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Trump to Renegotiate NAFTA, Not Withdraw, For Now; White House Races Clock to Score Victories; GOP Faces Internal Fight On Health Care Revamp; Interview with Rep. Dan Donovan; Trump Backed Covering Pre-Existing Conditions In Past; Winners and Losers In Trump Tax Proposal. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired April 27, 2017 - 09:00   ET


[09:00:00] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: I'm glad people are channeling their creativity in such ways.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Time for NEWSROOM with Poppy Harlow and John Berman. Good morning, my friends.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. You two have a great day. Let's get started.

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

HARLOW: I'm Poppy Harlow. So what do you do if your administration has been criticized for failing to get one big win in 100 days, at least a big legislative win? Well, how about trying to accomplish 100 big things in one day or at least look like it?

Well, that seems to be the goal inside of the White House this morning, an overnight flurry of headline generating activity. The President announcing he won't withdraw from NAFTA, at least for now, and will instead renegotiate the terms with Canada and Mexico.

BERMAN: And this morning, the White House is engaging in a new push for a vote on a bill to repeal and replace ObamaCare, a bill that really, all of a sudden, has new life with all the focus on Republican moderates in the House. Does this group of members of Congress, do they have enough votes to block this?

Let's go to the White House. CNN's Joe Johns is there. And, Joe, a lot of action going on behind you right now.

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: There certainly is a lot of action and it started with the President quite early this morning. He was tweeting about the North American Free Trade Agreement, so let's just look at that real fast.

He says he received calls from the President of Mexico, the Prime Minister of Canada, asking to renegotiate NAFTA rather than terminate. "I agreed," he says, "subject to the fact that if we do not reach a fair deal for all, we will then terminate NAFTA. Relationships are good. Deal very possible." Now, a bit of clarification there, Mexico and Canada have, long ago,

agreed to re-work NAFTA if necessary. These tweets are also very much an indication of where the President has been even on the campaign trail in the sort of either/or position on NAFTA. He said as much in his contract with the American voter during the campaign.

But if you were to listen to him on the campaign trail, it sounded like he was stone cold against it. Listen.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: NAFTA has been a catastrophe, an absolute catastrophe, for our country.

It has destroyed this country, destroyed manufacturing in the United States. And I'll do something about it. That will be so re- negotiated.

There's never been a deal so bad as NAFTA. It is a one-way high way out of this country for our jobs and for our money, and we are going to re-negotiate that one very quickly.


JOHNS: So we'll have to see what the negotiations on NAFTA bring. Meanwhile, a very busy day here at the White House. Probably the highlight of the day will be the visit on Argentina's President and first lady of Argentina here to the White House.

Also, the top staff is holding a long awaited meeting on whether to withdraw from the Paris climate accord. The President also signing an order creating an accountability office at the Veterans' Administration.

And I think the other thing we have to say today is there is a lot of hope at the White House that the House of Representatives will finally get together on a health care vote. Back to you.

BERMAN: They are counting votes as we speak. Joe Johns, thanks so much.

You know, we have a new look this morning at where the President stands at 98 days into his administration. On the one hand, this President who likes to engage in hyperbole, has set a record.

HARLOW: He has, indeed. On the other hand, he might not like the reason. Here's the record. The President had a 44 percent approval rating according to a brand new CNN/ORC poll. That's the lowest in modern times for a president this far into his term.

Let's bring in CNN Senior Political Analyst Mark Preston. What numbers stand out?

MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, you know, certainly many numbers, but let's just look at the historical perspective just to show where he is now and where others were. We'll just show these numbers right here.

The closest as we see from that graphic right there is Bill Clinton was at 55 percent. So he had a majority, even though that's where Donald Trump now is only at 44 percent. But where are the issues that are probably hurting him right now? Well, they tend to be the most important issues.

Let's look at the issue of health care right now. Look at that, his disapproval rating. Sixty-one percent of Americans believe that Donald Trump is not handling health care in a good way.

