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What's Next for Trump After Health Care Defeat?; Interview with Rep. Charlie Dent. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired March 27, 2017 - 07:00   ET


ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: ... report that there is in-fighting among top White House staffers, some of that playing out in public. The White House wants to move on now to tax reform. Could Democrats be the key to the president get that win? It is day 67 of the Trump presidency. So let's begin with CNN's Sara Murray. She's live at the White House. Give us the latest, Sara.

[07:00:19] SARA MURRAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Alisyn.

The White House really needed a win last week. They did not get it. This week today, they are going to try to regroup, try to prove they can get something done in Washington. And they say the next move is tax reform. But it may not be as simple as they believe.


MURRAY (voice-over): The White House desperate to move forward after a bruising defeat on health care.

REINCE PRIEBUS, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: We're moving on the tax reform. We've got the budget coming up.

MURRAY: The Trump administration turning its focus to the next battle: cutting taxes, which could prove even more challenging. That after failing to deliver on the president's promise to repeal and replace Obamacare, despite Republicans having control of the House and Senate.

SCHUMER: If you analyze what went wrong with ACA, if he repeats them in tax reform, they'll get nowhere.

MURRAY: This as the finger-pointing intensifies.

MICK MULVANEY, DIRECTOR, OFFICE OF MANAGEMENT AND BUDGET: I think there's probably plenty of blame to go around. I think what happened is that Washington won.

STEPHEN MILLER, DONALD TRUMP POLICY ADVISOR: I think the House moved a bit too fast. Eighteen days is simply not enough time for such major landmark legislation.

MURRAY: President Trump shifting the blame from Democrats to the conservatives who who stood in the way of the bill, tweeting they "saved Planned Parenthood and Obamacare" as his chief of staff, Reince Priebus, is leaving the door open to bipartisan compromise. PRIEBUS: If Democrats come on board with a plan down the road, we'll

welcome that.

KASICH: They've got to reach out across the aisle, and Democrats have to say, "We will work with you to improve and fix this plan for people."

MURRAY: Meanwhile, a longtime member of the House Freedom Caucus, Ted Poe, is resigning from the group over its role in defeating the bill. Poe writing in a statement, "Saying no is easy. Leading is hard."

House Speaker Paul Ryan also under scrutiny in the wake of the health care defeat. President Trump tweeting to his supporters to watch a specific FOX News program which began like this.

JEANINE PIRRO, FOX NEWS HOST: Paul Ryan needs to step down as speaker of the House.

MURRAY: The White House is insisting that Trump didn't know the FOX host would make these comments and that the commander in chief is standing by the speaker.

PRIEBUS: He doesn't blame Paul Ryan. In fact, he thought Paul Ryan worked really hard.

MURRAY: Republicans also gearing up for another fight: over Supreme Court pick Neil Gorsuch, with Democrats vowing to filibuster his nomination.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I), VERMONT: I applaud the Republicans obeying the rules that currently exist and not changing those rules. And the rules right now, for good reasons, are 60 votes.


MURRAY: Now we're expecting the White House to make another announcement today. We are expecting the president to unveil a new American Innovation Office. This is going to be led by his son-in-law Jared Kushner. It is designed to make the government a little bit leaner, a little bit meaner and to adopt practices from the private sector in order to do that -- Chris.

CUOMO: What happens when you take those processes from a place with profit motive to government? We'll see.

All right. Joining us now is Anthony Scaramucci, an informal advisor to President Trump and a formal member -- a former member of the Trump transition team. It's good to have you with us. So...


CUOMO: Health care didn't go the way the president wanted it to. There's a lot of blaming going on right now. Let's just start with that. Is that the right thing to be doing right now?

SCARAMUCCI: Well, listen, I read the papers like you do. It's not clear to me that the president's necessarily blaming anybody. You're talking about for-profit versus politics. I think he's a business person. Business people are not interested in the blame exercise as much as they are interested in, OK, we need to do to go forward as a team to get results for the American people.

