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Georgia's Sixth District Election Today a Big Test on Trump; White House Hasn't Asked Trump If He Believes Russia Meddled; Spicer Doesn't Deny Reports He May be Stepping Aside; GOP Senators: Health Care Details Coming This Week; Dem Senator: "Signals" Show Flynn Cooperating with FBI; Mueller to Meet with Senate Judiciary Leaders Tomorrow; 63 Percent of Americans Disapprove of Trump's Response to Russia Investigation. Aired 2:30-3p ET
Aired June 20, 2017 - 14:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[14:30:00] DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICS DIRECTOR: -- that the Republicans were going to have a victory tonight, and I understand that the president won it by just one point. But Mitt Romney won it by 23 and Tom Price never got less than 60 percent of the vote in this district. It is a really Republican district. The fact that even Sean Spicer says it's going to be competitive, that shows us where we are.
BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Whose win would have bigger national ramifications? Would it be for the Republicans or for the Democrats, do you think?
PERRY BACON, SENIOR POLTICAL WRITER, FIVETHIRTYEIGHT.COM: I think if the Republicans lose this seat, it would be big for two reasons. The first is, obviously, that it would raise the doubt, can they keep control of the House, this is a district, like David just said, that's been traditionally Republican. The same question is, the members are looking at what is my vote on health care going to be and it's going to come back to the House as well. And if Handel loses this race, it's going to be make members more nervous about joining the health care agenda and Trump's agenda overall.
BALDWIN: You know what else struck me, Karen, one of the final questions coming from a reporter in the back was on Russia's meddling in the 2016 presidential election.
Gloria, I heard you were shaking your head.
You know, it just strikes me the that Sean Spicer, Karen, still cannot answer the question as to whether he thinks Russia meddled.
KAROUN DEMIRJIAN, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: And he and others in the White House are basically becoming the only people left in Washington, D.C., that can't answer that question. Pretty much the whole administration has said they believe the intelligence report on that. That has been the consensus opinion of everybody who's in the know is that there was meddling. You can argue about why and the extent and the collusion allegations and everything else, but meddling seems to be a pretty easy pill to swallow for everyone and he want for members of this administration and Sean Spicer is a spokesman for the president. It might be expecting too much to have them change their tune as the stakes become higher when we talk about now the investigation that's happening both with the special counsel, the various investigations in Congress, which are looking into Russian meddling, but that is looking at the president and his inner circle. If Trump shifts now, that would be unique but given what we know about the president, it's also potentially unlikely that this would be the political moment he'd choose to side with the rest of the intelligence community and many people from his administration about taking this report that Russia meddled at face value to heart.
BALDWIN: Sean Spicer said, I hadn't talked to him about it today.
Go ahead, Gloria.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: That's what -- you're exactly right. It seems if there's one thing that you can be unequivocal about at this point, it's that Russia meddled in our election. How successful they were and everything else, we can all find out about that. But the notion that Sean said, I have not sat down and talked with him, meaning the president, about Russian interference, is kind of surprising, stunning to me. Because this was topic a from day one, and it doesn't mean you didn't talk to him yesterday about it or the day before. But it's surprising to me that Sean wouldn't have been in a meeting with the president and advisers or with the president where they talked about the seriousness of this Russian meddling that is inspiring all kinds of Congressional investigations. Setting aside the Donald Trump part of this, personally, and his associates and all the rest of that controversy, but this notion, which threat bens the very heart of American democracy that the president's press secretary has not sat down and discussed this with the president, I find troubling.
CHALIAN: And that the president has not discussed this with the American people --
CHALIAN: -- as to how he's going to ensure that this doesn't happen again going in the future. To me, it's like one of the greatest missed opportunities for this president because of how he has felt personally. He has missed this opportunity to grab an issue and assuage the American people that this core, as Gloria's saying, this core small "D" Democratic function is going to happen without a problem in the future.
BALDWIN: Well, you know, if we take Comey at his word with regard to testimony, it sounds like the president never once asked him, you know, as the then-head of the FBI, about this. So maybe we shouldn't be surprised that he hasn't addressed it with the American people. I'm not saying that's the right way to go. I'm just pointing out one fact. Lastly, Sean Spicer sort of thrust in the middle of news himself
because there have been reports as to whether or not he might move along, move away from the podium in the Brady briefing room. So this is what Sean Spicer said in addressing himself.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: There are reports that your role is changing here at the White House. I wanted to know if you can address those reports. Are they true or not and if so, can you tell us what's in store.
[14:34:50] SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Right here. So, you can keep taking your selfies. I saw a few folks. So, but, look, it's no secret we've had a couple vacancies, including our communications director that was gone for a while. We've been seeking input from individuals as far as ideas that they have. We've been meeting with potential people that may be of service to this administration. I don't think that should come as any surprise but we're always looking for ways to do a better job of articulating the president's message and his agenda and we'll continue to have those discussions internally. When we have an announcement of a personal nature, we'll let you know.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: So, Perry, just quickly, sort of still joked about taking selfies. He didn't deny it, though. Didn't deny those reports. What did you think?
