Return to Transcripts main page


Doctors Update Status of Congressman Scalise; Republicans Keeping Health Care Bill Secret From Public; President Trump Lashes Out at FBI and Justice Department Over Investigation. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired June 16, 2017 - 15:00   ET



BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, we continue on, hour two on this Friday afternoon. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thank you for being with me.

Want to let you know we are waiting for this news conference to happen any moment now in Washington, D.C.. We will be hearing from the lead surgeon who has been treating the number three Republican in the House, Republican Congressman Steve Scalise.

You know the story from this week. He was shot in his hip during the baseball practice Wednesday morning ahead of the big congressional baseball game. Up to this point, all we have heard is that he is showing some improvement, but he remains in critical condition at MedStar Washington Hospital with the several surgeries behind him and apparently several more to go.

So, as soon as we see those doctors step behind the podium, we will take it live and make sure we get that update on his condition.

It has been -- moving on, though, can you believe it's been two years since Donald Trump descended down that escalator in Trump Tower to the gilded lobby and announced that he was running for president?

And now here we are, fewer than 150 days into his presidency, and he is taking to Twitter once again to respond to news reports that he's under investigation, while at the same time cryptically appearing to attack his deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein.

Let me read the statement for you, one of these tweets: "I am being investigated for firing the FBI director by the man who told me to fire the FBI director. Witch-hunt."

Rosenstein is tasked with overseeing the Justice Department investigation into the Russian meddling because the attorney general, Jeff Sessions, recused himself.

For the record, though, a person familiar with the president's tweet says that President Trump was referencing news reports that he's under investigation, and not actually confirming that he himself was told that this investigation exists.

So let's begin the hour with Jeff Zeleny. He's our CNN senior white three House correspondent.

Are we getting anything from the White House trying to clarify any of these tweets this morning?


And the White House is taking a new stand, a policy of not commenting on anything about the Russia investigation, referring all questions to the president's lawyer.

He as well is not commenting on anything the president has said through a statement on social media. And we -- so we're left at the president's own words here.


ZELENY: So until he says something else -- and he certainly may, he's been sending out a storm of messages here -- and he's on his way back now to Washington from Miami.

But ,look, the reality here is that whether the president is under investigation at the moment or whether that's something that will ultimately happen as this investigation widens, the White House is not making much of a distinction between that.

The president, I'm told by his aides, believe he will be the subject of an investigation of obstruction of justice. Now, look, they say that this simply is a witch-hunt, as he's repeating again and again.

But, Brooke, what is happening here behind the scenes, I'm told, is, these are not a spontaneous serious of thoughts that he is sending out. It's more of a strategy to focus on the politics of it.

I'm told by one White House official that he's taking the matter into his own hands and that he's leading the political fight on this. Yes, the legal fight will be separate to come, but the president is trying to delegitimize and essentially discredit this investigation really before it gets going here.

That's why he's sending out essentially talking points on social media, on Twitter.

BALDWIN: Jeff Zeleny, thank you.

Let's delve deeper into what you just laid out for us.

Asha Rangappa, the former FBI special agent and associate dean at Yale Law School, is with us. Caitlin Huey-Burns is with me here, national political reporter for RealClearPolitics, and Gloria Borger, CNN chief political analyst.

So, all of you, ladies, thank you so much for being with me.

And, Gloria, let me just begin with you. To Jeff's point, from what we're hearing from the White House, this is

the president wanting to drive this, deal with maybe the legal later. But we're not lawyers to interpret what this means for that case. But what does it mean just in terms of taking this political fight so publicly?


He has always considered himself his best spokesman. I mean, we all recall the stories of him masquerading as his own P.R. agent as the name of Miller or Barron, right? So, this is -- I think Donald Trump believes he's his own spokesman and the best one. And that's why he tweets on his own behalf.

He's also quite impulsive about it. And I think, if there's anything that any lawyer anywhere will always agree on, it's that your client ought to keep his mouth shut. And that is not what is occurring here, and we know that it's been a real problem for Donald Trump, including the travel ban, because lawyers, in arguing against the travel ban, used his own words against him.


And that can, of course, happen over and over again. And I think it's going to be a real problem for his legal team.

BALDWIN: Asha, with our -- your legal cap on, Ms. Yale Law School grad. We have this White House source -- let me just tell everyone further reporting.

