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House Set to Vote Today on Obamacare Repeal; Trump Associates Linked to Moscow?; Terror in London. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired March 23, 2017 - 04:30   ET



[04:30:23] ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: Will the Republican health care plan pass the House today? Members of the Freedom Caucus are optimistic, but moderates jumping ship. Can the president get the party on the same page to repeal Obamacare seven years after it was signed in law?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking overnight, new information, brand new information into CNN suggesting some of the president's associates may have communicated with Russia in an effort to release damaging information about Hillary Clinton.

BRIGGS: And London is in mourning and on alert today. A terrorist stopped while trying to storm the Houses of Parliament, but not before leaving several dead. We're live in London.

Welcome back to EARLY START on a big breaking news day. I'm Dave Briggs.

ROMANS: Good morning, everybody. I'm Christine Romans. It's 31 minutes past the hour.

History will be made today, one day -- one way or another. Either Republicans will take their first vote to actually repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act or we could see a staggering blow to the seven-year GOP campaign against Obamacare and perhaps to the entire Trump agenda.

The White House and Republican leaders now deep into a furious last ditch campaign to turn no votes by members of the ultra-conservative Freedom Caucus into yes votes.

BRIGGS: One critical issue at this point, ending so-called essential health benefits that require Obamacare and every insurance policy. More on what those are in just a moment.

But right now, there is still no deal. But Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows suddenly sounding upbeat that one will be made soon.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. MARK MEADOWS (R-NC), CHAIRMAN, HOUSE FREEDOM CAUCUS: I'm really optimistic that we can get there. I mean, there are still a lot of details to work out, Sean. And so, to say we've got a deal, that wouldn't be accurate.

The president and I came to agreement in principle. I think what we are trying to do now is make sure that our agreement is actually something that can be executed in a way that passes the Senate.


ROMANS: While Meadows, a conservative, is changing his tune, some moderate Republicans are now sounding an alarm. After a late meeting with House Speaker Paul Ryan, Congressman Charlie Dent, the chairman of the moderate Tuesday group announced he is now opposed to this bill.

So, with all of the give and take, here is where things stands at the moment on this version of the bill to repeal Obamacare. According to CNN's ongoing whip count, 24 House Republicans have said they are flat out noes. Another four say they're leaning against. That makes 28 lawmakers in the definitely or likely no column. Bu, but, but, but -- this could change quickly, even fluctuate wildly if the Freedom Caucus flips to supporting the bill.

BRIGGS: As for the president, himself, aides say he is not involved in all of the details of the legislation. One tells CNN, quote, "Either he doesn't know, doesn't care or both." But they say he is deeply into selling the bill and, quote, "appears energized by that."

For the latest on all the wheeling and dealing on Capitol Hill, let's bring in CNN's Phil Mattingly.


PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Dave and Christine, a day of furious lobbying behind closed doors, text, calls, all of the above, appearing to reach a break through or at least step forward between the House Freedom Caucus, those conservatives who said they were not going to support the health care bill. Leadership Speaker Paul Ryan and the White House all coming together to agree perhaps changes should be made.

Now, guys, there's no question, there's still work to be done. But just the fact that leadership is open to changes to the bill is a major, major step forward. President Trump has been on the phone with House Freedom Caucus members trying to get them onboard as well. White House staff, leadership staff, House Freedom Caucus staff all working behind closed doors to try and reach a deal on this moving forward.

The big issue here now: essential health benefits. This was something that was in Obamacare that House leaders did not think they could include in the House bill for procedural reasons, now, that is in play. The question is, is that enough to bring conservatives onboard or will they ask for more? Dave and Christine?


ROMANS: So. just what are the essential health benefits that may hold the key to final repeal and replace deal? There are ten of them that Obamacare requires as part of every insurance policy. So, a standard of care in every health insurance policy.

Among the things insurers currently must cover by law, you must be able to have maternity coverage, mental health and prescription drugs. Republicans have long argued that eliminating that essential benefit would reduce premiums and give consumers more choice. Imagine you are a woman in your 50s, you don't need maternity care coverage.

The conservative wish list was not in the original repeal bill because Republican leaders want to measure -- they can pass the Senate by simple majority vote via the reconciliation process. Reconciliation is limited to federal budget items, and Republicans fear it will be hard to argue insurance regulations are a budgetary matter.

BRIGGS: So, then, how do the benefits make it to the table? We're told it was a concession from the White House and Republican leadership at the end of the very long stalemate between the White House and the House Freedom Caucus. But given an inch, Freedom Caucus members are looking for more concessions, like eliminating another costly Obamacare requirement, coverage for pre-existing conditions.

