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Secret Communication Line Between White House And Kremlin; JFK's 100th Birthday; EU Can't Rely Completely On The US And UK; Blame Game Is Driving Up Health Insurance Costs. Aired 3-4p ET

Aired May 28, 2017 - 15:00   ET


[15:00:00] FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Just moment after arriving back at the White House last night, the president was immediately confronted with new reports about son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, did Jared try to set up a back channel to the Russians?


WHITFIELD: Let's go to CNN Washington Correspondent Ryan Nobles at the White House now. So, Ryan, so far this administration has refused to comment about the reports of a proposed secret communications line to the Kremlin. Anything more today?

RYAN NOBLES, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Yeah. We did hear from some members of the administration, Fredricka. They did not specifically respond to these reports that Jared Kushner was attempting to setup this back channel communication with the Russian government and the Trump transition. But they did talk about the concept broadly and they defended the idea.

This follows a pattern that we've seen with administration officials. H.R. McMaster, the national security adviser said that it is something that is not that uncommon. And then this morning, a Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said something similar on NBC. Take a listen.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you think back channeling is normal and acceptable?

JOHN KELLY, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: It's both normal in my opinion and acceptable. It is any way that you can communicate with people, particularly organizations that are may be not particularly friendly to us is a good thing. And, again, it comes back to whatever the communication is. It comes back into the government and shared across the government. So it's not a bad thing to have multiple communication lines to any government.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Using their equipment in their diplomatic facilities?

KELLY: Well, again, I don't know if all of that is true. I would just say that any line of communication through a country, particularly a country like Russia, is a good thing. And, again, it comes back into --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Even using their equipment? I know you don't know that if whether that's true or not, but --

KELLY: I would say -- I mean, using their equipment, you know, that would cause you to be -- that communication would be considered to be, you know, kind of somewhat compromised. But the point is that any line of communication to a country like Russia is a good thing.


NOBLES: And my apologies. That was from ABC not NBC. And you can see there, though, the Homeland Security secretary not specifically confirming or denying whether or not this actually happened, whether or not Jared Kushner did attempt to set up this back channel.

Meanwhile, we're starting to get some sort of a response from lawmakers on Capitol Hill. Among them, Lindsey Graham, the South Carolina senator, he's not necessarily been a defender of the Trump administration but in this case he is skeptical about the report. Listen to what he said this morning on "State of the Union".


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I don't know who leaked this supposed conversation, but just think about it this way. You got the ambassador of Russia reporting back to Moscow on an open channel. "Hey, Jared Kushner is going to move into the embassy." I don't trust this story as far as I can throw it.

I think it makes no sense that the Russian ambassador would report back to Moscow on a channel that he most likely knows we're monitoring. The whole story line is suspicious. I've never been more concerned and suspicious about all things Russia than I am right now.


NOBLES: So, it's important to point out that the South Carolina senator is suspicious of the reports and, of course, we do only have those reports from the media because the White House won't tell us one way or another if this is actually true. But, Fredricka, it points this kind of broader issue that the White House has with these investigations into Russia. We have a lot of questions, but we don't often have a lot of answers.

WHITFIELD: And if the White House would just simply say, not true, we can, you know, assure you it didn't happen, then maybe it would move on. But with this "no comment," that makes it appear that there just might be something there. So meantime, today, reportedly Trump is meeting with staff, potentially even lawyers today at the White House. What more do you know about that? NOBLES: Well, we actually just spotted one of the attorneys that is reportedly working with the president, his outside legal counsel as it relates to the investigation into Russia and that attorney is Marc Kasowitz, a long-time attorney connected to Donald Trump in his private life, not so much in his political life. It was reported last week that he had retained Kasowitz's counsel.

This is an important development so we know that Kasowitz was here at the White House. We spotted him with Ivanka Trump, the daughter of President Trump, leaving the White House not too long ago.

We don't know yet if Kasowitz met personally with the president, but we do know it was at the White House and we also know that part of the meetings that the president was planning to have today was with the legal counsel regarding this particular issue. Fred?

WHITFIELD: All right. Ryan Nobles, keep us posted. Thank you so much from the White House.

