Return to Transcripts main page

NEW DAY

Trump Says Congress Must Act; Interview with Maryland Senator Chris Van Hollen; Trump Threatens Elimination of Benefits; Energy Boosting Snacks; General Kelly Starts New Job. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired July 31, 2017 - 08:30   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[08:31:16] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: President Trump urging Congress to get back to work on health care or he will, quote, let Obamacare implode. The president is also threatening to cut subsidies to Congress people and insurance companies to cover low income Americans.

Just moments ago he tweeted this. If Obamacare is hurting people, and it is, why shouldn't it hurt the insurance companies and why should Congress not be paying what the public pays?

Let's discuss with Democratic Senator Chris Van Hollen of Maryland. He's a member of the Appropriations Committee.

Senator, thanks so much for being here.

SEN. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN (D), MARYLAND: Great to be with you, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Let's start with that question that the president poses one more time. If Obamacare is hurting people, why shouldn't it hurt the insurance companies and why should Congress not be paying what the public pays? What's the answer to that?

VAN HOLLEN: Well, first of all, Obamacare is not hurting people. In fact, what would have really hurt people was if we had passed Trumpcare. And we know from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office that that would have thrown tens of millions of Americans off of affordable care. That would have --

CAMEROTA: Right, but you know not everyone is delighted with Obamacare and that people have -- have grave reservations about it.

VAN HOLLEN: But -- right. Alisyn -- Alisyn, nobody has said it's perfect. We've said from the very beginning, we need to improve the exchanges. The first order of business is for the president to stop trying to sabotage the exchanges. There are a couple of things that are totally within the power of the Trump administration. Number one, the cost-sharing payments that you just mentioned, those have been going on for a long time. He's threatened to cut them off. That has created uncertainty and it has -- that's why you have insurance companies threatening to increase premiums. Number two, enforce the individual mandate so you don't just have

sicker, more intense care patients in the exchanges. Three, make sure you advertise the fact that the exchanges are now open and people should enroll. Congress can then get back to the regular order, as Senator McCain said, and work on a number of other things to both strengthen the exchanges in the short term but also we should work on things like reducing the cost of prescription drugs and other things that we can do on a bipartisan basis.

CAMEROTA: Yes. The president seems to be suggesting that you, in Congress, that members of Congress are sponging off the system somehow and you don't deserve subsidies or any federal dollars. What's your response to that one?

VAN HOLLEN: Actually, that's just flat out untrue. Members of Congress are in the exchanges, like anybody else. Members of Congress are treated like every other federal employee that works for the United States government.

So the president is actually just trying to stir the pot, as usual, on these issues. He doesn't have the facts on his side, as usual.

I'm hopeful that you're going to have Republicans in the Senate and the House now saying that they want to work with Democrats. Time to ignore the president's tweets. The president has also, you know, threatened Senate Republicans and said that they should go to a different voting system. Why don't we just focus on working together to improve the exchanges in the short term and then work on these bigger issues, like reducing the costs of prescription drugs?

CAMEROTA: Well -- well --

VAN HOLLEN: I think within the exchanges we should offer a public option in the exchanges. That would create more competition. It would drive down prices.

CAMEROTA: One more thing on this, because we just had Congressman Chris Collins on who wanted to remind everyone that they subsidies were -- that House Republicans actually sued the Obama administration over these subsidies that the president seems very focused on and that a district judge ruled that they were illegal because Congress didn't appropriate them.

You're on the Appropriations Committee. How can you justify these subsidies that your committee -- that Congress didn't ever approve?

[08:35:01] VAN HOLLEN: Well, the original legislation essentially directed funding for these payments, these cost sharing payments, in order to provide stability in the exchanges. If my Republican colleagues want to join together and vote for the appropriations process to provide those payments on an annual basis, that's fine. Even better would be if Congress got together on a bipartisan basis to pass legislation that mandated the cost sharing payments going forward.

