Return to Transcripts main page
ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT
More Flights Banning Electronic Devices, Based On AQAP Threat; WH Dodges Questions About Proof Of Trump Wiretap Claims; Spicer On Wiretap Evidence: Let's See How The Week Goes"; Manafort A Focus Of Investigation Into Trump-Russia Contacts; Sen. Warner: We Have Talk To Manafort About Russia Links;; Aired 7-8p ET
Aired March 21, 2017 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, THE SITUATION ROOM WITH WOLF BLITZER HOST: -- starts right now.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT HOST: Out front next, breaking news. More countries banning electronics on flights, the threat being taken very seriously by security officials. Tonight, intelligence showing Al-Qaeda may be trying to hide explosives in batteries.
Plus, where's the proof? The White House says evidence to support Trump's wiretapping allegations is on the way. They're still saying this. Where is it?
And with less than two days to a crucial vote on the healthcare bill, Trump tells republican lawmakers a no vote could cost you your job. Let's go Outfront. Good evening. I'm Erin Burnett. I want to begin tonight with the breaking news on the security threat coming in at this hour. We have more information frankly frightening information tonight on the ban on electronics on planes. Intelligence obtained finding that an Al-Qaeda affiliate was perfecting techniques for hiding explosives, small explosives in batteries and battery compartments of electronic devices. Rene Marsh is OutFront with the breaking development. And Rene, they are taking this incredibly seriously. What new information are you learning?
RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: Well, Erin, I just spoke with a member of congress who was briefed on this particular issue and I'm told that the decision to implement this electronics ban was based on new intelligence and the re-evaluation of existing intelligence. We know that the Intel community believed the threat was, "persistent and emerging and sources tell CNN the move was not, not prompted by a specific plot but was based in part on recent intelligence involving Al-Qaeda's affiliate in Yemen or AQAP. Now, a U.S. official tells CNN's Barbara Starr that the terror group was perfecting techniques for hiding explosives in batteries and battery compartments of laptops and other commercial electronic devices, Erin.
BURNETT: All right. Rene, thank you very much. And we're going to be speaking to someone who was briefed on this in just a moment. They are taking this incredibly seriously with this new information. Our other breaking story at this hour, where is the proof? The White House tonight dismissing calls for evidence, the evidence of course is to back up President Trump's widely debunked charge that President Obama wiretapped him.
The FBI Director Jim Comey of course says there's nothing to it. The national security director says there's nothing to it. Despite that damning testimony and the fact that virtually no one is standing by Trump's accusation but his own press secretary, the president and Sean Spicer aren't backing down. So we asked where is Trump's proof? The president telling Fox News six days ago they would share information with the House Intelligence Committee very soon and he also promised this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: I think you're going to find some very interesting items coming to the forefront over the next two weeks.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: But when confronted about Trump's promise today, here's how Sean Spicer responded.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KAITLAN COLLINS, THE DAILY CALLER'S WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: The administration and the president have repeatedly said that over the next few weeks they will -- they will present evidence that he was wiretapped. And last week he said it would be coming this week and he may speak on it this week. Can we expect the president to this week present evidence he was wiretapped by Barack Obama or will he speak about it? Because he didn't mention it last night in his rally.
SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECETARY: Right. Well, let's see how the week goes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: All right. Sara Murray is OutFront tonight at the White House. Sara, I mean, you know, sort of just trying to blow it off. Is there a y indication of what these "interesting items are that Donald Trump has personally promised we will see?"
SARA MURRAY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Erin, you saw how quickly the president's own press secretary turned away from this. This is really indicative of what we've been seeing from the White House on this topic. Now, the president is the one who made this allegation in the first place on Twitter, who has not offered any evidence to back it up and now it appears that he doesn't really want to talk about it.
He did a local news interview in which aides to President Trump made it clear that he would not answer questions about wiretapping. When he was in Kentucky on the stump last night, that is the kind of place where we might see the president begin to rip about this kind of thing, especially in the wake of the FBI Director James Comey saying, look, I've not seen anything, I have nothing to back up this allegation. But the president was silent about it in Kentucky last night.
Now, he is speaking again this evening at a National Republican Congressional Committee Dinner but, Erin, it would be surprising if he decides to broach this wiretapping claim this evening to given the silence we've heard from the White House on this front. They are still insistent that some evidence will come out to vindicate the president's claim but obviously they're not offering it and everyone who's been involved in these investigations so far has said they have seen no proof to back it up.
BURNETT: All right. And Sara, you know, in terms of what the president is doing tonight, obviously having a meeting I know regarding Obamacare, but it is possible, right? That he could come out and say something additional as he has been so reticent, uncharacteristically on this as he's promised this information.
MURRAY: Well, Erin, having followed him and seen him speak publicly for almost two years now, I can tell you that it's never off the table when it comes to this president. He is of course someone who has spoken from script, spoken from teleprompter but is inclined to veer off of it if it's something he's really cared about. That's why it's so interesting that this is not a subject he's really delved in on except for those initial tweets making these wiretapping allegation.
