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Trump: If GOP Deal Fails, Repeal Now And Replace Later; TV Hosts: White House Used National Enquirer As Threat; Conway On Trump: "I Didn't Say I Endorse His Attacks"; Trump Holds Bilateral Meeting With South Korean President; WSJ: GOP Operative Tried To Get Hacked Clinton E-mails

Aired June 30, 2017 - 11:00   ET



KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. A vicious tweet growing backlash and no sign of things calming down right now. The war of words between the president and two cable news hosts enters a second day. Why? Because the anchors reacted and the president is responding again and taking it into another day on Twitter.

Plus any moment now, we will hear from the president, live, for the first time since he fired off that attack.

And, also this, a new report on Russian meddling in the election, detailing how far a Republican operative tried to go to get Hillary Clinton's e-mails and what former the national security adviser may have had to do with it.

But first this, what's old is new, once again. It's like everything around here these days. The Senate health care bill is at an impasse and President Trump is floating out a familiar strategy this morning that could complicate the already complicated negotiations.

Here's the statement that he put out on Twitter this morning. He says, "If Republican senators are unable to pass what they are working on now, they should immediately repeal, and then replace at a later date."

Ryan Nobles is live on Capitol Hill right now with much more on this. Ryan, it's just as simple as that, or maybe not at all.

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Kate, I think the argument can easily be made up here on Capitol Hill that this is the furthest thing from simple. In fact, this could complicate the process quite a bit for Senate Republicans that are trying to bring the warring factions of the party together.

In fact one senior GOP aide told our Phil Mattingly that this is like rolling a grenade into the negotiation. So this is making things more difficult and it's also important to keep in mind that this is a different position than the president himself has taken in the past.

Look what he told "the New York Times" just back in January. He said, quote, "I feel that repeal and replace have to be together for a very simply, I think that the Democrats should want to fix Obamacare. They cannot live with it and they have to go together."

It's also important to keep in mind that this is not the option that most Americans are interested in, either. A CNN/ORC poll from back in March said that of all the options when it comes to fixing health care and reforming health care in general, the idea of just repealing the bill, regardless of what you have in place to replace is only favored by 17 percent of Americans.

That's the lowest of the potential options. Now this is an issue because it's not just the president who is behind this plan. He does have a few Republicans who are supportive, including Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse, who sent a letter to the president encouraging him to make this move.

And Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, who's also been quietly talking with White House officials about this idea of passing replacement first and then coming up with a new plan sometime later.

The problem here, Kate, though, is that they are in the minority. Not only are they in the minority in the entire Senate, they are decidedly in the minority within their own party. In fact --

BOLDUAN: Isn't the problem the same thing, Ryan? I mean, it's math.

NOBLES: Yes, exactly. Even conservatives like Ted Cruz are very much in favor of trying to come up with some sort of repeal and replace deal now. They are actively working to try and bring these warring factions together.

I think the argument can be made that this does not meet that goal. In fact, there's a very good chance it pushes these two sides of the argument further apart.

BOLDUAN: Sounded so simple, though, in 140 characters. Great to see you, Ryan. Thank you so much. We'll be following all of this as they now head off and head home to face their constituents for the July 4th recess.

Also, though, developing right now, President Trump's disparaging and sexist tweets about a female TV host leading to a stunning new accusation this morning. There's more. I feel like I have to say.

Did the White House use the "National Inquirer" to threaten journalists? President Trump says no, but the host of MSNBC's "Morning Joe," they say yes.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We got a call that, hey, the "National Enquirer" is going to run a negative story against you guys and it was, you know, Donald and friends with the president's friends with the guy that runs the "National Enquirer."

They said, if you call the president up and you apologize for your coverage, then he will pick up the phone and basically fight this story. I had, I will say, three people at the very top of the administration calling me. The response was, are you kidding me?


BOLDUAN: Not at all. CNN's senior media correspondent, Brian Stelter, and host of "RELIABLE RESOURCES" is here with me now. So Brian, what are you picking up here?

This was not an element of the story yesterday until their opinion piece really came out this morning in the "Washington Post." What is behind this "Enquirer" back and forth?

BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's a stunning charge. What we know for sure, what we know to be true, is that Trump and the publisher of the "National Enquirer" are long-time friends. They are tight. They are longtime allies.

