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New Details on Russian Lawyer Meeting at Trump; White House Brought in Additional Attorney with Specific Role to Play; Trump and Pence Working the Phones; Cousins Confessed to a Role in Killing Four People; Two Republican Senators Will Not Vote Yes to Health Care Plan; The First Living Medal of Honor Recipient Since the Vietnam War Has Refused to Keep the Highest Award For Valor. Aired 7-8p ET
Aired July 15, 2017 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[19:00:09] ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM. Thanks for being with me. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York. Great to have you with us this weekend.
It is but now infamous, Russian lawyer meeting at Trump tower last year when the President's son tried to get some election dirt on Hillary Clinton. The group of people who were in that room is growing with every new detail that comes out. The early reports it was the President's son, campaign manager and one of his closest advisors. Now we know at least eight people were in that room. Everybody's reason for being there, why they were invited, it's still not crystal clear.
CNN's Boris Sanchez is in New Jersey where President Trump is also spending the weekend.
Boris, another wrinkle to this story today. The White House has brought in an additional attorney with specific role to play in this investigation. Tell us more.
BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Ana. His name is Ty Cobb. And he is a powerful attorney in Washington, D.C. who has defended some high profile cases, including two separate cases where he defended two former Clinton White House officials. Aside from that, he has defended major corporations, an ex-CIA officer. So he is a well-known defender. He is also formerly a prosecutor, a federal prosecutor. And aside from that he was a partner at Hogan levels before taking on this new role at the White House where he is expected to oversee not only the legal response to the Russia investigation but also how the White House responds to these consistent press reports that have leaked out that have been damaging to the White House's agenda, Ana.
CABRERA: Again, we now know there were more people in that room at that meeting that had not been disclosed previously. What is the White House saying about this latest development?
SANCHEZ: Not much at all, Ana. There has not been an official statement from the White House about these additional developments. The most that we have gotten is part of a tweet sent by the President earlier today where he referred to the Russia hoax. But he didn't get into the specifics of these new revelations about who specifically was in that meeting with Donald Trump Jr., with Paul Manafort and with Jared Kushner as well.
We will continue to wait and watch. But as of right now, the White House is forwarding all of our questions to the President's legal team.
CABRERA: Boris Sanchez, thank you.
I want to show you that list once again of people we now know were at that Trump tower meeting last June. And one of those names that has just entered this conversation, that's him under others, is Rinat Akhmetshin. He is a lobbyist, a former military officer that then Soviet Union. And his appearance at that meeting has a new level of interest to the story.
Our global affairs correspondent Elise Labott is with us.
Now Elise, this man has been around Washington we know for decades, at least one U.S. senator really wants to know more information about him and what his motivations are. What can you tell us?
ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Ana, that's right. He has been a well-known figure in Washington circles. He has been a U.S. citizen since 2009. Born in Russia. And he has been a lobbyist for an organization of this lawyer, this Russian lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya who was originally the subject of that meeting with Donald Trump Jr. and Jared Kushner. And now we are learning that there were actually eight people in the room.
In addition to being a lobbyist, he also was working in the Russia in the soviet army. And he has said in the past to colleagues and friends that he was working on behalf of Russian military intelligence. Now, since then in lots of press interviews, he has denied those charges saying that the unit that he worked for did some work on law enforcement and intelligence but denied being part of the GRU, so to speak, the military -- Russian military intelligence unit.
Now, he did get the interest of senator chuck Grassley, who is the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee earlier this year because of the lobbying work that he's done. Senator Grassley was wondering whether he had registered properly for the work that he had done, whether he has registered as a foreign agent because there was some concern about his ties to intelligence.
So why was he in the meeting? Obviously it turns out that Natalia Veselnitskaya was talking about the Magnitsky act. That is really why she was, you know, talking in the meeting after the kind of issue of talking about dirt on Hillary Clinton. She also brought up that Magnitsky act. That was the topic that this gentleman was the lobbyist on behalf. So obviously his former life in the soviet army is raising a lot of questions as to why he was there.
[19:05:00] CABRERA: Do we know if Moscow is saying anything about him? He is the former soviet officer. Certainly his history there would be documented.