And so I don't see the president blaming anybody. I think that's a little misguided.

CUOMO: But he is doing exactly that, though. It's coming out of the White House. He himself had a tweet, went after the caucus. Talked about the Heritage Group and another organization. He is doing that thing. Let's talk about...

SCARAMUCCI: Well, that's different than your report. I don't think he's blaming Reince Priebus, Speaker Ryan. I think he's, in general, I think he would say that the Freedom Caucus was an obstacle to getting that reform bill passed that he and Speaker Ryan wanted. So that's fair to say. I'm talking about the specific blame, you know. When you run a team and you run an organization, one of the worst things you can do is sit around the table and start shooting at each other. I don't see the president doing that. He wouldn't be the president if he did that. He wouldn't have the Trump Organization if he did that. But certainly, the Freedom Caucus did block that bill, Chris.

So if he's pointing out that they blocked the bill, as a result of which there were some conservative things that could have gotten done, had the bill passed, that are not now done. I think he is pointing that out. I think he finds that to be ironic.

CUOMO: Is this another example of why he should leave Twitter alone, but he goes on there and says Jeanine Pirro has got a great show. And then the first thing out of her mouth at the top of her show was Ryan has got to go. Coincidence?

SCARAMUCCI: OK, so you're...

CUOMO: Is that a coincidence?

SCARAMUCCI: So you're -- I think it's a coincidence. Jeanine said last night on her show that they didn't talk about it. I take her at her word. Very honest person. So I think it's a coincidence? You don't think it's a coincidence?

CUOMO: No, no. You've got to find new tactics. OK? The question is legitimate. I think that it's a reflection of what happens when you tweet without a lot of foresight. Things, they happen.

SCARAMUCCI: How do I have to find new tactics? You're asking me a rhetorical question.

CUOMO: It's not a rhetorical question. It's a real question.

SCARAMUCCI: I don't think -- I don't think it's a coincidence that you're asking me the question. But I do think it's a coincidence that Jeanine Pirro said that. I think the president likes her a lot, and he was promoting her show.

CUOMO: Right. But it just goes to what he spends his time doing and how it comes back to bite him in the behind, is what I'm trying to tell you.

SCARAMUCCI: But not really. You know, you say that, and maybe the Twitter thing isn't for people in the mainstream media, but it's been a wonderful mechanism for him to reach over the top of the mainstream media and to the American people. And I would say to you that, if you're traveling in places like Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, you're going into the western areas of Michigan, I think you find that people find him very refreshing.

CUOMO: Some people find him refreshing.


CUOMO: People, no matter where you are in this country, want to be told the truth. And that's the thing. The commodity is the truth, no matter how you deliver it. So then the truth is that we'll both agree on, he needs a win. Where does it come?

SCARAMUCCI: Well, I think he gets it in tax reform. I actually think he is a longer term win in the Affordable Care Act. I think that he's adapting now as the executive and the commander in chief. I think he recognizes and the chief of staff Priebus said that yesterday, that they're going to try to build a coalition somehow with some of these moderate Democrats.

And so my guess is, is that tax reform, I think, we'll find that we are in the least competitive position that we've been in in 35 years. We have the highest corporate tax rates in the land. And so my guess is that it won't be moderate Democrats that are pro-business friendly that will want better -- simplified tax.

CUOMO: I think it will be more targeted than was originally anticipated because of what happened with health care?

SCARAMUCCI: That's a good question. So I honestly don't know the answer to that. But I know that the president plays big. My guess is he's still going to be very big and very bold and make it very broad based.

But that is a good question. I think that they would probably, if they had to go for that sort of win, because I think we're both in agreement to prosecute his agenda and to execute it properly. He's got to put a couple of points on the board right now. And I know he wants to do that.

CUOMO: The concern will be if you ask for too much in terms of tax cuts. The conservatives and the deficit hawks will come forward and say that you have to cut entitlements.

