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Congressman Nunes Stuns Washington, Under Fire; House to Hold Vote on Health Care Reform Bill; Interview with Congressman Greg Walden; President Trump on the Truth & Falsehoods. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired March 23, 2017 - 08:00   ET


[08:00:03] EVAN PEREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The FBI is now reviewing that information which includes human intelligence, travel, business and phone records, and accounts of in-person meetings. The information is what raised the suspicions of the FBI counterintelligence investigators that coordination may have taken place, though officials caution that the information is not conclusive and the investigation is still ongoing. Now, the FBI would not comment, nor would the White House, though we've heard from Trump officials that they've denied there's any evidence of collusion.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: So Evan, does this give us more insight into what Director Comey was saying or alluding to when he spoke to that committee on Monday?

PEREZ: That's right. It really does. If you recall, in addition to what Comey said about the investigation looking into connections of Trump associates, he also explained what it means for this investigation, that it is being done. Take a listen to what he said to the committee.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don't you need some action or some information besides just attending a meeting, having been paid to attend a conference, that a picture was taken, or that you traveled to a country before you're open to investigation for counterintelligence by the FBI?

JAMES COMEY, FBI DIRECTOR: The standard is, I think there's a couple different at play -- a credible allegation of wrongdoing or reasonable basis to believe that an American may be acting as an agent of a foreign power.


PEREZ: One law enforcement official says that the information in hand suggests, quote, "People connected to the campaign were in contact and it appeared that they were giving the thumbs up to release information when it was ready." But other officials who looked at this information say it's premature to draw that inference from the information that they've gathered so far because it's largely circumstantial. The FBI cannot prove that collusion actually took place. But the information suggesting collusion is now the focus of this investigation. CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Let me ask you something, Evan. What do you

make of Nunes going to the White House and the press with information that wasn't new, right, which is that some of Trump's subordinates may have been caught in ancillary surveillance? That's how they got Flynn. That's how they knew about these contacts in the first place. So that wasn't new. But he didn't talk about your reporting and the underlying reason for it. Does it start to feel like this was a stunt? It was to help the White House narrative, not necessarily give the late of the information?

PEREZ: It seems to implode what Nunes was trying to do with that committee. At this point we don't know who these associates were that were being investigated for this possible collaboration or coordination. The FBI has already said it's investigating four former Trump campaign associates including Michael Flynn, Paul Manafort, Roger Stone, and Carter Page for contact with Russians known to U.S. intelligence. All four have denied improper contacts.

But Chris, one of the obstacles that the people we're talking to say that the FBI now faces in finding any kind of conclusive intelligence is that the communications between Trump's associates and Russians have ceased in recent months giving all the public focus on Russia's ties to the Trump campaign. And some Russian officials who they've been watching have also changed their methods of communications which is going to make it all that more difficult for the FBI to monitor what they're doing. Chris?

CUOMO: Appreciate it, Evan. Let us know what the next turn is in this investigation.

So you have the facts of it and then you have the politics of what's going on when it comes to Trump's spy claims. House Intel Chairman Devin Nunes definitely revealed that the private communications of Trump's transition team may have been intercepted by the U.S. Intel monitoring foreign officials.

This is how they got Flynn. This is how they knew about the contacts. So is that really new information to the White House as Nunes suggests? What is new is that Nunes at the head of the committee did not go to his own committee before going to the press and the White House. And that's where we got to CNN's Joe Johns live at the White House with more. Can't think of another occasion when someone running a committee went to the subject of the committee before vetting information with his own investigators?

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it's pretty interesting, Chris. Nunes says he had a duty to alert the president because this information had nothing to do with Russia and had everything to do with surveillance.

But look, you have an FBI investigation going on that Evan Perez was just talking about. You have the whole country watching to see how congressional Republicans are going to handle their own investigation. And then the chairman of the House Intel Committee does this. It certainly raises questions about the ability of this House Intel Committee to conduct a fair and impartial investigation. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOHNS: House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes stunning Washington.

REP. DEVIN NUNES (R-CA), CHAIRMAN, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: I thought it was important for the president to know this.

JOHNS: Rushing to the White House to warn president Trump that communication involving members of his transition team may have been picked up through normal incidental surveillance, apparently all legally conducted.

[08:05:08] NUNES: It does appear like his name and people -- and others ended up into intelligence reports. Most people would say that is surveillance.

JOHNS: Nunes himself, a member of the president's transition team, under fire for going to the media before briefing Democratic members of the House Intelligence Committee.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We can't have a presidential whisperer.

