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President Presses Republican House Members to Pass Health Care Bill; Interview with Congressman Warren Davidson; Interview with Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired March 22, 2017 - 08:00   ET


[08:00:05] TIMOTHY O'BRIEN, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, BLOOMBERG VIEW: I think at the end of the day the only people he really trusts in the White House right now are Ivanka and Jared. I think absent those two people, who are both family members, he's always going to be suspect of other people, which means he's not going to be able to build teams and coalitions. He's not going to be able to take advice. And you need to do those things to run big bureaucracies regardless of what you are ideologically or whatever party you're from.

MIKE D'ANTONIO, DONALD TRUMP BIOGRAPHER: But do you think that that's why Ivanka was elevated this week, why she's finally got an office and a security clearance.

O'BRIEN: Of course. And, by the way, they were planning to give her that office shortly after the Election Day. They've denied from the beginning they wanted to create an office for her there.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: What does that mean for Steve Bannon and those people, that they're not long for this administration?

O'BRIEN: Possibly, possibly.

CAMEROTA: Tim, Michael, always interesting to talk to you both. Thank you very much for being here.

We're following a lot of news this morning, so let's get right to it.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They want a tremendous health care plan, that's what we have.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thursday will be the day, repeal and replace.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I am still a no vote.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The bill is still bad.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In politics, if you get 85 percent of what you want, that's pretty darn good.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nobody is above the law, that includes the president of the United States.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm asking you a question, please answer questions.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: If Judge Gorsuch can't achieve 60 votes in the Senate, could any judge?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have serious questions about Mr. Manafort, his relations.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's nothing there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The question of credibility hangs over the White House.

TRUMP: If it's off by one-hundredth of a percent I end up getting Pinocchios, right?


ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, welcome to your NEW DAY. It's Wednesday, March 22, 8:00 in the east. Up first, a critical test for the man who frequently touts his deal-making skills. Our president, Donald Trump, issuing a stern warning to his party, repeal Obamacare or you could get fired. The president wrapping up efforts to win over some skittish Republicans ahead of tomorrow's critical vote on health care assuming it gets done. Let's look at the vote count right now. CNN's latest whip count has 21 Republicans voting no, another five leaning no, and Alisyn, impressive is they liked the president but it doesn't seem that he's changed enough minds.

CAMEROTA: We will see today. He still has 24 hours to do it. But with so much at stake for the president's credibility and legislative agenda, there is this blistering "Wall Street Journal" editorial out this morning that assails President Trump's credibility and says most Americans may ultimately conclude Mr. Trump is a fake president if he doesn't change his tune.

So we are now in day 62 of the Trump presidency. Let's begin our coverage with Suzanne Malveaux live on Capitol Hill. Good morning, Suzanne.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Alisyn. There are competing narratives on the Hill today. What is happening in just two hours is the Republican bill will go before the House rules committee. Its job is to adopt the amendments before it goes to the full House tomorrow. In the same hour, Alisyn, we're going to see former vice president Joe Biden joining Congressman Nancy Pelosi and other Democrats to celebrate what they are saying is the seventh anniversary of the signing of Obamacare. All of this while the president continues to push for this legislation as quickly as possible.


TRUMP: It really is a crucial vote for the Republican Party and for the people of our country. MALVEAUX: In the most important political test of his presidency yet,

President Trump in full sell mode, twisting the arms of skeptical Republican House members to vote yes on the bill to repeal and replace Obamacare.

TRUMP: The American people gave us clear instructions. It's time to get busy, get to work, and to get the job done.

MALVEAUX: The president testing out his own brand of deal making in a closed-door meeting on Capitol Hill. GOP members giving Trump a standing ovation, party loyalists gushing.

REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: The president just came here and knocked the ball out of the park.

MALVEAUX: Ultimately using humor, threats, and public shaming to sell the American Health Care Act to his own party. The president warning House members they could lose their seats next year if the Bill doesn't pass.

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.

MALVEAUX: President Trump even calling out the chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, Mark Meadows, for publicly denouncing the bill. The president cautioning Meadows "I'm coming after you." But Meadows and others are still a hard no.

