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THE SITUATION ROOM
Interview With New York Congressman Gregory Meeks; President Trump Now Calling for Repeal Without Replacement for Obamacare; Did White House Threaten MSNBC Host?; Trump Tweet Adds New Confusion to GOP Health Bill Battles; States Push Back Against Trump Voter Fraud Commission. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired June 30, 2017 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now: Tabloid threat? The president's vicious attack on two cable TV hosts leads to a new bombshell. They are now alleging that the White House made them a stunning offer they refused involving an embarrassing tabloid story.
Repeal and delay. Mr. Trump now is suggesting it would be OK to repeal Obamacare now and replace it later. Is he throwing a disruptive curve ball into the mix at a pivotal time for Senate Republicans and their health care negotiations?
Sensitive voter data. Officials in multiple states are pushing back tonight against the president's commission to investigate his widely disputed claims against voter fraud. Why is the panel asking for so much personal voter information?
And ISIS collapsing? Even as coalition forces appear close to retaking the Iraq city of Mosul, U.S.-backed fighters are tightening their grip on the terrorists' self-proclaimed capital in Syria. Is there new hope that the war against ISIS can be won?
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: We're following new fallout from the president's outrageous tweets targeting two cable TV personalities.
The morning show hosts now leveling serious allegations suggesting a possible abuse of power. Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski claim top administration officials offered to spike an tabloid that would be embarrassing to them, if, if they agreed to apologize to the president for negative coverage of him.
Tonight, the White House denying that. One official says Scarborough reached out to Trump senior adviser Jared Kushner about that "National Enquirer" story, but Kushner did not offer any kind of quid pro quo.
Also tonight another presidential tweet may be complicating the Republicans' struggle to repeal and replace Obamacare at the same time. The president now opening the door to an immediate repeal with a replacement at a later date. That is a dramatic shift from what he said during the campaign.
Senate Republican leaders failed to finalize a compromise repeal and replace bill by today, as they had hoped. The legislation remains stalled because of Republican opposition.
All this playing out as Mr. Trump held crucial talks with the South Korean president. The nuclear threat from North Korea very high on their agenda. Mr. Trump declaring that America's patience with the Kim Jong-un regime is over and he's promising the United States will defend itself and its allies.
This hour, I will discuss those stories and more with Congressman Gregory Meeks. He's a Democrat on the Foreign Affairs Committee. And our correspondents and specialists are also standing by.
First, let's go to our justice correspondent, Jessica Schneider.
Jessica, the president's widely condemned tweet is turning into an even bigger story a day later.
JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, Wolf. The president's two tweets criticizing the cable hosts have now prompted Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski to hit back with the explosive allegation that top White House officials urged Scarborough to call the president to make a negative "National Enquirer" story about them go away.
Well, a White House official is now countering, saying it was actually Scarborough who made the first call.
SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Tonight, a new allegation from the MSNBC hosts engaged in the war with the White House. Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough claim they were threatened by the White House this spring.
JOE SCARBOROUGH, MSNBC: We got a call that, hey, "The National Enquirer" is going to run a negative story against you guys.
They said, if you call the president up, and you apologize for your coverage, then he will pick up the phone and basically spike the story.
Three people at the very top of the administration calling me.
SCHNEIDER: Brzezinski and Scarborough first lobbed the accusation in a "Washington Post" column Friday morning after the president personally attacked the cable news hosts, tweeting: "I heard poorly rated @MorningJoe speaks badly of me. Don't watch anymore. Then how come low-I.Q. crazy Mika, along with psycho Joe, came to Mar-a-Lago three nights in a row around New Year's Eve, and insisted on joining me? She was bleeding badly from a face-lift. I said no!" MIKA BRZEZINSKI, MSNBC: He appears to have a fragile, impetuous, childlike ego that we have seen over and over again, especially with women. It's like he can't take it.
SCHNEIDER: This was the story "The National Enquirer" ultimately ran in June, accusing the couple of cheating on their spouses. Brzezinski said the tabloid hounded her family to get the story.
BRZEZINSKI: They were calling my children. They were calling close friends.
SCARBOROUGH: You're talking about "The National Enquirer."
SCHNEIDER: The president has close ties to "The Enquirer," which endorsed him during the 2016 campaign and has relentlessly attacked his adversaries.