All right, I'm quoting now, "My dashboard warning light was on." That was the response from former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. You just heard a moment ago about these reports on Jared Kushner. Here's what he told "Meet the Press" as well this morning.


[15:05:09] JAMES CLAPPER, FORMER DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: My dashboard warning light was clearly on and I think that was the case with all of us in the intelligence community. I'm very concerned about the nature of these approaches to the Russians. At the time I left, I did not see any smoking gun inserted to at evidence of collusion, but it certainly was appropriate for -- given all of the signs, certainly appropriate for the FBI to -- and necessary for the FBI to investigate.


WHITFIELD: All right. Let's discuss this further now with Ron Brownstein, CNN Senior Political Analyst and Senior Editor for "The Atlantic." Good to see you, Ron.

So James Clapper has always been very sober when he's talking about this very, you know, this topic, saying that his dashboard light was on. What does that say specifically to you when you hear from him, you know, some real eyebrow raising concerns here?

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it crosses an important threshold. I mean, the president has argued repeatedly that this is either fake news or just Democratic sour grapes and now you have former DNI James Clapper basically saying almost exactly what John Brennan did in his very striking testimony this week as well the former CIA director. And what the FBI Director James Comey, the fired FBI director has said, that while they do not know where all of the evidence leads, there was clearly enough evidence there of contacts to raise concern and to warrant further investigation. And I think it kind of shatters the argument that this is simply Democratic sour grapes or people wanting to relitigate the election. You now have three senior national security law enforcement officials all saying in various, you know, various phrases that their dashboard lights were on and they saw evidence of contact that concerned them.

WHITFIELD: OK. And also very concerning, we've heard from so many people about the disclosure and lack thereof from Jared Kushner before he filled out that former -- while he filled out that form that FS-86, which grants him security clearance.

So here the president went on this trip. He's called it a great success. You heard him from Italy yesterday, you know, kind of take off all of the high points from his trip. Now he's back at the White House and he tweets, but he's tweeting really about leaks and his disdain -- continued disdain for the media, saying "This is my opinion that many of the leaks coming out of the White House are fabricated lies made up by the fake news media."

But then, again, Ron, we're not hearing any specificity from the White House to say, "Let's dismiss this report, not true. It didn't happen." We're not hearing that.


WHITFIELD: There's a big "no comment" coming from McMaster while in Italy.

BROWNSTEIN: That's right. And like as we said, I mean, the president's core argument has been throughout the entire question of any contact, much less collusion with Russians during the campaign is fake news.

And as I said, you now have a series of national security officials saying they saw enough to concern them. It is striking. This is, you know, there's another code to this trip in addition to president's tweet. It's Angela Merkel's remarks today in Germany in a rally there in which she said that we are essentially alone in Europe. We cannot count on others the way we did in the past.

WHITFIELD: In fact, let me quote the press now.


WHITFIELD: Rich Wright (ph). She was telling the crowd that in election rally in Munich saying, you know, "We, Europeans truly have to take our fate into our own hands." We have -- so I'm quoting now, "We have to fight for our own destiny." She said, 'The times in which we completely depend on others are on the way out. I've experienced that in the last few days."


WHITFIELD: A very profound statement. What is to be interpreted of that? Is that, you know, Germany, Europe, we're going it alone. We can't count on the U.S.? Does that the direct messaging? BROWNSTEIN: Well, I think that is a profound statement. It is a remarkable statement and it goes along with the remarkable communique that came out of the G-7 yesterday in which they said essentially the -- you know, all of us are together in affirming the importance of the Paris agreement on climate and a need to reduce carbon emissions as a way of combating the threat of climate change except for the U.S. and I think there was a very stark kind of plurality in this trip where the presidency more comfortable in the first half when he was in autocratic Saudi Arabia than he did certainly in those last 48 hours with European allies where a series of either kind of gaffes or collusions or confrontations of the sort.

We really haven't -- I don't think we have seen before in terms of the distance between the U.S. and the traditional European allies. This was in many ways what the president talk about during the campaign. There are lots of indications earlier in the administration that there was so much sanding down the edges of that. For example, he had not been as critical of the European Union. He did not directly endorse Marine Le Pen, although he certainly praised her.

