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GOP Suffers Devastating Blow as Repeal Effort Fails; Scaramucci Unleashes Vulgar Rant against Priebus. Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired July 28, 2017 - 10:00   ET



POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Top of the hour. Good morning, everyone. I'm Poppy Harlow.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm John Berman. What a difference a thumb makes. When that thumb belongs to John McCain and it's stuck right in the eye of the president and the Republican Party.

Overnight, he cast the decisive vote to kill the Senate's last ditch effort to repeal and replace Obamacare.

HARLOW: It is the latest brushback for an administration reeling from a growing list of failures and criticism. But White House infighting, profanity laced tirades from the chief of communications, not even a public scolding from the Boy Scouts can quite match the enormity of this defeat on health care.

At any moment, some potential salt in the wounds, Nancy Pelosi and House Democrats about to speak on all of it. Also, we'll be listening for what Democrats will do and how they will help.

We have a lot to cover. Let's begin on Capitol Hill. That is where we find Phil Mattingly. You have not slept in a long, long, long time. You were away covering moment by moment of all of this. This is huge.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, no question about it. Look, this is the thing Republicans campaigned on for seven years. This is why they control the House. It is why they control the Senate. It's why they control the White House. And that's precisely why guys, the story is moving on already.

House Republicans were so frustrated. They were meeting behind closed doors for the last hour, that meeting just starting to break up right now. I'm told from sources in the room that the speaker, Speaker Ryan made very clear, at least how it was paraphrased to me that the House is the only functioning body up here because they were able to actually stand a bill forward.

I am told he actually read the lyrics to a song the "Wreckage of the Edmund Fitzgerald" which essentially was a ship that sank at least. I'm not super familiar with 1970s music. But basically, that if it only gotten 50 miles further, it would have made it to shore. Saying the Republicans were on the precipice of victory and ended up failing.

Take a listen also to what Republican Charlie Dent had to say as he came out of the meeting.


REP. CHARLIE DENT (R), PENNSYLVANIA: I was not surprised. It's pretty clear to me that this process was not a good one. I think one of the issues was the president never really laid out core principles and didn't sell them to the American people. I think that was a big part of it. If there's a lot that went wrong. They should never try to force this on a partisan basis, try to do too much in reconciliation. I think that's probably why we are where we are.


MATTINGLY: Guys, that's about as concise a rundown of things that probably went wrong that you will hear. The process was poor. The White House wasn't involved enough. But the reality became, at least in the U.S. Senate, as we watch these dramatic moments play out last night, kind of culminating with the thumbs down as you note. They couldn't agree on what health care policy should be for the Republican Party. That's the biggest take away here.

Now, the president responded last night, kind of blaming the three Republicans and Democrats for not moving forward. He's also up tweeting this morning saying, quote, "If Republicans are going to pass great legislation in the Senate, they must immediately go to a 51 vote majority, not senseless 60."

So, I want to kind of break that down a little bit right now. Republicans failed to pass health care last night because they weren't able to even get 50 votes, let alone 51. The Republican process that they were pursuing to do health care was the reconciliation process which requires a simple majority.

On top of all of that, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has made very clear that he will not go nuclear, as they call it, on the legislative options. What the president is calling for wouldn't have actually had any impact on health care whatsoever because again, and I keep referring it back to this.

When it comes to why health care hasn't moved forward, and right now the prospects of it are bleak at beast, Republicans haven't been able to figure out how to bridge ideological divides about what policy should be inside their own party. And as long as that maintains. The frustration of the House members who referred this morning, very clear and dramatic kind of episodes we have seen over the last couple days and we certainly saw last night. Those aren't going to change things anytime soon.

So, keep an eye on what Republicans want to do next. But in terms of a clear path forward or any path forward, very much so up in the air if it exist at all, guys.

BERMAN: Phil Mattingly on Capitol Hill on Gordon Lightfoot Appreciation Day. Phil, thank you so much. You know, I'll take great Canadian recording artist for $500.

HARLOW: And you would win.

BERMAN: Let's discuss with CNN political commentators Keith Boykin, Errol Louis and Alice Stewart.

Errol, to you, the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald, the metaphor from House Speaker Paul Ryan here, what is the significance of this wreck?

ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, the significance is that they now can no longer say that they didn't have enough power, the Republicans. The Republicans who ran on repeal and replace for seven years can no longer say we didn't have the stars aligned right. They have the stars aligned right. In fact, there was Paul Ryan himself, who said repeatedly, this is the chance. If we are going to do it, this is the chance. What they really have needed to do, you know, maybe some of this will see that instead of saying repeal and replace, they needed to say, you know, reform and rebrand.

[10:05:00] You know, there are parts of this that most of the people who voted yesterday would all agree on. And they could get to 60. They could get to 90 on certain things. If things like the Cadillac tax, there's things like negotiating down some of the pharmaceutical prices, where there's broad consensus. But as long as there's this insistence on saying we are going to do this Republican only. We're going to do it with 51 votes. It then throws it to the caucus. And the caucus has no sort of unified decision, no unified set of values, frankly about how they'll go forward.

HARLOW: John McCain talked about that last night, right? He talked about look what happened with Obamacare. When you have only one party on board, you end up with something that needs fixing.

Keith, I think you like John McCain a lot this morning, maybe even more than you liked him or didn't like him before. Where does this leave the Democrats? I mean, -- you know, we just asked the Democratic congressman what is incumbent on you. And he sort of danced a little bit around the question and said, well, the Republicans won't work for us. I mean, come on, for the American people, what does your party need to do?

KEITH BOYKIN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, the Democrats have to figure out a way to work with Republicans. But Republicans have to come to the table and make that happen.

I don't think anyone who supported this legislation was serious about health care or about governing, in part, because of there's an eight- page bill. It only had a few hours before to be notified about it. And it was not a serious effort as Errol said to actually repeal and replace Obamacare.

So, I think we are now starting to see that some Republicans are coming to the table and saying we do need to work with Democratic Party, people like Tom Cole was saying that earlier today. And I think Republicans will start to realize now they have failed on a primary campaign promise for the past seven years. President Trump has failed on the central campaign promise of his campaign. Now they have to come to the table and work with the Democratic Party to come up with the solutions.

BERMAN: Skinny repeal, clearly, wasn't about reforming health care. It was about moving - you know moving the chains a little bit and getting the chance to talk about it more. You know, I would say, there are Republicans that we've got on the show who were serious about reforming health care. You know, Bill Cassidy, you know, plenty of others who want to see the system changing, care deeply about the system. But I take your point there.

Alice Stewart, how much is on the president, you know, here? This isn't just a failure for Mitch McConnell or Paul Ryan here. How much of this is on the president who promised that he would repeal and replace Obamacare and do it easily? And Alex Burns made the point. You know, how much is he to blame for a closing argument which seemed to be this week you know my attorney general is bad.

ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: He's the one that said from the very beginning that this would be easy. And we are finding out that it's not. And he said, we are going to be so tired of winning and I'm ready to start winning here. Look, he campaigned on repealing Obamacare, so did all these other senators and members of House.

BERMAN: Many times.

STEWART: Many times and throughout presidential campaigns in 2012 and 2016. How many times did I hear my candidate say we are going to repeal Obamacare, skyrocketing cost, lower premiums, lower choices, we have to make changes. And at least those that voted in this measure to change Obamacare, at least they have something on record saying, look, I did what I could. I put my vote on the line to change Obamacare and make changes.

President Trump doesn't have that. He's not going to be able to say, look, -- here is some concrete evidence of what I've done to repeal and replace Obamacare. So he's going to have to own up to that. You can't blame it on the Democrats. He can't blame it on the three Republicans that didn't vote. Because not only have Senator McCain said, we have to work together. Markey said we have to work together. Republicans have to work together. The conservative and moderate Republicans, they have to get together in order to move the ball down the field.

HARLOW: He can and he did blame three Republicans.


STEWART: He did.

HARLOW: But it doesn't hold water. I take your point. I take your point.

STEWART: He shouldn't.

HARLOW: President Obama, although he didn't get Republicans to vote on Obamacare, did roll up his previous mark, cancelled a foreign trip, went out and did town all these halls. President Trump likes being out of the White House, around people. He could have done this. Why do you think he didn't, Errol?

