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Sally Yates to Testify on Russia & Michael Flynn; Obama: We Must 'Champion the Vulnerable and the Sick'; Interview with Rep. Tom Reed. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired May 8, 2017 - 07:00   ET


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... high-profile testimony.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: We will ask her all questions about Russia, what she knew about Trump ties.

[07:00:10] REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE RANKING MEMBER: We are now in the process of inviting additional witnesses, requesting additional documents.

BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There was a reason why healthcare reform had not been accomplished before. It was hard.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What we want is a system that works for patients and families and doctors.

OBAMA: Put our personal or party interests aside when duty to our country calls or when conscience demands.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This did not have to happen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They just wanted to make sure that they themselves were safe, rather than him truly being safe.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This was depravity at the worst level.


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

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. Welcome to our NEW DAY. today is a big day. We may get an answer to whether the White House was telling the truth about Michael Flynn. Former acting attorney general Sally Yates is going to testify before a Senate hearing about what she told the White House about Flynn and when. Did they ignore a real threat?

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: CNN has learned Sally Yates will contradict the administration's timeline of events and say that her stern warning about Flynn was more than just a head's up, as they call it.

Meanwhile, former President Obama breaking his silence, urging lawmakers to oppose the repeal of his signature health-care legislation. So we have it all covered for you. Let's begin with CNN's Manu Raju. He is live in Washington and has some new reporting for us.

Hi, Manu.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Alisyn. I'm told by a source familiar with Yates' testimony that she'll actually be limited on what she can say about why she did has those concerns that Michael Flynn could have been, in her words, "compromised" by the Russians.

But her testimony is about to raise questions why the White House didn't act sooner to remove him from the job once those concerns were raised.

Now, at the same time, investigators on the House and Senate Intelligence Committees say their investigation into Russia could move well into the fall, if not next year, with one lawmaker telling me the amount of documents they are going through are taller than he is, at 5'10".


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.

REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D), CALIFORNIA: 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 between Trump associates and Russians were related to the campaign or whether they were 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.


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 then 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.


RAJU: Overnight, Carter Page responded to the Senate Intelligence Committee with a second letter attacking the panel as bitter for conducting a show trial in his view on lies from, quote, "corrupt politicians."

But in that letter, he does acknowledge meeting in 2013 with Victor Podobnyy, whom he called a junior attache in Russia. But actually, U.S. officials believe was a Russian spy. Page said his conversations with Podobnyy were just a, quote, "brief interaction" in 2013.

[07:05:12] But he did acknowledge discussing this with U.S. agents in 2013 and suggesting he's now being retaliated against because he voiced dissenting views at that meeting. But Page did not reveal to the committee any other contacts with Russians, saying doing so will result in hundreds of hours of work, in his words, of preposterous requests -- Chris and Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: OK, Manu, thank you very much for all of that reporting. So let's bring in our political panel. We have CN political analyst David Gregory; national security correspondent for "The New York Times," David Sanger; and CNN political commentator and host of CNN's "SMERCONISH," Michael Smerconish. Great to see all of you.

David, what could we learn from former A.G., Sally Yates, today? DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think there is a big question

about whether Michael Flynn was a contained problem or whether he is a gateway to learn more about potential contacts between the Trump campaign and Russia. What's revealing and what Sally Yates can really speak to in detail is what she learned of the intelligence that was gathered about phone calls between him and the Russian ambassador. It happened at the same time that the Obama administration was leveling sanctions against Russia for its interferences in the 2016 campaign.

So that becomes important, as well as whether the White House was really honest about everything that she was telling them based on the intelligence that was being gathered at the time. And of course, we also then learned more broadly about it from James Clapper about what back-up they had for intelligence assessments about that Russian interference in the campaign.

CUOMO: David, you have that one bucket, which is the collusion bucket, right, and all these different threads. Then you have this other bucket, which really, you could argue other than Senate judiciary, goes more to the head, the heart of oversight, which is what can Clapper and others direct the Congress to, in terms of what Russia did to interfere, how they did it and what kinds of protections are needed? Do you think the ball will get advanced by Clapper on that today?

DAVID SANGER, NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": It may. But it's more likely, I think, Chris, that that will get advanced in a closed session.

General Clapper was up at Harvard last week, and he gave an interview, public interview in which he suggested for the first time that there was signals intelligence and other electronic intelligence that backed up the conclusion they reached that the Russians had directly worked to interfere in the election.

So it's -- you have to take a little bit of a leap about what that is, but what that seems to suggest is that they heard aides to President Putin or other Russian aides discussing either the DNC hack or some of the other hacks of John Podesta or perhaps had to transfer information and make it public.

