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THE SITUATION ROOM
Trump Would 'Be Honored' to Speak to North Korea Despot; GOP on Verge of Losing Health Care Vote; May Day Protests Against Trump's Immigration Crackdown. Aired 5-6p ET
Aired May 1, 2017 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now. Meeting with dictators. President Trump says he'd be honored to meet with North Korea's Kim Jong-un after calling "a pretty smart cookie," and he invites Philippine strong-arm leader Rodrigo Duterte to the White House. What kind of signals is he sending?
[17:00:20] Alternate reality. The president sticks to his claim he was wiretapped by President Obama and suggests China, rather than Russia, could have interfered with the U.S. presidential election and says President Andrew Jackson was angry about the Civil War, even though he died 16 years before it began.
Tax and spend. President Trump says he'd consider raising the gas tax to help overhaul the nation's infrastructure, as a budget deal boosts military spending but $15 billion and allocates an extra $61 million for Trump family security.
And facing failure: weeks after Republicans pulled their bill to replace Obamacare, the latest version may be in trouble. Vice President Pence goes back to Capitol Hill, trying to round up enough votes. But this time GOP moderates are standing in the way.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: Breaking news. A frantic White House effort is under way to explain President Trump's stunning comment that he'd be honored to meet with Kim Jong-un. The president telling an interview -- interviewer he'd absolutely do it under what he calls the right circumstances. That comes after the president called Kim Jong-un, quote, "a pretty smart cookie" for being able to hold onto power.
And on the same day that North Korea's vowing to move ahead, full- speed ahead with its nuclear weapons program, and a U.S. anti-missile system goes operational in South Korea, the president says nobody is safe from the North Korean threat, including U.S. troops on the front lines in South Korea. He adds that even U.S. citizens at home are at risk if North Korea gets long-range missiles.
Also breaking: after opposition from GOP conservatives killed the first effort to replace Obamacare, a revised Republican health care bill is now facing strong resistance from GOP moderates. Vice President Pence is up on Capitol Hill. He's trying to save this latest version, but the latest count shows it's in big, big trouble.
And in a rampling [SIC] -- rambling rant, President Trump seems to stick to his claim that he was wiretapped by President Obama, saying it's been proven very strongly. But then he says -- and I'm quoting him now -- "I don't stand by anything. You can take it the way you want." So where does he stand?
I'll talk to Democratic Senator Chris Coons of the Foreign Relations Committee. And our correspondents, specialists and guests, they are standing by with full coverage of the day's top stories.
Let's begin with a series of stunning comments from President Trump, including a suggested sit-down with Kim Jong-un. Let's go straight to our senior White House correspondent, Jim Acosta, for the very latest -- Jim.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE: Wolf, in a series of interviews designed to mark his first 100 days in office, President Trump has raised more eyebrows about his policies and beliefs from being wiretapped, so he claims, by President Obama; to North Korea; to health care; to even the Civil War. Now his top aides are spinning their wheels to explain the president's comments.
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: That's why in the first 100 days...
ACOSTA: More than 100 days in office and now nearly as many new questions for President Trump after head-scratching comments to reporters.
After weeks of tough talk aimed at North Korea, the president told Bloomberg he'd meet with that country's dictator, Kim Jong-un, adding, "If it would be appropriate for me to meet with him, I would absolutely. I would be honored to do it." That's despite the fact that chief of staff Reince Priebus said it's not happening.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can you imagine a scenario where President Trump and Kim Jong-un sit face to face and have a conversation?
REINCE PRIEBUS, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: Not right now I can't.
ACOSTA: White House press secretary Sean Spicer acknowledged the obvious. Kim Jong-un is a brutal tyrant.
SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Clearly, the conditions are not there right now.
ACOSTA: But he also seemed to say Kim Jong-un has good leadership qualities.
SPICER: He assumed power at a young age when his father passed away, and there was a lot of potential threats that could have come his way, and he's obviously managed to -- to lead a country forward. ACOSTA: The White House is now focused on a new spending bill and
perhaps one more attempt to repeal and replace Obamacare. The president talked up the GOP health care bill to CBS.
TRUMP: Pre-existing conditions are in the bill, and I mandate it. I said it has to be.
