn't done this right away, he could have done infrastructure, he could have gotten a win, because he could have gotten a whole bunch of democrats to get on board with him. I know Steve Moore you're going to hate this.

But it could have gotten a bunch of democrats to spend a whole lot of money on roads and bridges and gotten a victory that way, and then do health care after -- you know, the order in which a president does things, we have learned over and over again, is really important.

LEMON: But he did say in the first 100 days, didn't he, and he said that one of the first orders of business...

BORGER: Right.

LEMON: .. would be to repeal and replace Obamacare.

BORGER: Well, that's why -- that's why he got stuck, because he actually wanted to keep his word.


PRESTON: He painted himself into a corner. And that's why you see so much resistance amongst republicans on Capitol Hill whether they are very conservative or they're centrist. Because they know they're heading into 2018, and if you look at those numbers that we showed at the top of the show if that many people are going to be uninsured. That's going to be a very difficult...


LEMON: I've got -- I've got to get to the break. I know David you want to get in, Stephen, I know you want to get in but you guys are coming back. But Gloria, something that was very important you talked about blue collar workers in red states.


LEMON: The folks who voted for President Trump, they may be suffering more than any other voter under this new plan.

BORGER: Well, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

LEMON: According to the CBO. And we'll talk about that when we come right back.

[22:15:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK) LEMON: The Congressional Budget Office reporting that millions more Americans will be uninsured if the House health care bill becomes law.

Back with me now, Mark Preston, Gloria Borger, David Gergen, and Stephen Moore. And Mark, you brought us something that I thought was very important. Explain to our viewers what the CBO is.

PRESTON: Well, we talk about this Congressional Budget Office and it terms that sounds very Washingtonese (Ph), you know, and it's something a think tank, or what have you. But the bottom on what it is, is that it's a nonpartisan organization created by democrats and republicans.

And republicans named the last executive director, so the person who authored this report who is taking responsibility for it is a republican whose appointed back in 2015. And Tom Price, the new HHS secretary was very much a major backer of him. So when our viewers are hearing this talk about this nonpartisan examination. Keep in mind it's a republican that is leading it that authored this report.

LEMON: OK. So let's talk about...


MOORE: That's all true, but can I just...

LEMON: Yes, Go ahead.

MOORE: It's true, but just because someone's a republican, doesn't mean they're not ill informed. I think in this case, they were. And by the way, let's not forget, the CBO was -- this is the same budget office that seven or eight ago told us the Obamacare we're going to cover 25 million more people with government health insurance, save government -- save money for the government.


LEMON: Well, that's a caveat with that.

BORGER: Steve, you know, the reason that those numbers were on the high side, was because the law as drafted would -- didn't give states an option to opt out of Medicaid expansion.


LEMON: And they revised on that.

BORGER: And as a result of the Supreme Court decision, you'll recall. The states were given the opportunity to opt out, and many states did as you know. So that's one reason that these numbers for Obamacare were on the high side.


GERGEN: Yes and it's also true, Stephen. MOORE: Yes, but you can't cover 25 million more people with

government health insurance and somehow think it's going to magically going to reduce...


GERGEN: Well, CBO did that...

MOORE: We just have to acknowledge the big costs.

GERGEN: Steve, CBO did readily acknowledged, you know, that they didn't get it fully right. There's no other organization that could do it any better. And in this case, what we know is, and I think you would agree, CBO is not alone in saying there are going to be significant losses of health insurance of American people, you know, Sanford enforces has said that in their study.

Brooklyn has said that in their study. Those numbers are lower than the CBO's to be sure. But there's nobody, any economist that I know of, maybe you're the exception, but I don't know any economist who thinks it's actually going to deal with the administration promise that was to keep everybody covered.

LEMON: I want to talk -- I want to talk about specifically though what this means for real people. So let's get to this because our time is limited here.


LEMON: Specifically per the CBO, the non-Congressional Budget Office that we've just been talking about, a 64 -- for 64-year-old making 25 -- $26,500 would pay $1700 for coverage in 2026 under Obamacare because of the subsidies. Under the GOP plan, that person would get hit with an annual premium bill of $14,600. Stephen, how do you react to that?

