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Trump Says He's Behind GOP Health Care Plan 100 Percent; Trump Holds Listening on Veterans Affairs; Angela Merkel Arrives at the White House for High Stakes Meeting; Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired March 17, 2017 - 10:30   ET


[10:30:00] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I was in Tennessee, I was telling the folks, and half of the state has no insurance company and the other half is going to lose the insurance company. The people don't know what to do. It's a disaster.

Obamacare is dead. Nothing to do with these people. Nothing to do with me. It's on respirator and it's just about ready to implode.

Now we could wait for six months or a year and let it happen. It's not the right thing to do for the people. This is a great plan. This is going to be fantastic. You're going to have bidding at the one level by insurance companies. And remember this. Remember this. Those lines are going to come out. We'll have bidding by insurance companies like you've never seen before. Plans are going to come out like nobody's ever seen before, plans that nobody has even thought of now are going to be devised by insurance companies to take care of people. And we're going to take care of people at all levels.

So I just want to let the world know, I am 100 percent in favor. These folks, and they are tough, and they love their constituents, and they love this country. These folks were no's, mostly no's yesterday. And now every single one is a yes. And I just want to thank you. We're going to have a health care plan that's going to be second to none. It's going to be great. And the people will see that.

By the way, it will take a little while because before it all kicks in and welds together, it takes a little while. With Obamacare, it got worse and worse. Premiums went up 116 percent. They went up 58 percent. The governor of Minnesota said the Affordable Care Act, Obamacare, is no longer affordable. That's what he said. The Affordable Care Act is no longer affordable. And he's a guy that -- he's a good Democrat. He wanted Obamacare. He said it's no longer affordable.

Obamacare is not an alternative. It's not there. It's dead. It's dead. So I just want to say thank you very much. I really appreciate it. 100 percent of the no's are yeses. And some of them were strong no's. Some were just no's. And we had a couple of them were mixed. But I just want to thank you, folks. And we're going to have a great, great health care plan. Thank you very much.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right. President Trump meeting with Republicans he says were no on the Republican plan to repeal and replace Obamacare before he met with them. He now says they are yes. One thing I will note, CNN has counted 22 Republicans leaning or

declaring they will vote no on this bill. We do not believe that any of the 22 we are counting were in that meeting with him right now. So the group that he just met with were additional members that he says were no. But they're not the ones on this list. So by our count, and I'm looking at it right now, yes, it is still 22 people leaning no or no.

Again, the people he met with not on our list right there. But he may very well have convinced the people in the room to vote yes, which is an interesting development.

With me now is Ron Brownstein, CNN political analyst, senior editor at the "Atlantic," and Tamara Keith, White House correspondent for NPR. Thank you so very much.

You know, Ron Brownstein, at the very top of those comments, the president said he's 100 percent behind this effort. And his 100 percent will be needed here, I think, to get this bill through the House of Representatives.

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Look, history has been, really, since the Republican takeover in 1994, that Republican leadership in the House has almost always found a way to get the bill through the House. The one that comes -- sticks to my mind the most like this is the expansion of Medicare to include prescription drugs under George W. Bush, where Tom DeLay famously had to leave the vote open, the longest vote ever. They usually find the votes. But they usually find the votes by tilting the bill a little further to the right than they started. And that can only compound the problem which I think is the real problem in the Senate.

And despite what President Trump said, the fact that CBO projects 24 million people would lose insurance or 24 million fewer will be insured under this bill is still an obstacle for those more moderate members and centrist members in the Senate. Particularly in states that expanded Medicaid. And that is where I think the rub is going to come, even if they find the way through the House.

BERMAN: You know, Tamara, we have a banner up that says all those leaning no on health bill are now yes, but just to be clear, the members that CNN is counting as a no, they were not part of the meeting, not part of the group where President Trump is claiming that he convinced them to go from no to yes. So we still think 22 may be against it. There is a numbers issue here. But the president lobbying, the president getting firmly behind this, what's the effect of that?

