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First GOP Health Care Bill Fails in the Senate; Trump Intensifies Attacks on Attorney General. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired July 26, 2017 - 06:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER: We have a duty to act.

The president is ready with his pen.

[05:57:14] DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We had two Republicans that went against us, which is very, I think. It's very, very sad for them.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I), VERMONT: I think I can say without any hesitancy that there's nobody in the United States Senate who has a clue what's going on.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: We're getting nothing done, my friends. We're getting nothing done.

TRUMP: I'm very disappointed with the attorney general, but we will see what happens. Time will tell. Time will tell.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You get the loyalty you give in life.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Loyalty is a one-way street with Donald Trump.

ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI, WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: The president and Attorney General Sessions need to work this thing out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is about rule of law, not the rule of Trump.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: All right. We welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is NEW DAY. It's Wednesday, July 26, 6 a.m. here in New York, and here's our starting line.

The Senate failing to pass Mitch McConnell's plan to partially repeal and replace Obamacare. Nine Republicans voting against the first major proposal put up for a vote.

Remember, the big win yesterday was just a vote to start debate. There is still stiff resistance to just repealing the ACA without a reasonable replacement. The Senate continues debate today, and there's a new measure to repeal and delay replacement. We'll see how that goes.

The president is also intensifying his very public rebuke of Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: In fact, the president refuses to say whether he will fire Sessions calling Sessions' recusal on the Russia investigation, quote, "unfair to the presidency."

Meantime, President Trump back on the campaign trail last night, telling supporters in Ohio that he can, quote, "be more presidential than any other U.S. president except Abraham Lincoln," end quote.

And an open microphone captures two senators making unflattering comments about President Trump and ridiculing a fellow lawmaker. We have that audio for you.

So CNN has all this covered. Let's begin with CNN national correspondent Suzanne Malveaux, live on Capitol Hill. Another very busy day. Tell us.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Another busy day, indeed, Alisyn. Well, Senate Republicans won an important legislative victory, but of course, it underscored, later in the day, just the painful process of trying to unite the GOP around one particular plan, a comprehensive plan to repeal and replace Obamacare. It was just one in a series of amendments and proposals, and that fell short.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MALVEAUX (voice-over): The Republican effort to broker an agreement on health care suffering its first setback, with the Senate decisively rejecting the GOP's most comprehensive replacement plan, nine Republicans voting against the measure.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The motion is not agreed to.

MALVEAUX: The Senate expected to take up today Senator Rand Paul's proposal to repeal Obamacare with the delay on the replacement plan for two years, a measure that the CBO estimates will leave 32 million more Americans uninsured and is also expected to fail.

MCCONNELL: This is just the beginning. We're not out here to spike the football. This is a long way, but we'll finish at the end of the week, hopefully.

MALVEAUX: The Senate kicking off the health care debate with a tie- breaking vote from Vice President Mike Pence.

MIKE PENCE (R), VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES/PRESIDENT OF THE SENATE: The vice president votes in the affirmative.

MALVEAUX: Pence casting the deciding vote after all Democrats and two Republicans voted against beginning debate.

Senator John McCain returning to a hero's welcome after his brain cancer diagnosis, chastising Republicans for the way they have gone about health care reform, but voting in favor of beginning debate and the first repeal and replace measure, the Senate veteran delivering a scathing indictment of partisan politics paralyzing their chamber.

MCCAIN: Stop listening to the bombastic loud mouths on the radio and television and the Internet. To hell with them. Let's trust each other. Let's return to regular order. We've been spinning our wheels on too many important issues, because we keep trying to find a way to win without help from across the aisle.

MALVEAUX: President Trump taking a decisively different tone at a rally in Ohio Tuesday night.

TRUMP: Any senator who votes against repeal and replace is telling America that they are fine with the Obamacare nightmare, and I predict they'll have a lot of problems.

MALVEAUX: At a Rose Garden news conference, the president slammed the two Republican senators who voted against beginning debate.

TRUMP: We have two Republicans that went against us, which is very sad, I think. It's very, very sad for them.

MALVEAUX: Democrats promising to keep the pressure on their Republican colleagues as they fight to preserve President Obama's signature health care law.

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D), MASSACHUSETTS: We have lost an important battle today, but we have not yet lost this war.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), MINORITY LEADER: We are going to fight and fight and fight until this bill is dead!

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MALVEAUX: So what is next here? Possibly up to 20 hours of debate as they look at various Republican proposals in the days ahead. And then the Senate goes into what's called a vote-a-rama that opens up the process. Any Democrat or Republican senator can actually put forward an amendment, as many as they like. And that process goes on as long as they can take it -- Alisyn, Chris.

