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THE SITUATION ROOM
Interview With West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin; Opposition Growing to Republican Health Care Bill; No Evidence Trump Tower Was Wiretapped; Secretary of State Ditches Press Corps on Critical Asia Trip; Federal Judge Temporarily Halts New Travel Ban Nationwide. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired March 15, 2017 - 18:00 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: Demanding answers. President Trump speaks out about his explosive wiretapping claim, as more Republicans say they haven't seen any evidence. Senators just got a classified briefing about it from the head of the FBI. What did he reveal?
Growing dissent. Republican opposition to the GOP health care bill approaches critical mass in the House just hours ahead of a CNN town hall with Health Secretary Tom Price. Can the plan to repeal and replace Obamacare be salvaged?
Campaigning again, President Trump holding a rally tonight paid for by his reelection campaign. He will be touting the Republican health care plan, but didn't mention it at all in an earlier speech in Michigan. Is his push tonight too little too late?
And ditching the press. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson arrives in Asia, leaving reporters behind as he attempts to confront the North Korean threat. The plan includes pressure China and a broader international coalition. Is it a mission impossible?
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in the THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: We're following breaking news, President Trump speaking out for the first time in 11 days about his explosive claim that he was wiretapped by President Obama.
Mr. Trump saying -- and I'm quoting him now -- "Wiretap covers a lot of different things," and hinting at new revelations in the coming weeks. Just a short time ago, the FBI director, James Comey, briefed the Senate Judiciary Committee on the investigation into the president's wiretap claim and Russian meddling in the U.S. presidential election.
The classified meeting came only after frustrated committee leaders threatened to hold up a key confirmation vote. We're also following the growing uncertainty over the future of the
Republican plan to repeal and replace Obamacare. Nineteen House Republicans are now opposed to the bill or leaning against it. Speaker Paul Ryan can only 21 Republican votes if the bill is to pass.
Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price will answer questions about the plan in a CNN town hall later tonight.
We're also standing by for a rally by President Trump in Nashville, where he will push the health care bill which he failed to mention at an earlier speech in Michigan. In an unusual move, the president's rally is being paid for by his reelection campaign.
We're covering all that and much more this hour with our guests, including Senator Joe Manchin. He's a key member of the Intelligence Committee. And our correspondents and expert analysts are also standing by.
Let's begin with the president's new remarks about his wiretapping claim.
Our White House correspondent, Sara Murray, is joining us.
Sara, the president now seems to be walking back his allegation against President Obama. Update our viewers.
SARA MURRAY, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, he certainly seems to try to be clarifying them.
I think it's worth noting, Wolf, there is no still proof of President Trump's original stunning claim that former President Obama wiretapped Trump Tower during the presidential campaign. Now Donald Trump and his aides are saying, look, wiretap could mean a lot of different things. It could mean a lot of different methods of surveillance.
But he's not backing down from the fact that there will be some evidence that will come out to vindicate him. Listen to what he said today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Wiretap covers a lot of different things. I think you are going to find interesting items coming to the forefront over the next two weeks.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MURRAY: Now, what those interesting items might be, we still do not know. The White House has not offered up any proof of their own to back up these claims. They have of course kicked it over to Congress to investigate.
Congress is attempting to do just that. But it's worth noting, Wolf, that today the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, a Republican, said he has seen no evidence to back up Trump's campaign.
BLITZER: All right, Sara, thank you, Sara Murray over at the White House.
Let's get more on the FBI director's classified briefing on the wiretap investigation.
Our chief security national correspondent, Jim Sciutto, is working that part of the story for us
Jim, James Comey met behind closed doors with key members of the Judiciary Committee. What do we know?
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, on the key question of whether the FBI is looking into communications between members of the Trump campaign, his advisers during the campaign and Russian officials, other Russians known to U.S. intelligence, on that question, the one that many senators, Republicans and Democrat, have wanted a hard answer from the FBI director, we don't know what he told those lawmakers in there, certainly a very sensitive question.
But on the issue of wiretapping, as Sara was saying there, much clearer, because you now have the Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, the Republican attorney general, the FBI director as well saying, according to CNN's reporting, that there is no evidence that President Obama ordered a wiretap of President Trump, despite President Trump's charge.
