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McConnell Warns GOP to Find Deal or Lose Reforms to Dems; Trump Confidant to Testify Behind Closed Doors; Senate GOP Delays Health Care Vote Amid Opposition. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired June 28, 2017 - 09:00   ET


[09:00:06] JOHN BERMAN: Good morning, everyone. I'm John Berman.


New this morning. The President of the United States defending his own knowledge of the intricacies of health care, tweeting that he is totally gauged in the health care debate, and he wants victory for the United States.

This is all seemingly in response to "The New York Times" reporting that one Republican senator who supports the Senate health care bill, quote, left the meeting at the White House with a sense that the President did not have a grasp of some basic elements of the Senate plan.

BERMAN: So the White House has a complete grasp of the fact there will now be no healthcare vote this week. And Majority Leader Mitch McConnell? Not happy at all about that.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), KENTUCKY: Either Republicans will agree and change the status quo, or the markets will continue to collapse and we'll have to sit down with Senator Schumer. And my suspicion is that any negotiation with Democrats would include none of the reforms that we would like to make both on the market side and the Medicaid side.


BERMAN: Yes. The Majority Leader, I don't think he's too serious about option B right there. So option A, getting the votes amongst the Republicans, how's that going? CNN's M.J. Lee on Capitol Hill this morning with the latest. M.J.?

M.J. LEE, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER: Good morning, John and Poppy. Well, even though the vote was delayed yesterday, the next 48 to 72 hours will be crucial.

This is what leadership wants to do now. They want to continue having conversations with rank and file members and try to bring on board some of these no votes to get them to a yes. Now, that will involve making changes to the bill, of course.

And they want to get this done by the end of this week, and for two reasons. One, they want to make sure that they have submitted the new bill to the CBO so they get an updated score. And second, they want to have a vote as quickly as possible when members come back from the July 4th recess.

Now, I can tell you that there has been a ton of nervous energy on Capitol Hill this week from Senate Republicans who really felt like McConnell was rushing this vote. And since that announcement yesterday, a number of Republicans are coming out to say that they're feeling a little bit more hopeful that the extra time could get more of their colleagues to a yes.

Senator Ron Johnson, for example, a Republican from Wisconsin who has been very opposed to this bill, sounding a little bit more upbeat on "NEW DAY" this morning.


SEN. RON JOHNSON (R), WISCONSIN: The bottom line is we can do this but we need the information. The problem in Washington, D.C. is we talk policy absent and void of information.

And that was my problem with the process, is it started with all this policy arguments void of any information. We finally have some information, one CBO score. I think this is going to give us an awful lot of latitude to get the votes.


LEE: Now, the tough news for Mitch McConnell right now is that there are more Republicans opposed to this bill than ever before. Keep in mind, yesterday, after he made this announcement about the vote being delayed, three more Senate Republicans coming out to say that they are publicly opposed to the bill.

And what's tricky for McConnell, as well, is that we now have a mix of conservatives and moderates who have issues with this legislation. Just to give you a sampling of some of the sticking points that have some of these members unable to get to a yes right now.

Of course, Medicaid is a big issue, that members believe that the cuts to Medicaid are too deep. The CBO report that came out that showed that 22 million more people would be uninsured under this bill than under ObamaCare. Other members would like to see more funding for opioid treatment or rural hospitals. These issues are important to members like Senator Rob Portman or Shelley Moore Capito, two members that came out as brand new no's yesterday.

Others would like to see more ObamaCare regulations repealed. That is important for members like Mike Lee or Ted Cruz, for example.

And lastly, John and Poppy, I would point out, when Senate Republicans return home for the July 4th recess this coming week, they are likely to hear from a lot of angry constituents. And that might make it even harder for some of these members to get to a yes.

HARLOW: M.J. Lee, we'll be watching if they hold those hold town halls and what happens there when they're on recess. Thanks for the reporting.

