Return to Transcripts main page


Venezuela Erupts; Republicans Struggling to Pass Health Care Legislation. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired June 28, 2017 - 16:30   ET



SEN. SHELLEY MOORE CAPITO (R), WEST VIRGINIA: I think we also know that it's the art of compromise here in the Senate, and so, at this point, we haven't reached that critical point of compromise.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: After a multiday frenzy, public attention and debate, the process now back behind closed doors.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell pressing his members, nine of whom have already publicly announced opposition to the draft bill, to find a way to get to yes.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER: We know that we cannot afford to delay on this issue. We have to get this done for the American people.

MATTINGLY: But senators and top GOP aides tell CNN that roadblocks to the 50 votes needed are far deeper than simple pet issues or interests, instead, a debate that lays bare the deep ideological divides inside the Republican Party. How much of a role should the government have in health care?

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: The opposition comes from various quarters and the ideological spectrum is really wide. So it's going to be a challenge.

MATTINGLY: Senators from states heavily dependent on Medicaid issuing stark warnings about the bill's effects.

CAPITO: The 184,000 West Virginians, I have said repeatedly, I'm not going to drop you off the edge of a cliff. And in my view, the Senate bill was too much of a cliff.

MATTINGLY: As Senator Rand Paul sent a letter with his four primary requests for changes to the bill to McConnell today, and reflecting the view of many of his conservative colleagues with this:

SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: We have given moderates in our caucus lots of money to keep spending. They get to keep the Obamacare subsidies. They get to keep the Obamacare regulations. So, there are all things that big-spending Republicans want. Now, if they want conservatives to be on board, they have to start talking about, you know what, we promised repeal. MATTINGLY: The president, though congressional aides tell CNN he

stays away from the in-the-weeds details, keenly aware of the existing dynamic.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Always tough. It's probably the toughest subject the standpoint of approval because every state is different, every state has different needs.

MATTINGLY: Even still, as it stands, GOP aides tell CNN there is an ongoing effort to try and thread that needle with money for opioid treatment and support for the Medicaid program and rural hospitals in the short-term, while searching for a way to give conservatives more options for states to cut back on Obamacare's existing insurance regulations.

The issues well-known. The path to 50 votes still unclear.

CAPITO: We're all strong-willed people, and at the end of the day, I have to go back to my state, as they go back to theirs, to defend my policies and my decisions.


MATTINGLY: And, Jake, there was a really interesting development today.

And somebody that works behind the scenes, but is extraordinarily very important, CMS Administrator Seema Verma on the Hill for a lot of the day, meeting with a lot of wavering senators, as well as the entire GOP Conference over lunch.

It's worth, she was a key player in the House negotiations, one of the individuals, I'm told, by several House aides got a lot of the on-the- fence even hard no votes over the line to get the 217 votes they ended up getting to pass that bill.

Her involvement is an important point. There is a lot of things CMS can do for individual states. There's also a lot of things on the information side of things she can help explain.

She is clearly being deployed right now by the administration, by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. The question now becomes, will that be enough, and, frankly, where else are they going to get support over the next couple of days -- Jake.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: All right, Phil Mattingly, thanks so much.

Let's dive in with my political panel.

And one of the things I want to start off with has to do with how knowledgeable President Trump is about his own bill and whether or not that matters. He tweeted earlier today: "Some of the fake news media likes to say that I am not totally engaged in health care. Wrong. I know the subject well and want victory for U.S."

Now, that seemed to be in response to an article in "The New York Times" in which a bunch of Republican senators, including people who supported the bill, talked about how, when he met with them yesterday, he didn't really understand the particulars in terms of the big tax cut vs. the Medicaid cuts, or whatever you want to call them, the decline in increase.

Does it matter if he knows? He's supposed to be the closer, but does it matter if he is as well-versed as, say, Barack Obama might be?

ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Given the experience we have on this with the House version, it didn't matter. He didn't seem to be too in the weeds or in the sausage-making process with that and it got out in the House.