BOLDUAN: That came out during the election.

STELTER: That's right. There's a great piece in the "New Yorker" this week by our colleague, Jeffrey Toobin, that details that. Let's be clear, Joe and Mika are a legend of blackmail.

They are saying the president is using a friendly media outlet to punish his opponent. They are saying the president wanted them to (inaudible), get on the phone and we are sorry, sir. We'll stop criticizing you, sir. We'll be nice, sir. It's a power dynamic.

Now here is what the president says, he tweeted, apparently he was watching, "I was watching "Morning Joe" for the first time in a long time. It's fake news. Actually Joe called me to stop the "National Enquirer" article, and I said no." Then he added, "bad show."

So the president is saying not true, but Scarborough is responding he has receipts, text messages, e-mails or phone call receipts to prove that there was this conversation back and forth.

I spoke with Dylan Howard, who oversees the "National Enquirer," the supermarket tabloid. Here is a statement from the "Enquirer" basically saying, hey, this isn't about us. Don't look at us.

They did publish a story at the beginning of this month about Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski, but at no time did we threaten either Joe or Mika or their children in connection with this.

And then here's the important part, "We have no knowledge of any discussions between the White House and Joe and Mika about our story and absolutely no involvement in those discussions. But we do know now, Kate, after --

BOLDUAN: Don't look at us, we are not involved in this fight --

STELTER: Yes, don't look at us, but clearly they were discussions. Even Trump is saying Joe called me up. But we don't really know what the details yet. Hopefully Scarborough will provide have more information.

I've asked him, but it is a very concerning thing. It peaks the interest of a lot of journalists because as the implication here that the president would use a supermarket tabloid to go out and punish his enemies.

If you look closely at that cover, you do see lot of stories that are favorable to the president. Even this week, their stories about the president taking charge, firing some of his aides, trying to get the White House back in order.

There was recently a negative story on the cover about Megan Kelly. So it's really curious to think about what the connections could be between Trump and the "National Inquirer."

BOLDUAN: It is important to try to point them out. It was a very big deal, the backlash the president face with the attack that he put on Twitter, and then there's this. It is more and equally important to discuss. There is also new reaction to just the initial attack that came from the president yesterday.


BOLDUAN: Kellyanne Conway was on ABC this morning, Brian, and she was asked by George Stephanopoulos if she endorses what the president says in these tweets. Watch this.


KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO THE PRESIDENT: I endorse the president's right to fight back when he is being mercilessly attacked and when the air waves are filled with raw sewage about him and his fitness for office. I didn't say I endorse his attacks. I never said that George.

What I said was I endorse his ability to fight back when he's attacked. There's no good comes out of people attacking the president's physical and mental state on --

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: -- number one brought in. Discussed that last night at length. I think we have a very, very strong, solid plan. Number two, is going to be a force trade. The trade deal is up and we want to make a deal that is fair for the United States and fair for South Korea. So we'll start doing that.

Gary Cohn is here and Wilbur Ross is here. I think it's a very important thing. Wilbur, perhaps you would like to say a few things about trade right now. We can probably leave the media. Trade is important. Things about trade and what we are looking to do.

WILBUR ROSS, COMMERCE SECRETARY: Yes, sir. Trade imbalance with South Korea doubled since the treaty was put into effect. The largest single component of that is automotive trade. That's an absolute majority. Nontariff trade barriers to the U.S., only 25,000 cars per big three manufacturer are allowed in based on U.S. standards. Anything above that needs to be on Korean standards. That kind of rulemaking affects quite a few industries and restricts the access that U.S. companies have to the Korean market.

We have a separate problem with oil field tubular goods and other steel products. There is no domestic market for tubular goods in Korea. Everything they make is exported. We have recent trade cases demonstrating a lot of that is in Chinese field coming as oil and coming back to the U.S.'s oil field.

The amount of specific problem and the way to address it is product by product and what we can do to change the export side and what we can do to reduce the bad influence.

TRUMP: All right, thank you very much. You can stay for this, also. Perhaps Gary Cohn could say a few words also about trade.

GARY COHN, CHIEF ECONOMIC ADVISER TO TRUMP: Yes, thank you, Mr. President. As you know, much of our biggest problem on trade has to do with our economic relationship with china and we have maintained a very large trade deficit with China, and it continues to grow.

