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AT THIS HOUR
FBI Chief Testimony On Clinton Aide Emails Overstated; GOP's Graham Wants To Probe Trump's Biz Dealings; GOP Lawmaker Storms Out Of Interview Over Health Care; Kimmel Rips Critics Of His Emotional Health Care Plea; Senate GOP's Health Care Panel: All White Men; Trump Weighs Troop Surge In America's Longest War. Aired 11-11:30a ET
Aired May 9, 2017 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- for me.
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COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Big words by Bouchard, backed by a big win, guys. Back to you.
POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: All right, Coy Wire, thank you so much. Thank you all for joining us. I'm Poppy Harlow.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: I'm John Berman. "AT THIS HOUR" with Brianna Keilar today starts right now.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN GUEST ANCHOR: Hi, there. I'm Brianna Keilar in for Kate Bolduan. Happening right now, a day after testimony revealed details behind Michael Flynn's ouster as national security adviser, President Trump is meeting with Flynn's replacement, H.R. McMaster, to discuss possibly increasing U.S. troop levels in Afghanistan.
Also this morning, the head of the National Security Agency is testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee. Admiral Mike Rogers answering questions about cyber threats to the U.S. and all of this coming as new questions arise about previous testimony from the FBI director.
CNN has learned that James Comey might have overstated some details about Hillary Clinton's infamous e-mails. And I want to talk about this now with CNN political director, David Chalian, and CNN justice correspondent, Evan Perez.
So Evan, let's start with you. This seems like a big mistake that he made testifying before Congress.
EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: It's definitely a mistake, and I think the FBI's now trying to figure out how to clean this up, perhaps they'll send a letter to Congress. What Comey should have said was that Huma Abedin had set up a forwarding system, a backup system, whereby her work e-mails were being sent to Anthony Weiner's laptop. That's her husband's laptop.
In some cases, perhaps she did forward some e-mails for him to print out. The way Comey said it during the congressional hearing last week, however, he said that she forwarded routinely hundreds of thousands of e-mails and that the intention was for him to print them out for her to present to the secretary of state.
Perhaps that's what she did in a few cases. It certainly was not an intentional thing the way it was for hundreds of thousands of e-mails.
KEILAR: And that's obviously a very important distinction, David Chalian. The surprising thing I think for many observers, you included, is that the FBI is sort of just trying to figure out right now how to respond to this when it seems pretty clear something was wrong, why don't they just say, here's what really happened?
DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Well, Evan made this point, but to me, if you're someone like Jim Comey, who really holds himself up to be the arbiter of truth at all things, and even if he makes controversial decisions, he stands by them because he believes that's where truth is, it's very hard then when you make a mistake.
CHALIAN: Because then you have held yourself as this person who delivers the truth, and if you make a mistake, you've set yourself up to get this kind of blowback and criticism. So, it seems -- I went back to the letter that he wrote to FBI employees last October, explaining his decision of why he was looking back into the Clinton matter and why he sent this letter to Congress.
He said I feel an obligation to do so, given that I testified repeatedly in recent months that our investigation was completed. I also think it would be misleading to the American people were we not to supplement the record.
Well, I don't know how the same person who can have that guiding philosophy to make sure the record is correct not now correct the record with, as you reported, an erroneous statement to Congress.
KEILAR: Because it says there are a couple of sources -- this is according to the "Propublica" story. They first broke this and they're saying, including in law enforcement, there was only a handful of e-mails that were forwarded. Just to, again, point out, that is a huge distinction between hundreds of thousands.
CHALIAN: I think he said hundreds and thousands.
KEILAR: Hundreds and thousands that Comey made it out to be. So, what is the FBI trying to figure out as they decide how to respond to this?
PEREZ: Look, I think given the "Propublica" story last night and given our coverage and other people's coverage today, it's pretty clear what the FBI is going to have to do. I think certainly as David points out, the standard that the FBI director has set is one now that whenever he makes a mistake in his testimony, he's going to have to correct it.
Look, covering the FBI, we've seen him make mistakes before, nothing of this sort of magnitude and certainly not with this kind of attention, but we've seen him make mistakes. At one point, he described incorrectly the procedure by which they got sensitive information, and describing how the RNC hacked. It wasn't.
So, we've seen that before and the FBI generally just papers it over. In this case, I think given the attention it's going to get, they're going to have to clean it up.
KEILAR: Because he's been such a sort of interventionist on this issue. I do want to ask you about something Lindsey Graham told our Manu Raju, and this was in relation to something that was asked of the former DNI Director, James Clapper, yesterday, where he was asked about Donald Trump's business dealings and if that may have had anything to do with the Russian attempts to meddle in the election. He said no comment and it seems this is what's following from Republican Senator Lindsey Graham. Let's listen to what he wants.