BACON: He basically confirmed it as far as I could tell. I don't know when he's leaving. It made me think that he definitely knows he could be leaving soon.
BALDWIN: OK. Perry, Karen, David and Gloria, thank you all so very much on this Tuesday afternoon.
Let's move on, though. A pretty explosive suggestion. A Senate Democrat says that there are signs that Michael Flynn has been secretly cooperating with the FBI. This, as two more of Flynn's overseas trips are raising new questions. We've got that for you.
You're watching CNN's special live coverage. I'm Brooke Baldwin.
[14:39:53] BALDWIN: We're back with more breaking news here. I'm Brooke Baldwin. You're watching CNN.
You have Senate Democrats fearing the Republicans would unveil a bill that would have sweeping effects on your health care, but so far, they have been helpless to stop these closed-door proceedings.
With me now, Wisconsin Democratic Senator Tammy Baldwin. She has been very outspoken about potential changes to Medicaid that the Republican bill may bring. Senator Baldwin, welcome.
SEN. TAMMY BALDWIN, (D), WISCONSIN: Thank you for having me on.
BALDWIN: We just heard from Sean Spicer address a number of issues in the press briefing, including this very important issue being health care and addressing Democrats head on. Let me play this and I want you to respond.
TAMMY BALDWIN: OK.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: You were around when Republicans were criticizing Democrats back in the day of Obamacare for it being, as you put it fairly recently, jammed down people's throats. You said it was are rushed, it was secretive, that was the criticism. So how is what's happening now with this bill getting passed frankly behind closed doors any different than what Republicans criticized Democrats for doing.
SPICER: I think we wanted to be part process back then. You look at what Senator Schumer said back in February to a moveon.org call where he said no Democrat's going to go near this and what he said in a letter May 9, he said that no Democrats would be part of an effort that would repeal Obamacare. So, they have chosen to take themselves not -- to not make themselves part of this process. There is, when Senator McConnell brings the bill forward, I'm sure there will be plenty of time to have debate. It's the Senate. There's always time for debate.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: He's talking about voting next week.
SPICER: But again, I'll let Senator McConnell determine the Senate schedule and determine the Senate schedule that he sees fit, but let's not mistake ourselves with how they approached this thing. Their leader, Senator Schumer, made it very clear that they didn't want to be part of this process. They were happy with Obamacare. We believe Obamacare's failing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: Senator Baldwin, how would you respond to Sean Spicer?
TAMMY BALDWIN: Well, certainly, his premise is that Democrats don't want to have anything to do with repealing the Affordable Care Act, and it's because what they're doing is a bunch of partisan nonsense to notch up a political and partisan victory. If they wanted to work on strengthening our health care system so that the people I represent in Wisconsin and people all over America could have a stronger system to rely on, if we wanted to work together to bring down pharmaceutical prices, premium prices, have more competition, these are things that we are so excited to work on. But what they're doing right now and what we can base this on is the House passed version of the repeal bill is creating a lot of harm to people across America, people with when preexisting conditions, people who are older Americans who will see significant increases in their premium costs in the form of an age tax, and jeopardy to rural clinics and hospitals and access to care in rural areas and the list goes on and on.
BALDWIN: No, I understand, Senator, and I understand basing that upon the House version and we'll have to wait. We're hearing from the likes of Senator corker and others confirming there will be some sort of version of this bill by the end of the week, so add that to your list of frustrations. Because I understand Democrats are angry about how this has been crafted in secrecy.
But let me point out, this is a sound from Mike Pence back in 2009 of the Obamacare era, you know, blasting for Democrats for doing the very same thing. Roll it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is just another version now lurching out of the back rooms after weeks of closed-door negotiations.
I think it's troubling to millions of Americans that after committees did their work this summer in the House and Senate, this thing went behind closed doors over the last month and a half and, you know, we really don't know what's going to be unveil on the west front of the capitol tomorrow and to be doing this on a bill that not only will affect, I think, one-sixth of the economy but 100 percent of the American people for generations to come is really unconscionable.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: Just to be fair to Republicans, you know, isn't their hypocrisy really on both sides here?
TAMMY BALDWIN: You know, I don't believe so. Especially given the process that was in both Houses of Congress, dozens and dozens of hearings. We brought in experts. We heard from industry experts. We heard from families affected. Right now --
BALDWIN: Yes, that was the case, Senator. Forgive me, but that wasn't --
BALDWIN: But that wasn't the case early on. Yes, yes, to the hearings and debates and the amendments, but early on during the process of the crafting of the bill, it was not secretive as Republicans are saying?
