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Trump's Twitter War: What's It Good For?; First GOP Health Care Bill Fails in the Senate; Trump Intensifies Attacks on Attorney General. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired July 26, 2017 - 07:00   ET


JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: -- in the last couple of days since Anthony Scaramucci has been appointed. And I think we're going to see a little bit of a different style as far as how Scaramucci approaches these versus how Sean Spicer approached them.

[07:00:12] You know, we saw Spicer kind of waiver between either saying, "I fully back what the president is saying here" or "I'm just going to let the tweets speak for themselves."

Scaramucci really feels more comfortable in that medium, mostly because of the fact that he has a better relationship with the president. He understands how he thinks and how he works a lot better. And so I think we've already seen Anthony Scaramucci come out and say, "Listen, this is what the president is tweeting" and kind of amplifying that message rather than trying to moderate it in some way or simply let it stand and let reporters' questions continue to fuel themselves.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN: Strong point. Smerconish-esque, I would suggest. Hiding from the obvious is always a mistake for a press secretary dealing with the national media.

Gentlemen, thank you for your perspective as always.

Hey, thanks to you, our international viewers, for watching. For you, CNN "NEWSROOM" is next. For our U.S. viewers, there is big news to start your NEW DAY. Let's get after it.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Any senator who votes against repeal and replace, they are fine with the Obamacare nightmare.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), MINORITY LEADER: We know that ACA is not perfect. What you proposed is much worse.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Let's trust each other. Let's return to regular order.

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

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If there's any person on Capitol Hill that has been loyal to the president, it's Jeff Sessions.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I), VERMONT: How do you appoint the guy and then humiliate him?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The attorney general is doing a fine job.

TRUMP: With the exception of Abraham Lincoln, I can be more presidential than any president.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Donald Trump is presidential in the same way that Kid Rock will be senatorial.


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

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Interesting analogy.

CUOMO: A shot at one of your favorites, Kid Rock.

CAMEROTA: Definitely. Kid Rock.

Good morning, everyone. Welcome to your NEW DAY. Up first, one step forward, another step back for GOP senators. They voted to begin debate over health care. But their first vote on the plan to repeal and replace Obamacare then failed.

Nine Republicans voting against that first major proposal. The Senate continues debate today on a repeal with a two-year delay replacement plan.

CUOMO: President Trump is intensifying his public attacks of Attorney General Jeff Sessions. The president has started all this and seeded this discussion with whether or not Sessions is out and now is saying, "Well, he doesn't know whether or not Sessions has to go." But he does call the Russian investigation and Sessions' recusal unfair to the presidency.

CNN has everything covered for you. Let's begin with CNN's Suzanne Malveaux live on Capitol Hill -- Suzanne.


Well, Senate Republicans obviously achieving a victory, important legislative victory, but the challenge of uniting the party around replacing and repealing Obamacare very illusive. The first proposal, offering $100 billion additional in Medicaid to satisfy the moderates and also bare-bones insurance plans to satisfy the conservatives, well, went down in flames.


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.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER: 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.


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.

[07:05:14] 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!


MALVEAUX: So what's next? Potentially up to 20 hours of debate over various Republican proposals, then the Senate goes into what's called a vote-a-rama that allows any senator, Democrat or Republican, to offer up any amendment, as many amendments as they like. That process goes as long as lawmakers can take it -- Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: We have no idea how long that is, but we shall see Suzanne. Thank you very much for all of that background.

Meanwhile, President Trump is ramping up his public criticism of Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Sources tell CNN that top White House aides are urging the president to stop attacking Sessions so publicly. But the president will not say whether he will fire him.

CNN Joe Johns is live at the White House with more. What have you learned about this, Joe?


This is rough stuff, harsh public criticism from the president, and the attorney general's chief of staff sending a signal that he's not going anywhere. Meanwhile, the strong base of conservative support that Jeff Sessions built during his years in the Senate apparently standing up for him.