White House source tells us that this is Trump taking matters into his own hands. He's been advised of the legal ramifications from making these tweets. But he and at least a few of his advisers have come to believe the political fight is more urgent and that the legal one will come later.

You're a lawyer. Smart strategy?

ASHA RANGAPPA, FORMER FBI SPECIAL AGENT: This is not a smart strategy.

At this point, the political and legal strategies are pretty much mutually exclusive. And I think the travel ban example is a great one. What appeals to your base, in that case, calling it a Muslim ban, is not going to appeal to judges.

And this is now a criminal case, so the stakes are much higher. And everything that he says can be used against him. And I will add here that it's also going to go to his credibility, because the things that he is tweeting are often complete opposite statements to what he has said before.

And so if his credibility becomes an issue, these will be used against him. If he then -- today's tweet about Rosenstein, if he decides to fire Rosenstein, he's now basically put out there that he's doing it because of the Russia investigation, which could potentially open him up to yet another count or line of inquiry in an obstruction of justice.



BALDWIN: Or if there has to be recusal. Let me jump in on that, because you have teed me up exactly.

Let me just read the tweet for people who haven't seen it. This is another part of the tweetstorm.


BALDWIN: "I am being investigated for firing the FBI director by the man who told me to fire the FBI director. Witch-hunt."

So, Caitlin, this -- I'm going to direct to this you. Presumably, he's talking about Rod Rosenstein. And there's all kinds of -- and, apparently, Rosenstein is saying, no, no, no in terms of recusal. But how would he not if he's now a piece of this?

CAITLIN HUEY-BURNS, REALCLEARPOLITICS: This tweet is really important and strange, because he seems to be going after Rosenstein, who, of course, appointed Mueller.

And, remember, this all starts because of the firing of James Comey.


HUEY-BURNS: And you talk to Republicans on the Hill who are in charge of these investigations into the Russian meddling -- election, and then part of that is, of course, allegations or talk of collusion.

They get increasingly frustrated, because the president continues kind of to dig himself deeper and deeper. And Mueller's investigation includes not only interactions on the campaign, but everything up to this point and everything as far as the investigation goes.

So a lot of this is of the president's own making, and these tweets coming out, this continued response, kind of digs himself further and further.

BALDWIN: And what about, Gloria, the statement from Rosenstein that came out Thursday evening?



BALDWIN: This is guy who felt initially that he was thrown under the bus over the Comey firing, but then he's been this loyal Trump soldier ever since, and then this statement.

Let me just read it for everyone. It says this. "Americans should exercise caution before accepting as true any stories attributed to anonymous officials, particularly when they don't identify the country, let alone the branch or agency of government with which the alleged sources supposedly are affiliated."

This is kind of out of the blue. We don't know exactly what the context of this. When you saw it, what were you thinking?

BORGER: Well, what I was thinking is, there are a lot of stories about the ongoing investigation, whether it be the special counsel or whether it be investigations going on elsewhere, that have not been pleasing to anybody in the administration or to the special counsel's office or to Mueller or to the attorney general's office.

And I think what they're trying to do is kind of tamp down on all of this, because they think it's destructive of the process. And so -- and perhaps some of the stories, reading between the lines, what he's saying is be skeptical of the stories.


BORGER: Now, did the president tell him to do that? I kind of doubt it. I don't know. I don't know at all.

But it was a very strange thing. And I think they all kind of feel under assault because lots of these stories are coming out as an investigation is ongoing.

BALDWIN: And they are hiring lawyers. I know that we have your reporting, Gloria, that...


BALDWIN: Right. A source with knowledge says Trump associate and attorney Michael Cohen has hired a D.C. lawyer to deal with investigation requests.

BORGER: Right. That's right.

BALDWIN: We also know, Asha, last question, we know that the vice president has hired a private attorney, which he says is routine. Maybe it's smart.


I don't know if vice president hiring an attorney is actually routine. But what does that signal to you, Asha?

RANGAPPA: I think it signals that they are being very smart.

We have officially entered the hot mess phase of this investigation. And we don't know where it's going to go, who is going to get questioned, what lines of inquiry. And people need their own lawyers.

