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House Vote on Health Care Set For Today; Explosive Testimony from Comey; No Federal Charges Against Cops in Alton Sterling Death. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired May 4, 2017 - 04:30   ET




[04:30:45] REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA), HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER: We're going to pass it. We are going to pass it. We will pass this bill.


ALISON KOSIK, CNN ANCHOR: Oh, they're sounding very confident. Confidence among Republican leadership. They say they have the votes to get a health care bill through the House today. But after repeatedly falling short, are they setting the president up for another let down?

Welcome back to EARLY START. Good morning. I'm Alison Kosik.

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Dave Briggs. It is 31 minutes past the hour. May the 4th be with you. It is Star Wars Day.

We hope Christine is feeling better. She will be back soon.

But this morning, we start, after a series of false starts, the GOP could be on the cusp of a big win on health care. The House set to vote today on a bill to repeal and replace Obamacare, and Republican leadership says they do have the votes to pass it, Alison.

KOSIK: Now, momentum shifted when two influential moderates who had been no votes flipped into the yes column after meeting with the president, and getting new commitments on coverage for people with pre-existing conditions.

BRIGGS: Certainly it's true. We have seen this movie before, but Republican leaders have been saying since the first repeal effort collapse that they would not bring health care to the floor, unless it could and will pass. It certainly seems likely they at least believe they have the votes this time.

So, let's bring in our Phil Mattingly on Capitol Hill for the latest.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: $8 billion, that is what it took for Republicans to finally get over the hump. The hump that has basically been the inability to pass the thing they campaigned on year after year after year, cycle after campaign cycle after campaign cycle, repealing and replacing Obamacare. We've seen multiple failures over the course of the last two months. Today, there will be a vote on the repeal and replace plan.

Now, guys, that $8 million came in the form of an amendment that was directly targeted at trying to assuage the major concerns that had held up this latest version of the proposal up to this point, that is price protections related to those with pre-existing conditions.

Now, those regulations in Obamacare have been considered extremely important and they are very, very popular, so much so that states could opt out all together. That's a lot of Republicans particularly those in moderate and centrist districts, those who will face very real electoral problems in 2018 not willing to come on board -- at least until Wednesday morning. That's when President Trump and two previously no vote members came together to agree on an amendment, to send 8 billion more dollars to a fund to try to help finance any premium increases that those individuals might see.

Now, that in and of itself being enough to get members to the requisite 2016 votes they need. It's a bit of a surprise, but there was a full-court press from President Trump. Vice President Pence, House leaders going member by member, the undecideds, the noes, the lean yeses and noes to try to get them to a place where they can actually finally pass this bill.

They say they're there. I'm told they're right on a razor's edge. They are very, very close one way or the other. But the feeling is, they wouldn't put it on the floor if they didn't think they could pass it. At least at this point in time, they think they can pass it.


KOSIK: OK, Phil Mattingly, thanks very much.

And Democrats obviously not sold on the changes intended to shore up pre-existing coverage. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer slamming the amendment, adding $8 billion to federal funding of high risk pools. In a tweet he said, "Proposed Upton amendment to AHCA, the Affordable Health Care Act, is trying to cure stage 4 cancer with cough medicine."

BRIGGS: That's a rhetoric, Alison.

At the White House, Press Secretary Sean Spicer fighting back, trying to ease concerns about the pre-existing conditions issue.


JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Why change the pre- existing condition? SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We're not. No, no, we are strengthening. I think -- look, we have done everything to do to not only strengthen but to guarantee --

ACOSTA: Strengthening it --

SPICER: Absolutely.

ACOSTA: -- but the governor can say, you know, here is my waiver and no more preexisting condition.

SPICER: Sure we can. Jim, I want to -- but I think the fundamental point that seems to be getting lost is that if you Obamacare right now, in case after case, you are losing it. So, if you have a pre- existing condition and you have a card that says Obamacare, but no one will see you or you can't afford it, then you don't have coverage.

ACOSTA: Why not fix that?

SPICER: We are. We are guaranteeing but I don't know how much -- we have literally --


ACOSTA: -- going to have be altered?

[04:35:00] Why not just keep that protection --

SPICER: The president has made it very clear that pre-existing conditions are covered in the bill under every scenario.


BRIGGS: So, you heard Spicer there saying that some people with Obamacare coverage are losing it. He is talking about more insurance companies pulling out of Obamacare marketplaces.

Now, just yesterday, Aetna announced it is drawing from Virginia, saying it's on track to lose $200 million this year alone. Also the biggest remaining insurer in Iowa says it's also considering leaving the program, leaving most counties in that state without any insurer on Obamacare in 2018. And the biggest remaining insurer in Iowa says it also may leave the program, leaving most counts in a state without an insurer.