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[11:05:07]MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: The Russians funded any of these Trump golf courses?
SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: I don't know. That's -- you know, this is -- hopefully, people are looking at that kind of stuff. And it's not wrong to do business with Russians. There's no crime in that, but the Trump team said they never did business with Russians.
So, all I want to know is I want to know everything about what happened in 2016 between the Russian government, Trump campaign, and don't conflate the two. The Russians tried to undermine our election. That's different than colluding with the Trump campaign.
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KEILAR: That's an important distinction as well, but there also seems, perhaps, to be some bipartisan appetite for dissecting the president's business dealings.
CHALIAN: Well, I think Lindsey Graham was one of the Republican senators on the panel, and there were a few others, you're right, that show a bipartisan effort, but to get to all questions about Russian interference with the election.
And if business ties are part of that calculation or not, or if they're part of the collusion accusations or not, that needs to be run down, according to Graham.
It is interesting, though, how -- because when Clapper was asked about it, he also stressed that there was nothing about the business ties that came to the level of being included into the intelligence community assessment that was delivered last year.
That -- it did not rise to that level. But then when pressed, well, after that assessment was delivered, did you find any connections? And that's when he said, I can't comment, because that may have impact on the investigation.
PEREZ: And keep in mind, I mean, at the time of this investigation, when -- what Clapper is talking about, December-January, there's been a lot done since then by the intelligence community, by the FBI into this investigation and I think the bottom line from the hearing yesterday, certainly with Lindsey Graham's questions, is that this is a bipartisan thing that is not going to let this Russia story just go away.
KEILAR: All right, Evan Perez, David Chalian, thank you so much to both of you.
Some schoolchildren in Dubuque, Iowa, got a crash course in the sometimes contentious relationship between politicians and the media. Let me set the scene for you.
Republican Congressman Rod Blum of Iowa was getting ready for a town hall meeting with constituents, and before that, a local TV reporter was interviewing him in a classroom full of children.
The reporter asked Blum why he was making people show their I.D.s before they could get into the town halls, checking to see if they were constituents of his district. That was when things went from awkward to over. Take a look.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I think some would make the case that you represent all Iowans. The decisions that you make impact all Iowans, so shouldn't all Iowans have a voice at the table, or at least have the option to?
REPRESENTATIVE ROD BLUM (R), IOWA: I don't represent all Iowans. I represent the first district of Iowa. That be like saying, shouldn't I be able to, even though I live in Dubuque, go vote in Iowa City during the election because I'd like to vote in that district instead?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would you still take donations from a Republican in Iowa City?
BLUM: I'm, I'm, I'm done.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We haven't even -- we've just started.
BLUM: This is ridiculous. This is ridiculous. He's going to sit here and just badger me.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We just asked why you wanted to do the interview. That was it. Congressman, you'd -- come on. Take a seat.
(END VIDEO CLIP) KEILAR: And joining me now is that investigative reporter, Josh Scheinblum from KCRG-TV. He said that you ambushed him. I would disagree with that, I think those are reasonable questions you asked, but he is under a lot of pressure as well. From your view where you were, why did he get so upset here?
JOSH SCHEINBLUM, CHIEF INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER, KCRG-TV: I think that's a question you'd probably have to ask the congressman, why he had gotten upset. What I can tell you is that I try to conduct interviews the same way when it comes to a Republican or Democrat.
In fact, I'm actually interviewing Representative Dave Lopesack. He is in the district in Iowa City, a Democrat. And you know, we had sent e-mail correspondence. We've been speaking on the phone. This is something that we have been doing for weeks with his staff.
The very last e-mail that I received, they asked me to come to that Dubuque Community Center. There was no attachment about there being an event or anything like that. He did say he was there for a tour, but that's about it.
I told them I would meet them anywhere at any time, any day, weekend, you name it, I will drive to your location as soon as you're in the state of Iowa. They gave us a location. I said I'd be there early so we could set up our cameras, and that was that.
KEILAR: OK, so, you set up the interview, and he went after this right into a town hall meeting. How did that go?
SCHEINBLUM: So, our interview was before the town hall.
[11:10:02]KEILAR: That's right. And after your interview that he walked out of, he then had a town hall at this school. Was this contentious?
SCHEINBLUM: Well, I was not at the town hall meeting. We had another reporter who was covering that and actually, Representative Blum talked with that reporter and said that he was under the impression that we would be talking about the tour that he was doing with that school, that the reason that we were there was simply to talk about that, and that he felt as though he was ambushed.
