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GOP Intel Chair Cancels Trump/Russia Hearing, Sparking Rift; Critical Vote on Health Care Bill Soon. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired March 24, 2017 - 14:30   ET


[14:30:00] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: You know what? What's also irritating to the ranking Democrat, Adam Schiff, is that the is chairman now cancelled an open hearing I think scheduled Monday with James Clapper --


BLITZER: Either Monday or Tuesday, for next week. An open hearing with former director of National Intelligence, former CIA Director John Brennan, former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates, and it was going to be an open meeting, and for some reason Devin Nunes is canceling that hearing. And the Democrats are accusing him of doing that because more negative information about Donald Trump and his campaign could have been released.

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I think the Democrats had a right to object. They had an agreement, as understand. It's been planned for some days. I think what some Democrats wanted was to hear from Clapper, Brennan and Yates on the patterns of how the Russians interfered and meddled, not only in the United States but in other countries, to set up the narrative of how this unfolds and then to show what the various individuals, who have been implicated in all this, what they did and how it fits into the narrative. In other words, there's a narrative of how the Russians meddled, and they want to show, this is the narrative of what they do. Now look, isn't it interesting this American did this, and this American did this, that's how they run these things. That's what they were hoping to use this for. And I think they were right. But I have to tell you, for the three guys who have volunteered to come forward, they ought to have the chance to come forward and to clear their names in public. That seems to be their right.


GERGEN: I don't know how anybody can object to that.

SUSAN PAGE, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, USA TODAY: The previous investigations, when individuals who have been ensnared in controversies involving presidents, speaking out for themselves, they may have things to deny, may say they have done nothing wrong, their interests may not be necessarily aligned with the interest of the president. And you do not know what disclosures they can make that -


GERGEN: But they will be under oath. They'll be under oath and that's important.

PAGE: But I don't mean they would be telling a lie, but telling the truth could create problems.

JENNIFER PSAKI, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: There's some interesting questions that haven't been discussed a lot, which is who knew what when, which is not what people are focused on. People are focused on the collusion question, which is much harder to prove. But if any of these individuals knew there was information -- and Roger Stone certainly alluded to this - that there was information previously known about plans to leak the e-mails, about the hacking, that's a problem. Whether it's criminal, that's not for me to define.

DAVID HOPPE, FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF FOR SENATOR PAUL RYAN: I think part of what's happened is politics has broken up in Washington this week regarding this investigation in the intelligence House Committee. Oh, shocking. Nunes made a mistake and then Schiff came out and said some things he shouldn't have said.

If you want to lower the temperature and get back to being able to work together in a bipartisan fashion, put some time in, calm down. We got a lot of time to go here. All I'm saying is take some of that time. It doesn't hurt to take some of that time to sit back down, look at some things, and then bring all these people. I think they should all come.


BLITZER: Usually, this House Intelligence Committee, Senate Intelligence Committee, there usually is cooperation between the Republican and Democratic leaders.

HOPPE: And they have gotten to a political spin.

BLITZER: And this time, that's why -


BLITZER: It's pretty extraordinary right now.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: I'm not sure they had the resources to do it to be honest. This investigation has grown and grown and grown. And you've got members of the Senate and House going into vaults at Langley looking through thousands of pages of loose- leaf notebooks, taking notes. It seems this undertaking is growing and growing. I'm not sure they are ready for it.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: We've got to take a quick break. We've got a lot more breaking coverage ahead. Speaker Ryan telling President Trump he does not have the votes. The White House says a vote will happen anyway. That could happen less than an hour from now. We will talk to a top Republican congressman about which way he plans to vote.

You're watching CNN's special live coverage.


[14:37:55] BLITZER: In less than one hour, the House of Representatives will be casting votes on a critical test of the Trump presidency. But with the clock ticking, they're now serious questions of it the Republicans have the votes to repeal and replace Obamacare.

I want to bring in Republican Congress Tom Cole, of Oklahoma.

Congressman, thanks much for joining us.

REP. TOM COLE, (R), OKLAHOMA: Hey, thanks for having me, Wolf.

BLITZER: You're planning to vote in favor of this legislation to repeal and replace Obamacare. But what do you think? You've got your finger over there. Is it's going to pass?

COLE: Well, look, it's touch and go. These things tend to be decided at the last minute and we're certainly in that situation. But we will wait for the votes and see what happens.

BLITZER: What would be smarter from your perspective, if it looks like it's going to fail for the speaker, the majority leader to just pull it say we're going to think about it, work on it, we'll get back to you, or let this vote go forward and have an embarrassing defeat.

COLE: I'm not sure about the defeat would be, quote, "embarrassing." But, I would go forward with the vote. Look, I'm a big believer in when you finally schedule something, carry it through. Members have had a lot of opportunity to participate. I think the bill has improved tremendously. I'm very proud of the efforts both the speaker and president have made. I think they have been open and receptive to all sides. But there comes a point on these things when you have to go in and press a button, red or green. I think we're there. So my advice would be to go ahead and vote.

