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Sally Yates to Testify on Russia & Michael Flynn; Obama Calls for 'Courage' to Oppose Obamacare Repeal. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired May 8, 2017 - 06:00   ET

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


(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA: There are so many questions here as to who knew what when.

[05:59:09] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The investigation into Russia's role into the 2016 election running into new challenges.

SEN. JAMES LANKFORD (R), OKLAHOMA: We continue to go through documents. We continue to go through witnesses. This will take several months.

REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D), CALIFORNIA: From Donald Trump, we have seen someone who continues to try and obstruct an investigation.

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY: We feel very confident that, as all of this plays out, it will land on the right side of where we are.

BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It does require some courage to champion the vulnerable, the sick and the infirm.

REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: We're proud of this. We're proud of this effort. It's us keeping our promises.

OBAMA: Courage means not simply doing what is politically expedient, but doing what the believe, deep in their hearts, is right.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is NEW DAY. It is Monday, May 8, 6 a.m. here in New York.

And up first, after months of delays, Sally Yates, the woman who was attorney general for only ten days, will finally testify today before a Senate hearing about Russia's attempts to interfere in the U.S. election and what she told the Trump White House about Michael Flynn.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Remember, one of the big expectations is that CNN has learned Sally Yates will contradict the administration on the timeline of events and the urgency of the matter. Remember, the White House said it was just a head's up. Yates may tell a very different story.

Another headline. What former President Obama had to say about the battle to repeal and replace Obamacare.

We've got it all covered for you. Let's begin with CNN's Manu Raju, live in Washington -- Manu.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Chris.

Yes, indeed. Later today, a Senate panel scheduled to hear testimony from former acting attorney general Sally Yates and those warnings about Michael Flynn possibly being compromised by the Russians, raising new questions about why the White House didn't act sooner to remove him from the job.

Now, I am told that Yates will be limited on what -- what she can say, but will, in fact, contradict the White House's account. Now at the same time, the House and Senate Intelligence Committees are sifting through mounds of information and struggling to come to any sort of consensus.

And also a sign that this could take months and months to reach a conclusion on this widespread -- wide-spreading investigation.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RAJU (voice-over): Congressional investigators looking into Russia's role in the 2016 elections. Running into a range of new challenges ahead of today's high-profile testimony from former acting attorney general Sally Yates and former director of national intelligence, James Clapper.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: We will ask her all questions about Russia, what she knew about Trump ties. Was there any administration effort to unmask people for political purposes? We're going to get to all things Russia in terms of what the administration did and what Russia did.

RAJU: Multiple lawmakers in both the House and Senate stressing that the committees still have mountains of documents to sift through.

LANKFORD: Well, we're continuing to go through documents from multiple agencies. We're continuing to go through witnesses. This will take several months to be able to finish it out.

RAJU: Cautioning the probes could drag into the fall and even next year. Further complicating the inquiries, uncertainty over the leads the committees are chasing and ongoing partisan disagreement over potential collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

SEN. ROY BLUNT (R), MISSOURI: I'm not sure that there's any reason for the president to believe that there was collusion between the campaign.

SWALWELL: Great cause for concern. Evidence of collusion. From Donald Trump, we have seen someone who continues to try and obstruct an investigation.

RAJU: Lawmakers struggling with the key question. Whether the meetings with the Trump associates and Russians were related to the campaign or whether there was simply efforts by the Trump advisors to gain new business for their companies? These questions coming amid a new effort to get information from at least four of Trump's former associates, including former Trump campaign chairman. Paul Manafort and former campaign foreign policy adviser Carter Page.

CARTER PAGE, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN FOREIGN POLICY ADVISOR: I've been researching.

RAJU: Page flatly rejecting the Senate Intelligence Committee's request to provide records of his communications with Russians, saying in an unusual letter that, if the committee wants details, they'll need to ask former President Obama because of surveillance that occurred during his administration.

SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D), WEST VIRGINIA: When Carter Page says he wants to basically be cooperating and all of a sudden we get another message, that's not the way to conduct a thorough investigation.