KEILAR: All right, he felt as though he was ambushed. Sounded like valid questions to me, though. Josh Scheinblum from KCRG-TV, thank you so much.
SCHEINBLUM: Thank you.
KEILAR: And now to an unlikely player in the health care debate, Jimmy Kimmel, defending his emotional monologue last week about his newborn son's health care and his plea to lawmakers to help people with pre-existing conditions. The late-night comedian offering a backhanded apology to his critics. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) JIMMY KIMMEL, HOST, "JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE": One week ago tonight I made an emotional speech that was seen by millions, and as a result of my powerful words on that night, Republicans in Congress had second thoughts about repeal and replace. They realized that what is right is right, and I saved health insurance in the United States of America. Thank you!
And I would like to apologize for saying that children in America should have health care. It was insensitive. It was offensive, and I hope you can find it in your heart to forgive me.
Bill Cassidy is the United States senator for Louisiana. He's a doctor. He's a gastroenterologist, married to a retired doctor. His wife, Lauren, was a surgeon. He co-founded the Greater Baton Rouge Community Clinic, which provides free dental care and health care to the working uninsured.
So obviously this is someone who cares about people's health and I asked him to join us tonight and he's with us. Let's talk about health care. Now my first question is why are the vast majority of Republican politicians against making sure Americans are truly covered when it comes to health care?
SENATOR BILL CASSIDY (R), LOUISIANA: Well, if you take the most prominent Republican politician, Donald Trump, he has said that he actually wants all to be covered, he wants to take care of pre- existing conditions, without mandates. Americans hate mandates.
And lastly, maybe most importantly, he wants to lower premiums. Right now, families have premiums $20,000 and $30,000, almost $40,000 a year with $6,000 to $13,000 family deductibles.
Now, a middle class family can't afford that. We have got to have insurance that passes the Jimmy Kimmel test, but a middle class family can no longer afford.
KIMMEL: Do you believe that this health care, the health care bill that they passed, does that, lowers those costs for middle class people?
CASSIDY: The House plan was scored by the Congressional Budget Office as actually raising premiums, which is why on the Senate side we need to make it work, because we have to lower those premiums so that if another child is born, that child can get the care she needs, not only on the first year, but every year thereafter, as you mentioned so well.
KEILAR: I want to bring in my panel now. CNN political commentator and former executive director of the Congressional Black Caucus, Angela Rye, and former communications director for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, Brian Walsh, with us here today.
OK, so, Angela, you hear Jimmy Kimmel there, and he's become this lightning rod in the middle of this debate over health care and what Republicans want to do to President Obama's signature plan. What do you think of the backlash and also the fact that there did seem to be this very interesting discussion on his program with a key Republican senator?
ANGELA RYE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think that, obviously, Senator Cassidy has it right there. The Republican House version of this affordable health care act is not palatable at all. He referenced it being scored by the CBO, but we now know, of course, it has not been scored by the CBO, for viewers that are watching.
You can go to the Congressional Budget Office at any time and see that he's talking about the bill that was scored more than two months ago now at this point. And if we were going to rely on that bill, he talked about, you know, we want to make sure that premiums go down for hard-working families in this country.
Well, the way that the premiums go down under the current bill structure, it would be by cutting Medicaid upwards of $880 billion over the course of ten years. That is also not a good fix.
There is a reason why Republicans in the House, more than 60 plus times, Brianna, worked to repeal Obamacare. They couldn't come up with the replacement because it was too difficult, and reality is, where they landed is also not a good place.
KEILAR: What, Brian, where they landed it seems to be dead on arrival in the Senate.
BRIAN WALSH, FORMER COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR, NATIONAL GOP SENATORIAL COMMITTEE: Well, I think the Senate is doing the right thing by taking a step back, looking this back over, having more hearings, hearing from more people, and you know, getting the input of millions of people across the country.
[11:15:06]And look, I don't deny that Jimmy Kimmel had a very powerful moment. It touched me. I'm the father of a 1-year-old little girl, and it touched me as well. But I also -- we have to understand that millions of people across this country have had bad experiences with Obamacare.
Myself, my health care plan has been canceled three times in the Commonwealth of Virginia, my premiums have doubled, my health care costs have gone up, and millions of people across the country have had those same experiences.
So I think we need to, you know, come together and find a plan that's going to work for more Americans. And the Senate is doing the right thing by taking a step back and starting over here.
KEILAR: Angela, I know that you are shaking your head at that.