But back in this last 48 hours, you saw the kind of shift in direction that leads toward this level of conflict and I think those rather remarkable remarks from Angela Merkel, I think quite unlike something we have seen recently from other European leaders.

[15:10:02] WHITFIELD: Yeah. That on the world face very important. I want to also bring in to this conversation, Constitutional Law Scholar, Professor Jonathan Turley. That Professor Turley, good to see you.

In addition to the concerns domestically right here at the White House as it pertains to this investigation, the latest reports involving, you know, top adviser Jared Kushner in this, you know, reported back channel, a direct line to the Kremlin. And so now you've got members of the DNC calling for Kushner's security clearance to be revoked. Here is what Congressman Schiff had to say about that very notion.


REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CAROLINA: There's another question about his security clearance and whether he was forthcoming about his context on that. If these allegations aren't true and he had discussions with the Russians about establishing a back channel and it didn't reveal that, that's a real problem. But I do think there ought to be a review of his security clearance to find out whether he was truthful, whether he was candid. If not, then there's no way he can maintain that kind of a clearance.


WHITFIELD: So, professor, is this a case in which that kind of clearance should be revoked?

JONATHAN TURLEY, CONSTITUIONAL LAW SCHOLAR, PROFESSOR: Well, there's a legitimate question if there was material evidence left off of a form called the FS-86. I've had a clearance since the Reagan era off and on and you have to fill out those forms and detail any foreign contacts that you have.

I was mentioning academics that I would meet at speeches. That's how it detailed it can be. So leave out a meeting with Russians where you talk about a back, a secret back channel would obviously raise alarm for most security officials. So there's a legitimate issue here. One of the strange things we haven't heard from the White House --

WHITFIELD: But if the alarm even louder when there's an omission of including that and the discovery is that, you know, that potentially did happen and you didn't put that on the sheet?

TURLEY: Well, I think that McMaster is accurate, the national security adviser, when he says that back channels have been used in the past. Cuban missile crisis is a good example of that. But those are back channels that are done usually with the knowledge of security officials.

You don't have this type of profile where you suggest, according to reports, a secret communication channel, something like the Russian embassy. I don't know of any security officials that would feel anything, but alarm over that. So, it does raise questions.

What's curious is the White House has been conspicuously silent. I was hoping that the White House would come out and say, "Well, he did talk to security people. They knew about the meeting, and this was a communication channel that people wanted to establish."

WHITFIELD: And so if indeed the case, professor, that the White House is meeting with their attorneys, you know, reporter seeing at least one attorney, you know, arriving at the White House. What kinds of preparations are under way right now to either better handle that question, better answer that question if at all and, really, how to navigate governing potentially and having this war room, setting aside this legal team to take on these accusations that continue to, you know, grow?

TURLEY: Well, you know, there's an interesting dynamic here in terms of legal side. There's not a clear underlying crime even though we had mounting evidence of a cover up. That would be serve of an add combination of a cover up without a crime.

Collusion itself is not an identifiable crime in this context. So, there's a question of why they're doing all of this, but the lawyers now have some serious problems because you have an investigation in the field. These people are very close to the president. Conversations with the president are likely to be touched upon and that raises a slew of privilege issues and confidentiality issues and everyone general should get their own lawyers. It's a nightmare for a White House counsel.


BROWNSTEIN: Jonathan, just real quick from what you said. Whether there's an underlying crime and collusion, it is a political capital offense, right? I mean, there's no question that it would be a devastating blow if there is actual evidence of collusion and thus, you know, trying to cover up that whether there is an underlying crime involve in that would be certainly, you know, kind of a logical thing to do. If there was collusion, you do not want that out.

And if the crime is simply hiding the underlying activity, whether or not there's a crime there, it still would make a lot of sense because I think clear evidence of collusion, for example, on targeting the Russian fake news or, you know, what leaks to pursue, all of that I think is a political capital offense.

WHITFIELD: Right, the cover up sometimes bigger than the alleged crime. We learned that already from history involving the White House as well. All right, gentlemen, thank you so much.

TURLEY: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: Jonathan Turley, Ron, stick around. We're going to talk again later on in the hour.

All right, coming up --


SEN. CORY BOOKER (D), NEW JERSEY: I'm not going to rush to impeachment.


