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Second Judge Strikes Down Trump's Revised Travel Ban; 5 GOP- Appointed Judges Defend Trump's New Travel Ban; House Intel: No Evidence of Wiretapping; Trump Promises "Negotiation" on Health Bill. Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired March 16, 2017 - 10:00   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Good morning, everyone, I'm John Berman. Serious blockage for President Trump this this morning, the Republican bill to repeal and replace Obamacare very much in jeopardy.

You're looking at live pictures from the House Budget Committee. They get to vote on this today. If four Republicans vote no, it could be blocked today. House Speaker Paul Ryan is set to speak in a few minutes. Will he announce what changes he is willing to make to save this bill?

Also this morning, a judge in Maryland blocks the president's new travel ban, the second judge in 24 hours. The message sort of as it's not the order. It's you, Mr. President.

And on Capitol Hill, senior Republicans now rejecting the president's claim that he was wiretapped by President Obama. But overnight, the president basically said, "wiretapping" can mean almost anything. Can it?

This and the White House releasing a new budget outline, he proposes a major restructuring of the federal government, some programs completely eliminated but this is just the plan. It won't reduce the deficit and this is not the plan that will pass Congress.

Also, any moment now, we're going to hear from Nancy Pelosi, the top Democrat in the House of Representatives. She will load out have a lot to say on wiretaps, on health care, on much more.

Let's begin on Capitol Hill with CNN's Suzanne Malveaux. Suzanne?

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: John, we've got tons of cameras here because we have so much to capture. As you know, Nancy Pelosi is going to be holding her press conference. Momentarily, she's going to be talking about, among other things, how to kill this legislation regarding health care.

At the same time, we have our cameras trained on that Budget Committee. That is where the House bill will go for markup. It is far from certain, John, whether or not it is actually going to get through that committee today. As you know, Republicans -- cannot afford any more than 21 "no" votes. And so far, our latest CNN count now showing 19 Republicans are leaning "no" or saying "no" to this legislation.

President Trump, in the meantime, quietly behind the scenes, as well as publicly has been trying to woo some of the conservative Republicans to get on board, offering some points of negotiation, if you will. He's even publicly now saying that this is going to require some changes in order to pass.


TUCKER CARLSON, FOX NEWS: Are you satisfied that the bill we're now looking at, that Paul Ryan is pushing, is the best the Republicans could do after seven years of thinking about it?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think we're going to have negotiation. But you have to understand, we only have 52. We only have two vote -- we have a two vote margin. And you're always -- to get 52 people is very hard. If we had 60 or 60 votes, we could do something differently. But we're never going to get a Democrat vote. They're never going to vote for us.

If I had the greatest bill in the history of the world, they would not vote for us.


MALVEAUX: So, John, really the president has a problem with the Republicans, not even necessarily the Democrats, because Republicans clearly in control of Congress here. The main sticking points, very quickly, is the fact that you have this debate over federal dollars to states for Medicaid, that there is an increase in premiums for seniors, and finally, the devastating CBO score. The controversial score that estimates 24 million over the course of ten years would be out of health care insurance with this current plan.

House Republicans are frustrated now because they feel that they are being pushed forward and being pushed too fast. They need to take a look at these very serious issues, debate them, and see whether or not these are changes that can be made. Take a listen.


REP. TOM GARRETT (R), VIRGINIA: I'm quite confident that as it stands, leadership doesn't have the votes they need to get this bill as written through the House. And I want to vote for a bill. But, you know, we're the same group that lambasted Majority Leader Pelosi for asking us to pass the bill, so that we could find out what was in it. Right now, the timeline we're looking at is actually faster.


MALVEAUX: It is House Speaker Paul Ryan who has really been leading the pace, leading the charge here, trying to push this through as quickly as possible, there is a sense of urgency if this does not get done right away and now that they will lose their opportunity. They will lose their momentum. We're going to hear from Paul Ryan in about 40 minutes or so, where among other things, he will talk about or at least be pressed on what kind of changes can be made in this bill, John.

