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Struggling to Find Health Care Votes; Damage to Trump's Agenda; New Tech is no Slouch; White House Battling Credibility Problems; President Afraid of Stairs. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired March 22, 2017 - 08:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[08:30:00] KAREN FINNEY, FMR. SR. ADVISER & SPOKESPERSON, HILLARY FOR AMERICA: Good morning.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Let me start with you. Let's just talk about what's happened in the past week because sometimes it's important to check in because these weeks are so filled with news. So here's just the past challenges for President Trump over the past week. Director Comey confirms that the FBI is investigating Trump/Russia ties. He says there's no evidence of Mr. Trump's wiretapping claim. The support for the GOP health care, as we know at this hour, is floundering. The travel ban has been challenged in federal courts. And there's been criticism for his so-called skinny budget. Do you think those first two, in terms of what Comey testified to, are getting in the way of the others? Meaning, these distractions getting in the way of his legislation?

JOHN PHILLIPS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, first, I'll have to hide my disappointment that "Saturday Night Fever" Cuomo isn't wearing a lime green leisure suit this morning.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Underneath this one.

CAMEROTA: It's white. He is wearing a white (INAUDIBLE).

CUOMO: You don't know what I have on underneath.

FINNEY: Too much information.

PHILLIPS: There's one thing - there's one thing I've learned about Trump voters in these first days of his administration. That is, they do not care about any of the subjects driving the Democrats crazy. They don't care about the Russian allegations. They don't care about the taxes. They don't care about any of that stuff. They do care about this health care bill and they have a lot of the same concerns that Rand Paul has. They want what Trump was campaigning on. They want a lot of those promises fulfilled. One of the things that he said he was going to do was bring back free market principles to health care. Well, if you're turning things back over to the state health commissioners, those aren't free market principles. I feel more comfortable with my health care in the hands of Conrad Murray than the California insurance commissioner.

CAMEROTA: Oh, boy. PHILLIPS: We also heard about selling it across state lines. That's not in this bill. We also heard about tort reform. That's not in this bill. He said he's going to put pressure on Republicans that don't vote for it. Why not do it the opposite way and put all of this stuff together and force the Democrats to filibuster it and then put all the pressure on Heidi Heitkamp, put the pressure on Joe Manchin, put the pressure on the Democrats, not the Republicans. We're doing this thing backwards.

CUOMO: Well, right, but it all threads together, doesn't it, Karen, because the reason that they're not doing what John astutely points out is because they want a big win. They want it now. They believe it will create momentum to get him into other agenda items. But there's a problem, their credibility -

FINNEY: That's right.

CUOMO: And the ability to sell this and the ability to stay focused have been marginalized -

FINNEY: That's right.

CUOMO: Usually by the president himself. How big an obstacle?

FINNEY: That is a huge obstacle and you've heard Republicans echo that sentiment time and time again. I mean here's part of the problem, and I think - as we're seeing President Trump's numbers start to - well continue, I should say, to decline, we're also seeing people being concerned about the fact that when we're spending time talking about or his administration is trying to defend a tweet from two weeks ago that, you know, as it unfolds, turns out to be just patently untrue, that's time that the Republican caucus is not spending either fixing the bill and doing their own politics to get it the way they need it because, remember, most of the problems at this point are among the Republicans. Certainly Democrats have real issues with the legislation, but it's the Republicans' infighting that's really halting this process. And they do need a big win and it's unlikely that I think we're going to see that big win.

And one of the big concerns I think you have here from Republican House members in particular, you've got president - you know, the president out there saying he's going to come after them if they don't vote for this. But if I'm a House member and I know that I won my district in a pretty solid margin and I know that the people in my district are concerned about some of the things or will be concerned about some of the things in the legislation, why am I going to go with President Trump and Paul Ryan? I'm going to stick to my guns and do what I think is best, you know, for my district. And I - and you're seeing that sentiment expressed, in many cases confidentially, people are talking about this. And I think that's their big problem and that's really what's standing in the way of the win, both - a possible win, a real distraction from President Trump and a bad piece of legislation that I think a lot of members know is not going to be good for their constituents.

CAMEROTA: Hey, John, do you think that given some of the baseless accusations that we've heard coming from the White House, do you think that the president has lost any credibility?

PHILLIPS: Well, the people that he needs to vote for this bill right now are Republicans, and he has a lot of credibility with Republicans. If he can keep the Republican side of the aisle together, then he can push this thing through the House and into the Senate. Now, you just showed the chart. It looks like he's right there on the Mendoza line as to whether or not he'll get the required votes. And I think there are still changes that need to be made to this thing. There are changes that will be made in the House. There will be more changes that need to be made in the Senate if it gets out of the House because there are real legitimate concerns that his supporters, I'm not talking about people that hated him, I'm not talking about people that didn't vote for him, people who voted for him, people that supported him, people that continue to support him have serious reservations about this bill.