ACOSTA: But there's one big difference. Under Obamacare insurance companies could not discriminate against consumers with pre-existing conditions. Under Trumpcare those consumers can be charged more. While one top advisor said the health care votes are there...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you have the votes for health care?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do we have the votes for health care? I think we do.
ACOSTA: ... Spicer insisted there's no rush.
SPICER: I think the president has made it clear that he's not instituting a time line.
ACOSTA: On whether he defends his astonishing claim that former President Obama wiretapped him at Trump Tower, the president appeared to answer the question in several different ways all at once.
[17:05:13] TRUMP: I don't stand by anything. I just -- you can take it the way you want. I think our side's been proven very strongly.
ACOSTA: When pressed further, he cuts off the interview.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want to know your opinion. You're the president of the United States.
Trump: That's enough. Thank you. Thank you very much.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president sounded unsure about the root causes of the Civil War, saying it could have been prevented by President Andrew Jackson, a supporter of slavery.
TRUMP: I mean, had Andrew Jackson been a little bit later, you wouldn't have had the Civil War. He was -- he was a very tough person, but he had a big heart. Civil War...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
TRUMP: ... if you think about it, why? People don't ask that question, but why was there the Civil War? Why could -- why could that one not have been worked out?
ACOSTA: The president also raised questions about his glowing comments for Philippine's president Rodrigo Duterte, telling Bloomberg, "You know, he's very popular in the Philippines. He has a very high approval rating in the Philippines."
Human rights groups have condemned Duterte's war on drugs, a crackdown that's led to thousands of people killed. The White House says Duterte could help with North Korea.
SPICER: The No. 1 concern of this president is to make sure that we do everything we can to protect our people and, specifically, to economically and diplomatically isolate North Korea.
ACOSTA: Now, the president did talk about health care and other big topics with House Speaker Paul Ryan over the weekend, but there is no guarantee at this point, as you know, Wolf, that they'll have enough votes for the bill to clear the House and, even if it did, sources say, it is very doubtful to get through the Senate at this point, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Jim, thank you. Jim Acosta reporting.
As North Korea vows to move at maximum speed on its nuclear weapons program, President Trump says nobody's safe from the North Korean threat, even as he floats the idea of talking things over directly with Kim Jong-un.
Let's go to our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr. Barbara, clearly no letup intentions.
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: No letup at all, Wolf, and today, you know, the conditions, as the White House clarified, may not be right right now for a meeting with Kim Jong-un; but the president making an extraordinary proposal to meet with a world leader who kills off his opposition.
STARR (voice-over): On patrol in the waters between Japan and the Korean Peninsula, the aircraft carrier Carl Vinson represents a show of U.S. military might. President Trump's message of the day for Kim Jong-un rather unique, telling Bloomberg Politics, "If it would be appropriate for me to meet with him, I would, absolutely. I would be honored to do it. Under the right circumstances, I would meet with him."
It's a message to Kim Trump offered on the campaign trail.
TRUMP: Who the hell cares? I'll speak to anybody. Who knows? There's a 10 percent or a 20 percent chance that I can talk them out of those damn nukes.
STARR: Trump had been using China to pressure Kim, even as his own most senior military commanders sounded dire warnings.
ADMIRAL HARRY HARRIS, U.S. PACIFIC COMMAND: I'll just say that I think the crisis on the Korean Peninsula is the -- is real, is the worst I've seen.
GEN. JOHN HYLEN, U.S. STRATEGIC COMMAND: What I'm concerned about most nights is North Korea. Every time they launch we're not sure if this is a threat missile or not. STARR: A key question. Does North Korea have a functioning
intercontinental ballistic missile?
SUE MI TERRY, FORMER CIA NORTH KOREA ANALYST: Our working assumption right now is that North Korea has an ICBM that can reach Hawaii, Guam and parts of West Coast. So, for example, San Francisco city is under the reach. But we can't know for sure, because North Korea has never successfully tested intercontinental ballistic missile.
STARR: The president sounding an alarming message.
TRUMP: Nobody is safe. I mean, who's safe? The guy has got nuclear weapons so nobody is safe. We're probably not safe over here. If he gets the long-range missiles, we're not safe either.