Listen to what we heard on the Hill today from the Republican, again, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. DEVIN NUNES (R), CALIFORNIA: The evidence still remains the same that we don't have any evidence that that took place. And, in fact, I don't believe just in the last week of time, the people we have talked to, I don't think there was an actual tap of Trump Tower.
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: To date, I have seen no evidence that supports the claim that President Trump made that his predecessor had wiretapped he and his associates at Trump Tower. Thus far, we have seen no basis for that whatsoever.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCIUTTO: Now, to be clear, President Trump in his comments tonight, Sean Spicer at the White House press briefing yesterday appear to be redefining what the president actually accused Mr. Obama of.
To be clear, President Trump accused Mr. Obama himself of ordering a wiretap of Trump himself. That's what President Trump said. Now he and Spicer are saying, well, wiretap could mean a whole host of surveillance, possibly not Trump, maybe Trump associates.
That is something that we have reported on and others, but again it's not what the president initially charged, Wolf, as you know, in those explosive tweets. BLITZER: Yes, absolutely.
Jim, the Intelligence Committee leaders also talked about the investigation into possible ties between the Trump campaign and Russia. Tell us what they say.
SCIUTTO: That is exactly right.
This is a key question that CNN is reporting and we cited multiple law enforcement and intelligence officials, that the U.S. has intercepted communications between people close to Trump, advisers to Trump, people connected to the Trump campaign during the campaign and Russian officials and other Russians known to U.S. intelligence.
Asked about this, it was a very interesting moment between the Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee and the Democratic ranking of the House Intelligence Committee. Have a listen to what they said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
QUESTION: Has either of you seen any evidence so far that suggests there were any conversations between people affiliated with the Trump campaign, people, Russian officials who are not the ambassador to Russia, anyone other tied to the Kremlin had conversations with the Trump campaign? Do you have any evidence?
NUNES: Not that I'm aware of.
SCHIFF: I wouldn't answer that question as categorically as my colleague and, you know, we're not privileged to talk about the contents of the investigation, but I -- you know, I think we need to be very precise when we talk about this. And I just don't think we can answer that answer categorically and not in this forum.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCIUTTO: Really just a remarkable moment there. Devin Nunes, again, the Republican chair of the committee, saying, no, I haven't seen any evidence of those communications, and then Adam Schiff interrupting him, in effect, and saying, well, we can't say that so categorically.
To be clear, it's a challenge, Wolf, because this is one of the key lines of inquiry of this bipartisan Hill investigation, and you have the difference from the two most senior members at the very start. So, the question is, will the committee despite those differences be able to pursue that question to effect, something we're going to be watching very closely.
BLITZER: We certainly will.
Jim Sciutto, reporting, thanks very much.
President Trump will be holding a rally soon in which he will push for support of the Republican health care plan, which has Republican lawmakers increasingly divided. Our congressional correspondent Sunlen Serfaty is joining us.
Sunlen, the president gave a speech in Michigan just a little while ago. He didn't even mention his health care push.
SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf, not a single word about health care in his first of two stops today. And, frankly, this is the exact time the president needs to be fully selling his health care plan, because the fight up here on Capitol Hill is intensifying with Republican opposition mounting by the hour.
SERFATY (voice-over): Tonight, President Trump hitting the road, and Vice President Pence working Capitol Hill, facing the same ominous question.
QUESTION: Are you concerned this doesn't have the votes to pass, Mr. Vice President?
SERFATY: With the Republican health care plan hanging tenuously in the balance.
SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: They don't have our votes, but more importantly they need to discover they do not have your votes.
SERFATY: Opposition in Congress is growing by the day.
REP. LEONARD LANCE (R), NEW JERSEY: I am leaning no because I don't think the current bill can pass in the Senate. I think that the bill has to be strengthened.
SERFATY: The House bill in its current form can only afford to lose 21 Republican votes. According to CNN's latest whip count, already, 18 House Republicans have said no or are leaning that way. And Speaker of the House Paul Ryan's bill faces an even steeper climb in the Senate.
SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: I don't think anyone believes its current form would pass in the U.S. Senate.
SERFATY: Sources tell CNN privately the White House is encouraging leadership to make more changes now, acknowledging the current House bill cannot pass in the Senate.
SEN. CHARLES GRASSLEY (R), IOWA: They aren't only writing a bill for 218 votes in the House of Representatives. They have got to be writing a bill that gets 51 votes and Republican votes in the United States Senate.