So, of course, it is always possible that this president could go off script and suddenly decide that tonight is the night he wants to talk about wiretapping, tonight is the night he wants offer up that proof. We've just seen no indication from the White House today or yesterday that this is really something that they're going to engage on.
BURNETT: All right. Sara, thank you very much. And, you know, as this is happening the White House is distancing itself from the former campaign manager, Campaign Chairman Paul Manafort who is becoming a focus of the investigation into contacts between Trump associates and Russians. So how much of a focus? Tom Foreman is OutFront.
SPICER: How many people have to say that there's nothing there before you realize there's nothing there?
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The administration is moving fast to put distance between President Trump and the man who is a key interest in the Russian hacking investigation, Paul Manafort.
SPICER: And obviously there's been discussion of Paul Manafort who played a very limited role for a very limited amount of time.
FOREMAN: Limited? Manafort was Donald Trump's campaign chairman from May to mid-August last year, overseeing the staff, the budget and dismissing early claims by democrats that Russian hackers targeted their party's computers to tilt the election Trump's way.
PAUL MANAFORT, AMERICAN LOBBYIST AND POLITICAL CONSULTANT: They certainly are getting desperate rather early in the game. FOREMAN: Now, a lawmaker in Ukraine said he has discovered a new document in an office where Manafort worked as he advised the former Ukrainian President, Victor Yanukovych. The lawmaker said the paper looks like an invoice for $750,000 in computer parts allegedly signed with Manafort's name.
A spokesman for Manafort said Manafort does not recognize the document and it's not his signature and CNN cannot verify the authenticity of the invoice.
If it is legitimate, however, it could dovetail with the so called "Black Ledger", a longer list revealed last fall which purports to show 12.7 million in payments alongside Manafort's name. That lawmaker who found the new document believes all the money could be for undisclosed services paid for through the Ukrainian President's political party.
SERGII LESHCHENKO, UKRAINE LAWMAKER: I think it's not all money for him. It's more for his activity as well, his campaigning activities for some technical issues of his activity as a spin doctor. $12.7 million is an incredibly high amount of money. But for corrupt politicians, this was not so impressive.
FOREMAN: But why should such payments matter to the U.S. investigation of the Russian hacking scandal? Because the former Ukrainian President, Manafort's client was a kremlin ally. Even fleeing to Russia when he was driven from power. Manafort dismisses any suggestion there was a corrupt river of money flowing from the kremlin as part of a scheme to elect Donald Trump and get a more pro- Russian president in the White House.
BURNETT: Why is so it so far-fetched to blame the Russians and say the motive was to help you?
MANAFORT: It's just absurd. I don't even know what you're talking about. It's crazy.
FOREMAN: When reports came out during the republican convention that the Trump camp pushed the Republican Party and its platform to ease up on criticism of Russia for invading Ukraine, Manafort pushed back.
MANAFORT: It absolutely did not come from the Trump campaign. I don't know who everybody is, but I guarantee you --
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Nobody from the Trump campaign wanted that change in the platform?
MANAFORT: No one. Zero.
FOREMAN: Amid these latest developments, Manafort's most recent statement says in part, I had no role or involvement in the cyber attacks on the DNC. I have never spoken within any Russian government officials or anyone who claimed to have been involved. The suggestion that I have ever worked to undermine the interests of the United States is false. Yet investigators continue looking at these connections from President Trump to his former campaign manager Paul Manafort to a former president of Ukraine to Moscow. And wondering if in this chain they will find any actual evidence of anything nefarious going on or as the White House keeps insisting, just a witch-hunt. Erin?
BURNETT: Tom, thank you. OutFront tonight, the top democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, Senator Mark Warner. And Senator, I appreciate your time. You heard --
SEN. MARK WARNER, (D) RANKING MEMBER, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Thanks for having me.
BURNETT: You heard the statement from Paul Manafort. He's calling any allegations of collusions with the Russians false. Do you believe him?
WARNER: Listen, this is why we have to have this investigation, why we have to talk to Mr. Manafort and a series of other individuals who have been affiliated with the Trump campaign. In the case of Paul Manafort, he was the actual campaign manager. We're going to need to bring him in and have that kind of conversation because there's such a cloud now that's hanging over this whole administration. Part of it brought about by the president's own words in terms of accusing President Obama about taping him and wiretapping him. But we've got to get to the bottom of this. And that's why I've said from the outset this is probably the most important thing I've ever taken on in my public life.
BURNETT: Do you want Paul Manafort to testify in front of your committee, Senator?
WARNER: There are -- I'm not going to go through individual names. But I -- anyone who's been that affiliated with the Trump campaign as well as having so many supposed of contacts with Russians, we need to talk to. His name has been mentioned, obviously Roger Stone's name has been mentioned, there's a series of other individuals. We've put out a series of letters to make sure people preserve documents and we're already starting to interview individuals.