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.


JOHNS: The recusal that opened the door to the appointment of Special Counsel Robert Mueller is at the root of this tension between the attorney general and the president. When asked yesterday by the "Wall Street Journal" whether Mueller's job is safe, the president said he essentially wasn't sure yet.

Alisyn and Chris, back to you.

CAMEROTA: OK. Joe, thank you very much for all that reporting. Let's bring in our panel to discuss it. We have CNN political analyst John Avlon; CNN senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin; and CNN Politics reporter and editor-at-large Chris Cillizza.

OK, for the people who went to bed before 9 p.m. last night, they have...

CUOMO: Which is us.

CAMEROTA: Which is us. And I mean us. They have no idea where health care is. Even if you stayed up past 9 p.m., you may have no idea where health care is today. But I have a helpful graphic to show everyone. This will clear it up.

So they passed in the afternoon a motion to proceed, the Senate did. Then they had 20 hours of debate still in progress. Then -- this sounds fun to me. There will be a vote-a-rama, where there will be a flurry of different amendments. CUOMO: You think that involves drinks and dancing.

CAMEROTA: I'm guessing. How did you know?

CUOMO: Because I know you. That's why.

And sadly, it doesn't.

CAMEROTA: Is there dancing? No.

[07:10:03] JOHN AVLON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It's actually the least popular amusement park ride, is the Vote-a-rama. It's the one that...

CUOMO: There's only dancing around the issues. There is no actual cha-cha.

CAMEROTA: We are on a roll. Someone help us. John, where are we with health care?

AVLON: We are in a thicket of Senate procedures, again, a very popular thing for the American people to pay close attention to. But guess what, folks? This matters.

The reality is that the procedural hurdle was cleared yesterday, and today is going to be a series of votes and amendments to try to decide what actually the Republican bill might be. But there still is a long way from consensus. There are competing plans. And this is, once again, the recurring theme of this era, not normal.

CUOMO: All right. So let's put up another graphic that just gives you some of the different slices of problems here facing the Senate. Repeal and replace in full is just a straight-line item. Failed and failed in a big way. More Republican senators than expected said no.

Repeal and delay, which is getting traction, but is of very deep concern. Why? Because it creates an unknown. You'll get rid of what's there without knowing what comes next. Could be the worst option.

Skinny repeal is a specific...

CAMEROTA: Bare-bones proposal.

CUOMO: Specific proposal of keeping it simple. Graham/Cassidy Amendment adds a couple more. Now, Chris Cillizza, one of the things that's important in this analysis, is why there is concern on the left. John McCain said in full-throated fashion, very impressive given his current medical state, he comes up and makes an address, we need bipartisan effort.

The Democrats are boxed in in a rigged system right now with how this is being done. This is not the typical process of going through hearings and bringing in lots of different testimony and then having debates and moving from subcommittee to committee and ruling committee, et cetera. These amendments are only as good as the GOP majority wants them to be. Isn't that the truth? CILLIZZA: Well, yes, I mean, look, John McCain, interesting you bring

his name up. Remember that after the most recent delay, before this vote yesterday, John McCain came out very quickly and said, "We need to have -- we need to go back to basics. We need to start over." We need to have, as you mentioned, Chris, a full committee process, an open amendment process.

Now, he voted yesterday to move forward on a process that is not, in fact, that. You're going to have a couple days of debate and amendments, and then you're going to see whether Republicans can get 50 votes for something which remains, in my opinion, very much up in the air. The skinny repeal essentially getting rid of...

CUOMO: But they only need 50 votes to shoot down any Democrat amendments.

CILLIZZA: That's right.

CUOMO: So every time someone suggests funding...

CILLIZZA: A party line.

CUOMO: ... for Medicaid...

CILLIZZA: It's just party line votes.

CUOMO: ... and putting money back into the system, a party line vote ends it.

