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Trump Plans to Bans Transgender People From Military; Interview With Louisiana Senator Bill Cassidy. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired July 26, 2017 - 15:00   ET



DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Obviously, Sarah Huckabee Sanders did not want to move beyond any of the language that President Trump has already said about A.G. Sessions.

We have learned that they did not talk at all this week. That much was clear, and that she would keep us posted if indeed they do. I also thought it was interesting that she said the president wants the attorney general to focus on his duties as attorney general.

Now, I would imagine Jeff Sessions would say, that's exactly what I have been doing, and, by the way, that's what I was doing when I recused myself from the Russia investigation...


CHALIAN: ... was to stay focused on my duties as attorney general, and ones where I won't have a conflict of interest.

It is odd to have the president have his attorney general twisting in the wind the way he is, but say, I want him to focus on his job, I want him to do his, job and even though I'm disappointed in him, he can do his job.

This story's not over, Brooke. They're going to have to, as Anthony Scaramucci, the White House communications director said, they're going to have to resolve this in some way between the two of them.

BALDWIN: So, number one on Sessions -- and yes, agree.

Number two, Jeff Zeleny, you were in the -- do we have Jeff? I don't see him in the box.

There he is.

Jeff Zeleny, in the briefing, the real question that was dominating, I felt like, was the transgender issue and how the president -- and we saw him throughout the campaign saying to the LGBTQ community, I will stand for you, I will fight for you. It seemed to me that Sarah Huckabee Sanders had a hard time defending the president's tweets on this one.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Brooke, I think you're right. And I think, in part, because this came essentially out of the blue. This is not something that the president had been talking about at all, at least publicly. This is not something that the president had been working with a small working group or bringing his staff along here.

It very much had the feel today when he did it that he was trying to either, A, change the subject or, B, give some conservative groups something they have been asking for. But, Brooke, just a response on the readiness from the Pentagon to here at the White House after the president sent out that huge policy decision via social media, not by making an announcement or making an explanation, of course, left so many questions here to be answered.

And, you know, the incoming press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, quite frankly, had a hard time answering them, even such simple questions as, what about the transgender soldiers who are currently in theater right now, from Iraq to Afghanistan or indeed other parts around the world? What should happen to them?

And she said, look, this is something that the White House and the Pentagon will have to work on here. So it was clear that this is not something that has been either a well-thought-out or well-explained to members of the staff here.

All she would say is that it was something that the national security adviser discussed with the president and then the president discussed with his defense secretary yesterday.

But then someone asked a question, Brooke, I thought was quite interesting, talking about the many countries around the globe, some 18, I believe, that allow transgender soldiers to serve, and many of them are U.S. allies, and asking the question, if the president, you know, has any concerns about, you know, the troops there.

And that, again, was a question that she didn't necessarily have an answer for, and then finally, essentially said, look, I have no more answers to these questions. If there aren't any other questions, wants to move on.

But the reason these questions were being asked, of course, Brooke, is because the president made a major policy decision via Twitter.

BALDWIN: And when you talk to members of the trans community, as we have ahead of the show, just doing even it over Twitter, not even a formal press release, in one woman's words, disrespectful.

Let me ask all of you to stand by. We have got a lot more to go through, including health care.

Sarah Huckabee Sanders did allude to the event at the White House any minute. The president will be addressing the American Legion Boys and Girls Nation.

So, before the president speaks and before we take that live, I wanted to make sure that we get to health care. Just a short time from now, the Senate is expected to begin voting on a repeal-only version of the Republican health care bill. What we're hearing, it is supposed to fail, but then they will offer two other options to consider.

So, let me just run through them. First, you have what's being touted as the skinny repeal, and this would get rid of the individual and employer mandates requiring health insurance coverage, but what it would leave intact would be Medicaid expansion, insurance subsidies, and protections for preexisting conditions.

The other proposal is the Graham/Cassidy amendment, written by South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham and Louisiana Senator Bill Cassidy. It would keep the Obama tax on the wealthy and send that tax revenue to the states. Each state would then decide whether or not to repeal Obamacare or administer their own state-run health insurance program.

So, with me now, the co-author of the Graham/Cassidy amendment, Senator Bill Cassidy, who is also an M.D.

So, Senator, thank you so much for swinging by the camera. I know you have got a busy day.

SEN. BILL CASSIDY (R), LOUISIANA: Thank you for having me.

BALDWIN: Before we get to your amendment, Senator, how do you plan to vote on this repeal only that's coming up? Yea or nay?


CASSIDY: Well, it's not repeal only. There is actually a two-year replace.


BALDWIN: Repeal and delay.