Let's move on now to immigration. We talk about the border wall. We talk about running up immigrants. Look at this right now, a 57 percent disapproval rating.

And of course, the bedrock of his campaign was his talk about bringing jobs back to America. Look at the economy right now. The country is about evenly split right now about where they are. Of course, Donald Trump has made a lot to do about keeping American jobs here in America.

But when you look at party break down, good news for Donald Trump. If you look at these numbers right here, so Republicans right now still are steadfast in President Trump's corner, 85 percent. You can see where the drop-off goes as you go across the political spectrum. Independents at 44 percent, Democrats at, no surprise, eight percent. John and Poppy.

[09:05:09] BERMAN: All right, Mark Preston for us. Your approval rating's very, very high this morning.

HARLOW: Very, very high.

BERMAN: So, Mark, our thanks to you. Joining us now, Lynn Sweet, Washington bureau chief for "The Chicago-Sun Times"; Jackie Kucinich, CNN political analyst and Washington bureau chief for "The Daily Beast"; and Ron Brownstein, CNN senior political analyst and senior editor at "The Atlantic."

Lynn, first to you. So Jeff Zeleny reports, you know, the White House is a war room set up, a 100-day war room set up with the walls lined with sheets of paper with accomplishments checked off and things that they have targeted. They are trying to look like they are doing a lot right now, but does motion equal accomplishment?

LYNN SWEET, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, THE CHICAGO-SUN TIMES: No, it doesn't. And that is the issue. You know, Steve Mnuchin could be on all the morning shows that he wants, as he was today, but there still is no tax plan before Congress. It was a one-page statement of principals, OK?

Steve Mnuchin could talk all he wants about how there is nothing to be learned from the release of President Trump's tax returns -- and this is from the Treasury Secretary who doesn't know that there are things to be learned from looking at someone's tax returns? So he could go on these shows, but if he either has nothing to say that translates tax policy in a way that real people can understand, in a way that's realistic, you know, you could have the war room.

This is a technique that is well used by administrations and modern political messaging, but, no, it doesn't take the place of saying we've done more than just sign executive orders, which is kind of the negative, right, everyone?


SWEET: We're undoing something somebody else has done. Where is the stuff you want to do?

HARLOW: Right. You know, it's interesting, Jackie, because a person close to the White House told our Jeff Zeleny that, you know, executive orders are all well and good, but it doesn't take the place of something statutory. And when you look at that and you look at all this movement but no legislative action, the question becomes, this is a President who can't even say, hey, it's because of those obstructionist Democrats in Congress.




KUCINICH: He said that he's had a bunch of people he's nominated for positions that are being blocked by Congress, but that's not true. A lot of people just haven't been nominated yet.

Listen, the brightest spot for this administration right now is Neil Gorsuch. That is what you are hearing from some of the President's biggest supporters. Some of the more conservative Republicans are still very happy about that.

But you're right. As far as hard legislative or some of the things that the President promised, he hasn't been able to push it through, and partially, it's because this is a very ambitious agenda.

Trying to repeal and replace ObamaCare in the first 100 days when they really were starting from square one because there wasn't a plan that everybody agreed on to begin with wasn't something that was really going to happen, you know, in dealing with the Congress that he has to deal with. Same thing with tax reform. Having tax reform done by August, I don't know anyone in Washington who thought that was going to happen.

Now, they seemed to have learned from that on tax reform. They are bringing in stakeholders. They are talking to various people on the Hill to try to get something that could pass. But the fact that they put these limits on it, these self-imposed limits on it, really was a disservice.

BERMAN: You know, Ron Brownstein, sort of the czar of all things numbers.


BERMAN: There is all that going on. There's the approval ratings which are at a record low, but there's another number that jumps out from the CNN/ORC poll. Fifty-four percent of those polled now say that things in the country are going well, and that's up from 46 percent in February. Now, there's six out of 10 that say the economy is in good shape. If this is the case, does anything else really matter?

