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Trump Adviser Suggests Wider Surveillance of Campaign; DOJ told to Turn Over Trump Wiretap Evidence Today; GOP Bracing for CBO Score of Health Care Overhaul. Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired March 13, 2017 - 10:00   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: McCain says absent these facts, the president should retract his claim. And while we're on the subject of fantasies, counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway, she went on TV and she dropped a giant implication bomb. At a minimum, she provided a rhetorical link between President Obama's claims and new CIA surveillance methods just revealed by "WikiLeaks." Again, she did not provide evidence.

This morning on CNN, she suggested that is not what she said or meant even though, if you read the interview, it is in fact what she said. And was asked, it is that kind of morning. I want to bring in CNN's senior Washington correspondent Joe Johns at the White House. Joe?

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, John. So much to talk about, wiretapping these days and especially in Washington. As you said, presidential counselor Kellyanne Conway essentially creating a firestorm in her comments where she essentially said there are a variety of different ways to conduct electronic surveillance. So, first, let's listen to what she had to say to "The Bergen County Record" newspaper over the weekend.


KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO THE PRESIDENT: There are many ways to surveil each other now, unfortunately.


CONWAY: There was an article this week that talked 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. So, we know that that is just a fact of modern life.

KELLY: Sure.


JOHNS: And so, this morning on "New Day," in our interview with Chris Cuomo, this time, Kellyanne Conway made it very clear that she was speaking in general terms about electronic surveillance and not trying to link it to President Trump's assertion that he was wiretapped by President Obama. Listen.


CONWAY: I was answering a question about surveillance techniques generally. I was reflecting what people saw in the news last week.

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.


JOHNS: OK. So the larger issue on the radar this morning, though, is whether the Department of Justice will turn over to the House Intelligence Committee any evidence that President Trump was wiretapped. There is a lot of doubt here in D.C. that's going to happen, John.

BERMAN: All right. Joe Johns thanks so much. Let's now discuss. Joining us, CNN senior political analyst Ron Brownstein, he's a senior editor for "The Atlantic." And David Drucker, CNN political analyst, senior Congressional correspondent for "The Washington Examiner." He also hosts the podcast "Examining Politics."

Let's examine what Kellyanne Conway said, shall we? Because David, in this interview with "The Bergen County Record," she raised the issue of microwaves with cameras in the "WikiLeaks" report from last week about the fact that the CIA can spy from your iPhone. She says, she was responding to questions about general surveillance.

That is not in fact what she was responding to. I will read you the question. "One of the things that seems to be dogging him this week are these allegations about wiretaps. Do you know whether Trump Tower was wiretapped?" And then the counselor to the president brought up these other things. The question is, why? Why drop this implication bomb and I suppose, what are the consequences or what should be the consequences for that?

DAVID DRUCKER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST AND SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT "THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER": Well, I don't think there really are going to be any consequences. Politically, people are either on one side of this issue or they're not. But this is part of what the Trump administration and the president in particular, likes to do. And that is to raise all sorts of doubts so that if nothing is true, anything can be true. And this helps the president maintain a connection to his base. And I think that's what this is all about.

Let's not forget, John, the president wants to know whether or not he's been wiretapped. He has the nation's highest security clearance. All he has to do is pick up the phone. We don't have to wait for a Congressional investigation to get this done, which by the way, in and of itself is also interesting, because the Congressional Intelligence Committees in the House and the Senate have already said they were going to take a look at this before Trump's tweet storm. So, it wasn't necessary to get them to do that in order to spur this on. So, I mean, to me, this is just more of the same. And -- we'll kind of get all exercised about this and maybe Kellyanne Conway shouldn't have said this, but I think they know exactly what they're doing.

