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Kimmel Jabs Critics: Talks Health Bill With GOP Senator; Christie: Flynn And I Didn't See "Eye To Eye" On Things; Comey Testimony On Abedin Emails Overstated. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired May 9, 2017 - 09:00   ET

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


[09:00:00] JEANNE MOSS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: -- excuse to burn some rubber and the VP's '67 corvette. But these are the exceptions. Usually, these wannabe drivers are carried around like packages.

Jeanne Moss, CNN New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: That's awesome. All right.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: I love to drive. I could never stop doing it.

CAMEROTA: Me, too. Time now for CNN NEWSROOM with Poppy Harlow and John Berman. Hi guys.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Hi.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. We've got a lot of news. Let's drive straight to it.

HARLOW: State the obvious. You don't want your national security advisor compromised by the Russians. Those words part of stunning testimony from an official fired by President Trump.

And new this morning, add Chris Christie to the list of people who warned Donald Trump about Michael Flynn.

BERMAN: A possible major shift in U.S. strategy in Afghanistan. Perhaps thousands of new troops headed to the war zone. The President holds a crucial meeting in just minutes. And then --

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JIMMY KIMMEL, HOST, JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE: And I would like to apologize for saying that children in America should have health care. It was insensitive.

(LAUGHTER)

KIMMEL: It was offensive and I hope you can find it in your heart to forgive me.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BERMAN: Late night comic turned late night zealot. This morning, a new blistering salvo from Jimmy Kimmel on health care, one week after he tearfully revealed his son's medical crisis.

Good morning, everyone. I'm John Berman.

HARLOW: I'm Poppy Harlow. This morning, the White House is facing new fallout and some major questions over its handling of Michael Flynn and the potential security risk that he posed.

BERMAN: Yes, no question more important than this, why did the administration wait 18 days to fire him? Eighteen days. I'm bad at math and even I know that's two and a half weeks.

HARLOW: A long time.

BERMAN: After the Acting Attorney General warned that he was vulnerable to blackmail from the Russians.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SALLY YATES, FORMER ACTING ATTORNEY GENERAL: We felt like it was critical that we get this information to the White House, in part because the Vice President was unknowingly making false statements to the public and because we believed that General Flynn was compromised with respect to the Russians.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: And we might never have known but for a "Washington Post" report. CNN's Jessica Schneider here with the very latest. Jessica.

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that 18-day gap is the question that the White House is really still deflecting in all this. And instead, President Trump launched into a tweet storm in the hours after Sally Yates unveiled her testimony. The President attempted to distract from her disclosures by saying Yates unveiled old news and that there was still no new evidence pointing to Trump or his associates colluding with the Russians.

But here is what former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates did reveal. She said she spoke with White House Counsel Don McGahn on three separate occasions beginning January 26th. The important information she felt compelled to share was that the then national security advisor Michael Flynn had lied to Vice President Pence about his communications with the Russian ambassador.

Sally Yates, yesterday, talked about why she believed it was urgent to tell the White House that Michael Flynn had been misleading.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

YATES: We were concerned that the American people had been misled about the underlying conduct and what General Flynn had done. The Russians also knew about what General Flynn had done. And the Russians also knew that General Flynn had misled the Vice President and others.

Not only do we believe that the Russians knew this but that they likely had proof of this information. And that created a compromise situation, a situation where the national security advisor essentially could be blackmailed by the Russians.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHNEIDER: And Sally Yates said the White House also requested information from the Justice Department, but she is unaware if they ever received it or reviewed it since she was fired just days later after she refused to defend the President's first travel ban executive order.

Now, there is still some uncertainty about whether the White House Counsel relayed all of this information about Michael Flynn directly to the President. And if he did relay that information, Poppy and John, when exactly he did relay that information.

HARLOW: Right.

SCHNEIDER: A lot of questions.

HARLOW: Still 18 days. And in that time period, the President, you know, the call with Putin that Flynn was on. I mean, there is a lot that happened.

SCHNEIDER: That's right. There was a lot happening in that time before Michael Flynn was forced to resign.

HARLOW: Yes. Thank you, Jessica. Appreciate the reporting.

SCHNEIDER: Sure.

HARLOW: This morning a federal Appeals Court is split, or at least it appears that way, in the latest hearing on President Trump's revised travel ban. This 13-judge panel is considering whether the suspended travel ban is constitutional and how much weight should be given to then candidate Trump referring to it as a Muslim ban.

Our Justice Reporter Laura Jarrett is in Washington with more. It is really interesting, Laura, when you listen to the audio, because that's what we have, of these justices. Some of them saying, look, the President, his staff, called it a Muslim ban. And then others are saying, well, how far back are you going to look at the President's comments? How do you see it?

