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Senator Lindsey Graham Holds Town Hall; Senator Lindsey Graham Calls for Sanctions on Russia for Attempts to Influence U.S. Election; Vice President Mike Pence Speaks in West Virginia; GOP Pulls House Health Care Reform Bill Before Vote; President Trump Tweets on Failure of Health Care Reform Bill. Aired 2-3p ET
Aired March 25, 2017 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[14:00:00] FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: -- getting an earful from voters. Just moments ago Senator Lindsey Graham wrapped up a town hall in his home state in South Carolina. The raucous gathering focused on a number of hot button issues, but the topic getting the most vocal responses from the crowd centered on the senator's responses on the investigation into the president's possible ties, the president's team possible ties to Russia, and of course, the GOP's failed bid to repeal and replace Obamacare.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, (R) SOUTH CAROLINA: Here's what I think about health care. Obamacare is a disaster.
GRAHAM: We are down.
We've learned that the FBI is investigating Trump campaign operatives for potential ties to Russia. Here's my belief.
GRAHAM: It goes wherever it goes. No politicians should stand in the way. We should let the FBI do their job and what happens, happens.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: All right, CNN's Polo Sandoval was in South Carolina covering that town hall for us. So Polo, the senator taking a lot of questions today and seemingly handling it pretty well. He's very comfortable in that setting.
POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, absolutely. At no point losing control of this as he took questions for about an hour and a half, things wrapping up in the last few minutes. That question about, of course, Russian involvement in the election was, of course, something that he did talk about.
And also, one of the ones that prompted one of the largest responses from the audience is one of the last ones, which was some of these audience members calling into question Senator Graham's vote on some of President Trump's nominees and eventual appointments to the cabinet, including of course secretary of education and secretary of state. There were several individuals that I counted even leaving the room.
But then of course there's that issue of this so called Muslim ban, not only the first but also this most recent one, Fred, that you talked about just a few minutes ago, the one that has faced some obstacles. I want you to hear directly from the South Carolina senator, the question and the answers and of course the response from some members of the audience.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GRAHAM: I don't believe in a Muslim ban.
GRAHAM: I've been to Iraq and Afghanistan 42 times. And during the campaign, some of the rhetoric that I heard coming out of the Trump campaign, to me reinforced the narrative that all Muslims are the same when in fact most Muslims hate radical Islam more than you do because they're the ones getting killed the most.
GRAHAM: So when it comes to immigration, I believe that most illegal immigrants come here for economic opportunity. Some are bad and most are like the rest of everybody else.
GRAHAM: Now, the campaign is over. This new effort to have extra vetting in these seven countries, I think, will work. I was against the first one. I'm for this one.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SANDOVAL: And of course, as you may imagine, some mixed reaction from the audience when the senator got to that. What was interesting, though, Fred, there was sort of a liberal response from some individuals, some members of the audience, for example when the senator touched on gun control, climate change as well. This is something where we witnessed several people hold up those green cards essentially. So it will be interesting, of course, if he hosts another one. This is the second one he's held here on the home turf. Mixed reaction, and of course many people here anxious to see what will come next.
The senator himself said that perhaps the next issue, the next agenda item that will be tackled will be tax reform now that this potential changes when it comes to Obamacare may not happen anytime soon, Fred.
WHITFIELD: Polo Sandoval in Columbia, thank you so much.
So less than 24 hours after that stunning health care defeat on Capitol Hill, Vice President Mike Pence is pivoting to another campaign promise -- job creation. Later on this hour the vice president will be meeting with small business owners in Scott Depot, West Virginia, near Charleston, West Virginia. Live pictures right now of the event under way. And of course when the vice president speaks, we'll take that or at least monitor what he's saying.
Meanwhile, the president of the United States issuing a new message today after yesterday's stunning health bill failure on Capitol Hill, saying, tweeting this, "Do not worry." Let's go now to CNN's Athena Jones who is live for us outside of the White House there. Athena, so, where does this administration go from here?
ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Fred. Well, in terms of legislative steps, I talked with a senior administration official a short while ago who told me that the White House team is recalibrating and talking to the president about what to shift around, what could come next.
[14:05:00] It looks as though what will come next is tax reform. This official told me that, yes, it's complicated, just like the repeal of Obamacare was complicated, but that there is more immediate buy-in from the beginning, that this idea of tax reform starts from a position of strength because every member has middle class families and businesses in their districts, and the goal of this tax reform is going to be to lower rates and give a tax cut both to middle class families and to corporations. So that is the thinking, the goal still being August, but that, of course, is going to depend on a lot of things.