President Trump "The National Enquirer" publisher David Pecker are close friends and allies. "The National Enquirer"'s editor in charge, Dylan Howard, issued this statement. "At the beginning of June, we accurately reported a story that recounted the relationship between Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski, the truth of which is not in dispute. At no time did we threaten either Joe or Mika or their children in connection with our reporting on the story. We have no knowledge of any discussions between the White House and Joe and Mika about our story and absolutely no involvement in those discussions."
After the explosive accusation from the couple on air, the president responded, tweeting, "Watched low-rated @MorningJoe for the first time in long time. Fake news. He called me to stop a 'National Enquirer' article. I said no. Bad show."
Scarborough quoted the president's tweets and called him out: "Yet another lie. I have texts from your top aides and phone records. Also, those records show I haven't spoken with you in many months."
NBC confirmed to CNN that Scarborough told NBC News executives about the threats and calls from the White House as they were happening. But the White House is putting out a different spin. An official says it was Joe Scarborough who called Jared Kushner about the upcoming "National Enquirer" story.
Kushner then told Scarborough to call the president, but the official denies there was any indication that the president would help kill the "Enquirer" story in exchange. The president himself did not answer questions about the accusations at his joint press conference today.
SCHNEIDER: Now, the White House has not released any official statement on the accusation, and Joe Scarborough has not responded to CNN's requests for additional details on his version of events.
He also has not released any of those texts or call logs he claims to have from the White House -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Jessica, thanks very much, Jessica Schneider reporting.
Also tonight, the president is heading to his golf club in New Jersey, the holiday weekend now getting under way without any new Republican deal on health care. The president gave Senate negotiators a surprise earlier today that could make their work a lot more difficult.
Let's go to our senior Washington correspondent, Joe Johns. He is over at the White House.
Joe, Mr. Trump posted a new tweet about the timing of repealing and replacing Obamacare.
JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Right, Wolf. At the start of the day, it sounded like a big shift for a president who has promised right after he was elected that the repeal and replacement of Obamacare would come simultaneously, so as not to end coverage for anybody who had the insurance with a lapse.
But, today, this morning, the president issued a new tweet. He said: "If Republican senators are unable to pass what they're working on now, they should immediately repeal and then replace at a later date."
It is not really a new idea. Conservatives have been talking about this for some time. But it certainly complicates efforts on the Hill to get a bill. And then there was this, this afternoon, White House Deputy Press Secretary Sara Sanders telling reporters in the off- camera briefing that nothing has changed. Listen.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, DEPUTY WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president hasn't changed his thinking at all. I mean, he's campaigned on, talked about since he was elected repealing and replacing Obamacare. We're still fully committed to pushing through with the Senate at this point, but we're, you know, looking at every possible option of repealing and replacing Obamacare.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
JOHNS: So, when it comes to the health care debate, the more things change, the more things remain the same. And that apparently includes the mixed messages coming out of the White House on how to handle it -- Wolf, back to you.
BLITZER: All right, Joe, thanks very much, Joe Johns at the White House.
Also tonight, we're learning about another major witness who has agreed to testify before Congress in the Russia investigation.
Let's go quickly to our senior reporter, Manu Raju.
Manu, the House Intelligence Committee now is moving very quickly to line up important interviews. What's the latest?
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right.
Michael Caputo, who was a Trump campaign communications adviser, has agreed to testify before the committee in a closed session. His attorney telling me earlier today that on July 14 he does plan to go forward.
Now, Caputo served in his role as a communications adviser. He has some ties to Russia, having worked in Moscow back in the 1990s, as well as having some work with Gazprom, the energy conglomerate in Russia, as well.
Now, he has, of course, denied having any involvement with the Russians or any campaign coordination at all, said that he is more than willing to answer questions before this committee, but he is also a close associate and ally of Roger Stone, the Trump adviser who had communications allegedly with Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, as well as Guccifer 2.0, who is known with U.S. intelligence as presumably the Russian hackers.
Stone also denying -- he's done nothing wrong, but Stone also agreeing, Wolf, to come before that committee July 24. Now, July is shaping up to be a very busy month for the House Intelligence Committee. Not just those two gentlemen coming before them, but also Susan Rice, the Obama former national security adviser agreeing to testify behind closed doors.
