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Battle Over Obamacare; Obama Rallies Dems: Let GOP Own 'Trumpcare'; Interview With Wisconsin Congressman Sean Duffy; Trump Sides With Assange; Trump Mocks U.S. Intel Ahead of Election Hacking Briefing; Attorney General Protest. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired January 4, 2017 - 18:00   ET



WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: He urges the use of Tea Party tactics and says his party should label whatever Republicans come up with -- quote -- "Trumpcare." Tonight, why Democrats are now saying Congress will -- quote -- "make America sick again."

You're hired. The president-elect appoints fellow reality TV star Omarosa to a key White House position, along with his chief bodyguard and the aide fired by Chris Christie over Bridgegate. Who else will Donald Trump bring with him to the White House?

And under arrest. The head of the NAACP arrested in a sit-in protesting Trump's attorney general nominee, Senator Jeff Sessions. He's denied making racist remarks in the past, allegations an aide calls tired and recycled. NAACP chief Cornell Brooks will join us live to talk about it.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Just two days before Donald Trump is scheduled to be briefed on cyber- attacks targeting the U.S. election, the president-elect is mocking the U.S. intelligence community for concluding that Russia is behind the hacking. Sources tell CNN his Twitter attacks have intelligence officials on edge, with one describing the relationship with Trump as potentially hostile.

Up on Capitol Hill, Republicans have made their first move toward repealing the Affordable Care Act. President Obama was there today rallying fellow Democrats, warning them to let GOP lawmakers go it alone as they seek to replace the law with what Mr. Obama called Trumpcare.

The president-elect Trump has announced a new White House -- several new White House appointees, fellow reality TV star Omarosa Manigault. Trump has named her communications director for the Office of Public Liaison.

During the campaign, she said a Trump victory would be the ultimate revenge and that every critic and detractor would have to -- quote -- "bow down to President Trump." And six people, including the head of the NAACP, were arrested at a sit-in protesting the nomination of Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama to be the next attorney general. The head of the organization, Cornell Brooks, was among those arrested. He will join us live this hour.

Our other guests include Congressman Sean Duffy, a vice chairman of the Trump transition team, and our correspondents and legal analysts are also standing by.

Let's begin with Donald Trump's latest jabs at the U.S. intelligence community.

CNN justice correspondent Pamela Brown has the latest information.

Pamela, Trump's disdain appears to be growing.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: That's right. And because of that, Wolf, U.S. intelligence officials say there's growing dismay and distress in the wake of Donald Trump's latest tweets against the intelligence community.

This growing divide comes just two days before Trump comes face-to- face for the first time with the leaders of the agencies he's been challenging.


BROWN (voice-over): Tonight, president-elect Trump escalating his ongoing battle with the U.S. intelligence community, tweeting just days before the high-profile briefing "The 'intelligence briefing' on so-called 'Russian hacking' was delayed until Friday. Perhaps more time needed to build a case. Very strange."

Intelligence officials are pushing back, denying there was ever a delay in the briefing, and that it was always scheduled for Friday. Trump also siding with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, a man wanted by the U.S. for leaking classified information who in an interview with FOX News denied Russia had anything to do with handing over the stolen documents from the DNC and Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta.

JULIAN ASSANGE, FOUNDER, WIKILEAKS: We have said, repeatedly over the last two months that our source is not the Russian government and it is not a state party.

BROWN: Trump tweeting: "Julian Assange said a 14-year-old could have hacked Podesta. Why was DNC so careless? Also Russia said did not give him the info."

On Capitol Hill today, vice president-elect Mike Pence defended Trump's skepticism.

MIKE PENCE (R), VICE PRESIDENT-ELECT: The president-elect has expressed his very sincere and healthy American skepticism about intelligence conclusions. But we're going to sit down later this week.

BROWN: U.S. officials tell CNN Trump's continued public attacks are hurting morale in the intelligence community, with one official saying, "It's a sad day when politicians put more stock in Vladimir Putin and Julian Assange over the Americans who risk their lives providing objective nonpartisan intelligence analysis."

CNN has learned Trump has already been briefed by intelligence officials on the Russian hacks, but that the comprehensive report due this week will provide a fuller picture of why the U.S. is putting the blame on Russia.

JOHN BRENNAN, CIA DIRECTOR: I would suggest to individuals who have not yet seen the report, who have not yet been briefed on it, that they wait and see what it is that the intelligence community is putting forward before they make those judgments.



BROWN: So, as we see publicly, Donald Trump has been badgering the intelligence community over the Russia hacks. But behind the scenes at intelligence briefings, sources tell me Trump is, for the most part, polite, professional, and deferential.

So there seems, Wolf, to be a big difference between the way he treats the intelligence community publicly vs. privately -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Interesting. Very interesting indeed.

