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GOP Unveils Health Care Bill Changes; President Trump Praises France. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired July 13, 2017 - 3:00   ET



MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And get this bill to the president's desk, and get it there soon.

As I saw again in Kentucky just yesterday, American families and American businesses are hurting under the collapsing weight of Obamacare. And it's time for Congress to act.

Now, this legislation, President Trump and I believe, is the right bill at the right time to begin the end of Obamacare. And we would be grateful to have your support.

This legislation will put American health care back on a path toward more freedom, more choices, and more affordability for working families. The Senate health care bill repeals Obamacare's individual and business mandates. It cuts taxes on working families and small individuals and restores freedom, and we believe it will create jobs.

The bill expands health savings accounts to pay for insurance premiums. It also offers tax credits to Americans to help buy coverage at a more affordable price, provides $45 billion for states across the country to combat the scourge of opiate addiction and also ensures that every American with a preexisting condition has access to the coverage and care that they need, no exceptions.

And, lastly, surrounded by so many great advocates of American personal responsibility and federalism, I can tell you that this legislation gives states all new freedom and flexibility to reform Medicaid in ways that it will better meet the needs of the most vulnerable in those states.

We truly do believe that the Senate health care bill is the beginning of the end of Obamacare. It will return American health care to a system based on our time-honored principles of free-market competition, personal responsibility, and state-based reform.

And above all else...

ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: The vice president there speaking moments ago on health care, as Senate Republicans unveiled their revised bill. They can't lose one more vote. Much, much more on this in just a moment.

But, first, the president across the Atlantic, but unable to escape the controversy surrounding his administration and his own family. We now know President Trump's son Donald Trump Jr. may be about to testify publicly about his meeting with the Russian lawyer.

President Trump standing alongside French President Emmanuel Macron getting grilled right out of the gate on the firestorm surrounding his son's meeting. Watch.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My son is a wonderful young man. He took a meeting with a Russian lawyer, not a government lawyer, but a Russian lawyer.

It was a short meeting. It was a meeting that went very, very quickly, very fast. Two other people were in the room. They -- I guess one of them left almost immediately, and the other one was not really focused on the meeting.

I do think this. I think from a practical standpoint, most people would've taken that meeting. It's called opposition research, or even research into your opponent.

I have had many people -- I have only been in politics for two years, but I have had many people call up, oh, gee, we have information on this factor or this person or, frankly, Hillary.

That's very standard in politics. Politics is not the nicest business in the world, but it's very standard, where they have information and you take the information.

In the case of Don, he listened. I guess they talked about -- as I see it, they talked about adoption and some things. Adoption wasn't even a part of the campaign. But nothing happened from the meeting. Zero happened from the meeting.

And, honestly, I think the press made a very big deal over something that really a lot of people would do. Now, the lawyer that went to the meeting, I see that she was in the halls of Congress also. Somebody said that her visa or her passport to come into the country was approved by Attorney General Lynch.

Now, maybe that's wrong. I just heard that a little while ago. But I was a little surprised to hear that, so she was here because of Lynch.

So, again, I have a son who's a great young man. He's a fine person. He took a meeting with a lawyer from Russia. It lasted for a very short period, and nothing came of the meeting. And I think it's a meeting that most people in politics probably would have taken.


CABRERA: The president's comments come as Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, a Republican, is sending Trump Jr. a formal letter asking him to testify.

Remember here, in Macron's very short time in office, the French president has made many headlines for slamming President Trump's decision to pull out of the Paris agreement on climate change, for mocking Trump's make America great again slogan, for that white- knuckle handshake Macron later called a moment of truth between him and President Trump.

Let's discuss.


Jeff Zeleny, CNN senior White House correspondent, is traveling with the president, joins us now.

Jeff, what struck out -- or stuck out, I should say, to you the most about the president's response when he was asked about that meeting between his son and the Russian lawyer?


And I think one thing that stuck out was not surprising, of course, that the president defended his eldest son. We know that it's a very tight family and that he does much appreciate and is close to Donald Trump Jr. That's not surprising.

What is simply not quite accurate is the statement that most people would have accepted that meeting. Really across the board, Democrats, Republicans, and even the president's new incoming nominee to lead the FBI says this is not standard practice. When someone, a lawyer who has connections to the Russian government offers information about a political rival or to help a campaign, it simply is not standard practice to accept that.

So, the president was suggesting this was kind of a benign thing, something every campaign does. If that was the case, Senator Chuck Grassley, Republican of Iowa, likely would not be calling Donald Trump Jr. before the Judiciary Committee next week to testify about all this.

