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GOP on Verge of Another Health Care Defeat; Trump: I Would Be 'Honored' to Meet Kim Jong-un. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired May 2, 2017 - 06:00   ET



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're going to get health care down to the floor of the House. We're convinced we've got the votes.

[05:58:49] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I suspect there are probably a few more "no" votes than 21 at the moment.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're either going to have a a great plan, or I'm not signing it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's clearly a disconnect between what the president believes is in the bill and what's actually in the bill.

TRUMP: If it would be appropriate for me to meet with him, I would be honored to do it.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: What you do is you legitimize a person who is one of tjhe really bad actors.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't see any harm in trying to improve America's relationship with the dictator in North Korea.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have a president who shows a disturbing penchant for authoritarian figures.


ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: We want to welcome our viewers around the United States and around the world. This is NEW DAY. It is Tuesday, May 2, 6 a.m. here in New York.

The Trump administration ratcheting up the pressure on House Republicans to vote this week on their health care bill. CNN's current whip count -- and this changes every hour -- has 21 Republicans against the plan, and they can only afford one more "no" vote. So are they on the verge of another health care defeat?

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Look, there's still a lot of soft attitudes on this. One reason is that polls suggest more than half the country approves of the current health system. And there are real questions about the best way forward and questions about whether President Trump really understands what this bill would do, as evidenced by his bungling of the treatment of preexisting conditions.

Another headline this morning is the president's praise of some of the world's most rogue leaders. What is driving this?

We have it all covered. Let's begin with Suzanne Malveaux, live on Capitol Hill -- Suzanne.


Republicans plan repealing and replacing Obamacare still very much in flux this morning. We saw the vice president, Mike Pence, here late last night, trying to really push for support. When asked how it's going, he said, "Stay tuned."

This is something that Republicans once again trying to create a sense of urgency around, as they try to get something done before they go on recess back on Friday. But so far House Speaker Paul Ryan has yet to put it on the schedule.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Vice president have you got the votes on health care? Are you going to get it passed?

MALVEAUX (voice-over): The Republican effort to repeal and replace Obamacare in jeopardy again. The White House ramping up pressure on House Republicans to bring the new bill to a vote this week, despite wavering confidence in its fate.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do we have the votes for health care? I think we do.

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We're getting closer and closer every day. But we're not there yet.

MALVEAUX: CNN's latest whip count has 21 House Republicans planning to vote against the bill, which means they can only afford to lose one more vote or it fails. A big gamble for President Trump, considering 18 other lawmakers remain undecided. Some Republicans warning the "no" count could be even higher.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There are probably a few more "no" votes than 21 at the moment. I don't know what the exact number is. I've heard numbers saying it's within, you know, two or three votes and as many as ten. So I would suspect it's probably closer to ten than two or three.

MALVEAUX: The core issue: how patients with preexisting conditions would be covered under the new plan. President Trump insisting the bill will protect them, telling Bloomberg News, "I want it to be good for sick people. It's not in its final form right now. It will be every bit as good on preexisting conditions as Obamacare."

But the bill actually allows states to apply for a waiver, allowing insurers to raise premiums on those with preexisting conditions, a change that's attracted House Freedom Caucus members but alienated moderates.

In a surprise defection, Congressman Billy Long, who supported the first bill, withdrawing his support, complaining it "strips away any guarantee that preexisting conditions would be covered and affordable."

President Trump's lack of understanding about what's in the bill growing more apparent, the White House attempting to clarify the president's mixed messages.

SPICER: What the president is doing is ensuring, going forward, as we attempt to repeal and replace it, that preexist -- coverage of preexisting conditions is at the core of that. So that is something that he has ensured is in the current bill and will continue to push for.


MALVEAUX: House Republican conference will meet at 9 a.m. this morning and then join the GOP leadership at 10 a.m. for a news conference. We hope to get more information about the update on the health care plan.

In the meantime, we do expect to see again the vice president, Vice President Pence, here back on the Hill, spending much of the day. He's going to sit down and have lunch with Senate Republicans and then later in the afternoon meet with additional lawmakers -- Alisyn, Chris.

