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Door Open to Dems after Health Bill Collapse; Interview with Rep. Keith Ellison; Russia Crackdown on Protesters; Trump Advancing His Agenda; Kushner's Russian Meetings. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired March 27, 2017 - 08:30   ET



[08:31:17] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: All right, so what are the Democrats going to do? The president is desperate for a win, it seems, or at least that's the word in and around the White House. Health care didn't work. There's still a need to make it better. What are the Democrats going to do?

Let's discuss with Democratic Congressman Keith Ellison of Minnesota, also deputy chair of the DNC.

Good to have you.

So, answer my question please, sir.


CUOMO: This is a moment of opportunity. What do you do with it?

ELLISON: Well, you know, we're standing at the ready to always do what's right for the American people. And we know there are a number of improvements that could be made. I have a few in mind right now. But the fact is, is that we've been, well, facing 60 repeal votes, and now this latest thing. If the Republicans have suddenly realized they have to work with us, I think that's a -- that's a good thing. But, you know, right now, you know, Medicare Part D does not negotiate drug prices. That is something we could work together on to bring drug prices down for Americans all over this country. There are things we can work together on and I -- we stand ready to work on those things.

CUOMO: Was do you see as fixes for the problems in the private market side of the ACA? You know the stories. A lot of it has to do with which states --


CUOMO: Didn't expand and did expand Medicaid. I get that. But you have premium problems. You have deductible problems in different market spaces. You have ideas for that?

ELLISON: Well, you know, in Minnesota, when we saw some spikes in the private market, you know, we worked together in a bipartisan way to try to supplement some of those spikes and then look at how we can reengineer that market to make sure if we could bring prices down and increase more players in that market so there could be some competitive play. But those are the things we're working on now.

Governor Dayton worked together with members of the Minnesota house and senate to say, look, we can't just let these spikes hurt Americans, we're going to have to do something about it. And so there are ways forward. We are ready to do that. We do need those governors to accept the Medicaid expansion and stop being mired in ideology hoping and praying that the thing collapses.

I mean here's the thing about President Trump. You know, he has a duty to faithfully execute the laws of this country. As Paul Ryan said, the Affordable Care Act is the law of the land. And so now it's time for all of us to figure out how to make it work and come up with good faith ways to improve it, not ideological ways. You know, the Democrats, we don't believe in just market solutions or just government solutions, we believe there are solutions to be had in different sectors. Let's come together to figure out what they are. The Democratic Party will never prioritize party over people. And so we're standing at the ready to make things better, private market, anywhere else, and on any other issue.

CUOMO: But standing at the ready, what does that mean, because, you know, you could take a step right now.

ELLISON: Well, let me --

CUOMO: If health care is going to go anywhere right now, the Republicans aren't on the same page. So do you see that as an opportunity to come forward and say whether it's how they price drugs in one part of Medicare or here's what's going on with certain premiums and how we can help, do you need to step up and put those out there and come on shows like this and get the ball rolling that way or do you just wait for the GOP to come to you?

ELLISON: No, no, I mean I think what you asked me at the beginning of the show is, what are some ideas about how we move forward.

CUOMO: Right.

ELLISON: I talked about negotiating drug prices with the VA and --

CUOMO: Right.

ELLISON: And so those are some things I think we should try to move forward and do. I think these things are definitely things that the American people need. And, you know, when I say stand at the ready, what I mean -- the emphases should be on the word "ready." We have ideas that we'd like to move forward on. I don't think we fold our arms and gloat. I think we step forward and say, look, there are people who cannot afford their medicine right now. What can we do together about it? That might mean drug importation, re-importation. It -- it might -- and as I mentioned, it means negotiation of drug prices. There's no way that big pharma ought to be able to just say, here's what the drug cost, pay it or don't take it. That should not be the way that it goes. [08:35:16] And so there are -- we are ready to take that step, Chris,

if that's the point you're asking me for. We think that is probably the right thing to do because -- but it's not about party and it's not about helping Trump get a win. It's about -- it's about doing what's right for Americans who are looking at insulin going through the roof, Daraprim go through the roof, other kind of medications, they just cannot afford what they need to stay alive.

