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THE SITUATION ROOM
Interview With Maryland Congressman Elijah Cummings; Interview With House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer; Secret Surveillance Evidence?; Republicans Delay Health Care Vote; Standing By For House GOP Meeting After Health Bill Setback; American-Israeli Teen Arrested Over Threats to Jewish Groups. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired March 23, 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: Last-ditch effort. President Trump desperately tries to save the GOP health care bill, as House leaders put a pivotal vote on hold because of opposition within their own party. Tonight, Republicans are heading to a closed-door meeting amid growing questions about whether the bill is doomed.
Secret evidence. The House intelligence chairman fails to offer any proof of his new claims about surveillance of the Trump transition team. Republican Devin Nunes facing a growing backlash for rushing to brief the president while leaving Democrats on his panel in the dark.
Thumbs up. U.S. officials tell CNN Trump associates may have communicated with the Russians to give a thumbs-up signal to release information damaging to Hillary Clinton. Stand by for exclusive reporting on the FBI investigation.
And I am president. Mr. Trump says his title proves he must be doing something right in a confounding new defense of his credibility that unleashes even more false information.
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, a high-stakes cliff-hanger that could embolden or embarrass the president depending on what happens in the hours ahead.
Right now, a pivotal House vote on the GOP health care bill has been postponed until at least, at least tomorrow. By all accounts, GOP leaders still don't have support within their own party to pass the bill, despite 11th-hour appeal by the president.
We're standing by for an urgent meeting of House Republicans tonight as the negotiations and arm-twisting continue.
Also breaking, an apology by the House Intelligence Committee chairman to his committee amid controversy over his new claims about surveillance of the Trump transition team. Republican Devin Nunes is under fire for sharing with the president and the public before briefing Democrats on his own panel. We're still told that Nunes hasn't given members any evidence about communications related to Mr. Trump that may have been collected.
This as we learn more about the federal criminal investigation of the Trump camp's possible ties to Russia. U.S. officials tell CNN the FBI has information indicating that Trump associates communicated with suspected Russian operatives possibly to coordinate and release information damaging to the Clinton campaign.
I will talk about all of that, much more with our guests, including the second highest ranking House Democrat, Congressman Steny Hoyer. And our correspondents and analysts are also standing by.
First, let's go to our congressional correspondent, Phil Mattingly, up on Capitol Hill.
Phil, the health care bill is in limbo right now. What's the latest?
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the stakes couldn't be higher right now as we move into a time period that was actually scheduled for that House vote that has now been postponed.
If you want to know how a big deal this is right now, all you need to do is try to sneak into the room about 30 feet behind me, over my left shoulder. That's where Speaker Paul Ryan is meeting with the House Freedom Caucus. With him, Steve Bannon, the White House chief strategist, Reince Priebus, the chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, the budget director, underscoring right now that a deal needs to be made, but there's no pathway that is clear yet.
MATTINGLY (voice-over): Meeting after meeting and lots of legislative wrangling, the Republicans are still short of a health care deal. GOP lawmakers shuttling into closed-door meetings on both sides of Pennsylvania Avenue.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Only politics, because we have a great bill.
MATTINGLY: Underscoring a clear reality. Despite the all-out blitz from the President Trump and House leaders, they don't have the votes.
That comes in a wake of moment of brief daylight as the White House and House leaders agreed to changes sought by the conservative House Freedom Caucus.
QUESTION: Earlier today, you said you were confident that you had the votes. Do you still believe that?
REP. BRADLEY BYRNE (R), ALABAMA: Yes. If they put this up for a vote, it's going to pass.
QUESTION: Why do you say that? BYRNE: Because if you are a Republican, you have one choice. You're either going to vote with Donald Trump to repeal and replace Obamacare or you're going to vote with Nancy Pelosi to defeat the only bill that will repeal and replace Obamacare. And if you're a Republican, that's a pretty simple choice.
MATTINGLY: But even as its members filed into the White House today and gave President Trump a standing ovation, still unwilling to commit to the bill.
REP. MARK MEADOWS (R), NORTH CAROLINA: I am still a no at this time. I am desperately trying to get to yes. And I think the president knows that.
I told him that personally. And I can say with all the Freedom Caucus, they are really trying to get to yes. That's why we met for such a long time. It was at times a -- not contentious, but I would say very rigorous debate.