As Wilbur said, China has many predatory practices involved in the way they deal with intellectual property, and trade barriers for us. We are forced to transfer technology into China, forced to have joint ventures in China.

We have tariffs and nontariff barriers, unable to own companies in China as well and we are dealing with all their policies. At some point, we would be interested to hear how you are dealing with the Chinese policies, and how you could help us in dealing with Chinese policies.

TRUMP: Thank you very much. The idea is that the United States has trade deficits with many, many countries and we cannot allow that to continue. We'll start with South Korea right now. We cannot allow that to continue.

This is really a statement that I make about all trade, for many, many years, the United States has suffered through massive trade deficits. That's why we have $20 trillion in debt. We'll be changing that. The good news is we make good products.

I appreciate very much. South Korea is giving very, very big orders to the United States for, as you know, for military. They are buying many F-35 fighter jets from Lockheed and other military equipment like never before. That's good.

Also I understand you are dealing with Alaska, a great state, on natural gas and other parts of the United States. We have a lot of natural gas. We love that you are going to do that. Things like that will bring down the trade deficit substantially. We appreciate it very mcuh. Mr. President would you like to say something before the media leaves?


BOLDUAN: All right. You are watching right there, bilateral meeting between President Trump and President Moon of South Korea, an expanded one. At first, we didn't think we were going to get images of it. This is great we are able to see it.

Obviously speaking of the key issues that they are going to be covering and again, an important note, we are going to be hearing from the president, President Trump and the South Korean president. They will be making joint statements in the Rose Garden in a few minutes. We'll bring that to you live when it happens.

Let's get back to the other stories we are watching today. Breaking news in the Russian investigation, "The Wall Street Journal" is reporting now that a long time Republican operative who's often focused on opposition research tried to get Hillary Clinton's e-mails from hackers.

He also implied he had something of a connection to fired National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. This reportedly happened before the election when Flynn was a top adviser to then, Candidate Trump.

CNN crime and justice reporter, Shimon Prokupecz is here with all the details. So Shimon, what do we have on this? Tell me what are you picking up?

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE PRODUCER: So what we -- basically all we have is what's in the "Wall Street Journal" because the person, this Republican operative has since died since the interview. We did some of our own tracking with law enforcement.

Right now, no one seems to really be confirming this. It's more like they are still trying to figure out what the story is about. But what's interesting in this story is this operative, this research guy is looking for research opposition claims that he hired computer experts and a team of attorneys to try and communicate with Russian hackers through various like hacking websites to see if they can obtain the e-mails from Hillary Clinton's server.

You know, this sort of assumes that hackers, Russian hackers somehow access her e-mails. Keep in mind, Kate, the FBI, when they were doing this big investigation, they went through her server and looking for indications to see if there was any way that someone hacked in or got into it. They did not find any.

It doesn't mean it didn't occur. There are methods, because it was clean, that perhaps somehow that got erased. But they certainly did not see any indications that her e-mails were hacked or that the Russians somehow possessed these e-mails.

Also, the story talks a lot about Russian communications. We have done our own reporting on some of that. You know, intelligence officials you'll talk to will often say the Russians tend to exaggerate the information that they have because they know the U.S. is listening.

So this could be part of it, too. You know, who knows whether this is going to be now expand the investigation on the House side or on the intelligence side. We don't know that the FBI or other law enforcement officials are looking at this.

We have no indication that they are, and the Mike Flynn situation. Again, his name comes up. This operative, claimed the e-mails he had contact, he could contact Michael Flynn or had access to Michael Flynn. So that's a whole other aspect --

BOLDUAN: Insinuating that he was on -- that Flynn was on their side and what they were doing, but that's a (inaudible). Again, he's since passed away since "The Wall Street Journal" interviewed him, which obviously complicates the whole thing.

PROKUPECZ: That's exactly it. So you can't really follow up with him obviously and others who may have had access to maybe some of these lawyers that he hired or some of the other folks that he may have hired to help with this research or opposition research.

We have not found any independent indications that there was anything like this that went on, the hacking certainly of her server.

BOLDUAN: More questions continue. Great to see you, Shimon. Thank you so much.