And we've had suggestions all along that there was evidence that was not contained in the public report. In fact, remember, Director Clapper did three versions of the intelligence report that came out in January. One for the public, one for the Congress and then a very detailed one for both President Trump and President Obama saw.

So the question is, how much do we edge toward learning what the back- up material is?

CAMEROTA: Well, you know, there are these congressional probes ongoing. There are two Senate, three House probes. They want to interview 35 people, at least in the Senate Intel Committee does. But don't know that they'll be able to interview any Russians.

And so Michael, you know, I mean, what Manu Raju was reporting was that, at the moment where -- where lawmakers are is that they see this through their partisan lens. And unless there is some smoking gun, it is likely to sort of stay mired in politics.

MICHAEL SMERCONISH, HOST, "SMERCONISH": It is very sad. Our partisanship used to end at the water's edge, and we would unite against a common enemy. In this case, Russia. But polarization, unfortunately, extends it far beyond the water's edge.

Here's what I'm interested in today. Not only what did Mike Flynn say about sanctions in that conversation of December 29 with Sergei Kislyak, but how did he say it? Because the issue, as I see it, is whether he was acting as a free agent.

Remember, December 29, as David Gregory pointed out, the very day that sanctions are imposed by the Obama administration. That's when Flynn speaks with Sergei Kislyak and then later Mike Pence says, "Well, they didn't talk about sanctions."

Now we believe that's not the case, and that's why he got fired. What did he say about sanctions? Did he say to Kislyak, "Don't worry. The incoming guy has this covered, and I'm here representing him," because the White House wants us to believe he was a free agent in whatever it is that he said. Sally Yates probably knows the answer to that question, because she has read the intercepts.

[07:10:14] Are we going to get a look at that today, or an indication? That's what I most want to know.

CUOMO: Smerch, let me stay with you for a second. Because Eric Trump may have breathed some life into your transparency jihad. Eric Trump supposedly told some golf reporter that they were able to raise money during the recession for their golf courses, because they were able to access Russian banks. So they didn't have to worry about the American liquidity issue.

He says that didn't happen; he didn't say it.

Now, there is a really easy way for Eric Trump to prove that they own those courses free and clear and that any debt they had on them that was retired wasn't Russian. Right?

SMERCONISH: Right. Release the tax returns. But you know, nothing thus far has moved that ball. This might be something that causes pressure to be brought on the White House that they've not yet been able to overcome.

CUOMO: They could just show it from those companies. I'm saying if he wants to prove it, all he has to do is show the balance sheets from those properties. You think it happens?

SMERCONISH: No. I don't think it happens. I don't think it happens until a congressional committee issues a subpoena perhaps prompting a constitutional crisis. But there's just no way under the watch of this president he's voluntarily handing over those tax returns.

SMERCONISH: David Gregory, let's tell people exactly what we're talking about. This is the golf reporter. His name's James Dodson. He did a 2004 interview with Eric Trump. Here is what James Dodson tells us that Eric Trump said. "He said, 'Well, we don't rely on American banks. We have all the funding we need out of Russia'."

"I said, 'Really?'"

"And he said, 'Oh, yes. We've got some guys that really, really love golf, and they're really invested in our programs. We just go there all the time.'"

Here is what Eric Trump says now, today, reacting to that reporting from James Dodson. Eric Trump says, "'It is a recollection from some guy three years ago through a third person. We own our courses free and clear,' Eric said, insisting that the report was, quote, 'categorically untrue' and 'complete garbage.'" Quote, "We have zero ties to Russian investors," end quote.

Where does that leave us?

GREGORY: But as Chris says, there's ways to demonstrate whether that's, in fact, true. I don't want to hang all of this on disputed reporting, because we simply don't know.

But I come back to something that I've been saying earlier this morning, which is The Republican Party. Republican leaders seem to show very little interest in getting to the bottom of any potential contacts between this president and Russia. A country that interfered with a presidential election when there are all kinds of questions about financial ties to Russia that a major real estate company that is Trump International has had in the past. I cannot for the life of me understand why they are willing to drop all of their curiosity on this topic.

CUOMO: David Sanger.

SANGER: Well, you know, just following David's point. During the campaign and prior to it, we heard a lot for very good reason about concerns about the Clinton Foundation and whether or not the kind of contributions that were being made from foreign powers might affect decisions that Secretary Clinton made when she was secretary of state. We didn't find much evidence of that. Or might in the future, as president, had she been elected.

It's fundamentally the same -- the same issue. I think the other thing that we have to keep our eye on the ball during the testimony today is what the Russians actually did to try to go influence the election. Because while the ties are important in more recent times and particularly after Donald Trump was elected in November.

We still don't have the full story of what the Russians did and then how the information got transferred and got out. And of course, we've had an echo of this just in the French election, just in the past couple of days, which tells you that it's broader and more global campaign. And that's the issue that's going to come back because we're going to have congressional elections in 2018. We're going to have another presidential election in 2020. If we don't understand the vulnerabilities of our system to this, you're not in a good position to go deal with it in the future.

