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Congress Approves First Step to Repeal Obamacare; Sasha & Malia Obama Get Advice from the Bush Daughters; Interview With California Congressman Darrell Issa; Trump and Russia; Republicans on Track to Repeal Obamacare. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired January 13, 2017 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: And first daughters. After growing up in the White House, Sasha and Malia Obama are getting tips on life in the real world from two sisters who understand very much what it's like. We will look at the moving message from Jenna and Barbara Bush just days before the Obama family's big move.
We want to welcome our viewers here in the United States and around the world. Wolf Blitzer is off today. I'm Jim Sciutto, and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
SCIUTTO: The breaking news this hour, Congress takes the first step towards repealing President Obama's signature health care law, the Republican-led House joining the Senate in approving the resolution that will begin that process. Stand by for more details on that vote next and what will follow Obamacare.
Also tonight, newly revealed contact between the Trump camp and Russia, the transition team confirming that incoming national security adviser General Michael Flynn spoke with Moscow's ambassador to the U.S. just last month, their conversation happening the very same day as the Obama administration was announcing sanctions for Russia's election meddling.
Transition officials say that Flynn and the ambassador discussed logistics for a post-inauguration phone call between Trump and Vladimir Putin, not those sanctions. The president-elect now is promising that his team will conduct its own report on Russian hacking and complete that report within 90 days.
Trump showing more hostility towards the U.S. intelligence community in a new tweet blasting the leak of unsubstantiated claims that Russia has compromising information about him.
Tonight, a Democratic lawmaker and civil rights icon suggesting that Trump's election is not valid because of that Russian interference. Congressman John Lewis revealing in an interview that he will not see Trump as a legitimate president.
We are going to talk about Trump, Russia and more with a leading Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Darrell Issa. He's right here standing by, along with our correspondents and analysts, as we bring you full coverage of today's top stories.
First, though, to CNN political reporter Sara Murray.
Another busy day certainly for the president-elect behind the scenes and on Twitter.
SARA MURRAY, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: You're absolutely right, Jim.
A week from today, Donald Trump is going to take the oath of office and it will be a very, very busy week between now and then. It's a jampacked schedule for his Cabinet nominee to go through their confirmation hearings.
But Donald Trump's focus appeared to be elsewhere today as he took to Twitter to take shots not only at the U.S. intelligence community, but also his former presidential rival, Hillary Clinton.
MURRAY (voice-over): Today, Donald Trump is capping off a fiery week with an early morning Twitter tirade.
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT-ELECT: It's all fake news. It's phony stuff. It didn't happen.
MURRAY: The president-elect still stewing over allegations that Russian operatives claim to have compromising information on him. CNN isn't reporting the details of those allegations because it has not independently confirmed them.
But Trump took to Twitter to call the allegations "totally made up facts by sleazebag political operatives, both Democrats and Republicans. Fake news. Russia says nothing exists. Probably released by intelligence even knowing there is no proof and never will be."
Trump's latest swipe at U.S. intelligence agencies coming after the director of national intelligence, James Clapper, said he assured Trump the intelligence community wasn't the source for the dossier outlining unsubstantiated allegations against the president-elect.
As Trump publicly feuds with the intelligence community, privately, his top advisers have done their own Russian outreach. Trump's team confirming today that Michael Flynn, Trump's pick for national security adviser, recently exchanged calls and texts with the Russian ambassador. Their goal, according to the Trump transition, was simply to arrange a chat between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Trump once he's in the White House.
Meanwhile, the Twitter aficionado is also aiming his fire at Hillary Clinton. Trump tweeting: "What are Hillary Clinton's people complaining about with respect to the FBI? Based on the information they had, she should never have been allowed to run. Guilty as hell." That's as Clinton allies applauded the decision by the Justice Department's inspector general to launch a probe into the way the department and the FBI handled the investigation into Clinton's private e-mail server.
BRIAN FALLON, FORMER CLINTON CAMPAIGN SPOKESMAN: I think those tweets are just the latest indication that Donald Trump is someone who is very insecure in his victory, and I understand why. Every day, there are new developments, new shoes dropping so to speak. They call into question the legitimacy of his win.
MURRAY: As Trump airs his grievances on Twitter, at least some are being spared, his Cabinet picks, who are starting to express disagreement between Trump's views and theirs.
