Return to Transcripts main page


Trump to Kick Off New Year with Infrastructure Push; Obama Warns Against 'Irresponsible' Social Media Use. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired December 27, 2017 - 06:00   ET



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I see the president roll out infrastructure plan in January. The big question remains, will Democrats put politics aside.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, I'll work with him on infrastructure if he'll work with us.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Any work on health care going forward will have to be bipartisan.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We still have the fundamental tenets of Obamacare.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president tries to discredit the FBI investigation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would like to see the directors of those agencies purge it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This tweet directed at them is really a distraction from these individuals needing to focus on their jobs.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Erie, Pennsylvania, shattering the two-day snowfall record in the entire state.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All of a sudden it's gotten really, really bad.


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

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. You're watching NEW DAY. It is Wednesday, December 27, 6 a.m. here in New York. Chris is off. Bill Weir joins me. It is so cold. And the snow.

BILL WEIR, CNN ANCHOR: How cold is it?

CAMEROTA: Look at Erie. Wait until you -- wait until we show you about the record-breaking snow there.

But here's our starting line right now. President Trump plans to kick off the new year with a push on infrastructure. The president is set to unveil his proposal in a couple of weeks that he hopes will get Democrats on board. Now during the campaign, he promised a trillion- dollar plan. That's changing now.

President Trump also predicts Democrats and Republicans will come together for a health care deal, but he is falsely claiming that Obamacare has been essentially repealed. In fact, core elements of the health care law do still remain intact, even without the individual mandate.

WEIR: Just hours after President Trump said he is getting back to work after Christmas, the commander in chief was getting back to golf, something he has repeatedly criticized his predecessor for doing when he was a private citizen, of course. We'll tell you how much time President Trump has spent at his properties and golf courses this year.

And President Obama sitting down for a rare interview with Prince Harry. The former president warns against the divisive nature of social media without naming President Trump and talks about how he felt after President Trump's inauguration.

We have it all covered on this hump day, but let's begin with CNN's Abby Phillip live in West Palm Beach, Florida.

Good morning, Abby.


Well, the White House is fresh off of that tax cut victory, and they're looking to fulfill another of President Trump's campaign promises, this time infrastructure. The White House tells us that they are looking at a January unveil for a major infrastructure proposal that's going to be featured in the president's State of the Union address before both chambers of Congress toward the end of the month.

That infrastructure plan is looking to be $200 billion worth of spending. That's something that, in the past, Democrats have said they are interested in working with the president on. However, that number is deemed a little bit too small to spur the kind of investment in the economy and also to meet the infrastructure needs.

The White House aides do caution that that number is a floor not a ceiling. They're also hoping to draw in about $800 billion in private-sector or outside investment in infrastructure that will be spurred on by that federal investment.

And on another front, the White House is also talking about bipartisanship when it comes to health care. President Trump sent out a tweet just yesterday, saying that he hoped that in January, now that the individual mandate has been repealed in the tax cut bill, the Democrats will come to the table on an infrastructure -- on a health care plan. There is no evidence yet that any such plan is in the works.

And meanwhile, the president is is still on his vacation here in Florida. He's been spotted at the golf course the last few days. No word yet on what -- what kind of health care proposal he's been working on with his aides up until this point, Bill.

CAMEROTA: OK, Abby. Thank you very much for all of that reporting.

Let's bring in our panel. We have Ron Brownstein, CNN senior political analyst, and senior editor for "The Atlantic" and Karoun Demirjian, CNN political analyst and congressional reporter for "The Washington Post." Great to see both of you.

OK, Karoun, so this new infrastructure plan that Abby just reported on, it will be $200 billion over a decade. So basically $20 billion a year for ten years, not $1 trillion. Is this something that both sides, Democrats and Republicans, can get on board with?

KAROUN DEMIRJIAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, in general infrastructure, yes, it is a place that is fertile ground for bipartisanship and cooperation. But what you're probably going to have going forward is a little bit of fighting over the money.

Democrats are already saying where is the money going to come from. They are going to point to the $1.5 trillion shortfall now that there is -- after the tax reform went through and say, OK, you can spend money there, but you can't put the money towards infrastructure.

Also, if you're -- if you're balancing out $200 billion from the federal investment without the answer yet of exactly where that money is going to come from, against the $800 billion it has to come from states and localities in the private sector, potentially even from taxation. This is now starting to be an issue that might have some repercussions on the campaign trail. Because remember, we're in an election year, so everything is a potential referendum on the president, on the parties, everything like that.

And there is going to be a money fight here that's frankly already started. The Democrats have been commenting on this, are asking the question, where is the money coming from? Not saying "We won't work with you," but they're going to need an answer question that's satisfactory if they're going to play ball in an election year.

