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Rep. Mo Brooks Defends Senate Ad Invoking Baseball Ambush; Schumer Calls For Bipartisanship After Health Care Vote; Beyond The Call Of Duty; Obamacare Repeal Fails In The Senate. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired July 28, 2017 - 07:30   ET


[07:30:00] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: You were at a ceremony the other day where the officers who were at that horrible shooting that you endured were rewarded for it. We're showing video of it right now.

What did it mean for you to be there? The wife of Whip Scalise who, thank God, is out of the hospital now on the right track for recovery. What did it mean for you to be there and see these men and women rewarded?


I did not realize the role of the Alexandria Police Department until last Thursday when I met with the FBI. The six of us were on the assassination list. We had a private meeting where we went over what transpired.

And, Alexandria Police Department Officer Battaglia, she's a marksman and she did an excellent job of helping to stop the assassin. Now there were others, don't get me wrong. All five of them are heroes and that's why they were so honored in the White House yesterday.

But to discover the role of the Alexandria Police Department and the supplemental help they gave to the Capitol Police, that was good for me to find out the heroism they showed, the risk of life that they showed. And all five of them, they're very much deserving of every accolade we can give them.

CUOMO: Well, Mo Brooks, we will never forget how you guided us through what happened this morning with the poise and the compassion you had for everybody involved, and thank God you survived and Scalise is on the mend. All good news.

Thank you for being with us.

BROOKS: Well, those five people did.

CUOMO: Well, and they were justly rewarded and we will continue to remember them as well.

Thanks for being with us, as always.

BROOKS: Thank you, Chris. Have a good morning.

CUOMO: You, too. Be well, Congressman -- Alisyn.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: What a remarkable group of heroes there and what an emotional ceremony.

CUOMO: That could have been one of the worst tragedies that we've seen in our lifetime, politically, and it was avoided largely because of them.

CAMEROTA: Thank God they were there.

Well, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer is now calling for bipartisanship after the GOP failed to repeal Obamacare. Are the Democrats ready for that bipartisanship? We're going to ask Sen. Jeff Merkley, next.

[07:36:05] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), SENATE MINORITY LEADER: I would suggest we turn the page. We turn -- it's time to turn the page.

I would say to my dear friend the majority leader, we are not celebrating. We are relieved that millions and millions of people who would have been so drastically hurt by the three proposals put forward will at least retain their health care.


CAMEROTA: So, the GOP effort for the last seven years to repeal parts of Obamacare failed in the Senate early this morning, and now you just heard Minority Leader Chuck Schumer say that he's looking to move forward and bring bipartisanship back to the Senate.

We are joined now by Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon.

Senator, I know you have had quite a night. I understand you left the halls of Congress at 3:15 a.m. We appreciate you being here early with us.

Can you just tell us about that moment there on the Senate floor and what your reaction was when you saw John McCain walk up and give the thumbs down?


We've seen one of these health care plans after another and does it wipe out health care for 23 million or 32 million or 16 million, and we're finally at this moment and we're not sure what John's going to do.

He has come in and off the floor. The vice president's been there taking him off the floor. They've been talking somewhere. He comes back, he's in conversation with some other members.

How's this going to come out? And then he gives the thumbs down and there's this gasp. The -- just -- we didn't really believe that that was going to happen but it did and thank you, John McCain.

CAMEROTA: We heard the gasps from the Democratic side of the floor there and then you could see -- and maybe we have the video of it -- Chuck Schumer giving you all this very sort of -- maybe you see it there -- the left side -- this very animated waving you off.

In other words, this is no time for celebrating and you just heard that in the sound bite that we just played from Chuck Schumer where he said that we are not celebrating. But then, there are a couple of tweets that you sent out this morning that sort of sound like you're celebrating.

Let me read it for everybody.

You say, "This is your victory. It was your fearless action, your personal stories and your rallies that helped us #KillTheBill, #ProtectOurCare."

Then you say next, "This is a big win, but stay alert. GOP has been undermining health care markets for years. Trump has made clear he wants an insurance crisis."

It doesn't seem as though your tone in these are what Chuck Schumer is calling for.