LAURA JARRETT, CNN JUSTICE REPORTER: Precisely, Poppy. The court spent nearly two hours grilling the parties on where exactly to strike that balance between adopting a rule that will protect constitutional rights on the one hand, while also deferring to the President's national security interest on the other.

[09:05:03] Now, no indication yet on when exactly the judges might rule in this case, but some members of the court seem skeptical that the revisions the Trump administration made to the first executive order matter for purposes of evaluating the second one if both versions were fueled by a discriminatory purpose. Let's take a listen to the court.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

JUDGE HENRY FLOYD, UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOURTH CIRCUIT: Shortly after the executive order two was signed, Sean Spicer said the principals remain the same.

JEFFREY WALL, ACTING SOLICITOR GENERAL, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE: This is not a Muslim ban. Its text doesn't have anything to do with religion. Its operation doesn't have anything to do with religion.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JARRETT: Now, the judges seem to acknowledge that the text of the executive order doesn't mention religion at all, but Judge King, one of the Clinton appointees on the court, emphasized that Trump never repudiated his earlier call for a Muslim ban, pointing mostly to a statement on preventing Muslim immigration on Trump's campaign website. Except, it isn't up there anymore.

Just yesterday at the same time as this appeals court hearing was happening, the Trump campaign promptly deleted that press release from the Web site after White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer was asked about it at the press briefing.

But something tells me that this isn't the last we've heard about that Web site and that the timing of the deletion will likely come up at next week's second travel ban appellate argument in the Ninth Circuit, Poppy.

HARLOW: Right.

BERMAN: That's extraordinary. People have noted for a long time it was still up on that Web site, and to have it only come down yesterday after the briefing --

HARLOW: Exactly.

BERMAN: -- after the testimony, I was surprised to see it happen. All right. Laura Jarrett for us, thanks so much.

Joining us now to talk, Juliette Kayyem, CNN National Security Analyst and former Assistant Secretary for the Department of Homeland Security; and Amy Jeffress, attorney and former counselor to former Attorney General Eric Holder.

Guys, I want to go back to the Sally Yates testimony, specifically on Michael Flynn. Amy, you know, it was highly anticipated. But as we sit here this morning, what do we know now that we didn't know yesterday?

AMY JEFFRESS, FORMER COUNSELOR TO ATTORNEY GENERAL ERIC HOLDER: Well, we had some press reports about this, of course, but Sally Yates had the opportunity yesterday to tell us what she told Don McGahn in the early days of the administration. So she had the opportunity to explain why she was so concerned about national security that she thought it was important to go over to the White House and report on what she knew about Michael Flynn.

HARLOW: It is fascinating listening to her testimony, Juliette, talking about the details we're hearing for the first time about the urgency with which she went to the White House, the subsequent meetings on the 26th and 27th of January after that phone call. So three conversations with Don McGahn at the White House about all of this.

But 18 days after -- after -- these calls and frankly, as Senator Blumenthal points out, after "The Washington Post" made all of this public knowledge questioning whether or not Flynn would have ever been fired if that "Washington Post" story had not come out. Why do these 18 days matter? Are they particularly dangerous?

JULIETTE KAYYEM, FORMER ASSISTANT SECRETARY, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY: Oh, yes. I mean, first of all, it's a transition time and so the new administration is setting policy. It's meeting with new leaders. And there is Mike Flynn in the room after the administration has been told that he's potentially compromised.

So the big question coming out of that hearing, there was a number of questions, but for me is the question of the White House Counsel, Don McGahn. What did he do in that period of time? Who did he tell?

Did he talk to Mike Flynn? Did he question whether Mike Flynn should be in the meetings? Did he ignore it, or did he directly tell Trump that the Acting Attorney General said that their national security advisor could be compromised?

To me, this was very damning testimony across the board about vetting, about Mike Flynn, but it was also about Don McGahn. And I think we are going to hear a lot about him, probably won't hear much from him, in the weeks to come.

BERMAN: No, it's a great point.

HARLOW: Yes.

BERMAN: What happened during those 18 days? Was the President considering it over those 18 days, or was it only "The Washington Post" story which ultimately pushed him over the edge?

And, you know, Amy, it's remarkable. I mean, you have worked in the Justice Department. And as you said, the details of these meetings, I mean, one of the things that strikes me is that you have the White House Counsel hearing from the Acting Attorney General about the national security advisor. How extraordinary is this?

