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Senate Healthcare Bill Faces Growing Opposition; Trump: Obama Did 'Nothing' About Russia Election Meddling. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired June 26, 2017 - 07:00   ET

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


REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I think that was some kind of a misinterpretation of -- of a private meeting.

[07:00:09] MALVEAUX: A major point of contention: the 11 million Americans insured under Obamacare's Medicaid expansion, which faces deep cuts under the Senate bill, despite the president's promise not to cut the program.

TRUMP: Save Medicare, Medicare and Social Security without cuts.

GOV. JOHN KASICH (R), OHIO: Over a ten-year period Medicaid funding will be significantly curtailed, and not accompanied at this point with the kind of flexibility we need.

MALVEAUX: Kellyanne Conway insisting otherwise.

KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO DONALD TRUMP: These are not cuts to Medicaid, George. This slows the rate for the future, and it allows governors more flexibility with Medicaid dollars.

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: I respectfully disagree with her analysis. I'm very concerned about the cost of insurance for older people with serious chronic illnesses.

MALVEAUX: It's a race against the clock, with Congress going on recess this Friday. Will they vote before then?

SEN. RON JOHNSON (R), WISCONSIN: I would like to delay the thing. There's no way we should be voting on this next week, no way.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MALVEAUX: The healthcare effort was a big part of a conversation over the weekend, a very important retreat that was hosted, sponsored by the conservative mega donors, the Koch brothers, and their political network. The leaders of that network very critical of this legislation, saying that both the House and the Senate versions do not meet their goals, Brianna.

KEILAR: All right. Suzanne Malveaux, with criticism all around there on Capitol Hill, President Trump is lashing out against President Obama for, quote, doing nothing to stop Russia's interference in the 2016 election. And he's blasting his former rival, too.

CNN's Joe Johns live at the White House with the latest. JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Good morning,

Brianna.

President Trump in an interview, as well as in tweets, essentially the very same person raising doubts about Russia meddling in the last election, now raising questions about President Obama's response to it and accusing him of doing nothing about it.

These statements coming at a time the president just issued tweets suggesting, among other things, that the Democratic National Committee engaged in a "big dim hoax" by declining protection from hacking from the Department of Homeland Security.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I just heard today for the first time that Obama knew about Russia a long time before the election, and he did nothing about it, but nobody wants to talk about that. The question is, if he had the information, why didn't he do something about it?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JOHNS: Now, this is very much a revised take on an election where candidate Trump, at some times, seemed to be encouraging Russia at one point, going as far as to get the call in that country to find thousands of deleted Hillary Clinton e-mails.

It comes also after a report in "The Washington Post" suggesting that President Obama had struggled to come up with the right response to the Russian meddling in the last election, especially given the fact that he was concerned about being perceived as trying to tip the election in Hillary Clinton's favor.

Today, we do expect to see the president here at the White House in a meeting with the Indian prime minister.

Chris and Brianna, back to you.

CUOMO: Joe, appreciate it. Lots to discuss. Let's bring in the CNN political panel. We've got analysts Ron Brownstein and Michael Shear; and senior policy correspondent for Vox Media, Sarah Kliff.

So Ron Brownstein, do you think there's a vote? Do you think they can pass it as soon as this or next week?

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Look, you never make money betting against Mitch McConnell. But this is very difficult, because I think they are pushing to the absolute maximum the tension between the two poles of the Republican coalition.

On the one hand, you have a bill that has a trillion dollars in tax cuts, 60 percent of which goes to the top 10 percent, the high earners who are the core of their financial coalition.

On the other hand, you have a Republican voter base that is increasingly centered on blue-collar and older whites. And if you look at the interactive map that the Kaiser Family Foundation has put up about what this will do to premiums in some of the classic blue- collar counties around the country: Macomb County in Michigan; Lackawanna, Washington and Westmoreland in Pennsylvania; Lorain County in Ohio.

You're talking about premiums doubling for 60-year-olds at modest income. And that doesn't -- that's even before you get to the Medicaid cuts, which would disproportionately hurt many of the interior, rural, working-class states struggling with the opioid epidemic, including Ohio and West Virginia, who have Republican senators.

So they are really pushing to the max here, and it is just unclear to me whether they can get there. Historically, you -- I talked to a Democratic senator last night who said you would never bet against Mitch McConnell and this kind of thing, but they do have the problem with the boat leaking at both ends, right? With the conservatives saying it doesn't go far enough and the moderates saying it goes too far.

[07:05:05] KEILAR: And Sarah, that's why the cold, hard numbers are so important here. We're waiting to see if the Congressional Budget Office releases its math today. What effect is that going to have on, really, the perception of this bill by Republicans who have their concerns?

