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INSIDE POLITICS

Trump Meets with Lawmakers; Schiff on Wiretap Claims; Pence on Flynn's Firing; EPA Head Talks Climate Change; February Jobs Report. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired March 10, 2017 - 12:00   ET

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


[12:00:00] UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): His manner, his tenacity, the enthusiasm, (INAUDIBLE). It inspires me to do something for others every day.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Learn more at cnnheroes.com.

We're over time already and we want to say good-bye, everybody. We have to say a quick good-bye to our senior producer, Katie Baritone (ph). She is leaving us today. We are so excited for you, Katie, and we'll miss you dearly.

With that, have a great weekend. "Inside Politics" starts right now.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

DANA BASH, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to INSIDE POLITICS. Thanks for joining us. I'm Dana Bash. John King is off.

We begin with breaking news. As we speak, President Trump is meeting with key House committee chairmen about the issue dividing his party, that's the GOP plan to replace Obamacare. Now, health care is a first fascinating look at how President Trump will operate when it comes to thorny, complicated legislation. Will he be a deal-maker or an arm twister? Successful presidents really have to be a bit of both. But what is tricky for President Trump is that on health care, many of the conservatives who represent the reddest districts with the most Trump voters are urging him to slow down the process and change the bill to answer conservative concerns.

Here's Jim Jordan of the House Freedom Caucus.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JIM JORDAN (R), OHIO: If we can't agree on this, let's do what we agreed on last year. After all, all the Republicans voted for it just 15 months ago. We were able to put it on President Obama's desk. Of course he vetoed it. We know President Trump won't do that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: And as I mentioned, the president is meeting with Republicans from the House. We just got some tape of that meeting. Let's listen. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Hello, everybody. Mr. Vice President.

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Mr. President.

TRUMP: I want to thank each of the House committee leaders for being with us today. Your devotion and leadership has been amazing. I want to just applaud you and the diligent work of your committees to advance the Obamacare repeal and replacement legislation that we've been talking about for a long time and that we've been running with, and I ran with, and I can tell you, and that's what people want. They want repeal and replace. The bill passed just now through Ways and Means and it will - I think the committee just voted recently, right?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

TRUMP: Your other committee?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Energy and Commerce.

TRUMP: Energy and Commerce. And it was a very good vote. And congratulations. That was a good job. Amazing.

We must act now to save Americans from the imploding Obamacare disaster. Premiums have skyrocketed by double digits and triple digits in some cases. And, as an example, Arizona, which I talk about all the time, 116 percent increase and it's going up a lot higher. Seventeen would be a disaster for Obamacare. That's the year it was meant to explode because Obama won't be here. That was when it was supposed to be - get even worse. As bad as it is now, it will get even worse.

Choices are disappearing as one insurer drops out after another. Today, one-third of all counties now have only one insurer on the Obamacare exchanges and the exchanges themselves are a disaster. The House repeal and replace plan ends the Obamacare tax hikes, cutting taxes by hundreds of billions of dollars. It eliminates the Obamacare mandate that forces Americans to buy government approved plans. We all know that one. It provides states with flexibility over how Medicaid dollars are spent, giving power from Washington and back to local government, which we all want to see. They're going to do a much better job. And the plan empowers individual Americans to buy the health insurance that is right for them, and not the plan forced on them by government. You all remember, you can keep your doctor, you can keep your plan, and - oh, Rick (ph), you've never heard that, right?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, no, just (INAUDIBLE).

TRUMP: But it was said many, many times and it turned out to be not true. This is the time we're going to get it done. We're working together. We have some great results. We have tremendous spirit. And I think it's something that is just going to happen very shortly. So thank you all very much and we're going to get to work.

Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you (INAUDIBLE).

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: That's President Trump speaking to cameras in the White House as he actually is beginning a meeting with key Republican House committee chairman. You saw Congressman Brady there, as well as Congressman Walden, two of the key people who are architects of the bill that the House Republican leadership is trying to push through.

[12:05:03] With us now to share their reporting and their insights, Ryan Lizza of "The New Yorker," CNN's MJ Lee, Karen Tumulty of "The Washington Post," and Jonathan Martin of "The New York Times."

