Return to Transcripts main page


Pence, GOP Meeting on Health Care Yields No Results; Kushner's Growing Role in Trump White House Draws Criticism; Pepsi Ad Sparks Social Media Backlash; Tony Romo to Become Lead Analyst for NFL Games. Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired April 5, 2017 - 10:30   ET


[10:30:00] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: I mean, Mike Pence, he's on the Hill hour after hour after hour, they say they're making progress and very encouraging comments from Mark Meadows, chairman of the Freedom Caucus. We'll skip Easter break if we can get this thing done. What are you hearing?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, one of the things I'm hearing from some of the conservative outside groups who help support folks like Mark Meadows is that they're very, very concerned that the details, that the text of the legislation is not going to fully repeal or allow for the repeal of some of the most onerous regulations in the law. That's the -- these are some of the things that they -- that allow health insurance or force health insurance companies to sort of charge people the same price whether they have pre-existing conditions or not regardless of their age and so on and so forth, and they're worried that the text of the bill isn't going to do that fully. So they're still concerned.

There still is no text and until there is, I think we are going to see some of this holding back on the part of the conservatives because there is not as much trust with leadership and also with moderates and with the White House that whatever text that comes out of these negotiations will accomplish what they want. So I'm hearing a lot of distrust in this process. People are open to it. They appreciate Mike Pence's efforts here, but nobody is ready to come out and say this is the deal that we want, that we can agree to.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: No, we just spoke to Rodney Davis, a moderate, who sort of refused to commit until he sees on paper what exactly is agreed on.


BERMAN: Because what's on paper matters.

John Phillips, one of the things -- you were a Trump supporter during the Trump campaign. Nice to see you again, by the way, John. During the campaign there was one thing that was crystal clear from Donald Trump, candidate Trump, was that he wanted to protect the provisions which allowed for the protection of people with pre-existing conditions.

Well, now one of the things that's being discussed is doing away with the community rating which would mean that sick people could pay way, way more. That people with pre-existing conditions could pay way, way more.

Can the president sell this after saying that he wouldn't touch pre- existing conditions before?

JOHN PHILIPS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think there is a way to do it where you create something separate for the welfare cases and then you create a free market option for everyone else. This whole go- round the first time it didn't work. Reminded me of the Lyndon Johnson quote when he said, you can give a man a little bit of bourbon without getting him drunk, but if you hold his mouth open and you pour him a quart he's going to get sick on it.

And the fact of the matter is, is you can only force people to vote for something they don't like so much. You have to go back to the drawing board. You have to come up with something that's simpler, that's more free market oriented, get the votes in the House, send this thing in the Senate and put the weight of the world on red state Democrats who are up for re-election.

They did it the wrong way the first time around. They put pressure on the Freedom Caucus. That's not how you win these votes. You win these votes by putting pressure on the Democrats and I hope the second time around that's the strategy they employ.

HARLOW: Bakari, are you at all nervous that this is going to happen? That Republicans are going to get their act together and get this done maybe even before or right over the Easter break and then the president isn't going to work with Democrats like he was saying after the first failure the first time around?

BAKARI SELLERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No, I don't have any concern. One of the things that Donald Trump has managed to do that Barack Obama did not do is make Obamacare popular. You mentioned the Gallup poll which headed at 55 percent. We're going around the country now and talking to voters in airports and everywhere else. What we understand is that people now understand what essential benefits are. People know that they can keep --

HARLOW: Yes, but, Bakari, that same poll shows that only 26 percent of Americans want it to stay the way it is.

SELLERS: There's no question about that. But we're --

HARLOW: Fifty-five percent like it but they want some changes.

SELLERS: But with all due respect, Poppy, those are two -- those are two vastly different things. Repealing and replacing Obamacare and reforming the Affordable Care Act are two distinct things. You will have me and every other Democrat come to the table talk about how we reform the Affordable Care Act, how we add to the stabilization pools, so you have more than one provider in these counties. You will have people come to the table to talk about reforming the Affordable Care Act. Repealing the Affordable Care Act, repealing Obamacare is something

totally different and that's a non-starter. Mick Mulvaney and Mike Pence have failed on this since day one and I don't see that changing at any particular point, whether or not it's the Freedom Caucus or whether or not it's first Tuesday caucus or moderate Republicans or staunch conservatives. What people understand is that individuals in this country not only feel as if they deserve health care, but they appreciate the healthcare they get, and I can tell you that taking away the coverage that people with pre-existing conditions have is not only politically not prudent but it's also -- it's just humanely unsound. And so I think that they're going to run into a lot of problems on this, Poppy.

