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STATE OF THE UNION
Interview With Trump Attorney Jay Sekulow; Interview With Virginia Senator Mark Warner; Interview With Maine Senator Susan Collins; Donald Trump Jr. Meeting With Russians; Senate Delays Health Care Vote. Aired 9-10a ET
Aired July 16, 2017 - 09:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Trump family ties.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My son is a wonderful young man.
TAPPER: President Trump tries to defend his son's meeting with Russians, even as the story keeps changing.
TRUMP: Most people would have taken that meeting.
TAPPER: Did President Trump know that the Russians wanted him to win? We will ask a top Trump lawyer.
Plus: Smoking gun? What exactly do Donald Trump Jr.'s e-mails prove?
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: Criminal conspiracy to defraud the United States, plain and simple.
TRUMP: Will he have to testify?
SEN. MARK WARNER (D), VIRGINIA: Rest assured that Donald Trump Jr. would be somebody that we want to talk to.
TAPPER: The top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee will be here live.
And health care hustle? Republicans taking another crack at repealing Obamacare.
TRUMP.: I am sitting in the Oval Office with a pen in hand, waiting for our senators to give it to me.
Breaking news on the latest development that threatens to derail it. A key senator reveals how she will vote next.
Plus, the biggest political minds with insights on what happens next.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Hello. I'm Jake Tapper in Washington, where the state of our union is disapproving.
A brand-new poll out this morning shows President Trump has hit a new low with American voters. Just 36 percent say they approve of the way he's doing his job, with 58 percent of Americans saying they disapprove, and, remarkably, almost half of the American people saying they strongly disapprove of the job he's doing. Fifty-five percent say the president is not making progress on his agenda.
Overnight, the number one item on President Trump's domestic agenda, repealing and replacing health care, stalled yet again, with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announcing just hours ago that the vote will be delayed while Senator John McCain recovers from surgery.
Meanwhile, President Trump is up this morning observing the Sabbath as only he can, tweeting attacks on the free press and on Hillary Clinton, as well as mounting a defense of his son Don Jr., who has acknowledged a meeting with Russians who claimed to want to deliver the Trump campaign dirt on Clinton.
Asked about the meeting in this poll, 63 percent of Americans say it was inappropriate.
TAPPER: Joining me now is Jay Sekulow. He's a member of President Trump's legal team.
Jay, good to see you, as always.
This week, a number of conservatives...
JAY SEKULOW, ATTORNEY FOR PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Hey, Jake.
TAPPER: ... expressed disappointment after reading the e-mails from Donald Trump Jr. in which he expressed glee at the prospect of getting dirt on Hillary Clinton from what he thought would be the Russian government.
This is what Charles Krauthammer, conservative columnist, had to say -- quote -- "The Russia scandal has entered a new phase, and there's no going back. This is not hearsay, not fake news, not unsourced leaks. What Donald the Junior and Kushner and Manafort did may not be criminal, but it is not merely stupid. It is also deeply wrong, a fundamental violation of any kind of civic honor."
Are you willing to acknowledge that, regardless of the legality here, this was wrong and a violation of civic honor?
SEKULOW: Well, look, I deal with -- I deal with the law. So, that's what I -- I'm the lawyer for the president.
And campaigns involve opposition research, and the situation exchange that was released by Donald Trump Jr., and what was described there is -- is -- look at it and compare it to, for instance, the situation with the Ukrainians and the DNC and the Clinton campaign, where information actually was shared. TAPPER: The moment that there's an FBI -- the moment that there's an FBI investigation or a Senate and House Intelligence Committee investigations into Ukraine and the DNC and the Clinton campaign, I'm happy to discuss it. But that's not what's going on right now.
And I know you're...
SEKULOW: You know, isn't it interesting that there isn't one? But go ahead. Go ahead, Jake.
TAPPER: There isn't one because nobody from the Ukrainian government met with anybody from the Clinton campaign.
But moving on from that, you're talking about the legality. And I understand you're a lawyer, but you're also a man of faith.
SEKULOW: Right. Yes.