JEFFRESS: Well, it's pretty extraordinary, I agree. What's also interesting is that Sally Yates was very conscious about the extraordinary incident where she was not going to be much longer in the department, even if she had been there until Attorney General Sessions was confirmed. So she took the step of taking a career national security official with her so that there would be continuity with those communications with the White House.

HARLOW: Let's just remember, I mean, you know, Sally Yates, earlier in her career, was equally criticized by Democrats. I mean, this is someone who has been criticized now on both sides for being a partisan hack.

BERMAN: She was hired by Bob Barr.

HARLOW: Exactly.

BERMAN: He was not exactly a crazy liberal, so.

[09:10:03] HARLOW: Juliette, you wrote a fascinating op-ed about the big take-aways from the hearing yesterday, not necessarily about Sally Yates, about what former DNI James Clapper said.

And here's how the President sees it. He tweeted, "Director Clapper reiterated what everybody including the fake media already knows. There is no evidence of collusion with Russia and Trump." That's not exactly what we heard from Clapper, is it?

KAYYEM: I've just going to it is so inaccurate. I mean, it's like watching, you know, 180-degree mirror, you know, about what's going on. This is exactly what Jim Clapper said and it was sort of sleeper testimony.

Clapper, for some time, had been invoked by Trump and his surrogates to say, well, Jim Clapper said that he never saw evidence of collusion, therefore no collusion. And what was amazing about the testimony yesterday is Clapper sat there. He said, look, you can no longer use me as a validator for your talking points because I didn't even know that Comey had an investigation going on about this.

In other words, he was willing to say, I was out of the loop, and so taking away from the White House significant talking point. Meanwhile, Trump comes back and sort of ignores that testimony. But no one should believe that Clapper said there is no collusion. He didn't say there was collusion, but he said I can't speak to that anymore. The FBI has that.

HARLOW: We have to leave it there, but it is quite an admission that the former, you know, DNI said, I didn't even know there was an FBI investigation into possible collusion until you, the public, knew because of Comey's testimony.

Guys, thank you very much. Juliette and Amy, we appreciate it.

A lot ahead for us this hour, including comedian turned activist Jimmy Kimmel blasting critics after his emotional plea on health care.

Also, Trump advisors calling for a troop surge in Afghanistan, potentially thousands additional U.S. forces. Will the President OK that? BERMAN: And cue the song, we are not going to take it, both the

Twisted Sister and The Who versions. Violence erupts after Spirit Airlines cancels flights, leaving hundreds of angry people stranded.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:16:10]

BERMAN: All right, overnight, the health care debate bursting into late night television. Jimmy Kimmel on ABC really followed up in an interview that we had here first last week with a senator who said that whatever health care bill the Senate comes up with has to pass the Jimmy Kimmel test. Listen to him overnight.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JIMMY KIMMEL, HOST, "JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE": I would say one week ago tonight I made an emotional speech that was seen by millions and as a result of my powerful words, 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.

I didn't save it? They voted against it anyway? I really need to pay more attention to the news. Now the health care moves from the House to the Senate where hopefully some kind of common sense will prevail. One senator, Bill Cassidy, from Louisiana. He's a Republican came up with a barometer for the new health care bill that I happen to like a lot.

BERMAN: If you support a bill that allows insurance companies to cap their pay-outs to customers?

SENATOR BILL CASSIDY (R), LOUISIANA: As you present that, I ask, does it pass the Jimmy Kimmel test? Was a child born with a congenital heart disease be able to get everything they need in that first year of life? I want it to pass the Jimmy Kimmel test.

KIMMEL: Well, I do too because I am Jimmy Kimmel. I would like to make a suggestion as to what the Jimmy Kimmel test should be. I'll keep it simple. The Jimmy Kimmel test I think should be no family should be denied medical care, emergency or otherwise, because they can't afford it. Can that be the Jimmy Kimmel test? I might be oversimplifying it.

CASSIDY: You're on the right track. And if that's the closest we could get, that works great in government. We've got to be age to pay for it and that's the challenge. So all those middle class families right now paying $20,000 to $30,000 to $40,000 year for their coverage, we have to make it affordable for them too and that's what I'm hearing --

KIMMEL: I can think of a way to pay for it is don't give a huge tax cut to millionaires like me and instead leave it how it is. That's my vote.

CASSIDY: Have the American people to call their senators and voice that concept.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HARLOW: Hats off for this guy for asking the question to make those headlines. Let's bring in our panel, David Swerdlick, CNN political commentator and assistant editor of the "Washington Post," Lynn Sweet, Washington bureau chief for "The Chicago Sun Times," and April Ryan, CNN political commentator and White House correspondent for American Radio Network."