SERFATY: A senior Republican aide telling CNN the White House is -- quote -- "definitely looking at pretty big changes to the Ryan bill." But Speaker Ryan is standing firm. REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: We want to listen to our
members, and make improvements to the bill, so long as those improvements don't make the bill harder to pass.
SERFATY: Pushing ahead with his bill with little or no changes.
RYAN: This is why we have a three-part process. You can't put everything you want in that bill, like, say, interstate shopping across state lines. And, so, this bill is what we can pass through reconciliation.
SERFATY: Republican Senator Lindsey Graham today completely crushing that promise to pass more legislation later on.
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Slow down, get it right. You're not going to get 60 votes to buy insurance across state lines. That is a fantasy in the Senate. If you think that's supported to health care reform, it's never going to happen in the Senate.
SERFATY: And after the vice president met with the conservative Republican Study Committee today, some members left that meeting sounding very optimistic.
The chairman of the that committee, Representative Mark Walker, he said that Pence told him he has reasons to believe he should be hopeful because potentially changes to Medicaid could be coming, those changes that conservatives want.
Of course, if you make significant changes to Medicaid, that would certainly risk alienating some moderates in the House. That's just one of many very tricky calculations the White House and leaders here in Congress are having to make, Wolf, as they move toward securing votes for this bill.
Meantime, Sean Spicer on Air Force One moments ago just said that of course they are working with the leadership here to get, in his words, the best outcome -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Sunlen, thank you, our congressional correspondent, Sunlen Serfaty, reporting.
Let's get some more on all of these headlines.
Democratic Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia is joining us. He's a key member of the Intelligence Committee.
Senator, thanks for joining us.
SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D), WEST VIRGINIA: Good to be with you, Wolf. How are you?
BLITZER: All right, so, as a member of the committee, you were just briefed. The president says he thinks, in his words, very interesting items will come to the forefront over the next two weeks on his charge against President Obama that he was wiretapped over at Trump Tower in New York City.
Do you have any idea what the president is talking about?
MANCHIN: No. We will be happy to see whatever they have, whatever President Trump has or his staff.
Please turn it over to the Intel Committee and let us review it. Right now, we have seen nothing.
BLITZER: Because the president said -- in this interview, he said wiretap, in his words, covers a lot of different things, that he wasn't necessarily being precise in those four tweets 11 days ago. He repeatedly accused President Obama of wiretapping him in Trump Tower in New York City.
Do you think he's backing away from those initial claims?
MANCHIN: I really don't know. If he has facts and things that we need to see, that would be fine. If not, then we haven't seen anything from the intel communities that basically are reporting to the Intel Committee.
So all of our intelligence gathering has not proven or shown anything that leads us to believe that would happen.
BLITZER: You have seen absolutely nothing to back up the president's claim either in open information or classified information that you have received?
MANCHIN: Not as of today.
We're still looking. There is an awful lot we're looking look at and there's an awful lot of intelligence gathering that is going on from the CIA, the FBI, the NSA and all of the areas that we're responsible for, Wolf.
So we will be looking into everything that's presented. And we had a meeting today. And we are going to continue to meet on -- we come back in on Tuesday. We will hit the ground running and we're going to get to the bottom. We want to make sure that we look all Russians' involvement in any way, shape, or form, from their involvement into our elections, to their involvement basically with President Trump or any members of his organization or his family ties, if you will, that could be of conflict.
We're not seeing anything as of yet, but we're looking into that. And that's where the intel will take us.
BLITZER: The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Republican Devin Nunes, he says in his words it's possible the president could have been swept up in what they call incidental collection of data, in other words, others were being surveilled by the U.S. government, whether law enforcement or the intelligence community, and Trump, President Trump, then-candidate Trump or others working with him could have been swept up incidentally in that.
Do you buy that?
MANCHIN: Well, what I'm trying to make sure that we do in our committee, and I will say this, the makeup of the Senate and Intelligence Committee is 15, I think, extremely honorable people that will put their country above any interest of any person.
With that being said, we will get the facts, and the facts will get us to the truth and we will make decisions on that. With that being said, it's not a witch-hunt, not going to be. We want to make sure that they know that if our president is not involved, they know that.
If there is involvement, we will find out and what effect it would have on governing our country and how we basically run this great country of ours. The American people need to know. There is an awful lot of accusations floating around. We want to get to the bottom of it and find out if they're justified or not.
