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Intel Chiefs Reveal New Details to Russia Investigators; Republican Senators Reveal Secret Bill; Trump: Dems Are "Unbelievably Nasty, Really Nasty"; Trump: Don't Want "Poor Person" In Charge Of Economy; Pelosi Faces Backlash After Dems Lose Georgia Election; Summer Gas Prices Tumble To 12-Year Low. Aired 9-9:30a ET
Aired June 22, 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] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: -- at least in matters that deal with one-sixth of the U.S. economy. Senate Republicans meeting behind closed doors to find out what is in their own health care plan. They finally get to learn what is inside. Then we do.
First, though, a CNN exclusive. We are learning what the President asked two of the nation's top intelligence officials to say and do when it comes to the Russia investigation. Did it cross an ethical line?
These are questions they would not answer in public hearings, but they have now discussed behind closed doors with congressional investigators and the team of Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
CNN's Dana Bash has been working her sources, the Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and NSA Chief Admiral Mike Rogers. What do they say?
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, what we gathered from these sources is the first glimpse of what two top intelligence chiefs said behind closed doors, as you mentioned, to not just Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller's team but also to members of the Senate Intelligence Committee in separate meetings last week.
Now, multiple sources are telling me and our colleagues, Evan Perez and Manu Raju, that Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and National Security Agency Director, Admiral Mike Rogers, said that President Trump suggested that they say publicly there was no collusion between his campaign and the Russians.
In these closed-door meetings with Special Prosecutors, at least the team, and the Senate Intelligence Committee, both intel chiefs described these interactions with the President about the Russia investigation as odd and uncomfortable. But they also said they don't believe that the President gave them orders to intervene in the investigation.
Now, you mentioned that public testimony earlier this month. Both Coats and Rogers said, at the time, they never felt pressured. But it got pretty contentious because they also wouldn't offer specifics about their interactions with the President until they went into classified settings, which is what we are reporting first about this morning.
Now, we should also say that the fact that the President had these conversations at all about the Russia probe with these two gentlemen was initially reported last month by "The Washington Post."
Now, one of the multiple Democratic and Republican sources we talked to for the story told us that both Rogers and Coats reported to members of the intelligence committee that Trump wanted them to specifically say what then FBI Director James Comey had told the President privately, that he was not under investigation for collusion.
But neither thought that the President was asking them, whether it was that or about collusion in general with the campaign, they didn't think that he was asking them to do anything that was improper, that they thought that it was just a suggestion. And they didn't act on it, also.
Now, ultimately, it will be up to Robert Mueller and his team to decide whether these revelations are relevant to the investigation.
We should also say CNN reached out to the White House, to the DNI, to the NSA, and Mueller's office. They all declined to comment.
BERMAN: So, Dana, as you noted, both Dan Coats and Mike Rogers, the Admiral, were reluctant to testify about this in an open setting. Why?
BASH: Well, according to one congressional source I spoke with, Coats and Rogers asked before that public hearing for guidance from the White House on whether the President would claim executive privilege, which would mean that they couldn't tell Congress about the conversations.
They didn't get an answer before their testimony, so they weren't sure what to say and it ended with that awkward and really contentious hearing.
We are told both men were much more forthcoming in private, with both the Special Prosecutor's team and with the Senate.
BERMAN: Interesting. By not answering, maybe the administration or the White House got want it wanted, which was no answers in a public setting there.
BERMAN: Former FBI Director James Comey, he famously now documented his conversations with the President in memos. Did either Dan Coats or Mike Rogers do the same?
BASH: The answer is yes when it comes to Rogers. He had this interaction with the President and then documented it in a memo written by his deputy at the NSA, Richard Ledgett.
And one congressional source who I spoke with who has seen the memo said it was not like the Comey memos. It is only one page and doesn't offer many of the details of the conversation, but this memo does document it and makes clear that Rogers thought it was out of the ordinary.
As for Coats, John, he did not document the conversation he had with the President as far as the people who I've spoken to who were briefed by him, we're told.
BERMAN: All right. Dana, stick around. A lot more to discuss. Another big story happening right where you are in Washington.
Just minutes from now, Senate Republicans will file into a closed-door briefing what is in their own health care bill. Then we, the American people, get to find out.
CNN's M.J. Lee and the rest of the CNN political team have dug up the details of what is inside that bill. M.J., what are we learning?
M.J. LEE, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER: Well, John, you know that the big question, as we are waiting for this mystery bill it come out, was whether the bill would appeal to conservatives or moderates. And it turns out the answer is both. So let's just take a look at some of the big points in this bill and what we know so far.
