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Backlash Over Ivanka Trump Joining White House; Speaker Ryan Takes Reporters' Questions at Weekly Press Conference; Republicans Threaten Nuclear Option on Gorsuch Confirmation; Trump Threatens Republican, Democrats over Obamacare Repeal. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired March 30, 2017 - 11:30   ET



[11:30:00] LESLEY STAHL, CO-HOST, 60 MINUTES: People think that you're going to be part of the administration, Ivanka.

IVANKA TRUMP, DAUGHTER OF DONALD TRUMP: I am -- no, I'm going to be a daughter. But I have said throughout the campaign that I am very passionate about certain issues and that I want to fight for them. So you know, there are a lot of things that I feel deeply strongly about, but not in a formal administrative capacity.


KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: What's changed from then to now, Kate?

KATE BENNETT, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Now she feels really strongly about certain things, and there are a lot of things. I mean, I think many -- you know, getting inside the West Wing, understanding her dad's administration. She's always been that person for the president who has been his eyes and ears. I think she wants to see that role more formal. He wants to see it more formal. I mean, she also said her main priority was moving to Washington and getting her kids settled in schools and then thinking about work. Maybe she's achieved that goal and now she's going back to work full time. But she does have -- you know, we've seen her with Justin Trudeau, with Angela Merkel. She's announced her first international trip next month. I mean, these are things that clearly show that Ivanka's direction has changed. She's still an insider. Now she just has the formal stamp of approval.

BOLDUAN: And, Larry, you've clearly still got questions out there of exactly what role, what level of oversight, you know, and what level of disclosure her new role will require. But should this satisfy some of the criticism coming at her? Should this be applauded?

LARRY NOBLE, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, it satisfies the criticism. We and others asked that they recognize that she's a government employee and this kind of halfway space didn't really make any sense. But again, you know, we are stuck in a situation where the whole dynamics of the ethics rules have changed. And so, we are where you should be when somebody enters the government. What are the ethics rules to apply, what are the conflicts of interest? You know, the anti- nepotism rules. How is all this going to play out? And I hope what doesn't get lost in this discussion, when we do acknowledge that she has heard us, as she said, she's heard the concerns that have been expressed, but we don't lose the idea that, OK, now we have to make sure that she doesn't have conflicts and she follows those rules.

BOLDUAN: Yeah. It's an unusual arrangement, in and of itself, but what does it mean going forward?

I know, Larry, you're going to be having your eye on that.

Kate, great to see you.

Thank you very much.

I want to take us back over to Capitol Hill right now. House Speaker Paul Ryan speaking with reporters, his weekly press conference. Lots of questions coming at him. Let's listen.

REP. PAUL RYAN, (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: One-third of the jobs in coal country alone. Combine our actions with the steps that the president has taken to jump start pipelines and reverse President Obama's assault on affordable energy. These things will help get people back to work. And after years of sluggish growth, give a real boost to our economy. But with all of these measures, we are doing something very, very fundamental, and that's the point I think is really worth seeing here. For too long, we have had un-elected bureaucrats writing our laws. We had been having unelected bureaucrats dictating the rules that we have to live under, and the rest of government just goes along with it. But now we are turning power from Washington back to states and communities and to the elected branch of government. We are giving people more control and more of a say in the decisions that are made in their classrooms, at their businesses, on their lands. This is good progress and we're going to make more in weeks to come.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE) not responding to all the president's tweets (INAUDIBLE) conference saying of the Freedom Caucus, we must fight them in 2018. Sounds like he's calling for primaries or fights. Do you agree that you need to fight the Freedom Caucus to move his agenda?

RYAN: I understand the president's frustration. I share frustration. About 90 percent of our conference is for this bill to repeal and replace Obamacare, and about 10 percent are not. And that's not enough to pass a bill. We're close. What I am encouraging our members to do is keep talking with each other until we can get the consensus to pass this bill. But it's very understandable that the president is frustrated that we haven't gotten to where we need to go, because this is something we all said we would do. And so, he is just expressing his frustration. You all know that he does that in various forms, including Twitter, and I understand his frustration.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: The Russian investigation exposing the danger to America's democracy. They seem to be focusing more on the from president's tweets. Is the House committee missing the bigger picture?