We'll have a public hearing next week. And this investigation is -- goes to the heart of our democracy. We know what Russia has done to interfere in the electoral process. Now we have to see what kind of combination or conversations took place between folks affiliated with the Trump campaign and the Russians.
BURNETT: So you're talking about those whose names have come up obviously, you mentioned Roger Stone, Paul Manafort, Carter Page, J.D. Gordon?
WARNER: I'm not -- I'm not going to -- I'm not going to go through the list of individuals, but we intend to be extraordinarily comprehensive. We intend to follow all the intelligence wherever it leads. And we're not going to --
BURNETT: So does that lead you to the president of the United States? Would you call him to testify? WARNER: Listen, I'm saying we're going to follow and do this in
methodical fashion and of course we're going to talk to these people who have been mentioned, but we need to do this in a methodical way.
BURNETT: Roger stone, you mentioned him and he was mentioned of course multiple times in the house hearing yesterday. Comey specifically asked about Stone's interactions with Guccifer 2.0, which is who claimed responsibility for the DNC hacks and U.S. Intelligence Officials believe Guccifer is a front for Russian Intelligence. Roger Stone today told the Miami Television Station, the questioning left a completely false impression of Stone and his contacts with the Russians. Here he is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROGERT STONE, TRUMP ASSOCIATE: It was the worst kind of red-baiting, mudslinging, telling part of the story but not all of the story. It's McCarthyism. It's really despicable. I really look forward to my day in court and I hope I will be afforded the opportunity to respond to the allegations.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Obviously he at least from there sounds like he wants to go in front of your committee. Are you worried about what he says, though, accusations of a witch-hunt of McCarthyism?
WARNER: All I know is this, Mr. Stone tweeted himself that he had been in contact with Julian Assange and WikiLeaks. He then put out a public tweet saying long before the John Podesta e-mails leaked that he knew that John Podesta's, "time in the barrel was coming." And now in recent press reports he said he's been in contact with Guccifer 2 who we now know is a Russian agent. In my mind, that's a trifecta and anyone that wouldn't ask him to come forward and -- I'm happy to hear his side of the story, but to do this in a way that explained these kind of contacts, I think we wouldn't be doing our job if we weren't going to ask him and a series of other individuals.
BURNETT: So, I want to ask you one more breaking story before we go, Senator, the U.S. and the United Kingdom of course our allies, closest ally, banning most types of electronic devices on flight from the Mideast due to now we understand Intelligence that Al-Qaeda was perfecting techniques for hiding explosives in batteries, battery compartments, so things like laptops. Have you been briefed about this this stuff?
WARNER: I have been briefed and I think and we ought to take this threat very seriously. I think there will be further briefings coming up in the next few days. But if the -- if our adversaries are able to shrink down some of these potential explosive devices and potentially fit them in some of the -- at least the press reports have said, we -- I would urge all Americans to make sure that we take this threat very, very seriously.
BURNETT: Do you have any sense to the timing of the threat? Was it imminent? How specific was it? WARNER: I am, you know, again, I think there will be more information
coming out. I was notified over the weekend. We're going to file a brief today. But, you know, I know at times in the past when people talk about different color coding, this is something we need to take seriously. There is a real threat here. And Americans should act accordingly.
BURNETT: All right, Senator, I appreciate your time. Thank you.
WARNER: Thank you, Erin.
BURNETT: We hear what he said, a real threat here, Americans should act accordingly. OutFront next, is Russia's Trump's Watergate? The White House Counsel under Richard Nixon is speaking out. He says yes. Plus President Trump about to speak live. Can he convince more republicans to vote for the healthcare bill? It's a must-win for him at this point. And a dedicated Trump supporter who turned out for 45 rallies, OK. That is as dedicated in core as it gets. So why is he turning his back on Trump now?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't believe that he was true in his word when he was speaking. I think he was looking for votes.
BURNETT: New tonight, an explosive charge about the Trump Administration and the FBI's investigation into the campaign's ties to Russia. President Nixon's former White House Counsel John Dean, saying, and I quote, "I've been inside a cover-up, I know how they look and feel. In every signal they're sending is, we're covering this thing up. According to Dean, the covet-up is exactly what happened during Watergate.
OutFront now, Ambassador Norm Eisen, President Obama's former White House ethics czar. Ben Ferguson, conservative radio host and Mark Preston, our senior political analyst. Ambassador, let me start with you. Some have been saying, where there is smoke, there is fire. Do you believe that in this case that there is actually fire when it comes to actual coordination and collusion between the Trump Campaign and Russia?
NORMAN EISEN, FORMER OBAMA WHITE HOUSE ETHICS CZAR: Erin, thanks for having me. Nobody knows if there's fire or not. But the smoke is very thick. And take it from John Dean, who knows the feeling and I've been around Washington for a while. It has that feeling. You have an explosive international incident an attack on our democracy by Russia. You have contacts with Russia and those close to Russia by senior people close to Mr. Trump. You have money swirling around the scandal and you have lying, Erin. Those are all the signs that maybe when that thick black smoke is pouring out of the walls there's a fire inside of it.
