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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT
Spicer: Trump Thinks "Russia Probably Interfered"; W.H. On Hacking: Trump Thinks It Was Russia; Trump On Mueller-Comey Relationship: "Bothersome"; 5 Republicans Reject Health Bill: Can Only Afford 2 "No" Votes; Trump: Solar Wall on Mexican Border Could Pay for Itself; U.S. Ally Receives List of Demands Over Terror Links. Aired on 7-8p ET
Aired June 23, 2017 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[19:00:09] ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: Outfront next, breaking news, the White House facing a deadline to turn over a crucial document to investigators. Plus Trump does he's bothered by the close friendship between special counsel Bob Mueller and James Comey. But how close are they and why is he saying that? And another Republican coming out against the health care bill, saying it is a lie that the bill will lower premiums. Let's go out front.
Good evening. I'm Erin Burnett. Outfront tonight, the breaking news, we are waiting and waiting and waiting. The deadline has passed and still we are waiting for the White House to turn over crucial documents to House Intelligence Committee investigators tonight.
They could do so at any moment. Investigators have demanded formal notification from the White House that there are no recordings by anyone at the White House of conversations between President Trump and fired FBI Director James Comey.
And tonight so far silence. Today also the deadline for fired FBI Director James Comey to turn his explosive memos over to House investigators. So far no word he has complied as White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer held another press briefing today, away from the cameras. Spicer asked whether President Trump believes that Russia meddled in the 2016 election after the president tweeted earlier this week, referencing it as a Democratic hoax. Spicer gave this answer.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: He commented I think it was January 5th or 17th, something like that, on that at the time. And he said Russia probably interfered but maybe some other countries did as well.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: That comment was stunning on several fronts. One, obviously today is Friday, right. Three days ago Spicer was asked about the same question because of that hoax tweet. He answered this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SPICER: I have not sat down and talked to him about that specific thing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: OK. So in three days, Spicer went from having not talked to him about it, no idea what the president thought about whether Russia interfered with the election to saying the president thinks it was probably Russia. Now, that's not obviously definitive, and this is a question with a definitive answer.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE POMPEO, CIA DIRECTOR: This was an aggressive action taken by the senior leadership inside of Russia.
DAN COATS, DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY: Russians definitely did try to influence the campaign.
NIKKI HALEY, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: Certainly I think Russia was involved in the election. There is no question about that.
REX TILLERSON, SECRETARY OF STATE: I don't think there is any question that the Russians were playing around in our electoral process.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: That's at least four members of Trump's own administration, who concur with the definitive conclusion of 17 U.S. intelligence agencies. Spicer's comments also stunning though because he's referencing something as you heard the president said in January. The question that we have is this. Are we supposed to ignore what he said in the months since in the month since?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Could have been China. Could have been a lot of different groups. If Russia hacked, if Russia did anything having to do with our election, I want to know about it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: If, if, could have been china. Jeff Zeleny is out front tonight at the White House. And Jeff, obviously the deadline for the White House to inform Congress about tapes has passed, but I believe you have some breaking news on this right now.
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I do. Literally moments ago we got a copy of a letter that was sent from Marc Short, who is the Director of Legislative Affairs here at the White House. It means he is the person who deals with the House and Senate on Capitol Hill.
He sent a letter to the House, the chairman of the intelligence committee and the ranking members as well essentially quoting the president's tweet. It says this. Let me look at it right now. I'm just getting this Erin. It says, in response to the committee's inquiry, we referred you to President Trump's June 22nd, 2017 statement regarding this matter. That statement was on Twitter. It said with all of the recently reported intelligent electronic surveillance, intercepts unmasks leaking of information, I have no idea whether there were tapes or recordings of conversations with James Comey. But i did not make and do not have any such recordings.
So essentially at the end of the working day here in Washington, Erin, the White House simply cut and paste the president's tweet from yesterday to the House intel chairman and ranking Democratic member saying that the president does not have copies of the tape. But that is not what the committee asked, of course. The committee asked if anyone here at the White House has a tape.
But again this is something that officials across the government and certainly here at the White House have been telling us for several weeks. They do not believe tapes exist. They are not sure why the president tweeted this in the first place and a top Republican I talked to yesterday said, look, this is a big mistake this president made. But again tonight the White House is responding to the house not offering any new information on the evidence of these tapes, Erin.
BURNETT: And just to underscore a point you just made there, Jeff, that they're not answering the question that was directly asked.
ZELENY: That's true.
BURNETT: They missed the technical deadline --
BURNETT: -- and what they submitted was a copy of a tweet from yesterday. So they could have done this morning. They waited to miss the deadline and put that out. Just to be clear.
