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CNN NEWSROOM

White House Doubles Down on Trump Wiretapping Claim; Continued Activity Seen at North Korea Test Sites; GOP to Unveil Its Obamacare Plan; New Trump Travel Ban Expected Today; Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired March 6, 2017 - 10:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[10:30:00] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Our experts just told us, declassify this so-called evidence himself and put it out there for the public?

REBECCA BERG, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I mean, odd is really understating it. Maybe a little bit generous, Poppy. I mean, this is the president of the United States making an explosive allegation against the former president of the United States, his predecessor, something that would have been illegal if it had happened -- if the president had unilaterally ordered these wiretaps.

And now his aides don't have any evidence to back it up, or they are suggesting, as Sarah Huckabee Sanders did this morning, that this is based on classified information that only the president has access to. It does not pass the smell test. And it's irresponsible really for the White House to be going out there, using their platform, using the credibility that comes with that platform, to suggest something that is completely baseless potentially but certainly not substantiated by any sort of information that's out there.

And it does put pressure on Republicans in Congress to find something or anything to back this up. And it really should be putting pressure on the White House to back it up but as we're seeing, they're not doing that.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, you would -- the truth and evidence should be something that matters to everyone.

Ron Brownstein, to Rebecca's point, the pressure on Republicans to back up the White House, they're not really backing up the White House right now. Listen to Jason Chaffetz this weekend and this morning.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JASON CHAFFETZ (R), UTAH: I learned a long time ago, I'm going to keep my eyes wide open. You never know when you turn a corner what you may or may not see. But thus far I have not seen anything directly that would support what the president has said.

REP. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: I'm not sure what it is he is talking about. Perhaps the president has information that is not yet available to us or to the public.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BERMAN: All right, there, Ron Brownstein. What kind of a bind does this put Republicans in?

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, the bind also extends to the White House because it's easy to get turned upside down here. It's not clear to me which is more damaging to President Trump, if he's wrong or if he's right.

First of all, as Rebecca said, a president cannot unilaterally order the wiretapping of anyone, which means either that President Trump has made a wildly unfounded accusation as explosive as can be, with no evidence to support it, or door number two, is that a court, either a FISA court or a federal court found sufficient evidence of collusion with a foreign power to justify the granting of a wiretap, the authorization of a wiretap.

It's always been a little bit unclear to me why, as this has broken, why proving that happened would be advantageous to the administration because it would mean that enough information was presented to a court to reach that authorization.

And point of fact, we have now had this cascade of officials over the weekend saying it never did happen in the first place. But again, that is the better outcome, that a court was persuaded there was enough evidence to justify doing this. It's not clear to me how it advances the White House's cause or diminishes the share of people who in your polls say they want a deeper investigation of this.

HARLOW: You know, when it comes to Republicans' response, Wesley, it certainly has not been a deep throated -- support of the president at all this morning. I mean, even Devin Nunes, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said we will continue to investigate this issue if the evidence warrants it. And you just heard what Chaffetz said and what Rubio said.

Does the president need strength in his own party on this one and if he doesn't have it isn't it just going to mean that that number tick higher and higher in terms of the number of Americans that want a special prosecutor to oversee all of this? In our new polls this morning 65 percent already want that.

WESLEY LOWERY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: You know, it does seem as if these allegations and this suggestion by President Trump is only going to increase the gray area in terms of people who have questions, even people who might otherwise be inclined to agree with President Trump or support President Trump. This is only further muddying the waters of what exactly was going on prior to the election and what might still be going on, right?

But I think more broadly, as you speak to support from fellow Republicans and elsewhere, we have to remember that time and time again fellow Republicans have stood behind President Trump on equally outlandish and unsubstantiated claims, whether it be the three million to five million illegal votes or all of New Hampshire apparently illegally voting, bussing people up from Massachusetts. The murder rate, apparently everyone is being killed on every street corner in America.

Time and time again we've seen Republicans kind of bite their bottom lips a little bit and equivocate, maybe he didn't completely make that up, maybe they didn't. What's interesting here is we've seen many fewer Republicans stand up behind him. And this seems to undermine the assumption of seriousness of the presidency. When the president says something, previously no matter who the president was you could assume it was based on some level of intelligence and engrained or rooted in some level of truth. I don't know that that's true anymore. And I think that even members of his own party are starting to see that just because the president says something doesn't mean we have to support it or back it up.

BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: Some members of his own party -- I think there's a lot of radio talkers and conservative media Web sites, though, that are definitely believing the president, taking him at his word, sewing this conspiracy theory, making it even bigger.

[10:35:01] I'm really curious, guys, to see what Mark Levin says on his radio show tonight and what Rush Limbaugh says later today because they in some ways are supporting this conspiracy theory, encouraging and keeping it alive. There's all these stories on blogs about how Hillary knew about it during the election and things like that. So there is this reaction from kind of reasonable members of Congress. However the reaction on the right-wing blogs is to support the president.

It's kind of like the drip, drip, drip of these stories. It's like water in a canyon. It deepens the divide that's already there. It deepens the distance between what people are reading on the Breitbarts of the world and what they're hearing here on CNN.