But as you indicated, the courts have asked questions about that. I should point out that --

CAMEROTA: And decided, right? I mean this district court decided that -- that it was illegal.

VAN HOLLEN: A lower court level made a -- made a decision. But they -- and, importantly, they did not direct that the payments end. That is really important. I mean they made a decision but they said the payments can continue as that case was contested in the -- in the higher courts.

So there's nothing to prevent the president, at this point in time, from continuing the cautionary payments. In fact, he's been doing it, but he's ben doing it on a month-to-month basis instead of providing the certainty that everybody needs going into the fall. So he's been doing that.

CAMEROTA: Yes.

VAN HOLLEN: And there's no reason for him to stop doing that now, other than the fact that he might want to sabotage the system.

CAMEROTA: Senator, I want to read to you, there's another new tweet from the president that just came out. I've not read it yet. So we're going to put it here, I think, on the screen so that we can all read it together. Highest stock market ever. Best economic numbers in years. Unemployment lowest in 17 years. Wages rising. Border secure. No White House chaos. Your response?

VAN HOLLEN: Well, let's just start at the end. I mean, obviously, there's incredible chaos in the White House, which is why they're bringing in General Kelly. I think the struggle for General Kelly is going to be that normally a White House chief of staff has to try and organize the staff. In this case, you have a commander in chief who is totally out of control, tweeting at all hours of the day and night and there's no consistency to the policy.

I should point out that when it comes to the economy, you're continuing to see what you saw under the previous administration, which is continued growth. But the reality is, there are lots of Americans who are still being very squeezed, very squeezed between rising costs and flat paychecks, which is why, Alisyn, the Democrats, on a bicameral basis, House and Senate, have put forward a plan to focus on the economy, to focus on bread and butter issues and come forth with concrete measures we can take to improve the economy, improve jobs and also wages.

CAMEROTA: Well, look, I mean I think his point is that despite whatever's going on in the White House, the stock market is having a banner month or banner run, the highest ever. Unemployment rate has dropped to the lowest in anyone's memory, recent memory at least. So I mean I think that the president would say his point is that things on that front seem to be working.

VAN HOLLEN: Well, as I say, there are millions of Americans that are really hurting. The reality is that what you're seeing under President Trump is a continuation of what was a steady decline in unemployment. You saw that beginning under the administration of Barack Obama. They had a record number of months of economic growth, and that is continuing under President Trump. The trajectory that began under President Obama, both in terms of jobs and reducing the unemployment rate. The stock market was up under President Obama as well.

But that doesn't mean that there aren't millions of Americans who aren't hurting. The reality is, folks at the top are doing very well. Yes, if you've got a lot of money in the stock market, you're doing just great. But everybody else is being squeezed. And people are working harder than ever. The gains are going to the top 1 percent. Folks at the very top.

CAMEROTA: Yes.

VAN HOLLEN: Everybody else -- everybody else is seeing flat paychecks or they're falling behind, which is exactly, Alisyn, why we put forward a plan to begin to address those issues so we can grow the economy, but also do it with more shared prosperity.

CAMEROTA: Senator Chris Van Hollen, thanks so much for taking time to be on NEW DAY.

VAN HOLLEN: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: John.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, a tropical storm forms in the Gulf of Mexico. Who is in the storm's path? That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[08:43:22] CAMEROTA: Tim now for the "Five Things to Know for Your New Day."

Number one, General John Kelly officially becomes the new White house chief of staff today. The president hoping that Kelly can help reboot a stalled White House agenda and rein in a chaotic West Wing.

BERMAN: Russian President Vladimir Putin retailing over impending U.S. sanctions, ordering the U.S. to cut its diplomatic staff in Russia by 755. Russia's foreign minister is also seizing two U.S. diplomatic properties.

CAMEROTA: President Trump slamming China after North Korea's latest ballistic missile test. The president vows to increase economic and diplomatic sanctions on North Korea.

