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CNN NEWSROOM

Trump Endorses GOP's "Wonderful New Bill"; How Will Markets React to GOP Health Care Plan; Comey "Incredulous" Over Trump's Wiretapping Claim. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired March 7, 2017 - 09:00   ET

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


[09:00:00] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: All right. There you go. We --

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Corden. Unusual appearance in our late- night laughs.

CAMEROTA: That's right. That's right. He must feel very honored. Time now for NEWSROOM with Poppy Harlow and John Berman.

Good morning, guys.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, you guys. We will see you soon. Good morning, everyone.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm John Berman.

HARLOW: I'm Poppy Harlow. So glad you're with us.

This morning, the eight-year battle over ObamaCare has a new bill. And all of the sudden, a new warrior. Moments ago, the President tweeting, "Our wonderful new health care bill is now out for review and negotiation."

A Talmudic parsing of these words reveals two things that we just didn't know before for certain. First, the President is owning this bill. And second, he's willing to negotiate. But where will he negotiate?

The real battle might be within his own party. How much will the plan cost and how many people might lose coverage?

BERMAN: Meanwhile, it could be a white-hot proxy battle over alleged Russian connections to the Trump campaign. In just a few minutes on Capitol Hill, Democrats threatening to block the confirmation of the Deputy Attorney General nominee unless he is willing to support a special prosecutor.

And a new crisis of confidence and credulity. The FBI Director is reportedly incredulous over President Trump's charge that President Obama ordered a wiretap on his phones, and the White House is refusing to state definitively that it has full confidence in James Comey. This is not how that relationship is supposed to work.

Let's begin with the Republican plan to replace ObamaCare. We have details. CNN's Sunlen Serfaty joins us from Capitol Hill.

Good morning, Sunlen.

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to you, John. This is certainly a major milestone for Republicans up here on Capitol Hill, releasing their plan to repeal and replace ObamaCare. But within hours, there are some major criticism and concern coming from members of their own party, some dubbing this ObamaCare 2.0 or ObamaCare Lite.

So let's look at the difference between this plan from Republicans and ObamaCare. First, this bill repeals the individual and employer mandate out of pocket subsidies and changes the Medicaid expansion.

But here's where it will likely stay the same. The plan still allows children to stay on their parents' plans until the age of 26. It largely would keep the ObamaCare protections of those with pre- existing conditions in place. It keeps the no annual lifetime limit, and it also keeps maternity and preventive care in place.

Now, on Capitol Hill, there is a lot of reaction coming in, including from some Republicans like Jim Jordan from the House Freedom Caucus. He says that changes that Republicans made from that draft proposal that was leaked a few weeks ago does not go far enough.

He says in a statement, "I don't see any significant changes here. It's significantly the same thing to me, so it sort of doesn't change my position. We put on President Obama's desk a bill that got rid of taxes and the Republican President's desk a bill that keeps taxes in place," with a big question mark at the end there.

And no surprise here, Democrats also slamming this bill. Nancy Pelosi is saying in a statement, "Republicans will force tens of millions of families to pay more for worse coverage. Republicans have decided that affordable health care should be the privilege of the wealthy, not the right of every family in America."

So, clearly, there are many battle lines already being drawn up here on Capitol Hill, John and Poppy. Work will start on Wednesday. That's when two House committees will start marking up this bill. The big goal, house Republican leadership wants a bill out of committee on the floor in the next few weeks.

HARLOW: Yes, but it just goes to how complicated this entire process is, something the President said he just recently realized. Sunlen Serfaty in the Hill, thank you.

Millions of you, Americans, are waking up today with a big question. How would these changes affect how you take care of and protect yourself and your family? Our Chief Business Correspondent Christine Romans is here with some answers.

Look, I think, big standout, Christine, right, is the fact that there's no price tag.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Right. HARLOW: The CBO has not marked this yet.

ROMANS: Right.

HARLOW: We have no idea what it's going to cost.

ROMANS: We don't, but there are health care economists who've been very closely watching the twists and turns of the negotiations. And we should point out, Poppy and John, this is the starting block here for this legislation, the starting block, and the President just tweeting moments ago that it is under review and up for negotiation.

So we can kind of glean who would lean to the win side, who leans to the lose side under these changes. And we don't know how many lower income people would be left uninsured. That will be the big question. If you don't have a mandate, how many people will simply drop off the system?

