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Today is Deadline for Trump to Reveal Wiretap Evidence; CBO: 14 Million More Uninsured Next Year Under Republican Plan; Nonpartisan CBO: 14 Million More Uninsured Next Year; Today is Deadline for Trump to Reveal Wiretap Evidence. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired March 13, 2017 - 17:00   ET

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


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, breaking news. Healthcare score card. Fourteen million more Americans could be without health insurance coverage next year under the Obamacare replacement plan pushed by the GOP leadership and the White House. That's the assessment of the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office which says the number of uninsured could sky rocket in subsequent years.

[17:00:30] Evidence deadline. Today the Trump administration must give Congress evidence on the president's claim that he was wiretapped by President Obama. The White House now says wiretapping doesn't necessarily mean wiretapping. But a top Trump aide says it could mean surveillance via microwaves. So what do they mean?

Security breach. Two and a half years after a knife-wielding intruder jumped the White House fence and made it into the mansion, another fence jumper makes it hundreds of yards across the grounds. So what happened to the stepped-up security?

And snow marches in. Two storms sweep the country about to merge into a monster, bringing know from Washington through New England. New York could get 20 inches with winds up to 50 miles an hour.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Breaking news. A punch in the gut for Republican congressional -- breaking news. A punch in the gut for top Republican congressional leaders and the White House. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates that, if their Obamacare replacement plan goes through, 14 million more people would be uninsured next year. That would rise to 24 million people a decade from now, while federal deficits would be reduced by more than $300 billion.

The president today accused the news media of making Obamacare look so good all of a sudden. He insists Obamacare is imploding but admits it could take years for healthcare prices to come down under a replacement plan.

Today is the deadline set by the House Intelligence Committee for the Trump administration to show evidence of the president's claim that President Obama wiretapped him. Press Secretary Sean Spicer now says the president doesn't believe that President Obama personally wiretapped him. But senior advisor Kellyanne Conway has more outlandish accusations, suggesting wider surveillance via televisions and microwaves.

Some lawmakers are calling for the White House to essentially put up or shut up. Senator John McCain says the president could clear this up in a minute.

Let's go to the White House right now, where Sean Spicer is introducing the secretary of Health and Human Services and the director of the Office of Management and Budget, getting their reaction to the Congressional Budget Office report.

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We'll obviously have more tomorrow as we go forward. So with that, let me turn it over to Dr. Tom Price, the secretary of Health and Human Services.

DR. TOM PRICE, SECRETARY OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES: Thanks, Sean. Thank you so much.

It was a good cabinet meeting that we had. During that cabinet meeting, the -- this CBO report came out. I think it's important that we ask the question, compared to what? And the fact of the matter is that this is about real people. It's about real people's lives. It's about the coverage, the health coverage that they have but the healthcare that they receive.

And the fact of the matter is that right now, current law, we've got individuals who have health coverage but no healthcare. And it's incredibly important to appreciate that. In fact, the care -- coverage numbers are, in fact, going down. If -- if Obamacare -- if the ACA went away, the fact of the matter is that there would be 20 million who would not have coverage.

The CBO looked at a portion of our plan but not the entire plan. In fact, the entire plan includes the regulatory apparatus that we've got the ability to use at Health and Human Services that the previous administration used significantly. But we want to use it to make certain that patients are helped and that costs are decreased.

They also ignored completely the other legislative activities that we'll be putting into place to make certain that we have an insurance market that actually works.

So we disagree strenuously with -- with the report that was put out. We believe that our plan will cover more individuals at a lower cost and give them the choices that they want for the coverage that they want for themselves and their families, not that the government forces them to buy.

I'm pleased to be joined, as well, by the OMB director, Mr. Mulvaney.

MICK MULVANEY, DIRECTOR, OFFICE OF MANAGEMENT AND BUDGET: Thanks very much.

I want to reiterate that we haven't had a chance to read the entire report yet. We're seeing some of the same top-line summaries that you folks have seen. I want to talk a little bit about one of the parts that I've seen, though, that deals beyond coverage. And that deals with premium costs.

One of the things we've said about this proposal from the very beginning was that we believed for some reasons that have been basic tenets of Republican conservative thought for a long time that competition lowers cost. And what the CBO just told us is that's exactly right.

The numbers that I've seen in the first glance is that the CBO says that premiums will go down by at least 10 percent with this plan. So it just confirms a lot of things that Tom and I have been talking about publicly which is that we really do think that these ideas of taking market competition, putting it back into healthcare, getting government out of the way, will do what it does in healthcare and what it does in everything else. Every place else where the market is allowed to function, quality goes up and costs go down. And I think if you look for something the CBO may have gotten right in the report which is that the premiums are actually going to come down in cost.

So with that, I think we'll take a couple of questions.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: You said this is about people...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ... more people getting coverage. The CBO report says 14 million people will end up without insurance next year. How does that actually help more patients?

PRICE: The fact of the matter is, if you look at that, it's virtually impossible to have that number occur. We're not certain -- again, we haven't been able to read the report...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The CBO is wrong? They're not credible on that?