REP. MARK MEADOWS (R), NORTH CAROLINA: There still are not enough votes to pass this particular bill.

REP. JIM JORDAN (R), OHIO: The president did a great job and I appreciate the president, but the bill is still bad.

MALVEAUX: Even after tweaks were made to the bill to appeal to more conservative and moderate Republicans.

REP. TOM GARRET (R), VIRGINIA: What I don't get is the impetus that this must be done right now on Thursday, some sort of do or die date. It's not.


MALVEAUX: And the house needs 216 in order to pass and lose no more than 21 Republican votes. By CNN's count there are 19 Republican no's. There are seven who are still on the fence.

[08:05:06] Now, the Senate Republican leadership, including Senator John Cornyn who I spoke with yesterday, they are trying to project confidence, saying they believe this will pass the House, but that is far from certain. But they want to make sure they get their hands on the bill next week. Alisyn?

CAMEROTA: OK, Suzanne, thank you very much for all of that. Let's discuss it with Republican Congressman Warren Davidson of Ohio. He is a member of the House Freedom Caucus. How will he vote? Let's ask him. Good morning, congressman.

REP. WARREN DAVIDSON (R), OHIO: Hi, Alisyn, how are you today?

CAMEROTA: I'm well. Has President Trump convinced you to get on board?

DAVIDSON: You know, I'm a fan of President Trump. I campaigned for him in Ohio. He's well liked in our district, but this plan is not well liked in Ohio.

CAMEROTA: So you're a no vote?

DAVIDSON: Correct.

CAMEROTA: Has the president contacted you?

DAVIDSON: He's not contacted me personally. I was present when he spoke to the conference in the morning yesterday and I was also present when he spoke at dinner last night.

CAMEROTA: OK, so let's talk about that, because we've heard from some people that he was quite persuasive and convincing, and in fact to Darrell Issa and Tom McClintock did change their votes. So what did he say to you all?

DAVIDSON: He talked about the importance of doing what we said, repeal and replace Obamacare. And I think, you know, our whole conference is united in that's what we need to do. The question is, does this bill do that? And the fact that phase two leans so heavily upon secretary of health and human services shows that we haven't repealed in the phase one. And everything depends on a central planner, basically, that we like. And the reality is if we don't take action we'll be stuck with the same top down one size fits all government that Republicans always have always campaigned against.

CAMEROTA: What could the president say today in these last 24 hours to get you on board?

DAVIDSON: This is a framework that is driven in part by the Senate rules, and this has pushed this to be a little different than what Republicans really want. And so the real cautionary thing here is we end up doing something that gets through the parliamentary rules of government, i.e. the status quo, instead of doing the change that we all talked about.

And so I think one of the important things is that when you talk about one size fits all government, we've done a lot of things to deal with who pays, how much do they pay, what portion of the cost is shared. We haven't really done enough to drive down cost for consumers. And that's the big thing, the pocketbook issues that affect families. The cost of health care is what's really hurting people.

CAMEROTA: So it sounds like the president can't say anything today to get you on board.

DAVIDSON: No, he's been in dialogue with Republicans, with conservatives, and this deal has continued to become a better deal. So I will say that House leadership and the president have worked with members of Congress, with members of the house to continue to make this a bitter deal not just for the people in Congress but, because they're representing their districts, a better deal for the American people, and I'm optimistic we can do that.

CAMEROTA: OK, so you think there might be changes or modifications in this next 24 hours that would allow you to vote yes tomorrow?

DAVIDSON: I'm optimistic. I think everybody wants to be yes on this when votes are called.

CAMEROTA: The president is as we've heard using the carrot and the stick. He's being persuasive with people, but he is using the stick against some members, Mark Meadows in particular. It was a closed- door meeting so we don't have the actual videotape, but here's the quote of what the president said to him yesterday, "I'm going to come after you, but I know I won't have to because I know you'll vote yes. Honestly a loss is not acceptable, folks." How do you interpret that "I'm going to come after you"?

