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Wounded Warriors Project Event; Nunes Steps Aside; Speaker Ryan Press Conference. Aired 9:30-10:00a

Aired April 6, 2017 - 09:30   ET

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


[09:30:00] MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And the president and the first family and Karen and I are so proud to be a part of continuing this important tradition. In fact, we're bikers. And Karen and I hope some day to join the Wounded Warrior Bikers Ride on a sunny day in the future. Bottom of my heart, let me just say thank you for your service. And also let me say, as the proud parents of a United States Marine, it the greatest privilege of my life to serve as vice president to a president who cares so deeply about the men and women of our armed forces and the veterans of this country.

So now let me say to all the heroes that are with us and their families, it is my high honor and distinct privilege to introduce this morning your commander in chief, the 45th president of the United States of America, President Donald Trump.

TRUMP: Well, thank you very much.

And I want to thank you, Vice President Pence, for your wonderful introduction, but maybe more importantly for your incredible service to our country. You have done an incredible job. Thank you very much. (APPLAUSE)

Melania and I are deeply honored to join you all today and to stand here among real heroes. These are real heroes.

Secretary Shulkin and Secretary Zinke, right in front of us, working so hard, I want to thank you for joining us as we pay tribute to America's warriors -- and I'll call them America's winners, because they are winners -- and mark this year's Soldier's Ride.

The Soldier Ride has been very, very unique.

Lieutenant General Linnington, Devin Shay (ph), and all of the dedicated people at the Wounded Warrior Project, thank you for organizing this event. Really great job. An amazing event. And thank you for serving those who have so bravely served our nation.

On behalf of the country, let me extend to all of the riders and your families the warmest possible welcome into -- I call it the people's house.

This is the people's house. It's the White House, but it's the people's house.

And I thank you all very much, especially all of the folks that are on stage with me. You are something very, very amazing (inaudible). Thank you.

(APPLAUSE)

Thank you. Thank you.

You've risked all that you have, all that you possess to keep our people safe and our democracy secure.

And we're going to keep it going, folks, for a long time, that I can tell you, in your honor. Going to keep it going.

You've earned our freedom with your sweat and your blood and your incredible sacrifice. We salute you, we salute your service, and we salute the flag you have so courageously protected.

We love our flag. Thank you.

(APPLAUSE)

The story of today's event is a story about America and the strength of her citizens.

In 2004, a young man working in a tavern on the east end of Long Island -- I know that end of Long Island very well -- was moved by a desire to help his fellow Americans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.

So Chris Carney had an idea. With the support of friends, Chris rode a bike across the country to raise funds and awareness for the Wounded Warrior Project. Great people.

He biked 4,000 miles -- wow. (inaudible), where's Chris? Where is Chris?

TRUMP: Chris, stand up. 4,000, yeah.

(APPLAUSE)

Wow.

(APPLAUSE)

And raised at the time $1 million.

This act of devotion to our heroes inspired others. And since that first year, the Soldier Ride -- it's why we're here today -- have become an annual event that unites and uplifts our nation.

President Bush hosted the first Soldiers (sic) Ride at the White House in 2008. And I am proud to continue this incredible tradition. And we're going to keep it going for a long time. I should have it for about seven more years.

(APPLAUSE)

Most of all, I'm proud to stand here today, before all of you, and to share with the nation the depth of our gratitude and the height of our total admiration for these folks, for our veterans, for anybody in uniform. And that includes our great men and women in blue. And I want to thank all of them, because they are just incredible people.

Each of you has forged in battle the sacred bonds of loyalty that link our people together. Our country, our values, our very way of life endures because of you. And it endures because brave Americans raise (sic) up in every generation -- and they really do: they rise to the occasion like nobody can rise to an occasion -- to fight for this country and to defend its citizens with every ounce of blood, sweat and tears in their bodies. Our way of life continues because of men and women who are willing to sacrifice anything and everything to protect their fellow warriors and to protect all of us.

You've not only poured out the blood, and all of your blood in some cases, for this country, but you've poured out the love from your souls and from your hearts.

Each of you has carved your place into the history of this incredible nation and, I can tell you, into our hearts.

It is that love which brings us here today, which binds us together as one people, and which offers us the hope and promise of a future that is safe and secure and free.

With one grateful heart and one mighty spirit, the people of our nation thank you -- they really thank you -- and embrace you as you carry on this magnificent Soldier Ride. Good job. Good job.

May God bless you. May God bless our incredible country. May God bless our warriors.

And let's have a great ride. Because I'll tell you what, I couldn't do it.

(LAUGHTER)

Thank you. Thank you. Congratulations.

(APPLAUSE)

Congratulations.

(APPLAUSE)

Thank you.

