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GOP on Verge of Another Health Care Defeat; Trump Praises Rogue Leaders in Sharp Shift in U.S. Policy. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired May 2, 2017 - 07:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: People with pre- existing conditions.

We have one plan that's been going through. It's been getting better and better and better.

[07:00:06] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can't imagine what the right conditions would be for a direct meeting between our president and Kim Jong-un.

TRUMP: Obviously, he's a pretty smart cookie.

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president understands the threat that North Korea poses, and he will do whatever is necessary under the right circumstances to protect our country from the threat that they pose.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The White House is rolling out the red carpet for all these human rights violators.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. Welcome to your NEW DAY.

The White House turning up the pressure on House Republicans to vote this week on a health care bill. They were going to try and get a vote Wednesday. Now it seems it's about Thursday. Remember, Congress is going on vacation again.

Do they have the votes? You're looking at the current whip count. We've got to say current, because votes keep changing. There are a lot of uncertain minds. Right now, you've got 21 House Republicans against the bill. The simple math would suggest they can only afford to lose one more vote.

What is the issue? Well, there's a disconnect between President Trump's promise for people with preexisting conditions and what the bill actually guarantees. So you've got a lot of lawmakers who are concerned that people on their districts who are the most vulnerable, will be the most at risk of losing coverage.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: But some of this health care debate is being overshadowed by some of these eye-popping interviews given by the president.

President Trump doubling down on his assertion that President Andrew Jackson could have prevented the Civil War. And the president is also reaching out to some of the world's rogue leaders.

So we have it all covered for you this morning. Let's begin with CNN's Suzanne Malveaux. She's live on Capitol Hill for us. Good morning, Suzanne.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Alisyn.

But of course, the House Republican plan to repeal and replace Obamacare still very much in flux, some people calling it a do-or-die moment now. Vice President Mike Pence was her late last night. When asked how it was going, rounding up, whipping up the support, he said, "Well, stay tuned." House Republicans once again, they're trying to create this sense of urgency to get something done before now they go on their Friday recess. So far House Speaker Paul Ryan has yet to schedule a vote for this.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

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.

REP. CHARLIE DENT (R), PENNSYLVANIA: 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.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MALVEAUX: House Republican conference will meet in just two hours behind closed doors to try to build on their momentum behind this legislation to see if they actually have the support. Then at 10 a.m., that's when they will come out with GOP leadership for press conference to get more information about this. We also expect the vice president to be back here on the Hill, working in earnest to whip up those votes -- Chris.

CUOMO: All right, Suzanne, thank you very much.

There's another story line that you're going to hear about a lot today. President Trump facing criticism for his praise of brutal world leaders, many with atrocious human rights records. The president says he would be, quote, "honored," for example, to meet with North Korea's Kim Jong-un. As we learned that Trump is going to speak with Russian President Vladimir Putin today, it will be the third time.

[07:05:06] CNN's Joe Johns live at the White House with details -- Joe.

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Chris.

That call coming at a time there are multiple investigations into Russian interference in the last election.

On top of that, you have this situation where the president of the United States is reaching out to strong-men, dictators, despots. The president's critics say it puts the White House seal of approval on authoritarian rule. The administration says it's all about reaching out and forming alliances against adversaries.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

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.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: 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 bit 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 he 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.

DICKERSON: Why not?

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.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

JOHNS: The focus today, though, is on that call between Mr. Putin and Mr. Trump scheduled for this afternoon. These two men have spoken at least three times that we know of since Donald Trump was elected president, but this will be the first time since the U.S. cruise missile strike on Syria that Mr. Putin said he didn't like at all.

Back to you.

CAMEROTA: Joe, you've given us a lot of material. Thank you very much.

Let's discuss these eyebrow-raising interviews with our panel. We have CNN Politics reporter and editor-at-large Chris Cillizza; associate editor and columnist for Real Clear Politics, A.B. Stoddard; and CNN political analyst and "New York Times" editor Patrick Healy.

Eyebrow raising, head scratching, insert your own adjective here in terms of what President Trump's goal is in saying some of these things in these interviews.

Patrick, let me start with you. Let's just play it one more time. Because he talked about the Andrew Jackson story more than once. OK? So he likes talking about Andrew Jackson. So he also talked to Salena Zito. he gave her this interview yesterday. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I mean, had Andrew Jackson been a little bit later, you wouldn't have had the Civil War. He was a very tough person, but he had a big heart. And he was -- 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...