CILLIZZA: That's right. And they can let a Susan Collins or a Lisa Murkowski or a Shelley Moore Capito or a Rob Portman, they can let certain members go against, because they can give up two votes. They can kind of parcel it out so, politically speaking, you're not voting against all of these things you're voting for all these things.

But yes, this is not -- they will get rid of any Democratic amendment, because they have the majority. The question for me is, is there anything beyond the motion to proceed that can get 50 Republican votes to pass something?

Remember, this thing was very close to dead in the water 72 hours ago. McCain's decision to come back gives it some momentum, I think helps bring a few wavering members on. But I'm not sure, if you give Mitch McConnell truth serum yesterday, and said, "Is there any other proposal that has anything to do with health care that you can get 50 votes for right now," I think the answer might be no.

CAMEROTA: Jeffrey Toobin, let's talk about your name sake, Jeff Sessions.

JEFF TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Right. Although his name is Jefferson. My name is Jeffrey. Yes.

CAMEROTA: I did not know that. All right. Well, that's...

CUOMO: Mr. Smarty Pants. CAMEROTA: That's another top story.

TOOBIN: Oh, yes.

CAMEROTA: And whether Jefferson Sessions is long for this post. So just to remind people of how devoted and how much Jeff Sessions put himself out there for then-candidate Donald Trump, he was the first one to support Donald Trump. So this was back, February 28, I believe, right before Super Tuesday. So let's just remember what Jeff Sessions said there.


TRUMP: I think of a great man, and I want to just introduce you to him for a sec. You know who I'm talking about? Who am I talking about? Nobody knows right now, because we've kept it a surprise, Senator Jeff Sessions.

JEFF SESSIONS, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: We need to make America great again. I am pleased to endorse Donald Trump for the presidency of the United States.


CAMEROTA: OK. So Jeff, yesterday, President Trump had a different take on why Jeff Sessions did that on that day, not that he was sort of making a bold proclamation of his support, but this is what President Trump told "The Wall Street Journal."

[07:15:04] "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."

TOOBIN: It's just a total lie. I mean -- I mean, whatever else you think of Jeff Sessions, he did take a political risk. He was the first senator to endorse Donald Trump. He didn't do it because there were 40,000 people there. Jeff Sessions had this -- perhaps the safest seat in the United States Senate. He wasn't, you know, counting the number of people there.

He has been an extremely loyal supporter and someone who has advanced the president's policy agenda more than just about any other cabinet member, you know, limiting civil rights, voting rights. You can argue about whether this is a good thing. But it's certainly the Trump agenda. What it's all about is Russia and how fixated the president is on the unfairness he perceives of this investigation, and he blames Sessions for it. Policy doesn't matter. The personal matters to Donald Trump. That's what this is.

CUOMO: Hold on, Chris. Let me add something for you. It raises the question of whether or not thinking one more ahead, playing checkers essentially, is a smart move in a chess game involving Jeff Sessions. And here's why. If you get rid of Sessions, if you don't get rid of Sessions -- OK, if you don't get rid of Sessions, Mueller comes out with his findings, and it is "We found this and this, but nothing really major."

If you have Sessions in place, who recused himself, he is a back stop for President Trump. If he removes Sessions, and you put in someone else who is invariably going to be seen as a dupe, when Mueller comes out with that finding and the A.G. reports -- because remember, Mueller doesn't have to report to us. He only has to report to the A.G.

And it comes out that there's nothing there. It will be suspicious. Whereas, if Sessions were there, and he has recused himself, it gives an air of legitimacy to that finding that the president may lose the benefit of that if he gets rid of Sessions. Yes or no?

CILLIZZA: Yes, absolutely. Look, I always thought for Republicans and Donald Trump -- but especially congressional Republicans hoping to get beyond this at some point, the special counsel is the best possible option in that, if Bob Mueller comes out and says, "We looked into it. There was some stuff here that wasn't great, but there's no crimes here. You know, there's no collusion."