TAPPER: Isn't it kind of important whether or not what Donald Trump Jr. and Manafort and Kushner did, isn't it also important, whether or not it's legal, whether or not it's wrong, whether or not it's ethical?
SEKULOW: Well, you're conflating -- so, you're conflating, Jake, three perspectives here.
The legality, was the meeting, and what took place, legal or not? We, of course, and as almost every legal expert, says it's not illegal. And then you're trying to put a moral, ethical aspect to it. And it's easy to do that in 20/20 hindsight, but not when you're in the middle of a campaign.
And, again, I wasn't the campaign -- I'm not a campaign lawyer. I wasn't a campaign lawyer, but meetings were taking place, as Donald Trump Jr., said, 15, 20 minutes apart. This one went even shorter.
So, I think everybody that's looking backwards and saying would've, should've, could've -- and Donald Trump Jr. said he would've done some things differently.
But to go back a year later and say this is what should've happened, when the meeting itself was 20 minutes in a series of meetings that took place for days and days and months, I think -- I don't think that's fair to Donald Trump Jr., to Jared Kushner, or to Manafort, for that matter, because no one was in the situation of that kind of campaigning in the middle of a presidential election.
There's a lot of meetings and a lot of discussions about opposition research coming on all sides, Republican, Democrat, and independent. That's just the nature of the body politic.
TAPPER: Not with a hostile foreign -- not with the governments of hostile foreign powers, Jay. I mean, that's not normal.
TAPPER: And you can talk about opposition research all you want, but...
TAPPER: ... a Russian government attorney? That's how -- what this is billed at, with high-level intelligence on Hillary Clinton?
TAPPER: I mean, for all Don Jr. knew, that was coming from the FSB, the successor to the KGB. That was coming from, you know, human intelligence or signals intelligence.
He had no idea where it was coming from. It's not normal oppo. Normal is oppo is legally obtained.
SEKULOW: Well, the Ukrainians -- you know, I go back to the Ukrainian example. I know you don't want to discuss it because you say it's not being investigated, which raises the question.
But, here, in the Ukrainian situation, they actually exchanged documents from a foreign government. So...
TAPPER: Because Paul Manafort did work -- because Paul Manafort did work in Ukraine, people in Ukraine wanted the United States to know.
TAPPER: But that was all from a legal and public hearing.
SEKULOW: Well, wait a minute -- well, wait.
TAPPER: I don't...
SEKULOW: He was running -- but, Jake, he was running the campaign at the time.
So, I mean, when we're acting like this is some kind of one-off thing that never happens in campaigns, and you just stated the evidence of exactly what took place there, right.
TAPPER: No. Nobody from -- nobody from the Ukrainian government met with the Clinton campaign. Again, as I said...
SEKULOW: That's not true. There were representatives at the Ukrainian Embassy. The Politico report was clear. Go ahead. TAPPER: Again, I know you want to change the subject.
Let's go back to Russia. Donald Trump Jr. was asked this week if he met with anyone else from Russia. This is his answer. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP JR., SON OF DONALD TRUMP: I have probably met with other people from Russia.
SEAN HANNITY, HOST, "HANNITY": How many during the campaign?
DONALD TRUMP JR.: But certainly not in the -- not in the context of actual a formalized meeting or anything like that, because why would I?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Don Jr. saying, "I have probably met with other people from Russia."
TAPPER: What other meetings or communications with Russians have not been disclosed yet?
SEKULOW: None that I know of, but I represent the president of the United States, but Donald Trump Jr. said not in the context of formal meetings. He said he may have met with Russian people, as a lot of people meet with Russian people, so that's not unusual. But he said as it relates to the meeting...
TAPPER: But he also said that -- he also said -- in fact, in March, he said that there were no meetings at all in the auspices of the campaign. Now we know that's not to be true -- that's not true.
SEKULOW: Yes, and you know -- I thought about that, because you and I talked about that the other day on your weekday broadcast, and I thought about that.
