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Yates Warned White House Flynn Could Be Blackmailed By Russia; Trump Considers Sending More U.S. Troops To Afghanistan; Report: Trump And National Security Adviser McMaster At Odds; Jimmy Kimmel Test. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired May 9, 2017 - 07:30   ET



CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: Now, Chris, the questions that Jeffrey isasking right now actually provide a big part of the answer to why 18 days, why the tweets from the president that seem to twist obvious fact.

I think -- as we just heard from Anthony Scaramucci who, again, is an honest broker of how Trump people view these situations -- every time they hear Russian interference all they hear is bad for Trump. That's what they hear every time and that's why they cannot separate the two components of this investigation and the president keeps dismissing the Russian investigation. It's because of his concerns about what it means for him politically and that's dangerous because they were effective with what they did and senators on both sides of the aisle owned that, even yesterday.

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS REPORTERS AND EDITOR-AT-LARGE: Yes, and look, the disputing which Donald Trump did in Twitter -- on Twitter last night -- the disputing of the idea that Russia -- the Russia story, as he described it, is a hoax -- unless you believe that the CIA and the FBI are wrong, then we know that Russia actively tried to meddle in the 2016 election to hurt Hillary Clinton and help Donald Trump. That is what our two biggest sort of national security -- CIA and FBI both agree on that. Clapper reiterated that yesterday.

To me, the thing I never understand about this -- and Chris, your explanation makes as much sense as any I've heard -- why, if you're Donald Trump, do you not say I didn't do anything wrong, let's have a full investigation. I want all my people available. If there was a bad apple and we should have gotten them out earlier, then we should have gotten them out earlier and I'll apologize for that. But the continued sort of insistence that there's no there, there when any reasonable person looking at this can say there's clearly a there, there.

Now, simply saying that Russia tried to meddle in the election -- here's what they did -- does not mean that Donald Trump was colluding with the Russians, right? He is right that we do not have evidence of that. Now, saying Clapper said it didn't exist is not right. Clapper said I don't know, nothing that I've seen said it exists. But the point is there's clearly an effort there by Russia to influence the election. If Michael Flynn -- Jeff's point is right. Mike Flynn, Paul Manafort,

Carter Page -- there's a -- Jarred Kushner meetings. There's a lot of smoke there. Why not say let's have a nice wind to come through here and blow that smoke out because I believe fundamentally there's no fire. He continues not to do that.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: Kim, you know, the president -- what the president does do is tries to deflect all of this and tries to pin it on the Obama White House, claiming that they somehow should have better vetted Michael Flynn instead of him vetting Michael Flynn adequately for one of the top posts in the cabinet. And as your reporting, Kim, suggests this was an open secret about Michael Flynn or, I mean, it didn't take a lot of digging to find some dirt on Michael Flynn. This wouldn't have been hard for the White House to come up -- to connect these dots.

KIMBERLY DOZIER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST, SR. NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT, THE DAILY BEAST: Yes, but remember where this is coming from. This is -- Donald Trump has gone through several lawsuits. He's been accused of many things. His way of dealing with it is to fire back and drive on and I'm sure he felt the same way about Flynn, who would have assured him everything's fine. This is just more chaff from our political opponents.

What is happening to him is this slow car crash, however, where things are catching up that -- you know, in terms of like the FARA filing -- registering as a foreign agent. Well, had he stayed in the job, probably no one would have brought that up. There are very few prosecutions under failure to register as a foreign agent. His payment that he received for speaking to R.T. -- it's very unusual for the military to go back and try to figure out should we prosecute him for this. So he would have gotten away with this.

CAMEROTA: Panel, thank you very much.

CUOMO: Important perspective from you guys and we're going to get more. In our next hour we're going to talk with Senator Sheldon Whitehouse. He's the ranking Democratic in that Senate inquiry. You saw him yesterday questioning Yates and Clapper. What did he take away from it? What does he think has to happen now?

CAMEROTA: So, as President Trump considers a troop surge in Afghanistan, he is reportedly not happy with a key adviser of his. The reporter is going to break down the story for us about the growing tensions, reportedly, between the commander in chief and his new National Security adviser. That's next.