BURNETT: There is fire inside, Ben, or a witch-hunt?
BEN FERGUSON, RADIO HOST, "THE BEN FERGFUSON SHOW": Yes. I would go with witch-hunt. I also think it's pretty funny how many accusations were just put there that not based in fact or backed up with reality. There's a whole lot of democrats out there that love this issue because it's a great way to attack the White House and put them on the defensive and score political points. But if you come out every week and say something is Watergate, at some point your words become meaningless.
And I think democrats are very close to overplaying this and we're only a couple months in now. I mean, you look at what has happened here and what they claim has happened here. Show me the facts, show me the proof, back it up. Innuendos are not facts. Assuming facts are not facts. Show me the actual intelligence that backs up all the claims of this big black smoke that he says is coming out of the building that there must be fire in. And I'm willing to listen. Otherwise it's just -- it's hacks, it's political hacks on the White House.
BURNETT: Ben, on the comparisons to Watergate though, obviously there have been some and you're right, they've been coming from the left side of the aisle. But, you know, one thing in common between the two situations at least thus far is Nixon and Trump's hate of the media, all right? They just absolutely despise it.
BURNETT: Hold on. Let me lay it out and I will give you chance to response. He tweeted James Clapper and others stated there is no evidence POTUS colluded with Russia. This story is fake news and everybody knows it. OK. Now I give you Richard Nixon.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICHARD NIXON, 37TH PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have never heard or seen such outrageous, vicious, distorted reporting in 27 years of public life. Don't get the impression that you arouse my anger.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I had that impression.
NIXON: One can only be angry with those he respects.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: You could hear those words coming out of Donald Trump's mouth, couldn't you, Ben?
FERGUSON: I could also give you a clip of Bill Clinton attacking the media and also saying I did not have sexual relations with that woman and that this is all lies and being fabricated by the right and the media is reporting it. I can also give you a tape of the White House saying Benghazi was in fact a spontaneous protest that erupted into killing an ambassador when they knew that was a lie they were putting out and they challenged the media saying if they were wrong to imply it was anything else.
You can in every administration find a clip that would -- that would correlate with what Richard Nixon said attacking the media. Just because you attack the media, it doesn't mean that there is a Watergate going on here. If it's true, then Obama probably had a --
BURNETT: But Mark, I don't know if you heard Senator Warner saying that he wants to run this investigation down. Obviously he's a democrat. But one who very much works across the lines. He says this is bipartisan indeed. Here we have John McCain just moments ago talking to our Manu Raju saying he had serious concerns about specific people in the Trump campaign, ties to Russia. Here is John McCain.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R) ARIZONA: I have serious questions about some of the people around the presidential campaign. There were people with close ties to the Russians. And including an individual who was paid large sums of money by Yanukovych who was the Russian stooge as the president of Ukraine.
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: You're talking about Paul Manafort's --
MCCAIN: I'm talking about Mr. Manafort, his relations.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Mark, there is a cloud hanging over this administration, right? That isn't something you can deny. I mean, that is something both republicans and democrats agree with.
MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. No doubt about that. It was telling, Erin, when FBI Director James Comey wouldn't get into specifics about the investigation that he was conducting other than to say it's been going on for eight months. Now, it could be going on for eight more months, it could be going on for several more years. And when we talk about this too dark cloud, let's put it in this perspective of where the phrase came from, it came from the House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes yesterday where he said to Mr. Comey, there is a big gray cloud that you've put over people who have important work to do to lead this country. Regardless, if there is fire beneath that smoke, that smoke is incredibly distracting right now, Erin.
BURNETT: And Ambassador, you know, when Mark mentions Devin Nunes, Nunes came out and said that he highly doubts that anybody is investigating the president himself, right? Because to make the Watergate comparison it's got to the top, right? That's the whole point. Devin Nunes obviously the republican chair says there's no evidence, Sean Spicer nothing that he's aware of. With the given no indication in any way, if this goes to President Trump and wouldn't it need to for this to be Watergate?
EISEN: Erin, not yet. And we don't know if we're there yet, but look at what we have. We have admitted contacts with Mr. Stone and Guccifer 2.0, who our intelligence agency says the Russian front. We have Mr. Stone talking about WikiLeaks, we have him predicting what's happening. We have Mr. Manafort's ties that set of facts that Senator McCain just talked about. We have Mr. Flynn lying about his contacts also accepting money.
And if any one of these three individuals -- here's how it works. If anyone of them did violate the law, sooner or later the FBI and the DOJ are going to come to them, offer them some kind of immunity, and then we get to the Watergate question --
FERGUSON: Ambassador --
EISEN: -- what did the president know, when did he know it? So I think there's some --
FERGUSON: Give me a break. Erin, Erin, Erin, hold on here. We got to -- we got to deal with reality -- we go to deal with reality and facts here. If you're claiming that an individual talking to a foreign government automatically is Watergate, which I can't even believe we're having that discussion as the ambassador is implying, Hillary Clinton would have had 50 Watergates because of the Clinton Foundation and all the money that came into her foundation while she was at the state department and while she was running for president.
