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Divide Grows in GOP on Obamacare Repeal Plan; House Intel Committee to Hold News Conference; Three Federal Courts Hear Arguments on Travel Ban Today; March Madness Begins. Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired March 15, 2017 - 10:30   ET


[10:30:00] FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Accuse many in the U.S. of sparking what he calls hysteria, saying that all of this was an invention. He called all of this lies and basically saying there was nothing to Russia meddling in the election in the United States, John.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: We have to remember that much of Russia has said all along, though, has been proven wrong or disputed by U.S. officials. They say they didn't hack, you know, 16 U.S. intelligence agencies say they did. They said there were no conversations about sanctions with Michael Flynn, now we know there were. He ended up resigning because of such conversations. So always interesting to hear what they say. But it needs to be taken perhaps with a grain of salt.

Frederik Pleitgen, always great to have you with us. Appreciate it, sir.

On Capitol Hill, Republican support for the Republican health care plan very much in question this morning. Some conservative groups, key constituents for so many members, putting pressure on President Trump and some Republicans to abandon this plan.


[10:35:16] BERMAN: We have a big development right now in the debate over the House plan to repeal and replace Obamacare. CNN has just learned that the White House is acknowledging that the House bill in its current form cannot pass the Senate. That apparently the view from the White House now, according to an adviser to a senator who attended a White House meeting last night.

That adviser has a quote, "Negotiations will continue on the legislation." Some lawmakers, including Florida member of Congress, though, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, say the plan would hurt constituents. Other members including Mo Brooks of Alabama says it goes too far, doesn't save enough money.

Here to discuss Adam Brandon, the CEO of FreedomWorks, a conservative group which is holding a rally against the legislation today in Washington, and David Drucker, CNN political analyst, senior congressional correspondent for the "Washington Examiner." He'll be part of this conversation, too.

Adam, first to you, this development from the White House. The White House apparently admitting it's got a voting problem in the Senate.

ADAM BRANDON, CEO, FREEDOMWORKS: Well, just to be very clear, our event today is not against the legislation. But it's for repeal. That's what's been promised to the voters. That's what grassroots conservatives have been fighting for since 2009. So what they want to see is a bill that actually take a look at the 2015 bill that actually repealed Obamacare. And so that's why people are gathering, and they'll be taking that message.

But what you're just saying this news from the White House, I think everyone saw that. When this bill was rolled, it was going to be almost impossible. I'm not sure it's going to pass the House and I knew it was going to hit some problems in the Senate. That's why I have been advocating, go back to what Republicans were almost -- only five Republicans in 2015 voted against full repeal, so why don't we just use that as the default position and go back to that?

BERMAN: I know you're saying your rally today is for repeal and not against this bill, but this bill does more than repeal, so in essence you are against this bill as it stands right now.

David Drucker, your reaction to this news from the White House. Maybe it's obvious. I mean, they're just admitting to what is apparently growingly obvious, that there is a voting numbers problem here. But your reaction.

DAVID DRUCKER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, well, look, I think we always knew that there were going to have to be some changes here. I think the issue is how much does everybody want to play ball. You have conservatives who think it doesn't repeal enough, that it leaves too much of Obamacare in place. And it does leave a lot of the goodies in place from Obamacare without a lot of the things people didn't like. And that's what has made this thing such a difficult policy proposition then among moderate Republicans.

And even conservatives from states that expanded Medicaid, you have a concern that it's going to do too much, going to pull back too far and leave people without insurance. And of course you're dealing with in this particular instance a president who has liberal inclinations on health care. And I think that's what Republicans in the House and Senate are trying to balance, how do you get enough votes there, how do you satisfy the president?

You know, I think the question for Adam is, groups like his that want to see a strong repeal and a real market-driven solution to replace Obamacare, how much compromising are you willing to do to help President Trump get a win on his first big legislative effort?

BERMAN: Adam, answer that question. It's a good one.

BRANDON: Sure. We are Trump's number one ally in draining the swamp. The House Freedom Caucus is his number one ally in draining the swamp. I think what people are looking for in a bill here is something that takes Obamacare -- it repeals it and then sets you into a motion to where you can have free-market, patient-centered health care in the future. No one is looking for a perfect bill, no one is looking for something that solves all of the problems.