Lawyers get a bad rap, but you need one sometimes -- and this is one of them -- to advise you in your best interests, so, for each of them, how to answer a question if the FBI comes, what to answer, when not to answer at all. And because their interests might be adversarial to each other, which means that they might not all be aligned, they need their own representation.

BALDWIN: Asha, Gloria and Caitlin, thank you, ladies.


BALDWIN: Any moment now, we will get an update on the condition of Republican Congressman Steve Scalise.

Live pictures of no one so far. We will see his lead surgeon there, who has been working on him after he's undergone three surgeries now after he was hit in the hip by that gunman Wednesday morning during that baseball practice. We will take you to Washington as soon as that begins, get an update.

We will be right back.



BALDWIN: Behind closed doors and shrouded in some secrecy, you have these 13 senators working in private to craft this Republican health care bill.

A million of -- Americans are left in the dark about what to expect. Now Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer wants to shed some light on this situation, sending a letter to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell calling for this all-senators meeting next week on health care.

And in this letter, Senator Schumer says: "Now, more than ever, Republicans and Democrats need to come together to find solutions to America's challenges. Our health care system affects every single American and one-sixth of our economy. We believe we all owe it to our constituents to meet to discuss our potential legislation that will profoundly impact so many American lives."

Phil Mattingly is our man on the Hill. He's been all over this.

And I saw you had pointed out there are 10 legislative days to go before the big July 4 recess. Tick, tick, tick.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Brooke, that's exactly right.

Look, in an ideal world, Senate Republicans would vote on this before the Fourth of July. That's what Senator Mitch McConnell and the leadership have kind of telegraphed to their members. They want to move on this and they want to move quickly. But they are running out of time.

And the reality is this, Brooke. As you kind of laid out, this is a remarkably different process in the House, where everything seemed to be public. Everything seemed to leak out. There was a lot of public discussions about things through the various iterations. That hasn't happened here. There's a couple reasons. First and foremost, leadership wants to give their members space to actually work out their disagreements. And they are real, whether it's the Medicaid piece, whether it's abortion, whether it's the structure of the tax credit, whether it's how far to cut back the regulations that were imposed by the Affordable Care Act.

All of those issues are both extraordinarily complex and very divisive inside the Republican Conference. They want to shield their members, give them an opportunity to kind of and try and figure things out, work things out.

But because of that, there's no bill text, there have been no hearings, there's been no real public discussion about it. And it's not just frustrating to Democrats who are opposed to this bill, like Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. It's also been frustrating to the members themselves.

I have had several senators, Brooke, on the Republican side tell me over the course of the last couple days they don't know what is in any prospective bill. They don't know where negotiations stand. And even they are frustrated with the process.

So, while there's a very real reason the Senate Republican leadership has decided to go this route, they are frustrating their own members here who are feeling a lot of blowback from back home. They recognize the stakes, Brooke. As you noted, one-sixth of the economy, that's what this will cover.

The big question now is, will they actually reach agreements on these key kind of issues that are still standing out there, and perhaps more importantly, when they actually reach those agreements, how much time will people get to digest this extraordinarily important proposal? As it currently stands, we just don't have answers to those questions, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Phil Mattingly, thank you so much on Capitol Hill.

I want to stay in Washington. And we have got these pictures on the bottom of your screen, as we're waiting for this lead surgeon there at Washington MedStar Hospital to talk a little bit about how the number three Republican on the House side, Congressman Steve Scalise, is doing in the wake of that terrifying shooting in Alexandria this week at the baseball practice for the Republicans, ahead of the big congressional game.

We did actually hear from President Trump earlier today. He was talking about U.S.-Cuba relations, rolling back some policies. Before he went into that, he referenced the congressman. Take a listen.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My dear friend Steve Scalise took a bullet for all of us. And because of him and the tremendous pain and suffering he's now enduring -- and he's having a hard time, far worse than anybody thought -- our country will perhaps become closer, more unified. So important.

So we all over Steve a big, big thank you.


BALDWIN: Let's go to Washington and listen in.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have two speakers this afternoon for you.

Dr. Jack Sava, who is director of trauma, will be sharing with you a little update on the condition of the two patients who were brought to us from the tragic shooting in Virginia earlier this week. He will take questions after this, a few questions.

Two things. In some cases, he won't be able to answer all of the questions and to try to protect our patient's privacy as much as possible, but we are going to share some additional information with you.

