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White House Won't Say If Trump Believes Russia Meddled In Election; Interview with Rep. Chris Stewart; U.S. Spy Satellites Detect Activity At North Korean Nuclear Site; Tropical Storm Cindy Poses To Flood Gulf Coast; Health Care Bill With Heart? Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired June 21, 2017 - 07:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[07:31:45] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: The White House press secretary has a common answer for a lot of questions in his press briefings. See if you can pick up on it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I have not asked the president since the last time we spoke about this and I haven't spoken to him on it about the reason. I don't really -- honestly, I haven't asked him that specific question. I said I have not had a discussion with him on the question. I haven't talked to the president specifically about this. I have not had an opportunity to have that discussion. I don't -- I have not asked him. I have not asked the president. I haven't asked him.

REPORTER: OK.

SPICER: I can get back to you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: And, by the way, that was about a variety of different issues, not just one being asked repeatedly.

So let's discuss what's going on here with Republican Utah Congressman Chris Stewart. He's a member of the House Intel Committee which is conducting one of the Russia investigations and that's really the issue that this focuses around, whether it is this almost absurd evasion of a reality that we know where the president stands on this. We know he's been sideways about Russia's role in hacking from the beginning, for whatever reason -- that's up to you to opine on -- or their insistence that Mueller wouldn't be looking at the president for the circumstances surrounding the Comey firing. What do you make of this aversion to reality from the White House?

REP. CHRIS STEWART (R), UTAH: Chris, I'm not sure I would describe it as an aversion to reality and I don't know what questions he was asked in all those circumstances where he said he hadn't had a chance to discuss it with the president. The reality is -- I mean, just big picture. We started out with accusations of collusion. I think most people have moved on from that. We recognize that there isn't any evidence of that. We now hear a lot about some obstruction of justice or potential. We'll see where that goes. But I think Mr. Mueller should pursue all of these questions and come back and report to the American people as well as the House and the Senate Intelligence Committees, as well.

CUOMO: Well, I'm confused. If you think that Mueller should look at these questions how can you, at the same time, conclude that there's nothing there and you should move on, which is what you said first?

STEWART: No, I didn't say -- I didn't say we should move on. I said --

CUOMO: You said these questions of collusion, that you've decided there is nothing there because you haven't seen any proof yet so we should move on from that, did you not?

STEWART: No, I didn't -- I didn't say that, Chris. I said we should -- we should investigate these and we should answer those questions. But I would ask you if you have evidence of collusion come and share it with us becauseI think -- look, it's not just me, it's Dianne Feinstein, it's many others -- Democratic leaders who have said, you know, we just don't see evidence of that right now.

CUOMO: But --

STEWART: Now, we might -- we might and maybe some of that will come forward --

CUOMO: Right.

STEWART: -- but right now, we don't.

CUOMO: That's the part of it I don't get. So, it's an ongoing investigation, Mueller just started. You haven't seen any proof yet but, really, I mean, you guys keep saying that we shouldn't know what they know, right? You know, that this would be a closed process. But if it's not over yet how can you conclude what you know?

STEWART: What I said was, and this is just really simple, we don't have evidence yet of any collusion --

CUOMO: Right.

STEWART: -- and if you have evidence of that, then come share it with us.

CUOMO: Right.

STEWART: But we don't and, again, that's just not me saying that. I don't know why you're being contentious on this. Well, you're challenging --

CUOMO: Oh no, I'm not. I'm just saying if you want the process to go on --

STEWART: You're challenging that position --

CUOMO: I mean, I'm challenging the notion that you want something to go to its conclusion but you want to conclude right now that one aspect of it will bear no fruit. That's what I don't get -- that inconsistency.

[07:35:07] STEWART: This is really pretty simple. We're saying we don't have evidence yet --

CUOMO: Right.

STEWART: -- but we will continue to investigate it.

CUOMO: OK.

STEWART: If anyone has evidence of that bring it to us --

CUOMO: Right.