[19:05:12] ZELENY: They could have done it this morning. And what's surprising to me, Erin, this didn't come from the White House counsel's office. This was the question of the government, of the White House, was this building, was the administration taping in any way. This is a letter from the head of the Legislative Affairs Office like literally it's a two paragraph letter I just read to you, Erin. It's cutting and pasting the tweet the president sent far more than 24 hours ago. Erin.
BURNETT: All right, Jeff Zeleny, thank you very much. We're going to get response from Congress in a couple of moments about that. Also tonight an explosive report from the Washington Post detailing the hacking efforts by Russia, the ones the president cavalierly referred to as a Democratic hoax and that Sean Spicer was trying to clean up today. Jessica Schneider is Outfront.
JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A new report reveals Russian President Vladimir Putin gave direct orders to defeat Hillary Clinton and help elect Donald Trump as president. According to a bombshell report by the Washington Post, the Obama Administration knew Putin was directing cyber attacking during the 2016 campaign three months before the election. Intelligence obtained from deep inside the Russian government was couriered by the CIA to the White House in August, and detailed Putin's direct involvement in the hacking mean to disrupt and discredit the presidential race.
TONY BLINKEN, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: When you go back, this was a moving picture. It is not like we had an immediate clear snapshot of what the Russians were up to. It evolved over time.
At first, we thought they were simply trying to do what they always do, which was pull information, see if they could get something to use later down the road. Then, it looked like they were trying to basically interfere in the election mostly by creating doubt about our institutions.
SCHNEIDER: Former Deputy National Security Advisor to President Obama, Tony Blinken, defended the administration's strategy to keep the information quiet.
BLIKEN: As we were deliberating this, we thought the more we play this up in public, the more we play their game. We create further doubt by making this into a big public matter.
SCHNEIDER: But a former senior Obama official felt differently telling the Post, "It is the hardest thing about my entire time in government to defend. I feel like we sort of choked."
President Obama reportedly issued a stern warning to Putin at the G20 summit in China in September. And the Post details Obama's authorization to plant cyber weapons, so-called digital bombs in Russia's infrastructure that could be used to retaliate. But Obama left office before the planning was complete. Lawmakers are questioning why more wasn't done to stop the Russians or alert Americans.
REP. ERIC SWALWALL (D), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: I greatly admire President Obama. I wish he and the administration would have acted differently here. But what's important now is we know what they did.
SCHNEIDER: And meanwhile when it comes to the Russia probe, today is the deadline for the House Intelligence Committee to get those memos from fired FBI Director James Comey. We know at this point tonight, Erin, the memo still have not been turned over to the committee. Although the ranking member, Adam Schiff, has said he's been in touch with James Comey and he does expect at some point to get those memos. But just not yet. Erin?
BURNETT: All right, thank you very much, Jessica. And I want to find out more about those memos in a moment. Now, though out front the top Democratic on the House Foreign Affairs Committee Congressman, Eliot Engel. Congressman good to have you with me. I appreciate your time.
So, we just got the letter here from the White House. The deadline was close the business today. They missed the deadline. They submitted it at 7:00 Eastern. And they sent from the assistant to the president for Legislative Affairs not from the White House counsel, and they copy in the president's tweet from yesterday in which he says that he does not have any tapes and has no idea whether there are tapes. What's your response? Is this an acceptable response from the White House?
ELIOT ENGEL (D), FOREIGN AFFAIRS COMMITTEE: Well, it's typical Donald Trump. He's saying a million different things. You are contradicted by your own people and then you go round and round. You tweet. Your people contradict you. It's pretty clear that there is an attempt by this White House to prevent Congress from getting the material it needs, preventing the American people from knowing what really went on. And this is just part and parcel of it.
You say they missed the deadline. They're better off from their point of view if they're having it go into the weekend because less people read on Saturdays. And, so, this is just one attempt after another to hide things and not come clean. And frankly, the president's people trying to clean up after him. You know, yes, we have tapes. No, we don't have tapes. I mean who knows.
BURNETT: They literally say and response the committee's inquiry, here's his tweet from yesterday. And in that tweet he says, I have no idea whether there are tapes or recordings of my conversations with James Comey, but I did not make and do not have any such recordings.
Now, Adam Schiff of course has said just because the president said he doesn't have tapes, that obviously doesn't mean someone else at the White House may not have them.
[19:10:02] So, is this answer from the White House even definitive, right? The question wasn't just that the president had tapes. It was does the White House. Is it worth continuing down this line of inquiry or is that just a wild goose chase. Let's forget about this whole, sad story.
ENGEL: No I don't think we should forget about it at all. I think it's typical of trying to hide behind words. I mean, if there were no tapes, why did the president in the first place raise the first spectrum of tapes. It was never thought of. He's the one that said that Comey better be sure or that Comey better watch out, there may be tapes or however he phrased it. You cannot get a straight answer from this White House. And so when they finally give you an answer, you look for cracks in it because they're trying to slip between those cracks time and time again.