TAMARA KEITH, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, NPR: And the president says he's 100 percent behind it, though it's still not entirely clear what "it" is, because he is saying that he's going to negotiate, there is some talk of a larger amendment that would be put onto the measure to win over some of those people, possibly some of those people in that room who he says went from no to yes. But not knowing what it is makes it hard to know who he loses on the other end. [10:35:01] And as Ron said, they're pushing to get this through the

House, but the Senate is an entirely different thing. And when you ask the White House, well, what happens in the Senate, they're like, well, we're focused on the House at this point.

BERMAN: But that may be the smart move, right? I mean, there is no Senate if you don't get through the House.

KEITH: Of course.

BERMAN: And you can always come up with some changes if you do get to the Senate. I do think the parameters of what the changes might be are becoming a little bit clear, right? We have Medicare -- Medicaid expansion, the idea that you would add a work requirement to Medicaid and maybe introducing a second bill at the same time that some of these members who are against parts of this bill could vote for.

I do want to make one clarification. Gary Palmer who is a member that we were counting as no, he was in the room with the president. The president claims that he is now a yes. So that would go from 22 to 21, which is not insignificant. I mean, that may be enough. You may start to see enough members coming over to get this through the House, Ron.

BROWNSTEIN: Yes. Look, like I said, the history is, whether it's the Newt Gingrich era or the Tom DeLay era, they have almost always found a way to get it through the House. But striking about President Trump kind of going in with both feet on this bill is the way it collides with his larger message. I mean, you know, if you think about what he has done, he has basically taken a kind of an insular nationalism on trade and immigration, and married that to skepticism of government with one big exception, programs he has defended Social Security and Medicare, and talk about infrastructure, programs that benefit an older, lower-middle income, predominantly white base which is the core of his coalition.

What's striking here, you know, the same week that he is saying he is not going to touch Medicare or Social Security and impose significant cuts on other domestic programs, he is embracing a health care plan that by all analysis raises costs and lowers access for older, working age adults who are at the core of his coalition. CBO says 25 percent premium increases for people in their 50s and 60s, a doubling of the share of low-income, older working age people who would be uninsured.

This is a kind of blend of his nationalism with a more traditional small government conservativism or libertarianism of the House Republicans, and it is definitely a mixed messages that exposes him to some risk of taking away something that many of the voters they are counting on have themselves come to count on.

BERMAN: Tamara Keith, shifting gears right now. We're going to hear more from the president today. He holds a news conference at the White House in a couple of hours. He's going to be with Germany Chancellor Angela Merkel. This is his first meeting with the German chancellor. It will also be the president's first news conference since his evidence-free claims that he was wiretapped by President Obama. And it's also his first news conference since this pretty dramatic apology overnight from the White House.

Sean Spicer, National Security adviser H.R. McMaster, General McMaster apologizing to the British because Sean Spicer read this report from a FOX News commentator that said that British spies were somehow involved in wiretapping the president. It will be interesting to see how the president handles that this morning.

KEITH: Absolutely, though the question is whether he'll actually get a question on those things.

BERMAN: Right.

KEITH: As you might remember, when he's done these press conferences with world leaders before, you do two questions from the American press, two questions from the foreign press corps. And in all of the past ones like this that he's held, he's called on friendly news outlets that didn't ask him any of the inconvenient questions that were circulating at the time. Instead he got questions that didn't push on any of the pressure points and only got uncomfortable questions from the foreign press corps. So unclear if he'll get -- you know, if he'll call on people who will ask him the questions that we all want to hear answers to.

BERMAN: Yes. Well, we shall see. No doubt there'll be people asking questions about this on Monday when there is a House Intelligence Committee hearing on -- including these claims that the president was wiretapped by the former president. FBI director James Comey testifies there.

Ron Brownstein, Tamara Keith, stick around, we have a lot more to discuss especially on this meeting between the president and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. There are major policy issues that will come up, and again there are these issues about the White House apology to Britain as well. Stay with us.