CUOMO: No, I hear you. I hear you. I just -- I'm just asking you about what will the role that the Democrats play --


CUOMO: When you look at some of the big initiatives that might be coming down the pike, which or -- you know, which one or maybe more than one appeals to you as a place that you see a legitimate chance for combination? Is it infrastructure? Is it tax? Could it be select immigration policy? What do you think the best chance for progress is?

ELLISON: Well, I think that there might be some -- we all want to see us rebuild America. I man if you've talked to the American Engineering Society, they'll tell you that we may have $3 trillion worth of infrastructure maintenance needs around this country. In my own state of Minnesota, we saw the bridge collapse into the Mississippi River --

CUOMO: Sure.

ELLISON: For sure, man, we believe that that is the right thing. But, Chris, we're not just going to go for anything. You know, it's got to be meaningful. If all it is, is a big tax give-a-way to some wealthy individuals and companies, that's not going to work. But if it's real investment, Eisenhower-style, in our nation's -- in our infrastructure, that is something we would love to talk about because we've got to upgrade our grid, we've got to upgrade our water systems. Flint is still on bottled water. Flint, Michigan, is still on bottled water. We ought to be doing something about getting those pipes cleaned up and straightened out right now. I guarantee you the building trades would be happy about that.

So the -- there are a number of ways we can work forward. You know, and they're talking about tax reform right now. We think that there are a number of ideas we'd like to put forward in terms of tax reform. We do believe that an estate tax is an appropriate thing. If you don't have one, basically all you do is guarantee an aristocracy where one rich guy passes it on to his kids and so on down the line, but we also believe that there could be something with a transactions tax. The United States used to have one. Many stats around the world have them. There are a number of things we can do to try to work together on tax reform now that that's a conversation that we've started.

I mean I think that there's a limitless number of ways that we can help the American people. The American -- I mean we are in an economy, Chris, that for four decades has been stagnant for American workers. Let's do something about it. Trump campaigned on jobs, infrastructure and fair trade. I think it's time to get at that business. I mean but then when he brings in foreign steel to build a pipeline, that's not good. When his budget says he wants to cut the Appalachian Regional Commission, that's not good. But we are ready for good-faith efforts to help the American people for sure.

CUOMO: Well, that's what we're waiting for to see who takes what opportunity in what direction. Thank you for coming on. You're always welcome to come on NEW DAY to discuss what matters to the American people. Thank you, sir.

ELLISON: Thank you, sir.

CUOMO: All right, Alisyn.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: All right, Chris, another important story. Hundreds of people arrested as thousands of Russians hit the street protesting Vladimir Putin's policies. Our CNN crew got caught in the middle of it. Fred Pleitgen joins us next with more on what he saw.


[08:42:42] CUOMO: Time now for the "Five Things to Know for Your New Day."

President Trump trying to reboot after a stinging defeat on health care reform. He's now blaming others, conservatives, Democrats, certain special interests. What's next? Tax reform.

CAMEROTA: The Pentagon and Iraqi officials investigating civil deaths from a coalition strike -- air strike in Mosul. An Iraqi health official tells CNN they have recovered more than 100 bodies. More U.S. troops now headed there to help drive ISIS out.

CUOMO: Tragedy in Japan. Eight high school students feared dead after they were swept away in an avalanche at a ski resort north of Tokyo. At least six others injured.

CAMEROTA: No arrests yet following a deadly shootout this weakened at a nightclub in Ohio. Police in Cincinnati believe multiple gunmen opened fire, killing one and wounding at least 15 others.

CUOMO: North Carolina, the only familiar face to reach the final four. The Tar Heels knocking off Kentucky with a last-second buzzer beater, amazing. Joining them in the final four, you've got Gonzaga, South Carolina, what a match-up that could be, South Carolina and North Carolina, oh, and you have Oregon. So that's big.

For more on the "Five Things to Know," go to for the latest.

