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GOP Unveils New Health Care Bill, 2 Senators Unveil Alternative; What Did Trump Know About Son's Russian Meeting; Fact Checking Clinton-Ukraine Collusion Claims; Mike Pence Talks Health Care Bill; Interview with Sen. John Thune. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired July 13, 2017 - 14:30   ET


[14:30:00] SENATOR JOHN THUNE, (R), SOUTH DAKOTA: But like I said, none of these things are ultimately final until we get up on the floor and open to an amendment process.

ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: Rand Paul says this is in no way a repeal. He plans to vote no on it. We have on the other side, moderate Senator, Susan Collins. And she tweets out, "It doesn't do enough. Still deep cuts to Medicaid in the Senate bill. Will vote no on MTP" -- motion to proceed -- "Ready to work with GOP and Dem colleagues to fix flaws in ACA."

So that's two who have said definitively no. You can't lose one more vote. Is that right?

THUNE: That's the margin, Ana. There's a very narrow margin of error on this bill. And, again, I think what you're hearing is you've got our more conservative members saying this doesn't go far enough. Our more moderate members saying it goes too far. And I think that sort of tells you that it's probably trying to strike the balance. And hopefully, the broad middle will conclude that we at least ought to get on the bill. We need to have an opportunity next week to debate, open up the amendment process, if our members don't like particular provisions in the bill, want to strike them or add something else, they'll get that opportunity. But it's important that we get on the bill because if we don't get on the bill, we're never going to have an opportunity to discuss this and debate this in the full Senate and a chance to rescue the American people from what is a failing system and a collapsing marketplace.

CABRERA: You guys included parts of the Cruz Amendment. It allows insurers to provide these skimpier plans to forego those 10 essential plans covering things like prescriptions, maternity care, preventative screenings, lab tests. It looks like this was included to appease hardline Republicans, those on the far right. Do you personally support the Cruz Amendment?

THUNE: I like what he's trying to do. I think, on the, you know, on the merits, on the surface, it makes a lot of sense. But obviously, you have to look at the consequences. You've got to look at the impacts. How does that affect stability of the broader insurance pool? What does that do to the marketplace. And those are --

(CROSSTALK) CABRERA: So you don't actually like the Cruz Amendment, I'm hearing.

THUNE: That's -- that's feedback that we need to get. By giving people the option of buying the insurance product they want is consistent with what we think makes sense in terms of giving people more options and more choices. There wouldn't be any marketplace where you wouldn't have a plan that has all the other essential requirements in it. All this would simply do is add an as option other plans that might be slimmed down versions that some people might want to purchase.


CABRERA: I hear you say the goal is lower premiums, increased consumer choices. But this is one take about how this is going to impact the market. This is from Kaiser Family Foundation, which is a nonpartisan health care policy expert. And this is what the vice president says, "If there were a joy of cooking for insurance, this would be the perfect are recipe for destabilizing the market and turning the marketplaces into high-risk pools."

THUNE: Well, look, and that's why I said, we've got to get -- that's important feedback to have. We're going to be hearing from a lot of folks about this. But one thing this bill does is it does pump significant resources, an additional $70 billion, into a stability fund that could be used to help pay for the costs of people in that pool who might have preexisting conditions or conditions that don't enable them to get insurance in the regular marketplace. So if you have an option for people that want to buy a product that has a higher deductible, some sort of catastrophic coverage, and at a much lower premium, we'll lower premiums for people in that marketplace. We have to examine the impact on other people. But that's what that $70 billion is for is to help cost share and help people in that market that might be -- might have higher health care costs as a result of conditions they might have.

CABRERA: Everything I've read, we're hearing from health policy experts saying that this is going to be detrimental, potentially, for people with preexisting conditions and those who are sicker among us. And would help, as you point out, lower the cost of premiums for people who are healthier. But one way we can get a better sense of who it hurts, who it helps is, of course, the CBO score. And with these new amendments and adjustments, is this bill going to get a CBO score before a vote or the motion to proceed?

THUNE: I think we'll have a lot of feedback from CBO and a score on the overall bill. You know, each of these individual provisions are, they're being looked at, I think, not only in isolation but in the context of the broader bill. And we need that feedback. That's why, you know, in order to move forward, we have to make these decisions in an informed way. But, again, back to your point, if people are in the so-called pool where they've got higher health care costs because of health conditions, there's $70 billion now available to help buy down and provide cost sharing for people in that pool. That's even if the Cruz Amendment stays in. So, remember --


CABRERA: And the Cruz Amendment will be included when the CBO reveals its revised score before the vote?

THUNE: That is correct. Yes. Well, they will -- the CBO will be looking at the legislation with the Cruz Amendment, I think, probably without the Cruz Amendment, and giving us their feedback. And there will be others who are looking at it. There are actuaries out there from the insurance companies giving us feedback on that. And I think there will be others who are modeling this to see what these impacts might be. And we're interested in all that information as we move forward.

[14:35:08] CABRERA: So a CBO score before a vote, just to confirm?