PRICE: Just look at the numbers. There are 8 million people, 8, 9 million people who are on the exchange currently. I'm not sure how they're going to get to 14 million people uninsured if that's what they say, with only 8 million people on the exchange. There are individuals, I guess, they are individuals who they assume are on Medicaid who aren't paying anything in the Medicaid system who are not going to take Medicaid system -- take the Medicaid policy just because the mandate ended or -- or something happened? It's just not believable is what we would suggest. We'll look at the numbers and see.

ACOSTA: Mr. Secretary, without that mandate to buy coverage, would you not concede that millions of people will not have insurance under this plan?

PRICE: No. I wouldn't concede that at all. Because...

ACOSTA: You would not say millions of people will lose insurance?

PRICE: They're going to be able to buy a coverage policy they want for themselves and for their family. They're going to have the kind of choices that they want. You think about the numbers that the top line -- just the top line on

CBO report today. It basically says that we'll be right back at pre- Obamacare status with about 40 million people uninsured in this country. We believe that the plan that we're putting in place will insure more individuals than currently are insured. So we think that the CBO simply has it wrong.

MULVANEY: Think about one of the things that Tom just said, because it bears repeating. The CBO score assumes that, if you are on Medicaid today, that you choose to get off Medicaid after the mandate goes away. Please Does that make sense to anybody? You are on a free program -- the plan doesn't get rid of Medicaid expansion. What the CBO has told you is, if you are on Medicaid the day the mandate goes away you'll voluntarily get off Medicaid.

ACOSTA: You scale down Medicaid over time.

MULVANEY: That's not -- but that's The CBO is saying it happens on day one. It's just -- it's just absurd.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The CBO -- you seem to agree with the CBO estimate that premiums will go down 10 percent. They got to that because they're saying fewer older people will be getting coverage. Older people with higher costs will drop off the insurance marketplace. Do you agree with that estimate of the CBO, that fewer older adults will have coverage because of age adjustment?

PRICE: No, we don't. And I point once, again, to the fact that apparently what CBO looked at was simply the bill that's pending before Congress. It didn't look at the regulatory reforms that we're going to put into place. It didn't look at the state innovation grants. It didn't look at the flexibility that we're going to allow the states, because that's what the states are demanding and asking for so that they can care for their most vulnerable population. And it didn't look at all of the pieces of legislation that are also pending out there that we call on our friends on the other side of the aisle to help us reform the insurance market so that we can provide for greater choices and greater competition.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ... have all these questions about, "Oh, just wait. We've got more stuff coming"? Why not do it all at once so we understand the full package, all phases?

PRICE: It's being rolled out all at once. The fact of the matter is, we're working on the regulations right now. In fact, we've had a proposed rule that's been out there to narrow the window so that insurers are able to stay in markets that they're having to pull out.

Remember, one third of the counties in this country, one third of the counties, over 1,000 counties, only have one insurer offering coverage on the exchanges. Five states only have one insurer offering coverage on the exchanges. You tell me that that's what the plan was. The fact is that those folks have no choice whatsoever. They are -- the federal government has destined them to only have one opportunity to purchase coverage. And if that's not what they want, then tough luck. That's not our plan. Our plan is to allow individuals the opportunity to purchase the kind of coverage that they want for themselves and their family in a market that allows them an array of choices so it suits them, not what the government tells them to purchase.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you encouraging -- are you encouraging lawmakers -- are you encouraging lawmakers to disregard this report?

PRICE: No.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What are you asking them?

PRICE: We will read the report, look into the report, beyond the top lines, and we'll have further comment tomorrow and talk with our colleagues about why we believe the plan, the entire plan that we have recommended moving forward and adopting, is one that will provide greater opportunity for folks to purchase the kind of coverage that they want and put patients and families and doctors in charge of healthcare and not the federal government.

Thanks, guys. Stay warm.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ... because all those people lost coverage.

BLITZER: All right. Tom Price, the secretary of Health and Human Services. Mick Mulvaney, the director of the Office of Management and Budget. Totally rejecting the Congressional Budget Office report which says, under the Republican legislation now introduced, supported by the White House, supported by the speaker, 14 million more people would be uninsured under the legislation as currently have insurance. Fourteen million more would be uninsured in 2018, a year from now. And over the next ten years, an estimated 52 million people would be uninsured, compared with the 28 million who would lack insurance that year under the current law.

Let's get some more on this blistering assessment of the impact of the Republicans' Obamacare replacement plan. Tom Price saying, "We disagree strongly. The report is not believable."

CNN's Sunlen Serfaty is up on Capitol Hill. So Sunlen, walk us through the report with specifics.

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, certainly these numbers are much worse for Republican leaders on Capitol Hill than what they were expecting earlier today. Showing that millions of Americans, as you said, could potentially be facing losing their coverage if this Republican plan is signed into law.

Now, the top lines of the CBO report, the non-partisan CBO report, just out in this last hour. The big top-line number. In 2018, 14 million more people would be uninsured under this legislation than under the current law. That would rise to 21 million in 2020 and then a staggering 26 million by the year 2026.