Pamela, thanks very much, Pamela Brown reporting.

Our senior White House correspondent, Jim Acosta, is digging deeper for us. He's over at Trump Tower in New York City.

Jim, what are you picking up?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the Trump transition team is not backing away from that tweet from the president-elect earlier today that appeared to put more stock in WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange than the intelligence community when it comes to Russian hacking in the 2016 election.

Now, trying to explain that, the incoming White House President Secretary Sean Spicer told reporters Trump trusts the data coming into the intelligence community more than the analysis of that data coming from the intelligence agencies.

Contrast that with vice president-elect Mike Pence. I was told by a transition source earlier today that Mike Pence -- quote -- "has a lot of faith" in the intelligence community and that he is still receiving his intelligence briefings nearly every day. Contrast that with Donald Trump who is not doing it as much as that, Wolf.

But one potential development that might bridge that divide, I'm told by a source familiar with transition discussions that Indiana Senator Dan Coats, who is close to Mike Pence, is now a front-runner for the position of director of national intelligence, Wolf. If Trump can trust Mike Pence, perhaps he can trust Dan Coats.

BLITZER: Very interesting indeed. Trump also announced an additional wave of White House staff positions. What can you tell us about that?

ACOSTA: That's right, Wolf. Not too surprising. We saw former RNC staffers and campaign staffers coming over to the White House. But one name that did stand out is Omarosa Manigault. She's a former contestant on Donald Trump's hit reality TV show "The Apprentice."

She was convening a big meeting today among civil rights leaders. She will have a visible role over at the White House. But consider this, Wolf, back during the campaign, Omarosa warned people, warned those never-Trumpers out there that they will have to bow down to Donald Trump if he's elected president. Here is what she had to say.


OMAROSA MANIGAULT, FORMER CONTESTANT ON "THE APPRENTICE": Every critic, every detractor will have to bow down to President Trump. It's everyone who has ever doubted Donald, who ever disagreed, who ever challenged him. It is the ultimate revenge to become the most powerful man in the universe.


ACOSTA: Now, Manigault went on to say later on that she was only speaking for herself and not Donald Trump.

Meanwhile, there are other interesting staffing changes to point out, Wolf. Bill Stepien, who was an ex-aide to former -- I should say the current New Jersey governor, Chris Christie, he's going to be the White House political director.

Keep in mind Christie fired Stepien over his role in the Bridgegate scandal, but he will have the high-profile job of political director over at the White House. And Keith Schiller, who is the director of security operations for the Trump Organization, he is going to be also coming over to the White House, Wolf.

Why is that move important? It paves the way for the U.S. Secret Service to have full control over Donald Trump's protection. That was a question that was out there heading into Inauguration Day, Wolf.

BLITZER: He will be the director of Oval Office operations.

But it's interesting. As you point out, Stepien gets a job in the White House, the political director, Chris Christie, not so much.

ACOSTA: He has not.

BLITZER: He hasn't received a job in the Trump administration. Very interesting indeed, Jim Acosta over at Trump Tower. Let's get some more on all of this. The vice chairman of the Trump

transition team is joining us. We're talking about Republican Congressman Sean Duffy of Wisconsin.

Thanks so much, Congressman, for joining us.

REP. SEAN DUFFY (R), WISCONSIN: Good to be with you, Wolf. Thank you for having me.

BLITZER: Let's talk a little bit about this uproar over Julian Assange. The president-elect is quoting him, citing him, suggesting he's a credible source out there. And it's really angering officials in the U.S. intelligence community, who basically see this guy as someone who is not good for the United States, to put it bluntly.

DUFFY: I think they're right. Assange is...

BLITZER: Who is right?

DUFFY: The intelligence community.

Assange is not a good guy. He's not an ally and a friend to the United States of America. WikiLeaks has released top-secret information, very sensitive documents that have endangered our assets and our interests around the world.

So if he was a friend and an ally, he wouldn't release this information. Now, with that said, I think it's important to look at what information does Julian Assange have in regard to the leaks that he put out with regards to the DNC and John Podesta?

BLITZER: but do you believe him when he says Russia had nothing to do with those leaks? Do you believe Julian Assange? Is he credible in your mind?

DUFFY: You know what? I want to see what information he has. But, again, I think...

BLITZER: You want to see what information Julian Assange has?


DUFFY: Julian Assange.

I think what is important is we look at all the information. One of my concerns with the way this thing has been handled is that the intelligence community has been leaking information to you and the rest of the press.

Devin Nunes, the chairman of the House Intelligence community (sic), has as much information as you do, Wolf. That's a problem.


BLITZER: Trust me, he has got a lot more than I do. DUFFY: Not on this situation. He doesn't, because traditionally the

intelligence community partners with the congressional Intelligence Committees. That hasn't happened.