STARR: But others warn that a U.S. preemptive strike could provoke disaster.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I think that we have to consider that option as the very last option, and for a number of reasons and one of the reasons is, is because there's artillery on the DMZ that can strike Seoul, a city of 26 million people, and the carnage would be horrendous.
STARR: CIA director Mike Pompeo is in South Korea for meetings with U.S. military and diplomatic personnel, and the first U.S. THAAD missile system has now begun operating with limited capability to shoot down incoming North Korean missiles.
STARR: And no indication tonight that Kim can be trusted on any of this. U.S. officials say they know the foreign ministry statement out of the North Koreans saying that they will continue to bolster their own program for a preemptive nuclear strike, potentially, on the U.S. -- Wolf.
[17:10:06] BLITZER: All right, Barbara, thank you. Barbara Starr at the Pentagon.
Joining us now, Democratic Senator Chris Coons of Delaware. He's a member of the Foreign Relations Committee.
Senator, thanks for joining us.
SEN. CHRIS COONS (D), DELAWARE: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: Do you believe that being open to a meeting with Kim Jong-un is a good idea?
COONS: Well, Wolf, this is just another weekend of stunning statements by President Trump. He compliments President Duterte of the Philippines for his popularity, and he commends Kim Jong-un of North Korea for his leadership.
Kim Jong-un is a brutal dictator who has directly threatened the United States with attack by a nuclear weapon on an ICBM. I can't imagine what the right conditions would be for a direct meeting between our president and Kim Jong-un, but it would have to include, at least, North Korea abandoning their reckless and provocative actions around their nuclear missile program and around their threats to attack our allies in the region and the American homeland.
BLITZER: The White House press secretary, Sean Spicer, elaborating on what the president said. He said that North Korea would have to show signs of good faith, that the U.S. would need to see less provocative behavior. Do you think that this offer could cause North Korea, Kim Jong-un's regime, to change course, to become less aggressive?
COONS: Well, it's hard to predict what will make Kim Jong-un less aggressive, but I thought the determined stance of the Trump administration as of last week was to make this more China's problem than our problem and to try and mobilize our allies around the world to pressure China to step up and be the lead in trying to resolve this challenge that we face with North Korea's program. Why the president now abruptly switches to suggesting direct negotiations puzzles me.
Last week he summoned the entire Senate for a briefing at the White House, where his entire national security and foreign policy team laid out a path forward that relied on diplomacy to pressure China to take the lead in this. To offer direct negotiations at this point seems contradictory to what the administration's stance was just a few days ago.
BLITZER: Do you believe, Senator, that Kim Jong-un is rational? I asked the question, because President Trump, in one of those interviews, just called him -- and I'm quoting him now -- "a pretty smart cookie."
COONS: Well, we have to hope that he's rational. I'm struck that President Trump has careened back and forth between saying that he's dangerous, that irresponsible, that he's crazy and now complimenting him as one smart cookie and someone who has survived what has been big challenges in his first period in leadership in North Korea.
I do think we need to come to one consensus view about Kim Jong-un and his style of leadership. He is a brutal dictator, Wolf, and we need to be clear-eyed about our stance with regards to his treatment of his own people.
This weekend we also heard that President Trump invited President Duterte of the Philippines to come meet with him, despite the fact that Duterte has massacred thousands of his own people in illegal killings as part of his war on drugs. That our president compliments that sort of leader and that he also compliments the leader of North Korea troubles me and leaves me concerned about the direction that President Trump is taking.
BLITZER: In response to your statement among others, the White House press secretary said the meeting with Duterte is in the national interest because of North Korea. Here's the question. Could President Duterte help the U.S. in dealing with North Korea? COONS: President Duterte could help the United States in dealing with
North Korea, but human rights are an absolutely fundamental part of America's values and America's interests, and to turn a blind eye to the sorts of gross human rights violations that President Duterte has been carrying out against his own people in the Philippines doesn't, in the bigger picture, make us safer. Standing by and embracing autocrats and dictators is something that undermines our long-term national security.
BLITZER: Does meeting with a leader like Duterte or others necessarily mean the U.S. is embracing all of their policies?
COONS: Not necessarily, Wolf. That's why it's important to make that distinction. I'm not suggesting that we wall ourselves off from the world and refuse to make overtures or begin negotiations with countries like the Philippines that have long been a United States ally or like North Korea, which is an adversary. There are times when diplomacy is what's called for.
