Return to Transcripts main page


Trump Touts Calls with Foreign Leaders Amid War on Media; White House Stays Confident Senate Bill Will Pass; Trump, Putin To Meet Face-to-Face This Week; Interview with Florida Congressman Ted Deutsch. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired July 3, 2017 - 09:00   ET


[09:00:00] FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: We'll consider this still part of the holiday. Enjoy, John and Alisyn.


WHITFIELD: Thank you. All right. Good morning, everyone. Hello, I'm Fredricka Whitfield, in for Poppy and John.

It is a high-stakes week for President Trump on the global stage. And this morning, it appears he knows it.

Before jetting off to the G20 Summit in Germany where he will have a face-to-face meeting with Vladimir Putin, Mr. Trump is eager to show that he is working the phones.

This hour, he is speaking with the leaders of Germany and Italy, and he has tweeted out as much. These calls come on the heels of conversations with the leaders of the Gulf States yesterday as well.

But all eyes will be on that Trump/Putin meeting later on this week. Officials telling CNN that the President is not expected to talk about Russia's meddling in the U.S. elections. Instead, he will focus on Syria and Ukraine.

All hugely important topics, but there's a domestic controversy overshadowing all of this: his escalating Twitter feud with the media. The President taking aim, literally, at CNN in a tweet that came just days after the attack on MSNBC host Mika Brzezinski.

We go now to the White House, shall we? That's where we find CNN's Suzanne Malveaux.

So the President trying to focus on the business of the presidency, but this is overshadowing a lot, isn't it?

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: There is quite a bit of talk about it and then quite a bit of attention that was paid to it over the weekend and, really, into the week here.

We know that he is at Bedminster. That is where he is making those critical calls, and he will return to the White House late today. He's going to be hosting military families for the July 4th celebrations tomorrow. But it was over the holiday weekend, Fred, that he used the bully

pulpit not to really push forward Republican health care legislation or other policy issues but rather to ramp up the attacks on the media.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The fake media is trying to silence us. But we will not let them.

MALVEAUX (voice-over): President Trump escalating his ongoing war against the press, tweeting out this doctored video of himself pummeling a man with an edited CNN logo over his face. The video drawing sharp, widespread condemnation.

ANA NAVARRO, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: It is an incitement to violence.

CARL BERNSTEIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It's very disturbing. There's nothing lighthearted about it, whatsoever.

REP. LEE ZELDIN (R), NEW YORK: And we need to protect freedom of the press. There is a responsibility on the part of everyone, including the President of the United States.

MALVEAUX (voice-over): Homeland Security Advisor Thomas Bossert, first shown the video on ABC, insisting the President is not inciting violence.

THOMAS BOSSERT, HOMELAND SECURITY ADVISOR TO PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I think that no one would perceive that as a threat. I hope they don't. But I do think that he is beaten up in a way, on cable platforms, that he has a right to respond to.

MALVEAUX (voice-over): The President tweeting a barrage of anti-media attacks over the holiday weekend and defending his use of social media as modern-day presidential. Trump even unleashing a verbal tirade at an event meant to honor America's veterans ahead of the Fourth of July.

TRUMP: The fake media tried to stop us from going to the White House. But I'm President and they're not.

MALVEAUX (voice-over): This, with the White House already on defense for the President's crude attacks on two MSNBC hosts last week.

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, DEPUTY WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The President, in no way, form, or fashion, has ever promoted or encouraged violence. If anything, quite the contrary.

MALVEAUX (voice-over): CNN responding to directly to the President's latest attack.

"It is a sad day when the President of the United States encourages violence against reporters. Clearly, Sarah Huckabee Sanders lied when she said the President had never done so. Instead of preparing for his overseas trip, his first meeting with Vladimir Putin, dealing with North Korea, and working on his health care bill, he is involved in juvenile behavior far below the dignity of his office. We will keep doing our jobs. He should start doing his."

Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price insisting the President's tweeting doesn't detract from the health care battle.

TOM PRICE, SECRETARY OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES: The fact of the matter is that he can do more than one thing at a time.

MALVEAUX (voice-over): But some Republicans saying the behavior could have serious consequences.

GOV. JOHN KASICH (R), OHIO: People are now begging the President not to do this and, you know, he ought to stop doing it.

SEN. BEN SASSE (R), NEBRASKA: There's an important distinction to draw between bad stories or crappy coverage and the right that citizens have to argue about that and complain about that, and trying to weaponize distrust.


MALVEAUX: The President, of course, has a critically important and busy week ahead, Fred. North Korea continues to provoke the President, putting in calls to leaders of South Korea, China, and Japan ahead of some personal meetings with them later in the week.

On Wednesday is when he leaves for Poland. He will be having a quick trip there. And then on Thursday, to the G20 summit. That is where he is going to be having those critical sidebar meetings, including with the Russian President Vladimir Putin -- Fred.

