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Report: Trump Proposes Lowering Drug Prices; John Kelly Says Undocumented Workers Don't Have Education Or Skills To Be Assimilated In Society; White House Aide Makes Heartless Comment About John Mccain; Trump Will Eliminate Middlemen In Drug Pricing. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired May 11, 2018 - 14:00   ET



BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: Hi there, I'm Brianna Keilar in for Brooke Baldwin. We are waiting for two live events from the White House just moments for now. The president is going to speak about his plans to cut prescription drug prices. That is just ahead of the White House press briefing. But once again whatever the administration has on its agenda, it's getting sidelined by controversial comments this time not from the president but from his chief of staff and a White House aide.

In fact, former Vice President Joe Biden just slammed the comments about Senator John McCain saying it's a new low. McCain is battling brain cancer. While the president did not utter the offense, his lack of condemnation so far speaks volumes. McCain's daughter Meghan speaking out today.


MEGHAN MCCAIN, DAUGHTER OF JOHN MCCAIN: Whatever you want to say in this kind of environment, the thing that surprises me most is -- I was talking about this with you, Joy, that I don't understand what kind of environment you're working in when that would be acceptable, and then can you come to work the next day and still have a job. My father's legacy is going to be talked about for hundreds and hundreds of years.


MEGHAN MCCAIN: These people, nothing burgers.


KEILAR: Meghan McCain was reacting to a comment made by White House aide Kelly Sadler. A White House official says that Sadler was dismissing Senator McCain's opposition to Trump's pick to the CIA director when she said as a joke about McCain, quote, he's dying anyway. And the White House issued a response saying quote, we respect Senator McCain's service to our nation and he and his family are in our prayers during this difficult time.

I am going to turn now to CNN's senior White House correspondent Jeff Zeleny who is there in the Rose Garden ahead of this prescription drug announcement from the president. Tell us about what the former vice president said when he weighed in, Jeff?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN's SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Good afternoon, Brianna. So interesting of course, yet another controversy getting in the way of an issue to president is going to be talking about here shortly, lower prescription drug prices. But as you said it is Joe Biden of course the former vice president, but more importantly, long- time Senate colleague and friend with John McCain, he was out visiting with him recently in Arizona.

He had this to say, just a short time ago about these comments. Let's take a look. He said, "People have wondered when decency would hit rock bottom with this administration, it happened yesterday. Given this White House's trail of disrespect toward John and others, this staffer is not the exception to the rule, she is the epitome of it. That statement from former Vice President Joe Biden of course.

So, the word here from the White House is that Kelly Sadler, a fairly low-level said, she is working here at the White House, the White House has not apologized for it. We should note she did Meghan McCain and apologized last evening about this comment but so far, no word if any action will be taken here. I do suspect it will be one of the questions here at the press briefing later this afternoon, Brianna.

KEILAR: No doubt and also, I assume that Sarah Sanders is going to be asked about the chief of staff John Kelly, for something he said in an interview

with NPR, he once again accused of insulting undocumented immigrants. Tell us about that.

ZELENY: Brianna, very interesting interview. We seldom hear John Kelly's voice. He gives very few interviews. But he did give an interview with NPR. Today's his birthday, we should point out. So interesting that this is coming on his birthday. He did talk specifically about immigration in some pretty tough terms. Let's take a listen to what he said.


JOHN KELLY, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: Let me step back and tell you the vast majority of people that move illegally into the United States are not bad people, they are not criminals not MS-13. They are also not people that would assimilate easily into the United States. They're overwhelmingly rural people in the countries that they come from, fourth, fifth, sixth grade education, kind of the norm. They are coming here for a reason and I sympathize with the reason, but the laws are the laws.


ZELENY: Certainly, throwing a lot of immigrants in one basket there, suggesting they're not educated and rural. Of course, the comments may sound somewhat harsh but John Kelly we should point out is a fairly tough immigration hardliners. It's one of the reasons the president picked him initially to be the secretary of homeland security, and then again picked him to be his chief of staff. The comments certainly sound insensitive perhaps. We do know that immigration is certainly a boiling point here at the White House. He's frustrated with his own officials and own aides for not doing enough in his view to secure the border. We do not know if the president shares these views. He hasn't talked about it yet but tough words without question, Brianna.

[14:05:00] KEILAR: And let's talk about the president's personal attorney, Michael Cohen, getting hundreds of thousands of dollars for presumably access to Donald Trump. Some of the companies are expressing regrets today, right?