Look, for lower income people who are left uninsured -- let's look at this, a 27-year-old making $27,000 a year. Under the GOP plan, they get $2,000 back with this new tax credits. Under ObamaCare, they got $3,000 back. So for people who are making about $20,000 or less, they could have a hit under this GOP plan.

[09:05:02] There were subsidies in the ObamaCare plan that were beneficial to people who didn't make a lot of money. But younger Americans, on the flip side here, they stand to benefit because, as you know, under ObamaCare, that all depends on younger, healthy Americans subsidizing older, sicker people.

So under ObamaCare, younger policy holders subsidized the older ones. Under this new plan, as it stands now, it will be changed, of course. They could save $700 to $4,000 per year.

Another big question here is the Medicaid expansion. Now, it wouldn't end immediately. But under ObamaCare, you know, federal dollars were expanded. More people were qualified under Medicaid, so we're talking a lot of people with only a little bit more money. You know, we're talking about low-income folks to people who are a little bit higher income strata.

It will be a couple of years before that is rolled back, but that could be a major change as well. And there are some governors who have been concerned that that means less money for the people they have to cover in their states, which means either higher premiums, less coverage, or, you know, the math just doesn't work for them.

BERMAN: And some Republican senators.

HARLOW: Right.

BERMAN: Republican senators are concerned too about that rollback of Medicaid coverage.

ROMANS: Right. BERMAN: Those could be important votes. Christine Romans, go

nowhere. We need you to stay with us. We're also going to bring in our panel, CNN Political Reporter Nia-Malika Henderson and CNN political analyst and Washington bureau chief of "The Daily Beast," Jackie Kucinich.

Guys, welcome. I want to put back that tweet from Donald Trump this morning. And as Poppy insisted on doing, parsing it with Talmudic precision right now.

HARLOW: I insisted.

BERMAN: The President wrote, "Our wonderful new health care bill is now out for review and negotiation." You know, Jackie, number one, he is taking ownership. He calls it "our bill" and he calls it "wonderful" all at the same time.

So, Jackie, the question here is, how much is he willing to fight for this, and how much juice does he have with Republicans on the fence?

JACKIE KUCINICH, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, THE DAILY BEAST: Those are both the questions of the hour because he is going to be fighting kind of a multi-fronted war with this bill. Not only with Democrats who have no intention of supporting anything, frankly, they were going to put forward because they want to keep the Affordable Care Act, but within his own party. And there are different factions therein.

You mentioned the more moderate Republican senators who wrote this letter saying that they're worried about -- they're also Medicaid expansion states, but there's also the more conservative member. Rand Paul, for example, is joining the Freedom Caucus just this afternoon to trash this bill because they don't like it.

They're calling it ObamaCare Lite. They don't like the tax credits. And so to the extent that Trump can reach out to those lawmakers, and to the ones in the middle, he's going to have to do that because this is one of those pieces of legislation where every single vote is going to count.

HARLOW: For a President that didn't, Nia, hold back at all in trashing ObamaCare on the campaign trail, and equally as the sitting President, the fact that in one of his first tweets about this bill, he says up for negotiation. I think that is very striking.

The question becomes where? Is it on Planned Parenthood funding, for example, where we know his own daughter, Ivanka Trump, tried to dissuade him from taking away funding from Planned Parenthood, for example, during the campaign. Is it on the Medicaid expansion? Where is he going to give, do you think?

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: You know, that is what we don't know. I mean, one of the things we do know is that Donald Trump is going to learn a lot about from this bill about this bill today from watching television.

He calls it "our bill." I think a lot of the framing of it and a lot of what it does, sort of the guts of the bill, he's going to learn about today. And I think that's where you're going to see Republicans maybe not so eager to come in front of the cameras today and talk about it. And when they do, they could run into some trouble as we saw with Jason Chaffetz today, talking about this idea that you've got to choose between your cell phone and health care, particularly, if you are poor.

HARLOW: Right.

HENDERSON: And the thing that Donald Trump has been insistent about was this idea that it would be cheap, and that he didn't want to see people lose coverage. And under this bill, people are going to lose coverage. Ten million people now get health care under that Medicaid expansion. So if you were in some of those red states that have expanded on Medicaid -- states he won like West Virginia, like Kentucky, like Ohio -- how does he negotiate that, if you're facing a senator who doesn't want to face his constituents who could lose health care.