Meantime, this morning, President Trump's long-time confidant, Roger Stone, is now scheduled to testify before the House Intelligence Committee next month.

BERMAN: Stone says he wanted to testify. He wanted to do it publicly about this whole thing. So what is he going to say now? Joe Johns at the White House for us. Joe?

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: John, he apparently intends to say he wasn't as plugged in in things related to Russian and hacking as a lot of people once thought.

This is one of the mysterious avenues of the Russia investigation, whether Roger Stone, an ally and confidant of President Trump, somehow had foreknowledge that damaging information was going to come out about the Hillary Clinton campaign last year, especially the e-mails of John Podesta, the campaign chairman, who appeared before the committee, as a matter of fact, just yesterday.

[09:04:56] Roger Stone putting out a statement and that statement, reading in part, I am confident that Podesta most likely repeated his lie that I knew in advance about the hacking of his e-mail, and I'm anxious to rebut this falsehood.

I'm still unhappy that my testimony will not be in public, but I believe it's more important to resolve the question of Russian collusion with the Trump campaign, which I believe was not existent.

But take a look at this timeline. August of last year, Stone said he had communicated with WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange. Then later that month, he predicted that it would soon be Podesta's time in the barrel, though Stone later said he was talking about business dealings. Then, in October, that is when he WikiLeaks started releasing the Podesta e-mails.

Here is Podesta now, after meeting the committee, essentially saying he doesn't blame the Obama administration for dropping the ball in the Russian interference.


JOHN PODESTA, FORMER CAMPAIGN CHAIRMAN, HILLARY FOR AMERICAN: I think the President and the entire administration were dealing with an unprecedented incidence of the weaponization of the fruits of Russian cyber activity, and I think they were trying to make the best judgments they could on behalf of the American people.


JOHNS: By the way, in addition to the remarks about Assange last year, the record also shows that Roger Stone had at least some communication with Guccifer 2.0, who is the hacker who's claimed credit for hacking the Democratic National Committee's e-mails. So there's a lot for Roger Stone and the House Intelligence Committee to sit down and discuss at the end of July. John and Poppy, back to you. BERMAN: Yes, behind closed doors. But you get a sense if it's

involving Roger Stone, he might find a way to make it a little bit of a circus. Joe at the White House. Thanks so much.

We want to discuss all of this, including the health care state of play, the changing state of play this morning.

Joining us, David Swerdlick, CNN political commentator, assistant editor at "The Washington Post." Salena Zito is a CNN contributor and reporter for "The Washington Examiner." And Julian Zelizer, CNN political analyst and professor at Princeton University. Thank you all for being with us.

Salena Zito, to you, the President awfully defensive this morning about how much he knows about health care. You know, there was a "New York Times" article quoting a senator saying that the senator didn't get the sense that the President had a full grasp of the details. So the President goes on Twitter this morning and says, no, I know the subject really, really well.

What's the President doing here, Salena?

SALENA ZITO, REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER: He is being reactive. You know, I mean, it's no secret that he is a consumer of news, especially "The New York Times" and our own channel right here, right? And he reacts.

Sometimes people that don't know him don't understand that it's in his head that he assumes everybody knows what he's reacting to. But, you know, he is putting a line out there. He's saying, look, I know what -- you know, I know plenty about what's going on.

I mean, you know, the sausage making is ugly and it's complicated and there's a lot of moving parts. I'm sure he doesn't know every piece of minutia.

Having said that, knowing that he is becoming a bigger part of getting these senators to come on board with the bill, he probably knows enough for negotiating tactics. And that, in essence, is what he's leading into. Look, I'm part of this, I'm making things happen.

HARLOW: Well, if you ask Susan Collins, one of the most vocal critics of the Senate GOP health care bill, the President doesn't know how to work with Congress well. Listen to what she said.


SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: This President is the first president in our history who has had neither political nor military experience. And thus, it has been a challenge to him to learn how to interact with Congress and how to push his agenda forward.