So if democrats are going to claim this, they might want to look at their own house first. There's nothing wrong with having a conversation while you're running for president with other foreign leaders or people in your campaign. That does not mean it's Watergate.
EISEN: Ben --
BURNETT: OK. Mark, would you say -- where do you see this going? You heard -- we heard Senator Warner say, look, they've already started to interview individuals related to the Trump campaign. They have already started to do so and they are going to be in his words incredibly comprehensive.
PRESTON: Right. And to hear the likes of John McCain, who he himself is expressing concern about those who associated themselves with Donald Trump and their alleged roles or alleged roles could be, it is going to be -- look, it's not going to be a very good year for President Trump and his administration. Look, he's trying right now to get a healthcare bill through. He's talking about tax reform, he's talking about putting a billion-dollar-infrastructure bill in place. He has to deal with an unstable North Korea, turmoil in the Middle East and what he's done right now is we have this as we said at the beginning a very dark cloud hanging over this administration.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you all very much. And next, Mark mentioned it, Donald Trump speaking at this moment, going to be gathering in a couple moments. We are going to be monitoring this live, meeting with republicans. Can he get the votes? He's got to win some people over here because right now it doesn't look like he has them. I'm going to ask a leading critic of the bill, Senator Rand Paul.
And Trump's Supreme Court pick taking on the president today. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
[19:31:40] ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking news: President Trump trying to seal the deal.
You're looking at live pictures out of Washington. Trump is about to speak where you see Paul Ryan at a National Republican Congressional Dinner. He is racing against the clock before the house votes on its plan to repeal, to replace Obamacare.
CNN's latest whip count shows 19 Republicans are definite noes, seven others likely noes. OK, the GOP all in, can afford to lose no more than 21 votes. You can do the math.
Sara Murray is OUTFRONT.
SARA MURRAY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Today, Donald Trump is flexing his muscle as salesman in chief, trekking to Capitol Hill to try to woo weary lawmakers into supporting a GOP plan to repeal and replace Obamacare.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We had a great meeting and I think we're going to get a winner vote.
MURRAY: After huddling with House Republicans, the president projecting confidence that his top agenda item will pass the House on Thursday.
TRUMP: It's a great meeting, terrific people. They want a tremendous health care plan. That's what we have. And there are going to be adjustments made, but I think we'll get the vote on Thursday.
MURRAY: But Trump also issued a warning, telling members they risk losing their seats in the 2018 midterm elections if they allow the health care bill to fail.
SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think there's going to be a price to be paid but it's going to be with their own voters and they're going to have to go back and explain to them why they made a commitment to them and then didn't follow through.
MURRAY: Behind closed doors, Trump employed his signature style.
REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: President Trump was here to do what he does best, and that is to close the deal.
MURRAY: He touted the crowd size from his Kentucky rally the night before.
TRUMP: This place is packed.
MURRAY: And ribbed reluctant lawmakers like House Freedom Caucus chair Mark Meadows, one of the bill's opponents.
REP. MARK MEADOWS (R), NORTH CAROLINA: He does tease me quite a bit. He's got a good sense of humor.
MURRAY: The president's jovial appearance isn't not masking the stakes at hand. It's Trump's first legislative test and a chance to deliver on a promise Republicans spent years campaigning on.
But even Trump's personal pitch failed to sway Meadows and other members of the conservative Freedom Caucus.
REPORTER: Did he change your mind at all?
REP. JIM JORDAN (R), OHIO: No. I said the president did a great job and I appreciate the president but the bill is still bad.
MURRAY: That as Democrats eagerly leapt on Republicans' hesitation.
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), MINORITY LEADER: Their bill is such a mess and is proving so deeply unpopular that Republicans are playing a game of hot potato with it.
MURRAY: Now, all of the jockeying here is, of course, still far from over. Just today, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said it's possible the president could still seek changes to this bill before a vote. The president today met with moderate Republicans here at the White House and he has yet another chance to make his pitch tonight at the National Republican Congressional Committee Dinner. We'll see how persuasive he is.
Back to you, Erin.
BURNETT: We'll see if it is the art of the deal. Sara, thanks.
OUTFRONT now, Republican senator from Kentucky, Dr. Rand Paul. He's opposed to the current GOP plan to replace Obamacare and has offered his own alternative plan.
Senator, good to have you with me.
Our latest whip count right now in the House, 26 Republicans are officially voting no or leaning to no. Chair of the House Freedom Caucus, Mark Meadows, says he has no doubt he can stop the bill.
In your view, is there any chance this bill makes it out of the House?