This as that committee ramps up its investigation into any possible ties between Russian officials and Trump officials. And on the Senate side, Wolf, the chairman of that committee, Richard Burr, telling me earlier this week that they have interviewed more than 40 witnesses so far, but still uncertain when some big names will come forward, Paul Manafort, the former Trump campaign chairman, and Jared Kushner, the president's son-in-law.
Both committees want to talk to them. It will be a question, a matter of when. But now at least some other names are coming before Congress in a classified setting, Wolf.
BLITZER: Manu, thanks very much, Manu Raju up on Capitol Hill.
Let's talk about all of this with Congressman Gregory Meeks. He's a Democrat on the Foreign Affairs Committee.
Congressman, thanks for joining us.
REP. GREGORY MEEKS (D), NEW YORK: Good being with you, Wolf.
BLITZER: Lots to get through.
Let's start with the co-anchors of "Morning Joe" on MSNBC. They say the White House tried to influence them with a threat of negative press in "The National Enquirer." You're a former prosecutor. Is that potentially from a legal perspective an abuse of power?
MEEKS: It surely seems to me to be -- to threaten individuals who are in the media to say, look, this is a quid pro quo.
And it just shows the sad state that we're in. Here is the president of the United States of America, with all of the issues that -- Wolf, that you have been talking about, whether it's North Korea, whether it's whether you're talking about dealing with our European allies or Russia or China, with all the issues we have got to do all over the world, we now have to deal with these tweets that the president is putting out about Mika and Joe Scarborough, who are on the news.
It just shows -- and it hurts our credibility. That's what really is disturbing to me, because the rest of the world is also looking at this and they're saying, is this what America's president is doing? And is this what this is all about with regards to the seriousness that we have got to deal with? And can we take his word when he says something to the world and to the citizens of the United States?
It's very disconcerting and it's -- quite frankly, it's getting to be exhausting.
BLITZER: Let's turn to foreign policy.
The White House won't say if President Trump will bring up Russian election interference in the U.S. presidential elections when he meets directly with Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, at the G20 summit at the end of next week in Germany. Does that concern you?
MEEKS: Absolutely. It concerns me in a very big way.
It seems as though at no time has this president confronted Russia about anything, from the campaign, where he was saying how great Putin is, in fact, saying Putin was even better than President Obama, also asking the Russians to keep digging and doing what they were doing with reference to e-mails, to him giving away national security interests in the White House.
And so I am very concerned. Unlike the new president of France, Macron, who confronted Putin when Putin was right in front of him just about, I don't see this president doing just that. He's not said anything or done anything.
In fact, Wolf, it was very disconcerting to me when just the other day, when the U.N. ambassador was testifying before -- the U.S. U.N. ambassador was testifying before the Foreign Affairs Committee and was asked by a colleague of mine, had she ever spoken to the president of the United States about Russia's intrusion into our democracy and this election, and when she answered she had never talked to him because she would deal with the other Russian diplomats in the U.N., that is absolutely shocking to me.
And still to this day we have not heard the president of the United States say, as the other intelligence agencies have, all 17 of them, that, yes, Russia did try to influence this election. BLITZER: What are the repercussions, Congressman, if the Trump
administration doesn't hold Russia accountable for its destabilizing efforts during the presidential election here, but also other destabilizing efforts around the world?
MEEKS: Well, that's exactly right. The problem is that when you look at what would be to Putin's advantage, because one of the things he definitely would like is there to be a shakeup in Europe and in the European unity.
And what President Trump is doing is causing that kind of stirring to take place. It's playing around in those spheres which would not make any of us safe in Europe or in America at a time when our allies and our alliances with NATO and the E.U. is more important than ever.
And it also does not discourage or it leads to opening the door for others to take the lead in democracy and in talking about the lead in democracy. People are talking about -- and that was with -- again, with Ambassador Haley.
I was really upset because she's talking about America is back leading the world. No. The Pew reports that just came out, or -- the Pew just came out with a survey showing how America is pulling out of the world and the world is very concerned about America and the direction in which it is moving in.
And by pulling out of the Paris agreement, looking to pull out of the various other agreements that we have had, whether it's the trade agreement that we had with Mexico, now with NAFTA, and talking about with South Korea, it's very disconcerting.
No one knows what this president talks about or standing -- stands for, because he even contradicts his own people. He contradicts the secretary of state, Tillerson. I think recently you saw some frustration from him. So, it's just he's so erratic and childish that it hurts our foreign policy altogether, Wolf, and it's very disconcerting.