HARLOW: She was at the White House yesterday for that meeting, David Swerdlick. Is she right? Is it the President that's holding this thing up?

DAVID SWERDLICK, ASSISTANT EDITOR, THE WASHINGTON POST: Well, Poppy, the President is part of it. And I think Senator Collins' criticism, in a way, is more damning than the criticism of him that he isn't schooled on all the particular policy details because he didn't bill himself as a policy wonk when he ran for President.

He billed himself as a deal maker, so the idea that he hasn't yet ramped up to figuring out how to bring all factions within his own party together, I think, is the thing that ought to sting the White House more than this idea on policy.

But just to go back to the policy, let's remember, that going back to the health care debates of '09 and 2010, by this time in the debate, President Obama was ramping up to that September 2009 speech that he gave to a joint session of Congress. He spoke for 45 minutes about his vision of health care.

Then a few months later, he got together and went face-to-face, on camera, with Republican senators at Blair House, had that heated exchange with Senator McCain, among others, and really hashed out this issue. President Trump hasn't done anything like that, and I think that's why you're seeing some of this criticism coming from both inside and outside of his party.

[09:10:02] BERMAN: Well, and how many votes did President Obama openly win from the other party on this?




BERMAN: Zero votes.

SWERDLICK: Right. But it got the bill passed.

BERMAN: So, you know, you could argue that one way wasn't any more effective than the other. President Trump got this bill through the House of Representatives. He may very well get it through the Senate when all else is done.

And, Professor Zelizer, what was odd to me is, the President seemed defensive about something that I don't think is on him this morning. Mitch McConnell was trying to get this bill through the Senate and basically didn't want the President's help.

HARLOW: Right. He was really kept off his own plane.

BERMAN: Exactly. He was kept out of this, like, intentionally. You know, "The New York Times" this morning has got a headline on Mitch McConnell. It says, "McConnell's Reputation as a Master Tactician Takes a hit." You know, he is the guy who tried to thread the needle here, and so far, couldn't. JULIAN ZELIZER, PROFESSOR OF HISTORY AND PUBLIC AFFAIRS, PRINCETON

UNIVERSITY: Right. So Senator McConnell was unable to do something beyond the obstructionist role that he's played for most of his career. He couldn't put a coalition together for legislation.

There's a problem with the legislation. It's not simply Trump. It's not simply McConnell. But there are problems with the bill that are causing senators like Collins to say, I can't vote for this.

And finally, I think what's making Republicans uneasy is not the President's acumen, but the fact he goes back and forth. Calling the House bill mean. Yesterday, saying it's OK if it wouldn't pass. When you have to make a big vote, that's not what you want to hear on Capitol Hill from the President of your own party.

HARLOW: But also looking at Democrats, talking about obstructionists in this, Salena Zito, to you, at the same time, you don't exactly have Democrats raising their hand, saying we're going to jump in here, we're going to massage this because you have parts of ObamaCare that are severely broken.

ZITO: Right. I mean, you know, there are senators -- I would say, every Democratic senator probably has plenty of constituents that are unhappy with how ObamaCare has impacted either their bottom line or the fact that they lost their doctor or they lost the coverage that they originally had.

I mean, this is what you get when government gets into healthcare. There are people that are unhappy with ObamaCare. There's going to be people that are unhappy with whatever comes out of this process right now. Nothing about this is ever going to be smooth and perfect because there's all different kinds of lives that are impacted in all different kinds of ways.

I mean, you have states like Kentucky and Tennessee, Iowa, they only have one choice. They don't even have a competitive market there. There's only one insurer left. So we have got a broad amount of problems with either choice.

BERMAN: I want to shift gears, if I can, to Roger Stone, the political, sometimes outside, adviser to the President, someone who has been a colorful person in the, you know, political world for decades and decades.

David Swerdlick, he will testify behind closed doors on the Russia investigation. But I have a sense that with Roger Stone, nothing is going to stay behind closed doors, David.

