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Interview With California Senator Dianne Feinstein; No Charges in Alton Sterling Police Shooting; Republicans Nearing Health Care Vote?; No Federal Charges Against Officers in Black Man's Death; Trump: Mideast Peace "Not as Difficult as People Have Thought". Aired 6-7p ET
Aired May 3, 2017 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, there's new momentum, as two key Republicans meet with President Trump and flip their votes to yes. Is a much-needed legislative victory for the president at hand?
Insufficient evidence. The Justice Department announces it will not file federal charges against two white police officers involved in the controversial shooting death of Alton Sterling. But the case isn't over. Louisiana launches its own investigation. Will state prosecutors reach a different conclusion?
And we're going to make a deal. President Trump meets with the Palestinian Authority president and vows to work as a mediator to help achieve peace with Israel. Can this U.S. president succeed where so many of his predecessors failed?
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: We're following breaking news.
FBI Director James Comey is defending his handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton's e-mails. In a closely watched Senate hearing, Comey said it made him "mildly nauseous" to think that he swayed the outcome of the presidential race by announcing just days before the election that the Clinton probe was being reopened.
But he stood by his action and said would he do it again.
We're also following the high-stakes effort by the White House and the House GOP leadership to pass their revised bill to repeal and replace Obamacare. Two key moderate Republicans switched their votes to yes after President Trump committed to support extra money to fund coverage for people with preexisting conditions.
The president and the vice president, they are personally lobbying lawmakers right now, but the timing of the vote and the outcome remain uncertain. And the Justice Department has announced no federal charges will be
filed in the death of Alton Brown (sic), citing insufficient evidence. He was shot by Baton Rouge police while pinned to the ground by two white police officers. Now a state investigation has begun into the case into Alton Sterling, which sparked a wave of Black Lives Matter protests.
We're covering all of that, much more this hour with our guest including senator Dianne Feinstein, the ranking member of the Judiciary Committee. And our correspondents and expert analyst, they are also standing by.
Let's begin with the FBI Director James Comey's testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Our justice correspondent, Pamela Brown, has the very latest for us.
Pamela, Comey was questioned by both Democrats and Republicans.
PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf.
And it's clear that senators on both side of the aisle wanted to get a lot off their chest with FBI Director James Comey. During the animated hearing today, Comey revealed new details about his controversial handling of the two high-profile probes involving the presidential candidates during the election.
BROWN (voice-over): Tonight, FBI Director James Comey in the hot seat before the Senate Judiciary Committee, telling lawmakers he has no regrets about his letter to Congress announcing during the election that the Hillary Clinton e-mail probe was reopened, even if it affected the outcome.
JAMES COMEY, FBI DIRECTOR: Look, this is terrible. It makes me mildly nauseous to think that we might have had some impact on the election. But, honestly, it wouldn't change the decision.
Everybody who disagrees with me has to come back to October 28 with me and stare at this and tell me what you would do. Would you speak or would you conceal?
And I could be wrong, but we honestly made a decision between those two choices that even in hindsight -- and this has been one of the world's most painful experiences -- I would make the same decision. I would not conceal that on October 28 from the Congress.
SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA: Was there any conflict among your staff, people saying do it, people saying don't do it, as has been reported?
COMEY: No. It was a great debate. I have a fabulous staff at all levels. And one of my junior lawyers said, should you consider that what you're about to do may help elect Donald Trump president? And I said, thank you for raising that. Not for a moment, because down that path lies the death of the FBI's independent institution in America.
I can't consider for a second whose political fortunes will be affected in what way. We have to ask ourselves, what is the right thing do and then do that thing.
BROWN: And Comey made stunning admission that he lacked confidence in Justice Department leadership after then Attorney General Loretta Lynch met with Bill Clinton on the tarmac, which paved the way for his unprecedented press conference last July announcing he wasn't recommended charges.
COMEY: The department leadership could not credibly complete the investigation and decline prosecution without grievous damage to the American people's confidence in the justice system.
That was a hard call for me to make to call the attorney general that morning and say I'm about to do a press conference and I'm not going to tell what you I'm going to say. And I said to her, I hope some day you will understand why I think I have to do this.
But, look, I wasn't loving this. I knew this would be disastrous for me personally, but I thought this is the best way to protect these institutions that we care so much about.
BROWN: Democrats fired back, asking him why he didn't also publicly acknowledge the ongoing probe into Russia's connection with Trump campaign associates before the election?