CUOMO: Suzanne, appreciate it. It is an interesting political question. Why the president seems to be forcing this right now. Is it a big gamble for him?

Let's bring in our panel: CNN political analyst David Gregory; national reporter for Bloomberg Politics, Jennifer Jacobs. She interviewed the president. And we're going to talk about...

CAMEROTA: Not seen here.

CUOMO: No, but you know, they are friends.

And associate editor and columnist for Real Clear Politics, A.B. Stoddard. Jen is in the top right of your screen.

All right. So let's talk about this, David Gregory, the stakes, the urgency, trying to get this through. Why the pressure? What is the gamble?

DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, the gamble is that you're putting yourself out there and you may fail. I cannot imagine why they would put themselves in such a precarious position and allow the prospect of failure to be real here.

Now, look, they may win in the end. You know, the Washington Capitals were up 2-0 and then squandered their lead and won in overtime, so everything is fine. But they still made it perilously close. And even if they clear this hurdle, especially this issue of

preexisting conditions, I think, is not going to survive. In other words, it's going to remain in the bill once the Senate takes a look at it.

But you've got a president who lacks message discipline, who doesn't know what's in the bill, and who's allowing himself to run the risk of failing again on a central promise. It's just not being done well, even if they pull it off.

CAMEROTA: Hey, A.B., I know that you've been talking to members on the Hill, and you've been crunching the numbers, and you felt that there was some momentum. So where are we this morning?

STODDARD: Right. There's definitely momentum. And I'm -- I agree that something could happen by the end of the week. Congressman Mark Meadows out of the Freedom Caucus said last night, told me last night they were going to have a Wednesday afternoon vote. Now they're going to push that off. But they were -- they were very close.

[06:05:09] And another member I spoke to late last night put the "no" votes to 25. So there's room with undecideds to change that, and to actually get over the finish line.

But David is right. The whole process is really counterproductive. You need to do this quietly. I believe you need to actually start it in the Senate, come up with something that can ultimately pass the Senate and make it to President Trump's desk.

This fighting in the House back and forth, and that Billy Long, Congressman Billy Long of Missouri, his statement in the opener, I mean, he's the canary in the coal mine. The backing off from his previous support from March, from the March bill by saying this threat to preexisting conditions is not acceptable, I mean, President Trump is wrong when he told Jennifer that -- that the bill is going to change. It's not. What they're whipping last night and today is a bill that threatens the coverage and most -- more importantly, the price of the cost of coverage of preexisting conditions.

So something probably has to change, but it's really hard to see in the internal dynamics of the Republican conference that it can. They can pull out a miracle, but why they keep making this a three-ring circus, I have no idea.

CUOMO: Canary in a coal mine? Do you think he gets so dizzy even walking in a straight line? Song from The Police.

Jen Jacobs, let me ask you...

GREGORY: I appreciate that.

CUOMO: My day is complete.


CUOMO: Jen, the idea of the political dynamic here, A.B. laid it out -- laid it out very well there. And there's another layer on top of it, which is, "Guys, just pass this. I know you may get killed at home. I know it's incomplete. I know the president doesn't really seem to be selling it the way he should, but the Senate will fix it. That's OK. How big a risk is that?

JACOBS: Yes, you're exactly right. And you know what? It's hard to tell when Trump was talking to me and Margaret Talov (ph) yesterday in the Oval Office whether he means these things are specifically in this bill or whether he's talking about health care in general and pieces to come.

I mean, he also made -- you know, implied this particular bill allows health insurance to be sold across state lines. It's one of his favorite, you know, lines to sell. But this bill, of course, does not have that provision. But it's hard to tell if he was talking about, you know, how he could do this in the future.

One thing was clear. He has a lot of passion about this -- this particular thing. He really wants this to happen. He was trying to tell us, you know, he's not a heartless guy. He feels for people. He wants sick people to be taken care of. He doesn't want to leave people stranded.

