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President Trump's Recent Interview Examined; Trump Makes Historically Questionable Claims About Andrew Jackson; President Trump Defends Wiretapping Allegation; GOP on Verge of Another Health Care Defeat. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired May 2, 2017 - 08:00   ET


[08:00:00] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: The Trump administration wants House Republicans to vote this week on their health care bill. CNN's current whip count, and it changes every hour as you might now since watching NEW DAY last hours changed it. It has 21 Republicans against it. They could only afford to lose one more vote. Could Republicans be on the verge of another health care defeat?

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: The important health care debate getting somewhat overshadowed by President Trump's comments in a series of interviews. He's raising questions about why President Andrew Jackson couldn't have prevented the Civil War and sounding alarms with his outreach to some of the world's rogue leaders.

Let's begin our coverage with CNN's Suzanne Malveaux live on Capitol Hill. What is the state of play?

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The state of play very much in flux here on Capitol Hill. As you mentioned and as well as Alisyn, it changed within the last hour or so. We saw Vice President Mike Pence yesterday spending a good deal of time here trying to whip up support. We were asked how he thought it would do. He said stay tuned.

Again, House Republicans are trying to create this sense of urgency to get this done, this time before they are recessed that they go out on Friday. But House Speaker Paul Ryan really understanding that this is a do or die situation, has yet to schedule a vote on this.


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

MALVEAUX: 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.

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 is within two or three votes and as many as 10. So I would suspect it is probably closer to 10 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 would like to be good for sick people. It is not in its final form right now. It will be every good as good on preexisting conditions as Obamacare."

But the bill allows states to apply for a waiver, allowing insurers to raise premiums on those with preexisting conditions, a change that has 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 lack of understand 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 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 in less than an hour to try to build on this momentum to see if they have the support to push this through, and then later they will be leading with the GOP leadership at 10:00. That is when there's going to be a news conference so we expect more information. We also expect as well to see the vice president again spending a good deal of his day here on the Hill. He is going to start by having a lunch with Senate Republicans and other lawmakers later on in the afternoon to try to build as well on this momentum. Alisyn?

CAMEROTA: OK, thank you very much, Suzanne, for all of that.

So President Trump is shifting U.S. foreign policy by praising some of the world's most oppressive leaders. The president says it would be, quote, "an honor" to meet with North Korea's Kim Jong-un. And later he intends to speak on the phone with Russia's president.

CNN's Joe Johns is live at the White House. What is the latest, Joe?

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Alisyn, that call is expected to come this afternoon, and it comes at a time, quite frankly, when there are multiple investigations around Washington, D.C. about Russian interference in the last election. Also, it comes at a time when the president of the United States is taking heat for essentially cozying up to despots and dictators.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: 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: President Trump sending shockwaves through the international community with the prospect of an American president meeting with North Korean's brutal dictator Kim Jong-un after praising the nuclear armed despot pit a day earlier.

TRUMP: At a very young age he was able to assume power. A lot of people 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 leader 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 is sort of, there's a diplomatic piece of it.

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

SPICER: It is an opportunity 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 is 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." UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You stand by that claim about him?

TRUMP: I would stand by anything --

JOHNS: Before abruptly ending the interview with CBS.

TRUMP: You don't have to ask me.


JOHNS: Because I have any own opinions. You can have your own opinions.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But I want to know your opinions. You are the president of the United States.

TRUMP: That's enough. Thank you.


JOHNS: More on that call this afternoon. Trump and Putin have spoken on the phone at least three times since Trump was elected. But this will be the first time they have had a conversation since the U.S. air strike on Syria, which Putin has denounced. Chris and Alisyn?

CUOMO: All right, let's bring in our panel, CNN politics reporter and editor at large Chris Cillizza, CNN political analyst David Drucker, and April Ryan. It's good to have you all.

David Drucker, you can have whatever ideas you want about Andrew Jackson. That's fine. This scrutiny that the president is getting on it is he doesn't seem to understand the history and that he's making parallels when questioned about them he doubles down. And in that we see a pattern, strong and wrong. What do you say?

DAVID DRUCKER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: So the president seems to pontificate and offer analysis on matters of foreign policy and history devoid of the moral underpinnings of topic that he is discussing. And so the real problem here is not that he speculated about whether or not Andrew Jackson or somebody like him might have been able to prevent the Civil War. The problem is, in my view, that he didn't talk about the reason for the Civil War and why it got to where it did, and that is because of slavery.

And so if you talk about preventing a Civil War as the ultimate goal but you don't talk about ending slavery in America as actually the ultimate goal and the driver in the conflict, then you are completely missing the point and you lose an ability, I think, to be successful as a communicator in talking about this.

