Return to Transcripts main page


Kellyanne Conway Interview; Trump Adviser Suggests Wider Surveillance of Trump's Campaign; Iowa Congressman's Controversial Tweet; Documentary on Putin. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired March 13, 2017 - 08:30   ET


[08:30:00] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Vetted for a reason, though, right?

KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO THE PRESIDENT: Yes. Do you think it's a good idea that one-third of our nation's counties only have one choice in health insurance?


CONWAY: The president doesn't think that's a good idea.

CUOMO: But you've got to look at why. You've got to look at why. And --

CONWAY: The why is because Aetna has called it a death spiral. Humana and UHC have pulled out of the exchange. You have major health insurers who left the exchanges.

CUOMO: That's true.

CONWAY: It's like it's just not a winning proposition. They literally can't afford it. That doesn't work. And when people admit that something is not working and they want to fix it the way this non- politician businessman in the White House is willing to do, (INAUDIBLE) --

CUOMO: And you ask those same people, what's going to happen when you reduce the subsidies to Medicaid and the amount of money that goes in? Doctors won't take it now. That's going to be even more true for the most vulnerable, for the Trump voters.

CONWAY: No, they will --

CUOMO: Those people in West Virginia that you like to talk about all the time.

CONWAY: That's just -- that's just not true.

CUOMO: They -- what are you talking about?

CONWAY: That's just not true.

CUOMO: They need the exchanges. They need the Medicaid expansion.

CONWAY: People who --

CUOMO: They don't have money to put into an HSA.

CONWAY: The people who are on Medicaid -- the people who are on Medicaid will continue to get their health care through Medicaid. You've seen Director Mulvaney and you see Secretary Price and Gary Cohen talking about the same thing.

CUOMO: Right, but will they start getting the same coverage of care? When the money goes down, so will the amount of things that the insurance company will do for you, Kellyanne. That's just a fact.

CONWAY: We want the quality of care and the access to increase. The fact is, the -- the quality has decreased for many Americans. The access has been reduced. The premiums have skyrocketed. It's not a sustainable or affordable system as it is for many Americans. It works for some and they should continue as they are.

CUOMO: The question is, are you going to make it better for them or are you going to make it worse for others?

CONWAY: We're going to make it --

CUOMO: That's the question.

CONWAY: We're going to make it better for everyone because you're introducing more choices.

CUOMO: But we'll see when the CBO scores it.

CONWAY: And you know what, Chris, you want -- you and your wife want to go and get the plan that works for you and your family. You need --

CUOMO: I get it through my employer. So we're only talking about 4 percent of the population that's going to be affected by a lot of these changes.

CONWAY: Right, but -- but -- but -- but there's really been --

CUOMO: I'm not a point of comparison, thank God for it.

CONWAY: Right, I said that earlier.

CUOMO: But I don't think you should play around with the realities either. If there's not as much money in the system, it's going to hurt people who don't have money. That's the way it is.

CONWAY: No, you're presuming there's not as much money in the system. Remember, there will be -- there will be cost savings and with more choice and competition prices come down and quality goes up.

CUOMO: Well, we'll see with the CBO.

CONWAY: We know that.

CUOMO: Another thing is here, this hasn't been scored. CONWAY: Correct.

CUOMO: All right, for all the due political criticism for the way the ACA got put through, and, you know, people deny that, then, you're right, they are playing politics. But they had it scored all along the way. Some of it was right. Some of it was not.

CONWAY: Some of it was wrong.

CUOMO: But more of it was right than was wrong.

CONWAY: It was a huge miscalculation.

CUOMO: You haven't had it scored at all.

CONWAY: We've been waiting for that.

CUOMO: Every congressman we have on says the same thing to us, I don't know.

CONWAY: We've been waiting for that.

CUOMO: I don't know. I don't know what it's going to cost. I don't know how many people are going to be off. That's the way you want to get it through Congress?

CONWAY: No, the way -- what I want you to focus on, though, is how many people don't have coverage and access now, how many people are willing to pay the penalty in taxes. The three phases of repeal and replace mean, in phase one, in prong one, those penalties and mandates are gone. And that's a good thing.

CUOMO: Then how do you keep up the healthy pool?

CONWAY: Yes, and --

CUOMO: That's what is going to control costs, you know?

CONWAY: You have health savings accounts that you -- not you, but people who don't have employer or Medicaid sponsor health insurance, Chris, can have the health savings account, and expanding those. Those have been the one free market tool --

CUOMO: What do they put in it?

CONWAY: The money that they receive for the tax credits.

CUOMO: The tax credits, you mean?