But for the president of the United States to himself issue the invitation, to say that he would be honored to meet with him while making no comments about the human rights record of either Duterte or the oppression of his own people by Kim Jong-un, that -- that runs the real risk, Wolf, of giving an American stamp of approval to actions that really violate our core values.
BLITZER: We have much more to discuss, Senator Coons, including the latest on the Republican effort to repeal and replace Obamacare. This second effort may now be, once again, on the verge of collapse. We'll have details right after this.
[17:19:15] BLITZER: We're talking with senator Chris Coons. First, Senator, I want to get to some breaking news we're following.
Weeks after a Republican bill to repeal and replace Obamacare was yanked from the House floor because there was not enough support, a second attempt is suddenly looking pretty shaking right now.
Let's go to our congressional correspondent, Sunlen Serfaty. She's up on Capitol Hill.
Sunlen, where do things stand?
SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the wind is very quickly coming out of the sails on all this up here on Capitol Hill. Earlier today, you had White House officials clearly sensing optimism here. They were projecting confidence, pushing for a vote to be held on the House floor at some point this week.
The White House chief economic adviser saying this is going to be a great week. He says he believes that the votes are there and pushed for a vote to happen this week, but that sort of rhetoric from the White House is really meeting a very stark reality right here on Capitol Hill. Today we have seen a slew of House Republican members defy the White
House on this, coming out publicly against the bill, not only splashing cold water on that White House confidence but putting this bill, in essence, in some serious jeopardy.
According to CNN's latest whip count, 21 House Republicans now say they will vote against this bill. That means that Republicans, they can only afford to lose one more Republican vote.
So a serious moment for this bill right here on Capitol Hill.
As of tonight, Vice President Pence, he is here right now, making an impromptu stop as he entered, certainly, to meet with members and try to wrangle votes, salvage this bill. Reporters asked him what the fate of this bill is? Silence, no answer from the vice president.
But perhaps the biggest clue on where this all stands is speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, Wolf. He has not scheduled a vote just yet.
BLITZER: So in other words, Sunlen, if they lose two more Republicans, they get 22 who are opposed, that's -- it's over, at least for now?
SERFATY: That's right, and of course, whip counts are very tricky, and it's very clear by Vice President Pence's presence up here that they are still whipping votes. They want to make sure that they can get not only people who have said yes to stay yes; but they are potentially trying to flip votes no to yes. So whip counts are always hard to predict, but as of now, you are right: if there is two more votes and that puts it not only in serious jeopardy but potentially dead -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Sunlen, thanks for that. Sunlen Serfaty up on Capitol Hill.
We're back with Democratic Senator Chris Coons of the Foreign Relations Committee.
Let me get your thoughts, Senator. If this does get through the House this week, do you see this health care bill making it through the Senate?
COONS: Well, Wolf, this is really striking that the Affordable Care Act, which for the last seven years has been relentlessly attacked by the House Republicans -- they took up and voted repeal bills to try and overturn the ACA dozens and dozens of times. The idea that it may not clear the House at all on a second try is really striking.
But even if this updated version of the ACA repeal and replace bill did make it out of House, I see no signs to suggest that it will pass the Senate. That's because, Wolf, they have rejected repeated offers by Senate Democrats to work across the aisle and try to improve and repair aspects of the Affordable Care Act that aren't working.
Many of us sent a letter early this year to the Republican leadership, saying that, if they would abandon their efforts to repeal the ACA and, instead, work across the aisle with us to improve it and strengthen it, that we'd be happy to do so.
My hope is that Republicans, after this second likely failed attempt at repealing a bill they have railed against for seven years, may now embrace the fact that many millions of Americans have seen their lives improved by the Affordable Care Act. And there are very strong provisions of this bill, particularly consumer protections for pre- existing conditions, that deserve to remain in place.
BLITZER: Senator, you're on the Judiciary Committee, as well. On Wednesday of this week, the FBI director, James Comey, will testify. What do you hope to find out from him during this hearing? It's going to be an open, open hearing? The president said it could have been -- you heard him over the weekend. He said it could have been China, could have been a lot of different groups when asked about Russian meddling in the U.S. presidential election.