That's the only possible way, I think, in the American public's eyes that -- that they get beyond this issue. But again, though, Chris, this goes to the point. I think we have a tendency, and because he won, when most people thought he wouldn't -- most people includes me -- to think he's playing three-dimensional chess at all times.

I think it is at least as likely he's playing zero-dimensional chess that he just says and does things and sees how they land; and then the positions off of that. This idea that everything he is doing is part of this grand strategy, that he's sitting in the Oval Office and he's got this whiteboard. This connects to this over here.

He sees all these things that we don't see. I'm not sure the first six months of his presidency bears that out.

CUOMO: I think it's more like "Twister."

AVLON: I'm pretty sure it's self-evident that this isn't about grand strategy, if you've been paying attention. This is impulse-driven; this is improvisational. But it's a position of such enormous power that it forces people to react to it.

CUOMO: How about "Twister" as the game that it's most like? Remember that?


CILLIZZA: And guess what happens at the end of "Twister"? You always fall over.

CUOMO: Never. Never lost.

CILLIZZA: I always fall down.

CUOMO: Never. Death first.

CILLIZZA: Well-played.

TOOBIN: Only Abraham Lincoln was a better "Twister" player than Chris Cuomo.

CILLIZZA: So true.

CAMEROTA: Oh, my gosh, we've run off the rails.

Panel, thank you all. Coming up in our next hour, we'll talk about all this and more with the new White House communications director, Anthony Scaramucci. Stick around for that.

CUOMO: All right. So they've talked about repealing and replacing Obamacare for seven years. In fact, you're seeing that now as a defense to why they don't need to do the true process of promulgating legislation. They've already had that discussion, they say. Really? What if they don't have a plan to replace what is there right now? What will that mean to you? A Republican lawmaker makes the case next.


[07:23:26] CUOMO: President Trump taking on a fellow Republican who voted against beginning debate on health care. The president tweeting just moments ago, "Senator Lisa Murkowski of the great state of Alaska really let the Republicans and our country down yesterday. Too bad."

It comes after the Senate failed to advance a plan last night to repeal and replace Obamacare. Remember, the president has not been clear on what he thinks the right plan for America is. In fact, he called something like what they voted on last night mean.

Joining us now, Republican Congressman Steve King of Iowa. What do you make of the president going after fellow party members?

REP. STEVE KING (R), IOWA: Well, you know, he's not a polished politician when it comes to that. And I'm sure he's not familiar with the nuance of his personalities and the massive egos that pack this Capitol that I'm standing in right now, Chris.

And so, you know, I wish he hadn't done that. There's a lot more subtle ways to get done what you need done. And some of that is that now people look them in the eye and tell them what's important and ask them for their commitment.

CUOMO: Do you think it's just about politics, Congressman? You and I have known each other for a while. Aren't these things -- some of these tactics really just about character, just about personality, not about knowing the way to do things. This is dealing with people. That doesn't change when you're in politics?

KING: Well, I would say, also, that, you know, I've been involved with and tracked along with the Trump campaign for a long time. And when we started back in 2000 -- in January of 2015. And so I saw some of these things pop out then. He was pretty tough on his political opponents out of the 17 candidates and the Republican side of this. And he seemed to be able to throw those insults out and then pull that back again and somehow end up with people's support.

[07:25:11] But this is a -- this arena here now, there's a lot at stake, and I think the president is frustrated. And if he'd restrained himself a little more, perhaps he could be a little more successful.

CUOMO: Would it also help if the president had been more clear about what he thinks the plans should be, what the policy should be? All he has said so far is inaction is not an option. He called the repeal and replace plan that was in the offing, coming out of the House mean, as you'll remember. But he hasn't said what he doesn't think would be mean.

KING: Well, I know that that's -- the president doesn't have a clear bill out there that he has his fingerprints on. He's asking us to shape it. And it's so very complex, I understand that.