JOHNS: The White House immediately seizing on Nunes' statements.

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: There's a lot of questions that I think his statement raises.

JOHNS: The top Democrat on the Intelligence Committee angrily responding to the Republican chairman's actions for potentially politicizing their bipartisan investigation into Russia's interference in the last election.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), RANKING MEMBER, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: The chairman will need to decide whether he is the chairman of an independent investigation into conduct which includes allegations of potential coordination between the Trump campaign and the Russians, or he's going to act as a surrogate of the White House, because he cannot do both.

JOHNS: President Trump responding to the revelations.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you feel vindicated by Chairman Nunes coming over here?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I somewhat do, I must tell you I somewhat do. I very much appreciated the fact that they found what they found.


JOHNS: Nunes repeatedly has said this information he disclosed yesterday has nothing to do with the president's bogus claim that President Obama wiretapped him. And new this morning, there was an interview between President Obama and "TIME" magazine in which the president was asked about his relationship with the truth. We have a graphic. He was asked is there anything different about making these kind of predictions without having the factual evidence as president? And President Trump responds, "I'm a very instinctual person but my instinct turns out to be right." Chris and Alisyn, back to you.

CAMEROTA: We'll have that reporter on with us to share his take on that very telling interview soon. Joe, thank you very much.

Now to the showdown over health care. In just hours the House is expected to hold a cliffhanger vote on the GOP's plan to repeal and replace Obamacare. But Republicans at this hour are still divided. CNN's whip count has 28 Republicans voting against the ill or at least leaning that way.

CNN's Suzanne Malveaux is live on Capitol Hill. What is the latest, Suzanne?

SUZANNE MALVAEUX, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Alisyn. House Republicans are all set for this vote later tonight. But what's interesting is there is no particular time set. They're leaving that potentially open-ended. In the meantime, the issues at hand are new here. We're talking about the requirements for health care to cover things like maternity leave, hospitalization, mental health, and even prescription drugs. These are all potential concessions to conservatives to bring them on board.


MALVAEUX: Down to the final hour, President Trump trying to reunite Republicans on the American Health Care Act.

REP. MARK MEADOWS (R), NORTH CAROLINA: Really optimistic that we can get there. There's still a lot of details to work out.

MALVAEUX: After vowing to vote no, the chairman of the House Freedom Caucus now says he could close the deal with the White House.

MEADOWS: To say that we've got a deal, that wouldn't be accurate. The president and I came to an agreement in principal.

MALVAEUX: Conservatives like Meadows want to strip the Obamacare provision of essential health benefits, something they say will lower the cost of premiums. But satisfying these conservatives could mean jeopardizing support for more moderate Republicans.

REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: We feel like we're getting really, really close.

MALVAEUX: House Speaker Paul Ryan behind closed doors, who are angered by some of the proposed changes. A key figure in the moderate pool, Representative Charlie Dent, delivering a blow, declaring he will oppose the plan, saying in a statement, "I believe this bill in its current form will lead to the loss of coverage and make insurance unaffordable for too many Americans." The White House, though, remains optimistic.

SPICER: Member by member we're seeing tremendous support flow in our direction and the count keeps getting stronger.

MALVAEUX: And in a final effort to sink the bill, billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch pledging millions of dollars to help reelect Republicans who vote against the bill.


MALVAEUX: And Trump countering on really giving pressure here, pressure for members of Congress to get on board, tweeting this morning here, "You were given many lies with Obamacare. Go with our plan. Call your representative and let them know you're behind the American Health Care Act." And President Trump later today again will be meeting with the House Freedom Caucus, the conservative group, about 11:30 this morning to see what is it that they need in order to sign on to this bill. Chris?

CUOMO: All right, Suzanne, thank you very much. Joining us right now, Republican Congressman Greg Walden of Oregon, one of the architect of the GOP's health care bill. Big day, thank you for joining us, Congressman.

[08:10:02] REP. GREG WALDEN (R), OREGON: You're welcome. Good morning, Chris. Good to be with you.

CUOMO: So do you think that you will have the vote today, tonight, and do you think you can get the votes?

WALDEN: I think it's yes to both questions. A lot of work has gone into this over many months, not just the last 24 hours. But you know how these things have come together. The president has been extraordinary in his direct involvement as has Secretary Price and Vice President Pence and the others in the White House have been very involved, meeting with members of all persuasions, frankly, on this to put together a plan that is the best plan for the American people. And that's what we're moving forward on. We believe it will come to the floor today and we believe we'll have the votes.