COONS: Well, I hope we're going to hear from FBI Director Comey about their ongoing investigation into Russia's meddling with America's presidential election last year.
It is stunning that President Trump would suggest that somehow China is responsible for it when all 17 intelligence agencies unanimously concluded last year that it was Russia, that this was something likely approved by Vladimir Putin and possibly done in some coordination with senior Republican leaders in the Trump campaign.
So I hope that we will hear that the FBI investigation is moving forward, that there aren't roadblocks to their getting to the bottom of this. This is one of the most significant events in American democratic history. And I think we need to get to the bottom what have happened, not just in the interests of our last election but our next election so that we better understand how to defend American democracy against future interference by Russia or other countries that wish us ill.
BLITZER: And in addition to the Wednesday hearing a week from today, May 8, the former acting attorney general, Sally Yates, is set to testify before your judiciary subcommittee as well as the former director of national intelligence, James Clapper. That will be an open session, as well.
What's the status of your subcommittee's investigation into Russian meddling? Do you believe, for example, there is concrete evidence of collusion?
COONS: Well, Wolf, I don't know yet whether there's concrete evidence of collusion. That's principally being investigated by the Senate Intelligence Committee and by the FBI.
What I do know is that there are lots of different threats to democracy. One subcommittee on which I serve has been looking at how Russia's actions against our election are mirrored by what they're doing to interfere with the French elections, the upcoming German elections and to undermine democracy across western Europe. That's in an appropriations subcommittee. [17:25:10] The hearings you're referencing on the Judiciary Committee
are looking into Russia's interference in our last election. We don't have concrete evidence between collusion of the Trump campaign, but there continue to be troubling signs, such as the evidence about national security adviser Flynn having taken tens of thousands of dollars in violation of the restrictions on former military officers in our country that, in part, may have led to his having been fired by the White House earlier this year.
There's lots of smoke. I don't know yet whether we're going to find fire, but it's important that we get to the bottom of this in a balanced, bipartisan and responsible way.
BLITZER: We'll have extensive coverage on Wednesday of the judiciary subcommittee's hearing. Thanks very much, Senator, for joining us.
COONS: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: Coming up, we'll have more of President Trump's latest surge of controversial and confusing comments, including calling off an interview after he was asked if he stands by his claim that President Obama wiretapped him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: You don't have to ask me.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why not?
TRUMP: Because I have my own opinions. You can have your own opinions.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But I want to know your opinions. You're the president of the United States.
TRUMP: That's enough. Thank you. Thank you very much.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: We're following the breaking news. The White House now trying to explain President Trump's flood of controversial and confusing pronouncements in a series of interviews marking his first 100 days in office.
[17:30:52] In one new interview, the president said it would be an honor to meet with the North Korean dictator, Kim Jong-un. When asked in another interview if he stands by his claim that former President Barack Obama wiretapped him last year over at Trump Tower, the president said -- and I'm quoting him now -- "I don't stand by anything."
Let's bring in our political specialists. And Gloria Borger, I'm going play the clip. This is the clip. John Dickerson of CBS News had this exchange with President Trump on the relationship that President Trump has had with the former president.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Well he was very nice to me, but after that we've had some difficulties, so it doesn't matter. You know, words are less important to me than deeds, and you saw what happened with surveillance, and everybody saw what happened with surveillance.
JOHN DICKERSON, CBS NEWS: Difficulties how?
TRUMP: I thought that -- well, you saw what happened with surveillance, and -- I think that was inappropriate.
DICKERSON: What does that mean, sir?
TRUMP: You can figure that out yourself.
DICKERSON: Well, the reason I ask is you said -- you called him sick and bad.
TRUMP: Look. You can figure it out yourself. He was very nice to me with words, but -- and when I was with him, but after that there has been no relationship.
DICKERSON: But you stand by that claim about him?
TRUMP: I don't stand by anything. I just -- you can take it the way you want. I think our side has been proven very strongly, and everybody is talking about it, and frankly, it should be discussed.
I think that is a very big -- surveillance of our citizens. I think that's a very big topic, and it's a topic that should be No. 1, and we should find out what the hell is going on.
