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Trump Meets With Health Insurance CEOs On Obamacare; Trump On Obamacare: "People Hate It"; House Intel Chair Grilled On Trump-Russia Ties; Secretary Spicer Cracks Down On White House Leaks; Epic Flub Mars 89th Academy Awards; Politics In Spotlight At Academy Awards. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired February 27, 2017 - 12:30   ET


[12:30:00] MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: -- with the governors who are actually trying to kind of deal -- and they're consulting with the White House. They're consulting with Tom Price at HHS. They're consulting with the governors who are actually trying to kind of deal in this Medicaid piece of it.

But what they need the White House to do is create the echo chamber, to create pressure on their own party to not buckle. They want to really tell those conservatives who may not get anyone but look, this is the best we can do, come on board, this is important. They want to get these moderates too and reassure them.

So they hope that Trump can at least embrace the broad principles of it because he's not going to get down to the nitty gritty.

JOHN KING, INSIDE POLITICS HOST: And they have to move the President too because at least the early House Republican plan is they kick around drafts, don't do everything the President said. The President and his team around record saying if you get your coverage from Obamacare, don't worry, you're going to be OK, but most of these Republican plans, at least to a degree, would drive up the percentage of Americans who don't have automatic access to insurance.

LAURA MECKLER, WALL STREET JOURNAL: I mean, by quite a large amount, millions of people were talking about. This is not a small difference. I mean, the upshot is what the Affordable Care Act tried to do was essentially spread the risk to over a large group of people by requiring everyone to buy it and then giving lower income people help to go buy them on these exchanges. It didn't work out so well because essentially not enough people came in to the system so therefore it kept getting more and more expensive. People who came were more likely to be sick.

So the question is what do you do if you want to remake it? You still have sick people who want insurance. So if you're going to do what President Trump has said more than one occasion he wanted to do, which is maintain the guarantee of coverage for people who are already have preexisting conditions, someone is got to pay for it. So they talked about high risk pools, for instance, which would be a place to concentrate all of the sickest most expensive people all in one place, but you can imagine when you do that, it's very expensive. NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Yes, or selling insurance across the state. Some states have already tried that. It hasn't really worked. I mean, Trump's mantra on health care seems to be what it is with his budget, this idea whether they can do more or the same with less. And that's probably pretty unrealistic. I mean, already you can see that if you go to your tax person, you don't have to necessarily pay a fine if you don't have -- if you didn't have health insurance.

So the funding source for this is already drying up, and the things they're talking about like tax credits for folks, that doesn't help you on the front end if you have to buy, you know, health insurance or need health care, it seems like older people might have to pay more. If young people are in the system any more. So they keep talking about access and freedom. Freedom to buy, access to buy, but if you don't have the money, you're not going to have that access or freedom to buy.

KING: And with all these policy questions, and that's just some of them, we could sit here for a week actually going through them, and it's so important. How does the process work here? And as you jump in on the process, you know, some conservatives want to vote repeal yesterday, and then put in there. We're working on the replacement parts of the repeal actually doesn't take affect until we get the replacement part. But they want the symbolic victory saying we won the election, we certainly going to do this. We have a Republican President. We've done it.

But as they do so, the political climate has changed. Look at this NBC-Wall Street Journal numbers. When it comes to your opinion about health care, do you feel that working well the way it is, only 4 percent say that. So there is a demand for fixes here. Needs minor improvements, 43 percent. This major overhaul, 36 percent, should be totally eliminate, 16 percent.

So the countries all over the place on this, there's a broad consensus that Obamacare needs significant fixes. But beyond that, when you start getting into the details, this is a huge political risk.

MATT VISER, THE BOSTON GLOBE: And for Trump too, I mean, we know that he is not a guy that likes to get into the policy weeds. You know, so imagining him discussing this with Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell in sort of what types of things that he want to -- what he doesn't want. But we also saw over the past two weeks really animated opposition at these town hall meetings to the point that a lot of Republicans are cancelling them and they don't even want to interact with people at these town hall meetings.

And so I think that the Democrats are ready to fight on health care and change those percentages and that may be a result of some of what they've done.