CUOMO: Suzanne, appreciate it. Let's bring in our panel. We've got CNN political analyst John Avlon; CNN Politics reporter and editor-at- large Chris Cillizza; and congressional reporter for "The Washington Post," Karoun Demirjian.

So where are we? The big win was just to start debating. It seems that the stiff resistance isn't going to go anywhere as long as what's on the table is, let's take away what's there and then...

JOHN AVLON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, then, I mean, mystery meat is not a plan, and that's basically where we are right now. Look, there are a lot of competing plans. There's the so-called skinny repeal, repeal-lite.

CAMEROTA: Well, because I think the visual will help people. Repeal and replace -- walk it through. Something like 9:30 that failed. Now repeal and delay they're going to vote on today. So for two years, there will be a delay of a repeal. Then the skinny repeal, which you can expound on for us. And then the Graham-Bill Cassidy Amendment that he outlined to us on Friday evening that it has the votes. That gives governors and states more autonomy and control.

AVLON: And look, I mean, giving more power to the states is standard issue Republican fare. It's hard to oppose. Skinny repeal is basically taking a couple of key provisions away to allow for consensus. So they're going to remove the individual mandate.

Now, the problem with removing the individual mandate is, that's a game of Jenga with the health care system right now. It will -- it will allegedly increase freedom, but it will also explode costs and destabilize markets. It will also take away a couple of its medical device taxes and things that are really longstanding bugaboos for conservatives about this bill. But there is still a long way from anything resembling consensus.

Mike Pence can't be, you know, Superman saving the day with the tie- breaking vote every time. And this is just a legacy problem that Republicans have. Total focus for seven years on repeal, not sufficient focus on replace. And but the next day or two is going to be key for this country's health care system.

CUOMO: And Karoun, one of the things that is missing is clear direction from the president about what he would want. Right? That's the price of his having separated himself from the policy process. Inaction is not an option, get after it. I'll come after you in your primary if you don't vote the right way.

But beyond that, he hasn't provided any direction. So there is no real way of knowing which way this will go.

KAROUN DEMIRJIAN, CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT, "THE WASHINGTON POST": No. The most specific he's gotten is to say repeal and replace. But what does that mean when you have four different competing proposals that are out there?

CUOMO: At least, right? That's just the first round.

[06:05:07] DEMIRJIAN: That's just the ones from the graphic, right? But there could be far, far many more. This is such a blind process that we're going into at this point.

And, I mean, the president can't explain exactly what it is he wants. The Senate majority leader hasn't explained exactly what it is that he wants. Members are confused. And that's why you're seeing this real split even in hours yesterday where you have people voting for the motion to proceed, but then against the first thing that comes up. More Republicans than even realized are against that bill proposal voted against it.

And this is a division that is pretty normal to happen in the brains of members of Congress where it's, like, oh, it's a procedural motion versus the actual thing. But it just looks like chaos when you're looking at it from the -- you know, from the public because what is it that they actually want? What do all these bills mean? It's hard to digest that in real time when you have so many votes flying back and forth and nobody really specifying what each one signifies.

CAMEROTA: So Chris Cillizza, one of the headlines yesterday was that John McCain made a return, and he did so with, you could see, you know, the scars of brain surgery still fresh.

CUOMO: Warrior, ambling in there, you know, marshaling his strength.

CAMEROTA: Absolutely. And it was poignant and powerful, what he called for. So listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN: We've been spinning our wheels on too many important issues, because we keep trying to find a way to win without help from across the aisle. That's an approach that's been employed by both sides, mandating legislation from the top down without any support from the other side with all the parliamentary maneuvers that requires. We are getting nothing done, my friends. We're getting nothing done! And all we've really done this year is confirm Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CAMEROTA: Chris, you know, just felt like John McCain feels like now is the time to speak his piece.

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS CORRESPONDENT AND EDITOR-AT-LARGE: Yes, I think that's right. And I would say, Alisyn, that prior to the John McCain surprise decision to return to Washington, the -- I'm not sure that Mitch McConnell had 50 votes and motions to proceed.

I think McCain coming back probably brings Rob Portman of Ohio on board, probably brings Shelley Moore Capito on board, you know, votes they needed just to get this to open debate.

The -- it is a -- I think it is a worthy sentiment expressed by Senator McCain. I think that those words, however, are not reflective currently of the way in which the public is sort of rewarding those who move to the extremes. This is much more about who we choose to elect than it is about what they do when they get there.