STEWART: -- because, once again, it's not just me saying that, it's others who are saying that -- Democrats who are saying that -- which is why you don't hear much talk about collusion any longer. Most of the conversation has shifted over to obstruction because at this time we don't have any evidence of collusion.

CUOMO: Right. Well look, I would argue, if I were coming from your perspective, that the reason you hear so much about it is because there's a lot of partisanship now injected into this --

STEWART: No doubt about it.

CUOMO: -- and Democrats -- a lot of Democrats who want there to be collusion.

STEWART: No doubt about it.

CUOMO: A lot of Democrats who want there to be a ground for impeachment because this is never going to come down to an indictment and that's silly talk.

STEWART: Yes.

CUOMO: Yes, Mueller has criminal jurisdictional purview but that's not what this is about. You'd have to have impeachment before you had any criminal action, you know, by law.

STEWART: Yes, no doubt.

CUOMO: So that's all silly nonsense. I'm not pushing that ball here. That's not what I'm doing.

STEWART: You and I agree on that.

CUOMO: What I'm saying is you often hear there is no proof of collusion, forget about that, but we should investigate this fully and let Mueller do his job. Those two notions don't go together. We don't know what he'll develop. We don't know what he has. We don't know what the FBI had on this --

STEWART: Yes.

CUOMO: -- or, at least, I don't. Maybe you do.

STEWART: Well, I think --

CUOMO: Those two notions could be inconsistent.

STEWART: Well, I don't know that they are. Again, we're saying at this time -- at this moment in time we don't have evidence. We'll see what we learn. I don't think that's inconsistent. I mean, that's just more a statement of fact. But you and I agree on a couple of things. One is that I think we should pursue this. I think we owe it to the American people to get them answers.

And the other thing I agree with you completely, this has become so partisan. It's particularly discouraging for those of us on the Intelligence Committee because we have been a nonpartisan committee, at least by and large we have. Our work is done not in front of cameras, it's done in the privacy of the -- of the SCIF, you know -- the classified room. I think we do a better job when we do it that way. I think we do a better responsibility -- or that responsibility we have to the American people when we do it that way.

And I think we could agree that there has been some grandstanding. There has been some partisanship involved with this, and I just don't think it serves the process well. I don't think it serves the American people as well when we do that.

CUOMO: Do you share that concern when it comes to the president's talk about this -- calling the people who are investigating it bad and conflicted, and saying -- sending out a lawyer to say that --

STEWART: Yes.

CUOMO: -- you know, there's no -- that he's not under investigation by Mueller and that's wrong and bad? Wouldn't you be shocked if Mueller weren't looking at the circumstances surrounding Comey's firing? Wouldn't that be troubling to you if he said I'm not going to look at it?

STEWART: No, it would be because, once again, once an accusation is made Mr. Mueller has the responsibility to pursue those accusations and to look into those. And, once again, you and I agree on some of the partisanship. And, by the way, I haven't been hesitant to correct my president or to criticize him if I felt like he stepped over the line. I've been willing to do that. I've done that on your channel before.

CUOMO: Yes.

STEWART: I think that all of us -- once again, all of us have a responsibility to try to be fair-minded about this but we'll see where we are in a year. We'll see where we are when Mr. Mueller has his reporting. By the way, I hope it doesn't take a year. I'm afraid that it will, but I think the American people want to hear something before that.

CUOMO: Well, also, you know, something you'll have to deal with is that Mueller's responsibility is not to me and the media, not to the American people, necessarily. It's to the A.G. He doesn't have any duty to put out a public report so it will be interesting to see how his findings --

STEWART: Yes.

CUOMO: -- or lack thereof is communicated to the American people. Important question in terms of our understanding of Russian interference. Jeh Johnson is going to be on the stand today -- or he's going to be before you guys today. How important is he in understanding what the Obama administration knew about Russian interference and what they decided to do or not do about it?