MATTINGLY: And the change they sought, to strip the essential benefits required by Obamacare, risked alienating the party's centrist faction, one of whom told CNN -- quote -- "This bill is collapsing," a conundrum that led House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who shepherded Obamacare to passage, to provide some unsolicited advice of her own.
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: You build your consensus in your caucus and then you're to set the date to bring it to the floor. He may be a great negotiator. Rookie's error for bringing this up on a day you clearly are not ready.
MATTINGLY: Wolf, Republican leaders right now really working against a self-imposed clock, everything moving toward a 7:00 p.m. conference meeting.
The entire Republican House Conference is supposed to meet in the basement of the Capitol to try and reach a deal to try and get a breakthrough. I have been speaking to multiple aides directly involved in this process right now and they acknowledge the pathway forward not clear.
But as one told me, we're trying to grind it out right now and get our members to a place where we can actually start to say yes, potentially get that bill on the floor.
But I can't reiterate enough, Wolf, they have serious problems. They do not have a clear path forward. As it stands, they're not just worried about conservatives. They're worried about moderates as well. Both have been dropping off the bill, the proposals and even the potential amendments over the course of the last couple hours, Wolf.
BLITZER: Phil Mattingly reporting for us, thanks very much. The White House is trying to project an air of confidence about the
health care bill, despite the delay in the vote and the uncertainty ahead.
Let's go to our White House correspondent, Sara Murray.
Sara, what are you hearing from the Trump administration tonight?
SARA MURRAY, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, earlier today, before all of this collapsed, Sean Spicer, the White House press conference, insisted this would pass.
Now they're still trying to sound optimistic and they're saying they're hoping for a vote tomorrow morning. But, Wolf, it's clear at this moment, the votes are not there and they're still very much in the wrangling process.
In addition to Steve Bannon, Reince Priebus, Trump top aides, being on the Hill right now, there's a group of lawmakers here meeting with the president. These are more moderate Republicans, and the president of course is trying to figure out how he can walk the line, thread this needle in keeping these more conservative members of the caucus on board and also winning over support from the moderates, getting to the number they need.
Again, the White House is still hoping this can happen tomorrow, that it will be a legislative victory for the president before the week is over. But right now, obviously it's a very treacherous path to passage.
BLITZER: It certainly is. All right, Sara, thanks very much, Sara Murray at the White House.
Let's get some more on all of this.
The number two Democrat in the House of Representatives, the minority whip, Steny Hoyer, is joining us.
Thanks so much for joining us.
REP. STENY HOYER (D-MD), MINORITY WHIP: You bet, Wolf. Glad to be with you.
BLITZER: First of all, what's your reaction? I don't know if you have gone through the new Congressional Budget Office report, the scoring of this current Republican legislation that we have. What's your reaction to it?
HOYER: The bill keeps getting worse and worse.
And, of course, the deficit reduction the Republicans were claiming has been halved by the changes they have made. Not only are the same 24 million going to lose their coverage, not only are you going to pay more and get less coverage, not only is the age tax is there, so if you're older you're going to pay a lot more than you do now, but they have also reduced their claim that they're reducing the deficit. So this bill just keeps getting worse and worse. If they dragoon
people into voting for this bill, it is going to be a bad vote, because the other thing that is happening is, it becomes more and more unpopular every hour that goes by.
Quinnipiac just did a poll, Wolf, you probably saw it, which now says that 56 percent of Americans think this is a bad bill and only 17 percent of them think it's a good bill. The other 26 don't have an opinion.
But it's clear that it's moving in the wrong direction for the Republicans and they continue to be a deeply divided party.
BLITZER: But, Congressman, how nervous are you despite everything you said, that in the end, the president, speaker, the Republicans will have the votes to pass this health care bill, the first step in repealing and replacing Obamacare?
HOYER: One would think, Wolf, with all that firepower, they would have already gotten the bill done. You would have thought that they would have already convinced people to be for this bill.
It's not going to be voted on today. They chose this day as a message, not as a strategy, but as a message that this was the day on which the Affordable Care Act was adopted and they were going to show their people that on the day of the anniversary they were going to repeal.
They haven't been able to do that, and they have had the president saying he was for the bill. They have had the speaker saying he was for the bill. They've had their leadership saying this is for the bill.
The problem they got is, the people are not for the bill. It's a bad bill. It makes the insurance stability that people had as a result of the Affordable Care Act, frankly, disappear. And they're very angry, and very nervous and very apprehensive.
