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Lindsey Graham, Bill Cassidy Unveil Health Care Bill Alternative; Trump: Putin Would Prefer Hillary Clinton be President; Rep. Eric Swalwell Talks Trump's Defense of Don Jr's Russia Meeting; Paul Ryan Comments on Grassley Letter to Don Jr to Testify; Awaiting Trump/Macron News Conference in Paris. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired July 13, 2017 - 11:30   ET


[11:30:00] SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Here is what I can say, Kate. The FBI director doesn't believe it is a witch hunt. The e-mail in question from Donald Trump Jr basically talks about receiving help from a foreign government. Apparently the meeting did not materialize in help. But you don't want to go down that road.

All I can say is President Trump looks forward to helping us pass a health care bill. I will pursue justice where it takes. I will get to the bottom of Russia without favor to anybody on the Republican side. But, I am trying to work with the president to pass health care that most Americans care a lot about. I'm going to do two things at once. I hope he can, too. Something tells me President Trump welcomes this idea. We met with the White House and they were excited about our approach.

BOLDUAN: That's important news.

But, Senator Graham, do you believe the president wasn't aware of this meeting when his son, son-in-law and campaign chairman at the time all sat in on it?

GRAHAM: All I can say is that Kushner and Manafort were copied on the e-mail chain. I don't know how many e-mails they had that day. I could see you could have a 20-minute meeting in Trump Tower and the president not know about it. Apparently, nobody was overly impressed with what she had to say.

But here is the point. The contact was about the Russian government wants to help the Trump campaign. This person may have some information disparaging to Clinton. It was a mistake to take that meeting. I think Donald Trump Jr said maybe in hindsight I shouldn't have done it. The fact that nothing happened, nobody suggested that any information was passed. But we are going to keep looking. Were there other meetings with other Russians? I'm going to go where the facts take us.

And I'm also going to try to be a Senator on health care also. Senator Cassidy and Collins had a really good idea. I jumped on board early. We are taking about today is taking their original concept and making it even more robust and more palatable.

Governors are going to like what we are doing. And I bet you there's some Democratic governors that are going to like this, too.

BOLDUAN: Walking and chewing gum at the same time. What a novel idea on Capitol Hill and beyond.

Senator Graham, Senator Cassidy, thank you for coming on and presenting your health care alternative and taking my questions. Thank you. Good luck.


GRAHAM: Thank you so much.

BOLDUAN: Thanks so much.

We are standing by. Right now, a member of Congress investigating the Trump campaign's contact with Russia, a different member of Congress. You are going to hear what he says about the president's defense about his son's meetings.

And why President Trump says Vladimir Putin would have actually preferred Hillary Clinton be president. That's coming up.

Plus, we are going to show you live pictures. Right now, we are moments away from President Trump facing the media, holding a news conference in Paris.

Stay with us. We'll be right back.


[11:37:06] BOLDUAN: Very soon we will hear from President Trump in his first news conference since his son's e-mail stirred up more Russia controversy for this White House. The president will take questions from reporters, alongside the French President next hour.

This comes as Republican sources describe the White House as paralyzed after the development that Donald Trump Jr not only took a meeting with someone billed as a Russian government attorney, but one promising information that would damage Hillary Clinton and help his father's campaign that would come straight from the Russian government. Trump Jr now says he would have handled the whole thing differently.

The president, himself, however, said to Reuters yesterday, many people would have taken that meeting.

Joining me now to discuss, member of the House Intelligence Committee, which is investigating the Russia connection, Democratic Congressman from California, Eric Swalwell.

Congressman, thanks for coming in.

REP. ERIC SWALWELL, (D), CALIFORNIA: Good morning, Kate. Thanks for having me on.

BOLDUAN: We have the news this hour from Manu Raju that Chuck Grassley, on the Senate Judiciary Committee, he is sending a letter to Don Jr to ask him to testify in a public session before his committee. The chair of your committee, however, wouldn't say if you want Don Jr to come testify. Do you have any indication that he's going to be asked?

SWALWELL: I hope he does. He's a relevant witness that met with Russians during the Russian interference campaign and before the election. If you have a list of people who should be before our committee, he ranks at the very top.

BOLDUAN: You already, as far as we know, have one person from that meeting scheduled to come before the meeting, the former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort. What questions do you have now, in light of this news? That was scheduled before. What questions do you now have for Paul Manafort?