The CBO also predicts here that the legislation would reduce the federal deficits by $337 billion over the course of that 2017 to 2026 period.

Now, before this report came out leading up into this, we heard from many Republican leaders preemptively dismissing and downplaying this report, suggesting that the work that the CBO does does not always lead to accurate results. Certainly, we will will likely hear from more Republican leaders the same sort of rhetoric as they sort through this latest report.

But Wolf, Democrats already reacting, calling it an enormous blow to the fate of this bill tonight -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Very quickly, the report, the CBO report, also says -- and Mick Mulvaney, the budget director, made a point of this -- that they estimate that over the next ten years the federal deficits would be reduced by $337 billion because of the elimination of a lot of the taxes that are part of Obamacare. That's a -- that's a very significant number, Sunlen.

SERFATY: That is a very significant number. And I expect we will certainly hear a lot of that in a few days. Also interesting: that he was specifically emphasizing that premiums will go down by about 10 percent. And that's according to this latest CBO report.

BLITZER: All right. Sunlen is up on Capitol Hill. Let's go to our congressional correspondent Phil Mattingly. He's getting more reaction to the CBO report. What are you learning, Phil?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, Wolf. And you got a little bit of a flavor from it from Secretary Price, from Director Mulvaney. But I want to read what Speaker Paul Ryan put out. Obviously, he is essentially the grandfather of this plan, kind of put it all into motion and put it all into gear.

And he says this: "This report confirms that the American Healthcare Act will lower premiums and improve access to quality affordable care. Under Obamacare, we have seen how government-mandated coverage does not equal access to care, and now the law is collapsing."

This is the most important point, I think, Wolf. "Our plan is not about forcing people to buy expensive one-size-fits-all coverage. It's about giving more -- people more choices and better access to a plan they want and can afford." And that's going to be the message you see going forward repeatedly from Republican officials. This is about access. This is not about mandates. This is not about Medicaid expansion, automatically putting people onto rolls or enrolling individuals. That's not kind of ideologically how they wanted to go. That's not legislatively how they wanted to go.

But Wolf, I want to give you some flavor from some other individuals who are paying attention to this. A Democratic aide texted me, "This is significantly worse than even we expected. We'll be on offense through 2018 if they keep going down this road."

And one other quick one that's important. A GOP official who's been very supportive of this plan going forward, the House plan, specifically, texted me simply, "Oof. We can recover, but this is not a good look."

Republicans very cognizant of the fact that this top-line number is not what they wanted. It's higher than they expected, and it certainly creates problems for them going forward, problems that they're going to have to try and get around or get past in the days ahead if they want this bill on the floor, in the House, with an opportunity to pass as soon as next week, Wolf.

BLITZER: And Phil, just to be precise, the Congressional Budget Office, to a lot of folks who aren't familiar with this, this is non- partisan and is led right now by someone appointed by the Republican leadership.

MATTINGLY: Yes, that's exactly right. The individual running the CBO right now not just appointed by Republican leadership, appointed by then-budget committee chairman Tom Price, now the Health and Human Services secretary. This an individual they thought ideologically that lined up better with them.

But I think an important point on the CBO that I continually hear from Republicans. They believe, because their bill doesn't include mandates, because their bill does not include an expansion of the Medicaid program, that the models that the CBO uses to be able to identify and justify coverage simply won't line up with their bill, no matter what. You saw them preemptively talking about that. Over the days ahead, that is something you are going to hear a lot more from here on out, Wolf.

BLITZER: Phil Mattingly up on Capitol Hill, thanks.

Let's go back to our senior White House correspondent, Jeff Zeleny, who's getting more reaction. What else are you picking up, Jeff?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, there's no question that the top-line number here, in terms of the number of millions of Americans who would be uninsured, is not good for this process at all.

But the White House, I am told, is going to seize on the number that Phil was talking about just a second ago: $337 billion in deficit savings. They believe that that is a good step forward here. They believe that that could help get some of these outside conservative groups more in line on board with this.

But the question here is, how does the White House address the CEO [SIC]? You did not here -- or the CBO, excuse me. You did not hear either the secretary or the OMB director say these numbers aren't believable. They say, "We disagree with the numbers," but they did not attack the CBO, per se. That is because the head of the CBO, Keith Hall, was appointed by Secretary Price, as Phil was just saying right there.

So the White House is still going to make a decision on how aggressively to go after that. But certainly, they believe this is going to make it much more difficult to get some of those conservative Republicans on board here. But they believe they can still hold it together. We're likely to hear from the president tomorrow on this, if not yet this evening. We don't have anything planned from him yet.

But they expected it to -- you know, to be a challenge here. And this is certainly more than a challenge. But look for them to press that deficit savings number as one up-side in this otherwise tough report.

BLITZER: Yes. They like the deficit -- the deficit savings number. They hate the number of the people who will be without health insurance coverage. So they've got a little bit of both worlds over there.

