Return to Transcripts main page


Mueller's Team Meets with Priebus; Trump to Decertify Iran Nuclear Deal; Trump's Solo Decision on Obamacare Not Helping; Christmas in the Air Again Says Trump. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired October 13, 2017 - 22:00   ET


[22:00:15] DON LEMON, CNN HOST: Breaking news on the Russia investigation.

This is CNN Tonight. I'm Don Lemon.

Former Chief of Staff Reince Priebus answering questions from investigators today. We're going to have more on that in a moment. Plus, does President Trump have an Obama obsession. Remember when he said this about his predecessor?


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We get along. I don't know if he'll admit this, but he likes me.


LEMON: Well, that 'bromance' is over. If it was ever the real thing in the first place.

The president making it his mission to undo every last bit of the Obama legacy. Today, the Iran deal is on the chopping block.


TRUMP: Our participation can be canceled by me as president at any time.


LEMON: That's after with the stroke of a pen while once he remembered to sign. He dealt with what may have been a fatal blow to Obamacare. We'll discuss that.

Nobody should be surprised by this. Elections do have consequences. So is the president delivering on his promises or is it all about the former President Barack Obama?

Let's get right to CNN's chief national security correspondent Jim Sciutto with the very latest. Jim, what do we know about Reince Priebus' meeting with the special counsel's team?

JIM SCIUTTO, CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Well, big picture that shows that his interview extended a very senior-most levels of the Trump administration. We know it took place today, took place, interviewed by members of his team at Robert Mueller's offices here in Washington.

Priebus' attorney tells CNN it was voluntary. He was happy to take part but clearly a potentially central figure to this investigation.

Remember, not only was he the president's chief of staff, he was during 2016, during the election, the chairman of the Republican National Committee and of course it was during the election when Russian election meddling took place. That meeting at Trump Tower in June 2016.

So he able to answer on a number of the topics that we know that the special counsel is looking into, including the firing of James Comey, the FBI director, the firing of the National Security Adviser, Michael Flynn.

But also this famous meeting on Air Force One when the president and others constructed what turned out to be a misleading explanation for that June 2016 Trump Tower meeting. So, just one of several interviews of senior White House officials that the special counsel intends to conduct.

LEMON: So many questions. Jim, I want you to stick around because I want to bring a couple more people for this discussion. Bob Cusack is the editor-in-chief of The Hill. David Gergen, our senior political analyst, Margaret Talev, CNN political analyst.

Thank you all for joining the panel with Jim and I here. David, what does this say about the speed of this investigation to you?

DAVID GERGEN, SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST, CNN: Well, I'm not sure it's speeding up, but it's moving towards the highest targets. They've clearly waited toward the end of the investigation to go for the chief of staff of the White House.

You know, you gradually build it up to the top and that suggests we're not far away from asking questions of the president himself.

LEMON: Margaret, how does the White House see this? We know current and former insiders are going to speak with Robert Mueller, as well as Hope Hicks, Don McGahn, Sean Spicer, for instance.

MARGARET TALEV, POLITICAL ANALYST, CNN: Well, there's certainly been a sense of inevitability about this. I mean, they have known not for weeks, for months that all of this was coming. And the question is where is it all leading. I mean, what can Reince Priebus tell Robert Mueller that Robert Mueller didn't already know.

And is the nature of those conversations with current and former White House aides going to be, you know, the most important element of Mueller's team's discovery or does it have more to do with paperwork, e-mail chains, telephone calls, financial relationships and advisers, past advisers who left the White House months ago or maybe even never entered the White House. LEMON: Interesting. Jim, the Russia cloud is continuing to hangover

the president no matter how much the White House attorneys are saying that they are cooperating. It's still hanging over them.

SCIUTTO: Yes. It's interesting. You've heard some theorizing about what the White House legal strategy is here. Perhaps they want to be more cooperative because they want to move this investigation along because they are recognizing that it does hang a cloud over the president and his administration that it's even come up in meetings with foreign leaders, the Egyptian president mentioning it when he met President Trump as well.

They want this to go away. They want him to complete the work, but of course, they want him to complete the work without finding prosecutable crimes by people close to the president. And as you see the special counsel conduct these interviews, it shows that he's taking these lines of inquiry very seriously.

[22:04:56] LEMON: Bob, they do want this to go away, but what does this say to you that Reince Priebus and Hope Hicks and all of these folks are -- is it just a normal investigation how things run?

BOB CUSACK, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, THE HILL: I think they're getting closer to the finish line, Don, if you look at the big picture I think Mueller has got -- if he's close to the finish line and we don't know that for sure, he's got to finish it soon because this can't go deep into an election year.

So, I think this is an indication that you know, maybe eventually, we've heard speculation that Mueller could interview Trump himself. Maybe that's coming.

LEMON: Interesting. In the past 24 hours, David, President Trump has taken two key actions to further chip away at President Obama's legacy, kill Obamacare subsidies, decertifying the Iran deal. Do you see some strategies here or is this all about blowing up the former president's legacy?

