Return to Transcripts main page


Republicans Trying to Rush Health Care Vote?; Interview With Tennessee Congresswoman Diane Black; Trump Administration Tries to Shift Blame on Flynn; United Reaches Settlement With Dragged Passenger; United Airlines Settles with Man Dragged Off Flight. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired April 27, 2017 - 16:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: The latest White House response to the Michael Flynn investigation is, thanks, Obama.

THE LEAD starts right now.

Breaking news: a top House Democrat accusing the White House of a cover-up. As we learned today, the Pentagon warned Michael Flynn years ago not to take foreign money without prior Pentagon permission. And now yet another investigation has been launched.

New life, republicans racing to get a vote on a revived plan to repeal and replace Obamacare before President Trump's 100th day Saturday, but should they vote on this, when the public really doesn't even know what's in it?

Plus, payback time. Ka-ching. Breaking minutes ago, United Airlines reaching a settlement with that passenger who was so violently dragged off a flight, badly hurt, as smartphones started recording it all.

Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

We're going to begin today with the White House trying to distance itself from its own fired National Security Adviser, Michael Flynn. He is now under a Pentagon internal investigation for accepting foreign government payments, even after he had been warned ahead of time not to do so without prior approval from the Pentagon.

He is also being investigated for not disclosing those payments after the fact. Moments ago, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer blamed the Obama administration for renewing Flynn's security clearance in the spring of 2016 after Flynn's fabled trip to Russia.

The Trump administration has been trying to downplay Flynn's role, even though the retired lieutenant general was one of, if not the top military adviser to Mr. Trump as he went from TV star and businessman to candidate, Republican nominee, the president-elect, to commander in chief.

CNN's Manu Raju joins me now.

And so, Manu, the White House is now actually admitting that it did no vetting of its own on General Flynn?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: And raising a lot of questions, Jake, today Sean Spicer putting the blame on the Obama administration for renewing a clearance in 2016, but also raising questions about what additional vetting the White House did in the run-up to President Trump hiring him as his national security adviser.

Those discussions between the White House and Michael Flynn at the center of a dispute. Democrats want to get records to determine what Michael Flynn actually disclosed to the White House before he was hired, all as concerns continued to mount today about Michael Flynn's foreign payments.


RAJU (voice-over): President Donald Trump's former national security adviser under fire and now under a new investigation.

REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D), MARYLAND: We have no evidence, zilch, that he obtained permission from the secretary of the army and the secretary of state to accept any foreign government payments as required by law.

RAJU: New documents show the Pentagon warned retired General Michael Flynn in 2014 about accepting any foreign payments, suggesting he failed to get permission to travel to Moscow.

MICHAEL FLYNN, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Thank you so much for inviting me and having me here.

RAJU: Where he was paid tens of thousands of dollars in 2015 by the Kremlin-backed news station R.T., where he also dined with Vladimir Putin. Now the Defense Department's inspector general announcing its own investigation into whether Flynn broke the law, this after Flynn also allegedly failed to disclose foreign payments on his security clearance forms, a potential felony.

(on camera): Do you believe that he may have broken the law?

REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I don't know whether he did or did not. That's why we have an investigation.

RAJU (voice-over): But the House Oversight Committee's investigation now breaking down along party lines, with Democrats accusing the White House of stonewalling. The White House has refused to provide certain records it says are not relevant to the Flynn investigation, which prompted the top Democrat on the committee to accuse the White House of a cover-up.

(on camera): Why are they relevant to your investigation?

CUMMINGS: Spicer also said that they didn't have documents. Remember that? Come on. These guys are playing games. And when you see Mr. Spicer, you can tell him I said that today.

All of these documents are relevant because they go to what his relationship was with the Russians, what his relationship was with Turkey. Did they vet for the highest security position? I mean, we don't know.

RAJU (voice-over): At the White House, spokesman Sean Spicer said the Obama administration was to blame for providing the security clearance for Flynn in 2016, and pushed back on Cummings' attacks.

