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Ryan's Health Bill Worry; Interview with Rep. Dan Donovan; NC Bathroom Bill Repeal; Senate Opens Trump/Russia Hearings; Hopes Fading for Bargain with Russia. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired March 30, 2017 - 09:30   ET


[09:30:00] CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Is that there are a lot of raw nerves and hurt feels still, as there always are in Washington, over the health care crisis and they're bringing that now into the tax reform debate.


ROMANS: So there's a lot of that still going on. So we've got to see --

HARLOW: Absolutely.

ROMANS: Again, this is Donald Trump's test as a dealmaker to get a deal.

HARLOW: Christine, thank you.

ROMANS: You're welcome.

HARLOW: All right, a quick reminder for all of you. Talking to CEOs and business leaders about all of this. What do they make of life and running businesses under the Trump administration. Candid conversations in our pod cast "Boss Files." Check it out on iTunes, Stitcher (ph) on Android, or tune in on Amazon Echo.

President Trump, moments ago, ripping into the House Freedom Caucus and Democrats. Here's his tweet. "The Freedom Caucus will hurt the entire Republican agenda if they don't get them on the team and fast. We must fight them and Dems in 2018." That tweet on the heels of a frank message from Paul Ryan on CBS this morning. Ryan voicing his concerns when it comes to President Trump's relationship with Democrats after their less than fruitful attempt to sell the GOP's House -- health care plan.


REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), HOUSE SPEAKER: What I worry about, Nora, is that if we don't do this, then he'll just go work with Democrats to try and change Obamacare. And that's not going to -- that's hardly a conservative thing. This is a can-do president, who's a business guy --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The president -- RYAN: Who -- who -- who wants to get things done. And I know that he wants to get things done with the Republican Congress. But if this Republican Congress allows the perfect to be the enemy of the good, I worry we'll push the president into -- into working with Democrats. He's been suggesting that as much.


HARLOW: All right, joining me now Republican Congressman Dan Donovan of New York, the only Republican to represent New York.

Nice to have you here.

REP. DAN DONOVAN (R), NEW YORK: Thank you to have me, Poppy.

HARLOW: So we're going to get to the president's tweet in a minute, but just respond to what Paul Ryan said. I mean as a fellow Republican, are you as worried as Paul Ryan clearly is about this president working with Democrats?

DONOVAN: I think we have to repair our broken health care system. And, you know, some good things were in that bill, some bad things. I was a no vote, Poppy, because it was going to hurt the people that I represent.


DONOVAN: And the president and the speaker have to look through this though different lenses than most of us do.

HARLOW: But that's not what I asked you, congressman. To do that, to get a good bill, is Paul Ryan wrong or right to say don't work with the Dems?

DONOVAN: I think we have to get a good bill. And I think if you get a good bill, I think everybody could join in. So --

HARLOW: All right.

DONOVAN: I don't think that this is a Republican or a Democratic bill. It's a health care bill for our entire nation. And I think we have to look to see what's best for the American people. We promised them that we would fix this broken health care system. It is broken and is in great need of repair. We have families that are paying astronomical premiums, copays, that have high deductibles. They don't go to doctors any longer. This -- this last week when I was going to vote no on the bill that was proposed, it was going to hurt seniors at a time in their lives when they need more health care and they have limited incomes. So I think we have to correct what was wrong with that bill, pass what was right with it. The day before we were supposed to vote, we passed a wonderful bill --

HARLOW: Let me --

DONOVAN: That would help small businesses join insurance pools --

HARLOW: Let me ask you this --

DONOVAN: So that they could provide insurance for their employees at a cheaper rate. That's a good thing.

HARLOW: You were a no because you felt like New York City was unfairly, in this bill, being burdened to pay into Medicaid when the rest of New York state was not having to bear the brunt of -- brunt of that cost.

DONOVAN: That was one of the reasons, yes.

HARLOW: What about these essential benefits that the Freedom Caucus got stripped from this at the last hour and still didn't vote for the bill? Do you think it's a good bill stripping the essential benefits? Could you get to yes with those out?

DONOVAN: Well, the essential benefits are still going to be available to people, they were just going to have to choose whether want -- they wanted them or not. A 75-year-old man --

HARLOW: So most people. Not -- not to -- not -- not to -- not to all people.