GERGEN: I think it's more about blowing up the president -- former president's legacy than anybody wants to admit. Anything which has the name Obama on it, it automatically becomes, you know, a target for Donald Trump. And he's trying to reverse as much of that as possible.

What's worrisome about this, Don, is that what this means is that the poisonous relationship that now exists on domestic policy issues is creeping into foreign policy as well, and that is that one president can make a deal and the next president, because the former -- he doesn't like the former president, different party, he's the enemy, therefore, we have to cancel the deal.

And that obviously winds into this Iran situation. But it also winds into the Obamacare. One of the reasons he sabotage -- he looks like he's sabotaging or laying the groundwork for sabotaging the Iran deal.

LEMON: He is. GERGEN: In the same way he looks like he's trying to sabotage

Obamacare. It has the former president's name on it, former party. He wants to appeal to his base. Everybody -- the country overwhelmingly in polls said we don't want to repeal with no replacement. I mean, because it leads a lot of people to suffer and insurance market that become chaotic.

And why we would do this when the country itself is so opposed to it suggests that it's the president's internal urge. And what we did in Iran was to scratch his itch, you know. We didn't need to go this route on this, but his aides said let's find something that's going to keep the president feeling somewhat satisfied.

We're doing the same thing on Obamacare. And that is, I've never seen a situation where because a president has an impulse, because the president has a dislike, that policy is suddenly bent to sort of satisfy some psychic inner need of the president.

LEMON: Bob, you smiled when I asked if it was about blowing up Obama's legacy. I think, you know, he says it's fairly obvious.

CUSACK: It is.

LEMON: I mean, yes.

CUSACK: But as you said earlier in the show is that this is what Trump ran on.

LEMON: yes.

CUSACK: And you look at his biggest promises, getting rid of Obamacare, hasn't happened yet. His number one promise. Build the wall, it hasn't happened. So, I think Trump there is -- that Trump is thinking I've got to--


LEMON: I've got to do something. He's obsessed.

CUSACK: Right.


CUSACK: Without a doubt. I mean, was there anything that Trump ever praised Obama for? I can't remember. Any program that he liked? No.

LEMON: No. Especially that action today with Obamacare with Iran it just seems like--


LEMON: -- you know, I've got to do this because I want to -- you know, because it is the former president and I'm not getting anything done.

CUSACK: And I can't get Congress to do it, so I'm going to do it myself.

LEMON: So I'm going to do it myself. Margaret, weigh in on this. Is the base happy about this?

TALEV: Well, I think there are really two different issues to look at and I think the president has signaled very clearly in terms of healthcare that he not only is willing to but wants to blow the whole thing up.

I think on Iran it's a little bit less clear, and some of his aides, maybe they're just fooling themselves, but continue to hold out hope that this at least for the next two months and perhaps longer, will keep that deal alive, long enough for European allies to convince the president not to blow it up, for congressional republicans to convince the president not to walk away from the deal, et cetera.

When it comes to healthcare, though, for now and you saw the president talking at the value voter summit, some of the moves on healthcare have involved taking away coverage of, you know, birth control and that sort of thing. That absolutely is red meat for the base.

One of the longer term questions is how some of those members of his base will feel when they themselves lose health benefits as a result of some of these changes. And questions--


LEMON: Those are the people who are more -- most at risk of losing it is the Trump voter? But go on.

TALEV: Well, certainly in terms of two things, number one, this move toward the association and the shorter term medical coverage which he announced yesterday, and then the subsequent move today, last night and today that looks at removing those subsidies.

That's going to have an effect on millions of people, and many of those millions of people are Trump supporters. And the question politically is will they blame him or will they blame Barack Obama.

[22:10:00] The question substantively is what's going to happen to coverage for those Americans.

LEMON: Well, he certainly will blame Barack Obama. And it's interesting because he has fooled his base into saying that it is fake news, that the exchanges Obamacare is collapsing and into believing it.

And then when they start losing healthcare he's going to say, well, you're losing your healthcare because of Obamacare, because of the former president.

David, if Congress doesn't act on this Iran deal -- excuse me, Jim, Jim Sciutto, if Congress doesn't act on this Iran deal, democrats don't come to the table on healthcare, is it on Trump or Congress? Is President Trump attempting to skirt any of the blame of failure here? SCIUTTO: Well, if you listen to the president's words today, he said

if Congress doesn't act to improve the deal to his satisfaction, he will cancel the deal. Now, whether the president follows through on that after 60 days, we don't know whether -- he could punt again. We don't know.

But he did lay out the possibility of walking away from this deal. Just to your larger point, Don, about -- and to David's point as well about the intention behind this. You know, this Iran decision, it's a decision looking for a rational really, right?