President Trump has been very slow on that. He doesn't want to mess with Medicare. He says -- he promised he wouldn't touch Social Security. It's hard to pay for a tax cut without touching your biggest spend.

SCARAMUCCI: On the campaign trail, I heard him say many times that he doesn't want people in the street. I've heard him say many times that we're a wealthy country. We have to figure out a way to take care of the people that are indigent in the country. He's a very compassionate person. And so I don't see him necessarily going in that direction.

Just on the infrastructure piece, because the last piece with John, I think there are private-public partnership ideas that we could use. It would be non-deficit hurting, if you will. And so there's a number of interesting ideas and initiatives that the president could put in place right now, Chris, that won't necessarily be impactful to the deficit but be very good for American prosperity, very good for growth, and get the multiplier effect on things like infrastructure.

CUOMO: So why didn't he start with that? Why didn't he start with infrastructure? The Democrats said that they want it. You know, everybody likes to make jobs. They can argue whether or not those are the right jobs to be making, but they're jobs.

SCARAMUCCI: Good question. Again, referring back to your last segment. We all recognize Democrats and Republicans that there are necessary reforms needed for the Affordable Care Act.

You can just look at insurance premiums for small companies like the one I used to run, Skybridge Capital. Our premium is up 80, 85 percent in the last three years. That is long-term unsustainable. And so I think what the president is doing and his team is looking at that and saying, "OK, this thing could, quote/unquote, 'implode' or explode. Let's work on that first, because this is something that's super important to the American people." Now they didn't get that win.

CUOMO: But they didn't do it that way, either. OK, right? They had repeal and replace on their mind. If they gone back and said "Forget about repeal. Let's fix this," they may have had a very different outcome.

SCARAMUCCI: Well, that would be probably more in the way the Democrats would have thought of it. And I think with -- the way the Republicans thought about it is they wanted to repeal and replace it; put something in that wasn't necessarily a tax, not necessarily had that governmental mandate on the insurance side.

And so listen, it didn't work for now. And I think the president was very clear on Friday that "I didn't promise a repeal and replace in 64 days." But my guess is perhaps maybe in 364 days, he'll have a plan in place that will be real reform. We need the reform. I think that we can -- you and I can agree on this. I think people can agree in a bipartisan way that there are flaws in the law that have to get adjusted. A business person can agree on that, a lawyer. Anybody that's paying an insurance premium knows that there's something wrong in the system right now.

[07:10:16] CUOMO: Let's question our premise for a second about all of this, which is he needs points on the board. He needs momentum. You think that's 100 percent true or could it be that he should just focus on what policy he believes in the most, that's what's most existential to his heart? Don't worry about the wins, don't worry about the optics? That just gets us into the cycle we're in now.

SCARAMUCCI: When I say that, when I say that he needs points on the board or I hear people say that, it's not like he needs points on the board. He won the American presidency. He's only two months into the presidency. I don't mean it like oh, he need -- it's not necessary, but I think what the president really likes, though, is delivering results for the American people.

So my guess is he's looking at a list of initiatives right now. He'll pick two or three that he thinks are very winnable. And I think he's adaptive, very smart guy. My guess is right now he is jaw boning with not only members of his own party, the Republican Party, but he's going to be making an outreach to Democrats who he thinks share his ideas. Ideas on infrastructure, tax reform and some of these other initiatives that are important to the American people.

CUOMO: Even though it's only 67 days? He came in with such a -- you know, with such a blast out of the cannon. Are you surprised that this far in, you really can't point to a major achievement?

SCARAMUCCI: I'm not surprised about what happened with the Affordable Health Care Act. Because what people don't recognize about the president, he's a consummate team player. He sat with his team. He went with the House initiative on the Affordable Care Act. I think him and his -- and the White House staff said, "Let's give it a try in the Washington way."

When the Washington way didn't work, they went back up to the Hill and said let's have a vote. That is a business way. Let's be accountable where everybody stands. Well, Washington is not used to that, Chris, so they did not want to have that vote. And so the president said we won't have the vote. But I think the messaging now is that the Washington way is sort of very dysfunctional. Let's try something a little bit different. And I think something different and more creative will come out of the Trump White House that will deliver results.