BERMAN: You know, I mean, is it more than Kellyanne Conway just shouldn't have said this, Ron? I mean, seriously, she was doing an interview that was being recorded. She raised these spying techniques revealed in "WikiLeaks," connecting this conspiracy, which you know, upset a lot of people last week when "WikiLeaks" -- I say "conspiracy," these tactics that the CIA uses that upset a lot of people, with the evidence-free claims from the president. Now, you know in one sentence, seeming to connect them. Today, she says she didn't do it. But again, if you watch the interview, it's clear she did.

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST AND SENIOR EDITOR "THE ATLANTIC": Well, look, first I'm with David, I think that the administration has a systematic pattern of trying to undermine the credibility of any institution that they think might challenge them. So, in this way, I think this is kind of a preemptive strike at the Intelligence Communities -- Intelligence Committee's -- excuse me, concluding that there was not in fact a wiretap authorized against Trump's campaign. This might be a preemptive way.

[10:05:05] Much as we saw over the weekend on the Congressional Budget Office, where you saw the senior administration officials, as well as Paul Ryan, basically saying it doesn't matter if they come out today and say millions of people will lose their health care under their replacement for the Affordable Care Act.

I think that is an ongoing pattern that we see. Whoever may raise a kind of a bump in the road, they move preemptively to say to their supporters in particular, don't listen to this. This is not a credible source of complaint or criticism.

BERMAN: And David, John McCain, chairman of the Armed Services Committee, he was on CNN over the weekend and he said it's basically time to put up or shut up. Listen to what he said.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: The president has one of two choices, either retract or to provide the information that the American people deserve. Because if his predecessor violated the law -- President Obama violated the law, we've got a serious issue here, to say the least.


BERMAN: Now, look, Senator John McCain is no long-time fan of President Trump. But on the other hand, it seems to me that over the last week, there has been a shift from what Republicans -- in what Republicans are willing to say publicly about this. DRUCKER: So, this is interesting. On the one hand, Republicans, and I've talked to them about this last week, have gotten very used to Trump's Twitter tirades. It doesn't ruffle them the way it used to. They don't get all that concerned about it. And they kind of just focus on their daily work. They are, however, concerned about the credibility of the information in the tweets.

So they can live with him rifling off on Twitter ad hoc and you know, creating a firestorm. They want what he says to be true. As a matter of domestic politics it doesn't necessarily matter every day. For international politics, it matters a great deal, because when the President of the United States speaks, if other countries and some of our adversaries can say, hey look, even Americans don't know if this guy is always telling the truth. It can cause the administration problems in the future. And I don't know if they've yet gotten their arms around that.

BERMAN: All right. Ron Brownstein, if I can, I want to shift here. The Congressman Steve King from Iowa, Republican Congressman raised eyebrows over the weekend. Tweeting about Geert Wilders, saying -- a politician in Netherlands, saying, "Wilders understands that culture and demographics are our destiny. We can't restore our civilization with somebody else's babies."

Somebody else's babies raised a ton of eyebrows. He went on "New Day" this morning. And I'm not sure whether he tried to justify it or not. He just basically said, yes, that's what I said. Listen to what he told Chris Cuomo.


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR "NEW DAY": These are Muslim-American, an Italian American, an Irish, Scotch, German-American, which is what your roots are. Either those are all equal things or they are not. What is your answer?

REP. STEVE KING (R), IOWA: They contribute differently to our culture and civilization. There are moderate Muslims that are equal to in all these categories that you described -

CUOMO: I said a Muslim-American, people who have lived here who are assimilated.


KING: There are others considered teaching hatred in their families.

CUOMO: Yes, but there are a lot of people teaching hatred in their families who are white, who are Irish, who are Italian, who are Muslim. A lot of people preach hate. There's hate in a lot of different groups.


BERMAN: All right, Ron Brownstein, you know, I do not see a lot of people jumping to Congressman King's defense this morning. BROWNSTEIN: Now look, this is a case of the subtext becoming text. Because the debate over legal immigration as well as undocumented immigration is framed primarily in economic terms or in the case of undocumented immigration, in security terms. But in fact, there is a demographic component to it. There is an anxiety among certain elements of the Republican coalition about the underlying demographic change happening in American society.