So we don't know. I mean, this is what Donald Trump is great at, right? He talks about the art of the deal. He talks about being a master negotiator, but he has often sounded like a compassionate conservative when he talks about these sort of entitlement programs. And we do know that there are going to be so many Republicans who don't want to see this kind of entitlement program go forward.

BERMAN: So, Christine Romans, Nia brought up what we heard from Jason Chaffetz this morning.

HARLOW: Yes.

BERMAN: You know, it's hard to be all things to all people. I guess the iPhone is all things to all people, but, look, you know, it gets to the idea of choosing between access to care and overall coverage.

Listen to what Jason Chaffetz said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[09:10:01] REP. JASON CHAFFETZ (R), UTAH: We are getting rid of the individual mandate. We are getting rid of those things that people said that they don't want. And you know what? Americans have choices, and they've got to make a choice.

And so maybe rather than getting that new iPhone that they just love and they want to go spend hundreds of dollars on that, maybe they should invest in their own health care. They've got to make those decisions themselves.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: Is health care for lower income Americans, Christine Romans, a choice between an iPhone and keeping healthy kids?

ROMANS: Well, the point of ObamaCare was that it wasn't supposed to be a negotiable thing. It wasn't supposed to be a luxury. It was supposed to be a right as an American citizen in the biggest economy of the world, that you don't have to choose between, you know, a telecom bill and health care.

The question here for low-income folks, especially if you have this roll back of the federal expansion, is what kind of sacrifices are they going to make? What about the quality of the health care?

The argument amongst some who are promoting a new plan is that you want to be able to have maybe a lower cost coverage, you know, that somebody can afford, that hasn't some things in there that they don't need. But that, I think, statement there crystallizes what many liberals despise about this whole effort of trying to undo ObamaCare.

HARLOW: Right. He wasn't just talking about the so-called Cadillac plans. He was saying, you know, make a choice between your iPhone and your coverage.

Before we let you go, Christine, the markets this morning ahead of the opening bell, how are we looking?

ROMANS: Yes, looking a little soft here. You know, we've had such a big rally since the election, and now we're kind of in the proof is in the pudding phase for the markets. They really want to see some work, not just on ObamaCare but really on tax reform and regulations, you guys. That's what's really been the oxygen for the markets.

Also, we have a Fed meeting. We're expecting the Fed to raise interest rates maybe as early as next week. And the jobs reports on Friday. The jobs market has been very, very good, but there are a lot of kind of, you know, I would say, data points coming in the next few days, and so you're seeing sort of a pause here in the markets.

BERMAN: All right. Christine Romans, thank you very much.

ROMANS: You're welcome.

BERMAN: Nia-Malika and Jackie, stick around. A lot more to talk about because still to come, the President, he trusted the FBI Director when he was investigating Hillary Clinton's e-mails and writing letters about them 10 days before the election. So why won't his Press Secretary say the President trusts him now? We're going to have much more of a bombshell reaction from James Comey as the President talks about the claims that President Obama wiretapped him.

And a new travel ban means new questions. The State Department gets ready to hold its first briefing as critics sound off on the new order.

HARLOW: Also, on top of all that, tensions rising in a big way on the Korean peninsula. Why China is now pointing its finger and issuing a major warning right at the United States, straight ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:17:03] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: It is 9:16 a.m. here on the east. Do you have confidence in your FBI director? As of right now we can't get a straight answer on that one from the White House whether or not the president does or does not have that confidence. And that's pretty astounding.

In just hours, the White House will likely face that very question again. Press Secretary Sean Spicer faces reporters for his first on camera briefing in more than a week.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: This after the shocking revelation in its own right that Director James Comey was, "Incredulous", as he read the president's wiretapping accusations against former President Obama. So, as we call it a crisis of confidence incredulity depending on what side you're on.

CNN's Sara Murray live in Washington. Sara, this is pretty unusual.

SARA MURRAY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It's very unusual. But, remember, the whole relationship between this president and the FBI director, James Comey, has been unusual certainly from the campaign and onward. But it is striking to see the FBI director's reaction about Donald Trump's wiretapping allegations.

We also know that the FBI asked the Department of Justice if someone there would knock down this allegation, the notion that President Obama had somehow ordered the wiretapping of Donald Trump's phones when he was a candidate during the presidential campaign.