LABOTT: Well, they say they don't know anything about him. They say that he is not come across their interest. Of course, we have reached out to him and he has not gotten back to CNN with any comment.
CABRERA: All right. Elise Labott reporting. Thank you very much.
Let's talk more about this thickening plot with the White House correspondent for the "Washington Examiner" Sarah Westwood and CNN intelligence and security analyst and former CIA operative Bob Bear.
Bob, I want to start with you. Let's take a look at who at this meeting again. A Russian lawyer with important ties to the Kremlin, a Russian lobbyist who has admitted to being an ex-soviet officer. There was a publicist who organized the meeting. A translator was in the room and a still unidentified person. Now, as a former CIA operative, does this seem like a Russian intelligence operation to you?
BOB BAER, CNN INTELLIGENCE AND SECURITY ANALYST: Absolutely. I know exactly what they were doing. They were probing the Clinton - I mean, the Trump campaign. They wanted to figure out would they accept this information. It is what we call in the intelligence area is soft pitch to see how they react. If Donald Junior had simply turned it down at that point, they would have walked away. It gives them plausible deniability. You have all these people represent the Kremlin in Russia's interest. They weren't there without some knowledge of Moscow.
CABRERA: Sarah, sources tell CNN Jared Kushner's attorney started strategizing back in mid-June, a whole month ago, over how to disclose these emails as they came across and prepping him for his upcoming testimony. You report on this White House daily. How likely is it that the President just found out about this meeting this past weekend?
SARAH WESTWOOD, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, WASHINGTON EXAMINER: Well, I think it's very likely because all of the lawyers involved, all of the aids involved would have known that it was very important to keep President Trump isolated from this situation until the last possible moment. That's why so many lawyers are involved with the White House now, to make decisions like that. It's important to keep President Trump as far away from the situation as possible.
And one of the reasons why this particular disclosure has been more damaging than previous revelations is because the people involved are not expendable. They are not like General Mike Flynn or Paul Manafort who could have been easily discarding when questionable past behavior came to light. Jared Kushner and Donald Trump Jr. are family. President Trump is famously loyal to family. And these are people that even if he severed professional ties with him, they would still be close in his ear every day.
So this situation had to be handled with extreme care. And I think the legal team likely sought to keep President Trump isolated from this information until they had no other choice but to tell him about the meeting.
CABRERA: And we just don't know at this point. That is one of the big questions, is when did the President find out, what was he told. Jared Kushner, we have learned through CNN's reporting sources telling some of our colleagues, Sara Murray and Evan Perez, that apparently Jared Kushner told his legal team he wanted to sit down with the President and talk to him about this meeting and these emails before they came out with some kind of response. Again, we don't know when and if that happened.
But Bob, Donald Trump Jr. has released these statements. And he released his email saying he wanted to be transparent. Earlier this week, he also gave an interview to his friends in FOX News in an effort to be transparent as well. I want to play some of that portion of the interview for you.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you ever meet with any other person from Russia that you know?
DONALD TRUMP JR., PRESIDENT TRUMP'S SON: I don't even know. I have probably met with other people from Russia. Certainly not in the context of actual formalized meeting.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So as far as you know, as far as this incident, this is all of it?
TRUMP JR.: This is everything. This is everything.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: Four days later we now know he was not transparent. Does Donald Trump Jr., Bob, seem like he has nothing to hide?
BAER: He has a lot to hide, Ana. First of all, "the New York Times" called him up and said we are about ready to release these emails and that's when he released them. He had no choice. His hand was forced. And, you know, he didn't admit the other Russian there or what the real conversation was about when this first came out on Saturday last week.
And also, I don't believe they didn't tell Trump. You know, you were approached by a government like Russia and all these people and they didn't inform the candidate, Donald Trump? This is just gross negligence. None of this story makes sense. And I can't wait until Mueller gets to the bottom of it, and he will, because he is going to get their phone calls before, after any contacts made, the metadata and a good investigator properly motivated will get to the bottom of this story.
CABRERA: Do you think Mueller will be interviewing people on the Russian side of the meeting as well?