STEWART: Oh my -- oh my heavens, that's such a great question and it's one of the really central premises that we've lost sight of in some ways. I mean, I went to Moscow last August and I came home and said they're going to mess with our elections. We just knew that they were and it wasn't just me saying that. I mean, I suppose there were others as well. So the central question now is, as you said, what did the administration know? What did they do to prepare for that? How effective were they at countering that?

You know, the Russian KGB case officer who is responsible for this, he's probably been promoted from captain to four-star general because this went way beyond their wildest dreams of success, I think. And by the way, they'll be able to do it again and they certainly plan on doing this again in the United States, in France, in Germany, and other western democracies. And I just think we have to look at these questions to see how do we counter that because it's not healthy for us as Americans when we feel like a foreign entity, especially an adversary like Russia, maybe had an enormous influence in our election.

[07:40:00] CUOMO: Right, and you don't believe that the Russian part's a maybe, right? You believe that it was Russia?

STEWART: Oh yes, no doubt about it. No doubt about that.

CUOMO: Well, we'll get a different message from the top on that --

STEWART: Yes.

CUOMO: -- that's why I'm asking.

STEWART: Yes.

CUOMO: Congressman, you are always welcome on NEW DAY to make the case to the American people. Appreciate it.

STEWART: Thank you, sir.

CUOMO: Be well -- Brooke. BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Disturbing satellite images out of North Korea. What they show, why it could be cause for concern. A live report from the Pentagon ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CUOMO: All right. U.S. spy satellites are picking up activity at North Korea's nuclear site. This comes as Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Defense Secretary Mattis are meeting with their Chinese counterparts this morning. CNN's Barbara Starr live at the Pentagon with more of this on the heels of the president tweeting about the Chinese need of their cooperation in North Korea and saying he doesn't see it.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's right, Chris. Good morning. What we do know is that U.S. spy satellites, indeed, recently picked up activity at North Korea's underground nuclear test site. They picked up activity on the surface -- people, vehicles being seen at some of the tunnel entrances. What does it mean? Nobody knows for sure, of course.

One the pieces of analysis is it might mean that they are conducting some sort of inspection before a test. If there was to be a sixth, now, underground nuclear test this will be a matter of massive concern because some elements in the U.S. Intelligence Community say it means that China's influence on North Korea simply isn't working. That the North Koreans are turning their back on China, going ahead and resuming nuclear testing.

[07:45:17] So at the same time what we also know is top U.S. military commanders have now updated military options to present to President Trump for a decision if there is a nuclear test. Nobody is saying that the president is going to order military action but these updated options are a signal of how seriously it would be taken if there is another test. The military wants to have options ready for the president if he wants to make some decisions about this -- Chris.

CUOMO: But, Barbara, what is your sense of whether or not Otto Warmbier will come up in the meeting with the Chinese delegation again, especially in the context of what the president tweeted?

STARR: Well, this is, again, goes back to the key point which really may underlie the president's tweet. China -- the U.S. has been relying on China to pressure North Korea on everything. Will they, you know, pressure the Chinese on the death of Otto Warmbier, this terrible incident, and try and get the Chinese to pressure the North Koreans on this question? We simply don't know the answer.

CUOMO: All right, Barbara, appreciate it. Thank you very much.

BALDWIN: At least 17 million people along the central Gulf Coast are now under a tropical storm warning, bracing for flooding as Tropical Storm Cindy bears down on them. CNN meteorologist Chad Myers has the very latest. Chad, good morning.

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Good morning, Brooke. Nice to have you with us today. It will be a wet day across the Gulf Coast. This weather is brought to you by Xyzal, the allergy medicine for continuous 24-hour allergy relief. Tropical storm warnings all the way from Mobile back to about Galveston. That means we're going to get winds to 40 or 50 miles per hour. We're going to get waves one to three feet on top of a storm surge of one to three feet. Some of these barrier islands getting overwash, like Dolphin Island and the like.

So you get back over toward Biloxi, a lot of -- a lot of rain coming on shore. A lot of wind and waves coming on shore. But the key to this storm ishow slow it will move. It's not a big windmaker -- not going to be knocking down buildings, Chris. We are going to see inches, maybe even a foot of rainfall in some spots and that will make flash flooding. That's our biggest concern today.