CUOMO: Good point.

CAMEROTA: Michael, on this last note, Stephen Colbert. He, as you know, said -- made a crude joke about President Trump, and then he faced some backlash on his show. And then he came out and said that he didn't regret saying it but that he would have used different words. Are we done with the Stephen Colbert story, or does this have some sort of legs today?

SMERCONISH: Well, I talked about it on my program, and I think extended its life a bit. What I was simply saying were two points. One, I think it was a crass comment and unbecoming of Colbert.

But secondly, I think it's foolish politics and a pattern of what I see of growing liberal intolerance toward this administration that transcends the line, whatever it may be, and it starts to be reminiscent of some of the treatment that Barack Obama received for eight years.

[07:15:13] By all means, oppose Donald Trump on the substance. But a Colbert-like comment, I think, looks like a pile-on and is a turn off to some independents.

CUOMO: Insights versus insults. What is that balance?

Gentlemen, appreciate it.

CAMEROTA: Thanks, guys.

Republican Congressmen speaking out.






CAMEROTA: Those are actually constituents.

CUOMO: That's a lot of Congress people. They seem really angry.

CAMEROTA: That's congressmen in a different country. This is the legislature.

Let me get this straight. These are constituents. Angry town halls erupting and giving Congress people an earful. One of those lawmakers is here with us on NEW DAY.


[07:20:04] CAMEROTA: Former President Obama break breaking his silence on health care six months after Donald Trump won the presidency. Mr. Obama challenged Congress to, he said, show courage to fight for his health care law as he accepted the JFK Profile in Courage Award last night. CNN's Brianna Keilar is live in Washington with more.

Give us all the latest, Brianna.


President Trump [SIC] did not explicitly mention this vote to repeal and replace health care reform that the House Republicans pushed through last Thursday. It was pretty obvious what he was talking about when he accepted this Profile in Courage Award from the JFK Library Foundation. He, in turn, acknowledged House Democrats as well as Senate Democrats who, in 2009 and 2010, many of them lost their jobs after voting for healthcare reform.


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.


KEILAR: The former president also said that the reason why health care reform was not accomplished before was, quote, "because it was hard," which certainly seemed to be a direct rebuke of something that Donald Trump has said, where he said that nobody knew that health care would be so complicated. He's also said that this job is "harder than I thought."

So there did seem to be that reaction to that, even though, again, he didn't explicitly mention President Trump either.

CUOMO: All right. Brianna Keilar. Appreciate it. Thank you very much.

So House Republicans met with some angry constituents this weekend at town halls in their home districts after the House did pass the GOP's bill to replace Obamacare. One of them was New York Congressman Tom Reed. He found himself facing a teenager born with Type I diabetes who's worried about his future.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Look at me, a 14-year-old boy, in the eye and justify how you can vote for a bill that would take away mine and millions of others' guarantees about being discriminated against because of a pre-existing condition?

REP. TOM REED (R), NEW YORK: The fact that the pre-existing conditions is in the bill, it is in this bill, is going to continue, and you'll have access to health insurance just as you do today.


CUOMO: All right. There was mixed reaction to that answer. Let's bring in Republican Congressman Tom Reed.

Congressman, you were a "yes" on this before the amendments that were supposedly trying to soften the harsher impacts of the bill. Did those constituents make you think about your vote at all?

REED: Oh, absolutely. And as the constituents in the town hall said, we held on this issue. I listened to the people we represent. And making sure that that reform was going forward was something that was integral in my vote to stand with those individuals.

CUOMO: And how do you believe you are standing with individuals like that teenager if you remove the guarantee that pre-existing conditions get coverage?

REED: That's the misinformation. When you read the bill like we have and study the bill, 300 pages. The pre-existing guaranteed issue is still cornerstone reform as we go forward.

And with the waiver opportunity that comes down, it only can get better as I read the bill and the text of it. And I have a son who's a type I diabetic, so I know what that young man's going through. And I care deeply about that individual and I care deeply about millions of other Americans that are in that exact same situation.

CUOMO: So your understanding of the waiver is that it does not allow flexibility within insurance companies in terms of what and how they cover pre-existing conditions? Because that's what it says by the letters.

REED: What folks are getting to is a theoretical state that theoretically applies and you have a continuous coverage lapse and then all of a sudden, then the community rating issue can be raised.

Right now, the cornerstone of the reform at the federal level is that pre-existing condition will continue and go forward. And that's good. And that's what I promised the people we would do. But we cannot let the status quo go forward as is. These markets are collapsing. Access to health care will go away. And that is immoral not to act in order to solve this problem.