CUOMO: Now, on the investigative front what we saw with Nunes, which was, I believe, objectively a nightmare for the president. I think it was a nightmare.


CUOMO: What do you think of the idea of the president setting the standard and saying, "You know what? I'm going to talk to Nunes and say you can't hold any kind of independent. You hurt me, you hurt yourself. You've hurt the idea of independently investigating. You should step down."

SCARAMUCCI: OK. So you and I were on this topic last week before the push of contests came up.

CUOMO: You brought it up.

SCARAMUCCI: I had to bring it up, because I had to divert you a bit more.

CUOMO: But continue.

SCARAMUCCI: The point being is that, at the end of the day, I think that I'm going to go with the president still. Also, chairman -- chief of staff Priebus. I'm going to go with them. They think that there is something there. You saw Reince -- or chief of staff Priebus hold up "The New York Times" article yesterday. I think there might be something there.

The president has great instincts. You want to focus on Nunes, and I understand why you want to do that. But what I want to do is the same thing I said last week, which is let's give a little bit more time. Let's see what really happens.

CUOMO: You haven't learned anything from this Nunes thing? You haven't learned anything.

SCARAMUCCI: What did you learn?

CUOMO: This was a naked attempt to go around the investigative process and deliver what Nunes thought was good information for the president's narrative. And it blew up in his face. I think that is objectively exactly what happened.

SCARAMUCCI: That -- and I hear what you're saying.

CUOMO: He had it, and he went around his committee. And then he backed off...

SCARAMUCCI: I think there's something there. OK? And we can talk about Nunes and his strategies and tactics and his communication. I really want to talk about the president and the president's instincts and the reason why the president would send a tweet out like that.

Now, we can parse his words and his syntax and all that sort of stuff. But I think the president really feels that there were people being surveyed by the Obama administration. And so again, let's give it a little bit more time. We can focus on Nunes right now and say that he may have made mistakes last week. But I really want to focus on the president. I want to focus on why he did that and what his instincts are like, and what I have seen in him...

CUOMO: You don't think he did it because he was upset about Jeff Sessions? And instinct doesn't count when you have the ability to get the answers.

SCARAMUCCI: I'm not -- I'm not a psychiatrist. Maybe you guys have NEW DAY people on staff here that are psychiatrists. I can't really evaluate that. OK? What I can evaluate is that I've observed him. I've worked very closely with him.

The reason why he went from 22, 23 months ago being a business person to the American presidency is that he's got great political instincts. Very good judgment on people. He knows what he wants to do. And I think that he's also got a sense, a horse sense for things, Chris. And so I'd like to have a little bit more time to pass to see what's really up.

CUOMO: And the original question has always been this is not a situation that needs time, because he could have gotten these answers immediately himself, instead of putting it out into the ether. And it worked, because they stopped talking about Jeff Sessions. We didn't here. But in general, it worked as a distraction. You don't think that is what this is about?

[07:15:20] SCARAMUCCI: There is more to it than a distraction for NEW DAY. I think it was a little bit more, too. That's my opinion. Always good to see you. Always. Your mom was terrific the other night...

CUOMO: Thank you.

SCARAMUCCI: ... at the National Italian-American Foundation.

CUOMO: Thank you. It's nice of you to say.

All right -- Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Your mom is always terrific.

We just have breaking news right now out of Oklahoma. We want to tell you about this. There's been a police officer who's been critically injured in an exchange of gunfire with a suspect following a traffic stop late Sunday. Authorities say the officer Tased the suspect, who managed to then flee into a wooded area. And that's where the shots were fired. Both the officer and the suspect taken to the hospital. That officer is in critical condition. We will keep you updated.

