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New Health Care Bill; Dominica Brutalized by Maria; Trump Calls Facebook Ads Hoax; Trump Campaigns in Alabama. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired September 22, 2017 - 09:30   ET


[09:30:00] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: And John McCain.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: This morning the president issued a warning for Republicans thinking of voting against the bill. He says, think of your political future.

Republican Congressman Tom Reed joins us now from Rochester, New York. He is the co-chair of the Problem Solvers Caucus.

This is a big problem you're all facing right now, congressman, so thanks for being with us.


BERMAN: The Kaiser Family Foundation -- the Kaiser Family Foundation estimates that New York State would lose 35 percent of its federal health care funding if Graham-Cassidy passes. They'd lose that by 2026. How could you justify those cuts to your constituents?

REED: Well, obviously, I'm very concerned about those numbers and that's why we're waiting to see what the final bill looks like in the Senate before we take a position on it.

But those types of cuts are significant. But, you know, that's why the concern about politics should be set aside and we've got to look at what this policy does for people back home. And that's what I'm really trying to focus on. And if the Senate can get something to us, I'm personally of the opinion they're not going to be able to get something out of the Senate. But we'll wait and see and see what they can deliver if -- if anything.

HARLOW: So let me ask you it this way. Could you ever support a bill that results in 35 percent cut of federal funds to New Yorkers?

REED: Well, I've got to tell you, we have to get our Medicaid spending under control. I mean New York has one of the most expansive programs in the nation and we in New York saddle it to our country taxpayers, which are my neighbors, which are hard-working folks that can't keep up with their property tax bill and losing their homes and leaving the state as a result of it. So that spending has to get under control. And maybe we could look at this from, how can we deliver Medicaid dollars in a more efficient, effective manner and reward quality, as well as efficiency. Right now, New York State doesn't do, in my opinion, a really good job at that. HARLOW: Sounds like a -- sounds like a maybe.

BERMAN: That sounds like a maybe. I mean, but, still, 35 percent is a lot.

Let's ask you a different way. Alaska, one of the things that might be happening, and we're not totally sure, is that there may be some dispensation given to Alaska to win the vote of Lisa Murkowski, who could be the decisive vote here. Would you be OK with Alaska being granted special favors to lessen the burden on them but not New Yorkers?

REED: Well, that's why they're going to go through the process in the Senate. And I don't know what's being discussed and what negotiations are going on. But the bottom line, I'm going to look at the final policy as it impacts New York State.

Now, obviously, if we have that type of significant reduction in spending, because we made those decisions, and there are real people behind that New York State policy that expanded Medicaid to where it's at. So I'm kind -- I'm hoping that if they do something, we're going to look at a transition period or something that relieves that burden on our New York State residents because they're the ones that are going to suffer by this policy that we're enacting.

HARLOW: Here's what the president says about you, if this thing does make it out of the Senate and to the House floor, if you don't support it, Rand Paul or whoever votes against the H-care (ph) bill will forever -- future political campaigns -- be known as the Republican who saved Obamacare. And, no, you don't want that title.

I'm not sure if everyone would see it the way the president does. But given that and given that you've called this bill too partisan. What do you think of the president's assessment?

REED: Well, you know, that's where I think I am blessed to have the freedom that -- I'm not concerned about my political future. What I'm concerned about is making an informed decision that is going to best serve the people back home. And when we get to that point, I'm not going to be concerned about politics. And anybody in D.C. -- there's a lot of people in D.C. that are concerned about politics. But what I'm trying to associate myself with are people that want to get it done and govern.

That's why the Problem Solvers Caucus is so important to me. They are a group of good faith legislators that are about governing and taking care of the American people first. That's where the focus should be and that's what I'm firmly committed to.

BERMAN: You did criticize Graham-Cassidy. You said I believe it will fail given it's partisan approach. What do you mean its partisan approach?