(APPLAUSE)

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: The East Room for members of the Wounded Warriors - President Trump wrapping up remarks in the East Room of the White House honoring members of the Wounded Warriors Project. You can see him shaking hands right now. Several dozen wounded warriors, veterans, various U.S. actions overseas over the last several years.

Obviously, you know, a pointing moment. The president has made veterans issues a big part of his campaign and now his presidency. The Wounded Warriors something that President Obama, President Bush, you know, it transcends presidencies and administrations to honor these people and a very poignant thing today, given that it's possible, now President Trump, for the first time, is considering military action, perhaps, we don't know, in Syria.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: H may - may call on the men and women that serve this country in uniform to do more to put their lives on the line. You're exactly right. We did not hear anything from him on Syria. A little political moment there when he said, I'll be here for seven more years. But really just about honoring these veterans.

We're going to take a quick break and we'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:43:55] ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BERMAN: All right, major breaking news just into CNN. The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Devin Nunes, stepping aside from the investigation into any contacts between Trump associates and Russia.

Let's go right to Manu Raju on Capitol Hill with the details.

Manu.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Yes, a big surprise here. Remember, Devin Nunes had been saying for some time that he's not going to step aside despite those calls from Democrats for him to get - step aside, recuse himself from the Russian probe. They believe they've been too cozy with the White House, something that he and his allies have rejected. But in a statement that he just released, he says this. He said several activist groups have filed accusations against me with the office of congressional ethics that charges are entirely false and politically motivated and are being levelled just as the American people are beginning to learn the truth about unproper unmasking of identities of U.S. citizens and other abuses of power. He goes on to say that he's going to step aside from just the Russia probe, but continue as chairman of the committee. The people who are going to lead this probe are the next senior person on the committee, that's Congressman Mike Conaway with the assistance he says of Trey Goudy and Tom Rooney, who are two Republican members of the committee.

[09:45:12] Now, there was a meeting, actually, that happened right now, a closed door, private meeting. Devin Nunes did, I'm told from a source of the room, that he stepped out of the meeting early. It was a statement that just came out. Real change. We were not expecting this at all. Devin Nunes had been digging in. But a lot of questions about whether or not this investigation could have moved forward in a credible manner given his decision to brief the president of the United States in - about surveillance information that he said showed some incidental collection of Trump officials during the time of the presidential transition, not briefing the Democrats before then, and also by publically canceling a public hearing that was supposed to take place and Democrats wanted that public hearing to take place. They would have heard from a number of people who presumably would have raised concerns about any of these contacts that occurred between Russian officials and the Trump campaign.

But a big shift here and a sign that perhaps this investigation may be able to get back on track after Democrats have been calling for Nunes to step aside. Notable to say also, Nunes had been tired of answering questions about all of this. In the last couple of days I had been asking him a number of questions, following him on the halls of the Capitol, not answering any of those questions. Clearly have been tired of the accusations against him and the controversy that he had been in, in the last several days. So a big change here and a sign of how this investigation may be going forward now without Devin Nunes running it (INAUDIBLE).

HARLOW: Manu, great reporting, as always. Thank you so much.

And stick around with us. Let's also bring our panel back in. And as we do, let's remind our viewers, Devin Nunes, on March 21st, traveled to the White House to bring that intelligence that he viewed and he alone viewed to the president. He did that before he briefed members of his own committee. That enraged them, to say the least.

Remember, this is also someone who did serve on the president's transition team. So that brought up questions of, was this all becoming far too political to truly be an independent investigation.

Nia-Malika Henderson, I remember vividly the moment that Manu was chasing Nunes down the hall there at the Capitol and said, will you step aside, will you step aside, and Nunes said, why would I do that. Now he's doing that.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Yes, And in some ways, again, I mean this seemed like something that probably had to happen. I think the questions Ryan - at some point Paul Ryan is going to have a presser. Is this something that Paul Ryan wanted to see happen? Paul Ryan, of course, was asked earlier about Nunes and he seemed to have the full faith and confidence of Paul Ryan. So I'm sure Paul Ryan is going to get those questions.

But, my goodness, Russia seems to be sort of a drip, drip, drip and encircling so many people and so many unexpected people, right? You had Michael Flynn to have to step down. You had Jeff Sessions recuse himself because of contacts he had made that he didn't disclose to the committee when he was going through his nomination hearing. And now here is Devin Nunes, who seemed to be at points carrying water for this White House and running interference for this White House, at least that's how Democrats saw it, now being forced to step down.

I mean what's interesting about this White House is there does seem to be - you know, typically you have White Houses and they kind of enhance the credibility of people, right? They enhance the stature of people. And here you've had any number of people, the people I've mentioned, and even people in the inner circle, whether it's Bannon, whether it's Spicer, Kellyanne Conway, really taking hits to that stature and their credibility because of their involvement with this White House. And I think we've seen that with Nunes here.