SEN. CHRIS COONS (D), DELAWARE: Had there been public notice that there was renewed investigation into both campaigns, I think the impact would have been different. Would you agree?
COMEY: No. I thought a lot about, this and my judgment was that counterintelligence -- we have to separate two things.
I thought it was very important to call out what the Russians were trying to do with our election. And I offered in August myself to be a voice for that in public piece calling it out. The Obama administration didn't take advantage of that in August. They did it in October.
But I thought that was very important to call out.
BROWN: And Director Comey made it clear he does not plan on providing any more information about the Russia investigation until it is a closed matter. And he wouldn't commit to how he will let the public know when that happens. So, we will just have to wait and see -- Wolf.
BLITZER: We certainly will. Pamela Brown reporting, thank you.
Let's get more on all of this with Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein of California. She's the ranking member on the Senate Judiciary Committee, also a member of the Intelligence Committee.
Senator, thanks for joining us.
FEINSTEIN: You're welcome, Wolf.
BLITZER: Do you have confidence, Senator, in the FBI director, James Comey?
FEINSTEIN: Yes, I generally do, actually.
In this case, it is really off the line. I read the department policy about announcing something very controversial shortly before an election. And the department's policy says not to do that.
The -- President Clinton's assent into Loretta Lynch's plane was, I think, four months before, probably not at all relevant. Should he have done it? Probably not. But, knowing him, it was on the spur of the moment and he just did it.
With respect to this thing, here's the point. There was no new information in the Weiner computer. Now, what do I mean by that? There were 3,000 e-mails, 12 of which were classified, and all of which were part of the earlier investigation.
So, 11 days before the election, a real October surprise, the FBI director announces an investigation. Why didn't he just go ahead and get a search warrant and find out what was in that computer before he did it?
Because a great injustice was done. There was nothing new in that computer, and yet it impacted the election. I think everybody agrees to that. In one way or another, it impacted the election. So, you know, mildly nauseous doesn't sound like he was too nauseated by it. But I think it was really a bad thing to do, and really, for me, a very disappointing thing for him to do.
BLITZER: Yet, having said that, Senator, you say you still have confidence in him as the FBI director. Tell us why.
FEINSTEIN: Well, I think, overall, he is a straight shooter. He always has been with me. I think he's very -- he's not influenced by much, other than his purpose in his job. And I think that's good.
This -- something happened that I don't know about. Why didn't he bring the Russian information up? One of the things he said to us, well, one of the reasons for bringing the Clinton -- or holding the Clinton press conference 11 days before the election was, there was such great interest in this.
Well, let me tell you, when Russia hacks into our election systems, there's exceptional interest in that too. So, that argument doesn't hold up. But I am -- he is so sure that he did the right thing. And maybe I would say it was the right thing if there was new information.
BLITZER: He did say...
FEINSTEIN: There wasn't.
BLITZER: He did say that if he hadn't done 11 days before election what he did, it would have been, in his words, the death of the FBI as independent institution in America.
And he also said he didn't know that there were only 12 classified documents on the Anthony Weiner computer that had been apparently put there by Huma Abedin, Hillary Clinton's longtime assistant. That was revealed to him at the end of that investigation, what, a couple or three days before the investigation.
FEINSTEIN: Well, he could have gotten a search warrant and they could have searched the computer, and they could have done the comparison I would think rather quickly electronically and found that there was nothing new there.
BLITZER: Are you troubled, Senator, that there were 12 classified documents on former Congressman Anthony Weiner's computer?
FEINSTEIN: Well, yes.
I don't know if they were documents. Classified is all different. I would have to see the actual e-mails to answer that question. They are all different ranks. And sometimes things aren't really very classified. Other times, they are very classified. And it all depends upon the markings on the header and bottom of the e-mail. So, I would have to see those before I could comment.
BLITZER: Are you going to check that?
FEINSTEIN: Am I going to check that?
BLITZER: Is your committee going to look into that?
FEINSTEIN: Well, I haven't thought about it, but might be a good idea.
BLITZER: Let's talk a little bit about some of the other issues that came up during the course of this hearing.
Does Hillary Clinton also own responsibility for her handling of the e-mail situation, the private server she used during her four years as secretary of state? Does she have some of the responsibility for this entire investigation even beginning?