So, that was certainly interesting, the president kind of trying to say, oh, there's nothing to see here. This is simply another press controversy.

It's much beyond that. Investigators simply want to know more about this as part of their, you know, inquiry into whether there was collusion. This meeting does not prove there was collusion, of course. We don't know what it proves, but investigators now from the House and the Senate as well as the special prosecutor say they want to know more about this.

So, the president, of course, trying to downplay that a touch. But the rest of the meeting with French President Macron certainly interesting, talking about counterterrorism and other matters as well, as well as walking back all of that criticism President Trump has made about Paris, which he made something of a punchline during the campaign. He was singing its praises and flattering the new French president today -- Ana. CABRERA: He was singing praises. And the new French president was

also playing nice with President Trump as well.

Jeff Zeleny, thank you.

Let's bring in our panel now, CNN diplomatic and military analyst retired Admiral John Kirby, also with us, Pete Hoekstra, a former U.S. Republican congressman and the former chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, and John Avlon, CNN political analyst and editor in chief for The Daily Beast.

Congressman, you are no stranger to political campaigns. President Trump says anyone who is in politics would take a meeting like this with something offering up an opposition research perhaps. Would you take a meeting with somebody portrayed to you as a Russian government attorney with dirt on your opponent?

PETE HOEKSTRA (R), FORMER U.S. CONGRESSMAN: Well, the first thing is, my staff would not have -- the e-mail would not have come to me. It would have gone to one of my staff. My staff would not have put me in that position, and they may have found -- and I think most campaigns on Capitol Hill or, you know, in grassroots America would have maybe been intrigued enough that they would have -- you know, they would have thoroughly vetted the meeting before the meeting ever took place to see if there was any substance.

If there was some nefarious activities coming from the Russian government, they probably would have gone to the FBI and reported it. If they said, you know, this is -- it's not connected to the Russian government, this is an individual that's maybe got some information.

And, heaven knows, there's enough on the Clintons that you would suspect that there might be something with a foreign government with what happened in the '92 elections, what happened with the Clinton Foundation, that they may have gone through a cutout and to see exactly what this person had.

They probably just didn't do enough, you know, screening of this meeting before the meeting took place. If they had done more screening, they may have reached a totally different objective and said, you know, really, this is about some content. It is about immigration. It is about adoption.

And they would then have decided whether they take the meeting or they would have said, no, there's nothing here and they would have passed on it. Or they would have said, there's maybe substance here, but where it's coming from raises enough red flags that, you know, maybe we shouldn't take it or we won't take it, but we will pass it somewhere else.


CABRERA: And the incoming FBI director, Donald Trump's pick to lead that agency, has said that's exactly what should have been done with the information about this Russian government effort to help Donald Trump in the election. That was part of the e-mail chain. And, as we know, John Avlon, Donald Trump Jr. has since come out and

said, in retrospect, he would have done things differently. The president, on the other hand, doubling down on him having this meeting. What do you make of Trump's defense of his son here?

JOHN AVLON, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, defending your son is a perfectly natural and normal thing to do.

What's not normal is to pretend that this is all just typical political opposition research. It's not. And, you know, the congressman used a lot of words to try to say there were layers and authority and thorough vetting was needed, but the fundamental e-mail that came to Don Jr. said that, hey, someone high up in the Russian justice department had information, dirt on the Clintons, because the Russian government was supporting his father's campaign.


Everything about that is outside the realm of normal. So, let's not pretend that this is some variation on opposition research being offered by a local pol.

This is geopolitical, you know, enemy of the United States saying that we are trying to collude with your campaign to give you information in the election, and it's coming from a Russian government source.

So, just, you know, let's not buy the normalization by the president and let's not by the spin by people trying to rationalize it for partisan purposes.

CABRERA: Admiral Kirby, the president actually put blame on Loretta Lynch for allowing this Russian lawyer into the country.

JOHN KIRBY, CNN MILITARY AND DIPLOMATIC ANALYST: Yes, that's a little -- I was curious about that. I don't know how that could be the case.

Working at the State Department, I'm well aware that visas are approved by consular offices in those countries before people can come over. Now, of course, there's additional vetting when somebody has a valid visa and they come into the country. Then it's up to the Department of Homeland Security to actually let them in and out of the airport.

I'm not sure exactly how Loretta Lynch would have been involved in this, but maybe I'm just not that smart about legal processes at that level.

Typically, it's done by State Department consular offices, who do a really good job working people through the process.

CABRERA: Congressman, is there any question that Donald Trump Jr. will agree to testify publicly? We know Chuck Grassley has sent this formal letter asking him to come before the -- before their Judiciary Committee.