BERMAN: Nia just brought up the fact that Paul Ryan is set to speak really any moment right now.

HARLOW: Yes.

BERMAN: Manu Raju's standing where we will hear from Paul Ryan sort of in the Cindy Brady box on your screen right now, so we'll bring you Paul Ryan the minutes he comes up.

David Drucker, you've talked to Devin Nunes over the last several weeks. I guess I'm a little surprised by the timing. He was facing all this pressure last week or ten days ago. But why now, especially after, you know, the White House or someone released this information that Susan Rice may have unmasked, you know, people associated with the Trump campaign, which some people say may lend credibility to what Devin Nunes is saying. Why does Devin Nunes go today as opposed to last week?

DAVID DRUCKER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, look, I asked him that just five minutes ago on the phone and the irony here is that, you're right, in a sense, some of what had been going on, at least he felt vindicated, even if his critics didn't think he should be. And I know from speaking to him that he felt like this is what I was talking about. I had to go about it in a particular way. It may not have looked good, but I knew what I was doing and I was proven correct.

And speaking to him just a couple of minutes ago, what he told me was that these ethics investigations that are being launched against him were going to be too difficult for the Republicans on the House Ethics Committee to defend over two weeks during a recess when they're home. He didn't want them to be attack over issues that he may have caused. And so that he had decided the best thing for him to do for his Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee was to step away from the Russia investigation.

[09:50:18] And it is, your right, a sort of surprise move because he has been adamant that all these attacks coming from the Democrats were nothing but politics and he had nothing to worry about or apologies for and there's no reason he should step away. So this was definitely a surprise to me. As somebody who speaks to him regularly, has covered him for the past few years, I didn't see it coming. And I think there's probably a little more to this because he has had the confidence of Speaker Ryan, who he has a close friendship with over the past decade. And so - there's probably a little bit more to this than just simply the chairman making a unilateral decision.

RAJU: (INAUDIBLE).

HARLOW: All right, let - let's bring in Democratic Congresswoman Jackie Speier, who sits on the Intel Committee.

Are you with us, congresswoman? She's on the phone.

REP. JACKIE SPEIER (D), CALIFORNIA (via telephone): I am.

HARLOW: OK. So what more can you tell us about just your reaction to this breaking news that the chairman of your committee, Devin Nunes, is stepping aside. In his statement he says just temporarily. And what color can you give us to how this decision came about. Do you know anything more than what is in this statement?

SPEIER: Actually, I know nothing more than what's in the statement. We had a hearing this morning. He was there to gavel the hearing in. And then stepped out. And, no, I didn't think anything of it because from time to time members do step outside and come back in. So this is - this is brand new to I think all of us and is probably a reaction to the fact that probably - across this country, there have been great disdain for the unwillingness of the leadership in the House to remove him because you cannot do a legitimate, independent review of the Russian connection to the Trump campaign -

BERMAN: Congresswoman - congresswoman, hang on one second. We've got to hear House Speaker Paul Ryan, who's speaking right now. Hang on one second.

REP. PAUL RYAN, HOUSE SPEAKER: -- Are just too dire for American families for us just to give up. That is why over the last couple of weeks, we have encouraged members from across the conference -- you see many of them represented here today -- we have encouraged members from across the conference to come together and to try and find consensus.

In particular, I want to thank Kevin Brady and Greg Walden, our two chairmen, for being so engaged in these conversations and these talks. While we have work to do to get all the way there, we have made some real progress this week. That's why we're all here today.

We have come together on a new amendment that we all believe will lower premiums and provide added protections for those facing real challenges getting access to affordable care. This brings us closer to the final agreement that we all want to achieve. This idea was offered by two of our most conservative members, Gary Palmer and Dave Schweikert, but it has been embraced by a broad spectrum of our conference, people representing all corners of our conference, as you can see by just a few of the members who are here today.

I would let the authors speak for about it, but let me just say briefly. This amendment would create a new federal risk-sharing program. It is a high-risk pool that will lower costs for people with preexisting conditions and lower costs for everyone else. And the authors of this amendment will go into more detail.

Following votes today, I've asked the House Rules Committee to mark up this amendment and add it to what we were already considering before. I want to thank Gary and Dave for being so productive throughout this process. Their amendment makes this a much better bill that gets us closer. This is the kind of collaborative, bottom- up effort that we have been looking for.

Like I said, we have more work to do, and those conversations continue to take place and they really show promise. But this amendment alone is real progress and it will help us build momentum for delivering on our pledge to the country.

I'd like to ask the majority to leader to speak, if he could.

MCCARTHY: Thanks, Speaker.

Thank you all for being here, and good morning.

I think the results of the past couple of weeks have been progress, valuable progress. I think that shows in who is standing behind us. It's a microcosm of our conference, from every aspect and every caucus and every group is here today, and being united around this amendment.

Each and every day, we've moved closer and closer to finding agreement in the best way to repeal and replace Obamacare. And you can already see some of the results. That's why today the Rules Committee is going to meet to add an amendment to the American Health Care Act. And I want to be clear, we still have more work to do.

But the Palmer-Schweikert amendment, by allocating funds to a risk- sharing program, will lower premiums for the American people. This is an improvement on our bill that will help the American people bring us closer to our ultimate goal to repeal Obamacare and replace it with something much, much better.

MCCARTHY: Now, the work throughout all three committee has been tremendous, and our chairmen have continued to lead the way. In doing so, they have found working also with other elements and everybody throughout this conference, that there are a lot of great ideas on how we can improve this. But I want to thank Chairman Walden and Chairman Brady for their continual work throughout their committees.

And I want to bring up right now Mr. Palmer.

PALMER: Thank you.

I want to say how encouraged I am with the progress that we're making on this bill and in the (inaudible) of what we're trying to do here is to keep our promise to the American people that we -- we want to do something that brings down premiums but make sure that we take care of people with preexisting conditions. And I believe we do this.

And we have a model for this in the state of Maine. They have this risk-sharing arrangement that has worked very well there. It's brought down premiums. It has actually increased the number of people who are insured. And we believe that's what we're going to have with this.

This amendment is modeled after Maine. We believe when it's implemented, it'll be a federal program for three years and then the states will be able to take it over.

And I think that we're going to see premiums coming down I think perhaps by next year. I tell people that we believe we can bring down premiums quickly, but that's quickly in an actuarial understanding of what quickly means.

So, I'm very encouraged with the work of the committees. They have been very helpful and very cooperative in this process.

We've had input from a number of members, including Congressman Schweikert, who has been extraordinarily helpful on this. And he understands this extremely well and had helped build a consensus around it.

So I'd like for Congressman Schweikert to come up and -- and speak to the issue as well.

SCHWEIKERT: Have you ever had that moment where you're heading towards the microphone and you're being whispered in your ear, "Don't geek out too much"? So... (LAUGHTER)

We're -- we'll try to avoid some of the math.

This is actually a really neat experience, particularly with the members you see standing behind me and the leadership, where I -- I'd love to say this is a -- a unique idea to a couple of us. It's not.

It was one of those when you listen to the membership from the folks from all parts of the country, all parts of the different types of districts, there was, sort of, this unifying theory: What are we doing to lower premiums for those individuals in that individual health care market?

And I think this does it. And it actually has a certain elegance to it, both from a budgetary mechanic to grabbing that top piece of risk.

Remember, you all know the number. Five percent of our brothers and sisters who have chronic conditions are functionally 50 percent of our health care costs. And because of that, we have this hockey-stick curve.

I believe what we've written here helps us mitigate both their need to stay in the health care system, but also mitigates some of the extraordinary costs that've been transferred to other folks who are trying to buy health coverage.

So, I'm excited. It -- this doesn't close this chapter, but I think it gets us close. Thank you.

And with that, Chairman Walden. Where are you? There you are.

WALDEN: Delighted to be here. Good morning, everyone.

I'd like to commend all the members who are up here today who have worked so hard, and thank the vice president, the -- the head of HHS, and others who have been a very important part of this process, as has the president.

We all know legislating, especially in this town, is never a straight- line process. A lot of good ideas come flowing in from a lot of directions. And we found a good one here, I think, with this shared support system for those most in need.

A -- a great model comes out of the state of Maine, where it has lowered premiums and it has increased enrollment. We knew we needed to do more work in this area to -- to -- to make sure people get coverage they -- they can afford and that they need access to.

[09:55:04] BERMAN: We're listening to this news conference from the House Republican leadership. Right now they're talking about their plans on health care. There's going to be a show boat a little bit later. We're waiting to hear from Paul Ryan to address the issue that the House Intelligence Chair Devin Nunes just stepped away, stepped aside from the Russia investigation today, which is huge news, which I think none of us were expecting to happen today.

On the phone with us is Congresswoman Jackie Speier, a Democratic on that Intelligence Committee.

And, congresswoman, you had told us that the chairman, he ran a meeting this morning for your committee and said nothing to any of you, which is odd, isn't it?

SPEIER: Well, most of this whole experience has been odd. His, you know, interacting with the White House without communicating with the ranking member. You know, historically this committee has worked in a bipartisan fashion and steps have been taken together in a bipartisan fashion in terms of our investigation.

[09:59:56] So this whole chapter has been one I'm sure the Republicans would like to put to rest.