DONOVAN: A 75-year-old man doesn't need maternity leave or maternity care. A young person doesn't need geriatric care. So what it was going to do is instead of having everyone buy insurance that covered everything, it was going to allow people options that they could pay for maternity care if they needed it, they could pay for other types of care if you needed care that was particular to women. Men wouldn't have to buy that. So it was giving people options.

HARLOW: Let me get your take -- the president said earlier this week, "it's going to be so easy, such as easy one to get a health care bill done. I don't know, it was not so easy last week. Sean Spicer was asked about that yesterday and he essentially said, I think he's having fun. You know, this is sort of a light-hearted comment. But in all seriousness, how serious do you think the White House is about getting a health care deal done, or is it over and on to taxes?

DONOVAN: I don't think it's over. I'm not sure in what order they want to do it. The president has a very aggressive agenda. He wants to do infrastructure, tax reform. We still have to deal with the health care bill. But the president recognized that after he got into office, and he said this publically, that health care is complicated and it really, really is. And so I think we certainly can't give up on it. We have an obligation to the American people to do something about it. We have to help people with their expenses of their health care, their access to their health care and certainly for the actual care that they receive.

HARLOW: Let me get your take on the president tweeting -- throwing fire at the House Freedom Caucus, your fellow Republicans, saying they've got to get on board or they're going to ruin the Republican agenda and we must fight them and Democrats in 2018. Sounds a lot like a president who wants to primary these folks who don't get on board. The White House asked what he meant, said the president's tweet speaks for its. What do you make of it?

[09:35:14] DONOVAN: Well, I think the president is very frustrated that the health care bill didn't go through. He's a man who makes deal. He's a very successful person. As I said before, he has a very aggressive agenda. He wants to get health care done so he can move on to other things. And so I think it's just -- he's frustrated that this didn't happen. But, listen, every individual here, the 435 of us, the hundred senators in the Senate, all have to represent the people that sent them down here to do all their work.

HARLOW: So you don't view it then as a threat? I mean you're a Republican who voted no, right? I mean not as part of the Freedom Caucus, but you don't view it as a throat to folks that vote no on his agenda that you may get primaried?

DONOVAN: I don't think so. I think it's just the frustration of the president. He would have liked to have seen this done so he can move on to other things. It didn't happen. But now we have to spend more time in it than he thought we were going to have to. But he wants to get health care repaired. Paul Ryan wants to get health care repaired and certainly Dan Donovan wants to.

HARLOW: All right, congressman, we appreciate you being with us this morning. Thank you.

DONOVAN: Thank you.

HARLOW: So, do they really have a deal? North Carolina lawmakers voting to repeal that controversial bathroom bill today. There's protests this morning. What does it all mean? Why are LGBTQ groups not happy? And will this deal pass? That's next.


[09:40:32] HARLOW: North Carolina lawmakers, this morning, they're going to take their first vote on repealing the state's controversial bathroom bill. This is a bill that requires transgender people to use the bathroom that matches the gender on their birth certificate. Well, this morning, this so-called deal is not quieting critics who say it's really a repeal in name only. Nick Valencia is following it all for us.

So LGBTQ rights groups are up in arms. They're upset. They don't see this as a deal at all.

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know this, Poppy. This has been a bitterly contested issue in the state of North Carolina for the past year between state Democrats and state Republicans. It's being called a vote to repeal House Bill 2, but it is anything but. The one good thing that it does do for trans community in North Carolina is it allows them to choose the bathroom of their choice based on their gender identity. But some in the LGBTQ community say this goes even further in discriminating them by putting a four year moratorium on non-discrimination ordinances. Now, the state is in charge of that. There's no local protections. Something that transgender activists really wanted. I spoke to the leading transgender activist in the state of North Carolina, Candice Cox (ph), who says that this new legislation would strip any protections that the transgender people in North Carolina ever had.


CANDICE COX (voice-over): You really are leaving transgender people has prey to any form of discrimination, wrongful termination from employment, hate crimes. We have to now argue that in state courts again because there's no definition as to who you can or cannot discriminate against when we're talking about gender identity at the state level and you want to take it away from the cities as well.