REED: I think the better solution for health care in America is to sincerely reach across the aisle and start having a conversation about health care cost. A lot of what we're doing now is a partisan path that is being driven by politics and also on the insurance side of the equation. We need to get to the health care cost because that brings people together. That's where the American people -- when we have town halls, they're saying, get the costs under control for health care. People don't understand why costs are going through the roof. I'm asking those questions. I agree with them. And if you focus on the root cause of the problem of health care cost delivery in America and getting it going in the right direction, which is down, then you bring people together and we could solve this problem for the people for generations.

But isn't that was happening, quickly, congressman, with Senator Lamar Alexander and Patty Murray? I mean wasn't that exactly --

REED: That's why our problem --


REED: Well, that was the first step. That was to stabilize the individual marketplace.

BERMAN: Right.

REED: And our Problem Solvers Caucus proposal, we narrowed down the issue that needed to be solved immediately, because that's the crisis that the American people back home are facing with the collapse of those market places.

But going further, we need to get to the health care question. And that's where I think laying the foundation for a solution like that will get a bigger win for the American people by taking on the issue of health care costs.

BERMAN: Just before we let you go, just a yes or no answer if you can, you will not commit to voting for or against Graham-Cassidy right now?

REED: You know, I need to read the bill. I mean you have to look at the text. I try to be a responsible governing legislative member, and to say that I can speculate as to yes or no right now. This bill's going to change. And what we've got to do is look at it in its final text, read the bill, talk to folks, listen to people back home, then we'll make an informed decision as to where we stand on the issue.

[09:35:13] HARLOW: Congressman Tom Reed, thank you very much.

REED: Thank you.

HARLOW: This morning, we have a new look at the damage, the devastation to the island of Dominica. We'll walk you through it, next.


BERMAN: Hurricane Maria has regained strength after hitting Puerto Rico. This morning, there is still no power. Several feet of standing water in some neighborhoods there. And families have been unable to locate loved ones, including Supreme Court Justice Sonya Sotomayor. HARLOW: She told guests at an event last night that she hadn't heard

from some of her family living on the island. She says she's praying and hoping they made it through the storm safely. Federal officials this morning saying more than 95 percent of Puerto Rico's cell sites are out of service.

[09:40:15] The island of Dominica just beginning to access the damage there after Hurricane Maria struck. The prime minister says the island's infrastructure is brutalized.

BERMAN: At least 14 people now confirmed dead.

CNN's Michael Holmes reports from Dominica.


MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): From the air you can see every inch of the island of Dominica has been brutalized from Hurricane Maria. On the ground, it is so much worse. This was a car dealership. This, a bridge. And these were peoples' homes.

HOLMES (on camera): This is an area back here called Fongoli (ph). It's a middle class suburb. And it has been -- just every house there has been hit. There's a little cafe here, Jacamfirst (ph) they called it. Popular. Just gone.

And I don't know if we can see up -- back there. There was a little community up there. Those houses, they're just pieces of wood now.

HOLMES (voice-over): In the capital, Roseau, just about every building is damaged. But this just scratches the surface. Dominica has been defiled from end to end by Maria's brute force.

The prime minister of this tiny country is just coming to grips with the enormity of what has happened here.

ROOSEVELT SKERRIT, PRIME MINISTER OF DOMINICA: You know, there's a lot of human suffering. And people not knowing what tomorrow will bring given the circumstances as the days go by. But it has been heart- wrenching. So, very, very heart-wrenching.

HOLMES: What worries officials here is what they haven't seen, hillside villages hard to reach or even communicate with. The fate of those living there unknown, even to family members just on the other side of the island.

Aid was expected to start flowing in here Thursday. Precious little arrived. They need water, food, medical supplies, shelter. Pretty much everything.

HOLMES (on camera): One of the ironies here for Dominica, the people are so caring and loving. They had aid, food, medical supplies, containers full, that they had prepositioned in case of a disaster. After Irma came through, they shipped that out to other islands, like St. Martin, like Tortola that were hit by Irma. So they have nothing now. HOLMES (voice-over): With so many other islands hit by Irma and then

Maria, the people of Dominica, whose needs are great, hope they don't get forgotten.

Michael Holmes, CNN, Dominica.


BERMAN: All right, thanks to Michael for that report.

One man's hand over, another man's hoax. Facebook says it will share information about ads it sold to Russian trolls during the 2016 election. President Trump, though, already blasting away this morning. That's next.