[19:35:03] SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: No. I think we have 30 to 35 no votes in the House and I think either the House leadership will put it forward and lose or they will begin counting the votes very closely and decide not to put it forward. I think at that point, conservatives will have earned a seat at the table and then the real negotiations begin. What I think is going on so far are the pre- negotiations, but the real negotiations begin when we show them that they don't have the vote to pass their Obamacare light bill.
BURNETT: You said today you stand with the House Freedom Caucus, of course, in one of your tweet. We know President Trump has been courting members of that caucus, right, directly. He's been making with calls. He met with four of them at the White House. More meetings planned tomorrow.
Are you, Senator Paul, basically reaching out to them to resist his efforts?
PAUL: Well, we've been having a lot of discussions. What I will tell you from meeting with members of the House Freedom Caucus is they are a very independent bunch, a very principled bunch, and I think the fact that Paul Ryan and his political machine is now running ads against them in their races and in their districts, I think that's solidified them even more that this is a time in history when they have to go on their principles no matter what. You know, the establishment is going to do to try to defeat them in races.
I think they believe that we complained act Obamacare for six years that we should get it right, and that we shouldn't just form and pass something that's sort of a version of Obamacare, but doesn't fix the crucial problem that insurance rates are going through the roof, premiums are soaring. There's a death spiral in the individual insurance market. If we don't fix that, we're going to be blamed for now passing a version that may be no better than what Obamacare is doing.
BURNETT: So, you would do things like people can't stay on their parents' plan, an example, it's not in your bill. It obviously costs a lot of money. It keeps young, healthy people out of the system. You would make changes like that?
PAUL: No. I would try to develop a marketplace where the consumer would be king again. Right now, I do have a great deal of sympathy if there's a husband and wife and they have a plumbing business, if one of them gets sick, their rates go through the roof or they could be dropped, they're in an insurance pool of two people.
That's crazy. I don't want anybody in the individual market. I would empower everybody in the individual market to join a group plan.
Imagine this. There are 37 million people in AARP. What if one person negotiated a group plan for them? They would have enormous leverage to bring down prices.
I want the insurance company executives to come on bended knee to the consumer. I don't want the situation we have now where the consumer begs for insurance and if they get sick, they double and triple their rates. That happens under Obamacare, but it also will happen under Paul Ryan's plan if we don't actually fix the problem.
BURNETT: So, Senator, you're core to this. This has been your passion. You were on the show a couple weeks ago. As your interview was airing, as your show was on the air, President Trump tweeted about you. And what he said was, "I feel sure that my friend Rand Paul will come along with the new program because he knows Obamacare is a disaster."
Obviously he didn't win you over with that, you have not come along. This is Donald Trump versus Rand Paul.
PAUL: Well, actually, I see myself as on the same side of the president on this.
BURNETT: OK, but you're not. He's lobbying to pass the bill.
PAUL: Let me finish my though, let me finish my thought.
I would say we are united in believing a repeal. All Republicans are united and wanting to repeal Obamacare and I'm united with the president on that. We have some differences of opinion on replace. I want to replace Obamacare with market forces and with empowering the consumer.
Paul Ryan's plan replaces Obamacare with Obamacare-light, more government programs, more subsidies for the insurance companies. I'm not for that.
But I am for repeal. So, I think there is common ground. What I'm trying to find is that common ground.
BURNETT: OK, are you talking to him, though? He's putting everything on the line. Hi credibility on the line for this bill the way it is to pass, OK?
PAUL: We still have open lines of communication with the White House. I've talked to the president three times in the last week, talked to the vice president twice in the last week or two. We have open lines. I met with his representatives from the White House today.
So, we have open lines of communication. Our goal is to not defeat the president and really not to defeat Paul Ryan. Our goal is to repeal Obamacare and replace with something better. Our fear is that the Paul Ryan plan will still allow insurance rates, the death spiral, the upheaval in the individual market to continue, but he hasn't fixed the problem.
BURNETT: So, you recently handed out copies of the president's book "Art of the Deal" to members of the House Freedom Caucus, right?
BURNETT: You said you wanted them to learn from the master. But he's out there right now. He's in his element. He's selling the deal, as I said, calling members of the House Freedom Caucus as you are. He's trying to get them to vote yes.
Can you beat him at his own game with these guys?
PUAL: It's not about me versus the president. It's about the principles we've been running on decades, or for at least a decade.
[19:40:03] In 2010, the whole Tea Party insurgency that I was elected as part of was about repealing Obamacare. So, ultimately, we are in agreement but we're going to have to come to the understanding we disagree on what to replace it with. BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Senator Paul.
PAUL: Thank you.
BURNETT: And OUTFRONT next, Trump's pick for the Supreme Court takes on the president today. And why a Trump supporter who followed Trump to 45 rallies is jumping ship tonight.
BURNETT: Breaking news: President Trump's Supreme Court nominee Judge Neil Gorsuch calling out President Trump. Gorsuch, who is right now going into his tenth hour before the Senate Judiciary Committee, telling senators that attacks on judges' integrity are disheartening and demoralizing.