BERMAN: So, John Philips, let me shift gears to Syria right now because the White House put out a statement, an official statement after more than 70 people were killed including children and the way it chose to address the crisis, the catastrophe was to blame the Obama administration for its policies in Syria over the last six years.

Now look, there's plenty of blame to go around here and I think the Obama administration, you know, a magnifying glass does need to go over what they did and did not do in Syria.

[10:35:07] But the fact is, A, does blame help solve those people who die, help solve the crisis right now? And B, there were policies that citizen Donald Trump supported at the time. He didn't want to see military action. He didn't want to see the red line enforced. He wrote at the time, "To our very foolish leader, do not attack Syria. If you do, many very bad things will happen. And from that fight the U.S. gets nothing." So Donald Trump trying to have it both ways. Is this the right way to handle it?

PHILIPS: Well, unfortunately, this is not the first time that Assad has used chemical weapons on his own people and I suspect that if the world community doesn't come around and do something about it, it won't be the last time he does something like this, but this is not a United States problem. This is something that the international community has to get together on and, yes, that does involve Russia. That does involve putting pressure on other countries to put pressure on Assad, countries that have a better relationship with him than we do, but I don't think there is any appetite at all in the United States to go to war over this.

People have had enough of it. I mean, one of the reasons that Donald Trump won the Republican nomination was he ran against the Iraq war. Especially, if you go back to that debate in South Carolina where he took the Bushes head-on on that subject.

I just don't think the public has the appetite or the willingness or the desire to get involved in another boots on the ground war on the other side of the world.

HARLOW: All right. Guys, we're out of time. Abby Phillip, we will get to you first next time because you didn't get a second word in. Sorry about that. BERMAN: All right. Still to come, son-in-law in the spotlight. New

questions raised over Jared Kushner's experience as he takes on an increased role in the Trump administration. One former employee is speaking out. We're going to talk to her.


[10:41:06] BERMAN: All right. President Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner set to play a pivotal role in this week's big meeting with China. Of course, that's on top of everything else that Jared Kushner is doing. He's in charge of basically every region of the world right now it seems. And the 36-year-old has almost no prior diplomatic experience. His wife, Ivanka Trump, says, though, he's up to the task.


IVANKA TRUMP: You know, Jared is incredibly smart, very talented, has enormous capacity. He is humble in the recognition of what he doesn't know, and is tremendously secure in his ability to -- to seek informed viewpoints. He has an amazing team that my father has built at the White House, and that he's built that's helping work on each of these initiatives. So, you know, the myth that he's operating in a silo is just that.


HARLOW: So our next guest, Elizabeth Spiers, was editor-in-chief of the "New York Observer." Why does that matter? Well, that's the newspaper that Jared Kushner owned until pretty recently. She wrote a pretty scathing piece about that experience.

Let me read up to you. "I worked for Kushner for 18 months as he tried to infuse a much smaller institution in the U.S. government with cost-cutting impulses from the commercial real estate world. Not everything that works in the private sector is transferable to the public sector, and even if it were, Kushner isn't the best person to transfer it."

She joins us now.

You've gotten a lot of feedback on your "Washington Post" piece. Make the case that Kushner can't cut it in this government role because yes, you have a journalistic gripe with him, I get that from the piece.


HARLOW: But why do you think that means he it sounds like can't succeed at this?

SPIERS: Well, let's take it for granted that Ivanka is right and he's smart and talented, you still have to come back from the fact that if he were not married to the president's daughter he wouldn't be in any of these positions. There are interns on Capitol Hill that have more domain expertise than Jared has. So, you know, I hope that he succeeds. I think anyone who's, you know, a patriot wants to see this administration do well, but I'm skeptical because I just don't think that his experience is necessarily transferable to what he's doing now.

