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Senate Rejects Proposal To Repeal And Replace Obamacare; Crisis In Venezuela; Government Scientist Becomes Whistleblower. Aired 7:30- 8a ET
Aired July 26, 2017 - 07:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[07:30:00] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Congressman, be well.
REP. STEVE KING (R), IOWA: You, too. Thank you.
CUOMO: Alisyn --
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: OK, Chris. Up next, we'll get the other side.
A Democratic senator will tell us about the Democrats' 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.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're now one step closer to liberating our citizens from this Obamacare nightmare and delivering great health care for the American people. We're going to do that, too.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAMEROTA: All right. That was President Trump celebrating the Senate voting to debate a health care plan. But just minutes after that speech the Senate failed to advance a plan to repeal and replace Obamacare.
Joining us now is Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio. Good morning, Senator.
SEN. SHERROD BROWN (D-OH), MEMBER, FINANCE COMMITTEE, RANKING MEMBER, BANKING, HOUSING AND URBAN AFFAIRS: Good to be back. Thanks.
CAMEROTA: What are you Democrats doing while all of this plays out on the Republican side?
BROWN: Well, we continue to ask the Senate leader to sit down and work this through bipartisanly. They're not -- they -- there is no desire in this country -- 15-20 percent support for the repeal of the Affordable Care Act. There's no desire to do that.
[07:35:12] People intuitively understand this bill that Sen. McConnell puts forward, every version of it was written in his office by the drug company, the insurance company lobbyists, Wall Street lobbyists. It has huge tax breaks for the insurance and drug companies.
And I stand with Gov. Kasich, the Republican governor of my state -- I'm a Democratic -- in saying you don't take insurance away from this many people in order to give a tax cut to the -- to the special interest groups.
Instead, you sit down -- as Sen. McCain said yesterday, we should sit down and bipartisan the work out the relatively minor changes in the Affordable Care Act to make it work better.
CAMEROTA: Yes. So, Sen. McCain did come back from his own brain surgery and he did make that impassioned plea, as he said there on the floor, for bipartisanship and collaboration.
So is there any collaboration happening? I mean, when you say that you keep approaching the leader, what is the response to getting Democrats involved?
BROWN: Well, the response from the Republican leader is continue to slam the door.
To invite in a small number of Republican senators, to invite in the drug company and insurance company lobbyists just down the hall from the Senate floor, and continue and try and jam a bill through that the public doesn't want. That poll after poll shows Republicans don't want but his big contributors want it -- the people who fund the Republican Party.
Eventually, Sen. McConnell will begin to listen to the American public, will begin to sit down with Democrats. We know what we need to do.
You find ways to bring in young, healthy -- young, healthy Americans into the insurance pool. You stabilize the insurance markets. You go after the high cost of prescription drugs.
We ought to consider doing what we almost did 10 years ago, allowing a Medicare 55 to 64-year-old buy in when people lose their jobs or lose their health care. They're getting sicker, they're 58, they're 60 years old -- before eligible for Medicare and let them buy into Medicare.
Those are the things --
BROWN; -- we should be thinking about, not wholesale ripping insurance from 20 million Americans.
CAMEROTA: OK. So are you telling us that when you go to the Senate leader -- to Mitch McConnell -- and you say we want to talk about lowering the cost of prescription drugs, we want to talk about, you know, all the things that you just outlined, that there's no response? That you don't get a seat at the table?
BROWN: Well, there's no response. Yes, there is no seat at the table for anybody but those lobbyists that benefit from this.
I mean, keep in mind, his plan's not just take insurance from people, but every estimate from the Congressional Budget Office -- the only -- you know, the only sort of fair-minded nonpartisan arm of this whole operation says that the premiums are, over time, going to double and millions of people lose their insurance.
So it's clearly not -- this bill won't work. The Republican leaders still, because their major contributors are still pushing them to repeal and replace and give them this big tax cut -- they're still pushing forward.
Eventually, the public is going to -- is going to insist and McConnell's going to finally have to say OK, let's do what John McCain said yesterday. Let's do this bipartisanly and make changes.
Anything big Congress has ever done -- Social Security in Roosevelt's days, Medicare in Johnson's days -- three or four years later both parties sat down bipartisanly, worked out some changes that needed to be made because there are always some issues that you need to fix three or four years after passing a bill --
BROWN: -- like the Affordable Care Act.
CAMEROTA: So from where you sit what health care plan will Americans have six months from now?
