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Trump Touts Health Care Plan; GOP Aims for New Draft; Trump Tweets about Media; Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired June 28, 2017 - 14:00   ET



[14:00:04] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Hi there. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thank you for being with me on this Wednesday. You're watching CNN.

Let me tell you what's happening right now. The White House daily briefing is underway. Once again, the administration choosing not to let you see or hear it in real time. And, once again, only audio recording is allowed.

As the White House turns away the cameras, the president is working to turn the tide on the Senate's plan to replace Obamacare. The majority leader, Mitch McConnell, over on the Senate side, has decided to delay this vote. This happened Tuesday. You know the story, lack of support for this version of the bill. He is now aiming to form a new draft by this Friday.

In the meantime, even more Republican senators have come out against the Better Care Reconciliation Act. At least nine are out right about their opposition. And so far, not one has been swayed by the White House meaning nearly all Republican senators just after the vote was put on hold. Remember the bus that transported them on down over to the White House? It didn't work.

Today, President Trump appeared upbeat about the future of the Senate plan, but even he stuck to using the word "if."


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There was a great, great feeling in that room yesterday. And what also came out is the fact that this health care would be so good - would be far better than Obamacare and would be much less expensive for the people.

Well, we're sending a lot of it back to the states where it belongs and this will be something really special if we can get it done. Always tough. It's probably the toughest subject from the standpoint of approval because every state is different, every state has different needs. We have a tremendous opioid problem and some states are more affected by that than others. But, overall, I have to tell you, this will be a tremendous plan. It will really - you're going to have a lot of very, very happy people in this country if we can get it done.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you (INAUDIBLE). UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, are you concerned about the Medicaid cuts in the health care bill?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you, John (ph).

TRUMP: It's going to be great. It's going to be. This will be great for everybody.


TRUMP: I always say "if." I always say "if."


BALDWIN: Let's begin at the White House. Our correspondent there, Jeff Zeleny.

Jeff Zeleny, we're going to talk about why it's so difficult for these Republican senators to get to 50 with David Chalian here in just a second.

But to you on the president's involvement, you know, what more will the president do in helping Mitch McConnell?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brooke, I think first and foremost, one thing the president, really he can do that no one else can at least try and do, is bring up the public approval rating of health care. A new poll out today shows that just 17 percent of Americans, that's fewer than two in 10 Americans, actually support this Senate plan. So what we have not seen from this administration is really explaining this bill to the American people, going out on the road, campaigning, using the power of the presidency to explain why this bill is needed. And, boy, it would be so much easier for Republican senators and perhaps even Democratic senators to vote for this if that approval rating for the bill was not so dire. I cannot think of any legislative measure passing with such a low approval rating. So that's one thing the president can do is explain why this is need, explain what's in the bill.

But we know this is not a president who is steeped in the details. And he said it right there, you know, he said something that sounds pretty obvious but it's one of the root issues of this challenge here. He said, every state is different. Every senator is different. And that is exactly why this is not simply a partisan lock-step issue because the opioid issue, as he said, Medicaid cuts in Ohio and West Virginia, other places, are making Republican senators there say, look, we simply can't vote for this.

But, first and foremost, Mitch McConnell does not want the president sort of dealing in details. They would love him to explain the need for this bill and try and get that approval rating out of the basement.


BALDWIN: Jeff Zeleny, thank you. Let's have a bigger conversation here. The fight over health care, you

know, went right to the door of Republican Senator Pat Toomey from Pennsylvania.


CROWD (chanting): Kill the bill. Don't kill me. Kill the bill. Don't kill me. Kill the bill. Don't kill me.


BALDWIN: They're chanting, "don't kill me, kill the bill." The hallowed hallways there on Capitol Hill, these are protesters demonstrating just now at the senator's office in Washington. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida had demonstrators rally inside his office. But the question is, how much of an impact will these voices have right on the future of this bill in the Senate?

There's so much to discuss. With me now, CNN political director David Chalian and Shelby Holliday, politics and business reporter for "The Wall Street Journal."

So great to have both of you with me.

And, David Chalian, I mean, I think to Jeff's point, you know, this is so much more than math. This is like mega-philosophical differences between the different pieces of the spectrum of the U.S. Senate. I mean explain to me why it is so hard to get to 50.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yes, no, you're absolutely right, this isn't just - although this will certainly be part of it - cajoling and giving a little money here, I'll help you with some rural hospital program there. It's not just about finding pork to put back in the bill to get these votes on board. Mitch McConnell has to bridge a major ideological divide inside his own conference.