FEINSTEIN: Well, I will tell you, nobody here has informed me of how to use the BlackBerry when had a BlackBerry. We do not now have a BlackBerry. There was no information. There were no rules.
The State Department should, I think, have a protocol whereby every new person coming into that department has a specific instruction. And I don't believe that existed. Was it the smartest thing she could do? No, no question about that. But I don't think I don't think she had the intent, candidly, to do
harm or to be illegal in any way. When we looked at some of the e- mails during the Benghazi report, there was nothing there.
BLITZER: The reason that Comey says he did what he did, he called it the capper for him, the then Attorney General Loretta Lynch's meeting with former Bill Clinton on that plane a few months earlier. He said that caused him to go public with that October 28 letter to Congress.
Do you think that meeting between Loretta Lynch and Bill Clinton justified what he did?
FEINSTEIN: Well, the meeting on the plane, as I understand it, was either late June or early July. That's a long time before October 11. So I don't quite know -- it wasn't October 11.
BLITZER: On October 28.
FEINSTEIN: So, 11 days, October 28. That's a long time. That's several months.
So, that's hard for me to reconcile what he even meant by that.
BLITZER: Yes, 11 days before the election, he came out with the letter that Hillary Clinton only yesterday said was partially to blame for her defeat in the election.
BLITZER: He says he's not -- he never publicly disclosed the criminal investigation that was under way into looking into Trump associates' ties with Russia. That investigation, he earlier said started at the end of July. He said he never released that information because it was a matter of timing.
Do you accept that explanation?
FEINSTEIN: No, I don't, because I think that is really important.
And we have all of the American intelligence agencies who did a joint report who made a finding -- which made a finding with high confidence that there was a covert influence campaign going on headed by two Russian intelligence agencies.
And most people that know those agencies do not believe that that influence campaign covertly would have been conducted without either the knowledge or the direction of the head of government. So, this is a very major thing.
And to think that it may be going on in Europe now and may still be going on in this country in other ways, I think is a major problem before this country, in terms of dealing with Russia and its hacking and the destruction that brings about.
BLITZER: Yes. Comey himself said it is still going on.
BLITZER: They're still hacking and they are still trying to interfere in U.S. politics even as we speak right now. He is referring to the Russians.
Your chairman, the Judiciary Committee chairman, Chuck Grassley, he pressed Director Comey about that so-called Trump dossier which came out, saying the FBI and the Justice Department provided him with material inconsistent answers. So, those are the words, Senator Grassley.
Do you believe the FBI and Department of Justice have provided what Senator Grassley calls materially inconsistent answers when it comes to that dossier and the author of that dossier, Christopher Steele?
FEINSTEIN: Well, I can't really answer that question.
I do know that the differences that I know of were minor. Now, they are classified, so I can't talk to you about it. But I don't think that was the intent. And I -- the director of the FBI has briefed in a classified way the chair and the ranking, which is Grassley and me, of Judiciary.
So we have a good classified analysis of what is going on.
BLITZER: I know that you and some of your colleagues from the Senate Intelligence Committee drove over to Langley, Virginia, yesterday to CIA headquarters and you were briefed.
Here's the question.
BLITZER: And you don't have to provide us with any classified information, Senator.
But do you believe, do you have evidence that there was in fact collusion between Trump associates and Russia during the campaign?
FEINSTEIN: Not at this time.
BLITZER: That's a pretty precise answer. I know the investigation is continuing.
Senator, thanks so much for joining us.
FEINSTEIN: Thank you. Thank you very much.
BLITZER: Senator Dianne Feinstein joining us, a member of the Judiciary Committee, the ranking member, and the Intelligence Committee.
Much more coming on the breaking news. Let's take a quick break. We will be right back.
BLITZER: The breaking news the nation, the FBI director, James Comey, strongly defending his handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton's e-mails.
He testified before Senate -- senators that he is troubled to think his announcement that the probe was being reopened just days before the election impacted the outcome. But he says he would do it again.
Let's get some more from our analysts and specialists.
And, Dana Bash, first your reaction to what we just heard from Senator Dianne Feinstein, where I asked her specifically, have you seen evidence that there was collusion between Trump associates and Russia during the campaign leading to all this meddling? And she said, not at this time.
DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Not at this time, which is significant for several reasons, but first and foremost because she and her colleagues on the Senate Intelligence Committee spent hours at Langley, CIA headquarters, looking at documents about their -- pertaining to their investigation to try to answer that very question, whether or not there was collusion, cooperation, anything between Trump campaign officials, people related to the Trump campaign, and Russia.