All right, let's discuss this and other things. Let's go to Capitol Hill. Democratic Congressman Jim Himes of Connecticut joins me now. He of course sits on the House Intelligence Committee. Congressman, great to see you. Thanks for coming in.

REP. JIM HIMES (D), CONNECTICUT: Good morning, Kate.

BOLDUAN: So what Shimon was talking about, this "Wall Street Journal" reporting, what's detailed in the "Wall Street Journal" here, is that part of the House investigation right now?

HIMES: Kate, I don't really want to get into what is subject of the investigation, specifically. Certainly "The Wall Street Journal" story was news to me.


HIMES: And you know, as your reporter pointed out, there's a lot of possibilities and allegations and possible connections there. You know, obviously the reference to Michael Flynn is interesting to me.

Michael Flynn is an individual whose name keeps coming up in a variety of different contexts and a variety of different, you know, sort of questionable ways. So personally, I'll be sort of interested in knowing whether there's any there "there."

But remember we are dealing with a new story that is going to be challenging to verify because the individual involved passed away. But you can count on the House investigation, as I'm sure it's true with the Senate and the FBI to continue to follow up on whatever leads may appear.

BOLDUAN: Michael Flynn's name, of course, comes up, as you point out. Also what came up in this report is Michael Flynn's son, Michael Flynn Jr. came up in this report as well.

We know that Michael Flynn, the national security adviser has been looked at in part of the various investigations throughout. Is Michael Flynn Jr., his son, a target of the investigation in the House?

HIMES: Well, Michael Flynn Jr., as you are probably aware is the chief of staff of Michael Flynn's former company, the intelligence advisory company. His son was the chief of staff. His son would accompany him on most of his business travel, was with him a lot when Michael Flynn had a formal role in the Trump campaign.

So, it's fair to say in as much as the investigation is interested in knowing more about Michael Flynn, we would have an interest in knowing what his son knows as well.

BOLDUAN: I had Democratic Congressman, your colleague, Mike Quigley on earlier this week. He told me he would love to see another Trump associate, Roger Stone, testify in public when he comes before the committee very soon.

But Stone confirmed to CNN that the committee wants him to testify in a closed hearing. Why hold testimony like this behind closed doors? Like, why?

HIMES: Yes. It's a good question. I certainly have and I think the ranking member, Adam Schiff, has a real bias to doing everything open and publicly as much as we can. Roger Stone is a little -- I should say it's a little puzzling.

Because it's not clear to me that he had access to classified information therefore it's not clear to me why there is any particular reason not to do this in the open.

Now you'll recall Roger Stone actually wanted to do it in the open. This is --


HIMES: -- this is really an important issue because you know, at the end of the day, we are going to produce a report. The more of the investigation that can be done in a visible and transparent way, I think the more credibility that report will have. So like Mike Quigley I'm a little puzzled as to why Roger Stone's testimony would be behind closed doors.

BOLDUAN: Who makes that call?

HIMES: Well, at the end of the day, like everything else in the investigation, it would be negotiated between the Democrats and the Republicans on the committee. I was not in the room when that particular negotiation was happening so I can't give you a lot of insight into why that is.

But you know, regardless, you know, Roger Stone has been such a visible part of this whole question with his tweets about, you know, John Podesta getting to serve time in the barrel, apparently predicting the leak of John Podesta's e-mail. There are some important questions that he needs to answer.

BOLDUAN: Susan Rice, President Obama's former national security adviser has also agreed to testify before your committee next month. What do you want to ask her?

HIMES: Well, you know, Susan Rice is primarily of interest to people. I'm just telling what they have said publicly, interest of people who are really focused on this issue of unmasking. In other words, you know, did Susan Rice --

BOLDUAN: Is she of interest to you, Congressman?

HIMES: You know, it's not clear to me exactly what she may or may not know. I will say this about unmasking. You know, unmasking is a word that sounds sort of ominous.

Unmasking is something that happens every single day on the part of senior administration officials when they need to look at a masked U.S. person's name in order to understand what the intelligence says that they are looking at.

Of course, it's something we take very seriously here because you are, in fact, exposing a U.S. person's name to a senior official. As a result, that process is surrounded by lawyers, audited by inspector generals. It's very carefully controlled.

But there are those who are making allegations if Susan Rice may have unmasked something. Maybe she did. The question is was that in any way improper? I have certainly seen no reason to believe that it is.