CONWAY: But then -- but they become responsible consumers. They say --

CUOMO: That's not cash in the hand. And what if you don't have the rest of the money to get the care you need?

CONWAY: Hold on. They say -- they say, I don't want a plan that has maternity benefits because I'm past my child bearing years or -- CUOMO: That's true, but they're going to want like mental health benefits, which in this plan you say they don't have to provide you. I mean, which, on its face, I don't even understand how that got in there. But the CBO, their score is going to be very important for people. Do you trust the CBO?

CONWAY: The CBO is a very important component of this. And we -- we are awaiting their scoring. We respect the process. We know in the past they haven't always been completely correct (ph).

CUOMO: Do you trust them as in -- as a fair arbiter of what this is?

CONWAY: We -- look, the president is working very well with all of his agencies, including the CBO. We're waiting for the score.

CUOMO: So you trust the (INAUDIBLE)?

CONWAY: Just like we're waiting for the investigation and we'll comment on the (INAUDIBLE).

CUOMO: All right, good, I'm glad you took me back there because, you know, I'll talk health care all day because it matters so much to people.

CONWAY: It does matter very much.

CUOMO: But at the end of the day, this wiretapping thing is a fundamentally different charge than what's been put into the scope of examination. He could answer it himself. He could declassify what he finds out himself immediately. Nobody has more power than the president, yet he hasn't made a call to Jim Comey. Why?

CONWAY: And the -- the president -- I'm not going to discuss who he calls and who he doesn't call.

CUOMO: Sean Spicer did.

CONWAY: Well --

CUOMO: He said he didn't reach out to him.

CONWAY: Well, listen to me, I'm not going to do that. I'm not going to discuss his conversations.

CUOMO: Sean Spicer did. So we know he didn't reach out. Why not?

CONWAY: Well, but Director Comey can also make a statement. He talk -- he directed the DOJ to do something that he (INAUDIBLE).

CUOMO: Why would he make a statement? Well, first of all, he's going to come testify at the hearing --

CONWAY: I'm very happy -- that's correct. I saw Congressman --

CUOMO: But why would he testify about something that isn't happing? CONWAY: I saw Congressman Schiff yesterday on a different network say

that he will ask Director Comey the questions when he appears before him. So this is my entire point, the president is comfortable waiting --

CUOMO: But it's taking time and resources to investigate something he can answer.

CONWAY: The president is comfortable waiting -- the comfortable -- the president's comfortable waiting for the --

CUOMO: Of course he is because it's distracting from them looking at the Russia connections.


CUOMO: No, no, that's my point, Kellyanne. I mean, why do this? Why would I ask you a question about what time my kid went to bed last night? It should be investigated. We should have people -- I could make a phone call and tell you what time they went to bed. I was there. I put them in bed.

CONWAY: That's a really -- that's a really glib analogy.

CUOMO: He can pick up the phone and get this answer like that.

CONWAY: Chris, you realize what the crux of all this is, though, right? I hope that you, as an American, are very concerned, as we all are, about the leaks coming from the intelligence and security community somewhere. We have leaks of the president's readout of a -- excuse me, of a conversation he's having with a head of state. That just can't be. We know that General Flynn was wiretapped. We know, you know, that people released that conversation --

[08:35:12] CUOMO: General Flynn was not wiretapped.

CONWAY: Well, I'm sorry, that people leaked the conversation, in other words, that he was having. Whether he was wiretapped, I'm sorry --

CUOMO: He was not wiretapped.

CONWAY: OK. But what I'm saying is that we know that that conversation that he had was leaked somehow. So there -- so somebody is giving information that they should not be.

CUOMO: Leaks are a problem. That's not what the president asked for.

CONWAY: But -- but leaks are very much on his mind.

CUOMO: He said, I was wiretapped by President Obama, that's a felony. We've never heard of that before, accusing a former president of a felony like this. And he called him bad or sick.

CONWAY: So what about --

CUOMO: He has no proof to support calling President Obama, a man who he says he likes, bad or sick. What about that?

CONWAY: So what about the rest of the Obama administration? Are you not saying that if (INAUDIBLE) --

CUOMO: What about calling him bad or sick?

CONWAY: Chris --

CUOMO: Was that right for the president to say?

CONWAY: Chris, I'll let the president speak for himself. He's perfectly capable of that. He's the president of the United States. Do you what is said about him? Do you actually think that he's covered this (INAUDIBLE) --

CUOMO: Does that make it right?