KOSIK: It's something that we've seen happening actually across the country, where you see all these insurers pull out of these counties, and leaving these counties sometimes with no coverage or just with one, but I think that's what Spicer is talking about that it leaves the patients little access to care because you've got all these people going for that, those small pool of doctors, and then you have that wait. So, if you got a chronic condition you're waiting to go to the doctor.

BRIGGS: We don't know that. We don't know that there will be long waits. We know there were prior to Obamacare, but we also don't know that's why this will increase options on the marketplace.

KOSIK: There are a lot of questions.

BRIGGS: Look, we'll try to get to the bottom of all of them in the next hour.

KOSIK: And despite what GOP lawmakers claimed, experts say pumping $8 billion into high risk pools won't match Obamacare's protections for pre-existing conditions. So, how do high risk pools work?

If states opt out of the requirement that insurers have to cover everyone, that will wind up jacking up premiums for Americans with pre-existing conditions. In theory, the pools are designed to help the sick afford coverage.

But critics say that the new funding won't go far enough, especially if many states apply for waivers. Give you an example here, the Kaiser Family Foundation estimates an adequate high risk pool would cost about $25 billion per year, and that $8 billion will only cover a few hundred thousand people. Thirty-five states ran high risk pools before Obamacare and Republicans defend them as a way to cover the sick separately and lower premiums for healthy consumers.

But the thing is, these pools have a checkered past. They were typically underfunded. They charged higher premiums and they had long waiting lists. In 2011, the pools covered 226,000 people. That's just a fraction of the Americans with preexisting conditions. And premiums only paid for half of the $2.6 billion they racked up in claims and that forced states to cover the $1.2 billion difference.

So the $8 billion injection is on top of the $130 billion that the GOP already planned to provide states to help lower the cost of the new bill. But still, there are a lot of questions. Is it enough money and where is this money coming from?

BRIGGS: Well, how many states will apply and get the waiver, we'll never know. Not until this is put into action.

But President Trump plans to commemorate today's National Day of Prayer by signing an executive order that allows churches and other organizations to become more politically active. The Religious Liberty Order directs the IRS to use maximum enforcement discretion over the Johnson Amendment. Since 1954, the Johnson Amendment has barred tax-exempt organizations including churches from endorsing or opposing political candidates.

KOSIK: The president's order also provides regulatory relief to organizations that object on religious grounds to providing Obamacare mandates like contraception to their employees. Some religious leaders oppose the order, fearing it will make it easier to inject politics into the places of worship.

BRIGGS: The president back in New York City today for the first time since taking office. He will talk with Australia's Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. The two leaders exchanged heated words in a February phone call which briefly strained the relationship between the two allies.

Tonight Mr. Trump delivers a speech on board the USS Intrepid to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Battle of the Coral Sea. In that World War II naval conflict, U.S. and Australian forces halted an advance by the Japanese military.

KOSIK: President Trump vowing to broker peace in the Mideast as he welcomed Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to the White House on Wednesday. The president said he'd like to step in as a mediator, an arbitrator or a facilitator. But he wants Abbas to stop payments to Palestinian families and help end what he calls incitement to violence and hate.

In classic Trump form, though, the president suggested this wouldn't be so hard.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's something that I think is frankly maybe not as difficult as people have thought over the years, but we need two willing parties. We believe Israel is willing. We believe you're willing, and if you both are willing, we're going to make a deal.


KOSIK: And President Abbas expressed hope Mr. Trump could help bring peace, praising the president for his negotiating skills.

[04:40:00] BRIGGS: Thorny legal issues complicated the president's promise to withdraw from the Paris climate accord. According to a source close to the discussion, administration lawyers are worried about legal exposure if the U.S. remains part of the agreement but decreases it's commitment to carbon reduction goals.

President Trump has already ordered the EPA to review the Obama administration's Clean Power Act which calls for a 26 to 28 percent reduction in carbon emissions by 2025. A senior White House official telling CNN the president's top advisers were surprised by the complex nature of the Paris deal after a legal briefing last week.

KOSIK: The Federal Reserve did not raise interest rates this month but may have to slow down the pace if the White House's policies fail to boost the economy.

OK. So, no rate hike was expected, however recent disappointing data hasn't shaken the Fed's confidence in the U.S. economy. The Central Bank downplayed Friday's weak GDP numbers, calling the sluggish growth transitory, after its latest two-day meeting. After more than a decade of keeping rates near zero, the central bank is boosting them.