SWALWELL: Kate, and we have an agreement with the Republicans that we don't go into who is coming and when. Generally, what we want to know is who met with Russians during the interference campaign. What was the purpose of the meeting? What information was exchanged? And why weren't contacts reported to the FBI? Why have they only been reported once reported in the press? Those are fair questions and can tell what the Trump campaign was up to during Russia's interference campaign.

BOLDUAN: Is there an urgency, in light of the e-mails, to get these individuals before the committee?

SWALWELL: Yes. There's always a fear of once information like this becomes public that witnesses could destroy evidence. That's generally in any case. We want to gather as much of the evidence, talk to the witnesses as soon as possible. We don't want witnesses to start working together and cooking up a story. We want to talk to them while the information is still closely guarded, before it's too public and they can come up with innocent explanations to cover what could be quite concerning behavior.

BOLDUAN: Let me ask you, Congressman, President Trump argued yesterday in an interview that regardless of any meetings that he doesn't think Vladimir Putin was in his corner. Listen to this.


[11:40:05] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If Hillary had won, our military would be decimated. Our energy would be much more expensive. That's what Putin doesn't like about me. That's why I say, why would he want me? Because from day one, I wanted a strong military. He doesn't want to see that. And from day one, I wanted fracking and everything to get energy prices low and to create tremendous energy. He doesn't want that. He would like Hillary, where she wants to have windmills.


BOLDUAN: Congressman, would Vladimir Putin have been better off with Hillary Clinton as president? SWALWELL: Kate, I don't even want to go there. If you think about

the trajectory of what Donald Trump is doing, he has gone from saying no Russia, no collusion, never met with Russians. He's now been confronted with a number of contacts his team had with Russia. It looks like the explanation is, well, we had to do this because Hillary was going to be awful and we are going to make America great again. It's sickening that's now where he wants to take us. The evidence is so overwhelming that he and his campaign were working with the Russians.

BOLDUAN: There is evidence there was a willingness to have a meeting. But, again, if you listen to a lot of what President Trump says, he was careful in his language, saying I was never aware of a meeting, and I never had a meeting.

SWALWELL: It's clear his son did and his campaign chairperson did and his son-in-law did. Again, Kate, what I'm afraid of is that he is going to try to turn this to, well, we are all better off, wouldn't we have all wanted to know this information by the Russians, so what that we had to cheat to get it. That is a very disturbing movement we are seeing in this story. Remember, it started with no Russians, no collusion. Now, it's starting to drift more towards, well, we would be better off without Hillary.

BOLDUAN: A few Democrats now have said that, with the e-mails, this is approaching treason in their view. I'll tell you, I don't think I have heard a single legal analyst say that that is where we are at this point. Are your fellow Democrats going too far?

SWALWELL: My job is to make sure the American people understand who, if anyone, was working with the Russians and what we can do most importantly so this never happens again. I will leave the conclusions as to what it was criminally to Robert Mueller and his probe. We want to put a report out to the American people about what happened. I really think that once people are judged on what they did and held accountable, the most important thing we can do for the health of democracy is make sure we are never in a position again where a foreign adversary can do this.

BOLDUAN: You are withholding judgment. Do you think your fellow Democrats should as well, rather than go to treason right now?

SWALWELL: We shouldn't jump to conclusions until all of the evidence is tested, developed. I'll tell you, though, Kate, when you look at the evidence of the Don Jr meeting, everything came into a lot more focus as far as all of these other meetings the Trump campaign had with Russians where they were offering innocent explanations. Now those explanations don't seem so innocent. But, again, a thorough investigation should be conducted and then we'll --


BOLDUAN: Congressman --


BOLDUAN: Congressman, I'm so sorry. If you could hold on with me just one second.

I want to go to a different part of Capitol Hill. Paul Ryan is speaking right now, taking questions. Let's listen in.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: The other options, now that you have passed something, do you think you have done your part?

REP. PAUL RYAN, (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: As tempting as it is to comment on the deliberation and their process, I want to give them the space to get their job done. We have a promise to keep. We kept that promise in the House. I look forward to seeing the Senate do the same.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Would the House stay in session through August is they --


RYAN: If the Senate is going to give us a health care bill, we are going to stay and finish the health care bill.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Mr. Ryan, Senator Grassley is sending a letter to Don Jr, Donald Trump Jr, asking him to testify about his meeting. Should the president's son testify in public?