BERMAN: Well, we're curious about what you saw inside "The New York Observer." In this piece you tell a story about a Macintosh computer that was running Windows software. What did that represent to you?

SPIERS: Well, it was -- you know, it was a bit of a metaphor. He wasn't literally using the computer as a monitor, but he looked at it as an aesthetic object. You know, he liked the way that the casing looked and that was the only point in having the Macintosh. And so it was a metaphor about how Jared views optics, really, and I think it speaks to the way that he goes about deciding what he's going to tackle and what he isn't going to.

HARLOW: One of the many hats he's wearing other than solving Mideast peace and dealing with Mexico and, you know, China is he's running this American Innovation Office.


HARLOW: You were witness to a lot of cuts even after the "Observer" had what you believe was the first profitable quarter. You're saying he wanted more cuts.

SPIERS: Yes, and I think, you know, those impulses really come from his business background. He works in commercial real estate primarily and commercial real estate is really a transaction-based business, but maybe 10 percent of it is also about cost-cutting so what Jared fundamentally understands is deal-making and cost-cutting and beyond that, you know, not a lot about operations.

HARLOW: Couldn't that be good, facing the debt we're facing as a nation right now?

SPIERS: Well, I think cost-cutting is maybe a piece of it, but it has nothing to do with evolution or growth, and I think he's got to either develop those skill sets or bring in people who already have them.

BERMAN: Was he a successful businessman? I mean, do you argue with the notion that he was a success in the business world before joining the Trump administration?

SPIERS: Well, yes and no. I mean, Kushner Co. has done a lot of impulsive impressive deals, but if you look at their biggest deal which --

HARLOW: 666.

[10:45:03] SPIERS: -- 666 Fifth Avenue, it's in a lot of debt right now and, you know, Jared Kushner will have to figure out how to get that building back on track and they had a deal with a Chinese company Anbang that fell apart last week. So now they're looking for new investors. I think the jury is still out on that.

HARLOW: Have you heard from Jared Kushner?

SPIERS: Not recently. We talked for a few months after I left.

HARLOW: Could say you left on pretty amicable terms?

SPIERS: Yes. Yes. We stayed in touch for a while. I haven't heard from him recently, probably for obvious reasons.

BERMAN: But, you know, look, all right. Well, we're going to leave the discussion there.

Elizabeth Spiers, thanks so much for being with us. Really appreciate your time.

SPIERS: Thank you for having me.

HARLOW: Nice to have you.

All right. Still to come for us, it is the commercial that is lighting up social media for all of the wrong reasons. See why viewers of the newest Pepsi ad say it fizzes rather than pops.


[10:50:16] BERMAN: Flat cola, it is a problem and a new Pepsi ad is falling flat with consumers and sparking a social media firestorm.

HARLOW: Right. So you've probably seen it by now, but if not, here you go again. The ad features Kendall Jenner taking part in a photo shoot before shedding her wig, taking her lipstick off and taking part in a protest. At the end, she hands a police officer a Pepsi, and the crowd cheers. So critics are calling this tone deaf.

In a statement, Pepsi says, "This a global ad that reflects people from different walks of life coming together in a spirit of harmony. We think that's an important message to convey."

CNN Money's Cristina Alesci on top of all of this for us and of course the markets which are way up. We'll get to that in a moment.


HARLOW: So what's the deal?

BERMAN: As a result of Kendall Jenner, no doubt.

ALESCI: Right. The result.


HARLOW: Is Pepsi up?

BERMAN: She can do so many things, she can bring peace and --

ALESCI: We can tie it back to her. But at the end of the day, look, people are upset because they see this as an example of corporate America appropriating a very real social movement out there which is Black Lives Matter and the scene that you just played, the very end is actually all over social media comparing it to an actual real-life scene of a protester being detained.


ALESCI: So the imagery in this ad actually directly speaks to the Black Lives Matter protest. And this is why people are understandably very upset about it, but you know what? Brands have been trying to use -- be part of the social conversation for years now. Sometimes it works and sometimes as you said, John, it falls very flat.