Some of the lessons learned from this latest round, this failure to repeal Obamacare, this official said that going forward you're going to see the White House play a more active role on the front end when it comes to writing the language of the bill and determining the strategy for selling any future legislation out of the gate.
But you brought up the tweet this morning from the president. Let me read it for you. He said, "Obamacare will explode and we will all get together and piece together a great health care plan for the people. Do not worry." A bit of a mixed message there. It certainly sounds as though the president is pulling for the existing law, the law of the land, as House Speaker Paul Ryan put it, to fail, and that means to fail the 20 million people who are benefitting from it.
And I think it's important to note here that Obamacare is not imploding or exploding, whichever word you want to choose, according to some recent analyses. The Congressional Budget Office put out an analysis saying that the individual insurance market would probably remain stable under Obamacare, and Standard and Poor's in their analysis said that those huge price hikes we've seen for premiums on policies in some states this year, Standard and Poor's said that that is likely a one-time pricing correction.
So the law is not imploding or exploding, but there are serious problems with Obamacare, particularly in the individual market. Snd so the president is saying, look, it's going to collapse. That will bring Democrats to the table. Democrats are already saying, look, if you drop this whole effort to repeal the bill, we will work with you to fix the things that are wrong with it.
So the bottom line is it's going to come down to, will the White House, will the secretary of Health and Human Services take steps to further undermine the law in order to make it collapse as they predicted and therefore bring Democrats to the table, or will they work with Democrats? That's a huge question. And the other question is how voters and how those impacted by any potential failure or future failure of the law, who they'll hold accountable. Fred?
WHITFIELD: All right, Athena Jones at the White House, thank you so much. We're going to talk more about this. Just a reminder, the vice president is in Scott Depot, West Virginia, only about two minutes away from him taking to the microphone. So if I have to cut away from our guests to go the vice president, that is why.
Let me bring in right now Jay Newton-Small, she is a contributor for "TIME" magazine, and CNN senior economic analyst Stephen Moore. He is a former senior economic advisor for the Trump campaign. Good to see both of you. So again, if I have to interrupt, do understand we'll be going to Vice President Mike Pence momentarily. So Jay, let me begin with you. So listen to what the president said about what lawmakers should do next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I've been saying for the last year and a half that the best thing we can do politically speaking is let Obamacare explode.
It's imploding, and soon will explode. And it's not going to be pretty. So the Democrats don't want to see that. So they're going to reach out when they're ready.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: OK, so again, as Athena was reporting this morning, Trump tweeted this, saying "Obamacare will explode and we will get together and piece together a great health care plan for the people. Do not worry." But what's the messaging here, you know, Jay, in terms, look, and look, we're seeing Mike Pence there enter the room. When he does speak, we'll try to make it quick and go to him. So Jay, is it a mixed message, while the president is saying, you know, Obamacare is horrible, terrible, we are at some point, going to go back to the drawing board and try to come up with something else?
JAY NEWTON-SMALL, CONTRIBUTOR, "TIME" MAGAZINE: Fred, Democrats that I've spoken to on the Hill have said that they've always been open to doing a technical fix on the bill, but they're not open to doing is completely repealing the law leaving the more than 20 million people who have health care provided by the ACA without health care. And that is what they've been against and that's what they helped block in the last week.
What they want to see is they'd be open to doing a technical fix. They'd be open to helping bring down premiums, doing certain things to make the law better and more affordable because it wasn't passed in the way that it was expected to go into law when it originally passed and they always envisioned going back to fixing it. If that's what Donald Trump wants to do, Democrats are more than happy to do it.
WHITFIELD: And Steve, I want to get your take in a moment, but first, let's go to the vice president and listen in to Mike Pence.
[14:10:07] MIKE PENCE, (R) VICE PRESIDENT: I want to thank them. I want to thank the whole Foster supply team and all the great employees who came out today. You've been building this state and building the American dream since 1981. In fact, Ron, I just heard that you have a wall division here at Fosters. Maybe we need to talk.
PENCE: What you do and what you've done here since 1981 is what makes this country great, and the president and I are truly grateful for you and for all the good people, part of the Foster supply team and all the neighbors and friends who gather here today to stand with us. Give yourself a round of applause for coming out on a Saturday afternoon.
PENCE: We couldn't be more grateful.