KING: One of those Republicans, Mo Brooks, I believe, Alabama, right, said that he is afraid some of his conservative friends are losing their spine, his words, over this town hall meeting. RAJU: Yes. In March is going to be a critical month because I know the budget rules of Congress, they need to actually pass the health care law or move on this first before they want to do their other big thing which is tax reform. So, they cannot (INAUDIBLE) much longer. So, I mean, they're going to make big decisions. That means of every votes of the House committees first before it goes on to the floor.

They'll probably get out of the committees. The question is can they not -- limit defections in the House floor to 20 Republicans and there are 24 Republicans who came from those Hillary Clinton districts that she won. What will they do if they feel a lot of pressure from their constituents?

KING: A big meeting with the President at the White House today for the leadership, and we'll see what the President says in that speech to you, and not just for the Congress to the American people overnight. They look for some help on that one, the important one.

Up next, the chair of the House Intelligence Committee faces tough questions on ties between the Russian government and the Trump campaign. We'll tell you what he said next.


[12:39:01] KING: Welcome back. Congress is back in town after an interesting week to say the least back home, b but among those facing a lot of questions is Devin Nunes. He's the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. That committee, along with its center counterpart, charged with investigating Russian meddling in last year's election, including the question of whether Trump associates were in touch with Russian officials or Russian business people back during last year's campaign.

Listen to Chairman Nunes facing extended questioning saying best he knows right now, there's not a lot there.


REP. DEVIN NUNES (R), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: We have the scoping of our investigation finished, and then we're going to move into actually receiving the evidence. But as of right now, the initial inquiries I've made to the appropriate agencies, I don't have any other evidence.

As of right now I don't have any evidence that would -- of any phone calls. It doesn't mean they don't exist, but I don't have that. And what I've been told is by many -- by many folks is that there's nothing there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But you're still looking into that.

NUNES: But we're still -- we're absolutely looking into it, and we want the information but I just can't call an American citizen with no information.

(END VIDEO CLIP) [12:40:09] KING: That familiar voice you may have heard them asking a question. Manu Raju who hustled from Capitol Hill to make it here for this, translate that for us because he has faced some heat. If the White House ask him to call a reporter to say, hey, there's no there there, and he is the chairman of an investigation, if he acknowledges it's just beginning. That he acknowledges he doesn't know where it's going to end, and yet, he is stepping in to help the White House, you know, with media relations, and he said so what, no big deal.

RAJU: Yes. He is in interesting and difficult position. He is trying to defend the White House but also show that he is doing a very thorough investigation, leading something that will not -- will be beyond reproach. There'll be no criticisms over whether this is partisan in anyway.

But, the headline out of this was that he said that, yes, he has not seen any evidence of any contacts between Russian officials and the Trump campaign during the campaign. As we know from reports in the "New York Times" and CNN, there were plenty of context according to sources who were very familiar with that.

But he did not say that they're done investigating it. He also did not say that he was -- who told him that there were no contacts. In fact, he just said the Intelligence Community generally, when he was asked, specifically are you talking about the FBI? He would not say. He said, well, colleague Jim Sciutto at that press conference also asked him, well, are you talking about anyone connected with the Russian government? Are you saying that Russian intelligence officials didn't talk with the FBI because we believe that they're trying to create some distinction there?

He did not say that specifically either. So he left himself a lot of wiggle room. He also said that they saw the -- they were briefed on the transcript between Michael Flynn and the Russian ambassador about there on the time that Obama was imposing new sanctions on Russia. He said that what he has learned from that, it was really nothing there. He really downplayed that phone call.

And I asked him, did anyone from the White House, the Trump transition team, tell Flynn to call the Russian ambassador. He did not say explicitly, but he said, well, I'd surprised if they did. So really trying to defend the White House, but also saying they're looking into this.

KING: The Democrats see an effort by the White House to get Republicans on Capitol Hill in line, you know, deciding at the beginning of the investigation there's nothing there before they know the facts. The interesting question is really Republicans. And you saw Marco Rubio did a Sunday interview from the local station back in Florida. Susan Collins put out a statement both Republicans from Maine and from Florida on the Intelligence Committee saying that they were concerned, some of this is implied, but about their chairman. Their chairman of the Senate side did the same thing.

The White House said can you help us with call a couple of reporters say there's no there there. Their concern was that, you know, even if that was meant in an innocent way, it creates the perception that this -- how can this be an impartial investigation when the chairman early on, before he knows the final facts, is calling reporters on behalf of the White House.