TRUMP: We want them to be themselves, and I told them, be yourselves and say what you want to say. Don't worry about me.
MURRAY: Another potential area of disagreement may be emerging. House Speaker Paul Ryan told an undocumented immigrant at CNN's town hall that he hoped her future is in America. She was brought to the U.S. by her parents as a child.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you think that I should be deported?
REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: First of all, I can see that you love your daughter, and you are a nice person who has a great future ahead of you, and I hope your future's here.
MURRAY: And he insisted the deportation force Trump once promised won't become a reality.
RYAN: And I'm here to tell you, in Congress, it's not happening.
MURRAY: Amid all of this, Trump also took time to trot his celebrity guests through the Trump Tower lobby, talk show and "Family Feud" host Steve Harvey. Harvey, who suggested he wasn't a Trump supporter, said he was encouraged by President Obama's staff to come talk with the president-elect about the outreach he does in African-American community.
STEVE HARVEY, COMEDIAN: We are going to team up and see if we can bring about some positive change in the inner cities, which I felt was my only agenda.
MURRAY: Now, in terms of this back-channeling between General Michael Flynn, Donald Trump's pick as national security adviser, and the Russian ambassador, even though their phone call occurred on the same day that President Obama unveiled sanctions against Russia, Trump's team insists it had nothing to do with that, that was not discussed, but rather it was to set up this phone call between Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump some time in the future, as well as to invite a representative from the United States to attend upcoming peace talks about Syria in Kazakstan -- Jim.
SCIUTTO: Sara Murray in New York, thanks very much.
As lawmakers learn more about Russia's election-related cyber-attacks, a prominent Democrat says that he does not see Donald Trump as a legitimate president as a result of that Russian interference.
Listen to Congressman and civil rights icon John Lewis in a new interview.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JOHN LEWIS (D), GEORGIA: I don't see this president-elect as a legitimate president.
CHUCK TODD, MODERATOR, "MEET THE PRESS": You do not consider him a legitimate president? Why is that?
LEWIS: I think the Russians participated in helping this man get elected, and they have destroyed the candidacy of Hillary Clinton.
I don't plan to attend the inauguration. It will be the first one that I miss since I have been in the Congress.
You cannot be at home with something that you feel that is wrong. I think there was a conspiracy on the part of the Russian and others to help him get elected. That's not right. That's not fair. That's not an open democratic process.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCIUTTO: Tonight, some Democrats in Congress are fuming after a closed-door briefing by the FBI director about the Russian hacking. We have breaking news about a heated confrontation between the former DNC chair and FBI director, James Comey, about the hacked e-mails that helped lead to her ouster.
CNN's Phil Mattingly is digging in on that for us.
What are you learning about that confrontation?
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jim, confrontation, on, it was exactly how it was described by a lawmaker in the room. We are just learning right now that closed-door briefing, classified briefing this morning turned into a challenging duel, if you will between Debbie Wasserman Schultz and FBI Director Jim Comey.
Now, if you think back to the summer on the eve of the Democratic Convention, Debbie Wasserman Schultz was forced to resign from her chairmanship of the Democratic National Committee because of those leaks.
SCIUTTO: Sounds like we don't have that sound from the Director Comey. But thanks for that report from inside that meeting, Phil Mattingly.
I want to turn now to CNN justice correspondent Evan Perez for more on Comey's briefings on Capitol Hill.
What is the FBI's view of this confrontation that we're hearing from?
EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: One of the things that the purpose of this briefing was to fill in members in the House and then yesterday in the Senate about exactly what went on in the Russian hacking in the election.
And, of course, what happened at the end of that was Democrats wanted to also ask questions about the handling of the Hillary Clinton e- mails. I think that is the reason why Debbie Wasserman Schultz and some Democrats emerged so angry.
What happened was in the Senate briefing, which was yesterday, the FBI director was able to explain a lot more about exactly why he sent that October surprise letter, the letter in which he explained that they had found these new e-mails as part of an unrelated investigation of Anthony Weiner, and that basically at the end of that the FBI decided there wasn't enough reason to bring any charges just before the election.