So, I'm not going to speculate and say things, what other people, what could have happened and what maybe happened. I want to know exactly what did or did not happen, Wolf.
BLITZER: I know you have been briefed on Russia's involvement.
BLITZER: The cyber-attacks against the Democrats during the presidential campaign.
Do you believe there is clear evidence that the Trump campaign colluded with the Russians?
MANCHIN: We have seen none of that whatsoever as of today. We do know that the Russians made every attempt and worked more diligently and much more intricately than ever before trying to be involved in our election process. We know that. OK?
We also know that basically they didn't have any effect on the outcome of the election. It is what it is. President Trump is our president. With that being said, now they intended to? Did they perfect some things, are they working around the world now as we talk trying to be effective in Germany and France and other parts of the civilized world, if you will, where they have a democracy?
I think they want to disrupt that. Can we stop that? And our allies are saying if you can't stop them in your own country, how can you help us? We're going to get to the bottom because basically democracy depends on us stopping the Russians from intervening and trying to disrupt the process of elections. So, that needs to be done.
BLITZER: Senator Mark Warner, who is the vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, your Democratic colleague, has expressed concern over the informal political adviser to Donald Trump Roger Stone's ties to Russia, wouldn't rule out calling him before the committee. Do you believe Roger Stone, among others, should be called before your
committee to testify?
MANCHIN: I believe any person of interest that has been spoken of or been spoken about or shows there might have been a connection of any sort in any way, shape, or form, we need to bring them before that to clear it up.
Either they did or they didn't. Either it was detrimental or it wasn't. But we're going to bring everybody that we know that could have been tied, associated or basically speculated that could have been involved.
We owe that to the American public. That's our job. We have the subpoena power if needed. Hopefully, we won't need that. We are able to have an Intel Committee that's very, very good and professional and we have the ability to call up 17 different agencies that can help us.
BLITZER: I'm going to keep you with us, Senator. We have more to discuss.
BLITZER: There's other issues coming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now.
We will take a quick break. We will be right back.
MANCHIN: Thanks, Wolf.
BLITZER: President Trump will be holding a political rally soon in Nashville, Tennessee, where he will be touting the Republican health care plan.
The troubled bill, though, is facing an increasingly uncertain future, with a growing number of Republican lawmakers in the House and the Senate opposing it.
We're back with Democratic Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia. He's a member of the Intelligence Committee.
Senator, let's talk about health care. As you know, the president was in Michigan a little while ago giving another speech there. He didn't even mention the health care bill when he spoke in Michigan. Do you think he's trying to distance himself from this bill?
MANCHIN: Wolf, I really don't know.
I got to speak to the president, I'm going to say four weeks or more ago, when all this was coming out and they were all frothing about repeal, repeal, repeal. And I just basically said, Mr. President, be very careful. The way the system works, we have got a toxic political environment. You repeal, you can repeal it with 51 Republicans and no Democrats.
But you really can't do the fixes that need to be fixed unless you have 60, and that means you will have at least eight Democrats. I'm willing to sit and work and talk, whatever. There is no way I can support a repeal, because that's throwing out the baby out with the bath water.
Well, they wanted to repeal it and take two years to fix it. Then that went to repeal and replace the same day. I would hope that he would pause before he lets them go down this path, because I have said this, many West Virginians were helped very much about the -- affordable health care helped them.
Probably a couple hundred people that never had insurance are getting it now for the first time. With that being said, Wolf, they don't know how they got it; 70 percent of them voted for Donald Trump. They don't know it was the Democrats or Barack Obama or whatever you want to call it, Obamacare or the Affordable Care Act. They just know they have health care for the first time.
And I said, Mr. President, they will definitely know who took it away from them. Be very careful.
BLITZER: You think the speaker, Paul Ryan, should pull the current bill?
MANCHIN: I'm not going to tell Speaker Ryan how to run his operation on that side.
I'm just saying, if I listen to colleagues, Republican colleagues, and friends in the Senate, they're not very warm to accepting that piece of legislation as they know it coming from the House, for both reasons.
You have the Rand Pauls are against it for one reason, and you have other people, Rob Portman, against it, and Shelley Capito for another reason.
So, we will just see what works out. But they have got problems, serious problems. And the only person that has reached out to talk to me at all about this has been Senator Bill Cassidy, Republican from Louisiana.