We also heard that that could happen as soon as next week if he agrees to it.

HOEKSTRA: Yes, I think that, you know, for the story and the messaging and how he's describing the meeting, I think there's a very good possibility that he may take the hearing and clear the air once and for all, so you can take a look at a lot of the other issues that are out there dealing with what the Russians were doing and trying to do in the 2016 elections, what the Obama administration did and did not do.

Did they brief the campaigns on the threat from the Russian government and those types of things? Why didn't they do anything from August through November? And then, you know, this is going to be an analysis and an investigation that's going to go on for an extended period of time.

I think when the full report is written on this, this 20-minute meeting will end up being a footnote in the report, and it will not be the focus of the report. There's other things that are much more important in terms of what happened in 2016 than this meeting.

CABRERA: There are a lot of Republicans, along with Democrats, who have said, if it is such an innocent meeting, why haven't the people involved been more forthcoming?

John Avlon, a central question in all of this is, what did Trump know and when? Did he know about this meeting? And what was his potential role in crafting Don Jr.'s initial statement last weekend?

AVLON: Well, look, I mean, you know, the question of what then- candidate Trump knew and when did he know it is the kind of thing that will be determined by a larger investigation.

What I think is more significant as we fill out the pattern of deception we have unfortunately seen is that Jared Kushner, who attended this meeting, forgot this and many, many, many other meetings with foreign leaders. He keeps having to update his paperwork for -- in exchange for the security clearance he holds working in the White House.

That's hard to rationalize. And you can't rationalize it because there's no good reason for it. If a series of meetings that are high- level are avoided, it's because people don't want you to know about them, and then they got caught. They were trying to pretend this didn't happen, and then were trying to pretend it was no big deal, it was about adoption, and then the e-mails were released.

And it was very clear that it was dirt being offered from a hostile foreign power in order to impact the election. And you can't just pretend that's a footnote or no big deal. That's a real deal. For the people serving in the White House right now who tried to acknowledging this meeting and so many others, that's even more troubling. And that's going to be dug into as well, and should be.

CABRERA: The other thing that stood out at that press conference was there were just two questions allowed for each side, the French press, the American press. Admiral Kirby, what's your take on them calling on that second

American press reporter, who actually was from a Chinese media organization that resides here in the U.S.?

KIRBY: Yes, that was another really curious aspect of this whole thing for me.

I can only explain it by two either -- either of two ways. Either they didn't have reporters pre-selected and somehow, when they pointed, this guy thought that it was his turn, so he stood up and did it.

Or the White House press shop deliberately chose a reporter that wasn't -- though he might have been registered in the United States with the United States credentials, wasn't an American reporter, and, therefore, they could guarantee that they weren't going to get a follow-up question about this issue. But it was -- yes, it was really curious.


And the question, of course, was a throwaway question. How great is President Xi, and what's the bilateral relationship with China? So it was a real easy one for the president. And I thought, you know, to me, it looked like the game was being fixed a little bit so he didn't have to answer any more questions about this uncomfortable topic.

CABRERA: Admiral John Kirby, Congressman Pete Hoekstra, and John Avlon, our thanks to all of you.

There were a couple other big headlines, the president reversing on his previous criticism of the city of Paris and also suggesting something may change after he pulled out of the U.S. -- pulled the U.S. out of that climate deal.

Fareed Zakaria is going to join us next to discuss that.

Plus, some breaking news on Capitol Hill, Senate Republicans unveiling their revised health care bill, but two members of their own party then announced an alternative idea. The reactions are coming in. We will bring it to you straight ahead.



CABRERA: President Trump reassuring the public about a strong diplomatic relationship with France. He said the friendship between the two nations is unbreakable. He also hinted something could happen with respect to the Paris climate accord. Listen.


TRUMP: And something could happen with respect to the Paris accord. We will see what happens. But we will talk about that over the coming period of time. And if it happens, that will be wonderful. And if it doesn't, that will be OK too.


CABRERA: Joining us now, Fareed Zakaria, the host of CNN's "FAREED ZAKARIA GPS."

Does it sound like to you there could be some wiggle room from when he pulled out of Paris?

FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN WORLD AFFAIRS ANALYST: You know, it's one more of President Trump's statements that are perplexing and frankly mystifying. It is not clear what it means.

The Paris accords, of course, were voluntary targets set by countries and was an agreement that countries would follow their own targets. There was no penalty. There was nothing. So, you know, it's not even clear what it would mean to rejoin it.