But what he described was that the FBI did find classified e-mails, new classified e-mails, e-mails that they had not seen before that they needed time to go through to investigate. At the end of that, which is apparently a lot of work, there was a lot of e-mails, there were some that they had seen before and some they hadn't seen before.
At the end, it did not change their conclusion that Hillary Clinton did not knowingly mishandle classified information. Again, that did not change the overall conclusion. What we're told is, Jim, that in the Senate briefing, they had about almost two hours to describe this to the members of the Senate.
In the House, they had about an hour and, apparently, they didn't have enough time to explain all of this. And you saw the reaction in the House. Some of these members came out extremely angry. Some of them came out and said that they thought he should resign.
Obviously, that is a political question which might be a little bit more dicey for Democrats to consider, because think about this. What you're saying is, if you want Jim Comey to resign, you're asking for Donald Trump to have the choice of an FBI director.
I'm not sure that that -- once they kind of settle back and think about it, that that is exactly what they want.
SCIUTTO: "The Wall Street Journal" also calling for him to resign as well.
SCIUTTO: Thanks very much, Evan Perez.
Let's talk about all this breaking news. We have Republican Congressman Darrell Issa of California. He's a
member of the Foreign Affairs Committee.
Nice to have you back. Always good to talk to you.
REP. DARRELL ISSA (R), CALIFORNIA: Good to be on, Jim. And you picked some great subjects.
SCIUTTO: Well, there you go. We're going to be here for hours.
Let's start, first, with John Lewis' comments. He's been in the House for decades. He's a civil rights icon. He just said he does not see Donald Trump as a legitimate commander in chief. What is your reaction?
ISSA: John is a good man. And I think he will, in time, feel that he used his words poorly.
You know, similar conversations occurred when I first came to Congress 16 years ago when some members shot off about an appointed, not an elected president. Ultimately, we all have to make this presidency a success. It is now the law we live under.
John's a good man. I think in time he will change his position to find ways to work with this president. But I can understand his grief and his pain. He fully expected Hillary Clinton to win. He, like many people, thinks, well, Donald Trump couldn't possibly win.
I'm a native of Ohio, but I'm a Californian. In California, where more than four million more people voted for Hillary than voted for Donald, it's hard to understand how he won. But when I go back to Cleveland and I look at the people that voted for him, so he carried Ohio and Michigan and Wisconsin, I do understand it. I would hope that in time he does.
SCIUTTO: So we have a situation now, just turning now to both the Russian hacking investigation, but also the fire that the FBI director is coming under. So, we're going to have parallel investigations now continuing, Russian hacking, what influence it had and what was the intention behind it, et cetera, the extent, but also the FBI now investigating itself on Director Comey's handling of the investigation of Hillary Clinton's e-mails, which, as you know, Democrats have said possibly influenced the election as well.
Let me ask you, do you have confidence in the FBI director?
ISSA: Well, you know, I had a similar reaction when he basically announced there wasn't anything there when, in fact, she had broken the law.
There were statutes on the books that do not require you knowingly, only that you essentially recklessly handled information. As a matter of fact, David Petraeus, that was one of the charges he was charged with. So, I was upset at that point.
Then I became less upset when he came out with more. Then, of course, I was upset again...
SCIUTTO: But you only think he is doing his job well if you agree with the results of the investigation?
ISSA: I didn't say I was right or wrong. I said I was upset.
I understand why people are upset when it doesn't go their way and they are happier when it does. I look at this man who tried mightily to do the right thing in a highly charged political environment. If he made a mistake, he seemed to have made it on both sides.
SCIUTTO: But let me ask you this, because here is the criticism and one of the focuses of this FBI investigation by its inspector general, is he spoke very publicly about the investigation into Hillary Clinton's e-mails. You will remember that July speech. Got up there and said she was extremely careless.
He did not speak publicly about other investigations that we know that are under way regarding Donald Trump's transition team, for instance, communications prior to the election with Russia. Why is that fair?
ISSA: Well, first of all, communications with Russia wouldn't be unlawful or anything that he'd have jurisdiction on.
SCIUTTO: We know they are investigating because they want to find out what the communications were about, et cetera.
ISSA: I understand.
But the fact is there was nothing to investigate.
SCIUTTO: But, to be fair, that's not your judgment. That's up to the judgment of the investigators. But the question I'm asking...