And the fact that obviously she is not divulging anything classified, she is very careful, but that she can comfortably say not yet after that, never mind other trips to Langley, is significant.
BLITZER: And I specifically told her, don't share any classified information.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. And she didn't have to.
BLITZER: She has received, as a top member of the Intelligence Committee, the ranking member the Judiciary Committee, the former chair, vice chair of the Intelligence, she has received a lot of classified information. And she said she has not seen, at least not yet, any evidence of collusion.
BORGER: She said that, but, you know, the FBI director today wouldn't go there in any way shape and form on the Russia investigation that he is looking into.
So, you know, she says no evidence. We have heard other people say that they have seen no evidence of collusion. But it is significant coming from her, because today she was pretty critical of...
BLITZER: What do you think?
PHILIP MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: I wouldn't read too much into her statement.
Let's be clear about the distinction between the CIA and the FBI. The CIA is looking at information about Russian involvement in the American election. The FBI is conducting interviews of people like Carter Page, for example, to determine what they say and whether that corresponds to what we've seen in intercepts with the Russian ambassador.
The CIA might not and should not see those interviews. So, she is seeing a foreign intelligence picture that's different than what FBI sees.
BLITZER: Bianna, go ahead.
BIANNA GOLODRYGA, YAHOO NEWS: And remember what Joaquin Castro said on this very show. He told you after the information that he had seen, it's his belief that somebody from the Trump organization would in fact be going to prison. So that was pretty damning words and statements from Joaquin Castro as well.
BLITZER: Yes. He is on the House Intelligence Committee. I don't know what he was referring to, but I do remember that. Bianna, he was very, very precise on that.
Gloria, I want you to listen to what the FBI director, James Comey, said today in justifying his decision to announce that he was reopening the investigation into Hillary Clinton's e-mail server only 11 days before the election. .
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COMEY: Look, this was terrible. It makes me mildly nauseous to think that we have had some impact on the election. But, honestly, it wouldn't change the decision.
Everybody who disagrees with me has to come back to October 28 with me and stare at this and tell me what you would do. Would you speak or would you conceal?
And I could be wrong, but we honestly made a decision between those two choices that, even in hindsight, and this has been one of the world's most painful experiences, I would make the same decision. I would not conceal that on October 28 from the Congress.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: He says he has a choice to make, either speak or conceal.
BORGER: Yes, lots of people are calling it Comey's choice now, speak or conceal. And, look, it is very controversial, obviously. You know, he had an
investigation going on into Donald Trump that time. He did not speak. He concealed, OK?
And the Justice Department rules, as Dianne Feinstein was saying to you just a few minutes go, the Justice Department rules are don't announce anything or let anyone know about anything close to an election. He will say he didn't announce it, that he just notified members of congressional committees.
Well, I would have to tell you that is tantamount to announcing it. And he knew it. And he admitted that today, that he knew it was going to get out.
BLITZER: His argument -- and you heard it -- was that when he ended the investigation, what, at the end of June, early July, he notified members of Congress, if that changes, I will let you know.
He said, 11 days before, in that letter, it has changed. We are reopening the investigation. He felt it was his responsibility to notify the relevant committees.
BASH: And it is understandable that he felt that it was his responsibility, because he did explicitly say that he was going to get back to them.
But that doesn't answer the question that Dianne Feinstein, who is not a partisan hack -- she is somebody who really does see both sides of every story. And other Democrats, who may be more partisan, all agree, it just doesn't make any sense why he was so forthcoming with that information, and said nothing about the ongoing investigation, when it is still ongoing now, with the current president's former campaign officials and Russia.
BASH: And that...
BASH: ... in July.
BLITZER: Yes, go ahead, Bianna.
GOLODRYGA: And he also made the decision to put himself out there with that press conference he held last summer regarding Hillary Clinton, suggesting that they do not see any information that she should be indicted for, but at the same time gave his own opinion as to how she acted and how he thought that she was careless.
That was something he did not have to do.
BLITZER: Did he make the right call, Phil Mudd, at the end of the campaign, October 28, notifying Congress that the investigation was being reopened?
MUDD: Sort of. Zero sympathy, Wolf. Zero crocodile tears. That's exactly right.