BROWN: I don't know. I -- what concerns me greatly is that they keep injecting uncertainty into this market. It affects -- insurance prices will go up and other insurers will pull out.
People are -- I mean, I talk to people in Ohio all the time. There are 200,000 people right now in Ohio getting opioid treatment who have insurance because of the Affordable Care Act.
I talked to a father the other day in Cincinnati who told me his daughter would be dead if it weren't for Medicaid. She's 30 years old. She was sitting there with him.
People are alarmed and concerned and scared about what Republicans are going to do to their health insurance. That's why we need to dispose of this, sit down, quit scaring people.
Do what Gov. Kasich, a Republican and I -- we could sit down and write a bill and fix this if Sen. McConnell would allow people to do that.
CAMEROTA: Another issue obviously today is what the status and fate of Attorney General Jeff Sessions will be. If I could ask you to make another prediction, will Jeff Sessions be in his job a month from now?
BROWN: I assume not. I mean, I've never seen anything like somebody, whether it's head of a company or President of the United States, just trashing an employee like this. I can't imagine the tension in the cabinet room when the president brings together everybody in his cabinet. I don't understand.
I mean, the only thing that I like that Sessions has done is the only thing that Trump hates that Sessions has done. I mean, that he followed the law and recused himself which -- I'm not a lawyer but every lawyer I know says he did the right legal and ethical thing.
[07:40:05] Clearly, Trump wants him to go. I assume he fires him.
I assume he tries to put in Giuliani or one his cronies -- or Christie or somebody like that. Somebody bombastic that will always do Trump's bidding, and tries to sneak him in in August under a recess appointment. That's what I figure Trump's thinking about.
CAMEROTA: Senator Sherrod Brown, thank you very much --
BROWN: It's good to be back.
CAMEROTA: -- for all of your thoughts on what's happening today and in the future. Great to have you here.
CAMEROTA: Chris --
CUOMO: All right. Some important news going on abroad, a critical election in Venezuela. That country has been on the verge of civil war. Some would say it's actually tipped over the verge.
We have a live report on that crisis, next.
CAMEROTA: So, strong storms packing winds and torrential rain and hail are set to slam the Midwest.
CNN meteorologist Chad Myers has our forecast. How's it looking, Chad?
CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Really, the same as yesterday just in a slightly different place, Alisyn.
We will see the chance of some, maybe even a tornado or some wind damage possible today. I think the real threat could be flash flooding in the Corn Belt there across parts of Iowa into Illinois, even into Chicago late, late tonight.
The bigger story for the rest of the week is slightly cooler air coming down. Now, from New York, warmer -- and also Boston -- warmer than we've been the past couple of days but that cool air does make its way into Chicago, Kansas City, and Omaha. Only 83 and even well over 100, especially with the heat index the past couple of days, so slightly cooler.
[07:45:09] Are we to the top of summer? I think so. We begin to go down from here. The days get shorter and the nights get cooler.
Back to you, Chris.
CUOMO: We're starting to see some of those temperature swings out where I live. It was in the sixties this morning.
MYERS: I know.
CUOMO: It's going to be in the mid-seventies this afternoon.
Chad, you're the man. Thank you very much.
All right. So, down in Venezuela you have to keep your eye on the situation. There is a critical election going on except for Sunday there.
The crisis in Venezuela just continues to get worse. The crime rate is soaring, the economy is collapsing.
The president, Nicolas Maduro, scheduling a vote to elect a new assembly and redraft that country's constitutions. Critics are calling it a dangerous power grab.
Let's get to CNN's Leyla Santiago live in Caracas with the latest -- Leyla.
LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Chris, today, those opposing the government are calling for a 48-hour strike. So at a time when you would usually see people walking out and about, cars honking, traffic at a standstill, what we actually see on the roads are closures.
And what else we see on the roads, devastation, desperation. People actually going through trash as they try to find something to eat. As we walked the streets yesterday it was actually difficult to find a pile of trash with unopened bags because everyone had been sort of rummaging through as a way of survival -- as a way to find food, given the food and medical shortages.
I talked to one woman who became very excited when she found an empty jar that she could just sort of scrape the chocolate for food.
So clearly, the food shortages, the medical shortages, the instability in the economy is really causing people to get out onto the streets not only for survival, but also to give a voice to the protests that we've been seeing against this election on Sunday.
Even though we have seen people on both sides -- those speaking for the government and those speaking against it -- everyone just wanting a change that could bring peace to Venezuela -- Chris.