SPICER: I was frankly taken back by his comments today because they're frankly not true. What we did was properly refer him to the issuing agency and department.


RAJU: Democrats are calling for subpoenas to force the White House to comply, but they are running into resistance from Republican Chairman Jason Chaffetz.

(on camera): Are you satisfied with Chairman Chaffetz's push to get these documents?




RAJU: And, Jake, today, Michael Flynn's lawyer, Robert Kelner, pushing back and saying they disagree with Elijah Cummings' representation of the Defense Intelligence Agency letter suggesting there's no records backing up this foreign payment, saying this in a statement.

"The DIA's letter actually confirms in a terse section that is partly redacted that General Flynn provided information and documents on a thumb drive to the Department of Defense concerning the R.T. speaking event in Moscow." It goes on to say the department was fully aware of the trip.

But, Jake, the real question is, were they aware of the payments for the trip? And that's what Michael Flynn was required to get permission for -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Manu Raju, thank you so much.

And in day 98 of the Trump presidency, the Republican effort to repeal to and replace of Obamacare has been upgraded to alive, it seems. We're getting a look at a new amendment that promises to please both key conservative wings of the party and moderate wings as well.

CNN's Phil Mattingly is live for us on Capitol Hill.

Phil, they're going to vote on this before the Congressional Budget Office has even had a chance to analyze how it would impact tens of millions of Americans?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Jake, it's one of the many elements that really underscores the speed and urgency with which they're trying to move this.

The reality when you talk to House leaders is this. If they have the votes, they will hold the vote, regardless of anything that is going on outside of it. The big question remains, though, will they actually get the votes?


MATTINGLY (voice-over): Tonight, it is health care reform 3.0.

RYAN: We have a moral obligation to prevent people from getting hurt, to stop damage from being continued.

MATTINGLY: House Republicans with fresh wind in their sails to try and finally push through the health care repeal and replace they have long promised, now with the backing of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, who had been vigorously opposed to the original health care bill that stalled just hours before heading to a vote.

RYAN: I think we're making very good progress. Don't have -- we're going to go when we have the votes, but that's the decision we will make when we have it. I would argue that this is a bill that a moderate would more likely want to support.

MATTINGLY: The change, a new amendment negotiated by Freedom Caucus Chair Mark Meadows and a member of the more moderate Tuesday Group Tom MacArthur would allow states to apply for waivers that could weaken several key Obamacare insurance reforms, including the price protections in place for those with preexisting conditions, what benefits insurers must cover in their policies, and the ban on allowing carriers to charge more based on a person's health background.

REP. TOM MACARTHUR (R), NEW JERSEY: My one and only goal in this has gone to try to make this bill something that helps the health insurance market survive.

MATTINGLY: But all eyes are now on the party's moderates, who are far from rushing to support the amendment, saying it will leave even more people without coverage.

REP. DAN DONOVAN (R), NEW YORK: It doesn't help the people I represent. One of the criticisms I had had about the Affordable Care Act was it made insurance so expensive that people who had it didn't even use it because their premiums were high, their deductibles were high, their co-payments were high. And people with preexisting conditions, you're right, we can't deny them coverage.

MATTINGLY: And Democrats ardently opposed from the start quickly seizing on that opposition.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), MINORITY LEADER: The new Trumpcare will allow states to decide whether or not insurers have to cover Americans with preexisting conditions. It is hard to come up with a crueler bill. MATTINGLY: And ramping up their efforts to slow down the process

altogether, now saying they will oppose a stopgap funding measure to keep the government open if Republicans push for a health care vote between now and Saturday, President Trump's 100th day in office.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: What you see in the GOP haste to pass the bill and Trump trying to cram it down in the last 100 days, I think President Trump is really making fools of the members of Congress, of his own party.

MATTINGLY: But House Speaker Paul Ryan pushing back, saying the blame for any potential government shutdown will fall squarely to Democrats.

RYAN: I'm confident we will be able to pass a short-term extension, and I would be kind of shocked if the Democrats would want to create a government shutdown because they have been dragging their feet.


MATTINGLY: And,Jake, as it currently stands, they might not have to worry about that shutdown threat at all. I just spoke to one member as he walked off the House floor during a vote where leaders are furiously whipping, trying to get their members in line. He said two words, still short. They're not quite there yet.

The work, though, continues -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Phil Mattingly on Capitol Hill for us today, thank you so much.

Are Republicans putting the president's 100th day in office, that milestone, ahead of informing the American people about the future of their health care? We will ask the chairwoman of the House Budget Committee next.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD.

Sticking with our politics lead, in one of those fast-moving stories as we sprint towards the 100-day milestone for President Trump, which will be Saturday, the Republican effort to repeal and replace Obamacare looks as if it has been resurrected.

We are getting a new look now at new legislation that party leaders hope will please both conservatives and moderates.

And joining me now is Congresswoman Diane Black. She's a Republican of Tennessee and chair of the Budget Committee in the House of Representatives.

Chairwoman, thanks so much for joining us. Appreciate it. REP. DIANE BLACK (R), TENNESSEE: You're welcome, Jake. It's great to

be with you.

TAPPER: So, tell us the latest on Republican health care efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare. Do you think there is going to be a vote on this Friday or Saturday?

BLACK: Well, we're not sure really yet. There are a couple of measures that are still being looked at by the various folks that were not on board before, but the latest amendment has really helped us to be able to satisfy a lot of people's concerns.

And, look, it is not a perfect bill, but it is a bill that I think is worthy of moving forward, and there are still things that can be added. This is just a first step. Obviously, the Senate will have a bite at the apple, and then we will be having conference committee that gives us another bite at that apple.

TAPPER: I have to say, the public knows nothing next to nothing about this legislation. And, obviously, it will impact tens, if not hundreds of millions of Americans.

Would it not be better to have discussion and debate and hearings about this bill, instead of what looks like rushing it through to meet this 100-day deadline?

BLACK: Oh, my goodness, Jake. We had a lot of discussion.

[16:15:01] Our Ways and Means Committee went until 4:00 a.m. I think we had something like 18 hours of debate, even more than that, in the Energy and Commerce Committee. They had over 24-hours worth of debate.

And so, it has been debated in committee. It certainly is up to our members to get out to their districts, which I have been doing, and talking about the provisions of the bill.

I can tell you this. The people are just saying to me in my district, please help us. Please do something to rescue us. Increases in premiums by 63 percent, deductibles that have gone so high, $5,000, $10,000. They may have a card but they don't have coverage.

And we now have an area of Knoxville, which is not my district but it is my state, 14 counties who don't have a single insurance company that's on the Obamacare exchanges. People are saying, please fix this. And that's what we're trying to do.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: The hearings you're talking about were for the previous legislation. This is -- this is different legislation. It might be based on the previous legislation, but it's been changed.

BLACK: Well, it is -- it is a change in one part of the measure, but overall -- I mean, it's basically what you saw come out of committee. There were some changes made because there were some people that have concerns about lowering costs and making sure that every measure that we're taking is doing what our whole objective is, and that is to make healthcare that is more patient-centered, giving people an opportunity to say, "here is what I want, here is what I can afford, and please give me the opportunity to be able to do that."

And that's really what this latest measure does, is it gives states more opportunities to set what's best for their state.

TAPPER: Right. But the thing is the Congressional Budget Office had had an analysis of the previous bill. They say they can't provide an analysis of this one yet, and it looks like the vote might happen before that. But while you are talking about allowing states to make decisions, the bill is also going to allow states to opt-out of requiring the insurance companies cover people with preexisting conditions. You're a nurse for decades.


TAPPER: Doesn't that concern you?

BLACK: That's not so, and that is what has been talked about in the media but that's not so. This latest provision says that if a state decides that they're going to do certain measures on preexisting conditions, they must have an alternative, and that is they must have an alternative within their state, or they come into the federal government's high-risk can pool.

And there must be an opportunity for people with preexisting conditions to be covered just as there were in our original measure. And I want to ensure -- you know, as you say, Jake, I'm a nurse. I want to assure people we are going to take care of, as has been promised in the previous measure and as promised in this measure, that people with preexisting conditions will be covered.

TAPPER: There was also -- there were also reports that the bill allowed members of Congress to exempt themselves from this. Is that true? Is that still in the bill?

BLACK: That is not true. We are not exempting ourselves from this.

As a matter of fact, there are members of my staff -- all of the members of my personal staff are on the Obamacare exchanges. They're in the D.C. exchange, which we'll probably never do anything different, because we're giving right to the states and the districts to make that decision. They wish that they could be outside of the exchange.

So, we are not doing anything to exempt ourselves. As a matter of fact, the people in my office would like to be exempt, to go into what states are going to do, which are going to be better plans and giving them more options and choices and lowering the cost, by the way.

TAPPER: Chairwoman Diane Black from the great state of Tennessee -- thank you so much. Always good to see you.

BLACK: Always good to be with you as well, Jake. Thank you.

TAPPER: Coming up, pay back. New developments in the case against United Airlines for what the airline called an involuntary de- boarding.


[16:22:41] TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

Topping our national lead today, more that two weeks after that shocking video of a bloodied United Airline's passenger being dragged off a flight stunned the world, the passenger, Dr. David Dao, and United Airlines have reportedly reached a settlement.

Joining me now to tell us all about it is CNN aviation correspondent, Rene Marsh.

So, what happened? What's the deal?

RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: Well, we saw that video that went viral and, of course, that was just a black eye and a punch in the gut for the airline as far as a PR stance. So, we did learn just a short time ago that the attorney for that passenger, they actually worked out a negotiation and they have a settlement. Everyone wants to know, well, how much did they settle for.


MARSH: And we don't know because a part of the agreement was that they had to -- this had to remain confidential as far as how much the settlement is for.

It's safe to say though it is in the millions. We do have a statement from Mr. Dao, that's the passenger, his attorney, and he says, quote, "Dr. Dao has become the unintended champion for the adoption of changes, which will certainly improve the lives of literally millions of travelers."

Of course, Jake, this comes on the same day that United Airlines announced they were making all of these changes to essentially make the travel experience a lot better than what you're seeing in that video there. So, among some of the changes, United says they will -- number one, they will limit the use of law enforcement coming on board of an aircraft. They're going to actually increase the amount that they offer for anyone who's denied boarding. It's going up to $10,000. So, a lot harder to say no to that.

And they also say that they're going to book their flight crews at least 60 minutes before departure, and they're going to reduce overbooking. You know, going back to the settlement, they just didn't want this to drag out. So, they wanted to pay as much as they needed to and get this out of the way. However, members of Congress, they are looking into this. So, it's not totally over yet for the airline.

TAPPER: All right. Rene Marsh, thank you so much.

Is the White House helping to stall the investigation into Michael Flynn's ties and payments from Russia? The top Democrat on the House Oversight Committee thinks so. Is that fair? Stay with us.


[16:29:16] TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD.

Sticking with politics, let's bring in our topnotch panel.

Kevin Madden, let me start with you. What do you make -- you are a former spokesperson. What do you make of what we're hearing from the White House, Sean Spicer basically trying to put this Michael Flynn controversy on the doorstep of the Obama administration because they renewed his security clearance in early 2016, as if -- you know, they didn't have to do any vetting because Obama was supposed to.

KEVIN MADDEN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think first thing you have to look at as an operative is the trend line. And the trend line on this keeps getting worse and worse.

TAPPER: Right.

MADDEN: So, you know that this is something you are going to have to begin to get ahead of, and I believe the White House and Sean Spicer pretty consistently have been doing that over the last -- the last few weeks.

I think the other thing, too, is this is one of those stories that now is out of their control. And you don't want to waste a whole lot of time or a whole lot of effort out of the White House based on things that you can't control.