Because you know, the certification process was imposed by Congress on this deal to make sure in effect that Iran doesn't cheat on the deal. To give Congress an opportunity and the president an opportunity as the deal was functioning, that if Iran doesn't fulfill its part of the bargain to pull away from it.

Now, the fact is Iran is fulfilling its side of the bargain. Don't listen to me. Listen to all of Trump's senior advisers, his defense secretary, his head to the intelligence agencies, his secretary of state. Listen to the allies who signed the agreement. Iran is in compliance. The IAEA which oversees the agreement said the same today.

So there's no actual rational here for the president to decertify, but he's losing the language of that congressional oversight to kind of find a way out. Again, it's a decision looking for a rational. He's found that rationale, but it certainly doesn't match the outlines of the agreement as negotiated by the U.S. and its partners.

LEMON: The rational rhymes with Obama. Thank you all. Thank you, Jim. Thank you, Bob, David, and Margaret. I appreciate it.

When we come back, what's the reaction around the world to President Trump's threat to kill the Iran deal? Will anybody trust us at the negotiating table?


LEMON: Candidate Trump famously called the Iran nuclear deal the stupidest deal of all times, so it should be no surprise that the president today is refusing to certify the deal.


TRUMP: Our policy is based on a clear eyed assessment of the Iranian dictatorship, its sponsorship of terrorism and its continuing aggression in the Middle East and all around the world.

Based on the factual record, I have put forward, I am announcing today that we cannot and will not make this certification.


LEMON: CNN's senior international correspondent, Frederick Pleitgen, live for us in Tehran. Fred, hello to you. What's the reaction there to the president saying that he's going to decertify the Iran nuclear deal?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Yes. Well, there certainly is a lot of anger and frustration here in Iran. I really almost an unheard of response from the Iranian government.

Iran's President Hassan Rouhani coming up only minutes after President Trump spoke and gave his own speech blasting President Trump saying, look, the U.S. can't leave this deal unilaterally. He accused President Trump of lies and also said that basically everything that President Trump was saying was wrong.

Now, Hassan Rouhani also said that Iran is going to stay in the nuclear agreement unless the U.S. walks out. Now, one of the most interesting things that he said, though, is he defended Iran's Revolutionary Guard, which is a hard line organization and Rouhani of course is a moderate.

So if President Trump wanted to divide the moderates and the hard liners here in this country it seems as though, actually the opposite is happening, they're actually banding together and both of them now saying they don't believe they can trust the United States.

But, you know, Don, one of the most interesting things that we do when we come here is obviously we try to speak to regular Iranian folks on the street here. We spoke to both hard liners and moderates who are at odds with each other a lot of the time.

And the moderates, you know, who want better relations with the United States. They thought the nuclear agreement could bring economic benefits. A lot of them said they were very disappointed in what they were hearing today. And many of the hard liners said, look, we told so all along you can't trust the U.S. at the negotiating table, Don.

LEMON: Frederik Pleitgen, thank you so much. I want to bring in now CNN global affairs analyst, David Rohde, online news director at the New Yorker, and Robin Wright of the Woodrow Wilson Center who writes for the New Yorker as well.

Thank you both for joining us. So Robin, this is perplexing because our European partners, top officials in the Trump administration say Iran is complying. Trump says they are not. He's the only one that's saying they are not. He says they're not living up to the spirit of the deal.

The president tweeted this, he said and this is just tonight. "Many people talking with much agreement on my Iran speech today. Participants in the deal are making lots of money on trade with Iran."

So, I mean, what's the discrepancy here? What's your reaction to the president's tweet and his discrepancy?

ROBIN WRIGHT, JOINT FELLOW, U.S. INSTITUTE OF PEACE AND THE WOODROW WILSON INTERNATIONAL CENTER FOR SCHOLARS: Well, the reaction has been clear across the world and that is from not just our European allies who have one -- who have long spoken with a single voice with the United States. For the first time we see a real split between the Europeans and the United States on the issue of Iran.

We see a split when it comes to China and Russia. You've seen across the world very important institutions, whether it's the U.N. weapons inspectors or the United Nations itself the leadership challenging the president on many of his assertions about whether the U.S. is being -- or the U.N. is being excluded from certain military sites from inspections, challenging him on whether Iran is in compliance.

There have been eight U.N. reports that have certified that Iran is in full compliance with all the terms, all its obligations. And so, one of the things that's really quite interesting is to see the split and that has repercussions far beyond Iran.

It will impact our ability to deal with the growing challenge with North Korea. It has implications for U.S. credibility on any international accord.

[22:20:01] We've been moving away, whether it's trade or the environment, from a number of agreements made by not just the democratic administration before the Trump administration but others earlier as well.

And so that's -- so the kind of radical shift, the total reversal of policy, the walking away from an international accord really has a sweeping impact on our ability to negotiate on a lot of other crises around the world with both our allies as well as some of our adversaries, including Russia and China.

LEMON: Here is what the Defense Secretary Mattis told reporters today. He says, "I give advice to the president. He was elected by the American people, and I stand by the Iran strategy as it came out today."