[09:05:09] WHITFIELD: All right. Suzanne Malveaux, at the White House, thanks so much.

All right. Let's discuss all of this. April Ryan, CNN political analyst and White House correspondent for American Urban Radio Networks; Paul Singer, Washington correspondent for "USA Today"; and Caitlyn Huey-Burns, national political reporter for "RealClearPolitics." Good to see all of you.

All right. So, April, you first. You know, the President is tweeting today mostly about his discussions with Italy, Germany, and France. He says he talked to Saudi Arabia also yesterday and said interesting things are happening. So is this the President showing that he is getting back on track?

APRIL RYAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Fredricka, we have no clue. One minute, he may be very traditionally presidential, talking about his phone calls. And, you know, we have readouts, you know, from some other calls that he had over the weekend as well. But then, you know, he gets into this tirade or this tangent, going into tweeting about CNN fighting, you know, a wrestling match, or talking about Joe and Mika and, you know, talking against Mika Brzezinski.

I mean, we just don't know. One minute, it's one way; the next, it's another. And I believe that the American public really wants to see -- and what we are hearing from the American public, they really want to see a President who is doing the people's business.

And I don't believe many people are talking about the tweets. They want to hear what's going on with foreign policy, domestically. There's a lot at stake. A lot is on the table.

WHITFIELD: So, Paul, you wrote that this President tweets more about the media than about anything else. His supporters actually celebrate this kind of transparency. In fact, yesterday, I spoke with Republican Congressman Lee Zeldin who had this to say about the use of Twitter for this President.


ZELDIN: About the President of the United States, I do believe that he has an effective tool through social media to be able to communicate with the American public. Talk about what you're working on, the challenges that are ahead, the victories that we've had --

WHITFIELD: So what was the message today? What was the message today then?

ZELDIN: I'm not here to defend the tweet that was there this morning so that's why I'm giving the answer that there is a way for the President to be able to raise his game. But there is a -- you know, I'm not -- it's not a changing of direction, that we all need to do more to be able to raise our game.


WHITFIELD: So, Paul, when it's a distraction, you know, is this eroding the President's clout on big things like health care and his upcoming G20 Summit?

PAUL SINGER, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, USA TODAY: You know, Trump thrives in opposition. He wins -- that is, he won the presidency -- in part because and in large part because it was an "us versus them" campaign. He needs to have a "them" that he can compare "us" to.

And at the moment, the media is a great distraction for him because, at the moment, we're in, God bless, a fairly safe time. We haven't been attacked in our country by terrorists recently. So the "them," instead of being some foreign terrorist, now becomes the media.

And we are basically foreigners to most of America anyway. They think we're bad people. This works for Donald Trump. This works for his base.

WHITFIELD: Interesting. OK. So "them," let's stay with that then, Caitlyn. If "them" could be Russia, the President is going to be meeting with Vladimir Putin face-to-face this week. It will be maybe, in part, impromptu, partly scheduled. The White House says they're going to talk about Syria and Ukraine.

Well, is it a missed opportunity for the President to talk about Russia as, you know, "us versus them," Russia meddling in U.S. elections? A mistake to not go there? CAITLYN HUEY-BURNS, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, REALCLEARPOLITICS:

That is certainly top of mind in Congress right now as they're investigating Russian meddling in the election. The President has not acknowledged, to the extent that Republican lawmakers have, that Russia interfered in the elections. He has said, maybe it was Russia, maybe it was someone else.

The key here, too, is that there is a concern about what exactly the President will say in that one-on-one meeting. Remember, he came under scrutiny for meeting with Russian officials in the Oval Office, reportedly sharing classified information that led to --

WHITFIELD: In a photograph, looking very jovial.

HUEY-BURNS: Exactly.

WHITFIELD: They looked happy to be with each other.

HUEY-BURNS: Exactly, and so there is a concern about that kind of conversation happening. But the main bottom line here is that this is the first meeting between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin.

The conversation is going to be interesting. The body language is going to be very telling. These are two men who are on this world stage for the first time meeting face-to-face.

WHITFIELD: And then, now for some other Fourth of July kind of fireworks, this coming from the New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. State beaches, off limits, closed to everyone. Except he and his family, you guys.

[09:09:59] April, you know, Christie's office tried to divert attention saying the Governor, you know, was not sunbathing. But then you look at this picture with he and the family there on the beach. You know, are people owed a better explanation coming directly from the Governor?

RYAN: Yes. New Jersey is having some financial issues. And if the Governor says, you know, things are shut down, and then he goes out to a beach that's shut down with his own family, that does not bode well. And he's enjoying the beach when others cannot.

Yes, he has his own security and maybe he could use the piece that, you know, I'm protected, they will watch and make sure that we're OK, his protective detail. But still, nonetheless, it's plain hypocrisy.