CUOMO: And, obviously, there are a lot of different variables. You have to keep track of it. Some 17 million --

MYERS: Yes.

CUOMO: -- potentially in harm's way. Chad, we'll stick with you. Thank you.

MYERS: You're welcome.

CUOMO: The White House saying that the president wants a health care bill with heart. Will his party listen to him? We're going to discuss with the former head of Medicaid and Medicare, joining us next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[07:52:00] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER: What do you think of the health care bill?

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R) ARIZONA: I haven't seen it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER: Is that a problem?

MCCAIN: Oh no, never a problem. No, of course not. I always like to move forward with legislation that I haven't seen.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: Senator John McCain, one of the GOP's longest-serving senators, deep in sarcasm because he doesn't know what's in his party's health care bill and he is not alone. What will it mean if Republican leaders plan on a vote next Thursday when people don't know what's in their plan? Let's ask editor-in-chief of Vox, Ezra Klein, and former acting administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Andy Slavitt. Andy, Ezra, it's good to have you both here.

Ezra, let's start with the why. Why do you believe the process is the way it is? There is no question that the ACA, for all its flaws and its forced vote, was a very open process in terms of debate, frustratingly so to people like us who are covering it. So what is going on this time?

EZRA KLEIN, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, VOX: There is a very simple explanation to this. Democrats had the belief even when the affordable care was polling poorly that if people just knew what was in it, it would be popular. If you remember, President Obama invited Republicans and Democrats to the Blair House late in the process when the bill was in danger. For hour, after hour, after hour we covered this of televised debate with the theory being that if the American people just heard what was in the bill they would like it. The Democrats would win that debate.

Republicans believe, correctly, the exact opposite. The core of what their bill does in both the House form and what we can tell in the Senate form is it takes hundreds of billions of dollars currently being spent to give health insurance to poor people and moves it to give tax cuts to rich people. That is not a fundamentally popular proposition. And so, a more open debate in which people know more about it and hear more about the coverage losses, and hear more about the places in which they're not going to be able to get coverage if they preexisting conditions, and so on and so forth, does not seem like a good move to Mitch McConnell.

But the one final point I want to make on this, when we see Sen. McCain makes jokes like this, there are a lot of Republicans right now in the Senate saying oh, it's a terrible process, I don't support it, I share your frustration. Three Republicans -- three could say we're not going to vote for this bill if we don't have an open process, then the bill would fail without an open process. So until they actually put their money where their mouth is I don't take the jokes as worth very much.

BALDWIN: I guess, Andy, just listening to Ezra leaves you wondering how can this iteration of the Senate bill survive if they're doing this all so secretly. If it's something that, thus far, they haven't been able to be very public about and defend. How do you respond to what he just, you know, laid out and do we even know anything about this bill?

ANDY SLAVITT, FORMER ACTING ADMINISTRATOR, CENTERS FOR MEDICARE & MEDICAID SERVICES: Yes. Well, Alisyn (sic), I spent the better part of the day with the Senate yesterday and near as I could tell the best way I could describe it is that we're going to get something like a Frankenstein monster of health care. This was going to be something that very few can love. It's going to end Medicaid as we know it. The question is only how quickly. And in order to get a better score out of the CBO they're going to try to make the tax credits look more like Obamacare tax credits, only without any money to do it, so it will be sort of a cheap version of Obamacare.

[07:55:10] So I think Sen. Paul had it close to right yesterday when he said every Democrat in the country is going to hate it and more than half the Republicans are going to hate it because it's really just a monstrosity that the leader's putting together to try to figure out how to get enough people to like it -- very hard.

CUOMO: So, Ezra, let's go to the main proposition of those who are in favor of this. You have two big prongs, right -- or add to it -- correct this premise. One is government should get out of it, it's too expensive. Two is they say that this is going to bring down my premiums in the individual market so that's good for me. Let the poor people figure it out a different way.