Congressmen Evan Jenkins, thank you for being with us. We're so grateful for your support and the congressman, Alex Mooney, thank you for your service to this country. It is great to be in your district, it truly is.
PENCE: You know, it's so humbling for me to stand before you today in this role. I'm just a small town guy from southern Indiana. My grandfather immigrated to this country, and to think I had the privilege to raise my right hand on January 20th and accept the oath of office to serve as 48th vice president of the United States is the greatest privilege of my life. Let me just say on behalf of my whole family, thank you, West Virginia, for giving us the opportunity to serve.
PENCE: I'll tell you, it is the greatest privilege of my life to be vice president to President Donald Trump. President Trump is my friend. He loves his family. He loves this country with boundless energy, optimism, courage, and determination. And let me be clear on one thing. President Donald Trump is going to be the best friend American small business will ever have.
PENCE: That's why he picked Linda McMahon to lead the small business administration. Isn't she amazing? (APPLAUSE)
PENCE: Linda McMahon knows an awful lot about small business. She and her husband started their company as a small business back in the 1970s as Titan Sports. Then they built it into an international entertainment enterprise, the WWE. Any fans in the house?
PENCE: I'm one. Now she's bringing that great business experience to building a business to help small businesses across America grow and thrive. You know, Linda, we're grateful for your leadership, but maybe we could have used a few of your WWE super stars on Capitol Hill yesterday.
PENCE: Give her another round of applause for leading the small business administration --
PENCE: -- with such great, great quality. With Linda McMahon at the SBA, we're leading to small business owners, and that hadn't been happening for a while in Washington, D.C. Been listening to people just like many who had been with us today. Would you join me in thanking the great small business owners who are gathered here today, people that make West Virginia such a great place to live, to work, and to raise a family?
PENCE: We just had a great conversation. We talked with these job creators here in West Virginia about the president's pro-business agenda, less regulations, lower taxes, fair trade, better infrastructure, and a renewed focus on American energy. And I heard again, from these West Virginia small business owners about the need to repeal and replace Obamacare.
PENCE: They told me about Obamacare stands in the way and stifles growth. It's a burden not just to job creators. It's also a burden to the American people. Folks, frankly, I wasn't surprised to hear it, because every promise of Obamacare has been broken. You remember what they were. Seven years ago, after Obamacare was signed into law, they told us, if you like your doctor, you can keep them. Not true. They said if you like your health plan, you could keep it. Not true.
We were all told the cost of health insurance would go down. That wasn't true either. And West Virginia knows this better than most. It's heartbreaking to say it. Last year alone Obamacare premiums here in West Virginia spiked by a stunning 32 percent. Over 40 percent of the state doesn't have any choice of an insurance provider under the Obamacare exchange.
[14:15:04] West Virginians and President Trump, we all know the truth about this failed law, that every day that Obamacare survives is another day that America suffers. That's why the president worked tirelessly over the last several weeks to get Congress to repeal and replace Obamacare. You saw his resolve to work with whoever he needed to work with, to call whoever he needed to call to get the plan across the finish line this week on Capitol Hill.
I got to tell you, I was inspired by President Trump's determination and commitment to keep his promise to the American people.
PENCE: And the president and I are grateful for speaker Paul Ryan and the House Republicans who stood with us in this effort to begin the end of Obamacare. But as we all learned yesterday, Congress just wasn't ready. You saw it, with 100 percent of House Democrats, every single one, and a handful of Republicans actually standing in the way of President Trump plan to repeal and replace Obamacare, we're back to the drawing board.
Nancy Pelosi, the leader of the Democrats in Congress, actually said yesterday was a victory for the American people. But West Virginia knows better. Yesterday wasn't a victory for the American people. It was a victory for the status quo in Washington, D.C., and it was a victory for the disaster of Obamacare. But I promise you, that victory won't last very long.
PENCE: The American people want Obamacare gone, and the president said today, don't worry, America. He just tweeted this morning. Obamacare is going to continue to explode. And when Republicans and Democrats finally decide to come together and repeal and replace Obamacare, we'll be ready to get the job done.
PENCE: As the president promised just this morning, we'll all get together and piece together a great health care plan for the people. We will end the Obamacare nightmare and give the American people the world class health care that they deserve.
PENCE: Until then, I can promise you, President Trump is never going to stop fighting to keep his promises to the American people, and we will make America great again.
PENCE: And we're moving forward. Next up, we're going to get back to the president's three part agenda -- jobs, jobs, and jobs for every American in West Virginia and across this country.