All right. Stand by. I want to bring in Democratic Congresswoman Kathleen Rice of New York. She's a member of the Homeland Security Committee. She's been watching all of this very closely.

Congresswoman, let's discuss this Congressional Budget Office estimate right now. This report -- and let's get to the part that the White House likes, that it would reduce federal deficits by $337 billion over the next ten years. That's a huge savings.

REP. KATHLEEN RICE (D), NEW YORK: There's no question about it, and it's not a surprise that they would want to focus on that.

What I find so interesting is that you had Tom Price focusing on the number of uninsured rising over the next year or two, 14 million, and saying that could not be right; it's just an impossible reality. And then you had Mick Mulvaney talking about how great it is that the premiums are going to go down.

You can't have it both ways. You can't say that the CBO report is accurate when it's something good for us and bad when it's not.

And look, the CBO is only able to look at what they're given. And you heard Tom Price say there that, "Well, we're still working on the regulations, and they didn't take the regulations into account." And that's because they didn't see them.

So look, I think it's interesting that they can act -- that they're a little shocked. I think over the past couple of days, you heard a lot of Republicans coming out and saying, "Well, you know, the CBO report really isn't that accurate. You can't really rely on it. That's not really what they're meant to do is to weigh in on things like that. And yet that's exactly what they're meant to do, is to weigh in on things like that." And yet, that's exactly what they're meant to do, and they're shining a light on the Republican plan, and I hope people are paying attention.

BLITZER: The new Republican plan would leave more people uninsured, according to this Congressional Budget Office report, a reduction of, they say, 24 million insured people by the year 2026. So, from your perspective -- and you're a Democrat, you oppose the Republican plan -- what could that mean?

RICE: Well, first of all, it's an assault on seniors. It increases costs for seniors, decreases costs for younger people, when it should be the opposite. Your healthcare costs grow, and your healthcare needs grow as you grow. So that's No. 1. It's an assault on women, because it defunds Planned Parenthood. And

you have more women on Medicare and Medicaid. And so it's going to affect them. It decimates Medicaid. That's where the savings comes from. But it's at the cost of giving people the health services that they need.

And specifically, if you look at one of the biggest health crises we're facing here all across this country, with the opioid addiction that we have in every state across this country, it's going to take away care from people who are suffering from the disease of drug addiction. So it's just going to be devastating all across the board.

BLITZER: Let me read to you what then-President-elect Trump told "The Washington Post" this past January just days before the inauguration: "We're going to have insurance for everybody. There was a philosophy in some circles that, if you can't pay for it, you don't get it. That's not going to happen with us. People covered under the law can expect to have great healthcare. It will be in a much simplified form, much less expensive and much better."

[17:20:22] Do you think this plan comes close to delivering on those promises by the president?

RICE: Not even close. And I think that you're going to see Donald Trump trying to walk back those statements six months from now, a year from now, if this is able to pass.

And you know, he was so critical of President Obama when President Obama made the statement that, if you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor, and yet he's doing the same thing. So really, what are we talking about here? What we really need is straight talk from people in government. People stop -- stop using politics.

You know, look, I consider myself a logical person. This plan does not make logical sense. I'm not on ideologue. And I think most of the people who came up with the plan are ideologues who see an opportunity now to basically say survival of the fittest. If you have money, you're going to be able to get access to quality healthcare, and if you don't, you're out of luck.

BLITZER: Do you see this Republican plan as Ryan -- the Ryan plan or the Trump plan?

RYAN: There's no question that Paul Ryan has been a much more outspoken voice when it comes to healthcare reform. He's very wonky when it comes to that. I don't think anyone could use the word "wonk" together with President Trump. So I would say that most of the specifics here are probably Paul Ryan. And it's going to be up to him to get it through the House.

But you know, look, Republicans are facing the terrible choice in the House of having to vote for a bill, possibly, that they know will never pass in the Senate and can be used like a noose around their neck in 2018. So they've got some problems up ahead.

BLITZER: Congresswoman, I want you to stay with us. We're also standing by. We just heard that Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, the Democratic leaders in the House and the Senate, they're about to make a statement, answer reporters' questions. We'll have that and a lot more right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:26:40] BLITZER: We're back with Democratic Congresswoman Kathleen Rice of New York. She's a member of the House Homeland Security Committee.

We're following breaking news, Congresswoman. I want you to stand by. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office estimates 14 million Americans could be without health insurance next year under the Obamacare replacement plan pushed by the White House. And that could rise to 24 million Americans in a decade.

As we stand by to hear from the Democratic leaders of the House and the Senate, we'll continue our conversation with Kathleen Rice.

But first I want to get some developments. Today is the day the Trump administration is supposed to provide congressional investigators with evidence to back up the president's claim that he was wiretapped by President Obama.

Let's bring in our senior White House correspondent, Jeff Zeleny. Jeff, no evidence we've seen yet, but the White House is scrambling to come up with some new explanations.

ZELENY: They are indeed, Wolf. And we did hear some of those evolving explanations today here at the White House but no evidence specifically from -- from the president.