BAER: I don't think we will ever see them again. They have a lot to say. I don't think they're going to show up in the United States. This clearly - you know, I'll go back again and I will say with almost 100 percent certainty, this was a Russian intelligence operation run out of the Kremlin. It has all the hallmarks. You know, can I prove it right now? No. But it certainly looks that way.
[19:10:18] CABRERA: Again, you have that experience of a CIA cop operative. But what you just said is almost exactly what we heard from KGB, former KGB spy Jack barky earlier in our earlier hour. So you guys are saying the same thing.
Sarah, there is a lot of focus on Donald Trump Jr. specifically because he is the one who was the connector in this meeting. But Jared Kushner we know was at that meeting, too. He actually works in the White House as we speak. Do we need to hear from Kushner himself?
WESTWOOD: Jared Kushner's presence at this meeting makes it all the more problematic for the White House because now he is becoming a political target. Democrats in Congress are already angling to try to have him stripped of his security clearance. It's not clear that would be successful. But that just adds another layer of political complication for the White House. Jared Kushner is someone who very rarely appears or speaks publically. He is very much operates behind the scenes. But now congressional Democrats have a reason to haul him before Congress and there is not much Republicans or the White House can do to justify withholding that testimony. So at some point Jared Kushner may have to step forward and explain his presence at that meeting, explain why there were so many omissions on his first crack at the FS-86. So Jared Kushner certainly does have a lot of question to answer. And again, because he is so close to the President, it is not easy for the White House to just isolate him when he is becoming such a liability for the White House.
CABRERA: It was earlier this spring when Jared Kushner amended that security clearance form. He added about 100 foreign contacts is what his attorney said. But he still left off this meeting. It was only added a few weeks ago after his form was amended yet again, as you point out.
Now Bob, you have filled out these forms before. Do you think that it could just be a mistake to leave this off?
BAER: No. You know, with Russians come in and propose giving dirt on your father-in-la father-in-law's opponent, it is not something you forget. I mean, Russians don't approach campaigns every day. I mean, this is the first time that I know of when it's been so blatant. They tried this in the '90s. I watched it in the '90s and the Clintons turned it down at the time and so did the DNC. They said this is off limits. But it is something they didn't forget. I just can't believe that he forgot this meeting when everybody was there.
And, you know, this should be a bar to having a security clearance. And certainly a top secret security clearance. If this was a normal federal official, they would have lost their federal clearance by now.
CABRERA: Would he have a polygraph test taken as part of the operations to get the security clearance? Is that part of the -- I know CIA operatives have to have a polygraph to be in the CIA. BAER: CIA, FBI, national security agency, DNI, the rest of, yes,
polygraphs. But for White House official, no. They would only get one if there was a criminal investigation and they agreed to it. And you know, frankly, they don't work. But anyhow, you know, with a proper investigation, I will go back, Mueller, he will get to the bottom of this, and I hope -- we need to get to the bottom of it was the legitimacy of the presidency is in question at this point.
CABRERA: Sarah, Republican congressman Bill Flores made a stunning statement this week as a Republican. He says President Trump should remove all of his children from the White House. It seems like we are starting to see more Republicans now distancing themselves from the administration.
WESTWOOD: Absolutely. I think that this is the kind of silence we saw after the "Access Hollywood" tape emerged during the campaign. It is the kind of silence we saw when FBI director James Comey was fired for an unclear reason. And now we are seeing Republicans on Capitol Hill try to avoid speaking in public on this topic at all costs because they are not sure if their defenses of the President will be rendered invalid by another revelation a few days later. It is the kind of thing that has gotten some lawmakers in trouble. A few of them defended this Jared Kushner meeting as a nothing burger before the emails emerged and then were forced to actually more or less retract their defense of the White House in light of the contents of these emails. So I think that this revelation has had a chilling effect for Republicans and their outreach to the White House. And that's only going to continue as long as the administration is not forthcoming about these types of situations.
CABRERA: Bob, do you think this was the last meeting?
BAER: No. I mean, you know, what I think is that somebody picked up the thread after this meeting. You know, there is so many pieces of this that where we can't put together. Roger stone, the campaign advisor being in touch with the hackers. That hasn't been explained and on and on and on.