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?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[07:10:04] CAMEROTA: Patrick, what's happening here? PATRICK HEALY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: President Trump has such an attachment to Andrew Jackson. I mean, his statement, this is -- you know, he was -- he was a tough guy with a big heart is word for word how President Trump would describe himself on the campaign trail.

CAMEROTA: And his campaign was compared to Andrew Jackson.

HEALY: Absolutely. And he saw himself as someone who knew how to stand up, who fought for the country. Who, again, was -- was someone who faced so many confrontations.

What -- what he seems to either forget or leave out was the incredibly brutal record by Andrew Jackson to Native Americans in this country, sort of a view of executive power that would just sort of smash through any kind of obstacles. And I think you see this in how President Trump, again, talks about dictators, about strongmen. Has he a view that, as long as your heart is in the right place and you're fighting for country first, things like, you know, legislative process and, you know, niceties don't matter.

But this is almost bordering on kind of an obsession with him going to Andrew Jackson as this -- as his way out.

CUOMO: I get it. I remember the comparisons during the campaign. I would be very slow to draw personal comparisons between Andrew Jackson and Donald Trump. Just do a quick Google, and you'll see the men got to their places in office in very, very different ways.

But Chris Cillizza, it's not so much about the historical comparison; it's about the penchant to ignore fact. You know, nobody asks why we had the Civil War. I mean, that's absurd. That's an absurd notion. People have been asking that since 1861. Many books have been written, and everybody knows the answer begins and ends with all the vagaries surrounding slavery. But this is what the president likes to do: ignore obvious fact in favor of what he thinks.

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS CORRESPONDENT AND EDITOR AT LARGE: That's exactly right. This is a pattern of behavior. Look, the comments about surveilling -- him being surveilled, allegedly, by President Obama saying a lot of people are talking about it. No, you're talking about it.

But the truth of the matter is, everybody -- the FBI director, the former director of national intelligence, Paul Ryan, Barack Obama -- all say it's not true.

We've seen this over and over again. Three to five million illegal votes cast. He -- there was -- he had the biggest inauguration crowd ever. There were Muslims celebrating on the rooftops after 9/11. Ted Cruz's father was potentially involved in the JFK assassination. I mean, you only have an hour-long show, hour block here, so I'm not going through all of them, Chris.

But the point is, this is what he does. He conflates opinion with fact. You see it in the back and forth with John Dickerson. "Well, I have my opinion. You have your opinion." "Well, why don't you tell me what you think it means?"

Again, the facts are not on his side often. He simply says that they are. And what's dangerous, I think, for our sort of broader healthy democracy is the fact that when he says his facts, lots of people believe them, even though the actual facts give lie to what he is saying. And that's the issue here. We can't agree on a set of facts, which is not a good place to be.

CAMEROTA: A.B., I'm not a psychologist, but I do play one in the mornings on television, and I see a commonality, and in fact, a common thread that you can draw from Andrew Jackson to Kim Jong-un.

And if you listen to President Trump's words about these two men, I do think that there is a reflection -- a reflective effect happening here. So let me read them to you. Because this is what he said about Andrew Jackson's campaign, since he does like to talk about Andrew Jackson.

"They said my campaign is most like -- it's most like my campaign, and the win was most like Andrew Jackson with his campaign."

And I said, "When was Andrew Jackson?"

"It was 1828. That's a long time ago. That's Andrew Jackson. He had a very, very mean and nasty campaign. Because they said this was the meanest and nastiest. Unfortunately, it continues."

Then you listen to what he said just yesterday about -- or Sunday, about Kim Jong-un. So listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: And at a very young age, he was able to assume power. A lot of people, I'm sure, tried to take that power away, whether it was his uncle or anybody else. And he was able to do it. So obviously, he's a pretty smart cookie.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CAMEROTA: A.B., is it a stretch to think that he relates to these two people. He, too, got power from his father at a very young age and was able to parlay that into success. Is this -- are we just sort of seeing what President Trump values because it reminds him of himself?

A.B. STODDARD, REAL CLEAR POLITICS: Well, perhaps. I actually think that sometime during the campaign, Steve Bannon told Donald Trump that his movement was similar to the populist attraction of Andrew Jackson and dragged him down to his grave on his birthday when other advisers in the White House -- and this has been reported -- wanted him to go do an event with Justin Trudeau, I believe, in New York City; and Bannon talked him out of it. So it's -- it's a populist hero that he wants to emulate, and that's why he likes to talk about him.

[07:15:18] And what Chris said is true. If Donald Trump -- it doesn't matter what's in the health care bill, everything for pre-existing conditions is going to be covered beautifully. It will be simple, and it will be cheap.