PENCE: And the great news is actually, we've been on that agenda from the very day President Trump was elected. It's been amazing seeing jobs coming back to this country, even since the day after the election. Last month, the economy added 235,000 jobs. Construction and manufacturing are booming again. Companies cancelling plans to move jobs and factories overseas, and they're building them right here in America once again.
PENCE: It's true. Now, businesses and consumers haven't been this confident in years and by some measures, for more than a decade. Folks, the era of slow growth is over and a new era of American growth and jobs has already begun.
PENCE: And it's all because the American people know President Donald Trump is man of his word and he's a man of action. In fact on day one President Trump went straight to work rolling back reams of red tape that have been killing jobs in small business America across this country. He instructed every bureaucracy in Washington, D.C. to find two regulations to get rid of before issuing any new regulations out of our nation's capital.
PENCE: He's already taken decisive action to protect American jobs and American workers, and we will not stop until we end illegal immigration once and for all.
PENCE: Just this week, the president authorized the Keystone pipeline, creating tens of thousands of jobs and protecting our energy future.
PENCE: Folks, we're just getting started. Next up, as the president said yesterday, we're going to roll our sleeves up and we're going to cut taxes across the board for working families, small businesses, and family farms.
[14:20:04] PENCE: Working with this Congress, President Trump is going to pass the largest tax cut since the days of Ronald Reagan, and we're going to get this American economy moving again.
PENCE: We're going to reform the tax code and make it flatter and simpler and fairer. I guarantee you there isn't anyone here, including the Fosters, who could make sense of the tax code. There's an old joke. There's an old joke about how the tax code in this country is 10 times the size of the Bible with none of the good news.
PENCE: Am I right? The truth is our taxes make it far too difficult for job creators and hardworking people across this country to get ahead to achieve the American dream. That's why our tax plan will make American businesses and American opportunities more competitive all over this country. We're going to also cut the corporate tax rate in America. We have one of the highest business taxes in America. We're going to cut it to 15 percent so American companies will invest in American operations to create American jobs.
PENCE: So we're going to gut taxes for every American and we're going to cut taxes for free enterprise, but we're also going to get this economy moving with less regulation and more American energy. Let me make you a promise. Right after we dropped our right hands on January 20th, it was official. The war on coal is over.
PENCE: And a new era of American energy has begun.
PENCE: For far too long politicians and bureaucrats in Washington, D.C. have crippled our nation's economy and crippled West Virginia's economy without regard to the impact that it has on people's utility bills, the impact that it has on jobs and hardworking Americans. Right here in West Virginia, they pushed mining companies to the breaking point and they jeopardized thousands of good paying jobs and cut off a brighter future for countless West Virginia families.
It's heartbreaking to think West Virginia has lost more than a third of its mining jobs over the last few years alone with over 130 mines that have shut down since 2009. Folks, that's not right. The hardworking men and women of this state have been forgotten for too long, and they will be forgotten no more under President Donald Trump.
PENCE: From the first day of this administration, President Donald Trump has been fighting for West Virginia and fighting for American energy. We're working with leaders in Congress and we're working with the new director over at the EPA, Scott Pruitt, to slash through red tape to make sure that unelected bureaucrats can't kill your jobs and cripple your economy from the comfort of their taxpayer funded metal desks in Washington, D.C.
PENCE: We're going to bring back jobs. We're going to get Washington out of the way of energy producers and coal miners because energy means growth for America, and President Trump digs coal.
PENCE: Our country is going to be stronger, and West Virginia will be stronger and more prosperous because of the president's leadership. When you get right down to it, President Trump is going to create jobs and opportunity and prosperity in this country like never before. But making America great again isn't just about our economy. It also means protecting our nation, defending our way of life. And let me tell you, I'm with him every day. President Trump has no higher priority than the safety and security of the American people and that will always be true.
PENCE: That's why from the first day of this administration, President Donald Trump has been standing with the men and women in law enforcement all across America and we always will.
PENCE: We'll work with the Congress to make sure those who protect our families and our communities have the resources and training they need to do their jobs and to come home safe to their families.
[14:25:04] You know, there's a fair number of law enforcement personnel who are with us today, and I know most of you are standing, but would you take a minute to show the men and women in law enforcement here in West Virginia just how much we all truly appreciate the job that they do protecting our families?
PENCE: President Trump is putting our security first and our safety first. That's why he's strengthening our borders. This president is going to build a wall, enforce our laws, and, as he told the Congress, we're acting right now to take gang members, drug dealers, and criminals that threaten our communities and prey on our citizens off the streets of West Virginia and off the streets of America.