Again, I got back to and look at, Jake, in the context of a meeting, and the meetings and the series of meetings that were taking place during the campaigns, there were dozens of meetings every day, hundreds of meetings every week. This meeting lasted what? They're saying 15 minutes? It was short. Nothing was produced.
It -- it never went any further, and so it wasn't ever discussed again.
But let me say one thing that's -- that's important here. The president -- and this has been incontrovertible -- was not aware of the meeting and did not attend the meeting. So, I want to be clear on that. But with regard to Donald Trump Jr. did he say he may have met with other Russian other people, but not in the context of a formal meeting. So...
TAPPER: But you don't -- but you don't -- but you don't know who those -- but you don't who they are?
TAPPER: We now know that there were at least eight people in that meeting, including a Russian-American lobbyist with alleged ties to Russian intelligence, just the latest in what Trey Gowdy, not exactly a leader of the resistance, is calling the drip, drip, drip of information about this controversy.
What other details about this meeting have not been disclosed?
SEKULOW: Well, I want to say again that I represent the president, and Donald Trump Jr. said he disclosed everything about the meeting.
But I represent -- I'm one of the counsel for the President of the United States, who was not involved in the meeting and not aware of the meeting.
So, from our perspective, my answer stands, and that is that the president was not engaged in this, was not aware of it. Donald Trump Jr. made statements about -- that this was everything. He said that on the air on Sean Hannity's broadcast.
SEKULOW: And I think it -- again, it speaks for itself.
TAPPER: So, the Trump campaign, we learned this week, paid $50,000 to Donald Trump Jr.'s lawyer. They paid this a day after one the CNN reporters that was working on the story called to say, what is there -- what can you tell us about this meeting?
Is that an acknowledgment that the meeting with the Russian lawyer that he thought was with the Russian government was official campaign business, the fact that the Trump campaign paid 50 grand to Trump Jr.'s attorney?
SEKULOW: Well, look, I'm not involved in the discussions with the lawyers on who paid what entity, and I certainly don't represent Donald Trump Jr.
But, look, in a situation like this, this is not an unusual situation where the individual that is being questioned, or subject to questioning, Donald Trump Jr., retains counsel. It involved an incident that involved an e-mail campaign and a meeting when he was working, doing work for the campaign, so that to me is not an unusual scenario or an unusual setup at all.
SEKULOW: But I -- look, I don't know the final, final determination of who's paying what bills to whom.
I mean, I think that's still in process.
TAPPER: I think a lot of people who give money to the Trump campaign will be surprised that they're paying for the legal bills for Donald Trump Jr.
Jay Sekulow, thank you so much for your time today. We appreciate it.
SEKULOW: Thanks, Jake. Appreciate it.
TAPPER: Donald Trump Jr. says he's happy to share what he knows with the Senate committee investigating Russian interference in the election, but will he be willing to testify publicly?
That story next.
TAPPER: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION.
Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner tried to escape the heat of Washington and the heat of Congress this week, setting off to Sun Valley, Idaho, for an annual conference of business and media moguls.
But Kushner's distance from the president has not taken the pressure off. Democrats in Congress are renewing calls to revoke Kushner's security clearance this week, after learning that he attended Donald Trump Jr.'s meeting with a Russian government lawyer -- that's what it was billed at anyway -- who promised to give the campaign dirt on Hillary Clinton last year.
We have lots to discuss with my guest, Democratic Senator Mark Warner of Virginia, the vice chair of the Intelligence Committee, which is, of course, leading the Russia investigation.
Senator, thanks so much for joining us, as always.
WARNER: Thank you, Jake.
TAPPER: So, let's begin with Donald Trump Jr.'s meeting last year with that Russian lawyer.
You heard President Trump's lawyer, Jay Sekulow, a moment ago, the president's lawyer maintaining there is nothing illegal about the meeting.
I know special counsel Robert Mueller is overseeing the criminal part of this investigation.
What is your response to this argument that there is nothing criminal here at this meeting last year?
WARNER: Well, we don't know because we don't know really what happened at the meeting.
What we do know is, Donald Trump Jr. did not tell the truth a variety of times. At first, he said this meeting was only about Russia, immigration policies and adoptions. Then he said there were only three or four people. Now we know there's many more people.