[08:35:04] CUOMO: Right. But, John, part of it is credibility. Let's be honest. I mean people went to these meetings yesterday with him who were on the fence at best and they're like, yes, he's entertaining. That was great. He was really in his element. And then they didn't change their minds. Karen, and that's what it gets down to. This isn't a reality TV show.

FINNEY: That's right.

CUOMO: This is about creating reality through what you're able to persuade your fellow lawmakers.

FINNEY: That's right.

CUOMO: Do you think he can get it done by tomorrow?

FINNEY: I don't think he can. I mean, again, if you look at what's happening in the country, and speaking about people who were Trump supporters even, and if I'm a Republican in Congress, this is what I'm looking at. The Affordable Care Act, Obamacare, is more popular than this president at this point. And what is being proposed is creating a lot of anxiety among - because it's bad legislation - among Republican members of Congress. So in terms of credibility - I mean, look, we are 60 days in and look at that list that you just presented a few moments ago about the trouble that this president has had.

In terms of credibility, again, I think if you're a Republican House member, why are you going to do potential damage to yourself among your own voters with a bad piece of legislation that, by the way, may not - you may get forced to take a hard vote that then - on something that doesn't even get through the Senate. Then you're really in trouble. So I think this credibility issue is very important and I think people are looking at the fact that this president is losing credibility with his own supporters the longer his presidency seems to go on.

CAMEROTA: Yes.

PHILLIPS: Well, I don't think so.

CAMEROTA: Ten seconds, John.

PHILLIPS: I think the - the credibility issue is, does he have the credibility to convince us that he's going to go back on the back end and get us tort reform and allow us to buy insurance policies across state lines. That's the credibility issue that he has to convince Republicans on.

CAMEROTA: John, Karen, thanks for the debate.

FINNEY: Thanks.

PHILLIPS: Thank you.

CUOMO: All right, look, there is no question that the White House is dealing with a credibility crisis, period. Is President Trump's trouble with the truth the biggest problem for him in motivating his agenda? With all the controversy surrounding the actual plans, is his ability to be believed even more important? Let's get "The Bottom Line."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[08:41:04] CUOMO: Time now for the "Five Things to Know for Your New Day."

President Trump twisting arms, threatening jobs to win support for the GOP health care plan. The full house is set to vote tomorrow night, but Republicans don't have the vote yet for the measure to pass.

CAMEROTA: Supreme Court Nominee Neil Gorsuch will face a third day of questioning. On Tuesday, Gorsuch stressed his judicial independence, calling President Trump's attacks on federal judges, quote, "disheartening" and "demoralizing."

CUOMO: North Korea test firing another missile. This one failed just seconds after launch. U.S. and South Korean officials are trying to determine the type of missile and what went wrong.

CAMEROTA: Illinois lawmakers falling six votes short of a bill - of passing a bill to make former President Obama's birthday a state holiday. The sponsor says she may reintroduce the legislation if she finds more support. Chicago will be home to the Obama Presidential Library.

CUOMO: Sad news, legendary game show creator Chuck Barris, the man behind the "Gong Show," "The Newlywed Game," "The Dating Game," he's passed away. A family publicist saying he died of natural causes. Chuck Barris, 87 years old.

CAMEROTA: Oh, my gosh, what a life, what a career there.

For more on the "Five Things to Know," you can go to newdaycnn.com for the latest.

So, how will the White House address the growing credibility problem and the president having some trouble with the truth, many people say. We get "The Bottom Line" on that, next.

CUOMO: But first, a bay area startup is turning mom's nagging to sit up straight, don't slouch, into a wearable device. I wasn't talking to you.

CAMEROTA: Well -

CUOMO: CNN's Rachel Crane puts this new technology to the test in this "Tech-ing Care of Your Health."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RACHEL CRANE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's a small device that promises big gains for your back health.

CRANE (on camera): Oh, there I go.

Can you describe to me how this whole system works?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So Luma Lift attaches to your shirt magnetically and when you slouch it will vibrate to remind you to straighten up. Also, it connects to an app on your smartphone and on that app it will track your posture habits. It helps you to be aware of your posture so that you can self-correct and develop the muscle memory to hold yourself in a good form.

CRANE (voice-over): While posture devices like this one may be helpful, physical therapist Carina Woo (ph) has concerns.

CARINA WOO: You have to remember to charge it, put it on and actually use it and then you have to remember to attend to it because of how easily one can ignore sensory stimuli once you get used to it. It's more about making the conscious effort to say, oh, you know what, let me sit up with good upright posture because I know my health will be better in the long run.