BLITZER: The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiff, and Devin Nunes and the Senate, the chairman and vice chairman, they have been well briefed by the intelligence community on this Russian hack.

DUFFY: They will tell you they haven't. And the information that they have -- the intelligence community, as you know, were offered to come in and give them a private briefing in regard to the information that the intelligence community has gathered with regard to Russian hacking and they said we would only release that after the report comes out publicly.

Why won't they brief the intelligence community...


BLITZER: They haven't they given him all the information, Congressman, on what they will provide to Donald Trump on Friday when they go up to New York and brief him, what they're going to present in the final report to President Obama, but they have given him a whole bunch of information, maybe just short of the final report.

DUFFY: I guess I would say the information I have through our House Intelligence Committee is different than that.

They feel they're like in the dark. And this should have been a holding hand investigation. And if you don't hold hands with the Congress, it can reek of politics. So, that is the concern when you don't have all parties and all parties involved in this investigation.

With that said, listen, I err on the side of our intelligence community. These are reputable, good people that do good investigations. Whether you're a Republican or Democrat, you're American. And if anyone hacks any of our systems or any of our elections, all of us stand together and push back on that entity or that country.

Whether it's Russia or China, we have zero tolerance for anybody who engages in this kind of sour behavior.

BLITZER: There's a report just posted in "The Wall Street Journal" Web site suggesting that Donald Trump wants to revamp the intelligence community, the CIA, the director of national intelligence.

He has got some major shifts, get people out of Virginia, for example, over at CIA headquarters, get them out into the field. I don't know it if you have read that report yet.

DUFFY: I haven't seen that report. But, listen, in today's world, intelligence is so critical in the way we fight radical Islamic terrorism or we set up our defenses against whether it's Russia, Iran, China. Intelligence is key to all of this and making sure it's fully operational is critical to our defense.

BLITZER: You think there's a need to shrink the intelligence community?

DUFFY: No, I think we need to grow the intelligence community. I think we need more assets on the ground and more money going in to grow our intelligence community if we're going to keep America safe.

BLITZER: Listen to what Trump said about WikiLeaks, those involved in WikiLeaks back in 2010. Listen to this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's going to talk about WikiLeaks. You had nothing to do with the WikiLeaks. You do think it's disgraceful?

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT-ELECT: I think there should be like a death penalty or something.


BLITZER: If you didn't hear what he said, "I think there should be like the death penalty or something for them," those involved in WikiLeaks.

But now you saw that tweet where he's citing Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, and giving him some credibility.

DUFFY: We have to be very cautious as we navigate these kind of situations.

Just because Assange has come out and released information again on the DNC that embarrassed the DNC, they partnered with Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders. That made a lot of Democrats angry. We saw the internal turmoil within the Hillary Clinton campaign from the e-mails that came out from her campaign chairman.

But the bottom line is we are all Americans. And when you hack Democrats one day, it might be Republicans the other day. If you hack OPM, Office of Personnel Management, and release congressional information or the security clearances of American assets...


BLITZER: The Chinese did that one.

DUFFY: That's right.

That is a huge problem. We can't say just because today it might benefit Republicans that it's good. This is always bad because it will come full circle and impact every single American.

WikiLeaks, again, is no friend to Mr. Trump, to you, to me, or any American. They do what's best for WikiLeaks and Julian Assange, who, by the way, is an accused sexual assailant and is wanted and that's why he's held up in the embassy in London. BLITZER: Yes. You make excellent points. But Donald Trump himself

during the campaign praised WikiLeaks for releasing all of that information that was so awkward, embarrassing to the Democrats.

DUFFY: Here is the key.

He is going to get a briefing later this week. Let him sit down with the intelligence community. Let them show what they have. Mr. Trump might have additional information which is causing him to put out some of these tweets and maybe have some concern about the public -- the leaked reports that have come out from the intelligence community.

This is all going to air out. But I do think all of us as Americans should have concern when you have this kind of investigation and we're having leaks from our own intelligence community.


Listen, they have to be more professional than that. That we're going on half-truths or half-information is not the right way that you should be reporting or I should be analyzing this information.

The Congress, we should all be waiting until the report comes out, and that's not what's happening in this set of circumstances.

BLITZER: There was a joint statement in early October, before the election, from the Department of Homeland Security, the director of national intelligence, that concluded -- and I will read a couple sentences to you -- the U.S. intelligence community is confident the Russian government directed the recent compromises of e-mails from U.S. persons and institutions, including from U.S. political organizations, referring to the DNC and the Clinton campaign.

"We believe based on the scope and sensitivity of these efforts that only Russia's senior most officials could have authorized these activities."

And that was an official public statement released. It was not a leak.