BURNETT: Why do you think he did it? Why do you think he raised the issue and let it go on for 41 days?
ENGEL: I think that the president just tweets whatever he thinks of. I think his staff must be pulling their hair out of their head because they then have to use the next several days and weeks and months to clean up after him and so it goes again and again and again and I just think it's disgraceful. It is not being straight with the American people and it's really shameful. BURNETT: We know that former FBI Director Comey obviously is working
with Bob Mueller, providing the memos. We know he has talked to Congress. But obviously there is a deadline for him to provide those memos to the House Intelligence Committee as well tonight. He has also not done so. Five hours left. Should the committee subpoena those memos if they don't get them?
ENGEL: I think the committee should. I think Congress is entitled to know everything and it would be preferable for Congress to get it through normal channels. But if not, I certainly think it should be subpoenaed. Absolutely.
BURNETT: The president -- I don't know if you heard the top of our program, but obviously he's been far from definitive about whether he believes that intelligence officials in this country say it is a fact, right, which is that Russia hacked the election. Sean Spicer today answering the question, brought out by a tweet saying, no, the president stands by his comment from January in which he said that he thinks Russia may have been involved. Obviously since then he said it could have been China and he's used the word if when he talks about Russia's involvement. Do you think the answer from Sean Spicer today is acceptable, that the president stands by what he said in January thinks that was Russia?
ENGEL: Well, it is not acceptable. I mean you don't have to be a scholar to know that Russia hacks our election. I mean it's quite simple and obvious to everybody else. The questions that we want to know is was there collusion with the Trump campaign in terms of hacking our election. I mean, that's what we really want to know.
And what have they done since then? Have they tried to cover it up? Mr. Comey said that they were trying to shut him up. So that's what I want to know and that's what the American people want to know. But it shouldn't be a doubt in anyone's mind. Russia certainly hacked into our elections. Certainly tried to elect Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton and certainly tried to undermine American democracy. That's not a question. It's how (INAUDIBLE) with the Trump people.
BURNETT: So what you just heard of course in the report, you know, which is talking about the Washington Post's original report, they said, right, President Obama was one of just four people who were told about Vladimir Putin's involvement and how serious this was early last August, that there were so-called cyber bombs that have been, you know, planted in the Russian infrastructure as a result of this.
But in the end, President Obama only approved what the post called a, "modest package" from sources in terms of the retaliation against Russia. And you just heard a former senior Obama official who was involved in those deliberations tell the Post that, "It's the hardest thing about my entire time in government to defend. I feel like we sort of choked." Did president Obama choked?
ENGEL: Well, I don't know if he choked. But I will tell you the response now that we know what we know is certainly disappointing. I think that this is a very serious attempt by the Russians and by keeping quiet. I think President Obama allowed the Russians to pursue their goal. It's very disappointing and I don't know if it's choking, but it's certainly in my opinion not doing what should have been done and that is letting the American people know that our free election was in jeopardy because of Russian nonsense and Russian hacks. I think that it was a mistake not to go public on it.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Congressman Engel. Good to have you with me. I appreciate it.
ENGEL: Thank you. My pleasure.
BURNETT: Next, President Trump questioning whether special Counsel Bob Mueller and his team are biased against him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: The people that have been hired are all Hillary Clinton supporters. Some of them worked for Hillary Clinton.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: But is that true? Well, we have the facts.
Plus breaking news, the Republican health care bill facing growing opposition tonight. Another senator defecting to the list of notes on the GOP. And Trump's new plan to pay for a border wall. Will it actually pay for itself?
[19:18:46 BURNETT: New tonight, the White House press secretary apparently contradicting the president. When asked today if president trump is considering firing special Counsel Bob Mueller, Spicer said this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SPICER: Nothing has changed on that. He has no intention of doing that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Now listen to what the president of the United States himself actually said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Well, he is very, very good friends with Comey, which is bothersome. But he's also -- we're going to have to see.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: We're going to have to see. Tom Foreman is out front.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For President Trump, the special counsel's probe of possible ties between the White House and the Russians comes down to two words, witch hunt. And his complaints start with the investigative team Robert Mueller's assembly.
TRUMP: The people that have been hired are all Hillary Clinton supporters. I mean, the whole thing is ridiculous, if you want to know the truth from that standpoint.
FOREMAN: Mueller, who was FBI director under George W. Bush and Barack Obama has a stellar reputation. He has pulled 13 lawyers into his team. They have vast experience investigating terrorism organized and white collar crime and using federal records CNN has so far identified three who have donated money overwhelmingly to Democrats. More than $50,000 since 1988.
[19:20:06] James Quarles alone gave tens of thousands to help Democrats campaign for the White House, Senate and House of Representatives.
NEWT GINGRICH (R), FORMER HOUSE SPEAKER: These are bad people.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Bad people?
GINGRICH: Bad people.