WEIR: You know, Ron I went back to do some -- refresh my memory on Obama's stimulus, remember, the $800 billion, just as a point of comparison. It turns out that 35 percent of that big nut was for tax cuts. Only 35 percent went to actual investment. That included Pell Grants and research and those sorts of things.

So with creaky bridges and potholes everywhere, this seems like an easy bipartisan sell. It seems like an easy one that even the president acknowledged that he would wait until later, because it's a slam dunk. Why is infrastructure so difficult to get passed?

[06:05:00] RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: By the way, the reason the tax cuts was such a big part of the stimulus was because that was the price of getting a few Republicans in the Senate to come along, which was different than what we saw on this tax bill.

Look, we've just been through a process that was by itself unprecedented. Where we had a major tax cut pass without a single vote from the opposite party. I mean, Ronald Reagan had two dozen Senate Democrats vote for his tax cut plan in 1981. George Bush had a dozen in 2001. Donald Trump could not attract a single Democrat in either chamber for this tax plan.

It would seem on paper, as we're saying, that it is easier to do infrastructure, to attract across a party line on infrastructure. But the specifics of this, I think, could create more challenges than it initially appears on two fronts. One is the one we've been discussing, which is the cost. Is this enough money to generate the private activity that -- that the president says he wants to trigger?

How do you pay for it against the backdrop of adding 1.5 trillion to the debt. But also, the specifics of the plan in the past have been structured in a way that, like the tax plan and like the health plan, make it less attractive to Democrats. Because in the past, at least, what the administration has talked about is focused on encouraging privately owned projects, for example, toll roads, that are, generally speaking, less attractive to Democrats. And by the way, also less attractive, less likely to benefit the rural, non-urban areas that are the core of the president's geographic coalition.

CAMEROTA: You know, if we're going to go down Memory Lane in terms of the stimulus, and I do always feel nostalgic around this time of year. Remember the hue and cry -- I remember it well -- from Republicans. The deficit spending, the stimulus is the wrong way to go.

I mean, you know, look, now that the economy has recovered, it seems like it's a good time to revisit that the stimulus may have been the right way to go, No. 1.

But also, Karoun, more relevant to today, the role reversal is so interesting, right? Now Republicans are like, you know, "Debt be damned." And Democrats are like, "What are we doing with this deficit spending?"

DEMIRJIAN: Right. I mean, one is the party that's in majority and getting to call the shots right now. The other one is waving its hand and saying, "Hold on, hold on, hold on." So in a way, it's a -- it's a predictable switch. And yet, it's a really remarkable one, given how much stock the GOP put in the messaging on the debt and the deficit being not just, you know, bad finance but bad national security policy, bad everything. It was -- it was the core of so much that they were arguing about.

So yes, this is definitely a flip that is now going to be used as a political weapon against them, whether it will actually have an effect or not, and it remains to be seen. Because next year is going to be the first referendum on how that works.

But I mean, there's so much here that you can kind of take a lesson from in the past. And you know, generally speaking, when we're talking about infrastructure, remember, we haven't had a really comprehensive infrastructure proposal pass Congress in a really long time. And that's because even in a year where this isn't the political -- the political wins aren't what they are, it's hard. It's ideological and a parochial split, and it's not an easy lift. WEIR: Ron, this tweet yesterday got a bit of attention. The

president saying, "Based on the fact that the very unfair and unpopular individual mandate has been terminated as part of our tax cut Bill, which essentially repeals" -- parenthesis -- "over time Obamacare, the Democrats and Republicans will eventually come together and develop a great new health care plan."

As we want to do here, we can fact-check that in real-time. It doesn't essentially repeal Obamacare. There were interesting pieces in the "New York times" and "Washington Post" how Obamacare expanded health care in this country--


WEIR: -- through Medicare expansion. Explain that.

BROWNSTEIN: Yes. Well, look, there are so many ironies in that tweet. Let's just unpack them.

First, as you say, to repeal the individual mandate is a blow against Obamacare, but it is not a fatal blow. The Medicaid expansion, which ended up covering more people than the individual market that the individual mandate affects, is -- is untouched. The insurance reforms reforms are untouched. And the subsidies remain. So most of the pillars of Obamacare are still in place.

The irony here is that you go, and maybe -- maybe you remember this, if you go back to the 2008 campaign, it was Barack Obama who said that he did not want the individual mandate as part of the system. Hillary Clinton was the initial proponent of that. He said that the subsidies, the carrot, in effect, would be enough to bring younger, healthier people in, and you didn't need the stick of the individual mandate. So we're going to now have the experiment that maybe he wanted to run 10 years ago.

