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GOP Braces for Budget Score on Health Care Bill; GOP Leader McConnell Wants Health Care Vote This Week; If You Like Your Medicaid, Can You Keep It? Medicaid Expansion Rollback Would Impact Millions; Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak Returning Home; Trump: Obama "Colluded or Obstructed" on Russia. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired June 26, 2017 - 12:30   ET


[12:30:00] JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: -- will lay out what it projects, how much it will costs, will the premiums go up and down, which groups whether it's low income people (inaudible), you know, who get helped and hurt the most about that? But when you have a Republican senator, he's not the only one, saying this plan will not reduce premiums then why are they doing it?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: It's a huge problem. It's not just that, also the CBO numbers will probably show significant loss of coverage because of repeal of the individual mandate that's in the bill. The numbers are going to -- it can be more costly as well than the House bill. So you're going to cause concerns from the right. The cuts to Medicaid will make senators who come from expansion states like Ohio like Rob Portman concern and he has not voiced opposition yet.

It's going to be very difficult for Mitch McConnell to get 50 votes in the Senate to get it through this week. The ultimate question is going to be, does he put his members through a rigorous round of votes, amendment votes, very difficult votes on Thursday or decide, punt, negotiate further. Deal with it before the August recess?

KING: On the punt question, his number two, John Cornyn was at a Koch brothers political retreat in Colorado and said yesterday that, you know, August 1st is actually the drop deadline. A lot of people took that as evidence maybe John Cornyn, for Mitch McConnell, his deputy was trying to back slide a little bit? But this week, John Cornyn just tweeted out a little bit, "I am closing the door."

There was a tweet from another reporter saying perhaps he's opening the door to extend this. "I am closing the door. We need to do it this week before double-digit premiums increases are announced for next year."

So obviously, they can change their mind. But if senators don't think they're going to have to vote, if they think they can delay tough decisions, they will delay tough decisions.

MICHAEL BENDER, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: This is a Senate process not a White House process but I can tell you inside that White House they are not looking at this as a closed door. The president and his team views this as not an eight-year debate within the Republican Party. But they talked about this a little in interviews over the weekend.

He views this as a fine line timeline. You know, Hillary Clinton got years to do this. Barack obama talked about it for years. Why do I need to do it in five months?

JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVIS, THE NEW YORK TIMES: But don't forget also these senators are under pressures of their own. And I think one of the reasons you see John Cornyn saying that and Mitch McConnell, as difficult as the math is really trying to push towards this vote at the end of the week, is if they lose momentum for this now this is going to get harder and harder. These questions, these philosophical questions about how much of the government be involved here? How much are you going to let Medicaid grow?

Are you going to let it be the way it been as an open-ended entitlement or cut it back? Then it means they're not going away and Republicans are -- as the Democrats, or everyone's up for re-election in 2018 so they need to make some progress here. And the president did say that he wanted action on this quickly.

JACKIE CALMES, LOS ANGELES TIMES: As your intro showed this and -- the president today had, what, six tweets about Democrats being obstructionists on this bill. (Inaudible) named and had video from six Republicans. The Democrats aren't even in this game and were never dealt into this hand. And so it's just sort of the craziness of his tweets that are depicting them as the obstructionists as opposed to his own party.

KING: There's no question, Democrats aren't working with the Republicans on this bill, just like Republicans didn't work with the Democrats on ObamaCare. But that was a Republican choice to make this a Republican-only repeal and replace. A lot of the critics of this bill say it doesn't even repeal (inaudible).

CALMES: We can remember how angry Democrats were with President Obama at the time because he (inaudible) was taking so long to try to get votes from people like Chuck Grassley that were never going to be there.

KING: Never going to be. And the question is, the president says he'll make phone calls this week. Word from McConnell land is they would prefer largely I think to do this on their own and not have the president involved. One of the reasons as we remember, the House passed its bill, the president had this giant ceremony in the Rose Garden, then he went on to call the Republican House bill mean. A lot of people on Capitol Hill tried to say, well, the president didn't really mean that. Then President Obama (inaudible) criticized the Senate bill and the president of the United State, listen here, confirming he called the House bill mean.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He actually used my term, mean. That was my term, because I want to see, I want to see -- and I speak from the heart. That's what I want to see. I want to see a bill with heart. (END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: That's what he says now. But he celebrated the House bill in the Rose Garden with a huge ceremony as if it was the greatest thick since sliced bread. If you are a Republican senator, he's part, not all, you worry about Medicare, you worry about premium Medicaid -- I mean, you worry about premiums, you worry most about the substance of the bill. But if you have a tough political vote, it's 50/50 to you, aren't you worried that a month from now, if the polling is bad and the president of the United States will go out and criticize the very bill he just asked you to vote for?