The truth of the matter is most of these folks ran on exactly what they were doing. If you were voting for Ted Cruz, you did not think you were getting a moderate who was committed to working with the other side of the aisle. That is not how he ran.

CAMEROTA: Go ahead.

AVLON: But Chris, you know, this is not about the American people rewarding extremism. It's about a political system that's been rigged to reward people who can win closed partisan primaries by playing to a base once -- too often in one-party states where that's the deciding election, effectively. And what I think John McCain was so powerfully speaking from, from

total moral authority, the best traditions in American politics are where there are bipartisan coalitions. And his moral authority, particularly at this moment, is life experience in public service, is so at the opposite end of American experience from Donald Trump. That's the tradition that we really need to repair to, and I hope all members of the Senate actually listen to him when we get this bill down the field.

CILLIZZA: Chris...

DEMIRJIAN: One thing that you have to point out in there that, as much as John McCain was saying things that everybody needed to hear, especially at this time, he did still vote with his party. And so it's even a dilemma for the person who was delivering that message to actually live it out into success.

CUOMO: And Chris, he said that just to be clear about what McCain did, he voted on the procedural vote to start debate. He then voted for the BRCA, right, the First Amendment that came up. And what does that tell you? That tells you that the idea of what they want to do here on the Republican side -- yes, we have some moderates and some outliers -- but it's still very tied to this idea of taking away Obamacare.

CAMEROTA: Because that's what they promised.

CUOMO: That's the motivation. But here is the problem with that, is that it is only as strong a move as what it leaves people with in the end. When they go to cover their kids and themselves or their young families or just their individual self, and that's where John McCain's wish is going to fall on deaf ears.

The Democrats know -- and it is a reasonable proposition -- this process is rigged. You can have your debate, but this is not your typical promulgation process. The amendment structure here is largely controlled by the Republican majority. So the idea that the Democrats can come in with amendments and now we'll all have equal ideas, that's a false premise, is it not?

[06:10:05] CILLIZZA: Fundamentally. We're so far away from anything resembling that, you know, Pollyannaish image of Senate past.

CUOMO: Because we had Cornyn on yesterday saying everybody can bring their amendments up for debate, and we'll debate them, and we'll vote on all of them.

AVLON: Yes. That would be lovely if true. Well, if true.

CUOMO: Why is it not true?

AVLON: Because that's not the process that's in place right now. The ruling party will put forward the amendments. But that's the problem, also. There's a resistance even to the bunting of bipartisan reform, let alone regular order, as John McCain said.

CAMEROTA: OK. Panel, stick around. We have many more questions for you.

There are other top stories we need to get to, including President Trump intensifying public attacks of his own attorney general, Jeff Sessions. But the president will not say if he plans to fire Sessions. Sources do tell CNN that top White House aides are urging the president to stop criticizing his A.G. so openly.

CNN's Joe Johns is live at the White House with more. Joe, what have you learned?

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Alisyn, this is almost unprecedented criticism by a president of a member of his cabinet, and among other things, the fact of the matter is the chief of staff for the attorney general, Jeff Sessions, has sent the message that he's not going anywhere.

Meanwhile, the strong base of conservative support Sessions built during his years in the Senate started showing signs of standing up for him.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TRUMP: I am disappointed in the attorney general. He should not have recused himself.

JOHNS (voice-over): President Trump intensifying his public attacks on his embattled attorney general, Jeff Sessions.

TRUMP: I want the attorney general to be much tougher on the leaks from intelligence agencies.

JOHNS: Accusing him of not cracking down hard enough on leakers, disparaging Sessions as weak. The president refusing to say if he'll fire his earliest and most loyal supporter, despite senior White House officials urging him to stand down.

TRUMP: We will see what happens. Time will tell, time will tell.

JEFF SESSIONS, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: Make America great again.

JOHNS: The president now questioning the reasons Sessions backed limb citing his campaign crowds in a new "Wall Street Journal" interview. "He was a senator from Alabama. He looks at 40,000 people, and he probably says, 'What do I have to lose?' and he endorsed me. So it's not like a great loyal thing about the endorsement."

As uncertainty over Sessions' fate consumes Washington, some Republicans are leaping to his defense.

MCCONNELL: I think the attorney general is doing a fine job, and I think I made the right decision to recuse himself from the Russia matter.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He made the right decision to recuse himself.

SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R), TEXAS: If there's any person on Capitol Hill that has been loyal to the president of the United States, it's Jeff Sessions.

JOHNS: While others are saying it's up to the president.

REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: The president gets to decide what his personnel is. You all know that. He's the executive branch. We're the legislative branch. He determines who is hired and fired in the executive branch. That's his prerogative.

JOHNS: Even conservative media outlets Breitbart and FOX News casting doubt on the president's strategy.

TUCKER CARLSON, FOX NEWS HOST: Publicly attacking Jeff Sessions for all of that? That is nuts.

JOHNS: The president last night striking back at critics who've challenged his leadership style.

TRUMP: With the exception of the late, great Abraham Lincoln, I can be more presidential than any president that's ever held this office. That I can tell you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

JOHNS: The recusal that opened the door to the appointment of Special Counsel Robert Mueller is really at the root of this tension between the president and the attorney general. The president, in an interview with the "Wall Street Journal" just yesterday, was asked whether he would rule out firing the attorney general. The president said, "Too early to say. We'll see."

Back to you, Chris.

CUOMO: All right, Joe, appreciate it.

So there is a lot in the air right now, this fight with Sessions. You call it whatever you want. That's what it is. What's going on with health care.

And it's all circulating around this supposed new strategy in the form of a new White House communications director named Anthony Scaramucci. He is going to come on in our 8 a.m. hour. He is not supposed to be the press secretary. He's not supposed to be the constant face. But early on, they want to set a new tone. So Scaramucci will be here to answer on all of the big questions this morning.

CAMEROTA: See how happy he looks that he's coming on?

Meanwhile, it's been four months since Sessions recused himself from the Russia investigation. So why is President Trump now turning on him? We'll discuss that and more next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I'm very disappointed with the attorney general, but we will see what happens. Time will tell.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CAMEROTA: President Trump again going after Attorney General Jeff Sessions and refusing to say whether he will fire him. So what is going to happen next in this public showdown?

Let's bring back our panel. We have Chris Cillizza and John Avlon. We also want to bring in CNN counterterrorism analyst Phil Mudd. Great to see all of you.

John Avlon, there is new CNN reporting from Jeremy Diamond that sources say that in the White House, top high-level aides have begun trying to talk up Jeff Sessions, to try to impress upon the president how valuable Jeff Sessions has been and could be in the future to him. So there is an effort underway to keep Jeff Sessions, but President Trump at the moment seems unswayed by that.

AVLON: Right. Well, I mean, there's the -- there's the Trumpian double psychology, if you tell him to do something, he'll apparently resist it or reject it out of hand.

But what his aides and conservatives in Congress are trying to tell him is picking on Jeff Sessions in public is a bad idea. It's a bad idea politically. It's a bad idea personally, because it sends a message that, for your earliest, most loyal supporter, gets nothing in return. Instead there's this ritualistic humiliation.

Look, when the president is asked directly, and he's saying, "Time will tell," he's really saying, "Let's wait until the August recess." I mean, you know...

CAMEROTA: Because then he could make a recess appointment. It could slide through easily.

AVLON: Yes. That is a possibility. It's a possibility. There's a lot of options that he's going to have. But he's trying to humiliate him out of office. That's one.

There are a lot of problems with going after Jeff Sessions, you know, one of which is that Rod Rosenstein would become acting attorney general.

But look, you know, the president -- what the president is doing is unprecedented. And people in his inner circle are trying to dial it back. But he's -- you know, he didn't pull it back yesterday in the press conference. He kept twisting the knife.

CUOMO: Right. So you have a stylistic problem here, Chris Cillizza, which is how the president is doing this. Right? It's embarrassing the attorney general. The president is posturing as this being an unknown, but generating all of this negative energy. That's stylistic.

You then have the substantive issue, which is that we saw the health care debate get almost destabilized yesterday by revulsion, by people in his own party and some Democrats, at the treatment of Jeff Sessions because of the support for Sessions. So what do you make of that dynamic in terms of what the president has to be careful about here?

CILLIZZA: The same thing we've been saying for two years, which is Donald Trump's words do have impact, right? This is not -- the idea that -- and I think this idea has been successfully killed, thankfully. The idea that you don't pay attention to his tweets, you pay attention to what he does, because what he does is what really matters. And what he says doesn't really matter.

Obviously, that's not true. That's not true in many ways. That's certainly not true in the president's life.

And yes, John makes a good point here. You cannot separate Donald Trump bullying Jeff Sessions from Donald Trump going in the sense of saying to senators, "Hey, I need you on this one." They understand. They see what he's doing, to a guy who has been with him, the first senator to endorse him, a guy who's been with him since the beginning. Right?