BLITZER: So, let me ask you this, Congressman. Are you reaching out, you're the minority whip, to centrist or moderate Republicans who are nervous about it as well? In other words, what is the Democratic leadership in the House doing?
HOYER: Watching a divided party unable...
BLITZER: So, you're just watching from the sidelines? I know all the Democrats in the House are going to oppose it. But if you really it hate it so much, isn't there more you could be doing than simply watching it?
HOYER: Hate it? We think it's bad legislation, bad policy. And we also think it's bad politics.
Now, while I haven't reached out, I will tell you a number of Republicans have talked to me about their concerns about this bill and their opposition to this bill. I'm not going to name names, obviously.
While I may not have reached out, I have had contact with a number of them who have talked to me about how uncomfortable they are on both sides. Some think this bill hurts too many people. And some think, frankly, they wouldn't say it this way, it doesn't hurt enough people, in other words, doesn't cut enough benefits, doesn't makes premium more expensive and deductibles higher and millions of people without insurance.
They have got a conundrum. They have both sides of their party that is very, very uncomfortable with the bill. And Jason Amash, one of the most conservative members of the caucus, said this is the worst bill he's seen since he's been in Congress.
This is a bad bill. It's a bad vote for them. And if they get enough muscle behind some of these members and force them to vote for it, they're going to find it's a very, very uncomfortable vote in a country that's now 3-1 against it.
BLITZER: Yes, Justin Amash of Michigan.
What sort of tactics, Congressman, are you preparing for if the bill removes what you would regard as truly essential health benefits, the provisions for truly essential health benefits?
HOYER: We're going to make it very clear to the members and to the American people what that means.
That means hospital services, emergency services, it means prescription drugs availability, mental health services. Essential benefits simply says, look, we're not going to have people selling phony policies at low prices which really give no coverage.
There are some things that are essential and, very frankly, when people buy insurance they think is going to be insured. And then unfortunately they bought a cheap policy, they have a serious illness, they go to the hospital and the insurance company said, gee whiz, that's not covered.
And then, frankly, they're put into bankruptcy. We don't want to see that happen. We think that the policies ought to cover what real people face in terms of expenses to make sure that they're healthy or when they're sick can get healthy again.
BLITZER: Congressman, President Trump, you have heard it many times. He has repeatedly said if the GOP bill doesn't pass, Republicans can simply sit back and let Obamacare fail. He says it's been a disaster, it's going to fail on its own. Politically, that would be wise.
And will Democrats own the blame for that if that were to happen, if Obamacare simply self-destructs, as the Republicans claim it will?
HOYER: Wolf, this bill is Trumpcare. And if Trumpcare fails and they administratively and by talking down the confidence in the insurance market, they will own the failure here.
It will not be the Affordable Care Act's failure, because the Affordable Care Act has brought prices down. There are some places where we need to fix, where choices have been limited. We need to work on that. In part, that has happened because the Republicans undermined our risk insurance and risk sharing within the insurance industry, because it was a new program and determining prices was going to be tough.
So, we anticipated that. But the Republicans undermined that. Why? Because they're trying to kill indirectly something that they have not been able to kill directly, and that is affordable, quality health care for all American.
And, very frankly, the president, in my view, probably has no idea what's in this bill. He promised the American people that everybody would be covered, everybody would be covered, not just have access, that everybody would be covered. They'd be covered at a lower price and higher quality.
Frankly, he has not offered any bill that any fair-minded analysis would say accomplishes the objective he set forth.
BLITZER: All right, I know you want to continue.
But I quickly want to get your reaction to another important development, Congressman, involving the House Intelligence Committee chairman, Devin Nunes. Do you believe that, the chairman, he needs to step down given what happened yesterday?
HOYER: Look, I want to know more of the facts.
But I think what happened yesterday was bizarre and unfortunate and was a very bad judgment on Mr. Nunes' behalf. What I think ought to happen, however, is that we ought to have an independent commission.
This is a very, very serious allegation. And some of the information that came today where there may well be evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians, which I would think every American would reject out of hand, thinking that was damaging to the national interests and a despicable act for a candidate to be colluding with some -- a country that can be certainly described as our adversary, and may be described as our enemy, that Americans would reject overwhelmingly.
So what we need is an independent commission, like the 9/11 Commission, bipartisan, with subpoena power and the ability to get to the bottom of what clearly FBI Director Comey and others have raised as very, very legitimate questions of national security.