[14:05:16] I think it was John Boehner, the former speaker of the House, that said, Republicans have never agreed on what to do on health care. And I think that's proving to be true right now because, Brooke, if - if indeed Mitch McConnell goes a little bit more conservative with the bill to bring on Ted Cruz or Mike Lee, get them more comfortable with maybe getting rid of more Obamacare regulations to make it look like more of a full repeal of Obamacare, well, then - then he bleeds support that he's trying to bring on board with Susan Collins of Maine or Lisa Murkowski of Alaska. So - and these things are not just small items. They have a fundamental difference in how they see the role of government in helping to provide health care to their constituents.

BALDWIN: Well, we all remember playing on the seesaw as a kid, right? You put too many kids on one side, you give too many - too much pork to one side, you know, and it goes bloop, and the other side of the seesaw goes away.

Abby Phillip is joining us here as well. She's a White House reporter for "The Washington Post." I don't know if you like my seesaw analogy, but that's how I see some of this.

But, Shelby, let's talk about the "d" word, being Democrats. We heard from the Senate Majority leader as he was walking out of the White House yesterday having that with the president on basically the fact that this is a no-go. Here's what he said about maybe, maybe working with Dems.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (D), MAJORITY LEADER: I think the main thing is, as I've said, the status quo is simply unsustainable. It will be dealt with in one of two ways. 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 the Democrats would include none of the reforms that we would like to make, both on the market side and the Medicaid side.


BALDWIN: I mean David mentioned maybe, you know, the Senate majority leader could go more conservative, but what about the notion of maybe getting the more moderate Republicans to try to cajole some Democrats to getting to yes?

SHELBY HOLLIDAY, POLITICS AND BUSINESS REPORTER, "THE WALL STREET JOURNAL": Yes, and that would look like a completely different bill, but this is giving me a little - you know, it's giving us some flashbacks of the health bill when the - or, I mean the House bill -

BALDWIN: On the House side.

HOLLIDAY: When the House bill was pulled you heard -

BALDWIN: That's right.

HOLLIDAY: Both Speaker Paul Ryan and President Trump say, well, Obamacare is the law of the land if you guys can't figure this out, and then we saw what happened with that.

BALDWIN: So it was a threat then? What is that?

HOLLIDAY: It's part - you know, it's a warning sign. If you - we won't be able to implement any of the reforms we stand for, any of the conservative ideas if we have to work with Democrats because Democrats are opposed to repealing the Affordable Care Act.

Now, I think one thing that you have to point out is how much Republicans have lost the narrative here. Nine percent, according to our "Wall Street Journal" poll, 9 percent of Americans say Obamacare should stay as it is. You have - you don't just have premiums going up, you have insurers pulling out of markets, you have more people relying on subsidies, fewer people paying that penalty that they're supposed to pay if they don't have insurance. Obamacare is not working, so you have to do something. And if you work with Democrats, that means you probably keep the mandates in there that require people to buy insurance. BALDWIN: Right.

HOLLIDAY: And it means you probably have to throw more money at the markets so that insurers stay in the market.

BALDWIN: So maybe one key issue is in our discussion of how, you know, you need these 50 Republicans to say yes, Abby, your colleagues over at "The Washington Post," they wrote this piece today essentially talking about how Republican senators, they just don't fear the president. You know, there was a quote in the article, "history suggests that presidents who have governed successfully have both been revered and feared but Republican fixtures in Washington are beginning to conclude that Trump may be neither." That doesn't help the president in what he's trying to do.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, absolutely. I mean this president is in a place where his approval rating is in the 30s and Republicans are looking around and saying, well, I did better than President Trump in my district or in my state, so why should I be afraid of what has been up until this point empty threats on this issue. It also doesn't help that the outside groups that are supposed to help Trump enforce have been really, really slow to get off the ground. They tried to go after Senator Heller over the past couple of days, and those attempts were really swatted down aggressively by senators who said that it went way too far. It might have backfired on them.

So there - there's a little bit of a combination of the president being unpopular and also just some incompetence in terms of how you - how you actually enforce political threats in this environment. I think this White House and some of the people that surround the president don't actually know how to do that. So it's hard for them to sort of make senators take them seriously.

BALDWIN: Well, just -

CHALIAN: And, Brooke, can I just add - oh, sorry. Go ahead.

