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Trump Admits He Has No Tapes Of Comey Talks; Senate GOP Unveils Health Care Bill Lacks Votes To Pass. Aired 5-6p ET
Aired June 22, 2017 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[17:00:05] WOLF BLITZER, HOST, THE SITUATION ROOM: Happening now, breaking news, no tapes. Six weeks after he dropped a stunning hint about secret White House recordings, President Trump admits he made no tapes of his talks with fired FBI Director James Comey.
No regrets, the president's initial tweet, warning Comey about tapes led to the appointment of a special council. But Trump associate says if he doesn't regret this, he should, but the White House doesn't think the president has any regrets.
No longer secret. Senate GOP leaders finally unveil their health care bill, written behind closed doors. They want to rush it to a vote, but many Republicans are wary of the small print and worry about the reaction from voters.
And no votes. Four GOP senators already oppose the bill in it's current form and others are on the fence. Does the bill have any real chance of passing? I'm Wolf Blitzer, you're in "The Situation Room".
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is CNN Breaking News.
BLITZER: Breaking news, President Trump finally comes clean on the subject of secret White House recordings, six weeks after he tweeted a warning that fired FBI Director James Comey better hope there are no tapes of their conversations.
Today, in another tweet, the president admitted he did not make any recordings and does not have any recordings. That comes a day before a House Intelligence Committee deadline to turn over any tapes. And the White House won't say why the president made a comment about tapes in the first place, a move which only led to an expanded investigation.
And another vail of secrecy came down today as Senate Republicans released their health care bill drafted behind closed doors with no hearings. But four Republican senators have already announced they oppose the bill as written. That leaves Republicans already short of the 50 votes needed to pass the Obamacare replacement bill.
Majority leader Mitch McConnell is pushing for a vote next week, many GOP senators say that's not enough time to read the fine print and the Congressional Budget Office hasn't released the cost estimate yet. While most Republicans are lukewarm about the bill, Democrats are already calling it, "Evil and diabolical." I'll talk to Congressman Adam Schiff, he's the ranking Democrat on the intelligence committee and Republican Senator Rand Paul, who says he opposes the health care bill as it currently is written. And our correspondents, specialists and guests are also standing by for full coverage of the day's top stories.
Six weeks after he seemed to threaten fired FBI Director James Comey, with a rather bizarre tweet about recorded conversations, President Trump finally confessed today that he has no tapes. Let's go straight to our White House correspondent, Athena Jones. take us through this, Athena.
ATHENA JONES, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hi Wolf, well, it's been a bizarre month and a half since the president posted that suggested tweet back in May. For weeks now, White House officials, including the president, refused to answer what should be a yes or no question, does the president have recordings of his conversations with James Comey?
Now senior administration official told CNN it became clear today that the president would have to answer this question before tomorrow's deadline set by the House Intelligence Committee to turn over any tapes. So now we finally have an answer, but also more questions.
JONES (voice-over): It was perhaps the most consequential tweet of his presidency so far. Three days after he fired FBI Director James Comey, the president wrote, James Comey better hope that there are no tapes of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press. A tweet Comey testified he hoped was true.
JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: I've seen the tweet about tapes. Lordy, I hope there are tapes.
ATHENA: Forty-one days after that tweet, President Trump has finally answered the central question, he himself raised. Do any recordings actually exist? Tweeting today, with all of the recently reported electronic surveillance, intercepts, unmasking, and illegal leaking of information, I have no idea whether there are tapes or recordings of my conversations with James Comey. But I did not make and do not have any such recordings. That answer coming after weeks of dodging.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Could you try to find out -- a lot of people are interested as you might imagine.
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY: Sure, I'll try to look under the couches.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'll tell you about that maybe some time in the very near future.
JONES: And frequent calls from lawmakers in both parties for the president to come clean.
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D), MINORITY LEADER: If there are tapes, the president should turn them over immediately, of course.
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: You can't be cute about tapes.
JONES: The president's latest tweets meant to clarify the issue are raising additional questions, which Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders refused to expand on and off camera briefing.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is the president concerned that surveillance is being conducted against him at the White House?
SANDERS: I don't know specifically if there is a direct concern. I do know that he's concerned with the number of leaks. That do come out of our intelligence community. I think all American should be concerned with that.
[17:05:05] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Specifically, does the president believe he's being surveilled in the Oval Office?
SANDERS: Not that I'm aware of.
JONES: Today's announcement came after weeks of speculation about why the president seemed to be threatening Comey. Was it an attempt by Trump to ensure the former director spoke truthfully?
SANDERS: I certainly think that the president would hope that former director would tell the truth, but I think that it was more about, you know, raising the question of doubt in general.
JONES: That May 12 tweet prompted Comey to ask a friend to share with a reporter the former FBI director's notes about a private conversation he had with Trump, in which Comey says the president told him he hoped he could end the investigation into former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn. News that led to the appointment of special council Robert Mueller.