And by the way, President Trump is not the first politician to get in trouble because he decided to hold a think tank moment, right? About eight years ago when Rand Paul, the senator from Kentucky, was running for the senator for the first time, in a television interview because he leans libertarian, he was talking about the fact that maybe the civil rights act wasn't necessary. And of course he invites then accusations that you don't think that there was racism in America that needed to be addressed by law? And of course he's like that's not what I'm saying. But who cares. You cannot do that in a political context. But if you are going to do it, you better know what you are talking about and provide your own context and provide the fact you understand what the real issue was. In this case it wasn't just the Civil War. It was slavery, and Trump miffed it.

CAMEROTA: So April, what are we to glean from President Trump's comments? And are they somehow relevant? Is examining Andrew Jackson and the Civil War somehow relevant to anything Americans are dealing with today?

APRIL RYAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, it is very relevant. Slavery is a scar still on this nation. There are generations that still feel the effects of the atrocities of hundreds of years ago, Alisyn.

[08:10:04] And you have to remember this as well -- when President Trump talked about slavery in this interview, he didn't realize a man that he talked about in February, Frederick Douglas, talked to president Lincoln about issues of slavery and trying to fix it. This issue is real. It shows this president does not necessarily have a grasp on history.

And I called a couple of people to find out about his visit to the new Smithsonian museum of African-American History and Culture to find out if he indeed toured that slavery portion. He did. But prior to that as I understand it, is that some of his officials said, you know, don't let the president see some of the things that would cause him to be upset. This is what happened in the nation, and that museum, the first piece of it in the bowels of the beautiful museum, is the slavery exhibit, and it talks about what happened, how communities benefited off of the free labor, free labor. They got the wealth from free labor from enslaved Africans. So it is a lot to this history lesson that the president seems to be missing.

CUOMO: My 14-year-old just went there on a school trip. She came back so moved and motivated by the power of the exhibits there that she's been trying to get into it voraciously to understand it and for it to make sense, to a young mind. We do not see that kind of intellectual curiosity from the president. That's a known commodity. But Cillizza, this is something else. This is in addition to that. This ignoring of fact and a failure to own when you are wrong, we see it again and again and again, most notably recently the CBS interview about the wiretapping. He goes back there. He brings it up. Dickerson asks him about it, and then he rudely cuts him off.

CHRIS CILLIZZA, EDITOR AT LARGE, CNN POLITICS: That's right. Look, I would actually put the Andrew Jackson and surveillance comments separate. I think the Andrew Jackson thing is he doesn't -- someone, Steve Bannon likely, told him he is similar to Andrew Jackson. He internalized that. But he doesn't have any working knowledge of that period of time. I think he just didn't know, right?

The surveillance thing in my opinion is different, which is there is tangible evidence from the FBI director, from the director of national intelligence, from a whole scan of people, the speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, the House and Senate Intelligence Committee chairs, saying this did not happen. President Obama did not order a wiretap of Trump Tower in the 2016 campaign.

And yet, if you go to that Dickerson interview, Trump says I think I was way ahead of it. I think it's a really big story. Everyone is talking about it and everyone now agrees with me. It is provably false. He knows that Comey, Clapper, Ryan, that all of these people have said he is not correct. He just refuses to acknowledge it because he refuses to ever apologize. His modus operandi from the time he got into business until today is in every situation declare victory and move on. And that's what he's doing. But that doesn't change the fact that his facts don't exist currently and he refuses to provide us with them.

CAMEROTA: I think it is instructive to watch that John Dickerson, President Trump interview one more time because he does seem to be moving away from the question and from his response, I mean, literally and figuratively he moves away from it. So watch this.


JOHN DICKERSON, CBS HOST: I just wanted to find out because you are the president of the United States. You said he was sick and bad.

TRUMP: You can take it any way you want.

DICKERSON: But I'm asking you because you don't want it to be fake news.

TRUMP: You don't have to ask me.


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

DICKERSON: I want to know your opinions. You are the president of the United States.

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


CAMEROTA: He does not want to talk about it.

DRUCKER: I actually thought that was really interesting because Trump always doubles down. He always wants to talk more about his opinion, and here he wanted nothing to do with it. And I don't know if that means he recognizes it was not a useful exercise for him, if it means he understands that actually whatever he thinks there was to this whole charge it really wasn't what he said it was. But this was a rare moment where Trump wanted nothing to do with trouble that he started, totally counter to how he conducts himself normally.