And I told him what we didn't like about the bill he was doing. We were trying to work and see if there was a pathway forward. But then that bill was scrapped. And we never heard anymore.
BLITZER: Yes, Senator Cassidy is a physician himself. He has expressed concern about parts of this.
BLITZER: When you spoke to the president about health care, did you came away with the impression that he understands your concerns, that you had an impact on him, or what was his reaction?
MANCHIN: Well, basically, I just told him, I said, Mr. President, there is no way I can vote to repeal. I will not.
I'm asking you not to let them vote on repealing, because then there is no way to fix it, because you don't have 60 votes. I think you heard Lindsey Graham say about the same thing. There's not 60 votes there, whether it's the cross-border, state lines of buying insurance or whatever.
Here's the thing. In my state of West Virginia, the poor people get hit the hardest; 24 million people will lose their insurance because they can't afford it. Then you have the elderly who have to pay a lot more, we're going to drop them off.
And then you have the addiction, opioid addiction, who are getting treatment for the first time, they're going to lose their treatment. So, I get a triple whammy. I get the poor get hit harder. The older, the elderly get hit hard. And those who are addicted who are just trying to get cleaned up back in society are getting hit.
So, I said, someone has got to have a moral compass inside of him. And to add insult to injury, Wolf, they're going to get a $575 billion tax cut to the wealthiest Americans. That is not right. That is not morally right.
BLITZER: Finally, Senator, you believe some West Virginians who are on the Affordable Care Act, Obamacare, are healthy today or even alive today because of that?
MANCHIN: Oh, absolutely.
But, on the other hand, I understand, yes, Wolf, you have to think of it this way. We gave 20 million people health care, the most valuable asset that we have in a social government, such as from social services.
With that being said, anything you buy today, you order it from a store, it comes with a box, you open it up, there is instructions. It tells you how to assemble it and how to use it.
We gave 20 million health care without one word of instructions. There is so much synergies. There is so much efficiencies that, if we just work together, we can make this work. You don't throw the baby out with the bath water.
BLITZER: Senator Manchin, as usual, thanks so much for joining us.
MANCHIN: Thanks, Wolf. Good to be with you.
BLITZER: And an important note, Senator, and to all of our viewers.
Coming up later tonight, a CNN town hall special with the health and human services secretary, Dr. Tom Price, "Obamacare: What Comes Next?"
Join Dana Bash and me later tonight 9:00 p.m. Eastern only on here CNN.
Just ahead: President Trump breaks an 11-day silence on his wiretapping claims against President Obama with a cryptic new claim that -- quote -- "very interesting items" may surface in the next couple of weeks.
And the president hits the campaign trail, but doesn't even mention the ailing GOP health care plan. He has another appearance. That's coming up. Will he go to bat for the Republican bill?
BLITZER: The breaking news tonight: President Trump breaking 11 days of silence about his explosive claim that he was wiretapped by President Obama at Trump Tower in New York City.
[17:33:08] Let's dig deeper with our experts and analysts.
David Chalian, the president weighed in just a little ago for the first time about those four tweets in an interview with FOX News. He was asked why he tweeted about wiretapping before producing evidence. Listen to what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: "Wiretap" comes with a lot of different things. I think you're going to find some very interesting items coming to the forefront over the next two weeks.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right, so did the president just reopen all of this after the White House has been trying to desperately over the past few days to walk it back?
DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: I think this is part of the walk-back. I think Donald Trump is trying to get away from his unsubstantiated false claims on Twitter 11 days ago, when the sitting president of the United States accused the former president of the United States of tapping his phones.
I think we've seen the White House over the last week and a half sort of twist itself into a pretzel to try to say and put up air quotes, what he meant to say, what he really was talking about. And now I think you see, Wolf, Donald Trump trying to get in that game. But that is not what he tweeted. He's changing his words now. He's trying to change the conversation here. And, you know, he's still going to have to be held accountable for what he actually claimed Barack Obama did in those tweets.
BLITZER: We heard, Gloria, the House Intelligence Committee chairman, the Senate Intelligence Committee chairman, both of them say they haven't seen any evidence to back up President Trump's wiretap claims against President Obama. So where does the White House go from here? GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, you see the
beginning, as David was saying. You know, they're trying to broaden what the president said, which is not accurate. We can all read his tweets.