MERKLEY: No. I really wanted to make sure that grassroots America knew how important they were in this. They really set the stage.

They just -- they flooded the phone lines, they overflowed the inboxes, they went into the streets, they went to people's offices back home, and they just kept weighing in, and weighing in, and weighing in and it's very hard for people to do that when they have their normal lives.

And yet, it was just a grassroots movement that overwhelmed Capitol Hill. And I think, you know, there are so many of my colleagues who knew that this was the wrong thing to do but they were being pressured so hard -- so hard to take this vote.

And I must say I think many of them went home last night and said that they kind of felt that they were thankful that they hadn't actually ended up destroying health care for so many of their folks back home.

CAMEROTA: Yes, sure. Look, we all understand the relief if you're on the Democratic side. But in terms of the call for bipartisanship that Chuck Schumer and John McCain called for, this seems to be 'Exhibit A' of how challenging it will be for both sides to come together.

MERKLEY: Well, here's the thing. As I was talking to one of my Republican colleagues in the parking lot just as I was going home last night, he said we need a little space. And I said, you know, we have now the chance to set aside this partisanship and be in a problem- solving mode.

[07:40:07] And I didn't go into any of the details but we're very familiar with this. We need to lock down the cost-sharing payments so insurance companies know what they're getting paid. We need to proceed to do a lot more funding to take on the drug epidemic.

We need to proceed to have the reinsurance that is necessary for an insurance company to go into a new market and compete. We should explore public option in places where there are -- there is no insurance company making an offering or there's only one of them.

There's a host of things that we can do together to make this work a lot better and maybe now is the moment.

CAMEROTA: Maybe it is, and are you sensing that your colleagues on the left side and the right, that this is a moment that you're ready to make a deal on some of those things?

MERKLEY: On this set of things that I just described, several of them were in the Republican bill. Three of them were in the Republican bill and so they could claim that this was part of their bill. We can say hey, we're working together.

I think this is the sort of deal that we should be able to make and should make for the benefit of people across America.

CAMEROTA: OK. Very quickly, the House just approved $1.6 billion for the border wall that President Trump had promised, on the campaign trail and beyond, that Mexico would pay for.

You are on the Appropriations Committee. Are you going to write that check?

MERKLEY: I'm going to do everything I can to stop it. Expert after expert says this is not the -- not the way to spend funds to enhance American security.

So many of my colleagues on both sides of the aisle have said this is a mistake, so let's not make a mistake. Let's enhance our security, let's not waste the citizens' money.

CAMEROTA: Senator Jeff Merkley, thanks so much for being with us this morning after you've had --

MERKLEY: It's so good to be with you.

CAMEROTA: -- a very long night. Hopefully, you'll get some sleep. Thanks so much.

MERKLEY: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: Chris --

CUOMO: Coming up, could there be a new investigation on Capitol Hill?

Well, that's what House Intel chair Devin Nunes wants to know. He's got questions about the 2016 election about Obama top officials. What? We'll tell you.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [07:45:50] CUOMO: The White House is all about stopping leakers and one of its allies, House Intelligence Committee Chair Devin Nunes, is investigating just that.

In a public letter to National Intelligence Director Dan Coats he accuses top Obama-era aides of making hundreds of unmasking requests during the 2016 presidential race; requests which included members of the Trump transition team's names.

Nunes says he plans to spend August drafting legislation to ensure leakers are prosecuted. You will remember he stepped aside from the Russia probe when he, himself, became the target of an investigation into whether he leaked classified information.

Nunes is apparently flying solo on this. No other members of the committee, not even Republicans, would sign his letter.

CAMEROTA: A forest service patrolman races to save a group of at least 80 children who were trapped by a massive wildfire in California.

CNN's Stephanie Elam has this week's "Beyond the Call of Duty."


STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It takes just a split second for this wildfire to explode.

STEVE OAKS, DIVISION CHIEF, SANTA BARBARA COUNTY FIRE DEPARTMENT: This was literally like a nuclear bomb went off.

ELAM: The intense flames blocking first responders from getting up this narrow dirt road. Even worse, about 80 kids are enjoying summer camp up there at the Circle V Ranch, literally in the line of the fire with no way out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:I knew that there wasn't a chance for the fire to go left or right. It was all funneling right toward Circle V.