SWERDLICK: Yes. Well, one thing that has set Roger Stone apart from some of the other people either being investigated or in the orbit of the various congressional and Special Counsel investigations is that, at every opportunity, Stone has gone out there and said that he wants to tell his story.

He's not shying away from cameras or from the press. He wants to testify publicly. But beyond that, I think he's in the same bucket that a lot of the

other figures are, in the sense that we don't know yet if any laws were broken or what he did know or didn't know with regard to Russian meddling in the election. And I think that's what the House Intelligence Committee is going to try and find out, but they're going to do it behind closed doors.

HARLOW: So a little bit odd story, but intriguing this morning. "TIME Magazine" is asking for multiple Trump golf courses to take these images -- I think we have them -- off the wall. These are essentially fake "TIME Magazines" covers with the President on it.

Salena, to you, you tweeted about this and you wrote one word, "sigh." What do you mean?

ZITO: Well, my kids played baseball when they were little. They would get these photos taken, right? They're holding the bat and then, when you would get them back and you could order these magazine covers.

HARLOW: Right.

ZITO: So it would be like, you know, it would say, you have like a 500 average, and, you know, you're the biggest hitter in baseball history, right? And to me, when I saw that, that was sort of the equivalent of that, right?

Like, you know, it's silly that it was done. But nonetheless, you know, this guy is a marketer. This is what he does. I'm not surprised. It's also silly, I think, that such a big deal was made about it.

BERMAN: I think David Fahrenthold, though, was just, to his credit, just pointing out --

HARLOW: Just pointing it out.

BERMAN: -- you know, that it was everywhere. And it was a little more than the sort of the grandfather of the year type of "TIME Magazine" --

HARLOW: It wasn't exactly that.

BERMAN: -- you know, that's everywhere. You know, Julian Zelizer, there were like other details on it that made it seem -- and we don't know this, you know, if the President was trying to make it seem like it was real or not, but --

HARLOW: We don't even know who did it.

ZELIZER: Yes. I mean, it's one of those silly stories that points to something bigger about the presidency.

[09:15:01] And it's a question about the manipulation of information and the crafting of fact that gets to the heart of the Trump presidency. And it's a concern for many people on both sides of the aisle. And I think that's why this story gained some steam.

BERMAN: And really Kate (inaudible), I mean, what did she think about all of this and she was --


HARLOW: I believe she won --

BERMAN: Well, she did at one point --

HARLOW: The "Titanic?"

BERMAN: Did she win for "Titanic?"

HARLOW: I have no idea.

BERMAN: I'll never let go to that. Never letting go.

HARLOW: Moving on, thank you all very much, David Swerdlick, Salena Zito, and Julian Zelizer.

Still to come, we are talking to one of those Republican senators who were at the White House meeting with the president yesterday, he is optimistic. He thinks they can get to 50 votes by the end of this week.

BERMAN: Plus U.S. military ships an aircraft ready to strike Syria if the president orders it. They are watching for any new moves by the Syrians toward carrying out a new chemical attack.

An exclusive video obtained by CNN from inside the capital of ISIS, is the terror group losing its grip?


BERMAN: All right, this morning, there is no vote on the Republican health care bill for this week for that matter. But the scramble to get to 50 votes is on and there is word this morning the Republican leadership wants a new bill worked out by Friday.

HARLOW: So joining us now Republican Senator Roger Wicker of Mississippi. He supports the Senate's draft bill. It's nice to have you. Thanks for joining us.

SEN. ROGER WICKER (R), MISSISSIPPI: Glad to be with you. That's certainly the way I understood it. The leadership I think is trying to get the members to come together and have something agreed to by the time we leave on Friday.

HARLOW: OK, that is a big challenge. It's sort of spreading the circle because as you know there is a big divide within your own party to get to that number. You said after leaving the White House meeting yesterday, quote, "We know the parts that need to move."