But the last irony is that, to the extent that repealing the mandate does matter, what it will do at the margin is make it less likely that younger, healthier people who feel less need for health insurance will come into the system.

And what that means is higher premiums for older people with greater health needs who remain. The irony there is that older Americans, particularly older, white Americans, are now the cornerstone of the Republican coalition. A majority of Donald Trump's votes came from whites over 45.

[06;10:10] So when you look particularly in those Midwestern states that decided the election, the people that are most likely to be hurt by repealing the individual mandate, as Republicans have now done, are their own voters.

CAMEROTA: So Karoun, a couple of graphics to just help us make sense of these shifting sands.

So the number of uninsured, remember how that was one of the big pushes for why we needed Obamacare. People were using the emergency room as their primary care physician. So the number of uninsured went from about 20 percent of the country. Now today it worked. You know, it's down to 12.5 percent. And then, what Bill was talking about, the number of government insured -- funded insurance has gone up from 11.5 to about 20 percent, 19 percent.

So what do we think health care is going to look like in the new year?

DEMIRJIAN: Well, I mean, I think the changes that are being made are going to affect at least some of the numbers of who has coverage because of what you said. It's a question of opting in to the system and will people that were compelled to do it before, still choose to do it now if that compulsion and those penalties aren't there.

But I think that this is the big question, right? Because health care has been a political rallying cry, and a practical thing that affects people's bottom line.

The first effects of those will be felt in the first few months of the new year. And then those have to be balanced out with the effects that people feel from this new tax reform bill. Do people emerge from all of that towards the end of 2018 feeling like they're better off or worse off? And that's going to kind of determine -- you know, if there's no future legislative changes, I should say.

Because of course, if the GOP is successful in trying to make more limitations to the Obamacare system that it stands, and that will be yet another factor that has to be played in.

So I think this is all going to kind of depend on the both -- I guess the political and emotional response to all of it and also just the practical bottom-line response. And it's going to be different locality to locality as you explained because of who tends to be covered under certain parts of what the original Obamacare structure was versus the parts of it that are still in place now.

CAMEROTA: OK. Karoun, Ron.

BROWNSTEIN: I've got to say, real quick, you know, the Congressional Budget Office said that if you would repeal the individual mandate, you'd have 13 million people fewer in insurance, either because they didn't feel like they'd have to buy or because they'd be deterred by the higher premiums.

But we just saw that nearly 9 million people signed up for the federal exchange despite a very short sign-up period and no outreach from the Trump administration. And what that says is there's a lot of demand for health care. So it may survive the individual mandate with less erosion of coverage than you think.

WEIR: We have coverage prices, health care prices continue to just climb. And the sticker shock that so many families are looking at, that's the reality of today.

CAMEROTA: Karoun, Ron, thank you very much.

Meanwhile, former President Obama opening up about life after the White House and his warning about social media in this rare new interview with Prince Harry. CNN's Anna Stewart is live in London with more. So what did these two talk about?

ANNA STEWART, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, a lot of it did center on social media. And while Donald Trump is a prolific Twitter user, he won't mention him by name. But President Obama did have some warnings. Now take a listen to what he said.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The question, I think, really has to do with how do we harness this technology in a way that allows a multiplicity of voices, allows a diversity of views, but doesn't lead to a Balkanization of our society but rather continues to promote ways of finding common ground.

And I'm not sure government can legislate that, but what I do believe is that all of us in leadership have to find ways in which we can recreate a common space on the Internet. One of the dangers of the Internet is that people can have entirely different realities. They can be just cocooned in information that reinforces their current biases.


CAMEROTA: Well, we've certainly seen that. And meanwhile, I know this whole interview wasn't completely about serious policies. Prince Harry got some personal details from President Obama.

STEWART: he sure did. These guys have such good chemistry together. President Obama said he doesn't miss his early morning starts. No surprises there. He does miss his motorcade when it comes to traffic. But they saved the last bit for last. There was a quickfire round. Now listen to this.



OBAMA: William right now.

PRINCE HARRY: "Titanic" or "The Bodyguard"?

OBAMA: "Titanic."

PRINCE HARRY: "Suits" or "The Good Wife"?

OBAMA: "Suits." Obviously.

PRINCE HARRY: Great answer.

Cigarettes or gum?

OBAMA: Gum now, baby.

PRINCE HARRY: Gum. White House or Buckingham Palace? OBAMA: White House just because Buckingham Palace looks like it would

take a really long time to mow.

PRINCE HARRY: Fair enough.

OBAMA: A lot of upkeep.