CAMEROTA: Well, the State Department is blasting Russia for arresting hundreds of people during peaceful anti-corruption protests. The U.S. is demanding their release, calling this an abuse of core democratic values.

CNN's Fred Pleitgen is live in Moscow. He was there witnessing all of the protests. He has details for us. Fred.


Yes, and the latest that we have literally from just a couple of minutes ago is that the organizer of the protest, Alexei Navalny, a well-known opposition figure here, has just been sentenced to 15 days in jail. It was quite a bizarre trial that took place earlier today. He was arrested during the protest and initially fined to pay $350, but then apparently the court came up with a second charge and is now keeping him in jail for 15 days.

But you're absolutely right, those protests certainly were very, very tense. The authorities here deemed the protests illegal and made many arrests. Here's what happened to us.


PLEITGEN (voice-over): There were many tense moments and, according to state media, hundreds of arrests made in Moscow alone. Our crew also getting caught up in the pushing and shoving.

PLEITGEN (on camera): There's a massive police presence on hand here at these protests, that time and again we're seeing scenes like this, with the police pushing the protesters back and even making arrests.

[08:45:08] This way. OK. OK. OK. OK. OK.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): Russia's official news agency put the turnout at around 8,000 people at the march in Moscow, declared illegal by Russian authorities. Taking to the streets to criticize what they call widespread corruption among the country's elite, the organizers say similar gatherings happened in about 100 towns and cities across this vast country. The man calling for the action, opposition activist and Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny was himself detained. But those who follow his call weren't shy to voice their grievances.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm against Putin, against his corruption.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They can't support (ph) our government really (ph). They steal our money using their power.

PLEITGEN: These protests don't pose a serious threat to Russia's President Vladimir Putin, who boasts approval ratings of around 80 percent. But they showed the opposition is willing to take to the streets, whether the authorities allow them to or not.


PLEITGEN: And some of those people who were detained yesterday, of course, still have not been released. But I also want to give you guys really quick the reaction of the Kremlin to all this. They have condemned the protests, said they were illegal, and the spokesman for Vladimir Putin even says he believes that some of the people, some of the minors who were there, were paid if they got arrested.


CUOMO: Yes, a familiar tactic that we've seen back here, they're not real protesters, they were shipped in, you know, it's fixed. Thank you very much, Fred, appreciate it.

The State Department put out a message about those protests. Have not heard from President Trump about what's going on there.

So, health care hurts, no question about it, but what now? What happens next? Where is progress? Where is the winning? We get "The Bottom Line," next.


[08:50:37] CUOMO: All right, so President Trump is trying to put the health care defeat in the rearview mirror. Congressman Ted Poe, who resigned from the Freedom Caucus, just told us it will be tough for him to get really anything through Congress.

Let's get "The Bottom Line" with CNN's senior political analyst and senior editor at "The Atlantic," Ron Brownstein.


CUOMO: Let's listen to a little of Congressman Poe making the case for inaction.


REP. TED POE (R), TEXAS: Well, we have the tax situation, which is next. I think that is going to be more difficult to change the tax structure of the country than replacing and repealing Obamacare. Whatever the plan will be, it would not -- it's not going to be as conservative as the -- some people will want because the conservatives continue, unfortunately, to vote no, no matter what.



CUOMO: So, the winning. Where's the winning?

BROWNSTEIN: Yes. Look, I think President Trump faces a catch 22 going forward. On the one hand, the health care built clearly showed the limits of trying to govern with a Republican-only strategy because what that does is in essence it gives a veto to each faction of the party. On the other hand, reaching out to Democrats is extremely problematic because the way his -- both the campaign and the presidency has unfolded, his disapproval rating among rank and file Democrats is approaching 90 percent. It's in the high 80s, which makes it very, very difficult for any Democratic legislator to work with him on almost anything.

CAMEROTA: Well, but, I mean there can be a course correction. This can be a teachable moment.


CAMEROTA: And, obviously, they have to do something different because the --

BROWNSTEIN: Right, they do.

CUOMO: The House freedom caucus has dig in, as we just heard there from Congressman Poe, that's no way to get anything done. So what do you think will happen next, Ron?