ROMANS: And that's what makes Obamacare, Obamacare.

BRIGGS: And that's a deal breaker for many moderates in the House and Senate.

ROMANS: But that is what makes Obamacare popular when you --

BRIGGS: That and staying on your parents insurance until the age of 26.

ROMANS: Absolutely.

BRIGGS: Those seem to be starting points for many on this bill.

ROMANS: A new analysis shows out of pocket cost could rise if the GOP health care bill is passed. The average deductible for a typical individual policy would rise to 61 percent to $4,100. This is according to the analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation that was first published in Axios. Another -- under Obamacare, the average deductible is $2,550.

Now, the foundation cites three reasons why this would happen. First, the Republican plan eliminates subsidies. Those subsidies helped lower income enrollees cover the costs of deductibles and co-pays. Those subsidies go away.

Second, Obamacare forced insurers to offer plans of lower deductibles, but higher monthly premiums. With that rolled on, Kaiser expects insurers to offer more plans with higher deductibles. Those two factors would drive consumers to the high deductible plans, and since the Republican tax credits aren't as big as the Obamacare subsidies, that means people would pay more out of pocket.

In a CNN town hall last week, Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price criticized rising deductibles under Obamacare and said it prices people out of getting health care. But you are seeing these health care economists, these health care think tanks are very carefully crunching these numbers, trying to figure out with all of these moving parts of health care and this reform, what really does happen to premiums.

BRIGGS: And many in that House Freedom Caucus are worried that premiums are going to skyrocket those first two years, up to 25 percent. So many moving parts in this thing.

ROMANS: Absolutely.

All right. In other news, breaking overnight, new fallout from the investigation into the Trump campaign's ties to Russia. U.S. officials tell CNN the FBI now has information indicating associates of President Trump communicated with suspected Russian operatives to possibly coordinate release of damaging information about Hillary Clinton during the 2016 presidential campaign.

How much evidence does the FBI have? Where did this come from? How much damage could it do to the White House?

CNN's Pamela Brown is part of the team that broke this story. She's got more from Washington.


PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Dave and Christine, U.S. officials tell CNN the FBI has information that indicates associates of President Donald Trump communicated with suspected Russian operatives to possibly coordinate release of information damaging to Hillary Clinton's campaign. FBI Director James Comey as you recall, made his bombshell announcement Monday before Congress that the FBI is investigating the Trump campaign ties to Russia.

So, the FBI is now reviewing that information which includes human intelligence, travel, business and phone records and accounts of in- person meetings. So, the information is raising those suspicions of FBI counterintelligence investigators that the coordination may have taken place, so officials cautioned that the information is not conclusive and that the investigation is ongoing. There is still more work to be done. The FBI would not comment nor would the White House. Though Trump officials denied there is any evidence of collusion.

Mostly, the FBI is focused on the stolen and published e-mails by WikiLeaks, including the DNC and Clinton campaign's John Podesta, which as you'll recall started last July. U.S. officials said the information being investigated was not drawn from the leaked dossier of unverified information compiled by a former British intelligence official that was compiled for Trump's political opponents, though the dossier also suggested coordination between Trump campaign associates, as well as Russian operatives.

So, this investigation is ongoing, but this is what we're told in terms of what's going on within the FBI as of now with this counterintelligence investigation -- Dave and Christine.


BRIGGS: So many developments. Pamela, thank you.

All of this came down as another stunning controversy unfolded on Capitol Hill.

Now, big questions about whether the House Intelligence Committee probe of Russia's meddling into the election has been compromised. That's because House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes announced communications involving President Trump and his associates may have been incidentally collected by intelligence agencies conducting surveillance on foreign subject after the election.

Nunes said to be steaming at the intel he read, personally rushed to brief Mr. Trump on the new development without informing his Democratic counterparts.

[04:40:09] We're told Nunes ignored pleas from other Republicans to wait to go public before he spoke to Democrats.

Listen to Nunes defend his actions.


REP. DEVIN NUNES (R-CA), CHAIRMAN, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: It concerned me enough to notify the president because it was he and his transition team that were involved in this. And he needs to see those reports. These are intelligence reports that were widely disseminated. It's not fair for him not to know what's in these reports while the past administration and many agencies do know.


ROMANS: The ranking member of the House Intel Committee, Democrat Adam Schiff, insists Nunes has cast a profound cloud over efforts to investigate Russia's meddling, and he claims evidence of collusion during the election is building.