FOREMAN: And Trump surrogates such as former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich are going after them tooth and nail.
GINGRICH: Miller, I have no doubt that he is -- a person who is going to do his best. But he is surrounding himself with a collective group of people who are going to engage in a witch hunt.
FOREMAN: The president's supporters have also raised questions about Mueller's close relationship with one person deeply entrenched in the Russian story, the FBI director Trump fired, James Comey.
JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: I know Bob Mueller very well and believe he is one of the finest public servants this nation has seen.
FOREMAN: Their relationship goes back decades, giving some critics even more reason to question Mueller's leadership of this investigation.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Should he recuse himself?
TRUMP: Well, he is very, very good friends with Comey, which is very bothersome. But he's also -- we're going to have to see it.
FOREMAN: We haven't been able to figure out quite yet if any of these people did work directly with Hillary Clinton as the president has suggested at times. But we do know this. The president has said about Mueller that he thinks he's an honorable man. At the same time, this president has gone after even judges and accused them of bias when he hasn't liked their rulings. So, here is something else we will have to see, Erin. Will he accept the findings of the special counsel if they go against him? Erin?
BURNETT: Right, absolutely. Of course he said plenty of nice things about Jim Comey, too, until he fired him. All right. Thank you very much, Tom Foreman. And I want to go now to former federal prosecutor Michael Zeldin because he knows Robert Mueller. Who is the former special assistant at the Justice Department and the former independent counsel. Also with us former assistant secretary for the Department of Homeland Security and David Gergen.
So Michael, let me start with you because you know Bob Mueller. Trump obviously questioning his integrity, questioning his team, questioning his friendship with Jim Comey and whether he could do his job. Is it going to impact the investigation?
MICHAEL ZELDIN, ROBERT MUELLER'S FMR. SPECIAL ASSISTANT, DOJ: It shouldn't. It won't really impact Bob Mueller. Bob Mueller is going to look at the facts and look at what the evidence based on those facts tells him and he's going to make a decision. It is not going to be a political decision. He is not a political guy. He is actually by Wikipedia registered as a Republican, but that doesn't make one bit of difference for the way he'll behave in this case. It's going to be what the fact say, where is the evidence lead, what is the conclusion you have to draw from those things.
BURNETT: So, Juliette, it is interesting, though. Trump is raising a couple points here that are worth running down. OK? One of them the donations. You just heard Tom's report. Mr. Quarles giving tens of thousands of dollars to Democrats. There are at least three members of Mueller's team that have donated almost exclusively to Democrats as Tom reported. Two of them to Hillary Clinton last year. Does Trump have a point to say that this objection -- investigation, I'm sorry, may not be objective?
JULIETTE KAYYEM, FMR. ASST. SECRETARY, DEPT. OF HOMELAND SECURITY: Not really. I mean, look, there is the facts of the contribution, which you can't deny and they are asserting their preferences during the election. But whether you would say every attorney who has given to a campaign can't therefore be objective in an investigation that isn't just about Trump. And remember this investigation is about potentially, not just Russia's involvement with the election but other people, whose names we know Mike Flynn, Jared Kushner and others.
So, I understand why Trump is doing this, because he wants to create an atmosphere, but the idea that lawyers that contribute can't be objective is just -- it's surreal --
KAYYEM: -- and the suggest or taking it one step further would be no lawyer can ever contribute to a campaign which would include Trump's own lawyers.
BURNETT: So, Michael, let me ask you the question when it comes to Bob Mueller. Do you think he is aware of this and doesn't mind the optics of it in terms of these donations? I mean they could leak out some of their lawyers have given to Republicans if indeed any of them have. We aren't aware of it.
ZELDIN: Actually, there is a report out there that I think (INAUDIBLE) gave to some Republicans. There is giving on both sides. However, I think that the point is better understood that politics really does not play a role in an independent counsel investigation.
On my independent counsel investigation, we had both Democrats and Republicans. We were investigating George Herbert Walker Bush in his administration. Not one day in the three years that we investigated this was politics ever discussed and nor did it have any impact on our decision and I think that's going to be the case with Mueller. These are professional prosecutors, professional lawyers. They will make their decision on facts and evidence and not where they made a political contribution a year before or 10 years before as Carl's case.
BURNETT: So, David, we have not talked about the political part of this, the political donations, right. Now let's talk about the other point Trump raise t. Comey and Mueller are friends. We know that, right? The night just wasn't out. So we found an article in the Washingtonian talking about their long friendship. And here is some of their praise for each other.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
[19:25:14] BOB MUELLER, SPECIAL COUNSEL: I have had the opportunity to work with Jim for a number of years in the Department of Justice, and I have found him to be a man of honesty, dedication and integrity.