BROWNSTEIN: Well, I think it's really unclear because, Alisyn, you know, as you know, it's not just process. It is substance that is required here. Like, for example, if you think about the health care debate, the issue where there is a problem is the stability of the private insurance markets in Obamacare. That is an area where you may be able to work with Democrats. But the Republican bill went beyond that to completely repeal the expansion of Medicaid and go beyond the expansion of Medicaid to block grant the underlying program to the point where 14 million people the CBO (ph) would lose health care. That is a non-starter with Democrats.

Similarly, there are going to be similar issues on tax reform as well. And even on infrastructure, where you would think there is the most possibility, the structure of the way that President Trump has talked about doing that with tax credits rather than direct government spending and funding it through tolls again is a non-starter for virtually all Democrats. So it's not just inviting people over to bowl or to golf, it is also the substance of the proposals, and we'll see whether they are willing to make the accommodations that we require to have any meaningful Democratic buy-in.

CUOMO: So what do you make of the headlines about Jared Kushner, more meetings with the Russian ambassador than had been previously disclosed.


CUOMO: We just got a statement from the White House, by the way. The spokesperson there says, "throughout the campaign and transition, Jared Kushner served as the official primary point of contact with foreign governments and officials. Given this role, he has volunteered to speak with Chairman Burr's committee, but has not yet received confirmation." This is about one meeting versus three meetings that they know about now at the committee and they want to talk to him about it. But meetings by themselves are meaningless. It's about, what were they about and what happened after, right?

BROWNSTEIN: Right. Well, look, I mean part of -- part of the job of an incoming administration is to interact with the world. But I think the he is, what -- the phrase that you had there, more meetings than it had previously disclosed. This is a clear and consistent pattern and it gives -- it adds to the sense that there is smoke and potentially fire. And, of course, I think there will be a lot of interest in the fact that one of the subsequent meetings was not only with the ambassador but with the -- the head of a Russian bank because I think one thing even the intelligence committee kind of -- has a feeling about is that they're going to get further on understanding the patterns of contact and collusion than they are -- potential collusion than they are on understanding the money chain. And that is not their expertise. Whether there are any final relationships here, that, I think, is going to be an ongoing question.

CAMEROTA: We should mention that that is Maggie Haberman and her colleagues at "The New York Times" reporting that they shared with us.

Ron, thank you very much for "The Bottom Line."

BROWNSTEIN: Thank you.

CUOMO: How about some Monday "Good Stuff." Big dose, right? Next.


[08:58:39] CUOMO: A little "Good Stuff" on Monday. And talk about students with hearts of gold. These teenagers at a catholic school in Long Island, New York, pitched in to raise money to get a six-year-old boy from Kosovo to the U.S. for life-saving surgery. OK, you see Erblin's heart had a hole in it. He needed help very fast. The surgery was going to be donated, but he and his father had to get here. The students worked quickly to do just that.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's really incredible. I mean you watch it on the x-ray machine, and just as it goes through the x-ray machine, you see it just starting to fix and Erblin's heart was able to beat normally again.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's very exciting because we always speak about the importance of giving back and giving life.


CUOMO: And they did just that. Little Erblin says he can't wait to go home and play soccer with his friends.

CAMEROTA: Oh, my gosh, look at how happy that little cutie is.

CUOMO: It's a good thing. They came together. They raised the money. They helped somebody.

CUOMO: That is beautiful.

All right, it's time now for CNN "NEWSROOM" with Poppy Harlow and John Berman.

Happy rainy Monday, guys.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Happy rainy Monday to you. Good morning. Hello to all of you. We have a lot of news. Let's get right to it.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. I'm John Berman.

HARLOW: I'm Poppy Harlow.

Just in, a potentially major new twist in the Senate investigation into possible ties between Russian officials and Trump associations. It now hits very close to home at the White House.

[09:00:04] BERMAN: Yes, very close to home. "The New York Times" is reporting that senators want to question President Trump's son-in-law and trust advisor, Jared Kushner, about meetings he arranged with the Russian ambassador.