The one thing that unifies Republicans today is repeal. So if you're going to start and use your reconciliation bullet to move the legislation, why don't you start with something that everyone agrees? Let's repeal Obamacare.

BERMAN: But, Adam, would that include something that leaves fewer Americans uninsured? According to the CBO that number 24 million in 10 years. Would a compromise from you include that? How about seniors, their premiums, their health care costs going up according to the CBO?

BRANDON: Sure. Sure.

BERMAN: Would you allow for provisions that would reduce the burden on seniors?

BRANDON: Well, I think what you need -- if you try and take care of everything at once and repeal, replace in the exact same piece of legislation, then you get stuck in some of that type of conversation. Where I think it's cleaner to just say repeal it. And then I think Senator Rand Paul has got a very good bill out there that starts to address those issues.

The repeal that the Republicans passed in 2015 had a two-year window where you could figure out specific pieces of legislation to take care of specific problems if there is a population that is going to be underserved in the market. But first you take care of Obamacare. You make sure that the mandates, you make sure that the regulations are all done and gone, we clean the slate, and you start over with a new patient-centered plan.

I love what Senator Rand Paul is putting as the replacement. So first repeal it, then we can figure out the solutions to the problem.

BERMAN: Well, the Rand Paul plan is not the House plan right now, nor is it the White House plan right now.

[10:40:04] And, David Drucker, it's interesting because yesterday you had Chris Ruddy, who is a close friend -- runs the Newsmax, a close friend of President Trump, saying that President Trump should abandon the Ryan plan. And just a few minutes ago we had Jeffrey Lord on this show, and you know Jeffrey is a political commentator but a political commentator that the president listens to and reads quite frequently. And Jeffrey said, you know what, maybe it's time to abandon as well.

So do you see Trump supporters now running from this?

DRUCKER: Well, I think Trump supporters are protective of the president's image and they want him to succeed. And they're leery of him being a part of an effort that doesn't come to fruition. I don't think, however, that Trump can escape this and escape responsibility for this. I mean, if there's anything he's supposed to be good at it negotiating and deal-making and this, on a legislative level, sort of in a political context, is his first big test. And even though Speaker Paul Ryan had a lot to do with this bill, he worked with Tom Price, Trump's secretary of Health and Human Services. He has worked closely with the White House to try and produce something that Trump has said he wants, a bill that would take care of everybody, cover everybody.

That's what the president has said. And so I think if the president runs from this and cuts bait, I don't think it helps him over the long term. I think the signal that sends is, when things got tough, he couldn't negotiate a deal. And whether you're dealing with health care or tax reform or big government spending bills on infrastructure, you're always going to be faced with moments like this.

And if you can't do this, it's going to weaken him politically. And so I understand why his supporters want him to potentially look and back away from this but I don't think it would accomplish what they think it would.


BERMAN: And, you know, Adam, Ted Cruz -- go ahead, Adam.

BRANDON: I was going to say, I think the person who is really going to be weakened in all of this is Speaker Ryan. Why is it he didn't bring in the House Freedom Caucus to discuss this bill before he rolled it out? The Freedom Caucus found out about the bill the same way we did, probably watching CNN or something. So going forward, I think it's going to be a much better strategy for the speaker to start working with those members of the Freedom Caucus before he starts rolling out pieces of legislation.

And I think Trump right now is giving a little deference to Speaker Ryan to say, OK, you move this in the House. And I think going forward what you're going to see is a stronger relationship between the Freedom Caucus and the White House directly to avoid this type of problem in the future.

BERMAN: Ted Cruz speaking with your group this afternoon.


BERMAN: What's his role in this, do you think, Adam?

BRANDON: Well, Ted Cruz is -- he is one of the first people to say there's no way you can have the House, you can have the Senate and have the White House and then come back to the American people and say we wouldn't able to get this legislation done because the Senate parliamentarian got in the way. So one of the things that Ted Cruz is talking about is using Mike Pence and Mike Pence's role in the Senate so that we could have a much broader bill that ends moving through the House and through the Senate.