BALDWIN: I was just going to talk about Dean Heller, and I have a feeling maybe you were about to - we're sometimes like this, David Chalian. We just got - we got the note that Senator Heller is in the office of the Senate majority leader and I wanted to ask you, how you read between the tea leaves on that one, especially given the fact that they were all sitting around, you know, in the White House yesterday joking about, well, Senator Heller wishes it was Matt Damon's head on his body. But to Phil Mattingly's point, you know, the bruises, it will take some time for those to heal.

[14:10:20] CHALIAN: Yes, that may have been a little joke in a public setting like that, but the fact that Dean Heller and his colleagues were bringing up what the Trump allied super PAC was doing against him -


CHALIAN: Shows you, I think, how serious of an issue they felt it was. As Abby was saying, it clearly backfired, probably alienated Heller more and we'll see. Heller now is really completely tied his thinking on this bill to his governor, Sandoval, out of Nevada, who's been opposed. so to sort of bring Heller on board, you're probably going to have to get the governor.

But I want to make this point -


CHALIAN: About what's a little different than the House process that we saw before. And it gets exactly to what also Abby was saying there about how can you effectively threaten. In the House, remember, so many of those districts, especially the Freedom Caucus members who finally did come on board, those are safe Republican drawn districts. So the threat of a primary is their real political threat. So the idea of Trump forces or Donald Trump ginning up his own supporters in those districts to go against those members is very threatening to their future political success. It doesn't work the same way for senators who, of course, have constituents across the board, Democrat, independent, Republican, the political forces acting against them. It's far different than what these very safe House districts look like, which is why Donald Trump, who's down in the mid-30s and really is just riding the support of his core supporters, may not be the most effective tool in sort of getting these senators on board.

BALDWIN: To your point, here's another quote from "The Washington Post" piece. This is John Weaver, Republican consultant, frequent Trump critic, talks about why, you know, Trump's been unable to really rule with a hammer. Quote, "when you have a 35 percent approval rating and you are under FBI investigation, you don't have a hammer."

So, Shelby, you know, referring to the probe, possible connections between the Trump campaign and Russia.


BALDWIN: If the fear isn't there, and really his biggest win so far is the Gorsuch situation on the Supreme Court.

HOLLIDAY: He doesn't have a ton of leverage.

BALDWIN: He doesn't.

HOLLIDAY: It's true. He doesn't have a ton of leverage. And I think it also opened a can of worms yesterday when Rand Paul went to meet with President Trump because then Trump became part of this whole deal. And he's there to negotiate. He's there to be a deal maker. But when it comes to health care, it hasn't actually worked.

And the Senate's very different from the House. I think that's a great point to make. And you're also looking at not just fractures between conservatives in the Senate and moderates, but also senators from states that expanded Medicaid and senators from states that did not. And that's causing a huge fault line.

We're not so sure the president has talked about that. He did mention opioid funding. But you also have issues like rural hospital funding and waivers for states to gain more flexibility, pegging Medicaid to different calculations, different inflation numbers. So there's a lot of details in here. And I'm - I haven't heard from the president what he thinks about any of those things. But I also think what the president does have is Twitter. And when he wakes up and he tweets about media outlets and not about why they should be talking health care -

BALDWIN: Instead of the meat and potatoes of health care.

HOLLIDAY: That's a huge loss. That's a lot of political capital you are wasting.

BALDWIN: It's a great point. It's a great point.

So, Abby, let me end this whole thing with you and the role of the president. You know, what can President Trump do moving forward in terms of getting this bill signed?

PHILLIP: Brooke, that's a really good question. I think that if you ask people on The Hill, if you ask Republicans in Washington, they will say the best thing that Trump can do to get this bill done is to not get involved at all. He does not understand the basic details of the - of the things that need to happen in order to move people one way or another. And it's important for him not to sort of stick his hand into the pot and sort of mess things up because then they might end up farther away from where they need to be.

I don't - I have never talked to anybody who's told me that Trump has effectively explained what this bill is and what it can do, has sold this bill even to his own supporters. So at this point it's just about the sausage making in the Congress. And the people who know how to do that the best are Mitch McConnell and his staff and others on The Hill and they kind of want to be, essentially, left alone here.

BALDWIN: Left alone. Abby and Shelby and David, thank you all so much.


CHALIAN: Thanks, Brooke.

PHILLIP: Thanks.

BALDWIN: Coming up, we are monitoring the White House briefing, which is underway. We're not allowed to bring it to you live today. But this is coming as President Trump is intensifying - to the point that was just made - intensifying his war with the media. We'll discuss his strategy and where does he think it's going to get him.

Also, why U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley says President Trump has saved lives in Syria.