On the issue of Medicaid. We know that the expansion is going to be phased out more slowly than the House bill, but there are going to be drastic changes to the program. And actually, deeper cuts will be made to the program than the House version.
[09:05:06] When it comes to the federal subsidies, they will be tied to income and not age, so really mirrors ObamaCare. But the eligibility threshold is going to be lower, something that is meant to appeal to conservatives.
When it comes to insurance regulations, insurers cannot charge more money for people with pre-existing conditions. That is a big deal because it was such a problematic part of the House Republican bill, as you remember.
However, again, states are going to have more leeway to opt out of certain insurance regulation. This, again, is a concession to conservative members.
One thing that is going to be a huge relief to insurance companies is that there are going to be cost-sharing subsidies funded until 2019. Remember, President Trump has been not willing to commit to making these payments, so this should be a sigh of relief for insurance companies who see a lot of uncertainty in the markets right now.
And finally, Planned Parenthood is going to be defunded for one year. This is a big issue for senators like Susan Collins and Murkowski.
Now, as we sort of get the details more, the full details later today, I think the big thing to watch out for is whether these members feel like they got enough of what they wanted, enough so that they can vote yes when there is a vote next week, or if they feel like there are certain sticking points that they really cannot get over so that they cannot get to a yes on this.
The other issue is, will they feel they have had, you know, enough time to actually look through the bill? McConnell is wanting a vote as early as next Thursday. That means that we really don't have a lot of time for the Senate Republicans to study what is in the bill, not to mention the CBO report is not out yet.
Once that comes out, that is going to give us a lot more clarity on what this bill does and what the impact is.
BERMAN: And does it insure more or fewer people? Does it cost more or less, and how much?
BERMAN: These are key questions. We won't find out until next week, maybe right before the vote. M.J. Lee, thank you so much. Fascinating details.
Joining us now, Amber Phillips, political reporter for "The Washington Post"; Matt Lewis, CNN political commentator, senior columnist for "The Daily Beast"; Perry Bacon, senior political writer for "FiveThirtyEight." Dana Bash, back with us as well.
I want to get to health care in just a moment. First, though, this CNN exclusive reporting on Dan Coats and Admiral Mike Rogers, what they have now told congressional investigators and the Special Counsel.
Amber, the President asked them, Dana is reporting, to say publicly that there was no collusion between the campaign and the Russians.
It seems, based on this conversations, Amber, he was asking these intelligence chiefs to announce the conclusion to an investigation that seems to still be going on.
AMBER PHILLIPS, REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Yes, that's exactly right. And that's consistent with the President tweeting consistently and calling this fake news, that there is no evidence of collusion and trying to get his allies on Capitol Hill to say this.
But, you know, Dana's reporting really corroborates, in broad strokes, what we're learning from Comey testimony and from other reporting about how the President felt about this Russia investigation. And how he felt was, he wanted to try everything he could to get out to the world that it wasn't him under investigation.
Of course, ironically, now he is under investigation for potential obstruction of justice. And it shows that the Special Counsel, in talking to these very high-level officials, are taking these charges extremely seriously.
BERMAN: The fun part about this is we're talking about Dana while she's right here, so she can just sit and watch it.
BASH: I'm right here! (LAUGHTER)
BERMAN: Matt Lewis, the sort of and/but to this is that these intelligence chiefs say they did not feel that the President asked them to do anything illegal or immoral. And they both say, according to Dana's reporting, who, again, is right here, they do not feel as if they were ordered to intervene in the investigation. That's important, Matt.
MATT LEWIS, SENIOR COLUMNIST, THE DAILY BEAST: Yes, it is. Although, I would say to anybody out there watching, if your boss suggested you do something, would you feel that that was a suggestion or an order, you know?
I think most of us would feel like if our boss said, hey, I suggest you do such and such, that is tantamount to an order. And it's good for them that they felt that they had the independence to act independently, to take it as a suggestion not as an order.
But I tell you, you know, from a legal standpoint, it's a suggestion. But I'm telling you, for most people, if the President of the United States tells you, makes a suggestion to you, that's not a suggestion.
BERMAN: Right. And, again, Perry, this just points to, I think, what is just a huge gray area here, which is, what is Robert Mueller going to do with all of this? How far is he willing to press? Will he end up writing some report that lays out everything he's finding without weighing in and saying how improper or not improper it was that the President asked this?