DUFFY: Right. So two points.

One, I think if you look at the kind of leak that took place with John Podesta's e-mail, it was very simplistic. Mr. Trump I think said a 14-year-old in his own basement could do that. The information that we have is that, yes, it was not very complicated.


BLITZER: But the intelligence community isn't leaking this. The intelligence community issued this in a direct public statement to the news media, and the news media released it on October 7.

DUFFY: But, again, in regard to the details of what's taking place inside this investigation and the analysis they have done on the data that they have that they have given to you was my earlier point and we might have a disagreement on this.


BLITZER: There have been other leaks.


BLITZER: But do you agree with this assessment of the U.S. intelligence community?

DUFFY: I haven't seen this, Wolf.

BLITZER: The October 7 statement, the one I just read to you.

DUFFY: If I'm going to agree with their statement, I should see the information.

Do I think that they put out that statement? Absolutely. Have I seen that evidence on which they based that statement or that conclusion? I haven't. And I think all of us should have an opportunity in Congress and specifically the intelligence community to look at the data and see the connection between the data and the conclusion. I haven't seen that yet. But I'll tell you. I do trust my intelligence community and I hope they wouldn't be misguiding us and that that is actually accurate.

BLITZER: Yes, but when they issue a statement like this saying they are confident that the Russian government did all of this...

DUFFY: But you know they were asked to come in and do a briefing to the House Intelligence Committee, and they declined to come in and do that.


BLITZER: Well, they wanted to finish the formal report, which apparently is now complete. They will testify, by the way, tomorrow before the Senate Armed Services Committee. It's a public session.

DUFFY: Right. But if you're going to put a statement out like this, why not give the intelligence community the opportunity to see all the data?

This is top-secret stuff. The intelligence community, Devin Nunes gets all kinds of information that you and I don't see. And they keep it very secret. They should be able to see that information if they're willing to put out those kinds of reports. And that's why this has been a head-scratcher for so many people.

BLITZER: The only thing I can tell you is they say they brief as much as they possibly could Devin Nunes, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, and Adam Schiff, as well as Richard Burr, the Republican chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and the ranking Democrat, who was Dianne Feinstein. It's now Mark Warner.

DUFFY: I would just say I don't think the intelligence community in the House feels that way, that they don't have all the information. And, again, these...

BLITZER: They don't have all the information, but they have got a lot.

DUFFY: Wolf, these investigations traditionally happen in conjunction, intelligence community with the intelligent House committees. They work together. Why in this situation are they doing it...


BLITZER: I will point out, as someone who has covered the intelligence community for a long time, very often, if it's really sensitive information, and they don't want to compromise sources and methods, classified information, they will just brief the chairman, the ranking member. They won't brief the whole committee because it's supposedly all that sensitive.

DUFFY: But then you can say we will give a partial briefing to the committee. If we're willing to put out this information in a public statement, we should have actually some form of a private briefing with the Intelligence Committee.

They can say we're not going to give you all of it, but we're going to sit down and talk about what we have and what we think we can trust you with. They refused to do that. And that is the concern of the House.

But I don't want to you walk away -- I trust our intelligence community. We have great people who are working for us. But I think this has been handled ineffectively and puts a cloud over the investigation because of who got what information and when.

BLITZER: All right. You make some fine points.

Sean Duffy, the congressman, is going to stay with us. You're not leaving. We have got more to discuss, including the latest battle that is now brewing over the future of Obamacare. Stay with us. We will be right back.



BLITZER: We're back with the vice chairman of the Trump transition team, Republican Congressman Sean Duffy of Wisconsin. We want to talk to him about President Obama's warning to congressional Democrats today about what he's calling Trumpcare.

But first let's get details from our White House correspondent, Michelle Kosinski.

Michelle, the president went to Capitol Hill to rally fellow Democrats. How did it go?

MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this is extraordinary and you feel the urgency here.

Here you have a president with days left in office, his administration winding down, but him now very much gearing up Democrats for this fight in Congress to try to save Obamacare and, of course, his legacy.


KOSINSKI (voice-over): President Obama on Capitol Hill today, urging Democrats to battle with all they have got against Republican plans to gut his signature law, Obamacare.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you. Look out for the American people.

KOSINSKI: Democrats don't have the votes to block Republicans, so his message, to avoid "rescuing them," helping them craft their replacement.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: The president asked us, are you ready? Do you have the fight in you? He didn't need to ask us that question.

KOSINSKI: He spurred Democrats to use tactics like the Tea Party did in opposing Obamacare, to go out to town halls, tell the stories of their millions of constituents who have benefited from the plan, as well as hold Republicans accountable for what they come up with. The president saying Democrats ought to start calling it Trumpcare.


SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), MINORITY LEADER: They want to repeal it and then try to hang it on us. Not going to happen. It's their responsibility, plain and simple.

The Republican plan to cut health care wouldn't make America great again. It would make America sick again and lead to chaos.

KOSINSKI: At virtually the same time, Republicans also girding for this epic fight led by vice president-elect Mike Pence, a meeting described by attendees as more pep rally than policy discussion.

MIKE PENCE (R), VICE PRESIDENT-ELECT: The promises of Obamacare have all been proven to be false. If you like your doctor, you can keep it. Not true. If you like your health insurance, you can keep it. Not true.

REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: This law has failed. Americans are struggling.

KOSINSKI: The president-elect also jumping into the debate in a series of tweets seeming to warn Republicans not to work too closely with Democrats. "Dems own the failed Obamacare disaster with its poor coverage and massive premium increases. It will fall of its own weight. Be careful."

The White House today hammered Republicans for not yet presenting a replacement plan and for their ideas so far projected by the Congressional Budget Office to potentially add trillions to the deficit over time, making it clear Democrats should not negotiate with them unless they don't repeal Obamacare.

JOSH EARNEST, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The Republican ideas are actually bad for people, they're bad for the economy, they're bad for small businesses. They have bad ideas.


KOSINSKI: At one point, President Obama today told lawmakers that he envied them, that they will still be on the field to fight for this while he's a private citizen.

What the White House wants to project now is confidence, repeatedly saying today they think Democrats will win this fight based on the number of Americans who have already benefited from Obamacare. However, the long list of votes that it will take to repeal it have already begun. There was a vote that passed today in the Senate.

And Mike Pence said that Donald Trump will take executive action affecting Obamacare literally on day one, Wolf.

BLITZER: We will see what happens on January 20. Michelle, you thank you, Michelle Kosinski over at the White House.

We're back with Republican Congressman Sean Duffy of Wisconsin.

You have been fighting Obamacare for seven years, Republicans, not just you. You're ready to repeal it. You have the votes in the House and the Senate. You have a president who is ready to sign that legislation into law.

But where is the replacement plan? Why isn't there something ready to go on day one? You have had seven years to think about it. Day one, legislation to replace it with a specific plan.

DUFFY: I think we have to just back up a second and I'll answer your question.

But, first of all, why are we repealing Obamacare? And I think, like Mike Pence just said, it hasn't worked for the American people. It was based on a lie. The promise that was made from Barack Obama that if you pass Obamacare, it's going to lower...


BLITZER: But millions of people love it.

DUFFY: Hold on.

BLITZER: Who never had insurance and now have insurance, 20 million who have insurance who say it's worked.

DUFFY: I'll get to that, too. But there's 350 million people in America. If you carve out 20

million, there are a lot of people who have been hurt by this law. The promise, though, Wolf, was we will drop premiums for a family of four by $2,500. If you like your doctor, you can keep it. If you like your health care plan, you can keep it. All of that was a lie.

America was mad when Nancy Pelosi stood up and said you have to pass this bill to find out what is in it. If you're going to redo health care, which we are, you want to have a great American conversation. Americans should see, what does patient-centered health care look like? They should have hearings. They should be able to come to town halls.


BLITZER: Is that what you're saying, you're going to have hearings. That is going to go on for a year or two?

DUFFY: No. So, what we're going to do is, we're going to repeal Obamacare.

BLITZER: Without a replacement plan ready to go?

DUFFY: With an effective date in the future.

BLITZER: What does that mean? What does that mean?

DUFFY: We're going to repeal hopefully by the 20th of February. Right?

BLITZER: So a month after the president is sworn in.

DUFFY: That's right.

But the effective date of that repeal will be some point into the future, so we can...

BLITZER: A year down the road or two years down the road?

DUFFY: It could be eight months or it could be a year.

I would hope that we do it by the end of 2017, in the next year, we get it done. But then you have a time frame to have a conversation about getting the best policy in, having a conversation with the American people.

If Democrats want, they have an open door to come in and talk about their best ideas, so we have an American health care reform package, as opposed to what Obamacare was, which was just a Democrat health care reform package.

If they want to take the opportunity, we can all have this conversation to make health care work for the American people, drive down prices, offer more choices, and let you be in charge, instead of bureaucrats in Washington. BLITZER: You're a vice chair of the Trump transition. So, what I

hear you saying is, by February 20, a month into the new administration, it will be repealed in the House and the Senate, the president will sign that piece of legislation into law, that piece of legislation will then say a new plan will be ready to go by the end of the year.

DUFFY: The effective date of the repeal will be a point in the future. So that gives us time to work on...

BLITZER: But, for the meantime, throughout this year, Obamacare stays in business?

DUFFY: That's right.