[10:43:15] BERMAN: All right. A very busy morning at the White House. We just played you some sound of President Trump meeting with Republican members of Congress on the health care bill. He says he has convinced more of them to vote yes on the current bill to repeal and replace Obamacare.

The president also just meeting at the White House, a listening session on veterans affairs, this in the Roosevelt Room, presumably with some veterans groups as well. We are seconds away from hearing what he had to say about that. And then a little bit later -- we'll play that right now.


TRUMP: I want to thank you all for being here. And for your work on behalf of our nation's veterans. Our great, great people, our veterans. We're all united by a very common mission. We will protect those who protect us. I've been saying that a lot over the last two years at rallies and speeches. We will protect those who protect us. And that's just starting. Because I think the veterans have not been treated fairly.

And David and a group of brilliant, brilliant doctors and businessmen are forming a board. And you've got the most talented people that I've ever seen working with you. This is no more games going to be played at the VA.

And I want to thank David, your secretary, your new secretary, who is going to be so outstanding. I think he actually passed 100-0. When I heard that vote, I said, where did that come from? 100-0, right? Passed 100-0. For bringing your vision, experience, and determination to the crucial task of reforming the VA and ensuring care for our returning heroes and warriors.

And tonight I'm having a major meeting with some of the people that we put on a board. Ike Perlmutter is an amazing man, a marvel. Basically he's one of the great, great businessmen of our times.

[10:45:05] And others, we're having a meeting tonight at what we call affectionately the southern White House. It seems to be the most convenient location. Everybody always wants to go to the southern White House.

So are you going to be at that meeting? You heard about it, right? It's going to be great, all about the VA.

The VA's mission statement is engraved in the plaques outside its headquarters. It reads, "To care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan." And that was stated by Abraham Lincoln. That was Lincoln's pledge, call it Lincoln's pledge. But for too many veterans this hasn't been their experience at all. We've been reading horrible stories over the years.

And already, David, I'm hearing it's getting much better. A lot of improvements are being made. And it's going to change and under my administration it will change. Very important to me. During my campaign I outlined a detailed plan for reforming veterans care throughout the country and we're working to put that plan into effect and it's moving I think I can saw honestly ahead of schedule.

As commander-in-chief I will not accept substandard service for our great veterans. Every member of our government is expected to do their utmost to ensure our veterans have the care that they are so entitled to. Maybe more entitled to than anybody. And that hasn't been the way they were treated. But it is the way they're going to be treated. So again, I want to thank you all for being here. It's a great honor. Maybe I'll ask David to say a few words.


TRUMP: Thank you.

SHULKIN: Mr. Vice president. I wanted to let you know the people in this room are some of the most dedicated, passionate people advocating for our veterans. And they are our partners in this quest to transform VA. And we really are so grateful that they're here with us as partners.

SHULKIN: I also wanted to thank you, Mr. President, for the budget. I think that you've honored your commitment to showing that this country cares about the veterans and you've given us the ability to make sure that we are able to care for them.

I also want to tell you that yesterday the House passed an accountability bill. And we're very, very grateful for Chairman Ross' leadership, and for the House's leadership in doing that. We're looking forward to the Senate.

TRUMP: Right.

SHULKIN: Bringing their bill forward. And so I think as you said we're committed to the plan you outlined during your campaign to making the VA the type of organization that Americans want it to be, and we're well on our way to do that. So thank you very much.

TRUMP: Well, that's great. And unrelated, we just had a meeting with probably 12 congressmen. And it was an amazing meeting because they were all no's, would you say, Mike? They were all no's or pretty much no and after 15 minutes, now, in all fairness, it's not 15 minutes, it's been only after about four or five days, but after 15 minutes they went from no to all yeses. So the health care looks like it's going to be in great shape.