MOORE: I don't think it's taking into account the full subsidies the full republican bill would provide, the tax credits and other things. And other important thing that it doesn't take into account, Don, is that if you move toward a system with more competition, you're going to drive down the costs of health care for everybody. And these 20 percent increase as we're seeing in premiums can be driven down. That's my principle application to what...


LEMON: Is that trickle down healthcare.

MOORE: ... CBO said. I think you can drive down these costs very significantly through a competition model which doesn't exist right now.

LEMON: OK. Let me give you another example. This one is from the Wall Street Journal. In Nebraska Chase County a 62-year-old currently earning about $18,000 a year, could pay nearly $20,000 annually to get health insurance coverage under the House GOP plan, compared with about $760 a year, that person would owe toward premiums under the ACA.

[22:19:57] So, we've got $20,000 compared to $760. So, is this -- is this a bill that's going to make things even more expensive for older Americans? That's a problem, isn't it?

MOORE: Well, look, I don't know about that particular example, and by the way, Don, I haven't read through the whole report. I just read through the executive summary of the report. But I do think, you know, when we're looking at the current system, where prices really are exploding, where health care, it is true health care is falling -- I mean, health inflation has fallen but it is still double the rate of inflation of everything else in the economy. You got to wonder why.

Why is it health inflation from the last 20 years has just driven so much out of control, that it's become unaffordable to the middle class. But when you talk about those Trump voters, look, I think the Trump voters are people who are really burdened by the fact that the Obamacare costs have gone so much. And when I was on the campaign trail people said we can't afford to pay for my health insurance anymore.

LEMON: But under that example, that's $2,000 more a year than that person earns.

MOORE: Well, look, I can't comment because I just don't know the specifics of that example.


PRESTON: Isn't there a -- I mean, there's an acknowledgement, and I think this gets lost in all of the white noise of when we're talking about this, is that the current system doesn't work, we understand that, that it's too expensive, it needs to be fixed.

MOORE: Right.

PRESTON: Right, absolutely. But the plan that is being put forward right now, clearly doesn't work. And there's republicans -- this isn't even a democrat against Donald Trump kind of fight. You have republicans on opposite ends of the political spectrum that don't agree with it. Isn't there some -- shouldn't everyone just come to the table and try to come up with...


BORGER: Well, but you know...

PRESTON: ... you know, with a basic answer.

BORGER: Well, Obama tried to do that. He brought all the stakeholders into the table. He brought the insurance companies, he brought the hospitals, he brought the doctors, and they all tried to come up with a plan and it wasn't perfect. You know, what it needs to be is fixed.

The question is, when you start throwing everything away. People get nervous, because the unknown is a little scary, when it comes to your family's security and your health care. Particularly when the cost estimates to your family are nerve-racking, because when you look at the numbers for older people, and you see that the estimates are, you know, the estimates are that their premiums will go up 20 to 25 percent.

They're already seeing higher premiums, they don't know how much more they can afford. And the problem with our political system is that we can't really sit down and say, OK, what do we do to get costs down at hospitals. What do we -- and they're starting to do that under Obamacare, but it doesn't -- it doesn't happen overnight. And it's not an easy political fix.

LEMON: Well, the two people on this panel who are old enough to realized that we're going to, you know, we're going to be concerned about that, David and I...

GERGEN: Yes, right. Really?

LEMON: I'm going to give him the -- I'll give him the last word here, because my whole point is, why has this been so politicized here?

GERGEN: And politicized because we...


LEMON: And shouldn't we, and to Gloria's point should we take it out.

GERGEN: Absolutely.

BORGER: I think he can't with that.

LEMON: Yes, I know.

GERGEN: Don, we've had seven presidents who tried to get this done. It is hard to do.

MOORE: That's true.

GERGEN: And you have to -- and if Obama got something passed, but he got it passed with no republican votes. It was tried and tried at the same time. You have to go back to fundamentals. If the republicans really want to slash taxes for the rich and reduce payments for the Medicaid, as they want to do, they you're going to have people thrown off health insurance.