DICKERSON: I just wanted to find out, though. You're the president of the United States. You said he was sick and bad because he...
TRUMP: You can take it any way -- you should take it any way you want.
DICKERSON: But I'm asking you, because you don't want it to be fake nuts. I want to hear it from President Trump
TRUMP: You don't have to ask me. You don't have to ask me.
DICKERSON: Why not?
TRUMP: Because I have my own opinions and can you have your own opinions.
DICKERSON: But I want to know your opinions. You're the president of the United States.
TRUMP: OK. That's enough. Thank you. Thank you very much. (END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Rough way to end that little exchange. What did you make of it?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, first of all, kudos to John Dickerson, because I think he pursued and tried to get an answer out of the president. And as we all know, nothing has been proven here, and I think that's what John was asking about. He said -- the president said it's been proven. What's been proven? That Barack Obama wiretapped Donald Trump? That has not been proven. Nothing about surveillance has been proven.
This story is still very much a big question mark, and I think, you know, like the president used to say during the campaign, "many people are saying." I think that's what we see in this exchange. I think the president was sort of walking around this, but he never said what was proven or that he was right about Barack Obama wiretapping him or anything else.
BLITZER: But really, there's no question that you have the FBI director...
BORGER: Of course.
BLITZER: ... the leaders of the intelligence community, the Republican leaders of the House and the Senate, all of them saying...
BLITZER: ... there's no evidence...
BLITZER: ... to back up the assertions made by the president against the former president that he was wiretapped over at Trump Tower.
BORGER: Exactly. So what he -- you know, what he has done is try and change the subject from President Obama surveilling him or wiretapping him into surveillance generally of perhaps administration officials, members of his family, et cetera, et cetera.
When they tried to change that subject, I think that's what he's talking about here, and he says it's been proven, but, again, again, nothing, nothing has been proven.
BLITZER: The president, Mark Preston, seems sort of uncomfortable, as we just saw in that exchange with John Dickerson, and at one point he said, "I don't stand by anything." So what does he stand for?
MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: We don't know. I mean, quite frankly, you know, politically, he doesn't seem to be an ideologue, so he doesn't stand necessarily or is a hard-core conservative or social conservative. He was once a Democrat.
But when it comes to these issues, as Gloria is noting, the president's words mean something, so he doesn't have the luxury of being a private citizen, going out there and making an accusation, then stepping back and saying, "Oh, well, I have my opinion. You have your opinion." No, you don't. You're the president of the United States. If you are going to make an accusation, you better back it up.
[18:35:07] You know, Wolf, a lot of people thought that his unpredictability and his chaos would be such a strength for him, because it would keep people on guard, so to speak. In many ways, I think it's been a liability, though, because I do think our allies around the world are looking towards Washington for some kind of direction; and they don't know what direction we're going in, let alone sometimes his own staff knowing what direction he's going in.
BLITZER: Rebecca, what do you think?
REBECCA BERG, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, quite simply, Wolf, the president says this is his opinion, that it's a matter of opinion. It's not. It's a matter of fact, and the facts are not so far on the president's side on this issue.
What he suggests in this interview with John Dickerson, to me at least, is that he doesn't care that the facts are not on his side. But that matters. And the president, I think, ultimately has to be responsible with -- for what he says, but he seems to care more that, as he said in that interview, that many people are talking about this, that he started a conversation about a baseless accusation that makes the former president look bad. For him, that seems to be enough.
BLITZER: Yes, he started that conversation with those four early Saturday morning tweets that all of us certainly remember.
BORGER: Well, and you could see how upset he got with John Dickerson at the end. He kind of walked away from the interview, because he didn't want to answer any of John's direct questions about this.
BLITZER: The other issue that's come up, Gloria, the comments by the president in this Bloomberg News interview that he'd be willing to sit down with Kim Jong-un, he'd be honored, in fact. Let me read the exact quote for what the president said.
"If it would be appropriate for me to meet with him, I would absolutely. I would be honored to do it. If it's under the -- again, under the right circumstances, but I would do that."
Now the White House press secretary, Sean Spicer, later walked that back a bit, saying that possibility is not here at this time. So what are we supposed to make about this offer from the president?