CHUCK TODD, MEET THE PRESS: But you admit, it's a circum -- all you have right now is a circumstantial case?

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: Actually no, Chuck. I can tell you the case is more than that and I can't go into the particulars but there is more than circumstantial evidence now. So, again, I think Director Clapper --

TODD: You have seen direct evidence of collusion? SCHIFF: I don't want to go into specifics, but I will say that there

is evidence that is not circumstantial and is very much worthy of investigation.


ROMANS: President Trump says he feels, quote, "somewhat vindicated" by what Nunes told him. There also questions about whether Nunes should have revealed the information to the president at all since it was based on intelligence collected under a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court warrant.

BRIGGS: Many suggesting he gave the president political cover, at the very least muddied the water here. What's the end result?

Well, John McCain now wants a select committee to investigate collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. It may have hurt the boss in the long run.

Also, a terror attack in Britain striking out the capital at the Houses of Parliament. The new working theory after anti-terror raids overnight. We'll get the latest live from London.


[04:46:18] BRIGGS: Breaking news: officials in Britain say their working theory about the terror attack in London is it was ISIS- inspired. Overnight, police conducting terror raids connected to that attack, arresting seven people at six locations in London and Birmingham. The attack left three people dead and dozens injured when a man plowed his car into the crowd of people before trying to storm the Houses of Parliament.

CNN's Nina dos Santos tracking the latest developments live from New Scotland Yard in London.

Good morning to you Nina. Very much an ongoing situation this morning.

NINA DOS SANTOS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right. The capital is at the moment in the midst of a very significant counterterrorism investigation. One that has seen members of London's Metropolitan Police have to be called back from their vacations to make sure that they have as many people as possible to protect the streets of London, but also to dedicated to this fast moving investigation.

And speaking of the latest details that have emerged over the course of the hour or so since the Metropolitan Police gave us a press conference, you mentioned yourself that there have been six raids that had taken place in the capital, in the Birmingham and beyond, several people have been arrested. Although despite that, the Metropolitan Police still believe that the attacker acted alone and, as you said, was inspired by Islamist international terrorism.

At present, it seems as though that police have an idea who the attacker was but they are not releasing his identity. They also urged members of the media to do the same and exercise caution to not name him publicly until they have the police's word.

What we know is an updated death toll here, Dave. Three members of the public, innocent people lost their lives, two members of the public, one member of the police force, which means that the Metropolitan Police have also lost a colleague and it's only that particular person whose identity has been named. Forty-eight-year-old Keith Palmer who was protecting parliament, he was the police officer attacked with the knife and tragically lost his life.

We also understand that a man in his 50s lost his life after struck by the vehicle on the bridge and woman in her 40s as well. For the moment, though, police are not releasing identified ties because they say there's a mix of nationalities involved and they therefore have to go to the right diplomatic processes.

I should point out messages of condolences for London, coming in right around the world. Theresa May has fielded phone from people like the prime minister of Japan, the U.S. President Donald Trump also expressing his condolence on the telephone and also in characteristic fashion in a tweet as well. And in Paris, the Eiffel Tower had the lights turned out in solidarity with the people of London. Dave.

BRIGGS: Nina, thank you. We'll check in with you, next hour.

ROMANS: All right. Four big companies are pulling ads from some Google platforms. They are very upset and what Google is trying to do to win them back. A check on CNN Money Stream, next.


[04:53:34] ROMANS: All right. After 20 plus hours of intense grilling, questioning over two days, the questioning phase of the confirmation hearing is over now for Judge Neil Gorsuch. Today, the Senate Judiciary Committee hears from witnesses both for and against Gorsuch being named to the Supreme Court. In his final day of testimony, Gorsuch kept refusing to tip his hand on how he might rule in the future despite frustration from some Democrats.


JUDGE NEIL GORSUCH, SUPREME COURT JUSTICE NOMINEE: If persons coming to this table, this rather lonely table in this rather big room, have to make promises or hints or previews or nudges and gestures about how they will rule in cases, then I don't know where we are as an independent judiciary. It's like a campaign promise for office it seems to me. You know what? It hasn't happened so far. The precedent in the area is strong.


ROMANS: The question now, can Senate Republicans get eight Democrats to support Judge Gorsuch to reach the 60 votes needed for confirmation. If not, they could invoke the nuclear option and change the rules to require only 51 votes. BRIGGS: Team USA dominating Puerto Rico, 8-0, to capture its first

ever World Baseball Classic title. The Americans had never finished better than fourth since this tournament begun in 2006.