LOUIS: I'm not sure it would have made -

HARLOW: Did he not believe in the bill? I mean, remember he calls the House version mean.

LOUIS: Sure. I'm not sure where he would have gone, right? I mean, where do you go? If he's going to hit the road and try and sell whatever version, you know, the last say three iterations of repeal. Does he go to Maine? Does he go to Alaska? I don't know if he would have been well received there with the kind of message that he had.

I mean, when you see that you know, for the Medicaid expansion, for example, that they wanted to roll back. That was in one of the iterations of the bill. You know 40 percent of addiction treatment -


HARLOW: Right. You can't go so high --

LOUIS: -- and Alzheimer's scare in say West Virginia, are being dealt with through Medicaid expansion. You are not going to go down there and say, let's get rid of it. You know it's a very tough message even if the president have been inclined to sort of --

BERMAN: Hey Alice, this week, kind of a stunning rebuke of the White House and the presidency, not just you know this vote on the floor, but also the Boy Scouts saying you know we regret having the president, come say what he did. You have Republican senators saying don't fire you know Jeff Sessions. You have the military saying we are not going to implement your transgender policy. You know, have they lost control of sort of their management?

STEWART: A lot of it is of their wrong doing. These are self-inflicted wounds. Look, if they would stay on message and maybe go to Arizona and try to push health care there. They would stay on message and work to repeal and replace Obamacare and they would talk more about jobs, instead of getting off message, undermining the attorney general, allowing your new communications director to undermine your chief of staff, going to a Boy Scout jamboree and talking politics.

[10:10:06] Those were thing that anyone that anyone that would have the sound advice of political experts would know not to do. And the problem is this does a tremendous job to gin up his base and get his base excited. They love this. This is red meat for them. However, the distraction causes him to be unable to get things done and we saw happening -

HARLOW: These are also the folks that bet on him to help make their lives better through making health care more affordable for them. Yes, Keith.

BOYKIN: The thing about he said they would stay on message. The reality is not they, it's he. If President Trump could stay on message then maybe they could move his words, because all of these issues are self-inflicted wounds caused by the president of the United States, not by the other people and the staff. And to the extent the other people are responsible.

He is the one in charge of managing those people. He has to make sure that work. He has to get involved and know some of the details about health care. He doesn't even know they didn't require 60 votes. They only require 50 votes last night.

HARLOW: There was a part of that tweet -


BERMAN: He claimed --

HARLOW: There was a part to it.

BERMAN: -- that there is something and he's right. There's something that he would have proposed that would have required 60 votes that don't deal with reconciliation there. But the overall point is 60 votes, 51 votes not going to make a difference what would he try to get through last night.

There's something that both chief analyst are saying, Errol, you know, everyone keeps talking about the distractions of the White House and if only the White House could stay on message. What happens do we have that isn't the message? What have we seen that this isn't the central thrust of what Trumpism is?

LOUIS: I will tell you. From the moment the campaign began, this is above - I mean, I should say this is a feature. This is not a bug. This is not of some aberration from some Trump agenda. I would define it to find the Trump agenda. I guess, it exists somewhere online, but it's not the way he operates.

He operates in an atmosphere of chaos. He pits people against each other. For Scaramucci to even be doing some of the crazy things that happened in the last two days is only possible because he reports directly to the president and not to the chief of staff. Anybody who's been in any organization of any size knows that you cannot have people reporting to different bosses unless you want a lot of chaos. This is what the president likes. This is what the president wants. It's how he got through the campaign. It's how he has chosen to run this White House. He gets certain things from it. You know it is very entertaining. His base does like it. There are certain things you don't get like legislation.

HARLOW: Some important things.


HARLOW: Thank you guys all very much. Have a nice weekend.

Let's talk more about all of this and that Scaramucci rant.

BERMAN: The White House is wrestling with this fight between these two top advisers. There was the F-bomb. There was also suggestion of physical acts which are impossible. It requires flexibility that none of us has. CNN's Athena Jones at the White House with this fighting that we see. No signs of letting up.