GERGEN: It's just -- night follows day, I mean, it's simple and straightforward. The core is simply very straightforward. You want to have a good medical system the coverage for everybody, it's expensive.

LEMON: I got to run. By the way, David is much younger than me.

Thank you all, I appreciate it.

Just ahead, the White House now trying to walk back President Trump's allegations that his phones were tapped by former President Obama. What top aides are saying now?


LEMON: The White House now trying to walk back President Trump's explosive allegations that former President Obama wiretapped his phones during the election.

I want to bring in now CNN political analyst, Carl Bernstein the legendary journalist and author, Susan Hennessey is a former -- excuse me, a fellow in national security law at the Brookings Institution, and Matthew Rojansky is a director of the Kennan Institute at the Wilson Center.

Good evening. I'm so glad to have all of you on. So, listen, so probably to no one's surprise, the deadline for the DOJ to provide evidence to back up the president, President Trump's claims that the former President Barack Obama wiretapped, that deadline has come and gone. They want more time. But the White House is trying to clarify what President Trump actually meant.


SEAN SPICER, UNITED STATES WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think if you look at the president's tweet. He said very clearly, quote, wiretapping, end quote. He doesn't really think that President Obama went up and tapped his phone personally, I think...


SPICER: But I think there's no question that the Obama administration, that there were actions about surveillance and other activities that occurred in the 2016 election, that is a widely reported activity that occurred back then. The president used the word wiretap in quote to mean broadly surveillance and other activities.


LEMON: I'm wondering, Susan, if that is SNL or that was a real, you know, briefing there, because a week ago, Spicer said the tweet speaks for itself.

So, what do you make of this unsuccessful attempt to walk it back here?

SUSAN HENNESSEY, FELLOW, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: Right. So, one of the interesting thing is that, you know, it doesn't -- it doesn't necessarily matter whether or not it was wiretapping or other forms of surveillance. President Trump himself has raised serious questions about why exactly the FBI or President Obama would have reason to conduct that kind of investigation.

I think most reasonable people doubt the existence of that investigation. The problem now is, he's raised the question, and so it's going to be incumbent upon Congress or the White House to come forward and explain whether or not the president was mistaken or otherwise false -- otherwise mistaken or whether or not Congress is going to have to report to produce the results of that investigation.

LEMON: Yes. And Carl, we have to keep in mind here, that this was an investigation that the president calls for himself, with unsubstantiated claims, or unsubstantiated tweet.

[22:30:05] The White House now says that President Trump never really thought it was Obama specifically. But you know, we go to the original series of tweets here, like this one. How long has President Obama gone to tap, with two piece by the way, "tap my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate, bad or sick guy."

That seems pretty specific to me, because they're saying these quotes mean the difference. They're not saying the misspelling of tap means anything. It's just so weird the random things that they say mean something and that we should gleam from it. I mean, what do you think here, that seems pretty specific to me. Especially when you say "bad or sick guy." He's talking specifically about the former president himself.

CARL BERNSTEIN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It's not weird and it's not random, it's very purposeful that Donald Trump's lying and maliciousness is intended. He's not interested in the truth, particularly about anything having to do with his own conduct, with the conduct of those around him. He's trying to deflect attention from the investigation going on into the Russian hacking of the DNC and whether or not there is some connection with people around Trump.

He's got to be considering the lying of Mike Flynn, his chosen national security adviser, the lying of his own attorney general about how or whether he talked to Russians in this case, the ambassador that is in case in a bodyguard of lies. And that is Donald Trump's problem.

We've never had a president in itself a fact free environment before, including Nixon, including Clinton, during the Monica Lewinsky thing. Clinton lied, Nixon lied. Nixon had a criminal presidency. But where we are now in terms of every day, a fact free environment with a president who recklessly puts out this stuff with no basis in truth is new territory, it's dangerous, and we got to see where it goes. It's nowhere...


LEMON: So you're saying this is more lies than any administration that you can remember, that you can recall?

BERNSTEIN: In a systematic way.