And where the White House goes from here, Wolf, is they go to Congress. Originally, when they were trying to kind of get rid of this story after the president tweeted that Saturday morning, they said, you know, "We want Congress to investigate." Well, be careful what you wish for, because Congress is investigating.
[18:35:03] And we saw, you know -- we saw Lindsey Graham today make it very clear -- Senator Graham -- that we need to get to the bottom of this. Joe Manchin just said it to you. And he said, you know, what he wants to know from the FBI director is, is there a criminal investigation going on? And was there a warrant out to wiretap Donald Trump's phones?
And all of this will lead to an investigation of the question of collusion and the question of why the intelligence community has been looking into links between Russia and those in the orbit of Donald Trump.
And so I think what the White House has to do now, they've already made it clear they're kind of trying to sort of broaden what the president said, but now the White House has to let Congress do its oversight, because actually, they asked for it.
BLITZER: All right, and one important point indeed. David Swerdlick, Congressman Adam Schiff -- he's the ranking Democrat for the House Intelligence Committee -- called it irresponsible, the president, to make the claims and for Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, to defend them. As you know, the attorney general, Jeff Sessions, also faced questions about it. He says he's seen no evidence. Is the president putting his staff in a rather uncomfortable position?
DAVID SWERDLICK, ASSISTANT EDITOR, "THE WASHINGTON POST": He is, Wolf. Look, if it turns, in fact, that no more evidence comes forth when all this is over with. And we know right now that the infamous Breitbart story and all the rest does not back up those specific claims that were in President Trump's tweet storm from two Saturdays ago, then I think it's something that's a notch further than irresponsible.
And he's putting his staff and Republicans in Congress in that difficult situation, because ultimately, their reputations and their credibility is on the line in this, as well, not just his.
BLITZER: David Fahrenthold, Adam Schiff, the Congressman, said this whole issue raises serious concerns that the president is willing to state things that don't have any basis. As someone -- you cover the president. Do you share that concern? Because that's the argument that a lot of people are saying, that the president just makes the charge, which has no evidence; and you can't back it up.
DAVID FAHRENTHOLD, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: This is not the first time we've faced questions like this against the president. He made this accusation that 3 million people voted illegally, that this was the biggest inauguration crowd ever.
The thing is, there are so many people out there who put their hopes in Donald Trump that he would come and be the person he said he would be. He'd work hard, work all the time to get them jobs, fix their health care, to change the country. They're counting on him to be doing that right now. And instead, we're sort of doing this runaround about whether this thing that he said that's obviously not true is not true, and with Trump saying, basically, "Look over there," and then, you know, that gives him two weeks, supposedly, more to produce evidence of this thing that doesn't exist. People are counting on him to be doing something right now, and it's not this.
BLITZER: So Gloria, when the president spoke at this political rally in Michigan a few hours ago, didn't mention repealing and replacing Obamacare; didn't mention health care at all. Why do you think there was that silence during an event like this?
BORGER: Well, it's because he hasn't really hugged this bill very closely, Wolf. I mean, there's division inside the White House about the provisions of this.
Donald Trump, who is not known for being shy about putting his name on things, hasn't exactly rushed to call this "Trumpcare." And I think the White House and the Hill are trying to figure out how they can get something through the Congress.
And you have a divided Republican Party, you have Paul Ryan earlier told Jake Tapper, "Oh, the reason he didn't mention it, it was because he was talking about auto emission standards, and you can't mix those things." Well, Donald Trump has been known to mix up a few things in his speeches.
And so it's clear they have a lot of work to do. We'll see what he does later; we'll see if he mentions it. But the question is whether he's going to barnstorm for this or -- and how they're going to try and work this out. Donald Trump says he's a great negotiator, and this is going to be one big, beautiful negotiation. So far, we haven't seen it.
BLITZER: David Fahrenthold, in that interview with Jake Tapper, the House speaker, Paul Ryan, refused to say if he thought the Republican bill could pass the House as is today. It's going to have to be changed dramatically, I assume, if it's going to pass the House and move to the Senate.
FAHRENTHOLD: I think that's right that it will have to be changed. The question is, there's no obvious change that fixes it. As people have -- your correspondents have said before, any of the changes that please people on the right are going to make people in the moderate segment of the Republican Party uneasy. There's nothing obvious, even after all this talk that Trump could just say, "OK, do that,"and it makes it passable, even among Republicans.