The big story is it's happening regardless. It is irreversible. A majority of our under five population already is non-white. A majority of the kids in all the public schools in America are non-white. 47 percent of our under-30 population is nonwhite. And in fact, the older white population, three-quarters of Americans over 45 are white, who are the core of the modern Republican coalition. The people that Steve King believes he is speaking to. They need those kids to succeed. They need more of them to get into the middle class to pay the payroll taxes to support social security and medicare. 80 percent of today's seniors are white. And in fact, there is more kind of interdependence than our politics allows.

But what you see in Steve King is that kind of subtext becoming text, where you see expressed in a very naked and kind of, I think, discomforting way for most Americans. The anxiety that there is in portions of society, the idea that this kind of demographic change is remaking America into something that is different than what it is, always been. In fact, the story is the same as it has always been. The generations that have come before need the generations after them to succeed, not only for their sake but for everyone's sake.

BERMAN: Ron Brownstein, David Drucker, great to have you with us, guys, really appreciate it.

Busy morning, any moment now we could get the price tag of the Republican health care overhaul from the Congressional Budget Office. Already Republican leaders are saying that this important estimate should not be considered so important at all. Listen to this.

[10:10:02] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. PAUL RYAN (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: The one thing I'm certain will happen is CBO will say, gosh, not as many people will get coverage. You know why? Because this isn't a government mandate.

MICK MULVANEY, WHITE HOUSE BUDGET DIRECTOR: Sometimes we ask them to do stuff they're not capable of doing. And estimating the impact of a bill of this size probably isn't the best use of their time.


BERMAN: Estimating the impact of a bill of that size is exactly what the CBO does, whether or not you agree with it that is their job. This says the president is preparing a listening session on health care. Next hour at the White House, let's go to Suzanne Malveaux on Capitol Hill. Suzanne?

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: But John, there definitely members of Congress who are trying to put doubt in people's minds before the CBO even comes out with the score as you hear earlier today. There are a lot of House Republicans, at least the leadership, are trying very hard to push this through Congress as quickly as possible.

It is very likely that that CBO report, the assessment, is going to slow it down, if not halt it here, because it is going to come out with those figures, talking about how much this is going to cost and potentially how many Americans will not be getting covered under this new plan. It is estimated that it could be at least 15 million people over the course of ten years that would not get health insurance under this new Republican plan.

Now, we heard from Speaker Paul Ryan there, saying that don't worry about the CBO score, that this is not necessarily something that is going to make a difference. But we're also hearing from those who are pushing back and pushing back very hard on the Senate side as well, the House side. Rand Paul being one of them, saying look, there is room for negotiation here. They believe that the president can be a part of that negotiation. And here's what he said going into the week.


SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: What we're hearing is a binary choice is that it's the Ryan plan or the status quo. And what he's rammed through this committee is his, without any amendments, and that's the question. If we get what we've got from Ryan, Obamacare lite, he will not have the votes. And we have to get to that point before true negotiations begin. Right now, I think there's a charm offensive going on. Everybody's being nice to everybody because they want us to vote for this. But we're not going to vote for it.


MALVEAUX: Now, of course, John, part of the charm offensive is the president himself. He tweeted this out this morning. I want to read this to you. It happened just within the hour. "Obamacare is imploding. It is a disaster and 2017 will be the worst year yet, by far! Republicans will come together and save the day."

As you mentioned, he's conducting a listening session with what the White House is calling victims of Obamacare. We know that tomorrow, the House members are going to come back. House Republicans back in session and the president is going to sit down with at least 40 of them or so, more conservative members, to talk about ways that they can compromise on this legislation. And one of the things that he wants to do is take a look at rolling back, this is the Medicaid expansion, doing that faster than rather later.

That is something that conservatives would definitely like to see and that is something that some of them are currently talking about. Tomorrow as well, there's going to be a pizza party that he's having at the White House for those conservatives to try to woo them to make sure that they come up with some sort of compromise, John.