You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [14:18:47] BALDWIN: President Trump has almost 33 million Twitter followers. That is an enviable platform for any politician promoting an agenda. Thus far, as failure looms for the Senate's efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare, one of the president's biggest priorities is, of course, that. So why is the president instead tweeting about us, the media? In the last 24 hours, the president has launched this tweet storm tirade against CNN, "The Washington Post," "The New York Times," ABC, NBC, CBS.

So with that, let me bring in CNN's senior media correspondent, host of "Reliable Sources," Brian Stelter, and David Zurawik, the media critic for "The Baltimore Sun."

So, gentlemen, good to see both of you.

And, Brian Stelter, just, what do you think the president - why do you think the president thinks this is a good idea to rage against the media?

BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: It's definitely been one of the defining characteristics first of his campaign and now his presidency to essentially say you can't believe anything you're hearing about how his administration's doing. Really what he means is you can't believe anything that's not positive. So scrutiny about the health care bill, for example, is not positive enough for him, thus I think he's railing against the press. He is picking on real errors and perceived errors and today he's picking on "The Washington Post" and "The New York Times" for stories that they published about him that he didn't like. It seems pretty transparent and certainly, as we've learned from polling, it appeals to his most loyal fans, but probably not to most other Americans.

[14:20:12] BALDWIN: Same question to you, David, where do you think he's hoping to go with this?

DAVID ZURAWIK, MEDIA CRITIC, "BALTIMORE SUN": Well, I think part of it is, as Brian said, it's been a long-time political strategy, to find enemies and beat up on them and the press has been a really convenient enemy. And it's been going on for a while, but it's to convince people that the press is not the surrogate of the people, it's the enemy of the people. That's really his strategy, and it has been a political tool for him to galvanize opinion, especially with his base. That's part of it.

The other part, Brooke, I think is that he tries to - and not - and he may be successful in inoculating himself against valid criticism by saying it's all lies.


ZURAWIK: Look, the people he's going after are the platforms, are the television networks and the papers. They're -

BALDWIN: David, hang on a second. Forgive me for interrupting -

ZURAWIK: Sure. Sure. BALDWIN: But speaking of the president, let's just dip in quickly. He's meeting with the Chicago Cubs. They're in town playing today. We're going to listen for something very specific. Hang on.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So, congratulations. So do you have a game today? So you said let's come over and see the president and let's - let's go over to the Oval Office. Where's Dan? Where's Dan Gilbert? He's right outside. Grab him. Where's Dan? Dan Gilbert just came in. He's the basketball - he's looking for a good basketball player. Anybody play basketball? Let's go over to - where's Dan Gilbert?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm right here.

TRUMP: Come here, Dan.


TRUMP: Come here. Let -

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm just telling you, sir.

TRUMP: Come here, Dan. You want a - come over here, Dan. Don't be shy.


TRUMP: Do you want a good baseball player to play basketball?


TRUMP: So Dan owns the Cavaliers. And I would say, I guess you can't say great season, right? Good season. Last year was a great season, right?


TRUMP: Anyway, well, let's get - senator, you know who that is, right? One of the greats. Are you a fan?




TRUMP: We have a lot of fans. Dan, do you want to come over here with this team? Come on, senator, get over here (INAUDIBLE). Come on. Come on over. Come on.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Come on, senator.

TRUMP: It's a little - he's a little shy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know if you guys know this, but Senator (INAUDIBLE) spent his honeymoon at Wrigley Field.

TRUMP: Are you a big fan?

He was (ph) a big Cubs fan.

So, ask him, how's he doing with LeBron? Huh? How's LeBron doing?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Things are good.

TRUMP: A great friend of mine and supporter and great guy. Congratulations to everybody. That's fantastic. That's a great achievement. And your team is doing OK, but you're going to do great starting now, right? Starting with this visit.

Does anybody want to see the Oval Office?


TRUMP: We'll leave them behind. And just to do a little official business, health care is working along very well. We could have a big surprise with a great health care package. So, now they're happy, OK.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do you mean by big surprise, sir?

TRUMP: I said you're going to have a great, great surprise. It's going to be great.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you very much.

BALDWIN: All right, so we were hanging in there for that final point as he's meeting with the Chicago Cubs. It was that final point that he said official business, talking about health care, saying we could have a big, big surprise.

Brian Stelter and David Zurawik are with me.

Let's just - let's go rogue for a second just on what we just heard, Brian Stelter.


BALDWIN: I mean, listen, this is a man who doesn't sit down to do interviews, so it's very tough for us to crawl into his brain and understand where he is on health care or how he plans to move this thing forward because clearly Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, couldn't get to 50. This is - this is all we have.