PENCE: And as the father of a United States marine, let me say this from my heart.
PENCE: I couldn't be more proud and grateful to say that we have a president who will rebuild our military, restore the arsenal of democracy, give our soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines, and coast guard the resources and training they need to accomplish their mission and come home safe at last.
PENCE: He's going to do it. So it's about jobs. It's about energy. It's about our national defense. And President Trump is also keeping one more promise that I wanted to mention, and that's the promise that he made to nominate to the Supreme Court someone who will be faithful to our constitution. By nominating Judge Neil Gorsuch, President Trump has kept his word to appoint a justice of the Supreme Court who will keep faith with the constitution and who will uphold the God- given liberties that are enshrined there.
PENCE: We saw it this week. We saw it this week. My daughter was off work. She got to watch C-Span.
PENCE: She told me she watched a lot of Judge Gorsuch's testimony before the Senate, three days of powerful testimony before the Senate. Judge Gorsuch made it clear why President Trump nominated him to the highest court in the land, didn't he? He demonstrated temperament and intellect. It explains why the bipartisan praise is rolling in.
The truth is, America saw this week what President Trump saw when he made that decision. Judge Neil Gorsuch is one of the most respected, qualified, and mainstream nominees to the Supreme Court in American history.
PENCE: It's true. But remarkably, this week, Senator Chuck Schumer and the obstructionists and his party in the Senate actually announced the Democrats plan to filibuster Judge Gorsuch's nomination to be an associate justice. That's something that's never been done successfully in American history.
Let me say this to you, West Virginia. If we can get the help of Senator Joe mansion, and with the help of Senator Shelley Moore Capito, Judge Neil Gorsuch will soon become Justice Neil Gorsuch in America, and the rule of law will be better for it.
PENCE: Let me be clear. President Trump and I are confident. The United States Senate will confirm Judge Neil Gorsuch one way or the other.
PENCE: It is great to be in West Virginia.
PENCE: My friends, we've come to a pivotal moment in our nation's history. In this moment, I think we need every freedom-loving America, we need all of you to speak out, take time as you've done today to come and be engaged and be involved. We need you to keep telling your neighbors here in West Virginia, we can do better, that we're renewing and restoring this country, that we can put America back on a path to a brighter future.
[14:30:07] And this I know we will do, because I have faith. You know, over the mantle of our home since my first run for office back in the year 2000, there's been a framed copy of a verse from the good book. It's in our home in Indiana. It's in the governor's residence in Indiana when I served there, and now it hangs above the mantle in the home of the vice president of the United States. And it simply reads these words, "For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future."
You know, in November, the people of West Virginia voted to give America a president, a president with the strength and the courage and the vision to make America great again. You voted to give us a new leader who would make America prosperous again. And I believe with all my heart that with your continued support and faith, and with God's help, together we will restore this country, that our best days are ahead, and that together we will make America great again.
PENCE: Thank you, West Virginia. God bless you. God bless the United States of America.
WHITFIELD: Vice President Mike Pence there in Scott Depot, West Virginia, sounding very much like back on the campaign trail, hearing very familiar refrains about digging coal, tax plan, repeal and replace Obamacare, and forgotten no more. You recall hearing a lot of that language on the campaign trail. This is coming the day after the devastating defeat for the GOP health care plan that the president and House Speaker Paul Ryan pulled before it was voted on.
So let me bring back now my panelist, Jay Newton-Small and Steve Moore. All right, Jay, to you first. We heard the vice president there again kind of reiterating some blame of the failed health care plan saying Congress wasn't ready. All Democrats and a handful of Republicans were standing in the way, but, again, kind of reiterating a promise that repealing and replacing is still on the agenda.
NEWTON-SMALL: That was striking and surprising to me since just yesterday House Speaker Paul Ryan basically said Obamacare is now going to be the law of the land for the foreseeable future and admitting defeat that they were not going to be able to get the votes in order to repeal this. I don't see how they're ever going to get enough votes given this failure this week of the bill to suddenly turn around and say there's votes down the road for. It is really hard to imagine.
And it's also really striking they would blame it on Democrats. Democrats were never, ever going to vote to repeal the signature law of the last president, the Democratic Barack Obama. You're never going to get them to get on board with that. They -- certainly there's support for a technical fix, and that seemed to be what President Trump was hinting at this morning, saying that eventually, Obamacare will explode and we'll all come together and we'll pass some sort of fix or some sort of a bill.