WHITIFIELD: All right, not rushing to impeachment is Senator Cory Booker trying to set a new tone for Democrats calling for impeachment proceedings against the president.

And then this, in a rare interview, Caroline Kennedy talking about John F. Kennedy, her memorial day tribute to her late father who would have turned 100 tomorrow.

[15:15:09] We'll be right back.


WHITFIELD: New revelations about the Russia investigation and President Trump's conversations with then FBI Director James Comey are fueling calls by some Democrats for impeachment proceedings.

But this morning on CNN "State of the Union," Democratic Senator Cory Booker made it clear to CNN's Dana Bash that he would not be adding his voice to that chorus. Take a listen.


DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Senator, Hillary Clinton reemerged this week with a major speech at Wellesley College and she talked about the mood on the campus back in 1969 when she was still a student. Take a listen.

HILLARY CLINTON (D), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We were furious about the past presidential election of a man whose presidency would eventually end in disgrace with his impeachment for obstruction of justice after firing the person running the investigation into him at the Department of Justice.

[15:20:16] BASH: Now to be clear, Nixon was never impeached by the full house. He resigned before that happened. But present time, our Democrats getting ahead of themselves by imagining the demise of Trump's presidency?

SEN CORY BOOKER (D), NEW JERSEY: Well, first of all, cut Secretary Clinton's lack. People might want to rough to criticize. Listen to the whole speech. It was a very beautiful speech, many inspiring words for folks. And we often take little side by side and that was a --

BASH: And that to be clear, that wasn't a criticism.

BOOKER: -- incredible speech by a woman with an incredible career.

BASH: That wasn't a criticism that was a question about whether you agreed.

BOOKER: Oh, I just wanted to tell you right now, I'm not going to rush to impeachment. I think we need to deal with this in a very sobered way. This can't be a re-litigation of an election that has now passed. This has to be about objective assessment about the facts that are going on right now.

And all I know is I'm very satisfied that we have an independent investigation now going on through the Justice Department as well as both houses are seem to be well, moving not as fast as I'd like but moving towards independent congressional investigations. We need to make sure that the United States of America is protected. We had -- nobody disagrees with the fact that the Russians attacked us in terms of their cyber attacks and we need to get to the bottom of what happened and if there were Americans that colluded with the Russians, to undermine our Democratic processes, they should be held to account.

BASH: Senator Cory Booker, thank you for joining me this morning.


WHITFIELD: All right. Straight ahead, tomorrow would have been the late John F. Kennedy's 100th birthday. To honor his legacy, his only living child Caroline Kennedy recorded a personal video message, ahead we'll play that. Plus, she weighs in on what she thinks her dad would say about politics today.


CAROLINE KENNEDY, FMR. U.S. AMBASSADOR TO JAPAN: History will judge us by four qualities courage, integrity, dedication and judgment. So I think that that's how he would judge politics today.


WHITFIELD: That exclusive interview, next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[15:26:30] WHITFIELD: All right. Welcome back. Tomorrow is not just Memorial Day. It would have been President John F. Kennedy's 100th birthday. It was a big moment for those who revered the youngest man ever elected president who only served 1037 days of his term because of that tragic afternoon in Dallas, 1963.

To help ensure his legacy lives on, Kennedy his daughter Caroline and his grandchildren put together a video message honoring the former president. And here it is.


KENNEDY: I'm Caroline Kennedy. May 29th would be my father's 100th birthday. I've thought about him and miss him every day of my life. But growing up without him was made easier, thanks to all of the people who kept him in their hearts, who told me that he inspired them to work and fight and believe in a better world, to give something back to this country that has given so much to so many. I remember hiding underneath my father's Oval Office desk when I was little and sitting on his lap on the Honey Fits.

He would point out the white shark and purple shark who always followed the boat, although I could never quite see them. He said they especially would like to eat socks and would have his friend throw their socks over board, which I loved.

President Kennedy inspired a generation that transformed America. They marched for justice. They served in the Peace Corps, in the inner cities and outer space. His brothers carried on that work fighting against poverty, violence and war, championing human rights, health care and immigration.

As my father said in his inaugural address, this work will not be finished in our lifetime. It's up to us to continue to pass these values on to our children and grandchildren.