RYAN: I think any witness who has been asked to testify before Congress should testify. I'll leave it up to the witness and the Senate and the committee to decide that. Anybody who is asked to testify to the Senate should do that.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE) -- authorized the FAA to come to the floor as soon as next week. There's been some changes to it from the effort last year. The crux is the same, to remove air traffic control operations from the FAA. You didn't bring it to the floor last year. What's changed this year that makes you support it now?

RYAN: I will defer to Chairman Shuster. But this bill has changed substantially. That's why you have seen so much more support for this bill than you did last year. We are going through the conversations with our members on this bill right now. It's a big change.

Look, here is the problem with the FAA. We are in the 20th century. We have a 20th century system in the 21st century. We need to upgrade the entire air traffic control system for a lot of reasons, for safety and efficiency. Chairman Shuster put together an impressive effort with a lot more support than we had last year. He's educating members and getting their feedback on how to do it. I don't think we whipped it yet. I think we are whipping it probably today, is my recollection. We'll see how that goes.

[11:45:12] UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Does the president support helping with -- (INAUDIBLE)

RYAN: Yes, I think the president's support did help.


On the human trafficking bill do you think --

BOLDUAN: All right, Paul Ryan at his weekly press conference, taking questions from reporters.

Guys, do we still have Congressman Swalwell with me?

Oh, great.

Congressman, thanks for sticking around with me.

SWALWELL: Of course.

BOLDUAN: You could hear there, when asked about the Grassley letter, he was careful in language, saying anybody asked to testify should do just that.

I know you will agree with the House speaker on that front.

But a final question for you on what we are learning and what we have learned regarding the meeting, the e-mails, what folks knew and did not know. Do you take the president's word that he did not know about the meeting and he wasn't aware of the meeting?

SWALWELL: I hate saying this, Kate, but I don't think we can take the president's word for that. I wouldn't say that for any other president, other than Nixon. That's because the president's deceitful claims about President Obama wiretapping him, which were proved to be false, his claims that there were tapes with James Comey, which have proved to be false. I think we have to, you know, make sure we test that and corroborate whether it's true or not.

BOLDUAN: Congressman, how do you test that? One option may be asking Don Jr, who was in the meeting, to testify under oath.

SWALWELL: The way you test it is by hearing from relevant witnesses, requesting documents, trying to get any electronic communications that could verify or repudiate what the president said.

BOLDUAN: Congressman Eric Swalwell, thank you for coming in. I appreciate it.

SWALWELL: My pleasure, Kate.

BOLDUAN: We are following new developments. Just in, as Republicans are getting ready meet behind closed doors in the Senate on health care efforts, Senator Lindsey Graham and Bill Cassidy just unveiled an alternative that they think could get this effort over the line. It would keep Obamacare taxes on the wealthy in place. Will their Republican colleagues be on board with that? We will discuss.

And soon, President Trump will hold a joint news conference with the president of France. We'll go live to Paris.

A lot going on today. Stay with us.


[11:51:45] BOLDUAN: Back to breaking news. Senator Lindsey Graham and Senator Bill Cassidy, two Republicans unveiling a new health care plan this hour that they think will help Republicans get their efforts over the finish line. In short, their alternative plan would leave Obamacare taxes on the wealthy in place and send that money in block grants to the states to manage health care. Basically, trying to take it off the hands of the federal government.

This, as President Trump prepares for a joint news conference with French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris, where he's expected, of course, to face questions about two of his family members. Donald Trump Jr and Jared Kushner, both under fire, facing growing scrutiny about their involvement a meeting they had with a Russian attorney.

A lot to discuss. With me now, Rick Santorum is here, CNN political commentator, former Republican Senator and former presidential candidate. Hilary Rosen is here, CNN political commentator and Democratic strategist.

Senator, first to health care, if we could. You were deeply involved in pulling together this proposal, this idea Senator Graham and Cassidy just announced. How does this thread the needle to get enough Republicans onboard?

RICK SANTORUM, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: One of the reasons I brought this to Lindsey and the conservatives on Capitol Hill is because this is really a re-do of something successfully accomplished with bipartisan support, I might add, back in 1996 called welfare reform. That is that you give a sufficient amount of money to states to deal with the problem and let the states innovate. Did it through a block grant, TANF. And that block grant has not been increased in 20 years. Why? Because the states were able to successfully drive down costs, get people off welfare to work. Use the same model considered the greatest Republican success. And by the way, Democrats touted it a success, too. Find common ground again. Get this money out of Washington, drain the swamp. Stop the money from being orchestrated and spent and managed in Washington. Give it out to the states, let innovation. Put cost containment in to drive innovation and better-quality care, and let the states do it in 50 laboratories of success.