Now, of course, all of this brings us back to the question of exactly how does the president feel at this moment about his FBI director. I asked Sean Spicer yesterday whether the president still has confidence in him. Listen to what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MURRAY: What's the president's view of James Comey right now? Does he have the president's full faith and confidence to stay on as the FBI director?

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Well, I am not -- I don't think --- we only heard unsubstantiated anonymous sources make those claims. I don't think Director Comey is actually commented on anything that he is allegedly said. So, I'm not going to comment on what people say. He might as said I think the director is more than capable of speaking for himself.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MURRAY: Now, I asked Sean Spicer this twice yesterday. And we got a little bit a verbal gymnastic there. But, we did not get a straight answer about whether the president still has confidence in his FBI director. A day has passed. Presumably, they could have spoken with the FBI director. You can bet that this will be a question at the briefing today. We will see if the president does throw his confidence behind his FBI director or if we sort of remain in this limbo.

HARLOW: Yeah. That's right. Ask that three times there. Sara Murray, great job. Thank you so much. She obviously had chance to speak quickly with Spicer. He's going to say more today in a press briefing. We haven't seen him on camera.

BERMAN: Or not.

HARLOW: Or not. I get that both.

BERMAN: Yes.

HARLOW: We're going to hope we're going to get direct answers.

Joining us now to discuss all of this, CNN Senior Political Reporter Nia-Malika Henderson is back, along with Jackie Kucinich, the Bureau Chief of the Daily Beast, and joining us CNN Senior Legal Analyst Jeffrey Toobin.

Jeffrey let me begin with you. Just talk to us about how astounding you believe it is that we have the FBI director incredulous with the president over these wiretapping allegations. The White House asked three times, do you have confidence in the FBI director, and none answers all three times. How remarkable is this one month in?

[09:20:00] JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I mean, the politics surrounding Jim Comey are so complicated and bizarre that it's hard to know how to untangle it. Remember, this is the same Jim Comey --

HARLOW: Yes.

TOOBIN: -- who sabotaged Hillary Clinton's campaign in October by violating Department of Justice policy about public statements.

Now, it appears that he is following or requesting permission from the Justice Department to speak out. But now, he's being reticent and only, you know, making public through leaks his feelings. You know, the fact is, Jim Comey is only saying what every other neutral observer has been saying which is there appears to be no basis for what Donald Trump said on Saturday in these tweets about President Obama. But, it's a very complicated knot of alliances and anger. And I certainly don't have any clue on how it is going to turn out.

BERMAN: You know, Nia, I mean, Nia-Malika, I mean it goes without saying, if anything goes without saying anymore in this administration that this is not how the relationship is supposed to work between the FBI director and the president. They are supposed to have confidence in each other. They are supposed to credulity with each other.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: That's right. I mean, we have seen as Sara talked about. This is an administration that came in questioning the authority, the validity of information that came out of the intelligence agency. So, in that way, in some ways it's not surprising that Donald Trump has taken this tactic or the folks around him are sort of glad at this point to be in limbo and not commenting on this -- on the FBI director, Jim Comey.

We have seen I think once in the history of FBI directors -- the -- on FBI director who was fired typically that isn't something that happened. And we've seen few who have resigned. He of course of a 10 year term, he's appointed by Obama would seem very unlikely that Donald Trump would make that move to fire him.

But, at this point, it would be difficult I think for this administration to come out and say they are confident in Jim Comey given the fact that Jim Comey, he used, you know, the sort of big word, "Incredulous", which I guess, Harvard folks understand.

BERMAN: Many syllables.

HENDERSON: Yes. You break that down. It's basically -- I mean he's calling B.S. on what Donald Trump said. I mean that's essentially what he is saying there. So, I think it's going to -- we'll see what does Sean Spicer does today in this press conference.

HARLOW: You know and --

TOOBIN: Just a follow-up -- I'm sorry, just a follow up on what, Nia, said, it's not with our president to have tension between the president and the FBI director. Bill Clinton fired Williams Sessions as, Nia, pointed out, and also had extremely contentious relationship with Louie Free whom he appointed. So, you know, this sort of thing is not completely unprecedented.