ATHENA JONES, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hi, John and Poppy. That's exactly right. This is unusually public to see this level of infighting. This level of profanity on the record with the new communications director, Anthony Scaramucci and that rant, that phone call he made to the New Yorkers, Ryan Lizza, complaining profusely about not only chief of staff, Reince Priebus, but also Steve Bannon, another of the president's top advisers.

Interestingly, we haven't seen any reaction from the president himself to that profanity laced tirade, as you mentioned the F-bomb used several times. We did see Scaramucci tweet last night after Ryan Lizza published his account of their conversation.

He said at one point, "I sometimes use colorful language. I will refrain in this arena but not give up the passionate fight for Donald Trump's agenda." Hashtag MAGA -- make America great again.

And then a little later he said, "I made a mistake in trusting in a reporter. It won't happen again."

Of course, neither of those is any sort of apology, but is trying to signal that he has learned his lesson. We should be clear here. Ryan Lizza has made clear that Scaramucci did not ask him for that conversation to be off the record. But clearly, there's a seat learning curve for someone who hasn't worked in communications. Scaramucci does have a lot of experience though with the media.

Here is the larger point here. This is a president and a White House team who came in, saying they were going to be disrupters. They had a better way of doing things. They are going to change the way the system works. And the only disruption we are seeing so far really is here at the White House and it's not proving to be effective. It is a distraction. It is getting in the way of the president getting much done.

Now, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the new press secretary was asked last night about the Scaramucci tirade. And here's what she said. She said, "Sometimes he's a passionate guy, sometimes he might let that passion get the better of him. I think maybe that happened. He used some colorful language that I don't anticipate he will again."

[10:15:01] But what we don't know is whether this feud is going to continue. One more point Huckabee Sanders made is that the president encourages what she called healthy competition. The question now is, is this viewed as healthy by the president and does he think this is going to help him accomplish what he wants to accomplish? Back to you, guys.

BERMAN: That's a great question. And so far, the answer seems to be not likely. Athena Jones at the White House. Thank you so much.

All right, Ryan Lizza, the reporter who received that expletive laced phone call from Anthony Scaramucci and recorded it, joins us next. So, has he heard back from the White House since publishing those details?

HARLOW: Plus, Russia, not waiting for President Trump to sign off or not sign off on new sanctions, the Kremlin already retaliating. And President Trump, today, heading to Long Island to crackdown on what he is calling bloodthirsty gangs, but are his very own policies giving these violent groups more power?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They feel like they can do whatever they want because Trump himself has made everybody fear. All the immigrants they feel like if they go to the police or something they getting deported. So whatever happens to them they'd rather stay quiet and let it happen.



[10:20:00] BERMAN: All right. This is the interview that everyone is talking about this morning, with a lot of bleeps or subtitles. The new White House communications director calls the chief of staff Reince Priebus a quote, "paranoid schizophrenic."

HARLOW: And that's just the part we can say on television. So after this interview comes out, he says, his only mistake was trusting a reporter. So we are joined now by CNN political commentator Ryan Lizza who may just be, I think, that reporter he wrote the piece, also with us, CNN senior political reporter Nia-Malika Henderson. It is nice to have you both.

And Ryan, so the statement from Scaramucci following your reporting is, "I made a mistake in trusting a reporter. It won't happen again."

Is that what happened? That he trusted you and you betrayed his trust?

RYAN LIZZA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, no, of course not. When the communications director for the White House calls you and tells you on the record that he's about to fire the entire communications staff. That he has called the FBI to investigate the chief of staff at the White House and that the chief strategist of the president is engaged in autoplay show (ph). I think that's a fairly news worthy set of comments and my job as a reporter is not to keep things private and confidential when the communications director tells me things on the director.

My job is to report them so the public understands what's going on at the White House. And so, if Anthony, you know, had a good relationship with views that as, you know, a betrayal of trust, I think he needs to learn a little bit about what it means to be communications director and how to interact with reporters.


LIZZA: I had a conversation with Anthony yesterday where he and I both agreed and that the interview was on the record and would be public. He didn't like the fact yesterday that the piece was coming out because I think he, you know, had some second thoughts about some of the things he said. But it was an on the record, extremely news worthy conversation. And my job as a reporter is to put that stuff in the public domain.

BERMAN: When a communications director communicates with a reporter, you know it's reasonable to expect those communications might end up in a public record someday.