ROSE SCHLOSSBERG, PRES. JOHN F. KENNEDY GRANDAUGHTER: One of the defining relationships in my life is with someone I've never met, my grandfather, President John F. Kennedy. It's a little odd to be connected to someone you don't know, especially when everyone else has access to much of the same information about him that you do.

Throughout my life, I have been able to connect with my grandfather through the study of history, which I know he loved, both setting his life and setting the eras and patterns that fascinated him. To me, that is where he lives. As an historical figure rooted in the past but also as a person connected to so much of what came after him. Through his writings from the stories my relatives have told me.

While my grandfather had reverence for the past, and the lessons I could impart. He also knew that America was a country where change was possible. We aren't balance, solid by tradition if we understand the paths which we are breaking. TATIANA SCHLOSSBERG, PRES. JOHN F. KENNEDY GRANDAUGHTER: I'm inspired by my grandfather's sense of equality, his courage and naming the injustices in American society and his call to action. His words and ideals mean so much to me into the world we live in today. But we are still faced with tremendous inequality and injustice from voting rights to our criminal justice system and mass incarceration.

My grandfather would be proud of how far we've come as a nation since 1963, that he had been the first to tell us we have a long way to go. I hope everyone, regardless of age or party, will remember what president Kennedy told America decades ago. This nation was founded by men of many nations and backgrounds. It was founded on the principle that all men are created equal. And that the rights of every man are diminished when the rights of one man are threatened.

JOHN SCHLOSSBERG, PRES. JOHN F. KENNEDY GRANDSON: President Kennedy was elected on a platform of challenges and not promises, not for what he would offer the American people as President but what he would ask of them.

My favorite speech is one that President Kennedy gave at Rice University where he makes a case for sending a man to the moon. He said that that challenge was worthwhile, not because it would be easy, but because it would be so hard.

[15:30:08] My generation will inherit a complicated world with countless unsolved problems. Climate change is just one of them. But it's a type of challenge I think my grandfather would have been energized about and eager to solve.

He cared deeply about environment, about science and technology. And he recognized that only if America leads the world in solving global problems can we make sure that it's done right. From that speech at Rice and from the space program he helped launch, we can learn a simple but important lesson. Great challenges are opportunities and it is each generation's responsibility to meet those challenges with the same combination of energy, faith and devotion that President Kennedy in his contemporary has displayed decades ago. I know that we're up to the task but we have to the demand action from our leaders and we have to vote.

KENNEDY: As his family, we're so proud of what my father stood for during his life and how powerful those values remain today. I hope that these reflections on President Kennedy's life and his influence on those of us who share his legacy will encourage people across the United States to look at challenges in their own corner of the world. And seek solutions that heal, lift up the forgotten, and make a difference in the lives of others. Thanks for watching.


WHITFIELD: Caroline Kennedy, President John F. Kennedy's daughter and the former U.S. Ambassador to Japan also spoke to CNN's Jake Tapper in a rare, exclusive interview and they spoke about politics and that video message.


KENNEDY: Thank you. I think it was a labor of love for me and my children and I think they -- each folk really so eloquently to what this legacy means to them.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Why a video message way of commemorating and obviously coming, you know, his -- your father's 100th birthday is coming up on Monday. I'm sure there was a lot -- there were a lot of people wanting you to talk, wanting your children to talk.

KENNEDY: Well, as he becomes part of history, I think it's important to show sort of what he still means to us as a person and I think each of my kids had a different slightly take on it. But there's a lot of emotion there and I think that probably is something that we could share better on camera.

TAPPER: I love that story about your dad telling you about the white shark and purple shark following you and making his friends throw socks and to me it's such a great, corny dad --

KENNEDY: All right.

TAPPER: -- joke. But I do wonder hearing it like, is it difficult having your dad be this icon that the rest of us feel like we have a sense of and we have a take on and he's part of our lives, in a way, and you actually knew him.

KENNEDY: Well, I think really he's sort of -- growing up he was sort os part of everyone's life and so that was a very special and unique thing for me. But I think it really meant a lot and I think it made it a lot easier. I had so many relatives obviously as well.