So, what did you think of that?

JONATHAN MARTIN, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Well, two thoughts. First of all, a president who ran mocking his opponent for reading from a teleprompter is basically reading from a script entirely, which is striking to see. But also, it's a reflection of just how little this president knows about sort of Congress 101, right? He wants to make deals and get stuff done. He is 20,000 feet. And when he's talking off-the-cuff, he doesn't even know how this bill is moving through Congress, right? He mentioned the Ways and Means Committee and turns to Kevin Brady, but he doesn't mention the Energy and Commerce Committee and has to be prompted by the chairman of that committee as to what the committee's name is and the fact that they passed the bill yesterday out of committee. That's what we're dealing with right now. And, look, me, it doesn't matter because all that matters is that he is going to be persuasive and twist arms when all is said and done, but it's extraordinary to see that in the White House.

BASH: Yes, no, there's no question.

RYAN LIZZA, "THE NEW YORKER": I think it - I think it - I think it matters. I mean if you look at the history of this issue, which has shipwrecked several presidents who have tried it, right, the key ingredient of the ones who either came really close to passing something or did pass something, look at Lyndon Johnson with Medicare, look at Bill Clinton, who got a bill - you know, he made some progress but eventually completely failed.

BASH: Yes.

LIZZA: And Obama, who actually got it across the finish line, it required intense presidential engagement in the issue, deep knowledge of the issue, not just a sort of superficial deal striking person, but someone who understood districts and members' concerns -

BASH: Right.

LIZZA: And the nitty-gritty of healthcare policy. I think that's what's worrying about what you just pointed out there (INAUDIBLE).

BASH: Except, Karen Tumulty, the whole concept, first of all, Jonathan was just saying, about the president not knowing the committee chairman, his voters don't care about that. That's why they want him here. They don't want somebody who will say, my - you know, my friend from this state, my colleague from this state, who talks Washington and knows these people. Having said that, you know, it usually does require presidential leadership and he is relying a lot on these Republican leaders in Congress who never really liked him much. So how much does he even trust what they're telling him?

KAREN TUMULTY, "THE WASHINGTON POST": He - that video was extraordinary.

MARTIN: Yes.

TUMULTY: That was, I believe, the most robotic I have ever seen Donald Trump. And what he kept repeating over and over again was, this is not Obamacare, this is not Obamacare. We said we'd get rid of Obamacare. But he does not seem to have any - any sense or feeling any need to be making the case for what this bill is and what it would do. And this is a very, very dangerous vote for these House Republicans because their feeling is it's too much like Obamacare.

BASH: Yes.

MARTIN: Yes.

MJ LEE, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER: And if only we could get a full transcript of the back and forth between the president and these committee chairmen. I mean, just keep in mind how this debate has progressed only in a couple of days. When the bill was first released, we actually didn't really know if President Trump was behind this bill.

BASH: Right.

MARTIN: Right.

LEE: And because he was getting pressure, he finally put out a tweet saying, this is a wonderful bill. And then he goes and meets with House conservatives and he seems to have sort of given them the leverage that they want and promises to pull back on when the Medicaid expansion would go away, saying, well, that could happen at an earlier date. I'm open to that. At least that's the indication that we've gotten from White House officials. So is this going to be another day when he meets with these folks face-to-face and then a different kind of message appears -

TUMULTY: And (INAUDIBLE) are saying this -

LIZZA: And maybe undercutting Paul Ryan.

TUMULTY: Yes, Paul Ryan is saying this bill cannot change.

MARTIN: Right.

TUMULTY: We need to move this -

MARTIN: This is it. Yes, get it through. Pass it. Yes.

BASH: Well, but that's - but - and that's kind of the point about whether or not Donald Trump is going to just kind of figure out a way to get a deal just to get a deal, or whether or not that kind of - you know, the art of the deal - will work in a situation like this, where big pieces of legislation that we have seen, when they actually do pass, do - they're carefully crafted if you kind of pull -

LIZZA: Yes.

BASH: Anything out, the whole thing unravels, and that's what Republican leaders are trying to explain to the president.