ZELENY: They are indeed. Novartis and AT&T came forward and expressed their regret for dealing with Michael Cohen at all. Some of them have said he was not very effective in terms of helping them navigate the ways of Washington and this new administration. We should point out that Michael Cohen was not brought in to this administration. He was very much on the sidelines, although he did speak to the president frequently here and at Mar-A-Lago.

But the AT&T CEO, of course AT&T trying to buy CNN's parent company, he said it was a mistake. It was a mistake to give money to Michael Cohen in this effort here. Yet another example of how these investigations and everything are really creating a cloud over this White House on a day when -- on a week when the president certainly focused on North Korea diplomacy and today prescription drugs. So many more things to talk about, Brianna.

KEILAR: Certainly. Jeff Zeleny in the Rose Garden. We'll be monitoring the scene there as the president is set to make an announcement on prescription drug prices. Moments from now those remarks will be coming from the rose garden. We'll bring it to you live. Also, this hour, the White House press briefing, among the questions likely to face the Press Secretary Sarah Sanders, will the president fire the White House aide who joked very distastefully about John McCain dying?


KEILAR: The president there about to make remarks from the rose garden, unveiling his proposal to lower prescription drug pries. Let's listen in.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you very much. Thank you, please. And I want to thank Secretary Azar, Secretary Mnuchin, Secretary Ross, Ambassador Lighthizer and Commissioner Gottlieb. Scott Gottlieb has done a fantastic job. Where is Scott? Stand up, Scott. Stand up. And right to try is happening, right? We have that moving? Right to try, so important.

Administrator Verne, Director Mulvaney for being here with us today in the beautiful Rose Garden at the White House. We're also honored to be joined by Senator Bill Cassidy. Senator? Where is Senator Cassidy? Please, please.

[14:10:00] One of my great friends, Senator Orrin Hatch. Thank you, Orrin. Thank you. Congressman Michael Burgess. Michael, thank you very much. Thank you. Congressman buddy carter. Thank you. Congressman Michael Burgess. Michael, thank you very much. Thank you. Congressman buddy carter. Congressman Greg Gianforte. Hi, Greg. And numerous state officials from all over the country.

Today my administration is launching the most sweeping action in history to lower the price of prescription drugs for the American people. We've wanted to be doing this, we've been working on it right from day one. It's been a complicated process but not too complicated, and today it's happening. We will have tougher negotiation, more competition and much lower prices at the pharmacy counter, and it will start to take effect very soon. My administration has already taken significant steps to get drug prices under control. We reformed the drug discount program for safety net hospitals to save senior citizens hundreds of millions of dollars on drugs this year alone. We're also increasing competition and reducing regulatory burdens, so drugs can be gotten to the market quicker and cheaper. We're very much eliminating the middle men. The middle men became very, very rich.

Whoever those middle men were, a lot of people never figured it out, they're rich. They won't be so rich anymore. Last year the FDA approved more than 1,000 low-cost generics, the most in history, which has already saved the American people nearly $9 billion. Thank you, Scott. Next, we're going to take on one of the biggest obstacles to affordable medicine, the tangled web of special interests. Not too many of sitting here today but they used to be here all the time. The drug lobby is making an absolute fortune at the expense of American consumers. No industry spends more money on lobbying than the pharmaceutical health products industry. Last year these companies spent nearly $280 million on lobbyists. That's more than tobacco, oil and defense contractors combined.

Health insurance companies and other providers spent another $200 million to protect the status quo and to keep prices artificially high. And they've been very successful doing it for many, many years. Everyone involved in the broken system, the drug makers, insurance companies, distributors, pharmacy benefit managers and many others contribute to the problem. Government has also been part of the problem because previous leaders turned a blind eye to this incredible abuse.

But under this administration, we are putting American patients first. I've instructed Secretary Azar to derail the gravy train of special interests by ending Obamacare's twisted incentives that actually encourage higher drug prices. It also gives Medicare part d plans new tools to negotiate lower prices for more drugs and make sure that Medicare part d incentives encourage drug companies to keep prices low. There's a big incentive to do that. We are not going to reward companies that constantly raise prices, which in the past has been most companies.

[14:15:00] Frankly, Alex used to run one of them, so nobody knows the system better than Alex. That's what we need. And a very successful one. Our plan will end the dishonest double dealing that allows the middle man to pocket rebates and discounts that should be passed on to consumers and patients. Our plan bans the pharmacist gag rule, which punishes pharmacists for telling patients how to save money. This is a total riff rip off and we are ending it. We're getting tougher or those who exploit the patent system. The patent system will not be used as a shield to protect unfair monopolies.