[09:47:21] BERMAN: All right, Facebook accepting a request, but not a friend request. Facebook has agreed to turn over more than 3,000 Russia-linked ads to House and Senate committees investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 election. That handover will come reportedly in a matter of days.

HARLOW: So the Kremlin has been saying it did not buy any of these ads and President Trump, this morning, not buying any of it. He wrote, the Russia hoax continues. Now it's ads on Facebook. What about the totally biased and dishonest media coverage in favor of Hillary Clinton.

Let's talk more about this with our senior media and politics reporter Dylan Byers.

You have a deep dive on this, this morning. It's fascinating. Just walk us through what this legislation is calling on Facebook to do going forward.

DYLAN BYERS, CNN SENIOR MEDIA AND POLITICS REPORTER: Well, effectively what the legislation wants to do, and this is legislation that's being introduced by two Democratic senators, it wants to impose the same rules on Facebook, Google, Twitter, other major social media platforms or digital platforms where people can buy advertising, the same rules that are already imposed on television and radio ads. Ultimately, that's regulation that many of these companies were expecting to happen at some point.

You know, in retrospect, looking back at the way that these Russian- linked accounts were able to meddle in the 2016 election, it seems sort of ludicrous that we wouldn't have disclaimers in place already.


BYERS: So that's the proposal coming from Democrats right now. Their feeling is that the FEC, the FCC hasn't taken the appropriate steps to sort of impose these regulations on these ads companies. Now it's time for Congress to step up and do their part. BERMAN: You know, it's really interesting, Dylan, Facebook, after not

really handing over anything, all of a sudden is a sieve. It's handing over all kinds of things.

BYERS: Right.

BERMAN: First, under apparently a search warrant handed over these ads to Robert Mueller's investigation, now handing it over to Congress. What's going on here? What pressure is Facebook under?

BYERS: Well, it's a great question and it gets into sort of the, you know, internal thinking at Facebook and how they view this. They're actually content to work with the special counsel on this. They believe the special counsel, a, has a very clear focused mission in terms of investigating Russia meddling in the election, and that is happening, you know, behind closed doors, out of the public eye.

They look at Congress, or at least two weeks ago they were looking at Congress and they thought, OK, you know, here's a body that's doing a lot of political posturing. They're probably in over their head when it comes to understanding all of this data. We have our own privacy concerns as a private company. We're not ready to share all of this information with Congress.

Obviously there's been so much public pressure, so much scrutiny. Facebook, you know, for ten years was effectively free from, you know, the sort of political battles of Washington. Now all of a sudden finds itself in the heart of those battles and has decided, OK, we need to be on the right side of history. We need to be seen as working with Congress, not as standing in Congress' way.

[09:50:15] HARLOW: Dylan Byers, thank you so much. It's a fascinating report. People can read it on CNN Money.

Joining us now to discuss, CNN's senior political analyst David Gergen, as well as Caitlin Huey-Burns of RealClearPolitics.

David, to you. The president, in the tweet we just read, calling it a hoax. This is just -- this is just the latest.


HARLOW: David, can you hear me?

All right, until David can hear us, to you Caitlin. What's in it for the president to say this is a hoax, et cetera, this morning when Robert Mueller doesn't think it's a hoax. These bipartisan congressional committees don't think it's a hoax. Facebook doesn't think it's a hoax. They're making changes, turning over all of this. When the president's poll numbers are going up, he's doing a little better, why go back to this?

CAITLIN HUEY-BURNS, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, REALCLEARPOLITICS: Well, we know that this has been an immense source of frustration for this president, this Russia investigation. He has seen it as, you know, having gotten in the way of what he sees as his agenda. And if you look at the health care debate, you know, just putting this in the context of what's going on in Congress, Republicans just have a few more days really left to pass a health care bill to replace Obamacare.

And so I think he see this, of course, Hillary Clinton back in the spotlight with her book talking about the election, he has thought the investigation is going to the heart of the legitimacy of the election, Republicans have been trying to make the case all along that this is a national security issue and that you can debate that separately from the election results.