CUOMO: And why is it relevant? How do we deal with it? What's the pushback? The pushback is you didn't do this with Obama. You guys didn't do this when other people did things like this. Now, let's set aside the irony that that is a propaganda tool called "what about-ism" from the Russian playbook. But is it a fair statement that, no, we have never dealt with a president like Trump before? We have never dealt with the volume and degree of outrageous comments that are said that are both factually inaccurate and doubled down on as consistently as with this president?

DRUCKER: And partisans will disagree with what you said, but I think it's correct.

[08:15:01] And I'd like to put it this way, Chris. A lot of people say that the president, we take him too literally because what he's really doing is discussing relevant issues and forcing everybody to confront things they wouldn't otherwise confront.

And what I like to tell people is, I take the president literally because I take him seriously. When you are president of the United States, you can move markets, you can move tank divisions. And so, it is natural that the media but also countries around the world, allies and adversaries, are going to hang on almost every word he says and I think the White House around Trump understands that. I think that it might help Trump supporters who got a little, understandably frustrated with us, to understand the reason we do this, is because what President Trump says matters.

CAMEROTA: Go ahead, April.

RYAN: I'm in full agreement.

And this president has to understand, and I believe he's starting because we haven't seen as much of the rhetoric as we had in weeks passed. I mean, it is just 100-plus days. But I mean, early on, there were tweets that were just very inflammatory and just kind of off the cuff.

But the bottom line is, is that this presidency, not including all the other presidents, this president is very different. This president, however, understands things. He sees what his national security team is saying. He understands that some of his words have been very inflammatory and he's pulling back a bit.

But words matter. There is a ripple effect, just like the guest just said.

CAMEROTA: OK. Chris, April, David, thank you very much for all of the analysis.

CUOMO: You want to see a wild video trending online?


CUOMO: A brawl broke out between passengers before a flight takes off from Japan to the U.S.

CAMEROTA: Oh my gosh! CUOMO: This is real. It happens. It started when a man in the red

shirt punches the man in the black shirt out. Fist flying. No discipline fight there.

A flight attendant desperately trying to stop the two men. Just when you think it's over, the man in the red starts again. Japanese newspaper reports he's American, drunk, acting violent, led to his arrest. Unclear what started the fight.

CAMEROTA: OK. Look at that flight attendant who has to get -- that little petite flight attendant who has to get in the middle of these two clowns. Look at how brave she is. I would have cowering under a seat.

CUOMO: I understand why she was brave because, two, these men clearly don't know what they're doing.


CUOMO: Honestly, my seven-year-old could have broken up that fight.

CAMEROTA: You think that they -- in other words, the grabbing of the Hawaiian shirt is not a move that you would have --

CUOMO: Last time I checked, the cat scratching technique is of limited value in close quarters.

CAMEROTA: You are the expert.

CUOMO: I mean, it's just like social Darwinism on this flight, those who should not make it.

CAMEROTA: All right. Let us know what you think, please?

Meanwhile, House Republicans continue their health care push. Do they have the votes or could this be another defeat? We debate it next.


[08:21:37] CUOMO: OK, Republicans could be on the verge of another health care defeat. We just don't know. The whip count is very close. The latest has 21 House Republicans voting against the bill. There is a 22, 23 limit that they're going to have to deal with.

But Republican Congressman Charlie Dent says the number could be higher. Listen to him.


DENT: I suspect it's a little -- 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 two to three votes and as many as ten. So, I would suspect it's probably closer to ten than two or three.

(END VIDEO CLIP) CUOMO: All right. So, let's assume there is legitimate doubt and then it raises the issue, why take the chance? Why is the president making such a gamble?

Let's discuss. We have political commentators, Jack Kingston and Steve Israel. Couldn't have better guests for this segment.

It's good to have you both, gentlemen.


CUOMO: Why the urgency? I know there is a recess. But you have been in there and dealt with this and you've seen it done the long view. Why this way?

JACK KINGSTON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think the situation is every Republican in America, whether you ran for school board or country commissioner or president of the United States, you promised to repeal and replace Obamacare and now the majority of the House, the Senate and the White House, there is no excuse for our base. You have to get the bill moving.

And so, frankly, I think they should be staying in there all weekend. They should be there at night. They should be twisting arms harder than they are. They've got to find a way to get this done.

Now, when it gets to the Senate, it is anybody's guess on what happens. But in terms of Paul Ryan keeping the majority, he's got to deliver this to our base.

CUOMO: But they have legitimate problems, right? Not only do you have numbers that the more politicized the ACA gets, the more people seemed to be approving of it, and you need fixes and you have constituencies who say, don't make it worse. There are legitimate concerns.

So, how is Ryan getting it done? What kind of negotiations are going on right now? My reporting suggests there is a lot of arm twisting that is being done.

But what does that look like, Steve?