The FDA will also speed up the approval process for over-the-counter medicines so that patients can get more medicines without prescription. Finally, as we demand fairness for American patients, at home we will also demand fairness overseas. When foreign governments extort unreasonably low prices from U.S. drug makers, Americans have to pay more to subsidize the enormous cost of research and development. In some cases, medicine that costs a few dollars in a foreign country costs hundreds of dollars in America for the same pill with the same ingredients, in the same package made in the same plant, and that is unacceptable. You can look at some of the countries, their medicine is a tiny fraction what the medicine costs in the USA. It's unfair and it's ridiculous and it's not going to happen any longer.

It's time to end the global free loading once and for all. I have directed U.S. Trade Representative Bob Lighthizer to make fixing this injustice a top priority with every trading partner. And we have great power over the trading partners. You're seeing that already. America will not be cheated any longer. And especially will not be cheated by foreign countries. The American people deserve a health care system that takes care of them, not one that taxes and takes advantage of our patients and our consumers and our citizens. These reforms are just the beginning. In the coming weeks, we will come with Congress to pass legislation that will save Americans even more money at the pharmacy. For that we need the help of Congress and we think it will be forthcoming.

We will work every day to ensure all Americans have access to the quality affordable medication they need, and they deserve. And we will not rest until this job of unfair pricing is a total victory for the USA. It will happen and it's going to happen quickly. So, thank you again, everybody in the audience. Thank you, Secretary Azar. I'd like to ask the secretary a very talented man, to come up and do a little explanation because we're going to see those prices go down. It will be a beautiful thing to watch. Thank you. Mr. Secretary.

ALEX AZAR, SECRETARY OF HHS: Thank you very much, Mr. President, for that powerful call to action. I interact with the president about every three days by phone or in person and there has not been one discussion with the president in any circumstance where drug pricing and bringing down drug prices has not been the first and last thing he has mentioned to me.

[14:20:00] You have made it clear how important it is to bring down health care costs for the American people and get better deals on drug pricing in particular. That's why you've made history today, by laying out the most comprehensive action plan for drug affordability of any president in our history. The problem of high prescription drug costs is something that's been talked about in Washington for a long time, but that's all it's been, talk, talk, talk. We're privileged to have a president finally taking action by laying out a blueprint for solving these problems using private sector competition and private sector negotiation. We're not going to propose cheap political gimmicks. The president's blueprint is a sophisticated approach to reforming and improving this unbelievably complex system.

Everybody at HHS is rolling up their sleeves to get to work on this. Let me just give a couple of examples. Think about all the time that everybody spends watching drug company ads on tv and how much information companies are required to put in them. If we want to have a real market for drugs, why not have them disclose their prices in the ads, too. Consumers would have much more balanced information and companies would have a very different set of incentives for setting their prices. We're immediately going to look into having the FDA require this.

President Trump has called for tougher negotiation and better deals so we're going to deliver on that, too. Our blueprint brings the latest negotiation tools to our government programs. It also expands private sectors negotiation to parts of Medicare where right now HHS just gets the bill and we pay it. These are just some of the more than 50 actions that HHS has planned or under consideration in the blueprint for action released today. This is not a one-and-done deal. It is a comprehensive process and as the president said, it will take time to reorder an entire complex, multi-billion-dollar system of our economy.

But we are going to drive real change in this system while continuing to lead the world in innovation and patient access to medicine. So, thank you again, Mr. President, for your vision, your leadership, we're eager to get to work with real competition and with the right incentives, your blueprint is going to finally put American patients first. And at this point, I will be joining Sarah Huckabee Sanders for the press briefing this afternoon able to take questions to provide more detailed information of all of the elements of the president's plan. So, thank you very much.

Thank you. Thank you very much.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, does the White House owe senator McCain an apology, sir?

KEILAR: President Trump there announcing his plan to lower prescription drug prices. I'm joined now by our CNN political director David Chalian and CNN contributor Zeke Emanuel, an Obama White House policy health care adviser. We're going to be hearing more from the HHS secretary. Sounds like he's going to be outlining a lot of things under consideration, not sure if they're going to happen and a former top executive from drug maker Eli Lilly.

Zeke, explain this to us because the president and the things he highlighted, he's talking about the middlemen, right, the folks who in a very nontransparent way negotiate these rebates, these discounts with drug companies that they're not going to make the money that they would. As we understand it, it means that some of the savings there is going to be passed on to the consumer. It doesn't mean it's necessarily going to affect that initial price from the drug manufacturers. He also said generic drugs.