RYAN: I want the House committee to have a full and thorough bipartisan investigation, get everything out there, follow the facts wherever they go, and get to the truth. That's going to take some time, and I'm confident they're going to do that. I think you're right, this has gotten a little political. Let's take a pause and let's just get all the evidence, all the documents, and find out what happened. And what I'm worried about with Russia is, you've got elections coming online in Europe, you know, this year. And so, the Russians clearly are trying to meddle in other countries' elections. We have to help our allies prevent that from happening and uncover it. We have to find out what they tried to do here. We've got to make sure we get to the bottom of that, and wherever the facts go. But then we also, in my opinion, need to do more to help our allies guard against this invasion into their democracy from Russia.

[11:35:12] UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: A number of Republicans I spoke to this week said you need the $880 billion from Medicaid savings from the health care bill in order to lower the revenue baseline and achieve significant tax --


RYAN: No, it's the other way around. It's not Medicaid, it's the revenue. You know how this works. You're a budget guy.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Do you agree that there is a direct correlation between the Medicaid and --


RYAN: No, there is not a direct correlation. That's not correct. So, if somebody's misunderstanding how baselines work around here. The Medicaid savings, the spending based on it has nothing to do with tax reform. It's the revenue base line. It's the Obamacare taxes that themselves affect tax reform. Here's the way that the math works. If we repeal the Obamacare taxes, then that is a revenue base line that we don't have to put into tax reform. If we don't repeal the Obamacare taxes, it is my position that we're just going to have to leave those taxes over there with Obamacare and reform the rest of the IRS tax code. But it does make tax reform harder. It's all about the revenue base line, has nothing to do with the spending base line.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Explain this idea of not wanting the president to work with Democrats --

RYAN: Oh, yeah, sure.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: -- on the health care. But also when some of us just talked to Chris Collins, he says, you know, a big Trump ally, and he says, you know, the next time that the Freedom Caucus calls the Tuesday group, we should hang up the phone. He says we're not going to hit health care again until 2019. You say you're close. Why should anyone believe that?

RYAN: Well, because about 90 percent of our Congress is there and 10 percent are not.


RYAN: That's exactly right, but 95 percent does. That's why I say we're close, because we are. Here's the point I'm making here. Democrats aren't for repealing Obamacare. We are. We work with Democrats all the time. Look, Patty Murray and I did a big budget agreement. So, we have long histories of working with Democrats, but I don't think it's a stretch of the mind to suggest that the Democrats disagree with us on repealing Obamacare. They're not going to help us repeal Obamacare. That's my point. And so, if we're going to do what we said we would do, which is repeal and replace Obamacare and save the American health care system, something tells me the Democrats aren't going to help us repeal Obamacare. They're the ones who created it in the first place.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE) a bill that goes to the House, will it fund the wall and will it contain (INAUDIBLE).

RYAN: The bill hasn't been completed yet. The appropriators are still negotiating, so it's premature to get into the contents of the bill. We've already done DODs, so there's 11 other bills that we would pass. The question is, is it one bill, two bills? I think that's one for the Senate to decide how they're going to package the bill. It's really about kind of their calendar and how they work, but our goal is to work on the rest of the bills, and that's what our appropriators are negotiating. Those negotiations aren't done, so it would be premature to get into the contents of those bills.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE) think that you're going to send them a spending (INAUDIBLE)?

RYAN: Yeah, I think that's right. We've already sent them DOD and I anticipate we'll send them the rest.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Would taking their cost-sharing reductions away destabilize the markets?

RYAN: Well, yes, and -- are you all right over there, Dan? That didn't sound too good. Is he ok? Yes. I think the answer's yes on your last part. But the lawsuit's going to take some time. This is a separation of powers issue, and I don't know when the loss is going to get wrapped up. I think it goes into may. If we end up going to court, that could take us months. So, it's just a continue -- it's currently an unresolved issue.


RYAN: While the lawsuit is being litigated, then the administration funds these benefits. That's how they've been doing it, and I don't see any change in that.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: You just said that (INAUDIBLE). Why not drop the lawsuit? Why (INAUDIBLE)?