That's what I think ought to happen. And it's clear that I don't think Mr. Nunes can lead an investigation that will have credibility in a bipartisan way and get to the bottom of this.
BLITZER: Congressman Steny Hoyer of Maryland, thanks very much for joining us.
HOYER: You bet. Thanks a lot, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, just ahead, we have more breaking news coverage on the very uncertain fate of the Republican health care bill as the vote is delayed and negotiations go into overtime.
And did Trump campaign associates coordinate with Russians to hurt the Clinton campaign? CNN's exclusive reporting on that and more when we come back.
BLITZER: We're following breaking news, a crucial health care vote delayed in the House of Representatives, as the president tries to get his own party to fall in line.
We're standing by for a closed-door meeting of all House Republicans at this critical juncture.
Right now, though, we have CNN's exclusive reporting on the FBI investigation into the Trump camp's possible ties to Russian.
Our justice correspondent, Pamela Brown, and her colleagues have been digging on this. She's got new information for us.
What are you learning, Pamela?
PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we have learned that the FBI investigation into Trump campaign associates in Russia has unearthed information that raises suspicion among counterintelligence investigators.
BROWN (voice-over): U.S. officials tell CNN the FBI has information that indicates associates of President Donald Trump communicated with suspected Russian operatives to possibly coordinate the release of information damaging to Hillary Clinton's campaign, this after FBI Director James Comey announced Monday that the FBI is investigating the Trump campaign's ties to Russia.
JAMES COMEY, FBI DIRECTOR: That includes investigating the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government.
BROWN: Comey also explained what would trigger an investigation like this.
COMEY: The standard is -- I think there's a couple different at play -- a credible allegation of wrongdoing or reasonable basis to believe that an American may be acting as an agent of a foreign power.
BROWN: The FBI is now reviewing information which includes human intelligence, travel, business, and phone records and accounts of in- person meetings. This information is raising the suspicions of FBI counterintelligence investigators that the coordination may have taken place, though officials cautioned that the investigation is not conclusive and that the investigation is ongoing.
House Intelligence Committee Democrats say there is strong evidence out there.
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: You said that there is more than just circumstantial evidence of collusion. What did you mean by that.
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: I don't feel comfortable talking about particular evidence, other than the FBI is looking at it or what we're looking at. But I do think that's appropriate to say it's the kind of evidence that you would submit to a grand jury at the beginning of an investigation.
BROWN: One law enforcement official said the information at hand suggest -- quote -- "People connected to the campaign were in contact and it appeared they were giving the thumbs up to release information when it was ready."
But other U.S. officials who spoke to CNN say it's premature to draw that inference. The FBI cannot yet prove that collusion taken place. Senator John McCain says he hasn't yet seen evidence, but the investigation should proceed.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I have seen no substantiation, but it continues on and on and on, but that's the reason why we need a select committee to clear this whole issue up.
BROWN: The FBI has already been investigating four former Trump associates, Michael Flynn, Paul Manafort, Roger Stone and Carter Page, for contacts with Russians known to U.S. intelligence. All four have denied improper contacts.
Today, the White House reacted to the possible collusion. Press Secretary Sean Spicer telling CNN's Sara Murray:
SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: When you use a term like associates, you don't even put a time frame around it. It's a little bit nebulous at best to suggest that somebody over and over again making a claim the way you do and the narrative continues without any substantiation.
BROWN: And one of the obstacles that sources say the FBI now faces in finding conclusive intelligence is that communications between Trump's associates and Russians have ceased in recent months, given the public focus on Russia's ties to the Trump campaign.
And some Russian officials have also changed their methods of communications, making monitoring more difficult. Wolf, the FBI declined to comment. BLITZER: Pamela, thanks very much, Pamela Brown with that report.
Tonight, Democrats say a cloud is hanging over the House Intelligence Committee's investigation of Russia's election meddling because of the actions of the Republican chairman, Devin Nunes.
Nunes apologized today for rushing to brief the president on information he hadn't even shared with Democrats on his own panel.
Our CNN congressional reporter, Manu Raju, has been talking to the key players in this controversial.
What is the latest? What are you learning, Manu?
RAJU: Devin Nunes tonight, Wolf, will not reveal exactly how he came into possession of this information, even if it was received from the White House, which is what some Democrats suspect that they believe is an effort by the Trump administration to muddy the waters over the president's claim that he was spied on under the orders of President Barack Obama.