David, let me begin with you. I mean, you have health care that is now so much a part of popular culture in terms of the consumption of media, right? This has made its way to late night in a very, very big way. Not once, not twice, multiple times.

How does that change things? What's different this time? Because I don't remember that being the case with Obamacare and why does it matter in terms of what actually happens with this legislation?

DAVID SWERDLICK, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Sure, Poppy. I think it matters because as we go forward with the legislative fight over this bill and if the bill ultimately passes the Senate and becomes law down the road, people will remember these moments as sort of markers in time about what the stakes in the debate were about.

If Republicans get a bill passed that they're all on board with, whether or not the Democrats have anything to do with it, the American people will eventually judge whether they think that bill is working for them.

I mean, that's separate from the politics about who is going to win in 2018 or 2020. At some point people will say, oh, yes, I remember we talked about this on Jimmy Kimmel.

I remember that people criticized Jimmy Kimmel for saying look, I want kids to have the same medical care as my kid and they will look around and decide if they think that is what their government came up with.

[09:20:02]I think Jimmy Kimmel was right to deal with this with humor this time because again, you know, it was a situation where he spoke about a personal situation and extrapolated that out to the debate that was going on in realtime.

He got a lot of criticism, but it is not like a situation where he got out there and just dead panned it and said, you know, I hope my congressman makes sure that people who are 250 percent of the poverty line get an extra subsidy.

No, he just said broadly he wants people to get health care. The idea that this was so controversial I think was overwhelming.

BERMAN: Look, I mean, the interview with Bill Cassidy actually wasn't filled with humor. It was a pretty straightforward news interview he did with the senator. To that point, April, you know, Bill Cassidy, Susan Collins, they are not among the 13 senators, part of this working group in the Senate to crack that bill. And I'm wondering if there is some peril in that for Mitch McConnell and the Republicans here because Bill Cassidy has become this national figure with his Jimmy Kimmel test and if those 13 senators don't come up with something that meets that standard, this bill could be in serious jeopardy.

APRIL RYAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, you know, there is a concern about the look of that group that's crafting the Senate bill, but here is the real issue. When this bill does come out, this newly crafted bill, you will have Cassidy and Collins and others who will chime in and people will listen to it.

They are still chiming in. As these things leak out, what they want to put in, what they want to take it out, how they want to make this work, you know, you will have people giving input and they will be listening clearly.

We're seeing right now how people in the streets are reacting to this House bill and they are actually listening. So this is -- this is not just a crafting, but it is a listening session as well because people are rising up.

They want to make sure again, like we said last week, insurance is assurance and I talked to some doctors as well. They are very concerned about how children are affected with this Trumpcare, how Trumpcare would affect children, particularly when it comes to Medicaid.

And also issues of, what is it, preventative medicine down the road. So there are a lot of issues. Jimmy Kimmel set the new bar for us after this House bill because of real life and people are listening to real people as well as those like Jimmy Kimmel.

HARLOW: You bring up Medicaid. I mean, you've got 50 of the 52 Republicans in the Senate, 20 of them are from states that expanded Medicaid under Obamacare, including Rob Portman, who is on this working group.

Let's pull up that working group again. That is 13 white men. We do have some more moderates on there like Rob Portman. But Lynn, aside from this being sort out of the 1920s play book, why does that actually matter in terms of policy to not have more diversity on the folks that are meeting twice a week to find something that's going to make it to the Senate?

LYNN SWEET, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, "CHICAGO SUN TIMES": Right. The optics are bad politics, but now let's get to the policy. The policy is there are a lot of preventative medicine provisions built into the current health care laws that are at risk in Trumpcare versus Obamacare and a lot of those have to do with women.

Not letting women being charged more. I mean, I don't think you have to be a woman to know that there is some inequality there that had been addressed in the insurance industry. But it would be, you know, there is something to be said for having diverse voices. But the policy that comes out of this white male working group is probably going to be influenced by women if they were on the panel because there are other things they will think of.

A quick other point, one of the most complex parts of our life, as President Trump has learned, is knowing about your own health care policy. That's why when it's broken down into bite size chunks, as Jimmy Kimmel did, just talking about caps, you could wield an effective measure.

Because caps on insurance is something a lot of us don't think about until we need it and this was a way to dramatize something that could be changed for people under Trumpcare as opposed to Obamacare without having a lot of extra messaging, people get it.

BERMAN: Guys, a brief detour from health care and go back to Michael Flynn for one moment. April, you know, you cover the White House for a long time, a lot of presidential transitions. You know, we knew sort of the Chris Christie and Michael Flynn had their issues.