He made the decision in July to do what he could have gotten out of. Every FBI director could say, as they all do, I'm not going to talk about an investigation. He talked about it. And as we just discussed, he offered his personal opinion: We aren't going to prosecute, but she was extremely incautious.
Once he did that, he almost had to speak in October. But don't tell me that it is the fault of the American people for putting pressure on him to speak about whether or not they were reopening. He said the trap in July and he had to close the trap in October.
BORGER: Here was the most amazing thing I thought he said today, was that after Loretta Lynch went on the airplane and met with Bill Clinton that he felt he had to speak, and that he didn't tell her what he was going to do about the e-mail investigation. He just told her he had a decision.
BORGER: Then went out there and said something. But I think that may have had something to do with this whole mind-set, because it seemed to me from listening to him today that he thought the reputation of the Justice Department and the FBI was kind of sitting on his shoulders.
BLITZER: Loretta Lynch made a major mistake in meeting with Bill Clinton.
BASH: She did. And the drama of all of those decisions, these snap decisions, Huma Abedin sending e-mails to her husband to print out, Loretta Lynch getting on a plane -- or -- excuse me -- Bill Clinton getting on a plane with Loretta Lynch, which was a terrible idea, things that just happened in the moment were so consequential.
BLITZER: They certainly were.
Everybody, stand by. There's more breaking news ahead, fast-moving developments, as Republicans now scrambling to get enough votes to pass their health care bill tomorrow.
Plus, no federal charges in the controversial police shooting, but tonight the case is entering a critical new phase.
BLITZER: We're following the breaking news up on Capitol Hill, where House Republicans, they're huddling right now, trying to come up with enough votes to pass the revised health care bill before members leave on recess.
[18:32:54] Our congressional correspondent Phil Mattingly is joining us with the very latest.
Phil, pressure right now enormous on the speaker, Paul Ryan.
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, no question at all, Wolf. This is really a make or break moment for House Republicans and the White House. As one senior GOP aide told me earlier today, there is no going back to the drawing board. This is the moment.
I'll tell you, they had a spark of momentum this morning in the shape of an amendment, changes to the bill that they had been considering that would add $8 billion to this legislation to try and calm concerns about what it would actually do to those with preexisting conditions. Now how did this actually all happen?
Well, let Fred Upton, congressman from Michigan, lay it out.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. FRED UPTON (R), MICHIGAN: The president was seeking our opinion, probably a lot of my colleagues over the last number of weeks. Again, when he called me yesterday, I told him I was a "no." And I told him that I was a "no" because of the provision on preexisting illnesses. And he said that he wanted it covered.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTINGLY: And the result of that was this deal. Fred Upton now a firm "yes" on this bill. Also Billy Long, a Missouri congressman who helped work on that amendment is a yes, as well.
And I'm told from aides that are very familiar with this process, as the full-on blitz has gone on behind the scenes --Vice President Mike Pence on the Hill; President Trump making phone calls; House Republican leaders working every individual member they can to try and get them on board -- that they are cautiously optimistic that they could get there.
Now, what does "get there" mean? It would mean, Wolf, a vote as soon as tomorrow, before they leave for that recess. But the question remains, is the amendment, is the addition of that $8 billion enough to get members comfortable with essentially the idea they will be touching a third rail?
This idea of pre-existing conditions, changing the price protections, or at least giving the states the opportunity to opt out of the price protections that were included in Obamacare. This is something they campaigned against doing repeatedly over the course of the last couple of years. That is now on the table in order to bring conservatives in line.
The question remains, can they keep those moderates, those centrists who are very worried about their electoral future, very worried about what they've been hearing from constituents over the course of the last couple of days, on board as they move forward? We don't have an answer yet.
[18:35:08] But Wolf, as you noted, House Republican leaders are meeting now. If things go well, they expect to kick off this process tonight, potentially go to Rules Committee as soon as this evening to set up that vote for tomorrow. But as they've made clear throughout, they will do nothing until they know they have the votes and, at least until this moment, they haven't announced that they have those votes, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. We'll stay in close touch with you, Phil. Thank you. Phil Mattingly reporting.
President Trump is personally lobbying House Republicans to back the bill. Our senior White House correspondent, Jim Acosta is joining us.