And this kind of investigation, I will say, will take another year at least before we really get a full picture of what happened, especially since the White House and the rest of the family are not coming clean on this story.
[19:15:16] CABRERA: Bob Baer, Sarah Westwood, thank you both.
WESTWOOD: Thank you.
CABRERA: Coming up, live in the CNN NEWSROOM, new details emerging about who exactly met with campaign officials and Donald Trump Jr. Now former Republican congressman says the team is doing much more damage to themselves, Trump team, that is, but not being transparent about their interactions.
Also some new chilling details are emerging in the four gruesome Pennsylvania murders. Two cousins are now behind bars. What police say led up to these murders? And the vice President and the President are working right now the
phones, also on twitter, meeting with also governors even to round up the support that they are hoping for to pass the health care bill in the Senate. And may now be just one vote away from collapsing. It is your health care, and is it about to change? We will discuss.
[19:20:14] CABRERA: Russian spy are top played a long game and get close to people with classified information. Some observers say recent revelations about Donald Trump Jr.'s meeting with the Russian lawyer in June of last year's seem like something right out of the Russian playbook.
Now CNN has confirmed at least eight people were in that room with the president's son expected to receive information that would hurt Hillary Clinton's campaign.
I recently talked about that meeting with CNN national security commentator, also as a former congressman Mike Rogers and a former chairman of the House intelligence committee.
CABRERA: Congressman, thanks for joining us. I want to first ask you about these new revelations that more people were in the room during a meeting between Trump campaign officials and this Russian lawyer last year. One of them we now know is a Russian-American lobbyist who has been accused by the U.S. acting as unregistered Russian intelligence agent. What do you make of this?
MIKE ROGERS, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY COMMENTATOR: Well, I mean, clearly, when you read the emails, Ana, it was clear to me that this was a bit of dangle on behalf of Russian intelligence services. You know, at least it gives that appearance.
So when you look at the way Russian intelligence services operate, they want to try to find somebody that has access that they are looking for, has access to people with information they are interested in that probably are not trained intelligence officials that wouldn't know that they are getting solicited in some way. And if you look at all of the profiles, certainly this case fits that to a tee. And now you have this notion there are other members in there who also had ties to the Russian government. But they made very clear in the email that there was some Russian government involvement.
To me, that was the dangle. That was saying, I wonder if they will come to a meeting if we disclose that this information came from the Russian government. Clearly, they did that. So this is all part of an operation. It doesn't mean anything illegal happened. It doesn't mean they went there to sell out their country, any of that. This appears to me to be that kind of operational appeal on behalf of the Russian intelligence service.
CABRERA: The bigger picture though is that Donald Trump Jr., those who were at the meeting still haven't been totally transparent. I mean, this is another revelation after they put out multiple statements with additional information each time.
ROGERS: You know, clearly, as I have said all along, a, the President should just stop talking about it. He should be a character witness for his son and go about the business of being President of the United States. Secondly, they should be transparent. They should open up to what they did and when they did it.
Again, it doesn't appear they did anything illegal. So they should just talk about it and say, maybe next time I wouldn't do it that way. But the way they keep doing this, they are doing themselves candidly their own damage here. They are cutting themselves a thousand times to get to that depth, 5,000 cuts on this.
A full review of this up front by themselves and then disclosing the information would have been a far better approach to this. And again, now you don't know, are they hiding other things and other meetings and other communications that will likely come out during the course of this investigation? That's why they either should stop talking or try to get out in front of it in a real and transparent way.
CABRERA: We learned specifically that this Russian lawyer was believed to be peddling dirt on Hillary Clinton.
In terms of where this story goes next, what do you see as the most important questions that need to be answered?
ROGERS: Well, from my old FBI days, you have to look at it this way. So were there any contacts subsequent to that meeting? This meeting was probably get to know you, feel them out a little bit, see if there is any possibility if you are the Russian intelligence service or if they are operating as cut outs, was there a second meeting? Does d did they get another meeting out of this or a phone call or did they recommend that they go talk to a certain individual, they being the campaign, that would be able to provide that information. All of that you don't know.