RYE: Yes, and it's just because I can't, of course, speak to what happened with Brian, but I can say for me, my plan -- I was able to keep my doctor, I was able to have -- my premiums did go up, but modestly compared to what there would have been if there was never an Obamacare solution. And I think the reality of it is, to Brian's point, we do need
to work together. Working together is not repealing a plan more than 60 plus times. You cause governors all over the country to doubt whether or not the thing is sustainable, so then, of course, insurers pull out.
That is what you see in the stock market every day. When there's risk involved and that risk increases and it no longer looks like a strategic or smart risk, people pull out, that is what happens every day. It's business, unfortunately, but it's on the backs of poor and hard-working families.
Donald Trump wanted to create a tax reform structure in a health care plan, and that benefits the wealthy. And unfortunately, this particular plan hurts poor people. So, I hear you, Brian, on it shouldn't be a partisan issue, but every single day last Congress, the Republican Party didn't get that.
KEILAR: As we do look forward, though, Brian, I do want to ask you about this, because there's this task force now in the Senate. Many senators who you are familiar with who are looking at what to do when it comes to the Senate health care plan all Republicans, of course, put in place by the senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell.
The knock on this is that they are all white guys. There's no representation from women, there's no representation from the sole African-American senator in the Republican conference. You know, what do you say about that?
WALSH: Well, I think the Senate Democrats have done a very clever job at spinning this, but I worked in the Senate for over 15 years, and every Republican, every Democratic senator has a powerful platform, has a powerful voice.
I can say with a great deal of confidence that nothing's going to pass the Senate, at least on the Republican side, with Republican votes, without significant input from Susan Collins from Maine, Shelly Moore Caputo, West Virginia, other women Republican senators, so --
KEILAR: Is it a misstep, though, to appoint a panel that really has no diversity, or do you think that that was on the mind of leadership as they did that? Do you think -- Mitch McConnell normally would anticipate something like this, no?
So, what is the reason for not having some of these senators on? Is it because they are in tough states? Is it because actually things might get pretty dramatic on the panel? What's behind this then?
WALSH: Well, I can't speak to that specifically. I do know Shelly Moore Caputo from West Virginia, for example, has a seat at the leadership table and has since over the last year. She'll have a significant voice in this debate. Same with Susan Collins, Joni Ernst from Iowa, other Republican senators.
And look, I think if Democrats have ideas, let's hear them and let's try and get a bill that we can -- that can come together and, you know, and get bipartisan support. I think that's the larger goal.
I think what's unfortunate is that Senate Democrats, you know, their base is so dug in against Donald Trump and they're looking ahead to 2018 already that, you know, they've told their troops, line up and fall in line, whether it was the Supreme Court nominee or now health care. You know, they have to make the decision, do they want bipartisanship as well?
RYE: Brianna, just really quickly. There are a number of missteps here. Diversity, it shouldn't be placed at the feet of this working group. We know that the Republican Party's representation in the Senate and pretty much writ large in the country is largely white and male.
I think the bigger issue here is they had an opportunity to also include Democrats, to Brian's point, this should be a bipartisan solution, and it's not. They're all Republicans, they are all white men. Like you said, Tim Scott does not have a seat at the table.
BOLDUAN: They had choices, Angela. There are a handful of women --
RYE: Yes, there are a handful! But just a handful, there's not even a binder full, like Mitt Romney said. There aren't that many, and they didn't even pick any of them to put on this! It's ridiculous to say, oh, you have a voice, but your voice won't be a seat at this table. So I'm going to have to respectfully disagree with Brian there.
KEILAR: Do you think the voices of Senator Susan Collins and Senator Tim Scott, you think they will not be heard? You think that she will not be pivotal in this?
RYE: I think that if they really wanted to hear their voices, they should have put them at the table, and that is what Susan Collins said herself. I think Kamala Harris also said it best, when you're talking about defunding programs that directly impact women's health, you need to have women at the table, not a side desk, not a voice that trickles in, the voice of God like Morgan Freeman. You inside to let them have a seat at the table.
[11:20:06]KEILAR: All right, Angela Rye, Brian Walsh, thank you so much to both of you for this discussion.
Let's talk next about America's longest war and President Trump. He is considering a surge, perhaps in Afghanistan. Why his looming decision could mark a major pivot in the foreign policy on which he campaigned?
And moments ago, President Obama getting candid about life after the White House, very candid, we should say. Hear what he compared to a prison and the people who think that he's an idiot.
And airline rage, chaos erupts inside a terminal after Spirit Airlines cancels nearly a dozen flights. And then on top of this, an airline CEO gets a pie in the face during a speech. We'll show you what happened.
KEILAR: It is America's longest war, and President Trump right now is deciding whether to build up forces in Afghanistan in what could be a major pivot in his doctrine. The strategy that is under review would allow the Pentagon to set troop numbers in the region.