THUNE: Well, there will be a CBO score, yeah. I mean I think --


CABRERA: Before the vote, correct?

THUNE: On the overall bill, yes.

CABRERA: With the Cruz Amendment, yes?

THUNE: Well, I think the Cruz Amendment will be examined in the context of how it impacts other features in the bill. And I hope that --


CABRERA: I'm so sorry. I feel like I'm not understanding or getting a clear yes or no answer. Will the Cruz Amendment be scored before there is a vote to proceed?

THUNE: The Cruz Amendment will be scored.

CABRERA: Before the vote?

THUNE: Well, it's going to be scored -- it will be scored before the vote. And whether the -- again, the question of whether or not the CBO has an opportunity to evaluate all the impacts of the Cruz Amendment before the vote, that may be a different question. But I can tell you, the Cruz Amendment will be scored. There are going to be a lot of folks looking at this. And the overall bill will be scored by the CBO before we vote, yes.

CABRERA: OK. Let's move on.

Talking about Senators Graham and Cassidy, their plan to keep Obamacare taxes, give money to the states to control that come from those taxes. Here's Lindsey Graham.



SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Well, you know, we're going to support Mitch's effort with his new plan, but we want an alternative. And we're going to see which one can get 50 votes. We're not undercutting Mitch. He's not undercutting us.


CABRERA: Are you upset that they unveiled their alternative plan during the very hour you guys released your revised bill?

THUNE: Well, I think it's -- you know, we're an entrepreneurial party. We have people with lots of good ideas. Everybody says they don't have an idea. We have lots of ideas. We have multiple ideas. And that's another one that gets into the mix. And clearly, it sounds like they intend to offer an amendment on the floor. But you have to get on the bill before you can actually have a debate about amendments. So, if Senators Graham and Cassidy want to offer that, it is probably a good discussion to have. It's an interesting approach. And it will give people something else to look at. But you aren't going to be able to consider that until you get on the bill. So I think that's --

CABRERA: Does it help or hurt your ability to get people to support your bill.

THUNE: Well, we'll see in the end. I mean, I think if it -- if people think that they're going to be able to vote on an amendment like that once we get on the bill, I think it helps our bill because we want to get the process moving forward. And the first step in that is to get the motion to proceed. You have to get on the bill before you can ultimately listen to and have an opportunity to debate and vote upon amendments that get offered during that process. And I think, again, there are going to be a lot of members with a lot of different ideas. This is one of them. And we welcome that. Obviously, we want to get all the best ideas out into the mix, and have an opportunity for people to talk about them.

CABRERA: Senator John Thune, we really appreciate your time. Thank you.

THUNE: Thanks, Ana.

CABRERA: Coming up, what happened on the days leading up to that meeting Donald Trump Jr had with a Russian lawyer in Trump Tower, how those events unfolded, and what President Trump knew about it, next.

Plus, the Trump camp trying to change the subject by throwing it back on Democrats, drawing connections between the DNC and Ukraine. What's going on there? We'll discuss.


[14:42:32] CABRERA: So far, the Trump family is standing by Donald Trump Jr. His father, the president, praised his son for being transparent about the Russian lawyer meeting.

That meeting just landed Trump Jr on the cover of "Time" magazine, and not in a good way. Here it is. Cover line reads, "Red handed, the Russia scandal hits home."

Don Jr joins a list of covers that have likely not gone over so well with the president, although he has repeatedly bragged about how many times he's been on the magazine's cover.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So a reporter for "Time" magazine. And I have been on their cover like 14 or 15 times. I think we have the all-time record in the history of "Time" magazine, like if Tom Brady's on the cover, it's one time because he won the super bowl or something, right? I've been on it for 15 times this year. I don't think that's a record, Mike, that can ever be broken, do you agree with that? What do you think?


CABRERA: With me now, Michael D'Antonio, CNN contributor.

Michael, you say Don Jr would not have taken a meeting with a mystery guest. You believe he knew who he was meeting with the moment he walked in there.

MICAHEL D'ANTONIO, CNN CONTRIBUTOR & AUTHOR: I do think he understood, if not the precise identity of the person he was meeting, the topic that was to be discussed and what was on offer. You know, the Trumps are great negotiators. They have spent their life buying and selling objects of great value, and so he was actually in this meeting prepared to receive what might be offered and I think hoping, obviously, that it was something really big.

CABRERA: Donald Trump, you know, is a family man above all. What do you think it's been like for him to see his son, Don Jr, at the center of this latest Russian development?

D'ANTONIO: Well, let's put it this way. Donald Trump's office in Trump Tower is decorated with all the magazine covers that have ever featured his face. I don't think this is going to be a cover that gets put up on the wall anywhere in Trump Tower. He's got to be very pained about all of this, and, you know, he is, like all fathers, very concerned for his son and very much concerned about the image of the family going forward.

You know, I was thinking earlier today about how there have been a reluctant Trump in every generation, going back several among the Trump family. And in Donald's own upbringing, his own brother, Fred, was reluctant about being in the family business. And I think Donald Jr was the reluctant Trump in his generation. And it's more than ironic that he's the one now caught in this terrible situation.