WHITFIELD: Working together.
NEWTON-SMALL: Working together, exactly. That's what the Democrats do want to see.
WHITFIELD: And the vice president saying, talking about some of the Democrats celebrating that this was a victory. He said "a victory for the status quo. That victory won't last very long." So Stephen, that is a pledge that there will be another stab, perhaps, at this whole repeal and replace concept that was a campaign promise.
STEPHEN MOORE, CNN SENIOR ECONOMIC ANALYST: I think that was the significance of the speech was Mike Pence was saying this thing is not over. I still believe before the end of the year there will be a vote that succeeds in the House and the Senate. And by the way, it will happen without a single Democrat vote as you both just mentioned. The Democrats showed no interest.
And by the way, it simply isn't true that Democrats have any interest in lowering the cost. They're against interstate competition for health care. They're against any of the repeal of the regulations. They're against medical malpractice reforms. All of the things that the Republicans have talked about in terms of reducing costs, every Democrat has been opposed to. And --
WHITFIELD: I guess what you heard Chuck Schumer clarify that Democrats are not on board with repealing it but certainly making some mends to it. So perhaps that's something to talk about or things that both sides are willing to work on, but not at the expense of repealing the plan altogether, the health care plan altogether.
MOORE: Yes, but the problem with that is that this is not a fixable law. It's like saying you're on the titanic and you want to take some pails and bail out the water. That's not going to work.
[14:35:03] The whole system is exploding. And you need to get rid of it and start over again with something that can work that lowers costs. And I'd love to see some Democratic ideas to some Republicans ideas to do that. But you can't do it in the framework of Obamacare. We're going to see 25 percent or 30 percent increases this year in the premiums on top of the huge increases we've seen in the past. And if we stay on the current course, you're going to see tens of millions of people lose their health insurance coverage because they won't be able to afford it.
WHITFIELD: So Stephen, you know, the Trump White House was counting on this health care plan going forward so that it could help put this administration in a position to get more money toward its budget plan. Is that possible now or does this mean back to the drawing board for its budget plan, for its tax reform plans as well, as a result?
MOORE: There's no question that Donald Trump now badly needs a victory. He needs a legislative victory. And he's stalled out right now for the moment on Obamacare. And I think that means the next big thing will be tax reform and a possibility of maybe merging tax reform with an infrastructure plan, call it a jobs plan, get the business tax rates down, put some more money into infrastructure projects to get jobs back in this country.
I was just looking at this morning's public opinion polls and they show what has been true for the last two or three or four years, which is still jobs and the economy are issues number one and two for the American people.
WHITFIELD: Stephen Moore, Jay Newton-Small, let's leave it right there. Thank you so much to both of you, appreciate it. We'll have much more in the newsroom right after this.
[14:40:47] WHITFIELD: All right, welcome back. This breaking now. We're learning that one person has been shot on Las Vegas boulevard near the cosmopolitan hotel. A section of the strip is now closed. The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police said there is no active shooter at this time. We'll update you as that story develops.
In the meantime, this comes on the heels of a brazen heist at the infamous Bellagio Hotel, which sounds as if it's straight out of an "Oceans 11" film. Police say at least three masked men, one wearing a pig mask, robbed the luxury jewelry store at the famous hotel just before 1:00 a.m. this morning. You see right there the image of that person wearing that pig mask. Authorities say the burglars were carrying sledgehammers and smashed their way through the glass at that high end store inside the hotel. One suspect allegedly was armed with a gun. The Bellagio hotel was placed on lockdown during the incident. You're seeing video from the early morning hours. All the suspects are in place custody and are being questioned. No one was hurt during the incident and no shots in that incident were fired.
"Corrupt, dishonest, enemy of the American people," who could I be describing? These are the words that President Trump called the media, and that relationship doesn't seem to be changing anytime soon.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: As you know, I have a running war with the media. They are among the most dishonest human beings on earth.
And there are some of them right up there, the world's most dishonest people.
Disgusting reporters, horrible people.
They're corrupt. They lie and fabricate stories.
The biggest rigger of the system is the media. The media is rigged. It's rigged. It's crooked as hell.
(END VIDEO CLIP) WHITFIELD: Yet when the health care bill was being pulled yesterday, the president picked up the phone and directly called "The Washington Post," "The New York Times." So for months in defeat, President Trump immediately began spinning the story. Sometimes he was known in his days as doing such when he was a New York real estate mogul, and he'd been doing it on the campaign trail, and then as president, he was doing something very similar. Still criticism on the media.