RAJU: This fight coming as Yates is expected to tell lawmakers today that she gave the Trump administration a forceful warning about hiring former national security adviser Michael Flynn. Testimony at odds with the White House's account.

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The acting attorney general informed the White House counsel that they wanted to give, quote, "a head's up" to us.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

RAJU: Now overnight, Carter Page responded to the Senate Intelligence Committee with a second letter, attacking the panel's, quote, "bitter" for conducting what he said is a show trial based on lies from corrupt politicians. But he does acknowledge meeting in 2013 with Victor Podobnyy, whom he called a junior attache in Russia but who U.S. officials believe was a Russian spy.

Now, Page says that conversations with Podobnyy were brief interactions. He did acknowledge discussing that meeting with U.S. agents in 2013, suggesting that he's now being retaliated against for what he voiced in that meeting. But in this letter to the Senate Intelligence Committee, Chris and Alisyn, he did not reveal any other meetings, saying that would result in hundreds and hundreds of hours of work. And he called it a, quote, "preposterous" request.

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

Let's bring in our panel. We've got CNN political analysts Abby Phillip and David Gregory; and national security correspondent for "The New York Times," David Sanger.

David Gregory, what are the expectations and potential impact of the testimony from Yates and Clapper today? DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think they're both

going to be limited in what they can say. From Yates, the idea that she is going to contradict White House officials about the warning that she gave about General Flynn. I think the White House will make it clear that they acted swiftly once they knew that he was not being truthful.

[06:05:21] I think the remaining questions are what extent did he advise the president. Then-candidate Trump, to what extent he shaped his views about Russia at the time, to say nothing of whatever contacts there were that were not appropriate.

But I still feel like we're -- we're on the margins here, even with Clapper, who will be limited in what he can say in open session. What we already know is what we've been talking about now for weeks and months. And that is that there was a consensus in the intelligence community about a Russian attempt to interfere with the election that at the very least the Trump folks were completely cavalier about, if not worse.

CAMEROTA: Well, it's interesting, Abby. We've also learned that, even Trump transition officials wanted Michael Flynn shown these classified documents from the Obama administration to show him that Kislyak might not be who he is presenting himself as and that he wanted -- apparently -- it was interesting. Michael Flynn didn't fully appreciate, they thought, what he -- who he was dealing with. So they were like, let's just open up the document and show him. That's also come out. Maybe Yates will testify about that sort of stuff.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: She will tell us a bit more about what was the actual nature of the concern that they had about Flynn? The White House characterized it as a head's up, but maybe it was more than that. We don't really know. And she will shed a lot more light on that.

She'll also shed a little bit of light on the actual timeline. What did she know when, and who did she talk to? Who communicated with people at the Justice Department?

You know, the challenge for Sally Yates going into this -- this hearing is that she is going to be presented as some sort of partisan figure, a hero to the left, a villain on the right. But she is a career official in the Justice Department. And -- and I think I expect her to actually be quite measured in how she goes about presenting the information here.

And hopefully, we will get perhaps the clearest timeline of the events in January and early February about, you know, who in the White House actually was aware of the things that Michael Flynn was doing and what kinds of warnings were they given about him?

CUOMO: Let's throw up the timeline, just so people at home can kind of get their heads settled on where it was. You'll remember this. It was back in January. Yates says she went there, did not give a head's up; said, "Hey, listen, this man could be compromised by the Russians, Michael Flynn, because of who he's talking to and what he may have exposed to them."

Trump then fires Yates, but that was over the travel ban, and obviously, she'd been somewhat vindicated. That initial ban has been attacked so much, they had to redraft it.

Then February 9, Flynn discusses sanctions with the Russian ambassador. That is...

CAMEROTA: ... in "The Washington Post."

CUOMO: Right. According to "The Washington Post."

Trump says he's unaware of Flynn reports that -- You take it for what it is worth. Flynn resigns as national security adviser.

And David Sanger, that takes us to what has really been the political intrigue here all along. It was at -- it's seen the White House jettison Flynn when he became a liability. But exactly how much did they vet him? What did they know? How seriously did they take what Yates said? What is the potential fallout, worst-case scenario?