She has aggressively denied that she did any improper unmasking. My guess is that that's what the conversation is going to revolve around.

BOLDUAN: Chairman Nunez, who sort of kind of stepped aside we've learned from the investigation amid controversy, will he be participating in that interview of Susan Rice?

HIMES: Well, I would be a little surprised if that were the case. Again, I have been listening to Chairman Nunez talk about the nature of this recusal over the course of the last week or so.

What I will tell you is that Mike Connoway (ph), who is the Republican who stepped in subsequent to Devin Nunes' recusal has been doing a terrific job and working very hard under circumstances that are very challenging for everybody and so --

BOLDUAN: You do not think Devin Nunes should take part in the interview of Susan Rice?

HIMES: Well, in as much as that may be related to Russia and it may be, no. I don't think he should. Now there's a whole other question around the activity of unmasking and how is that monitored. By the way, as an oversight committee, that's what we do.

We make sure that the intelligence community is doing that correctly. In as much as this were purely abstract way about unmasking, I don't think that would be inappropriate for the chairman.

But if touches Russia, if the recusal is going to mean anything, it would mean that the chairman would not be in the room for that particular conversation.

BOLDUAN: Congressman, since the president isn't letting it go away today, I do want to ask you, when you saw President Trump's tweets attacking a female journalist, what did you think?

HIMES: Well, I mean, I thought probably four or five things in quick succession. Number one, we have huge problems around the world, scary things. North Korea, Syria where we apparently are at war, you know, huge challenges domestically.

The notion that the president of the United States wakes up in the morning and spends mental energy on a couple of reporters just blows my mind. That's quite apart from the fact that I mean, again, I'm a parent.

If one of my children used that kind of language publicly with another human being, that child would be grounded until they retired. So, you know, I hear the White House is counter punching arguments.

This is the president of the United States. You know, everything we know about leadership and dignity says you don't punch down. You know, let it go. This president seems obsessed, literally obsessed, you know, with the media generally.

In particular with Joe and Mika, and that is not what the president of the United States, the single most powerful human on the planet should be spending his mental energy on.

BOLDUAN: Real quick, Congressman, what do you think of all the Republicans who have come out on camera, on the record, to condemn what the president said?

HIMES: Well, I'm gratified to see it, right. It's good to know there is some level of behavior that is so outrageous that the Republicans will not, other than the Republicans that are surrounding the president in the White House will not say, gosh, that's just Donald Trump sounding off again.

By the way, that's a whole other aspect to this, right. There is probably -- look, I hate the Republican health care bill on the Senate side. This will throw 14 million people on Medicaid off of their insurance. But if there was ever a week when the president of the United States would not want to antagonize Republican senators, this is the week. So, from a tactical standpoint, it's insane that the president chose this week to do something so wildly inappropriate. At the end of the day, if it helps torpedo a very, very dangerous health care bill in the Senate, you know, maybe it will --

BOLDUAN: All right, so now you're (inaudible) tweet, pick a side, Congressman, anti-tweets or pro-tweets. You have to pick. Thank you so much. I appreciate your time.

HIMES: All right, thanks, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Coming up for us, President Trump's Commission on Voter Fraud. Remember, that was set up after he said he believes that some three to five million illegal votes occurred in the election. That commission that was put together, they are now asking state officials to turn over voter data.

Some of it, these officials say, is very sensitive. The head of the commission, one of the heads of the commission says it will help them fight voter fraud. Some are saying, not so fast. They are going to be joining us.

And any moment now, President Trump will be speaking live from the White House from the Rose Garden. We'll bring you that, next.


BOLDUAN: You are looking live at the White House where President Trump will be coming out very shortly with the president of South Korea. They will be making a joint statement. We are very much looking forward to hearing what they had to say.

They had dinner last night, had a meeting in the oval office, and had an expanded bilateral meeting also this morning. Topics, North Korea, trade. You never know, so we have to wait to see what the presidents have to say. They will not be, as we know so far, taking questions. Another break from tradition from this president. We'll bring you that as soon as it begins.

Before we get there, let's get here, three to five million illegal votes in the election was President Trump's claim back in November. You'll remember it happened in a tweet. But shortly after that, the president set up this, the Presidential Commission on Election Integrity.