ISSA: In July, there was nothing. In August, there was nothing.
SCIUTTO: No, but prior to the election, we know there was enough for them to be pursuing an investigation, which in fact they're still pursuing.
So, my question to you is, why is it fair for the FBI director to speak very open and very publicly about the investigation into Hillary Clinton's e-mails, but not into the other investigations into the Trump campaign?
ISSA: Jim, your question is good, but the answer is the same. This is somebody who is trying -- we could all fault him in retrospect, but he was trying in a politically charged environment to provide the information so that the FBI and the public would be as much equally informed. SCIUTTO: But on one side of the investigation, not on the other. And
that's the thing. If you are going to inform, you have got to be consistent.
ISSA: Well, listen, no, let's just stick with Hillary for a moment.
There was an ongoing investigation of wrongdoing, violations of the law. The Federal Records Act is a law. Hillary Clinton willfully violated it. He investigated it. He came up and said, I'm not going to charge and nobody would charge. He came before my committee and said it, and I was in shock, because I thought he was wrong. I still think he was wrong.
But the fact is, he made a judgment call. There were two additional judgments. Hey, we found more. When you find Anthony Weiner, a disgraced former congressman, with classified documents, that's worth commenting on.
SCIUTTO: Although he was distinct from the candidate. Let me move on, because I don't want to relitigate...
ISSA: Huma wasn't, so, the fact is that the reason it was is because she, who had all that classified information had obviously put it there.
SCIUTTO: Let's move, if on only because there are so many things in the news and I do want to get your opinions on it.
We now have confirmed that Donald Trump's national security adviser, his choice for national security adviser communicated with the Russian ambassador to the U.S. on the very same day that the Obama administration was opposing new sanctions on Russia for election- related meddling.
Is that an appropriate time for the national security adviser incoming to speak with Russian officials?
ISSA: Well, what I understand is that he was talking about a potential call, may have even been saying in light of this we have to delay the call. I can't know the details of it.
You know, there's only one president at a time. The president set an agenda and decided to do something that I think all of us know he should have done months earlier. He should have done it when they knew what they were doing. He should have sanctioned them.
SCIUTTO: That's the criticism of the policy. But the fact is, as you say, there is only one president at the time, and that was Obama at the time.
ISSA: Jim, the president chose a day. The fact is, the incoming administration was dealing with 200 heads of state around the world and communications with limited staff.
So, the fact that it occurred on the same day is only important if there really was a link, which I don't understand. I understand there wasn't. You know, to be honest, I have had conversations with heads of state that I was trying to get in the queue to talk to the president. On the day that I had those, I have no idea what else was going on necessarily.
And you make those. I think that General Flynn has given an answer. If that answer is truthful, then I don't think there's a story there.
SCIUTTO: Let me ask you about this. You're aware of the story that CNN was the first to report this week about intelligence chiefs presenting both the president and the president-elect with unsubstantiated, I will specify...
ISSA: With oppo research from a former MI6.
SCIUTTO: Originated, but to be clear, and just to note our reporting, a former MI6 operative that has provided credible information to U.S. intelligence agencies in the past.
I want to ask you this. Donald Trump and his team have given multiple explanations and sometimes inconsistent alternative narratives, as it were, that, frankly, contradicted the facts, and as we know them from the director of national intelligence and the vice president.
But does that concern you, concern you that the facts are fuzzy with the incoming administration?
ISSA: I lived through -- in my early political life when I was just getting going, I lived through the constant history of Bill Clinton, Whitewater, the various affairs and women coming forward.
SCIUTTO: I don't want to relitigate a previous administration.
SCIUTTO: I want to ask about the incoming president.
ISSA: But here's the reason I'm putting it in context.
It is always inappropriate to bring up things from before the election if they're not directly related to go forward. Donald Trump has been divorced a couple times. Donald Trump has had a life. If we constantly are looking and saying, well, what about this, what about this, then we never get to the clean four or eight years of his administration.
The fact is he should be held accountable for his conduct while he is in office from this day forward. And to keep digging up the old was generally inappropriate with Bill Clinton. It was generally inappropriate with a host of other people. I think that's the one thing Washington has to learn.