What are those parts that you think you can actually more and change that is going to pull in enough of both sides of Republican holdouts because they're not all holdouts, as you know, for the same reason.

WICKER: Well, that's true, yes. I think regulatory flexibility allowing more choices in the private sector in terms of the types of policies that are offered once the state has complied with the federal requirements. I think that's one thing that will get some conservatives on it and something that we ought to be able to do.

There's some things that we'd like to do on the right side of the spectrum problems that are problems under the reconciliation rules like selling across state lines and association-based health care plans, things like that. We're working through the reconciliation rules.

But then, of course, there are people who are very concerned that we're not allocating enough Medicaid money to pay for the opioid crisis. I think those are issues that can be addressed from both angles.

But here's why I am optimistic because everybody in that room which consisted of 46 of the 52 Republican senators wants to get to a yes. There was a genuine determination in that room yesterday in working with the president to see what we can do in the next few days to move the parts and get to something.

We might not be 100 percent overly delighted about but something that will work and make the healthcare system more sustainable, give people more choices in the private sector and actually make Medicaid better.

BERMAN: We will see what you can hammer out as far as that goes. One of the senators in the room yesterday told the "New York Times" that the White House left that meeting with a sense that the president did not have a grasp of some of the basic elements of the Senate plan. What do you make of that?

WICKER: Well, you know, actually, I was -- I felt quite the opposite. The president is not a technician and he doesn't get down into the weeds. But in terms of the dealing with the specifics that were being mentioned I really was quite impressed that Mr. Trump was so up on the issues.

So I didn't see that at all. I think obviously he's looking at it from 30,000 foot view. What will make the system better overall for the country and for the future financial viability of the United States and our budget, but I think he knew the details quite well.

HARLOW: All right. So a staffer from your fellow Mississippi Republican senator, Thad Cochran, told "Politico" that their office has received 224 calls against the Senate Republicans healthcare bill and just two in favor all in the last week. What are your constituents calling and saying? Is your office getting the same calls?

WICKER: That's about right. Let me just tell you. If I needed to, I could get on the internet and the phone and generate 200 or 300 calls. We're trying to do the right thing for our constituents and I've been in office for a year or two now. I have a pretty good sense of what people in our state want us to do and I think Senator Cochran does also. So we appreciate any time somebody e-mails us or calls us, but clearly, you can generate phone calls through a grassroots effort, and that is not exactly the end of the issue in my determination. We appreciate those calls.

BERMAN: It's not the end of the issue but sometimes --

WICKER: We don't add them up --

BERMAN: -- but sometimes it's a representative of public opinion or at least a feeling among some people. I imagine a lot of these calls have to do with the Medicaid spending, reduction in Medicaid spending and Medicaid growth over a long time. How are you going to ease the concerns --

WICKER: I would say to those people -- for one thingy there was an article in one of our daily newspapers about a mom who said her daughter was not going to be covered if the Republican Senate bill passed.

We called this particular woman, worked through the situation with her and showed her chapter and verse how indeed under the Chips program her child would in fact still be covered. So I think we can answer a lot of those.

But also, under the proposal as it stands now, which may be modified, under the proposal as it stands now, in states that didn't expand Medicaid, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of people depending on the size of the state, would be able to get off of Medicaid and have a refundable tax credit, whether they pay taxes or not, to use to buy private health insurance.

Now you can't tell me that that's not a better outcome for Americans to have the choice of picking and choosing what sort of private insurance they'd like to have.

BERMAN: It may be a better outcome for those people in the non- expansion states. The question is what happens to some of the expansion states. These are the issues you'll have to work out perhaps by Friday. Roger Wicker of Mississippi, great to have you with us. Thanks so much.

WICKER: Thank you so much.

BERMAN: Are U.S. warships preparing to strike in Syria? We have new information what's happening on the ground there.

HARLOW: Plus, a new huge cyberattack, will it affect you? We'll bring you the latest on what happens.