Whatever he wants to be real is the way he describes things. And so facts can be easily discarded.

With regard to other strongmen, yes. We have heard him talk about Duterte in the Philippines, Putin in Russia and others. And he loves to cite their approval ratings. Brutal -- brutal murderous dictators who have high approval rating at home, he thinks that's impressive. You can go back decades to hear what he said about what the Chinese government did at Tiananmen Square, that they put down with force what was going on. He has been talking about this -- talking in this way for decades. He likes a strongman.

And I think if Donald Trump was concerned about human rights, we would know it. He never spoke about this in the campaign, and it's not going to be a concern of his.

That said, in terms of Duterte, he has reached out in a strategic way to the prime ministers of Singapore and Thailand at the same time, trying to sort of have this concerted effort to try to sort of buffer the Chinese in the South China Seas and build this kind of Asian coalition for North Korea. So that is part of it.

But the way he talks about Duterte is in keeping with the way he's always spoken about strongmen.

CUOMO: Right. And therein lies the problem, which is that what's going on with North Korea, you could sell it. You could see it as a strategy, as trying something new. It's fine.

But what we see repeatedly with how the president speaks in interviews and to the American people, it shows something that is, you know, considerably less well-thought-out than that.

And remember, it's a two-fer, Cillizza. You have a president who likes to ignore the facts and who does not like when that is called out. We just got perfect evidence of that at the end of the CBS interview. Let me just remind people about this moment.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DICKERSON: I just wanted to find out that -- 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 from President Trump.

TRUMP: You don't have to ask me.

DICKERSON: Why not?

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

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: Let's put the wave and the rude ending to the side. That's his prerogative as president of the United States. You called President Obama bad and sick. That requires explanation. He didn't want to explain it. He gave a notional answer of, "Well, you make of it whatever you want."

CILLIZZA: And Chris, it's even worse than that, in my opinion. I looked at the transcript yesterday. And if you go to the transcript right before that exchange, Trump is the one who brings in the issue of him being, allegedly, being surveilled by Barack Obama. So he brings that topic up. John Dickerson rightly follows up with, "Well, you said he was bad and sick. And do you have any evidence of being surveilled?"

Again, this is what happens when what we know are facts are confronted with the -- the world that Donald Trump creates. I've compared him before to that guy in the cartoon who's driving the train and laying the track down one piece at a time as he goes forward. That's sort of what you see.

Now, when confronted with someone who says this actually is not the best way to make a train track, he reacts the way you saw him react.

I'd add, by the way, John Dickerson, he's not like Chris Cuomo and Chris Cillizza, fiery Italians. John Dickerson is the most genial, you know. I mean, that was not a confrontational interview. Donald Trump can't -- it is very hard for him to deal with being faced with facts.

CAMEROTA: Panel, thank you very much for helping us try to analyze all of this this morning. Great talking to you.

So what will it take for Republicans to get their health bill across the finish line? We have a GOP congressman who is still undecided as of this moment. Perhaps in the next four minutes, he will make up his mind and share it with us on NEW DAY.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[07:23:18] CAMEROTA: What's going to happen this week with health care? CNN's current whip count shows 21 House Republicans opposed to the new GOP bill; 18 are undecided. If two of those vote no, the bill cannot pass. So joining us now is Republican Congressman Jim Renacci. He's one of those undecided. He's also currently running for governor of Ohio.

Good morning, Congressman.

REP. JIM RENACCI (R), OHIO GOVERNOR CANDIDATE: Good morning, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Well, at this hour, are you a yay or a nay? RENACCI: I'm a yes. And again, my undecided position was really when

the amendment, the new amendment was added. I wanted to take a look at it. I wanted to vet it. I wanted to see how it worked with Ohio, what it did. And of course, after I was able to vet through it, remember, I was a supporter of the bill before this amendment. So the real key was to see any time there's changes like this, I want to make sure that I understand it and it's -- and it's good for the state of Ohio.

CAMEROTA: So at this hour you are a yes; you will vote for this new bill?

RENACCI: I will for this. Again, I was a supporter prior to this amendment. I am now a supporter after the amendment.

CAMEROTA: Let's talk about the amendment. Because what the amendment, as I understand it, says, it's about -- part of it is about preexisting conditions. Let's talk about that, since that's the one that's getting a lot of attention.

It's hard to know for people at home whether or not preexisting conditions absolutely, 100 percent, will be covered. What's your understanding?