He also has another meeting to go to right after this. Our residents are graduating this evening, so he's heading to that. So, we are trying to keep this somewhat tight.


We do have a printed copy after this program is -- or after this briefing is over. We have a printed copy of his remarks, so you will have that for your records.

Before Dr. Sava joins us, though, I would like to introduce Brett Horton, who is the chief of staff for Congressman Steve Scalise. And he has something he would like to read on behalf of the family.

Thank you.

BRETT HORTON, SCALISE CHIEF OF STAFF: Good afternoon. My name is Brett Horton, and I am Whip Scalise's chief of staff.

I have a brief statement from Jennifer Scalise regarding Wednesday's attack.

"On behalf of Steve and our children, I want to thank everyone from the bottom of our hearts for the incredible amount of prayers and warm wishes that we have received since Wednesday's events. We are especially appreciative of the strong outpouring of love and support from our neighbors, friends from across Louisiana and across the country, as well as President Trump, Vice President Pence, and all of Steve's colleagues who have reached out during this challenging time.

"Most importantly, we are forever grateful for the heroism of Special Agents Crystal Griner and David Bailey, who saved the lives of everyone at the baseball field that morning, including Steve's. Crystal and David have been family to us for years, and we ask that you continue to pray for their full recovery. "I would also like to personally thank all of the first-responders who

bravely assisted at the scene, as well as the entire staff of MedStar Washington Hospital Center for their continued excellent care. Our family asks that you continue to pray for Steve, Matt Mika, Zack Barth, and all of those hurt in this attack and keep them in your thoughts and prayers during their recovery."

Thank you.

DR. JACK SAVA, MEDSTAR WASHINGTON HOSPITAL CENTER: Good afternoon. I'm Dr. Jack Sava, the director of trauma at MedStar Washington Hospital Center.

I'm here to give you an update on the two patients that we cared for after the shooting in Alexandria, Virginia, on June 15.

Special Agent Crystal Griner of the United States Capitol Police sustained an ankle gunshot wound. She remains in the hospital. She's in good condition, and she's in good spirits.

Congressman Scalise sustained a single rifle wound that entered in the area of the left hip. It traveled directly across towards the other hip in what we call a transpelvic gunshot wound. The round fragmented and did substantial damage to bones, internal organs, and blood vessels.

I understand he was awake on scene, but by the time he was transported by helicopter to the MedStar Trauma Center, he was in shock.

My partners Dr. Tony Shiflett and Dr. Christine Trankiem saw him in the trauma center with the other doctors and nurses there. They treated him there and quickly brought him to the operating room, where we performed surgery.

In the operating room, he was in critical condition and received many units of transfused blood for ongoing hemorrhage from multiple locations. He received truly amazing anesthesia care from Dr. Eric Skolnick and Dr. Scott Frank. Due to their great work, we were able to get him through that procedure.

And we then took him to the radiology suite, where he underwent an additional procedure by Dr. Arshad Khan to further control bleeding. From there, we went to the intensive care unit, where he got additional care under the direction of Dr. Chadi Abouassaly, and he remains in the ICU today.

Yesterday, Dr. Trankiem did an additional operation. And Dr. Robert Golden, our director of orthopedic trauma, did an operation to repair a broken bone in his leg.

The congressman's status remains critical. We are encouraged by improvement in his condition over the last 36 hours. We have controlled the internal bleeding and his vital signs have stabilized.

He will require additional operations to manage abdominal injuries and other bone injuries. Predicting the length of his hospital stay is difficult today. Presumably, it will be easier in some days when more time has passed and we have more information. After he leaves the hospital, he will require a period of healing and of rehabilitation.

On behalf of the MedStar trauma team, I want to thank the special agents on the scene, as well as the first-responders, for everything that they did for those shooting victims. We are all well aware here at the MedStar Washington Hospital Center of all that those folks did to save these people.

We here salute their commitment, their dedication, and their skill.


I can answer a few questions, but, as Donna said, it's possible that we will not be able to answer all the questions due to privacy concerns.

QUESTION: Dr. Sava, just a factual question here. You described multiple procedures. There's been some confusion, because many of us are not medical professionals. What is the fair assessment of how many surgeries he had? You talked about it going in and out...


SAVA: Yes.