It's a great plan. The press doesn't give it a fair read. But I've heard that before, what are you going to do? The fake news. But it's a great plan -- or I wouldn't be involved with it. I wouldn't be involved. So we have 12 no's. And we have re-jiggered it and we've done some great things. But the no's in every single case went to a yes. So that was a great honor. And health care looks like it's really happening. And it's going to be great.

Obamacare is dead. Some of you folks have yourselves family members that have suffered greatly under Obamacare. It's dying. It's just about on its last legs. If we did nothing, if we did absolutely nothing, Obamacare is dead. It will fail.

In Tennessee, where I just left, half of the state has no insurance -- no carrier, it's gone. And they're going to leave the other half of the state very soon. You have that in many cases. Many states are down to one. And they'll end up with nothing. So Obamacare is dead. We're going to come up with a replacement that's going to fantastic. And we have no support from the Democrats. That's why it's a little -- we have to go interesting little routes. It has to be approved in pieces. And that's working out really well.

But we just got 12 very, very great people that went from no or maybe but maybe leaning to no, right, Mike? And they all have given me a commitment. They're voting for our health plan, health care plan. So that was great.

I want to thank you all for being here. And let's talk, and the press will leave. Thank you very much. [10:50:03] BERMAN: President Trump meeting with leaders of Veterans

Affairs groups discussing veterans issues at the White House. The president also just met with members of Congress he says were no or leaning no on the Republican health bill, and he says he convinced all of them to yes. The problem is only one of those people who on our list of some 22 Republicans learning no or declared no on the health care bill so he still has a lot of work in front of him.

And in just a few minutes he will meet with German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the White House, his first time side by side with one of the world's most important leaders. They will hold a news conference together. Will he face questions on White House apology overnight to Great Britain over claims of being wiretapped.


[10:55:08] BERMAN: At this moment one of the world's most powerful leaders on her way to the White House. President Trump getting ready to meet face-to-face with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. This will be their very first meeting.

After the meeting, the pair will hold a joint news conference. This is will be the first news conference the president has held since his evidence-free claims of being wiretapped by President Obama, also of course the first news conference since the White House had to apologize to Great Britain for a whole different set of wiretap claims.

CNN's Elise Labott joins me now. The wiretap issue aside, Elise, this is a very important meeting for the president today.

ELISE LABOTT, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: It is, John. And you know, it's interesting how the roles have really reversed between the U.S. and Germany. You know, during the campaign, you know that Donald Trump had really kind of trashed Angela Merkel for her refugee policy, for the German economic policy, for a whole host of issues.

And, you know, Angela Merkel really had to kind of take the high road and talk about American values that Germany had appreciated for so long. So now coming to this meeting with President Trump, Chancellor Angela Merkel trying to reset the relationship, trying to find issues on common ground at a time where, you know, the U.S. really in terms of its statute around the world, many Europeans very concerned about the policies of this administration.

But they do have a lot of important issues to talk about. First of all, NATO and Defense spending. Angela Merkel has been -- you know, Donald Trump has really criticized Germany and other countries for not paying their share. He wants Germany to pick up some of the slack on NATO defense spending. They also will certainly talk about refugees, a policy that he's criticized in Germany. Germany has been one of the leaders really in taking in refugees and has seen some attacks by terrorists that have been infiltrated in those tranche of refugees.

They're also going to talk about German trade and jobs, interestingly enough. She'll be bringing the CEOs of Siemens and BMW with her because BMW's largest operating plant and manufacturing is not in Germany, it's in the U.S. And a lot of those cars export outside the U.S. So the U.S. definitely stands to benefit, and I think Angela Merkel really wants to capitalize on that momentum -- John.

BERMAN: Elise Labott, a very big meeting and a very big news conference coming up at the White House as well.

Again, the president's first news conference since his evidence-free claims of being wiretapped by President Obama and the big breaking news overnight, the White House apologizing to the United Kingdom for something that White House press secretary Sean Spicer said at the briefing. We'll have the very latest on that just moments from now.