SCIUTTO: Well, to be clear, let me just be clear. This information was not brought up because anyone wanted to dissect Donald Trump's marriage.
It was -- the reason it was germane to the conversation is because they wanted to make him aware that there was this material Russia claimed to have which they might use as compromising information.
So, the question I have is a bigger picture one, if I could just ask you. Do you believe Donald Trump takes the Russia threat seriously in the broadest strokes, the threat of cyber-attacks, in Syria, et cetera?
ISSA: I think this president-elect, when he becomes president, like his two predecessors, will underestimate at first the danger of President Putin and this evil, smaller, but still empire.
SCIUTTO: You believe he underestimates the threat from Putin?
ISSA: I believe he will underestimate it. I believe that he has surrounded himself with some very good people, including Jim Mattis, who are very quickly going to bring him up to speed on the fact that this is an evil government that is very, very similar to the one that Ronald Reagan faced 36 years ago when he entered office.
The difference is, it appears more benign. It does deals. It talks about a different world. I believe, just as President Bush, George W., and President Obama clearly started off thinking they could work with this man and ended up feeling very differently, that this president will do so. It is for all of us -- and I was on his national security advisory team.
I take an active role that he needs to find out sooner. But the moment he becomes president, when he begins looking at -- and he has begun looking -- at the breadth of their bad conduct around the world, he will be more cautious. And that's important.
And I say this because no matter who is in the White House, Bush, Obama or Trump, we cannot underestimate this country who seems to have so many problems at home that their best out, the best way for Putin to keep power is to screw around with everybody else's things, including potentially our elections.
SCIUTTO: And potentially the U.S. national security.
SCIUTTO: Congressman Issa, thanks very much commenting on so many issues.
We have some more breaking news coming into THE SITUATION ROOM. Just now, the Senate Intelligence Committee announced it is launching an investigation.
I want to go back to CNN's Phil Mattingly. He's on Capitol Hill.
Phil, what are we learning? MATTINGLY: This is an important moment. And obviously we are just
learning about this right now from the committee.
A bipartisan committee-wide investigation into Russian intelligence activities as they related to the campaign, and the details here are what matters. This review is going to include a look into that assessment from the intelligence community that was released about the election hacking, but also a review, and I'm going to read this, of counterintelligence concerns related to Russia in the 2016 U.S. election, including any intelligence including links between Russia and individuals associated with political campaigns.
That will be a direct focus of the committee's inquiry as to what kind of power they have. They say they will hold hearings, but perhaps more importantly, they will be interviewing people on the campaigns from the incoming administration, from the outgoing administration.
And, Jim, they will have subpoena power, which, according to the committee, they are willing to use if they need it. So, you hear from Capitol Hill now a lot of clamor to start these investigations to learn more about things and there's a good reason for that. We talked about the frustration from Democrats -- you heard it from Evan as well -- that back and forth at that closed-door classified briefing between Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Jim Comey, I'm told it was contentious, it was sharp.
It lasted for longer than 10 minutes and it echoed kind of almost catcalls from Democrats throughout that private briefing that were very, very frustrated and not happy with what they heard. I talked to Elijah Cummings, the top oversight Democrat, after he came out of that.
She said when he left that hearing or left that classified briefing, he was extremely disappointed by what he heard, starting to question whether or not Jim Comey should actually resign. I reached out to Debbie Wasserman Schultz's office about this.
They put out a statement saying they are not going to comment on what happened at a classified briefing, but did say according to Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Jim Comey has more questions to answer, Jim.
SCIUTTO: Phil Mattingly, thanks very much, certainly news there, a bipartisan investigation.
A lot of lawmakers have talked about it and now we know it is going to happen, investigation of the Russian hacking.
There is new information tonight on the recent contacts between a top Trump adviser that is retired Lieutenant General Michael Flynn and Russia. They were happening at the very same time as the Obama administration was retaliating for Moscow's effort to undermine the U.S. election.
Joining me now is "Washington Post" columnist and associate editor David Ignatius. He was the first to report these contacts with General Flynn and the Russian ambassador to the U.S.
Mr. Ignatius, thank you very much for joining us tonight.
DAVID IGNATIUS, COLUMNIST, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Thank you, Jim.