RAJU: Absolutely. And you want political cover from your president. That's one of the things (inaudible) Democrats back in 2009 when they're taking this very difficult vote on ObamaCare, they' were asking some cover from the White House, the president to get out there, barnstorm for them. of course it didn't really work so well. They lost the House in 2010. But if you're a senator who believes in a lot of these things, were very ideological about some of these things and the president is making promises to you, how do you know he's going to keep the promises or really gets the nuts and bolts of the policy?

[12:35:07] KING: We'll continue this conversation in a minute, because next, Medicaid is a big fight within the ObamaCare repeal fight. We'll put some of the Republican claims to the fact check test.


KING: Welcome back. The Trump White House is trying to help sell the Senate Republican health care plan. And as they do, they're using some only Washington math and this bold promise, if you like your Medicaid, you can keep your Medicaid.


KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO THE PRESIDENT: These are not cuts to Medicaid, George. This slows the rate for the future and allows governors more flexibility with Medicaid dollars because they're closest to the people in need. If you are currently in Medicaid, if you became a Medicaid recipient through the ObamaCare expansion, you are grandfathered in. We're talking about in the future.


[12:40:02] KING: Now does that pass the fact check? CNNMoney's Tami Luhby joins us to separate the spin from the substance. Tami, you just heard Kellyanne Conway, she says, if you're in Medicaid now you can keep your Medicaid. Is there such an ironclad clause?

TAMI LUHBY, CNNMONEY SENIOR WRITER: Well, the real issue here John is federal funding for Medicaid. The House bill will continue paying states more for low income adults on Medicaid expansion at that time. So it's likely that many of those folks could stay enrolled at least for a few years. The Senate bill, however, does not do that. But what people may not realize is that both the Senate and House would greatly reduce federal support for the overall Medicaid program, which covers more than 70 million people. And states will have to decide how to handle this drop in funding.

KING: So walk us through those numbers, then, or slower growth as Kellyanne Conway says. Conservatives say it's all about giving flexibility to the states. Does that work?

LUHBY: Well, let me read you what the National Association of Medicaid Directors Board said about the Senate bill today. "No amount of administrative or regulatory flexibility can compensate for the federal spending reductions that would occur as a result of this bill." So, yes, states will get more flexibility but they get a lot less money too.

The CBO says, the House bill would mean an $834 billion cut over the next 10 years compared with current law. That's a 24 percent decrease. We're waiting for the CBO score of the Senate bill later today. But look, many of these states are cash strapped as it is so they will likely have to tighten their eligibility, reduce benefits or cut payments to doctors and hospitals just to deal with these cuts from D.C.

KING: And so as you look ahead to that possibility, what's the scope of the universal of people we're talking about? How many people get their health care through Medicaid and ObamaCare's Medicaid expansion?

LUHBY: Well, the largest group covered by Medicaid is children, nearly 35 million of them. That's two in every five kids in America. There are also 27 million adults, 11 million of whom were part of the Medicaid expansion program. And there are nearly 19 million who are disabled or elderly.

But most of the money is spent on the disabled or elderly. More than 60 percent of all Medicaid dollars go to care for these two groups.

KING: And we will be checking the facts. Tami Luhby of CNNMoney, thank very much. That context is critical as we know for a number of these Republican senators especially those from states that didn't used Medicaid expansion to add people to their health care rolls.

You just look at those numbers, it is inevitable. We're going to have a philosophical argument and part of it is a philosophical argument about the role of government in health care but it is inevitable if you scale that back that the numbers, their access to health care goes down.