WALDEN: A couple of conceptual issues that seem to be creating divisions even within your own party. The first is, some of the concessions just put in, taking out mandatory coverage provisions, whether it's mental health or maternity leave, essentially allowing someone to price a plan to their own needs. That sounds good to a lot of people who want to see their premiums come down, but it would be a material change, would it not, from the notion of shared sacrifice, that by all of us being in the pool, even if some of us don't need certain points of care, it reduces the cost for all overall. Are you changing that on purpose?

WALDEN: Yes, Chris. So those are obviously very important protections in the current law. But there are also protections when I was in the state legislature we made sure we were available in many cases. We want to make sure people have access to more plans. As you know, plan providers are pulling out of the markets. There are states going forward that may have no option on the Obamacare exchange. Premiums in my own state have gone up 50 percent in the last two years. And while we have a couple of plans left on the exchange, I worry

about areas where one of three counties in America, they're down to one plan. So we have to make adjustments here. And I'll tell you, I've heard from a lot of people all over the country about the fact that they're forced to buy a plan that has provisions in it that they don't need, don't want. And some are walking away. If you look at the data, by a two to one margin, 20 million people say no, I'll pay a penalty and take the exemption and not buy insurance. And that's hurting the market and that pooled sacrifice.

So we're trying to find the balance here where we have essential protections, and those are, I understand that. But we can do that through the state regulators and allow a little more flexibility in these plans so they're more affordable and that people will take them up. That's how we get to the pooling that you and I would agree is really important.

CUOMO: But speak to that a little bit more deeply. But the give seems to always include a takeaway. You remove the mandate. So now you're going to have a lot of young people or people who are willing to risk it not enter in. The CBO run fairly, includes those people as losing coverage. However, that would be volitional. That would be a choice. But you're giving the choice by removing the mandate, and the reason it was in the ACA, just so you get the full context of the question, when they put these provisions into the ACA because states weren't doing it on their own, right, the uniform coverage wasn't there for too many people, so they mandated it. Speak to those points.

WALDEN: They're really good points. So of those who chose not to buy insurance, in fact, think about this, Chris. People are paying $695 a year to the IRS so they don't have to buy this insurance product under the Obamacare exchange. And 45 percent of those who said -- who have taken that option to pay the IRS and not take Obamacare are under the age of 35.

So we know the way it's set up today, the exchanges are getting smaller, not larger. Options are more expensive, not more affordable. And younger people are saying no thanks, not interested in what you're buying.

So we're trying to adjust this carefully to make sure that there are other options out there that work to get people into coverage they can afford with a deductible they can afford to pay. And remember, this is in context of just what we can do in reconciliation. We've passed legislation to allow small businesses to group up in the association health plans. I was at a radio station for more than 20 years. We always provided insurance for our employees. But I never had the ability to group up and get buying power. I wanted that as a small business owner. So we're looking at this from a broader context than just what we can do in this bill to accomplish the goal you're talking about.

WALDEN: And then you have a larger what Elijah Cummings just called a moral argument on this issue, which is, you know this very well because of your state experience, but if you take money out of the Medicaid system, no matter how you want to define it, you're going to wind up having people that don't have the money for coverage.

And yes, I understand, well, we're going to give it to states, the states have more choice. But you know what you're hearing from the governors of the states who need Medicaid expansion. They're saying we don't have the money. We barely could deal with it before, now you're giving us even less. Is there a moral argument to be made here that you're making a choice, which is we're OK with millions of people who are poor not getting coverage to lower the premiums for some other groups.

WALDEN: So let me take it from two different directions. One is first what we started with, the essentially benefits. When we run for the governors, many governors including the governor of Ohio, Kasich, said please give us relief from the essential benefits. We can design better plans here that will work for Ohioans.

[08:15:10] Other state governors wrote us and said the same thing. That's an area where we think we have common ground. And they think they've come to us and said, please give us.

On the moral question, here is the one that should be asked. Under Obamacare what the federal government said, if you're an able bodied adult, the federal government will pay 100 percent to the states to put you on Medicaid. That resulted, by the way, in some people who had insurance being forced onto Medicaid when they didn't want it. That's the 5 million to 6 million that had insurance and lost it in some cases. Some of that was different because of the way the insurance market was crafted. But some of them got pushed onto Medicaid when they had insurance.

And they said 100 percent. Now, in my state if you're aged, blind, disabled, do you know what the match rate is from the federal government? The federal government says, we'll pay 63 percent, in other states, it's 50 percent.