BLITZER: You saw that "Wall Street Journal" report that a Republican opposition researcher tried to obtain e-mails he thought were stolen from Hillary Clinton's e-mail server. If you saw that report, I'm anxious to get your reaction, Congressman.
MEEKS: Well, again, you know, I just don't understand Donald Trump and his people and the people around him and how they are looking to move this country.
They are still going back, trying to, you know -- well, we know that Russia was involved. All of our 17 intelligence agencies indicated the same. That's no longer a question. That's no longer an issue. And that's why my concern, any time I hear those kinds of stories, Wolf, I know that's why it is important for the Intelligence Committees to do what they are doing, for Mr. Mueller to do his investigation. And, again, I urge that we have an independent commission that's set
up, so that we can know what Russia did and then try to put something in place to prevent it from ever happening again, because if we wait on the executive branch of government to do something, I'm afraid that we will be waiting forever.
BLITZER: As you know, Congressman, the White House is pressuring China to do more on the North Korea threat by announcing new sanctions on a Chinese bank allowing a major arms deal for the U.S. to go through with Taiwan.
You were just in the region in South Korea. Do you approve of these latest actions by the president trying to squeeze the Chinese to force them to deal more directly with the North Korean threat?
MEEKS: Well, I do believe that we have to put some pressure on China.
Now, I think there is a difference. When you talk about some of the sanctions and you talk about trying to make sure that they're not financing North Korea, whether it's coal or other areas, we need to crack down on that. That is different, though, than selling weapons to Taiwan, which I think is a violation and something that we should not do. That's a whole different ball game and it takes it into a different area.
So for me, it's two different things. Yes, we need China to pressure North Korea to a greater degree to bring them to the table to stop them from continuing the testing for nuclear weapons. We need to make sure that we are in partnership with Japan and South Korea.
And so I think that is absolutely important. But then to go -- it tips the balance, I think, if you start talking about selling arms to Taiwan. That is, I think, out of bounds. And then it takes us away from what we want to do, because others will also see that that's out of bounds with reference to international law.
BLITZER: The South Korean president, President Moon, he's speaking here in Washington today. He says engaging in talks with the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, is necessary to resolve the North Korea nuclear missile issue. Do you agree with that approach? Should the U.S. start a direct dialogue with Kim Jong-un's regime?
MEEKS: I don't think it should be a direct dialogue, no. I think that, you know, we had the North Koreas renege on an agreement when we had the six-party talks in the past.
And then there is some question as to whether or not the United States pulled back on something on that, right? This was when there was the transfer from the Clinton administration to the Bush administration. So, we need to review that.
I'm one to think that we should, with China, if you put the appropriate pressure on North Korea, then with South Korea and Japan in a multilateral way, going back and try to do something very similar in my estimation as to how we've done with the six-party talks in Iran, where we have the nuclear agreement there, where it can be verified and you could have access to all of the developments that's taking place in North Korea.
I'm for that type of movement and direction. And I think that the kind of sanctions that worked in Iran to get them to the table is very similar to what we need to do again in North Korea.
BLITZER: U.S.-backed troops are closing in around the ISIS de facto capital of Raqqa in Syria. Congressman, what does that mean for the U.S. fight against ISIS and the long-term strategy in Syria? Do you see a long-term U.S. strategy in Syria?
MEEKS: Again, Wolf, we don't know what the strategy is. You know, members of Congress is waiting to see what that strategy is. There's not been a strategy that's that's been articulated.
We believe, I believe what the president still needs to do, and I thought this was appropriate for President Obama also, they need to -- each president needs to come back to Congress because we are the ones that need to vote on whether or not what there -- the additional force should or should not be.
And, so, I would hope that the president begins to articulate a strategy to Congress and then come back and ask for a vote if he wants to escalate anything else in -- you know, whether it's in Syria or anywhere else in the world in that regards, so that we know and have a clear picture of what he intends to do, because, right now, no one knows what he intends to do. And there's two branches of government.
We're just not going to leave him out there to do the erratic matter -- in the erratic manner he has conducted himself thus far as president of the United States.
BLITZER: Yes, Congressman, he has said many times he doesn't want to telegraph his next steps.
