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Pushback Against GOP Health Plan; Trump: No Comey Tapes. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired June 23, 2017 - 04:00   ET



[04:00:10] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think that they'll probably get there. We'll have to see. You know, health care is a very difficult situation.


DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: President Trump calling for holdout Republicans to get behind the Senate's health care plan. Can the party build support after the bill was met with some early pushback?


JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: I've seen the tweet about tweets. Lordy, I hope there are tapes.


ALISON KOSIK, CNN ANCHOR: Well, sorry to disappoint you, Director Comey. President Trump says he did not record Oval Office conversations before firing the FBI director. But is it too late for Trump to reverse the damage?

Good morning and welcome to EARLY START. I'm Alison Kosik, sitting in for Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: Happy Friday, my friend.

I'm Dave Briggs. It is the 23rd of June, 4:00 a.m. in the East.

There's a sense of deja vu for Republicans this morning. Only this time it's not the House trying to hammer out a deal to repeal and replace Obamacare, it is the Senate, working to balance the demands of both moderates and conservatives as GOP leaders attempt to get a health care bill passed in just a matter of days. The version unveiled by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell now meeting pushback from the rank and file with just two Republican votes to spare, four senators say no. They can't support it right now. Four more say they have concerns.

KOSIK: And then we've got ten other Republicans refusing to commit, saying they want time to review a bill that was under lock and key until yesterday. And, of course, the entire Democratic Caucus is totally opposed.

On the policy front, the Senate bill mostly mirrors the House version. But there are some key changes. More on those in a moment.

Let's begin with our coverage with CNN's Ryan Nobles.


RYAN NOBLES, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Alison and Dave, good morning from Capitol Hill where senators haven't really had all that much time to digest this 142-page bill. But if the early reviews are any indication, this is going to have a difficult time being passed and being passed quickly.

Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, could have a problem on both sides of the political spectrum. There's a group of moderate senators voicing concerns about the bill. This group already a little queasy after the House bill that was passed from a month ago. He also has a problem on the far right, as well, as a group of four Republican senators have said that they cannot support the bill in its current fashion. Among them, Senators Rand Paul and Ted Cruz.

SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: You have to -- you have to be honest with people, and it has to be paid for. So, if we're not going to pay for it and we're going to keep a lot of stuff that was in Obamacare, I think we can do better than this. My hope is not to defeat the bill but to make the bill better.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: It's not enough just to pass a bill that has Obamacare repeal in the title. We've got to actually have legislation that fixes the underlying problem.

The key to getting an agreement, to getting a bill can pass is we need common sense reforms in the bill that lower the cost of premiums.

NOBLES: Now, this group of four conservative senators have said that they are willing to negotiate on this bill. But the timeline here is very brief. We have yet to hear from the Congressional Budget Office. They're expecting to weigh in sometime at the beginning of next week.

But Mitch McConnell has said that he wants the bill passed before the Fourth of July recess. If you look at the calendar, that likely means that this bill needs to head to the floor sometime before next Friday if they have any realistic possibility of getting it passed before they head home for summer break.

Alison and Dave, back to you.


BRIGGS: Ryan Nobles, thank you, sir.

From a policy standpoint, the Senate Republicans' bill largely lines up with the House version passed back in May, but there are some important differences. First, the Senate bill provides funds to stabilize the Obamacare exchange market during transition years, including key subsidies for insurers.

KOSIK: And on the pre-existing conditions, the Senate version requires insurers to cover those patients, but it also allows states to seek waivers so insurers can offer less comprehensive policies. So, that means people with pre-existing conditions may not be able to buy or afford policies that cover all the care that they need like mental health services or prescription drugs.

BRIGGS: The Senate bill also eliminates the rule requiring everyone to have insurance, the mandate. But unlike the House bill, it would not levy a 30 percent surcharge on people who let their coverage lapse.

KOSIK: Now, many Senate provisions are the same as the House bill. Children covered on their parents' plan until age 26 eliminating the requirement for large employers to offer affordable coverage to their workers, and zeroing out Planned Parenthood funding for one year.

BRIGGS: Where's the president on all this? Well, the White House says it will play a part in hammering out the final health care plan after President Trump has mostly stayed out of the Senate's work thus far.

KOSIK: OK. Now as to whether the White House can get reluctant members to sign on, here's what President Trump had to say.

[04:05:04] Listen.


TRUMP: I think that they'll probably get there. We'll have to see. You know, health care's a very difficult situation. If you look, the Clintons tried to get it. And after years and years, they couldn't do it.

Obamacare was murder for them to get, and now, it's failed. It's virtually out of business. Obamacare is a disaster. We're trying to do something in a short period of time.