It would give the military broader authority over airstrikes against Taliban militants and it would lift Obama air limits on the mobility of U.S. military advisers on the battlefield.
[11:25:06]I want to discuss this now with the panel. We have Charles Kupchan, a former senior director for European Affairs for the White House National Security Council and a former staffer for the Clinton National Security Council as well, and Michael Allen, a former majority staff director for the House Intelligence Committee.
So, this is where we are headed. It seems a potential increase in the number of troops in Afghanistan. For laypeople, we talk about increasing military advisers, allowing them to have more mobility, which basically just means, in a way, you could argue they might be in harm's way.
But they're going to be able to go out more with Afghan forces farther towards the front lines and train them. When you look at this, Charles, what does this tell you about maybe what you were expecting or the change, even, in where Donald Trump is going with his foreign policy?
CHARLES KUPCHAN, FORMER SENIOR DIRECTOR FOR EUROPEAN AFFAIRS, WHITE HOUSE NSC: Well, I think that now that Trump is in the oval office, he has to square the circle between no more nation-building, reducing America's footprint abroad, and his pledge to go after bad guys.
And the reality is that in Iraq, in Syria, and now in Afghanistan, there are bad guys, and he has basically said I'm going to devolve to the Pentagon more responsibility to go after them. To go from where we are now at about 8,500 to 10,000, 11,000, that seems sensible.
That's probably what the Pentagon is asking for. I think what we need to watch for and be careful about is if 10,000 becomes 20,000, if 20,000 becomes 30,000. We've been there since 2001. That's 15- plus years. Not a lot to show for it. Let's make sure we don't go back to trying to turn Afghanistan into (inaudible).
KEILAR: Does this make a difference, Michael, as you see adding this -- well, it's a range now, as little as maybe 1,500 troops that's under consideration, maybe up to 5,000, then you would expect NATO forces as well to pitch in. Is that going to make a difference?
MICHAEL ALLEN, FORMER MAJORITY STAFF DIRECTOR, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: I'm not sure it's going to make a decisive difference. We've been up against the Taliban and now ISIS in Afghanistan for some time. I think it's more symbolic. I think it says that, listen, the Obama administration was on a downward trajectory.
I think this is President Trump saying we're here to stay, we recognize that this is in the U.S. interests to try and make sure, as Trump has said, his signature issue is to go after the terrorists.
And so, he wants to make sure at the heart of where the 9/11 plot was hatched that we're still going to have a presence and we're going to be there for some time. But as for outright defeating the Taliban, I don't see it just from this increase.
KEILAR: At the root of this, as you mentioned, he's trying to signal some contrast between the Obama administration. It seems, though, when a president is president, they realize the reality of this. Obama was trying to draw down troops to a level that he in the end just couldn't achieve. Why is it so necessary in the views of most people in foreign policy to maintain a longstanding presence?
ALLEN: I think that because it was the birthplace of where the 9/11 plot emanated from, I think we've invested a lot of blood and treasure there, and I think he's trying to say, listen, we are going to put more sustained emphasis on Afghanistan.
We've invested a lot of blood and treasure and we may want to one day get to peace negotiations, but for the time being, we are at least signaling to everyone that we have resolve, and that in his words, we're going to start to win again, as he would say, instead of in many cases drawing down.
KEILAR: Is this something that some folks are going to say this could be turning into a quagmire. You mentioned, what if the troops increased to even greater numbers. Is that what -- do you see a potential track for that, or do you think this is just long-term U.S. presence in Afghanistan?
KUPCHAN: Well, there are two distinct missions in Afghanistan. There's the counterterrorism mission. We've got enough troops in there, enough aircraft to take strikes when we need to. This increase is really focused on training the Afghan Army so that the Afghans can do for themselves what we can't do for them, which is fight back against the Taliban, try to build a functioning state.
KEILAR: And prop up the state and --
KUPCHAN: And prop up the state. But part of the problem of Afghanistan, there's no state. There's never been a state. And so, what we really need to do is get the Afghan Security Forces into a position in which they're capable enough that the Taliban says we can't make any more advances, let's go to the negotiating table. The Pentagon seems to say another 1,000, 2,000, 3,000 will get us there. Let's see.
KEILAR: Obama struggled to do that with the surge, so we'll see what this does. Thank you so much, Charles, Michael. Really appreciate it.
Just in, President Obama calling the White House a nice prison. That is a quote. Let's hear what he revealed about leaving the presidency ahead.
Plus, one of my next guests says President Trump is turning liberals into conspiracy theorists on incidents involving everything from beer to Stephen Colbert. Do they risk becoming the boy who cried wolf? We'll discuss.