CAMEROTA: So David, look, you can forgive the American people for being confused about this, because we're getting conflicting information about what is in this bill. The MacArthur Amendment, which is the amendment that was going to help bring the House Freedom Caucus, the conservatives and the Tuesday Group, the moderates, together says that states can seek waivers for that pre-existing condition component, so it would be up to the state.

CUOMO: They'd have to set up high-risk pools.

CAMEROTA: Right. And that's where it gets complicated. That's where I think President Trump is trying to thread this needle, which is if states opt out, there's still a high-risk pool so people don't fall through the cracks.

CUOMO: The chance that the costs don't go up in high-risk pools very low, which means you have are the most vulnerable people who might be paying the most.

CAMEROTA: Do you agree, David Gregory?

GREGORY: Yes, and I think, look, the high-risk pools have been used in certain parts of the country. I know Maine has had a successful experiment with them. But this is really this battle line between cost and coverage, and I think as a policy and a political matter, coverage is what people understand. You're either going to get covered or you're not. If you have a preexisting condition it's covered or it's not. And it was one of the most attractive parts of Obamacare from the very beginning, but it demands a lot.

You know, the federal mandate piece of this, all of that leverage to get people covered and to try to reign in costs requires a lot of participation and a lot of downward leverage on the part of the government. That's what more conservatives want to avoid, but you can't have both. And that's where the debate is.

And that's where I come back to the tactics here matter, because you've got to have a singular discipline in how you are selling this to the public. And it requires an all-out campaign.

Remember back in Obamacare, people didn't understand what was in the bill. They are still not going to understand. An implementation of this if they repeal Obamacare it's going to take years because the system is implementing what was passed in the Obamacare system. And that's taken about five years to really take root and to feel the impact of it.

CUOMO: Well, a little bit of this is that the perception of it is the ACA, Obamacare has become a political football. Right, A.B., I mean, you look at the poll numbers, back in November 2016, nothing's changed with the actual plan except the politicization of it between November and now.

But you see the numbers are up. People are there. And that can be that it's genuine enthusiasm, or it can be concern that they're going to make it worse. And when look at the CBO score, there is a foundation for that trepidation, right? Fifteen to 20 percent higher premiums would be right off the bat as you get market settling in exchange for, some years from now, being 10 percent lower.

[06:10:15] That is not the best vig for the risk that people might be taking about the loss of coverage.

STODDARD: Right. That's -- first of all, for this new amendment that they're all debating right now and hoping to vote on this week, there's no CBO score that -- that people -- that people can use. Not making an argument about why the CBO scores are a reason you should vote or vote against it; and that has to happen.

But in terms of the threat to coverage, prices, most particularly for those with conditions is really the crux here. Republicans know they can't repeal Obamacare. That ship has sailed. And that's -- they wanted to so badly, but they know now that they can't. People are so anxious, Chris, and I think that's why the approval rating for the law has gone up.

As you said, not so much that they're bubbling up with enthusiasm over Obamacare; but they fear another upheaval in the system after seven years. And the idea of it getting worse and more expensive with a threat to those essential benefits, slimmer coverage, that's the kind of thing that really frightens these people who have opioid addiction in their family or cancer or, you know, a condition like diabetes.

And so this is why the idea that this preexisting condition, you know, third rail here is being debated in the House when it's never going to make it through the Senate into the president's desk. It's too unfair asking Republicans to take this vote when it could end up just going away.

CAMEROTA: All right, panel, stick around. We have many more questions for you. So why is President Trump seeming to cozy up to, or at least speak in

a complimentary way to some brutal world leaders? He has invited the president of the Philippines to the White House. Now he says he would be honored to meet Kim Jong-un. What is going on with this? We'll discuss all of that next.


[06:16:00] CUOMO: All right. Now U.S. presidents are usually very shy about cottoning to despots or authoritarian leaders, but we're seeing a shift with President Trump. He has been engaging some brutal world leaders, some with atrocious human rights records. He even said it would be an honor to meet with North Korea's Kim Jong-un as he's preparing to speak by phone today with Russian President Vladimir Putin. So what is driving this strategy?