But listen to this, Fed Chair Janet Yellen and policymakers, they're actually waiting to see if the Trump administration can actually pass any of the economic policies it's been promising. If any of those policies can pass this year and that includes tax cuts, infrastructure spending and deregulation. In fact, the stimulus could even speed up the pace of the hikes, but for now, the Fed is on course to go ahead and raise rates at least two more times this year. Investors do expect the next increase to happen at the next meeting. We shall see.

BRIGGS: An emergency meeting of the royal staff has been called by a senior member of the queen of England's household. CNN's Max Foster understands that something significant will be discussed there but no cause for alarm. No specific word what the meeting is about despite some rampant speculation overnight and right now on the Internet, Twitter overreacted we believe to this story. So, anything you're seeing on Twitter --

KOSIK: Don't always believe everything you read on twitter.

BRIGGS: We will caution you for a moment.

All right. The family of Alton Sterling hoping the state of Louisiana brings charges against officers who shot and killed Sterling last summer. The Feds declining to press civil rights charges. The family's reaction is next.


[04:46:32] KOSIK: The family of Alton Sterling disappointed and angry after the Justice Department decided not to bring civil rights charges against two Baton Rouge, Louisiana police officers who were involved in Sterling's fatal shooting last year.

BRIGGS: The family is still hoping for justice from state prosecutors. So, why did the government pass on the Sterling case and what comes next?

We get more now from CNN's Ed Lavandera.


ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Dave, nearly ten months after Alton Sterling was shot and killed outside the Triple S convenience store here in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, federal prosecutors have determined that those two officers will not face federal criminal charges for civil rights violations in this Alton Sterling case.

Prosecutors said there simply wasn't enough evidence to show that these two officers acted willfully. At the federal level, the bar for bringing these kinds of civil rights violation charges is very high. Because of that prosecutors said they would have to be able to show these officers willfully acted the way they did in wanting to shoot and kill Alton Sterling, that they say that there simply wasn't enough evidence.

They met with the family on Wednesday of Alton Sterling, for several hours, outlining some of the evidence they had come across and afterward, the lawyer and family members of Alton Sterling said that they were stunned to hear one particular development -- the words from one officer, Blane Salamoni, as he approached the scene. This is what Salamoni said according to the lawyer and Sterling's family. CHRIS STEWART, STERLING'S FAMILY ATTORNEY: We learned that Officer

Salamoni walked up to Alton Sterling and put a gun to his head and said, "I'll kill you, bitch."

SANDRA STERLING, ALTON STERLING'S AUNT: Salamoni put that gun to his head and said, "I'm going to kill you." So how do you think he felt after hearing that "I'm going to kill you"?

LAVANDERA: So, you can tell that that was an incredibly emotional part of that meeting with federal prosecutors. So, what happens now? This case is definitely not over. The state attorney general here in Louisiana will now take over its own investigation and continue looking into the possibility of filing state criminal charges. Family members definitely pushing for criminal charges here against these two officers, despite what federal officials have said here in Baton Rouge.


KOSIK: Such a difficult case.

BRIGGS: It is. And as Ed said, clearly, far from over.

KOSIK: Absolutely.

All right. Apple is spending $1 billion on its latest venture and it could help you out. We're going to tell you what the new project is on CNN Money Stream, next.


[04:53:19] KOSIK: "Late Show" host Stephen Colbert responding to online backlash that includes the hashtag #firecolbert, after a stunning rant against President Trump during his monologue on Monday night. Colbert's remarks criticized as lewd and offensive.

He began last night's show with a mea culpa, sort of.


STEPHEN COLBERT, "LATE SHOW" HOST: I'm still the host.


Now, folks, if you saw my monologue on Monday, you know that I was a little upset with Donald Trump for insulting a friend of mine. I had a few choice insults for the president in return. I don't regret that.


I believe he can take care of himself. I have jokes. He has the launch codes. So, a fair fight.

So, while I would do it again I would change a few words that were cruder than they needed to be. (END VIDEO CLIP)

KOSIK: Yes, and those words which I'm not going to repeat made reference to Trump, Vladimir Putin and the sex act.

The friend that Colbert referenced is his CBS colleague John Dickerson. The president abruptly ended their Oval Office interview after being pressed on his claim that Obama wiretapped him.

I think, you know what, everybody thinks the president is fair game because of his comment on what was it "Inside Edition" about him grabbing a female body part --

BRIGGS: That's a fair argument.

KOSIK: But the president does afford some respect.

BRIGGS: Well, because the flip side of the argument is, what if this was said about a Democratic president and a Republican comedian. Imagine the outrage. You might have corporations and sponsors jumping onboard pulling their ads.

[04:55:02] KOSIK: In the end, it's all about money, isn't it, Dave?