BERMAN: Where is he going to change? That is a big question. A lot of Republicans, including the once we're speaking to, they want answered soon if they're going to vote "yes" on this. Suzanne Malveaux, thank you so much.

Also new this morning, the president's new travel ban blocked anew, twice actually. Judges in Maryland and Hawaii both now is issuing these temporary orders. The president is vowing to fight back. Let's bring in CNN justice reporter Laura Jarrett. Laura, so why are these judges saying they blocked this and what's the president now saying about it?

LAURA JARRETT, CNN JUSTICE REPORTER: Well, the federal judge in Maryland, John, has squarely focused on the constitutional problems, with treating Muslims differently than non-Muslims in the new Executive Order.

[10:05:06] And the judge in Maryland and in Hawaii both says, look, I can't ignore the unrebutted evidence of the president's own statements on Muslims during the campaign, as well as statements from Trump's senior advisers since he's been president. And the judge in Maryland has been page after page detailing everything that was said. To ultimately conclude that these statements explained an impermissible religious purpose that was behind the ban and not national security purpose behind the ban.

Now, we haven't heard from the Justice Department yet on this latest decision out of Maryland but President Trump blasted the judge in Hawaii last night. Take a listen.


TRUMP: A judge has just blocked our Executive Order on travel and refugees coming into our country from certain countries.

The order he blocked was a warded down version of the first order. We're going to fight this terrible ruling. We're going to take our case as far as it needs to go including all the way up to the Supreme Court. And let me tell you something. I think we ought to go back to the first one and go all the way which is what I wanted to do in the first place.


JARRETT: Now, he goes on to talk about breaking up the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals out on the west coast. But the irony here is that five Republican nominated judges on the Ninth Circuit actually came out in support of Trump's travel ban last night, saying even if we don't like it, our colleagues last month were wrong when they declined to reinstate the ban because Trump has the legal authority to do this.

Now, I should note, those comments from the five judges do not impact the ruling from the federal judge in Hawaii who blocked Trump's travel ban last night, John. And none of the five judges who came out with those statements last night are on the emergency motion's panel of judges this month that would hear an immediate challenge if the Justice Department decides to move forward with appealing the Hawaii decision. But still, these comments offer insight into some other members on the court that could eventually hear a larger appeal en banc if the Justice Department decide to go that way. John?

BERMAN: And that's what we're waiting on next to see what the Justice Department does, where and when and if it appeals. Laura Jarrett, thank you so much.

President Trump now trying to redefine what he meant when he accused President Obama of wiretapping him, in an interview with Fox News overnight, the president insisted that he has proof and mentioned where he got his information.


TRUMP: I had been reading about things. I read in -- I think it was January 20th, a "New York Times" article where they were talking about wiretapping. There was an article. I think they used that exact term. I read other things. I watched your friend Bret Baier the day previous, where he was talking about certain, very complex sets of things happening and wiretapping.

CARLSON: Right, but you are the president. You have the ability to gather all the evidence you want.

TRUMP: I do, I do, but I think that frankly, we have a lot right now, and I think if you watch -- if you watched the Bret Baier and what he was saying, and what he was talking about and how he mentioned the word wiretap, you would feel very confident that you could mention the name.

He mentioned it, and other people mentioned it, but if you take a look at some of the things written about wiretapping and eavesdropping -- and don't forget, when I say "wiretap," those words were in quotes. That really covers -- because wiretapping is pretty old-fashioned stuff, but that really covers surveillance and many other things, and nobody ever talks about the fact that it was in quotes, that's a very important thing. But wiretap covers a lot of different things. I think you are going to find some very interesting items coming to the forefront over the next two weeks.