I can't imagine he would. I suspect that perhaps he was just being polite, because President Macron was right there. Clearly, he disagrees with him on the Paris climate accords.

You know, with President Trump, it's impossible to predict. It could mean something. It strikes me as just some kind of polite way of kind of not rubbing that disagreement in, because, as I say, it does -- if that was his -- if his view was this was a flexible thing and we could look into it and maybe -- quote, unquote -- "renegotiate it," you just have to stay in.

You could have -- the United States could have followed as many or as few of its own targets as it wanted.


CABRERA: Because it was the U.S.' own commitment.

ZAKARIA: It was its own commitment that it was promising to voluntarily follow, which means that if it had just said, well, we changed our minds, we're redoing those goals, there's no penalty. There wasn't even a reporting requirement to anybody.


ZAKARIA: So, the whole thing is mystifying.

CABRERA: Well, the Paris climate accord seemed to be the only area where they really had danced around their disagreement, but acknowledged there was a disagreement.

In the rest of the press conference, talking about each other or to each other, it was all glory, praise, very nice, lots of smiles, friendly handshakes, obviously contrasting the big grip that everybody analyzed when they first met.

ZAKARIA: But it was also all hot air. I mean, there was nothing said of any substance. Yes, the United States and France are great friends. They're going to

stay great friends. It's the oldest ally. We continue to cooperate.

It didn't mean anything. There was nothing substantive said. It was -- they're both good politicians. They both know how to behave in these circumstances.

CABRERA: But that's not what President Trump has said to an American audience when it comes to his comments about Paris and France and even Macron.

ZAKARIA: Well, that was before he was. President -- that was before Macron was president of France and in points before Trump was president of the United States.

He has this ability to be flexible. He called Merkel a disaster. Now he calls her a strong leader. So, you know, Trump has done this for a while. I mean, there was no change in American policy, as far as I can tell. There was a change in Trump's body language and attitude towards Macron.

CABRERA: There's also some headlines that are coming out of the Reuters interview the president had just before this trip also, and he talks about, again, the meeting he had with President Putin and whether Russia hacked in the election.

And let me read a quote. He says: "It's really the one question" -- oh, actually, I mean, going to come to that in a minute, but the one regarding Russia's hacking.

"Somebody did say, if he did do it, you wouldn't have found out about it, which is a very interesting point."

Does he seem to be giving the benefit of the doubt in some ways, giving Putin a backhanded compliment?

ZAKARIA: It's an odd comment, because, of course, that's not true.

The way that the Russians operate in places like Ukraine, in places like Europe, when they do these kinds of hacking, when they do engage in this kind of hybrid war, they're very clever. They don't -- they want plausible deniability. They don't want a trace that goes directly to them, but they do want the world to know they're capable of messing with you.

So, Putin, even his own story about Ukraine, for example, changed over time. Initially, he said that Russia had nothing to do with it. Then he said, well, these might have been Russian soldiers on vacation who decided just out of a sense of patriotic duty to help Russia and Ukraine.

He said something similar about the hacking. Initially, he had said no. Then he said, well, it might be that there are some private Russian individuals who, as a patriotic decision, wanted to help Trump because they knew that would be good for Russia. So, Putin has always both -- wanted to have it both ways, because he

wants to naturally not take responsibility, but he kind of also wants you to know that he can mess with you.


So, Trump is wrong. You know, what's interesting about Donald Trump's attitude toward Russia, in that Reuters interview as well, is, he's always very soft on the Russians. He has a very benign explanation for things.

CABRERA: And, to that point, he even said on the trip on Air Force One over to Paris, he told reporters he would consider inviting Putin to the White House. He said now's not the right time. I'm summarizing what he said, but that's something that he's very open to.

ZAKARIA: If you think about the way Trump has viewed most of the world, and, as you point out, with France, with Macron, if you remember what he said about Merkel, she's ruining the country, you know, what he said about China, it's raping the country, what he said about Mexico, the one country he's never said mean things about is Russia.

It does strike me. That's kind of -- the intellectual puzzle at the heart of all of this whole Russia story, the biggest puzzle is really how come this is the one country, for years, Donald Trump has only had good things to say about? You know, what's the explanation?

CABRERA: And yet he says Hillary Clinton would have been worse for Russia, or he can't see why they wouldn't support Hillary Clinton vs. him because of his policies when it comes to oil and other things.

That's a conversation for another day, I'm being told. Got to go.

Fareed Zakaria, thank you very much for your take. We always appreciate it.

Straight ahead, we do have big news domestically, senators getting their first look at a newly released health care bill. We will break down what's different this go-around and the bill's chances of making it to a vote.

That's next.