Nunes revealing yesterday that this information that was intercepted includes communication about Trump transition officials and the formation of a new government. And while Nunes earlier today when he came out of a private briefing with Democrats and Republicans on his committee, we asked him specifically, how did you get the information? He wouldn't say. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RAJU: Did this come from the White House? Did this information come you got come from the White House?
REP. DEVIN NUNES (R), CALIFORNIA: As you know, we have to keep our sources and methods here very, very quiet. I have told the American public several times that we want people to come to us to bring us information if they have it. And over the course of this investigation, we have had many sources who have come to this committee.
And, as you can imagine, some, many don't want you to know, they don't want anyone to know who they are. And I think you guys in the press understand this.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RAJU: Now, Nunes confirmed to me later that he did, in fact, apologize to the committee for briefing the president before Democrats, but he said it was his judgment call in deciding to brief the president given what he believed was alarming information in the intelligence reports.
But I did talk to Adam Schiff, who is the top Democrat on the committee, later, who said he was baffled by the decision by Mr. Nunes to not rule out that this may have come from the White House.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SCHIFF: I am concerned by the fact that after our meeting when the chairman was interviewed, he wasn't willing to rule out having received these materials from the White House itself or in consultation with the White House. I don't know what that means.
And this is all the more baffling by the hour. So we did communicate. Democrats feel this is essential that we investigate. We have made every effort to investigate this in a completely nonpartisan way to do this. That's the way it should be done. Democrats feel that if we don't participate in this investigation, there isn't going to be an investigation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RAJU: So a key piece of information there, Wolf, that Democrats will continue to participate in this House Intelligence Committee investigation, despite their concerns that they believe that Mr. Nunes may have compromised this investigation going forward.
But they're still waiting to see this information that Mr. Nunes revealed, got from a source. They have not seen that yet. They're expecting it to come any day. And I asked Mr. Nunes, will you show this, reveal who your sources to Adam Schiff? He said no. He wants to protect his sources and methods -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Interesting. Manu, thanks very much, Manu Raju up on Capitol Hill.
Let's talk about this and more with the top Democrat on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Congressman Elijah Cummings.
Congressman, thanks for joining us.
REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D), MARYLAND: Good to be with you, Wolf.
BLITZER: Have you seen any evidence that Trump campaign associates were in contact with Russian operatives to coordinate the release of hacked Clinton campaign e-mails?
CUMMINGS: I have not seen that information. It does not mean that it doesn't exist.
Keep in mind, Wolf, that the Intelligence Committee gets a lot of information that many of us in the Congress will never see. And what Congressman Nunes did, he's a good man, let me say this first, but I think he made a very bad judgment call today.
And what he did I think just shocks the conscience.
BLITZER: Has your chairman of your committee, Jason Chaffetz, ever done anything like that to you?
CUMMINGS: No, no. And I would be extremely upset if he did.
You know, Wolf, we have a situation here where Chairman Nunes is investigating President Trump. You don't run to the person who you're investigating and give them information. And there is a lot of reasons for that. But one of the main reasons is, is that you don't want them to have information so that they can scuttle the very investigation.
In other words, if they know where you're going and they know the information you have, that's a big problem. But one of the other things that bothers me about this, of all people to do this to, is Adam Schiff.
Adam and I served on the Benghazi Select Committee together. He's probably one of the best lawyers I have ever dealt with in my 35 years of practicing law, an honorable man. He could have easily gone to Adam and explained things to him and explained them to his committee.
They still don't know what information he's talking about.
[18:30:23] The other alarming thing, Wolf, is we don't know where this information has come from. It would have been easy for Chairman Nunes to simply say to the CNN reporter, "No, information did not come from the White House." But now we are all left and wondering where did it come from?
That's why we need a select committee, a committee not made of congressmen and senators, but made up of distinguished citizens like the 9/11 Commission that has subpoena power made up of equal appointees, Democrats and Republicans, to find out what happened here and make recommendations that make sure it does not happen again.
BLITZER: On another issue, another critically important issue affecting millions -- millions of people, I want to get your reaction to the delay on the Republican healthcare bill. There was supposed to be a vote today. It's now been delayed at least until tomorrow. I don't know if you've gone through the new Congressional Budget Office report, the score on it. But what's your reaction to these late- breaking developments?