This morning, we heard it out loud from Chris Christie, who briefly ran the transition for Donald Trump. Listen to his interview with George Stephanopoulos this morning on General Flynn.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I actually did warn the president about making him as the national security advisor. He didn't think he should (inaudible).

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: My advice to the president is my advice to the president and I don't talk about that publically. Suffice to say that General Flynn and I didn't necessarily see eye to eye on certain things.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: Suffice to say General Flynn and I didn't see eye to eye on certain things, April, that may be the understatement of the century. There aren't a lot of people lining up as General Michael Flynn fans right now, maybe say President Trump himself.

[09:25:08]RYAN: Of course, they're not lining up now because more is being exposed. You know, and you have to think about this. This is a real issue. This is -- and people are talking about, other, when is this going to stop? We haven't seen collusion as of yet.

But the issue is and it goes back to the point that the 20 -- the 2016 elections had tampering from Russia. We found out about it in October and it was diminished. The day we found out about it was the day we found out about the Billy Bush tape.

So the issue of the Russia connection in the election is kind of diminished, but issue is still here and the fact that Michael Flynn wanted to change the sanctions for Russia because President Obama said that Russia was working on our elections trying to change the shape of our elections.

For him to go and want to change the sanctions and talking to a Russian ambassador about this, that's saying something and this goes beyond just 2016. It goes to 2018 elections and 2020. Michael Flynn is the hot potato that no one wants to touch right now because there is still tentacles that still have yet to be uncovered.

BERMAN: It is interesting to see how he will be treated during the investigations and there is that still question of immunity hanging out there. Guys, thank you very much.

We do have some breaking news this morning about James Comey, the FBI director and a matter of accuracy or lack thereof. Now CNN has confirmed that when the FBI director was under oath last week, he overstated the number of e-mails that Hillary Clinton's aide, Huma Abedin, forwarded to her then husband.

HARLOW: Overstated it appears in a pretty significant and meaningful way. Evan Perez is following this live from Washington. I mean, he talked about under oath in that testimony thousands of e-mails. Is that the case?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Not quite, Poppy. The way it occurred is that apparently Huma Abedin was backing up her e-mails on her phone to the laptop that Anthony Winer owned. That's how those thousands of e-mails ended up on the laptop.

Now the way Comey put it when he was first asked about it, he said that she was forwarding thousands of e-mails, I think about 30,000 e- mails in all that were found on this laptop.

And in the end when he used the word forwarded, I think that left the impression that she was doing it on purpose, intentionally. It was an automatic back-up system that was actually sending the e-mails over to the laptop.

He also described how essentially she was doing that so that she could print them at a later time. Apparently, that is also inaccurate. Now the FBI is sort of working out on how to correct the record.

We are told that they are discussing ways in which they could maybe send a letter to members of Congress to clarify the matter. This became obviously a big political issue last week with some parts of the conservative media calling for perhaps charges to be brought against Huma Abedin. That is not going to be the case -- Poppy and John.

BERMAN: You know, there is some record in history of the FBI director writing a letter to enhance or to further explain some of his testimony.

HARLOW: It has happened.

BERMAN: It has happened. I'm just saying.

PEREZ: Right. BERMAN: It does. Every once in a while makes news. Evan Perez, thanks so much.

Still to come for us, could be a major shift in U.S. policy. Will more U.S. troops be headed to Afghanistan? The president and his inner circle meet very shortly to talk about a revised strategy.

HARLOW: But first, we are moments away from the opening bell on Wall Street, let's bring in CNN Money chief business correspondent and star of "EARLY START," Christine Romans. What are we looking at?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: It'S 90 seconds to the opening bell. You can say that the investor class is fat and happy right now. I mean, you've got volatility at the lowest in 25 years. In general, investors think that they will get a big payday with tax reform. That will be coming maybe later this year, maybe next year.

But they think it really is coming. Earnings are good. The economy is humming along here and the investor class is doing very well under the presidency that was championing the little guy. So investors doing very, very well here.

I want to remark about the cash stockpile of some of the biggest companies in the world. Apple yesterday valued the company $800 billion for the first time in history. That stock is up 32 percent this year. It has a quarter of a trillion sitting in cash, almost all of it overseas.

Altogether those half a trillion dollars, big companies there if there is tax reform or some of great 8 percent or 10 percent tax on foreign profit that comes back here, that would be very, very good for those big companies.

And my big question and I'm on the record on this, tax reform, will it create jobs or just enriching investor class more? We have to have a mechanism to make sure that money when it comes home goes to work hiring people.

BERMAN: Fat and happy. Christine Romans, thanks so much for being with us.

Ahead for us, again, a possible major shift in U.S. policy in Afghanistan. We'll be right back.

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