[07:38:33] CUOMO: President Trump meeting today with his new National Security adviser, H.R. McMaster. It comes as the president is expected to receive proposals to boost troop levels in Afghanistan. CNN's Barbara Starr live at the Pentagon with more. This is going to be news that is very sensitive to American ears. What do we know?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Chris. You know, after more than 15 years of fighting, the Taliban back on the upswing in both eastern and southern Afghanistan, so the president now getting recommendations from the Pentagon about what to do about it. It looks like one of the key options is, in fact, more U.S. troops on the way to Afghanistan. It could be anywhere between 1,500, 3,000, 5,000 troops. What will they do there? Train, advise, and assist Afghan forces. More airstrikes are possible, more operations on the ground.

All of that -- all if it does, in fact, add up to putting more U.S. troops at risk but the idea is, according to proponents, if you put more firepower into Afghanistan, can you push the Taliban back? Can you actually push them to a negotiating table and finally end the conflict in Afghanistan. Five thousand more troops -- it might be a very tall order -- Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: All right, Barbara. Thank you so much for all of those developments in your reporting.

Meanwhile, as the investigations into ousted National Security adviser Michael Flynn continue, there's a new report that reveals tension between the president and his new National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster. McMaster gets credit for coming up with the plan to strike that Syrian airbase last month.

[07:40:10] Our next guest says Washington loves McMaster but the president does not. "Bloomberg View" columnist Eli Lake joins us now. Good morning, Eli.

ELI LAKE, COLUMNIST, BLOOMBERG VIEW: Thanks so much for having me. Good morning to you.

CAMEROTA: So look, Washington cheered, right, when H.R. McMaster was named to replace Michael Flynn, who was ousted and even beyond the Beltway cheered because McMaster was seen as super smart, solid, a steady hand, a grown-up. So what beef does your reporting find that the president has with him?

LAKE: Well, some of it is about style because H.R. McMaster is probably one of the most brilliant defense intellectuals of his generation. He wrote a seminal work about the Vietnam War in which he argued that generals needed to have done more to stop the escalation in that war, as a scholar. And sometimes, his style is to lecture and he doesn't pick up on cues from the president, according to my sources, when he wants to sort of interrupt a briefing and ask a very basic question. And he can be a little bit militaristic in that he'll present here are the five options, and sometimes Trump just wants to hear 'what do you think.'

But there are some substantive issues as well, you know. Steve Bannon, the chief strategist, who I think is not as out of favor as the reports were three or four weeks, ago, is very concerned, and his loyalists in the White House, that McMaster favors a kind of nation- building abroad that Trump campaigned against.

Then, you know, there are just personnel issues with Reince Priebus, the chief of staff, because McMaster has asserted hey, listen, I hire and fire the people on the National Security Council. And what happened in March was that there was a list of disloyal Obama holdovers in the National Security Council who were suspected of being leakers and McMaster was asked to fire them and he refused. More recently, McMaster has tried to bring in a deputy national security adviser, Gen. Ricky Waddell, and Reince Priebus has blocked him in large part because he didn't properly consult the chief of staff and other senior White House officials. So all of this, you know, has sort of created a sense of tensions.

And finally, Trump is somebody who does not like to read in the newspaper stories about his national security adviser. For example, calling his South Korean counterpart and saying, you know, don't worry about what the president said. The U.S. is still going to pay for this missile defense system known as THAAD.

CAMEROTA: Yes, yes. Well, you spell it out really well but, I mean, I guess that the question is, is this about policy or is it about personality, and is it possible that he sees this as sort of a negativity campaign by Steve Bannon against McMaster, who by all reports, most of the people who work for him on the National Security Council and thereabouts really like McMaster? So is it possible that Steve Bannon is feeling irrelevant or somehow marginalized and he's trying to undermine McMaster?

LAKE: Well, it's no secret that Steve Bannon was kicked off of the National Security Council and as I reported in my piece, he's one of the voices who's got frustrations with McMaster, but I can tell you I won't discuss my anonymous sources in -- with anyone other than my editors. But, you know, the concerns about McMaster are broader than Steve Bannon. McMaster, you know, has also clashed with other members of the National Security cabinet, including James Mattis and Rex Tillerson.