SCIUTTO: So, tell me, David, how significant is this kind of contact, particularly knowing it was on the very same day that the Obama administration was imposing new penalties on Russia for meddling in the election?
IGNATIUS: Well, I think your previous guest, Congressman Issa, made clear what the issue that would be of concern is, as he put it, this evil regime in Russia headed by Vladimir Putin, which had assaulted the U.S. election process and was about to be sanctioned by the Obama administration.
Was it appropriate to have conversations with the Russian ambassador on that day, trump team says December 28, about the sort of future of the U.S./Russian relationship, the future meeting between Trump and Vladimir Putin?
And also we are just learning that the future attendance by the United States at a conference sponsored by Russia about Syria, something that Russia had sought to exclude the U.S. from previously, was that appropriate?
SCIUTTO: Let me ask you this as you look at this and you speak to other government officials. I just wonder about a mixed signal possibly being sent to a foreign government, particularly an adversarial foreign government. That is the Russians.
You have one -- the outgoing administration imposing new sanctions and the incoming reaching out and wishing them a happy holidays, in effect, talking about further communication. Does that risk, you know, threatening this question that there is this rule in effect that there is only one president, one policy at a time?
IGNATIUS: Jim, that's precisely the issue I tried to raise in my column this morning.
We have a piece of legislation that's never been enforced. There's never been a prosecution. It's called the Logan Act. And it basically says that a U.S. private citizen, somebody not representing the government should not be involved with a country with which the United States has a dispute.
I mean, we had a real dispute with Russia about their hacking. These expulsions of diplomats were imminent. Was it appropriate to have that contact? As you put it, that we can only have one president at a time. Soon, that president is going to be Donald Trump. That president was not Donald Trump on the day that this conversation happened.
SCIUTTO: David Ignatius, you heard Congressman GOP Issa tell me just a few moments ago -- and he's been a Trump supporter -- that Donald Trump, in his words, underestimates the threat from Russia.
How concern interesting is that in light of you now have a bipartisan investigation of election meddling, but a host of other issues where there are real differences, Syria, et cetera? How concerning is that and to hear in particular from a Republican, criticism from a Republican?
IGNATIUS: I think you're hearing that more and more, including from members of Trump's prospective Cabinet.
The testimony from General Mattis and from Mike Pompeo made very clear that they're taking a much harder line towards Russia, toward what they see as a threatening, aggressive Russia than president-elect Trump has. And I think in some ways that's a reassurance, should be a reassurance to the public that if strong Cabinet members, senior officials, CIA directors who are going to be prepared to challenge Trump if he does things with Russia that they think are inappropriate.
SCIUTTO: And, David, our reporting now is that there was contact on the 29th of December, the very same day that the Obama administration was imposing these new sanctions.
Are you aware of, have you learned of other communications, whether by telephone or text, between Flynn and the Russian ambassador to the U.S.?
IGNATIUS: I should just note that Trump transition team spokesman Sean Spicer says the conversations were on the 28th. That was the day when many news organizations were reporting that the sanctions were on the way.
So, it's really, I think, not a significant difference. I'm aware of texts between the ambassador and General Flynn on Christmas Day, warm wishes back and forth. I'm aware of communications to set up this phone conversation.
I can't speak with confidence about additional conversations. We do know that General Flynn has believed in and has worked to advance the idea of a rapprochement with Russia. He believes strongly it's in the U.S. interest. That's a policy issue that that the country is going to have to think about. But the specific conversations are the ones that I mentioned.
SCIUTTO: Certainly a policy issue, a legitimate policy question, you can say.
The thing is, General Flynn has his own personal ties, appearing at a dinner, for instance, sitting right next to the Russian president in 2015, taking a paid speaking engagement from the Russian propaganda network, or, I should say, government-controlled network 1830
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), MINORITY LEADER: What are they doing in this bill? Overturning the Affordable Care Act, undermining the health security and financial stability of America's working families and defunding Planned Parenthood.
[18:45:08] That's their, that's their manhood thing.
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: And, Jim, Republican leaders are telling me they do not want to do a large, comprehensive, full-scale bill to replace Obamacare. Instead, they want to approach it piece by piece, step by step, include some provisions and the bill draft in the coming weeks and deal with some things administratively, when Tom Price is confirmed, assuming he is confirmed as the next secretary of Health and Human Services.