KOSIK: And Obamacare's namesake also weighing in on this. President Obama posting a statement on Facebook saying this: The Senate bill unveiled today is not a health care bill. Simply put, if there's a chance you might get sick, get old, or start a family, this bill will do you harm. And small tweaks over the course of the next couple of weeks under the guise of making these bills easier to stomach cannot change the fundamental meanness at the core of this legislation.

BRIGGS: Meanwhile, President Trump's self-inflicted scandal ending where it began -- with no tapes of the president's one on one with then-FBI Director James Comey. After weeks of teasing the next episode, the president made the big reveal on Twitter, naturally, with more than a dash of blamed deflection.

Quote: 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."

KOSIK: Translation: never mind his May 12th tweet out of nowhere that said this: James Comey better hope that there are no tapes of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press.

All right. So, we all want to know why the big reveal now. Well, a senior administration official tells CNN it became clear the president had to come clean before a congressional deadline to hand over Comey tapes if they exist. And that deadline was today. The official says the president has been amused by all the obsession that the media has had over the tapes. But another says the president told CNN this -- if he doesn't regret this, he should.

For more, let's bring in CNN's Athena Jones from the White House.



The president finally answered a question we've been asking for 41 days, but his tweets saying he did not make and does not have any recordings of his conversations with James Comey raised questions, questions that still haven't been answered.

During the off-camera press briefing, White House Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders repeatedly said things like the president's tweet speaks for itself or the president's been perfectly clear about this or about that, when that is not at all the case.

For one thing, the president's tweet denying that he has tapes seems to suggest that someone else might. That he might be being surveilled. That's an idea that Sanders dismissed.

What still isn't clear is why the president sent that tweet out in the first place. Many viewed it as an attempt to threaten Comey. Was it? Or was it an attempt to make sure that Comey spoke truthfully about his conversations with the president?

Sara Huckabee Sanders was asked that very question and didn't give a very clear answer. So, still, more questions about why the president decided to go this route -- Alison, Dave.


BRIGGS: Athena Jones, thank you.

If Trump's tweet was an attempt to intimidate Comey, it seems to have come back to haunt the president. Earlier this month, Comey testified he quickly realized recordings could support his side of what happened between the two in the Oval Office. Comey later had a friend leak his detailed memos to a reporter which, of course, set off a series of events that led to Robert Mueller's appointment to head up the Russia probe. KOSIK: OK. President Trump weighing in and refusing to give the

special counsel a vote of confidence.


INTERVIEWER: Should he recuse himself?

TRUMP: Well, he's very, very good friends with Comey which is very bothersome, but he's also -- we're going to have to see. I mean, we're going to have to see in terms -- look, there has been no obstruction. There has been no collusion. There has been leaking by Comey. But there's been no collusion, no obstruction, and virtually everybody agrees to that. So, we'll have to see.


KOSIK: CNN the first to report the House Intelligence Committee planning to interview former Hillary Clinton campaign manager John Podesta next week as part of its investigation into Russian meddling, emails leaked from Podesta's hacked account caused major headaches for the Clinton camp in the heat of the 2016 election.

BRIGGS: House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi brushing off grumbling from within her party declaring she has broad support among House Democrats. But some of those colleagues were meeting behind closed doors to discuss forcing her out.

New York Congresswoman Kathleen Rice, who went public calling for Pelosi's ouster this week, hosted a dozen Democrats to strategize.

[04:10:04] But a defiant Pelosi making it clear she's not going anywhere.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), MINORITY LEADER: I think I'm worth the trouble, quite frankly. I love the fray. I know I'm not disrespectful of people's views. I respect any opinion that my members have. But my decision about how long I stay is not up to them.


BRIGGS: Congresswoman Rice admitted to CNN, part of the problem is no one has emerged as an alternative to Pelosi. Criticism of the Democratic leader has mounted as Democrats have lost special elections in the House, four straight.

KOSIK: All right. The highly anticipated Fed stress test is in. Turns out Wall Street banks are healthy, but could proposals by the White House put that in jeopardy? Early start on your moey comes up next.


KOSIK: And the Federal Reserve releasing its first round of yearly tests for banks. The result -- Wall Street is really, really healthy. The 34 biggest U.S. banks including Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, and Citigroup, the results found could all withstand another financial crisis.

[04:15:08] And that includes really harsh conditions like 10 percent unemployment, plummeting housing prices, and a severe recession in Europe. The Fed's annual stress test began after the financial crisis. They ensure that banks can cover the type of losses that we all saw in 2008.

The goal here is to avoid another taxpayer-funded payout. All the banks passed for a third year in a row. They even have a birth cushion of capital than last year. That will fuel calls for the Trump administration to scrap banking regulations, especially those that the president says wind up suppressing lending.

However, supporters of the current rules say healthy banks are proof that the regulations are working. And 2016 was actually a banner year for American banks. They hit record profits and shareholder payouts reached a whopping record close to $102 billion with a "B", Dave.