ELAM: The counselors loaded the campers in the few cars they had but the blaze was just too intense. They had to turn back.

ASHLEY HART, CAMPER: It was all orange and smoky and there was like a lot of black.

ELAM: They're the same conditions rescuers faced, the fire's intensity forcing them to retreat.

OAKS: I needed to get somebody that we had communication with up there.

ELAM: Chief Oaks then sent David Dahlberg to give it a shot.

DAVID DAHLBERG, U.S. FOREST SERVICE: There were a few sections of the road that were enveloped in smoke, totally covered. I could not even see the hood of my vehicle. ELAM: Rocks and tree limbs were falling from above.

DAHLBERG: A few hit my truck and rolled off.

ELAM: And then a wall of flame rolled across the road, again keeping sheriff deputies at bay, but not Dahlberg. He was the only one to beat the flames.

OAKS: The fact that Dave was able to get through is still, frankly, a little bit of a mystery.

ELAM (on camera): Do you think about what could have happened?

DAHLBERG: It definitely could have been a lot worse. I try not to think about it.

ELAM (voice-over): By now, the campers were all sheltered in the dining hall.

A. HART: It shocked me that it was that close to us.

ELAM: Dahlberg worked to make the camp more fire safe, his presence calming the kids.

But his own video shows a fire still bearing down. Firefighters battled the blaze from the sky, then a bulldozer arrived and began clearly nearby brush.Eventually, more rescuers made it just as the fire was reaching camp.

DAHLBERG: It was starting to come up towards the camp and it is wrapping some of the buildings.

ELAM: With the bulldozer leading the way, the rescue vehicles loaded up the kids and headed down the hill.

CHRISTOPHER CARTER, CAMPER: One of the fires like burned down a tree and it fell like right next to us as we were leaving.

ELAM: All of the counselors and kids made it out, back into the arms of their frightened parents and with a message for the rescuers who likely saved their lives.

A. CARTER: It's very well appreciated. You kept our camp safe and that -- and most importantly,that you kept all of us children safe.

ELAM: Stephanie Elam, CNN, Santa Barbara County, California.


CUOMO: Out of the mouths of babes, a true reflection of how dire that situation could have been.

CAMEROTA: I know. Thank God the firefighters were there.

CUOMO: All right. So the war inside the West Wing all too real and now out in the open. Anthony Scaramucci, the man just brought in by the president to establish some kind of order versus the man who was supposed to be the man for the president, Reince Priebus.

What does this all mean? Does only one survive? What does it say about the president's leadership?

David Axelrod joins us next with his take on Thunderdome.


[07:53:00] CUOMO: A stunning defeat. For seven years, Republicans have promised and tried repeatedly to dismantle Obamacare. It was easy to say but proved too difficult to do. They couldn't even get 50 votes even though they are in control of the Senate.

They failed overnight and there's going to be plenty of blame, but a lot of the roads lead back to the president, and boy, does there seem to be trouble in his house. There is an obvious blood sport at play in there and it seems to be embraced by the president.

Let's talk about all of this with CNN senior political commentator and former senior adviser to President Barack Obama, David Axelrod, the Axe.

Now, playing nice in politics certainly not always the rule, we all know that. But what we're seeing in this White House is different and the response from the man at the top is different as well. Fair assessment?

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, FORMER SENIOR ADVISER TO PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Oh, without question. I don't know anyone who has seen anything like this -- anyone who's worked in a White House has seen anything like this.

You know, Chris, it is an incredibly complex place. The things that one has to pay attention to when you're in the White House it is relentless, it's complex, and you can't do it if you're engaged in this kind of infighting.

To think that you were engaged in this kind of infighting on a week when a legislation of such importance to you is on the floor in the Congress and you're picking fights with Jeff Sessions, who is a favorite of the Senate; Reince Priebus, who is maybe one of the best friends of the Speaker of the House.

And then you're going to turn to the Congress and ask for their help and your staff that should be working on that bill is fighting among themselves. It's just -- it's unthinkable and it has long-term implications. If this is the way the president's going to manage the White House he's going to have a series of defeats and real political problems ahead.