RENACCI: Well, preexisting conditions will be covered, preexisting conditions. The real issue here is just this amendment gives flexibility to states. Let's face it: the difference between Ohio and California are massive differences. And this gives governors the opportunity to really develop their health care program, their Medicaid program and some of the systems within the health care based on the state.

[07:25:05] CAMEROTA: Yes. Agreed. So since it gives governors that latitude, how can you be so certain this morning that preexisting conditions will be covered? What if governors say, "No, I can't afford that or I don't want to do that"?

RENACCI: Well, first off I look at it, it's best to push this down to the state levels anyway. And I believe governors know what's best for their states, just like mayors know what's best for cities. The closer you get to the people, the better off you're going to be. So I am a big believer in allowing those decisions to be made at the state level.

CAMEROTA: Yes, but then yow can you guarantee that preexisting conditions will be in everyone's health care coverage?

RENACCI: Well, again, it's -- I support it. It's an issue that's already there. It's going to be up to the governors to make that decision. If the governors decide to remove that, then that's something they're going to have to do within the constraints of their -- the people they represent.

CAMEROTA: I understand. But that's quite different from what you've said. If the governors decide to remove it, then that's their prerogative, but it leaves people, then, with preexisting conditions not covered.

RENACCI: Well, I think the real answer here is how do we make health care more affordable? The system currently is not working. We've got to give some flexibility. And this allows the states to do it.

Again, I'm a big believer in allowing the states to have this flexibility. That's what this amendment does. I would -- as governor, I would make sure that preexisting conditions were maintained and left in there at some point.

But again, I think that allowing flexibility, you can't have a one- size-fits-all, which is really the problem we have with health care today.

CAMEROTA: Yes.

RENACCI: The Obamacare is collapsing, because it's a one-size-fits- all.

CAMEROTA: Look, you say that's what you would do as governor, but there's no guarantee that the other 49 governors would do that. So what do you say to the American public for whom this is a really important condition?

RENACCI: Well, again, what I would tell the American public is we are voting a package that does allow to maintain pre-existing conditions. We're giving states flexibility. I think that's the real key. This is going back to the states where most people want it to be. Most people want additions to be made as close as they can to them so that they have a voice in the decisions that are being made.

CAMEROTA: Yes. But I mean, look, I mean, not to belabor this, but it does mean that some people will lose their coverage.

RENACCI: Well, I don't believe that. I don't believe there's any governor out there that's going to try and -- and eliminate coverage. I think what governors are going to do is design programs that best fit their states, make sure that it's -- it's designed for the people within the state.

As I said, the difference between Ohio and California is major. So I like to see governors having the opportunity to really build a program that works, that brings costs down and covers the people, which is what we're saying. We have to make sure that the coverage is there.

CAMEROTA: Have you talked to President Trump about your "yes" vote?

RENACCI: President Trump knows I support the plan. He knew that in the previous version, and he knows it now.

CAMEROTA: So what do you think is going to happen? Will there be a vote this week on this plan?

RENACCI: Well, again, that's up to the leadership if they're going to bring the vote to the table. I would hope that we can move this forward, because it is important we get health care passed us, especially this part. We move it over to the Senate, let the Senate start doing their work on it.

I'm a big process person. We are not following the process, we can't keep this thing moving. So I hope we get it on the floor. I hope it passes, and we move it forward.

Remember, as I tell people back home, this is not the final bill. It will go to the Senate. The Senate will change it, maybe eliminate provisions, maybe add provisions. They'll send it back. That's the process that really should work here.

CAMEROTA: One last thing, Congressman. There have been reports that this -- this amendment and the new plan that actually members of Congress like yourself would be exempted from any changes. Can you clarify that? Will you have exactly the same coverage as your constituents? Or do members of Congress have a different plan?

RENACCI: Well, there's actually another piece of legislation that's bundled with this. If you take the amendment by itself, which some people are doing, it does exempt Congress.

But the problem is there's another bill, which I co-sponsored with Martha McSally (ph), which actually means that members of Congress are not exempt from this. So if you take the entirety of the bill, no, members of Congress will not be exempted.

CAMEROTA: OK. Congressman Renacci, thank you very much for sharing your stance on this health care plan with us this morning. Great to talk to you.

RENACCI: Thank you, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Chris.

CUOMO: All right. So why does President Trump say things like this?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Why was there the Civil War? Why could -- why could that one not have been worked out?

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.

Actually, this is more work than in my previous life. I thought it would be easier.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: The president has just done a spate of interviews. And up next, we're going to take a look at what might be his motivation for making comments that not just confound us with fact but make us question what his motivations are, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)