And what we have to do, Wolf, is make sure we're taking care of people who we just mentioned there's -- whether it's 20 million or 18 million people who now have coverage, we want to make sure people still have coverage.

People who are sick that would in the old system have a hard time getting coverage if you have a preexisting condition, we want you to be able to get coverage.

[18:30:11] In Wisconsin we had a great system, high-risk pools, that worked. We want to make sure we take care of people, as Mr. Trump said and Mr. Ryan said. You don't want to pull the rug out from under people and their healthcare, but we also have to fix it.

We have run, as you mentioned, for six years, seven years on Obamacare, and we have decimated Democrats. America doesn't like this bill. Ask Hillary Clinton. Ask Russ Feingold, who ran in Wisconsin. They lost because of the Affordable Care Act and how it's punished people.

In my district, I have a rural set of counties. They have one choice for healthcare. This isn't working for them. So let's come together as Americans. We don't have to just say Obamacare is the only way you can do it if it's not working for people. Let's take the good. But let's look at the bad and the ugly and fix that.

BLITZER: But can't you just take -- take the law as it is right now, Obamacare, and fix it, make it better without repealing it?

DUFFY: Well, I think it's so dysfunctional, I think -- I think the better pathway is to say let's take the better options and items out of the Affordable Care Act, the things that actually work for people, and we can plug that into a new bill.

But if you have a healthcare plan that empowers bureaucrats over your health care, that's different than you and your family being in charge of your healthcare. So you might have to scrap the way the system is set up, but take the best principles and plug them into the new plan.

I hope the Democrats will join Republicans, and we can work together on this. What I've heard from your interviews is it doesn't seem like they're going to help fix healthcare. They're going to play politics with it, which I think is too bad.

BLITZER: You heard Chuck Schumer, what he had to say...

DUFFY: I did.

BLITZER: ... the Democratic leader in the Senate. Sean Duffy, thanks for coming in.

DUFFY: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: Just ahead, more on Donald Trump's attacks on the U.S. intelligence community: why top officials are on edge. And I'll talk to the head of the NAACP about his arrest while protesting Donald Trump's attorney-general nominee.


[18:36:29] BLITZER: Sources tell CNN U.S. intelligence officials are now on edge over President-elect Donald Trump's public attacks. Trump continues to cast doubt on the intelligence community's conclusion that Russia was behind cyber meddling in the presidential campaign.

Today he tweeted this: "The 'intelligence'" -- in quotes -- "briefing on so-called 'Russian hacking'" -- that's also in quotes -- "was delayed until Friday. Perhaps more time needed to build a case. Very strange."

In another tweet he sided with the founder of WikiLeaks, writing this: "Julian Assange said a 14-year-old could have hacked Podesta. Why was DNC so careless? Also said Russians did not give him the info."

Let's get some more with our experts. I want to start with Phil Mudd.

Phil, these tweets, what's the impact they're having on career professionals over, for example, in the CIA where you used to work and the FBI where you also worked?

PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: Boy, this is painful, Wolf. I think the president-elect is half right. He has not only the right but the responsibility to question intelligence professionals. He's right in pointing out that there have been some mistakes over the years that had profound implications for American security, including Iraq WMD, including assessing the rise of ISIS, including looking at the Arab Spring after 2011.

But the substance of his comments are different from the style. I grew up with a generation of people who were with Reagan, with Bush, with Clinton, with the second Bush, with Obama, now going in with President Trump. We lost officers in murders by Lebanese Hezbollah in the 1980s and in killings by al Qaeda in the 2000s, and this is the thanks you get. This is it.

Let me tell you something, Wolf. Melania Trump said to CNN, "I live with two boys sometimes." My hope is that she's not referring to two boys who are now moving to the White House. Unacceptable. He can question the intelligence. He cannot humiliate the people who've offered their lives to collect that intelligence. That's it, Wolf.

BLITZER: He's going to be briefed, Gloria Borger, on Friday by the leaders of the intelligence community, including James Comey of the FBI; and General Clapper of -- the director of national intelligence; Brennan of the CIA; all sorts of others. It's a major report that they've just concluded. Do you think that and public pressure will convince him to change his public statements?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, I do not know what convinces Donald Trump to do anything: to tweet or to question this in the first place.

What I do think he's going to have to do is, once this declassified report is made public, he will have to defend his stance. He will have to say, "This is why I believe what I believe, and this is why I believe that our intelligence officials are wrong." And then he might have to tell us who he's listening to, if he's not listening to the people, as Phil Mudd talks about, who put their lives on the line every day to do this.

They are -- they make mistakes. We all understand that. But you have 12 agencies now coming to the same conclusion.

Let's just say that we take the election result out of it, and this is not about delegitimizing, in any way, shape or form, Donald Trump's victory. This is about national security. Maybe that's the way everyone can start looking at it.