And I think he's just looking for every possibility so people like me who are concerned about the regulations that are still in this bill, the Ryancare bill, if Ted Cruz can maneuver a little bit in the Senate, that gives us a little bit more discretion to bring in more of these regulations into this repeal bill which would probably help get some other folks on board. BERMAN: The problem is can you satisfy Ted Cruz and Leonard Lance,

who we just heard from a few minutes ago?


BERMAN: Adam Brandon, great to have you with us. David Drucker, great to have you as well. Thanks so much, gentlemen.

DRUCKER: Thank you.

BERMAN: Big discussion tonight right here on CNN, Wolf Blitzer and Dana Bash, the host of CNN town hall with Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price. He will answer questions about the new Republican plan to repeal and replace Obamacare. Maybe he'll answer questions from members of his own party. That tonight 9:00 Eastern only on CNN.

President Trump's new travel ban set to kick in in just a few hours, unless it gets blocked again. Three federal courts hearing arguments today that could decide its fate.


[10:48:06] BERMAN: Minutes from now, members of the House Intelligence Committee will hold a news conference on its investigation into Russia.

CNN's Sunlen Serfaty on Capitol Hill.

Sunlen, what are we expecting to hear from this news conference today?

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, this is a big day on Capitol Hill, not only because you have this press conference by the leaders of the House Intelligence Committee, but you have many other committees up here on Capitol Hill looking into the Russia ties. And many senators speaking out about what information they believe they could potentially get today.

First and foremost we'll hear from Adam Schiff and Representative Nunes at 11:15. They are both heads of the House Intel Committee. And it's interesting, they are appearing something of a united front today, something we typically don't see. The two have certainly been at times very contradictory in their message, but no doubt they will be pushing forward because they are about to hold on Monday the first public hearing on Russia. They've invited FBI Director James Comey to appear before that committee. So it will be interesting to hear what they have to say.

But certainly there is a big mood of anxiety up here on Capitol Hill. It's a tense time because you have these three separate committees looking into the Russia ties, not only potentially what communications the Trump campaign advisers had potentially with Russia during the 2016 campaign, but you also have now this expanded probe looking into the claims that President Trump made that he was wiretapped -- John.

BERMAN: Do you get the sense that some Republican senators and members of Congress, members of the president's own party, they're getting impatient?

SERFATY: They certainly are. And we're hearing that from many people. We heard that from Senator Graham this morning, who has been very stern and given a lot of warnings to the administration, if he doesn't get the information that he would like, and he heads one of these key subcommittees that today will meet on this, that he will subpoena.

[10:50:05] So a lot of big words coming from many up here on Capitol Hill and a lot of movement on this as well. We have the Senate Intel Committee who will be holding a closed-door meeting later today and then of course that big hearing next week on Monday up here on Capitol Hill on the House Intelligence side.

BERMAN: All right. Sunlen Serfaty on Capitol Hill. Keep us posted, Sunlen.

The legal battles facing President Trump's travel ban, they continue. Three federal courts are hearing arguments against that executive order today. One in Maryland has already started, two more get under way this afternoon, one in Hawaii, one in Washington state.

One of the things that's interesting here is that in Seattle, the hearing in Seattle will be heard by the same judge that blocked the first travel ban.

The new order now exempt valid visa and green card holders. Also anyone from Iraq. Despite some of the changes, immigration activists, they are still challenging it.

CNN's Jessica Schneider following it all for us.

Jessica, what are you seeing?

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, as you said, a lot happening into that lead-up to the travel ban take two taking effect. Several hearings today, some on lawsuits actually brought by the state, some brought on by individuals. The question in all of this that's looming, will any federal judge step in as they did last time, that Seattle judge, to halt President Trump's revised executive order? Or will these judges let the ban take effect?

The Trump administration fighting hard to say that this order is very different and therefore legal. They're citing several instances, saying that the ban doesn't apply to legal residents or green card holders, or current visa holders from those six countries you see there.

There also is no indefinite ban on refugees, just about 120-day ban, and already approved refugees can still enter the country. In addition, the order no longer prioritizes religious minorities and there is that robust waiver provision where people can object and be heard.