CALMES: Well, I would add one more number to your list here and that is that, two out of three residents of nursing homes are Medicaid beneficiaries and we have a population that is aging as baby boomers get older. And this goes to the point that refuting what Kellyanne Conway said about we're only cutting growth. The same argument was made in the Newt Gingrich revolution 22 years ago when they took over Congress and it didn't work then. And what happened -- Medicaid is growing because costs of health care and the population are growing. And if you -- the growth is based on projections of what that population growth and medical prices is going to be. If you reduce that growth, somebody is not going to get care for some service at all. And so it's just -- a cut is a cut is a cut.

KING: Right. And you've heard Republican governors from those states, John Kasich in Ohio, Brian Sandoval in Nevada making that point. I just want to show as you look at this again. The Republicans can only lose two votes in the United States Senate to pass this bill.

Nevada, 203 people -- 203,000 people, excuse me, almost 204,000 people added for Medicaid expansion. Ohio, more than 631,000 people. West Virginia, nearly 200,000 people. And so you're looking at Republican senators from those states and there are others, that's just three right there. They're coming back to Washington after being home this weekend and you're asking them to take a very tough vote if you don't change that.

RAJU: Absolutely. That's why you saw Dean Heller from Nevada saying he can't support this bill. John Kasich yesterday said at the State of the Union told Dana Bash that he could not support this bill. If you are a senator putting pressure on Rob Portman, the senator. And Shelley Moore Capito from West Virginia is non-committal on this bill. And John, I'm also told that the new version of this bill, they're actually going to release a new version sometime today but it's not going to have major changes. It's going to have some minor changes.

It will impact the issue of so-called continuous coverage for people who have not enrolled in coverage to show they can get on in six months', they have to wait like a six-month period. I believe, the way it's going to be structured. But overall, a lot of these changes particularly on the Medicaid front may not go far enough for a lot of these senators from expansion states.

KING: And just you made the point about nursing homes. I just want to show you a New York Times headline in this point again. (Inaudible) with the policy Republicans are trying to sell it in a very difficult political environment. "Medicaid cuts may force retirees out of nursing homes." That's a tough sell in this environment.

[12:49:59] Another tough sell is the president has been saying, he'll round out votes for this bill if necessary if he can help. He's at least keeping in touch with conservatives trying to get them to keep pushing towards a compromise. But how does the president sign a health care bill that does what we just heard Tami explained to Medicaid after candidate Trump said this.


TRUMP: Save Medicare, Medicaid and social security without cuts. Have to do it. Get rid of the fraud. Get rid of the waste and abuse but save it. She wants to knock the hell out of your social security. She wants to knock the hell out of your Medicare and Medicaid and I'm going to save them, OK?


KING: Now, if you look at the dates on those, that was day one the Trump announcement speech, the first time and then late in the campaign. So from beginning to end in the campaign, candidate Trump was consistent. I won't cut these things.

DAVIS: Well, and his advisors have been trying to make the distinction, well, he's not cutting social security. Well, actually his budget did cut disability for social security. I'm not cutting Medicare, he has not propose any actual Medicare cut but he is proposing cuts in Medicaid and you have to wonder whether -- even in this process of negotiation with Republicans, even if he can get them to point where they feel like they have support, his own budget goes even further than the House or the Senate bill and slowing the growth raid of Medicaid.

So clearly this is something that he wants to accomplish, even though he campaigned on the opposite. And that is something he's going to live with. And members of Congress who support this bill are going to have to live with that as well.

CALMES: That's just one broken promise. This health care bill, House and Senate break three major promises of President Obama when he was a candidate. One is the idea that he would have tax cuts only for the middle class as his treasury secretary continues to say, this is a tax cut solely for the richest one percent of the country. The fact that Medicaid would be protected, it's not, obviously, 834 billion, and even worse in the second 10 years. And the third is, that there would be universal coverage virtually for that.

Anybody who needed care would get it. And people -- we often don't go back to that audio of his. But he said that his bill, his beautiful health care plan would cover everyone.

KING: For everyone, he did say that. All right, everybody sit tight. We'll continue the health care debate throughout the week, a very big week here in Washington.

Up next, Russia's man in Washington is heading back to Moscow.