BERMAN: All right, Suzanne Malveaux for us on Capitol Hill. Appreciate it.

The House Intelligence Committee wants to know what evidence there is to back up the president's claims that he was wiretapped by President Obama. Coming up, I'm going to speak to a member of that committee and find out what he intends to do if the Department of Justice doesn't provide that evidence.


[10:17:45] BERMAN: Prove it. That's the message from the House Intelligence Committee to the Department of Justice over his evidence- free claims that he was wiretapped by President Obama. Clock is now ticking. The Justice Department has been given a deadline today to turn over that evidence. With me now, Democratic Congressman Eric Swalwell, he is on the Intelligence Committee. Congressman, 10:17 a.m., 10:18 a.m. now on the East Coast, do you have that evidence from the Department of Justice?

REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D), HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: We do not. And it's a claim made by this president to distract and to deceive. The picture has become clearer and clearer as to what has been going on with Russia. Dots continue to connect. And this president and his aide Kellyanne Conway continue to throw smoke bombs into the room to just distract us so that we have a much difficult - much more difficult time in our search for the truth.

BERMAN: So you don't have that evidence. You brought up Kellyanne Conway. I imagine you're referring to her comments over the weekend when she was asked about the wiretaps and then she responded about the "WikiLeaks" report from last week about spy techniques that the CIA used about cameras and microwaves and the like. Your response to Kellyanne Conway?

SWALWELL: Well, first, to even connect "WikiLeaks" and the allegations there to the investigation in Russia. Again, it's just an effort to try and take away from the dots that connect here, which is that Donald Trump and his team had significant ties to Russia. And right now, what we want to know is, were any U.S. persons working with Russia during this interference campaign. So, it's an only a distraction.

BERMAN: You said a lot right there, actually, with not so many words. You said the dots that connect. Let me tell people, you've actually launched a website that says "connecting the Trump/Russia dots." In that website, you have a lot of information you put up there. That you say links the Trump campaign to Russia.

So, yes, there are dots. There are a lot of dots. What there are not, if you listen to the former DNI, James Clapper, if you listen to Speaker of the House Paul Ryan who has seen some of the evidence. If you listen to people who say they have seen the evidence and ask them the direct question, have you seen any evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia? The answer they give is no. So there may be -- dots but these dots aren't connected, are they?

SWALWELL: Well, I would first say this investigation, I hope, is continuing to develop.

[10:20:01] And all we are asking of the FBI, and I believe they are doing this is to just follow the evidence. And what we are seeing though is evidence that Roger Stone, a Trump adviser, was speaking to Guccifer 2.0 as Democratic documents were being leaked out.

Also, Carter Page, he was a senior foreign policy adviser for candidate Trumo. In June, it was revealed that the Russians were impacts attacking out election. In July, with permission of the campaign, Carter Page travels from the United States over to Russia. I think these are questions that we need to get to the bottom of it. Why was Carter Page with permission of the campaign in Russia, while they were attacking us?

BERMAN: -- These are a lot of things that you bring up, a lot of dots, as we say. Presumably, the Intelligence Committee has known about this for a long time. Roger Stone, you know, admitted long ago to having a back channel with "WikiLeaks" and he posted his conversations, screen grabs of his conversation with Guccifer 2.0 which he claims were innocuous. Again, these are things the Intelligence Committee knows, DNI Clapper knows and still says there is no evidence of collusion he's seen between the Trump campaign and Russia.

SWALWELL: Right. And again, collusion is a very technical term. What we want to know is, were they working with Russia. You know, it's OK to have business ties with Russians. I think it shows bad judgment, they're not our friend, but what we want to know is where they working hand in hand with Russia, where they providing information to Russia to --

BERMAN: But have you seen any evidence of that yourself yet?

SWALWELL: What I have called for is an independent commission to take this out of Congress. I think it's too partisan right now. I think that we need to declassify as much as possible. And I think that we need to debunk the myths that the president has put out there.