CASSIDY: Yes, repeal and delay, which gives Congress a deadline. I have been so frustrated with this process, I think deadlines work. Right now, my intention is to vote yes.

BALDWIN: To vote yes.

And then on to the skinny repeal, and you, sir, were one of the senators to watch, more as a moderate. Maybe the concern is with the death spiral that would I know hurt a lot of people. How will you vote on that?

CASSIDY: I'm voting for anything that continues the process. We can't stay in this no man's land where nothing happens, where everything is dependent.

That's why we're putting up Graham/Cassidy. We actually think Graham/Cassidy is a way to get to 50 votes and maybe even get to some Democratic support as well. We have got to move out of this kind of locked, nothing happens, don't know what happens next.

BALDWIN: Right, but you imagine you mentioned, Senator, the magic number of 50, and, thus far, every amendment that your Republican colleagues have been putting up, even including yours, so far, is short of the 50 votes.

And so the question a lot of people, you know, conservatives among them, are asking, is there anything you guys can do to agree on how to replace Obamacare?

CASSIDY: So, there has not yet been a vote on Graham/Cassidy, and it may be that it's in conference that we have to fully consider it.

We think that gets to 50. I will tell you why. There are three states right now getting 37 percent of all the Obamacare health insurance payments. Think about that. Three states get 37 percent of all the Obamacare health insurance premiums.

Now, if you just say to a senator, no matter whether it's blue or red, you're not one of those three states, maybe there should be equity, maybe no matter where that patient lives, the federal taxpayer support of his or her health insurance should be equal across states, they say, yes. And, frankly, many of those states do financially better under Graham/Cassidy than they do under status quo.

We think that giving states that option, those senators that option to vote for fairness actually is a way to go forward. We still repeal taxes, by the way. We absolutely repeal taxes and mandates, but we do create fairness and that in turn leaves most states better off.

BALDWIN: I understand. And so that's your amendment.

I hear you looking at the glass half-full on the getting to the 50 and we will be watching to see where you go. But, listen, you were there when Senator John McCain amazingly stood up before all of you 11 days off of brain surgery and, as he was doing so, he really lectured your party for a lack of transparency on this whole thing.

And a lot of senators up until, you know, the vote didn't actually know what they'd be voting on. Is your party botching this, Senator Cassidy?

CASSIDY: I totally -- I do not defend the process at all. I do not defend it at all, and would, and have said publicly, I would have done the process better, differently.

On the other hand, I think John McCain votes for Graham/Cassidy.

As one example of someone who's clearly a critic of the process, is looking for a way forward, I think -- I can't speak absolutely, but I do think John McCain would end up voting for Graham/Cassidy, and that's why I think it is a way forward.

BALDWIN: This morning, I don't know how often you read the president's tweets, but, you know, in one of them early this morning, he singled out your colleague Senator Lisa Murkowski. She was a no vote on multiple versions of this, or said she would have been a no, and then yesterday, the procedural vote, she was a no, saying she let her party -- that she let her party and the country down, that this is the president of the United States, you know, tweeting about her.

Is this a way to woo?

CASSIDY: Well, it's a funny way to woo. I think a better way to woo is to have better policy.

And President Trump during the campaign said he wanted everyone to remain covered, care for those with preexisting conditions, eliminate mandates, lower premiums. That's actually policy that gets hopefully bipartisan support.

Probably won't just because of the way it's all going politically, but if we can fulfill that -- and, again, I think we have a way to do so -- then hopefully we can get Senator Murkowski's vote. She's representing her folks. I'm not going to criticize her. But I am looking for policy that would appeal to her as well.

BALDWIN: While I have you, let me ask you about your former Senate colleague and current A.G., Jeff Sessions. A number of Republican senators are, you know, coming out and defending him after the president multiple times has bullied him publicly, you know, called him weak and beleaguered.

And here's my question. If the president is unhappy with the A.G., do you think President Trump should just fire him, instead of letting him flap in the breeze?

CASSIDY: I'm not going to criticize -- put it this way. Let me say this. Jeff Sessions is not flapping in the breeze. He doesn't work for the president. He's appointed by the president. He works...


BALDWIN: Does the president realize that?

CASSIDY: I don't know. But I realize it. I think everyone else does. I can't speak for the president, but he works for the American people.

He serves at the president's pleasure, but he works for the American people. And all the evidence I see is that Jeff Sessions continues to work for the American people. At some point, President Trump, as is his right, may choose to replace him.

I think there would be political ramifications. On the other hand, Jeff Sessions, as best I can tell, continues to work for the American people.


BALDWIN: Listen, whether you fall left, right, center, the man -- Jeff Sessions has been doing his job as a Cabinet secretary the last six months.