He was asked about it a couple times. He deflected those questions. And there's no word tonight if the Department of Justice has complied with the Intelligence Committees to turn over any evidence, if any even exists.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ZELENY (voice-over): President Trump had his predecessor on his mind again today at the White House.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's a little bit like President Obama, when he left. People liked him. When he was here, people didn't like him so much. That's the way life goes. That's human nature. The fact is, Obamacare is a disaster.

ZELENY: He was talking healthcare, not his explosive allegation of President Obama spying on Trump Tower. Asked about that, Mr. Trump fell silent.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Will your Justice Department comply with the Intelligence Committees' request to provide...

ZELENY: The Department of Justice had until today to turn over any evidence, if any exists, to the House and Senate Intelligence Committees for their investigation into any contacts between Russian operatives and the Trump campaign. The White House would not say whether any evidence would be produced, yet the explanation has evolved over the last nine days and did so again today.

SPICER: I think there's two things that are important about what he said. I think recognizing that it's the -- he doesn't really think that President Obama went up and tapped his phone personally.

ZELENY: After saying last week the president's tweets about the extraordinary allegations spoke for themselves, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said this today.

SPICER: There were actions about surveillance and other activities that occurred in the 2016 election. That is a widely-reported activity that occurred back then. The president used the word "wiretap" in quotes to mean broadly surveillance and other activities.

ZELENY: But that's not true. It was not widely reported surveillance took place in the campaign. And the president stated the wiretapping allegation as fact in this tweet that started it all. "How low has President Obama gone to tap my phones during the very sacred election process? This is Nixon Watergate. Bad or sick guy."

At his first cabinet meeting today, the president again brushed aside questions.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Any comments on the wiretapping?

ZELENY: But one of his top advisers, Kellyanne Conway, muddied the already confusing waters over surveillance during a weekend interview in her New Jersey living room.

KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO DONALD TRUMP: What I can say is there are many ways to surveil each other now, unfortunately.

MIKE KELLY, "THE BERGEN RECORD": Do you believe that was...

CONWAY: There was an article this week that talked about how you can surveil someone through their phones, through their -- certainly through their television sets. Any number of different ways. And microwaves that turn into cameras, et cetera.

ZELENY: On CNN's "NEW DAY," she tried clarifying her remarks to Chris Cuomo, saying she didn't have any evidence the president was being spied on through a microwave or any other device.

CONWAY: I'm not Inspector Gadget. I don't believe people are using the microwave to spy on the Trump campaign. However, I have -- I'm not in the job of having evidence. That's what investigations are for.

ZELENY: Senator John McCain on CNN's "STATE OF THE UNION" said the president owes the Americans an explanation.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: The president has one of two choices. Either retract or to provide the information that the American people deserve. Because if his predecessor violated the law, President Obama violated the law, we've got a serious issue here, to say the least.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZELENY: So asked again at the White House briefing if the president would follow the advice of John McCain there and disclose all of this to the American people, and White House press secretary Sean Spicer said they are still going to wait for the outcome of that House and Senate intelligence report. He didn't rule it out. But Wolf, this could be one of those many conspiracy theories that have been floated out around this White House that never quite seem to have an end to them -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Jeff Zeleny at the White House. Thanks very much.

Let me just remind our viewers momentarily. We expect to hear from the Democratic leaders in the House and the Senate, Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer. You see the microphones there. They'll be going up to the microphones to react to this Congressional Budget Office cost estimate on the Republican leadership's plans for a new healthcare law to replace -- to repeal and replace Obamacare.

Among the estimates that 14 million more people would be uninsured next year if the current -- if the new law were to be enacted. We're going to have that -- live coverage of that coming up momentarily.

In the meantime, I want to get back to Democratic Congresswoman Kathleen Rice of New York, a member of the House Homeland Security Committee. Let's talk about what we just heard in Jeff Zeleny's report. You heard the press secretary Sean Spicer saying today the president used the word "wiretapping" in those early Saturday-morning tweets to broadly mean surveillance, saying it spans a whole host of surveillance-type options. Do you accept that explanation?

RICE: No. And this is one of the biggest problems with President Trump. He says whatever comes out of his mouth. He doesn't think about it. He doesn't measure his words. He doesn't care whether what he's saying is true or not.

But when you accuse a president of breaking the law in this way that would create a constitutional crisis the likes of which we have never seen in our country's history, I think, you have to be responsible for the words that you say.

Now, all day we've been hearing, whether it's Kellyanne Conway or Sean Spicer, saying, "No, that's not exact -- that's not what he meant." But we have to take him at his word. That's exactly what he meant. He even went so far as to call President Obama a bad, sick guy. And he can't back it up with any evidence.

We don't have to look any further than John McCain, Senator John McCain, who said, "Look, either retract what you said or show the evidence."

And what's really important is that we focus on the insidious nature of what he's saying. Forget about what it says about President Obama. And everyone agrees that this didn't happen. But what is he saying to the American people about the faith that they should have in their government? What he is saying is the government as you know it is something akin to what you see in Russia, where every single electronic device is being monitored. There's no such thing as privacy anymore. It's Big Brother in all of your business. And he knows that's not true.