DAVID SANGER, NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT, "NEW YORK TIMES": The sort of two big categories of issues here. First category is what the Russians did in the actual election; and then the second question was what the ties were of those around President-elect Trump -- candidate Trump, President-elect Trump and then President Trump.

And it's on that second that we'll hear the most, I think, from Sally Yates, because clearly, she had access to this fascinating trove of conversations that were picked up by American intelligence that go back well after the time that General Flynn was fired by the Obama administration as head of the Defense Intelligence Agency. And then he goes to Russia. He's, of course, working as a lobbyist for Turkey.

And it's that whole area of intelligence that the U.S. clearly has some intercepts that deal with that we don't know very much about.

General Clapper is also going to be critical to this. I paid a lot of attention to what he says. He was up at Harvard last week and, in a big public presentation there. He said that the intelligence report that got turned out by the intelligence agencies just before President Obama left office was supported by signals intelligence the U.S. had picked up. They didn't say what was in that signals intelligence.

[06:10:08] But clearly, there is a raft of back-up material that they have not declassified and they have not yet been willing to talk about in public.

CAMEROTA: OK, David Gregory, let's move on to this report. It's not new, but it is new to us. And that is there's this golf writer, James Dodson, who was playing golf with Donald Trump and Eric Trump three years ago. And he said that at that point, Eric -- he asked the Trumps, "How did you guys get all this money to keep building golf courses during the recession?" So many banks weren't lending, and so many people were hard hit. "Where did you get all of the money, the millions of dollars, to build these golf courses?" And he said Eric Trump said something to the effect of "We didn't have

to worry about that. We get our money from Russia."

So Eric is denying that this happened. He says -- this is actually from, I guess, Donald -- this is Eric. "'It's a recollection from some guy from three years ago through a third person. We own our golf courses free and clear,' Eric said, insisting that the report was categorically untrue and," quote, "'complete garbage'."

But the reporter stands by it. He says that they were actually quite casual about talking about where they got their money. What does this mean?

DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it's hard to get to the truth of the matter based on that back and forth. But it speaks to a question about to what extent the Trump businesses have been or are involved with Russia. And if you have Russian banks, Russian investors and you're dealing with the Russian government, this is why you're getting those tax returns has always been a priority, fully understanding what Trump's business relationship is around the world and particularly in Russia is so important in -- in ways that might speak to what a pre-existing relationship was.

Because remember, this previous discussion about Flynn and not only how he was shaping candidate Trump's views about Putin in particular, but with regard to the election and sanctions; and was there a suggestion that Flynn was having in that transition period about relaxing sanctions. All of that becomes really important as a potential quid pro quo or any potential ties that the campaign would have had to a foreign power, in this case Russia, actively interfering in the election.

CUOMO: You've got a simple answer on this one. All they have to do is exercise some transparency. Show the debt schedules as they exist for those courses. They're all privately held. So they have them. It's easy to see. Whom do you owe? When was that debt satisfied, if there was any? And it will go away. Will they do that? We'll see. David Sanger, what do you think the biggest moment of this week is that you're looking for?

SANGER: Well, I think the fallout from the French election is going to be one of the biggest fallouts. What we had was a theory in the Trump administration that there was a straight line from Brexit to President Trump's election to what was going to happen in Europe: in the Netherlands, in France and ultimately in Germany. And it looks right now, why President Trump may have been the high watermark of that populist movement. And that that has slowed down a bit in the Netherlands and then came to a really crashing halt in France.

And if that's the case, it does suggest that President Trump is going to have a harder time dealing with European allies where he hoped that he would get a much more sympathetic grouping.

CAMEROTA: Panel, stick around, if you would. We have many more stories and questions for you, because former President Obama breaking his silence on health care, urging lawmakers to, quote, "have the courage" to defend his signature domestic achievement. He was in Boston last night to accept the JFK Profile in Courage Award, challenging Congress to be champions of the vulnerable and sick.

CNN's Brianna Keilar is live in Washington with more. Give us all the headlines, Brianna.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Alisyn.