What's wrong with the president wanting a broader deal beyond curbing Iran's nuclear production? I mean, isn't Iran's involvement in terror, isn't that a legitimate concern?

DAVID ROHDE, GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST, CNN: It is a legitimate concern but the basic problem here is this is another issue where Donald Trump has an easy answer to this incredibly complex problem. How do you contain Iran and he just says you tear up the deal and walk away with it, walk away from it and we'll solve it.

Trade, we're going to involve solve that. Healthcare, we're going to solve that. And the speech today was sort of full of exaggeration and false statements. And he's keeping his campaign promises, but, you know, will those campaign promises actually lead to a better foreign policy?

LEMON: I was watching the speech today and some of the other comments he made, and I wonder -- I said -- even someone who is not that versed on these issues will come away looking at him wondering if he knows what he's talking about. Let's just be honest. Does he ever know what he's talking about on these very important issues?

ROHDE: I don't know. I mean, I can't get in his head and what's motivation--


But as you watch him your assessment and as you--

ROHDE: He's presenting an alternate version of, you know, international relations. Almost an alternate reality about Iranian history and this deal and how bad it is and exaggerating, saying it doesn't last long. It actually lasts for few years.


LEMON: His own advisers are saying that they're complying.

ROHDE: Yes. The secretary of state and the secretary of defense, every other party in the deal says they're complying, but he's doing this over and over again on multiple issues, domestic and foreign policy.

LEMON: How do you see -- I mean, Robin, same question to you.

WRIGHT: Well, the president made a statement today that Iran was not in compliance with the spirit of the accord. This is a 159-page document. He's referring to one sentence in the preface which says that the deal -- that those who are party to the deal hope that this will lead to greater regional and international cooperation. And it's the kind of language that often goes into a deal, and it is not referenced to place else.

LEMON: Do you think that's all he read?

WRIGHT: Well, I don't know what he read. But, you know, it's hard to believe that he really understands the full scope of the deal or that he has a viable alternative.

The danger is if the deal should collapse, because the United States makes it difficult for Iran to do business, even with Europeans who want to continue engaging with Iran, that what incentive is there for Iran not to move forward, not to enrich uranium, not to feel threatened and feel like it needs to advance its arsenal?

And so there are a lot of tripwires that are set off by making the kinds of threats that he has, particularly when we're not even convinced that he can get Congress to move forward, and that leaves us in kind of a policy purgatory.

LEMON: Yes. And that was my question to David. I mean, he kicked this back to Congress. So what do you see happening, because they have -- they're going to have, what, 60 days to do something?

ROHDE: Yes. They have 60 days. There will be a push for a bill to set some new sanctions. I don't think they'll act. They're going to need 60 votes to make that happen. I think the tone today, though, I think he will eventually terminate this deal. I don't know if it will be in 60 days, I don't know if it will be in six months. But he is so systematically going through and reversing Obama's

achievements. I think he'll do it. In his defense, again, he's carrying out every single campaign promise. It's just, again, all these promises, all these wild statements about well, with Mexico, all these problems that he was going to solve, given his it seems limited knowledge in all these areas, will all these proposals actually work.

LEMON: The campaign promises are often just red meat for supporters. They don't necessarily move the country forward. Once you get in that seat you realize--


ROHDE: Yes. Will this style of governing work.

LEMON: Yes. Wow.

ROHDE: And it's working politically, but.

LEMON: And it's frightening. So, listen, by the way. Senator Corker, who is the president -- who is Trump is fighting with, the chairman of the foreign relations committee he told the Washington Post this tonight.

He said, "You cannot publicly castrate your own secretary of state without giving yourself that binary choice. The tweets, yes, you raise tension in the region and it's very irresponsible."

[22:24:58] But it's the first part, the castration of Tillerson that I am most exercised about, Robin. I mean, those are strong words. Does this, I don't know, does this pack the future of this deal?

WRIGHT: I don't know whether it affects the deal itself, but the fact is he is certainly insulting his own cabinet ministers. He did that with Jeff Sessions at the Justice Department. He's done it with Tillerson.

We know that there's deep tension within the administration, that he continues to have these fits of fury, taking it out on the people who are most trying to help him negotiate, whether it's domestic or foreign policy. And that does not bode well.

I mean, you have to hope that the wiser heads, particularly Secretary of Defense Mattis and the National Security Adviser McMaster and John Kelly, these are all military men who have long experience in dealing with conflict zones and with running made -- you know, huge institutions.

LEMON: But Robin, so far he hasn't taken their advice.

WRIGHT: Well, it doesn't look like he's taken their advice completely. It looks like there are some hard line voices that have managed to circumvent those who are closest to him to weigh in and have influence, inject these lines like talking about terminating a deal when there's no real alternative out there. And it only invites Iran to engage in a nuclear program again. LEMON: Thank you both. I appreciate it. When we come back, the real

reason the president is set on dismantling Obamacare and what it could mean for you.