Now, that's the moral question. Should we spend 100 percent or 90 percent at the end of this ten-year window on able bodied adults, or should we shift that and try and put money into the aged, blind and disabled. So, we said, for example, on people, seniors in nursing homes, we're going to pay not only cost of medical inflation, but cost of medical inflation plus one, because we heard from people that said, look, that's a little more expensive population to manage, same for disabled.

And so, we plused that up. We have $100 billion going to states over the next ten years, including $30 billion over the next two years before, by the way, we make any changes in the subsidies and support that are there for Obamacare.

So, I think we've got a balanced plan here that will work for people.

CUOMO: Well, we're waiting on the CBO score. It was supposed to come out. It didn't.

WALDEN: Right.

CUOMO: But that main question that you'll have to deal with, politically, is -- you have more people covered or less.

Congressman, appreciate you making the case on NEW DAY. The devil is in the details. You're always welcome to discuss the policy.

WALDEN: Thank you, Chris.

CUOMO: All right. Be well.


CAMEROTA: OK. So, up next, a big scoop for a "TIME" magazine reporter who has a one-on-one interview with president Trump. What the president is now saying about his baseless wiretapping claims and the other wild allegations he's made. That reporter joins us next.


[08:20:46] CAMEROTA: President Trump sitting down yesterday with "TIME" magazine shortly after House Intel Chairman Devin Nunes briefed him -- well, had a press briefing about his team's communication being picked up by U.S. surveillance.

When asked about his baseless wiretapping claims, President Trump told the reporter this, "When I said wiretapping, it was in quotes because wiretapping is, you know, today it is different than wiretapping. It is just a good description, but wiretapping was in quotes. What I'm talking about is surveillance."

The man who did that interview, "TIME" magazine Washington bureau chief Michael Scherer joins us now, along with CNN presidential historian Douglas Brinkley.

Gentlemen, thank you very much for being here.

Michael, fascinating article and interview with the president. He told you a lot of really interesting tidbits. What did you learn yesterday?

MICHAEL SCHERER, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, TIME MAGAZINE: That Donald Trump, President Trump doesn't see truth and falsehood as a binary distinction. On every point I pressed him on, he talked about a lot of things, his claim that, you know, 3 million undocumented immigrants voted ill really in the last election, his claim that Ted Cruz's father consorted with the assassin of JFK, his claim that something horrible happened in Sweden the night before a talk he gave in Florida last month.

And he gave no ground really on either and basically contested each one on different grounds that became very muddy very quickly.

CAMEROTA: Yes. And, in fact, I just want to stop you for one moment. We have a clip of this, a little excerpt. And I just want to read it for people so they understand what we're saying.

In terms of the voter fraud for instance, when you asked him, 3 million people did not vote illegally or that was baseless, he -- you say the claim that 3 million undocumented people voted in the last election, he says, "Well, I think I'll be proved right about that, too."

So, in other words, he told you that he believes he makes predictions and the predictions come true.

SCHERER: Yes, his biggest argument was that he's been prophetic in the past, and so you should give him credibility now, even if there are no facts to back up what he says. And to demonstrate that point, he said he predicted England would leave the European Union in the Brexit vote which he did and which was true. That he'd win the presidency, which he predicted and he did, even though many people didn't agree that would happen.

He mentioned he tweeted that Anthony Weiner's sexting would get Hillary Clinton in trouble. We found out a few weeks before the election that was certainly the case.

And so, he was basically asking for a degree of faith here. I mean, the most interesting one in terms of the temporal matter was the Sweden issue. He said, I was right about what I said about Sweden, even though he has said it in the past tense, because a couple days later, there were disturbances in Sweden. He said that's what I was talking about, even though his statement was what happened last night happened in Sweden.

CAMEROTA: So he predicted the future. Right.

CUOMO: Right. And Michael is just repeating what was said to him. It doesn't mean he owns these notions.

So, Professor, we turn to you for that because this is scary talk, because, first of all, logically, there's a huge difference between saying something did happen already like 3 million people voted illegally and saying time will prove -- that's not a prediction. That's an assertion of fact he has no basis for and saying some day 3 million people may vote illegally. They're very different.

Have you ever seen a president work off what he calls intuition this way to the exception of actual fact?

DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: No, look, he -- I read the article. It's excellent, very carefully. He wants to present himself as a soothsayer, when in truth, he's a fabricator and he's somebody who trades in conspiracy theories.