BERNSTEIN: Look, Nixon lied to cover up a criminal conspiracy of which he was an integral part. What we are seeing here is, a president, a character with a long list of lying in fabulous statements in his career before he even came into the political process, during the campaign, and since he got to the White House, it's been a fact free environment. The likes of which I have never seen in -- I've been in journalism 55

years, 57 years, actually, I've never seen anything like it, and I doubt that anyone else has.

LEMON: Matthew, Spicer -- Sean Spicer also says that all of this was widely reported activity, which is untrue, it was not. And they, you know, they often point to this New York Times report, which says nothing about Trump Tower being wiretapped. If anything, it was a surveillance that was directed at Washington Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, which is not abnormal, correct?

MATTHEW ROJANSKY, WOODROW WILSON INTERNATIONAL CENTER DIRECTOR: Well, of course, you know, it is both legally less problematic, and politically makes a certain amount of sense to be following foreigners. You get into hot water when you -- when you start tapping or following Americans.

I feel though, you know, I've got to make this point. I feel like the voiceover on an old western, you know, meanwhile back at the ranch. The Russians aren't standing still as they watch this fight unfold that's clearly political in nature, it's going to have an investigation.

You know, the latest things we're reading, not only are we now learning, there actually have been Russian troops in Libya for the last several months, doing a pretty significant operation. The Russians had General Haftar, the Libyan strong man, the sort of new Gadhafi, if you will, and in eastern Libya they've had him in Moscow now.

They're clearly setting him up this Gadhafi successor. Maybe going to help him retake the whole country. And then just now, just tonight, we're learning that the Russians have maybe put troops over the border, even into western Egypt.

So to me, all of this just underscores that while we're pursuing the investigation, and a big fight about what members of the administration did or didn't say, what we're not doing is we're not doing Russian policy. We don't have a deterrent -- we don't an effective dialogue with the Russians. The Russians are moving forward and they're doing it without Americans that are being able to stop it.

LEMON: Yes. Are you saying, they're saying, wait, look over there? When...


ROJANSKY: It has -- it has exactly that feeling, that's right. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain. From their perspective of course they will always argue, well, this is all defensive, we're just looking out for our interests, you know, but that's been the argument all along, and that's basically why we've got to have a dialogue with them.

Because at the end of the day, you know, this is a major global actor, and if there is a power vacuum somewhere in the world, especially in the Middle East, they're going to be there. That's just has been historically true.

LEMON: I want to get this in, because it was so bizarre this week, as Kellyanne Conway was asked about the wiretapping claims and said this.


KELLYANNE CONWAY, DONALD TRUMP SENIOR ADVISER: There are many ways to surveil each other now unfortunately.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you believe that was...


[22:34:57] CONWAY: There was an article this week that talk about how you can surveil someone through their phones, through their -- certainly through their television sets. Any number of different ways, and microwaves, that turn into cameras, et cetera.


BERNSTEIN: You know, I suggest that it's time we all stop taking Kellyanne Conway seriously, she's not a serious person. It's time for us to drop her from our news agenda. Unless she very specifically...


LEMON: But Carl.

BERNSTEIN: ... has something to say that she -- that we know has been put out there by the President of the United States.

LEMON: But Carl, I get your point, I get your point. And we'll finish it on the other side, because I want you to hear how she clarified before we drop her as you've suggest. And here's what she t Chris Cuomo about what she meant to say.


CONWAY: It's about surveillance generally, and the fact that -- so there's this article...


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: He didn't ask about it generally, though. That's just true in the transcript. You may have answered it generally but you asked specifically.

CONWAY: Chris, I'm not inspector gadget, I don't believe people are using the microwave to spy on the Trump campaign. However, I have -- I'm not in the job of having evidence, that's what investigations are for.


LEMON: I mean, we have lived with this for nine days of just -- to Matthew, it's just nonsense, they're not fooling anybody, they sound so silly trying to defend something that he was very explicit about exactly what he said, that the former president wiretapped him.