MARTIN: The hardliners in the House believe that if Donald Trump is open to compromise on this bill, then they have a free vote. If they believe that Donald Trump is going to come down on them, fly to their districts and say -

BASH: Exactly.

MARTIN: If you're not with me on this, then you are voting against the Trump agenda, that is what will drive their votes. If they've come out of the White House thinking, well, Trump's open to a deal on Medicaid, for example, they're not going to feel any pressure to vote the right way with leadership (ph) on that.

LIZZA: When they've had all the attention this week, what they want has been driving the media narrative. Who do we think understands the Freedom Caucus and the far right and the House better? Paul Ryan, whose job it is to understand that conference, or Donald Trump, who's a newcomer to town. And so Paul Ryan put together this very delicate political balance, this bill that really doesn't please anyone, and the conservatives cried and screamed, didn't get anything out of Ryan, so they came running to Trump and Trump says, all right, well, I'll accommodate some of your concerns.

[12:10:15] TUMULTY: And it's also -

MARTIN: Right.

TUMULTY: Again, as I said earlier, this is a dangerous vote. So say they vote for this, with this Medicaid date in it, in the House -

LIZZA: Yes.

TUMULTY: And then it changes in the Senate -

MARTIN: Right.

TUMULTY: They're on record as voting for something that a primary opponent in two years - because the House has to run every two years -

BASH: Right.

TUMULTY: Can come and hit them over the head with. LEE: And since somebody mentioned "art of the deal," I think it is

true that clearly Trump is trying to do a little bit of negotiating and he clearly is swayed whenever he meets with a different kind of stakeholder.

MARTIN: Yes.

LEE: However, I don't think that we have seen Trump do the full Trump yet. We know what Trump looks like when he's passionate about an issue, an issue like the wall. He can go out there, do rallies after rallies and talk about an issue to no end. And this is an issue, the Obamacare bill, where we have not seen Trump really get really passionate about this issue.

BASH: No.

MARTIN: Right.

LEE: And I wonder if it's because on the, you know, policy details, he's not actually sure yet exactly what he wants and what he wants -

BASH: That's right. And - and -

MARTIN: But so far - yes.

BASH: And let's be honest, it's - of course he talked about repealing Obamacare during the entire campaign, because you had to.

MARTIN: Right.

BASH: But this is not one of the things that really drives him -

MARTIN: That's right. The animated -

BASH: Like trade. I mean you always know with presidents and politicians in general, you can tell by the way they speak about issues what they really care the most about. We want to -

MARTIN: This was never his thing.

BASH: Never.

TUMULTY: Don't forget, at one point he supported single payer, that is government-run healthcare.

BASH: Oh, yes, we - we don't forget that.

Thanks, guys.

Hold onto these thoughts. We want to talk up next about another issue that Congress is dealing with and what a House Democrat - the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee says about evidence or no evidence of President Trump being wiretapped by President Obama. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [12:16:03] BASH: No evidence what so ever that anyone tapped candidate Donald Trump's phones last year as he's claiming. That's according to the top House Democrat on the Intelligence Committee. And you'll hear this only on CNN.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Is there any evidence to substantiate what he's been saying about President Obama spying on him?

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: I haven't seen any evidence what so ever to substantiate that. And I think when Sean Spicer isn't even willing to talk about it, you know there's a real problem.

RAJU: Do you think that on March 20th, at that hearing, Comey is going to be prepared to talk about this issue?

SCHIFF: He's certainly prepared for the question. And I don't see any reason why he can't answer it. He may even welcome the opportunity.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BASH: Congressman Schiff was one of only eight lawmakers in a closed door classified meeting yesterday with the director of the FBI, James Comey, who they were talking about. Now the congressman would not say anything more about what was said in that classified meeting.

First (INAUDIBLE) with you on this. The idea that the FBI director goes up to The Hill and makes pretty clear, it sounds like, very clear, that what the president said about Obama wiretapping him is just not true. And that he wants to say it publicly. Is that going to be like the most epic hearing that we're going to see in recent history when he goes up to The Hill and potentially says that?