We know this was a meeting that was specifically about, in black and white, a part of the Russian government's effort to discredit Clinton and help Trump. So, I'm not sure why we would take anybody in the senior level of the Trump administration at their word.
That's why it's so important that we're going to get a chance to question these individuals and try to actually nail down the truth.
TAPPER: Senator, have you seen any evidence that any crime was committed?
WARNER: I'm not going to get into what evidence we have seen.
We do know that there seems to be a convenient pattern, where all of the senior officials of the Trump campaign forget about their meetings with Russians, don't put it on their forms until evidence comes out, and then they have to amend.
For example, with Mr. Kushner, we now have one, or two, but three examples where he forgot meetings with Russians and has had to go back and amend his disclosure forms.
I think, if I had a meeting that involved Russian government efforts to try to help candidate Trump and hurt Clinton, that I would remember that. And, frankly, it's a little bit unbelievable that neither the son or the son-in-law ever shared that information with their dad, the candidate.
TAPPER: Do you think Kushner's security clearance should be suspended?
WARNER: Listen, I think -- I'm trying to give all these people the benefit of the doubt until I get a chance to talk to them, until we get a chance to interview them.
But it's very bothersome to me that Jared Kushner has forgotten not once, not twice, but three times to put down this information. But, again, we see this pattern. General Flynn failed to put down information. He got fired. The attorney general failed to disclose information. He had to recuse himself.
We had examples that were put out about what the firing of Jim Comey was about. Then the president himself said he fired Jim Comey because of the Russia thing.
So, the level of credibility from the senior levels of this administration really is suspect, and I think suspect regardless of which political party you belong to.
TAPPER: That June 2016 meeting with that Russian lawyer, CNN has confirmed that it included at least eight people.
Will your committee seek to call all eight of them, including Trump Jr. and Jared Kushner, to testify?
WARNER: I would like to hear from all of these individuals. Whether we will be able to get the Russian nationals to come over and testify is an open question.
But those people that our committee has jurisdiction over, the Americans, I sure as heck want to talk to all of them.
TAPPER: Do you think that Trump Jr. and Kushner will testify in open session, so the public can hear from them?
WARNER: They have said that they're anxious to work with the committee. Again, I'm going to take them at their word.
It will be interesting to see, though, whether they will be willing to testify in open hearing or closed hearing. End of the day, we have got to get the information, and then we have to share the information with the American public. The American public deserves to know how the Russians attacked our most basic democratic process, how they interfered, not just in our country, but they interfered in France. They're going to interfere in Germany.
And what bothers me is, they got a great return on investment. You add up all the money they have spent on all these -- all these efforts to disrupt elections, you double it, and you're still talking less than 5 percent of the cost of a new aircraft carrier.
So, the Russians have found, in cyber-warfare, a very good rate of return on what is, frankly, a pittance in terms of money they're spending.
TAPPER: Do you have any sort of timeline on when we're going to have testimony from Kushner and Donald Trump Jr.?
WARNER: Listen, I would rather have us move much further and much faster.
We had -- we were delayed a bit by the firing of Jim Comey, which, again, nobody could have been predicted. But I think it's really important that we get documents from these individuals first, so we can ask them the right questions.
Clearly, if we don't have all the information, what we will see and what I'm afraid of is, these individual individuals don't seem to disclose everything or don't tell the whole truth until they have evidence put in front of them.
TAPPER: The last time you were on this program back on June 4, you said that it appeared to you that Russian paid Internet trolls created bots, a type of Web robot that performs -- would automatically put forward misinformation, false stories about Hillary Clinton in ways that seemed targeted, targeted, you said, at certain states, certain demographics, certain precincts.
At the time, you said -- quote -- "We don't have full proof of this." You said you were investigating.
Here we are, six weeks later. Have you uncovered any evidence on this front?
WARNER: We have got more investigation to do, to look into.
I would like to also look into the activities of Cambridge Analytica. I would like to look into the activities of the Trump digital campaign.