WHITFIELD: It's a message being sent.

RYAN: Yes. It's hypocrisy. And it goes along with his friendship with President Trump. They do what they want and leave the rest on the floor and let it fall where it may, but --

WHITFIELD: And so, Paul, do you see these kinds of parallels or commonalities of, you know, these many conversations about elected office, abuse of powers, and this potentially exemplifies?

SINGER: Well --

WHITFIELD: An example of that.

SINGER: This is Chris Christie in the YOLO phase of his governorship, right? I mean, he basically has nothing to lose anymore.


SINGER: You only live once. He's got --

WHITFIELD: Oh, OK. I'm like, what does that mean?


SINGER: He's got nothing to lose. He's not on the ballot. Nobody cares.

You know, he is fighting a budget fight that matters in the state of New Jersey, but he's just going to like -- you know, this is Chris Christie in his waning days in public life. And, frankly, I don't think he cares what we think. And he's going to go to the beach.

WHITFIELD: Ouch. Caitlyn, YOLO!

HUEY-BURNS: Yes. Thank you, Paul, for borrowing one of the millennials' favorite phrases. I agree with that. What's interesting about Chris Christie is that he is sitting on a 15 percent approval rating right now. This is --

WHITFIELD: And to that he said, I don't care.

HUEY-BURNS: Exactly, to Paul's point. And so what's interesting about Christie, remember, he was elected by a large margin, re-elected in a blue state, was considered to be kind of the Republicans' way to win in blue states. Talk about a fall from grace.

We saw that over the course of the 2016 campaign when he came out for Donald Trump, in terms of the way in which the Republican Party responded to him doing that. We'll see what kind of effect this has on his poll numbers. It's hard to see how you can drop lower than 15 percent.

WHITFIELD: April, you want to punctuate this?

RYAN: YOLO is interesting. He has nothing to lose, you're right. But 15 percent approval rating, I mean, he doesn't care, apparently. But the bottom line is, we are now in an era where presidents think that they can do whatever -- or presidents or elected officials think that they can do whatever and it's OK. And the American public is allowing it.

The question is, how much of a dis-ease will the public have with this and other things? And it only changes when people speak up.

WHITFIELD: All right. April Ryan, Paul Singer, Caitlyn Huey-Burns, we'll leave it right there. Thanks so much. SINGER: Thank you. Have a good Fourth.

WHITFIELD: All right. Republican senators head home to try to sell their health care plan, but are they on the same page about repealing and replacing ObamaCare? And will it be a tough pill for voters to swallow?

Plus, tax the rich? A surprising pitch from a top White House aide that could cut taxes for the working class, but does it have the president's support?



WHITFIELD: All right. Welcome back. This July 4th holiday, members of Congress are back in their home districts and likely hearing an earful about the ongoing battle over health care and the latest Senate proposal.

There was no vote in the U.S. Senate on the health care bill and now some lawmakers are proposing the August recess be shelved so that a health care plan can be reached.

New fireworks sparked when President Trump tweeted "repeal now, replace later." That option introduced and supported by Senator Ben Sasse.


SEN. BEN SASSE (R), NEBRASKA: We can do a combined repeal and replace over the next week, that's great. If we can't, though, then there's no reason to walk away. We should do repeal with a delay. Let's be clear. I don't want to see anybody thrown off the coverage they have now. I would want a delay so that we could get straight to work.


WHITFIELD: All right, big problem, the repeal then replace plan is not on the table for Senate Leader Mitch Mcconnell.

Meanwhile, at least one Senate Democrat is proclaiming his willingness to work with President Trump.


SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D), WEST VIRGINIA: He is our president and I want him to succeed. I want him to know there are Democrats that want to work with him. But right now, they can't even repeal it. They can't get 50 votes to repeal it because somebody is getting hurt more than what they're willing to sign on to.

Then look at some of us, work with us Democrats who are willing to meet you in the middle. I'm looking everywhere I can to work with them and work with this White House and work with this president, my president, in trying to make things better. (END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: All right. Joining me now to discuss all of this is Democratic Congressman Ted Deutsch of Florida. Welcome and happy holiday weekend.


WHITFIELD: Have you been receiving an earful from your constituents while home?

DEUTSCH: Sure. Absolutely, and there is just such anger over the way that this health care bill was done. The Senate crafted this thing in private behind closed doors.

Then they sprung it on the American public. And it's little wonder they didn't want people to know. It would cut 22 million people off from access to health care. It guts Medicaid by 35 percent. It's going to result in people being kicked out of nursing homes.

It's also going to result in people who desperately need treatment for opioid addiction, not being able to get that treatment and it's going to do away with the essential health benefits that the Affordable Care Act provides. This is a terrible bill.

