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GOP Aide: Goal Is To Have New Health Care Draft By Friday; Trump: I know Health Care Subject Well And Want Victory; Podesta Defends Obama's Handling Of Russian Meddling; Trump Ally To Testify Before House Intel Committee; GOP Wants New Health Care Draft By Friday; Pro-Trump Group Pulls Ad Against Fellow GOP Senator

Aired June 28, 2017 - 11:00   ET


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: I'm John Berman. "AT THIS HOUR" with Kate Bolduan starts now.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you, John. Thank you, Poppy. Hello, everyone. I am Kate Bolduan.

It's a back to the drawing board sort of kind of day. Senate Republican leaders put the planned healthcare vote on hold for now. That means it's time to head back behind closed doors and try to hammer out a new compromise that can satisfy Republicans or at least enough Republicans to get this healthcare plan over the finish line in the Senate.

That brings us a new sort of deadline, kind of, sort of. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell wants a new healthcare draft by Friday. That's according to a senior Republican aide. The latest count right now against the current form is nine senators are currently a no on the bill as it stands.

So where do they go from here? Where is the compromise if they haven't found it already? Does Mitch McConnell have some magic trick up his sleeve?

Let's go to Capitol Hill right now. CNN congressional correspondent, Phil Mattingly is there. Phil, I know you love magic tricks, but it's no time for fun and games today. It's very serious. Is there an air of compromise and optimism on the Hill today or is it something else?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Look, I think there's relief that they're not trying to force a vote today. I think enough members -- look, as you noted, nine members, including three after the vote was delayed coming out in opposition.

I'm told there were significantly more members with major concerns than just that that we saw publicly behind closed doors so there's relief. Is there some sense that things are all of a sudden going to come to conclusion? That they're going to figure out a way to all sing merrily towards 50 votes?

No, there's not. And the reason is this, if you look at the dynamics, kind of the parameters of the debate internally within the Republican Party, you have Medicaid expansion senators, who want an easier phase- out or fewer cuts or reductions in spending in the program entirely.

According to the CBO $772 billion would be removed over the course of ten years through this bill on Medicaid. On the other side of the spectrum, the ideological spectrum, you have conservatives who want to significantly ratchet back the regulations that are included in the Affordable Care Act.

Kate, what that means is they want to go after the regulations that in some cases protect pre-existing conditions or protect the price protections for pre-existing conditions. So you have these kind of two groups of senators on the opposite sides of the ideological spectrum with ideas and plans and things that they not just want but need to support the bill that don't mesh with one another.

So that's kind of the thicket that the majority leader is trying to navigate at the moment right now. I can tell you this, they know what each of the senators in the conference need. We have seen a lot of them talk about it publically.

The question is, how do you give moderates enough or more centrist senators enough while still giving conservatives a a cutback of the regulations that they want to bring everybody together.

The reality, Kate was, as of yesterday, despite their best intentions and best efforts, they didn't have the votes. They were well short of the votes. They hadn't figured out a way to thread that needle.

One of the biggest questions that I have asked repeatedly over the course of the last 24 hours is, what changes? What's going to be different? You knew where the dynamics were. You knew where all of your members were. How is something going to change over the course of the next three days?

They think they can do it. They are clearly pushing for that. Some aides caution that things could slip a little bit as they try to finalize this draft. But when you have people like Senator Susan Collins saying she needs fundamental changes to the bill, Senator Dean Heller kind of saying something similar.

Rand Paul on the other side saying the same type of thing. Those are significant problems. Those aren't just tweaking here and tinkering there. So how they try and navigate this over the next 72 hours or really over the next 10 days is going to be fascinating to watch because as of now, they're just not there.

BOLDUAN: What shakes this lose? Is time just enough to get just enough? I don't know. Great to see you, Phil. We will see. Thank you, thank you.

So what is the president's role in all of this negotiation now that he has hosted most of the Senate Republicans for a pow-wow at the White House just yesterday? Well, let's go there.

CNN senior Washington correspondent, Joe Johns is at White House with much more on this. So Joe, what is the White House saying about the delay and about calling off the vote and about where they go from here?

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kate, despite all the spin leading up to the vote, right here at the White House people indicating how much the president was doing to try to push through the Senate bill and despite that listening session occurring just yesterday of Republican senators here at White House.

The reality was there was only so much the president of the United States could do because this was always like it or not considered on Capitol Hill a Mitch McConnell rodeo, referring to the Republican Senate majority leader.