VALENCIA: Now, there's something very interesting happening in North Carolina this morning. There is a split between the more progressive, left-leaning Democrats and the more moderates ones. We understand within the last hour those more progressive voices within the Democrat Party met with Governor Roy Cooper to try to convince him to revoke his support for this House Bill 2 repeal vote. We have to remind our viewers, Poppy, just how close of a win it was for Governor Roy Cooper in his bid for that governorship against Pat McCrory. He won by the slimmest of margins and a lot of that had to do with the support that he was getting from the LGBTQ community based on his campaign promise that he would fully repeal House Bill 2. This is anything but a full repeal and he's not keeping up with his promises according to this transgender activist. We expect this to be a very close vote in the state legislature later this morning.


HARLOW: And, look, the state took such a huge financial hit, Nick, from so many -- so many businesses pulling out. You know, the -- the -- the final -- the all-star game pulled out when it comes to the NBA.


HARLOW: I mean they lost so much. Are they going to need a full repeal of this to really be able to bring that revenue back in?

VALENCIA: Well, the short answer is -- is no, they just need the optics that the state is doing enough to try to take steps forward in allowing transgender people to use the bathroom of their choice. There's estimates that put this loss financially for the state of North Carolina in the billions of dollars. There's been estimates from the -- from the local level that this is hundreds of millions of dollars that it's cost the state. This is a bitterly contested issue, Poppy, and it's going to be a very close vote from what we understand from -- from congressmen we've been speaking to this morning. This vote expected to happen about 11:00 a.m. Eastern.


HARLOW: Nick, thank you for the reporting for us.

Coming up, in the House, bipartisanship non-existent this morning. And it's a far different story on the Senate side, though. At the top of the hour, the Senate Intel Committee holds its first public hearing on Russia's election interference. You're going to see that live beginning here in just moments. Stay with us.


[09:48:35] HARLOW: Moments from now the Senate Intelligence Committee will begin its first big public hearing on the president and this investigation into Russian's election hacking. The stakes could not be higher. Did Moscow try to meddle in the election? We know they did. But was there any collusion between associates of the president and Russian officials. That's one of the key questions. Our crime and justice producer, Shimon Prokupecz in Washington with more.

So you've got two really important things here. Let's just -- let's break them down. First, Comey is going to be one of -- FBI Director Comey, one of the 20 people who's going to speak in front of this committee over the next week. What's the difference between his relationship with the Senate side on the Intel Committee and the House side?

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE PRODUCER: Well, I think one of the differences that we've been told is that he's been a little more forthcoming with the intelligence side on the Senate. Partially it's because he just has a better relationship. Going into this, when he first started meeting with them, he basically told them, I do not want to see this out in the press. I will meet with you. I will give you information. But, you know, I don't want to see this -- what I'm telling you, I don't want to see out reported. I don't want to see any leaks. And so far they've been pretty good about that.

Some of what he sort of faces when he goes before Congress, when he testifies on The Hill, he kind of talked about last night at a dinner, it was one of those rare appearances where he actually defended the FBI, spoke somewhat about what goes into his thinking when he addresses Congress. And here's that sound.

[09:50:09] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAMES COMEY, FBI DIRECTOR: This is a challenge I face when I testify in front of Congress. And it's not a criticism of Congress. It's -- they see facts as to how it will affect my side. How does that argument affect my side? And when they encounter people -- and I'm just one of 37,000 that are like this at the FBI -- who never considers sides, it's confusing. I know that when I make a hard decision, a storm's going to follow. But, honestly, I don't care.


PROKUPECZ: And, Poppy, you know, no doubt he's made a lot of tough decisions. Certainly writing a letter to Congress when he had to update the Hillary investigation. That created a storm. On sort of the Russia stuff, I don't think he's faced some of the same criticism. I think some people would have liked him to come out sooner and talk about what they knew. And he really still hasn't said much about what the FBI knows in terms of the collusion and coordination. HARLOW: Right. But he has certainly made clear that they are looking

into any possible connection between Trump associates and Russia. So he's now angered the Clinton supporters during the campaign and angered the -- those who voted for Trump and the Trump team now.

Shimon, thank you for the reporting. We appreciate it.

PROKUPECZ: All right.