CAMEROTA: I'll take it, Leyla. Thank you very much for all of the reporting from there.
So, six months into the Trump administration a whistleblower comes forward. A government scientist says something is not right in his department. Why he's blowing the whistle on the Trump administration, next.
[07:51:10] A government scientist named Joel Clement and nearly 50 other employees were reassigned in the past couple of months. This, after Clement spoke out about climate change.
Clement has now filed two complaints with the U.S. Office of Special Counsel to be reassigned, and Joe Clement joins us now.
Mr. Clement, thanks so much for being here.
JOEL CLEMENT, FORMER DIRECTOR, U.S. INTERIOR DEPARTMENT'S OFFICE OF POLICY ANALYSIS, SENIOR ADVISER, U.S. INTERIOR DEPARTMENT'S OFFICE OF NATIONAL RESOURCES REVENUE: Thanks for having me on.
CAMEROTA: Why do you call yourself a whistleblower?
CLEMENT: Well, I was retaliated against by the Trump administration for my work and talking quite a lot about my work to help the Alaskan native communities perched on melting permafrost on the Arctic address the impacts of climate change.
CAMEROTA: What was it that you were saying that you think they took offense to?
CLEMENT: Well, I was saying this is something that has to happen right away. The federal government needs to be absolutely engaged in order to help these folks. I believe that they're one superstorm away from being wiped right off the face of the map.
CAMEROTA: I mean, their life and their lifestyle is changing because, you believe, of climate change. It's obvious to them and it's obvious to you that this is causing great upheaval in their lives?
CLEMENT: Yes, there's no question. Whether you -- regardless of how you feel about the causes the climate change, these impacts to them are not a policy debate. This is a real health and safety issue.
CAMEROTA: So you were trying to sound the alarm and you were speaking out about this. You did so at the U.N., you did so to basically whoever would listen. What makes you think that your reassignment was actually retaliation for your speaking out?
CLEMENT: Well, there have been other moves that have clued us in that this work was not in favor at the White House. President Trump rescinded the North Bering Sea Resilience -- Climate Resilience Area executive order a month and a half or so before we received these reassignment letters.
CAMEROTA: I want to read -- you just wrote an op-ed in the -- a column in "The Washington Post" and I want to read a little portion of it.
You say, "Trump and Zinke" -- who's the Interior Secretary -- Ryan Zinke -- "might kick me out of my office, but they can't keep me from speaking out. They might refuse to respond to the reality of climate change, but their abuse of power cannot go unanswered."
That's obviously a very strong accusation. What do you mean the Interior secretary's abuse of power?
CLEMENT: Well, the secretary is the only Senate-confirmed official at the Department of the Interior so he's responsible for any of these actions and has been a very systemic abuse of power in purging scientists and subject matter experts from their jobs and getting them away from the decision-making team.
CAMEROTA: OK. So when you say that scientists, like yourself, have been purged from your jobs, where have you been reassigned to?
CLEMENT: I've been reassigned -- this is pretty flagrant. They reassigned me to the accounting office that collects royalty revenue from oil and gas industries.
CAMEROTA: And is accounting your specialty?
CLEMENT: I have no expertise in accounting.
CAMEROTA: How did they explain that you, a scientist who was speaking out about climate change, is now going to be working in an accounting office?
CLEMENT: They actually didn't explain. I didn't hear from them prior to the reassignment and I didn't hear from them after the reassignment about why they sent me there.
CAMEROTA: So what do you want everyone listening to know today about what's happening to you? And you're not alone. You say this has happened to your other colleagues, as well.
CLEMENT: Yes. I think it's important to speak out. You know, this is a very systemic abuse of power and my biggest concern is that it's putting the health and safety of Americans last. In particular, on this case, those Alaskan native villages that are about to become, if a big storm comes through, refugees in their own country, which is unacceptable.
CAMEROTA: And it's your feeling that President Trump and Ryan Zinke just don't want to hear about these Alaskan villages? I mean, why would they be silencing you about something that is a disaster, you say, that's impending and waiting to happen?
CLEMENT: It mystifies me given that this is an obvious health and safety risk, that it's a bipartisan issue. That Senator Murkowski and the governor in Alaska are all in favor of protecting these folks. It is -- this is an abuse of power in him.
CAMEROTA: And what's happened to your other colleagues? There are about 50 of you who've been reassigned?
CLEMENT: Yes. There were dozens of folks that received those letters. They have been moved -- some of them have been moved across the country involuntarily at taxpayer expense. [07:55:03] CAMEROTA: The Interior Department has released a statement about this. I want to read it to you and get your response.