BOLDUAN: Hilary, part of that is they're not getting rid of the Obamacare taxes on the wealthy that Democrats were very upset about. Is this a positive step forward?

HILARY ROSEN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Sure. Leaving those taxes in there helped fund the bill, but this is just sort of a silly approach, I think. I get that if you were sort of starting in welfare maybe you would do that, but here we have millions of people who signed up with the federal health care system to go into a state-by- state plan, which the new plan still doesn't address how this is going to help the states bolster their individual exchanges. And then you have a complete switch now where everybody has to go reapply all over the place, not knowing whether their state is going to end up having the resources to support the plan. So it sort of looks like a solution without a problem, to me. I think what we're finding is Republicans are really struggling to make a bill that has this system look different than it is, but not have any of the down sides of what they know that people really don't want. Which I wonder why bother doing anything at all? Just support the existing system with fixes that bring people actual health care.


ROSEN: All the Senator's proposal is going to do is going to turn around the system upside-down and not give anybody better care.

[11:55:15] SANTORUM: What Hilary hasn't listened to is what Senator Cassidy and Senator Graham as announced, is that California, New York, a state wants to keep Obamacare just as-is, they can keep it their way. If they want to reform it and change it to improve Obamacare, they can fix it. If they want to get rid of Obamacare -- you have 19 states had no expansion -- they can design their own system.

Hilary, you're absolutely wrong. You couldn't be more wrong. If New York or other states want to keep and maintain the current system, we give them the right to do so. This is the problem, the difference between Hilary and me. She wants to dictate everything from Washington.

ROSEN: Washington --


SANTORUM: And what I'd like to give the states to design the best plan for them.

BOLDUAN: Go ahead, Hilary.

ROSEN: First of all, you're not changing the care that way. And second of all, if you leave -- take out the individual mandate, which I gather -- by the way, I think the proposal has only been out 15 minutes. The real experts haven't analyzed it, and I am certainly not an expert. But if you take away the mandate requiring people to buy care, you are still undermining the system, because you have leaving the sickest people in the system.

BOLDUAN: If I could --


ROSEN: That hurts the overall system.


ROSEN: Go ahead.

BOLDUAN: I'm sorry, Hilary. I wanted to ask --

(CROSSTALK) SANTORUM: The states can go ahead and --

BOLDUAN: Senator --

SANTORUM: -- impose a mandate if they want.

BOLDUAN: I want to ask quickly --


SANTORUM: So it's really up to them.

BOLDUAN: Not just the details but the politics of where we are right now, the fact that two Senators are rolling out a new alternative right now when Mitch McConnell will be rolling out the newest version of his bill and looking for a vote tomorrow, the fact that they're rolling out a new alternative today, Senator, is that just saying how little chance that McConnell's effort has on going anywhere?

SANTORUM: I think McConnell's done a yeoman's job trying to cobble together, but the basic platform of which he was working on that was delivered by the House is simply not one that's going to deliver 50 votes. The reason -- I believe, we tried it with welfare reform, where you try to have decisions made in Washington. There's too much disparity within the Republican caucus where we can't get consensus what the decisions would be. So we made a basic understanding, which was, let's not make the decisions in Washington. Let's give them to the state. And the key thing is -- this is very important -- the states are going to get enough money to be able to deal with this problem. We're working with governors now. I'm in constant communication with several Republican governors across the country, as is Senator Graham and Cassidy, and we're talking to them, working on the formula, making sure, whether you're a state that did expand or a state that didn't expand, you'll be treated fairly and have the opportunity and the resources to be able to provide a great responsible network of care and health insurance for the people in your state.

BOLDUAN: First things first.

ROSEN: This is fundamentally the problem with what they're doing. Which is, they are approaching this from an ideological perspective. The federal government program doesn't work. So give all money to the states. We know that means nothing but cuts, because what we've seen over time is that the states cut. What they don't talk about is how do you improve health care delivery for people?

BOLDUAN: I'm going to jump in quick, though --


BOLDUAN: The big question is --


ROSEN: And that's why Republicans are feeling so against the wall on this. Because their own constituents don't think it's going to give them better care.

BOLDUAN: We'll see, first and foremost, what happens in the Senate.

Hilary, Senator, always great to have you. Thank you so much.

SANTROUM: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Moments from now, a news conference coming up from President Trump, live from Paris, alongside President Emmanuel Macron. Will he address the latest questions swirling about his son, a meeting and his e-mails?

Stay with us.