[07:55:10] CAMEROTA: Hey, David, of course it's impossible to know if Chief of Staff Reince Priebus were not under siege and were not sort of battling for his job what he would have been able to accomplish with health care if that would have moved the needle at all.

But I know you were up all night watching how this all unfolded.


CAMEROTA: What were -- I mean, this, of course, was President Obama's signature legislation. It is called Obamacare colloquially, of course.

Did you -- what did you think last night as you were watching? Did you fear it was going to be dismantled and what did you think when you saw John McCain give that thumbs down?

AXELROD: Well, I think what John McCain believed and I believed it as well, was it was very, very clear that it was going to be hard to find -- impossible to find consensus between the House and the Senate. They couldn't find consensus within the Senate so there was more than a trivial chance that this bill that every Republican acknowledged was a disaster -- Lindsey Graham called it a fraud -- would be the only left for the House to vote on that could become law.

And so, you know, it is -- it is always a bad thing when one House of Congress advances a bill to the other that everyone says would be a disaster, and it would have been.

And the way it was done was offensive. You know, a bill came on the floor in the middle of the night. There was no chance to review it.

The CBO report came in. They voted 45 minutes later even though the CBO said 16 million people would lose their health care.

Not a way to run a railroad and I think that's ultimately why John McCain voted the way he voted, and also to try and forge a bipartisan solution.

The concern I have, Alisyn, is what happens now. The president said this morning let Obamacare implode and he has considerable leverage to make that happen and to continue to disrupt these markets. And if that happens and the Congress doesn't act, a lot of people will suffer. So I don't think this saga is over but this was obviously a big moment.

CUOMO: Well look, I mean, the president's tweet about this -- if you want to put it up, we can -- takes us back to what the main problem is, OK?

You had a demonstrable lack of leadership. You could point your finger in that regard at McConnell, you know, you could point it at the president, you can point it at both.

But when the president says let it implode, what does that show? Well one, a fundamental insensitivity to humanity because if that happens people are going to suffer. Two, it shows a lack of knowledge of what's going on with the ACA because that's a false reckoning of what's going on.


CUOMO: It may fail if you pull the subsidies and continue to diminish confidence among insurers.

But then there's the third dynamic which, again, takes us back to this problem. Reince Priebus, who I wouldn't characterize as under siege as much as being a seigor (ph). You know, he's been -- you know, he's been waging war in the White House around.


CUOMO: He did accomplish getting Paul Ryan who is a good friend, as Axe points out, to be quiet in terms of criticizing the president.

But other than that, he's had months to make this happen. That's why he was there. He wasn't Trump's guy. He was put there to work with these other people that Trump didn't now.

How does he survive something like this?

AXELROD: I think it's very hard. And, you know, Scaramucci indicated yesterday that he was operating with the ascent of the president in making the comments that he made about Reince Priebus and suggesting in that strange conversation with you and elsewhere that Priebus may have been the source of leaks and so on.

To have a president sanction this kind of public warfare in his White House is really alarming and again, it portends big trouble in the future.

CAMEROTA: David Axelrod, great to get your take on all of this. Thanks so much for joining us.

AXELROD: OK, guys. Thank you.

CUOMO: There is a bunch of news on this Friday morning. What do you say? Let's get after it.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: I think the American people are going to regret that we couldn't find a better way forward.

SCHUMER: It's been a long, long road. I would suggest we turn the page.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: We can't make the same mistake that we inflicted in 2009. We have to have some bipartisanship.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The one person that doesn't have something to hang their hat on is President Trump. He campaigned on this as well. He wasn't able to get people together.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: The 'Skinny' bill as a replacement for Obamacare is a fraud.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: Tonight was an unfortunate night. It was a sad night. But again, I don't believe this journey is over. SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I), VERMONT: We try to improve the Affordable Care Act, not destroy it. That's what the American people want.


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

CUOMO: Good morning. Welcome to your new day. It's Friday, July 28th, 8:00 now in the East.

And the big story, Republicans failing in their seven-year effort to dismantle Obamacare.