It's of note that President Obama did not mention the health care repeal and replace vote that we saw on Thursday. But it was pretty obvious what he was talking about at this event.

And it was the first time, of course, that we heard from him publicly since this vote took place. And somewhat unusual that he does take a position on policy. He was getting this award, a Profile in Courage award from the JFK Library Foundation, in part because of his efforts on health care reform but also on Cuba and climate change. And he acknowledged those Democrats who voted for health care reform in 2009, 2010 and paid for their jobs with it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: It does require some courage to champion the vulnerable and the sick and the infirm. Those who often have no access to the corridors of power. I hope they understand that courage means not simply doing what is politically expedient, but doing what they believe deep in their hearts is right.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[06:15:14] KEILAR: To correct myself, Democrats who paid with their jobs for their votes, I should have said. A source familiar with his speech process said it was coming together in the last week. So it really wasn't a stretch that he was going to address this health care vote that we saw on Thursday -- Chris.

CUOMO: All right. Brianna Keilar, thank you very much for that.

Saw B. Keilar on the cover of a magazine.

CAMEROTA: Get out of here!

CUOMO: Talking a little bit about how she makes the magic on TV. Bare-fisted boxing, she says.

CAMEROTA: What?

CUOMO: Her favorite exercise.

CAMEROTA: I can't wait to read it.

CUOMO: We'll have to see if that's true.

CAMEROTA: Wow, who knew?

KEILAR: Fact check. Untrue.

CUOMO: All right. So you've got a tale of two realities when it comes to health care. Democrats say this is about life and death, not just dollars and cents. Well, that prompted one Republican Congressman to say this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. RAUL LABRADOR (R), IDAHO: Nobody dies because they don't have access to health care.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: Nobody dies if they don't have access. Reality check next.

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(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[06:20:04] OBAMA: I hope they understand that courage means not simply doing what is politically expedient, but doing what they believe deep in their hearts is right.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CAMEROTA: All right. That was former president Barack Obama defending his health care legacy and calling out lawmakers while accepting the JFK Profile in Courage Award last night.

So let's bring back our panel to discuss this and more. We have Abby Phillip and David Gregory. We also want to bring in CNN presidential historian David Brinkley, who was at that event with the president last night. He is the author of the new book, "JFK: A Vision for America," which commemorates the centennial of President Kennedy's birth.

Great to have all of you. Douglas, I'll start with you. So how unusual is it for a former president to publicly weigh in on the policy of a new administration?

DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: They usually don't like to do that. But alas (ph), Barack Obama did not mention Donald Trump by name. In fact, Trump's name just wasn't evoked at all in the gala last evening, which really felt like the Democratic Party in exile, with President Obama leading the charge.

You know, Joe Biden was working the crowds as if he were getting ready to run for 2020, grabbing cameras and making everybody you know -- who wants a selfie with me? It had a spirit -- it had a spirit to the event, but it was a nice mixing of two brands, if you like. The JFK brand of "We're going to put a man to the moon," the Peace Corps, the "Profiles in Courage" book and Barack Obama, the Nobel Peace Prize winner.

And they -- kind of taking, you know -- the two of them sort of represent the spiritual life of the Democratic Party today, now that Bill and Hillary Clinton are held in semi-low regard, at least for a little while.

CUOMO: David, look, by his disposition, the words he chose and the forum, it didn't seem as though President Obama, former President Obama, was looking to provoke anything here. I mean, you juxtapose his tone and tenor with what we saw from Labrador when he was addressing that crowd, and he really wanted to just put a nail in the coffin of what the Democrats are saying. Let's just play that sound again so people can see what this Republican congressman was trying to do when it comes to the health-care dial-up.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You are Band-Aiding people on Medicaid and accepting people dying. You are making America...

LABRADOR: That line is so indefensible. Nobody dies because they don't have access to health care.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: Somewhere Bernie Sanders was kicking a television set, David Gregory, because he will argue, as will many Democrats, that that's just not true. In fact, it's demonstrably false, that when you have lack of access to care, you do see a spike in deaths. And if you return people to that desperation, you will see a spike. What do you think?