So I think that's always been the divide here. And this is another reason why the president is frustrated.

BERMAN: I mean, look, but this is no small subject. At least to special counsel Robert Mueller. Search warrants are not issued sort of casually, David Gergen. And the president is calling this a hoax. It's interesting to me given, you know, the scope of what might be investigated here, like how did Facebook or how did the person who placed the ads get the date to know where to place the ads. There's a lot of fertile ground here.

GERGEN: You're absolutely right, John. And the critical issue for Mueller is clearly to -- was there a targeting of these ads to places where it would make a difference in the election? And if it was Russian-backed advertising, how did they know how to target? Did they get that information from Trump associates, like Paul Manafort or others?

And it's especially a sort of darkening cloud because, you know, we've just had this story that Manafort was calling the Russians and inviting (ph) them, in effect, to come and get briefings. That seemed like a gold-plated invitation. Why don't you come and work with us and, by the way, pay me along the way.

HARLOW: Let's talk about the health care debate. Big health care debate on this network on Monday night. Graham and Cassidy, the sponsors, the authors of this new Republican legislation. Also Bernie Sanders, big proponent of single payer with his own plan. And Amy Klobuchar, who interestingly, Caitlin, hasn't signed on to it.

Could this be really good for Republicans, meaning, it's not pitting Graham-Cassidy against Obamacare. It's pitting Graham-Cassidy against Medicaid for all, single payer, et cetera? There was a political (ph) reporter who tweeted, its took 30 seconds for a Dem aide to text me worrying, quote, Republicans get to frame it as single payer versus their alternative in prime time.

HUEY-BURNS: Right. And that's what Mitch McConnell has been saying kind of throughout this debate. Remember, during the first failure of the Senate bill took to the floor and kind of said that the alternative here would be Democrats running the show here.

And there is some frustration among Democrats about Bernie Sanders and Democrats focusing on 2020 when they have the 2018 elections more immediately here. And the idea that -- and from an activist perspective that the Obamacare fight is not over yet, that they're still facing that deadline.

So it certainly can provide an opening. I think the Republicans are facing a huge challenge here, though, on selling the merits of this bill yet again. They don't have a CBO score yet. There are multiple governors from states like Alaska and elsewhere, Republican governors, who are not ready to support this bill. Some coming out against it.

So it's going to be hard for them to sell it. And I think Democrats can make the point here of, you know, their alternatives, but also keeping some of Obamacare in place -- protecting Obamacare.

BERMAN: David Gergen, President Trump heads down to Alabama tonight to campaign in a Republican Senate primary. He's campaigning for Luther Strange against Roy Moore. Last time those two candidates debate and they basically, you know, tried to outdo each other with how much they love President Trump. What's at stake for the president in this election?

GERGEN: Well, he's thrown himself into it in a very interesting way, and that is, he's taken -- he is supporting a candidate who is more of the establishment candidate, the Mitch McConnell candidate if you would, who has been running behind this more controversial insurgent conservative in Moore, in Roy Moore. And the president put himself on the line here as taking a risk.

[09:55:03] But, by the way, the polls are closing and it -- and Strange had -- apparently had a better debate night than Moore did last night. So it's possible he could pull it off, in which case it would be seen as a political victory of importance for the president.

I do want to go back to this health care thing. If the Democrats make this a debate between single payer and the Republican Cassidy-Graham bill, they will very likely lose that debate. They must make -- it's a strategic mistake to allow that to happen. They must make it a debate between Obamacare, the current existing system, which many Americans want to keep now, versus this radical change coming from Republicans. They can win that debate. They would probably lose the single payer debate and the country would be transformed.

BERMAN: Which is why --

GERGEN: But it's a Republican bill.


BERMAN: Which is why there is concern among Democrats about having Bernie Sanders, the senator from Vermont, b the face of this debate here on CNN Monday night.


BERMAN: It will be very interesting to see.

David Gergen, Caitlin, thanks to both of you very, very much.

GERGEN: Thank you. BERMAN: All right, new insults this morning between President Trump and Kim Jong-un. We are top of new developments. Stay with us.