And I just think that the devastating consequences of these words -- and, you know, it's not enough to say, "OK, after I've made this explosive allegation, I'm going to send my minions out to clean up the mess." That's not enough. That's not enough. You're the president of the United States. You have to be held accountable for the things that you say.

BLITZER: The White House counselor, as you point out, Kellyanne Conway, she told the "Bergen County Record" in New Jersey -- and these are her words -- "There are many ways to surveil each other."

I guess the question is this, congresswoman. Is the Trump administration, the Trump White House now moving the goal post?

RICE: They do it every single day. I heard -- I watched that interview, Wolf. And I was dumbfounded.

BLITZER: The interview that Kellyanne Conway -- which interview?

RICE: Where she was talking about a microwave. I mean, I've never heard such a thing. And she just talks. And in fact, it was so interesting, because it's so typical of people who go out to speak for President Trump. They're asked a question, and they never answer it. She was asked, "Do you believe what Donald Trump said about Barack Obama?"

And she said, "What I can say is there's all these different forms of surveillance and including microwaves that turn into cameras." I mean, no one believes that stuff, nor should they. But they're willing -- it shows the lengths that people in this administration will go to to detract from the most -- some of the most outrageous things that this president is saying.

[17:35:11] And this is the other area that concerns me. When we have a real tragedy here, when God forbid, we have to deal with a real issue of national and international import, whose words are going to be credible in this administration? So far, I haven't heard anyone who actually comes out and says, "You know what? He probably misspoke. He shouldn't have said it." No one wants to go that far and say that. And that's going to be of concern when there is a big issue.

BLITZER: Here's what the White House press secretary, Sean Spicer, at his briefing today, said. He said that the president was referring to the Obama administration broadly and not accusing the president, President Obama, of personal involvement. But look at what the president...

RICE: But Sean -- but Sean Spicer can say that, Wolf. But remember the tweet that said "bad or sick guy."

RICE: Hold on a second. Hold on a second. I'm going to read to you two of those four early-morning Saturday tweets. Now he's now saying he's referring to the Obama administration. But the president tweeted, "I bet a good lawyer could make a great case out of the fact that President Obama was tapping my phones in October just prior to election."

Then he tweeted, "How low has President Obama gone to tap my phones during the very sacred election process? This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad or sick guy."

So now he's saying he was referring to the Obama administration as a whole, not necessarily the president, President Obama. But you saw those two tweets where he's specifically referring to President Obama.

RICE: Any rational human being reading those tweets knows exactly what Donald Trump meant. He was talking about President Obama. And you will remember that these tweets happened shortly after the attorney general, Jeff Sessions, had decided to recuse himself from looking into -- from being involved in any of the investigation involving the Russian hacking during the 2016 election.

And this is what Donald Trump does. When he gets -- if something happens that he doesn't like, he reacts this way, and he says outrageous things. And he just knows that, you know what? I'll just leave that out there for a couple of days until something else happens. And then people will forget it. I'll act like I never said it, and then we'll move on.

But it's not enough for the American people to move on when you are accusing the former president of personally wiretapping your phones. That's what those tweets said. "Bad or sick guy." He didn't say Obama hired bad people who did bad things. He spoke specifically about Barack Obama, which I think is probably unprecedented in the annals of presidential history.

BLITZER: Congresswoman, thanks so much for joining us. We're going to obviously stay on top of this story. Kathleen Rice of New York. We appreciate it.

RICE: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. We're standing by. The Democratic leadership in the House and the Senate, they're about to react to the Congressional Budget Office cost estimate on the Republican plan to repeal and replace Obamacare. Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, jointly they'll be going to those microphones.

Our special coverage right here in THE SITUATION ROOM continues after a quick break.

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[17:42:32] BLITZER: We're live at Capitol Hill for more on this hour's breaking news. Democratic leaders in the House and the Senate, they're reacting now to the just-released estimate that 14 million more people will be uninsured next year under the Republican healthcare plan. Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer speaking.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), MINORITY LEADER: They're confused, the Republicans, right now. Some of them are saying, discrediting the CBO, and others are glorifying pushing 24 million people off of coverage.

So I hope that they would pull the bill. That's really the only decent thing to do. Numbers are important. They see the numbers. They should know how that transfers into people's lives. They are finding that out from their constituents. How can they look their constituents in the eye when they say to them, "Twenty-four million of you are no longer going to have coverage. And those of you who do have it will have less in terms of coverage at more cost to you."

With that I'm pleased to yield to the distinguished Democratic leader of the Senate. Welcome back to the House side. My former colleague...

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), MINORITY LEADER: Eighteen happy years. Or actually, 14 happy years, and when we lost the majority four unhappy years.

It's -- thank you very much. And I want to thank leader Pelosi for her great words.