STELTER: "Big surprise" implies maybe he's going to get this bill through the Senate. I mean all week the headlines have been about this health bill being in peril, attempts to find some way so we can get -

BALDWIN: Right, the senators are saying, with all due respect, sir, stay away.

STELTER: So perhaps he knows something we don't or perhaps this is a reality TV trope trying to get people to stay tuned and not give up hope on this. A little bit later, according to the White House pool, the cameras

were brought back inside. I think this is the scene that we'll see now. The pool was brought back inside.

BALDWIN: In the Oval.

STELTER: There was another exchange. The reporter asked if the president would work with Chuck Schumer and bring the Senate Democrats in to try to bring all 100 senators together to talk about health care. Trump said maybe if Schumer was serious, but he doesn't seem serious. All talk, Schumer is. All talk. Bad talk. So that's a little more what we'll hear from the president. That's all we're going hear from him. You know, he's not holding press conferences or giving interviews. So all we really know is what he tweets and what he tends to say to the cameras when he has visitors in the Oval Office.

BALDWIN: David Zurawik, this is - this is, you know, we're sitting here talking about his war with the media and this is really what transfixes him, it seems, and is what he's really tweeting about instead of, you know, health care that affects tens of millions of people. But what did you make of this exchange and the bits of pieces we - that we the public get from the president on something that matters to so many people?

[14:25:14] ZURAWIK: Well, you know, that's exactly it, Brooke. Just what we saw here is just so typical of the way - you know, there's an expectation in a democracy of some kind of steady flow of information and reliable, trustworthy information. That in a way is what those briefings and presidential press conferences are about, which they've really done damage to. But so instead what we get are, as Brian said, we get the tweets, but we also get something like this where he says, hey, could be a big surprise.

We don't have any context for it. We don't know if it's going to be like, hey, I could have tapes on my conversation with Comey. Oh, wait, I don't have tapes of my conversation. It's this crazy, haphazard, zany - I mean it's not even a reality TV show. It has more structure for a reality TV show, throwing out information.

And, you know, for him, it's a little, oh, we could have a big surprise and pass this, but there are millions of people who are distraught at the thought of losing benefits or taking their family members out of nursing homes. And this is the careless, cavalier way they deal with information at the White House and his press reps do the same thing at those conferences. People ask legitimate questions and instead of answers they get things, oh, are there tapes? I'll look under the couch for microphones, as Sarah Huckabee Sanders sarcastically said.

BALDWIN: Huckabee Sanders.

ZURAWIK: That's - that's insulting the American people. Hey, go ahead and hate the press if you want. But the American people deserve better than that from their White House.

BALDWIN: Well, I think the American people also deserve transparency and normally we all wouldn't be having this conversation. We'd be sitting and listening to Sarah Huckabee Sanders -

STELTER: The briefing would be on, yes.

BALDWIN: Because the briefing is happening right now -


BALDWIN: And apparently just even the audio's embargoed until after the fact.

So last, quick question, Brian. We heard from two former press secretaries, Ari Fleisher and Mike McCurry, who co-wrote a tweet today. "We support no live TV coverage of the White House briefing. Embargo it and let it be used, but not as live TV. Better for the public, the White House and the press." Do they have a point?

STELTER: I don't think it's surprising that press secretaries, whether they're Republicans or Democrats, would like to have fewer interactions with the press and not more interactions. This is what they're saying. They're saying don't hold the briefings live. I understand that point of view but it is a - it is a retrenchment in what's been a norm for 25 years. I don't think there was anything broken necessarily for 25 years.

The most important part of these briefings is actually getting answers, whether they're on camera or off camera, whether they're outside or inside, who cares. The bigger issue we have with this White House, channeling White House correspondents, is that often times they don't have answers. Spicer or Sanders will say, I don't know or I'll get back to you or I haven't checked with the president. If the president would be more accessible and hold news conferences and give interviews, then we might get actual answers.

BALDWIN: That's why these precious sound bites involving the president himself talking health care -

STELTER: Become so important.

BALDWIN: We hang on to.


BALDWIN: Brian Stelter, David Zurawik, guys, thank you so very much.

STELTER: Thanks.

BALDWIN: Great to talk to both of you.

Coming up next, after renewed threats of military activity against Syrian President Bashar al Assad, has President Trump boxed himself in with a red line on Syria?

Also, an Irish reporter gets some special attention from the president during this Oval Office visit. The reporter now calling it, quote, "a bizarre moment." Are people reading a little bit too into this? Let's talk about it, coming up. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)