But he also, early on in this session -- in I'll say early February -- sent out the message that he didn't want a repeal-only bill on his desk. He wanted a repeal and replacement. We couldn't put them in the same bill and have two bills laying there at the same time.

And I got that message pretty clearly from some of his people. And yet now he'd be willing to accept a repeal only bill. I actually think that's the most likely bill to come out of the Senate, as a repeal with a two-year delay, that gives us two years to put the replacement pieces in.

And I always thought that it would be wiser to bring them, you know, one rifle shot at a time of the repairs that are there, rather than try to do it all in one bill.

The more complex you get this, the less the American people are going to understand it, the harder it is to get the support of the American people. And the -- the more, I'd say, cautious are the members of the United States Senate or the House, as the case may be. They want to know whether the public is behind them.

CUOMO: Why would the -- how can the people get behind something that they don't know about? If all you're going to present them with is "What you have now is gone. We're phasing it out, and we don't know what we're going to replace it with," why would you expect support?

KING: Well, because I would say this, that the public understands this now. If we've reached an impasse where repeal and replace has been turned down by the House -- by the Senate, excuse me, and the piece that came out of the House was so -- so brutally negotiated in the end that people didn't know what was in that, on the piece we sent to the Senate.

Now we're sitting there -- I would want to say, "OK, let's clear the decks. Let's do what people can understand in a pace that they can learn what's going on and weigh in while it's going on. That would be the repeal component, and everybody will understand that." Get that done and then start through insurance across state laws, a tort reform bill, which is, -- actually, it's my bill that passed the House several weeks ago. And full deductibility for everybody's health insurance premiums, we can get free-market solutions out of this.

We also need to get rid of the mandates. The mandates, and especially the individual mandate and the employer mandate. That is a government takeover. And I think people want their freedom back. So...

CUOMO: It's fundamental to how to keep costs down. And that's going to be the concern. If you repeal, if you take away all these things and say we'll figure it out later, how do I know that I'm going to be able to get health care, how do I know that what I'm depending on, whether it's pre-existing conditions or lifetime caps, which almost all these suggestions want to get rid of or that I need the supplemental help in the form of subsidies or Medicaid, which is tens of millions of people, if you're just taking it away and not seeing how you'll replace it, why would I support that?

KING: The reason that -- I don't know if you would. I think...

CUOMO: I'm saying -- finally, in that situation. You don't have to worry about me. Thank God Turner is giving us good insurance, so I'm not at the mercy of the lawmakers. But, you know, there's cost increases even to us as a result of what you guys do.

KING: I'm family and friends and constituents, 750,000 of them, most of whom are affected by this, and that's what you're addressing. I did a telephone town hall the night before last, and I asked -- I asked this question.

If we repealed Obamacare and did nothing, except just take it back to the way it was. And I'm not suggesting this as my proposed policy, but I asked the question to find out where people stood. If we just repealed it and did nothing else, would be I had people given three choices. Would we be better off, would be much better off or would they be worse off.

And the better off and much better off came to the upper 50th percentile, and the worse off, people said 44 percent. So there's a significant majority. We'd call that a landslide if it were an election result, 57 percent, 56 percent to 44.

So there are people out there that would rather go back to the way it was. So I'm going to say let's do the repeal. That will take us back the way it was, and then let's make it better with free-market solutions.

CUOMO: For the ACA by almost any metric, things were worse. So you may have a small sample that says that. But when you talk to the experts and the different groups involved, you're not going to get a lot of support for that kind of proposition.

But let's see what they can come up with in the Senate, and they decide to move forward on. And I'll come back to you, and we'll test it.

KING: I look forward to doing that, Chris.

CUOMO: Congressman, be well. KING: You, too. Thank you.

CUOMO: Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Up next, we'll get the other side. A Democratic senator will tell us about the Democrat's role in this health care debate. Do they have a plan or are they sitting back and watching the GOP chaos play out? We'll find out.