DAVIDSON: He said it with a smile, it was a bit of a joke. But there's a serious message there. And I think that what he also said is and what he said all along is he wants to have a good deal. He wants to do what he told people, and I think he does want to do what it takes to get Mark Meadows and the rest of the freedom caucus and the rest of the body here to be united.

Frankly, I think we want ideally at least 237 outspoken salespeople for this bill, and we're a little ways away from that. Even people that are yes are very tentative in their yeses, and it doesn't do what everyone really wants. So some people say that's the art of a good compromise, but a deal no one likes to me is -- why do a deal no one likes?

CAMEROTA: Yes, but when the president says he's going to come after you, he means you, basically -- he didn't use your name, but he means you. And so are you worried about him campaigning against you, say?

DAVIDSON: I'm pretty new to this. I'm like a red shirt freshman. I just got in in June. And so he's well-liked, he's well-liked in my district, this plan is not well liked, and I think people can differentiate between the two.

CAMEROTA: Do you? Let's talk about some of those rallies that he has. If he goes to your district and he has one of his standing room only rallies, how vulnerable does that make you?

[08:10:06] DAVIDSON: I don't think he does. I would love to host him in our district. We would love President Trump to come there. He's very well liked. But people can say we're not expecting everyone that goes to Congress to move lockstep and agree. We didn't campaign necessarily on a pretty catch phrase like "repeal and replace." What I told people at home is we need to fix the health care problem. This bill won't do that entirely, it won't fully repeal it and it won't fully replace it. And I think we need to be honest with people, because if we're not and we go out and tell people we've repealed it and replaced it and Thursday this is a done deal, they know better. They know this hasn't happened.

And then two years from now when premiums go up we're left with the impression that that's what Republicans wanted, and that's far from it. And our leadership is saying that either. They're saying there is a phase three, but somehow that gets lost in the messaging. So we really do need to continue to improve, and the net effect needs to be, how do we get costs under control for families, how do we get more options so they're not stuck buying a one size fits all plan with the same set of essential benefits, and so they can choose a low cast plan and add features as they want as their lifestyle changes or they age and move through the phases of life.

CAMEROTA: I understand that that's your dream plan, but your leadership is also saying this is it. This is the moment, this is the closest we're ever going to get. So if it doesn't pass, then what?

DAVIDSON: I think if it doesn't pass we'll look at what it takes to get a better plan. We are very committed to solving this problem. We campaigned on it in 2010, 2012, 2014, 2016. So the issue is this falls a bit short. This was a better plan. The rough draft of this plan was better than what Obamacare is. So if we wanted to stop and say, yes, but it's better than Obamacare, we would not have made the improvements that have already been made to it, and I'm optimistic we can still make it better yet.

CAMEROTA: So you think the House Freedom Caucus has enough fire power to stop this, say no to the vote tomorrow, make it not happen, and then come up with something better and make everybody happy.

DAVIDSON: If we had 216 votes, I don't think the president would have been in the capital yesterday.

CAMEROTA: There you go. Congressman Warren Davidson, thank you. We'll be watching very closely to see what happens in the next 24 hours. Thanks for being here.

DAVIDSON: Thank you.


CUOMO: It's like everyday matters so much on such a large scale. Look at today. Another marathon day ahead for Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch. He did 10 hours in the chair yesterday. We're going to talk to one of the Democratic senators who have been questioning Gorsuch. Democratic whip Dick Durbin is next. Is he impressed? Will the Democrats vote for this nominee?


[08:16:22] CUOMO: All right. So, President Trump's Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch largely unscathed, you could say, after more than ten hours of questioning before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Gorsuch reiterating he could rule against the president if the law required it saying no man is above the law, including the president. He also renewed his criticism of Mr. Trump's attacks on federal judges.

Joining us now is Democratic whip, Senator Dick Durbin.

Senator, always a pleasure to have you on the show.

Thoughts on Gorsuch at this point?

SEN. DICK DURBIN (D), ILLINOIS: Well, of course, he's very gifted. He has a great background and service as judge and he's very smooth and very folksy and personable in the witness chair.

We have tried -- this is my fifth time going through this experience. We've tried to ask him some basic questions to understand how he might rule in the future. He's fended off most of our questions and, you know, given us the basic reply, I'll just take the facts and apply them to the law and then we'll come out with a good result.