BORGER: Well, it's -- I think it's what Mark was alluding to before, which is that Sean Spicer had to be the shovel brigade for -- for the president of the United States. Because the president said he would be honored to meet with Kim Jong-un, who murders his own people?
Does that mean he would invite him to the White House? Does that mean he would meet with him before there were were some kind of talks which you normally have before a president actually entertains a meeting with somebody like this? Does that mean that human rights doesn't matter anymore?
You know, there are all kinds of questions raised by this, and you know, and there are questions raised by Duterte, him meeting with -- saying he would meet with him. And...
BLITZER: Not only meet with him but invite him to the White House.
BORGER: Invite him to the White House. And so you have this question about the president just sort of saying these things off the top of his head. And Sean Spicer has a hard job, because he's going out there, and he's got to say, "Well, not at this time."
BLITZER: He did say, also, Mark, he said Kim Jong-un is a smart cookie. He assumed power at an early age, led his country forward. Why do you think -- I guess -- I guess Sean Spicer is -- is suggesting this following what the president had to say. The president said he's a smart cookie.
PRESTON: Right. Because he's speaking to an audience of one. Right? So when -- when our viewers are watching Sean Spicer in the middle of the day, answering reporters' questions -- and he's speaking for the free world, mind you, because capitals around the world are tuned in to find out what is coming out of the White House that day. When Sean Spicer comes out and says something like that, he's speaking directly to Donald Trump. Because could you imagine if he did not go out and basically parrot what Donald Trump said?
But what is very dangerous about this is that the fact is, Trump elevated a very brutal dictator today. And that is very, very dangerous to do, because it was just a few days ago now where he said that we might take military action against North Korea. So talk about unpredictability. Nobody knows which way Donald Trump's going to go. And in some ways, you've got to wonder: does Donald Trump know?
BLITZER: And the president said he was a smart cookie, Kim Jong-un. Sean Spicer said he assumed power at an early age and led his country forward.
Everybody stand by. There's much more happening, including word that the second effort to repeal and replace Obamacare right now could be collapsing. We'll be right back.
[17:43:53] BLITZER: We're back with our political specialists. Rebecca Berg, the effort to repeal and replace Obamacare, take two, may be collapsing right now. The -- very, very tight.
I want you to listen to this exchange that the president had, once again, with John Dickerson of CBS on whether or not the new version will protect individuals with pre-existing conditions.
TRUMP: Pre-existing conditions are in the bill, and I mandated it. I said it has to be.
DICKERSON: In one of the fixes that was discussed pre-existing was optional for the states.
TRUMP: Sure. In one of the fixes. And they're changing it and changing it.
DICKERSON: So it would be permanent?
TRUMP: Of course.
DICKERSON: This is a development, sir.
A crucial question: it's not going to be left up to the states? Everybody gets preexisting, no matter where they live?
TRUMP: No, but the states are also going to have a lot to do with it.
TRUMP: Because we ultimately want to get it back down to the states.
DICKERSON: So this would be guaranteed?
TRUMP: The state is going to be in a much better position to take care, because it's smaller.
DICKERSON: So I'm not hearing you, Mr. President, say there's a guarantee of pre-existing conditions?
TRUMP: We actually have -- we actually have a clause that guarantees.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right. So the issue that has come up is, is the president fully briefed on what this new version contains, as far as protecting people with pre-existing conditions?
BERG: You would expect the president to want to be the chief salesman for this piece of legislation, but that, to me, did not sound like he knows what the product is he is supposed to be selling, Wolf.
It's no secret that President Trump is not really driven by policy, that he's driven often more by politics and wanting something to be popular and really something his supporters could get behind. And I think that is also the case with this health care bill. But it would really be helpful for House Republicans or Senate Republicans who want to get this done to have the President know what they're trying to do, know what is in this legislation so that he could go out there and effectively sell it.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: And it's also important as people look at the health care bill, which they want to get up on the floor this week -- we'll see if that happens -- whether they know, a, if it's going to be different state by state, and, b, whether insurance companies are going to charge people with pre-existing conditions more for their insurance. So if you have cancer, maybe you won't be able to afford your insurance.
And that's what people are upset about, not just necessarily, OK, some folks will insure you for pre-existing conditions, but will you have to pay more for your insurance, or will that no longer be a question that can be asked as it was with ObamaCare?