GREGORY: Look, I think when it comes to President Obama being out there, he is previewing an argument the Democrats are going to use, which is they want to have this fight over coverage. Do you, as an American, have a right to quality health care coverage that is, in effect, guaranteed by the government? And Democrats are going to make that argument. They have voted for that. That's what Obamacare was. Didn't go far enough for some progressives. But that's what it was, versus a more conservative viewpoint which is stated in the extreme by Congressman Labrador but is -- is held here, which you'll have access to it and the system is going to work better. We don't know if that's the case.

And we'll see how that -- that plays out. I think it's two things -- it is very difficult to take coverage away once it has been offered to so many Americans as a kind of a safety net.

But I think Democrats would also do well to acknowledge where the system has failed a lot of people, in that you don't have enough healthy people who have gotten into the system which has affected the ability of insurance companies to offer the kind of affordable premiums and care that was the promise of the health care act under Obama.

CAMEROTA: Hey, Abby, how about what former speaker Newt Gingrich said yesterday? Jimmy Kimmel, you know, is being called the Kimmel Effect, where he spoke and got emotional about his son's heart condition, his infant son's heart condition. And Newt Gingrich was on the Sunday shows, basically saying that's a myth. This is a myth that that baby would somehow be denied health care or coverage. Let me play for you what Newt Gingrich said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NEWT GINGRICH, FORMER SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: You show up at a hospital with a brand-new baby, and the brand-new baby has a heart problem. The doctors of that hospital do every they can to save the baby. They don't say, "We'll take care of the baby right after you write a check." They try to save the baby's life. And that's true across the board in this country. So that is just part of the mythology left.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[06:25:07] CAMEROTA: Now Abby, yes, when the baby is born, the doctors will do whatever they can to save the baby's life. But for the next ten years of care, you can't just show up at an emergency room and demand open-heart surgery.

CUOMO: He wasn't talking about insurance. He was talking about emergency care on the spot. And that's not the issue. That's the point.

CAMEROTA: You hear people say that, about how emergency rooms can fill the gap. And they can't fill the gap.

PHILLIP: And Labrador was talking about that same emergency care scenario, too. I think that's -- that's where he was going with that conversation when he said no one dies from lack of health care. What he means is you can walk into an emergency room, and they're going to treat you.

But what he's not talking about is the whole other part of the health care system, which is what do you do when you need a prescription? What do you do when you have a preventative ailment that would be treated that would save your life if you got early treatment?

CUOMO: Right.

PHILLIP: And that is the problem here for -- that's actually the problem with the underlying health care debate, which is that -- to what extent are we going to try to reform the system so that we -- we are changing the way in which people get coverage so they're -- we're not waiting until they're sick and dying and they run to the hospital and then having the sort of social safety net by default pay for them, because everybody's health care costs go up when emergency room costs for the uninsured are higher.

So the underlying debate is about that. It's about do we treat people over the course of their lives? Do we treat them preventatively? Do we encourage people to have care throughout the course of their lives? Or do we only treat them when they're in a bind and when they're dying or when they run into the emergency room and they have no money or health care coverage?

So you know, Newt Gingrich is -- is right in some respects, but he's not right, as you said, when that baby is 14 years old and needs more care and needs a lifetime of prescriptions. CUOMO: Right. The issue is whether or not you'll be able to get a

policy if you have a pre-existing condition. Not whether you can get care if you go in an emergency room. That's just not the issue.

GREGORY: This is all about making it right for the insurance companies. I mean, we're not talking about socialized medicine. We're talking about a way to make insurance companies feel comfortable of taking a risk of extending coverage.

We know two things, that the federal government is going to put more money into the system to subsidize people to pay for premiums or they'll get enough healthy people that they won't have to pay who will, you know, pay the premiums who will make it good for the insurance companies.

CAMEROTA: Panel, thank you very much. Nice to see all of you.

CUOMO: All right. Another big headline for you. North Korea provokes the U.S. again. Another American detained. What will the response from the Trump administration be? Next.

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