BERMAN: Ron?

BROWNSTEIN: Yes, and that really -- what Brian is saying really underscores the challenge for Republicans in Congress. On the one hand they have a base that remains deeply supportive of President Trump. On the other hand, you'd have to say the biggest risk to Republicans in 2018 is that there are many voters who are ambivalent at best about President Trump. On the one hand, you saw in your poll, his agenda polled slightly better than his overall approval rating. But there are a lot of doubts about his temperament, his qualifications, his fitness for the office.

Over roughly one quarter of the people who voted for him last November in the exit poll said they didn't think he was, you know, qualified to be president. So the biggest risk, I think, to Republicans is that there are many voters who in their ambivalence want some kind of check on President Trump.

HARLOW: Well --

BROWNSTEIN: They want some sort of limit. And if they are not willing to provide that in 2018, I think that gives Democrats their strongest argument, particularly in the contest for the House where there are 23 House Republicans in districts that Clinton carried, and they would, I think, be vulnerable to an argument that said, you guys are rubber stamping everything, we may need Democrats. And I think that is kind of the tension that Republicans are going through as they also look at their base remaining being supportive.

BERMAN: Rebecca Berg, new travel ban, we could get within minutes at this point, revised travel ban from the White House. Do you think the White House is looking for another fight here or do you think at the end of the day this is going to be something they hope just passes fairly calmly?

BERG: Well, I think based on the fact purely that they actually took the time to do, it would seem, due diligence on this version as opposed to the sort of haphazard release they did the first time around, I think that would suggest that they are trying to do this the right way, and by the right way I mean something that's going to pass legal muster, that's going to actually move them forward toward achieving these goals of increasing security, ensuring that everyone coming into the country has been as thoroughly vetted as possible.

And look, the White House I think recognizes that they were bruised in this court battle the first time around. They lost a lot of credibility in that court battle and also a lot of momentum in terms of what their supporters were feeling with that first version. And so they have stressed that they do want to do this the right way. And I think the fact that we're seeing some reports that Iraq will be excluded now from the list of countries that will be a part of this ban, I think that does reflect that they're taking this a little more seriously this time.

But that doesn't mean that this is not going to be subject to challenges in court. But I think they're hoping that they actually went through the proper legal processes, the proper vetting processes for this plan and that it's going to be upheld.

HARLOW: All right. Rebecca Berg, thank you. Brian Stelter, Ron Brownstein, Wesley Lowery, we appreciate it.

Coming up for us, North Korea firing four more missiles in these tests. It might not stop there. U.S. intelligence now watching several North Korean test flights actively. What they're seeing, we'll have that straight ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[10:42:51] BERMAN: All right, just in to CNN. North Korea could be preparing a new weapons test. U.S. intelligence watching at least two test sites via satellite, one is a missile launch site, another is an underground nuclear test site. And they say, quote, "They are seeing continued activity at both."

HARLOW: This comes as the State Department is condemning the latest round of North Korean missile tests. North Korea over the weekend firing four ballistic missiles, three of them landing into the Sea of Japan. Let's go to the Pentagon, Barbara Starr is there with more. Tell us

more about what John just mentioned, these -- what they're calling continued activity at these sites. What does this mean?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, good morning. You know, if you thought the weekend firing of four extended range scud missiles by North Korea was a problem, there may be a lot more to come.

What U.S. officials are telling me this morning is they are seeing a couple of things. First, signs of continued activity at the North Korean underground nuclear test site. This is where North Korea several times has tested a nuclear device underground. They are seeing signs of activity on the surface. They're not sure what it means but they are telling me it's very similar to what they have seen in the past right before a test. So you can bet U.S. satellites have their eyes trained on that underground nuclear test site.

Separately from that, they are also seeing signs of continued activity at other missile sites above ground, things like engine tests and other preparation activity for possible additional missile launches. That would be no real surprise. North Korea's missile program is growing. They are having more and more success in testing their missiles. And they're testing them at a faster rate. They, you know, keep coming.

This is going to pose a real national security challenge for the White House. I think President Trump several times has already said that North Korea is a major worry for him. What they decide to do about it is the big unanswered question. Just a few days ago, the U.S. and South Korea reached an agreement to put a U.S. missile defense system on South Korean territory.

[10:45:02] It's a threat that is growing and no signs Kim Jong-un is planning to back off anytime soon -- John and Poppy.

BERMAN: All right. Barbara Starr from the Pentagon, a lot going on with North Korea. We will keep our eye on it. Thanks so much, Barbara.

All right. The Republican plan to replace Obamacare about to be revealed. Maybe. You'll have to come back after the break to find out.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARLOW: So this is the week, folks. This is the week that a lot of Republicans in Congress have been waiting and waiting and waiting for, the week when they are set to unveil their Obamacare repeal and replacement bill. Maybe.

BERMAN: Yes. Until now we've sort of been kept in the dark about what exactly is in that plan.