I want you to stand by, Congressman Meeks. There is much more I want to discuss with you. But I have got to take a quick break. We will be right back.
BLITZER: We're back with Democratic Congressman Gregory Meeks of New York. We're talking about the president's war of words with two cable TV hosts. We're also following new pushback against the president's potential voter fraud commission.
Officials now in multiple states, they are refusing to comply with the panel's request for lots of personal voter information.
Congressman, among other things, they want information about all registrants' middle names, initials, if available, addresses, last four digits of Social Security numbers, voter history, lots of personal information, driver's license, if available publicly. Does sharing this kind of voter information with this new federal
commission created by the president, because he suggested three to five million illegal votes were cast in the last election, does that -- are you accepting that? Are you ready to go along with that kind of sharing of information with the federal commission?
MEEKS: Absolutely not, Wolf. I think that's a violation of everyone's personal information and disclosure.
I agree with the secretary of state of Mississippi, who said to tell him to go jump in the Gulf of Mexico, and Mississippi is a good place to go from. Look, Wolf, none of that is based upon any facts. If you look at all the facts across this country, if you talk to both secretaries of states who are from Democratic as well as Republican states, they say that there's no such voter fraud.
It's a witch-hunt that the president is on. I think that if the president wants to be on course, he should be looking at voter suppression, because we see a lot of laws, and I think those are the issues that need to be looked at in a very close manner and where there should be some court cases, where people are prevented from voting.
We're supposed to be the leaders of the free world and encouraging as many people to vote as possible, and that is what we see not taking place, no real instances of major voter fraud throughout that's reported by any of the states who have the direct responsibility of conducting elections.
BLITZER: A different issue, Congressman. What is your reaction to the White House saying today that Chicago's crime -- and it is significant, as we all know -- is -- quote -- "driven by morality"?
MEEKS: Again, I think that if you look at circumstances in anyplace where you have a high crime area, you look at whether or not you get education and places to live and proper opportunities for jobs, that's all part of it.
It's also -- so, it's a holistic approach that needs to take place. Once upon a time, folks would say that -- and it was -- we had a very, extremely high crime rate here in New York City. But the mayors that were focused on it worked with law enforcement with community. We had joint partnerships working collectively together and we were able to drive down the violence that was taking place in the city to almost -- to record lows.
And I think the same kind of focus and concentration -- so, what the president should be doing is to be looking to work with Mayor Rahm Emanuel, so that we can work collectively in a wholehearted way to figure out how we can make sure that we're working in a partnership to bring down the kind of violence that's been taking place in Chicago.
BLITZER: Congressman Gregory Meeks of New York, thanks so much for joining us.
MEEKS: Good to be with you, as always, Wolf.
BLITZER: Thank you.
Just ahead: the questions raised by the escalating battle between the president and two cable TV hosts. Did the White House resort to threats or worse?
And more on the surprising requests by the president's voter fraud commission and why some state officials right now are saying no.
BLITZER: Tonight President Trump is embroiled in a new "he said, they said" battle. The two TV hosts he attacked on Twitter are turning the tables, alleging they were threatened by the White House.
[18:34:28] Let's bring in our analysts and our specialists. Ron Brownstein, the hosts of "Morning Joe," as you know, on MSNBC, they say that the White House tried to influence them with a threat of negative press in "The National Enquirer" if they didn't apologize to the president.
What questions does this potentially raise about, and some are suggesting abuse of power?
RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I think there are three separate questions. I mean, you start out with the most basic. You could have a chyron on the bottom of this show, "In an unprecedented development today," fill in the blank.
This is the kind of behavior, the allegations here are behavior that we have almost never seen in the Oval Office. And whether or not there is legal exposure, I think it is the kind of thing coming after these unprecedented and remarkably, you know, vile tweets that will raise -- will accentuate the doubts among those who question whether President Trump has the temperament, qualifications and personal, you know, attributes for the job.
But there are legal questions. We've had a spirited back and forth all day and articles on the Internet among legal observers about whether or not this meets the standard for extortion.
The part of the question that interests me the most -- I don't think we're going to resolve that tonight here on the show -- is whether because of the nexus to New York City where the show is filmed and where I believe at least one of them lives, will this provide a justification for the New York attorney general to look into this question? And you can be sure that he would be very happy to do that.
BLITZER: Yes, that's an interesting point.