CNN's Joe Johns joins us live at the White House -- Joe.

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Chris. That call today also coming at a time when Russian interference in the last election remains on the front burner.

And you're right. There's also renewed interest now about the administration's outreach to despots, strong men and dictators. The administration says it's all about reaching out to fight against common adversaries, but many of the president's critics suggest it undermines the U.S. position on human rights.


TRUMP: 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.

JOHNS (voice-over): President Trump sending shock waves through the international community with the prospect of an American president meeting with North Korea's brutal dictator, Kim Jong-un, after praising the nuclear armed despot a day earlier.

TRUMP: At a very young age he was able to assume power. A lot of people, I'm sure, tried to take that power away. He was able to do it. So obviously, he's a pretty smart cookie.

JOHNS: The president also issuing an impromptu White House invitation to The Philippines' authoritarian president Rodrigo Duterte, who has overseen a deadly crackdown on drugs and openly bragged about killing people. The president's willingness to cozy up to rogue leaders with atrocious human rights records is sparking criticism from both sides of the aisle.

MCCAIN: What you do is you legitimize a person who is one of the really bad actors in the world.

JOHNS: White House press secretary Sean Spicer left to clean up the mess, defending Trump's praise of Kim Jong-un.

SPICER: He is still the head of state. So it's -- it is sort of -- there's a diplomatic piece to this.

JOHNS: And the invitation to Duterte, who has since rebuffed Trump, saying he may be too busy to visit.

SPICER: It is an opportunity for us to work with countries in that region that can help play a role in diplomatically and economically isolating North Korea.

JOHNS: These aren't the only eyebrow-raising comments from the president. In an interview with Sirius XM, Mr. Trump made this perplexing argument that the Civil War fought over slavery could have been avoided.

TRUMP: Had Andrew Jackson been a little later you wouldn't have had the Civil War. He was really angry that he saw what was happening with regard to the Civil War and said, "There's no reason for this."

JOHNS: The problem, Andrew Jackson had been dead for 16 years when the Civil War started and was also a slave owner. President Trump later acknowledging this fact on Twitter while insisting President Jackson, quote, "saw it coming."

Trump also defending his unproven claim that President Obama illegally wiretapped his phone, refusing to answer questions about his charge that Obama is a bad or sick guy.

JOHN DICKERSON, CBS NEWS: You stand by that claim?

TRUMP: I don't stand by anything.

JOHNS: Before abruptly ending the interview with CBS.

TRUMP: You don't have to ask me.


TRUMP: Because I have my own opinions. You can have your own opinions.

DICKERSON: But I want to know your opinions. You're the president of the United States.

TRUMP: That's enough. Thank you.


JOHNS: More on that call scheduled for this afternoon. Mr. Trump and Mr. Putin have spoken at least three times that we know of since Mr. Trump's election last November. But this will be the first time they've spoken since the U.S. missile strike on Syria, which Mr. Putin condemned -- Chris and Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: All right. Thank you very much, Joe. You've given us a lot to talk about.

Let's bring back our panel. We have David Gregory, Jennifer Jacobs and A.B. Stoddard.

So as you all know, the president has given this flurry of interviews in the past couple of days that are -- I mean, they're more than eyebrow raising. They're eye popping, some of the things that he has said, Jennifer. I mean, you know. You were just in the Oval Office talking to him.

[06:20:14] So when he says things about Andrew Jackson could have stopped the Civil War; he invites Duterte to the White House; Kim Jong-un, he'd be honored to sit down with him, these end up hijacking the news cycle. And what do you think, having just spoken to the president, is behind some of these things?

JACOBS: Almost every interview he does reveals a parade of head- scratchers. We're not sure. I mean, it's a fascinating look into his mind. You know, so his critics say he's a functional illiterate when it comes to governance and history. But his -- his fans say, look, you know, this is a guy who loves media exposure. It gives us a chance to hear exactly what he's thinking. It makes us feel like we can relate to him, like he's a man of the people. I mean, and it just -- it does confound.