In the "TIME" article, he'll say, you know, look, I read it, and here's the article, so I'm just quoting in an article. Well, my goodness, I could download a hundred articles right now that tell you Neil Armstrong never walked on the moon. That doesn't mean it's factual or credible.

And this cannot be the standard for the president of the United States. This -- he's living in a fantasy realm. If you do 100 predictions this summer, there will be a wildfire in California. [08:25:02] There'll be a terrorist attack in Europe, and then one happens and then I say, you see, I saw things in advance. That is snake oil medicine. That's for a public that's asleep at the wheel.

We've never had that kind of lame, lackluster leadership in America. We've had devious moments of Richard Nixon moving chest pieces in illegal ways, but this is just plain nutty what comes out of "TIME" article.

CAMEROTA: Michael, you did ask about where he gets his information. I mean, that's what Douglas is saying. He says, well, I have an article that says it or Judge Andrew Napolitano on FOX who has now been suspended from FOX for saying things that FOX News couldn't back up. You know, he's a highly respected judge. That's where I get it.

It is fascinating to hear the president of the United States who arguably has -- could have the best sources, the best primary sources with just the lifting of a phone call say that he gets all of his information from various, not even news sources.

SCHERER: He's operated this way for a long time. I talked to him back in 2015 about a tweet he sent around, he retweeted a tweet that gave false statistics about the number of white people in the U.S. killed by black people. It was basically a racist meme that was going around. He retweeted it.

I said, don't you feel like you need to correct this? It had numbers that just weren't true? He said it's a retweet, not a tweet. There's a big difference between a retweet and a tweet.

I also asked him about whether he thinks this sort of behavior will hurt his credibility over the long term which is something I think a lot of people do think. And he basically gave no ground there. He said, did you see I had 25,000 people in Kentucky this week at a rally?

At the end of the interview, he said, "I'm president and you're not," basically restating the same thing. The proof of my success, the proof of my credibility is the fact of the election.

CUOMO: Quinnipiac has in the latest poll he's at about 60 percent of people not believing he's true. Over 50 percent of people questioning his leadership abilities and that's probably related to the credibility issue.

But, you know, Professor, it takes us to the same point. Michael's interview is illustrative of a proposition. Trump does this because he thinks it works for him. In fact, it has worked up to this point. When he was doing birtherism stuff, it wasn't because he wanted to be president. It was because he made him relevant. It played on people's appetite for conspiracy and it just attached to the uglier instincts of a lot of people and made him relevant.

He's doing the same thing now. What does history suggest this leads to? BRINKLEY: What it suggests is that the press has overestimated him,

because many people thought, once he became president, he would pivot, he would change, he would recognize the sheer power of being in the Oval Office and be able to get real intelligence information. He didn't have to just play on intuition and whim.

But, alas, he's been unable to modify himself. So, candidate Trump is President Trump. And these sort of misstatements start catching up with you. For example, this week, he's publicly said that the Ryan care plan is going to pass, he's got the votes. We're going to find out today, tomorrow morning. You know, we'll be talking about whether the earlier comment this week was true or not.

Now, that's politics. He's trying to spin. And people usually can accept that.

But when you make up things like Barack Obama wasn't born in the United States, that's so far out of the realm of sanity, that you have to almost browbeat him to get admission of a mistake. And that's been the problem. He should have said on the tweet about wiretapping, that I just goofed it, I was angry, it was the morning, put it behind him.

Instead, we're spending millions and millions of dollars on a tweet of Donald Trump, taxpayers' money because he wants to create falsehood. That's going to catch up with him in the end.


SCHERER: I would just add to what you said, there is a pattern here that, from birtherism to the claim Mexico was sending rapists across the border, to the claim Muslims celebrated on 9/11, to the claim that 3 million undocumented people voted, all of them without evidence, but they are incredibly viral. And as a messaging tool for him, even this debate we're having now on CNN when we're discussing whether it's true or not true, it allows him to get out his message.

And for a lot of his supporters, it has been effective. They don't care about what is true or not. What they care about is that he's shaking up Washington, that he's upsetting the right people.

And so, I think there is a way in which we should admit that at least to this time, and I think there's a lot of reason to believe, as president work differently than as a candidate, but at least to this time, it has been quite successful.

CAMEROTA: Absolutely. He's president, indeed.

Michael Scherer, thank you for sharing your reporting with us. It was it is a fascinating read. We recommend everybody read it.

And, Douglas Brinkley, as always, thanks for the context.

CUOMO: It's an odd mix.