BERMAN: Tropical Storm Emily has formed off Florida's Gulf Coast. The storm set to bring heavy rains, strong winds in the next 24 hours. Parts of the state now under a tropical storm warning.

CAMEROTA: New Jersey Governor Chris Christie getting into a Cubs fan's face after he was heckled. The man says the confrontation happened at the Brewers/Cubs game Sunday after he called Christie a, quote, hypocrite. Christie could be heard calling the man a big shot.

BERMAN: I don't think those two will remain friends for very long.

CAMEROTA: Right.

BERMAN: For more on the "Five Things to Know," go to cnn.com/newday for the very latest.

CAMEROTA: So, General John Kelly will be sworn in as the new White House chief of staff in just about an hour. Is he the right choice to bring stability to the West Wing? Two former chiefs of staff give us their takes.

BERMAN: But first, need an afternoon pick-me-up? CNN's senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen shows us some of the best energy- boosting snacks in today's "Food for Fuel."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: The best snacks for an energy boost combine whole grains with healthy fats or protein. For example, you can make your own trail mix with dried fruits and healthy nuts and seeds. Whole wheat crackers with low-fat cheese are easy to prepare. So are hummus and veggies, which you can pack in a small container to make it more portable. For convenience, you can buy dry roasted edamame or roasted chickpeas.

[08:45:15] Snacks like these will cause a slow rise in blood sugar and help sustain your energy level throughout the day. If you still feel like you need a little boost, try sipping green tea. It's packed with antioxidants and has less caffeine than coffee.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: All right, in just minutes, President Trump's new chief of staff, General John Kelly, will be sworn in to his new job. The president hopes that General Kelly can rein in the infighting inside the West Wing.

We've got a great discussion. We're joined by two former chiefs of staff. The former of chief of staff for President George H.W. Bush, Governor John Sununu, and the first chief of staff for President Bill Clinton, Mack McLarty.

Gentlemen, thank you so much for being with me.

You know, it occurs to me, have either of you spoken to General Kelly since he was named on Friday?

JOHN SUNUNU, FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF TO PRESIDENT GEORGE H.W. BUSH: I have not. How are you this morning, John?

BERMAN: Mack?

MACK MCLARTY, FORMER CLINTON WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: Good morning, both Governor Sununu and John. No, I have not. SUNUNU: Good morning, Mack.

MCLARTY: I have seen General Kelly several times.

Good morning. Thank you, John.

I've seen him several times. I like him and I respect him.

BERMAN: Well, good, I was wondering because I would think that it might be a good idea to reach out to some people who have had the job before to get some advice.

[08:50:06] So, since you haven't spoken with him and since he may very well be watching, because I know we are on in the West Wing, Governor Sununu, first to you, what would be the one most important piece of advice you could give to General Kelly, governor?

SUNUNU: Remember that the definition of your job is provided by the president, that you serve a constituency of one, and that discipline and order are your responsibility after the president gives you his charge.

BERMAN: Mack, what do you think?

MCLARTY: Well, Governor Sununu gave a good premise there. I think really this White House has got to focus on looking outward, getting things done for the American people. There's no question you're a chief, chief of staff. You do have a constituency of one. But your real obligation is to the American people and to make their lives better. So this White House needs to look outward toward the president's agenda and try to get some things moving here.

BERMAN: Can and should a chief of staff try to change the president at all, Mr. McLarty?

MCLARTY: I think you do -- you know, the president's going to be the president. And I think there are different passages. I feel like President Trump may, indeed, try to work closely with General Kelly. He's got to empower him.

And, yes, I think the chief of staff can clearly be supportive and help manage the president. I use that term, manage, support and manage the white House and help the president focus on what he needs to be focusing on. But it's got to be a close partnership. It has to be one of trust, John.

BERMAN: Governor Sununu, what do you think that General Kelly should do differently than has been done the last six months of the administration?