[10:50:03] When I say "we" I mean many Republicans as well including in the Senate because the House members have been keeping it a secret. CNN's Phil Mattingly live for us on Capitol Hill. But maybe you have

the details, Phil.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I have the full bill -- no, actually that would be awesome if I had the full bill in front of me. We don't have it yet because it hasn't actually been released yet. But there's kind of a lot of different dynamics at play that really explain how we got to this point.

Remember, guys, it was only one week ago, simpler times, you might say, that the president made the point that health care is really, really complicated. It is, in fact. And while he said nobody knew that at the time, pretty much everybody knows that on Capitol Hill, which has explained why you've seen a lot of the behind-the-scenes maneuvering before the actual release of this repeal bill with elements of replace. It's not a full repeal and replace. It's repeal as much as they possibly can under the budget rules and then pieces of replace.

Here's what's actually happening behind the scenes. There are two House committees that will be moving forward on this package in the days ahead. They have been working through the weekend, days and nights over the last couple of days, trying to get specific elements right, elements that will pacify unruly conservatives, that will mollify moderates that are very concerned about what this could mean for their elections going forward, but also most importantly, creating a bill that will cover as many people as possible for as low a price as possible, which is very difficult coming in the wake of Obamacare which of course they're trying to get rid of.

Here's what happened over the last couple of days and why it's important. On Friday, at the White House, Mick Mulvaney, the Budget director, held kind of an all-staff meeting trying to get everybody on the same page on how the process is going to work going forward. Sources who were familiar with that meeting tell me it was a very important, a clarifying meeting, as they start this legislative process.

That was followed on Saturday by a conference call that included Speaker Ryan, HHS Secretary Tom Price, Mick Mulvaney, Andrew Brinberg, who's kind of the policy director over at the White House as well as the committee chairmen of the two committees that will be moving on this.

And guys, why this is all important is everyone has to be on the same page if they're going to move forward with this. This can't just be Speaker Ryan's plan. This can't just be committee chair's plan. They need to know that President Trump, Vice President Pence, Health Secretary Tom Price, are all in line with them.

Now what I'm being told is in the wake of this weekend, they do feel like they're in a good place in terms of having a unified front going forward. But what's most important here the legislative process is actually starting. And that's when things get really complicated. It's really complicating inside the Republican conference. And one thing is very true, as you talk about the rank-and-file who are concerned about what is actually in this bill, that rank-and-file is not all in line. They are not all unified.

Those are the issues that are going to have to be addressed in the days ahead to even get this process started, guys, let alone across the finish line.

HARLOW: Yes. Phil Mattingly, keep us posted when you do get that bill in front of you so that you could give us all the details. We appreciate it.

Coming up, travel ban 2.0. Just over 30 minutes from now we're going to know what this includes and what this does not include. Of course how the White House going to keep this one from getting tripped up in the courts like last time. We'll bring you that next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[10:57:16] BERMAN: Just minutes from now, administration officials will release the details of the president's new, slash, revised travel ban.

HARLOW: And one of the key changes that we do know is coming is that Iraq is no longer included in this list of what was seven Muslim majority countries that were banned. Iraq no longer included. A senior official tells CNN this is because of extensive lobbying from the Iraqi government.

Our Ben Wedeman joins us on the phone from Irbil, Iraq.

And Ben, what more do you know about that? Because I know that it did include really intense lobbying efforts, one of those was a phone call between President Trump and Iraq's prime minister Haider al-Abadi. What can you tell us?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, the Iraqis were very upset when the original executive order came out and since then have been pushing very hard to get Iraq removed from the list.

When you speak to Iraqi officials they will tell you time and time again that Iraq is an ally of the United States in the war on terror and there are more than 5,000 Iraqi military personnel in the country, and it is illogical to have Iraq punished in this way regarding the travel ban.

We did see a statement from the Iraqi Foreign Ministry describing the non-inclusion of Iraq in the executive ban. It's described as a step in the right direction, and that it strengthens and reinforces the strategic alliance between Baghdad and Washington, in particular the fight against terrorism. So the Iraqis are obviously very happy about this. And it certainly makes up for a lot of the hurt feelings before.

I remember, when I was in Baghdad in January, I arrived just moments before the Iraqi parliament voted to implement reciprocal measures on American citizens. So I got in before those might have taken us back. It was more symbolic than real, the vote, but nonetheless it was a very good reflection about the consternation felt by many Iraqis having their country included in the original ban. So this is positive news in Baghdad.

BERMAN: All right. Ben Wedeman for us in Irbil, thanks so much.

You know, I've spoken to the former U.S. ambassador -- former Iraqi ambassador to the U.S., Lukman Faily who would have been banned under the old measure right now.

HARLOW: Yes.

BERMAN: He was very, very upset about that. It seems that now at least in this new revised ban that will be taken into account. Again, that coming up in just about 30 minutes.

Thanks so much for watching us. I'm John Berman.

HARLOW: I'm Poppy Harlow. "AT THIS HOUR WITH KATE BOLDUAN" starts now.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. We are following breaking news on two fronts right now. A new travel ban is coming in just minutes.