COOPER: Congressman, it's Anderson Cooper. I was wondering if you could describe the interactions you've had with the president and that others have had. What sort of impact has the president has had on the bill?

COLE: I think extremely positive. I met with him fairly early as part of the deputy whip team. He was very knowledgeable about the bill, very engaging, strategic in his thinking, high energy. He was open. He made the point to all of use, be open to changing the bill. If people bring you a good idea, no matter where they're from along the political spectrum, take it and work with them. And he's been true to his word. And he's excellent in this deal making and consensus making. And if it doesn't work out, it's not his fault. I think Congress has to look at itself.

[14:40:26] COOPER: What is the next step, if it doesn't work out, in terms of repeal and replacing Obamacare?

COLE: Well, then you have to move in incrementally and move in small chunks. We have an opportunity today to get rid of all the taxes, all the mandates, to give every American not already covered, either by their employer or Medicare or Medicaid, a tax credit to design their own care. My state, rates are going up 69 percent in the Obamacare exchanges next year and we're down to a single provider, so we don't really have a lot of options in my view. But obviously, if this solution doesn't work, sit down and try and craft another one.

BLITZER: Congressman Cole, thanks very much for joining us.

COLE: Wolf, my pleasure, as always.

BLITZER: We will be speaking with a spokesperson from a Koch brothers organization, the billionaire conservatives who are offering to financially support Republicans who vote against this current health care bill.

Our CNN special live coverage continues in just a moment.


[14:45:51] COOPER: Welcome back. Quite a day. In a short time, the House set to vote on the Republican health care bill. Speaker Ryan just told President Trump he does not have the votes for it.

CNN's Phil Mattingly is on Capitol Hill for us.

Phil, what are you hearing from Republican leaders in the House about this vote?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It just doesn't look good. The most interesting element is everything they have tried over the last couple of days has ended up not working or in some cases backfiring. One interesting thing, in talking to aides the last couple hours, as we've gotten to this point, is trying to recognize when did the bottom fall out, when did things start to fall apart? And that's a question we're going to be looking back into over the days ahead if this does indeed fail or gets pulled from the House floor.

But what I'm hearing is it's not the conservatives, or the Freedom Caucus. It's the moderates. Over a month ago, I was told repeatedly keep an eye on them, members in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York. If they start to flee, this thing will go down. That's pretty much exactly how this went down. We've seen this publicly, but I'm also told privately, the leadership has been told a lot of those moderate Tuesday Group members are not in line, are not coming over and, in part, because of the compromised language they tried to hand out to the conservatives, that the White House put on the table, that leadership ended up going along with, and that the Freedom Caucus wanted, but refused to come in line for. So as a result of them trying to shift the pendulum to the right, to the conservative side, they ended up losing the moderates in mass. They didn't bring in more of the Freedom Caucus individuals. That leaves them where they are today.

I'll tell you, the nightmare scenario I'm being told right now is, you put this bill on the floor right now, and you know it's short, everybody else knows it's short as well, and any of the undecideds, any undeclareds, and maybe even some of the "yes" votes as well decide to vote against it in mass, and it's a major defeat. What would that do going forward, would it cripple things going forward? We don't know if that's going to be the case, but I can tell you, that's what's going around Capitol Hill sources, GOP sources. That's their biggest concern about what the president wants to do right now, put this on the floor. So it's an open question whether or not that's going to happen, but as recently as a couple minutes ago, no scheduling change right now. As of right now, it's still scheduled for a vote -- Anderson?

COOPER: We will be watching closely. Let us know as soon as you hear anything, Phil Mattingly. Thank you very much.

BLITZER: We've got our panel with us. But we've also added James Davis, from Freedom Partners, a group linked to the Koch brothers.

James, thanks very much for joining us.

You oppose this legislation and you're telling Republicans in the Freedom Caucus and elsewhere, if you get punished by voting against it, you will come up, the Koch brothers, Freedom Partners, will come up and help them with money, right?

JAMES DAVIS, FREEDOM PARTNERS: We have seen in for consecutive elections, Republicans run on the idea they're going to repeal this, and this current legislation does not do that, and so we want to stand by those who take position and let them know they're not alone.


BLITZER: This doesn't repeal?

DAVIS: It doesn't repeal Obamacare.

BLITZER: Why doesn't it?

DAVIS: This keeps all the insurance mandates and regulations in place that have driven up the costs of Obamacare premiums over the last several years and also uses the tax credit as a subsidy just virtually indistinguishable from the Obamacare subsidies. So there's a lot we need to do to fix health care and this bill doesn't do it. If you repeal it and then focus on individual solutions, bills you can put forward to take care of the vulnerable population, that everyone agrees those with preexisting conditions, and then push those pieces of legislation through Congress, through the legislative process, I think that's a better path.


COOPER: It's not going to be -- if this goes down it's not going to be another huge bill. It's going to be step by step by step?