You know, that he is somebody who very much is the kind of national security leader that many of us in the media admire. He speaks truth to power but that's also earned him over the years enemies within, you know, the Army. So there are plenty of people in the military who don't like McMaster's style and that style, I think, has served him very well. He's probably one of the best combat commanders of his generation. But at the same time, he's playing at a different kind of -- you know, he's playing in a very different league right now and I -- so I would say it's not just about Steve Bannon versus McMaster. There are others in that White House who have a lot of frustrations with him at this point.

But none of this means, you know -- as I had in my story, a quote from Donald Trump who said I'm happy with H.R. at this point, and I included that. So I don't think that he's necessarily going to be fired tomorrow or anything like that, but those tensions -- and it's one of those second notebook stories. I've been following it for about a month and so I sort of put it all down in that column. But those -- that's -- it's a very real thing and it's bigger than just Steve Bannon.

CAMEROTA: OK. Eli Lake, thank you very much for sharing all of your reporting with us this morning. LAKE: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: Chris --

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: All right. Mother Nature showing her strength. The hail storm that rocked part of the country. You're going to see some video here, boy, next.


[07:48:30] CUOMO: A sight to see on the streets of Colorado. (Video playing) Look up from your breakfast there and just look and listen to this. Look at those windows. Hail just shattering windshields, damaging cars, forcing a ground stop at Denver International on Monday. Some of the hail was reportedly the size of a baseball. CNN meteorologist Chad Myers has the forecast. First of all, what cause hail?

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: An updraft pushing the raindrops aloft where it's probably 40 to 50 degrees below zero. Those raindrops freezing, connecting with each other, collecting on each other, going up and down and making bigger ones. Chris, I think what's more important to the baseball-sized hail is the terminal velocity of a baseball-sized hailstorm is 85 miles per hour. That is a major league pitch.

This weather's brought to you by Purina. Your pet, our passion. There's more weather going on there today. There may even be more tornadoes today than yesterday. There was just a couple, but I'll tell you, there could be five or 10 and still, that hail is absolutely still possible, and in some spots there along the Front Range, probable.

Now, we're not warming up much in the Northeast. It's going to stay cool it's going to stay warm in the Plains. The pattern isn't changing very much so if you have severe weather today, you may likely have severe weather tomorrow. And if you have cool weather today, you will have cool weather tomorrow and possibly all the way through the weekend for you, Alisyn. In the Northeast, highs not about 65.

CAMEROTA: I don't like that. I like it in the seventies, Chad. Work on that. Thank you.

MYERS: Will do.

CAMEROTA: OK, thank you very much. So, late-night host Jimmy Kimmel is somehow combining comedy and health care policy. What is the "Jimmy Kimmel Test?" Senator Bill Cassidy, who coined the term, wants to make it happen. He's going to tell us about it, next.


[07:54:20] CAMEROTA: The health care debate now in the hands of the Senate, where they are trying to draft their own bill. Republican Senator Bill Cassidy, from Louisiana, says any future bills have to pass what he calls the "Jimmy Kimmel Test." The Senator spoke with Jimmy Kimmel last night and they set this standard.


JIMMY KIMMEL, HOST, JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE!: The "Jimmy Kimmel Test,"I think, should be no family should be denied medical care, emergency or otherwise, because they can't afford it. Can that be the "Jimmy Kimmel Test?" (Applause) Is that oversimplifying it?

SENATOR BILL CASSIDY, (R) LOUISIANA, MEDICAL DOCTOR: Man, you're on the right track and if that's as close as we can get that works great in government. Now we've got to be able to pay for it and that's the challenge. So all those middle-class families right now paying $20,000 to $30,000 to $40,000 a year for their coverage, we have to make it affordable for them, too.


[07:55:07] CAMEROTA: Senator Cassidy joins us now. Good morning, Senator.

CASSIDY: Hey, Alisyn. Good morning.

CAMEROTA: So from medical doctor to senator to late-night comedy show guest, you've had quite the journal lately.

CASSIDY: Yes, who would have thought it? Certainly not my parents.

CAMEROTA: So you're the person who coined the term the "Jimmy Kimmel Test" after he gave that emotional and impassioned monologue about what he endured with his son's heart condition. What is the "Jimmy Kimmel Test" to you?