Just the same, the president today appearing a little bit agitated at the notion that he was not fully engaged. He issued a tweet there, "Some of the fake news media likes to say I'm not totally engaged in health care. Wrong. I know the subject well and I want victory for the U.S."

Now, here is what the president said last night here at the White House.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: This will be great if we get it done and if we don't get it done, it's just going to be something that we're not going to like and that's OK and I understand that very well.


JOHNS: So far, no art of the deal moves here at the White House. They are waiting for the Senate to give them the cue. Kate, back to you.

BOLDUAN: Let's see how long they wait and exactly what role and how many more meetings and phone calls the president will be making from the White House to get this thing moving and shake it loose. Great to see you, Joe. Thank you so much.

We have an opportunity to see President Trump. He will be holding an event at the White House. We will take you there when it begins a little later this hour. See what he has to say.

So also this, his e-mails were hacked, U.S. intelligence says Russia was behind it and they were leaked by Wikileaks throughout the closing month of the 2016 election. Still, Hillary Clinton's former campaign chairman, John Podesta, is defending former President Obama's handling of the Russian attack. Listen.


JOHN PODESTA, FORMER CAMPAIGN CHAIRMAN, HILLARY FOR AMERICA: The president and the entire administration were dealing with an unprecedented incidents of the weaponization of the fruits of Russian cyber activity. And I think they were trying to make the best judgments they could on behalf of the American people. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: Podesta speaking out publically after he met with House investigators on Capitol Hill, who are in charge of the Russia probe on the House side. That happened just yesterday. Seeing video of him going in and coming out yesterday.

Kaitlan Collins has much more on this from Washington. She's been following all this. Caitlyn, what more did John Podesta say? Did we learn anything from him coming out?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Yes. So John Podesta testified before the House Intelligence Committee yesterday. It was in a closed session, though, so we don't know what he said besides what he offered us yesterday.

As you will remember, these e-mails were a pivotal part of the campaign. They reveal the inner workings of Hillary Clinton's campaign, including what her staffers thought of her paid speeches, their tactics for defeating Bernie Sanders to what jokes she going to tell at dinner that night.

Now John Podesta yesterday had the opportunity to throw the Obama administration under the bus, but he declined to do so. He said that this was an unprecedented attack and that they responded with the best judgment that they could.

Now other people have been very critical of how the Obama administration responded to this namely the president. On Twitter, he has said that they should have responded sooner. Why didn't they do more? And that we should be focusing on the Obama administration's response instead of what his administration is doing.

He is not the only one who says that, though. Congressman Adam Schiff has also echoed that and said that the Obama administration should have reacted more strongly when they found out that the kremlin was trying to interfere in the election.

BOLDUAN: Yes, Adam Schiff, an outspoken Democrat on this issue and other Democrats have spoken on as well saying that they have not done enough. So John Podesta testifying behind closed doors. Roger Stone, a longtime ally of Donald Trump, we also learn is going to be testifying before that very same House committee. Kaitlan, what do we know?

COLLINS: Yes. So Roger Stone confirmed yesterday that he is going to testify before the committee on July 24. Though he has said repeatedly he wanted it to be an open session, the committee has reportedly requested that it be a close hearing.

Here is the statement that Roger Stone gave me yesterday, "I am confident that Podesta most likely repeated his lie that I knew in advance about the hacking of his e-mail and I'm anxious to rebut this falsehood. I'm still unhappy that my testimony will not be in public but I believe that it is important to resolve the question of Russian collusion with the Trump campaign, which I believe was non-existent." Now that lie that he is referring to is a tweet that came from Roger Stone last year in August of 2016 when he said that John Podesta was next in the barrel. Two months later, Wikileaks released John Podesta's e-mails and some have raised connections between the two.

However, Roger Stone has maintained that that tweet was not about John Podesta's e-mails and that it was in reference to his business dealings.

BOLDUAN: It was more than that one tweet. Roger Stone had a lot to say throughout the election about connections to Wikileaks and Julian Assange, and now he will have the opportunity to answer those questions before the House committee. Kaitlan, thanks so much. Appreciate it.

Let's talk with someone on that very committee right now, Democratic Congressman Mike Quigley. He is from Illinois, of course, sitting on the House Intelligence Committee. Congressman, it's great to see you. Thanks for coming in.