CONWAY: No, no, I want to ask you a question. The level of disrespect for the president of the United States and the way he is described by people is -- people whose approval rating is half of his, frankly, is really beyond the pale. I mean it's -- he prefers --

CUOMO: His polls have gone the wrong way since he said the wiretapping thing, by the way, even in Rasmussen he's at his lowest level since the wiretapping stuff.

CONWAY: Chris, I wrote an article probably 15 or 18 years ago called "The Unbearable Likeness of Approval Ratings," and I say that when they're up and I say that when they're down. What you want to look at is that people think you're making a difference in their lives. He will be judged by his accomplishments. He will be -- he is being judged right now by people saying that he is actually making good on his promises to try to get things done. People like the job numbers. People like the unemployment numbers. People like the consumer confidence. They like the fact that people are -- are -- feel good about the direction of the economy. They heard him in his joint address two weeks ago. That doesn't wash away because people aren't covering it. That was his natural connection, his communication with them directly.

CUOMO: You know why it washes away? Because on the heels of that --

CONWAY: It doesn't wash away to them.

CUOMO: It was how he attacked what happened with Jeff Sessions and then he made the wiretapping claim.

CONWAY: It's a big country out there.

CUOMO: That washes out talk about jobs as much as anything.

CONWAY: It's a big country out there and he looked them in the eye for 77 -- he looked them in the eye for about 64 minutes, he looked them in the eye at his press conference a couple weeks earlier for 77 minutes, he gave the rally in Melbourne. He'll be in Nashville this week. When Donald Trump, a brilliant communicator and natural connector, takes his case directly to the people, unfiltered, cuts through the noise or cuts through the silence, he is at his best. And I want to see him do more of that because I think that's the way he gets his message to people.

CUOMO: I think he should take your advice, as always, and I think he should do it by picking up the phone, calling and getting the answer to the wiretapping allegations, and he should have a press briefing and go right to the American people and say here's what I learned, and I'm going to declassify all of it.

CONWAY: And I think he should be respected as the president of the United States.

CUOMO: And I think those go hand in hand. If he does that and he has the proof, he'll get a lot of respect.

CONWAY: It's a two way street.

CUOMO: Kellyanne --

CONWAY: Thanks.

CUOMO: Thank you for coming here to discuss it. Appreciate it.

All right, so, you've heard the discussion, what is it meaning to the work that's supposed to be done for you in Washington? We're going to get "The Bottom Line" with Michael Smerconish, next.


[08:41:40] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: All right, well, if you missed the last half an hour, you missed the interview of the day, perhaps the interview of the week. Good Monday morning to you. Chris' interview with White House Counselor Kellyanne Conway making a lot of headlines, saying that she says that the headline in "The Bergen Record" this morning is a screamy headline that is not accurate at all, selective parsing of her words.

Let's get "The Bottom Line" with Michael Smerconish, host of "Smerconish."

Thank you for being here.


HARLOW: What an interview.

SMERCONISH: Nice work.

HARLOW: What is -- what is your take away from that, because I was rereading, you know, the article with her quotes in it --


HARLOW: And she said, nope, they got it wrong. This is a selective parsing of my words. I was talking about surveillance in general, not talking about the wiretapping claim by our president. How do you see it?

SMERCONISH: Poppy, I was taking notes while Chris was doing the interview. And I'm -- what jumped off the page to me or what jumps off now is, Kellyanne saying, let's talk reality, not fantasy.


SMERCONISH: I mean let's talk facts. You can't make an assertion, as President Trump has done, about a predecessor, as Chris pointed out, and say he's a bad guy, he's a sick guy, he tapped me, he wiretapped me and then have absolutely nothing to show for it, no justification, no evidence, and then to say, well, we'll await the outcome of the investigative process. There would be no investigative process but for him having making that wild and up until now unsubstantiated assertion. And I think you've got to show something before you put a statement like that in play. And I didn't hear anything.

And to your point about "The Bergen Record" and the conflating that is now taking place, I also sense that there is a desire on the part of the administration to wrap into this the revelations from WikiLeaks last week about how Samsung televisions and Androids and smart --

HARLOW: But that's what she was alluding to.


HARLOW: She said there are all these articles last week. They're completely disconnected.

SMERCONISH: Well, to me, it's like a giant ball of yarn that gets thrown to the American populous so that the kitty can play with it and we then get distracted from what really matters. You've got to be able to justify and back up these sort of assertions, and I just didn't hear it.

CUOMO: You know, one of the other dynamics that's going on, this was effective for the president. I don't know why the committees took this up. There's some speculation that the Democrats wanted to take it up so that they can expose that there was nothing there or if there was something there, they now have a probable cause basis essentially to say, yes, they were looking at you and here's why.

HARLOW: Right.