Now, the Republican, hand-picked, head of CBO has confirmed what we Democrats have been saying all along. Trumpcare would be a nightmare for the American people, causing tens of millions to lose coverage and millions more seeing the costs of their healthcare going up.

Ten years from today, if President Trump and the Republicans have their way, there would be 24 million more Americans without health insurance. A total of 58 million Americans living in this country ten years from now will not have health coverage. That's un-American. That's wrong.

Premiums for seniors will rise a whopping 20 to 25 percent, and copayments and deductibles for millions more. If there was ever a war on seniors, this bill, Trumpcare, is it.

The bill spends almost twice as much on tax cuts for the wealthy compared to tax credits to help older middle-class Americans afford health insurance. The rich get $592 billion in tax cuts for the richest, compared to only $361 billion for the middle class and the working class to afford healthcare.

So when Speaker Ryan says it's an act of mercy, yes, for those people who make over $250,000 a year because they get big tax cuts.

The only winners in this CBO report are the health insurance executives and the wealthy Americans. Everyone else gets a cold shoulder from the Republicans in Congress and from President Trump. Now, you remember when President Trump was a candidate? He said everyone will be covered, and costs will go down. We now know that he had no intention of keeping either promise.

Today, the non-partisan scorekeepers have spoken clearly. TrumpCare means higher costs for less coverage. The CBO report should be a knockout blow for Republicans in Congress. They should heed this warning and turn back from their plan that would be a disaster for the country.

SEN. NANCY PELOSI (D), MINORITY LEADER OF THE UNITED STATES HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES: And at the same time, you are seeing the report that they are taking $170 billion from Medicare, shortening the life of solvency for Medicare by three years. So, again, seniors have a lot to lose, as do all of America's families.

Any questions?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now, what do you say to Republicans who might try to discredit the validity of the score?

PELOSI: Well, this is their point as the distinguished leader has said. The CBO Director is one who is appointed by the Republicans. The CBO report is one that the Republicans have always demanded of us when we had the majority and we would pass a law, that you must have a CBO report.

So, as I say, they're torn. Some of them are trying to pin a rose on this report and make it sound like it's a good thing, and the others of them are trying to discredit the CBO. But it's completely wrong. Completely wrong.

SCHUMER: Yes. It's a pattern that is disturbing, even alarming, in this administration. When they hear something they don't like, they label it a lie. CBO is virtually unassailable. Everyone, Democrats and Republicans, whether it be George Bush, Barack Obama or anyone else, has gone along with CBO.

They appointed this person. He was supposed to be a conservative person. Unfortunately, for the Republicans, he is an honest person. And they won't be able to discredit this. This report is going to resound from one end of America to the other.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. His Health and Human Services Secretary said today, we vehemently disagree with the CBO score.

PELOSI: And, of course, he has no facts to back it up. Numbers are quite eloquent things, you know. They speak very clearly. And we all respect and have acknowledged that we need to know the numbers -- the number of people affected, the amount of money that it will cost, who wins, who loses in that equation.

And, as I say, in Congress, they still haven't come to the terms with criticizing the CBO because 24 million people losing health insurance is not a problem for them. It's an act of mercy.

SCHUMER: I'm sure the Republicans regret that they can't fire the CBO Director as easily as they fired 46 U.S. attorneys.

PELOSI: Chuck.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Speaking about that idea here, now, I want to direct this specifically because you said this was a knockout blow, so I would be interested to hear from both of you here.

SCHUMER: It should be.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It seems as though that they're not making ground on getting their members to support this. It seems like this might have been a knockout blow even before the CBO report.

SCHUMER: Well, look, we should know the truth. Before we enact major legislation, we should know the truth. CBO speaks the truth. They have been speaking the truth for decades.

And to try to attack CBO is simply attacking the messenger. Let them address the real issues that CBO reveals. And the reason they don't want to do it is because the report is so devastating.

PELOSI: And when the American people see the -- I tell the story about a little boy in school and he's in first grade or kindergarten. And the teacher says what is one and one and he says two. Two and two, four. She said, good. He says, not good, perfect.

Numbers are very eloquent. And what you can only do is project here because we're talking about the future. But, as we all know, you really cannot go forward to write legislation unless you have the numbers, and you know what you're talking about.

As I said to you the other day, the Speaker was the one who signed the letter insisting that we have a CBO report before we proceeded with the Affordable Care Act, which we did and we had already written for it.

[17:50:02] But when it was important then, now the Republicans are saying, oh, it's not so important now, and who is that anyway? Who is this Congressional Budget Office anyway? It's somebody appointed by the Republicans to do the numbers and to come as close as possible to what the impact will be on the American people, on their health, and on our budget.

The whole purpose of all of this Affordable Care Act and the rest was to improve coverage, lower cost, and expand access. Affordable Care did exactly that. This does the exact reverse. It narrows coverage to the tune of 24 million people, decreases the quality of benefits according to the actuarial report in the CBO report, as well as costing more for people.