So the fact that people would come up to me every day and say, you know, I got involved in my community because of your father's inaugural speech. And even when I was in Japan, people were still telling me that they had memorized that speech and they were so inspired by President Kennedy's vision of service and of American leadership that I think that really kept him alive.

TAPPER: There aren't a lot of inaugural speeches that people are still quoting from --

KENNEDY: All right.

TAPPER: -- I mean, when you think about it. Why was it important to have your children and we don't often see them Rose, Tatiana, and Jack they're, you know, they're kind of -- their private figures.

KENNEDY: Well, I think the point here is that he is a historical figure, a 100 years is a really long time. But I think his legacy and his values are timeless and they live on. And we want to encourage younger people today who are still very curious about President Kennedy to connect with those values, to connect with his message of justice and service and courage, and so and innovation and experimentation and the belief in America. So they, I think, are the best people to take that message forward into the 21st century.

TAPPER: Your daughter, I believe it was Rose said, I mean, it might have been Tatiana actually that growing up she never met him so she learned about him the same way that I learned about him in school. What did your kids ask you about him when they were growing up?

KENNEDY: I can't -- well, now they are older so I think that they were both interested in anything that I remembered, which are mostly childhood memories so when they were little, we could talk about those things and hiding under the desk and my pony and my pets. And I know when my uncle Teddy came to talk to their classes he would also talk about the pets that lived in the White House, things like that.

But as I got older, I think they really became interested in the issues and their relevance today. So many issues that we -- that are now in the headlines had their roots in the 1960s, whether it's working through multilateral institutions like the U.N. or the environmental movement and civil rights obviously inspired human rights moving around the world.

[15:35:06] So I think that really -- it is studying history really isn't just about the past. It's really about what kind of a world do we want to create for the future.

TAPPER: Your dad was so erudite and proud of his intellect and his wit. What do you think he would make of politics today? That's maybe going to be a tough one.

KENNEDY: Well, I think that, again, I went back and actually and I was looking at a speech that he gave right before he became President. And he said history will judge us by four qualities courage, integrity, dedication and judgment.

So I think that that's how he would judge politics today. And I think, you know, everybody can make up their own mind.

TAPPER: One last question and that is, you don't do a lot of interviews like this about your father. Is it tough to do?

KENNEDY: Well, it's a lot easier to do with my children and I think I'm so proud that they are, you know, proud of his legacy and I think having a chance to share it with them and with another generation makes it a lot more fun for me or enjoyable.


WHITFIELD: And there's more, CNN special, "A Special JFK Night" airs tomorrow night at 7:00. And we'll be right back.


[15:40:28] WHITFIELD: All right. Welcome back. I'm Fredericka Whitfield. So, fresh off her meeting with fellow global leaders, German Chancellor Angela Merkel had sobering comments about going forward of striving to remain on good terms with America and Britain.


ANGELA MERKER, GERMAN CHANSELLOR (through translator): The times when we could completely count on others, they are over, to a certain extent. I've experienced this in the last few days and that is why I can only say that we Europeans must really take our fate into our own hands.


WHITFIELD: Merkel went on to say of course in friendship with the United States and in friendship Great Britain and as good neighbors, wherever it is possible, also with Russia and also with all of the other countries but we need to know that we have to fight for our own future and destiny as Europeans. Let's talk more about this with Ron Brownstein, CNN Senior Political Analyst and Senior Editor for the Atlantic and Alice Stewart, CNN Political Commentator and Former Communications Director for Ted Cruz. Good to see you both of you back.

All right. So, Ron, you first, you said earlier that this really is pretty stunning. Is it also worrisome?

BROWNSTEIN: Well, look, I mean it's unusual for world leaders to talk so candidly and directly about the kind of reaction to the actions of other world leaders. And when she said over the last few days there's no question what, you know, what she was talking about. She was talking about the meetings that Donald Trump in Europe, both the E.U. and NATO over the previous 48 hours.

The president is a disruptive force and the idea -- and that, you know, that for many of the supporters, that's exactly what they like. But the idea that he was being domesticated by traditional republican foreign policy thinkers and doing more traditional embrace of the alliances that we build after world war II because with the believe it was in our interest to encourage the spread of stability through out the world that I think has faded. And this is putting the traditional republican internationalist wing I think on notice. They are at a moment where the president is envisioning I think in a very different relationship with Europe and the question is will they stand up for what they defended for the previous 60 years?