SARAH KLIFF, SENIOR POLICY CORRESPONDENT, VOX MEDIA: So I think the CBO report, which we could see as soon as this afternoon, it will show millions losing coverage. We don't know if it will be as many as the House.

But we are certainly talking about a situation where millions fewer people have coverage than under current law, under the Affordable Care Act staying intact. I think for the more moderate senators, the Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowskis of the world, this could be a challenging report to navigate. And I think they are going to have to make some decisions about how much coverage loss are they OK with. This is a question senators get a lot. And they usually kind of demur. They don't want to give you a number, saying, "I'd be OK with 'X' number of people losing coverage." But that is a decision that is going to face senators this week as they think about their vote on this bill.

CUOMO: All right. So time to do an important part of our job, because the health and human services secretary did just that, Sarah. He did put a number on it. He said no one will lose coverage and that premiums won't increase. And then Kellyanne Conway went a step further. Here's what she said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CONWAY: These are not cuts to Medicaid, George. This slows the rate for the future, and it allows governors more flexibility with Medicaid dollars, because they're closest to the people in need.

If you are currently in Medicaid, if you became a Medicaid recipient through the Obamacare expansion, you are grandfathered in. We're talking about in the future.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: Michael Shear, what do you make of all that?

MICHAEL SHEAR, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, look, that's an interesting comment by Kellyanne Conway. Because it -- it makes it -- it shows that it's plain that the kinds of promises that this White House wants to make are inconsistent with the actual bill itself. And -- and, you know, it shows how difficult it is for this White House to navigate the kinds of things that Sarah and Ron were talking about.

This is a difficult, complicated piece of legislation. And when you're out there making promises that ultimately aren't going to be -- aren't going to be kept because it's impossible to see that people, you know, some number of people won't lose coverage. Not only does it pose difficulty for actually passing it, but if it were to pass in the future, that -- those kinds of comments can come back to the White House in the form of political anger from constituencies that -- that have been led to believe one thing and now find themselves in a different situation.

KEILAR: Let's turn to Russia now, because this is something that Donald Trump is now acknowledging, that there was this meddling in the election, Ron, but when he finally acknowledges that there was Russian meddling, he is blaming President Obama, blaming the Obama administration, talking to Democrats. There is criticism of the Obama administration on this, but is this where the focus should be?

BROWNSTEIN: I mean, this is just head spinning. First of all, to say that -- the president to say that he just learned that President Obama knew about this -- the intelligence committee put out a joint statement in October before the election pointing to Russian meddling in the election and in the intrusion into the Podesta and DNC e-mails. I mean, it is not hard to imagine.

KEILAR: And a definitive report in January, we should say, as well...

BROWNSTEIN: In January.

KEILAR: ... a long, definitive intelligence report.

CUOMO: He's been getting briefings for months and months about this. So it's not new. You're right, Ron.

BROWNSTEIN: Right. You can -- and you can say that President Obama should have done more. Certainly, there are many people on both sides of the aisle who, you know, are kind of looking back would say that. But to say they did nothing is not exactly right either. Because certainly, you know, all the reporting is he talked directly to President Putin at the AIPAC meeting. They were focused primarily on the question of interference in the actual election tally, the voter registration and those kinds of questions. That seemed to be their principle focus.

And let's not forget that all of this reporting also shows that, at the critical moment in September of 2016, when they went to the Congress and were looking for a bipartisan kind of commitment to, you know, have a robust response, the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, basically threw cold water on it and said he didn't even believe the -- you know, was not convinced by the underlying evidence.

So the idea that Obama was feckless alone and faced no political constraints, much less what he might have faced from candidate Trump, I think is revisionist history of the highest order.

CUOMO: Well, there's certainly going to be blame to go around. Because you remember, Sarah, you have to cut this against the urgency the Democrats have right now. So it is a good political salvo to look back and say, "Boy, the Democrats are so into it now. Obama didn't seem that into it then."

However -- however, Trump is the president now. President Donald Trump. He has to own this, doesn't he? And the spin is, well, we're not going to tell you what we're going to do about it, because that would make it less effective. Which is, I guess, code for they could be doing something about it, just not saying anything about it. There's no indication of that.

[07:10:07] KLIFF: Yes, I think it kind of speaks to how polarized the media is right now and how it's very easy to get whatever side of the story you're interested in believing. And I think you see President Trump taking advantage of the fact he can talk about one narrative; Democrats can be talking about a completely different one. And there will be a lot of people who will kind of tune into the side that they're interested in. It is very easy right now to confirm kind of a story line that you want to confirm.

And I think that is something that folks on both sides of the aisle, the Democrats and the Republicans, they really struggle with how do we get this message across to people who aren't kind of typically tuning in to our interviews and our floor speeches?