HARLOW: It's a fair and important point, when you talk about the confidence though that his own party has, Jackie, in the president's claims. I mean there have been no as we talked about it yesterday, full-throated supporters, even in his own party if the president thinks. Here's how Senator John McCain put it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Well, I think that the president of the United States should provide any evidence that he might have that would corroborate a charge of the seriousness. I mean, all in favor of Congress continuing an investigation. But first, I believe the president should tell the American people what evidence he has that this kind of action was carried out by the previous president.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARLOW: That's calling out the president. No surprise from Senator McCain.

JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITCAL ANALYST: Right.

HARLOW: But, if you have more and more like him, right, are coming onboard calling on the president to put forth this evidence, and if Comey does come forth and make this public statement. How urgent will it be, Jackie, for the president to say something. And more importantly, show something to back up these wiretapping claims?

KUCINICH: It's already kind of pass time for showing the evidence. The president could declassify whatever he is talking about. He could have an answer to this. And what see from other Republicans is, yes, yes, we'll look into this.

So, here's the thing about these investigations, they take time. And we have a president that has sort of a millennial relationship with instant gratification. He wants it now. So, this is something that they're going to have to wait for at this point in terms of going through this investigation. But yes, some evidence -- the more people like John McCain that come out is certainly does put more pressure on the president to tell everyone what he's talking about.

TOOBIN: And remember --

HARLOW: I think that's a millennial crying foul on a millennials --

TOOBIN: Jeffrey Brooklyn.

HARLOW: -- just by the way.

TOOBIN: But, you know, we have spent two years saying Donald Trump has to do X, you know. He has to explain why. And he never explains these things, you now, he never explained why he thought there were 3 million, you know, fraudulent votes. You know he never explained why he thought there were thousands of Muslims cheering at 9/11. I mean when are we going to learn that he doesn't explain what he doesn't want to explain? And he's not going to explain this. He believes it and he's going to say that were was invest -- there should be investigation But, I don't think he has to do anything.

[09:25:16] HENDERSON: But now he has these people around him who essentially echo what he says. He has a whole apparatus around him in the White House who will get out and defend him in a way that he didn't necessarily have that on the campaign. And now, the federal government, Congress, also has to respond to that. So, it's certainly different, but I agree with Jeffrey. We've been waiting on the pivot and for him to act and behave differently. I think we haven't seen it. It's unlikely. I think in this instance that we'll see him do something different or layout this evidence.

BERMAN: Yes. I think waiting for the pivot may be a lost cause.

(CROSS TALK)

BERMAN: But guys, hang on, Jeffrey, I want to get --

TOOBIN: We're so gullible. You know, he gave that speech to Congress and everybody said, "Oh, he's made the pivot." And it was like day later that all this craziness.

BERMAN: No, no, look, I think those who thought it was permanent change. They've been proven wrong. Those who said that that speech was out of character and indifferent, I think that's still very much true. Let do one more thing because Dr. Ben Carson, the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development said some stuff yesterday that made some news. It was comparing slavery to immigration. Let's listen to what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. BEN CARSON, HUD SECRETARY: This is what America is about, a land of dreams and opportunity there were other immigrants who came here in the bottom of slave ships, worked even longer, even harder for less. But they, too, had a dream.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: So, you know, Nia-Malika he didn't clarify that one shouldn't compare slavery to immigration necessarily. But this is get filed under, you know, stuff Ben Carson says. And by the way, Dr. Carson does say the stuff or is there something deeper here?

HENDERSON: I think that's right. You know, I think in a lot of his public comments about slavery. Then he said that Obamacare is the worst thing since slavery for instance. He's made some other off- color remarks. And I think, you know, in a lot of his public statements about foreign policy and public policy. He proves over and over again in many ways that he is a fantastic neurosurgeon. And that that is his area of expertise. And he's got, I think, a lot to learn in this new job over at HUD and we'll see how that works at that point.

HARLOW: The Lion of the Morning.

BERMAN: Nia-Malika Henderson you are a fantastic neurosurgeon. Jackie Kucinich, Jeffrey Toobin, thank you one in all for being with us, really appreciate it.

All right, for the first time, you're getting a briefing from the State Department in the Trump administration. And for the very first time, he will have to answer questions about the new travel ban. Stay tune for that.

HARLOW: This is some Democrats are crying foul calling it just Muslim ban 2.0. Why one Democratic lawmaker says, "Isn't just president putting her words new wrapping paper on the same discrimination? All right, we're going to after what he means by that, next.

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