LEMON: The president making another major move to dismantle Obamacare, immediately ending federal subsidies to insurance companies that help lower income Americans afford insurance. Getting rid of Obamacare was one of his big promises on the campaign trail.


TRUMP: Together we're going to deliver real change that once again puts America first.


That begins with immediately repealing and replacing the disaster known as Obamacare.

You're going to have such great health care at a tiny fraction of the cost, and it's going to be so easy.


LEMON: Repeal and replacing Obamacare, that's what he promised. I want to bring in now, Neera Tanden who help write Obamacare, CNN's senior economic analyst Stephen Moore, the former senior economic adviser to the Trump campaign.


LEMON: Hello to both of you. So here we go now. So, getting rid of some of the subsidies. Stephen, that was the campaign trail. That was just last year. The president just tweeting this indicating it may not be that easy so far. Of course he's seeing it's not that easy to repeal and replace. He hasn't had any success for that.

But he says "Obamacare is causing such grief and tragedy for so many. It is being dismantled but in the meantime, premiums and deductibles are way up." How will ending subsidies help, Stephen?

MOORE: Well, let's start by the way with this something you were just talking about earlier. Maybe I'm old-fashioned, but I think there's something really refreshing about a politician who actually keeps his promises.

You're right. This was, you know, I campaigned with Donald Trump. This was one of his single most important promises, and I'll even make the case that he had a mandate from the voters to get rid of Obamacare.

So, obviously Congress struck out on this, and now he's trying to do as much as he can independently of Congress to roll back Obamacare. It's in a state of financial collapse. That's the reason it needs this multibillion dollar bail out. And when-- (CROSSTALK)

LEMON: Steve, you know that's not true. You guys keep repeating that. It's not true.

MOORE: Well, it is a bail out.

LEMON: The facts don't bear that out.

MOORE: It is 15 -- well, what isn't true?

LEMON: That Obamacare is collapsing.



MOORE: It sure is. I mean -- well, let me put it like this, Don. When you have people who treat--


LEMON: It's not collapsing under its own weight. It may be collapsing because the president is--

MOORE: No, no, no, no. This is -- wait a minute.

LEMON: -- forcing it to. The republicans are forcing it to collapse--

MOORE: Hold on, Don.

LEMON: -- but not under its own weight.

MOORE: No, no, no.

LEMON: Go read the fact-check, but go on.

MOORE: OK. Let's do that. This law is seven years old. It's not as if it started to collapse under Donald Trump. As you know, it started to collapse four or five years ago when people started paying, you know, a premiums that were as much as double what they used to pay. I mean--


LEMON: So how--

MOORE: They can't afford it.

LEMON: So the question was, I want to stick with the question.


LEMON: So how does that help? How does--

(CROSSTALK) MOORE: So, what Donald Trump did yesterday, which was something really significant, which is allow people to essentially opt out of Obamacare and buy much cheaper policies. So Americans are going to save thousands of dollars from that -- from that provision, allowing people to buy policies that fit their needs and that they can afford.

Because people can't afford the 3 and $4,000 extra cost of Obamacare. People can now join Associated Health Plans that will be a lot cheaper for people.

And then what Donald Trump did today suspect basically said, look, we're not going to bail out Obamacare exchanges and insurance companies. What's going to happen now is that the democrats are going to have to come to the table and negotiate with something. I think Trump will fund these if democrats will allow, for example, more choice for people, more competition--


MOORE: -- allowing people to buy insurance across state lines.


LEMON: I want Neera to have her say. Go ahead.

TANDEN: You know, I'm so glad you started this by focusing on Donald Trump's promises last year. And things he's done over the last two days violate every single promise he made.

First of all, we don't -- he said repeal and replace, there's no replacement. He said he would lower his premium -- lower premiums for people, lower health care costs, today President Donald Trump took action to increase premiums by 20 percent in 2018, 25 percent by 2020. Not lower premiums, increase premiums.

He said everyone would stay covered. A million people will lose health care according to the Congressional Budget Office. And finally, he said he'd protect pre-existing conditions. And the policy that Stephen Moore lauds completely undermined pre-existing conditions.

So you can get cancer and one of these junk plans, Associated Health Plans, junk plans can drop you. That's what it makes it cheaper. They don't have to cover preexisting conditions. That is what makes it cheaper for that part.

[22:35:01] But if you're concerned about cost, then why have a policy that basically says we're going to increase premiums by 20 percent. What happened here is that the president betrayed the voters. He said that he was going to help. He made all these promises. And out of spite, OK, out of spite for the Affordable Care Act he is victimizing people who have health insurance through the Affordable Care Act.


LEMON: But Neera, he did say he was going to repeal and replace. This isn't a repeal or a replace. This is sort of a dismantling but he, I mean.

TANDEN: He did say he was going to repeal and replace. And I -- sure, OK. Try doing that. You can't get it through the Congress. So you're instead just destroying and destabilizing the health insurance markets.