BERMAN: So, the president here, clearly changing his explanation for what he very clearly wrote. Why? Well, members of his own party, including that man, House Intelligence Chair Devin Nunes, who is an ally of President Trump's, says he sees no evidence, no evidence in fact that Trump Tower was wiretapped.

He held a news conference yesterday with Adam Schiff right there. You can see, FBI Director James Comey. He is testifying on Capitol Hill Monday. He asked the Justice Department weeks ago to clear this up, basically saying that he wanted the Justice Department to say there were no wiretaps there. What will he say when he testifies under oath? Meanwhile, a couple of senators, Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, they have asked the FBI director to tell them in a letter if there is now a criminal investigation into the president and also to talk about his wiretap claims.

Also new this morning, the White House budget, we've never really seen anything like this before. There is a big boost in military spending, also Homeland Security, but huge cuts elsewhere, including eliminating entire programs. CNN's chief business correspondent, anchor of "Early Start" Christine Romans is here with more. Romans?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Here it is. This is the blueprint for the budget -

[10:10:01] BERMAN: The skinny budget.

ROMANS: This is the little one hard power, "America First." And it's pretty dramatic. It's little but it's dramatic. It really reshapes how government interacts with American life, shrinks government. What you would see if this budget were enacted would be an awful lot of empty metal desks in Washington, D.C. and a lot of smaller programs.

Let's take a look at how much smaller. EPA, down 31 percent, that's what this budget calls for, State 28 percent, HHS Health and Human Services, down 16 percent and HUD, a $6 billion cut there. This is the Housing and Urban Development department. And there are concerns among advocates for the poor and for equal housing that this would dramatically reshape how low-income people receive their housing.

What you hear from the government, what you hear from the White House, is that actually is that they see a lot of duplicative programs, they would move money around, get red id of waste and things that shouldn't be done by certain agencies would be eliminated. It eliminated completely the funding of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. This is maybe a 50-year-old wish list for conservatives who see a leftist propaganda apparently in re-airing, you know, the theater on local TV stations, National Endowments for Arts and Humanities, Woodrow Wilson Centers for Scholars, Interagency Council on Homelessness.

Here is where the money would go though. I mean, you're remaking -- you're not cutting the deficit here, you're moving that money someplace else. You're moving it to defense, $52 billion there, to the veterans, $4.4 billion, Homeland Security $2.8 billion and the border. This is kind of a down payment on the promises that the president has made, about a billion and a half to get that wall started and the $2 billion the next year. And you would be hiring immigration judges. You would be hiring immigration authorities, immigration officials, immigration agents and border patrol agents, hundreds and hundreds of them to fulfill some of the president's promises.

So this is what the world would look like under Donald Trump's vision, his world view. It is his world view. This is -- his budget director says they took his words on the campaign trail and turned it into numbers. This is what those numbers look like.

BERMAN: You know Congress is the one who actually gets to write the full budget and pass the full budget. And there are many members of Congress, including Republicans, who say this budget right there is dead on arrival. But as you point out, this gives us a window into Donald Trump's thinking.

ROMANS: This is his - these are his priorities. This is his thinking. He sees "America First" here, more security, national security, public safety, and getting the government out of your life. Of course, advocates for the poor say that means getting government safety nets out of your life. And that is a problem in their view.

BERMAN: Christine Romans, great to have you with us. Thank you very, very much.

President Trump, facing some serious challenges. We've been talking about health care. We've been talking about his evidence-free claims about wiretaps. So much on his plate right now, what can he get through Congress?

Plus the Secretary of State overseas in Asia, as we're getting new word from defense officials, they believe North Korea, getting ready for a new nuclear test.


[10:17:11] BERMAN: You're looking at live pictures right now of the House Budget Committee. This committee today will vote on the Republican plan to repeal and replace Obamacare as it is currently written. They can block this plan today. Four Republican votes on this committee would sink it. We just spoke to Dave Brat of Virginia who actually is one a "no" vote. I asked him if he thought it would get through the committee today. He told me, "It's going to be close." So we're going to watch this very, very closely over the next few minutes and next few hours.