In this part right here, I think the more hands-off he is, I think the better. I think McConnell has realized the error of his ways in setting a false deadline, trying to rush this thing through, now pulling back, bringing conservatives in the mix, bringing the moderates in the mix, today meeting with Dean Heller of Nevada. Very wise move.

And with the approach we have seen from Trump, the stick approach, that is not going to work. I think having people like Mike Pence in there negotiating with these House members, recognizing they are beholden to their constituents and not Washington, that's the better process moving forward.

And in my view, I think that right now if Donald Trump were to stand back a little bit and let McConnell and Pence and the members of the Senate work this out, I think that might be a better process.


TAPPER: And yet, Jason, there are probably a lot of members of the House -- or actually I know a lot of members of the House who are not exactly excited that President Trump then turned around after the House bill passed and called it mean behind closed doors and then again in public.

JASON KANDER, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: My question is not so much whether it matters politically, but I'm just curious whether he cares.

Can you imagine being -- forget that he's president of the United States. Just any organization that you are the head of that was about to make a massive change, so, say, the United States of America, which is looking at possibly changing something that will affect the lives of a lot of people.

TAPPER: Millions, sure.

KANDER: And 22 million people could lose their health care. So, I just...

TAPPER: Or not have health care because they choose to not have it, whatever.

KANDER: It's going to make a big difference for a lot of folks. TAPPER: Sure.

KANDER: The three of us are sitting here talking about it because it matters to us. We may not agree on all of it, but it matters a great deal to us.

I just don't understand why that is not something that he would want to know everything he could possibly know about it. And at the end of the day, if he does care about it, then I think he would look at it, I would hope, and see that a health care bill that causes 22 fewer million people to have less health care is not a good health care bill. It's just a bad idea.

STEWART: One thing, I think he does care about winning. He does care about repealing and replacing Obamacare because he understands the stakes that are involved.


TAPPER: But this doesn't do that. This doesn't repeal and replace Obamacare.

STEWART: We're on the right path to doing so.


TAPPER: Yes, it's dismantling parts of it, but the structure is still there. That's one of the reasons why Rand Paul and Ted Cruz and Mike Lee are not supporting it. They say it doesn't go far enough.

STEWART: Absolutely. And that's -- we're heading in the right direction, because now McConnell is bringing everyone to the table. Everyone is having their input.

And what the president said today, there may be a big surprise in store, I'm being told that could be he's looking at alternative ways to go about addressing this issue. Bringing more people to the table, obviously, but finding other ways that we haven't thought of before to tackle health care.

And that might be the way to go about doing -- but he understands the consequences. The midterm elections hinge on Republicans following through on their promises.

TAPPER: And, Jason, a new NPR/Marist poll finds that only 17 percent of respondents approve of the Senate care bill, 55 percent disapprove, 27 percent unsure. Two other polls are out showing support for the Senate health care bill under 20 percent.

And now all these members of the House and Senate are going to go back to their home states or home districts and have town hall meetings. These are not good numbers.

KANDER: A lot of them are refusing to have town hall meetings, because when something is at 17 -- we're talking about approval ratings that are below Congress, right? They understand that this is someone the American people don't...

TAPPER: Less popular than Congress and the media.

KANDER: Right. People don't want this.

And the reason that they set up this deadline of trying to get it done before they went home is because, you know, it's like when you get a bad report card, you don't want to go tell your parents about it. Folks are going home. They don't want to have town halls.

And, Alice, you said that what he cares about is winning. I agree. The problem is, he promised that what he would care about was -- quote -- "winning for the American people."

He seems to care about winning for Trump. He seems to still just be in it still for himself and his brand image and that sort of thing. So the surprise that he is promising could be that perhaps this weekend he plans to read the bill. Right?

But what he cares about is, are we going to have something that I can brag about, that I can say I got done? What I want him to care about, not as a Democrat, just as an American is, how is this going to affect the people of this country, whether they voted for me or not?

That's what I think all of want.