But the question is, is that enough and will the party get behind that approach? Jim?
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN GUEST ANCHOR: Manu Raju on Capitol Hill.
And we're back with our political panel.
And, David Axelrod, I would like to go to you first, because, of course, you were with President Obama at the time the Affordable Care Act was passed. Extremely difficult to pass the law. Even more difficult to repeal it?
DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I don't think it's difficult to repeal it. I think it's very hard to replace it. You know, replace got added to repeal when there was a realization on the part of the Republican Party that there was some very popular elements of this plan that people wanted to keep, such as not allowing people with pre-existing conditions to be refused insurance and insuring kids up to the age of 26 on their parents' insurance.
And there are a series of things that are in this law that people like and they want to maintain. It's very hard to do that without the whole plan. Without having everyone in the system, which is what the mandate requires.
So, they are now the dogs that caught the car. They repeal this law 50 times knowing that the President Obama would veto it. Now they have the authority to do it and they don't have a plan to replace it. And they have a lot of political headaches in front of them.
SCIUTTO: Rebecca Berg, I mean, it's clearly -- certainly a political promise, right, of House Republicans, Senate Republicans and the president-elect. But it's hard to do. Is it a smart place politically to start?
REBECCA BERG, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, REAL CLEAR POLITICS: Well, there's really not much of an option for them, right, because they've been promising this for many years now. This isn't just in the context of this presidential election, but this is something they have been talking about since the original law was passed.
And so, for Republicans to now have a governing majority throughout Washington and then to not do anything with health care, I think their constituents would be a little surprised and maybe disappointed if they were to take that course of action. So, they definitely need to address this issue in some way.
But, of course, the reality facing them now is that replacing it becomes very difficult because you need some Democrats to come along on the Senate side. You need 60 votes or else they can block the legislation from moving forward. And when you're looking at this from a political perspective, there isn't a lot of political incentive for Democrats to help Republicans replace this law, because if they repeal the entire thing, take away parts of the law that people actually like, and there are parts of that people like and Republicans recognize that, then politically, this could hurt Republicans in the next election.
SCIUTTO: Gloria Borger, we heard Paul Ryan in a town hall with Jake Tapper yesterday, put himself out there saying it's going to be simultaneous and in the first 100 days. How much pressure on him to deliver?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, there's a lot of pressure on him to deliver. He has to come up with details, as Rebecca is talking about.
So, when people say, OK, they're repealing it. It was terrible and my premiums went up and I don't want to lose those pre-existing conditions premiums and I want to keep my children on my health care until they are 26 and there are things that people like about it.
What are they going to do? And if you lose these insurance pools, what are the insurance companies going to do? Are we going to -- are the American taxpayers now going to have to subsidize the insurance companies here? Which I don't think is a great political move. So, it's difficult.
SCIUTTO: Republicans don't want to spend that kind of money.
Abby Philip, we're not far away. Two years away from midterm elections. Obviously, political mine field for Republicans, if it doesn't go well.
ABBY PHILLIP, THE WASHINGTON POST: Right. And let's be clear about what Paul Ryan said. He said we would start this process within the first 100 days. I think he recognizes that the legislative process can drag on and take quite some time. You heard one of the -- congressman say in Manu's story earlier that
maybe you should start with the replace part and then move on to repeal. And that's a reflection of this idea that what they really want to do is fix a lot of parts of the Affordable Care Act, but they've made it such a behemoth of a political football that they have to deal with the Obamacare, which has really put them in a political box. They have to do something that seems like a repeal, which is very dangerous from a political and an economic perspective.
SCIUTTO: We're going to have it leave there. Abby, Gloria -- well, quick thought, David. Quick thought, David, before we go.
AXELROD: Well, we shouldn't forget there are 20 million who've been insured under this law and so, that's no small matter either.
[18:50:02] SCIUTTO: Yes. And many of them Trump voters as well.
David, Rebecca, Gloria, Abby, great to have you as always.
Just ahead, Sasha and Malia Obama are getting advice on life outside the White House from two women with unique credentials, they know and a familiar name, Bush.
SCIUTTO: Exactly one week from today, two young women who grew up in the White House will begin their own personal transition.