CUOMO: Even still, playing politics with is aside, it's a distraction from what they were supposed to be looking at, which was the Russia and the connections. And they have allowed parity now by saying the wiretapping, which is being conflated with leaks, they're totally different things, is equal in value to the Russia talk. You shrug that off, why?

SMERCONISH: No, I don't shrug it off. I think there's more to it, though. I think that he's been relatively silent, the president, on Twitter for the last week or so. But go through the tick tock of what led to that Saturday morning outburst. And, Chris, it's -- it's so firmly cemented in my mind because I was about to go on air here on CNN and we had to rewrite the show because, holy smokes, he's just at it again with the Twitter rant.

You put it in context, he was upset about Jeff Sessions, I think, having said that he would recuse himself from the Russian investigation. He was angered on that Friday before he left for Mar-a- Lago. He goes to Mar-a-Lago without certain of the aides. Wakes up, pulls out the phone and the rest is now history. It's hard not to see it as a deliberate, diversionary technique because every time the water gets hot, he throws a smart bomb out there and we go running for it. But this one's different than everything else. This is -- this is a bold faced assertion about a predecessor that there seems to be no justification, essentially accused him of a crime.

[08:45:17] HARLOW: (INAUDIBLE) -- that he -- a felony.

SMERCONISH: Right. You know, someone called my radio show and said -- and said, is there a legal claim here? I said, at this point, there's a defamation action.


All right, so another interview making a lot of headlines this morning --


HARLOW: Is Chris pressing Representative Steve King of Iowa, who 100 percent stood behind his tweet. His tweet, if you missed it, says that civilization cannot be restored with, quote, "somebody else's baby." Chris had to ask essentially the same question over and over again. Here's a bit.


CUOMO: You do realize that they are all equal, right? They are all the same thing. We don't need babies from one of those groups more than we need them from other groups. Do you agree with that?

REP. STEVE KING (R), IOWA: Well, I would say that it depends on the -- the attitude within those families.

CUOMO: Why do you pause on a question like that, congressman?

KING: They contribute differently to our culture and civilization.


HARLOW: First of all, there was no delay in that interview. That was a -- that was a meaningful, purposeful pause.

CUOMO: Yes. I don't get it. I'll tell you what I don't get. I thought that he was going to couch it and say I was talking about Europeans --

HARLOW: Right.

CUOMO: And that they need to worry about the French people, not everybody being overrun by Muslims. That's what I thought he was going to say. So I said, but here in America it's different, right, because we are the melting pot. We are diversity of strength. That's how we are heralded by these other countries.

HARLOW: That's us.

CUOMO: And I said, so Muslim-American, Irish-American, Italian- American, whatever you are, they're all equal, right? And he pauses.

SMERCONISH: Had to think about that. He had to think about that. It's something else that he said and when you watch it a second time I think you'll -- this will be alarming to you as well, is he said that the goal for the country is to be homogenous. And I was seated in the green room with an African-American gentleman who works for the program who, you know, couldn't believe that that was the statement he just made because I'm sure in Steve King's mind, the homogeny that we should have is a white nationalist homogeny.

CUOMO: No -- look, I don't know -- I don't know what his point is, but I'll tell you, it --

SMERCONISH: Here's what troubles me the most about it. I think that if I'm in a cave and I'm al Qaeda or ISIS, I love this kind of conversation. I love this being pitched as a clash of civilizations. And it reminds me when on W.'s watch, there was a banner that was unfolded speaking about the need to win the crusade. That's what they want to portray this as. And I think we play into their hands when we do it.

CUOMO: I just -- you know, I hope that people don't hear what he says and say, well, you know, there's a big division in this country. No, there is not.


CUOMO: We travel this country all the time, and people always talk about how you cut me open, you cut you open, we're both going to bleed red. People have respect for diversity in this country. I just hope that this doesn't take the conversation in a way it doesn't deserve to go.

HARLOW: Michael Smerconish --

SMERCONISH: Good to see you both.

HARLOW: Good to see you. Great show on Saturday.

SMERCONISH: Nice work.

CUOMO: Thanks, Michael.

HARLOW: That's my Saturday morning viewing.

CUOMO: Oh, yes, required.

HARLOW: All right, coming up, what do we really know about Russian President Vladimir Putin? A brand new CNN documentary sheds the spotlight on "The Most Powerful Man in the World." Fareed Zakaria joins us next.


[08:51:41] CUOMO: There is a new CNN documentary shedding light on Russian president Vladimir Putin. He is called the most powerful man in the world in this documentary. Here is a preview of it on his grudge against then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton prior to the 2016 election. Here's a spot.