Judge Gorsuch has been getting hammered over his views on abortion, his ability to remain independent from the president.
Sunlen Serfaty is OUTFRONT.
NEIL GORSUCH, SUPREME COURT JUSTICE NOMINEE: No such thing as a Republican judge or a Democratic judge.
SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch steering clear of politics.
GORSUCH: A good judge doesn't give a whit about politics.
[19:45:03] SERFATY: Cross-examined by Democrats today, skeptical about his ability to be independent from President Trump.
GORSUCH: When I became a judge, they gave me gavel, not a rubber stamp.
SERFATY: On the president's recent criticism of federal judges, Gorsuch responded in public for the first time.
GORSUCH: When anyone criticizes the honesty or integrity, the motives of a federal judge -- well, I find that disheartening, I find that demoralizing, because I know the truth.
SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D), CONNECTICUT: Anyone including the president of the United States.
GORSUCH: Anyone is anyone.
SERFATY: And Democrats attempting to pin him down on the president's most controversial views, like the so-called travel ban, and if he thinks a blanket religious test is consistent with the First Amendment.
GORSUCH: Senator, a lot of people say a lot of silly things. SEN. PATRICK LEAHY (D-VT), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: That's more than
silly. That's a -- he wants -- this congressman wants you on the court so that he can uphold a Muslim ban.
GORSUCH: Senator, he has no idea how I'd rule in that case.
SERFATY: On Trump's promise as a candidate to appoint anti-abortion justices who would overturn Roe v. Wade.
SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D-CA), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Do you view Roe has having super precedent?
GORSUCH: It has been reaffirmed many times. I can say that.
FEINSTEIN: Yes, dozens.
SERFATY: Gorsuch saying he has not revealed his intentions to the president.
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: In that interview, did he ever ask you to overrule Roe v. Wade?
GORSUCH: No, Senator.
GRAHAM: What would you have done if he asked?
GORSUCH: Senator, I would have walked out the door.
SERFATY: And Gorsuch pushing back against Democratic criticism that he rules in favor of big companies.
GORSUCH: I wasn't in the man's shoes.
SERFATY: Ruling against a trucker who was fired for abandoning his broken down trailer in freezing temperatures to look for safety.
SEN. AL FRANKEN (D-MN), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: It is absurd to say this company is in its rights to fire him because he made the choice of possibly dying from freezing to death or causing other people to die possibly by driving an unsafe vehicle.
SERFATY: And late in the day, Gorsuch did display some uncharacteristic frustration at this whole process, saying that there's a lot about the confirmation process that he regrets, including putting his family through all this and lamenting that at one time, albeit a very long time ago, one Supreme Court nominee had a hearing that last a mere 90 minutes long, that a not-so-subtle dig at how long this marathon hearing has lasted for him and essentially sending the message, Erin, that this is no walk in the park. This will continue tomorrow as well. BURNETT: All right. Sunlen, thank you.
OUTFRONT now, the former Republican Senator Kelly Ayotte from New Hampshire. She's been crucial in guiding the Supreme Court nominee through the process.
And you, of course, have been sitting there, Senator, all day. There's an empty chair where you were.
KELLY AYOTTE, GUIDING JUDGE GORSUCH THROUGH NOMINATION PROCESS: Yes.
BURNETT: Ten hours, of course, it's continuing. You know, we just heard Judge Gorsuch take on the president for questioning a judge's integrity. He said anyone and that means anyone when asked specifically about the president, when they do that, it's disheartening and demoralizing. That sounds like a message he wanted to deliver loudly and clearly.
AYOTTE: Well, I think Judge Gorsuch made clear that he believes strongly in the independence of the judiciary. And, Erin, there's actually nothing new here. I've sat in many meetings where he said the same thing to Senator Blumenthal but to other senators who have asked him. And he's also made clear that he is not going to get involved in political matters, that he's not going to comment on any particular case.
But one of the themes you hear today from this hearing is that he's going to be an independent judge, that he feels very strongly about the independence of the judiciary, and he also is going to apply the law fairly to any party that comes before him.
BURNETT: So, during the campaign, Trump said he would appoint Supreme Court justices that will overturn Roe versus Wade, right? This is one of his promises. Today, when pressed, though, Judge Gorsuch didn't say that. He said, in fact, President Trump has never asked his opinion on a landmark case and he was very vague in terms of where he stands. Here he is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GRAHAM: In that interview, did he ever ask you to overrule Roe v. Wade?
GORSUCH: No, Senator.
GRAHAM: What would you have done if he'd asked?
GORSUCH: Senator, I would have walked out the door. It's not what judges do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: How confident are you, Senator, that Judge Gorsuch would try to overturn roe versus wade as Donald Trump promised his Supreme Court nominee would do? AYOTTE: Well, Erin, I think that a judge made very clear today that
he was not asked to give any promises by this administration or anyone else as to how he would rule on any case. The judge testified today before the hearing about that.