DAVIS: Absolutely. That's one of the major criticisms we had with Obamacare, from the start. So why do this? I don't see a way that we can address our issues unless we can take it apart and focus on this. We'll get better policy when we focus on individual problems and also be more politically palatable. [14:50:09] BLITZER: The president, according to Sean Spicer -- we

just heard him at the White House briefing -- says the president has committed everything he can, he understands this is it, this is do or die, if you don't do it now, forget about it, he says, it's over with, you've got to pass this legislation now. Why is the president wrong?

DAVIS: Because it's more important to get it right than fast. This is an opportunity to get it right. So if it doesn't pass, they need to go back to the drawing board and figure out how to put the pieces of legislation together. Doesn't need to be in one big bill. But how we can actually address the underlying.

BLITZER: You are very well plugged in with conservative Republicans. What's going to happen?

DAVIS: I don't think it's going to pass. It looks like, with moderates also jumping ship on this bill, that I don't predict that it passes.

BLITZER: Stay with us, James.

David Chalian, yesterday, a lot of people were pretty upbeat, those who liked the legislation, in the end, the president and speaker would get it done, but today, that optimism has gone to pessimism.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICS DIRECTOR: It has evaporated. With Paul Ryan rushing down to the White House to deliver the news he doesn't have the votes. We're now learning he's huddled in his office with his leadership team. And Vice President Mike Pence has just finished what is described an intense meeting with the Freedom Caucus and left the meeting tightlipped, not revealing that anything changed. Just that it was a pretty intense meeting with the vice president.

COOPER: All right, David, David Gergen -



COOPER: -- David Gergen.

HOPPES: And the idea that Jim is talking about is -- makes good sense but you have to understand one thing about it, all that will be done under regular order, which means you will need 60 votes in the Senate, which means bipartisan solutions that come out. That can work. But the people supporting that strategy have to understand that's what it means. This will not be done under reconciliation. You won't do any that because the things they have to get at, you have to do it in regular order because of the restrictions on reconciliation, and the Byrd Rule. So as long as people understand that and follow that that will be the result of this, that's all fine and good. But you want to make sure that somebody doesn't go back and say, why did you do that, I thought you do it all by yourself.

COOPER: David, is there a concern that the president will feel burned and not want to even -- I mean, the president has talked about moving on, addressing other things. He's already talked publicly about maybe he wishes maybe he had done infrastructure or tax reform. Is it possible he will want to just move on and not want to spend more political capitol on --

GERGEN: I think he's told us that for a while. He had an interview earlier and said, if we lose this, we ought to just live with Obamacare. Of course, that isn't good for the country. Why not then come back and fight and put together something good for the country? But that was the ultimatum they had yesterday, wasn't it? Isn't that what Mulvaney basically told them in the caucus, the Republicans, if this goes down, you're going to live with Obamacare and let it go into a death spiral. That's what they expect.

I actually think that would give the Democrats an opening and they could come forward and say, we're delighted we saved Obamacare, it does have some problems, we think there's some fixes, and we would like you Republicans to work with us to fix it and we'll make sure it doesn't go in the death spiral, we'll get premiums down, so forth and so on. So when the Republicans refuse to do that, as they will, the Democrats can say if it goes into a death spiral or if the premiums go up more, we tried to fix it, we tried to work with you, but you refused. Who is going to be left with the tail on the donkey?


BORGER: The public.


GERGEN: Well, I agree with that.

BORGER: The voters. The voters wanted change, wanted something done, and now they're not getting anything.

GERGEN: Gloria, they're getting a better deal -- they don't like this bill.

BORGER: Well, I was just going to talk about that, because the recent polling shows this bill has a 17 percent approval rating. So if you're a member of Congress, do you want to kind of walk over that cliff voting for a bill that has a 17 percent approval rating? And I know we go district by district by district, and some won by an overwhelming margin. They can clearly make their case. But if you are a moderate Republican, and these essential health benefits, 10 essential health benefits have been eliminated from the bill, like maternity benefits, substance abuse, mental health coverage, you're never going to vote for this, no matter what Donald Trump --


[14:54:50] BLITZER: Hold on. We're getting closer and closer to the actual vote. We are now hearing from key conservatives who the president has been courting. Brand new sound coming in from the Freedom Caucus. We'll have that and a lot more right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

COOPER: Good afternoon. Thanks for joining us. I'm Anderson Cooper. This is CNN's special coverage of the key moment of the Republican effort to replace Obamacare.

BLITZER: And I'm Wolf Blitzer. We want to welcome our viewers here in the United States and around the world.

We're following the breaking news. Debate is now happening over the American Health Care Act. Minutes from now, the House of Representatives is expected to vote on the Republican health care bill. But what happens is up in the air right now. The House speaker, Paul Ryan, here he is seen leaving the White House a little while ago. He laid down the reality for President Trump, as of many aides there, they don't have the votes. The shortfalls emerging despite the president's ultimatum to the bill's critics, either pass the --