PRINCE HARRY: Queen or the queen?

OBAMA: The queen.


[06:15:08] STEWART: Clearly, these guys are friends. They have such good chemistry. They know each other now really well.

So it's no surprise that, after the interview was aired today, Prince Harry himself was asked some questions. And he was asked a question that we all want to know the answer to.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Enough to invite him to your wedding?

PRINCE HARRY: I don't know about that. That's -- we haven't put the invites, all the guest lists together yet. So who knows whether -- who knows whether he's going to be invited or not? Wouldn't want to ruin that surprise.


STEWART: Very diplomatic and a good surprise ahead, maybe.

WEIR: But that would create an international incident. If Barack Obama were to attend the royal wedding before President Trump and meet the queen?

CAMEROTA: So if only President Obama were invited and not President Trump?

WEIR: Right, right. Because President Trump not exactly the most favorite world leader in the U.K. these days after he retweeted those anti-Islamic videos. Right?

STEWART: Well, I mean, there's been a media storm around this, but really, this is not a state wedding, so heads of state are not being invited. if President Obama were to be invited to this wedding, it would be as a friend and not as a head of state. It's going to be very different to Prince William's wedding.

And Kensington Palace actually said, when they announced the wedding, that that this will be very much a wedding that reflects the personalities of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.

WEIR: All right. Fair enough. Thanks for setting us straight.

CAMEROTA: Thank you, Anna. Very interesting to see how that guest list looks.

WEIR: Anybody who has had to do the table arrangements at any wedding knows the politics--

CAMEROTA: And the stress.

WEIR: -- and the stress of who sits where. I can only imagine at that level.

Well, coming up, is the United States taking the threats of Russia meddling in future elections seriously enough? We will discuss a new report raising even more questions, next.


[06:20:23] WEIR: As special counsel Robert Mueller and several committees investigate Russia's meddling in the U.S. election, a new report from "The Washington Post" discusses new concerns about how seriously the Trump administration is taking the threat.

Back with us now, Ron Brownstein Karoun Demirjian.

This is an interesting piece today in the "Washington Post" that goes back to the earliest of Putin's efforts when he realized the information war was a cheap, effective way to get things done; and these trolls were out in force to the point where, at a certain point the Obama administration was behind the curve. They went to their allies in Europe and said, "Hey, this is going on." And everybody in Europe said, "No kidding? We've been saying this to you guys for a long time."

But Ron, there's also indications that they finally figured it out, and the Obama administration left a road map on how to react, giving powers to spy agencies to counter this.

But the debate within the Trump administration has stalled any actual action. What should we take from this?

BROWNSTEIN: Well, I think it's been difficult for either administration. And for that matter, governments in Europe, to determine exactly how to respond to this clearly 21st Century version of warfare.

From Putin's point of view, the return on investment in cyber warfare interference in the elections in the U.S. and elsewhere has been enormous. I mean, no matter how you look at it, America is divided, a split, and kind of at sea over how to respond.

And he is certainly -- if one of their goals is to engender more division in the society, they have certainly achieved that. The challenge -- the challenge is real no matter who is president. It is -- it is multiplied when you have a president who seems to view any acknowledgment of the genuine threat as a cloud over the legitimacy of his election.

And it is striking in the "Washington Post" story, which is, again, excellent by their national security team, that -- that when they're asked about the threat this poses to the democracy, broadly speaking across parties, the response of some in the White House is to say, "Well, Hillary Clinton made mistakes, didn't campaign in Wisconsin and Michigan. That's more important than what Russia did." That really is like -- you know, that's like comparing apples and kind of nuclear weapons. They're not really comparable.

WEIR: What was interesting, too, you know, we talked so much about during the campaign, that most of the memes tend to be pro-Trump. But since the election, a lot of these same trolls have switched and become critical of this White House. Because ultimately, it is about dividing and distracting.

CAMEROTA: Right. Sowing discord, for sure. And it's working, by the way.

So Karoun, this is "The Washington Post," obviously your paper. I'll just read an excerpt for everybody. One previously unreported order, a sweeping presidential finding to combat global cyber threats prompted U.S. spy agencies to plan a half dozen specific operations to counter the Russian threat.

But one year after those instructions were given, the Trump White House remains divided over whether to act, intelligence officials said. So in other words, Karoun, is the thinking that President Trump's denial of Russian meddling -- I mean, he's called the whole thing a hoax -- that that is just bringing everything to a standstill.

DEMIRJIAN: Well, as Ron pointed out, the president has not done the greatest job with disassociating his own concerns about anything that revolves the world Russia, reflecting poorly on his election, his legitimacy in the White House.