Jim, it's the issue of coverage for preexisting conditions that will make or break this effort.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Wolf. The White House is feeling a bit more optimistic about the GOP's chances in the House to repeal and replace Obamacare. Aides to the president are confident that Republicans have solved what Phil Mattingly was just talking about, a big problem in the bill originally. And that is, specifically, how to handle consumers with pre-existing conditions. Those consumers have those protections under Obamacare.
But it's more complicated under Trumpcare, which allow states, as Phil was saying, to opt out of those provisions. But White House press secretary Sean Spicer assured reporters earlier today that there will be no fallout for those consumers under Trumpcare. Here's what he had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ACOSTA: Why change preexisting conditions?
SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We're not. No, no. We're strengthening. I think, look, we have done everything to do to not only strengthen but to guarantee...
ACOSTA: Strengthening it?
ACOSTA: A governor can say, you know, "Here's my waiver" and no more pre-existing conditions.
SPICER: Sure you can. Jim, I walked through this. But I think the fundamental point that seems to be getting lost is that, if you have Obamacare right now, in case after case, you're losing it.
So if you have a pre-existing condition, and you have a card that says Obamacare, but no one will see you or you can't afford it, then you don't have coverage.
ACOSTA: Why not fix that?
SPICER: We are. We're guaranteeing it. But I don't know how much -- we -- literally, the president...
ACOSTA: Why does it have to be altered? Why not just keep that protection in place.
SPICER: The president has made it very clear that preexisting conditions are covered in the bill under every scenario. I don't know how much clearer we can state it.
ACOSTA: So anybody who has a pre-existing condition, under Trumpcare, they're going to be fine?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ACOSTA: So mark that piece of tape or video, Wolf. Sean Spicer saying that those Americans with preexisting conditions will be, quote, "fine" under Trumpcare. Of course, if it doesn't turn out that way, that video could come back to haunt this White House.
President Trump, as you said, has spent the last 24 hours meeting with and calling roughly a dozen lawmakers; but the White House is not offering any assurances to those lawmakers at this point, Wolf, that this bill won't be changed in the Senate. Spicer earlier today at the briefing said that's just simply part of the legislative process.
So a lot of uncertainty for these lawmakers as they take the plunge and vote for this bill, Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes. Even if it does get to 216 votes in the House of Representatives, there's a huge, huge battle in the U.S. Senate.
Jim Acosta, thanks very much.
So Dana, what do you think? The $8 billion they've included in this new amendment to pay for the pre-existing conditions over five years, Nancy Pelosi says that's certainly not enough.
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: No. Look, I mean, at the end of the day, it's $8 billion over 100-something billion that was already in there for these high-risk pools.
One of the main reasons why the proponents of Obamacare wanted to have this complete ban on pre-existing conditions is because the high-risk pools that existed before Obamacare were kind of a joke. Because they were never funded properly, and people got insurance, but they couldn't pay for it.
So that's why people like Fred Upton and Billy Long, who come from districts where that's really necessary, got it. The question is, why others who are in the Freedom Caucus and elsewhere aren't more insistent on more money, because a lot of those districts are rural districts where people have trouble getting access to health care and health insurance and will potentially need it.
So whether it's enough is a question. In terms of the policy, the big question is whether it's enough to get the votes, and they seem to be right on the -- on the edge of the razor right now.
BLITZER: Because it seems like the momentum, Gloria, over the past past 24 hours has shifted a bit in favor of getting those...
BORGER: Sure, sure. Because, you know, Upton, who said that this bill had been torpedoed, suddenly changed his mind.
But the question that I have is what makes think that $8 billion is going to cover the risk, the high-risk pools? I mean, and by the way, this is money that goes to the insurance companies.
I would also add that, you know, conservative think tanks have done estimates about this, Wolf. And they say that it's more like 15 to $20 billion or something like that over -- over a year. So how much money will be committed to these high-risk pools if it turns out that it is not actually working and it's not covering these people?
And if I were in a district where my, you know, my constituents were concerned about paying more for their insurance and pre-existing conditions or losing their insurance, I would be -- I would be questioning whether this is enough money. And if you're a conservative, you're like, "Well, we don't want to put any more money into it."
[18:40:10] BLITZER: You know, Bianna, the -- if there was a vote tomorrow -- we don't know if there will be; there might be a vote tomorrow -- the members are not going to have the advantage of a Congressional Budget Office report fully showing how these revisions are going to play out.
BIANNA GOLODRYGA, YAHOO! NEWS: Yes, it has not been scored yet. One big hindrance right there, one big missing component.