KEILAR: What do you think, Michael, about this tweet that we've seen from President Trump, where he's accusing Hillary Clinton of colluding with the DNC? I think some people say the DNC definitely had a preference here. Even if there was collusion, let's say, he's putting this up against the concept of collusion as we have heard people use it to raise concerns about what happened with Trump campaign officials and associates. What do you make of that?

SHEAR: Well, I think there's two things that are really interesting about the last 24 hours of tweets. One is the very sophisticated way that he uses the word "collusion," as you just mentioned, right?

It's not an accidental word. He's trying to do a kind of equivalency with the kinds of collusion that people are investigating in the Russia case. And as Sarah said, it kind of mixes up the narratives.

But I think also the other thing to think about on his tweets on Russia in the last -- you know, the last day or so, is that it shows what we've always known about his tweets, which is that he reacts in the moment to something he's read, something he's seen on CNN. And there's no attempt to be consistent. Right? He'll say whatever

is his sort of gut reaction and he thinks is the proper thing in the moment. So when "The Washington Post" runs its story, he says, "Wow, wow, I just found out about that" when, in fact, as Ron said, it's impossible to believe that he just found out about it. But he thought, in the moment that he wrote the tweet, that that was the thing that was going to make, you know, sort of for the good political hit at that moment. And so, you know, that's the way he uses Twitter. It's very much in the moment.

CUOMO: So Ron, we do know that the president watches the show. So we'll give him a little bit of free Brownstein advice. Any of the stuff that's going on right now, does it help with his most formidable re-election challenge, which is growing his base? He can blame Obama all he wants. It certainly resonates with the base, but does it help him grow?

BROWNSTEIN: Look, I think this -- I think the health care thing actually raises the question of whether you are eroding the base. Historically, Republicans have held together a coalition that aims its economic policy primarily at people at the top, has its cultural and kind of racial policy for lower, middle-income and older whites. But this bill pushes that to the max, because it so starkly divides the costs and the benefits of the legislation.

And one of the things that made President Trump a different kind of Republican, to use that old phrase, you know, that Bill Clinton used, a different kind of Democrat, was that he promised that he would protect Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid.

And, you know, this is something that is much closer to what Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell and many of the conservatives in the Congress have wanted to do. He is going along.

And by the way, one quick final point, the argument from Kellyanne Conway that, you know, this is not a cut. This is restraining future growth. That was the argument of Newt Gingrich about Medicare in 1994 and 1995 when they shut down the government. They didn't win it then. It's very hard to win it now.

There will be millions of people who lose access to Medicaid under this. Whatever you call it, it is a radical retrenchment of the program that goes beyond undoing what the Affordable Care Act did to change the underlying nature of Medicaid in a way that would make it a much smaller role in the provision of health care in the country.

KEILAR: Very important point there. Ron Brownstein, Sarah and Michael, thank you so much to all of you for that talk.

The Senate Democrats are saying that the Senate GOP healthcare bill is a killer, but what can they do to even stop it if they want to? We're going to ask Senator Tammy Baldwin next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) [07:18:15] SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), MINORITY LEADER: It kills the middle class and gives money to the wealthy.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I), VERMONT: Thousands of people will die.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: Senate Democrats have a pretty basic message when it comes to the healthcare bill, whether you look at the House or current Senate vision. And it is, it is a danger to you. The question is, what can the Democrats do to stop it?

Let's discuss with Democratic Senator Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin. Senator, a pleasure.

SEN. TAMMY BALDWIN (D), WISCONSIN: It's a pleasure to join you.

CUOMO: What is the response? You're out there; you're messaging. But at the end of the day, if it comes down to numbers, are the Democrats relegated to sitting and watching?

BALDWIN: Well, first of all, health care is deeply personal. For me I was a child who had a very serious illness and then was labeled as a kid with a pre-existing condition. My grandparents who raised me couldn't find insurance at any price for a large part of my youth.

And I know my story is replicated by thousands upon thousands of Wisconsinites, millions upon millions of Americans. It is deeply personal. And part of what we have been doing in exposing what the House passed and now what was revealed in the Senate is engaging the voice of the American people. Because that's really the only thing.

What can Democrats do in the minority in the House, the minority in the Senate? We don't have the presidency. It has engaged the American people in speaking out about this. And boy, we can tell our colleagues are hearing.

CUOMO: On the Republican side?

BALDWIN: On both sides. But certainly, what's key right now, since they've used these extraordinary procedures so that they only have to pass it with 51 votes in the Senate rather than the usual 60 votes...

CUOMO: Right, 60.

BALDWIN: That's what's so critical. We've had a number of Republican senators expressing serious misgivings over the weekend. I applaud them. We've got to -- we've not only got to take on this fight with everything we have; we've got to win.

CUOMO: You think you can -- you think you can forestall a vote, or do you think there's going to be a vote before the recess?