So yes, I think it will need to be amended. The question is, can President Trump find that magic thing that gets people across the finish line?
BLITZER: Even if it gets passed in the House of Representatives, unclear if they've got the 51 votes to pass it in the Senate, let alone the 60 they would need down the road.
[18:40:00] All right, guys. Thanks very much.
Just ahead, Secretary of State Tillerson makes a crucial visit to Asia, taking just one reporter from a conservative website. So why is he ditching the news media?
And senior U.S. Navy officers and a defense contractor known as "Fat Leonard," they are named in a grand jury indictment, shedding new light on a bribery and sex scandal.
[18:45:03] BLITZER: Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is in Asia right now on a critical but controversial mission to confront the threat posed by North Korea.
CNN global affairs correspondent Elise Labott is with us with the latest.
What is the latest, Elise?
ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, aides to Secretary Tillerson say he is taking a fresh and deep approach to confront the North Korean threat. But for his major diplomatic mission, it will be tough to see him in action.
LABOTT (voice-over): Secretary of State Rex Tillerson touches down in Japan, the first stop on a tour in Asia where tensions are flaring over North Korea's rapidly expanding nuclear and missile arsenals. Now facing questions about how the Trump administration will handle what it sees as one of the most dangerous threat national security threats.
BRUCE KLINGNER, HERITAGE FOUNDATION: Secretary Tillerson is really sort of walking in a lion's den of tensions.
LABOTT: Tonight, the State Department admits that carrot and stick approach of the last 15 years has failed.
MARK TONER, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: The threat of North Korea is frankly growing stronger.
LABOTT: Aides to Tillerson tell CNN he is working to brand North Korea as the same global threat that rallied the world against Iran.
Last month, leader Kim Jong-un test-fired a ballistic missile during President Trump's visit with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Mar-a-Lago in what some analysts believe was meant to send a message. Earlier this month, he test-fired a ballistic missile capable of
delivering a nuclear weapon. And last week, in a show of defiance over joint military exercises between the U.S. and South Korea which Kim used as a pretext for an invasion of North Korea, he launched four more into the Sea of Japan.
With every test, U.S. commanders say, Kim inches closer to having a nuclear tipped missile capable of reaching Europe or even the U.S. mainland, a catastrophic scenario President Trump tweeted before taking office won't happen.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: North Korea is a big, big problem and we will deal with that very strongly.
LABOTT: China treats North Korea's nuclear program as a regional problem, aimed at the more than 20,000 U.S. troops stationed on the Korean Peninsula. But with Kim on the verge of having an intercontinental ballistic missile and believed to have nerve gas allegedly used to kill his brother in Malaysia, Tillerson's new playbook calls for a much broader international coalition, enlisting Europe and others to put the financial and diplomatic squeeze on North Korea.
In Beijing, he'll iron out details for the first face to face summit between President Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping in Florida next month. But he also has a warning for China's leaders, step up pressure on North Korea or face new sanctions against Chinese companies doing business with Kim's regime.
KLINGNER: It's worked in the past. In the mid-2000s, the Bank of China defied the Chinese government and cut off its interaction in North Korea lest they face U.S. sanctions themselves.
LABOTT: Beijing already outraged by the deployment of the THAAD missile defense system in South Korea, fearing it could weaken China's own nuclear deterrent.
But Tillerson's message: rein in North Korea or expect more military muscle.
LABOTT: And the State Department had said diplomatic reporters covering Tillerson's trip couldn't travel on his plane due to budget and space constraints, breaking with decades of precedent. But Secretary Tillerson's staff did invite one reporter who does not cover the State Department or foreign policy. The journalist works for a five-year-old news outlet funded by Republican political operatives. The State Department defended the decision, Wolf, by say it's thinking outside of the box on press coverage.
BLITZER: All right, Elise. Thanks very much.
We've got some breaking news coming. We'll take a quick break. We'll be right back.
[18:53:15] ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: Breaking news: a federal judge has just put a temporary halt to President Trump's new travel ban that was scheduled to take effect tomorrow.
Let's bring in our senior legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin. He's joining us on the phone.
It looks like another major setback potentially in the works for part two, 2.0 as they're calling it, the revised travel ban.