FAREED ZAKARIA, HOST, CNN'S "FAREED ZAKARIA GPS" (voice-over): As Putin saw people turning against him, Hillary Clinton weighed in.

HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: The Russian people, like people everywhere, deserve the right to have their voices heard and their votes counted.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When Putin hears something like that, I imagine he hears Bush talking about Saddam Hussein. He hears that as, they're coming for me. They're trying to drive me from power.


HARLOW: You're going to see it only right here on CNN.

Let's discuss it, it is premiering tonight, with Fareed Zakaria, host of "Fareed Zakaria GPS."

So let's start with what you have called this, "The Most Powerful Man in the World." Why that name?

FAREED ZAKARIA, HOST, CNN'S "FAREED ZAKARIA GPS": Well, we thought about it a lot. Obviously the United States, or for that matter China, is more powerful than Russia, but Russia is a major world power. Thousands of nuclear weapons. A U.N. Security Council veto. Spans 11 time zones, borders three continents. And the power of a president is dependent on it, the power of his country, and also how much he can exercise that power in a completely unconstrained way.

And Vladimir Putin can exercise power more effectively, more ruthlessly and more freely than any leader in the world. In China, you've got a communist power, a (INAUDIBLE) standing committee. In the United States, you've got checks and balances. Putin has nothing, which allows him to intervene in the internal affairs of countries all over the world. And so if you put that package together, I think he rises to the top.

CUOMO: Well, we have one viewer who is not going to like the title of this documentary.

ZAKARIA: That is a question (ph).

CUOMO: But he may like what you just had in the clip there, which was the motivation potentially for any interference by Russia during the election, could have been motivated, not by pro-Trump, but by anti- Hillary Clinton. There is a real and profound dislike there. True?

ZAKARIA: Oh, absolutely. And I think that is of the heart in many ways of the -- of Putin's views on this election. Now, they may have subsequently developed other connections and contacts. And, you know, that's a -- that's another story that we pursue. But there's no question that in 2011, 2012, when the Arab Spring was happening, Putin faced demonstrations, Hillary Clinton, as secretary of state, came out in favor of democracy in Russia, free elections in Russia. Putin heard that as, they're coming for me. This is regime change. And, in a sense, what he's saying to Hillary Clinton is, you tried to mess with my election, I'm going to mess with yours.

HARLOW: So you've met the Russian President Vladimir Putin several times. The -- your most recent meeting with him was last summer. What struck you the most, Fareed, as you were writing this, right, and you decide what's in, what's out, what do I focus on? What was top of mind for you after that meeting?

ZAKARIA: Two things. First, he's a very -- he's very efficient and he's very, very intelligent. I noticed that -- we had a small amount of time in the green room and he used it very effectively. The Italian prime minister was there and he immediately went to him and started lobbying him to have the sanctions against Russia removed. You know, even in that fifteen minute period, no chitchat.

[08:55:16] The second is, I asked him about why he had called Trump -- why he flattered Trump. And he got -- he got very upset. He said to me, you're a famous journalist. You're -- you know, you have this big show in America. And he obviously had been briefed. I doubt very much he watches the show. But he had been briefed. And he said, why would you say things like that? All I said is that he is a flamboyant character. And surely you don't disagree with that. But then he paused and he said, and he keeps talking about wanting to have good relations with me, with Russia. Wouldn't I -- wouldn't I -- would I be -- would I be crazy not to welcome that? So he also plays the game that Putin -- that Trump plays, which is to say, always saying is, can't we all get along.

HARLOW: And it's the point when he used that word that many in the U.S. translated as brilliant, not exactly what he meant.

ZAKARIA: Exactly. Exactly. Which, by -- the word actually means a little bit of both, so.

HARLOW: Yes. Fareed Zakaria, thank you so much. We can't wait to see it.

It is again tonight only right here on CNN, "THE MOST POWERFUL MAN IN THE WORLD: RUSSIAN PRESIDENT VLADIMIR PUTIN". 9:00 p.m. Eastern only right here.

CUOMO: All right, "NEWSROOM" with John Berman, because the stronger part of the team is sitting next to me, is going the pick up right after this break.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. I'm John Berman. Thanks so much for being here.

We begin with deadlines, facts and fantasies. The House Intelligence Committee set a deadline of today for the Justice Department to provide the facts behind President Trump's evidence-free claim of being wiretapped by President Obama to prove it is not a fantasy. Senator John McCain said absent these facts the president should retract his claim and admit it is a fantasy.

[09:00:03] And while we're on the subject of fantasies, counselor to the president, Kellyanne Conway, dropped a giant implication bomb.