SUNUNU: Well, following up on what Mack said, one of the roles of the chief of staff is to have a relationship with the president where you can tell him the tough news, the hard news, provide constructive criticism and kind of guide him on to a path that meets with the White House needs at the moment. And my biggest concern with this White House is that they have been responsive, not leading. And if General Kelly can urge the president to set a process in place where they are leading and creating the headlines they want instead of fighting the headlines they don't want, I think he's going to make a huge difference.

BERMAN: Governor, what about, you know, the -- sort of the tree of who reports to whom? Does it matter to you? Would it matter to you if Anthony Scaramucci, for instance, the communications director, reports directly to the president or General Kelly, you know, and what about Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, governor?

SUNUNU: Well, you've got to minimize that as much as possible. We had a White House where I had access to the president all the time, but certainly Jimmy Baker and Brent Scowcroft had open access to the president. So the fact is, is that each White House is different. This president seems to be comfortable with two, three, four routes coming in to him. I think maybe the general can convince him that that funneling it a little bit, or at least getting a clear readout after the fact is as important as knowing who's going -- as controlling who's going in.

BERMAN: You know, Mr. McLarty, do you think that a general with his military experience but not, perhaps, maybe the experience of the politics of Washington, do you think that is the right resume for this type of job?

MCLARTY: I think a couple of point there is. Number one, General Kelly has clearly had a very distinguished record in public service and I think, John, second only, the fact that he has been part of this administration has really been in the White House, leading the homeland security efforts, that's a big plus here.

SUNUNU: Ys, I agree.

MCLARTY: And I think he is a peer with the president. And I think the president will listen to him and respect him. And I think Governor Sununu's got it just right. You do -- the president has to empower his chief of staff. You've got to be an honest broker. You can't cut off communication. You don't want to do that.

But the president's got to work in tandem with his chief of staff and never undercut him on decision making. And, frankly, seldom, if ever, surprise him. That's the key, it seems to me. I think General Kelly will make him -- may well can establish that kind of working relationship with President Trump. I hope so.

BERMAN: You know, Governor Sununu, the president just put out a statement this morning. One of the 140 characters or less statements. And the last line of it was, no White House chaos. Do you think that is an accurate description, you know, certainly of the last week?

SUNUNU: Well, it certainly has been interesting. To borrow a phrase from Mack's president, it depends what your definition of chaos is.

BERMAN: Well, how about your definition of chaos, governor? Is this the type -- you know -- you know, Charlie Dent -- Charlie Dent, the Republican congressman from Pennsylvania, just told me a few minutes ago, he said, this White House is taking the fun out of dysfunction, which is to say that they really --

SUNUNU: Yes.

BERMAN: You know, don't have their act together. Do you think that's fair?

SUNUNU: Well, I do think they came into the White House without enough public service experience in the game and I think that showed the first six months.

[08:55:06] I have a feeling that even though this last week may have been one of the most difficult for them, I really do think, on the conversations I've had with some of the people involved, that they're beginning to understand that they've got to tighten it up. And so I -- I have great hopes that going forward this change provides a milestone for moving forward. I think General Kelly brings an age maturity that might be useful in giving the president some confidence that things will calm down.

BERMAN: All right, Governor John Sununu, Mack McLarty, thanks so much for being with us. Interesting, you know, if the president and Mack McLarty where watching -- the president and General Kelly, I should say, were watching, some good advice from these two gentlemen. Appreciate it, guys.

Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: All right, John, "The Good Stuff" is next. Stick around for that.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CAMEROTA: OK, time now for "The Good Stuff."

A dramatic scene in Pittsburgh is where we start after this bus crashes into an overpass, ripping off its roof. On the bus were elderly veterans on their way to the ballpark. So when officers arrive on the scene, they jumped into action.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All these individuals decided they're not hurt. We've evaluated them. They wall want to go to the game. And the officers are taking them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[09:00:05] CAMEROTA: There you go. The officers then pushed the veterans in wheelchairs --

BERMAN: That's great.

CAMEROTA: About a half a mile all the way to the stadium.

BERMAN: That is dedication. Wonderful to see.

All right, great