You know, Phil Mudd, there's certainly a lot of accomplishments the president could have touted on Twitter this week. Take a look at this, though. This is what he tweeted about today. You can see what he tweeted about today. But take a look at this next graphic. This is what he didn't tweet about, including partial travel ban going into effect, the gains in the fight against ISIS, the steps his voter fraud commission is taking. Is this a missed opportunity?
PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: It's absolutely a missed opportunity. When I read the newspapers every day, especially overseas papers, Wolf, you're looking at some of the things happening in America that are remarkable, and some of them are an effect of the Trump administration.
One you didn't mention: changes in illegal immigration across the southern border and a rapid increase in deportations. We don't have recent figures on those, but those are directly resulting from what the president has told the Department of Homeland Security to do.
You mentioned the gains against ISIS. I would add to that the expansion of military strikes against terrorist targets. In any typical world, Wolf, we would be discussing this today.
Here is what I don't understand. I used to think this was a political story, and now I think it's a psychological story. The spokesmen of the White House keeps telling us, focus on the issues. I just mentioned several that I think are not only interesting but reflect positively on the president. When the spokesmen tell us that, and then the president goes out and talks about stuff that have nothing to do with real news, what are you supposed to talk about? People talk about what the president says, not what he's accomplished.
BLITZER: You know, it's interesting. It's a good -- it's a fair point. You know, Kellyanne Conway, Jeremy Diamond, you're one of our White House reporters. She's a top advisor to the president. She was on the attack, going after the TV anchors; had this to say about overall media coverage earlier this morning.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO DONALD TRUMP: It doesn't help the American people to have a president covered in this light. I'm sorry, it's neither productive or patriotic.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: I certainly can understand from her perspective, not productive. But for her to start raising questions about the patriotism of those who are covering the White House, the president, that raises lots of questions.
JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it really raises questions, especially when you're talking about reporters who are doing their jobs, who are covering the president honestly and factually. And just because that coverage may be negative because of certain of -- some of the things that the president is doing, some of the controversies and the investigations that he's been embroiled in, to say that that is unpatriotic really is a continuation of this undermining of a lot of the freedom of the press that we've seen from this White House.
But it's also part of a larger pattern, which is this White House, and particularly from the communications department, continuing to deflect blame onto the press.
You know, just yesterday, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the deputy press secretary, came out during this briefing and said, essentially, the media needs to do a better job of setting a positive narrative for this White House. And that's just flabbergasting, because ultimately, that's the president's job. He's the one with the bully pulpit. He's the one who should be setting the agenda. The media's job is simply to cover what he's saying, what he's doing and how it's going to affect the country.
BLITZER: Brianna, you covered the Hill. You covered the White House. What do you think about that suggestion from Sarah Huckabee Sanders?
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: I'm slightly flabbergasted by it. That's not our job, quite frankly, and that's not the value of the press.
And clearly, this is a president, if you take him at his word which I think we should, that sees the press as a nuisance. And to borrow a term from professional wrestling, he has tried and perhaps has effectively cast the media as the heel in wrestling. And has gone as far as to undermine the media, but especially even very quality journalism. And you see his aides taking cues from that, as well.
It's not the job of the media, or certainly the press and the mainstream press that is attempting to describe what is happening in accurate terms, to create a positive spin. That's the president's job, is to build a narrative.
BLITZER: Good point. All right, everybody--
MUDD: Hold on. Hold on, time-out.
BLITZER: All right, Phil.
MUDD: She's a fraud. She's a fraud. Twenty-four hours after inauguration, the president stood in front of the stars of dead people at the CIA and chose to spoke about how many people showed up at his inauguration instead of the valor those people showed. And that's patriotism? You've got to be kidding me. She's a fraud. Excuse me.
[18:40:13] BLITZER: Kellyanne Conway, that's--
KEILAR: Not me.
BLITZER: I want to make sure you're not referring to Brianna.
MUDD: No, I'm sorry. I'm sorry, not Brianna.
BLITZER: Brianna Keilar is certainly not a fraud.
Everybody stand by. We have a lot more to discuss. The president now suggesting Obamacare could be replaced after it's been repealed. Is that a viable option? And what does it mean for health care negotiations?