BERNSTEIN: It's not silly. It's not silly, it's dangerous. And the extent to which we take it seriously, and what we need to do is keep doing our reporting on the real stories, including what's going on with the Russians, with Trump, the people around him, but also, as was just suggested in the brilliant synopsis that was given a moment ago by your other guest here, we have been successfully destabilized by Putin and the Russians.

That's a big part of this story, we continue to be destabilized by the Russians and what is going on. Putin has got our number here. And we need to be looking at all aspects of this including whether or not we have a President of the United States who is capable and responsible enough to deal with what is going on.

LEMON: Yes. Thank you, all.

HENNESSEY: It figures the question of responsibility. It is important to note that the president has leveled very serious accusations against the FBI and his predecessor, it's incumbent upon him to make the case to the public.

BERNSTEIN: That's true.

HENNESSEY: Is that, were those false accusations or not?

LEMON: Yes. Thank you, all. I'm out of time. Thank you. And the microwave, be careful out there. I'm going back to jiffy pop. I appreciate it.

Coming up, a congressman's tweets lit the charges of bigotry and racism but he's not backing down, he's doubling down. Is it the sign white nationalism is it going mainstream?


LEMON: Congressman Steve King doubling down today on a tweet in support of a far right politician, and drawing fire from some Capitol Hill colleagues.

Let's discuss now with CNN political commentators Bakari Sellers and Andre Bauer. Also, former Congressman Jack Kingston who was a senior adviser to the Trump campaign, and CNN political contributor, Maria Cardona.

So good to have all of you all. Good evening, ladies -- gentlemen and lady. Lady and gentlemen.


LEMON: Thank you. Bakari, republican Congressman Steve King sparking that controversy

tonight for his tweet about the far right Dutch candidate, he's talking about Geert Wilders. King wrote this, he said, "Wilders understands that culture and demographics are our destiny. We can't restore our civilization with somebody else's babies." Then he doubled down on those comments on CNN's New Day.


STEVE KING, (R) UNITED STATES REPRESENTATIVE: And I said to them you cannot rebuild your civilization with somebody else's babies, you've got to keep your birth rate up, and that you need to teach your children your values, and in doing so, then you can grow your population, and you can strengthen your culture, and you can strengthen your way of life.

If you go down the road a few generations or maybe centuries with the intermarriage, I'd like to see an America that's just so homogenous that we look a lot the same from that perspective. This western civilization still is a superior civilization.


LEMON: So, Bakari, does he understand that those comments are -- I mean, what do you think?

BAKARI SELLERS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I think Steve King was racist a year ago, he's racist today and he'll be racist tomorrow. Somebody else's baby, I mean, those are black and brown babies. I mean, let's just cut through the B.S. that he spewed and reinforced today. That language is very, very dangerous.

And the reason I say that, Don, and the reason that we have -- we have to be careful about normalizing this, and we have to stamp out that type of xenophobia and bigotry, is because there are young people right now who might be in his district in Iowa who are on a web site looking at the comments on Breitbart or the council of conservative citizens and listening to a member of the United States Congress say something like that.

And that young boy can grow up to be the next Dylan Roof. So, I have no tolerance for his bigotry, I have no tolerance for racism. The Republican Party has problem and that man's name is Steve King.

LEMON: Yes. Congressman, well, go ahead. Who's agreeing, was that you, Congressman?

JACK KINGSTON, FORMER UNITED STATES REPRESENTATIVE: No, but I will be happy to weigh in here. I do think it's the topic that we should be talking about America, and I'm glad we're doing it on your show, Don. Your show always not afraid.

But let me say this. I know Steve King, I served with him, he's not a racist, I actually called him tonight or earlier today and said, what is this about? And his point was, is that when you bring in another culture to your culture, what you want to do is assimilate it. You want to mainstream them. You want these new immigrants wherever they come from to buy into the American dream and share in the great opportunities that we have.

And I think in terms of his comment about a homogenous society, what he was talking about was interracial relations, marrying each other so that our great grandchildren don't see people and see Japanese- Americans, or Italian- American or African-American, that just simply they see American. So...


LEMON: What he specifically said was rebuilding our society with somebody else's babies.