Meanwhile, the president, he has a new explanation about why he claimed, evidence-free that he was wiretapped by President Obama. He essentially says, wiretapping can mean almost anything and quotation marks, have "magical powers."

Joining me now, David Fahrenthold, CNN contributor, reporter for "The Washington Post," Bakari Sellers, CNN commentator and Rick Santorum, CNN senior political commentator. Gentlemen, I made a joke there about the "magical powers" of quotation marks and that wiretapping can mean almost anything. But listen for yourselves, to what the president now says and his explanation for why he claimed he was wiretapped.


TRUMP: And don't forget, when I say "wiretap," those words were in quotes. That really covers -- because wiretapping is pretty old- fashioned stuff, but that really covers surveillance and many other things, and nobody ever talks about the fact that it was in quotes, that's a very important thing. But wiretap covers a lot of different things. I think you are going to find some very interesting items coming to the forefront over the next two weeks.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BERMAN: All right, David Fahrenthold, how low has President Obama gone to tap my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate bad or sick guy. No quotation marks in this tweet right here, I should note. He did have it in others. But this is a different version. Clearly, the president now, shifting his story a little bit, now that it's under scrutiny from Democrats and Republicans, David.

DAVID FAHRENTHOLD, CNN CONTRIBUTOR AND REPORTER "THE WASHINGTON POST": That's right. I mean, the thing about this is, this is a guy this president is someone that people put a lot of faith in. He told them he could change all of Washington. He could bring back their jobs. He could bring back the coal industry. He could do all these things.

Instead of doing any of that, this is what President Trump has chosen to spend his time on, arguing basically about what a quotation mark is and what it means and what the word surveillance means and what he -- read in "The New York Times" and saw on Fox News. It's not where I think anybody expected him to be. In fact, where his voters expected him to be or what they expected him to be doing.

BERMAN: And Senator Santorum, the part of this that was truly interesting to me over the last 24 hours, is the picture we saw yesterday, when you had Devin Nunes, the Republican Chair of the House Intelligence Committee side by side with Adam Schiff, the Democratic ranking member of that committee. Both men there agreeing they have seen no evidence that President Trump or Trump Tower was wiretapped.

You see, there is the picture right there. They were clearly trying to send a message, particularly Congressman Nunes there, Chairman Nunes, essentially you know, a message to the president, look, there isn't the evidence of this. It might make our lives easier if you stop talking about it. But nevertheless, last night he did again. What kind of a pressure does that put on a Republican member like Devin Nunes?

[10:20:10] RICK SANTORUM, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think Devin is doing a good job out there. You know, putting out the information as he now knows. And I think he's doing a favor to the administration by trying to direct them to focus their energies on things that the electorate wants him to focus his energy on.

I mean, the fact that Donald Trump tweeted this at 3:00 a.m. -- My advice to the president is probably the advice that Donald Trump gave to Ivanka when she was a teenager, which is nothing good happens after midnight. And he probably should not be out doing things after midnight. And you know, let's wait until the sun rises and your head is clear and tweet things that are probably much more in line with what your administration should be working on.

BERMAN: Am I wrong that Chairman Nunes, and you look at Lindsey Graham and John McCain and others, am I wrong -- and Chuck Grassley now in the Senate, am I wrong that they're trying to send a message to the president and is it wrong to suggest that maybe the president isn't getting that message?

SANTORUM: They're definitely trying to send a message. I'm trying to send a message. And I think a lot of other folks are trying to send a message that he has some very important -- this budget was exactly in line with what his campaign promises were, what he's trying to do with Obamacare, is in line with defense spending. There are a lot of things that the president is doing that is right on the nose. And if he would focus on those, I think he could have a very successful presidency.