HARLOW: Remember Crystal Pepsi?

BERMAN: Yes. Had they used this for Crystal Pepsi it would have saved it clearly. That was the missing link. So how is the market doing?

ALESCI: The market is up.

BERMAN: The Kendall Jenner bounce.

ALESCI: That's what we can definitely tie this back to. But, no, the market is up because of payroll data, private payroll data came out this morning. ADP takes a survey of private companies. It looks like hiring is up. That is a positive indicator for Friday's jobs number, the government data that comes out, and for the most part, look, over the last five days the market has been in a real holding pattern. Investors want to see what the jobs data says on Friday.

They're looking at this meeting between President Trump and president -- and the Chinese president to see whether or not there are any disruptions in that relationship and how that might impact various businesses. We saw the CEO of one of the biggest investment managers yesterday ask Donald Trump about Chinese relations. So this is something that Wall Street is paying attention to because a lot of companies in the U.S. have business in China. And of course, the market wants to see Congress actually do something on important issues like tax reform.


BERMAN: Cristina Alesci, great to have you with us. Thanks so much.

HARLOW: Thank you very much. Crystal Pepsi.

All right. Quarterback Tony Romo trading in his cleats for a microphone. Romo released by the Cowboys now, he's headed to the broadcast booth.

BERMAN: CNN's sports contributor Hines Ward joins us now. And Hines, you knows about this transition from football to broadcasting.

HINES WARD, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: No, a little bit. You know. But let me tell you, it's not easy to make that jump from the field to the broadcast booth. For Tony Romo, he will be a natural. I mean he had offers to play this season. Instead becoming the lead analyst for CBS was too good to pass up.


TONY ROMO, NEW NFL LEAD ANALYST FOR CBS: There's no part of me that wants to play. You know, right now I'm completely 100 percent, you know, committed to CBS and I understand that you always give yourself just a wiggle room and stuff. But I just don't really envision that really being the scenario. I am choosing CBS over playing football and that's what I'm doing right now.


WARD: Now Tony will replace Bill Sales as CBS' number one color commentator. Yesterday he posted this picture wearing his CBS jacket, saying, "Well, I guess it's time to start dressing up."

Now Rory McIlroy was fielding questions at the Masters yesterday. He was asked about his much-talked about round of golf that he played back in February with President Trump.


RORY MCILROY, FOUR-TIME MASTERS WINNER: I've spent time in President Trump's company before, and you know, that does not mean that I agree with everything that he says. Actually, the opposite. I felt I would have been making more of a statement if I would have turned it down, and, you know, it was a tough place to be put in. But it was a round of golf and nothing more. You know, would I do it again after the -- sort of the backlash I received, I would think twice about it.


WARD: Now Rory is still looking for his first green jacket. The first round of the Masters starts tomorrow.

And finally, Cardinals' Stephen Piscotty had a rough night against the Cubs. Bottom of the fifth, he was hit in the right elbow and goes to the first. And then check this out, he tries to steal for second and the throw hits him in the left elbow, and things get worse.

[10:55:04] A scary moment for Piscotty as he's rounding third trying to score from third base, he gets hit in the head. Luckily, though, he had a helmet on but that's three times in one inning, not one game. One inning. He had to leave the game for a concussion and will have more tests done today, but talk about bad luck. I mean, you get all of this and the Cardinals still lose the game to the Cubbies, 2-1. Tough luck.

BERMAN: I was going to make a joke about it until he gets hit in the head. That's scary whenever a player gets hit in the head there, Hines.

HARLOW: Absolutely.

BERMAN: All right. Thanks so much for being with us. Appreciate it.

WARD: No problem.

HARLOW: All right. The president welcomes today the king of Jordan, King Abdullah, in less than an hour and we're going to hear from the president in what has become a crucial week of diplomacy for this White House, how he respond to the chemical attacks in Syria and North Korea's missile launch. We are on top of it all. Stay with us.


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. This morning President Trump is faced with the harsh truth that every president before him has had to confront. You can come into office with all the plans in the world but world events will come crashing in. Not one but two international crises now on the president's desk. The horror playing out in Syria and now North Korea firing another ballistic missile.