JONES: And today began with the president raising doubts about whether Russian hacking during the 2016 election actually occurred. On twitter he called it a Dem, as in Democrat hoax. Well Sarah Huckabee Sanders was asked about that today. Asked if the president believes that Russians meddled in the 2016 election, she said, he thinks, "It probably was Russia," but she also said the Dem hoax reference was less about the hacking itself and more about the belief, the president's belief she called it a fact that democrats are trying to delegitimize his election win, Wolf.
BLITZER: Athena Jones at the White House, thank you. Also breaking after weeks of closed door meetings, Senate Republican leaders have finally unveiled their secret health care bill and want to rush it to a vote. Four Republican senators already oppose it and others may follow. That means in it's current form, the bill lacks the votes necessary for passage. Let's go to CNN's Ryan Nobles. He's up on Capitol Hill with the very latest. What is the very latest, Ryan? RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, most members of the
Senate have yet to fully digest this 142-page bill, but if the early reviews are any indication, quick passage of this legislation will not be easy.
NOBLES: Within hours of Senate Republicans releasing their health care bill, four members announcing they currently oppose the plan. As leaders make the case for it's passage.
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), MAJORITY LEADER: There will be ample time to analyze, discuss, and provide thoughts before legislation comes to the floor. And I hope every senator takes that opportunity.
NOBLES: Republicans can only lose two votes and still be able to pass the bill. And as it stands now, Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, Mike Lee, and Ron Johnson say they can't support the bill in it's current form, but are, "open to negotiation."
SEN. RAND PAUL (R), HEALTH, EDUCATION, LABOR AND PENSIONS COMMITTEE: The intention is not to take down the bill, it's to make the bill better.
NOBLES: While a pair of moderate GOP senators, Maine's Susan Collins and Nevada Dean Heller both released statement voicing concerns with the proposal. This new bill allows states to waive the federal mandate on essential health benefits which may not cover treatments with those with pre-existing conditions. It also slows rollback of the Obama Medicaid expansion included in the House bill. Delaying the start of that process until 2021.
The Senate version of the bill puts back in Obamacare subsidies for premiums, eliminated from the House bill, but drops a threshold from 400 percent of the poverty level to 350 percent. And it maintains a one-year block on funds for Planned Parenthood. Democrats who don't have the votes to stop the bill are relying on emotion.
SCHUMER: The Senate Republican health care bill is a wolf, in sheep's clothing. Right there, meaner.
NOBLES: Minority Leader Chuck Schumer labelled it meaner. Using President Trump's own description of the House version of the bill, Schumer arguing this plan may be worse than the original.
SCHUMER: This is a nasty bill. And they're trying to cover it up with little things here and there.
NOBLES: The White House has kept it's distance in this process. But to date indicated it plans to play a role in House-Senate talks. And this morning, the president reacted to the Senate draft positively.
TRUMP: Little negotiation, but it's going to be great.
NOBLES: But there will be little time for that negotiation. House Majority Leader Mitch McConnell set a goal of voting on the bill by the 4th of July holiday.
NOBLES: And all of these concerns are being raised before the Congressional Budget Office has even had an opportunity to weigh in. Majority leader Mitch McConnell saying the score from the CBO could come as early as next week, but leaving even less time for the bill to be passed before the fourth of July. Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Ryan, thank you. Ryan Nobles up on Capitol Hill. Joining us now from Capitol Hill, Republican Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky. He's a member of the Health, Education, Labor And Pensions Commission -- Committee, I should say as well as the Foreign Relations Committee. Senator, thanks so much for joining us.
PAUL: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: So we have a lot to discuss on health care. But quickly I want to get your reaction to the president's tweets saying that he didn't record his conversations with the former FBI Director James Comey, I'll read it to you. He said with all of the recently reported electronic surveillance, intercepts, unmasking, and illegal leaking of information, I have no idea whether there are tapes or recordings of my conversations with James Comey, but I did not make and do not have any such recordings. Your reaction.
PAUL: Well, you know, I'm in a similar position to the president, I kind of worry about whose been recording, whose conversations and whose been leaking them to the press. I've been asking the intelligence community for a couple of months now, did the Obama Administration surveil me in my way and I'm hoping to get an answer hopefully in the next few days. I think all of us are worried about spying on American citizens particularly without any kind of warrant or probable cause.
BLITZER: So do you think that -- it's possible that there are tapes that the president doesn't know about those tapes, recordings of the conversation that he had with Comey that was -- the surveillance may have been secret? Is that what I'm hearing from you?
PAUL: What I'm very concerned about, there was an article in the "Washington Post" last year talking about how President Obama was minimized, meaning that they listened to his conversation, knew who it was, and they blacked out his name. I don't think the intelligence community should be listening to any president, Republican or Democrat, so yes, I am concerned. And I think the rules need to be explicit that they don't listen to the president, and that they don't listen to members of Congress, and that the president doesn't listen to members of Congress.