RYAN: Well, we don't want to drop the lawsuit because we believe in the separation of powers. We believe in Congress retaining its lawmaking power. But this lawsuit has not seen -- hasn't run its full course. While this lawsuit is running its course, the administration is exercising their discretion with respect to CSRs. Our Plan A here is to repeal and replace Obamacare and have that transition occur where these markets are stabilized. And that's what we hope to achieve. Yeah.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: So, your health bill seems to be a little bit in- - (INAUDIBLE). Will you commit that there will be another vote on this bill or a similar bill?

[11:40:02] RYAN: I'm not going to commit to when and what the vote's going to look like because it's my job to help make sure that House Republicans can coalesce and come together and draw a consensus. What I'm encouraging our members to do is figure out what solutions get us to a bill that everybody can vote for and pass. That's the kind of conversations that are occurring. This is too big of an issue to not get right. And so, I'm not going to put some sort of artificial deadline on saving the American health care system from an ongoing collapse. I just think it's too important. Let's forget about all of the Beltway talk here and think about, there are families that are hurting, there are families that aren't getting the kind of health care they need. Premiums are going up double digits. Plans are pulling out of marketplaces. No one has a choice in a third of American counties. This is a problem. And the actuaries of the insurance companies are telling us it's just going to get worse. So, it's really important that we do something to fix this problem, and that's going to take us to continue to work to get consensus. And I'm not going to put a timeline on it because I just want to make sure we get this done right.

Thank you very much, everybody. Appreciate it.

BOLDUAN: All right, you're listening right there to House Speaker Paul Ryan and his weekly press conference. "I understand the president's frustration," that's one headline from this.

Let's discuss right now what we heard from House Speaker Paul Ryan and what it means with my panel, political commentator, Jen Psaki, former communications director under President Obama; CNN commentator and Republican strategist, Doug Hye is here; and CNN senior political reporter, Nia-Malika Henderson.

So, Nia, just to refresh for our viewers, this is what the president tweeted and this is what Paul Ryan is being asked about right now. Here's what the president tweeted this morning: "Freedom Caucus will hurt the entire Republican agenda if they don't get on the team and fast. We must fight them and Democrats in 2018." Asked to respond to it, Paul Ryan says it's very understandable that

the president is frustrated. He didn't really speak about the primary challenge element of it, but he did not contradict the president. Nia, your take?

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Yeah, I mean, this is where we are now. The president has moved from blaming Democrats, calling Chuck Schumer losers. At some point, he also said he wanted to reach out to Democrats. So here he is now fighting with his own party, especially saying that come 2018, some of the House Freedom Caucus folks can expect a primary challenge. I think the problem here is a lot of these sort of energy, conservative ideas about health care, money now, if you think about the Koch brothers wanting to support a lot of these folks who stood up against this bill, I don't know how Trump takes them on and also tries to get to a situation where they have enough votes to make this work in the House. It's not only the Freedom Caucus, it's also moderate Republicans. It's also that that bill had a 17 percent approval rating. So, again, I mean, I think we're seeing this sort of hardball, deal-making sort of strategy, but it seems like a lot of it is just, you know, kind of spinning their wheels and it's not sure there's going to really be any movement, more just like motion.

BOLDUAN: Yeah. I mean, Doug, part of it -- we can talk about the math, but I also want to talk about -- so, I asked one of the members of the Freedom Caucus about this tweet, if he sees it -- I mean, I don't know of another way to read it, other than it is a threat. But according to Dave Brat, of Virginia, he does not see what the president is saying as a primary threat in any way. What is the play here? Does the Freedom Caucus respond well to threats? If you look at any recent history?

DOUG HYE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yeah, I've heard of Dave Brat. I worked with Eric Cantor, so Dave Brat is somebody I'm familiar with.


BOLDUAN: We didn't need to go back there, Doug, but I did want to come to you with that question.

HYE: The Freedom Caucus typically never responds well to threats, but those threats have usually come from congressional leadership. And we see outrage du jour created by Freedom Caucus members who say you can't threaten us, you can't take away our committee chairmanships, or any of the mechanisms that congressional leadership has. What's new is that this is coming from President Trump. And we'll see if primaries come from this. We'll see what happens with the bill. But Donald Trump is such a new dynamic in Republican politics, and especially on Capitol Hill, that this kind of criticism coming from the president is what's really new to the Freedom Caucus, and it's why their response has been by and large pretty muted. If John Boehner or Eric Cantor had made this, or Paul Ryan had made this kind of criticism, we would have seen the Freedom Caucus calling them RINOs. We would have seen outside groups sending out fund-raising e-mails, because there's a lot of profit in that. But the Donald Trump dynamic being so new, I think a lot of members are worried about how popular he is in their Republican districts.

BOLDUAN: They might actually be really worried about that threat.

Jen, I want your take on a different slice of this from the sweep this morning. The White House's response, when asked to clarify what the president's meaning is, the White House's response is the president's tweet speaks for itself. This has become -- this has become the singular response from the White House when asked to clarify or give any background to any of the president's tweets. What does that actually mean, the president's tweet speaks for itself?

[11:45:09] JEN PSAKI, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think President Trump has been using Twitter as a means of sending messages and indicating his views on things. Sometimes it's completely inaccurate, and sometimes it's an indication of where he's sitting politically. This may not have been a threat this morning. This may have been him sending a message -- listen, the Freedom Caucus, fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me. I'll work with the moderates and work with them. I've been hearing from 2018 candidates who are up for election, from people who are worried about putting poison pills and riders on different bills, and I'm going to start to work with moderates. So, it could be as simple as that.

BOLDUAN: It doesn't sound so simple, though, when you really try to look at how this is all going down.

Dave Brat also said they were so close, they were like two bits away from getting a health care bill to the floor on Friday. I found that kind of difficult to believe, but that's how it works.

Great to see you guys. Thank you so much. A lot more to come.


BOLDUAN: Coming up for us, Republicans threatening right now to go nuclear to confirm Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch, but will they need to go that route? Where do things stand right now? That is coming up.


[11:50:37] BOLDUAN: Another big battle brewing on Capitol Hill, this one with a life-time tenure on the line, President Trump's Supreme Court nominee. It could be a nuclear battle over Judge Neil Gorsuch. Democrats are threatening a filibuster. Republicans are threatening to change the rules in order to get him confirmed. It sounds like inside baseball, but it is a big deal. The fallout over this battle could last for years.

Where does this stand?

Tom Foreman is taking a closer look and he's joining me now.

Tom, what are you seeing?

TOM FOREMAN, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Kate. This is a battle royale. If you ask the Republicans, particularly if you ask Mitch McConnell, who's leading the Republicans, is Neil Gorsuch going to be confirmed and the vote happens in eight days, he says absolutely, one way or the other, and Democrats need to know that you should change your mind if you're going to oppose him and join us in confirming.

Meanwhile, Chuck Schumer, leading the Democrats, he's saying hold on Democrats, everybody stick together because, yeah, if you vote right now and it breaks down on pure party lines, the Republicans would win. 52-48, he would be confirmed. They're saying we want to push the Republicans to produce 60 votes to get the vote to the floor over Gorsuch, a procedural thing. If they get a filibuster started, that means the Republicans have to dig up eight Democrats to stop the filibuster. Eight Democrats. It's not clear where they would get those people. All of these people we've highlighted have already spoken up and said they will vote against Gorsuch.

So what are the Republicans doing? They're targeting all the other ones here, particularly those that are in states that Donald Trump handily won for president. Their idea is to say, in effect, you can stick with this filibuster if you want, but you may not be a Senator very long because the people in your state may not appreciate it. Chuck Schumer, meanwhile, is saying, no, no, no, hang in there, make them change the candidate.

In the end, you mentioned the nuclear option, that may not be the result. McConnell has suggested if he has to go with the nuclear option, which is basically a rules change, which the Republicans could approve if they all stick together, then you go right back to where you were in the beginning and they don't need 60 votes. They can get past it and go directly to the vote itself. If that's the case, all they have to have is their party advantage to do this. The Democrats did this back in 2013 under Harry Reid. Republicans were hugely critical of him then and the Democrats have suffered for that rules change. But this time the Republicans may do the same thing. That's why Mitch McConnell is saying confidently that Gorsuch will be confirmed. And Democrats are holding on to the hope that, somehow, they can force a change to a candidate they can like a little bit more -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: Right now, unclear entirely, exactly how this is going to end up going down, or not.