And then the idea that there is actually a broader Russian threat out there that does not just affect him, that does not just affect the 2016 presidential election, I should say, but that is a continuing threat that people are concerned about going into the next election cycle and just, in general, when it comes to systems, when it comes to just the basic security of many different aspects of this country. I mean, because as we've pointed out, it's a cheap investment that, if it doesn't pay off, OK, no big deal. And when it does pay off, it's very, very advantageous to have tried to have instilled this instability and weakness in an adversary that the United States is much stronger than Russia is in most other ways.

So I mean, but again, you've seen the president from early on be this voice. That even as all of his picks for the cabinet were saying, "Yes, we endorse the intelligence community's assessment of what happened in 2016," the president saying, "I'm not so sure about that."

He's been unwilling to go even to the level of saying that the Russian threat is something unique and worth -- worth being concerned about. And so to see that that is pervasive all the way through, that it has actually held up certain -- certain actions that could have been taken to at least shore up the fences is the thing that's really remarkable. Because you can point a finger at past administrations and say, "You should have known better looking at Europe. You should have known better looking any place else in the world, that the United States can't be that special and impervious to this sort of thing."

What Trump did is he came in at a point in which he had proof of what could actually happen, and yet has sat on that and not acted. And that's what's so remarkable about the decisions that have not been made since he took over in the Oval Office.

WEIR: Let's pivot to another common theme during the Trump campaign. That was criticism for President Obama's favorite pastime, favorite way to get outside and take a walk. Take a listen to this.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Obama, it was reported today, played 250 rounds of golf.

Everything is executive order, because he doesn't have enough time, because he's playing so much golf.

Obama ought to get off the golf course and get down there.

I'm going to be working for you. I'm not going to have time to go play golf.

He played more golf last year than Tiger Woods.

This guy plays more golf than people on the PGA tour.

I love golf. I think it's one of the greats, but I don't have time.

But if I were in the White House, I don't think I'd ever see Turnberry again. I don't think I'd ever seen Doral again.

But I'm not going to be playing much golf. Believe me, if I win this, I'm not going to be playing much golf.


WEIR: All right. Let's put those words up against the tale of the tape. Here we go. A year in, the president has spent 86 days at one of his golf properties. That's 111 days total at a Trump property.

CAMEROTA: Away from the White House. Let's just underscore this. So he said, "I'll never leave the White House. There's so much to do. He has spent a miraculous 100 days -- 111 days outside of the White House."

WEIR: And they -- and the White House refers -- at least Obama when he played, they told you, right? This White House refuses to confirm or deny whether he's actually out there on the links. We at CNN exclusively got a glimpse of him actually playing yesterday.

CAMEROTA: Well, that's a part of him.

WEIR: A part of -- oh, the follow-through not good there. But what about the arguments, Karoun, that it's a working round of golf. That he's actually out there negotiating for the good of the country.

DEMIRJIAN: You can get work done during -- when you're playing golf. That's true. You can -- sometimes in a different setting, you can do better negotiations and work out deals and policies that are really intractable when you're inside the closed office spaces they're no longer working in, but the president hasn't been going out with his political enemies, and he has not been going out with his challengers, really. He seems to be going out with friends and celebrities.

And granted, it is a holiday week. So maybe that's now not always the case. But the optics aren't great. And he keeps getting pilloried for the optics of this. So is he is doing more work than we realize on -- on the links, then that is something they maybe could play up differently, because it's not working out so well.

CAMEROTA: That is a really generous, generous assessment. Ron, I mean, look we're out of time in a few seconds.

It's been naked hypocrisy, that he railed against it so much. He was never going to leave the White House, so he has -- he has, as we said, spent 111 days away from the White House at one of his golf courses or his properties.


CAMEROTA: In the -- President Obama's eight years, there were 328 days. OK?


CAMEROTA: So in one year he has had a third of the time away from the White House.

BROWNSTEIN: You know, generally, it's been my experience that Americans do not begrudge a president their leisure time. I mean, I've -- we've seen these arguments from both sides about how much time presidents kind of like golf course or clearing brush or whatever they're doing when they're not in the Oval Office. I don't think that's the problem.

I think the issue is more the amount of time that he's spending, if there is an issue, at his own properties, and which goes to kind of the larger questions about his conception of the presidency. And it is those questions precisely that I think explains why his approval rating is so much lower than other presidents, despite the relatively strong economy.

CAMEROTA: OK. Ron -- Ron, thank you both very much. So listen to this. There was this flight from Los Angeles to Tokyo. And it lasts nearly eight hours. But it went nowhere. We'll tell you about this mix-up and the nightmare for travelers and who was on board, next.