So for all that, the Trump's team saying that is all enough to pass constitutional muster. But civil rights groups around the country, they're saying, wait a minute, this is still intended to ban Muslims and that's why the courts should stop it.

So we'll see, John, as the hours tick down, what action these federal judges might take if any. As you mentioned, that Seattle judge having a hearing again in another case. So will he act? It arraignments to be seen.

BERMAN: All right. Jessica Schneider, keep us posted. Thanks so much.

Fireworks in the March Madness first four. A star player chokes his own teammate. Cory Wire has much more, next.


[10:56:34] BERMAN: March Madness officially tipped off last night on Turner's truTV, that's a lot of T's right there.

Cory Wire joins me now. And Coy, there were two games and one of them got heated between two teammates.

COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Right, not opposing teams, John. Teammates, which we don't see very often. First we also had Kansas State beating Wake Forest in the 11 seed game. But the fireworks came up in this match-up between two 16-seed teams. Mount St. Mary's and New Orleans, and watch the frustration set in for

New Orleans. You have Travin Thibodeaux there on your right. He grabs the neck of his teammate Christavious Gill. Coach had to step in. He's not drawing up plays. He's trying to appease his guys there. They said they're actually like best of friends which is the funny part. benched. Thibodeaux was benched but the story of the game, that little guy right there.

That's Junior Robinson, 5'5", smallest player in all of Division 1 basketball, comes up with 23 points in the game. Mount St. Mary's gets a one-point win. They will now go to the round 64 for number one seed. Villanova waiting in the wings.


ELIJAH LONG, MOUNT ST. MARY'S: I wouldn't have guessed once out of a hundred times that we're going to play Villanova. But you know, dreams come true. And you know, it is March Madness. So this is part of the madness. And, you know, we're looking forward to it.


WIRE: All right. Tonight's game on Turner's truTV. We want to spotlight some, head coach, LeVelle Moton. He's the 16th seed North Carolina central team is going to go to play. But here's the thing. Three years ago Coach Moton's son VJ recovering in the hospital from second degree burns, spilled coffee on himself. And Moton had to make a tough decision, do I go coach my team who's playing in their first ever NCAA tournament or do I stay with my son and my wife as my son is recovering in the hospital? Well, Moton's wife told him you need to go to be with your other family, your team, in the biggest games of their lives. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LEVELLE MOTON, NORTH CAROLINA CENTRAL HEAD COACH: This is really my first time because I don't even remember anything from that weekend. I don't remember no plays from the game. I don't remember anything. I just felt some guilt as a father, saying I'm coaching a basketball game, my son is in the hospital.

I always wanted to get back here for a bit of a selfish reason, just to be able to bring them and have them experienced. And I landed in the hotel last night, and he's just running around a thousand miles an hour, I can't get no sleep, and I'm like, man, why did I bring you out here?


WIRE: Coach Moton and NC Central plays UC Davis tonight at 6:40 Eastern, followed by an 11-seed match-up between USC and Providence.

I cannot wait to hear John Berman's input on this. Blowing up the Internet last night, Carmelo Anthony's fashion decision. It was cold in New York where the Knicks beat the Pacers but his outfit lit up the interwebs and people had fun with it. 120 Sports says, who wore better, George Costanza or 'Melo? Slam magazine said, how about Leo from the "Revenant?" Or maybe 'Melo is trying to be the bear in the "Revenant," too. Melo riding Tom-Tom like Hans Solo in "Empire Strikes Back."

John Berman, I don't know. I couldn't pull it off. What do you think of this, buddy? Rock it or dumb jacket?

BERMAN: I think there's no defense for that outfit, no defense like from Carmelo Anthony, you might say. Get it? Get what -- see what I did there?

WIRE: You are the man. I love you, John.

BERMAN: All right. Coy Wire, thank you so much for being with us.

If you have any ideas about my brackets, send them my way. Tweet me @Johnberman.

Thanks so much for joining us. I am John Berman. "AT THIS HOUR" with Kate Bolduan starts right now.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: John Berman, thank you so much.

Hello, everybody. I'm Kate Bolduan. A big hour of breaking news and some major events. But first coming moments from now.