COMEY: He was very supportive to me personally. He's one of the finest people I have ever met.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Now, David, the former FBI assistant director James Kallstrom, I want to note he did support Trump for president, but he says this is a very clear issue. And here's how he put it.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
JAMES KALLSTROM, FORMER FBI ASSSITANT DIRECTOR: The problem with Bob Mueller being involved there is he's got a 25-year close friendship with Jim Comey. I mean, what's that about? I mean that's a clear conflict of interest if he goes there and looks at Comey's activities while he was director.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
BURNETT: Does he, does the president of the United States have a point on this friendship, David?
DAVID GERGEN, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER: No, no. I think this is nonsense. Listen, six different presidents have appointed Bob Mueller to high positions in the U.S. federal government. Four of those presidents have been Republicans, starting back with Ronald Reagan stretching through to Donald Trump. As worth remembering, that -- Mr Mueller is there by the selection of Donald Trump's own deputy attorney general. This was a call by the Trump Administration, and it turns out that Mueller was actually in to see the president before this was announced. So they had great faith in him when this all started. This is nothing more than a preemptive strike against the investigatory body in order to discredit it, if it comes up with evidence somehow indicts the president. But if it comes up and exonerates the president, I think they're going to be full of praise for his, you know his objectivity.
BURNETT: Are you concerned they will cast doubt, Michael, on this investigation by raising these issues which they have done and comments surrogates of the president like Newt Gingrich are doing every single day.
ZELDIN: Well I think that's strategy. There is sort of bipolarity to the strategy. On the one hand you say Mueller is an honorable guy and you hope he comes up with an honorable solution, that's if he comes up with the report. It's favorable to him. On the other hand, they say he's biased and he's got Democrats and he's friends with Comey. So they are trying to play it both ways. I don't think it is a wise legal strategy. I think they would be better off letting it be and letting Mueller do what he does.
But the other thing is the supposition that they are very good friends and therefore it's going to impact their determinations, I don't know if that's actually proving to be the case. I think they are professional friends, not very close personal friends and professional friends are quite different relationships than personal friends --
BURNETT: Fair point.
ZELDIN: -- and I don't think it is going to make a difference to Mueller anyways.
BURNETT: All right, thank you all. And next we have breaking news on the health care bill. The Republican health care bill on life-support and another Republican senator tonight saying not going to vote yes.
And Trump bragging about his latest idea for the border wall.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: The higher it goes, the more valuable it is. Pretty good imagination, right? Good. My idea.
[19:30:39] ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking news tonight, yet another Republican senator says he cannot support the health care bill in its current form. Dean Heller of Nevada says he was worried that hundreds of thousands in his state would lose Medicaid. That brings the number to five of GOP senators who are against the bill right now. They can afford to have two of them vote no and have the bill still pass, right?
So, if these five vote no, it's not going to happen. They could only afford to lose two of them.
Ryan Nobles is OUTFRONT tonight with more.
And, Ryan, you know, this is an interesting and important defection, right? Because Heller specifically said Medicaid is his reason, that it became too hard for him to get to a yes because of the people that would lose Medicaid in his state. This is a drastic proposal in the program. What else is in there?
RYAN NOBLES, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Yes. And, Erin, the cuts to Medicaid are very specific and they're the most dramatic and that's one of the reasons that you are seeing senators like Dean Heller be uncomfortable with this bill going forward. There's three particular areas that I want to point out for you that senators are uncomfortable with.
The first is Medicaid expansion, which was a big component of Obamacare. And what this bill calls for is still the complete reduction of the Medicaid expansion. They want to get rid of it. But they're going to do it much slower than the House bill proposes. It wouldn't even begin until 2020.
It also turns Medicaid funding into a block grant for the states, which does give states more flexibility. Republicans like that, but Democrats are concerned because that could mean specific programs could be cut at the state level.
And then finally this Senate plan in particular calls for a much deeper and long-term cuts to Medicaid. And, Erin, Medicaid is a bedrock federal entitlement. It is something that politicians don't normally mess with, which is one of the reasons that this bill is so controversial.
BURNETT: And, Ryan, Heller says he's already spoke to leadership. He spoke to the vice president of the United States this morning, right? So, ostensibly, they had a chance to try to persuade him and they tried and they failed and he went to his press conference and he came out and said no, I am a firm no, I'm opposing the bill.
What exactly is the plan here? I mean, if he had a conversation with the people who are in charge of convincing people to get on board and they failed?
NOBLES: Yes, you know, Erin, I don't know if maybe this bill is in as much trouble as people are saying because when you look at the five senators who are involved in this plan, you can see a situation where you could get enough of them back over on the side of supporting this bill and it could still get through. These four conservatives are in a block altogether and Dean Heller is a vulnerable senator in a purple state. Perhaps that's the vote that Mitch McConnell lets go.