BLITZER: Ana Navarro, you know, Republicans, especially the national security experts, among the Republicans, they've long considered Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, to be an enemy of the United States for the information he's disclosed undermining U.S. national security.

[18:40:09] Are you surprised to see some of these Republicans now actually going out there and defending WikiLeaks and Julian Assange?

ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I'm surprised. I'm shocked. I'm saddened. I'm appalled. And I'm embarrassed for them and for our party.

I am old enough to remember when Republicans knew that Putin is a thug, and when Republicans knew that Assange is a treasonous person who put national security at risk.

I recommend that the president-elect go to the headquarter in Langley, take a look at the wall that marks and commemorates every death. Many of them died defending our country anonymously. There are stars there marking their deaths, because their names can't be revealed. This is just -- you know, this is unacceptable.

If you want to question the intelligence, he has every right, but do it behind closed doors. Do not do it in public. Do not have this spectacle.

And to my Republican brethren and the elected officials, I say speak up, because this is going to be on you. You cannot stay quiet. You can't be a rubber stamp. You can't look the other way.

I am thankful for Lindsey Graham, for John McCain, for their leadership and others on this issue. We've got to go back to being the soul of the Republican Party and remembering that we respect those people who put their lives on the line for the security of our country.

BLITZER: Let me let Phil Mudd just weigh in on those points. Go ahead, Phil.

MUDD: Let me say something, Wolf. This is not about Democrats and Republicans.

Back in 2002 and 2003, we were grilled -- and I was there among them -- grilled by a Republican White House about information on Saddam and WMD, and Saddam and al Qaeda. We were never humiliated.

It is OK to grill the intelligence committee -- community. It is not OK to rub people's noses in the dirt, because you want to improve relationships with the Russians and because you want to protect a voting situation where you believe people are questioning whether you're the true president. The intelligence community had nothing to do with that.

I've had it with the -- with the failure to distinguish the right to question and the right to humiliate. They are not the same.

BLITZER: Everybody stick around. Stand by. There's much more coming up. We've got to take a quick break. We'll be right back.


[18:46:58] BLITZER: Congressional Republicans make their first move towards repealing Obamacare. The Senate voted 51-48 on a procedural motion to start debate on a budget resolution that could result in the overhauling of the Affordable Care Act, Obamacare.

Rebecca Berg, the president was up on Capitol Hill, President Obama, today, telling his fellow Democrats, you know what, the Republicans just go ahead and repeal it. Don't rescue them by getting involved in trying to replace it. Let the Republicans do this on their own. They will fail.

REBECCA BERG, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: That's right. And so, clearly, Democrats are now playing a political game. They no longer have a majority in the Senate, obviously, no longer have the White House, and it's a little bit cynical. This is a big part of why the American people have lost a lot of faith in Congress because they see both parties to an extent playing these political games, using issues like health care as a political wedge to help them in the elections to come.

And that's exactly what Democrats are looking at right now. If Republicans and Donald Trump do not deliver for Americans in the next couple of years, Democrats could have a big upside in 2018 even though the Senate map is going to be very difficult and, of course, in 2020. So, that is what they're looking at right now.

BLITZER: Excellent points. But how worried should Republicans be, Ana, that if they don't come up with a plan, this all could backfire big time on them?

NAVARRO: I think they should be worried. I think it's a double-edged sword. But, look, Wolf, Republicans have been promising the repeal of Obamacare since it was passed. The House of Representatives has passed that repeal. I don't know how many times, probably 352 now.

So now that they've got both houses of Congress and the presidency, there's just no excuse not to do it politically. It is something the base would not accept.

Having said that, I think they have to learn from the mistakes Democrats make. When the Democrats went unilateral on health care, bad things happened.

This is too complex an issue to play politics. I think President Obama is giving the wrong advice to Democrats. They should figure out a way to work with Republicans because --


BLITZER: He says they shouldn't work with Republicans if they repeal it. If they simply move to improve it, yes. But after repealing, forget about it.

NAVARRO: This is about people's lives. You know, we can't play politics with this. It affects people in the most basic of ways, their health.

BORGER: Well, they're going to have to figure out a way that they can help people in any way, shape, or form. If the Republicans have the majority, that's it. If they can repeal it, the question is, what do they replace it with? And that's going to be a long process.

And the question is, can you keep people from losing whatever benefits they have right now that they would lose or health care that they would lose in the interim, when you come up with a new plan, and that's where I think the Democrats can stake some ground here and say, we're not going to let you lose this. We're going to help with what we can even if Chuck Schumer, even if Chuck Schumer says don't do anything, they've all got constituents.

And it is about elections but it is about lives.

BERG: And, frankly, I mean, Republicans don't have 60 votes in the Senate. And there will have to be some measure of collaborations.