HARLOW: And we're awaiting, again, for this Senate Intel Committee hearing to begin in moments. We're going to bring that to you live. You're looking at live pictures from Capitol Hill where this all gets underway. One of the key questions is, what are we going to hear from these now we know 20 people who will testify, including Jared Kushner, the president's son-in-law, and others.

We're going to take a quick break. Full coverage right after this.


[09:55:49] HARLOW: Good morning. I'm Poppy Harlow.

All eyes on Capitol Hill right now. The gavel about to fall and the Senate Intelligence Committee set to go public with this Russia investigation and the meddling in the U.S. election. And, importantly, did members of the Trump team have contacts, any coordination with Moscow? Now, over the next week, lawmakers will grill members of the president's inner circle, both past and present. This morning, Russia's president is firing back, angrily denying any interference in the election whatsoever. We're going to have more on that live from Moscow in a moment.

But let's begin at the hearing with our Manu Raju, who is there.

We're just about five minutes away from this all kicking off. Set the stage. What should we hear?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Well, it will be interesting to hear the line of questions from these senators. Now, the people that we're expecting to testify at this hearing, there are two different panels, one of academics, two, people talking about the issue of cyber security, the vulnerability of the cyber security infrastructure, the proliferation of fake news websites, how the Russians apparently interfered with the elections, trying to sway the outcome. We're not hearing from any government witnesses today, but what we'll be -- what will be revealing is the line of questioning from the senators themselves to show how they want to pursue this investigation, given that much of this investigation is happening privately, is happening behind closed doors.

But this is really trying to set the stage for much bigger witnesses to come forward, people who are affiliated with the Trump campaign, Trump associates, including Jared Kushner, who is the president's son- in-law, someone who is going to be interviewed privately, at least, by the Senate Intelligence Committee. The question, will he be interviewed publicly? That's going to be a question for a number of other people as well, including Paul Manafort, the former campaign chairman, Michael Flynn, the former national security adviser, who we know the Senate Intelligence Committee has actually had discussions with. We'll see when he actually comes forward.

Now, this comes as the House Intelligence Committee has essentially ground to a standstill in a partisan dispute over the role of Chairman Devin Nunes. The Senate Intelligence Committee trying to show that they are actually -- they are moving forward. They are interviewing witnesses. They're going through scores and scores of documents. At least five witnesses have agreed to testify. Twenty they have asked to come forward so far. But today will be the beginning of that effort, Poppy, to really set the groundwork for a much broader investigation to learn about the extent of the Russian involvement in the elections and the extent of any coordination between the Trump campaign and Russian officials during the presidential election, Poppy.

HARLOW: Right, which the Trump team repeatedly denies, calling it all really just a hoax.

Manu Raju, thank you.

We turn now to Sara Murray. She's got new -- all right, let's turn now to Sara Murray. She's got new reporting. Some breaking news on what the president is saying about Russia and trying to really have another reset with Russia.

Sara, what are you hearing?

SARA MURRAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we do know that the president had hoped to, in his words, make a deal with Russia. He was hoping for some kind of grand bargain where you could deal with issues like Syria, like Ukraine, like combating ISIS, things he talked about on the campaign trail. But now administration officials are telling us that his hope of this deal are really beginning to fade. This was first reported in "The Wall Street Journal." We're also told that there was actually a private meeting in the Oval Office with his new national security adviser, General McMaster, and others in which the president expressed his frustration. This was after Russia deployed cruise missiles last month in an apparent treaty violation and made the point that it's much harder to make amends with Russia when they are being aggressive in that manner and taking these kinds of actions.

But an official tells me that there's also sort of a broader backdrop here. They really don't feel like the climate is right for striking a deal with Russia. They think there is so much media scrutiny right now in terms of anything the president says in regards to Russia and with the combination of the House probe, the Senate probe, and an FBI investigation, they're not closing the door entirely on being able to strike a deal, but they just don't feel optimistic about it any time soon.

HARLOW: And Russia's president, Vladimir Putin, and his team saying today that they would be willing to meet with President Trump on the sidelines of this arctic summit, if the president does, indeed, go. But, I mean, given this -- I mean this is a dramatic shift in the posture of the administration toward Russia. We have never seen a president, Sara, tweet anything bad about Russia or Vladimir Putin, let alone say anything. Do you think that this indicates that his tone and his language on Russia are also going to change?