"The president signed an executive order to reorganize the federal government for the future and the secretary has been absolutely out front on that issue.
Senior executives are the highest paid employees in the federal government and signed up for the Senior Executive Service knowing that they could be called upon to work in different positions at any time.
Congress meant for the SES" -- the Senior Executive Service -- "to be a mobile force that are capable of taking on different assignments to meet the needs of the agency."
CLEMENT: That's right, the Senior Executive Service. And we know -- we all for it -- know it when we sign up for it that it's a mobile service. It's meant to be effective that way and it's occasionally used -- you know you might be moved.
What is not appropriate is for that to be done in a retaliation or to coerce employees into quitting, so that's why I filed the whistleblower complaint.
CAMEROTA: But again, you are putting the dots together -- you're connecting the dots because you believe it's in retaliation --
CLEMENT: That's right.
CAMEROTA: -- but nobody has told you that.
CLEMENT: Of course.
CAMEROTA: You spoke out and then suddenly you were reassigned to the accounting department.
CLEMENT: That's right.
CAMEROTA: Are you going to lose your job for being on CNN today and for talking about this so publicly?
CLEMENT: I can't speculate. I don't know. The ball's in their court.
I have to trust the investigation that the Office of Special Counsel will conduct and I'll keep my fingers crossed that I'm able to get back to doing meaningful work on important issues that affect the health and safety of Americans.
CAMEROTA: Did anyone ever tell you verbally we don't like the work you're doing and we don't want you to talk about these endangered Alaskan communities that are suffering at the hands of climate change?
CLEMENT: No. They never said that. They never really communicated with us since the transition into the new administration and we've heard very little. It's been radio silence from the political leadership.
CAMEROTA: What do you think their position is on climate change?
CLEMENT: I dare not speculate. I think we've heard enough from the president to know that they're suspicious of the causes of climate change somehow. But regardless of how you feel about that very scientifically proven situation, there are people on the brink in Alaska and for them, it's not a policy debate.
CAMEROTA: Are you going to take the job in the accounting office?
CLEMENT: I accepted the position. I feel strongly about being in the civil service but I am hoping that the investigation will lead to me getting back into doing meaningful work again.
CAMEROTA: I want to read one more quote from the article that you wrote -- the op-ed in "The Washington Post."
You say, "I'm a scientist, a policy expert, a civil servant, and a worried citizen. Reluctantly, as of today, I am also a whistleblower on an administration that chooses silence over science."
What do you mean by that?
CLEMENT: The efforts -- and there was a good report released last Thursday, actually, by the Union of Concerned Scientists that references this. There's a systemic abuse of power in not just purging scientists and taking them away from the table, but creating a hostile work environment for folks like that. So there are a lot of people walking around the department looking over their shoulder wondering if they're next.
CAMEROTA: Joel Clement, we really appreciate you being on telling your side of the story. Keep us posted with the investigation.
CLEMENT: Thanks for having me on.
CAMEROTA: Thanks for being here.
We're following a lot of news, including a live interview with the White House's new Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci, so let's get right to it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), KENTUCKY, SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: We have a duty to act. The president's ready with his pen.
TRUMP: So you had two Republicans that went against us which is very sad, I think. It's very, very sad for them.
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I), VERMONT: I think I could 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.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 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 VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.
CUOMO: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is NEW DAY. It is Wednesday, July 26th, now 8:00 in New York.
Senate Republicans are willing to continue debating the future of health care in American in just hours. The Senate failed to advance a plan to repeal and replace Obamacare last night. Nine Republicans voted against it.
Today, they're going to vote on a plan to repeal with a two-year delay in replacement, meaning people would lose something and not know what comes next.
CAMEROTA: Meanwhile, President Trump is intensifying his public attacks on his attorney general, Jeff Sessions. The president refuses to say whether he will fire Sessions, calling Sessions' recusal from the Russia investigation unfair to the presidency.
CUOMO: There is a lot to talk about and let's bring in the man in the middle, the new White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci.
I haven't had a chance on television yet to congratulate you on the new position, Anthony.
ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI, WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: Thanks, Chris. Good to see you.
CUOMO: Good luck and I hope that you serve --
SCARAMUCCI: Thank you. I appreciate it.
CUOMO: -- the people of this country well.
SCARAMUCCI: I appreciate that, Chris. Thank you.
OK, so go ahead. I heard the introduction so I'm ready for you. Go ahead.