Return to Transcripts main page

CNN NEWSROOM

Changing Libel Laws; Preexisting Conditions in Health Care; Turbulence Injures 27 Passengers. Aired 9:30-10a

Aired May 1, 2017 - 09:30   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:32:36] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm going to open up our libel laws so when they write purposely negative and horrible and false articles, we can sue them and win lots of money.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Yep, you remember that was 2016. The president's disdain for the media has not changed one bit. His chief of staff, Reince Priebus, saying just this weekend the administration is looking at and has looked at making changes to libel laws in this country.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JONATHAN KARL: That would require, as I understand it, a constitutional amendment. Is he really going to pursue that? Is that something he wants to pursue?

REINCE PRIEBUS, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: I think it's something that we've looked at and how that gets executed or whether that goes anywhere is a different story. I think that newspapers and news agencies need to be more responsible with how they report the news.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Change the libel law. So, could he do it? Let's discuss. We are joined by CNN legal analyst, former federal prosecutor, Laura Coates, and CNN's senior media correspondent, host of "Reliable Sources," Brian Stelter.

You know, Brian, you know, there was - it was an assault on the media this weekend. The president had a speech in Harrisburg. The first 12 minutes of this big speech was all about the media. His chief of staff goes on TV the next day and says, you know what, we've looked into changing the libel laws here. You know, they've picked the media as an enemy here.

BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: Indeed, attack the messenger is a time-honored strategy going back to the Trump campaign, really going back to the 1970's and Republican politics. But this president does it like no one we've ever seen on the public stage before. There is a venom to it, as Carl Bernstein said. We can talk about that later.

HARLOW: Yes.

STELTER: But this libel law issue, it is continuing to keep the door open to the threat of making it easier to sue news organizations for what they report.

HARLOW: Laura, you don't just have a federal libel law that, you know, he can try to do away with. You've got - you've got to change the Constitution. You have to amend the Constitution.

STELTER: Go to the states, yes.

HARLOW: Or go to the states, which is very tricky because they have their own individual libel laws. And I should note, the Obama administration was not - you know, is not a glowing example of how to treat the media, right? I mean used existing laws, like the Espionage Act, to silence the media to go after them. But, you know, what - legally what could happen here? Do they have any power?

LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, you know, talking about what Reince Priebus saying he looked at the libel laws, I'm assuming he read just the First Amendment, which would be a huge road block to any of this. Remember, every single state has a different libel law and in order for Congress, a body that has authority over federal laws, would have to actually either every state change it or pass a federal libel law. Even if they were able to do that, the First Amendment, for the last 50 years in the Supreme Court, there's very clear precedent that says, look, especially for a public figure, you have an actual malice standard. Very, very hard to prove. It means I had to know it was false and I had to disregard that likelihood. So for this to actually change legally, it has taken monumental efforts to do so.

[09:35:32] But, Poppy, you're absolutely right, the espionage act is going to be the way that if POTUS, the president of the United States, does do this, he'll have to go through. Remember, that says that if you divulge national security related information, you can be held accountable. So enter here journalists who either fail to divulge their sources or publish or print articles that actually divulge national security information. That's how you can still punish the media without altering the First Amendment.

STELTER: And so far we've not seen that happen.

COATES: No.

STELTER: All we've seen from this administration is huffing and puffing -

COATES: Yes.

STELTER: Threats to press freedom that are only verbal, not actual action. We haven't seen anything actually done yet. Hopefully that's all it becomes. BERMAN: You know, you had an interesting discussion about this, Brian,

with a guy who knows a little something about journalism -

STELTER: Yes.

BERMAN: About official pressure on journalists. That's Carl Bernstein, you know, formally of "The Washington Post," now CNN commentator. The Watergate guy. Let's listen to what Carl said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CARL BERNSTEIN, CNN COMMENTATOR: This is part of an attitude regardless of whether they're really going to seek such a change. And the attitude was expressed in Trump's speech last night, which is the most venomous speech by an American president that I have heard in more than 50 years of reporting. Venomous towards the press, venomous towards legitimate political opponents, and it was a road map of a venomous state of mind.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: I get the sense that Carl didn't like the speech, Brian.

STELTER: I think he was expressing what a lot of folks in the press might want to say, which is, when you're up at a podium degrading real news outlets like CNN as fake news, it does have long-term consequences. It does, over the long term, affect people's perceptions of where they can get real information, where they can get the truth. President Trump suggests everything could be true, which sort of implies nothing is known to be true. That you can choose your own set of facts. And at that rally, some of his misstatements about the media and other issues just reinforced that perception. So I think when Carl Bernstein says "venomous," that's what he means. It has these long- term repercussions of these words.