And I think, look, those numbers are not good. So, therefore, none of the members of the Senate, specifically those in the House, are going to vote for that. That's why they're back at the drawing board working on ways to beef up what people need and want in this bill, because they know if they vote for something to go along with the GOP and it's not popular among the people, it will come back to haunt them in the midterms.

TAPPER: There was an interesting exchange that President Trump had in the Oval Office with an Irish reporter when a government official from Ireland was there.

Actually, I'm wrong. I'm sorry. He was on the phone with the new prime minister of Ireland. Let's play that video.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I know we have a lot of your Irish press watching this. They're just now leaving the room.

And where are you from? Go ahead. Come here. Come here. Where are you from? We have all this beautiful Irish press. Where are you from?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm from (OFF-MIKE) Caitriona Perry,.

TAPPER: Caitriona Perry. She has a nice smile on her face, so I bet she treats you well.



TAPPER: Caitriona Perry, the reporter there, called the encounter bizarre.

As a woman, do you find that at all uncomfortable?

STEWART: I'm a woman, obviously, and I have been a journalist before.

And it made her uncomfortable. And that's unfortunate that she felt uncomfortable about that. However, I do think there's a little too much being made about this. I think that's President Trump's nature. I think, by nature, he's friendly.

I think if a guy was sitting there and he felt the need to or the compulsion to introduce that person on the phone to who he's speaking with, I think he would have done the same thing and he has done the same thing with guys. I think that is Trump's nature. I wouldn't read too much into it. But it is unfortunate if she felt uncomfortable.

TAPPER: President Trump is going to hold a reelection fund-raiser tonight. Surprise, surprise, it's at a Trump Hotel here in Washington, D.C., just a few blocks from the White House.


Attendees are paying tens of thousands of dollars to be in the company of the president. That will benefit the company's bottom line. And he has not distanced himself entirely from that.

Conflict of interest, Jason?

KANDER: I mean, yes, right from morning to night every single day.

This goes back to what I was saying a minute ago, though. It's conflict of interest in terms of the money is going to his company, but this is just indicative of everything he's doing.

He's never made that change from being the head of the Trump Organization to the head of the country. It's why everything is about how it reflects on him. It's why it's not at all a surprise that every chance he gets -- it just seems like his main priority is turning a profit for his companies. And I would prefer his main priority be the American people.

STEWART: I think it's bad optics. It doesn't look good.

However, from a business standpoint, I can see, and having been on campaigns, if a candidate had the opportunity to do something with someone they knew, they would do that.

(CROSSTALK) TAPPER: But if you worked him, you would say just have it at the Four Season, just have it at the Marriott?

STEWART: Absolutely.

And I think it would certainly look much better, the optics would be better. But at the same time, it's a nice hotel and people go there because there's good service. But clearly the optics of it don't look good.

TAPPER: All right, Jason and Alice, thanks, both of you. Appreciate it.

Today, President Trump is trying to drum up support for two bills dealing with undocumented immigrants, both before Congress this week. Moments ago, he met with victims of crimes committed by undocumented immigrants and their families.

The gathering is ahead of a House vote on Kate's Law this week named after Kate Steinle, the woman from San Francisco who was killed by an undocumented immigrant who had been convicted seven times and deported five.

Kate's Law would raise maximum penalties for undocumented immigrants convicted of a crime who reenter the U.S. The House is also set to vote on a bill that would add penalties on sanctuary cities.

Coming up next, on the front line in the war against ISIS. CNN is the only crew alongside forces as they close in on the terrorist group -- why the next few days are so crucial in this key city.

Plus, a country in chaos. Attackers stole a helicopter and targeted government buildings. And that's not all -- the wild scenes from Venezuela, as political insiders try to take on the leadership.

Stay with us.