BOLDUAN: Did you find the meeting with John Podesta helpful? Can you tell me anything you learned?

QUIGLEY: Yes. Unfortunately, I can't reference who has testified or will testify before the committee when it's in closed session. I did hear his public pronouncements about the president and I found it enlightening and enjoyable that Mr. Stone wants to testify publically.

I want to encourage him to talk about this as much as he can publically. There's no one here more than Mr. Stone, who would rather have Roger Stone testify on prime time and answer critical questions about what he said last August.

What was his relationship with Julian Assange and Wikileaks and how did he know that Mr. Podesta was next in the barrel and that there was political dynamite using his own words about the Clintons that were about to come out from this group?

BOLDUAN: So you confirm, though, that Roger Stone will be testifying before the committee?

QUIGLEY: No, I'm not doing that. I'm encouraging him to follow up on what he said that he wants to testify publically. I'm just commenting on Mr. Stone's words. If he wants to testify publically -- again, no one would be happier than I would because of all the things and all tweets that you referenced that took place last summer.

BOLDUAN: Congressman, why would he be testifying behind closed doors? It's not as if -- one would assume he doesn't have classified clearance. He wouldn't have anything classified he would be discussing with the committee. Why not have it out in the public?

QUIGLEY: Look, again, I can't reference who will or won't testify in a closed setting. All I'm suggesting is that -- I would love to take him up on that.

BOLDUAN: Do you see any reason for someone like Roger Stone to need to testify in closed session before your committee?

QUIGLEY: I think the decisions on who testifies under closed or open settings is made on a bipartisan basis by leadership on both sides. So I'll leave that decision to them. I'm only encouraged that he wants to testify publically and I would love to be the first one asking those questions.

BOLDUAN: Do you think on some level that folks are concerned about what he would say in public? He is known to grandstand. I mean, we know over his time in the public eye.

QUIGLEY: Look, as a person who was criminal defense attorney for ten years, someone with the ego like that, you give them a public stand, they tend to open up. That's what we need. We need to know, the American public has a right to know what Mr. Stone's relationship was with Julian Assange.

He says he knew him. He says they communicated. He said he knew that these e-mails were coming. If we know that the Russians were the ones who attacked our community -- that was revealed in January by the Intel community -- and we know that Wikileaks was the one that released it.

This is Mr. Stone talking about his open relationship and good relationship with that same entity following the president talking about encouraging Wikileaks to further hack Mrs. Clinton's e-mails. Look, it all points in an obvious direction that there was some sort of cooperation as admitted by Mr. Stone. Let's get all the details.

BOLDUAN: I will put you in the category of if you had the power to decide, you would have him testify in a public format, correct?

QUIGLEY: Absolutely.

BOLDUAN: So then --

QUIGLEY: Please let me ask the first questions.

BOLDUAN: If I had the power, maybe I would allow you after I get the first question. But let me ask you this then, are these decisions political? Who can testify in public and who is testifying in private?

QUIGLEY: In fairness, I don't think that they are, you know. I mean, here we are just talking openly, but the fact of the matter is, again, those are decisions that so far have been made on a bipartisan basis by leaders of the intel community.

Whether or not someone testifies, whether they testify in open or closed session. I'm going to respect those decisions. I'm just enthused that the person -- one of the people I would most like to see testify is publically saying that he wants to come clean on all these things. BOLDUAN: Let me ask you one more thing about John Podesta. I want to play a sound bite. I spoke with one of your colleagues, Jackie Speier, yesterday. Here is what Congresswoman Jackie Speier had to say about Podesta going -- this was before he went in for his testimony. Listen to this.


REPRESENTATIVE JACKIE SPEIER (D-CA), ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE: This is yet again an effort by my Republican colleagues to divert the investigation into areas that are not going to be probative or necessarily helpful in determining whether or not the Russians infiltrated into our election and whether or not Trump campaign operatives were involved with Russia in that infiltration.


BOLDUAN: Do you think hearing from someone like John Podesta is a diversion, a political diversion?

QUIGLEY: The Democrats and Republicans have witnesses that they have requested on their list. I think that the witnesses that we have asked make sense to move forward on the investigation. Do I wonder about some of the Republican choices without mentioning anyone in particular? Sure.

But you know, in the final analysis, we have to figure this out. The House investigation has to go forward on a bipartisan basis. We have to get past the political divide.

This is the most important investigation of our lifetime. We have to get past these problems that we have had so far. I think we're moving forward on a positive basis. I'm going to take it on the positive side.