CUOMO: But that's what they all say.

DURBIN: That's exactly right.

CUOMO: So it's hard to hold him accountable to a standard that you guys have allowed with pretty much every judge, isn't it?

DURBIN: Well, it's very difficult. I mean, he -- you can't force him at the point of a gun to answer a question. You try your best to understand what's behind his nomination.

And, in this case, there are interesting facts we know -- and no one has disputed. He was chosen by the Federalist Society and the Heritage Foundation to make the president's list that was announced during the campaign.

We know that he went through the gauntlet at the White House; Steve Bannon and Reince Priebus, the president himself. And they pronounced him their choice when it was all over.

Reince Priebus, the president's chief of staff, said not that he was a judge that would rule without fear of favor; he said, no, he's a judge who has the vision of Donald Trump, whatever that might be.

And then they launched this $10 million-plus dark money effort nationwide to promote his nomination.

So there's something there in his background, something that he has said or done that convinces the right wing of American politics that he's worth the investment.

CUOMO: Or they just believe that there's a consistency in his jurisprudence that shows he respects the Constitution as is, which, for a lot of purists, like the Heritage Foundation and others, is enough. And I think it's very instructive to your point that this wasn't necessarily something that Trump came up with; it was offered up to him as Gorsuch.

You know, Republican Lindsey Graham seemed to do a little bit of your labor yesterday on the Democratic side, drilling down on Roe v. Wade. Let's play it.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: In that interview, did he ever ask you to overrule Roe v. Wade?


GRAHAM: What would he have done if he had -- if he had asked?

GORSUCH: Senator, I would have walked out the door. That's not what judges do.


CUOMO: "Walk out the door," don't come around now, you're not welcome anymore. We all know the song.

But did that response work for you from Judge Gorsuch, that Roe v. Wade litmus test, he's not having it?

DURBIN: Come on, Chris. Lindsey Graham is a gifted lawyer himself and he asked the question just right so that, at the end of the day, we have no idea where Judge Gorsuch is on Roe versus Wade on women's health care and critical issues. And it was asked in a way he -- you know, he wouldn't ask you to overrule it, of course.

You know, that's the kind of blunt instrument no president's going to use with a Supreme Court nominee.

But let's be honest. Throughout the campaign, Donald Trump said over and over again, I'm going to appoint a judge in the Supreme Court who's going to reverse Roe versus Wade.


CUOMO: Right. I mean, I think it raises an interesting question for Democrats; we'll see if it gets asked today.

[08:20:01] Because of this presumption and it's easy for you to make manifest the reality that the judge choice for Trump was going to have to have a certain disposition on Roe v. Wade, at least optically, was it incumbent upon Judge Gorsuch to offer up to the president his feelings about Roe v. Wade because of this assumption of his disposition?

Be interesting to see what he says.

But at the end of the day, are you going to vote for him or are you going to test the 60-vote measure and see what happens?

DURBIN: I can tell you this, today is another day of questioning and I think there will be some important issues that will be raised.

But at the end of the day, we each have to make a decision as to whether this man should have a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court. It is not an easy call because it's the deciding vote in a 4-4 court. And I'll withhold my final judgment until this is -- hearings are over.

CUOMO: What's your sense about whether or not they get the -- what do you need, eight Democrats to come on?

DURBIN: At this point I don't believe that there are eight Democrats supporting Judge Gorsuch but Chuck Schumer told us all, wait until the hearings are over, let's do this professionally, let's do it responsibly. I think that's the right approach.

CUOMO: Let me ask you something about how the Democrats are or are not playing to advantage. These questions about Paul Manafort, we've heard them from different lawmakers; we've have a report this morning in the AP, saying that there is a contract that he had for services with a certain Russian, aluminum magnate, for about $10 million a year. It's raising questions; Manafort says he did not do political work for Russia.

Do you think you'll be able to make a case against Manafort? Or are you risking a misfire?

DURBIN: Well, listen, this is an AP story, this is not an announcement by the FBI or by any federal agency. But what it boils down to is this: this has been a terrible week for Donald Trump and his presidency.