As you said before, he can do that with two votes and still get it through and maybe that's his long-term plan.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much. And let's go now to Rick Santorum, former Republican presidential
candidate, and, of course, former senator from Pennsylvania, and Paul Begala, Democratic strategist and political commentator, as you both are.
Senator, Republican senator, obviously, you know, emphasis here, purple state going to be up for re-election, right? He's got specific issues facing him. But he says he cannot vote for the bill because it is going to hurt too many of the poor in his state. Is this bill in the Senate as the president said about the House version too mean?
RICK SANTORUM, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No. I mean, first off, I'm really disappointed the president said it was mean because, number one, I don't think the House bill was mean and it sets up a false narrative going into this, that this is some sort of mean bill that the Senate has created.
This bill is really not too dissimilar from the standpoint of Medicaid as to what Republicans did with President Clinton on welfare reform. That's something I was involved with 20 years ago. And we took welfare, which was a federal entitlement, it was sacrosanct, aided families with dependent children, had been around for 50 years, and we made it into a block grant.
It has been probably the most successful reform of an entitlement program that we've seen. And it worked. The states love it. The governments love it.
BURNETT: That's what they're doing here. They're doing block grants. That's the funding bill replacement, yes.
SANTORUM: Right. I mean, so this is a pattern we've seen before. It worked. It works well.
And so, I understand why Dean Heller, he's in a tough re-election and he's probably one of the guys you do let go and don't have to vote for, but the idea of transforming Medicaid into a block grant is something every conservative, certainly the four that are on that list should be very excited about.
BURNETT: Paul? Not too mean then?
PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, they should be. They should be excited. No, the president is exactly right. It's not just mean, it is savage.
I mean, what it is is a tax cut bill. Let's call it what it is. It's a tax cut bill. Cuts taxes, a trillion dollars for the wealthiest people in America.
Then to pay for that or pay for some of it, they're going to kick millions of people off Medicaid.
[19:35:02] Medicaid, two-thirds of everyone in nursing homes in America is paid for by Medicaid, 49 percent of all the births in America is paid for by Medicaid, 60 percent of all special needs kids get help from Medicaid.
So, this is the Republicans dream. This is why they become Republicans, to cut taxes for the Koch brothers and kick some kid out of his wheelchair.
SANTORUM: Oh, Paul --
BEGALA: That's the point of being a Republican, Rick, right?
SANTORUM: You very well know the cuts that are going to be happening to the Medicaid program are not the disabled and are not the elderly.
BEGALA: Of course, they are.
SANTORUM: They are in the basic Medicaid program.
The cuts that are being talked about are to take the people who were added by Obamacare, who are able-bodied, in many cases working people who couldn't find reasonable prices on the Obama exchanges, and so, they were dumped into the Medicaid program, which is were all the expansion took place.
So, what we've done is take those people, move them back out -- put them back out in the private markets. They shouldn't be on Medicaid in the first place.
Medicaid should be for the exact people that you're talking about. It should be for the elderly. It should be for the disabled. And it should be for folks who are single moms who are having children and are poor. That's what Medicaid was designed to do. It should do that.
And, oh, those who are able-bodied, the working poor should not be on Medicaid. We should have a better system in the private market and that's what this bill designs.
BEGALA: Those folks have been paying into Medicaid all of their lives and to give a tax break to the Koch brothers, we're going to kick them off. This is savage. It is -- to me, it's the epitome of modern Republicanism and the president for once committed the sin of candor. It is mean.
SANTORUM: No, first off, Paul --
BEGALA: It is why only 16 percent of Americans like this idea and that's going to go fall, Rick, as these guys go home and women go home and have their town hall meetings, and they are confronted by the people who they're going to be kicking out of nursing homes and off of their health care -- health care that they paid for.
SANTORUM: Just to be clear, we're not taking anybody out of nursing homes, number one. BEGALA: You are.
SANTORUM: Number two, you said people have been paying into Medicaid. Nobody -- taxpayers don't pay into Medicaid. They pay into Medicare. They don't pay into Medicaid. So, let's just set the record straight.
And again, the focus of this is to make Medicaid for what it's supposed to be, which is exactly the people you talked about and take the working poor and put them in the private sector where they belong.
BEGALA: So, OK, so if you are in a nursing home, probably give them one of those coal jobs that Trump says we're going to bring back, right, or take that child on an inhaler for her asthma. We're going to put her to work in a factory. This is taking the most --
SANTORUM: Those are not people who had it, Paul.
BEGALA: By the way, one of the taxes they cut, Erin, you come out of the financial reporting area, is an investor tax. It's a 3.8 percent tax that the wealthiest investors pay. This was put on the books seven years ago. How has the Dow done in those last seven years? It has skyrocketed. It hasn't hurt the investor class.
By the way, we don't want to hurt the investor class. We love the investor class. But why did they need a tax break when stocks are going up and have been up going up for years, thank you, Barack Obama, and we're going to give them a tax cut in order to hurt people on Medicaid.