BOLDUAN: Look at the optimism flowing from Capitol Hill right now. It's very nice. Congressman, real quick, let's talk about if you are still optimistic on this one. You are not involved in the health care drama that's happening right now, but if you were a betting man, how do you think this turns out? Do you think the Senate passes the bill and sends it back to you all to consider or do you think Obamacare remains the law of the land?

QUIGLEY: I think the Senate has a hard time doing this. I think the health care law remains the law of the land. Here is what's discouraging. Medicare Part D needed tweaked three times. It needed legislative improvements.

Clearly, ACA does as well. My message to the Republicans, if you want to work on a bipartisan basis to show up a health care system in our country, we would be glad to work with you, as long as you are not knocking 20 million people off health care.

You are not eliminating Planned Parenthood, hurting people with pre- existing conditions. If you want to change the risk formulas, the incentives on these plans, if you want to provide a public option in some of the exchanges where it's needed, we will work with you. There are bipartisan opportunities out there. Not if you are going to hurt more Americans than you help.

BOLDUAN: I have heard overtures like this from both sides of the aisle. It will be interesting to see at what point we see someone actually reach across the aisle and who will do it first. Congressman, I really appreciate your time. Thank you very much.

QUIGLEY: Sure. Take care.

BOLDUAN: Coming up for us, a pro-Trump super PAC pulled back on its attack ad on a Republican senator who was against the health care bill. It comes just after Senator Mitch McConnell reportedly called it a stupid move and reportedly a lot of other folks were speaking out about it as well, including lots of Republican senators.

Plus this, I wouldn't test Donald J. Trump. That stern warning from a top aide to the president to Syria's Bashar al-Assad, as the White House fears that the dictator could be preparing a new chemical attack.

And "Time" magazine telling the Trump Organization, it is time to remove this framed magazine cover that had been on display in several of his golf clubs. Why? That's coming up.


BOLDUAN: On the healthcare front, it's still a battle of Republican versus Republican right now, but that battle got a little less heated today, if you can believe it.

A pro-Trump super PAC had targeted a Republican senator who is facing a tough reelection with an attack ad because he had come out against the bill. A pro-Trump PAC against a Republican, mind you.

Well, they have now pulled the ad against Senator Dean Heller after he and others, including reportedly Mitch McConnell complained about it directly to the president and to other top White House officials. Here is fellow Republican Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin speaking to CNN a little while ago.


SENATOR RON JOHNSON (R), WISCONSIN: I have heard those ads have been pulled and I'm really glad they've been pulled. I think every last Senate Republican is glad those ads have been pulled.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did it alarm you that it even happened in the first place?

JOHNSON: I did not think it was a very good strategy.


BOLDUAN: To say the least he says with a smile on his face. Joining me now to discuss, CNN political analyst, Kirsten Powers, who is also a "USA Today" columnist, and CNN political analyst, David Drucker, senior congressional correspondent for "The Washington Examiner."

All right. Friends, so, David, Republicans on the Hill and far beyond, they all think this ad, the ads were damaging to the process. How big of an impact did the ad -- only on air for a little while or maybe just the threat -- have on this process, do you think?

DAVID DRUCKER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, look, there are a lot of smart people at America first policies who have a good record of success in Republican politics. But I think that this ad and the strategy behind it was a horrible miscalculation.

Because Mitch McConnell can only spare -- the president can only spare two Republican votes, and even then they need the vice-president to cast the tie-breaking vote.

What they did is put Senator Dean Heller in a position where even if he eventually comes around on the health care bill, which he may in July, because he has always been in favor of repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act in some fashion, it's now going to look -- Democrats can now play it at least as a capitulation.

He was threatened with ads. He is already under pressure for 2018. Now he has come around simply because the president threatened him or the president's official group threatened him.

That's going to weigh on Senator Heller's mind as he tries to work through competing issues of wanting to do something about health care, but on the other hand he is in a state with a very popular Republican governor who has embraced Medicaid expansion and is against the Senate bill. And so by doing what --

BOLDUAN: No one wants to look like they have been forced to do anything because of an attack ad. I mean, no one does --

DRUCKER: Correct. They should have at least let this thing play out to a vote before they decided to go after one of their own, particularly somebody who is so vulnerable heading into 2018.