[18:45:18] BLITZER: We're back with our analysts and new uncertainty surrounding the health care debate right now. President Trump now suggesting that Obamacare may not need to be replaced -- repealed and replaced at the same time.
Jeremy, you're getting some new reporting over at the White House on this very sensitive issue. What are you learning?
JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, I talked to a senior White House official just a little bit ago and essentially the thinking is, you know, following this president's tweet, which really sent a lot of people kind of scrambling to figure out what is the White House's strategy? Are they trying to repeal and replace at the same time or are they going to hold off just do repeal and do replacement later?
So, I talked to a senior White House official who said the president and the White House are still very much anxious to do repeal and replace together, but at the same time, they are very much looking at this possible new strategy of doing a repeal stand alone first, and then forcing or trying at least to force Congress to get a replacement bill later on. But still driving all of this at the White House, the reason -- one of the main reasons why they're trying to pass health care again comes back to tax reform. You know, they understand that if they pass health care reform not only from a political standpoint, will it benefit the president, but it also will help them as they try and get those savings so that they can pass major tax cuts going forward.
BLITZER: Yes. That tweet this morning stunned a lot of people. I'll read it.
If Republican senators are unable to pass what they are working on now, they should immediately repeal and then replace at a later date.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: The problem is you can't trust them to do that. I mean, remember, this is roughly the Congress that allowed that sequestration to go into effect. It was supposed to be the consequence that would create -- you know, they uncouple the debt crisis dealing with that from deficit reduction, right, Wolf? And in the end they couldn't get their act together so you just had all these arbitrary cuts.
I mean, they couldn't be trusted to do that. There's a reason why when you're saying to your teenager, you don't say, OK, take my car and go to the movies, then do your homework. You frontload the homework and you backload the car and the movies. That's just what you do.
BLITZER: You know, Ron, you wrote a great column on the tension that apparently exists that you discovered between some high-earner Republican heavyweights as opposed to the lower income older supporters of the president --
RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. BLITZER: -- as far as health care is concerned.
BROWNSTEIN: Right. I mean, there's no reason to think that it would be any easier for them to come together on an alternative if they repealed first and replaced later because you have this fundamental contradiction in that the health care debate pits the two polls, Republican coalition against each other. On the one hand tax cuts in the bill affect only families of $250,000 or above, or individuals $200,000 or above.
Sixty percent of all the tax benefits in this bill go to the top 10 percent of earners. And, so, this is something that is important to the kind of the Republican donor class, the donor base. On the other hand, the bulk of their votes now come from older and blue collar whites. A majority of Trump's votes came from whites over 45. Blue collar provided half of his votes. Both of those groups are those who are hit the hardest in the bill with the biggest increase in premiums, Kaiser calculated the rise for 60-year-olds at 30,000 in the country except for two with the Medicaid cuts.
And as you can see in the polling, they have noticed support for the bill among blue collar and older whites has plummeted. While I agree with Jeremy the passage would give them momentum, I'm not sure it would be a political benefit to pass a bill that less than 20 percent of the public in polling is now supporting. I think that is why Republicans are caught.
BLITZER: All right. Everybody, stand by, because there's more information coming in. We're getting some new details on why some state officials are just saying no to the president's voter fraud commission.
[18:53:21] BLITZER: Tonight, there is a new spotlight on the president's voter fraud commission, created to investigate the president's unsubstantiated claim of widespread illegal voting in the 2016 election. As we reported officials in multiple states are now refusing to comply with the panel's request for lots of personal voter information.
CNN's Tom Foreman is digging deeper on this story for us.
What's the latest, Tom?
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the numbers have been mounting all day long. State after state after state citing privacy concerns, legality concerns, whether or not the whole thing is a sham, even the vice president's own home state of Indiana is saying this is not something they can fully comply with.
TRUMP: So many cities are corrupt and voter fraud is very, very common. FOREMAN (voice-over): In a quest to root out allegedly rampant voter
fraud, the president's commission wants an ocean of sensitive information about every voter, including the person's full name, address, date of birth, political affiliation, voting, military and criminal records, part of his or her Social Security number and more. States, particularly some Democratic blue ones, are pushing back hard. California is flat-out refusing to hand over the info.
ALEX PADILLA, CALIFORNIA SECRETARY OF STATE: The president's allegations of massive voter fraud are simply not true.
FOREMAN: So is New York. We will not comply, and Virginia, too. There is no evidence of significance voter fraud.