VISER: And there's this weird atmosphere right now sort of going back to Comey, also the FBI director, of briefing the public on information before you sort of have all of the facts, you know, completed, and you know one way or the other what the answer is. And so, I do think it is sort of triggering more calls for maybe a special prosecutor or sort of doing something different, have something more independent than members of Congress who are members of the President's own party doing this. So, I think those calls will increase.

HENDERSON: No. Representative Darrell Issa suggested this idea that Jeff Sessions isn't going to be an impartial arbiter of all of this, and maybe there needs to be some sort of independent council independent investigation into this. But, yes -- I mean, they're facing pressure, and this is coming up at some of those town halls too. Talking about are you guys doing your jobs in terms of looking into this. What about him releasing his taxes, all of these things I think are playing out in ways that the White House didn't expect.

RAJU: And, you know, if there's actually added they would not -- I asked him about the independent prosecutor, special prosecutor. He said, no, there are no -- there's no evidence of any crimes being committed. No reason to do that yet. He said the only crime is the leaks that have happened, and that's the only thing that he --

KING: He has had a much harder view on that. I want to bring in something else into this. There's a tension issue in Washington early in the new administration. Some of it is legitimate concerns about leaks. Democrats say Republicans only want to focus on the leaks, though, and not some of the other conduct. We'll see others plays out.

But in the middle of all this, we've seen a lot of stories about White House staff internal either internal fighting or leaks coming out the White House about the President's agenda or about things. And the White House Press Secretary, Sean Spicer, called his colleagues into his office and said phone is on the desk. Personal phone and your government phone. I want to see if you have encrypted texting apps. I want to see who you have been texting. How about that for a workplace environment right after the (INAUDIBLE)?

MECKLER: It is remarkable. I mean, essentially the lack of trust in his own staff and that the idea that he needs to do that in order to keep their message under control, and I think that that -- but it does underscore one point that I think that sometimes gets lost in the sort of hostility between the White House and the press and all the terrible things that the President has said about the press is that from a reporters' point of view would actually there has been more information coming out of there either from the White House itself or from people near the White House.

[12:45:05] And, I mean, just the idea that we read draft executive orders that were floating around, but -- I mean, can you remember that ever happening in previous presidencies?

KING: Not at this scale.



KING: I mean, early -- this is my fifth transition. I'm the old guy at the table. It's my fifth transition in Washington, and early -- there's always hiccups and there's always turf battles, there's always sharp elbows. There are always examples of this early in the new administration. The size, scope, and volume of this impart because the President talks about it so much too.

MECKLER: Yes. But to me the problem isn't -- of course, it's not important point of view, the problem is that all people are talking to reporters. The problem is that the White House doesn't have its -- sort of its act together about what they want to say and what they want to roll out in if an organized way that's been vetted with the people they need to vet it with. I mean, in all the problems that they've had have been self-inflicted in the sense that they have not run their own ideas past their own allies, brought people in, got support before it becomes public.

HENDERSON: You know, and even this -- I mean, can you imagine the feeling that Spicer must have had when he read about the leak meeting? Where he said that, you know, to those folks around him don't leak this, and then he reads about it on Politico and on So, I mean --

KING: He had the White House counsel come in so that he has the lawyers backing him up --


KING: -- when he tells his -- in his communication staff give me your phone.


KING: Yes.

MECKLER: Yes. It's --

VISER: Well, in -- I mean, it all creates this sort of haze of like who do you believe and who is telling the truth, and you have different power centers over there, and even among just the communication staff, you know, who are supposed to be communicating in a way that we can understand what they're trying to do, and --

KING: Undercuts the President's public argument that there are no sources. The President says can we make this up? We don't make this up. We get this information. Sometimes we overuse anonymous sources. Yes, I think our business could look in the mirror a little bit about that. But when this information comes out, I think Sean Spicer calling his own team in to check their phone is proof that he knows this is coming out of his building.

RAJU: Yes. And he is having a lot of hiccups so far also, not just that first press conference where briefing where he did take questions but talked about the crowd size of the inauguration but even disputing reports that are accurate, like a nominee withdrawing from a key post and then turning around, well, then the nominee did withdraw from that key post. This kind of going to some of his early on problems.