I will point out this. Facebook, which basically denied any responsibility around our elections, by the time the French elections took place this spring, they actually took down 30,000 fake sites.
We also know that it's been estimated that 8 percent of all Twitter accounts are fake. So, the ability to manipulate these search engines and some of these social media platforms is real. It's out there. And we need information from the companies, as well as we need to look into the activities of some of the Trump digital campaign activities.
TAPPER: Are you going to want people from Cambridge Analytica, Brad Parscale, who was part of the -- who led the Trump digital effort, maybe even Facebook executives to testify?
WARNER: I sure want to get to all these questions, because I think, again, not to try to relitigate 2016, but we have got to be ready in 2018, because the one thing we've heard consistently is, the Russians will be back.
And, Jake, what bothers me is, because the president won't acknowledge this attack, we don't have a whole government response. For example, 21 states, the Russians attempted to hack into their electoral system. But we hear from secretaries of state, Democrat and Republican, that they have not been notified by DHS.
I don't think that makes the country safer, by not notifying the states that were attacked and not making sure we're better prepared in 2018.
TAPPER: Let me change the subject for a brief second.
TAPPER: There's a new poll out this morning from "The Washington Post" and ABC News.
It found horrible approval ratings for Donald Trump, but also it found that 52 percent of the American people polled think that the Democratic Party mainly stands for opposing Trump, instead of standing for something substantive.
Is there a risk for Democrats to be seen in this light?
WARNER: Listen, I think we need to try to work with our Republican colleagues on tax reform, on health care reform. I have got a lot of ideas about how we could fix the ACA, or Obamacare.
But what that means is, the Republicans have to get off this notion that they're going to change all these laws just with Republicans.
I would wish that Mitch McConnell would take the advice of my friend Susan Collins, Republican senator from Maine, and let Democrats and Republicans sit down together, the way the Constitution said, and try to work for actually bipartisan solutions. That would actually help the Republicans, and help the Democrats, and, candidly, it would help the president's approval ratings as well.
TAPPER: And Susan Collins will join us in the next segment.
Senator Mark Warner of Virginia, thanks so much for your time today.
WARNER: Thank you, Jake.
TAPPER: Breaking news: What happened overnight that is forcing a major delay on Republican plans to repeal and replace Obamacare?
We will tell you about it after the break.
TAPPER: Breaking news overnight.
The Senate's latest health care bill is in limbo once again, this time because of a medical emergency.
Senator John McCain announced he will not be in Washington next week, when the vote was planned, because he is recovering from surgery to remove a blood clot from behind his eye.
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has now delayed the vote until McCain can return. It's a sign that McConnell needs every last vote, given that every Republican senators are rejecting, or wavering, at least, on the bill, including my guest, Senator Susan Collins of Maine, who joins us now.
Thanks so much for joining us, Senator. Appreciate it.
SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: Thank you.
TAPPER: So, let's start with health care.
President Trump is making phone calls to wavering senators. You have said that you're going to vote on the motion to proceed, just to even debate the matter, and as well as the final passage. Has President Trump called you? Is he still hoping that maybe he can win you over?
COLLINS: He talked to me at the White House at a meeting of the Republican Caucus a couple of weeks ago, but I have not heard directly from him. But I have heard from members of his administration, including his chief of staff.
Let me just quickly say that all of us are concerned about John McCain, and we're wishing him a speedy recovery. He's very tough, and I'm sure he will be back soon.
TAPPER: We all agree with that.
Vice President Pence spoke with the nation's governors on Friday. He tried to ally any concerns about what this bill will do with Medicaid, the health care program for low-income Americans and others.
Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Let me be clear. President Trump and I believe the Senate health care bill strengthens and secures Medicaid for the neediest in our society. And this bill puts this vital American program on a path to long-term sustainability.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Do you agree with the vice president there? Is he telling the truth? Would this bill would strengthen Medicaid for the neediest?
COLLINS: I would respectfully disagree with the vice president's analysis.