BURNETT: Taxes could have gone down. That is an interesting point to make.
Rick, can I ask you the bottom line from your perspective? Are they going to get the votes? Because some of these people, as I think Ryan pointed out, and I just want to make this point, they're noes but not really noes. Ted Cruz is not going to say, this is my last best chance to replace Obamacare, I'm not going to vote for it, although he's technically on the list right now. But who knows?
But I'll say take him off, right? They could afford to lose two. If you gave Heller, as one, can they are you sure they're not going to lose one more vote.
SANTORUM: I suspect the ones they're most concerned about are Senator Collins and Senator Murkowski.
BURNETT: Right. So, concerned about Planned Parenthood and Medicaid.
SANTORUM: Right. The other four are four that in the end should be voting for this bill if, you know, if they can -- I don't know what particular provisions, but I wouldn't think that they want to go back to their home states, Ted Cruz is up for re-election this year and talk about how they weren't able to deliver on the central premise of the 2016 campaign.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you both very much, and certainly was the central premise for Mr. Cruz. Thank you.
And next, President Trump pushing for a border wall and he's got a new idea. He's very proud of it, and guess what? We've got the facts to test it out.
And breaking news, a U.S. ally put on notice, told to cut ties with terror groups or else. The breaking response this hour.
[19:43:15] BURNETT: New tonight, President Trump turning to the sun to pay for his wall. It might be a better chance than Mexico. The president saying solar panels could pay for the border wall and he says he came up with the idea but it is not exactly the whole story.
Sara Sidner went out to the field to find a story you'll see only OUTFRONT.
SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When President Trump said this.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're thinking about building the wall as a solar wall.
SIDNER: Thomas Gleason thought mission accomplished.
THOMAS GLEASON, GLEASON PARTNERS LLC: I'm happy. We've done what we wanted to do.
TRUMP: Pretty good imagination, right? Good. My idea.
SIDNER: As for the idea, at least two companies actually proposed it months ago when the Trump administration made an all call for companies to send in their border wall designs.
Thomas Gleason, a Vietnam veteran and small business owner, bid in April, sending photos and details of exactly how his solar wall would work.
(on camera): What's the selling point?
GLEASON: He gets to build the wall because it pays for itself.
SIDNER (voice-over): Sound familiar.
TRUMP: So, it creates energy. And pays for itself.
SIDNER (on camera): How?
GLEASON: The benefit is is there is going to be a demand for the electricity, even if there isn't a city within 50 miles. SIDNER (voice-over): Gleason says it would take 20 years of producing
power if for wall to pay for itself and showed us what a partial section of his solar wall would look like.
(on camera): How would you describe what it would take to get through it? Is it possible, virtually impossible?
GLEASON: It is going to take an A-team, you know, kind of crew. They're going to have to be talented.
SIDNER (voice-over): He says that's because this is just one layer of the wall. The base would be six feet of concrete, filled with rocks and sand. Then steel wire mesh. Then the solar panels, followed by more steel wire mesh and at the top, a pivoting ceiling of more solar panels.
(on camera): Could someone scale this?
GLEASON: Well, go ahead. Stick your fingers in that.
SIDNER: I can't.
(voice-over): There is no shortage of sun along the U.S./Mexico border. Gleason says each mile of this solar wall would power up to 400 homes.
The government has yet to pick its top proposals. And so far, Congress has not allotted funding for the wall.
President Trump's border wall proposal has garnered plenty of controversy and Gleason has gotten his share from making a bid. He's lost a client and a close friend who was Mexican-American, telling Gleason he'd be helping to divide families.
(on camera): So, you've lost potentially big business and a friend.
GLEASON: I'll get it back, as long as we don't get the wall.
SIDNER: But if he did get the bid, he estimates it would cost about $7.5 million per mile. Spread that out across the entire U.S./Mexico border and it is a $15 billion price tag -- Erin.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Sara. Of course $15 billion. Some said it would be $25. Maybe it's a bargain.
Next, the stunning list of demands and a diplomatic crisis. Will Trump intervene?
And Anthony Bourdain serves up Trinidad.
[19:50:10] BURNETT: Breaking news: The White House weighing in on a major diplomatic crisis. Press Secretary Sean Spicer saying the U.S. is willing to facilitate discussions, but staying out of the Qatari crisis for now. This comes as four countries, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, and Bahrain are giving Qatar ten days to comply with a shocking list of demand.
I obtained the list. There are 13 of them, which say in part: Qatar must cut all military and intelligence cooperation with Iran, shut down Al Jazeera television network worldwide, and cut ties with extremist organizations like the Muslim Brotherhood, ISIS, and al Qaeda.
Eric Pelofsky served in the Obama White House as a special assistant to the president on Middle Eastern affairs.