[16:45:00] JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to THE LEAD. Topping our "WORLD LEAD" today, the Iraqi city of Mosul may be just days from being freed from the terrorist group ISIS. U.S. led coalition forces say there are only a couple hundred ISIS fighters left in Mosul with Iraq's military leading the way in taking back more neighborhoods from the terrorist group. Despite the advances in the past few days, however, make no mistake the battle to take back Mosul will continue to be violent and deadly. CNN's Nick Payton Walsh is the only U.S. TV Reporter embedded with Iraqi troops and he filed this report.


NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The (INAUDIBLE) crisis, you can just feel it in the normal life springing back out of these pancake buildings, yet turn one corner to Mosul towards its old city an annihilism of the very final chapter in this war emerges. Liberation leaves little of life behind. Bodies still were they fell in the scorching heat. Senior commanders take us in, in the calm before the final storm to wipe ISIS off the map.

How many more days do you think ISIS have in Mosul?


WALSH: Brigadier General As-Saadi beckons us on to see that price. These are the last rooftops ISIS owns in Mosul. Barely hundreds of meters to go now, in the distant left, the river bank marking where ISIS' world ends and in the dust, the ruins of the sacred al-Nuri mosque. ISIS blew it up rather than let it be captured. A terrifying omen for the civilians held on the ground as human shields here.

Well, that mosque has always been a distant target for Iraqi security forces, and now they're literally are able to see it from neighboring rooftops.

U.S. trained Major Salam took us into Mosul eight months ago, now he's here to see the end.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're at the beginning and now we're at the end of it all.

WALSH: And so, what are we seeing on the screen?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a kind of digital camera that we tried to recon the enemy whether they're taken and we tried to find - to know who are the civilian also. Nobody sure exactly how many civilians there are. They located in so many different houses, many families in one house.

WALSH: Are you getting enough help from the Americans now? Because when we first met eight months ago, you once -

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: More than enough arms. I am so happy for all the support from the Australian side, from the American side.

WALSH: There is the occasional stance of death here from the bodies of ISIS fighters like this one below me here left behind. And also at times, an airy (INAUDIBLE) when the gunfire subsides. But it's in these dense streets that you can really feel how high the fight against ISIS has been in this final moment but also too, how many few meters they are away from kicking the terrorist group out of Mosul but also out of Iraq entirely. Nick Paton Walsh, CNN, Mosul, Iraq.

TAPPER: Our thanks to Nick Payton Walsh for that report. Coming up now, more on our "WORLD LEAD," a brazen helicopter attack on the Venezuelan Supreme Court in Caracas overnight. The chopper fired gunshots, launched grenades at government buildings for about two hours. It appears the helicopter was stolen and piloted by an officer from Venezuela's Investigative Police force. Before they attack the rogue officer, Oscar Perez and his men released a video message saying they're trying to seize democracy back from Venezuela's quote, "criminal government." It's not clear whether the attack was definitively an attempted coup or a ruse or the act of someone who's become untethered. But the Venezuelan government says no one died or was injured in the incident.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro called Perez and his accomplices, terrorists, who have been on the run since the attack. All of this as Venezuela continues to sink deeper into chaos. This is a scene outside the national assembly where officers and lawmakers clashed with national guards. In just a short while ago, the Venezuelan Vice President tweeted this picture saying, the helicopter used in the attack have been found in a heavily wooded area fifty miles from the nation's capital. A manhunt for Perez and his accomplices continues about this hour.

[16:50:26] Coming up, they left the military with a less than honorable discharge partly due to mental health issues, but should that prevent them from getting critical care, especially if those issues developed because of their service? How one veteran is calling on President Trump to step in.


TAPPER: We're back with our "BURIED LEAD." That's what we call stories that we think are not getting enough attention. This is national PTSD awareness month, so it seems a good time to tell you about a phenomenon I first learned about at WXIA TV in Atlanta. The V.A. Secretary, Doctor David Shulkin tells the story about a veteran who served eight deployments, only to return to an empty home after his wife left him. Suffering from PTSD, the veteran drove around for a long time was declared AWOL by the Army until one day, when he went to whatever V.A. was closest and told them he was thinking of killing himself. The V.A. checked him out, found out that he had been dishonorably discharged and was no longer technically considered a veteran. He could not get access to the care he so desperately needed. Said Shulkin, these veterans discharged less than honorably with what's called bad paper, these are some of the veterans who need help the most. And yet because of those discharges, the policy has prevented them from getting that help.