MOORE: Well, it is--

That's not what he promised to do.

LEMON: Let Stephen respond.

MOORE: OK. So, first of all, are you really saying that Donald Trump is the one who is breaking his promises?


MOORE: I mean, name one promise of Obamacare -- no. Really. Go back to the things that Barack Obama seven years ago--


TANDEN: We said we cover millions of people and we did.

MOORE: -- every single promise was violated. Now, you said that if you like the insurance you got, you'll be able to keep it.

TANDEN: Yes. If you like the insurance you get--

MOORE: And people are losing their insurance. You said that -- you said that it wouldn't have the -- now you need 10 to $15 billion more to bail out the insurance companies. All of these things--


TANDEN: OK. Right there, right there, Stephen Moore, that was inaccurate. In fact, the Obamace, the Affordable Care Act reduced the deficit. It has actually saved money. The proposal the president made today by executive action, by the way, that was another promise, he wouldn't do executive action.

Things he did today the proposal added to the deficit by $200 billion. So if you're concerned about deficit reduction, you should support the Affordable Care Act, which actually reduced the deficit, not what the president did by executive action today.

MOORE: Wait, how is the Affordable Care Act reducing costs for anyone? I mean, look across the country, Neera.


TANDEN: That is why the expenditures have actually come down, Stephen.

MOORE: I mean, everybody is paying -- no, no. Hold on. Hold on, Neera. Yes.

TANDEN: I'm sorry but the president lied occasion after occasion after occasion.

MOORE: No, no, that is coming -- ask every -- no, no. Neera, wait a minute.

LEMON: One at a time, please.

MOORE: OK. Come on, I mean, let's be honest here. Americans are facing 25--

TANDEN: Please try.

MOORE: -- 30, 40, 50. I just got back from Arizona. Explain to me if insurance costs are coming down why people in Arizona are paying double what they used to pay for insurance.

TANDEN: I'll tell you why.

LEMON: OK. Let her tell him. Go ahead.

TANDEN: Can I answer, can I answer this question?


LEMON: Explain. Go ahead. Go ahead.

TANDEN: Let me just say I think you've dealt with propaganda from the last couple of years and not with the facts. First of all, there's not a single bare market in the country. Insurers are everywhere. Premiums have been going up.

MOORE: A lot.

TANDEN: And you know why? Insurance companies say the premiums are going up? Not me, not my friends. Insurance companies say premiums are going up because the president is threatening the--


MOORE: Neera, stop. Stop for a minute.

TANDEN: That is exactly what happened.

MOORE: Neera, the insurance -- wait a minute. There's a problem with this. Neera, wait a minute.

TANDEN: The out-of-pocket cause--

MOORE: Wait. Hold on. If that's the case, explain to me why the insurance premiums went up a year and a half before Barack -- I mean, Donald Trump even announced he was running for president.

TANDEN: Yes. And before, just to be crystal clear.


MOORE: They went going up before Donald Trump announced he was running for president.

TANDEN: Do you understand how the Affordable Care Act works? I just like to say.

MOORE: Yes, I sure do and it doesn't work very well.


TANDEN: When the premium goes up, there's a subsidy increase.


TANDEN: When the premium goes up, there a subsidy increase. Ninety percent of the premium increases have been -- have been effectively not sells by consumers. What the president did today was say I'm going to take away the subsidies.

So when your premiums go up, you pay for it, not anyone else. That's what's destructive. If you are so concerned about premium increases--

MOORE: I am.

TANDEN: -- why would the president take action to increase payments by 20 percent.


MOORE: No, because Neera--

TANDEN: And don't listen to me. Listen to the insurance companies, the doctors, every staple in the insurance--


MOORE: Well, look.


MOORE: The insurance -- look, Neera.

LEMON: Quickly, I've got to go.

MOORE: The insurance companies, you're right--

TANDEN: -- what the president did was wrong.

MOORE: The insurance companies love Obamacare.

TANDEN: Cancer patients--

LEMON: OK. I've got to go, guys.

MOORE: Because they gave on that big markets. But I got to tell you, I talk to people on the country they say their insurance premiums are going up 20 or 30 percent.

TANDEN: Because of what the president has done.

LEMON: I've got to go. Thank you. Always a pleasure. You guys don't need me.


MOORE: Thanks, Don. Thanks for having me.

LEMON: I'm going to go over a glass of wine or something to chill you guys a little bit to get something done. Thank you very much. I appreciate it.

MOORE: Thanks, Don.

LEMON: When we come back, the country is focused on the Iran deal, healthcare, aid for Puerto Rico. But the president, this is what he cares about.


TRUMP: Guess what? We're saying Merry Christmas again.




LEMON: President Trump speaking today at the values voter's summit of Evangelicals telling them his administration is stopping attacks on Judea Christian values and that America is a nation of believers.