ISRAEL: Well, urgency is good. But actually passing a bill is even better. This is becoming like an "I Love Lucy" episode. It's a rerun after rerun after rerun.

The problem is this, members of Congress who are casting their vote on this bill, if they cast a vote this week, they're not thinking about the vote that they're casting now. They're thinking about that 30- second ad that they're going to get a few weeks before the election. There are 23 Republicans who represent districts that were carried by Hillary Clinton. They can only afford to lose 22 votes. Those guys are in a vice squeeze and every time Paul Ryan offer something to a moderate Republican, he loses a vote on the far right.

And no matter what happens in the House, when it goes to the Senate, the bill on its current form is dead on arrival.

CUOMO: That's a weird dynamic, right? And I've heard that. You tell me if I'm wrong, but I've heard that people in the House and the GOP moderate side are being told, look, just do this. It will be OK in the Senate. It will be fixed. That's a dangerous bargain to ask someone to make, isn't it?

KINGSTON: It is very dangerous. BTU, that was a tax, it was an energy tax that President Clinton had the Democrats vote on that was killed in the Senate and most of the people who went along with the president lost.

So, Paul Ryan and the Republicans are faced with that. But I still believe that what they have to do is in the post earmark world, earmark used to be where you could direct congressional spending, you could kind of reward and punish good behavior if you were in leadership.

[08:25:03] And I think there is still things that the administration could do to help individual members overcome this --

CUOMO: Like what?

KINGSTON: Well, I think if you are the president --

CUOMO: Let's say you're Curbelo, OK? You are down there in South Florida. You've got a lot of people who are on Medicaid. There is a good chance the governor would go for the waiver, and people wind up off the rolls, now vulnerable. What do you do?

KINGSTON: Well, you know, you might not do it directly in health care. You might say, listen, your highway down here, 820 is one of the worst traffic jams in the country. We're going to widen that road and we're going to do something for harbor residents, something that offsets the political goodwill that you are about to burn on health care.

CUOMO: It's a lot of deals --

KINGSTON: But you know, that's what -- that's how the country has been run for 200 years and everybody thinks, well, that's disgusting. But that's what horse trading --

CUOMO: Right or wrong, I'm just saying it's a lot, Steve. Can you cut 20 deals with men and women who all have the same legitimate concern like -- I may get killed back home on this because if people get their coverage cut, you may have a tax savings, but that's not going to (INAUDIBLE)

ISRAEL: You can build bridges, I love, Jack. You can build bridges. You can pave highways, but that 30-second ad that you raised premiums or voted to take away health care, it is lethal.

Here's what to watch in terms of putting this deal together. Congress is scheduled to go out to session at about 4:00 on Thursday. There are a bunch of congressional delegations that are scheduled to depart on Friday. On Wednesday or so, or Thursday morning, if those congressional delegations start to get canceled, that tells you that Paul Ryan is going to vote on Friday and trying to get this done.

And maybe you're right. Maybe they stay for the weekend. I doubt it. I don't think they have the votes for this. I don't see any way they can cobble it together. But you watch whether those congressional delegations start to get postponed or canceled. That's a telltale sign.

CUOMO: What about the president's pressuring here? How much juice do you think he has, Jack, in terms of saying you guys got a vote on this now? And did he help himself or hurt himself with getting the preconditions thing wrong?

KINGSTON: Well, I think giving states flexibility always leans in the favor of the Republicans who want to return as much control as possible back to states and back to local governments.

So, I don't see that as a big problem. But what I do think is the president still has enormous popularity in our base. To give you an example, he came to Atlanta last week for congressional fundraiser, with 48 hours notice, raised $750,000. He can go into Carlos Curbelo's district and raise a lot of money.

The bully pulpit of the president is huge because and he can make a lot of things happen. He has raised twice the money at this time as Obama did during the first three months of his presidency. So --

CUOMO: Popularity, I hear you on it, certainly within the base. But does he have the bully pulpit on this issue. Do you think the men and women doubtful about this look at the president and say, he gets this bill, he's selling me on it?

KINGSTON: I think he had it Saturday night in Pennsylvania and I think we are seeing over and over again, he could gin up our crowd. It is an absolute cross pressure.

But people are already on the hook. They've already voted on this. As Steve knows, the DCCC will reach back three or four years if they need to and say, gotcha.

CUOMO: Vote this week?

KINGSTON: Fifty-fifty.

ISRAEL: I doubt it.

CUOMO: All right. Gentlemen, couldn't ask for better insight than that. Thank you very much.


CAMEROTA: OK. Chris, President Trump abruptly ending an interview after doubling down on his false claim that he was wiretapped by President Obama. Why this body language? Is he moving away from that claim? We debate it, next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)