CUOMO: Now, there is no question that there are problems with some of the marketplaces, the individual marketplace venues. And there is a good argument to be made as to why your party refused to address those waiting for an opportunity to kill the ACA instead of fixing it. That's one argument to have.

But another one is you know that many people don't maintain coverage. It's expensive. Life is hard. And they drop it for months at a time. That would make them vulnerable if a state took a waiver. And we both know that companies, given an option, will not cover pre-existing conditions if they're told they don't have to. Why ignore those possibilities?

[07:25:04] REED: Because we have to look over the horizon and provide for flexibility at the state level to come up with innovative ways to improve upon it. That can do things better than what one-size-fits- all health care is doesn't work under Obamacare.

CUOMO: But pulling money out of the system has never been shown to be a way to improve coverage in terms of how many people will be getting care. You're pulling $880 billion out of it over about a decade period. How is that going to help?

REED: See, and that is one of the fundamental issues I think we have in disagreement to the other side. The other side assumes that putting money into the situation solves the problem. I believe in giving flexibility, innovation to the private market. Allow people to be empowered to make choices. That can go a long way to make the dollars be much more effective and efficient and provide access to care to millions of people that don't have it today.

CUOMO: Right. Look, whether it's the governor in your state, my brother, who you can dismiss as a tax-and-spend Democrat, if you want, but he's one of many governors, including Chris Christie across the river there in New Jersey who say it is illogical to tell me as a governor that you're taking away money from me and you want me to do more.

And that does seem to be what you're doing. I don't understand why the GOP just doesn't own it and say, "Yes, we're going to put less money into it. Yes, some people may not get covered the same way they are now. But we think it is worth it, because it's going to help fund our tax cuts.

REED: I would agree with you, Chris, that our governor tends to need more money or want more money to say that's going to be the cure-all for the problems of the people in the state of New York. That just doesn't work. The debt load, the taxpayer burden that I see on people fleeing New York. They tell me constantly that's one the reasons they leave. It's just not sustainable.

I care about these individuals. We need to do better, and we need to come up with more innovative, effective ways to do it. And this is a step in that direction. And I look forward to the debate continuing.

CUOMO: But you had a CBO score that said you're going to have many millions of people who lose coverage because you're taking money out of the system. How is that compatible with your compassion?

REED: Well, because that same score showed that premiums are going down. Now I understand, and I hear that score...

CUOMO: Ten percent after going up the first couple of years. The first couple of years they go up 15, 20 percent. Then over time, down 10 percent. I don't -- do you believe that that's a winning argument?

REED: Going down, Chris.

CUOMO: Yes, go down incrementally.

REED: Need to go down.

CUOMO: At the cost of millions potentially losing coverage.

REED: And I -- I would agree with you that the next step in this process, and I work across the aisle. I co-chair the Problem Solvers' Caucus. I'm the Republican chair with my Democratic colleague on the side that are working together to solve issues of health care, tax reform an. I want to be a voice to bring people together to solve the health care problem. We dealt with insurance in this bill. Let's embrace the divide between us and unite and take on health care. That's the next step I'm fighting for.

CUOMO: But what I'm saying is what you just voted for is being seen as something that makes the situation worse, not better. That's why you had constituents like that kid coming up to you and saying, "I may not be able to get coverage, and I'm not going to do what Newt Gingrich told me and go to the emergency room every time my bloods aren't right, because I could die if that's the way I deal with my condition."

And you know Type I diabetes. What do you say to that kid?

REED: Yes. Yes. I understand the fear. I understand the anxiety. And a lot of misinformation out there is generating this fear and this anxiety.

CUOMO: What is misinformation?

REED: That's why we wanted to do the town hall.

CUOMO: That waiver gives the ability to companies not to cover. But here's what I'm saying. I'm all for debunking misinformation. I don't understand how you -- you're reading this waiver that's different than how I am. If you give a company flexibility under conditions to decide what they cover, they are not going to cover everything that they cover now. It's not in their financial interests to do so. How is that a guarantee?

REED: Because the guarantee will be guarantee the issue is there. And in order to achieve that waiver, you have to demonstrate you're going to improve health care for folks like that young man like my son. And that is the initial essence of a waiver, in allowing a state to figure out maybe there's a better way to do this than what we anticipate today as a one-sized fits all solution out of Washington, D.C. I think we can do better than that.

CUOMO: Tom Reed, I appreciate you making the case here on NEW DAY. You're always welcome. Appreciate it.

REED: Thanks, Chris.

CUOMO: All right. Thank you very much.

Alisyn. CAMEROTA: OK, Chris, Sally Yates's brief tenure as acting attorney

general sparked months of debate on Michael Flynn, Russia and the White House. What will she say today in her first public testimony, and how damaging could it be? All of that next.