ZEKE EMANUEL, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: You make a very good point. We need to distinguish the drug price --

KEILAR: Jump off on that.

EMANUEL: We need to distinguish the drug price and what the individual who goes to the pharmacy pays. Can you keep the drug price the same and the individual can pay less by, say, having some of that rebate that the pharmacy benefit managers get passed on to the consumer but that does nothing about the drug price and it still remains very high?

KEILAR: Explain, Zeke, why does it matter if the drug price remains high if I'm going to the pharmacy and I'm saying, this is great, I'm paying less for my prescription?

[14:25:00] EMANUEL: Because in point of fact, someone in the system is actually paying those costs and typically those costs are going to be paid for by, say, an insurance company and remember who pays the insurance company. You do in premiums or it's going to be paid for by the government. And who pays for the government side in payment? You do through taxes. So, if you have don't bring drug prices down, you can rearrange the deck a little, which means people who doesn't use a lot of medicines will pay more to pay for Medicare paying more for the drugs, but the person who uses the drug paying less. So, people using a lot of drugs will maybe pay less but the system won't be any better off.

We need to keep our eye on the system as a whole because if prices rise, you're going to pay one way or another, increased premiums, increased taxes, even if the person actually using the drug pays less. The idea of getting more of the rebates passed on to the individuals buying the drug or back to Medicare, who is paying a large portion of the drug, that's going to affect it a little bit.

It's not going to affect it huge, prices a substantial amount. We need also to be clear that these rebates, drug companies can change the rebates and lower the rebates and raise the background prices. It's an important thing to do, I think it's a good thing to do, but it's not a game changer. It's not comprehensive, the word the president used and keeps using in this.

KEILAR: The game changer, David Chalian, was supposed to be what the president promised on the campaign trail, right? He said because the government is really the biggest consumer because of Medicare of prescription drugs in a way, right, that they have so much cloud in order t clout to say we're the biggest customer here, we should be able to negotiate the prices directly. That's what he promised. He said drug makers were getting away with murder here.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: That's not what we're hearing. That was a promise on the campaign trail. Use that Medicare purchase power and get drug companies to lower prices. That's a Democratic proposal. It's not one that his Republican colleagues embraced, and it was one of those moments in the campaign when you thought Donald Trump might be a very different kind of president where he cuts across party lines all the time. It was moments like that that make you think -- but no, he's been much in the Republican mode and doing more base play policy throughout his tenure as president. This would have been a total redefinition of the politics of this issue, but he opted not to go that way. By the way, because some members of his administration and Republicans on capitol hill were really urging not to do that.

KEILAR: And since this was a promise of his and this was supposed to be the game changer, as you say, Zeke, it's important to note hand we know this having -- I certainly know this having covered Obamacare. There are so many stake holders in these negotiations. This idea of prescription drug prices was the big fight was sort of left for another day, even in Obamacare. Explain why this is so tough to do, to be directly negotiating drug prices but also how the president might have been able to navigate this.

EMANUEL: Well, let me make two points. First of all, nothing the president has said is going to lower prices for those people who have private insurance, which is half of the American population who gets their insurance through their employer.

Absolutely nothing he suggested is going to really affect them. So, they're left out in the cold. Second, the president was advised, when I talked to him several times, suggested this should be his leading issue, it's a bipartisan issue, everyone wants drug prices down, but he, as you point out, now over 480 days into his administration finally coming around to actually doing something or making an announcement about this and there's no -- again, I can't tell you how thin this plan is.

It just doesn't seem to be very substantial. I think the major reason is if you're going to bring prices down, you have to confront the drug industry and force them, every country in the world regulates drug prices, forces them to come down. This president seemed to want to do that on the campaign trail, had that intuition and as mentioned, his Republican colleagues don't like that.

The rhetoric is he's taking them on, but the facts are he's not taking them on. You have to do something about the patents, the FDA marketing exclusivity or set a maximum price for drugs, none of which he seems to be willing to do.

KEILAR: He's even by his own admission taking on the middle men in this case. David Chalian is going to stick around with us. Moments from now the White House press briefing will get under way. Now Sarah Palin is reacting to that tasteless comment from a White House aide who was dismissing John McCain's opposition to the CIA pick of president Trump saying, well, you know, he's dying anyway. That was the quote. Also, is the president aware that his personal attorney Michael Cohen was selling advice to companies about how to approach the Trump administration? We're back in a moment.