And so, the only way to do that is to have an independent commission and also have a special counsel, independent prosecutor, because I don't think the Justice Department can be impartial on this.

BERMAN: Congressman Eric Swalwell from California on the Intelligence Committee. -

SWALWELL: Thanks, John.

BERMAN: If you get that information from the Department of Justice at any point today, call us. Will you? We'd love to know --

SWALWELL: And John, let me just also say, tonight CNN is airing "The Most Powerful Man in the World." Up until tonight, that was always the President of the United States. I think this goes to a lot of the concerns that this program tonight is about Putin.

BERMAN: It's a Fareed Zakaria special. It is worth watching. Eric Swalwell thanks so much for being with us. SWALWELL: Thank you.

BERMAN: All right, a strong statement by the secretary of Health and Human Services. Tom Price says that nobody will be worse off financially if the Republican health care plan comes to be law. But the website run by the president's chief strategist says that could be the lie of the year. We'll explain.


[10:26:50] BERMAN: This just into CNN, sources tell us in about an hour the attorney general from Washington state will file an amended complaint with a federal judge, asking him to block President Trump's new travel ban. This move comes after that same judge said Friday he needed more formal briefings to make a decision on the request which was first made last week. Additionally, Washington along with Minnesota will ask for a hearing on the issue tomorrow. That travel ban due to go into effect this Thursday.

All right, it is a very, very busy day. Today is the deadline for the Justice Department -- the House Intelligence Committee asked the DOJ to provide facts behind President Trump's claim of being wiretapped by President Obama. As of now, the Intelligence Committee, we just spoke to a member. They have not seen said facts from the DOJ. We will let you know if and when that happens.

Also, today, this could be the first chance to get a look at the possible price tag for the Republican plan to repeal and replace Obamacare. That will come from the Congressional Budget Office. As that's going on, secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price, the man who is really the architect from the White House side of this plan, he made a pretty interesting promise.


TOM PRICE, HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES SECRETARY: I firmly believe that nobody will be worse off financially in the process that we're going through, understanding that they'll have choices that they can select the kind of coverage that they want for themselves and for their family, not the government forces them to buy.


BERMAN: No one will be worse off financially. That is what the secretary of HHS said. But "Breitbart," this is the site once run by Steve Bannon, who is now the president's chief strategist he said, "This claim could be a contender for the lie of the year."

Joining me now, former Congressional Budget Office director Doug Elmendorf, he is the dean of the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard and was at the CBO when Obamacare was passed. Doug, thank you so much for being with us. Promises like "no one will be worse off financially," Those end-up being pretty hard to keep.

DOUG ELMENDORF, DEAN KENNEDY SCHOOL OF GOVERNMENT: Yes. Secretary Price's claim is absurd. This legislation will cut subsidies substantially. Millions of people will lose health insurance. We don't know how many yet. CBO will make an estimate shortly. But certainly people will be worse off.

BERMAN: There will be people who are worse off under what the CBO is likely to say is what you're saying, if in fact they lose insurance. Now, House Speaker Paul Ryan, who is a key backer of this plan, maybe the most prominent backer and architect of this plan, he says this is not the way we should even be looking at this at all. Listen to what the speaker says.


RYAN: The one thing I'm certain will happen is CBO will say, well gosh, not as many people will get coverage. You know why? Because this isn't a government mandate.

This is not the government makes you buy what we say you should buy and therefore the government thinks you're all going to buy it. So there's no way we can compete on paper, a government mandate with coverage.

What we are trying to achieve here is bringing down the cost of care, bringing down the cost of insurance, not through government mandates and monopolies, but by having more choice and competition.


BERMAN: You know, it is an interesting discussion, and the Speaker is clearly trying to shift it in the direction of, this should be a discussion about quality of care not number of those covered.

ELMENDORF: Well, first of all, those of us who have health insurance should be careful about saying to those who don't. Don't worry. It's fine if you're not in health insurance. For lots and lots of people having health insurance is very important.