SELELRS: But Don -- Don, hold on one second, I have a great deal of respect for Congressman Kingston, and I'm not sure he completely understands what he's saying.

[22:44:59] I mean, we all have racial -- we all have racial blind spots, don't get me wrong. And I think you just pointed that out right there, because that in itself, and the hill that you're dying for Steve King and the justification that you gave when you highlighted interracial marriages and this co-mingling of cultures, is something that is a problem. It's something that is the degenerative to our culture.


KINGSTON: I'm not, Bakari, he wasn't saying...

LEMON: I don't that's what he's -- I think he's saying he wanted more interracial intermingling. That's what he said.

KINGSTON: Yes, what he was saying is...


CARDONA: To make us all look the same.

KINGSTON: Get over the Italian-American, get over the African- American.

LEMON: yes.

KINGSTON: Let's all just be Americans, and you know, date each other, and marry each other and get behind this quite nation together.


LEMON: I don't, Congressman, I don't see where that's a problem. Maria, what you said, you know, it's got to be -- why does it have to be interracial. Listen, I'm all for you. You can date and marry and love whoever you want to whether that's black, white, I'm down with it.

But we don't all have to marry someone out of our race to be accepted in America. Maybe someone wants to marry an Italian person. Maybe someone wants to marry a Hispanic person, maybe someone wants to marry a white person. There's absolutely nothing with that.

And I hate this whole idea of being color-blind. Because you see what people's color are. I don't -- I don't mean you should be discriminatory. But I want to see that Maria is a proud Latina.

CARDONA: Absolutely.

LEMON: And she's a beautiful Latina woman.

CARDONA: Thank you.

LEMON: And that Andre is a handsome white man. There's nothing wrong with that. It doesn't mean though, we're discriminating against them.


KINGSTON: Now what, he is not handsome, she is beautiful.

LEMON: There's nothing wrong...

CARDONA: See, and there's I think...

LEMON: ... with seeing that. Go ahead.

CARDONA: That's exactly right, Don. And in fact, I think you hit the nail on the head, because you know, while most people in America and I would even put, you know, republicans in there as well. Do believe that diversity, the kind of diversity you are talking about, Don, is actually our country's -- one of our country's greatest strengths.

Because with the different -- the richness of backgrounds that we all bring from ethnic to country of origin, to communities to economic to religious, all of it really brings to this country a richness and a robust diversity of thought and innovation.

You know, Steve Jobs father was an immigrant to this country. If not for him, we would not have the iPhone. And so, these are the kinds of thing that somebody like Steve King who is so closed minded doesn't not only not understand, but he believes that it is a threat to what he calls western civilization.


CARDONA: Which is just a dog whistle for a complete and total racist -- racism and bigotry.

LEMON: OK. Stand by, when we come back, we're going to hear from the handsome white guy for the republican response. We'll be right back.

KINGSTON: That would not be me, Don.



LEMON: And we're back discussing Congressman Steve King, under fire tonight for that controversial tweet.

Back with me, Bakari Sellers, Andre Bauer, Jack Kingston, and Maria Cardona. So, Andre, House Speaker Paul Ryan denounced King's comments today and said he may have misspoken. Take a listen.


PAUL RYAN, UNITED STATES SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I disagree with that statement, I haven't seen the context but I disagree. We're a melting pot. I would like to think and I haven't spoken to Steve about this. I'd like to think that he misspoke and it wasn't really meant the way that that sounds. And hopefully he's to clarify that.


LEMON: OK. But then here's what Congressman King said.


KING: Well, of course I meant exactly what I said, as it always is the case, Chris. And I've said the same thing as far as 10 years ago to the German and to any population that people that is a declining population, that doesn't willing to have enough babies to reproduce themselves.


LEMON: So, it's pretty clear, Andre, what King that he didn't misspeak. Should he be censured by Congress for those comments?

BAUER: Well, first and foremost, I would say no he shouldn't be, Don. What's great about this country is everyone is entitled to voice their opinion. And we don't have to agree with them. I don't want to shut anybody down from speaking what they think. And the wonderful thing about Congress is, they're up for election every two years.