We have to have much more control over privacy because it's gotten out of hand. What happened to General Flynn could happen to any ordinary citizen, and that shouldn't happen in America when they listen to your private phone call and then take you down by releasing things to the media. BLITZER: So what evidence do you have, senator? Because this is a
pretty startling accusation that the intelligence community may be spying on the president of the United States.
PAUL: We know that they spied on Flynn because the media reported the contents of his conversation. That's what got him in trouble with saying one thing privately and maybe another thing to the people in the administration. But they only knew that because someone eavesdropped on a private conversation.
I have no evidence that they're listening to this president or have, but there was a Washington Post article and it's been somewhat disputed in the presentation, but it said that President Obama was minimized 1,500 times. Meaning they would have had to listen to his conversation 1,500 times. Now the author now has changed his presentation of those facts, but it does concern me that if we're listening to every foreigner who would be listening to prominent Americans talking to foreigners.
BLITZER: I want to move on to health care, senator, but with Michael Flynn, I think what was going on, the law enforcement intelligence community was spying on Russians who had conversations with Flynn, and he was incidentally picked up in those conversations. They weren't listening in on his conversations, specifically, they were targeting Russians.
PAUL: Yes, but they illegally then leaked those conversations to the media which is a major felony and worthy of actual time in jail.
BLITZER: All right. Let's move on. Let's get to health care. I know this is very much on your mind right now. Today, you and three of your colleagues came out in opposition to the bill as released today. First of all, have you read the entire bill? I have copy here, it's more than 140 pages and it's very, very -- I've got to tell you, trying to get through myself, it's complex.
PAUL: It's not going to win any full of prizes for reading, I can tell you that. I'm about third the way through it and I'll be through by the weekend. But, you know, I proposed all along we should have a read the bills act which is for every 20 pages of text, there should be one day, one working day, Monday through a Friday, to evaluate the bill. Because I think we do need more time to be able to read and get through, it's not a matter of just reading it, if you've read through these things, you're reading and referencing it to other parts of the federal code. So it takes a while. We have a dozen people, half a dozen people or more reading it in my office, but I will also read it personally, it just happened got it this morning and have not read it through yet.
BLITZER: Yes, it's not easy reading. I got to tell you. All right, your Democratic colleagues, Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut, he said today that any Republican opposition to this bill in his words is merely prescriptive political theater. This is what he tweeted, Senate will try to follow House script, one Senate Rs act concern, two, pass meaningless amendments, three, claim bill is fixed, four, fall in line. Is your opposition to this bill political theater? PAUL: Well, Senator Murphy and I do a lot of things together on some
issues, but on this, you know, we disagree. My opposition has been principled in the sense that I think the marketplace works better, I think freedom works better than coercion. And I think the federal government shouldn't be giving any money to insurance companies.
Insurance companies made $15 billion in profit last year, the new Republican bill will give them $110 billion to bring down prices, but to me that's a ludicrous economic concept. That would be like telling America, new cars cost too much, so we're going to have a stabilization fund so your new car will cost less or food costs too much or any number of things, education, and we're going to subsidize the cost to bring it down, it sort of ignores the fact that our annual budget is $500 billion in debt. I don't know how we're going to pay for all of this new spending.
[17:15:14] BLITZER: Listen to what the president told voters about his health care vision when he was out on the campaign trail.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Save Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security without cuts. I'm not going to cut Medicare or Medicaid. You can end up with great health care for a fraction of the price.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right, he wants this Senate version to have heart, no cuts in Medicaid, there are hundreds of billions of dollars, potentially, in cuts that have been included. So is the president keeping his promise?
PAUL: Well, I think the thing that we have to examine about Medicaid expansion is I think that under Obamacare was dishonest accounting because what we did is we expanded it to a lot of new people, maybe 12 million new people, but we paid for it all at the federal government level. Really nothing at the federal government level is really paid for. We borrow the money. We're $500 billion in the hole. We had trouble funding traditional Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, social security before we expanded into Obamacare.
There isn't enough money for everything. And I think we need to be honest with the American people. If people want Medicaid expansion, the most honest ways to say the state should pay for it and the states will have to raise taxes. Then people will get a visible trade off.
In Kentucky, we have 450,000 new people on Medicaid, it should completely be a state function. The federal government shouldn't be expanding it and the state should say, we have to pay the traditional percentage we pay if we want to do this, but the governors told me and everybody in the legislature told me they don't have enough money. So really, we're just not being honest. We want things from government but we don't want to pay the taxes for them.
BLITZER: Senator, you're a physician, do you support Obamacare's mandate to cover pre-existing conditions? Because this bill won't necessarily cover treatment for pre-existing conditions because it allows states to waive the federal mandate on what insurers most cover known as essential health benefits. This could mean that you could cover a person with cancer, but not necessarily pay for that person's chemotherapy. You support that?