TAMMY BALDWIN: Well, somebody drafts a bill and they bring it out and then it's brought into public view. There's hearings. You get expert input. You get a chance to amend it. There were over 300 amendments offered. I understand -- I wasn't in the Senate then. I was in the House of representatives, but I understand in the Senate, that there were well over 100 Republican amendments incorporated into the measure. So there couldn't be a sort of starker difference between the process back then and the process right now.
[14:45:21] BALDWIN: Sure.
TAMMY BALDWIN: That's why we're taking to the floor as I did last night to say that the American people who, you know, health care is personal. The American people have a right to know what is in this bill. I hope you're right these rumors are true and we'll get a chance to see the bill this weekend but there's no rush. Let's have hearings. Let's get expert input. That's not what we hear is going to happen. We hear it's going to be rammed through next week.
BALDWIN: You know, you and other Senate Democrats did precisely that, you know, took to the floor last night for hours, you know, your options at this point seem limited. Do you, Senator Baldwin, do you feel like your leadership waited too long to go on the offensive for this bill?
TAMMY BALDWIN: No, absolutely not. We have been speaking out, even when the House was considering their version of it, and certainly listening to our constituents who have been writing, calling, and meeting with us at home about their -- their anxiety, their fear about what this will mean for them. I read letters on the Senate floor last night or shared stories from constituents all over the state of Wisconsin, many with children with preexisting conditions, laying awake at night, worrying about what this could mean for their family's health and financial security. Health is such a personal issue, and we need to have public engagement, public involvement. Now, I know that we do not control the Senate in terms of partisan control, and we alone cannot stop it. But speaking out, exposing what they're doing, and drawing in the American public to weigh in also is what we really must -- this is too important of a fight to give up or to lose.
BALDWIN: Senator Tammy Baldwin, thank you so much for taking the time with me.
TAMMY BALDWIN: Thank you.
BALDWIN: It is so, so important to talk about health care in this country. Appreciate it.
TAMMY BALDWIN: Thank you.
BALDWIN: Coming up next, is Michael Flynn cooperating? Why some Democrats believe the ousted national security adviser is talking to the FBI as he comes under new scrutiny for unreported trips overseas.
Also, on North Korea, will there be some sort of measures, retaliation taken against this regime after former prisoner and American college student, Otto Warmbier, died days after he was released? We'll talk to former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, who helped secure Otto's release.
[14:52:12] BALDWIN: Pretty explosive suggestion coming from a Democratic Senator regarding this Russia investigation. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, believes that fired national security adviser, Michael Flynn, is cooperating with federal investigators. Remember, the Judiciary Committee is leading one of the five investigations of any Trump campaign ties with Russia. So here are all the reasons why Senator Whitehouse believes Flynn is talking.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. SHELDON WHITEHOUSE, (D), RHODE ISLAND: Well, if you draw conclusions as a prosecutor about what we can see from the Flynn investigation, all the signals are suggesting that he's already cooperating with the FBI and may have been for some time. First of all, they had him dead to rights on a felony false statement for the statement that they took from him in the White House about Kislyak conversations. Secondly, Comey reported that one thing the FBI does with cooperators is to clean up areas of non-compliance and Flynn, who will never be hired by a foreign government again, went back and cleaned up his Foreign Agent Registration Act filings. Third, all of the reporting on eastern district of Virginia subpoenas is one hop away from Flynn. He's like the hole in a doughnut of subpoenas. And finally, one of the more talkative people in Trumpland has gone absolutely dead silent, and that's what prosecutors strongly encourage cooperating witnesses to do. So, this would be just another bit of leverage for the prosecutors to make sure that he was cooperating and giving truthful testimony in order to avoid lengthy imprisonment.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: Let's start there. With me now, David Jolly, former Florida congressman, Republican; and CNN legal analyst, Michael Zeldin, a former federal prosecutor who was a specialist to former FBI Director Robert Mueller.
Gentlemen, good to see you in New York.
Let's begin with that interview with Senator Whitehouse.
Michael, to you first.
Mueller was your former boss. Would you agree with his assessment that Flynn is cooperating with him?
MICHAEL ZELDIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Maybe. If Flynn has a story to tell. His lawyer long ago when asked for immunity said, my client has a story to tell. If he has to story to tell and that story has to involve people above him in the pecking order, and that really is the president in certain measure, if he has a story to tell and that story probably has to relate to collusion, then maybe the Senator's point is well taken.
If the story is not there --
BALDWIN: You don't sound totally convinced.
ZELDIN: Well, because we don't know anything about what Flynn has to say. What we know about Flynn is he's in trouble in the eastern district of Virginia for his failure to register as a foreign agent. We know that he has been lying to people from collusion and the SF86, the security form and has got two other people breathing down his neck so we know he's got a story to tell about himself. So the question is, who else does he have to tell it about. If we know that, we'll know if he's cooperating.