KLEIN: So yes, I agree that those are probably the two main prongs and the second one is the most interesting. They are reasonably few people who philosophically do not want the government involved in health care for poor people. In polling, it's not high. You actually find very elected Republicans who will defend that proposition. Some believe it -- I'm not saying it doesn't exist -- but it's not a big part of support here.

But the argument for a Republican repeal and replace plan if you listen to Republicans has been four-pronged and it includes what you just said. It will bring down premiums. That deductibles in Obamacare care too high and deductibles need to be brought down. The co-pays in Obamacare are too high and co-pays need to be brought down. And that too few people are covered. And that is an excellent set of criticisms of the Affordable Care Act. I agree with every single one of them and the problem is none of these Republican bills will fill a single one.

So yes, it is true that if you are one of the very few people left in the individual market after the sick people have been driven out, and the older people have been driven out, and the poor people have been driven out, it is possible -- possible -- not even certain, by the way. It is possible that you will be able to find a plan that covers less than your Obamacare plan did that also has a lower premium. But that isn't what people mean when they say they want lower premiums and we saw this in Obamacare. People actually understand what they want in health insurance and what they want is cover -- insurance that covers them, that covers their loved ones, and that has a reasonable cost. And if they can't pay the cost the government gives them a bit of a hand so they're protected in the event of a medical emergency.

You can't trick people about this. This isn't one of the things in politics that, ultimately, you can get by with good press releases and messaging documents. Ultimately, people buy health care if they can either afford it or they can't and then it covers them or it doesn't and they know who to blame.

BALDWIN: So what do we think, Andy -- and this is Brooke, by the way. Alisyn's off. We're letting her sleep in because it's her birthday. What do we think -- what do you think when you heard the president say he wants something with more heart?

SLAVITT: Yes. Well, the problem with this, if you want more heart you need more piggybank and they don't have more piggybank. So I think what the president is trying to do is he's trying to get the American public not to compare the bill to the way people live today and to people's reality today. He's trying to move the ball and compare the Senate bill to the House bill, and his hope is that he can make some improvements to make it look a little bit better and then people will say, "Oh look, that's a victory."

Unfortunately, though, all they can really afford is window dressing so maybe they can afford to make the look of preexisting conditions look a little bit differently. Say that you have to cover people with preexisting conditions but, at the same time, not cover their actual conditions. So there will be some window dressing, I think, in order to move the needle but unless they're willing to cut back those massive tax cuts that you spoke about and then Ezra referred to, there's no possible way that this heart is going to have any substance to it.

CUOMO: Which is, of course, a window into why it's all being done so secretively. But that's why we need gentlemen like you to put some light on the situation and then when the vote happens then comes the heat. Thank you very much, appreciate it.

KLEIN: Thank you.

CUOMO: All right, we're following a lot of news for you this morning. We're going to talk to one of the few senators who says they know what is in the health care bill. Let's get after it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KAREN HANDEL, (R), WON GEORGIA HOUSE RACE: A special thanks to the president.

CUOMO: Karen Handel defeating Democrat Jon Ossoff in Georgia's special election.

JON OSSOFF, (D) LOST GEORGIA HOUSE RACE: This is not the outcome any of us were hoping for but this is the beginning of something much bigger than this.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER, (D) NEW YORK, SENATE MINORITY LEADER: The president has one word to sum up his health care plan, "mean."

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, (R) KENTUCKY, SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: They are not interested in what we are trying to achieve.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The American public has a right to know if their health care costs are going to go up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Does President Trump believe that the Russian government interfered in the 2016 elections?

SPICER: I have not sat down and talked to him about that specific thing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Russia's going to do an even better job in 2018 if we don't have a White House that accepts that we were attacked.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota. CUOMO: Good morning, welcome to your new day. It is Wednesday, June

21st, 8:00 in the East. Alisyn is off. It's her birthday -- happy birthday. Brooke Baldwin joins me right now. Republicans are now four and zero. They've won Georgia's special Congressional election. They won South Carolina's election.