WHITFIELD: So, Alice what do you interpret in Angela Merkel's comments there and what this means moving forward between the U.S. and Germany or the U.S. and the rest of Europe?

ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: First and foremost, I think in terms of the president's trip abroad, more than anything, I think it was important to talk with these people instead of about them and I think he made a good first step. But Angela Merkel made it quite clear that they are going to start protecting their own self-interests and President Trump has been very similar. The United States, certainly the most powerful nation in the world, I think clearly President Trump went on this trip to try and flex those muscles.

He made great strides in many areas. I do think it was unusual -- WHITFIELD: But are you in agreement that this is a different kind of

messaging coming from an Angela Merkel as a result of the messaging from the president of the United States while they met in Brussels?

STEWART: Absolutely. Clearly, the president had some off meetings with some of these people, rubbed people the wrong way. And clearly a lot of the optics of this trip were not good.

I think what he did with regard to NATO and telling some of those members that it's time to pony up. I think -- we all knew where he stood on that issue but saying it right there in their face was not a good step. But what we, more than anything coming out of this foreign policy trip, we're seeing a lot more nations saying that they are going to go it alone more than anything else and I think clearly President Trump is doing the same.

WHITFIELD: Okay. And Ron, is that -- they are going it alone because the president has sent that message and --

BROWNSTEIN: Right, right. This is not the preference, right? I mean, you know, the argument of the populist conservative parties, the national parties that had been ascended in Europe was about unraveling the western alliance. But since President Trump election there's been kind of a counter-Trump effect where the parties with that kind of insular approach toward our unwinding of international cooperation have failed in Austria then Netherlands and France and faded in the polls in Germany. I think the Europeans are feeling more confident that a consensus across the continent is holding on the value and standing up against Vladimir Putin whose own goal is to unravel the western alliance about then.

And then you have President Trump coming in from the other end saying essentially there was almost nothing in these 48 hours that he basically presented as a positive from our relations with Europe. It was all kind of impositions and burdens upon us. That is obviously a very different vision than I think the one that has now ascended again in Europe post -- Macron, post these other elections.

[15:45:09]WHITFIELD: So, let me also now take a shift now to the other politics here, you know, at home, CNN confirming that President Trump's sons held two meetings at the Republican National Committee opposites just last week. So, does this raise any ethics concerns given that the sons are managing President Trump's business interests, Alice?

STEWART: Clearly, one of the biggest rules with regard to that is to not talk about business interests when they are having these political conversations. I do think it's important for the RNC to have talks about what we're going to do about midterm elections and certainly --

WHITFIELDS: But with the sons who were charged with the Trump business?

STEWART: That's my next point I was going to make. They may not be the exact right people that need to be having these conversations. I think the most important thing is to keep that line of separation between the business interests and the politics.

They clearly are trying to do that. We also know that the daughter- in-law is now involved in the political arm of this all of this. But it's going to be very difficult to --

WHITFIELD: -- part of that meeting, so Ron, can you have a both ways? Can they do that? And not, you know and the lines not be blurred?

BROWNSTEIN: Yeah -- no. I think there have been issues and there are issues all the way through. I mean, this is just -- you know, we have seen -- I remember George W. Bush did -- as a son of a president, did have interactions with the RNC as kind of a, you know, defender of the father.

So that's not -- I don't think that's unprecedented. But what is unprecedented is this kind of mingling of how often, for example, the president is at Trump properties and all of these questions about whether they are truly separate. Can I pivot slide of the same about the substance of this meeting?

WHITFIELD: Yes. What's behind it?

BROWNSTEIN: We've had three special elections really quick in the house and they have given us some signals about the -- what we -- what the political environment that we are. We seen the Republicans each time underperform where they did in 2016 in these special elections where the party was. But on the other hand we saw them in Montana underperform less than they have elsewhere.

And that says to me that you've got a situation in which just the president's approval rating is quite low. One which would kind put those warning lights, to use Capper's phrase on the depth for the Republicans in 2018. But he still is -- still has a lot of strength in his core, in those blue collar and non-urban areas. And that means I think if Democrats are in fact on have a chance going to have a chance of winning back the house. The road back is going to look more like it does through this Georgia election than in does for places like Montana when the president seems still very strong.