When his FBI director repudiates his own tweet about a wiretap by President Obama and says, no, it's not fake news; we have a real investigation about the Russian involvement in the Trump campaign, you know, that sort of thing is historic in its impact.

And now with Manafort's connection, the dots are appearing; whether we can connect them depends on the real investigation.

CUOMO: Right, but you know the old line that sometimes a lot of dots means blurry vision. You know, this is not CNN's reporting, it's AP's. All we know about Manafort is that he denies all of it.

And it raises this question, yes, the FBI director did you guys a favor politically by saying there is an active investigation about Russian connections and the Trump administration/campaign staff.

But at the end of the day you're going to have to put some meat on the bones of those allegations to keep it going, won't you?

DURBIN: Well, let me tell you, I don't think Jim Comey went there to do us any favors. He went there to really challenge what the President of the United States is saying, that this was fake news.

Fourteen intelligence agencies started this by announcing months ago that the Russians, in fact, were setting up to elect Donald Trump and defeat Hillary Clinton.

Now you say, what are the Democrats going to do to fill in the details of the investigation? Well, the intelligence communities are working with this but I really think the Federal Bureau of Investigation is the place to turn and we need a special prosecutor on the criminal side of this as well as an independent bipartisan commission to look at the whole issue.

CUOMO: Well, help me out with that. Two takes on the same point.

The first one is, why do you need a special prosecutor if there is no underlying crime that you can point to?

That's why you'd have a special prosecutor --


CUOMO: Go ahead, answer that. Yes.

DURBIN: I can just tell you that. If you're going to have an investigation, a thoughtful investigation, that gets to the bottom of it, you know, it usually is guided by a prosecutorial office that is watching as this case is unfolding and developing.

CUOMO: And that you have in the FBI and the DOJ.

DURBIN: We certainly have it in the FBI. But who is the boss of the FBI? The attorney general. Now we have a recusal by Jeff Sessions.

And who is in charge? Dana Boente, who is the acting attorney general at this point? Is it going to be Rosenstein --

CUOMO: As the number two.

DURBIN: -- who is being nominated? Or is it -- I would say someone who is independent of both of them, independent of the administration, who will guide this investigation if there is any criminal development.

CUOMO: Last point: what do you make of the suggestion that, if we are allowed more time, there may well be information that comes out that justifies the president's suggestion about what the Obama administration did to him and his people?

DURBIN: You know, I have to tell you, this is a fantastic tweet that's gotten more mileage than it ever deserved. There is no evidence -- underline the word "no" evidence -- of what the president said being true.

And to spend or waste our time on this at this point is only a diversion from the reality. The reality is, the president was wrong, should never have said it and he has really, you know, challenged his own credibility.

At this point, the next question is, what is a serious investigation about? It's about the Russian involvement, which our intelligence agencies back up.

CUOMO: Senator Durbin, appreciate the perspective as always. DURBIN: Thank you.

CUOMO: Alisyn?

CAMEROTA: Chris, you worked a Gloria Gaynor reference into a Supreme Court confirmation hearing.

CUOMO: Yes. I did.

CAMEROTA: Wow. I mean --

CUOMO: It's only Wednesday, too.

[08:25:02] CAMEROTA: Tomorrow might they have night fever.

CUOMO: Sugar Hill Gang, I could go anywhere.

CAMEROTA: I know you can. That was impressive.

One day to go until a vote on health care, can President Trump get the GOP plan over the goal line or do his distractions get in the way? We'll discuss that next.



DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: 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.


CAMEROTA: OK, the House vote on the GOP health care vote is only two days away now. CNN's latest whip count shows 21 Republicans voting no. Five others are leaning against it. The GOP can only afford to lose 21 votes.

So, can President Trump turn it around?

Let's discuss with former senior adviser ad senior spokesperson for Hillary for America, Karen Finney, and CNN political commentator, talk radio host and political columnist for "OC Register", John Phillips.

Great to see you both.

John --



CAMEROTA: Let me start with you. Let's just talk about what happened in the past weeks, because sometimes it's important to check in because these weeks are so filled with news.