So it doesn't achieve anything it sets out to do. It's a clear message to their constituents as to how it's going to affect them. Let's see if they get the message or if once again, they have a tenure that says the only thing that really matters to us is for us to give tax cuts to the richest people in our country, and it doesn't matter to us who suffers. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Senator Schumer, can Senator McConnell get this

bill passed in the Senate?

SCHUMER: Well, if you look at how many Republicans have spoken out against the bill and, you know, Senator Cotton is not someone I usually agree with, but he said don't do it so fast. They're rushing this bill through. We know why they're rushing this bill through.

The more exposure it gets, the less popular it becomes. And so, on something it's made -- and by the way, it rings a little hollow. Remember their criticisms of us?

Read the bill? They had no time to read the bill. CBO issued its report three weeks before any committee voted on Affordable Care Act.

And so I think Senator McConnell is going to have real difficulty. His mainstream Republicans don't like it because it cuts back on Medicaid. And remember, Medicaid is for poor people, but it's also 60 percent goes to people in nursing homes and that affects not only them but their kids.

You're a kid, 45 or 50, your mom or dad is in a nursing home. You could be kicked out after this bill passes, and what would you do? Maybe you have to take them at home. Maybe mom or dad has to stop working to take care of them. Maybe they have to shell out thousands of dollars out of their pockets.

So it's a loser -- and what about opioid coverage? So many of our Republican senators have made a campaign, justifiably, of trying to get more opioid coverage. Since Medicaid covers opioids, this is trouble there.

And then you have our conservative Republican senators' case. You have the conservative Republican senators who think that this bill goes, you know, too far. So Senator McConnell has got a very, very difficult job behind him for -- ahead of him. And he only has the bill to blame. Not anything we're doing.

You know, Democrats to a person are not voting for this bill in the Senate. He's got to get the votes on his own. They asked for that when they did reconciliation, and the bill has made it extremely difficult for him to do it.

PELOSI: I'd just like to say, I think that the leadership in the House and the White House as well have made fools of some of our colleagues in the Congress by demanding that they write this bill in committee up all night, overnight, and the rest of it without seeing a CBO, a Congressional Office Budget report that was imminent, was a matter of days away.

Why couldn't they wait a few more days so people knew what they're doing, instead of going into the dark of night without any basis of knowledge of what it would cost, who would be pushed off of care and the rest? That really was a disservice, I think, to their own members and, of course, to their own constituents as well. SCHUMER: And one other point, you know, the CBO says the costs go up

by -- you know, the health care costs for those on ACA goes up about $1,000 in the first year or two, then it starts going down. It does start going down, but it's almost certainly because the plans that will be offered are so skimpy that even after Year 1, the amount of money the average person has to pay out of his or her pocket for health care will go up because these plans that will come out later have higher deductibles, higher co-pays, less coverage.

One more. Yes, ma'am.

PELOSI: OK.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What about your campaign statement that they're using the score as an issue with that campaign to 2018? What do you think the fallout would be on health care (inaudible)?

[17:54:56] SCHUMER: Well, let me just say this. It's an irony of ironies that one of the place -- the place that probably this most affect is the heart of red Trump vote areas, rural areas. Poorer areas in many of the red states are most affected.

If you go to states where some of our Senators are running for re- election but have been won by Donald Trump, ACA, all of a sudden, has become popular. And that's because people realize, by losing it, they're going to be in real trouble.

PELOSI: It is really a sad thing because in addition to what the Senator said about those who are in red states and rural America who have largely benefited from the Affordable Care Act and who are on it and will be pushed off, a lot of the benefit of the $600 billion will go to blue areas and that's just not right.

You know, it's not right, but think of yourself as a Trump voter in West Virginia or someplace or Kentucky, which has really done a good job with the Affordable Care Act too, thinking, I'm going to lose my coverage and they're going to give $7 million to each of the richest families in America every year instead of giving me healthcare. Is that what I voted for? I don't think so.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, really.

SCHUMER: Thank you, everybody.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Senator, wait. There are some who would argue that you lost the speakership over health care --

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: All right. We're going to continue to watch this little news conference. Looks like they've wrapping up. I want to quickly go to Mark Preston.

Mark, how much of a setback is this Congressional Budget Office report to the Republican effort to repeal and replace the ObamaCare?

MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it's something that they were expecting and it's not very good, Wolf. That's why we saw the Health and Human Secretary come out today and say that he doesn't believe in CBO. The bottom line is, right now, Republicans need to find a way to come up with some figures that will battle against that CBO estimate that shows that we're going to see more people ballooning that will be uninsured by 2026.

BLITZER: Is it a deal cruncher?

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Well, it complicates what they're trying to do. The Republicans, of course, trying to make this happen fast and convince people who are on the fence, a lot of Republicans, both in the House and the Senate, that this is something worth doing. This is something worth risking their political future on. So I think these numbers complicate that.

I mean, the deficit numbers are all pretty good for them, but the idea that millions more will be uninsured compared to what would be uninsured now are problematic as are the fact that seniors might pay five times more than they do now.

BLITZER: All right. Stand by. Everybody, stand by. We're going to have much more on the breaking news right after this.

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