BALDWIN: You know, I don't know what Mitch McConnell's plans are going to be. Delay doesn't make this bill any better. It still -- we'll hear from the CBO the difference between the House and the Senate. But the House bill predicts 23 million Americans will lose their health insurance in the next decade.

And then the Medicaid cuts, which are worse in the Senate bill than they are in the House in their cumulative effect, it impacts rural health. It impacts people who have loved ones in nursing homes and then the weakening of protections for people with pre-existing conditions is devastating to, you know, a huge swath of the American people.

CUOMO: So respond to what we're hearing from the other side. Because you have the health and human services secretary, Tom Price, who says premiums aren't going to go down on the whole; and no one is going to lose coverage. And then Kellyanne Conway said this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CONWAY: These are not cuts to Medicaid, George. This slows the rate for the future, and it allows governors more flexibility with Medicaid dollars, because they're closest to the people in need.

If you are currently in Medicaid, if you became a Medicaid recipient through the Obamacare expansion, you are grandfathered in. We're talking about in the future.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: Are you grandfathered in? Is this just reducing the rate of growth in Medicaid?

BALDWIN: You know, it's about affordability. And if -- if they change the formula, as they're proposing to do in the Senate bill, and you can't keep up, then it means insurance and health care is unaffordable to you.

Our goal ought to be on a bipartisan basis to make health insurance more affordable to more Americans. What the Senate bill and the House bill does is go exactly in the opposite direction.

And as some of your previous guests have noted, transfers resources from low and middle-income people who are being helped pay for their premiums to the ultra-rich, who are getting tax breaks of enormous proportions.

CUOMO: You know, I understand the arguments I think Democrats are making. I have a question. Maybe it's a tactical question more than substantive question. But you know that the main driver here, no matter what we're hearing in terms of policy, is the Republicans promised a repeal of the ACA.

Everybody knows that the ACA has a lot of individual marketplace issues that need to be addressed. Some are because states didn't accept the expansion. There are a lot of different reasons, but you have problems. OK?

They're going to repeal it if there's any way that they can. That's the promise they have to make good on. I don't hear the Democrats approaching that reality. That let's see if we can somehow negotiate something that's going to happen. It's going to repeal. They have the votes. It's just a question of what it takes for them to get there. It might not happen, but there's a very good fight. I don't hear Democrats engaging on that level of trying to negotiate some type of fix, to help the Republicans get what they want.

BALDWIN: I talk about this all the time. What we need to do is fix the Affordable Care Act, not scrap the Affordable Care Act. And they would have willing partners the day that they stop the partisan nonsense of trying to repeal something nicknamed after the former president and started working to advance affordable health care for the American people.

CUOMO: Couldn't you repeal the current pricing models in some of the individual markets and some of these certain conditions that the providers have to meet? Repeal them and then replace them with something that works better that's negotiated? Isn't that something that could make both sides happy?

BALDWIN: Two -- two things. One is the disruptions right now in the marketplace that are being reported are really of Trump's making. His threatening to withhold the cost-sharing responsibility payments is enormously disruptive. And frankly, what could be more disruptive than saying, "We're going to repeal the whole health care law?"

That said, getting -- keeping costs down is something we can work together on. One of the big burdens that many deal with right now is the high cost of prescription drugs.

I've teamed up with John McCain to introduce a measure that would add accountability and transparency to this market so we can rein in these prices. There are other price and competition issues that we can absolutely deal with together on a bipartisan basis. But they have got to renounce this partisan nonsense to repeal, and let's work to fix what's wrong.

[07:25:03] CUOMO: That's a big "but," though, given the current climate and the weight of that promise to repeal.

Senator, thank you very much. Tammy Baldwin, always good to have you -- Brianna.

BALDWIN: Thank you.

KEILAR: All right. Thanks, Chris.

GOP leaders are scrambling to win over wavering Republicans who are not sold on the Senate healthcare bill. How will the CBO score set to come out sway senators? We'll discuss that next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COLLIN: It's hard for me to see the bill passing this week.

SEN. RON JOHNSON (R), WISCONSIN: We don't have enough information. I don't have the feedback from constituencies who will not have had enough time to review the Senate bill. We should not be voting on this next week.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KEILAR: With growing opposition from Senate Republicans to the party's health care bill and even the speed of it, GOP leaders are facing a daunting challenge to get this passed with a vote this week. Many lawmakers also waiting for the Congressional Budget Office assessment of the bill, which could come as early as today. I want to discuss this with Republican Congressman Lee Zeldin of New York.

Sir, thank you so much for being with us. I first want to ask you about this issue of Medicaid and whether the Senate bill, which I understand you do support. You, of course, supported the House bill. I want to listen to something that Kellyanne Conway, a top advisor to President Trump, said about Medicaid cuts in this bill.