[14:45:16] CABRERA: And yet, you say he belongs to a clan that considers, quote, "self-confidence to be the same as competence." Do you believe that played a role going into this meeting?

D'ANTONIO: Yeah, this is the real trap, I think, of the family business. And also, the dynamic that anyone born into the Trump clan faces. They are isolated, as many very wealthy, very powerful people are, and don't often hear about what they got wrong.

The problem with that is that you start to be over confident and you feel that your expertise can be transferred to any arena. The president himself is struggling to become the president and function well. I think Donald Trump Jr has said, himself, he wasn't a political creature. He was new to all of this. And yet, he blundered into a trap that even someone with the barest common sense about politics would have avoided.

CABRERA: Now, Ivanka and Jared, they're once again not around during this fire storm. They're in Idaho for a media and a tech conference. Just coincidence?

D'ANTONIO: Not at all. I think that's a very apt observation. Jared and Ivanka are far more sophisticated players in every sense of the word. I think that Jared absented himself from that meeting at Trump Tower that's now such a controversy, in part, because he sensed there was nothing coming out of it and, B, maybe he shouldn't be there. The fact that they're now away from Washington and away from Paris is another indicator that they understand when to be in the spotlight and when to leave it on someone else.

CABRERA: Michael D'Antonio, always good to get your insight. Thank you.

Coming up, as questions heat up about Don Jr's meeting with that Russian lawyer, some in the Trump camp are pushing back, saying Democrats are the ones though blame. We'll fact-check that.

Plus, the president in France today saying that most people would have taken the meeting. We're live in Paris. Stay with us.


[14:51:27] CABRERA: From Jr and Russia, Clinton and the DNC and Ukraine, defenders of the president and his family arguing these are the same thing. This argument getting louder this week following the release of the president's son's e-mails setting up a meeting with a Russian lawyer. But do Russia and Ukraine, those two situations, pose equal threats? Were they in the same ballpark?

I want to bring in CNN global affairs correspondent, Elise Labott.

Let's back up for a moment, Elise. Explain what happened between the Ukrainians and the Democrats.

ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, essentially, what you had was a consultant, if you will, for the Democratic National Committee. Her name was Alexandra Chalupa (ph). I think I'm saying it correctly. And she was someone who was a Ukrainian-American activist who was doing some outreach with Ukraine-American voters for the DNC. Now she, in a sense, kind of started researching on her own some of the ties that she thought were between the Trump campaign, particularly Paul Manafort, the then-campaign chairman, and his work with former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych. The more she found out about this information, she started sharing it a little bit with the Clinton campaign. The way the Clinton campaign and the DNC described it, is it was never a kind of full briefing or a full paper, but she certainly was passing along her observations and her research to the DNC. Now, nothing ever really came of it. But certainly, the Trump campaign is saying that while, you know, there's a lot of furor over the Russian involvement in the election, it does seem as if the Ukrainian government had some interest. And I mean, this woman, this DNC consultant, did have contacts in the Ukrainian embassy, did have contacts in the Ukrainian government, who she shared her impressions, and they shared information and they shared research. So it's not exactly a frivolous comparison between the two.

CABRERA: But do you believe that it's in the same ballpark?

LABOTT: I don't know if it's exactly in the same ballpark. First, Ukraine is an ally of the United States. So we're not talking about -- and we're not necessarily talking about a government passing information to the campaign. This was this third intermediary. But, again, Ukraine is an ally of the United States. Russia is, you know, a known adversary whose intelligence operations in the United States have always been subject to scrutiny. And it's also -- you know, there was a government effort by the Russians, according to the intelligence community, to subvert, to collude with certain people to help Donald Trump. This was more of one person who was sharing information that she heard.

I mean, it's not completely apples and oranges, but I think what we're talking about with the Russian instances is a much more concerted effort at the top levels of the Russian government, as opposed to a kind of third intermediary that was passing on information, passing on impressions without it really going anywhere further. And certainly, there weren't meetings between Clinton campaign officials and Ukrainian government officials, as there appear to be with the Trump campaign and the -- and members of the Russian government.

[14:55:00] CABRERA: All right, Elise Labott, thank you.

Up next, did President Trump just open the door for new talks on the Paris Climate Accord? What he means by "something could happen." That's ahead.

Plus, moments ago, the president speaking out about his son's meeting with a Russian lawyer at Trump Tower. His take on that secret meeting, next.


MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: With that said, let me say that in addition to tax reform that we want to talk about today, President Trump and I truly believe that one of the keys to spurring economic growth in America today is to keep our promise to repeal and replace Obamacare. And the president and I are very pleased that, just a few hours ago, the leadership of the United States Senate released an updated version of the Senate health care bill. The president and I are truly grateful to Leader Mitch McConnell as we are every member of the United States Senate. They have to roll their sleeves up and get this bill to the president's desk soon. As I saw again in Kentucky just yesterday, American families and American businesses are hurting under the collapsing weight of Obamacare.