CUOMO: The hunt is on in Cincinnati for the suspects involved in a deadly nightclub shooting. Police say multiple gunmen opened fire early Sunday morning inside the Cameo Club. Twenty-seven-year-old Ryan Spikes was killed; 15 other people were wounded. Investigators believe the gun battle may have stemmed from a dispute that started hours earlier.

CAMEROTA: So United Airlines is clarifying its response to the dress code backlash after barring two teenage girls who were wearing leggings from boarding a flight. The airline tweeting the customers are actually allowed to wear leggings, but the teens were using a travel pass, which complies that they comply with United's dress code, which dictates covering up in a dress in order to fly.

If people are barred from leggings, they're going to lose business. Because that's all people fly in.

CUOMO: They -- they tried to draw a distinction. This travel pass thing or whatever it is has certain rules on it. But it raises the question of what fights you pick to have. You know, United Airlines. All the things that are going on at the airlines. Is this really a fight that they needed to have? The leggings police? Really? What are your thoughts? Tell us.

CAMEROTA: Yoga pants.

CUOMO: I thought they were the same.

CAMEROTA: I think they might be.

CUOMO: The president lashes out at a Pennsylvania congressman after the stinging health care defeat. He accuses Charlie Dent of, quote, destroying the Republican Party. How does Congressman Dent respond? Guess what? He's on next.


[07:21:25] CAMEROTA: Well, the fallout continues for Republicans after their defeat on health care. The White House says it wants to move on to other issues like tax reform, but that's no slam dunk either.

Joining us now is Republican Congressman Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania. He is the co-chair of the House Tuesday Group, the self-described moderate caucus of the GOP. Dent found himself at the center of the health care debacle and President Trump's ire.

Good morning, Congressman.

REP. CHARLIE DENT (R), PENNSYLVANIA: Good morning, Alisyn. Thanks for having me on the program.

CAMEROTA: Thanks for being here. So it has been reported that, when President Trump found out you were going to be a "no" vote, he told you that you were destroying the Republican Party. What was your response?

DENT: Well, it's just another day at the office for me, I guess. But let me -- let me say this.

I had two meetings last week with the president. Some of the Tuesday Group members, a center right group. We met on Tuesday. He took it pretty well on Thursday. I came back with another group of members and, again, said I was against the bill.

He didn't take it as well the second and third times I said no. And look, I get it. Emotions run high. People are trying to pass a bill. They probably say things they probably ought not to. I kind of get it, but like, I did raise concerns about the bill with the president, specifically the Medicaid provision. That I told -- that I expressed to the president the Medicaid provision was inadequate. In fact, I even presented the president the plan by governors Kasich, Schneider, Sandoval, Hutchison, in talking about their concerns. Republican governors who needed to be brought into this process. The Medicaid provision didn't provide adequate flexibility or resources to help certain people on Medicaid.

CAMEROTA: And when you raised that, what did the president -- when you told him your qualms or concerns, what did the president say? DENT: I raised it on Tuesday, and they took it under advisement.

And, you know, a great discussion. I think they were reaching out to some of the governors.

On Thursday, I mentioned it again, and again, it didn't go as well. But the bottom line is I also raised the Planned Parenthood issue. I said I always felt that that should not have been part of this discussion. That should have been completely separated from the underlying health care bill. So I raised that issue, as well.

But bottom line, you know, people had -- people had their idea of a bill. They were going to try to force it through. I've said all along. The problem with this health care debate is that we, the Republicans, shouldn't make the same mistake the Democrats did. The Democrats muscled Obamacare through. I voted against it. And we've been fighting about it ever since. We shouldn't make the same mistake. We need a bipartisan -- we obviously need a sustainable, durable reform.

CAMEROTA: Since you've been saying that you shouldn't make the same mistakes and the health care bill failed, who do you blame?

DENT: Look, the White House was making concessions, you know, to the hard-right elements of our conference who are not going to vote for the bill anyway. And in the process, you know, they picked up very few votes, and they ended up losing votes from center right members, you know, who had very serious concerns about the changes to essential health benefits and other issues, for example.