QUESTION: So, what's the best way to characterize these procedures and how many?

SAVA: Well, there's actually a bit of semantic confusion there. And I leave it to you how to characterize.

I think the reason for the semantic confusion is, he went from an operation to a procedure that I mentioned in interventional radiology. Typically, we don't call that an operation or a surgery, although, really, it has many similarities. There's anesthesia and, in many ways, it resembles an operation.

QUESTION: Did he come back up from anesthesia between the two?


The second possible point of confusion is that, yesterday, he underwent an operation that involved two separate surgical teams. It was in the same room in one continuous sitting, under -- with one set of anesthesia, but at first it was my team doing abdominal surgery and then Dr. Golden's team doing orthopedic surgery, so, again, the opportunity for confusion about whether you count that as one or two.

QUESTION: As a medical professional (OFF-MIKE) one of our articles, the number you would say would be what to be most accurate?

SAVA: Two.

QUESTION: Thank you. QUESTION: What are your major concerns going forward at this point in

terms of his recovery? And do you expect Mr. Scalise to live in most respects a normal life? And what are the limitations that you foresee, based on your experience?

SAVA: Well, I don't want to get too far out ahead of myself.

All of us who care for severely injured patients are very reluctant in the first few days to start predicting which way things can go, with all the branches in the road that are to come. Usually, the initial period is about hemorrhage control.

And I feel like we have made a lot of progress about that, and, hopefully, that is not going to be our biggest enemy any longer. Other things to worry about include infections and other complications that come about from intensive care.

QUESTION: And in terms of rehabilitation?

SAVA: Well, I -- hopefully, you will have an opportunity at some point to maybe talk to Dr. Golden about the orthopedic aspects. I think that we fully expect him to be able to walk, to be able to do -- again, I don't want to speak to Dr. Golden, but my understanding is that he will be able to walk and hopefully run.

As far as the degree of athletic limitation, I think I will kick all of that to Dr. Golden to answer.

QUESTION: You addressed this a little bit already, but I think a lot of people heard shot in the hip, and then were surprised to hear that he was in critical condition. Can you describe what made these injuries so difficult or so severe to treat?

SAVA: Well, I think -- I have thought about that, because I was surprised by some of the reports also.

I would encourage you to talk to your military medical colleagues about what it means to be shot with a high-velocity rifle in the hip region, because most of us would not even think to consider that a benign wound.

As I said, in his case, the major initial risk to life is because of the hemorrhage that results when that bullet travels through blood vessels.

QUESTION: So, it's a bleeding thing?

SAVA: It's a bleeding thing.

QUESTION: Dr. Sava, has he been conscious at all during his time in the hospital? Has he been able to talk to his family or friends or anything like that? He's been able to take visitors?

SAVA: He's been sedated, but we have been able to turn down that sedation enough for him to respond to his family members. And he clearly knows that they are there and appreciates their presence. QUESTION: Does he seem to understand at all what he's going through

at this point?

SAVA: I don't want to get into the details of what I think he's going through.

I think that we're happy to see that he can respond to us and to the family.

QUESTION: Dr. Sava, was the broken leg as a result of that bullet splintering when it entered his hip, or was that about -- did that happen when he fell after he was shot?

SAVA: No, it was a result of the bullet.

QUESTION: Is the bullet (OFF-MIKE) bullet out? Where are (OFF-MIKE)

SAVA: Typically, that's the first question that gunshot victims ask is, when are you taking the bullet out? It's quite common that we don't remove bullets and fragments.

And that's the case here as well. I have not counted, but I would guess that there are hundreds of fragments. And, usually, there's more risk involved in trying to find and remove those fragments than benefit. So, we have no intention to try to remove all bullet fragments at this point.

QUESTION: And the internal organs that you were concerned about?

SAVA: I think -- we have decided we're not going to get into too much detail about specific internal injuries at this time.

Yes, sir?

QUESTION: Agent Griner, when might she be released?

SAVA: I don't have information on that. Dr. Golden has operated on her. And I don't know the answer to that.

QUESTION: Only one surgery for her?

SAVA: She has had one operation at this point. Dr. Golden could answer as to whether additional work will be needed.

QUESTION: The bottom line right now is, you sound optimistic about the congressman?

SAVA: Well, I like to say it's my job to be pessimistic.