BROWNSTEIN: Well, it's interesting because I think 54 percent said they were going well in October, and you would expect that to help the party in power and ultimately, of course, Democrats lost the White House.

I think that even attitudes about the country are now shaped by bipartisanship. I mean, people who would've said that things were going badly last fall are saying they are going better now. So you see a big movement and Republicans are swelling that number.

I think what you've got in President Trump when you look at all of this, the approval, attitudes throughout the country, attitudes toward the agenda, is a president who is kind of reinforcing but that's it, right? So he has kind of a deepening, but narrowing kind of strategy where most of the voters who were with him -- we saw that in "The Washington Post" poll -- 96 percent said they did not regret their decision.


BROWNSTEIN: But, you know, that was 46 percent of the electorate, and the majority that was hesitant about President Trump seems to be more hesitant now. He's more reinforcing the doubts than kind of dissolving the doubts.

And that really points to, I think, a key question for Democrats in 2018 and 2020. Is the principal goal to win back voters who voted for Trump or is it just to consolidate the majority of Americans who consistently say they have doubts about him?

HARLOW: So on health care, I mean, this administration wants a win. Tax reform, if they can get a win, that's not happening tomorrow or next month or the month after. It's going to take a long time, right?

[09:10:05] So if they can get a win on health care in the next few weeks, that would be huge. But the man leading the moderate Tuesday group of Republicans, who drafted this amendment to it in hopes that they can get something through, he admitted on CNN this morning he's not so sure. Listen.


CAMEROTA: Do you think that you have the votes? I mean, by "The Washington Post's" count, 30 Republicans are opposed or undecided. So now what? You can only afford to lose 20.

REP. TOM MACARTHUR (R), NEW JERSEY: Well, I don't know, Alisyn. We're going to find out. I only know this -- I came here to make a difference and I saw and see a problem that needs to be fixed for the sake of the American people, and I'm working to get to a solution. And you have to get to 216 votes. And to do that in the Republican Party, you have to have both people from more conservative districts and more centrist districts.


HARLOW: I don't know, Lynn Sweet. If you're sitting in the White House this morning, you're listening to that, you're watching this, what are you thinking?

SWEET: Well, I don't know if the Trump administration appreciates that when it comes to health care, this is something that people who are on the receiving end know something about. So both things can't be true. You can't say that we're preserving keeping people covered who have pre-existing conditions, but then you can't say in the next sentence but we're going to let prices rise because that's always the issue.

You know, you have a realistic amount of money that people could pay. Even before ObamaCare, what good did it do you to say, I'll insure you Alisyn, but your pre-existing condition could cost you $12,000 a month? OK. So unless you could guarantee something so people could related to it, which is why this is so complicated and time consuming to do, you can't necessarily sell this as improving the situation.

I don't care if you call it TrumpCare or ObamaCare. This is where people will be able to measure this accomplishment, by their own experience. If they like what's new, better than what exists.

BROWNSTEIN: It wouldn't be shocking if they could get the 216 votes in the House by moving the bill to the right. They've been able to do that for the -- since they took over in '95, often when they hit a roadblock in the House, they've almost always been able to get it through.

The question is, have they positioned the bill in a way that makes it completely untenable in the Senate? Because the core problem Republicans face on this bill was that their alternative to the ACA hit hard at their own voters. Older, lower income Whites were particularly facing higher premiums, coverage losses, the Medicaid expansion, hurting them.

Now the price of getting this bill through the House is to eliminate the guarantee on, you know, guaranteed issue at a reasonable price for people with pre-existing conditions. And that again hits hardest at older working age adults who are Republican voters.


BROWNSTEIN: Almost 80 percent in "The Washington Post" poll, the people aged 50 to 64, said they oppose the idea of ending, you know, the national guarantee.

HARLOW: Yes. BROWNSTEIN: And, again, that is now a core Republican constituency.

BERMAN: Hey, Jackie, you know, a lot of pressure on the House moderates right now.