BOLDUAN: So Kirsten, the PAC behind the ad seems to have no regrets. Katrina Pierson, she is formerly with the Trump campaign. She is now with this group and she had this to say to Anderson about this all last night. Listen.


KATRINA PIERSON, SPOKESWOMAN, AMERICA FIRST POLICIES: Our main concern is pushing forward policies that support Americans first, particularly those Republicans have been campaigning on for last seven years. If I could give you a little context.

Mainly because there were other senators who did not support the bill in its current form, however, they stayed at the table. They offered their own ideas. Whereas Senator Heller actually held a press conference on Friday, said absolutely not and walked away from the table. So I'm happy to see that he is back.


BOLDUAN: She also said that the prepared to resume the ads if need be. What is wrong with this group doing this? Isn't this what PACs are about?

KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it's not a matter of right or wrong. I think it's a matter of what's typically done. This typically isn't done and I think it surprised the senators. The feeling is I think among Republican -- Mitch McConnell and some other Republicans around him is that the White House isn't really sensitive to the needs of the people on the ground, that the Trump people aren't sensitive to the needs of the people on the ground.

It has created a very disruptive environment when they're trying to not just hold on to the Senate but possibly expand seats there. So this is just not helpful to the process. They don't -- the Trump people don't really understand the process.

That this would -- they could have predicted this would alienate Senator Heller, not bring him to the table. You can hear Katrina saying no, that's not true. We think it's what pushed him to at least go to the meeting. I guess, we don't really know the answer to that. The bottom line is McConnell does not find it helpful.

BOLDUAN: David, ads can be effective as we well know. Poll numbers can be as well. New poll out from NPR/PBS showing this about the health care bill, only 17 percent of people polled approved of the Senate health care plan, 55 percent disapprove.

A quarter say they haven't heard enough to have an opinion about it. What does that do to GOP senators right now? Is it more or less troubling to them or problematic to them than the CBO numbers?

DRUCKER: Right. So I think that this is a larger problem for Republicans trying to get health care done than any one particular senator who may or may not have walked away from the table. Dean Heller never said he wouldn't negotiate. That's just factually incorrect.

You have a president who wants to get this done and is trying to get this done. But he does not have a lot to offer his Republican colleagues in the way of political cover. He hasn't even been doing much in the way of political cover.

We have not seen much in the way of public speeches or grass-roots efforts spurred on by the president the way we saw from President Barack Obama when Obamacare was on the rocks during the legislative process.

Even though it was never popular and independents and Republicans combined never liked it, when Democrats were wavering, they could always count on President Obama to use his leverage with the liberal base to keep them going, whether he gave speeches, whether he traveled the country. This is not something we have seen from the president.

I think it's why some Republicans, though not all, have felt like he is not immersed in the details. He doesn't talk publicly that much about why he wants to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act in a very public sense beyond Twitter.

Beyond that, in states like Arizona and Nevada and others, he doesn't have much in the way of political cover to help wavering senators. That is an issue here.

BOLDUAN: Well, you raise a good point, David. It's something that clearly the president seems to be sensitive to today. Kirsten, you saw him tweeting about it this morning.

I mean, the president seeming to try to -- it appears push back on reports that he is struggling to be -- struggling to be a closer on this, to get in the weeds and get the deal done. Do you see evidence that -- evidence of his influence in this discussion? Have we seen evidence of the president throwing his weight around on this yet?

POWERS: I don't think we have seen it in the Senate the way we saw it in the House. That's basically because there was a calculation that was made was the senators really weren't going to be swayed by Trump as much, and because of the fact he is not able to get into the weeds with them.

So that's why the vice-president was sort of dispatched to be more of the person to be running interference with the senators. I think the fact is, I don't think anyone has accused Donald Trump of being a policy wonk. He is not. He is a political animal and escalate to that game.

That's not his main business. I think that he is taking offense at that. The truth is, this is something we see time and time again, that he is really focused on the political issue, which is there is a promise made, we said we would get rid of Obamacare but doesn't really understand the policy ramifications of it.

BOLDUAN: A couple days to bone up, if you will. Let's see what happens. Great to see you both. Thank you very much.

President Trump's recent call with the new Irish prime minister getting some new attention today. Not because of what he is he said to the prime minister really, but to a female reporter who is in the oval office covering the phone call. Details on that ahead.

Plus, if a picture is worth a thousand words, what does a fake picture and what does this fake "Time" magazine cover found in several of President Trump's golf clubs say about the president? We will discuss.