CUMMINGS: I think it's extremely upsetting that the Republicans are trying to ram this bill down the throats of America. As Senator (UNINTELLIGIBLE) said to you a little bit earlier, 56 percent of Americans already are against it; they don't like what they see. They realize that 14 million people of their neighbors and friends are going to be thrown off the insurance rolls in the next year. They know that in the next ten years, 24 million. That's a lot of people, Wolf, and that's a lot -- and we are better than that as a country.
The thing that upsets me about all of this discussion, we hear nothing about the moral issue, the moral issue of leaving folks out to get sicker and, in many cases, to die. And so I'm hoping that my Republican friends who are going to plan to vote against it will vote against it and because it's not appropriate thing to do. As I said before, we're better than that.
BLITZER: Congressman Elijah Cummings of Maryland, thanks as usual for joining us.
CUMMINGS: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: Just ahead, we'll have more on the breaking news. The House postpones the final vote on a bill to repeal and replace Obamacare. Republican leaders hope the delay will help them persuade skeptical Republican lawmakers to give the plan a thumbs up. But will it be enough?
[18:37:14] BLITZER: We're following the breaking news on the Republican effort to repeal and replace Obamacare. After a day of scrapping for support, the House leaders have now decided to put the scheduled vote on hold, at least until tomorrow. We're standing by for a closed-door meeting of all House Republicans to assess where they go from here.
Conservative Republicans have been giving the GOP leadership headaches but the plan is in danger of losing support from moderate, centrist Republicans, as well.
Let's get some analysis from our political experts. Gloria Borger, how big of a setback is this right now. They were supposed to have the vote today. Now it's been postponed at least until tomorrow.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes.
BLITZER: We'll see if it actually happens tomorrow. I don't think they're going to let it come up for a vote unless they're sure it will pass.
BORGER: Right. And you know, I was told -- excuse me -- talking to sources in the administration that they believe they're close. That's the word they used with me. So we won't know how much of a setback it is until it comes up for a vote, and if they lose, obviously, if they lose, Wolf, it's tremendous, and it's a -- it's a real problem.
And I think that the Freedom Caucus is very difficult and frustrating for them to deal with, and this isn't a negotiation that Donald Trump is used to. He's used to being a real-estate guy. You go in a room, you have your problems, but then you come back, you shake hands and you let others work out the details. Donald Trump has to work out the details, and he's trying, and he's understanding the laws of whack-a- mole here, because if he gives something to one group, the other group pops up, and they're unhappy. And this is his first kind of negotiation like this.
And members don't know whether they should be afraid of Donald Trump at this point, because there's no precedent for this. And so they're all kind of feeling each other out, and it's a very, very difficult process.
BLITZER: And even as we speak right now, Brianna, Reince Priebus, the White House chief of staff, Steve Bannon, the chief strategist of the White House, they're up on the Hill; they're talking to these Republicans. They're trying to convince them, vote for this current bill. And it's by no means a done deal.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: It isn't. And Steve Bannon is somebody who is particularly sympathetic to the House Freedom Caucus. But you're looking at a bill that costs more money, according to the Congressional Budget Office, and insures fewer people.
And you're talking about something that is so real when it comes to health insurance and whether someone feels secure in being able to pay for their health care. I mean, these are the kinds of things, very kitchen table issues, that Americans will feel the repercussions of.
So many times I think we say, "How does this really affect people?" Well, this is something that does affect people. And this is exactly the reverse of what we saw in 2009. I was a congressional correspondent covering healthcare reform, maybe more accurately, health insurance reform. And you saw the exact same thing. You gain a couple of people with one provision; you lose four doing the same thing. And it's a very difficult balance to strike.
[18:40:10] BLITZER: Because they've been going at -- Republicans have been going after Obamacare, Jackie, as you know, for seven years.
JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right.
BLITZER: And they've had at least since November 8, the election, to get ready for repeal and replace. It's now in serious trouble.
Look at this Quinnipiac University poll that just came out. Republican healthcare plan to replace healthcare, 56 percent disapprove, 17 percent approve, 26 percent undecided. But that's a pretty lopsided majority against this current effort to replace Obamacare.
KUCINICH: And that's going to give the people that don't want to vote for this bill more fodder. Because at the end of the day, they're the ones who are going to have to go to their districts, and they're going to have to sell this to their constituents. If you don't believe in what you're voting for, it's awfully hard to sell that.
So -- and also, look at the president's approval ratings. These members that he may be leaning on, if they're more popular in the district than maybe the president is, why are they sticking their neck out for him on something that looks dead on arrival in the Senate?