So now what investigators are looking at is, OK, we know that this was likely a dangle operation. Now we are going to have to figure out what steps did the Russians take next. Did they try to contact them? Again, did they say, hey, why don't you go talk to person X in New York City about these things? They can help you out on that particular issue. All of that has to be dissected.
And again it's going to come out. And what they don't want to do if they are under investigation and don't going under oath and talking to either an investigator committee in the Senate or the FBI, they are going to need to be completely truthful or they are going to find themselves in violation of federal law by lying to an FBI agent.
So I'm not sure exactly what they are doing going on TV and doing that. I know what the investigators are doing. They are trying to figure out what happened next.
CABRERA: One thing that has been pointed out is Jared Kushner's lawyers apparently stumbled upon this email and say we are going back over his emails and other documents pertaining to potential testimony that's upcoming for him in these different intelligence committees and the other Congress committees who are investigating Russia ties in the election meddling.
One of the things that really stands out here, though, is that Jared Kushner had to update his security clearance forms multiple times. This was one of those updates that happened in mid-June. There are growing calls for his security clearance to be revoked. Should it?
[19:25:31] ROGERS: You know, it's probably too early to tell. I think that they should go through the security process, the security clearance process like everyone else. There should be no exceptions here. And I think what's going to happen, if there is -- if they are updating within under the requirements of security clearances, and by the way, there are methods to do this, then that's one thing. If they are running into problems by not being truthful in their security clearance process, that is a whole another set of issues. And they should deal with it, again, not like, you know, a special person should not be handled, but like everyone else. And if they are doing that, I feel comfortable they will come to right conclusion on should they or should they not have the security clearance.
CABRERA: Who makes that decision about whether or not he should have a security clearance?
ROGERS: Well, you know, this is kind of an interesting thing, Ana. So there is a system of doing all this. There is a way to go through your clearance. You have sponsors who told your clearance meeting. Maybe the FBI holds your clearance or the CIA or some other government agency sponsors you in holding that clearance. Meaning, they are responsible for you holding that clearance.
In the case of the White House, that sponsoring entity is really the White House. And the President can make the determination to give classified material to anyone that the President wants at any time. He can also declassify information at any time he wants.
So it's an interesting process. The folks who do this for a living I'm sure are trying to go through a process. The President will have that final determination if he says I don't care what they find, I want this person to have a clearance, that person is going to get a clearance.
CABRERA: All right. Former congressman Mike Rogers, thank you.
CABRERA: Up next, missing men found buried 12 feet underground. Ahead, details on the cousins who have just confessed to a role in killing, four killings in fact that rocked a quiet Pennsylvania community.
You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM.
[19:31:38] CABRERA: London police have now charge a 16-year-old boy for a series of gruesome acid attacks. He is accused of throwing acid on five people span in a span about 90 minutes on Thursday night. One victim's burns have been described as life changing. Police say a second teenager was also involved. And has been released on bail. Officials are asking the public now for any information that could help with their investigation. Police now say they know what happened to four men who disappeared last week. Their bodies were found in Buck County, Pennsylvania and two cousins are now charged. A judge has entered not guilty pleas on their behalf. But one of the suspects has made a stunning confession.
Our Brynn Gingras has the latest.
BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Cosmo Dinardo and Sean Kratz, both 20 years old and cousins are behind bars on no bond after admitting to the killings of four men who disappeared from this area in Pennsylvania last week. In addition, they are each facing more than a dozen charges each in the case.
And we got a look at court documents which detail a horrific confession from both of those men. And in those papers, we learned that Dinardo admitted to luring one of those men to his family's property with the intent to sell him drugs. Instead he shot that man and buried his body on his family's property.
Then two days later, he joined up with his cousin Kratz and again they lured three of the men to the same family's property this time with the intent to rob them. But again we were told by those papers that they shot all three of those men, burying their bodies in a separate grave and then also trying to burn the bodies, tried to conceal that evidence.
We have learned from the district attorney in this case that they have been able to recover all four bodies from the property. That was one of his hopes to bring the boys home to their families. We also know they recovered evidence such as the guns used in this case.
Now, we know that Dinardo gave a full confession to authorities in exchange for the death penalty being taken off of the table. But according to the district attorney, that's not the case for Sean Kratz. And it is possible he could face the death penalty in this case.