CRANE (on camera): After having worn this thing, I realize that I've got a long way to go until good posture like this is my new normal.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[08:47:35] CUOMO: A scathing editorial in "The Wall Street Journal" this morning saying President Trump is in danger of being considered a fake president. How much does the president's problem with the truth stand to hurt his agenda?

Let's get "The Bottom Line." CNN's senior political analyst Mark Preston.

You heard the question. What's your take?

MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, I mean his credibility is certainly in question right now, if not in tatters. If you lose "The Wall Street Journal," Chris and Alisyn, as you know, you are in deep trouble right now. And for our viewers out there that don't know how it all fits together, the corporate puzzle, "The Wall Street Journal" is owned by Rupert Murdoch, which is a sister company of Fox News, very conservative editorial page. So in order for Donald Trump to get through his agenda, you know, not only is he dealing with a Supreme Court nominee that looks like - who is going to get appointed, move on to the court, he's trying to get health care through. But in addition to that, if we go back to his campaign promises, he's talking about tax reform, a billion dollar infrastructure bill, he's got the Middle Eastern turmoil right now, he's got North Korea, which is unpredictable at best, and then you have the credibility issue, which could cause him not only problems with the American people, but people within his own party.

CAMEROTA: I don't know, Mark. We just had conservative radio host John Phillips on who said he doesn't have a credibility problem with Republicans and that's certainly not the stumbling block for why they wouldn't vote for this health care bill. They don't like the health care bill. It's not because they think that the president doesn't have a credibility problem. And he went further to say that his base says like wiretapping Russia, blah blah blah, they're concerned about their pocketbooks, as we know.

PRESTON: Well, there's a little bit of truth to that, and John is a good friend and I take his analysis, but I don't agree with his analysis, because let's just listen to what "The Wall Street Journal" said, again, a conservative barometer of where people are going. "If he doesn't show more respect for the truth, most Americans my collude he's a fake president." Key word right there, "most Americans." Meaning, he may still keep some of his base, which he does have a high approval rating with Republicans right now, but he could still see an erosion of credibility amongst Republicans who are not so enamored with him.

CUOMO: And what's the difference between where Preston is and Phillips is? It winds up being a little bit of what your lens is. You know, John used an interesting analogy in making his point, the Mendoza line -

PRESTON: Right.

CUOMO: The Mendoza line from baseball about being below 200. I think Mendoza was like 215 lifetime.

CAMEROTA: (INAUDIBLE).

CUOMO: But the point is, if you fall below that level of batting average -

CAMEROTA: Yes.

CUOMO: Then you've got a real problem. You're seen as being inert offensively.

[08:50:01] CAMEROTA: Yes, but John's saying he's not there yet. That he's not there.

CUOMO: Right, but I'm saying, he's setting a very low bar.

CAMEROTA: As you (INAUDIBLE), Mark, he has like an 80 to 90 percent approval rate with Republicans. That's not a credibility problem. And, in fact, by the way, one more thing, in terms of getting the votes by tomorrow for the health care bill, you know, people have counted Donald Trump out before and he's pulled off the votes in surprising ways.

CUOMO: But it wouldn't be Trump. This is more Ryan than Trump in terms of whipping those votes.

PRESTON: Right.

CUOMO: Look at the people's reactions when they came out of the meetings yesterday. Oh, it was entertaining. It was good. Do you feel different about the bill? No.

CAMEROTA: He flipped two. He flipped two. Darrel Issa's no pushover.

CUOMO: Did - but was it him? But was it him? Or was it him or was it what they put into the bill on Ryan's side, Mark?

PRESTON: Right, but - but even to add in the credibility to issue to him able to prevent 21 Republicans from defecting and not voting for the bill, imagine if Donald Trump had a lot more credibility, if President Trump had a lot more credibility with Republicans, perhaps he wouldn't have to worry about it or it wouldn't be such a big issue.

But, Chris, you're right, you know, this is a Paul Ryan issue. He's the one who has to whip the votes. He's the one while getting aid from the White House to try to get this bill through, he's the one who needs to do it. And, you know, there's a good chance tomorrow night we are going to see a vote that could last hours upon hours as they're trying to get Republicans to stay with them.

CAMEROTA: OK. So if Ryan - so you're saying this is Ryan's responsibility. If this vote doesn't pass, Donald Trump won't be blamed, Paul Ryan will?

PRESTON: I think that Paul Ryan is going to be blamed certainly within Washington, D.C., and - but I do think that this is a major loss for Donald Trump who's somebody who predicted it was going to get through and even went so far as to basically threaten Republican members, as you said earlier in the show, that if they don't vote for this bill, he's going to come after him.

CAMEROTA: Right.