[19:50:00] He also said that during the process of being appointed -- excuse me, nominated to the Supreme, that he was not asked those questions about litmus tests. He doesn't believe in litmus test, and that he's going to be fair in considering obviously any case that comes before him and he's not going to pre-decide a case.
BURNETT: So, he said that, in fact, on a lot of topics. He was very vague. He didn't reveal his judicial philosophy, which, you know, some might say, well, that's totally fair. You shouldn't be revealing that. You don't have to give specific rulings, but you had revealed your philosophy.
Here is how he answered those questions today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GORSUCH: I have offered no promises on how I'd rule in any case to anyone. And I don't think it's appropriate for a judge to do so. I'm not in a position to tell you whether I personally like or dislike any precedent. My personal views I'd also tell you, Mr. Chairman, belong over here. I leave those at home.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: You know him. You've been in these meetings. Are you sure of his philosophy, of his opinions?
AYOTTE: I'm very sure. I've gotten to know him well. I'm sure that he's a man of integrity. I'm sure that he's a judge's judge.
And when he testifies today, that he is not going to pre-decide any case, that he will treat everyone who comes before him fairly, that he will apply the law, that it's Congress' job to pass the law and he is really someone who is going to be in my opinion an excellent judge should he be confirmed to serve on the Supreme Court. And you've heard that today really in his testimony, that he wants to make sure that he is fair to everyone who comes before him and that he applies the law that is passed by Congress fairly.
BURNETT: All right. Senator, I appreciate your time. Thank you and good to see you again.
AYOTTE: Thank you very much.
BURNETT: And next, a Trump supporter who followed his candidate to 45 rallies, now totally different tune.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Do you play this guitar anymore?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nope.
COHEN: Why not?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've lost my heart to play the Trump songs.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[19:56:05] BURNETT: And now, you're looking at live pictures out of Washington. President Trump speaking at the National Republican Congressional Dinner. You see him there. That is live. Just moments ago, urging Republicans to come together ahead of Thursday's vote on the House health care bill.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: It really is a crucial vote for the Republican Party and for the people of our country, to finally repeal and replace the disaster known as Obamacare. That's what it is, a disaster.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: This also comes as some loyal supporters of Trump now find themselves at odds with him because of their support for Obamacare. For one man, an issue that hits close to home, a man who went to 45 Trump rallies, a true supporter.
Elizabeth Cohen is OUTFRONT.
ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Craig Moss was a true believer in Donald Trump.
CRAIG MOSS, TRUMP SUPPORTER: A hundred percent Trump supporter. There is no other choice.
COHEN: During the presidential campaign, he followed Trump to 45 rallies across the U.S.
MOSS: Trump train --
COHEN: And he did it for a very personal reason.
MOSS: I think the moment I found my son Rob J.R. Moss dead in his bed and it was devastating to me.
COHEN: His son Rob died of a heroin overdose in 2014. He was 24.
TRUMP: We will help all of those people so seriously addicted. We'll get them assistance.
COHEN: Moss believed Trump's campaign promises, especially when Trump reached out to him at a rally.
TRUMP: And I know what you went through. And he's a great father. I can see it. And your son is proud of you. Your son is proud of you.
COHEN: But moss is a Trump supporter no more.
Tell me about this guitar. Do you play this guitar anymore?
COHEN: Why not?
MOSS: Not on the Trump trail anymore and I -- I've lost my heart to play the Trump songs.
COHEN: Moss, who believes his son might still be alive if he'd had health insurance, can't believe Trump supports the Republican health care plan. It would increase the number of uninsured Americans and it would end the Obamacare requirement that the 31 states with expanded Medicaid cover addiction services.
JOSHUA SCHARFSTEIN, JOHNS HOPKINS BLOOMBERG SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH: There's no question that this legislation in the House of Representatives would cost many American lives.
COHEN: At CNN's town hall, Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price said Medicaid doesn't have to be the solution. He's asked state governors to come up with their own plans to cover addiction treatment.
TOM PRICE, HHS SECRETARY: There are wonderful ways I believe to address this in a positive way if we keep our focus on the patient, not on government, on the patient.
COHEN: But Moss has lost faith.
MOSS: I believed everything he said.
COHEN: And now?
MOSS: Now, I don't -- I don't believe that he was true in his word when he was speaking. I think he was looking for votes, to be honest with you. It's not at all what Mr. Trump promised everybody he was going to provide for us, and I feel that now. Anger -- I feel hurt inside.
COHEN: Now that moss has changed his tune, the only song he wanted to sing for us is a song he wrote in memory of his son.
COHEN: Many Americans rely on the government for addiction services. In 2014, one out of every four Americans who were treated for addiction were on Medicaid -- Erin.
BURNETT: Stunning statistic.
Elizabeth, thank you very much. Moving piece. And thanks very much, of course, as always all of you for joining us.
"AC360" with Anderson starts right now.