And, again, I think a lot of this depends on exactly what the nature of these conversations were. It seems as if perhaps the President was asking these men to say something that wasn't in fact found out yet.
[09:10:02] I mean, the investigation is still going on. It isn't completely known whether or not there was collusion between this campaign and the Russians yet.
PERRY BACON, JR., SENIOR POLITICAL WRITER, FIVETHIRTYEIGHT: Right. Some of the initial reporting has suggested that either Coats or Rogers or the intel staff below him, in some ways, were, you know, asked to tell Comey not to stop the investigation. That's one thing because they will get closer to obstruction of justice and that's one of the core questions here.
What we're talking about right now seems to me is, like, what Trump was saying don't talk about, say collusion didn't happen or say collusion didn't happen with me, and those are different questions.
I think the details here do matter because we're trying to figure out, on some level, was Trump trying to stop an investigation, or was Trump trying to change how it was being talked about in public?
BERMAN: And, again, it seems, at least as far as these two men are concerned, it was the latter -- or, sorry, he was trying to at least change what was being said in public and not to stop it altogether. Dana, I want to shift to health care right now. You, of course, our
chief political reporter covering what's happening on Capitol Hill.
We will learn very, very shortly -- within minutes -- what is in the top-secret Senate health care bill, but the details that have leaked out are fascinating, right? It seems as if Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader here, has given something or tried to give something to everyone, even as he is taking it away.
The question is, will the Ted Cruz, Mike Lee, Rand Pauls of the world, will the bill be conservative enough for them and moderate enough for the Rob Portmans and Lisa Murkowskis of the world? What are you hearing?
BASH: That is how you're supposed to compromise. You're supposed to compromise to the point where both sides walk away, saying I don't have everything that I want, I'm not entirely happy, but I got some of what I want. I mean, it's an art that, you know, we're kind of not really used to seeing very much anymore.
Having said that, we are talking about a compromise amongst Republicans. This is just trying to get this through the Senate with Republican votes, so you're right. And the question is going to be, even from people who I'm talking to who have been a party to these closed-door talks, they haven't actually seen what it looks like in black in white, in legislative text, which matters.
You know, a comma or an "and" or a "but" can change the whole meaning of what something is supposed to do legislatively and legally. So that's why even those who think that they're probably in a good place are holding their breath and not really sure.
But I think you're right, even though we're definitely watching the moderates -- like Susan Collins, like Lisa Murkowski, even Rob Portman on the questions of Medicaid expansion and even Planned Parenthood banning federal funding -- but the bigger question seems to be the conservatives.
From Ted Cruz, who was in the room, to Rand Paul, who's probably going to be a no, no matter what it is, and to Mike Lee, for example, who put on this Facebook video that, you know, certainly suggested he was not that thrilled --
BASH: -- those are probably the people that we would be watching most closely.
BERMAN: Matt Lewis, you have your ear, you know, to the pulse or your nose to the pulse or finger, I guess, is the anatomy you should have to the pulse of what's going on on the conservative side here, Ted Cruz and Mike Lee.
From what you've seen from the details here, do you think this goes too far for them? Which would mean, you know, not enough change from ObamaCare, too much money going in, still too many protections being offered.
LEWIS: Well, look, I think it's going to be interesting to see how the conservative outside groups come down on this.
What does the Club for Growth say about this? What does Heritage say about this? You know, do they key vote it? You know, that could make a difference for some of these conservative members.
But I think the leverage, the only leverage, that Mitch McConnell has here is to say, this is it. And if you vote against this bill, you are voting to keep ObamaCare. Ted Cruz, this is your chance to change or to get rid of ObamaCare.
And I think Mitch McConnell should put it up for a vote, no matter what the whip count says, and get them on the record and force people to take a stand. If you're a Republican and you've campaigned for the last seven years to get rid of ObamaCare, are you going to vote against this Senate bill now? It's up to you.
BASH: And that's his way.
BERMAN: Perry Bacon, M.J. Lee was sitting right next to me. And she notes one of the things that Mitch McConnell has done is created a comparison to the House bill as opposed to maybe a comparison to ObamaCare, which might make it easier for some of the senators voting.
BACON: Right. You've seen that it appears like the tax credits, for example, have been changed in a way that'll make them a little more generous to people who are lower income. So in that way, my guess is the CBO score next week will show fewer people are uninsured than under the House bill. This is my guess based just on what I've seen so far.