[16:55:53] TAPPER: U.S. Army veteran Kristofer Goldsmith will never forget his first deployment.


TAPPER: While serving in Iraq at the age of just 19, disturbing, grisly scenes of war such as these were not only unavoidable but assigned.

GOLDSMITH: The big part of my duties was to document the victims of torture and murder in Sadr City, Baghdad.

TAPPER: When Goldsmith returned home, the traumatic experience stayed with him.

GOLDSMITH: I was experiencing nightmares, I was experiencing night sweats. I was experiencing all these things that I now understand are symptoms of PTSD, but I didn't know how to express it.

TAPPER: And the thought of going back to Iraq was more than he could bear.

GOLDSMITH: The night before what would have been my second deployment, I took a bottle of Percocet, I took a bottle of vodka and I walked down to a field at Fort Stewart, Georgia.

TAPPER: Hours later the decorated sergeant was found unresponsive and alone after attempting to take his own life. It would be the beginning of a long personal battle more challenging than anything he had experienced in Iraq.

GOLDSMITH: After I woke up from my suicide attempt, I was threatened with being charged with damaging government property and they charged me with missing movement because I didn't get on the plane when I was strapped to a hospital bed.

TAPPER: What is the obligation of the military in these situations? Service Members sometimes develop PTSD or are inflicted with traumatic brain injuries that may cause them to commit actions at odds with their service. Does the military have any obligation to these men and women? Goldsmith was later diagnosed with PTSD, a condition which he says led to his suicide attempt. But that led to him being kicked out of the Army with a general discharge.

GOLDSMITH: My military records look more like a criminal record than anything else. So when I went back home, I was basically unemployable but I still had access to the V.A. and that is what saved my life. But most of the vets who end up in my situation are given OTH discharges and are denied health care.

TAPPER: The V.A. estimates that more than 500,000 veterans currently have an Other Than Honorable discharge status, often the result of crime or misconduct. In most cases, it acts as something of a scarlet letter, preventing the veteran from receiving important federal benefits, including health care.

GOLDSMITH: There's no court proceedings, there's no guilty verdict. Someone can be denied a lifetime of health care and benefits for you know, essentially a misinterpretation of PTSD symptoms.

TAPPER: Goldsmith is the founder of high ground veterans advocacy, a non-profit organization aiming to improve the lives of these service members. Earlier this year an unexpected announcement seemed to boost its efforts.

DAVID SHULKIN, VETERANS AFFAIRS SECRETARY: We are going to start providing mental health care for those that are Other Than Honorably Discharged for urgent mental health.

TAPPER: Starting next month, Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin will require that all veterans be able to receive emergency mental health care for 90 days regardless of their discharge status. But critics like Goldsmith argue much more than that needs to be done.

GOLDSMITH: While it's a good start, we think that these veterans have been denied due process and the President needs to make it right.

TAPPER: Goldsmith says he is continuing his mission to get the White House and Congress to not just treat but pardon veterans who are separated from the military without due process.

GOLDSMITH: Good to see you, man.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good to see you.

GOLDSMITH: How've you been?


TAPPER: And Goldsmith has drafted legislation titled the leave no veteran behind act that aims to expand V.A. health services to all veterans despite their discharge status. He's trying to garner Congressional support to push for the bill.

Be sure to follow me on Facebook and Twitter @jaketapper or you can tweet the show @theleadcnn. We actually read them. That's it for THE LEAD; I'm Jake Tapper, turning you over now to Wolf Blitzer, he is in "THE SITUATION ROOM." Thanks for watching.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN THE SITUATION ROOM HOST: Happening now, breaking news, immediate threat. President Trump's National Security Adviser warns the threat posed by North Korea is quote "much more immediate now."