TUMULTY: And this is sort of the biggest skirmish. But the larger truth here is we seem to have an entire executive branch that is at war with itself and at war with the White House. And this is just - you know, that the president could make this sort of extraordinary claim and not be called on it, you know, just wouldn't happen.

LIZZA: And imagine the pressure on Comey when he goes up there after what - after his testimony in the Benghazi - excuse me, in the e-mail situation with Hillary Clinton -

BASH: Yes.

LIZZA: Where he really did not pull any punches. He criticized her. He told members when she was telling the truth and when she wasn't and it had an enormous effect on the campaign. So he's going to have to go and testify and be as brutally frank about President Trump as he was against Hillary Clinton or he's going to - he's going to hear about it from Democrats.

LEE: Right, he's not entering this environment as a neutral figure. You know, this is frustration that has been building among Democrats for months. You speak to Democratic lawmakers and professional Democrats even now and they will still mention what Comey did, the fact that he -

LIZZA: Yes.

LEE: Talked about the Clinton e-mail servers issue so close to the election and did that really, you know, tip the scales? And so when he goes to meet with congressional Republican and Democrats, that political backdrop is always going to be there.

MARTIN: And I talked to a Dem last week who told me that, it's now March of '17, that Bill Clinton is still raging about Comey.

BASH: Oh, I'm sure.

MARTIN: That - that anybody who will listen.

BASH: I don't think that's ever going to stop.

MARTIN: Clinton is raging about Comey still -

BASH: Yes.

MARTIN: And is just furious about the intervention, in his mind.

LIZZA: Yes.

BASH: So the whole question, you talked about the executive branch kind of at war with itself. One member of the executive branch was gone, or at least an aide, before - barely before he could do his job, and that was Mike Flynn. There's a report today that during his time with the campaign, he worked as a foreign agent, lobbied on behalf of Turkey. The vice president, who has a complicated relationship with Mike Flynn, I think to stay the best, was not happy to hear this but says he didn't know. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, let me say, hearing that story today was the first I heard of it. And I fully support the decision that President Trump made to ask for General Flynn's resignation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're disappointed by the story?

PENCE: It's the first I heard of it. And I think it is - it is an affirmation of the president's decision to ask General Flynn to resign.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[12:20:04] BASH: So, hold on, General Flynn, I'm just going to back the bus up one more time over you.

TUMULTY: Well, and also, by the way, it was the president asked him to resign - back to my point about the executive branch - because the executive branch was leaking all over him.

MARTIN: Right.

TUMULTY: The was not -

MARTIN: The only reason it happened.

TUMULTY: This was not something that Donald Trump was doing because he had any, you know, first hand reservations or doubts about General Flynn.

MARTIN: Yes.

TUMULTY: In fact, he was defending him right up until the point where he was -

MARTIN: After. After, too, right?

TUMULTY: Right. Right.

LIZZA: And he - this situation with Turkey seems to me even more troubling than what - than having some conversations with the Russian ambassador, right? I mean he's national security - incoming national security advisor, talking to the Russian ambassador is not the end of the world, depending on what they said, of course. He lied about it to his boss. That's what got him fired. He was a - he was lobbying for a foreign agent and wrote an op-ed -

MARTIN: (INAUDIBLE).

LIZZA: In, you know -

MARTIN: Paid handsomely for it too, by the way.

LIZZA: Paid five - half a - half a million dollars.

MARTIN: (INAUDIBLE). Yes.

LIZZA: I mean that is - that is unreal. It also suggests that he wasn't - probably wasn't that confident that Trump was going to win -

BASH: Yes.

LIZZA: Because on the day of the election he had an article about his clients in "The Hill" newspaper.

BASH: Well, to be - to be fair, he wouldn't have been the only Trump advisor who didn't think that their guy was going to win.

LIZZA: Yes, that's true. Yes, Donald Trump himself, probably.

LEE: And I think this Russian issue for the Trump administration is one of those things where you pull on the yarn and you're trying to figure out, well, if I keep pulling, is it going to be the entire sweater that unravels, or is it just going to be a part of it. And I think the biggest red flag for the Trump administration is that as we saw with Vice President Pence, they don't actually know. They don't have a good sense of how many other issues are out there.