HARLOW: Very quickly, Laura, there were some signals from Justices Gorsuch's hearings around his confirmation that signaled he's not on the same president when it comes - same page as the president when it comes to this.

COATES: Exactly right. And, you know, we're talking about that actual malice standard, where you have to know that it was like - it was false and you disregarded the likelihood that it was actually false when you published it. When Justice Gorsuch, then Judge Gorsuch, was asked about the question, he said he cited an appellate decision that he had made himself where he essentially said the same thing, that that standard still remains true. And it's not about whether it is specifically false, it's about whether it was substantially true. A very good signal that we have a justice in the Supreme Court who remains close to the New York Sullivan standard, which is a very bad sign for opening up any libel law.

HARLOW: Guys, thank you very much. Brian Stelter, Laura Coates, we appreciate it.

COATES: Thank you. HARLOW: Ahead for us, so are they or aren't they covered affordable in the GOP health care bill? We're talking about preexisting conditions. Right now it depends on who you ask in the White House.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:42:43] HARLOW: All right, this morning, questions about whether people with preexisting conditions are actually going to be covered under the new Republican health care plan. Listen to a claim that the president made about it just this weekend.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Preexisting conditions are in the bill, and I mandated it. I said, it has to be.

JOHN DICKERSON, CBS NEWS: In one of the fixes that was discussed, preexisting was optional for the states.

TRUMP: Sure, in one of the fixes, and they're changing it and changing -

DICKERSON: OK, so it will be permanent?

TRUMP: Of course.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARLOW: All right, joining us now to discuss all of this, CNN's senior economic analyst Stephen Moore, distinguished visiting fellow at The Heritage Foundation and a former senior economic adviser for the Trump campaign, and Jonathan Gruber is here, professor of economics at MIT and one of the architects of Obamacare.

Jonathan, let me begin with you. I mean the quote from the president, "preexisting conditions are in the bill." That's his language. He says, you know, this - this amendment, this MacArthur amendment, guarantees it. Is he right?

JONATHAN GRUBER, MIT ECONOMICS PROFESSOR: No, he's not. Look, it's about the letter of the law versus the sphere of the law. To cover preexisting conditions means that you have to not only stop insurers from excluding people, but you also have to stop them from charging people many, many multiples of those without preexisting conditions. The MacArthur Amendment would insist that states continue to cover preexisting conditions, but would allow the insurers in those states to charge those preexisting conditions $1 million a month. There's nothing stopping that. So, substantively, this MacArthur Amendment does not include the coverage of preexisting conditions. It may say it does, but unless you not only mandate it covers them and stop insurers from price discriminating, it's toothless, and the president seems to have totally missed that.

BERMAN: Stephen Moore, your reaction to this. Under this amendment, do you deny that people with preexisting conditions could see their premiums go up, way up, compared to everyone else? STEPHEN MOORE, CNN SENIOR ECONOMICS ANALYST: A final bill is going to

cover people with preexisting conditions and there will be affordable premiums. But here is the problem. I mean this is the core of the problem with Obamacare is that you've got these exploding costs on everybody. I mean in many states premiums are going up by 25 percent. I just got back from Arizona where people are paying a doubling of their premiums under Obamacare, thousands of dollars more not less in their premiums. And one of the core parts of this is that because people with preexisting conditions - I mean under Obamacare literally you can be on your way in the ambulance to the hospital and get insurance. That's - that's not what insurance is about.

[09:45:11] So what we want to do in our plan is basically have a separate pool for people who are - who do have a preexisting condition. My goodness, I have two relatives that have serious preexisting conditions. They should be covered. But you don't want to put them in the entire insurance pool with everyone else because what happens then is exactly what's happening with Obamacare, which is healthy people are dropping their health plans because it's so expensive and then you only get sick people in the pool. And as Jonathan knows, that leads to the death spiral that's going to be the end of insurance in America.

HARLOW: But the issue, Stephen Moore, with these high risk pools is, can you point to an example, outside of Maine, where it's really worked well? In Maine they taxed everyone -

MOORE: Yes.

HARLOW: You know, $4 a month on this. They had a lot of money coming in from that tax.

MOORE: Yes.

HARLOW: There is not that provision in this. So can you point to any examples?

MOORE: Well -

HARLOW: I mean the Republican lawmaker on "New Day" this morning just pointed out -

MOORE: Yes.

HARLOW: It's spotty to find an example where high risk pools, the economics actually worked out.

MOORE: Right. Well, Poppy, I mean this is - it's a good question. And one of the kind of themes of the Republican plans is letting the 50 states experiment. We - you know, we did this back in the mid-1990s when Bill Clinton was president, we allowed states to experiment with welfare reforms and - and they came up with great ideas that lowered costs, got people off of welfare. We need the kind of same, not just one size fits all -

GRUBER: Right. MOORE: You know, but having every state experiment to find the best way to do this in an affordable way.

BERMAN: It just -

HARLOW: But it -

BERMAN: The question, Stephen, the question, though, Stephen -

MOORE: Yes.

BERMAN: And I'll let Jonathan answer this, though, is, if the American people are being given a straight explanation what's going on here because what you're saying is experiment. Some may work. Some may not. Some people may see their premiums go up, way up, some may not. The president's not saying that. The president's flat out saying people with preexisting conditions will be covered and making it seem as if nothing changes here when, in fact, something could change in a big way.

Jonathan Gruber, though, I want to press you on one thing that Stephen Moore said. Look, you could reduce premiums for everyone else by taking people with preexisting conditions and putting them in a high- risk pool. If your goal is to reduce premiums, that's a way to do it.

GRUBER: Sure. I mean the term "high risk pool" invokes people splashing around having fun. But what if we called it a high risk internment camp? That would not have the same kind of invocation. The point is, sure, you can take the sick people out and not cover them and that will lower premiums for healthier people, but that's not insurance. Insurance covers you when you're sick. Taking them out and segregating them in this separate high risk pool or internment camp doesn't do any good if there's not the money to make insurance affordable for everybody. So you can't just take -

MOORE: Wait, wait, hold on. Jon. Yes. Jonathan, I mean, look, what you said is completely wrong. Insurance is insuring against some event in the future that you don't know is going to happen. If someone has a preexisting condition where you know that they're going to have high health care expenses, by covering them you're not - you're not providing, quote, "insurance" for them. So you are - you know, it's - in other words, it's like saying, you know, somebody's house is burning down, and therefore they can run up and get fire insurance protection. I mean that - what you described is not insurance. You want insurance for unpredictable events. That's why what we're saying is, put - put the people who do have these high costs in a pool that subsidized by the American taxpayer, but then let's have a functioning insurance system for everyone else that will lead to lower premiums.

GRUBER: Look -

HARLOW: We have to leave it there, but a key point Stephen Moore said, that the president is not making it subsidized by the American taxpayer. Sure, if you're willing to tax people more to pay into that, it might - it might work out economically.

Guys, we have to leave it there. Thank you both very much.

MOORE: OK, guys, thanks.

BERMAN: All right, we have some just stunning video that's in just now. Turbulence on a flight. Dozens of passengers hurt. We're going to speak to the passenger who shot this video. That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:53:20] BERMAN: All right, a terrifying ordeal in the sky. At least 27 people hurt this morning when a flight from Russia to Thailand hit bad turbulence.

HARLOW: Incredibly bad turbulence. The airline, Aeroflot, is saying that this plane hit what they're calling clear sky turbulence. It's - you can't see it coming and it's very difficult to predict. One man on board, Rosk Grusif (ph), says passengers had no warning before they began falling out of their seats and babies flying out of their mothers' arms. He shared his photo of a bloody overhead compartment that you see right there.

Our international correspondent, Diana Magnay, is in Moscow, where this flight departed this morning.

What else are you learning?

DIANA MAGNAY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, now there are 15 Russians and two Thai people still in hospital. Aeroflot says that none of them are in serious condition, but they are bruised and several of them have fractures and broken bones. And as you can see from that video, this really was a terrifying situation, about 40 minutes before the plane was about to land in Bangkok, coming from Moscow. And as you said, this is clear-air turbulence, which is by definition invisible, so you can't prepare for it at all. And so the default that airlines are sort of encouraging is basically that when you are in an airplane and if you are not - if you are seated, try and keep your seatbelts on at all times for exactly this kind of eventuality.

I've been reading quite a bit about clear-air turbulence now and basically turbulence is the number one injury in non-fatal accidents. And, of course, it is more often the cabin crew who are injured in this kind of turbulence because they're the ones bringing the trolleys and the food around. And so, you know, keep your seatbelts on is basically the lesson from this horrible story. But as you can see from that video, lots and lots of people with some quite unpleasant injuries coming very, very unexpectedly.

[09:55:22] Poppy.

HARLOW: Yes.

BERMAN: All right, Diana Magnay for us in Moscow. Again, horrible pictures of turbulence there, a number of injuries. Thanks so much, Diana. I want to read you something from an interview. We are just getting our first look at right now from President Trump. I'm just going to read this now. "People don't realize. You know the Civil War? If you think about it, why? People don't ask the question, but why was there a Civil War? Why could that one not have been worked out?"

We'll talk about this when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[10:00:03] HARLOW: Top of the hour, 10:00 a.m. Eastern. Good morning, everyone. I'm Poppy Harlow.

BERMAN: And I'm John Berman.

Breaking this morning, the president of the United States just asked why was there the Civil War. We'll have much more on that in a moment.