[14:55:15] BALDWIN: Knowing Congress, the fact that Senator Whitehouse on Senate Judiciary, you know, is talking and saying what he is, I mean, yes, he's a Democrat, but is this at all, do you think, his words are impeding the credibility of his investigation at all?
DAVID JOLLY, FORMER REPUBLICAN CONGRESSMAN: I think it's speculation, right? It's the land of politics, if you will, but understand, Flynn is the guy that the FBI would want to begin to work with and perhaps offer him, if he has something to say. Recall, Michael Flynn's the one person that President Trump continues to try to cover up for. He doesn't want people to touch Michael Flynn. He'll throw everybody else under the bus, it seems.
BALDWIN: Should Whitehouse have taken it that far and come out?
JOLLY: I think it's speculation. I truly do. It might be correct.
BALDWIN: Let's also, on Flynn, you mentioned the security clearance forms. This is some of the hot water. Apparently, there's another incident where he may not have been truthful while filling out these security forms. This involves two trips to the Middle East. He apparently failed to disclose one of them. One he wrote on a hotel that doesn't actually exist. We have two Democrats, Congressmen Elijah Cummings and Eliot Engle, seeking more documents in the wake of these two trips.
Does this, to you, putting down the wrong -- a hotel that doesn't even exist, is that alarm bells to you, especially knowing that this is a camp that was under all kinds of scrutiny or no big deal.
JOLLY: I think there's too much of a pattern to chalk this up to incompetence and it's not just Flynn, it's other administration officials who have also erred in their filings or failed to. I was a sitting member of Congress, and we had to file those public disclosure forms. That is a moment where you understand you have a responsibility for integrity. Do you get a few things wrong? Sure. But there's an amendment process. From this administration and public filings to simply chalk it up to incompetence. If it is all incompetence, we have a bigger problem than we realize.
BALDWIN: How do you see it.
ZELDIN: I see it the same way. He had one opportunity to get it right and he didn't. Then he had an opportunity to amend it and if these stories are correct, and now we're at the Second Amendment, it doesn't make it look like it's innocent mistakes, and whether you omit or you misstate, they're both lies. And they're both actionable. BALDWIN: We know, tomorrow, Robert Mueller is meeting with the two
leaders of Senate Judiciary, Democrat Dianne Feinstein, Republican Chuck Grassley. They have just agreed that obstruction of justice will actually be in their committee's purview. What will -- between Mueller and the Senators, will they be comparing notes? I mean, these are two separate investigations but they all want all kinds of evidence. How does that work tomorrow?
ZELDIN: Well, they have to define their swim lanes. Who is going to do what. What they all remember is what happened in Iran-Contra, when Oliver North was immunized and the prosecutors believed that they could still prosecute notwithstanding the immunity and they couldn't. They lost. And that's what Mueller has to make sure that whatever you guys are going to do in your oversight responsibilities, which is their entitlement and it's proper within the Judiciary Committee, way so than intelligence, please don't interfere adherently or inadvertently with what I need to do as a criminal information under the mandate that Rosenstein gave me.
BALDWIN: Can Senate judiciary say to Mueller, hey, we want what you have?
ZELDIN: It depends on how Mueller guess it. If Mueller is subpoenaing it, and it's from a grand jury, I don't believe he can give it up. If it's voluntary notes from interviews, maybe they can share.
That's what they'll discuss.
BALDWIN: Lastly, let's throw this up on the screen. This latest CBS News poll finds a third of Americans say President Trump's approach to the Russia investigation has worsened their opinion of him. You see there. 63 percent of Americans disapprove of the president's response to the Russia investigation.
You know, you're no Trump fan. We've talked enough for me to know that. But you know, when will he realize that the handling of this isn't working for him with the American people?
JOLLY: Sean Spicer's answer to that question today was really shocking, to say he hadn't actually sat down to speak with the president --
BALDWIN: On meddling.
JOLLY: -- on meddling and on the Russia matter and, frankly, it stokes a certain suspicion, and rightfully so. It is not a believable statement from the White House press secretary that he hasn't discussed this. And recall, in January, then-president-elect acknowledged, he said, I believe Russia hacked the Democratic National Convention and look at all the information we got from it. This is a president who continues to shift, and there's a reason the American people lost confidence. ZELDIN: And that's especially true in the aftermath of Comey having
said the same thing. So maybe in the run-up to Comey's testimony, you think, you've got a lot of things on my plate, I'll get to that. But after Comey says, he showed no interest in it, for them, these many weeks later, to still be showing no interest
ZELDIN: I don't know.
BALDWIN: Michael Zeldin, David Jolly, gentlemen, thank you so very much.
BALDWIN: Let's roll along. Next hour.
Top of the hour. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.