WHITFIELD: Those Georgia elections June 20th of that potentially, you know, pivotal and, Alice, do you want to button this up?

STEWART: Yeah certainly. I think to Ron's point, in some areas the president is still doing very strong in the city six races there in Georgia, Karen Handle leading on the Republican side, the Republican candidate here. She won -- she actually distanced herself from Trump more than any of the other candidates in the race and she said she will be a check and balance to President Trump. And I think from a Republican standpoint moving forward, I think it's important to connect with the base, re-ignite the base but also reaffirm constituents that you will be a check and balance to the administration.

WHITFIELD: Yeah. And this been is formally Tom Price's who health and human services secretary. And so it's interesting because very red state but this is a pretty contentious race so far very close. BROWNSTIEN: And this white collar -- those white collar affluent suburbs look like the biggest point of vulnerability. That's where Trump is most conspicuously underperforming what you'd usually see from a Republican president. So, place like Georgia seeks around the country, the suburbs of Philadelphia, suburbs even Los Angeles, are going to be critical ground zero for 2018.

WHITFIELD: All right. Between Karen Handle and Jon Ossoff, we'll be watching. All right, Ron Brownstein, Alice Stewart, thank you so much, appreciate it. And we will be right back.


[15:52:54] WHITFIELD: Some health insurance companies now saying it's the uncertainty with the new health care bill that's driving up their premiums. Blue Cross-Blue Shield of North Carolina is now predicting a 23 percent rate hike. And this is happening as criticism continues over President Trump's medicaid plan which could cause millions to lose their health care benefits.

CNN's Miguel Marquez traveled to Kentucky, a state Trump won by 30 points for a look at what could happen there.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Open that for me.

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Doctor Anthony Young said hazard's constants healthcare is in motion. Today he employs 50 people, his practice expanding.

DR. ANTHONY YOUNG: I would 70 percent of our economy is driven by healthcare.

MARQUEZ: Do you think 70 percent high -- I mean that's -- just -- you're living that's what you see?

YOUNG: Yes. That's just like an adding (inaudible) about this healthcare is the driving economic force in our area.

MARQUEZ: Kentucky, which expanded medicaid and created its own insurance exchange under Obamacare, has seen both patients and the healthcare workers who serve them skyrocket.


MARQUEZ: Doctor Jonathan Piercy at University of Kentucky's Center for Rural Health in Hazard trains future doctors.

PIERCY: We've seen a lot of clinics open lately. We've seen some new clinics that have come around. We've just built a huge new wing on the hospital.

MARQUEZ: All of that comes with jobs, jobs now at risk if the Obamacare Medicaid expansion is eliminated by 2020 as Congress is now considering. Since 2014, as states expanded Medicaid, some 1.1 million jobs were created nationwide. Eastern Kentucky, Coal Country, the 5th Congressional District stands to lose more jobs than any other district in the entire country.

UINDENTIFIED MALE: By one study we would lose 20,000 jobs in the 5th Congressional District.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 20,000 jobs, which is about double the number of jobs we've lost in the coal industry. It would be the other shoe to drop on the economy of Eastern Kentucky.

MARQUEZ (on camera): How good is it to be a nurse in Eastern Kentucky right now.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I mean if you love taking care of people and that kind of environment, it's really good. I mean there's no -- like I said there's not a shortage of jobs.

[15:55:07] MARQUEZ (voice over): Nurses in high demand here and well paid, evidence of a thriving healthcare industry everywhere. This mall, once a Walmart -- now a super-sized medical center.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're constantly growing.

MARQUEZ: Kentucky River community care now has 70 facilities, has hired more than 150 employees in the last few years and can't expand fast enough.

How big a piece of that is, is the fact that they can pay for it with Medicaid?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Eighty percent. I mean because, you know, for our programs we have to look at revenue to expand.

MARQUEZ: Health care jobs on the rise here, ending the Medicaid expansion, another devastating blow. Miguel Marquez, CNN, Hazard, Kentucky.


WHITFIELD: And the next hour of the CNN NEWSROOM starts right after this.