CASSIDY: Totally. BALDWIN: And, you know, my question to you, Senator Cassidy, is what

does it say about the president's character that he has, you know, been bullying one of his biggest supporters so publicly?

CASSIDY: It is a brashness in the presidency that we have not seen before, but we knew we were getting it when he was elected president.

And it is a two-edged sword. The fact that the president is brash in other circumstances may move people off of settled positions into another position more advantageous to our country. If China ends up helping with North Korea, almost certainly it's because of the president's brashness with China. So, there is a yin and a yang on it.

BALDWIN: Do you think the A.G. sees it that way?

CASSIDY: Oh, I'm sure the A.G. Doesn't like. I wouldn't like it. In fact, I don't like it on behalf of the A.G.


CASSIDY: But I will also say Jeff Sessions is a patriot. He continues to show up every day working for the American people. You can only compliment that.


Senator Cassidy, thank you so much for the time. Good luck voting.

CASSIDY: Thank you.

BALDWIN: Thank you.

Let's go now back, staying in Washington, go to Kaitlan Collins there at the White House. We know the president is about to speak. Tell me about this event.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, he's about to speak to a group of young men and women in the Rose Garden today. These are young men and women who act as mock senators for the day.

It will be interesting to see what Donald Trump says to them, because, as you know, in his speech the other night to the Boy Scouts, he didn't talk a lot about what presidents typically talk about when they talk to 12-to-18-year-olds.

Instead, he talked about his election win, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, so it will be interesting to see what the president has to say today in light of all the news about Jeff Sessions and the major policy change that he announced on Twitter today.

BALDWIN: Yes. Here he is. Shall we listen? Let's listen.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And I want to congratulate you. What a job you have all done basically on all you have achieved at a very young age. It's incredible.

For decades, the American Legion has brought the best and the brightest to the White House. This has taken place for many years. Each of you were chosen out of the many thousands of people that, you know, they're all calling in, they want to get in to the White House. Is anybody upset that you're here?


TRUMP: OK, but you're all really happy that you're here, right?


TRUMP: But you represent your state, and that's a very, very important element too, and a very important factor in getting here.

You all share incredible talent and drive. Most importantly, you have each other to really work with and to help, and you help each other. You're teammates. You love our country. That's something we all have in common, right? We love our country, right?


TRUMP: While you come from all corners of our great landscape, you're all united by your devotion, total devotion, to our great American flag, our freedom and the principles that bind us together as one people and one nation.

For more than a century, the American Legion has taught young citizens about the importance of patriotism and loyalty to our country. And through it all, there's nothing like what you're doing today and what you have achieved over a very, very short period of time.

We want to thank you, and we want to thank the national chapters and everybody else. We have to really give a special thanks to Commander Charles Schmidt. Where's Charles? Where is Charles?


TRUMP: Come here. Come here, Charles. Come on up here, Charles. What a great job. Come on. You want to see? He wants to give you all the credit, who served in the Air Force for 28 years and now advances the Legion's proud legacy.

Thank you, Charles.


TRUMP: Today, we're joined by president of the American Legion and auxiliary, Mary Davis. Where is Mary? Where is Mary? Hello, Mary. You want to come up here? Come on, Mary.


TRUMP: And executive director who I know, Verna Jones. Come on, Verna. Come on up. Come on up. Come on up, Mary. Careful. (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: I want to thank you for your commitment to these incredible students and to our country.


I also want to honor former National Commander Bob Turner, who everyone really knows.


TRUMP: Wow. That's pretty good, Bob. That's as good as I have ever heard. That's fantastic.

Come on over here, Bob. Be careful. We don't want to see Bob go down. Do you agree with that? Because he will never forget that.

This year, Bob is celebrating his 35th year helping to lead Boys Nation, all as a volunteer. Thank you very much, Bob.


TRUMP: And, Bob, I know everyone here today agrees when I say thousands of young Americans are better patriots because of your incredible and steadfast service, right, fellows? Right?


TRUMP: Through this program, countless young people like you have been inspired to protect American interests and to promote American values. Right?

Many of those who have been in your place have gone on to become governors, members of Congress, generals. And one even became a president. You know who that one was?

AUDIENCE: Bill Clinton. Bill Clinton.

TRUMP: That's true. See?

The American Legion has held this meeting for seven decades. Just think of the history that has occurred during that time. When the first group of students met in 1946 -- now, that's an important day. You know why? That's when I was born.


TRUMP: I hate to admit it. I hate to admit it.


TRUMP: Oh, 1946. Oh, wow. I shouldn't have said that, Bob.


TRUMP: Our nation had just welcomed home our brave heroes whose spirit and courage achieved victory over tyranny in World War II.

Just over 20 years later, young men and women like you watched a man land on the moon and dreamed of new frontiers in space. In 1987, Americans all across this nation joined their hearts with President Ronald Reagan in the hope, the prayer, and the conviction that the Berlin Wall would crumble in the face of truth, justice, and freedom. You know all about that.

In each of these moments, and so many others, America triumphed. We win. We know how to win, right?



TRUMP: And we win because of the spirit of our people. Believe me, that's a big part of it.

Just think of the amazing moments in history you will witness during your lifetime. You saw one on November 8, right?


TRUMP: That was a pretty amazing -- that was a pretty amazing moment, and we're doing a good job. Our country is doing so well now. We're doing a good job. You all happy?


TRUMP: Because you have what it takes to be the leaders that will shape this future.

Some of you may want to come to the capital some day. You're going to be back, many of you, and help make the laws that will guide this nation and govern our land. Others may choose to answer the call of duty, put on the uniform and risk everything for our nation and for our nation's people.

Still others may become business leaders, teachers, artists, and inventors. We have them all, and we have them all here today. And some of you don't even really know what it might be, but we have people that are going to be so successful, so incredible in their lives, and you're going to be happy. Do what you love. Do what you love. Follow what you love.

So, I want to just tell, as you pour your whole heart into everything you do, really, you're doing it for your family, you're doing it for your country, but you're also doing it for yourselves, because, ultimately, you have to do it for yourself.


It's better for your country. And your country wants you to succeed so much. But there's no country like the United States of America, and there's no country that can give you the kind of opportunity that we give you in the United States. (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: Being successful is about finding your purpose in life and never, ever giving up. Do you ever give up? No. Does anybody here give up?

AUDIENCE: No, sir.

TRUMP: What about here?

AUDIENCE: No, sir.

TRUMP: You're right.

And I think they mean it. I think they mean it.

You were chosen for this program because you believe in America's future and because you have the ambition and the heart to ensure that America will always be victorious and will always prevail.

Through Boys and Girls Nation, you are learning the values that are necessary for a nation to endure and for a nation to thrive, pride in our history, loyalty to our citizens, and allegiance to our great American flag.

In the decades to come, you will help our nation reach new heights -- we will be so proud of you -- discover new frontiers and strengthen the bond of loyalty between our country and its people.

It is my honor to meet with you all today, and it was my greater honor to come out here early before the press got here to take all of those pictures that we took, and I hope they send you the right pictures.


TRUMP: And they will.

As I look out at the audience, I see the next generation of American leaders. I see the promise of our future. I see the strength and love of the American spirit. And because of young people like you, I am more confident than ever in the future of the United States.

Together, we will make America greater than ever before. I mean that. Going to make America greater than ever before, and we're on our way. You see what's going on? We're building up military. We're getting great job numbers, best in 17 years, best job numbers in 17 years. The enthusiasm for manufacturers and business is at just about the highest point since they started taking those tests.

So, I just want to tell you, go out there, go get them. I have no doubt you're going to, every one of you, be successful. Never quit, never give up. Always do what you love. Take great care of your family and your parents, because we love your parents. You probably wouldn't be here without your parents. Right?

(APPLAUSE) TRUMP: So, thank you again to the American Legion, and congratulations to you all. God bless you, and God bless America. And thank you for being at the White House.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, how did you decide your policy on transgender people in the military?

TRUMP: She's very rude.



BALDWIN: All right, so the president there speaking to young girls and boys in the country. That was the American Legion Boys Nation and Auxiliary Girls Nation.

And just before some of the singing there, you heard a question shouted back from the media, essentially asking the president for any kind of comment on his tweet today that took a lot of people by surprise, including the Pentagon, on banning transgender individuals from serving in the military.


And so you could sort of read his lips: How rude. And that was that.

We are moments away. We will come back to that in just a second.

We are moments away, also, from the Senate vote to repeal Obamacare. We will take you there to Capitol Hill and also more on the president's continued attacks, public attacks, on his attorney general, Jeff Sessions. What's the point? What's he trying to do here?

You're watching CNN's special live coverage. I'm Brooke Baldwin.


BALDWIN: Today, the commander in chief announced a major decision regarding the U.S. military. This was delivered not through a press release formally, but on Twitter.

President Trump tweeting: "After consultations with my generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States government will not accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. military. Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory and cannot be burdened with a tremendous medical cost and disruption of the transgender in the military would entail. Thank you."

The president, nor the Pentagon has indicated exactly how this will affect the thousands of active-duty transgender service members currently enlisted. The White House did respond to some questions about this just moments ago.


QUESTION: What happens to transgender service members now? Are they immediately thrown out of the military?