CASSIDY: In my mind -- again, I'm a doctor but I've been working in a hospital for the uninsured for 25 years and good people -- you know, good Trump voters, Obama voters, you name it, but just good people. And the tragedy would be if they needed something and we could not get it because of coverage. Not something nonessential, but something essential to their health.

And Trump's pledge during the campaign -- his contract with the voter, if you will -- was that he would make sure that all would get covered, that we would get rid of the mandates, taking care of those with preexisting conditions, and that we would lower premiums. If we can fulfill Trump's contract with the voter we will pass that test.

CAMEROTA: But just explain the math to us, Senator. How do you get rid of the mandate, and lower premiums, and lower the cost to taxpayers, and cover everybody?

CASSIDY: So -- and I have a plan that's called the Patient Freedom Act and up here it's kind of called the Cassidy-Collins Plan, and the way you do that is one, restore market forces. We would put in price transparency, for example. There's example after example of where folks go in for a test or a procedure, don't find out the price until six months later. If they'd known the price up front they could have gotten just as good a procedure or test someplace else for one-tenth the cost. We have to have price transparency.

We have to expand the number of people insured. One thing that we have in is allowing states to auto-enroll. When I go on -- when I turn 65 I'm on Medicare, period, end of story, unless I call them and tell them I don't wish to be. We could do the same thing where everyone who is eligible for the exchanges, for example, would be enrolled and the credit they receive from the government would be sufficient to pay for their premium for a year. It wouldn't be a bells and whistles policy covering everything, like Obamacare, but it would be enough for that emergency room visit or that urgent care visit.


CASSIDY: It would be enough if they got hit by a car and had a lot of medical bills. If you do that, you expand the risk pool and you lower premiums at the same time, covering more folks. We have other things like that in the Cassidy-Collins Plan. In the short hand, we say we give power to the patient. If you give power to the patient good things happen.

CAMEROTA: You know, Senator, I don't have to tell you your constituents and Americans don't seem to be in any mood to give politicians any slack if they get this wrong. Just yesterday, there was an Iowa congressman named Rod Blum. First, he stormed out of an interview -- there was a -- on this topic, and then he went into a town hall where he had prescreened his constituents to make sure that they weren't going to be, you know, particularly hostile or raucous, but it didn't work. So let me show you what happened to him from this interview to the town hall.


REP. ROD BLUM, (R) IOWA: I don't represent all Iowans. I represent my -- the first district of Iowa. That'd be like -- that'd be like saying shouldn't I be able to -- even if I live in Dubuque, go vote in Iowa City in the election because I'd like to vote in that district instead?

REPORTER: Would you still take donations from a Republican in Iowa City?

BLUM: I'm not -- this is ridiculous.

(Town Hall) And if your insurance coverage is current -- is current -- nothing is going to change.

TOWN HALL PARTICIPANTS: You're lying. Na Na Na Na, Na, Na, Na, Na, Hey, Hey, Hey, Goodbye.


CAMEROTA: Senator, I mean, he had a bad day but basically what you heard from his constituents in Iowa there, they said you're lying when he said nothing will change about your coverage. So Senator, how can you, this morning, tell Americans that they will all be covered? No one will be left vulnerable.

CASSIDY: If we end up having everybody involved at the table -- for example, right now, Democrats are sitting on the sideline in the Senate. They say things -- well, I haven't been called yet. My gosh, quit being passive. Come forward with proposals to help those middle- class families paying too much for their premiums -- premiums they can no longer afford -- to ask the president and he will do it. The president's most passionate when he speaks about the forgotten man. For the president to remember those middle-class families -- his contract with the voter to lower those premiums. If we do that we can achieve our goals. If not, the American people have a right to be frustrated.

CAMEROTA: So you're saying that right now the Senate needs help -- the Senate Republicans need help from Democrats if they're going to get this right?

CASSIDY: In our country the best change is that which is representing across the political spectrum. Obamacare care was jammed through by Democrats and it's never been satisfactory since. If we can have Democrats and Republicans come together, not on a Republican plan, not on a Democratic plan, but on an American plan, that will work for the American people. By the way, I think Cassidy-Collins, which returns power back to the states, allowing blue states to do a blue thing, red states to do what's best for them, actually accomplishes that.