BORGER: Right. And Republicans have constituents, too.

BERG: That's right.

BORGER: And some of their constituents like a lot of Obamacare. So, they're going to have to figure out a way to deal with it. NAVARRO: And Republicans know a lot of Democrats lost their seats

over Obamacare.

BORGER: Exactly.

BLITZER: The battle is only just beginning. Stand by.

Just ahead, the NAACP President Cornell William Brooks arrested while protesting Donald Trump's attorney general nominee. Cornell William Brooks, he's here in THE SITUATION ROOM. We're going to talk about it.


BLITZER: Six people were arrested in a sit-in protesting Donald Trump's nomination, Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama, to be the next attorney general of the United States.

[18:55:08] Sessions' nominations to the federal bench 30 years ago was derailed by allegations he had made racist remarks which Sessions denied.

The president and CEO of the NAACP, Cornell William Brooks, was among those arrested at Sessions' office in Mobile, Alabama. He's here in THE SITUATION ROOM with us right now.

Cornell, thanks very much for coming in.


BLITZER: So, explain what happened.

BROOKS: So, we went to the office of Senator Sessions in Mobile, Alabama. We entered his office and spoke to his staff and made clear to them that we had two demands. Number one, based upon the record, based upon what Senator Sessions has done as a prosecutor, as a legislator, as an attorney general, as a U.S. district attorney, and as a United States senator, that he withdraw his name from consideration as nomination as the U.S. attorney general of the United States.

Number two, in the alternative that the president withdraw his name based upon a long record of failing to acknowledge the reality of voter suppression while mouthing a faith in voter fraud, and his consistently failing grade with respect to civil rights more broadly. We articulated those demands. We sat in all day. We're unable to speak to the senator or any of his senior staff, and we declined to leave at the end of the day.

At that point, the building manager asked us to leave. We politely refused to leave. They called the police. They handcuffed us, put us in police vans, took us to the precinct, then to central booking, put us in a holding cell, fingerprinted us, palm printed us, patted us down pretty thoroughly and --

BLITZER: We're showing a picture of your mug shot. BROOKS: Yes, and made it clear that we had to show up on January 30th

or we risk having -- being subject to a warrant for our arrest.

So, it's serious. We were charged with criminal trespass. But we have to be clear about this. We broke the law that we might have an attorney general who's willing to enforce the law for all people across the country. That is to say to enforce all of the laws. Most particularly the Voting Rights Act.

BLITZER: A spokeswoman for Senator Sessions put out this statement saying, "These false portrayals of Senator Sessions will fail as tired, recycled, hyperbolic charges that have been thoroughly rebuked and discredited."

That was the statement that they issued in response to what you and your NAACP colleagues were doing.

BROOKS: So, make no mistake: we're not attacking the senator personally. What we are doing is pointing to a record. So, not only 30 years ago did the senator make racially offensive statements about the NAACP, about the ACLU --

BLITZER: Which he denies.

BROOKS: But, yes, we have Senate testimony to the contrary.

But in addition to that, we have a long-standing record extending across decades that substantiates documents and continues what we saw in 1986. That is to say he has supported -- I should say stood against immigration rights reform. He has expressed support for voter ID laws, which the Fourth Circuit and Fifth Circuit have held to be unconstitutional, in his home state of Alabama.

The one state -- I should say, the one case of voting rights that he's prosecuted, he prosecuted three civil rights activists.

BLITZER: Today, one of your senior vice presidents, Hilary Shelton, attended a meeting with Omarosa Manigault, working with the Donald Trump transition, a listening session as it was called representing the NAACP. What have you heard about that?

BROOKS: So, it was a meeting of 100 or so people. It was described as a listening meeting. But note this -- we appreciate the Trump administration listening at the meeting. We encourage people to -- we encourage the administration elect to listen to the country. That is to say, to reject Senator Sessions as attorney general, because the fact of the matter is, listening to the sweep of history, the chorus of the last several decades, we're not going back.

BLITZER: So, you'll go back to Alabama on January 30th and I assume you plead guilty?

BROOKS: I will plead guilty and we will suffer the consequences, pay the fine, or go to jail, because we're very clear about this. People lost their lives for the right to vote. And this is not the last step but the fist step, continuing step of opposition. BLITZER: Cornell William Brooks of the NAACP, thanks for coming in.

BROOKS: Thank you.

BLITZER: Appreciate it very much.

And to our viewers, important note, stay with CNN for two very important upcoming town halls, Vermont senator, former Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders takes questions from a live audience Monday night with our own Chris Cuomo moderating. And House Speaker Paul Ryan will join our Jake Tapper for a town hall next Thursday night, two must-see specials, only here on CNN, 9:00 p.m. Eastern.

That's it for me. Thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.