And thanks so much for being with me tonight, Eric. An area you know a lot about.
The Qatar ambassador to the United States just told OUTFRONT, and I want to quote him, because this is important here. He said the list clearly indicates this dispute is not about their false terrorism allegations, but it is an attempt to suppress free media and freedom of speech, as well as infringe upon our sovereignty and punish Qatar for its independence.
Eric, it's pretty defiant. I mean, are these demands DOA?
ERIC PELOFSKY, SPECIAL ASST. TO PRES. OBAMA FOR N. AFRICA & YEMEN: Well, I think this is certainly from their perspective the mother of all lists. It is a very tall order they're asking for. Whether it's DOA or not, I think the ambassador is trying to throw one broadside across the bow of the Saudis and the Emiratis as a way of giving some space for his government to respond on a much higher level. But I think it's likely to push the Saudis to escalate.
BURNETT: To escalate, and, you know, some of them have said, well, look, the more unreasonable they are made to look, the more they are going to dig in their heels on this issue. And, look, some of this may be unreasonable, but there are some core questions here, Eric. Of course, one of them that matters to all Americans is whether Qatar is financing ISIS and al Qaeda.
You know, I traveled to Doha to report on one Qatari citizen, Saad bin Saad al-Kaabi. He was designated a global terrorist by the U.S. Treasury after our report. And you and your colleagues at Manhattan Institute I know just recently investigated and found that al-Kaabi and other U.S. designated terrorist as well, were acquitted in Qatar for terror finance.
What are they doing now?
PELOFSKY: Well, I think you're absolutely right. You've been on this story from the very beginning. It is something that goes to issues that the American people ought to be very focused on. The threat of providing financing to these kind of terrorists is very serious.
This guy that you were referring to is troubling. There's another, Khalifa al-Sabah (ph), he was identified in 2008 by the U.N. This is not just the United States, it's the U.N. and all 15 members of the Security Council agreed to list him. And then in 2015, they went back and updated. They showed in that update all 15 members agreed to this that he, after being convicted and released, and then put under surveillance, was still doing financing for terrorism.
So, there is a core issue here that needs to be addressed. Whether the mother of all lists should really be the list that is used to resolve the crisis is another thing. But we have issues here that are important to the United States.
BURNETT: All right. Eric, thank you very much. Eric Pelofsky, as we said.
And next, we're going to go to Trinidad with Anthony Bourdain. He's my guest.
[19:57:26] BURNETT: Tonight, chef and world traveler Anthony Bourdain coming face to face with one of his biggest fears, carnival. I'm talking about carnival in Trinidad and Tobago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANTHONY BOURDAIN, "PARTS UNKNOWN": The large numbers of strangers swarming through the streets, dancing in uniforms. Some of my deepest fears are having to dance or sing in public, either of these would be terrifying. So, this seems like a situation where that might come up.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: And Anthony Bourdain is with me now.
So, Anthony, how did that dancing and singing go for you?
BOURDAIN: I managed to neatly avoid it. I mean, they do something there called whining. It's -- I guess it's the twerking family and it's -- you know, everybody does it, and it looks really salacious. But --
BURNETT: It's like a hip and butt move?
BOURDAIN: A lot of grinding. And I'm totally not -- look, I'm terrified of dancing. Period. I've never been to a carnival or Mardi Gras, the prospect of dancing in public is deeply terrifying to me.
BURNETT: So, did anyone try to whine with you?
BOURDAIN: No, I evacuated immediately leaving my crew to the tender mercies of the whiners. Oh, my god. I'm traumatized.
Whining, I wining, I'm very good at, that's like hanging out and drinking beer. That's something my specialty.
All right. When you go to Trinidad and Tobago, this is an interesting place, like it's very Caribbean, but it's not the Caribbean a lot of Americans go to. There's so much culture there, African-Chinese, Indian, Middle Eastern influences you talk about all that. Here's one of the meals you ate.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BOURDAIN: Doubles a Caribbean take on an Indian dish. Two floppy tender pieces of soft Indian style bread loaded with a wheat heap of curry chick piece, pepper sauce and mango.
Structurally, I have questions here. I don't want seepage. That's never good.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: So, how was the food?
BOURDAIN: The food is really good. Among the best, if not the best in the Caribbean. And they know it. They're happy to tell you that. Very spicy, strong Indian influence. A lot of chilies, essential with every meal, but really, really good.
BURNETT: All right. Well, everybody is looking forward to this latest episode of "ANTHONY BOURDAIN: PARTS UNKNOWN" will air this Sunday on CNN. We're so excited as always for it. And thank you for being with us.
BOURDAIN: Thank you so much.
BURNETT: So, don't miss that, and I miraculously changed outfits.
Thanks for joining us. Don't forget you can watch OUTFRONT anytime, anywhere in CNN Go. Have a great weekend.
Anderson is next.