One thing I would watch for is Nevada Senator Dean Heller. He's a member who's in a state that Hillary Clinton won. This bill is pretty unpopular in the state, so he is the one person I would argue that is not necessarily a left or a right on ideology grounds. He is someone who is going to be thinking, can I vote for this and still win re- election next year?
[09:15:00] And that's where the political pressure is going to matter. I think Matt is right to watch the conservative groups. I would also watch groups like the ARP and kind of patient groups to see how they react to this as well.
BERMAN: They didn't like the House version. We'll see if they like this one more.
Amber, last question to you, there have been Republican members complaining about the process that it was done behind closed doors. I happen to think, they're not vote based on those complaints. Yes, they've been really angry, but at the end of the day, most of them will fall into line by the end of next week?
AMBER PHILLIPS, POLITICAL REPORTER, "WASHINGTON POST": I'm not so sure. You might be right. I'm not so sure and the reason is because Republican leaders kept this bill behind doors because it's politically perilous for some of their members, period. I think it's arguably politically perilous to all throw up in the doors a week before you're going to vote for a bill that could cause some of these lawmakers and their states to have to go home and explain why thousands of people might lose their health care, and why they only had a week to review it.
I could see that being, for a couple of lawmakers, a sticking point is the process. That being said, there are lots of other policy things that they have to dislike about this as well.
BERMAN: All right. We are just a few minutes from learning how they will feel when they are told the details. Fourteen minutes from now they go behind closed doors. Just after that, we get to see what's inside. Dana Bash, Amber Phillips, Matt Lewis, and Perry Bacon, thanks so much.
As we said that bill, minutes from now, not so secret. Republican senators about to be briefed. We are following all the developments.
Plus, want to run the U.S. economy? Hope "rich" is on your resume. The president takes on critics of his wealthy cabinet.
And the funeral for the U.S. student who died days after being released by North Korea is underway. We're live in Ohio.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: They've been unbelievably nasty. Really nasty. I am making it a little hard to get to their support, but who cares.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: President Trump talking about Democrats. He knows that he hasn't made a lot of friends across the aisle, but he may need them. Well, his real concern today, though, is Republicans. Republicans meeting behind closed doors in just a few minutes to learn the details of the Republican health care bill in the Senate. That bill needs 52 Republican members to pass. Not at all clear if it will get that number.
Joining me now, though, is a Democrat who is very involved in this discussion, Ed Markey, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Senator, thank you so much for being with us. I appreciate it.
We have learned some of the details of the Republican bill. The Republicans will learn about it in just a few minutes. It will phase out Medicaid expansion more slowly than the House version. It would tie subsidies to income, not age.
And we are just learning that the community rating, that's the part of it that guarantees people with pre-existing conditions the same rates, they're going to allow that to be protected in a way that the House bill wasn't.
So my question to you -- does this Senate version as you're learning about it have more heart, as the president would say, than the House version?
SENATOR ED MARKEY (D-MA), FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE: This plan, if you kicked it in the heart, you would break your toe. It's going to cut Medicaid still by more than $800 billion. It is going to then, after they take a machete to Medicaid, package that money as a tax break for the richest people in America. This is not a health care plan.
It is a rich-care plan to take care of those people who just last night Donald Trump said should be running America. The rich people should be running America. The rich people should be running our economy.
Well, this is 1/6 of our economy, the health care system and the plan they're going to unveil today is going to slash Medicaid, hurt poor people and working families and then give a huge tax break to wealthy people. What would you expect rich people to do in putting together a plan?
BERMAN: OK, two parts on this. Number one, compared to the House version, has the Senate made changes, do you think, that makes it more palatable? Compared to the House version. I understand you're comparing it to overall Obamacare, but compared to the House version, are they moving in the right direction?
MARKEY: Well, the House bill removes coverage for 2.8 million people who need treatment for addiction, opioid crisis. There would be $90 billion in the Affordable Care Act that would be there for families. They're going to slash that perhaps in half in terms of the amount of money that is there, and a vision without funding is a hallucination. If they don't have the funding for these programs then it doesn't work for anyone who is in this health care system.
BERMAN: And I know that some of the details we'll learn much more about coming ahead. Now you brought up the president statements from last night when he was talking about the members of his team running the economy right now. He's talking about Gary Cohen from Goldman Sachs, Wilbur Ross, you know, billionaire investor. Let's listen exactly to what the president said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRESIDENT TRUMP: We have the legendary Wall Street genius, Wilbur Ross, here. He is our secretary of commerce. We have Gary Cohen, who is the president of Goldman Sachs. Somebody said, why did you appoint a rich person to be in charge of the economy? I said -- no. It's true. And Wilbur's a very rich person in charge of commerce. I said, because that's the kind of thinking we want.