[18:55:05] As Sasha and Malia Obama face life outside that White House bubble, they're getting some heartfelt advice from pair of sisters who know exactly what they're going through.
CNN's Sara Ganim is here with me now.
And it's George W. Bush's daughters and I understand, they wrote a very touching letter to the Obama girls.
SARA GANIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They did. That's right. You know, Jenna and Barbara Bush first met President Obama's daughters when the Bushes were moving out of the White House and Sasha and Malia were moving in.
At the time, they showed them around the White House, they wrote the Obama sisters this touching letter back in 2009 about how to grow up in the spotlight. And now, the Bush sisters are writing another letter, explaining what life is like after the White House.
GANIM (voice-over): Jenna and Barbara Bush first met Sasha and Malia Obama in 2008, giving them a tour of their new home, sliding down hallways, warmly welcoming them to the White House.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The four of us wandered the majestic halls of the house. You had no choice but to move into.
GANIM: Now as the Obamas prepare to leave the house, the Bush sisters are giving more advice, reading a new letter to the Obama daughters on NBC's "Today" show.
JENNA BUSH HAGER, FORMER FIRST DAUGHTER: Now, you're about to join another rarefied club, one of former first children, a position you didn't seek and one with no guidelines. But you have so much to look forward to. You will be writing the story of your own lives beyond the shadows of your famous parents. Yet, you will always carry with you the experiences of the past eight years.
GANIM: The Bush daughters encouraging the current first daughters to enjoy life outside the White House.
BARBARA BUSH, FORMER FIRST DAUGHTER: Enjoy college. As most of the world knows, we did.
GANIM: And telling them to remember those experiences few others can relate to.
B. BUSH: You attended state dinners, hiked in national parks, met national leaders, and managed to laugh at your dad's jokes during the annual Thanksgiving turkey pardon. All while being kids, attending school, and making friends. And through it all, you had each other, just like we did.
GANIM: And while the White House is often seen as a seat of power for the first family, it's also a home. Michelle Obama telling Jimmy Fallon it will be hard to leave the place where her children were raised.
MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY: Once you're out, you're out. It's good to have a few photos to remember what the rooms look like.
GANIM: Eight years ago when the Bush sisters left 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, they wrote their first letter to the Obama girls, encouraging them to be kids, to dress up on Halloween, but also go to everything you possibly can and remember who their daddy is, something the president addressed in his emotional farewell address.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Malia and Sasha, under the strangest of circumstances, you have become two amazing young women. You are smart and you are beautiful, but more importantly, you are kind and you are thoughtful and you are full of passion. Of all that I have done in my life, I am most proud to be your dad.
GANIM: Those two little girls America welcomed in 2009 now young women. Eighteen-year-old Malia, who was moved to tears by her father's speech, is now a high school graduate. She will be attending Harvard University in the fall. Fifteen-year-old Sasha, a high school junior, had to miss her father's farewell speech to study for an exam.
M. OBAMA: She had a final, and -- you know the Obamas, girl. Sorry. Got to take your test.
JIMMY FALLON, COMEDIAN: Sorry.
M. OBAMA: You can say good-bye later.
GANIM: The Obamas are staying in Washington after they leave the White House so that Sasha can finish high school, a new chapter for all of them.
J. BUSH HAGER: You have lived through the unbelievable pressure of the White House.
B. BUSH: Your parents who put you first and not only showed you but gave you the world.
J. BUSH HAGER: As always, they will be rooting for you as you begin this next chapter.
B. BUSH: And so will we.
GANIM: I'm told that it's actually very unusual to do this letter writing so publicly. Steve Ford, the son of Gerald Ford, actually did write to Chelsea Clinton and told her to befriend her Secret Service agents as she was moving into the White House. You saw a similar message from the Bush sisters to the Obamas, telling them how important their relationships with those White House staff members were to them after they left, after they moved out.
SCIUTTO: What an incredible childhood, challenging at times but, well, unique for sure.
GANIM: And such an exclusive club to hear from someone who's gone through it, I'm sure. So important.
SCIUTTO: Witness history every day.
Sara Ganim, thank very much.
Tune in tonight as CNN explores the life of Michelle Obama. That's going to be a special.
Thanks very much for watching.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.