And the suggestion that somehow we would be better off if we simply cast aside the Affordable Care Act altogether and put insurance companies back in charge of our health care, that's even worse. So, yes, I've heard a lot about it. People don't like it. There's a reason that it's so incredibly unpopular.

WHITFIELD: So then, what do you say to your constituents who say something needs to be done to repair, fix Obamacare, even those who say replace it altogether?

[09:20:06]Are you in step with Democratic Senator Manchin who says he wants to see this president succeed? He wants to find other Democrats who are willing to assist in shaping a new plan? Are you there?

DEUTSCH: Well, Fred, I have been saying for years that instead of doing what we have been doing in Congress, which is having these meaningless votes to repeal Obamacare, we should have been working to strengthen it.

And I still think the goal has to be to strengthen it to provide more competition, to bring down costs. There are a whole host of ways that we can do that but only if there's a willingness on the part of Republican leadership to actually work to accomplish that instead of trying to live up to some campaign promise to repeal Obamacare, a partisan stunt that would cost millions of Americans their access to health care.

WHITFIELD: So, it's your belief that this president and some members of Congress are too hung up on repealing, you know, as opposed to working on how to improve the existing plan? DEUTSCH: Well, I don't think there's any question about that. All you need to look at is that the dozens of times that we've had votes to repeal the Affordable Care Act when President Obama was president, when we could have been working together to strengthen the markets, to ensure more competition, to bring prices down.

Look at where we are now. Candidate Donald Trump said that we ought to give Medicare the ability to negotiate lower drug prices. Candidate Donald Trump said we would never cut Medicaid and yet here we are.

And the president now, President Trump is taking the same reckless approach that Republican leadership has taken in the past. We should be working together to strengthen the Affordable Care Act, to provide more access at a lower cost instead of looking at a piece of legislation that cuts access to health care and raises costs on everyone else.

WHITFIELD: So what do you think is going to happen? The Republicans have had seven years to do away with or reshape Obamacare. There have been more than 50 votes to repeal, replace it. That didn't happen unsuccessfully.

So now what? What do you see happening, particularly for people who are counting on health care right now, who are worried about what's going to happen next year? How do you see it playing out this year?

DEUTSCH: Right. Well, there are lots of -- millions and millions of Americans who are worried about not just whether or not they're going to continue to have coverage, but whether that coverage is going to continue to ban discrimination for pre-existing conditions.

Whether that coverage is going to continue to provide access to essential benefits, like maternity care and pediatric care and emergency room care. They would like this partisan stunt to end and they would like the Republican leadership to be willing to reach out, sit down and have a conversation about strengthening what we have now.

That's the approach that I hear my colleagues talking about. Let's make the Affordable Care Act stronger, not this really dangerous approach that would be so detrimental to millions of Americans.

WHITFIELD: Congressman Ted Deutsch, thanks for your time and happy Fourth weekend.

DEUTSCH: Thanks very much. Happy Fourth to you.

WHITFIELD: All right. This week, Trump and Putin will finally meet face to face, now that Donald Trump is president and might it resolve some real world problems, or will this just be a chance for the two men to size each other up? We'll discuss next.


[09:28:01] WHITFIELD: All right, welcome back. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. So this is the week when President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin will finally meet face-to-face since Trump took office.

Here's what we know. It will be a sideline meeting at the G20 and not a formal bilateral. The White House says Trump will focus on working out their differences over what to do about Syria and Ukraine.

Not on the list of topics to discuss, election meddling. But officials say this unstructured agenda means that Trump could bring up anything he wants to.

CNN's Matthew Chance is joining us live now from Moscow. So Matthew, what else could be expected from this meeting?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's difficult to say, isn't it? Because the agenda hasn't been set. We don't know exactly what these two figures are going to be discussing.

But make no mistake, there is shortage of topics for the Russian and U.S. presidents to be talking about, not the least of which you just mentioned, the allegations of interference by Moscow in the presidential election last year that swept Donald Trump into office.

But there are other outstanding issues as well, particularly the conflict in Syria, the ongoing hostilities in Ukraine. All of these are pressing issues. Also the fact that the United States has sanctions, economic sanctions on Russia, which Russia dearly wants lifted.

And so there's a whole range of issues that could be discussed, but it's impossible to predict that briefing further from either side, what will actually be discussed.

And I think there's some confusion on the Russian side. Certainly expectations are very low from the Russian side about what can be achieved. The state news anchor yesterday often a mouthpiece for the kremlin saying, look, if they agree to just meet again, the Russian side will consider that to be a success -- Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: And so, Matthew, meantime, the kremlin spokesman, Dmitri Peskov, says that patience is running out. And I'm quoting there. Over the state of the diplomatic compounds that were in the U.S. that were seized last year during the Obama administration. What does that mean, patience is running out? Meaning they want those properties back, access back, explanation, what?