BERMAN: On the one hand, they're going to hear from the White House and Mike Pence, you know, we want on our side. On the other hand, if they cave here, they've got nothing left for the next three years. It means basically that the White House and the Freedom Caucus can pass whatever they want going forward.

KUCINICH: Well, moderates have been sort of an endangered species in both parties for quite a while. That's where you see the parties tend to shift back and forth. It's those purple districts. And leadership knows that.

And leadership knows that if they lose a bunch of these people in the long-run, if they make a vote that perhaps sends their voters back to the other party, that's going to be problematic for the Republican Party that wants to pass off, you know, after 2018. But, listen, this was by design.

The Freedom Caucus wanted to shift the blame to the moderates, and this is exactly what the moderates in the House were worried about. But Ron raises a good point. Even if these moderates cast this vote, which could put them in jeopardy in their districts, this thing goes to the Senate where it faces an uncertain future at best.

So if you're leadership trying to convince those moderates, you've got to make it worth their while and make it that they're not just casting a vote that's going to cause them political heartburn later.

HARLOW: Right. They have to bring a reason --

BROWNSTEIN: Three letters every day for the members.


BROWNSTEIN: BTU from 1993. Bill Clinton and Al Gore made Democrats in the House vote for an energy tax that had no chance of passing the Senate. They voted for it. Many of them were hit on it in the election and it didn't become law.

This could be the same situation for the House Republican moderates voting for changes reducing these guaranteed benefits that have almost no chance of passing the Senate. And still, I think it's fair to say there is no Democratic challenger anywhere in the country who would be afraid of running against this bill.

HARLOW: Right. And wait for the ads, right?


HARLOW: The campaign ads that will play that over and over and over against them. Lynne, thank you. Jackie, Ron, we appreciate it.

SWEET: Thank you.

HARLOW: A lot ahead for us. Still to come, House Republicans take another swing at repealing ObamaCare. As we just discussed, are they going to have the votes?

[09:15:04] We're going to have a Republican Congressman on next who is still a no. He'll explain why.

Also buying time, lawmakers come up with a plan to prevent a government shutdown for a week. So what about that border wall?

BERMAN: So United Airlines with a big new report about what happened on the airplane. They say that mistakes were made in this process. Really? You think? And now they have come up with some new procedures. Wait until you see what they are.


BERMAN: All right. This morning House leadership is counting votes. Very shortly we will hear from House Speaker Paul Ryan. Will he schedule a new vote on this bill, this newly amended bill to repeal and replace Obamacare?

HARLOW: So the Freedom Caucus says that it is on board largely because of what this amendment does. But the amendment that is sponsored by, written by Representative Tom McCarthy, who co-chairs a more moderate group of Republicans, there is just a problem. Some of his fellow moderates are balking at it and he doesn't even know if the votes are there himself.

[09:20:06] Joining us now, a member of that more moderate Tuesday Group, Congressman Dan Donovan of New York. It is nice to have you here. Last time we had you on the program, you were a no. Are you still a no on this health care bill with the amendment?

REP. DAN DONOVAN (R), NEW YORK: I am, Poppy. The amendment, although I commend my colleagues for trying to get enough votes to get something passed, doesn't address the concerns I had with the original replacement plan. I am the only Republican in New York City. I represent a district that would be harmed by the proposed plan. I think we need to repair our broken health care system, but this isn't what's good for the people I represent.

BERMAN: What about the provision in the amendment, which would allow states to basically waive protections for people with pre-existing conditions? Does that specific part make this bill even tougher to swallow for you?

DONOVAN: I think it does. And even when we have access to health care, I mean, having coverage doesn't necessarily mean access and there is people who have scored this amendment and believe that it's going to cost people with pre-existing conditions even more money to have coverage. So they will have less access to health care than they presently have. It's something that we shouldn't be doing. HARLOW: It is a really important point. Let me read you part of the end of this amendment, OK? "Nothing in this act shall be construed as permitting health care insurers to limit access to health coverage for individuals with pre-existing conditions."