Back to you.
CABRERA: So disturbing. Brynn Gingas, thanks.
A sink hole swallowed two homes near Tampa, Florida in a matter of hours. I mean, this is such incredible video. Take a look at this. This began Friday morning. First it was a depression the size of a small pool, but it quickly grew to more than 200 feet wide and 50 feet deep. People who lost their homes watched helplessly. They couldn't even save any of their belongings it happened so quickly. Nine other homes were evacuated. Authorities say the sink hole now seems to have stop expanding so repair operations can begin.
At least three people are dead after a fire at a Honolulu high rise. And here is what we know right now. The fire started yesterday in a unit without sprinklers on the 26th floor. Chunks of this building fell more than 20 stories as this fire burned upward through several floors. A resident describes the chaos.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The stairwell was so full of smoke, you couldn't breathe, you couldn't see. You couldn't see the steps in front of you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: The fire chief says a sprinkler system would have contained this fire to just one unit, but no sprinklers were inside the building. Five people including a firefighter were hospitalized.
Coming up, the stakes are high for the new Senate health care plan. Why Republicans can't afford to lose even one vote. Next.
[19:39:11] CABRERA: Some breaking news to tell you about right now. A U.S. air force fighter jet and a coast guard helicopter both responded to a small plane that suddenly flew into air space that was restricted because it is over President Trump's New Jersey golf course. This happened today over Bedminster, New Jersey where the President is spending the weekend.
The U.S. military official tell CNN that (INAUDIBLE) 172 which is a single engine plane entered the restricted air space and did not respond to any radio calls. The two military aircraft escorted the small plane to an airport where police met with the pilot. No word just yet on why the pilot flew into the restricted air space.
I want to turn now to the battle over your health care. President Trump and the vice President Mike Pence are making phone calls this weekend trying to drum up support for the Senate's newly revamped GOP health care bill. The White House can't afford even one more Republican no vote on the bill already. Two have said they will not vote for it. That's Susan Collins of Maine and Rand Paul of Kentucky. And by CNN's count, at least 12 other Republican senators say they are still undecided.
Our Ryan Nobles has the very latest on this health care showdown -- Ryan.
[19:40:21] RYAN NOBLES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The White House and Senate leaders are making an aggressive push to convince Republican members to vote yes on their latest version of health care reform.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We are very, very close to ending this health care nightmare. We are so close. NOBLES: Fifty-two Republican senators have now had more than 24 hours
to digest the bill. And as it stands right now two members, Susan Collins of Maine and Rand Paul of Kentucky, remain opposed to the plan.
SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: It does not make sense to do a major rewrite of a vital entitlement program without having any hearings or consideration of the implications.
NOBLES: Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell cannot lose any more votes if he hopes to get the bill through. The President who has let McConnell take to lead in the day-to-day negotiations is stepping up his public push to get the bill passed. He tweeted four times about health care Friday morning writing quote "Republican senators are working hard to get their failed Obamacare replacement approved. I will be at my desk pen in hand."
Vice president Mike Pence made a similar pitch in a speech to the nation's governors'.
MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: President Donald Trump is going to lead this Congress to rescue the American people from the collapsing policies of Obamacare.
NOBLES: Trump is also working behind the scenes, spending part of his time in Paris making phone calls to GOP senators, including Senator Rand Paul, whose position has not changed.
Many rank and file Republicans who remain undecided are waiting to hear from stakeholders back home before making up their minds.
SEN. THOM TILLS (R), NORTH CAROLINA: They wait and speak with their state leaders over the weekend and wait until they see the CBO score, which doesn't come out until next week.
NOBLES: Republicans from states with governors who expanded Medicaid are on special kind of pressure because this bill rolls back federal funding for the expansion.
Rob Portman of Ohio and Dean Heller of Nevada are both dealing with GOP governors unhappy with the plan. Nevada's Brian Sandoval met one on one with Pence but still has concerns.
CABRERA: That was Ryan Nobles reporting for us.
Now, the bill includes the version of an amendment proposed by Texas senator Ted Cruz that would allow insurers offering Obamacare plan to also offer cheaper bare bones policies. This amendment may bolster support among some conservative senators but could upset moderates.
Let's talk it over with senators, Senator Ted Cruz's former chief of staff Chip Roy. He is now at the Texas public policy foundation center for the 10th amendment action. Chip, I want to read you a strongly worded letter by two big insurance
trade groups, Blue Cross Blue Shield association and Americans health insurance plans. And they say this Cruz provision would mean quote "skyrocketing premiums for people with pre-existing conditions and millions of more individuals will become uninsured they say." Chip, this doesn't sound good.
CHIP ROY, SEN. TED CRUZ'S FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF: Well, good evening, Ana. Thanks for having me on.
Let's first remember the position we find ourselves in where premiums have doubled over the last seven years under Obamacare. And in a third of American counties you can only get one insurer if you are lucky, sometimes zero. So that's what people are trying to deal with and that's what Republicans are trying to solve.
And they are trying to drive premiums down. And with respect to Senator Cruz's amendment, what he and Senator Lee were trying to do is provide a safe haven, if you will, a place where Americans can do to get a competitively priced plan. And you would think in the United States that wouldn't be a difficult thing. But unfortunately the way the bill is crafted and the way the law under Obamacare is crafted, it puts everybody into a single pool, a single risk pool, which means that premiums most likely will not go down.
CABRERA: This is not the answer either.
ROY: Well, if you talk about that insurance company letter, listening to the insurance company guys complain about this is a little bit like listening to the captain of the titanic complain about how you are putting the lifeboats up. I mean, the head - the person who wrote that letter was the Obamacare administrator. So -- take that with a grain of salt while we are dealing with the insurance companies.
CABRERA: The Obama administrator? I'm not so sure if that's the truth. But if you want to talk about a different group, let's talk about what the Kaiser foundation said about the Cruz plan. This is a quote from their vice President saying "if they were joy in cooking for insurance, this would be the perfect recipe for destabilizing the market and turning the market place it into high risk pools."
So it isn't just the insurance companying that are saying that this Cruz's amendment is going to be bad for people with preexisting conditions in particular and destabilize the market further. I hear what you are saying about the goal of the Cruz amendment, add more competition and to drive down premiums. And people will say that that could happen for those who are healthier, who are younger, who don't need these comprehensive packages. But everything I have heard from the experts and how policy say that people with preexisting conditions are going to lose. Their premiums are going to skyrocket.
[19:45:14] ROY: Well, as you and I have talked about before, I am somebody with a preexisting condition. I care about this passionately. I'm a cancer survivor. We want to make sure that people with pre-existing conditions are covered. But if you don't break down the way that the Obamacare model is structured and if you don't break it out of a single risk pool, you cannot possible drive the prices down. But what happened was Senator Cruz's amendment and what Senator Lee and he were working on was creating an environment where you could get folks in a high risk pool and we can properly structure it but then break it down so that people could have competitively price plans. But unfortunately, the senate leadership left those guys hanging and they restructured it and put everybody back into a single pool. And frankly, they also threw $182 billion at the insurance companies in what amounts to tarp for the insurance companies. It is another tarp bail for the insurers. And so the problem is Republicans find themselves kind of in a catch-22. They are not really putting forward a free market solution that would drive down prices. And unfortunately, Senator Cruz and Senator Lee are the ones got to holding the bag trying to fight for the last (INAUDIBLE) of freedom.
CABRERA: Me and I think a lot of people agree with you that there are problems with Obamacare and there are a lot of people who want it to work better for them. But there are governors in both Republican and Democrat-led states that are slamming this revised bill. Here is what Virginia governor, a Democrat, Terry McAuliffe tells CNN.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. TERRY MCAULIFFE (D), VIRGINIA: We are willing to work with anybody. This is unfortunately has been done in secret. I wish the governors had been at the table. It needs to be done in a bipartisan way just like the governors work Democrat-Republican. This has been done in secret. We ought to go to regular order in the Senate. We got to have hearings, amendments, bills ought to be introduced and we ought to work together.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: And then there is this from Ohio governor John Kasich, a Republican. He says this is unacceptable what these senators have proposed. He calls these shortcomings flow from the fact they commit the same error as Obamacare. It is not bipartisan. It fails to bring solutions from both sides of the table that can ensure we are not simply replacing one divisive plan with another.
So Chip, if governors on both sides of the aisle say no, where does that leave us?
ROY: Well, I think it leaves senator Republican leadership with a tough quandary. They have got to look at this and decide how they are going to handle it this next week. And honestly, they really ought to go back and go to what we talked about before on the show with full repeal. And the reason I say that is repeal it now and repeal it at a date in the future in the certain. And that everybody is going to have to get to the table.
And frankly, I agree with what was said. I think with both governors across the aisle. There ought to be an open and transparent process. There ought to be debate. There ought to be amendments. There ought to be a full debate on the floor of the Senate instead of trying to cook this behind closed doors. I fully agree with that. But at the end of the day, if you don't get to a place where you repeal Obamacare at a date certain so you can actually sit down with people and decide how to create a health care system that will work for all Americans, people with pre-existing conditions included. Now, keep in mind that is about one to two percent of the population. We don't need to restructure the entire health care system. We are fully capable of coming up with a solution for people with pre-existing conditions without totally restructuring the health care system from a to z.
CABRERA: There are a lot of people with pre-existing conditions. They matter, too.
Chip Roy, thank you. Thank you for joining us. We really appreciate.
ROY: Absolutely. Thanks, Ana.
CABRERA: Coming live in a CNN NEWSROOM, a stunning gesture from the first living Medal of Honor recipient since the Vietnam War. We will have a very moving moment next.
[19:52:57] CABRERA: The first living Medal of Honor recipient since the Vietnam war has refused to keep the highest award for valor. Instead this humble soldier gave it to the people he thought deserved it the most, his unit.
CNN's Barbara Starr has his story.
SALVATORE GUINTA, MEDAL OF HONOR RECIPIENT: The whole time frame maybe lasted anywhere between like two minutes, three minutes, and five or six lifetimes. I don't know.
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In 2007, Salvatore Guinta went on night patrol in the mountains of eastern Afghanistan and stepped into history.
BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The soldier as humble as he is heroic, staff Sergeant Salvatore Guinta.
STARR: In 2010 receiving the nation's highest award for valor, the first living Medal of Honor recipient since the Vietnam War.
OBAMA: He will tell you that he didn't do anything special, that he was doing his job.
STARR: Now a decade after that patrol, Guinta has taken another extraordinary step giving his Medal of Honor to his unit, the 173rd airborne brigade where he thought it belonged.
GUINTA: I'm not here because I'm a great soldier. I am here because I served with great soldiers.
STARR: The brigade's current surgery major Frank Velez says Guinta's action left him speechless. COMMAND SGT. MAJ. FRANKLIN VELEZ, 173RD AIRBORNE BRIGADE: The first
thing that came to mind was are you sure you want to do that? And he said, yes, I think it belongs to the 173rd.
STARR: The brigade posted video, capturing a moment of humble strength amid years of grief.
GUINTA: I want this to stay here in (INAUDIBLE) with the 173rd to the men and women that earn this every single day through their selflessness sacrifice.
VELEZ: There was a huge grasp in the crowd and there was folks who is going, wow, that is incredible this just really happening.
STARR: CNN first talked to Guinta in 2010 about the battle.
GUINTA: I think about it and it hurts. But say it out loud makes it that much more real.
[19:55:07] OBAMA: Sal and his platoon were several days into a mission in the Corneal (ph) valley, the most dangerous valley in northeast Afghanistan.
STARR: Suddenly ambushed, there was gunfire from all directions. His friend, Sargent Joshua Brennan in peril. Guinta, 22 years old, charged into a wall of bullets.
OBAMA: He crossed (ph) the hill along. There he saw a chilling sight, the silhouettes of two insurgents carrying the other wounded American away who happened to be one of Sal's best friends.
STARR: Brennan rescued by Guinta died of his wounds.
GUINTA: This where it gets rough for me. You know, every time -- I can try to explain it, and I can try to put it into terms so people can understand it, and the more I do that -- talking about it doesn't help me.
STARR: A decade on, the medal will be on display with the troops, exactly where Salvatore Guinta wants it to be.
Barbara Starr, CNN, the Pentagon.