The bottom line is we need a durable sustainable reform to health care. And it can only be done in a bipartisan manner. Everybody knows that. That's the way we should be moving forward.

CAMEROTA: Well, not exactly. Hold on a second. You say everybody knows that. That is blasphemy to the House Freedom Caucus. They don't want compromise. They don't want to work with Democrats.

DENT: Well, guess what? This is a democracy. You know, we live in a republic. You know, this system is -- to get any bill through the United States Senate, let me explain the math. Outside of reconciliation, you need 60 votes in the Senate to do anything, including a bathroom break.

[07:25:11] So you might as well get -- you've got to figure out that you need at least eight Senate Democrats to pass a bill. That's the basic math here. Now I've talked to Democrats in the House. They all know that the individual insurance market is a mess, and it has to be repaired. The Republicans, we dislike a lot of the taxes in Obamacare. So do some of the Democrats. They hate the Cadillac tax. We don't like things that add to cost, like the premiums tax and the device tax. We can find some areas of consensus. That's what we should be doing.

CAMEROTA: You're looking for common ground, and you're willing to work with Democrats on it. Do you think that the House Freedom Caucus would ever do that? I mean, I guess my point is do you blame them for this falling apart and for not having common ground?

DENT: Well, look, yes. I would have to say that over the years, and I've been -- I've been in Congress since 2005. And what I've witnessed since we came back into the majority in 2011, that we have a number of members of our conference who have a very difficult time of getting to yes on a number of issues.

I've been one of the people who's been one of the governing of the party. On all the tough issues, passing the appropriation bills, the C.R.'s, the budget agreements, the fiscal cliffs, the debt ceiling. I've always been part of these hard-fought agreements. I've gotten criticized for it, because it always requires some level of bipartisan collaboration.

Now, if we can't get the basics, the fundamentals of governing right, those things I just described, well, then it's going to be that much harder to deal with issues like health care reform or tax reform. Those are big issues. We have to be able to do the basic blocking and tackling of governance before we want to throw the ball downfield.

So I guess we have to get back to that. And the very issues that drove John Boehner from the speaker's job, the underlying political dynamics still remain today and, you know, are creating problems for Paul Ryan, who's doing the best he can under tough circumstances.

CAMEROTA: What does this loss mean for President Trump?

DENT: Well, I think right now, you move forward. If I were -- if I were giving advice to the president, if they want to take my advice, I would recommend they pivot to infrastructure now. Because that issue, I think, runs the -- has the best opportunity to develop some kind of bipartisan coalition that -- in the House and the Senate. That's what -- that's what I would do if they were asking my advice.

CAMEROTA: And in terms of his deal making, did you feel that he was effective in trying to hatch a deal with you?

DENT: He who? The president?


DENT: Look, I believe the president probably learned something in this process. Again, I don't take this stuff too personally. I've been around a while. I've been in some, you know, heated discussions before.

I think he learned something that, you know, he was -- he and the White House were making concessions, you know, to the hard-right elements of the conference. And I knew darn well they weren't going to vote for the bill anyway.

And so, but in that process, they ended up alienating more of the center-right members. You know, like I said -- I said earlier, the essential health benefit provision was a very big deal. That was a policy that was being -- that was put in at the last second that had enormous ramifications in terms of coverage and potentially premiums. And being asked to vote on that within 24 hours. I think that's too much to ask. It's a bridge too far.

CAMEROTA: Congressman Charlie Dent, thank you for the candor and for coming on, and we will be watching to see what happens next with all of this.

DENT: Thank you, Alisyn. Great to have -- great to be on the show.

CAMEROTA: Thank you.

Coming up on NEW DAY, we want to let you know, Texas Congressman Ted Poe will be on. He has resigned from the House Freedom Caucus over this health care defeat. He'll join us with his thoughts in the next hour.

CUOMO: So how is President Trump going to work with a bitterly divided Congress to advice his stalled agenda? We discuss next.