I love all people. Rich or poor, but in those particular positions, I just don't want a poor person. Does that make sense?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: All right. You could see this -- interpret this, I'm sure the president supporters who say as he wants people who have had success in this economy, i.e., people who may be rich helping make the decisions to run this economy, and you take issue with that?
MARKEY: Well, being rich doesn't mean that you have wisdom. It doesn't mean that you have compassion. It doesn't mean that you understand the lives that most Americans are living. And what we know is that the plan, which is going to be released today by the Republicans, put together if that's what the president is saying, by rich people, is obviously aimed towards getting a tax break for rich people.
He's made that clear. He said -- he said to the American people, I'm going have the biggest tax break in the history of the United States. Well, rich people put this plan together. Rich people will get the tax break.
What's going to happen, however, is that the health care for everyone else is going to suffer. The health care system is going to be slowly but surely put into tatters. That's their plan. When rich people go into a room and don't have poor people there to explain to them what the impact on their lives will be.
BERMAN: All right, Senator Markey, I understand you have a problem with the process and will likely have a problem with the version of the bill. I want to get one more question to you.
You're in the Senate now, but you spent a long time in the House of Representatives serving alongside Nancy Pelosi when in fact she was speaker of the House and the Democratic leader there.
There are some Democrats in the House now saying it's time to look past Nancy Pelosi for leadership including Seth Moulton from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, who says you need a new generation of leadership in the House. Is it time for Nancy Pelosi to step aside, Senator?
MARKEY: Nancy Pelosi is the architect of this health care plan. She's the person who was able to get the votes to make it a law. The law that we're defending here today is a law which Nancy Pelosi put on the books.
BERMAN: That's what she did -- what she did -- the question -- you know that in these congressional races in Georgia sixth, the Republicans run against her. They see her as a potent weapon they use in their elections. The question isn't what she did back in 2010. It's what she represents now. Is it time for her to step aside?
MARKEY: From my perspective, Nancy Pelosi has given leadership especially on this health care issue and the district that we're talking about is Tom Price's congressional district. He's the person who is the architect of this plan. It's the district that had Newt Gingrich as its congressman. That can't be a referendum on health care in America.
That can't be a referendum on how a cruel and inhumane the policies in our country should be, or the leadership which Nancy Pelosi has provided to get us to this day where we're protecting and defending. If we're successful and we stand together and we fight, the health care plan, which has dramatically changed the landscape for ordinary families and poor families in our country.
BERMAN: Yes or no. Should she stay as leader?
MARKEY: Well, I am a -- Nancy Pelosi and I are good friends. Nancy Pelosi is a great leader. Nancy Pelosi is someone who has my support, without question.
BERMAN: Democratic Senator Ed Markey from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, always a pleasure to have you, sir. I do appreciate it.
BERMAN: All right, turning now to the economy. Your road trip just got a little bit cheaper. June gas prices falling to their lowest level in 12 years and just in time for summer. Cristina Alesci here now to tell us why. What's going on?
CRISTINA ALESCI, CNN MONEY BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: This is all tied to falling crude prices. If you take a look at this dramatic chart, it is down about 20 percent year to date. Look at that, John. You're talking $42 a barrel. That is quite dramatic. And, of course, this is all tied to the fact that there's just too much oil, not enough demand.
Simple supply-demand economics at work here, but it's great news for the consumer because the consumer is saving at the pump to your point. We're looking at $2.28 per gallon across. That's a nationwide average, obviously. It depends on where you live.
That's down 10 cents this month alone. This is incredible savings for an average family, and one analyst put this in very stark terms saying it's the first time this century gas prices might be lower over the fourth of July weekend versus Christmas and New Year's when people typically don't drive as much.
But here's the rub, John. We don't know where those savings are going. So economists would think that people would take the savings from the gas pump and maybe spend in other parts of the economy. We're not exactly seeing that happen. So we don't know what the overall economic benefits are for the U.S. economy, which could weigh on Trump's agenda.
BERMAN: Maybe we should give presents on the fourth of July with those extra money around at least to me. Cristina Alesci, thank you so much. I appreciate it.
All right, Senate Republicans are about to meet behind closed doors to find out details of their health care plan. It will still be some days, though, before any of them learn how much it will cost. Coming up, we'll talk to a man who used to judge these prices. Stay with us.