LIZZA: When a White House official calls me, it's no different than a White House official going on air right now and talking to the public.

HARLOW: Yes. That's a good point.

LIZZA: That's how it works in print.

BERMAN: Except -- not often with some of the terms he used. Nia, let's dissect line per line what Ryan Lizza just said out loud on TV. No, let's move on.

HARLOW: Children cover your ears.

BERMAN: Let's move on from some of that. Let's talk about Reince Priebus. Let's talk about the impact that this has on the inner workings of the west wing. You know, not just the soap opera or reality show, but people who need to advance the president's agenda. Where do you think this leaves them right now?

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: You know it leaves them, in many ways, where they always have been, right? In this feuding, a factions, right? The New York faction, Bannon faction, Scaramucci might have sort of a faction of his own, and then the weakened Reince Priebus faction as well.

Now, you know missing Sean Spicer and some other folks as well that he kind of brought into the White House. So I don't think we know, right, what's going to go on here. Because this has just been a staple of this White House, all of this feuding, almost like sibling rivalry. I mean, it's like mean girls. You know, it's like nerds versus jock except you know there's sort of going to, you know, the jocks are going to the high school newspaper to rat out the nerds.

I mean, that is what's going on at this point. We have seen this. Obviously, it happened with Sessions as well. And Sessions is essentially staying on at this point. And Priebus, I mean, this has been the story of the six months all that he's had in this White House. That you know every day seemed to be his last day or every week seem to be his last week. So we'll see.

I mean, if he survives this full-on blast from Scaramucci and clearly it was directed or sanctioned by Trump. Then you know, I mean, he sort of you know Teflon. It seems to be that he can with stand this and keep going. But you know who knows? I mean we could wake up tomorrow or next week and see a whole reshuffling and resorting of this staff. Because again, this week has been so terrible, maybe the White House can blame Priebus for some of the failures of what was supposed to be American Heroes week.

HARLOW: Ryan -

LIZZA: Wow! I did not even know that was this week's branded week.

HARLOW: I didn't know that.

BERMAN: Ryan Lizza, you are the American hero right now.


HARLOW: Ryan, on a serious note. I want to get your take on some of the part of your reporting that really stood out to us aside from the profanity. And that is that he said to you, Scaramucci, at one point, that he actually had digital footprints of sort on some of these folks inside the White House.

[10:25:02] And he was going to the FBI with those. And then your reporting is that he sort of moved on to the side, just like my pen fell to the floor and didn't finish the thought. I mean, that's a really big deal if he has digital footprints of folks.

LIZZA: I'm really glad you brought that up. I think -- what's been lost in some of the more colorful quotes is the fact -- two things. One that the communications director at the White House believes that it's the FBI's job to investigate petty, you know, retaliatory leaks that happens in every, you know, every White House. And there's an idea that the FBI should be brought in to sort out, you know, some turf battle in the White House which is really not the standard operating procedure.

But then, two, these kind of cryptic and I really think that much follow up on this, to be honest. We just have what he said, this cryptic reference to digital fingerprints, this idea and this obscure reference that he sort of change the subject on to lie detectors. All seeming to suggest that he's trying to create a culture in the White House where people will be too scared to talk to the press because he is driven by this idea that the way to help Trump is to make sure that White House officials don't talk to reporters unless it's authorized by, you know, people above them. You know, I think we can debate whether that's actually the problem at the White House right now.

BERMAN: Look, I've got to say, if he was being serious, if the FBI is collecting information about non-classified leaks from aides and advisers, I think that would be illegal. We'll have to wait and see if he meant what he said and what's the impact.

LIZZA: I mean, frankly, I think the FBI would roll their eyes and say sorry, we are not in the business of doing that. But it's something that's serious and I think has gotten lost in the -- you know sort of more colorful quotes.

BERMAN: I think people need to pay attention to that. Ryan Lizza, Nia- Malika Henderson, thanks so much for being with us. Appreciate it.

LIZZA: Thanks guys. BERMAN: All right. House Republicans, they say they did their part but the Obamacare repeal, it died overnight in the Senate. Where do Republicans go from here? We are going to speak to a member of Congress who helped pass the initial version. Stay with us.