TRUMP: We know that it's the family and the church, not government officials, that know best how to create strong and loving communities.


And above all else, we know this. In America we don't worship government. We worship God.



LEMON: I want to bring this CNN political contributor Maria Cardona, also political commentators Margaret Hoover and Scott Jennings. Hello to all of you. Thanks for joining us.


LEMON: And by the way, Merry Christmas. I didn't know we stop saying there. I've been saying it all along. I'd better get with the program. I can't say that anymore.

Well, maybe it's back now. So Margaret, President Trump spoke about ending a tax on Judeo Christian values and returning moral clarity to our world. How does that message resonate coming from this president?

MARGARET HOOVER, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, CNN: Well, to whom. To whom does it resonate? How are you asking? To the people with whom he was speaking, I think they, you know, accept it because they have basically two choices, right.

I mean, in their minds they could have had Donald Trump or they could have had Hillary Clinton and they made that sort of moral compromise themselves back when they decided to get behind Donald Trump, knowing that he was an imperfect man but believing that on the political issues that are most important to them as a cohort, mainly life and abortion, that Hillary Clinton would have been worse, and that Donald Trump was the lesser of two evils and they believe that he's on their side and they have his back. And the rest they have decided doesn't matter.

LEMON: Moral compromise. That is an excellent way of putting it. Here is the president. This is him speaking at these values, values voter summit. This was in 2015.


TRUMP: I've been so nice. I've been so nice.


LEMON: So, Scott, he got booed back then. Perhaps the moral compromise hadn't started yet. But he got standing ovations now. Why the big change in reception, do you think?

SCOTT JENNINGS, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, CNN: Well, I think politics is comparative. And in 2015 he was being compared to other republicans, who were closer to the Christian values voters than Donald Trump was.

Today, he's the president and he's being compared, as Margaret said, to the alternative, which in the last election, of course, was much worse in their minds.

So I also think today his rhetoric, was right on track with what they want to hear and a lot of his actions as it relates to the culture wars in this country are right on track where they think the president ought to be.

[22:44:55] So in both words and deeds he's been very appealing to the values voters and I suspect they're going to continue this political transaction for the next three years because they want to maintain their policy influence over the White House, and of course, the president wants to maintain this part of his base.

LEMON: So President Trump also reignited his war on Christmas rhetoric.


TRUMP: They don't use the word Christmas because it's not politically correct. You go department stores and they'll say Happy New Year or they'll say other things and it will be red they'll have it painted, but they don't say, well, guess what? We're saying Merry Christmas again.


LEMON: I mean, Happy New Year and Merry Christmas. Sorry.

CARDONA: Thank God, Don.

LEMON: They're two different things, but I'm just saying. Honestly, I mean, come on. Have you guys really been to a place and someone has not said Merry Christmas to you? This is all, this is made up. Margaret.

HOOVER: Well, it's all for the -- it's for the base.

LEMON: Maria, sorry.

HOOVER: I can't even tell you -- sorry if Maria is going.

CARDONA: Look, I was going to say thank God that the president addressed this, Don, because I know that this is what keeps every single American up at night. This is a huge problem in the country. So I'm glad the president is focusing on it. I'm being facetious for those of you who can't understand that.


LEMON: You call it political crack to his base. Why do you say that?

CARDONA: Yes. It is absolutely political crack to his base. Because, to Margaret's point, the audience that he was speaking to today eats it up. And what is so ironic about the words that have been used tonight is they're absolutely right. It is a moral compromise. I would go even further.

These Christian values voters have made a deal with the devil. This is a president who during the campaign said that he has never even asked God for forgiveness and didn't even know what that little white waiver thing was.

And so, this is also a group -- and this is what I think makes him going to speak to this group, you know, kind of historic and not in a good way. There's a reason why presidents when they're presidents have never gone to this group.

This is a group that has been categorized by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a radical right hate group. They put out pamphlets today, Don, about how homosexuality is hazardous to your health.

I mean, there is a reason why going to this group does nothing to really focus on the issues that we're facing today, which is the divisions of this country. The way that this president likes to divide us instead of unite us.

LEMON: You're saying he's playing to an extreme and you're saying that this group--


CARDONA: He's playing to the most extreme--

LEMON: So you think the value voters are the most extreme right.

CARDONA: Right. Yes.

LEMON: Margaret takes exception to that.

HOOVER: No, no, no. Of course Maria does and Maria should because that's her point of view. Look, I can't even tell you when I was a commentator on Bill O'Reilly show on Fox News how many segments we had to talk about the end of Christmas, and how the left was going after Christmas.

LEMON: That was 10 years ago and Christmas is still around.

HOOVER: It is an evergreen. It is an evergreen--


CARDONA: It's crack, political crack.

HOOVER: -- for his base and it's the same people and that Maria is right. But the reason he stokes that fire, right, the reason he goes out on the rallies. The reason he goes out to throw red meat to that base is because, truthfully, to keep the base energized around him he just needs to sing from their hymnal.