So I want to bring in now Bill Carter. He is a CNN media analyst. So Bill, now, here he is, president. He's looking at the biggest defeat of his presidency, and, amazingly, he telephones Bob Costa at the "Washington Post." And Bob Costa wrote an incredible story in "The Post" just talking about how, yes, he just picked up the phone. It was a blocked number. He wasn't sure who was on the other end. And come to find out it was the president, and he was tweeting about it as he was in the midst of this conversation.
So what does this tell you about the president reaching out to the "Washington Post" and then later also "The New York Times" as sort of a lifeline when he was staring at this defeat?
BILL CARTER, CNN MEDIA ANALYST: I wouldn't call it a lifeline, but I think he was reaching out to some organizations that he knows have respect and are trusted to deliver news in a straightforward way.
WHITFIELD: That's interesting you say he respects, because he has not really been uttering respect.
CARTER: No, that's right. He doesn't utter that. I think a lot of that is theatrics. Remember right after he was elected he went to the "New York Times". He sat down in the conference room of the "New York Times" and told them how much he respected them. I used to work at the "New York Times." I used to talk to Mr. Trump. He would call me. He wanted to be in that newspaper. He has great respect for that newspaper deep down.
But of course when he's out there throwing red meat to conservatives and they hate the media, he feeds them that. But here he was in duress, and he went to the people he thinks will deliver an honest message. He didn't go to the conservative media because the conservative media was pretty much blowing up this plan and was really pumping up the opponents, the Freedom Caucus. So he didn't go to them. He went to the mainstream, big name media.
WHITFIELD: So did this also indicate that he is maybe confused or at a moment, too, where he's not really sure on who to trust or where he might get, I guess, favorable reporting. What's really at the root of this?
[14:45:12] CARTER: He likes favorable reporting, obviously, but also, I think, has to respect the fact there are news organizations that are going to deliver the facts. This was a factual situation. It went down to defeat. He was explaining himself. And rather than get mixed up in the ideological aspect of it he wanted to just talk about the facts of it and his intentions. He wanted to put blame on the Democrats a little bit, he wanted to do that. But basically he wanted to explain the situation and not maybe get tied up in all the ideology of it.
WHITFIELD: It's interesting. I use the word "favorable" when I think of factual reporting, but we know the president has used the word "favorable" in terms of, like, a popularity contest. So do you see though, however, that something is evolving in him? You know, historically, many analysts will say the presidency changes the person. Is this an indication there's a change now in the orbit of President Trump?
CARTER: I would never jump to that conclusion with Mr. Trump because he's always all over the place. He's a volatile character. He's a narcissist. He depends on what things are about himself. But I do think maybe this is a situation where he realizes, you know, dealing with only these pure ideologues cost him in this case.
WHITFIELD: A realization.
CARTER: He was currying favor with the Freedom Caucus and he lost some moderates because of that. And maybe if he had done a mainstream bill and maybe if he brought the Democrats in, et cetera, they could have gotten success instead of failure, and he really wants success.
WHITFIELD: And do you believe, like in his tweet this morning he kind of inferred that working together is on the horizon? Do you believe that in him, that he's willing to reach out as opposed to expecting others are going to reach out to him?
CARTER: Remember, he also said he wants Obamacare to explode first, which actually is very irresponsible as a lot of people could be hurt by that. But I think he may have stepped back from this particular experience and said there are some people here, we can't deal with them. They're never going to -- they wanted to get rid of the limitation on letting people with the age of 26, and even preconditions they wanted to get rid of. He knows that can't work. He also, remember, promised that he's going to deliver a bill that covers everybody. So he's caught in that. In order to make that work, he has to find a path that's in the middle. I think if he really wants to make it work, that's where he'll go.
WHITFIELD: Bill Carter, good to see you. Thank you so much.
CARTER: Good to see you, Fred.
WHITFIELD: All right, so with the health care bill dead in the water, President Trump and his former aides' ties to Russia, that's thrust back into the spotlight. Up next, why Congressman Adam Schiff is doubling down on his call for an independent commission to investigate the Kremlin's role in the 2016 election.