Ian Kinsler of the Detroit Tigers got things started for the U.S., with a 2-run bomb here in the third inning.

[04:55:08] The United States was off and running. All they needed as far as offense because Marcus Stroman of the Toronto Blue Jays was unhittable. No hitter into the seventh inning to shutdown a potent Puerto Rico lineup.

A brilliant, emotional performance by Stroman who could have pitched for Puerto Rico. His mother is Puerto Rican. She took abuse online when her son decided to pitch for Team USA.

But what a dramatic win for him and for this country. No matter what happened, this is a win for baseball as a whole, because this tournament was so embraced, so passionate, so wild in the stands. It's just a win for the sport.

ROMANS: I'll believe you.

BRIGGS: You didn't see much. It was late.

ROMANS: Baseball's not my sport.

BRIGGS: All right. Back to Neil Gorsuch for a moment. As we reported, Gorsuch has been straight laced during two days of questioning except for one moment yesterday. When he was asked by Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse of the role of the Declaration of Independence.

Now, Gorsuch responded with a reference to John Hancock. Listen carefully though.


GORSUCH: No one remembers who John Hancock was, but they know that's his signature, because he wrote his name so bigly -- big and boldly.

SEN. BEN SASSE (R), NEBRASKA: You just said bigly.


SASSE: And I just won 5 bucks.


GORSUCH: You embarrassed me in front of my nephew and he loves it.

SASSE: He's the one that paid me the 5 bucks.


(END VIDEO CLIP) BRIGGS: Bigly, which, of course, if you don't know, something many feel that Donald Trump has said many times over the recent months.

ROMANS: But does he say bigly?

BRIGGS: He says big league, but bigly is the way it sounds.

ROMANS: It sounds like bigly with his New York accent.

BRIGGS: It's nice to see some lighthearted moments there. He talked about mutton busting on Tuesday. They've even asked about his bladder control.

ROMANS: Bronco busting. Mutton busting, I learned a lot.

All right. Let's get a check on CNN Money Stream this morning. Stock futures are mixed at the moment. Investors big paused a rally for now as the vote on health care looms. That is important indicator of how tax reform may go.

So, Wall Street watching very closely here. Global markets are also mixed this morning.

President Trump's pick to lead the SEC faces lawmakers today. That's the Securities and Exchange Commission. And they likely ask him how he will police some of the same Wall Street firms he defended as a lawyer. This is you know, the SEC, that's the top cop for Wall Street.

Jay Clayton advised Goldman Sachs on its government bailout. His wife also works there. He worked with Bear Sterns in 2008 fire sale to JPMorgan Chase. He worked with Deutsche Bank, which was charged in $10 billion Russian money laundering scheme, and Valeant, a drug maker accused of being the Enron of the pharma world for alleged fraud.

If he is voted in, Clayton will likely a big role in helping President Trump deregulate the financial industry. If Clayton is confirm, he will replace Mary Joe White. To be fair, she was a superstar lawyer nominated by Obama in 2013 after years of representing big companies and big banks.

Google is facing a growing backlash from advertisers after it was discovered that ads were placing next to videos posted by extremists and hate groups. Companies include Verizon, car rental firm Enterprise, Johnson & Johnson, and AT&T, which we should mention has entered a deal to buy the parent company of CNN, Time Warner.

Now, they aren't pulling their ads on Google search, just once on certain Google-owned platforms like YouTube. It all stems from an investigation last week by "The Times" newspaper in London. That investigation revealed that some ads are being placed near inappropriate terrorist inspiring content on YouTube, much of which was posted by religious extremists, a Ku Klux Klan member, and other controversial groups. Google has since apologized and is boosting resources for reviewing content to make it easier for brands to control where their ads appear. If you are looking for brand management, that is not something you


BRIGGS: Yes, nice to see they are making that fix.

A busy day. EARLY START continues right now.


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

ROMANS: Frantic hours here of negotiation. Exactly seven years after President Obama signed his landmark namesake health care bill, Republicans are on the verge of repealing it. It is not a done deal yet. Can President Trump strike a deal that satisfies conservatives without sending moderates running for the exits?

BRIGGS: Good morning and thanks for getting an EARLY START with us. I'm Dave Briggs.

ROMANS: And I'm Christine Romans. A lot going on today, it's Thursday, it's March 23rd. It's 5:00 a.m. in the East.

History will be made today one way or the other. Either Republicans will take their first vote toward actually repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act, or we could see a staggering blow to the seven- year GOP campaign against Obamacare and perhaps to the entire Trump agenda.