BOLDUAN: Great to see you, Tom. Thank you.

FOREMAN: Good to see you, Kate.

BOLDUAN: So much on the line.

President Trump today laying down a new threat, threatening Democrats and some Republicans who don't get on -- if they don't get on board with the Obama replacement plan, well, then he's going to come after you in the primary in 2018.

Let's talk more about this with Democratic Congresswoman Barbara Lee, of California.

Congresswoman, thanks so much for joining me.

REP. BARBARA LEE, (D), CALIFORNIA: My pleasure. Good to be with you.

BOLDUAN: Thank you.

The president said Friday after the health care bill effort failure that he wanted to work with Democrats to get it done. He even said so at the dinner with Senates. Today, he's now threatening you all. What is your response?

LEE: Well, that's why, you know, the president really is continuing I think his campaign in terms of just plain old bullying. The president hates dissent. We saw this when he was a businessman. We saw this as a candidate and now we see this as president. It's outrageous. We don't know what he wants to do, but I know what the public wants and that is no repeal of the Affordable Care Act because it's working and we're not going to allow him, whatever threats he makes, to take away health care from 24 million people.

BOLDUAN: So additionally, Speaker Ryan says in an interview that he's worried if you don't get -- if Republicans don't get their act together that this may then push the president to work with Democrats to fix Obamacare. What do you say -- what do you say to the speaker on that one? Do you think there is any chance that you will work with the president to fix Obamacare?

[11:55:07] LEE: Well, what I would say to the president and the speaker is listen to your constituents. Listen to what the public said. They spoke very loud last week. They spoke clearly. No repeal. We do not want them to sabotage or undermine the accordable care act. To the speaker needs to understand that before we go any further, we have to come to agree that they will not repeal the Affordable Care Act because the public knows the Republicans want to take away their health care. That's a fact.

BOLDUAN: Congresswoman, I do remember you boycotted President Trump's inauguration. It would not say that you have anything close to a good relationship with this president. Do you think there is a chance that you would work with him to change Obamacare?

LEE: Let me just say, first of all, I have not heard the president say that he was solid with regard to not repealing the Affordable Care Act. I did boycott the inauguration, because I could not celebrate the inauguration of a president who denigrated women, who talked about Muslims in terms of a Muslim ban, who wants to build a wall, who really asked the African-American community, "What do you have to loss?" Well, we have a heck of a lot to lose. So I could not celebrate. While I respect the power of the office and the office of the presidency, there is no way that I'm going to celebrate this. I think we see this agenda evolving and, minimally, on the Affordable Care Act, he's got to come forward and say, as well as the House Republicans, and say we do not want to take away health care from 24 million people.

BOLDUAN: I'll take that as a soft "no" in your working with the president on health care.

You are on the Appropriations and Budget Committee. I want to get your take. If you had to place a wager today, what are the chances that Congress is going to be able to avoid a government shut down when funding runs out one month from today?

LEE: Of course, no one wants a government shutdown. And I know Democrats are very -- are working extremely hard to avoid that. Yesterday, on the Appropriations Committee, Secretary Price came to the subcommittee that funds health care and, in fact, we saw during this hearing the fact that they are trying actually to undermine health care through their budget cuts, through what they're presenting as part of this, what we call a skinny budget. So in no way do we want a shutdown, but in no way are we going to let them sabotage and undermine the Affordable Care Act.

BOLDUAN: Congresswoman Barbara Lee, thanks so much. Appreciate your time.

LEE: My pleasure.

BOLDUAN: On the way right now, the Senate Intelligence Committee is hearing their first hearing on Russia meddling in the election. Senator Marco Rubio got a bit of a surprise. Details on that next.


[12:00:00] JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to "Inside Politics." I'm John King. Thanks for sharing your day with us.

On Capitol Hill, a rare public Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on Russia's election meddling, and a promise to be bipartisan, though Democrats are more likely to make clear one big question, whether associates of President Trump were in cahoots with the Kremlin.