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Given the fact, Mark Preston, that no Democrats are going to vote for this revised version and if the Republicans lose 22 of their own, 22 Republicans, it's dead once again at least for the time being.
Take a look at this. We've got a picture of 21 Republicans now who are already -- already -- publicly on record as opposing this health care bill. They have a problem right now.
MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICS EXECUTIVE EDITOR: They have a huge problem, and that's why we see Mike Pence going up to Capitol Hill to try to lobby members to actually support the bill.
It's not necessarily the 22nd person who will oppose it. That is key. Expect to see, if this bill is to go down, several of them to come out at the same time because nobody wants to necessarily be labeled as that 22nd one who took down President Trump's health care bill. But if this is to go down, expect that number to increase to 25, 26, 27, 28, at that point.
But, again, you have to wonder what was the strategic move on this to try to push through a bill where they weren't absolutely certain they had the votes, Wolf.
BERG: I think Mark is being a little bit generous here, Wolf, assuming that there was a strategy here, at least on the part of the White House, because it's like watching "Groundhog Day" with the White House and Republicans on Capitol Hill and this piece of legislation.
Congressional Republicans knew they had to line up the votes on this before they scheduled a vote, before they moved forward, and the White House is out there raising expectations about a vote for this week before anything has been announced on the congressional side.
BORGER: Yes. I think the President believes that through sheer force of nature, he can get this legislation through because, don't forget, he's not experienced in this.
He knows real estate negotiations. He doesn't know congressional negotiations where everybody has a different self-interest here, and it's not all about how much money can everybody make at the end of the day. And so he's really not used to this. And I think he just believes that he can do it, that he can twist these arms and make it all happen. And when you're at 44 percent popularity, it gets difficult.
BLITZER: One correction. Right now, 21 Republicans on record opposing this legislation. If they get to 22, they'll still pass. But if it gets to 23, it's over, at least for the time being, this version. They go back and try again presumably down the road. [17:48:47] Everybody, stick with us. Coming up, we'll go live to New
York as demonstrators take to the streets to protest against President Trump's immigration crackdown. Will they have any impact on the White House?
BLITZER: Around the world, May Day 1st is a holiday to celebrate workers. Here in the United States today, demonstrators are using the May Day tradition to protest against President Trump and his immigration policies. CNN's Brynn Gingras is in the crowd in New York City for us.
Brynn, how large is that demonstration?
BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, hundreds of people are here. Now, historically, in New York City, hundreds of people come out for May Day doing exactly what you mentioned, workers coming to fight for their rights. Immigrants coming to fight for their rights as well.
But like you said, Wolf, it's also turned into anti-Trump policies. We are seeing a number of groups here, Planned Parenthood groups. We're seeing Black Lives Matter groups. Again, also those immigrants and workers fighting for their rights as well.
Not too long ago, we actually heard from the Mayor of New York City, Bill de Blasio. He called for another 100 days of resistance across the country. And these rallies, like you also said, are happening all across the country.
Here in New York, it is unclear if all of these people are going to leave the Foley Square in lower Manhattan and march through the streets of New York City, but we have seen a number of protests all across the city. Some people actually going to Macy's flagship store in Harold Square. Some arrests have been made.
In fact, we've seen a number of pockets of protest all across the city, so we will certainly stay with it. But a lot of people here, again, fighting for, what they say, a resistance against Donald Trump, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. Brynn, thank you. Brynn Gingras in New York for us.
[17:54:56] Coming up, the White House now scrambling to explain after President Trump said he would be honored -- he used the word "honored" -- to meet with the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un.
BLITZER: Happening now, breaking news. No one is safe. The President warns about Kim Jong-un's nuclear ambitions but says he'd be honored to meet with the North Korean leader. Tonight, the White House is scrambling once again to explain the President's policies for dictators. My own opinions. The President begins his second hundred days with a
series of jaw-dropping interviews, including a confusing exchange over his claim that he was wiretapped by President Obama. Is he standing by the baseless allegation or not?
[18:00:00] Pre-existing confusion. Tonight, Republicans are struggling to lock up support for a new health care compromise as the President insists that coverage for pre-existing conditions is guaranteed.