[12:51:32] KING: To update you on the story we led the program with. The Supreme Court allowing parts of the Trump travel ban to go into effect while in October it will hear the broader constitutionality questions. The president read a statement earlier celebrating the Department of Homeland Security which implements the ban. Now he's issuing statement as well saying that this decision restores the executive branch crucial and long-held constitutional authority or defend our national boarders. That statement goes on to say, "The department will provide additional details on implementation after consultations with the Department of Justice in states and it promises that implementation will be done professionally with clear and sufficient public notice particularly and to potentially affect the travelers and in coordination with partners in the travel decision." The Trump administration trying to say now that it has this power, he'll have some quick consultations and then implement it. We'll watch for the public announcement about how all that would play out.

Let's shift to another big story here in Washington. Sergey Kislyak is going home. The Kremlin says, it is a routine rotation of diplomats but the timing is of note. The special counsel and Congress are looking into the Russian ambassador's 2016 meetings and conversations with at least three members of the president's inner circle. Presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and the fired National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.

Kislyak, you might recall also had a (inaudible) role in the Kremlin, public relations too inside the Trump White House. The president wanted to keep this meeting private. Well, as you can see, the Russians released images of a smiling President Trump in the Oval Office with the foreign minister Sergey Lavrov and Ambassador Kislyak.

So, Washington is going to make note of this because of his central role. In this, he wasn't going to be a witness, he wasn't going to tell anybody what actually happened. I suspect they have sit all along, he's the ambassador. Vladimir Putin even said last month, he's the ambassador, he's supposed to have meetings. That's what he did.

Is this of note or just good theater?

DAVIS: Well, I mean, this is also the ambassador that no member of the Trump inner circle can remember meeting with. And it got to an almost comical point where people were denying having met with him and sort of (inaudible) why they were meeting with him (inaudible). He's the ambassador, that is the job. You meet with American officials if you're the ambassador in the United States.

But it gotten to the point where all of these meetings were so loaded you have to imagine that it kind of crimped his ability to be able to be effective going forward. And there was talk of him going to the United Nations but it seems like instead he's just going to get out of the country.

RAJU: And also a view within the intelligence community in the U.S. that he's a spy for the Russians.

KING: Right.

RAJU: And that is one reason why that these meetings prompted suspicion. Of course, Trump says -- the team says there's nothing to it. But while probably they would not going to speak to him, the investigators on Capitol Hill or maybe Bob Mueller staff, there is an interest particularly on the Hill to try interview some of these Russians who have either have some connections to the Trump team. That is proving to be difficult to do.

KING: Good luck with that. The president meanwhile, is focusing a lot of attention on the Washington Post story over the weekend detailing in riveting detail how the Obama administration came to learn of the Russian election hacking. How it came, the CIA analysis it was direct from Vladimir Putin and then the inaction, the indecision the sort of debate back and forth within the Obama administration up to the election that he didn't do all that much. And the president is tweeting about that today.

"The real story that President Obama did nothing after being informed in August about Russian meddling. With 4 months looking at Russia under a magnifying glass." Then he goes on to say this, " they have zero "tapes" of T people colluding." That means Trump people. "There's no collusion and no obstruction. I should be given apology."

[12:55:07] The president goes on to say, sorry I need to read this. "The reason that President Obama did nothing about Russia after being notified by the CIA of meddling is that he expected Clinton would win, and did not want to "rock the boat." He didn't "choke," he colluded or obstructed, and it did the Dems and crooked Hillary no good."

The historical value of these tweets is the president at least finally seems to be conceding that Russia did this, that Russia hack into our system. There's a political argument in as well but one of the mysteries to many Republicans has been why won't the president come out and condemn the Russia for doing this and he seems to at least agree in those tweets that it happened.

BENDER: There's a lot to unpack in those tweets really. I'm not sure what tapes he's referring there. I'm not sure how Obama being more public about this back in 2016 would have possibly helped him. And meanwhile, there is a lengthy list, at least, you know, politically damaging here, potentially for Trump of obstructionism, right? I mean, you can go through eight to 10 different instances of either administration officials, White House officials, trying to you know, compromising members -- officials in the administration or in the House and the Senate to try to block stories on this topic.

KING: Trying to explain the president's tweets. Good for you.

Thanks for joining us in the Inside Politics. See you back here tomorrow. Wolf Blitzer in the chair after a quick break.