PAUL: I think it all likelihood, actually this bill largely keeps the pre-existing clause that was in Obamacare, but we have to realize -- and this is where we have to sort of have a big heart and also use our brain as well. The death spiral of Obamacare is because we tell people you can buy insurance after you get sick. But then we have regulatory burden, those essential health benefits that raised the cost.
So if I'm a working guy in the United States and I make $30,000 a year, but because of the regulatory additional regulatory problems that my insurance costs 10,000, and you tell me oh you can buy it also after you get sick, nobody's going to buy insurance. People are smart enough to avoid buying insurance, that's what happened. That's the death spiral that is Obamacare. That's one of my points about not supporting this bill is actually I think it keeps the pre-existing condition, keeps the regulations, and then subsidizes the death spiral. That's my real complaint.
We are not fixing Obamacare. The problems of Obamacare will remain and may get worse, but we're going to dump a bunch of taxpayer money that's going to wind up in the coughers of very, very wealthy insurance companies.
BLITZER: Very quickly, will this bill pass?
PAUL: Not in the existing form. And that was point coming out early. There's four of us can't pass. Could pass if they'll work with us. We to want sit down with them across the table with leadership. We want to negotiate a better bill.
BLITZER: All right, Senator Rand Paul, thank you so much for joining us.
PAUL: Thank you.
BLITZER: Joining us now the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff of California. Congressman, thanks for joining us.
ADAM SCHIFF (D), HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: You bet. Good to be with you, Wolf.
BLITZER: You just heard Senator Paul suggest the intelligence community of the United States may be spying on the president and actually may be spying on Senator Paul as well. What's your reaction to that?
SCHIFF: Well, you know, I hate to see members of the Senate or House make such claims without any factual basis. It echoes of course what the president has suggested or did suggest not only in this tweet, but when he earlier accused his predecessor of wiretapping him. That's not the case. Of course it's not the case. And I think it brings, you know, disrespect to the office of the presidency to make such a suggestion.
Look, I'm glad the president has finally responded and told the country that he didn't make tape recordings of James Comey, of course, we're going to need to get an official statement from the white house that answers our full question because the fact that he didn't make the tape or doesn't know tapes, doesn't mean the tapes don't exist. We're still waiting for an answer. But I wish people wouldn't be trying to confuse the issue or camouflage the issue by making these completely unsubstantiated suggestions that the president is the subject of illegal wiretapping.
[17:20:04] BLITZER: You said today also that the president's tweet wasn't necessarily the last word on this subject. What exactly do you mean by that?
SCHIFF: Well, a couple things, first the president's denial of these tapes raise a lot of question, if he didn't make tape recordings, then why did he essentially threaten James Comey that there might be tapes? Why did he keep the country waiting so long and with the suggestion that he had made about the existence of tapes? I wish we could say that everything the president tweets is in fact true, but sadly now on repeated occasions, president has tweeted things that were patently untrue. So I don't think we can accept this as the last word.
I also think that even the denial itself is not complete and only goes to what he did or he is aware of, so I think there's more work to be done before we can rest assured that there are no recordings of any conversation between the president and James Comey.
BLITZER: So you're not ruling out the possibility, congressman, when the president said this tweet, I did not make and do not have any such recordings, you're not ruling out necessarily the possibilities that others have the possession -- possess and made those kinds of recordings, his conversations with Comey?
SCHIFF: Well, I have to assume that this tweet was carefully worked on with his lawyers. And it doesn't rule out the possibility that there are tapes. It only says I didn't make them and I'm not aware of them. It doesn't speak for the rest of the White House in terms of whether others in the White House may have made tapes. So I don't think we can accept this as a complete answer, and of course the president hasn't explained why, if there were never tapes why he made that suggestion to begin with. Was he trying to intimidate James Comey? Was he trying to discourage others from coming forward to speaking out? What was the purpose of this? How was the public's interest served in this? None of us can really understand that.
So, still a lot of questions, but I think prudently as investigators, we can't take this as the last word, I think a response from the White House on the broader issue of whether tapes exist. But also I think we need to continue to ask others, since, unfortunately the president has in the past tweeted things that simply did not square with the facts. BLITZER: You want official White House letter from the White House
council or the White House chief of staff explaining exactly that there are absolutely no tapes at all? And you want that letter by your deadline of tomorrow? Is that right?
SCHIFF: Yes. So we've asked the White House whether there are recordings of the president speaking with James Comey, if there are recordings that need to be preserved, and they need to be provided to us. So that question is broader than whether the president himself has personal knowledge or was personally involved in any tapes. So yes, we're still waiting for the answer to the White House, I would expect that we'll get it by the end of the day tomorrow, that is certainly what the White House ought to do in order to comply.
BLITZER: There is much more we need to discuss, congressman, I want to take a quick break. Resume our conversation right after this.
[17:27:24] BLITZER: All right, breaking news, President Trump finally admits there are no secret White House tapes. That comes six weeks after he tweeted the fired FBI Director James Comey better hope there are no tapes of their conversations.