BLITZER: And we're just hearing, by the way, this meeting with Reince Priebus, Steve Bannon, with the Republican leadership and Republican members seems to be breaking up right now. Dana Bash is just outside. We're going to go to her once we get some word what, if anything, may have happened there.
It is the president's debut to -- he wrote "The Art of the Deal." He's got to come up with a deal right now.
BORGER: Well, he does. And, you know, he's clearly -- he's clearly working at it. But there's only so much they can do. I mean, it's very -- the math is very difficult for them, because these people are independent fiefdoms right now, particularly those conservatives who are -- don't need Donald Trump to a great degree, or at least they don't think so.
But don't forget: this was the No. 1 promise of every single Republican in every single congressional district in the country, was repeal and replace. And so they have to weigh bucking Donald Trump against going home to their constituents and saying, "You know what? We didn't do it for you."
Now, the Freedom Caucus folks may not be afraid of being primaried by people to their right, because they're pretty conservative. But you know, we have to -- each man is going to figure out the political calculation, because some of the details of this, when you get down to the details, you're taking things away from people. And when you do that, it's very difficult.
KUCINICH: And what the Freedom Caucus has been saying the last couple of days is they're not going to have trouble saying this didn't repeal Obamacare.
KUCINICH: This is not fulfilling our promises. That's what you hear from them, and that's what they're using to counter people like Paul Ryan and other Republicans that are trying to get them to vote for this.
BLITZER: And if this goes down, how much of a setback will it be for the president?
KEILAR: I think it will be a big setback for Donald Trump, and I also think it's going to be a bit of a schooling in just how Washington works and, as Gloria said, how it's a little different.
But the fact is, I think Jackie brings up a very good point, which is a true repeal of Obamacare is something that would leave a lot of people without something that they had before. And when you think of entitlement reform, this is something that has been so hard for Congress to tackle. They never do. Because you have to take something away. That is always something that plays out at the ballot box, and there are so many people up on the Hill afraid of that.
BORGER: You know, if you're going to take away the so-called essential health benefits from people, you're going to be taking away medical health coverage, drug addiction coverage and maternity care.
Now, there are Republicans, or conservatives who are saying one size doesn't fit all. You know, if I'm a -- I'm a young single guy, why am I paying for some woman's maternity care? I understand that. They believe you should be able to shape your own coverage. But there's a lot of other things that could go by the wayside if this bill broadens the way a lot of conservatives want it.
Are they going to get rid of keeping your kids on your health care insurance? Are they -- are insurance companies going to be allowed to put caps back on your lifetime coverage? Those kinds of things, people look at really closely, because this affects your life.
BLITZER: Some Republicans think not passing this bill right now and letting Obamacare -- and they believe it will collapse on its own, from the Republicans' political standpoint, it may be better for them than getting this repeal and replace legislation through.
KUCINICH: Yes, I don't know that they're the ones winning the argument, though, right now. It doesn't -- there is the do-nothing strain out there, but they're -- I feel like they're being quieted by the "we need to repeal this" or "You guys need to pass this. This is our one shot. We're only going to get one shot on this." Because they think -- they want to move on to tax reform. They want to go on to other things. And if this is a failure for them, it's going to -- it's going to -- the president is going to take a hit in his credibility to be able to get things done, really, before he even starts.
KEILAR: And the idea that it's going to collapse on its own as quickly as some Republicans are alleging just isn't true. And so that would actually...
KEILAR: ... be a problem for them when that doesn't really come true. I mean, if you listen to Donald Trump, he makes it sound like it's an imminent danger of collapse, it isn't. So, that would be -- it's something you can say if you do, quote/unquote, "repeal it", or you do make changes you can say, wow, we really -- we dodged a bullet there. But if you wait and the bullet never comes, well, that's really a problem and I think that's what we might see would happen.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR What do you think is going to happen at this upcoming meeting in the few minutes, the Republican caucus meeting, they're going to get together and discuss?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think they're going to be counting. I think they're going to be counting votes. They're going to be counting where they are. They're going to be hearing from their speaker who says, you know, you've got to win one for the Gipper, I guess, to use a phrase.
And we're going to have to see out of this Freedom Caucus meeting, Wolf, what happens with these conservatives because they're the ones -- remember John Boehner --
BORGER: -- that's why he's no longer speaker.
JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: They have all the cards.
BLITZER: Stand by.
The meeting, that Republican caucus meeting supposed to begin right at the top of the hour. In the meantime, a separate meeting leading into that with some top White House officials just breaking up. We'll update you on the latest when we come back.
[18:50:57] BLITZER: We're tracking multiple breaking stories at this hour up on Capitol Hill. The effort to repeal and replace Obamacare is in peril right now as Republican leaders postpone a final vote that was scheduled for today. We're going to bring you updates as that story unfolds.
We're also covering the firestorm surrounding the House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes. Nunes has now apologized to his fellow lawmakers on the committee for not briefing them before telling President Trump that some of his communications may have been incidentally collected as part of legal surveillance on foreign targets.
Let's get back to our panel.
Phil Mudd, I want your thoughts, because, all of a sudden, we're learning lots of incidental collection of intelligence. This has been a huge development right now, that's causing an enormous amount of concern.
PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: It is a huge development, but from an intelligence insider, what we're learning about how the U.S. government collects intelligence is nothing new for decades.
I think the fascinating part of this over the last day or so is this question about whether this committee should continue to investigate after what we saw about Devin Nunes approaching the White House. And I think a lot of people will step back and say he apologized, that's enough. My view, not so much.
Let me tell you something. We have a conversation in this country about how we approach the next election and whether we can vote free and fair.
What have we heard in the last 30 days? Who leaked what when? What was unmasked about U.S. persons who are collected in intelligence? Does this affect our perception of whether the American president was elected appropriately? Irrelevant.
There is one question that we continue to see, at the committee is ignoring. What happened in terms of Russian intervention, and can -- forget about what happened. Can we secure the next election? We'll see in 18 months.
And I think the committee has shown that they're going to be diverted by political conversations, away from the key question of what the Russians did when and what do we do about it.
BLITZER: And if they're meddling, we've got to make sure it doesn't happen again.
MUDD: That's right. Yes.
BLITZER: That is the key question.
Everybody, stand by.
We're also awaiting new word on this urgent meeting of House Republicans about to take place after leaders delayed that crucial floor vote on health care. Will any votes be changed tonight?
[18:57:32] BLITZER: Tonight, we're learning more about the American- Israeli teenager arrested in connection with bomb threats against Jewish organizations here in the United States, as well as other countries.
CNN's Oren Liebermann is joining us live from Jerusalem right now.
Oren, tell us about this individual, his background.
OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And it's not just an individual. Police say they also have the suspect's father in custody in connection with these bomb threats to Jewish community centers across the U.S., not only in the U.S., but also in New Zealand and Australia, where police say these robocalls, these bomb threats began.
Police say they arrested the 19-year-old teenager, an American-Israeli Jewish teenager this morning and pulled evidence out of his house as part of the investigation. The name of the teenager remains under a gag order. He's in custody, as is his father for at least another week as the investigation continues.
We did get a chance to speak with the suspect's defense attorney. She says he suffers from a brain tumor that affects his behavior and has, in fact, kept him out of school since he was in first grade. She says, again, that the suspect's father is in custody, as part of the ongoing investigation.
We're learning from police about where he may face charges. Of course, the robocalls, those bomb threats were made from here, using technology to mask his voice and hide his identity. But it was the U.S. that received those bomb threats. So, Israeli police spokesman Mickey Rosenfeld says he could face charges in the United States, which is to say, he could be extradited. That is still part of the ongoing process here.
Now, Wolf, the main question is, why? Why is it that an American- Israeli Jewish teenager called in bomb threats to scores of Jewish community centers across the U.S.? That, of course, is the main question not only for us who have been following this story, but also for police that, at this point, remains part of the ongoing investigation -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Are the Israeli police saying how they found this guy?
LIEBERMANN: It was a month-lock investigation, not only the Israeli police, but also working with the FBI and other countries that have received these bomb threats. We know just from our reporting earlier this month that investigators
were starting to narrow it down. They knew it seemed to be one person working from overseas. And then it was where these robocalls and bomb threats originated from. Police say the New Zealand call, they got information it came from Israel, as was Australia. And then, as they got the investigation, it led them to his home in Ashkelon in southern Israel, and that is where police made that arrest this morning.
BLITZER: Oren Liebermann in Jerusalem -- thanks very much.
So, that's it for me. Thanks very much for watching.
Our breaking news coverage continues with Kate Bolduan filling on "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT".