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Trump Calls For Shutdown Because He Doesn't Like Rules; Graham: Dems "Cleaned Our Clock" On Budget Deal; Ryan: GOP's New Push For Health Care on Verge Of Collapse; Despite Intel Trump Says China May Have Hacked Election; Trump's Bizarre Interviews Include Questioning Civil War; Trump's Army Secretary Pick Under Fire For Remarks; GOP Source: Health Care Vote "50/50 Chance" Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired May 2, 2017 - 11:00   ET




KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. President Trump will be speaking from the White House in just minutes. We will bring that to you live. Will he take the opportunity to explain his comment this morning, in his words, our country needs a good shutdown in September to fix mess.

The president endorsing a government shutdown just as Republicans and Democrats reach a bipartisan agreement to avoid that very thing. There's that.

Also on Capitol Hill, health care fears at a standstill at least for the moment. House leaders clearly still working to lock in enough votes. Could it all go down today one way or another?

This as the shockwaves continue to reverberate from President Trump's praise for foreign leaders with abysmal records on human rights, and his willingness to meet with them.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN HOST: Joining me to discuss a whole lot of news, Republican Senator from South Carolina, Senator Lindsey Graham. He's joining me right now.

Senator, thanks for coming in.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Thanks for having me.

BOLDUAN: So where to begin? Let's begin here with the government shutdown.


BOLDUAN: After you all reached agreement on how to avoid a government shutdown, the president then tweeted this morning calling for a shutdown. Let me read the tweet for you, Senator.

This is what he wrote: "The reason for the plan negotiated between the Republicans and Democrats is that we need 60 votes in the Senate, which are not there. We either elect more Republican senators in 2018 or change the rules now to 51. Our country needs a good shutdown in September to fix mess."

Is a government shutdown ever good, Senator?

GRAHAM: No, but at the end of the day, since World War II, there have been four times Republicans had the White House, the Senate, and the House, 11 times for the Democrats. So if you're a Republican, changing the rules is probably not a good idea. I don't know if I'm going to vote for the bill they're going to present to the Senate here soon. I think the --


GRAHAM: -- Democrats cleaned our clock. I think, you know, there are things in this bill that I just don't understand. This is not winning from the Republican point of view. So the bottom line is, no, I don't want to shut the government down, but I don't want to continue to fund Obamacare, either, and that's what we do here.

BOLDUAN: Well, and that's really interesting because Paul Ryan in the House just a little while ago, he had a very different take. He definitely does not think that Democrats cleaned your clock. He thinks that there are a lot of conservative values that you all got in there. Is he just spinning?

GRAHAM: Well, you know, there's all kinds of ways to look at it. We got more money for the military. You know, I'm for comprehensive immigration reform, but sanctuary cities go untouched. Obamacare continues to be funded in a way that we all say is illegal.

So the bottom line here is this whole process of funding the government where you put 12 bills into one and you don't get any input, and you vote on a bill two days after you have a chance to look at it, is just bad government.

So I think the Republican Party's goal for 2018 should be to bring every appropriation bill to the floor stand-lone rather than doing these giant bills. That's the best way to correct the system.

BOLDUAN: But back to the president's position on this, I mean, it sure looks like what he's saying is bad is bipartisanship -- Republicans and Democrats working together. Is bipartisanship the problem right now in Washington?

GRAHAM: No, I think we don't have enough of it. But at the end of the day, what's bad is that we pass legislation to fund the government that nobody gets to look at. You put everything into one big pot, and a handful of people negotiate the bill and the rest of us are supposed to vote on it.

What would be good is to have bipartisan legislation to fund the government where every individual account comes to the floor of the House and the Senate, it gets debated, voted on, amended, where Republicans and Democrats get a chance to look at tit before it's just thrown into your lap. BOLDUAN: So real quick, are you a firm no on the government funding bill, or are you --

GRAHAM: Pretty much no, yes. I just don't like the process, don't like the outcome. And I don't want to shut the government down, but this has got to change. This is a lousy way to run any business.

BOLDUAN: Let's talk about health care.


BOLDUAN: It seems stuck right now once again in the House.

GRAHAM: It is.

BOLDUAN: I mean, there's no question that you and I have discussed this before, then and now. If it gets to the Senate, it's going to see changes. What is your advice to your friends in the House right now?

GRAHAM: I would be careful to rely on the Senate to change the bill because I don't think we have a very clear way forward. Here's the trade-off I'm willing to make. As a Republican conservative, I'm willing to have federal government involvement in preexisting conditions.

Those people who can't find insurance in the private sector can't be just thrown over. So I'm willing to create a managed care system where the federal government picks up most of the tab, and the trade- off is to create a private sector market for people who -- in normal insurance.

To preserve normal insurance, take care of preexisting conditions through a government-run program, but as to the rest of the population not covered by government-run programs, give them the chance to have more choices, not less.

[11:05:03]That's the trade-off I'm willing to make, but we're stuck as a party. What I'd like to see is a bipartisan solution to replace Obamacare, not just a Republican solution.

BOLDUAN: Do you think right now the bill that they're talking about in the House, this amendment, does -- is better for folks with preexisting condition, or does less for them?

GRAHAM: Well, the president says the bill contains protection for preexisting illnesses.

BOLDUAN: Right, you've got moderates like Charlie Dent who don't agree.

GRAHAM: Yes, I have no idea what's in the bill. I'm telling you, you know as much about what's in this bill as I do. Wouldn't it be nice to get both parties together in sort of an open process, see if you can find a better way to preserve private sector healthcare in this country, bite the bullet on preexisting illnesses -- as a nation we're going to take care of people who can't find insurance, but as to the rest of the population, give you more choice, more competition, not less?

BOLDUAN: Love that Pollyanna theory. And that's not the Washington you live in right now.

GRAHAM: It is pretty Pollyanna, right? It is.

BOLDUAN: You do look like Pollyanna today.

BOLDUAN: Let's talk about things --

GRAHAM: I've been called a lot of things, but not that.

BOLDUAN: Add that to the list. I've got a couple others I can give you. Things you're not Pollyanna about, though, is North Korea and I do want to talk to you about this. You have called Kim Jong-un a nut job. The president says, though, he'd be honored to meet Kim Jong-un in an interview, no matter the conditions, Senator. Would you be honored to meet with Kim Jong-un?

GRAHAM: No, I'd find it very hard for me to sit down across the table from the guy who makes Bashar al-Assad look like a choirboy. If you understand what he does to his own people, you'd be repugnant to be in the same room.

But we're in a business here. If the president meets with this guy, there needs to be a purpose for the meeting. And when you meet with somebody as President of the United States, that's the ultimate legitimacy. You provide status to that person. So I would caution meeting with anybody like this, unless you had a plan.

My goal is to make sure he could will have a missile with a nuclear weapon on top to hit America. If meeting with him will avoid that, fine. But the day you meet with somebody, you confer legitimacy on them, because there's nothing like the White House in the entire world and there's nobody more powerful than the President of the United States. So I'd be very cautious about that.

BOLDUAN: You say that if you understand what this man is like, he makes Bashar al-Assad look like a choirboy. Do you think the president doesn't understand?

GRAHAM: I don't know. I'm sure he does understand how brutal North Korea is. It is living hell. It's the number one human rights violator in the world. What he does to his own people you can't really say on TV. Just read the U.N. report. It will make you sick to your stomach.

So the president of the United States is the most powerful person in the world. Going to the White House is a tremendous honor. And what I would caution the president about is don't legitimize this guy, because he is a real outlier in the world.

But you live in a tough world. If -- talking to Putin is part of his job. Meeting with people throughout the world that we don't like is part of the job. But do not confer legitimacy on this guy unless you're sure it helps the overall cause.

BOLDUAN: Do you think that Kim Jong-un is a smart cookie?

GRAHAM: I think he's got a plan in his own mind for regime survivability, and that is if I can get a nuclear weapon and attach it to a missile that can hit America, America will never bother me again. In his mind, the Korean War is still alive and well. He thinks we're going to invade tomorrow. We're not.

Here's what I think. I think he's a brutal man who cares more about himself than anything else. My goal is to convince him if you try to get a missile to hit America with a nuclear weapon on top that will be the end of your regime. And if he believes that, he will stop.

BOLDUAN: Right, but how can these two things -- the president says we could be headed to a major, major conflict with them, but then also says he'd be honored to meet with him under certain conditions. Does he understand -- does that confuse you?

GRAHAM: Well, what I would say to the president is that you're on the right track by getting China in the game. China controls 100 percent of North Korean economy. Don't legitimize this guy. If there's a meeting with -- between the President of the United States and Kim Jong-un, it needs to be a purpose, and I don't really understand what that purpose would be right now.

BOLDUAN: OK. You talked about inviting people to the White House. The president also has now invited the president of the Philippines to the White House. Were you happy when you heard that?

GRAHAM: No, this guy in the Philippines, I don't know all what he's done, but I know what he's said. I know his approach to being president of the Philippines is contrary to the rule of law and democracy as I know it.

But again, it's a tough world. You got problems with China and the Philippines. The Philippines have been a good ally on the war on terror. There's terrorist groups in the Philippines that we're working with the Filipino government to deal with.

But at the end of the day, this man has said things that are just completely contrary to my view of how you govern society.

BOLDUAN: You're of course investigating Russia's role in the election in your subcomittee. The president once again is saying that he's not sure it was Russia that was behind the hack, saying that, again, that he thinks it could have been China, it could have been someone else. You clearly do not agree with that, of course. We've talked about it a million times.

GRAHAM: Right.

BOLDUAN: Can people trust the president's words?

[11:10:08]GRAHAM: Well, I can tell you this. In terms of foreign policy, I like what the president's doing with Assad. I like rebuilding the military. I like putting Kim Jong-un on notice. You're not going to build a missile to hit the homeland. He wants a better deal with Iran.

BOLDUAN: But then (inaudible)?

GRAHAM: But when it comes to Russia -- you know, when it comes to Russia, Russia is the outlier. Russia did it. It wasn't the Chinese. It wasn't some 400-pound guy sitting on a bed. It was the Russian government through the intelligence services that tried to undermine our election.

They didn't change the outcome, but they did create discontent and discord here. They're doing it all over the world, and I want to punish them. I want them to pay a price for arming the Taliban, interfering in our elections, trying to undercut democracy throughout the world, invading the Ukraine, dismembering their neighborhood.

I want to punish them through sanctions. And I hope we get a chance in the Senate to vote on a sanction bill against Russia for interfering in our elections. The Russians did it. No one else did it. The Russians did it. Now, if the Obama administration politicized intelligence, if Susan Rice tried to unmask people for political reasons, I want to know that, too.

BOLDUAN: Right, but do you think the president understands that it was Russia? And he just can't --

GRAHAM: I'm not going to -- I can only tell you what Lindsey Graham understands.


GRAHAM: It was a Russian effort to undermine our election. They're trying to do the same thing in France, in Germany, and throughout the world.

BOLDUAN: You are from South Carolina. That is the least breaking news of today. The least of the breaking news today. I do need to ask you because of that, when you heard the president, Senator, say why was there a Civil War? And then later he tweeted about it again and said that Andrew Jackson would have never let it happen, what did you think?

GRAHAM: I think that there was a collision course set up in the country between the agrarian south, who depended on slaves to run the economy, and the industrialized north. It was not perfect by any means, but the war was generated over the issue of slavery.

I come from South Carolina where the war started. It's the saddest chapter in American history -- brother against brother, father against son, a nation divided, but the issue was slavery. There was no way to accommodate slavery.

The Missouri Compromise, you know, free and slave, doesn't work. The South was on the wrong side of this issue. There was no way to accommodate this. It led to a war. And Abraham Lincoln, in my view, had no other choice but to go to war with the South, because by the time he was elected, seven southern states had seceded. And I'm glad South Carolina is part of the union. I'm proud of my state.

Tim Scott is the only African-American Republican in the United States Senate. My state still has problems but we're trying to do better. So I understand why the war couldn't be avoided, because the South had a position that was just untenable and morally wrong.

BOLDUAN: Do you think -- I mean, did you ever think that you and I would have to be having to talk about the causes of the Civil War on this show?

GRAHAM: If you don't understand history, you're doomed to repeat it. It's good to understand our own faults and our own flaws when we lecture others. But the goal is to get better --

BOLDUAN: Do you think the president understands it?

GRAHAM: I hope so. I never went to school with an African-American child until I was in the sixth grade. So when I go to Afghanistan and where people talk about those people over there can never have democracy, those people over there are somehow inferior -- look in the mirror. We've had problems here at home.

I do believe that people throughout the world, Muslims included, can embrace democracy, representative government, with some differences. But there's certain things that are universal. Most mothers and fathers want the same thing for their children as you want for yours. I've come to believe that.

BOLDUAN: So Senator, what was your gut when you saw this? I mean, a lot of folks were confused first on what they -- when they saw the president kind of say this and tweet this. What was your gut? Did it make you sad? Did it make you confused? I mean --

GRAHAM: Well, I think maybe what the president was trying to say is that, with strong leadership, you can avoid bad things. Now, I think he was trying to say if you'd had -- when you look back, slavery was wrong. Why did we have to go to war to end it? Well, because people weren't going to change without the war.

But I think what he was trying to say is that, maybe with strong leadership, can you avoid problems like that. Maybe with strong leadership you can convince Putin from destroying democracy, that you can convince Iran from being a religious autocratic dictatorship, a religious Nazi regime.

You can convince Kim Jong-un not to enslave his own people and threaten America. Maybe through strong leadership you can do that. I hope so, but I know what it took to end the Civil War. It took a war.

And let me tell you what it's going to take to end the North Korean threat -- the threat of war. And if Kim Jong-un believes that we would go to war to stop his missile program, he knows he would lose and he would stop. So strong leadership can prevent wars, but sometimes it takes more than strong leadership.

BOLDUAN: Finally, Senator, President Trump's pick for Army Secretary, a man named Dr. Mark Green -- he has yet to be confirmed. I don't think a confirmation hearing has been scheduled yet.

GRAHAM: Right.

BOLDUAN: He's facing a lot of criticism for comments he's made in the past about evolution. He says he doesn't believe in evolution. But beyond that, he also notably once said that transgender is a disease.

[11:15:11]Is this a concern for you? Have you been looking into this? Do you think it's a snag for his confirmation?

GRAHAM: Well, I don't know. He's denied some of these comments, so we'll have a hearing for this very purpose. But I do know he's a military officer. He's a doctor who was involved in the raid to capture Saddam Hussein, so he has a fine military record. I know him casually. But this is why we have hearings and I want to make sure that he's the right man to lead the army.

BOLDUAN: Great to see you, Senator. Thank you so much.

GRAHAM: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Thanks for covering a lot of ground with me today. I appreciate it.

GRAHAM: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Senator Lindsey Graham on basically everything except for what we're having for lunch today. Thank you so much, Senator.

Moments from now, the president speaking live from the Rose Garden for a trophy presentation. It's time to talk a little college football, folks. We're going to take you there.

Plus the Republican Party's push to strike a health care deal. Is it more on the verge of collapse than success right now? Hear where the talks stand right now.

And a host known for making jokes, instead making an emotional plea on that very topic, health care, over his son.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I saw a lot of families there, and no parent should ever have to decide if they can afford to save that I child's life. It just shouldn't happen. Not here.



[11:20:20] BOLDUAN: We are making progress, that's the message from House Speaker Paul Ryan this morning on health care efforts amongst Republicans in the House, but clearly not making progress at least yet to hold an actual vote. CNN's Phil Mattingly is on Capitol Hill with the very latest. So Phil, all the moving parts, what did we hear -- what was the message from the speaker this morning? Where do things stand?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, at least behind closed doors, when Speaker Ryan spoke to members in an all-conference meeting, I'm told the implicit message at least was we're not there. You make the point, Kate, if they have the 216 votes they need to move forward, this bill will be on the floor very quickly.

But they are still short. Now the primary reason here is what's been plaguing this issue for the better part of the last two weeks, preexisting conditions, and how this new amendment, this MacArthur amendment will deal with the preexisting condition protections that exist in Obamacare.

Now we heard from Speaker Ryan publicly. We heard from several House leaders try and say that this bill has several layers that will kind of apply the same type of protections that you would get from Obamacare. That is not what we're hearing from Republican members who are wary of this bill and many of whom are no on this bill already.

Kate, I want to make one thing crystal clear. They're up against the max amount of people they can lose on this bill and still reach 216 votes, coming anywhere between 20 and 22 on the record, no votes, almost all of them citing that preexisting condition issue.

Most recently Fred Upton, a congressman from Michigan, who led Republican health care efforts in the House for a number of years, saying he is coming out against this as well. So while Republican leaders say they are making progresses that's not truthful, if are and right now they are well on their way to that point -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: Phil, tracking it minute by minute. Thanks. I really appreciate it.

Coming up next, our panel will discuss this, where things stand.

Plus we are also going to talk about Jimmy Kimmel's emotional plea, regarding health care, preexisting conditions, his newborn son's surgery. Stay with us.



BOLDUAN: Moments away from President Trump holding a trophy presentation in the Rose Garden. We'll bring that to you as soon as it begins. But I do want to revisit something, one of the many news nuggets we got from Senator Lindsey Graham just a moment ago, and what he said in terms of the government shutdown, the government funding bill. He said that Democrats cleaned our clocks, is how he put it. Let me bring in right now, my panel today, Alice Stewart is here, CNN political commentator, Republican strategist and communications director -- was communication director for Ted Cruz's presidential campaign, Jon Selib is a former chief of staff to Senator Max Baucus, who of course was instrumental in cropping and passing Obamacare, CNN's senior political analyst, Mark Preston, and Margaret Hoover, CNN political commentator, a former aide in a George W. Bush White House. Guys, thank you so much for being here.

So Margaret, let's talk about this. Lindsey Graham says the Democrats cleaned our clocks. He said that this is not winning from the Republican point of view.

This is in reaction to the president tweeting this morning that our country needs a good shutdown in September to fix this mess. But Paul Ryan says don't believe the press. It was a good thing for Republicans.

MARGARET HOOVER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I mean, I guess, this depends on the parallel. What parallel universe are you living in, I mean, the results of the government shutdown in 2013, by the way, the results of every government shutdown starting with Newt Gingrich in 1995 part have hurt the party that forced the shutdown. Americans want their government to work. We elect people to go to Washington and make it work.

So you can tell yourself this mantra, and maybe you can even convince that 40 percent base that that is the case, but there is still always going to be a moderate majority of reasonable -- not that any of those other 40 percent aren't reasonable, but people are not going to buy it, OK? I don't buy it. And I'm not -- I've seen it hurt Republicans.

BOLDUAN: Alice, when Paul Ryan this morning, when asked about Trump's tweet, when he says the PR machine that Democrats are pushing, don't look at the press releases, look at the bill in terms of the government funding bill.

ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: OK, well, let's look at the bill. President Trump didn't get the funding for the wall. There is funding in there for Planned Parenthood. We're still continuing Obamacare efforts, not as much EPA cuts as they wanted. Where can we go on?

I mean, Republicans did not get what they wanted in this. On the other hand I guess you could say that they did negotiate in order to come to a package that does avoid a shutdown -- but it's not genuinely factual to say that Republicans got what they wanted in this.

BOLDUAN: And it goes without saying it's not often you hear a president saying or tweeting a government shutdown would be a good thing.


HOOVER: Why are we holding his feet to the fire on the word choice now?

BOLDUAN: You know me. I think every president's words -- they should be accountable for all their words. I will say this until I'm blue in my face.

SELIB: I agree with Margaret completely. Keeping the government open shouldn't really be a sport.


SELIB: This is something that, you know, a governing party should be able to do. It's something that Republicans and Democrats should be working together to get done. You know, everybody got something in this bill, and I think it's time to move forward. And hopefully the president won't veto this bill as his tweet might have suggested.

BOLDUAN: It's fascinating that Lindsey Graham, though, he doesn't like it enough that he's not going to vote for it. But I want to move on -- we talk about moving forward, the big conversation going forward right now --