And if the people of his district don't agree with him, they can send him home and replace him. But for people to be vocal and to talk about things that they think are improvements to this country is part of our system of government in Washington. There are lots of people that say things I don't -- that I don't agree with but I don't want to sense to them every time they say something. It is politically insensitive or I do disagree with.

SELLERS: That's absurd. I mean, the fact that we're having this discussion...


SELLERS: ... and neither republican on here wants to actually have the courage -- and I like both of them, but neither one of them want to have the courage to call out bigotry, xenophobia, and racism and like that's a casual part of conversation.


KINGSTON: Well, I'll tell you what, Bakari.

SELLERS: That's not what it is.

KINGSTON: And let me tell you why.

SELLERS: But go ahead. Tell me, please.

KINGSTON: I'll tell you one, because as a Trump supporter, I have been called a bigot, a homophobe, a racist and everything else under the sun for the last six months. To the extent that the left has overplayed the race card.


LEMON: Do you want to tell you why. Hold on, hold on, hold on. Both of you, hold on.

KINGSTON: And you know, that...

LEMON: Let me tell you something, Jack. Listen, I know you, and I don't think that, you know, those things that you pointed out. I don't believe them to be true. But here's why, because every single time an issue comes up, similar to this, or something just absurd that one anyone -- that Trump or one of his supporters says, you defend it.

You never say that they're wrong or rarely if ever. You never call it out for what it is, yes, I do think that sometimes people overplay the race card, but in this particular instance, it is glaringly obvious, that if he is not racist himself, he said something that is racially insensitive. Go ahead.

KINGSTON: Don, let me say this. I'm the only one on the show I'm going to -- who's talked to Steve King about this. And what he told me, he said, you know, I'm limited to 140 characters. If I had much choice I would do it over, and I would do it over and I would say unless we adopt those babies. And when he said that what he means is culturally bring home in these babies.


LEMON: He told Chris Cuomo, Jack, that he would say it again and that he doesn't take back.

SELLERS: But this is the same person a year ago -- a year ago -- a year ago this is the same person.

KINGSTON: He is saying unless he could adopt those babies.

SELLERS: A year ago, this is the same person who said that he was trying to figure out what subgroups outside of white actually contributed to civilization.

CARDONA: That's right.

SELLERS: And the fact is, Congressman Kingston, like I don't want you to be a superhero, I don't want Andre Bauer to go out and be a superhero and say even adopt babies. But I do want you to have the courage to stand...


BAUER: But I do want to be one of them.

SELLERS: No. I want you to have the courage to stand up and fight racism and hate and xenophobia.


[22:55:01] KINGSTON: He say that he's willing to call him handsome.

CARDONA: You know what, Don, as reprehensible as Steve King is, you at least got to give it to him, you know, to Bakari's point, he has not changed his principles, he has not changed his values, he has been a bigot and he has been a racist and he has been a xenophobe all of his public service life.

And so, him doubling down on his comments, at least you can say about the guy he knows where he stands, which is -- which is you cannot say that about every single republican leader out there...


LEMON: Yes. I've got to go.

CARDONA: ... who has not denounced him, who has not walked back those comments.

LEMON: I've got to go but this is my advice.

CARDONA: And that is going to haunt the Republican Party in the long run.

LEMON: My advice is that sometimes you have to call it for what it is.

CARDONA: Exactly.

LEMON: And you cannot defend everything because someone happens to be a republican or someone happens to be a democrat or happens to be your president. If they say something stupid, if they say something bigoted, if they say something racist, then call it for what it is, you don't have to defend it every time, and then do back flips to make an excuse for what they said.

KINGSTON: But one other thing.

LEMON: I got to go. I got to go.

KINGSTON: OK. He's pro-life and pointing out that we have a... LEMON: Let's go to break, Jack. We need a snow shuffle.


CARDONA: Nice try, Jack.

LEMON: Thank you.

CARDONA: You're not helping.

LEMON: There's a big storm coming. There's a big storm coming here, we're going to talk about that. We'll be back.