We're back with the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff of California. Congressman, someone suggested that the president's bluff early in May, May 12th in an original tweet about Comey better hope there are no tapes, that that amounts to witness tampering or intimidation, do you agree?
SCHIFF: Certainly seems like an effort by the president to discourage James Comey from speaking out, and the president apparently does have a history as a businessman and litigation with threatening people that he may have recorded conversations as a way of intimidating them. So that certainly appears to be what the president was trying to do when you consider that also in light of James Comey's testimony and what the president was asking James Comey to do to drop the Flynn case to make the Russia cloud essentially go away. And ultimately the firing of James Comey, you have to potentially ask, is this part of a pattern? Was this part of a concerted effort to alter the course of the Russia investigation? And that is obviously deeply troubling to us.
BLITZER: Is that a potential crime?
SCHIFF: Well, certainly if it amounts to obstruction of justice, if there is further evidence that the president was trying to impede the investigation, that could be evidence of a crime. All that means is corroboration just as Director Comey's testimony needs corroboration, but if you were trying a case of obstruction of justice, this is certainly something that you would seek to admit, and I think a judge would rule it is pertinent to the question of whether someone was trying to interfere with the administration of justice.
BLITZER: Your committee has also requested the memos that Comey wrote about his conversations with the president. The deadline I think is tomorrow for that as well. Have you received those memos?
SCHIFF: We have been in communication with Director Comey. I can't go into the contents of that communication, but we are, I can say we're getting the cooperation that we would seek, but I can't go into whether we will, I really can't go into the contents of it.
BLITZER: But can you tell us whether or not without getting in the contents, whether you'll meet that deadline?
SCHIFF: You know, I can say that our committee continues to be interested in obtaining the memoranda and it's my expectation that we will, but I can't go into any particulars about the how or the when or the where.
BLITZER: Let's talk about another important story that we're following, another development I should say, CNN has now learned that the two of the nation's top intelligence officials, the director of national intelligence Dan Coats and the National Security Agency Director Admiral Mike Rogers. They told the special counsel, Robert Mueller, that President Trump suggested they publicly declare there was no collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians. Does that bolster the obstruction case, potentially, against the President?
SCHIFF: Well, I can't comment on whether those reports are accurate or not. You know, certainly, if the President was making any effort to enlist the help of others to push back on the Russia investigation in any way to refute allegations of collusion or to in any other way influence the direction of the investigation, that would be important evidence in terms of whether the President was trying to obstruct or impede, but I can't confirm or deny whether those reports are accurate.
BLITZER: I just want to clarify one thing, you say you've been in touch with Comey about those memos, he apparently testified he doesn't have those memos any longer, he apparently gave them up to the FBI or others. So, are you talking to the FBI or are you talking to the special counsel, are you talking to Comey directly?
SCHIFF: You know, I don't want to get into the specifics, Wolf. All I can say is that we are continuing to pursue, obtaining copies of the memoranda. I believe that ultimately we will gain possession of them. But, we are talking to the appropriate parties and that's really all I can say on that subject.
BLITZER: Congressman Schiff, as usual, thanks for joining us.
SCHIF: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: Coming up, more on the breaking news we're following, as President Trump now admits he has no tapes of his talks with the fired FBI Director James Comey. I'll speak with a leading voice on the intelligence and judiciary committees, various, and Republican Senator John Cornyn. And four Republican Senators now say they already oppose the Republican Health Care Bill as it is written, and others are on the fence. Does the bill have a serious chance of passage in the Senate? Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
[17:36:34] BLITZER: We're tracking two major breaking stories. The Senate Health Care Bill long shrouded in secrecy has now been released to the public. Plus, President Trump comes clean in an afternoon tweet admitting he didn't make secret recordings of his conversations with fired FBI Director James Comey. We're joined now by Republican Senator John Cornyn of TEXAS. He serves on the Intelligence and Judiciary Committees. He's a top Republican leader as well. Senator, thanks for joining us.
SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R), TEXAS: Thanks Wolf.
BLITZER: We have a lot to discuss, including the Republican Health Care Bill that was released today. But first, very quickly, as you know, President Trump gave us the answer we've been waiting for now by tweeting, and I'll read the tweet to you one more time, "With all of the recently reported electronic surveillance, intercepts, unmasking, and illegal leaking of information, I have no idea whether there are tapes or recordings of my conversations with James Comey, but I did not make and do not have any such recordings."
Why did the President let -- I mean, he's the one who first raised that issue of tapes, what, 41 days ago. He allowed that to linger for 41 days, why did he do that?
CORNYN: Well, I think you'll have to ask him. I don't really - I don't know. I had assumed that ever since Richard Nixon's famous erasures of Rosemary Wood's tape or recordings in the White House, I assume that all Presidents had recordings in the Oval Office, but I honestly don't know the answer.