But some states that went Republican red for Trump are also balking, including Utah, Alabama, Iowa and Wisconsin. They will hand over only some data and still others are dismissing the whole idea of voter fraud run amuck.
[18:55:04] MATTHEW DUNLAP, MAINE SECRETARY OF STATE: You might find some illegal activity but not to the scale that is described.
TRUMP: People that have died 10 years ago are still voting. Illegal immigrants are voting.
FOREMAN: As a candidate, Donald Trump insisted voter fraud was a real problem. And even after he won the Electoral College, he lashed out at news more people voted for Hillary Clinton, tweeting, I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally.
TRUMP: So many things are going on.
FOREMAN: To help steer his commission, he chose Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach who calls the state's complaints complete nonsense.
KRIS KOBACH, PRESIDENTIAL ADVISORY COMMISSION ON ELECTION INTEGRITY: We're looking at all forms of election irregularities, voter fraud, registration vote, voter intimidation, suppression.
FOREMAN: Kobach has zealously hunted vote cheaters back home for months. Yet, he has found less than a dozen provable cases out of more than a million and a half registered voters. What's more? He's a champion for voter ID laws which many skeptics consider a way to suppress minority votes.
And he was fined by a federal judge in Kansas just last week for his conduct in a lawsuit involving voting rights.
Connecticut's take: Given Secretary Kobach's history, we find it very difficult to have confidence in the work of this commission.
FOREMAN: The fundamental problem is that there is just no credible study showing there has ever been this broad fraud in voting that the White House is claiming. And look at how tensions are rising here. The Mississippi secretary
of state has not received the request yet, but says when he does receive it, he's going to protect the privacy of the citizens of Mississippi, and he will tell the White House, quote, they can go jump in the Gulf of Mexico, and Mississippi is a great state to launch from -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes, if you lost the secretary of state of Mississippi, you're in trouble on this issue.
Tom Foreman, thanks very, very much.
You know, Brianna, there is some people that say this whole request, this whole inquiry could lead to even more voter suppression.
KEILAR: No, that's exactly some of the concerns. And I think you are looking at even Republicans who are saying, why aren't we focusing on something different? I mean, I think voter fraud has been a talking point for them before, but a lot of them are much more concerned, as you know, Wolf, about Russia and the meddling in the 2016 election.
So, it's strange to me, looking at some of the historically Republican just being against the idea of compiling information, of there being some sort of registry. And what you're talking about is getting a lot of information together at the federal level in a way that I think a lot of conservatives should be skeptical of.
BLITZER: You know, Phil, does any of this effort address the real vulnerabilities that Russia tried to exploit in the 2016 presidential election?
PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: I don't think it does. I mean, if you are the president of the United States, your first comment coming into office would be to your national security advisor saying pull the team together and determine how we can protect, for example, voter roles from being hacked, not illegal voters within the United States, but efforts from outside, including the Russians.
If we had been leading on this, Wolf, the president could be going into talks in Europe coming up and telling Europeans we will lead an effort with you to counter the Russians. We neither have presidential leadership in this country to protect 2020. It's not about voter fraud. It is about a foreign entity hacking into our elections. Nor do we have the international leadership capability to go to the French who were also just hacked and say, why don't we get together and counter the Russians? We've lost the game on this.
BLITZER: What does it say, Brianna, that the White House is spending a lot of time and money with this commission to go after a fear that has been so widely debunked, the president alleged 3 million to 5 million illegal votes in the last election?
KEILAR: I think it just reinforces that when President Trump has an obsession about something, those around him, even if they don't believe it and some of them who do, I do believe that Mr. Kobach -- certainly, this is something that he cares about, believes is real. But they follow it through, Wolf. You saw this with the crowd size for the inauguration, even though it seemed like some representatives of the White House were doubtful of what the president was saying, they would speak truth to power and sort of imperil themselves by doing that.
So, you I think just see them executing the president's obsession and voter fraud is one of them, even though it's statistically insignificant, negligibly, it's nonsense.
BLITZER: Yes. And so many people do complain about voter suppression, but that's a totally separate issue. That issue is apparently not being investigated by this commission as well.
All right, guys. Thanks very, very much.
That's it for me. I want to thank all of our viewers so much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. Have a wonderful July 4th weekend that's coming up.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.