And yet, they're pushing for a vote; and Sean Spicer himself said today, quote, "It's impossible to determine the impact of the health care bill." So I think there's a lot of question as to why push this right now? You've got some crucial votes coming up in 2018. You're going to have congressmen put themselves on the line right now, voting for something that they don't know the consequences of. It's like buying a new car without testing the brakes first.
BLITZER: What happens if it does pass, Bianna, and gets through the Senate? Then who knows what's going to happen there?
GOLODRYGA: Well, of course we're going to be talking about an entirely different bill when it gets to the Senate, if it does pass. But obviously, this administration and this president is looking for any sort of win, any sort of positive momentum that he can get; and it does look like, as of today, he got some good news.
BASH: But you know, I just...
BLITZER: Go ahead.
BASH: ... just quickly, add that Bianna is totally right. It is like buying a car without testing the brakes, but all these House members know that that car is going to be in the garage for a really long time. Because they -- they're passing something, potentially, and then they're going to wait to see what the Senate does. The Senate is no way going to do anything that looks much like the House...
BLITZER: But if it does pass, Gloria, if it does pass, the president of the United States, he will be out there claiming a huge victory.
BASH: Of course. They all are.
BORGER: But he will also own it. And that's important. Because if people start feeling this, he's going to own it. And don't forget -- the minute it passes, the Democrats are going to be up on the air in lots of districts with ads about how this is going to take away the most -- one of the most important things that people wanted and liked in Obamacare.
GOLODRYGA: And think about how much time and momentum this is taking away from his other project, and that's tax reform, as well. So the longer he spends on health care right now and pushing for a bill, the more it takes away from something else he really campaigned on doing.
BLITZER: Yes, he says he's not going to do tax reform or infrastructure until he gets health care passed...
BORGER: Well, he needs the money, yes.
BLITZER: ... through the House and the Senate.
All right, guys, stand by. Just ahead, two white police officers escaping federal charges in the fatal shooting of an African-American man. So what does it say about race and justice in the era right now of President Trump?
[18:47:29] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: We're following breaking news on race and justice in America. Justice Department announcing that no federal charges are filed against two white police officers in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, in the fatal shooting of an African-American man while he was pinned to the ground. The confrontation caught on video.
Let's talk about the Alton Sterling case, Trump administration's handling of it, what comes next. We are joined by legal analyst, former federal prosecutors Laura Coates, and our CNN justice reporter Laura Jarrett.
Laura Jarrett -- two Lauras -- let me start with you.
How did the Justice Department come to today's decision? LAURA JARRETT, CNN JUSTICE REPORTER: So, this investigation has been ongoing for almost year, Wolf, since July 2016. And federal investigators revealed today that after watching dozens of tapes and interviewing a number of witnesses, they simply couldn't support a federal -- a civil rights charge because officers say he had a gun on him. That changed the whole equation for defense.
BLITZER: Alton Sterling did have a gun that was what, in his pocket, is that right?
JARRETT: That's what they say.
BLITZER: That's what they say.
Let's show video to our viewers, Laura Coates. And then we will discuss. Watch this.
(VIDEO CLIP PLAYS)
BLITZER: Disturbing video. Difficult for all of us to watch, but explain the Department of Justice position, Laura. The bar that they need in order to file these kinds of charges.
LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, you know, when you talk about a federal civil rights charge, not talking about simply homicide, you're talking about whether or not you can prove that the officer had the intent to act under the color of law, mean they use a uniform or a position as a police officer to try to exploit or take away someone's life to liberty in this case.
And so, the fact that Alton Sterling had a gun in his pocket, not whether he's actually used it against them, the officers are saying, listen, we believe we actually had the self preservation or self- defense right to act in this case.
We have not been able to clearly see from the video whether or not Mr. Sterling took the gun out of his pocket, but the fact he was there with what changed the equation. But the misconception is that if you don't have a federal charge, you can't have a state charge. It's very, very different. The federal charges are whether or not the officer was doing the wrong thing under the cover of his authority. A state homicide charge, which I think is coming up next, it's actually a very, very nuance, something that people are more accustomed to seeing.
[18:50:04] BLITZER: Laura, the Sterling family attorneys, they say they have enhanced audio of incident that captures one of the police officers, Blane Salamoni, threatening to kill sterling. What's the Justice Department's reaction to this?