BRIGGS: So, a bit of a double standard there, but, hey, his ratings are up and people seem to like it. So --


BRIGGS: All right. Police investigators said a deadly incident at an indoor auto auction near Boston appears to be a tragic accident. Three people were killed, at least nine others injured with an SUV suddenly accelerated and ran through a crowd at the auction on Wednesday. Two people suffered life-threatening injuries. Authorities say the driver was an auto auction employee in his 70s. The weekly auto auction typically draws a crowd of several hundred customers and employees.

KOSIK: Google is investigating a sophisticated phishing attack that targeted Gmail users. The worm appeared as an e-mail invitation, I got one of these, prompting the user to open - you got one -- prompting the user to open Google docs, allowing access to e-mail accounts and contacts. Google is saying it stopped the attacks in an hour and that roughly 1 million Gmail accounts were affected. Officials say contact information was accessed and used in the attack, but no other information was exposed.

BRIGGS: Facebook planning to hire 3,000 new workers over the next year to speed up the removal of violent and disturbing videos. A hiring spree coming after two shocking videos were posted that showed killings in Thailand and the United States. CEO Mark Zuckerberg acknowledging they needed to do more to fix the problem and just relying on automated software to identify and remove objectionable materials.

Zuckerberg has a tough task there trying to cut down on these videos. That's like people love the Facebook live option but how do you monitor it?

KOSIK: Hopefully those 3,000 people will help.

BRIGGS: Yes, let's hope.

All right. So, flooding rains and wind hitting the southern states. Meteorologist Pedram Javaheri has the latest for us.


PEDRAM JAVAHERI, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Alison and Dave, I'll tell you what, some people across the Gulf Coast here really not getting a break in the last few weeks and still seeing threat for additional heavy rainfall, especially in the early morning hours, in New Orleans, Mobile, all unto to Tallassee before storms begin to linger and taper off toward the evening hours.

But notice, there's a large area of wind concern with this as well. Wind advisory and wind watches for 15 to 20 million people. You'll see winds 25 to 30 miles per hour. Some gusts up to 40 miles per hour.

But here's an area of concern about flooding from St. Louis towards Indianapolis, the same area that saw flooding this past weekend. Additional rains here as well, 51 St. Louis the best question do for you. Little Rock around 57.

Notice a little more cooler now in places like Nashville and Atlanta, down to 73 degrees and the forecast in the next couple of days brings temperatures down a double nickel out of Atlanta. It should be at 77 for this time of the year, 55 is what is in store in places like New York City. Temps into the middle and upper sixties, that's the warmest we'll see.

I think we'll get another cooling trend that will build back in for early next week. It'd be an unusual trend here going to the middle of May -- guys.


ROMANS: All right. Pedram, thanks very much. Let's get a check on CNN Money Stream this morning.

U.S. futures and global markets are higher this morning. Wall Street ended the day slightly lower despite another round of strong earnings. The NASDAQ is down after two days of record highs and bank stocks get a boost after the Federal Reserve left interest rates unchanged.

Lots of tech news to tell you about today. First, Tesla founder Elon Musk says the company is on track to launch it's first mass market vehicle. Tesla reported heavy losses despite doubling it's revenue, and that's because the electric car company is spending a lot of money to launch it's Model 3, Tesla's first non-luxury vehicle, priced at about $35,000. Musk says Tesla plans to begin production for it in July. Facebook is closing in on 2 billion users. The social network had

1.86 billion active users at the end of last year. That's up 27 million from last year. We also saw Facebook sales grow more than 50 percent.

So, yes, Wall Street is happy. Investors like that Facebook keep grossing it's user base while creating more advertising. We did see the stock rise 2.5 percent after hours.

Apple is putting it's money somewhere, $1 billion, into a fund to bring manufacturing jobs to the U.S. Apple CEO Tim Cook boasting on CNBC Wednesday that the company has already created 2 million jobs in America and plans to hire thousands more employees in the future and oh yes, Apple has plenty of cash to do this and more.

The company has reported that it's got more than $250 billion in cash reserves and in this interview on CNBC, Tim Cook expressed interest in seeing this tax package that President Trump has been --

BRIGGS: Bringing it back.

KOSIK: -- promising -- exactly, you're talking about repatriation.

BRIGGS: Right.

KOSIK: What's interesting is Tim Cook didn't go as far to say that he would bring back any of that cash. He kind of stop short of that, hmm.

BRIGGS: They need a massive tax break to bring all that money home.


BRIGGS: All right. EARLY START continues right now.



REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA), HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER: We're going to pass it. We are going to pass it. We will pass this bill.