HOOVER: Right. He just needs to heap a steady dose of anger going--

LEMON: I've got to go to the break, Margaret.

HOOVER: Because there's no policy deliverances.

LEMON: We'll be right back.


LEMON: We are back now with my panel. So Scott, the critics of this president say his speech today is hypocritical given his own history with women and other things. So I have to ask you, why do think Christians and Evangelicals overlook his many marriages and inappropriate comments?

JENNINGS: Well, I think that with President Trump as with many politicians they recognize that they're not perfect people. And no one is arguing that Donald Trump has been a perfect Christian. In fact, I think there's only even one perfect Christian. But I do think something we have to recognize tonight, before we went

to break, my democratic counterpart tonight sat here and said that people who take their Christian values into consideration when making up their minds on who to vote for are a hate group.

If you needed a succinct explanation about--


CARDONA: I didn't say that.

JENNINGS: -- how the Democratic Party has completely lost connection with middle America and may apparently never regain it, that's all you need to know. And the choice--


CARDONA: It's the Southern Poverty Law Center that has categorized them as such.

JENNINGS: If Donald Trump in his actions and deeds -- in his actions and deeds is doing what they want versus Maria's viewpoint that Christians are a hate group for taking those values into consideration.

CARDONA: I do not like those points, Scott. I'm a Christian, by the way.

JENNINGS: That is all you need to know about American politics.

CARDONA: I'm a Christian and it is not me that categorized them as a hate group, it is the southern Poverty Law Center that categorized them as a hate group.

Why would a Christian group put out a pamphlet that says how homosexuality is hazardous to your health? Tell me that is that not filled with hate, with divisiveness and with bigotry?

So I'm sorry the -- if I say that the President of the United States, the United States, not the divided states, which is I know Trump wants to be, the President of the United States should never go and speak to a group that would have the gall to put out a pamphlet like that.

LEMON: He's the first sitting president to do it, Margaret.

CARDONA: And there's a reason.

HOOVER: Look, guys, I mean, what you have here is nobody defending the president, right? Scott got -- and this is what the far right has to do. The far right has to hit the left in order to -- you know. Because you can't defend the president in terms of his moral authority here.

We all know this is transactional politics here. He's made a deal with the values voters summit with all those voters and the bottom line there is judges, judges, judges, life, life, life. LEMON: Yes.

HOOVER: And as long as President Trump remains true on that issue, they will be solidly behind him.

LEMON: Scott, did you say that Donald Trump isn't a real republican and he isn't a real Christian?

JENNINGS: Well, Donald Trump is certainly not a Christian in the sense that many of these value voters have practiced for their whole life, but I think today--


CARDONA: That's putting it lightly.

[22:54:57] JENNINGS: -- as Margaret just said, he's engaged in the -- he's engaged in the transaction that fuels American politics. They want influence over policy. He wants their votes.

And so, they've made this bargain, and this is what they're doing. And it's good for both groups. So I understand why they support him. Because he's doing what they want him to do. And they want to keep having this kind of influence which they by the way, didn't have for the last eight years of the Obama administration.

CARDONA: Do you think it's appropriate for the President of the United States to go speak to a group like this? Why is it that he is the first sitting president, republican or democrat--


JENNINGS: I think it's appropriate for the President of the United States to talk to people that he thinks are supportive of his agenda.

CARDONA: .. to go speak to this group?

JENNINGS: I think -- I think it's perfectly fine for the president to speak to people who support his agenda which is what he did today.

CARDONA: So you're saying that -- so you're saying that--


JENNINGS: And I think if you want to keep making fun of people -- if you want to keep making fun of people who are Christian voters--

CARDONA: So, no. I'm not making fun, Scott.

JENNINGS: -- keep digging that hole.

CARDONA: I'm just saying facts.

JENNINSG: Keep digging that hole. You'll leave when it's election again. CARDONA: So do you think -- so do you think that it would appropriate

for the President of the United States to go speak to the neo-Nazi group and the KKK because they certainly support the agenda of this president.


JENNINGS: If you want to compare -- if you want to compare Christians to the KKK, you keep dealing that hole. You will never win and never will on the next election.

CARDONA: You just said, Scott, amigo Mio, that you thought it would be appropriate for the President of the United States to go speak to any group that supports his agenda.

LEMON: All right.

CARDONA: The KKK, the neo-Nazis and white supremacists support his agenda.

JENNINGS: That's not true.

CARDONA: No, it's not. They do!

LEMON: Gosh. And here we go. This isn't where we are.

CARDONA: So you're saying that it would be appropriate for this president to go speak to that group, to those group.

LEMON: Thank you. And this is where we have to end. Thank you.

When we come back, breaking news in the Russia investigation. A former White House insider now talking to investigators.


LEMON: This is CNN Tonight. I'm Don Lemon.

It is 11 p.m. on the East Coast and we are live with the breaking news tonight.