Jeffrey, tell our viewers what happened.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST (via telephone): It's another major setback for the Trump administration because a federal judge in Hawaii has done the same thing that the federal judge in Washington state did with the first travel ban. He said it violated the Constitution in a preliminary ruling and he prevented it nationwide from going into effect. Now, two more judges are expected to rule on this as well, in Maryland and in Washington state.
But now, as of now, the travel ban will not go into effect because the district judge, derrick Watson, in Honolulu said the new ban, just like the old ban, violated the Constitution.
BLITZER: This is a district court judge, a federal district court judge in Hawaii. But presumably, it will now go before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which Hawaii is part of, right?
TOOBIN: Right. The same -- the same Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals that upheld the ban on the first executive order last month. Now, Hawaii is also part.
But there are two more judges yet to be heard from tonight, the same judge in Washington who originally imposed the ban, he's now looking at the second executive order, as is the judge in Maryland.
[18:55:09] But as of today, as of right now, the ban will not go into effect tomorrow because of Judge Watson's decision in Hawaii.
BLITZER: Justice reporter Laura Jarrett is with us.
Laura, you've actually been going through the decision by this district court judge in Hawaii. Tell us a little more about it.
LAURA JARRETT, CNN JUSTICE REPORTER: That's right, Wolf. The judge in Hawaii, Judge Watson, said that the plaintiffs have met their burden of establishing a strong likelihood of success on the merits of their establishment claim. And you'll remember, earlier today, they were in court making the argument that this is essentially religious discrimination. They have drawn on statements from President Trump on the campaign trail and statements of other supporters of his and senior advisers, and they have said that this order essentially shows religious discrimination. Now, of course, the Justice Department strongly contests this and said
in multiple hearings that the court should not look at campaign statements whatsoever. But, clearly, this judge in Hawaii at least has been persuaded for now.
BLITZER: Because the travel ban part two basically stops travel from six Muslim majority countries, used to be seven. Iraq was taken off that list.
Is that part of the explanation for this district court judge saying it violates the Establishment Clause?
JARRETT: That's right, Wolf. The new order I should say blocks specifically section two, which is the six-country ban, for 90 days, and it also blocks section six of the new executive order, which is the 120-day ban for all refugees. So, both of those are now blocked nationwide.
BLITZER: Jeffrey Toobin, let me get back to you for a second. What do we anticipate happens next? Walk us through the process.
TOOBIN: Well, it's a very peculiar situation because there are these two other judges considering the same issue right now. If they rule differently, I think an appeals court is going to have to step in and decide what to do, although I think the -- Judge Watson's decision in Hawaii, unless it's overturned, has to be considered the law of the land, even if the other two judges rule the other way.
But it is certainly a very unusual situation where you have three judges considering the exact same issue at the exact same time. But when you have one judge go first, as the Hawaii judge did, I think his ruling has to be considered the law of the land until some superior court tells us that it's not. And these other two judges are not superior courts. They are peer courts in other parts of the country.
So, I think unless the Ninth Circuit steps in, and there's certainly no way the Ninth Circuit can get this case before tomorrow, this law -- this executive order will not go into effect tomorrow, so we are back again probably in a frantic appeals process before the Ninth Circuit, as what happened in the first go-around.
BLITZER: And, Laura, I want you to weigh in as well because you've studied this very, very closely. The new rules were supposed to take effect at midnight tonight. Is that right?
JARRETT: That's exactly right, Wolf. It was supposed to go into effect at 12:01, but now, just hours before, this judge has said no. The question Jeff Toobin brings up is a good one because at this moment, a judge in Seattle was also hearing a challenge. Now, he may say, OK, now that Hawaii has ruled, I don't need to accept that challenge, I can press pause on that for a bit. But I think it's very likely we will see a challenge to this immediately from the government.
BLITZER: Because they thought, Jeffrey Toobin, that if they made some significant changes from travel ban one and came up with some revisions in two, it would go forward. But now, it is a major setback.
TOOBIN: It is a major setback, and it is I have to say pretty surprising. I thought they made some changes in the executive order that addressed at least some of the concerns that the judges decided -- the judges had in the first -- the first executive order. But obviously, at least according to this first judge in Hawaii, they didn't change it enough, it remains a violation of the Constitution, and it will not go into effect tomorrow.
BLITZER: Key provisions of the new travel ban on hold at least for now, a major setback at least for now for the Trump administration.
All right, guys. We'll stay on top of the breaking story.
Our special coverage will continue right now on "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT".