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President Trump Travels to France; Analysts Examine Questions President Trump Likely to be Asked During a Press Conference in France; Senate to Unveil New Health Care Reform Legislation; Interview with Republican Senator Bill Cassidy of Louisiana. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired July 13, 2017 - 08:00   ET


[08:00:00] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: We're following a lot of news this morning, so let's get right to it.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It is time to put our great country before Paris, France.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Make our planet great again.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a chance for Donald Trump to escape the kind of political heat he's been facing in Washington.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At the best it's naivete. At worst it's something along the lines of an element of a conspiracy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's always dangerous to jump to conclusions without knowing the entire story.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You don't take foreign campaign contributions, either monetary or other sorts.

TRUMP: He wants what's good for Russia. And I want what's good for the United States.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't think you have to worry about whether Russia is a friend or foe. Just assume they're a foe.


ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.

CAMEROTA: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to your NEW DAY. It is Wednesday, July 13th, 8:00 here in the east. Chris is off. John Berman joins me this morning. Great to have you.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Good to be here.

CAMEROTA: OK, up first, President Trump is in Paris and he is ready to meet with President Macron. But all the focus of this hour is on the upcoming press conference, it will just be a few hours from now. And Mr. Trump has been out of the public spotlight all week, but he will not be able to escape questions about, we assume, the e-mail, his son's e-mail scandal that has been gripping Washington because the president's going to be facing questions from journalists today. The president still defending Don Jr. insisting that many people would have taken that meeting with a Russian lawyer to get dirt on an election rival.

BERMAN: Now, all of this is going on as the battle for health care heats up, a crucial moment today on Capitol Hill. Senate Republicans will unveil the latest version of their bill to repeal and replace Obamacare. Have enough changes been made to get enough votes to pass? CNN's Sara Murray kicks off our coverage. She's traveling with the president in Paris. Sara?

SARA MURRAY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: President Trump is slated to take questions today alongside French president Emmanuel Macron, this as a political firestorm is still brewing back in Washington, this one centered on the president's own son, Donald Trump Jr. and his meeting with a Russian lawyer. This will be President Trump's first opportunity out in public to take questions about the latest Russia revelation that's rocking the White House.


MURRAY: President Trump touching down in Paris, hoping to forge stronger ties with France's new president. But the trip overshadowed by the president's son's admission in e-mails that he met last year with a Russian lawyer believed to have dirt on Hillary Clinton from the Kremlin. Ahead of the trip, the president defending Donald Trump Jr. in a Reuters interview saying most of the phony politician who is are Democrats that act holier than thou, if the same thing happened to them they would have taken that meeting in a heartbeat.

President Trump insisting that there was zero coordination between his campaign and Russia, referring to collusion accusations as a hoax made up by Democrats, and the greatest con job in history, a characterization rejected by Trump's FBI director nominee at his confirmation hearing on Wednesday.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: As the future FBI director, do you consider this endeavor a witch hunt?

CHRISTOPHER WRAY, NOMINEE FOR FBI DIRECTOR: I do not consider Director Mueller to be on a witch hunt.

MURRAY: The president again saying he only learned about his son's meeting with the Russian lawyer in the past few days. Although exclusive video obtained by CNN from the 2013 Miss USA pageant shows the president schmoozing with the Russian family at the center of the controversy.

TRUMP: The richest men in Russia.

MURRAY: President Trump also asked if he believes Vladimir Putin's denial on election interference. The president dodging instead of siding with his own intelligence chiefs, responding something happened and we have to find out what it is.

TRUMP: What I keep hearing about that he would have rather had Trump, I think probably not.

MURRAY: In a separate interview, the president again questions the U.S. intelligence community and their conclusion that Russia meddled in the election to harm Hillary Clinton.

TRUMP: If Hillary had won, our military would be decimated, our energy would be much more expensive. That's what Putin doesn't like about me.

Congratulations, great job.

MURRAY: With the White House under fire, the president is hoping to change the narrative with his visit to France.

SEBASTIAN GORKA, DEPUTY ASSISTANT TO THE PRESIDENT: We want to reassure everybody as we did at the G-20, as Secretary Mattis and the vice president have done in recent visits, that we stand by our allies, we stand by Article Five.

MURRAY: President Trump and Emmanuel Macron looking to put differences aside after Trump abruptly pulled the U.S. out of the Paris climate accord.


MURRAY: Now, the relationship of President Trump and Macron got off to something of an awkward start. Who can forget that very bizarre handshake? But they will have plenty of time to spend together today. In addition to a formal bilateral meeting, they will of course be giving a statement and taking questions from the press. And then later this evening they'll be joined by their spouses for dinner at the Eiffel Tower. Back to you guys.

CAMEROTA: OK, our thanks to Sara Murray who has an awesome assignment there in Paris.

Joining us now, our panel. We have senior correspondent for, Anna Palmer, senior political for the website FiveThirtyEight Perry Bacon, and associate editor and columnist for "Real Clear Politics," A.B. Stoddard. Great to have all of you.

[08:05:11] A.B., let's talk about what we're all looking forward to as journalists, which is the press conference that will be coming up, but we don't exactly know the format of it, if it will be freewheeling, how long it will take, how many journalists will be allowed to ask questions. What do we anticipate will come up?

A.B. STODDARD, ASSOCIATE EDITOR, REAL CLEAR POLITICS: Well, I think obviously President Trump is going to be answering questions about Donald Jr.'s e-mails and meeting, and he will probably, I think, be as defiant as he's been about how the meeting would have been one most people would have taken including Democrats, and that it's no big deal, that basically it's a media witch hunt and it's being overblown and that this whole collusion idea is a hoax. That's what he's said the last couple days and I think he'll repeat that. But I do think when he's asked about other things, maybe by the French

press, that, you know, I expect President Trump to be really charming about his meeting, the invitation that President Macron extended to him and his visit there. I think he's going to talk about how they've got a lot in common. They're going to be fighting against ISIS as a unified coalition, and they're going to go forward with, you know, common interests. I think he's going to be really positive as he usually is in these settings about one-on-one meetings. And except for that one in Washington with Angela Merkel, he tries to usually pretend things are pretty great, and I think he was tickled to be invited. And I think he's delighted to be out of the U.S.

And he's finding these trips abroad far more pleasurable than he expected. And his team usually sees them as a success. So he likes to be on the world stage. He likes these parades and all the festivities. So I think it will be a good day for Trump. And I think that he'll probably get through those questions quickly with the same defiance that we usually see.

BERMAN: And he's given us a preview in a way of how he will answer questions about his son Don Jr.'s e-mail exchange over this meeting with a Russian lawyer. He on one hand said anyone would have taken this meeting. Many people would have taken this meeting. Also in an interview with Reuters he said there was zero coordination, it's the dumbest thing I've ever heard, there's no coordination. This was a hoax, this was made up by the Democrats, this is the greatest con job in history where a party sits down the day after they got their ass kicked and they say, huh, what's our excuse.

Anna, is that where the White House has settled right now? And is that argument why there are reports this morning that the White House thinks things are going better for them now in defense of the Don Jr. e-mail?

ANNA PALMER, SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, POLITICO.COM: Listen, I think we've seen a lot of different statements over the past couple of days as they've tried to get a handle on this latest scandal from, you know, what Donald Trump Jr. has said to where the White House is. I think that Donald Trump, the president, loves to kind of control the narrative. He did his television interview, the first one in a long time that wasn't on FOX News. He did an interview with Reuters. So this is a preview in terms of where he thinks the biggest kind of win for them is to say this is nothing.

I was at the capitol yesterday, I'll be there today. And let me tell you, senators and House members think this is a big deal, Republicans and Democrats. And they are very excited and interested in terms of pressing, you know, Don Jr. and some of these other people about what exactly happened in this meeting.

CAMEROTA: And let's talk about that, Perry, because Don Jr. is not in the administration, he's not Michael Flynn, and some of these other threads do seem to kind of evaporate after a while. Why are the Don Jr. e-mails in a different category?

PERRY BACON, SENIOR POLITICAL WRITER, FIVETHIRTYEIGHT.COM: I mean, mainly because this is the first kind of explicit thing where we've had someone -- Donald Jr. is not Carter Page. He's someone who's Donald Trump's son. He's still in Donald Trump's circle, I assume, and he's sort of in these e-mails more explicit. He loves, as the word "love" is in the e-mail, actually loves the idea that they can get information from the Russians that may help win the election.

So now we have sort of two facts. We have the Trump campaign was open to receiving information from the Russians, and we know that the Russians sort of hacked into John Podesta and the DNC e-mails. What we don't know is kind of the middle ground there, which is did Don Jr. wanted that help, did the Russians give that help with some kind of coordination with the Trump campaign? We don't know the answer to that question. And that's still the core question. So we're still searching, but the story still has much more to go.

BERMAN: You know, A.B., I'm interested by Anna's reporting as she was on the Hill hearing from many people in Congress saying that they are keenly interested in this. I think this is a very big deal. I'm wondering if you're hearing the same thing, especially with the Senate Judiciary Committee asking to speak to Paul Manafort next week. Again he was part of that meeting with the Russian lawyer. Then there's the issue of Jared Kushner, the one person in that meeting who actually works inside the White House right now who may be in a very different kind of jeopardy over all this than even Don Jr. A.B.

[08:10:00] STODDARD: Right. The thing is, John, that in the White House there are obviously suspicions that Jared Kushner's legal team or Jared Kushner with his sort of implicit approval, they were the ones who located this e-mail and they were the ones who sort of, quote/unquote, threw Don Jr. under the bus because Don Jr. does not have a role in the White House, he's not a part of the government, and he actually doesn't face any real legal exposure for this. Collusion is not a crime. These campaign finance provisions are a little bit of a stretch at best, and then he's not obviously going to be charged with treason, which it just doesn't relate to what he did and was involved in.

And so Jared Kushner at this point by any definition should not have his security clearance. It should be revoked. He had to adjust his SF-86 forms three times because he failed to disclose meetings with Russians, with bankers and this meeting, et cetera. And so the investigations are expanding, both the congressional ones in Senate Intel, House Intel, Senate Judiciary, as well as Robert Mueller's investigation. They are not shrinking, they're not coming to a conclusion. They are growing and the heat is on.

What happened over the weekend is a turning point. It's the first time we saw some reference to the Russian government's interest in helping Trump, interest on the part of Don Jr. to meet with those people who were connected to the government and wanted to help his father. No surprise that the letter indicating that the government was trying to help his father. This is a very disturbing revelation for Republicans on the hill, just as Anna heard. They are not publicly coming out saying we think this administration is in peril, but what they're going to do is put the heat on on policy both on that sanctions bill up in the House where they are not going to include the weakening waivers that the White House is asking for and are going to force the strong Senate legislation forward, trying to press this administration to retaliate against Russia for meddling in the election.

CAMEROTA: So, Anna, what does this mean about what's happening inside the White House in terms of their agenda and in terms of the different factions that we also hear about? Is it possible that there is now this chasm between Don Jr., the president's son, and Jared Kushner, the president's son-in-law?

PALMER: There's a lot of palace intrigue, every day, every week, who's up, who's down. You know, there was some reporting earlier this week about Reince Priebus and somehow the chief of staff, this was kind of coming down on him when I think we put in playbook there's actually no way that this has anything to do with him. So I think as far as, you know, is somebody going to get fired out of this, we're not hearing that. But it definitely increases tension, particularly as the Senate is trying to move forward on this health care bill, one of the biggest promises that Trump had on the campaign trail. This is another distraction, this is another thing where when Trump and his aides go to Capitol Hill, it puts him in a weaker position in terms of leverage, in terms of asking senators to do this for them.

BERMAN: Everything is connected. All right, guys, stick around.

The pressure on the Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell as Republicans get ready to unveil the latest version of their health care Bill, what happens today, what changes are being made, do they have the votes. CNN's Suzanne Malveaux live on Capitol Hill for us. Suzanne?

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, John. Well, they can only afford to lose -- if it's three votes, it is dead. And it's about three hours or so before we get this latest version. Already two Republicans have said they don't like it. Conservative Senator Rand Paul says it does not do enough to repeal Obamacare because of taxes, subsidies, and regulations that stay intact. Also moderate senator Susan Collins says it goes too far because of those Medicaid cuts.

We are going to see Vice President Pence back here at the White House -- rather on Capitol Hill making a cameo appearance to try to convince those senators and others to get it over the top. In the meantime you've got President Trump who is six time zones away, some lawmakers prefer that, that he has been hands off on the latest round of negotiations, but he is now speaking out and issuing this warning.


TRUMP: I am sitting in the Oval Office with a pen in hand waiting for our senators to give it to me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What if they don't?

TRUMP: Well, I don't even want to talk about it because I think it will be very bad. I will be very angry about it. And a lot of people will be very upset.


MALVEAUX: Just a few things that we know in the revised version, $45 billion for opioid addiction treatment, also taxes on wealthy Americans remaining, not repealed as you had in the previous bill. More money for stabilization funds, and finally no major changes when it comes to Medicaid, and that's a big problem for moderates because it still means severe cuts, John, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Suzanne, thank you very much. So are Republicans working behind the scenes to come together to pass some health care legislation? We're going to ask a senator who could be one of the deciding votes, next.


[08:18:33] BERMAN: All right. So, Senate Republicans will unveil latest version of their health care bill. President Trump sending this message to this party as they're struggling to find common ground.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I am sitting in the Oval Office with pen in hand waiting for our senators to give it to me.

PAT ROBERTSON, CBN NEWS: What will happen if they don't?

TRUMP: Well, I don't even want to talk about it, because I think it would be very bad. I will be very angry about it, and a lot of people will be very upset.


BERMAN: Joining us now, Republican senator and physician, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana.

Senator, thank you so much for joining us.

We've had some very interesting discussions on health care, a few hours away from Mitch McConnell unveiling what he's going to do here. Can you give us a preview of where you think this is headed today?

SEN. BILL CASSIDY (R), LOUISIANA: Well, we will hear about the bill. We'll discuss it around 11:00, 11:30. Speak to it even longer at lunch. I'm providing lunch today, good seafood from Louisiana. So, I'm looking forward to the lunch.

And we'll hear the CBO score early next week. There will be a lot of discussion over the weekend. There will be amendments being prepared that I think the amendments may make this bill hopefully more acceptable to those who are still concerned about it. And we'll see.

BERMAN: We know you're going to approve of lunch, the question is will you end up approving of the health care bill, Senator. Ted Cruz, Senator Cruz of Texas, is offering an amendment which would allow states to opt out of basically some of the essential health benefit guarantees as long as they also offer a version of sort of the Obamacare guarantees.

[08:20:03] Is that an amendment you could support?

CASSIDY: So, I've been working with Senator Cruz looking at that particular amendment, speaking to folks in the insurance market.

The question is, will it be two risk pools in which you're on your own if you have a car wreck, or is it going to be a common risk pool in which everybody kind of does kind of what insurance does, using the law of big numbers so if a young person gets in a car wreck, there's actually an insurance pool to help them.

And so, the insurance companies right now seem to tell us that may not work the way Senator Cruz has initially constructed it. I'll be discussing with him possible alternatives. We'll see.

BERMAN: Right. I mean --

CASSIDY: Each process of amendments is actually process of getting us closer to yes and I look forward to that process of amendments.

BERMAN: What one of the issues that some people say when they look at that? Some critics say is it removes the price protections for people with preexisting conditions. Yes, they might still be offered insurance under that one plan that's sort of the exception in there.

But the price is on, the rates on it could be hiked substantially, which to me when I was looking at it would seem to violate your rule which you made famous in the discussion we had with the Jimmy Kimmel test, which is everyone should be able to afford the health care they need.

That would seem to be a problem in terms of being able to afford something if you had preexisting conditions, correct?

CASSIDY: It could be a problem. Now, one thing that the bill does have that we know of is a large amount of money for states to put in what is called a stabilization fund. And so it could be that we can -- states could do what Maine did prior to Obamacare and have a reinsurance pool so that those folks with a preexisting condition would be reinsured and so, that would keep the premiums lower for that person but also for the entire group.

So, it may be possible to combine a so-called Cruz amendment with something where the extra dollars, the billions being given to states, would mitigate that effect.

BERMAN: Still work to be done though in your mind on that.

CASSIDY: Oh, totally.

BERMAN: Then there's the issue of Medicaid, which is hugely important to a lot of people, including your colleague Susan Collins with whom you've submitted your own plan separate from this, but she's, you know, very, very concerned about the fact that 15 million people so says that CBO -- fewer million people would be on Medicaid after this bill is passed.

My understanding is even with all the changes being proposed today, some of those Medicaid cuts, for lack of a better word, I don't want to argue whether the cuts or not, those will still be in it.

CASSIDY: Yes, that's going to be -- the principle cuts will be in 2025 and beyond. Now, keep in mind, under Obamacare, there are similar cuts beginning in 2020. And so, this is actually the same type of language that was in Obamacare but is postponed until 2025.

I'm not saying it's not an issue, but I'm saying that everybody was quite comfortable with it under Obamacare, but the same folks are kind of uncomfortable with it under this proposal. 2025 is eight years off. So, if the inflation rate turns out to be higher, there's plenty of time to adjust. That was probably the rationale under Obamacare.

So, for those folks nervous about it, think about where your comfort level was with Obamacare.

BERMAN: Just to be clear what I'm hearing from you, are you more optimistic about passage today than you were yesterday?

CASSIDY: I am neither optimistic nor pessimistic. It's just a rule in life if you work hard at something and work in good faith that good things tend to happen. I will continue to work hard in good faith over this weekend, up to the vote trying to make good things happen.

BERMAN: Are you closer to yes now than you were?

CASSIDY: I haven't seen the bill yet.

BERMAN: Right, that's a good point.

CASSIDY: Yes, I have to read the bill. And then I will know. Until then, I withhold judgment.

BERMAN: All right. I want to talk to you about some of the things the president has said about the revelations really over the last few days about what his son did last year holding a meeting with the Russian lawyer under the promise that this lawyer would provide negative information from the Russian government about his opponent Hillary Clinton.

The president of the United States says that many people, many people would have taken this meeting. You, Senator, have run in elections yourself. There's the quote right there, I think many people would have held that meeting. Would you, Senator Cassidy, have held that meeting?

CASSIDY: I would not have held that meeting. What we don't know about Donald Trump Jr., was he clueless, or was he clued in? Number one. Number two, was it illegal or legal? That will be an important distinction for the attorneys and that's going to be ultimately if it was legal and he was clued in, that will be a question for the voter to handle. And I'm sure that will be litigated at the next election.

BERMAN: Clueless or clued in, explain.

CASSIDY: Well, if he's clueless, kind of like, oh, my gosh, I don't know what's happening here, sure, I'll show up. Maybe you can give a little bit of a pass. If it was a clued in, oh, yes, I'm very much wired into both sides of this argument, I think the voter will be a lot harsher in their judgment.

BERMAN: Clueless, the e-mail which I'm sure you've read at this point because we all have, the e-mail flat out said this information is coming from the Russian government, which wants to help your father's campaign and hurts Hillary Clinton. So, by definition, what's on paper he wasn't clueless to that, was he?

CASSIDY: No, he wasn't clueless to that, but he could have been clueless as to the implications.

[08:25:00] I don't know Donald Trump Jr. I'm just old enough to know you've got to understand the entirety of what's happening before you make a judgment.

BERMAN: I get that. And I get he may not have been involved with politics before. But as an American citizen, you know, whether or not you've ever been involved in politics does that pass the smell test?

CASSIDY: So, John, I'm totally agreeing with where you're going. We have to investigate and we have to know its motivations, if you will.

But I hope you'll go where I'm going which is to withhold judgment until we actually have kind of the total investigations by FBI, by the Senate bipartisan committee, by the House bipartisan committee and then make judgment.

What we don't want to do is jump to a conclusion, even as transparent as that conclusion may seem, because frankly that's not what we do in America.

BERMAN: Well, you could -- based on what we know there's not enough information to say whether or not he should have gone to that meeting based on that e-mail alone?

CASSIDY: I will tell you that my judgment I would not have gone. But on the other hand, because this is being spun as you've begun to spun right there into a larger kind of effort of collusion, that's where I'm going to withhold judgment.

BERMAN: I'm not trying to spin it into anything. All I'm trying to say is it's right there on paper. And to an extent what we're beginning to hear from the White House is an effort at normalization. Many people would have done this. You now have said you would not have done it.

CASSIDY: I would not have done it, but on the other hand frankly, if you say many people, that's a sort of lasting statement that you can make.

But I will say once more that I can accept that. I can say I would not have done that. But I'll withhold judgment on the whole body of the issue, until the appropriate agencies have finished their investigation.

BERMAN: Senator Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, enjoy lunch, send some our way. Always appreciate your time, sir.

CASSIDY: Thank you, John.

BERMAN: Alisyn?

CAMEROTA: That does sound delicious.

BERMAN: Doesn't it?

CAMEROTA: Yes, I love Louisiana food.

Meanwhile, in a rare moment of bipartisan unity on Capitol Hill at the confirmation hearing for president Trump's pick to be FBI director. Our next guest says however he sees a firestorm on the horizon for the FBI. What does that mean? Senator Richard Blumenthal tells us next.