That is from your fellow Republicans. Is that disingenuous? Because you know as you just stated that allowing insurance companies to charge any amount of money as wildly high as they would like to people with pre-existing conditions.

Does in essence the heart of that means that it does limit access for people that cannot afford that. Is this statement disingenuous?

DONOVAN: You can term it what you want. It doesn't help the people I represent. One of the criticism I had about the Affordable Care Act is it made insurance so expensive that people who had it didn't even use it because their premiums were high. Their deductibles were high. Their copays were high. And people with pre-existing conditions, you're right, we can't deny them coverage. It's a matter of whether or not they're going to be able --

HARLOW: Just to be clear, you're a Republican admitting this would do that for some people, right?

DONOVAN: It would cost people more than it's costing them now. People who are already sick and that's not going to help those people.

BERMAN: So Congressman, you know, your concern about the people of Staten Island and Brooklyn, primarily, I don't know if you had a chance to talk to some of your colleagues perhaps in the more moderate side of the Republican Party, do you have enough votes right now, you think, to block this?

DONOVAN: It's not the matter of blocking it. It is how many people think that this doesn't help the people that they represent. Our purpose isn't to block or replace?

BERMAN: Do you have 20, 21 people who will agree with you on this?

DONOVAN: You know, John, I'm not privy to the Whip count. I suspect there's people in the Whip's office and leadership that are doing that. I suspect that the McArthur-Meadows amendment gained some people who are in the no column over to the yes column. I'm not sure if they lost some yeses to no votes now with this amendment.

But I certainly know that for myself this doesn't address the concerns I had. As you said, I represent the people of Brooklyn and Staten Island. But as the only Republican, I feel an obligation and responsibility to all of the people of New York City and there is parts of the bill that will be particularly devastating to the people of New York City.

HARLOW: The president promised multiple times to protect pre-existing conditions. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: I want to keep pre-existing conditions. I think we need it. I think it is a modern age and I think we have to have it.

We should ensure that Americans with pre-existing conditions have access to coverage.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you going to make sure that people with preconditions are still coming?

PRESIDENT TRUMP: Yes, because it happens to be one of the strongest assets.


HARLOW: The president breaking his promise, sir?

DONOVAN: No. I think the president really truly believes he wants people with pre-existing conditions to have access to health care.

HARLOW: You just admitted this doesn't do that. You just admitted it doesn't do that.

DONOVAN: Yes, we're not arguing, Poppy. I'm saying this makes it more expensive to people. I think the president's intentions are genuine and so he wants to make sure that people with pre-existing conditions as I do have health care. And I just think that this is going to cause people to not be able to afford it, the people who are already sick.

BERMAN: All right, Congressman Dan Donovan from New York. Great to have you with us, sir. Appreciate your time.

DONOVAN: Thank you for having me.

BERMAN: All right, President Trump's tax proposal, if you can call it a proposal. I don't think if you can call it plan. President Trump's one page on taxes. Big on ideas, short on details. Christine Romans is here, star of CNN's "EARLY START" with more on the winners and losers.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: And I got to tell you it is that very short but very concise tax proposal is one of the reasons why stocks are holding in there. They think that you will eventually get tax cuts for big business and when you get tax cuts for big business, they make more money.

[09:25:04]And so you have this U-turn on NAFTA from the president and this hope that there will be tax cuts to further enrich companies. That's why you have tax here near record highs.

We are going to get a bunch of earnings today, and that is the big sort of daytime story for the stock market. I think that if you get strong earnings again, you will continue to see near record highs, record highs of Nasdaq for sure and you will have the Dow charging higher. We will have the opening bell for you, what is exactly going to happen with the stock market right after this quick break.


HARLOW: Crisis averted for now, at least. Republicans announcing they have come up with a spending bill that will keep the government open through May 5th as lawmakers try to hash out something a little bit more long term.

BERMAN: So the temporary solution, it does not include funding for President Trump's border wall. It does keep subsidies for low-income Americans as part of Obamacare.