[14:51:47] WHITFIELD: All right, just a short time ago, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham spoke out on the investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 election and that investigation. So appearing at a town hall in his home state of South Carolina, Graham insisted Russians need to be punished for their involvement. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, (R) SOUTH CAROLINA: I have legislation that I think would get 80 votes if we could ever have a vote that would punish the Russians for interfering in our election with sanctions beyond what we have for their interference with Crimea. I want a vote on that as soon as we can. Let me tell you why.
GRAHAM: The Russians are trying to interfere in the French election which is at the end of April, so I want to vote at least in committee in the Senate before the French elections to let the Europeans and the Russians know that we care about what Russia did in our own backyard.
The Germans have their election in September. I hope we can pass this bill and put it on President Trump's desk by September to punish the Russians so they won't do it again.
As to the investigation, we've learned two things. We've learned that the FBI is investigating Trump campaign operatives for potential ties to Russia. Here's my belief.
GRAHAM: It goes wherever it goes. No politician should stand in the way. We should let the FBI do their job and what happens, happens.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: Let's discuss more of this now with David Rohde, he's a CNN global affairs analyst and national security investigations editor for Reuters. Good to see you, David. So Senator Graham said the U.S. should be working with other countries whose elections are coming up just like France and Germany. Can the U.S. be influential, particularly as it relates to Russia threatening to interfere with those elections?
DAVID ROHDE, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: It can. If there's legislation passed on new sanctions, it would have an impact. Russia's economy is very weak. And then the bigger statement that Graham made was that he wants to have the investigation go where it's going to go. The failure of health care, the sort of, this did weaken President Trump and it's going to embolden Republicans like Graham to not defend him when it comes to Russia.
WHITFIELD: And also, Graham said the House Intel Committee is about to fall apart, and he's making direct inference to Devin Nunes, the chairman of that committee reporting to the White House before even talking to his own committee. Does this look like the divide is widening as it pertaining to Republican leadership?
ROHDE: I think it is. There is a divide among Republicans. Now, again, health care, it looks like a big unwieldy party. I think Democrats let the House probe continue because they are in the minority, they don't have power. I was in Washington Thursday and Friday, and so they need to cooperate. The Democrats want to keep this going. So I don't see the whole investigation in the House derailing immediately.
WHITFIELD: And then Devin Nunes took it a step further and Lindsey Graham commented on that, the fact that what was going to be a public hearing tomorrow involving John Brennan, James Clapper, Sally Yates, now that will not be so public. What does that mean to you? Is that to the detriment to the committee's investigation?
[14:55:13] ROHDE: Look, this is all very political. I don't think holding the private hearings is going to work. The Democrats will stand outside of it and complain that something is being covered up. The other news this week was that Paul Manafort, Trump's former campaign manager, said he was willing to maybe testify before one of these investigations. That's a really bad narrative for the Trump administration. Paul Manafort is the swamp. He's a political --
WHITFIELD: Former campaign manager.
ROHDE: Yes. And there was a story by the Associated Press that he was receiving $10 million a year from a Russian oligarch to lobby on behalf of Russia. Again, that's the swamp. And if Manafort comes forward and is questioned, I don't see how he's going to talk his way out of this. Most Americans don't even know who Manafort is, and he comes forward as a lobbyist, again, making $10 million a year for a Russian oligarch.
And Roger Stone, also a former adviser in the Trump camp, says that he has done nothing wrong, also coming forward voluntarily to testify again, private as opposed to public. And he says this, quote, "I acknowledge I am a hardball player. I have sharp elbows. I always play politics the way it is supposed to be played. But one thing isn't in my bag of tricks -- treason." So how revealing potentially do you believe this testimony could be? Whether it's Stone or even Manafort, how much do you expect they would say?
ROHDE: I don't think they'll say much. I think Stone will say he had nothing to do with this, but Stone predicted and warned that John Podesta, Hillary Clinton's campaign manager, was going to be embarrassed soon, and then very soon afterwards WikiLeaks releases these damaging e-mails that had been hacked by Russia according to U.S. intelligence services. So how did he know they were coming? Again, I see Stone's testimony and Manafort's testimony kind of raising more questions rather than ending the investigation.
WHITFIELD: David Rohde, good to see you. Thank you so much.
ROHDE: Thank you.
WHITFIELD: All right, that's going to do it for me. Thanks so much for being with me this Saturday. I'm Fredericka Whitfield. The next hour of the CNN Newsroom continues right after this.
ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: Top of the hour. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York. Great to have you with me. You are live in the CNN Newsroom.
Let's begin with the fallout from President Trump's staggering defeat on health care. His first legislative push since moving into the White House ended in failure.