So if you're a senator, Republican senator on the fence, you should have no idea that -- or issue or belief that Donald Trump is going to have your back if you had voted for this. He won't.

Let me just -- one quick reminder. He -- remember the Rose Garden ceremony after they passed the House health care bill? Two weeks later he's quoted publicly saying that that bill is mean was mean, and he wants the Senate bill to do better.

If you're an on-the-fence swing Republican senator, and you voted for that bill, the president saying you are mean, this is who he is. Loyalty is very much given. He expects it. He doesn't give it. And that's very difficult in politics to make work.

CAMEROTA: Hey, Phil, your bailiwick, of course, is intel agencies. And so let me play for you what President Trump said yesterday about what he wants from Sessions in terms of the intel agencies. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I want the attorney general to be much tougher on the leaks from intelligence agencies which are leaking like rarely have they ever leaked before at a very important level. These are intelligence agencies. We cannot have that happen. You know many of my views in addition to that. But I think that's one of the very important things that they have to get on with.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CAMEROTA: Your thoughts, Phil?

PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: First of all, this is a diversion. The investigation that the president is trying to undermine at the Department of Justice will go on. He keeps talking about people. This investigation predates Robert

Mueller. There's a pile of documents, what we call 302. Those are interviews, financial documents, phone records that are now in FBI computers. He can try to think he can undermine the investigation by slowly worming his way into getting Bob Mueller removed. I don't think it will happen. But that pile of documents, regardless of what he says about leaks, regardless of how he tries to divert, will be there forever. And I think the investigation will go on.

On the investigation of leaks, I mean, there's a great irony. This is a president of the United States who talked about Israeli intelligence to the Russians and confirmed that intelligence when he went to Israel. This is about a president of the United States who tweeted earlier this week about a secret CIA program.

One of the questions you could ask, if you are doing late-night TV, is I guess we can start prosecuting the president, because he's turned out to be the leaker-in-chief.

CUOMO: So what's the other main aspect of what's going on here? It's -- what it is saying about what matters to the president. There's something else -- what was it? -- in the "Wall Street Journal..."

CAMEROTA: Yes.

CUOMO: ... where he talked about Sessions. All right. So the big political rub on how can you go after Jeff Sessions. People are focusing on his decision to recuse. Most lawmakers will tell you he had no choice and that the president had every reason to see this coming, because Sessions was part of the campaign. How can he investigate the same thing?

So the loyalty play is big in politics. It is. I know a lot of people like to charge politicians with perfidy and not being loyal, but it's not -- it's not true. And it's not how that business works.

So Sessions came out so early for Donald Trump that it was shocking to people in his own party. They didn't understand it. Look at what the president said about his reckoning of Sessions' loyalty play.

[06:25:00] "When they say he endorsed me, I went to Alabama. I had 40,000 people. He was a senator from Alabama. He looks at 40,000 people, and he probably says, 'What do I have to lose?' and he endorsed me. So it's not like a great loyal thing about the endorsement, but I'm very disappointed in Jeff Sessions" -- John Avlon.

AVLON: I mean, that is brutal. I mean, he's basically -- I mean, look, we all know Donald Trump lives in a Trumpcentric universe. But I mean, he's basically saying the senator from Alabama, "Look, I'm so popular in Alabama, and he threw his hat in with me. And there's really no loyalty here." And by the way, I'm disappointed with him, in addition to him being weak and beleaguered and everything else I've said."

I mean, that itself is such a disloyal thing to say. And it absolutely rips the guts out of a senator who really did take an early stand against popular opinion and those of his colleagues in the Senate to support this man as president.

CAMEROTA: Jeff Sessions has a lot of intestinal fortitude to be just soldiering on.

AVLON: Is that what we're calling it now?

CAMEROTA: I think so. I mean, what else do we call it? He's...

AVLON: There are some other phrases.

CAMEROTA: What is it? What are they?

AVLON: I'll talk about it on break.

CUOMO: I think it's the -- I think it's the author in Camerota. You say "ripping the guts out."

You say "intestinal fortitude."

CAMEROTA: Had some guts (ph) for breakfast, with this crowd.

CUOMO: Very strong.

CAMEROTA: Thank you all very much. Great to get your perspective.

CUOMO: All right. Up next, something that is way more than a headline. This standoff at sea. Those two ships are about 150 yards apart. That is nothing at sea. A U.S. Navy ship firing warning shots at an Iranian patrol boat in the Persian Gulf. Clearly, this was a bad situation. What does it indicate about the relationship between the two countries? Next.

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