JARETT: Yes. So, that's one of the new things we actually learned today. In addition to this enhanced audio, we also learned that one of the police officers pointed a gun at Sterling's head during this encounter and that's not one of the things that we knew before today. And so, we asked the Department of Justice about that enhanced audio, but their position is this is now up to the states. We've turned the investigation over to the state attorney general's office so we can't comment on it.
BLITZER: What, if anything, does this tell us about the new Justice Department under Jeff Sessions in the Trump administration, if anything?
COATES: Well, remember, Eric Holder, the former A.G., was very critical about the very high bar that you had to prove for federal civil rights statutes violations. And the bar is so high because the Supreme Court essentially has said we're going to defer to the officer. They are very nuanced. They have a split-second decisions they have to make on a daily basis the common man just can't make.
But that bar is an artificially high bar for police officers, which is not there for the common citizen. So, this is the very first case under the Jeff Sessions administration where you're going to have the race-based conflict of the police versus the community and what we're seeing so far in combination with the fact you're going to have to look at all the consent decrees. You may have a hostile Department of Justice towards these sorts of cases.
BLITZER: We'll see what the state of Louisiana does in this case.
All right, ladies. Thanks very much, Laura and Laura.
COATES: Thank you.
JARRETT: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: Just ahead, President Trump meets with the Palestinian leader over at the White House, revs up hopes for Middle East peace. Is he overpromising, underestimating one of the world's most complicated problems?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's something that I think is frankly maybe not as difficult as people have thought over the years, but we need two willing parties. We believe Israel is willing, we believe you're willing and if you both are willing, we're going to make a deal.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[18:56:33] BLITZER: Tonight, President Trump says there's a good chance he can broker a Middle East peace deal. After meeting with the leader of the Palestinian Authority, the president suggests that the diplomatic challenge that has stumped so many presidents isn't as difficult as it seems.
Let's bring in our global affairs correspondent Elise Labott.
Elise, the president says he's going to, quote, "get it done."
ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. The president essentially said he was launching a peace process and
that he was ready to be a mediator, arbitrator or facilitator between the Israelis and Palestinians. And standing next to President Abbas, who he met today for the first time, he committed himself to pulling off what he has called "the toughest deal in the world."
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's a great honor to have the president with us.
LABOTT (voice-over): President Trump warmly welcomed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to the White House, vowing to do, quote, "whatever is necessary to help broker a Middle East peace deal."
TRUMP: I've always heard that perhaps the toughest deal to make is the deal between the Israelis and the Palestinians. Let's see if we can prove them wrong, OK?
LABOTT: Trump promising economic development for the Palestinians and hailing cooperation between Israeli and Palestinian security forces. He called on Abbas and his government to renounce terrorism.
TRUMP: There can be no lasting peace unless the Palestinian leaders speak in a unified voice against incitement to violate and violence and hate. There's such hatred. But hopefully, there won't be such hatred for very long.
LABOTT: Abbas pitched himself to Trump as a partner and praised the president as a master deal-maker whose leadership offered a historic opportunity for peace.
MAHMOUD ABBAS, PRESIDENT, PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY: Mr. President, with you, we have hope.
LABOTT: Trump campaigned as a pro-Israel candidate who promised to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
TRUMP: We will move the American embassy to the eternal capital of the Jewish people, Jerusalem.
LABOTT: And standing next to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in February broke with decades of U.S. policy, backing away from the two-state solution that would give the Palestinians a state.
TRUMP: I'm looking at two-state and one-state and I like the one that both parties like. I'm very happy with the one that both parties like. I can live with either one.
LABOTT: Trump hasn't shied away from those controversial pledges, and over lunch with Abbas, predicted the deal which has eluded presidents for decades was within his grasp.
TRUMP: It's something that I think is frankly maybe not as difficult as people have thought over the years, but we need two willing parties. We believe Israel is willing, we believe you're willing and if you both are willing, we'll make a deal.
LABOTT: And officials say the president is planning a trip to Israel later this month where he will meet with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and possibly again with President Abbas. And although the Palestinians are hopeful about such a visit, his new envoy to Washington told me a few days ago, Wolf, that if President Trump goes to the region and talks about moving that embassy, it could jeopardizes the momentum that he has with his new diplomatic initiatives.
BLITZER: We'll see what he does. Elise, thanks very, very much. Important report for us.
That's it for me. Thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM."
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.