KING: I think some of that is the boss pushes him to do things that Sean might know at the time aren't going to turn out to go that well, but he's got a boss. We all have bosses, don't we? Everybody sit tight, and the winner is, interesting night at the Oscars to say the least, and no shortage of politics.



[15:51:58] FRED BERGER, "LA LA LAND" PRODUCER: We lost, by the way, but, you know.

JORDAN HOROWITZ, "LA LA LAND" PRODUCER: What? You guys, I'm sorry, no.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's a mistake.

HOROWITZ: There's a mistake. "Moonlight," you guys won best picture.


KING: Maybe you're watching live last night, maybe you've seen it this morning after waking up. But everyone who has seen the Oscars last night got quite the shock.

Comedian Jimmy Kimmel had the unfunny task of coming back on stage and announcing a monumental mix-up for the winner of best picture. Of course Democrats quickly went to Twitter lamenting, man, why couldn't that happen back in November?

But wasn't terribly surprising last night, the highly politicized talk from the stage in Hollywood. Take this. The statement read on behalf of the Iranian director whose movie won best foreign language film and who protested he would not come to the ceremony last night because of the President's proposed travel ban.


ANOUSHEH ANSAN, STAND-IN FOR BOYCOTTING FILMMAKER: My absence is out of respect for the people of my country and those of other six nations whom have been disrespected by the inhumane law that bans entry of immigrants to the U.S.


Thank you. Dividing the world into the us and our enemies categories creates fear. A deceitful justification for aggression and war. (END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Now we knew there would be a lot of anti-Trump politics at this event. Some of it was funny. Jimmy Kimmel asking Meryl Streep at one point, is that dress from Ivanka Trump. Meryl Streep of course took it from the chin from the President preview. Was it about what you expected? Was this -- this is going to be a trademark in the next four years. Hollywood doesn't like this President?

MECKLER: Yes, I think that's pretty clear. I actually thought it was a little less intense on the political piece than we had seen in previous events where it felt like almost every person needed to say something about it, where there is quite a few speeches by winners who didn't mention or refer to him at all. So, I actually found it a little bit less political. Of course, it was there, though, and right from the opening monologue. But -- I don't know. Maybe a little less --

RAJU: I actually agree. I thought this was going to be Donald Trump, you know, session where there's going to tee off on him left and right, and yes there were those jokes and, you know, Jimmy Kimmel talking about Trump's Twitter feed and the like, but not as overt as before but clearly a lot of opposition in Hollywood to him. His travel ban, to the wall, with Mexico, but this is the kind of thing also that Republicans like.


RAJU: Conservatives like. This is going to rile up their base. Trump is probably OK.


HENDERSON: I think it's also pretty hypocritical. I mean, Hollywood -- I mean, probably one of the biggest purveyors several racist, ageist, sexist imagery across the globe, across the decades, and so this idea whether they should get out there and lecture anyone about inclusion, about diversity -- I mean, it's laughable.

In the history of the academy awards, one African-American woman has won best actress. The Oscars has been around for 90 years. So then -- you know, this sort of self-righteous smug liberals. I mean, I think it's really hypocritical in terms of what their industry is.

KING: And it's an excellent point. A lot of people at home might won't believe we're about to say but reporters are people too. Now, we watch the Oscars too. Matt, during the break you were telling us about going to bed last night. We had the big -- forget the politics for a minute. We had a bit of a mix-up last night, and you had to come back down?

[12:55:07] VISER: Yes. Yes. I thought "La La Land.". I turned the T.V. off right away, and ended up coming back and, you know, after I saw on Twitter, you know, an indication of my Twitter habits at midnight, checking in and coming back down to realize that "Moonlight" had won. Yes, it was -- but I think this whole thing -- I mean, I agree. Like I thought there would be more. There wasn't like a Meryl Streep moment the way there was a couple of weeks ago, but it did indicate like how much Donald Trump has sort of infiltrated, you know, our mind.

KING: He is driving the conversation in this town. He's driving the conversation out there. It was an interesting night. In the end, they got it right. Congratulations to "Moonlight". Next hour, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer will be taking briefings -- quest briefing questions from reporters. We'll bring it that live at different hypothesis today. See you back at this time (INAUDIBLE).

Wolf Blitzer picks it up after a quick break.