I mean, here in one interview with Bloomberg News in 30 minutes, he talked about how he felt like he would be honored to meet with a leader of a hostile regime. He talked about maybe he would be willing to consider a gas tax increase. He talked about breaking up big banks. I mean, it was just this whole string of things. He managed to poke in the eye just about every single constituency of the GOP. The military hawks. Blue-collar, you know, fiscal conservatives. I mean, everybody. So it is a puzzle, but yet it does give us, you know, an idea into what he's thinking.

And, you know, someone mentioned to me would Hillary Clinton, if she were in the Oval Office, be giving herself, you know, so much media exposure and answering so many questions? Because the one thing about the president is he was willing to answer every single question. He has spent hours and hours and hours just in the last week answering reporters' questions.

CUOMO: Well, look, let's be honest here. Hillary Clinton would not be exposing her like this. She was very hard to deal with within the media. She didn't like to do interviews, certainly, the way Trump does. And when she did, she was really tough in terms of getting her to answer questions. I think Clinton is one of the best question duckers I've ever interviewed. So Trump is a very different animal.

And boy, David, does he go, you know, a million miles in the opposite direction. He just calls his competence into question. And sometimes it doesn't even seem to serve any ostensible purpose. Like, I always just say, why? Why would he talk about Andrew Jackson that way? Why would he say these things about Kim Jong-un?

You know, just listen to the Andrew Jackson thing and just what the momentum seems to be behind this.

GREGORY: Right. Well, let me come back to... (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I mean, had Andrew Jackson been a little later, we wouldn't have had the Civil War. He was -- he was a very tough person, but he had a big heart. And he was really angry that -- he saw what was happening with regard to the Civil War. He said, "There's no reason for this." People don't realize, you know, the Civil War...


TRUMP: ... 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?


CUOMO: And then when this gets called out, he then tweets this.

CAMEROTA: OK. He says, "President Andrew Jackson, who died 16 years before the Civil War started, saw it coming and was angry; would never have let it happen."

I mean, I think that he was upset that people were questioning his math. But really, that wasn't his point. I mean, he said that, had Andrew Jackson only been later, he could have stopped it.

CUOMO: The problem is not the math, David, but the question is why?

GREGORY: Yes, right. He's so enamored of his -- of the painting of Andrew Jackson in the Oval Office, he's now starting -- I mean...

CUOMO: Starting to talk to it and hear answers?

GREGORY: Yes, right, right. I mean, this is a fascinating topic to wade into. Unfortunately, he just doesn't seem to know a great deal about it.

I mean, the notion -- I think he's onto something. Of course, Andrew Jackson was a fierce unionist. He would have -- he would have worked just as hard as Abraham Lincoln did to keep the the union together.

So I don't know what he thinks, because he has a big heart and he's a tough guy, he could have somehow headed it off. I don't know where he was going with that.

And of course, we've spent -- I don't know -- hundreds of years talking about why the Civil War happened, so people actually do ask why.

But this is an indication, aside from being off-base historically, this is an indication of what reporters find so entertaining about Trump. He will answer any question. He'll go off in lots of different directions. It's -- it's unsettling and can be dangerous when the president of the United States is doing it, because it sets you off into directions that are policy changes that get people worried and, I think, are confused by it. I think in the case of North Korea, I think there's something going on

here that is -- there's an impulsivity aspect to it. But I think there's some strategy going on. I think the administration is trying to help build up Kim Jong-un, give him some standing in the world, and to try to diffuse this crisis. I mean, you know, the one end we're deploying a missile interception system in South Korea, on the other end praising him for being a smart cookie. You know, I think they're trying to defuse this a little bit and be totally unpredictable. I think that's what's going on here.

[06:25:12] And you can hear it in his voice, how measured he's being. I think there's some strategy at work.

CAMEROTA: I agree with you, David.

A.B., I think that the strategy -- you know, "I would be honored" is a signature saying of President Trump's. And it is disarming for the person on the receiving end of it, as I can tell you, since he has said that at the end of one of our interviews. It does -- it's a nice thing to say.