BLITZER: Your Republican colleague, Rand Paul, just told me he's not ruling out the possibility that the Intelligence Community, the U.S. Intelligence Community is actually spying on the President and spying on him as well. Your reaction.
CORNYN: I don't find that very believable. I am on the Senate Intelligence Committee as you pointed out, and we work very closely with the entire Intelligence Community. There certainly are important questions, particularly in light of the unmasking of U.S. persons' names during the course of the Clinton - of the Obama administration by Susan Rice and others that we need to look into as part of the Russia investigation. We need to reassure the American people that American citizens are not being spied upon by their - by their government, but I'm not aware of any reason why the President should not have confidence in the - in the Intelligence Community. I think they're doing an outstanding job.
BLITZER: And you're on the Intelligence Committee as we know. The President, as you know, he was the original -- he made the original issue of tapes on May 12th when he tweeted this, "James Comey better hope that there are no tapes of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press." Was that witness intimidation? Was that a threat? How did you see that? CORNYN: I didn't really know what to make of it. I know there are many others who wish the President would not tweet as much as he does because it tends to distract us from what we're supposed to be doing. I've been spending my time as we - as I mentioned a moment ago, trying to figure out why is it that Russia and how is it that Russia attempted to interfere with our elections? And that's why we've had six public hearings on the Senate Intelligence Committee and continued to get access to some of the most classified information available in order to get to the bottom of that. I think we need to know exactly what happened so we can prevent it from happening again, or even worse, affecting the outcome of an election.
BLITZER: You have a good point. The President himself is not necessarily convinced of that, but I want to move on, talk about health care right now. Have you personally read the entire -- and I have it right here, it's very thick -- 142-page Republican draft?
[17:40:08] CORNYN: I've got it right here, Wolf. And this is going to be -- we've certainly talked about the principles and I understand what's in it from the briefing, but I do want to read every word of it myself. Fortunately, this is 142 pages long compared to Obamacare, which was 2,700 pages long. So I expect to be able to get through that this evening.
BLITZER: Four Republican Senators have already announced their opposition to the bill as it currently is written. And that's not even including some more moderate Senators who have other concerns including cuts, for example, to planned parenthood funding. You can only afford as you know in the 52, 48 Republican majority, you can only lose two Republican votes, you lose three, it's over. So how do you win over those who are suggesting they're opposed?
CORNYN: Well, I know that all too well, my job as a Whip for the -- I'm responsible for working with my colleagues to try to get us to yes, to get us to a win here. And you're exactly right about the numbers. I talked to Senator Cruz after this statement was released, and basically, he reaffirmed that they're not opposed to getting the bill -- getting the yes eventually, they're not there yet because of the way the bill is written so far. But that's why we call this a discussion draft, so we're going to have that discussion so we can build on it, and get to the 50 plus 1 that we need.
BLITZER: As you know, there were five Republican women in the United States Senate, there you see them up on the screen. How many of them directly contributed to the drafting of this bill?
CORNYN: Every single one of them. I think that's been one of the misimpressions that's out there that of necessity because as we pointed out, we have 52 Republicans, we need to get 50 plus one to pass the bill. So of necessity, we've had to include every single member of our conference, we've had numerous meetings where everybody has contributed. So this really is a group collective project of everybody in the Republican conference including those five women Senators.
BLITZER: But did those five women see the draft before it was released today?
CORNYN: Well, none of us saw the draft until it was released about 11:00 this morning, but now, of course, everybody in the world can see it. We did get about an hour and a half brief and we were able to ask questions and there's a lot more answers that we need to provide. So this is an ongoing process, and they're part of it.
BLITZER: Look at these images. Protesters in the U.S. Capitol today, according to a CBS News poll that just came out, a third of Americans say that based on what they know about this bill, it would hurt them personally. Only 15 percent say they think the Republican Health Care Bill will help them. How do you address that?
CORNYN: Well, I think that's based on misinformation at this point because as you point out, as we've discussed, this bill just came out to the public about 11:00. Of course, that didn't stop many of my Democratic colleagues from trashing it on the Senate floor before they even read it. So, many of them directed their comments to the House bill, but we have, I believe, improved on the House Bill. So, I'm certainly willing, once everybody's actually read the bill, knows what they're talking about, and operating from factual information, to having a debate. And we will. And we'll have unlimited votes on amendments on the legislation next week.
BLITZER: The American people who voted President Trump into the White House based in part on his campaign promises, including this, listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: Save Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security without cuts.
I'm not going to cut Medicare or Medicaid.
You can end up with great health care for a fraction of the price.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Your Senate legislation cuts Medicaid tremendously. Is the President OK with that? Because he promised the American people, no cuts to Social Security, Medicare, or Medicaid.
CORNYN: Well, Wolf, forgive me for disagreeing with you, but it doesn't cut Medicaid, it adds more money each year to Medicaid. What it does do is it puts Medicaid on a sustainable path by applying a cost of living escalation clause to this that spends more money next year than it does this year, more money the year after than it does next year. So, we're not cutting Medicaid, except in the sense that here in Washington, sometimes people use that phrase. We're reducing the rate of growth, but it's not a cut, at least, where I come from.