BERMAN: All right. One of the issues that he's been trying to get through is this travel ban. And he's got this new revised travel ban. And now a new revised blockings of his travel ban. Bakari, two federal judges ruled in the last 24 hours, putting a block on this. And they essentially were saying that one of their biggest issues is things that Donald Trump said during the campaign like this. I want to listen to what he said during the campaign.


TRUMP: Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country's representatives can figure out what the hell is going on.


BERMAN: So Bakari that was December 2015. That was a long time ago. Candidates can change their minds. Candidates can revise policies when they become president. So, you know, I know the judges are saying that gets to intent. But isn't that an insanely high bar if everything you've ever said on a subject can you know, have an impact?

BAKARI SELLERS, CNN COMMENTATOR: Well, no, it's not an insanely high bar. But if you read the opinions of the Hawaii judge, I haven't had a chance to read the most recent opinion that came out this morning, you realize he included more than just the words of Donald Trump. He actually included the words of Stephen Miller and other advisers that said this is a ban on Muslims.

The fact that this only includes six countries, although they're majority Muslim countries and doesn't include all Muslim countries, I believe it includes about 12 percent of the world's Muslims. It still makes it an impact the majority of which will be felt by Muslims entering the country.

And so yes, this is a Muslim ban. Yes, there are many people including two judges right now who feel this is unconstitutional. But the fact goes to what David was saying earlier, that the president is struggling in his first two months. It's probably the worst two months of any president's we've seen in recent history because he's focusing on a Muslim ban which has been beaten not once but twice.

He's focusing on a repeal and replace that's struggling to even get votes on a Republican House and Senate. And he's doing all of these things in his - NSA director was fired. He's doing all of these things instead of jamming up Democrats and focusing on things that would help his voters like an infrastructure bill or like tax reform.

It's kind of mind-boggling to see him flail away with issues like a Muslim ban or this repeal and replace. When there are serious issues that he actually gets Democratic support on which I think would help the Middle America voters who put him in the White House.

BERMAN: It's interesting. Look, I think that may be a Democratic view that it's the worst two months ever. There's a new Fox News poll, his approval rating is down 5 percent since February, but I mean, the economy gets very, very high ratings right now. We don't have a picture for that but I think all three of you will know that if people have a good view of the economy, sooner or later, your numbers as president, they might turn around. So President Trump has that to hang on to.

David Fahrenthold, on the health care issue specifically, because Bakari brought that up. It is a fight right now. It's a fight primarily within the Republican Party to figure out how this can be changed to get through the House of Representatives. Paul Ryan, and we're waiting to hear from Paul Ryan in just minutes, now says that changes will be made. They will adjust this bill. Can they make enough changes in a week, because that's when Paul Ryan wants to hold a vote on this in the House floor that will satisfy both wings of the party?

FAHRENTHOLD: I think it is unlikely now. The problem is that the criticism from within the Republican Party is actually coming from both sides. There are moderates who feel it doesn't do enough to help the poor and help the working class afford health insurance.

[10:25:04] And there are some hard line conservatives who feel like it does too much. It spends too much to help those folks and there's too much government interference. So you move toward one camp, you alienate more of the other.

At this point, I think if there was a way to thread that needle, Paul Ryan would have found it already. And I think their plan had been the sort of the kamikaze approach, to try to have a vote as soon as possible so that people would be sort of confronted with a - you can repeal Obamacare or you cannot. And not ask much about the details. I think that strategy has already failed. I don't know how Paul Ryan is going to adapt.

BERMAN: We'll find out. We'll find out in a few minutes when Paul Ryan speaks and lets us know if he is willing to change this bill, I guess he said he is willing to change it, but what he's willing to change and whether he's willing to put it on the House floor in just a few days. David Fahrenthold, Bakari Sellers, Rick Santorum thank you all so much for being with us.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, he is on his first major trip to Asia. He held his first big news conference there with really interesting answers about North Korea which by the way, the Defense Department says is getting ready for more nuclear tests right now.