And I think -- but he can turn on a dime and then the next day say that he can't stand Kim Jong-un. But at this moment, I think that he thinks that that's part of the courtship of trying to get Kim Jong-un to do what he wants. How do you see it?

STODDARD: Absolutely. He is definitely trying to charm him and give him some begrudging respect and -- and standing, as you said. The -- that was telegraphed last week when he started saying, you know, he was 27. It was a tough fight for power after his father died. Took over a regime; it's not an easy thing to do. And then he got into smart cookie and then it became "it would be an honor."

Now, look, there are a couple of things here. That is a strategy. And that, I think, is happening because, in the absence of any real signal from China that they're doing anything to help. We've seen some coal shipments stop from the Chinese. But we're not actually really seeing this great help from China that -- that President Trump was expecting from his tremendous relationship with President Xi.

So as we await on China, as we all know, who's not interested in the collapse of the regime in North Korea, I think he is trying this tactic of sort of, you know, flattering Kim Jong-un.

When he got to the words, "I would be honored," that becomes very problematic, as we all know, with the Japanese, the South Koreans, really, the Chinese, everybody. And I think it's not something his staff or anyone in the State Department or the Pentagon would have advised.

It's what he does when he gives too many interviews. He talks too much. He goes on too long. It's undisciplined, and he starts making up stuff about the Civil War. And it's a mistake. And actually, it's happening in the health care debate. He needs to stop talking about what's in or out of the bill, because it actually gets in the way of getting to 216 votes in the House. CUOMO: Look, sometimes these interviews, they wind up revealing

something about the person, not just about the positions, Jen. And that's the curiosity here about this Andrew Jackson thing. It's not about Trump's bona fides as a historian. No one's arguing that he's supposed to understand the meticulous detail of these things, but it's just the general idea. Nobody asks why about the Civil War?

And then, when he's confronted with how silly a notion that is, he doubles down. We saw him do it with Russia again. After all we've been through, he has to bring up again that he's not sure it's Russia; it could have been China. No one thinks that who's working for him in the I.C. right now. They had consensus. Again, he brings up the wiretapping, saying that he's been proven strongly or something like that. Just take a listen to it.


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 can take it any way you want.

DICKERSON: But I'm asking you. Because you don't want it to be fake news. I want to hear it from President Trump.

TRUMP: You don't have to ask me.


TRUMP: Because I have my own opinions. You can have your own opinion.

DICKERSON: But I want to know your opinions. You're the president of the United States.

TRUMP: It's enough. Thank you. Thank you very much.


CUOMO: All right. So that's an awkward ending to an interview. But again, you know, what do you mean take it any way you want? You call the president a bad and sick man. He brings it up very often. Why do you think? Do you think he thinks somehow that this is a good way to keep us off-balance, you know, or keeps driving the cycle, and he doesn't care if it's positive or negative?

JACOBS: Yes, I think so. But also, one really quick point I want to make to you guys. You guys were exactly right when you were talking about he said that thing about North Korea and meeting with Kim Jong- un, he said that very strategically.

One thing I should point out to you is that, before he said that, there was, like, a seven-second long pause. He took his time. He looked down at his desk. And then he said, "If the conditions were right, I would be honored." And he slowed down his speech pattern and really enunciated each word. He was thinking about it very clearly, and then he even went on to say, "Yes, I know that, you know, my political advisers would not want me to say this, but I am saying this." And so he was saying it. And then he went on to say, "We're breaking news here."

So I know that people think that he sometimes just spews things and just says things without thinking. In that particular case, he knew exactly what he was saying. He said it very carefully.

CAMEROTA: That is great context, Jen. I'm so glad you're giving that to us. That is not speaking off the cuff. That is speaking deliberately. And it's important to make that distinction when we hear it from the president -- David.

GREGORY: Yes. I think -- I think he's trying to blend a couple of things. When it comes to North Korea, I do have the impression that he's listening to some degree to those advisers who are saying, "Look, this is how we want to orchestrate this. You have to be careful in your use of language." And that was an instance where I think he was listening.