BLITZER: Well, there will be less money available, let's say in 5 years or 10 years than there would have been if you would have kept the same standard. CORNYN: Well, that's a good point because I think that assumes that we can maintain this unsustainable growth in Medicaid spending. Nobody likes to be put on a budget, but the fact of the matter is, this is pressing, crowding out important legislation and spending in the states like law enforcement, education alike, this is usually the one - the number one expenditure in the states, which of course, the shared state and federal program.
[17:45:05] So putting this on a sustainable path, I believe, is what we are doing. We're reducing the rate of growth, but according to the way I understand things, this is not what I would call a cut in Medicaid.
BLITZER: Does this bill help poor people?
CORNYN: Absolutely. It gives more authority back to the states to manage their Medicaid population. this is the most vulnerable part of our population who need access to health care and we're committed to making sure they get it, but we want to give the states more flexibility and coming up with the best plans to deal with the Medicaid population. We also have taken the special care to deal with children who are disabled who received benefits under Medicaid. So I think we've done -- I think we've done a pretty good job at keeping our promises under Medicaid.
BLITZER: It does eliminate -- it does cut taxes for the wealthy, this legislation, you put forward by significant sums.
CORNYN: Well, it cuts taxes for everybody. Right now, you have a tax on your health insurance policy, on your prescription, it has almost a trillion dollars in taxes under Obamacare. We're waiting for the score back from the Congressional Budget Office to see how much money it's going to cost to be able to provide the benefits that are included in this bill, but, you're right, we are going to cut as much taxes, as many as the Obamacare taxes as we can.
BLITZER: One final question, you think you're going to have an up or down vote on the Senate floor before July 4th?
CORNYN: I do. I think we'll have an open amendment process under the Senate rules, every Senator will be able to offer an amendment, and we'll vote on those amendments as long as Senators want to do that until we finally pass it next week.
BLITZER: And you're the Majority Whip, will you have that vote even if you're not sure that you can get 50 votes?
CORNYN: Well, I'm confident we're going to get the 50 votes. We have to because the status quo is unacceptable. Obamacare's meltdown, people are seeing huge increases in their insurance premiums and deductibles they can't afford. So, even if Hillary Clinton were elected President of the United States, we'd still be revisiting the failures of Obamacare.
BLITZER: Let me invite you to come back after the vote, Senator Cornyn. You're always welcome here in THE SITUATION ROOM. CORNYN: Thanks, Wolf.
BLITZER: Senator John Cornyn of Texas, the Majority Whip. We're following the breaking news on multiple fronts. Let's continue the discussion with our experts and our specialists. Let's start off with the tweets today. And Phil Mudd, I'm anxious, I've been thinking about you all day. I want to get your reaction. You saw the tweet -- I'll put it up on the screen one more time. "With all of the recently reported electronic surveillance, intercepts, unmasking, and illegal leaking of information, I have no idea whether there are tapes or recordings of my conversations with James Comey, but I did not make and do not have any such recordings. Your reaction.
PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: Excuse me, what's he talking about? This is the residence he lives in. He doesn't know if there are tapes? Let me ask the question, who runs the defense department, the CIA, the National Security Agency, and the Homeland Security Department? These are people who are typically either nominated by the President or who have decided to work for him. Here's the question, if you think that there is some sort of surveillance in the White House, who exactly is doing this surveillance? I don't appreciate that the President is playing us for fools. Who's doing this?
BLITZER: Well, you heard Rand Paul just say to me a little while ago here in THE SITUATION ROOM that he's not ruling out the possibility that the U.S. Intelligence Community is spying on him and the President.
MUDD: Wolf, who? Rand Paul doesn't know what he's talking about. What he's references is intercepts of foreign officials where they may talk to Rand Paul. Those intercepts will say foreign official one, the Russian Ambassador talked to a U.S. person. That U.S. person might be Rand Paul. Here's my question back to Rand Paul, happy to debate him any day, number one, do you think we should intercept the Russian Ambassador? Number two, if that Russian Ambassador talks to a U.S. official, should that be disseminated into U.S. Intelligence Committee if that U.S. person's name is obscured? If the answer is no, my question is, what does intelligence do? He doesn't know what he's talking about.
BLITZER: This whole issue, Dana, has erupted because the President himself on May 12th, he tweeted about the possibility of tapes and Comey better be careful, otherwise, if there are tapes, he would lose in the process. This is the President who started all of this.
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Totally. And it was the fact that the President, when he gets upset or when he wants to send a message, doesn't have -- always have impulse control when it comes to his Twitter feed. And this is a prime example of some pretty bad consequence s of that for him because the whole notion of challenging James Comey, trying to call his bluff, maybe even send him a warning by saying, "You better be careful, there are tapes." We are told, was for him to try to get James Comey to tell the truth.