MARTIN: Right.

LEE: How many other problematic issues are out there. And so, you know, when an administration is faced with a potential controversy, they try to do the prep work. They try to be prepared. But with this, they're not necessarily sure how much to be prepared for or what (ph) to be prepared for.

BASH: I want to turn - I want to turn topics just for a quick second, and that is to the new EPA administrator, Pruitt, Scott Pruitt, talking about human activity and global change, global climate change.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you believe that it's been proven that CO2 is the primary control snob for climate? Do you believe that?

SCOTT PRUITT, EPA ADMINISTRATOR: No, I - no, I think that - that measuring with precision human activity on the climate is something very challenging to do and there's tremendous disagreement about the - the degree of impact. So, no, I would not agree that it's a primary contributor to the - to the global warming that we see.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK.

PRUITT: We don't know that yet as far as - we need - we need to continue to debate - we need to continue the review and analysis.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: You were shaking your head, Karen.

TUMULTY: This - this is not a close question. Science has weighed in on this. And the evidence is there. Human activity is contributing to climate change. That is a simple fact. Now, politician can continue to debate this. It is no longer a debate among scientists.

LIZZA: This is - and I think this is interesting, your second point there about politicians debating. A lot of Republicans actually have moved on from the debate. A lot of conservatives have moved on and had their peace with the fact that CO2 is contributing to climate change and have said, oh, the real debate is what do we do about that? How do we deal with that in a way that doesn't harm our economy?

Pruitt is going back, you know, 10, 15 years, to where conservatives were -

BASH: Yes.

LIZZA: And just outright denial on a major scientific consensus. And there are a lot of things in the scientific community that you can debate. This is just not one of them. And so it's - you know, I think it was - it would have been hard for Trump to find someone who was a true climate change denialist and he's got one now running the EPA.

BASH: He did. He found him. He found him.

All right, stand by, guys.

We're going to take a quick break. And after we come back, we're going to talk about a new jobs report out today making the financial markets happy and it also comes on a day when President Trump is marking 50 days in office. Up next, we're going to look at what he's accomplished so far and what's left to be done.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:28:16] BASH: Today, a new jobs report detailing the state of employment in the U.S. for the first full month of the Trump administration. And it's good news, 235,000 new jobs created in February, and the unemployment rate ticked down to 4.7 percent. Last year the U.S. economy added an average of 190,000 jobs per month. The unemployment rate is now back to where it was in 2007, right before the economic collapse. White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus was eager to trumpet the good report tweeting this morning @potus, "Trump delivers its jobs report, 235,000 new jobs and unemployment rate down to 4.7 percent, great news for American workers."

Jonathan, is this something that the president can take credit for or -

MARTIN: Will he or can he?

BASH: No, no, can. Do you think it's legitimate for him to be able to take credit?

MARTIN: Oh, to be fair to President Trump and Reince Priebus, every president claims credit for good economic news -

BASH: One hundred percent.

MARTIN: Whether or not happens on their watch or the last president. So, I mean, in some ways, not a lot, but in some ways they're acting like conventional politicians. And this is one of them, you know, claiming credit for good economic news when it happens and the details might be complicated and perhaps not totally thanks to them, but that's not going to stop them. So, yes, I mean I think this is sort of standard operating procedure for a politician.

TUMULTY: They're going to get it whether they claim it or not.

BASH: Right.

TUMULTY: I mean when you're the president you get the credit when the news is good and you get the blame when it's bad.

BASH: Uh-huh.

MARTIN: Yes.

TUMULTY: So, you know, ride it. [12:29:44] LEE: It's certainly a good data point. I do think, though,

at some point Trump will have to put a little more on his scoreboard, to really be able to effectively say, here are the actions that I've taken along with my colleagues in Congress to really do - you know, make improvements for the country. You know, at some point, it - you can only go so far with executive orders and I think that's why the Obamacare battle, again, the fact that it's taking so much longer than people thought initially is going to be problematic if it drags on and prevents other legislative actions from being