BRIGGS: Boy, that's an intriguing debate as we move forward.

To sports, the NBA draft in the books. No surprise at number one. The Philadelphia 76ers using the top pick on Markelle Fultz. The Sixers once again hope the top pick on a point guard will turn around the franchise. The fourth straight year they've had a top-five pick. Don't hold your breath.

Minutes later, with the second pick, the L.A. Lakers taking UCLA guard Lonzo Ball, and his dad like clockwork ball, outspoken father LaVar, stealing the spotlight from his son. LaVar Ball bragged Lonzo will help lead the Lakers to the playoffs in his first season. Lakers' coach Luke Walton saying the bold prediction will only make Ball's rookie year more challenging. Oh, dad.

At number three, the Celtics snagging duke standout Jason Tatum. Boston had the number-one pick but traded down with the Sixers in exchange for a future first rounder. A major trade going down as the Chicago Bulls shipping all-star Jimmy Butler to the Timberwolves in exchange for guard Zach Levine and Chris Dunn. The Bulls and T-Wolves watching first-round selections. Minnesota is locked and loaded for future years.

KOSIK: It's a huge event.

BRIGGS: That is a big one. Jimmy Butler should make them a contender for the next year.

KOSIK: All right. Iraq officials say Mosul may be liberated from ISIS soon. But what gives them confidence and what could stand in the way of coalition forces? We are live in the Mideast.


[04:21:53] BRIGGS: Iraq's prime minister expressing confidence that ISIS will be pushed out of Mosul within days. Haider al Abadi says ISIS effectively declared its own defeat by blowing up mosque's historic al-Nuri mosque. Still, Iraqi troops are trying to contain the remaining ISIS fighters in the old part of the city.

Jomana Karadsheh live in Amman, Jordan, with the latest.

Good morning to you, Jomana.


As we heard from the Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, he is saying that they will announce victory and the liberation of Mosul in the next few days. We have heard this sort of optimism from Iraqi officials in the past. If you recall last year, the Iraqis were expecting to have Mosul back by the end of 2016, but that hasn't happened.

This has been a very slow, long, and bloody battle to recapture Mosul. If we look at what is left of the city -- as you mention, it is the old part of the city. That's a fraction of Iraq's second largest city. They have liberated the majority of Mosul.

But what is left is a very complex urban environment where these troops have to fight to recapture what is left. This old city with its very narrow streets and alleyways, it's very difficult for troops to move with their vehicles. They have to dismount. They have to move on foot.

And they will be meeting resistance not just in terms of ISIS fighters and snipers, but we're talking about booby traps and car bombs that ISIS has managed to plant. We've heard from the Iraqi federal police earlier today saying they have their EOD teams on the ground trying to dismantle some of these bombs. They are finding them along the way.

And, of course, the biggest concern is for the civilian population, there are all sorts of estimates, somewhere between 100,000 to 150,000 civilians, about half of them children, essentially being used as human shields by ISIS in that part of the city as we enter what could be the bloodiest phase of this fight, Dave.

BRIGGS: Jomana, thank you.

KOSIK: There's a remarkable record apparently set in the battle for Mosul -- a Canadian sharpshooter set a record by hitting an ISIS fighter from more than two miles away. The Canadian special operations command confirming the sniper took the shot from a high position, and that nearly ten seconds elapsed from trigger to target. Canada's "Globe and Mail" first reported this, reported the shot, saying it disrupted an ISIS attack. Officials wouldn't disclose details. There are some skeptics who doubt the shot. But "The Globe and Mail" says the kill was independently verified by video and other data.

BRIGGS: That is unbelievable. All right. U.S. military experts are reviewing data this morning

after a North Korean rocket engine test. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un personally gave the command to fire the new engine. Defense officials telling CNN the military is not sure if this is a new type of engine that could potentially be used on an intercontinental ballistic missile or the upper stage of a space launch vehicle.

[04:25:02] Meanwhile, U.S. and Japanese military revealing this morning that the second test of a defensive intercept missile fired from Hawaii missed its dummy target. The first test was a success. Both Japan and the U.S. stopped short of calling the miss a failure.

KOSIK: OK, the Senate's Republican leader says it's time to get the Obamacare repeal done.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER: We've been discussing all the elements of this endlessly for seven years. Everybody will have an adequate time to take a look at it.


KOSIK: But is one week really adequate time? We're going to look at the proposal and the pushback within his own party, next.



TRUMP: I think that they'll probably get there. We'll have to see. You know, health care is a very difficult situation.


KOSIK: President Trump calling for holdout Republicans to get behind the Senate's health care plan. Can the parties build support after the bill was met with early pushback?


COMEY: I've seen the tweet about tweets. Lordy, I hope there are tapes.