[17:49:58] At the time, what the President was desperate for, that truth, was for James Comey to say publicly that the President wasn't under investigation. But what that ended up doing, down the road, after he fired James Comey, and Comey saw that tweet and thought, "Oh, I got to - better get my side of the story out, and by the way, now, I think there should be a special prosecutor." Comey tried to out maneuver the President, did so successfully, now there is a special prosecutor who probably is looking into whether the President did anything wrong.
And so, it all basically backfired. All can be - it all can be traced back to that one tweet, never mind are there tapes or aren't there tapes. It's just the notion of sending that tweet, all of the reactions that occurred that were not good for the President.
BLITZER: I don't think there is much doubt, and correct me if I'm wrong, Mark, that that May 12th tweet about tapes convinced Comey to do what he did, share some information with a friend who leaked it then to The New York Times, and helped create - and he wanted to do that because he want a special counsel, and he's got one now, Robert Mueller.
MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: And Comey said that during a Congressional hearing, he said his hope was to get a special counsel and somebody that would be separated from the Department of Justice, somebody who would be able to do this investigation. Here is the problem with what has happened in the last few hours and over the last 40 days, is that most of America, I don't think necessarily is clued into this. They have other problems, they have other issues to deal with. But where this does hurt President Trump is foreign leaders right now and lawmakers. Can you trust the President, A, when you have a conversation with him, and B, are you being taped by him?
BLITZER: Here is what's worrying to a lot of people. And Rebecca, let me get (INAUDIBLE) in this tweet today, the President also - he said with all of the recently reported electronics surveillance intercepts, unmasking, illegal leaking of information, he seems to be going after the intelligence community one more time. You accept that interpretation?
REBECCA BERG, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I mean, it's nothing new for Donald Trump. He has gone after the Intelligence Community time and again. And now he has sort of a political, strategic motivation to do so because he's trying to undermine the credibility of Mueller and his work, the FBI's investigation into Russia and potential collusion with his campaign. So, there is - I mean, he's a very clever political strategist, and I don't think we should just count that element of this, but there's also something else going on here, Wolf. And I think it's very important, which is that, we have seen in the past few days a number of people who are in Trump's orbit, in his inner circle, very influential with him, personally talking about this idea of a deep state trying to undermine the President.
Newt Gingrich, Sean Hannity, David Bossie, his political adviser, all of them have brought this up. And that's no coincidence when you have all of these top advisers suggesting this totally baseless accusation that there is a strain of the government that is unanswerable to the President. It's possible that the President himself believes that, as well.
BLITZER: What's your reaction to that because you used to be in that intelligence community?
PRESTON: You are the deep state, Mudd.
MUDD: I'm going to have a heart attack. Last I checked, the Executive Branch works for the President of the United States. He seemed to have forgotten that. I would ask one logical question. If you believe, which is fraudulent - if you believe there is a deep state intercepting the President's communications to the White House presumably they're doing that to embarrass the President of the United States. So, if they intercepted communications, the conversation with Comey, presumably someone would release it. If they're intercepting all this embarrassing stuff and they want to embarrass the President, where the heck is it? Why are they doing this and why haven't they disseminate? It makes no sense.
BLITZER: You've been doing some excellent reporting, Dana, with your colleagues on the two top leaders - at least two of the top leaders in the U.S. Intelligence Community what they've been saying privately behind closed-doors to Mueller.
BASH: Look, and it's all part of the same - it all stems from the same notion of a President of the United States desperate to get out to the public the idea that he is not being investigated. And I along with Evan Perez and Manu Raju were told that in private briefings, classified briefings, both in the Senate and also with the special prosecutors team, the DNI, Dan Coats and the head of NSA, Mike Rogers, said in private what they couldn't say in public in that very awkward contentious testimony a couple of weeks ago which is talked about their conversations with the President, and the gist is that the President asked them each in different - in different times to come out in public and say that there's no there there with this investigation. They said that they felt it was odd, it was strange, but they didn't feel pressured. But these are conversations that are going on that really do speak to a very big problem with the President's temperament.
[17:54:38] BLITZER: All right. Everyone standby. Good reporting indeed. Thanks very much for that. Six weeks after he dropped a stunning hint about secret White House recordings, the veiled threat potentially to James Comey, President Trump now admits he made no tapes of his talks with the fired FBI Director.
BLITZER: Happening now, breaking news. No recordings. President Trump finally ends the mystery he's been fueling for weeks. He says he did not tape his conversations with James Comey despite hinting that he had. What could that mean for the special counsel's investigation.
Blaming U.S. Intel. Mr. Trump says it's still possible that someone secretly recorded his talks with Comey. What's he hoping to accomplish by suggesting he might be under surveillance? Dead on arrival. Senate Republican leaders end the secrecy and unveiled their version of the health care bill. But hours later, conservative opposition is threatening to derail the legislation.