PRESTON: And you know what, I believe that Donald Trump is going to go after Republicans who don't vote for this - vote for this bill.

CUOMO: You know, it's interesting, in the beginning there was all this talk about why isn't it called Trumpcare, you know, and the suspicion was, well, the president wasn't - doesn't want his name on it because it may not pass. You hear just as often, Mark, I'm sure, from that middle lane and farther right lane on the conservative side where they weren't asking for it to be called Trump either. They don't know that it's a plus.

PRESTON: Yes. No doubt. I mean it's radioactive. You know, with the good you get Donald Trump, you get support, but there's bad with Donald Trump as well, and, you know, again, that goes to the whole issue of credibility. But, you know, Chris, I do have to say before we leave, if you were to get into a pushup contest with Anthony Scaramucci, who do you think would win? Because Alisyn texted me and said she thinks Scaramucci would win.

CUOMO: She didn't text you that. She never texts during the show. That's me. I would have done it.

CAMEROTA: That was a telltale sign. I don't text.

CUOMO: It's not even a contest.

CAMEROTA: Well -

CUOMO: More time wouldn't help him there either.

CAMEROTA: Anthony Scaramucci really wanted that to happen but for some reason Chris wasn't making that happen.

CUOMO: He was desperate for anything to work. He was hoping for a broken - he was hoping more time may help.

CAMEROTA: You missed the Gloria Gaynor reference. That was just as good. But, anyway, Mark, thanks so much for "The Bottom Line."

PRESTON: Thanks, guys.

CAMEROTA: See you soon.

CUOMO: All right, we've got a good "Good Stuff" for you. You're going to want to see this, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[08:56:45] CUOMO: Time for "The Good Stuff."

An American family's trip to Rome leads to an unforgettable moment courtesy of a three-year-old greeting the pope. The story, Pope Francis walks over - look at your screen - says hello to Estella Westrick (ph). The pope kissed her. She grabbed the zucchetto on his head.

CAMEROTA: Oh.

CUOMO: Estella is in Rome visiting her godfather. He says the moment had everyone laughing, including il papa.

CAMEROTA: That -

CUOMO: Watch.

CAMEROTA: Is awesome. CUOMO: I'll take that.

CAMEROTA: Oh, my gosh. That is fantastic!

CUOMO: Boy, oh, boy.

CAMEROTA: Oh, he has such a great demeanor.

A case of chivalry or a phobia? A theory about why President Trump grabbed the British prime minister's hand now getting the thumbs down. CNN's Jeanne Moos explains all this.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Whether it be not shaking German chancellor's hand or clutching the hand of Britain's prime minister, President Trump's hands seem to end up in headlines. For instance, the BBC headline, "Donald Trump is scared of stairs?" "Scarecase" chortled one British paper back when President Trump took Prime Minister May's hand as they navigated a ramp at the White House. Seems British government sources told the British press that President Trump held May's hand because he has bathmophobia (ph), a fear of ramps and stairs. A fear common to household pets. That's President Bush nudging Barney. The Trump stairs jokes were ramped up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Finally an explanation for all those escalators.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Escalators are great. They're really, really amazing. And I've been told I look really great on them.

MOOS (on camera): Ever since first hearing about the phobia rumor, I've become slightly obsessed with watching President Trump watch his step.

MOOS (voice-over): Really watching his step coming down the stairs of the Capitol, even while climbing just a couple of steps at the White House, coming off his plane, eyes on his feet, clutching the railing. He once noted how President Obama used to jog down the stairs, "hopping and bobbing all the way is so inelegant and unpresidential. Do not fall."

President Obama caught himself while Gerald Ford and Hillary didn't. When asked if the president has fear of stares, a White House spokesperson said, "no offense, but this is an absurd question." And now Britain's prime minister has told "Vogue," "I think he was actually being a gentleman. We were about to walk down a ramp, and he said it might be a bit awkward." The prime minister throws cold water on the bathmophobia theory. Guess that means we can cancel that ban on steps.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All new houses will have to be single story. No stairs.

MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're really great. (END VIDEOTAPE)

CAMEROTA: Stair-o-phobia, I never heard of it, but you can make a case for it.

CUOMO: Yes, I bet you it's not even called that. All the phobia's have those weird names, but I think it's the least of his concerns.

CAMEROTA: Really?

CUOMO: Yes.

CAMEROTA: You agree with the White House saying this is an absurd question?

CUOMO: No, I think no question is absurd, but I think that with everything else he's facing, a little bit of caution is a good thing.

CAMEROTA: Interesting, Chris. All right, go out on a limb with that one. All right. Wow. That's important.

The hand pat was also interesting.

[09:00:01] CUOMO: Time for CNN "NEWSROOM." Wolf Blitzer continues our coverage right now.