This bill would impose fundamental, sweeping changes in the Medicaid program. And those include very deep cuts. That would affect some of the most vulnerable people in our society, including disabled children, poor seniors. It would affect our rural hospitals and our nursing homes. And they would have a very difficult time even staying in existence and serving vulnerable populations.
So, no, I see it very differently. You can't take more than $700 billion out of the Medicaid program and not think that it's going to have some kind of effect.
TAPPER: One of the major changes to the health care bill was a provision offered by Senator Ted Cruz that would allow insurance companies to sell cheaper plans that offer fewer benefits.
[09:30:00] You have criticized the provision.
Wouldn't the Cruz provision, however, make it possible for some people who can't afford to buy coverage able to buy coverage? COLLINS: I do want to see more flexibility in the insurance market
but Senator Cruz's approach is not the answer.
It's rare for insurance and consumer groups to agree but they agree on this. The Cruz plan is unworkable. It would result in undermining the protections for people with pre-existing conditions and create two separate groups of individuals and some of them would have very skimpy insurance coverage at a low price.
But it might not help them when they get sick. And then there would be the group of people who have serious medical problems and their premiums and deductibles would go sky high. Such that insurance would be unaffordable for many of them.
There is a way to deal with this and that is by creating a reinsurance pool for people with pre-existing conditions. That would help drive down premiums. We did it in Maine for 18 months before the Affordable Care Act went into effect and it was highly successful.
TAPPER: Senator, you and Senator Rand Paul, for very different reasons, are opposed to this latest piece of legislation from the Republican leadership in the Senate.
Republicans, as you know, can only -- can't afford to lose any more votes from the Republican conference on this. Do you think that the bill will pass or do you think there are enough other wavering Republicans that it will not?
COLLINS: There are about eight to 10 Republican senators who have serious concerns about this bill.
And so at the end of the day, I don't know whether it will pass. But I do know this. We should not be making fundamental changes in a vital safety net program that's been on the books for 50 years.
The Medicaid program, without having a single hearing to evaluating what the consequences are going to be. That doesn't mean there aren't problems with the Medicaid program that need to be addressed. It doesn't mean that the ACA doesn't have serious flaws.
It does. But that's why we need go through the normal committee process and get input from people on both sides of the aisle. That's what would produce the kind of legislation that we need.
TAPPER: You're also a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, which is of course investigating the Russia investigation.
President Trump came to the defense of Donald Trump Jr. this week after those e-mails were released. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: My son is a wonderful young man. He took a meeting with a Russian lawyer. Not a government lawyer but a Russian lawyer.
Most people would have taken that meeting. It's called opposition research.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: You've been through a few campaigns, Senator. If you were told that a lawyer wanted to share information with you as part of the Russian government's effort to help you get elected, how would you respond?
COLLINS: Well, I would respond in the negative. And I think most candidate would.
We need to get to the bottom of this but the only way that we're going to do it is to talk not just to Donald Trump Jr., who has offered to cooperate, for which I give him credit, but to everyone who was at that meeting and who was involved in setting up that meeting. That may be difficult in the case of the Russian nationals but we certainly ought to try.
We should also ask for all documents, not just the e-mails that have been released but all the documents that are related to any contacts that President Trump's campaign had with the Russian government or its emissaries.
TAPPER: Of the three people from the Trump team that we know of, who were in that meeting with the Russian lawyer, only one of them, Jared Kushner, is currently in the White House with the security clearance.
Given how many times he has had to update his security clearance forms and how empirically untransparent he has been throughout this process, do you have concerns about his security clearance?
COLLINS: That's an issue that we need to look at. But right now we don't have enough evidence.
I don't know who advised him on the forms. I don't know how many meetings he had in total. I don't know whether most of them were listed.
So those are issues we do need to review. And it's one reason why the intelligence committee's counterintelligence investigation needs to continue. It's on a separate track from the special counsel's investigation which is looking at the issue of whether or not there's any criminal wrongdoing.
That's not in our bailiwick. But we do need to make sure we know the answers to Russian interference in the campaign whether there was any collaboration. And most of all we need to put into place safeguards to prevent this kind of interference from happening in the future.
Because the Russians are going to try again, as we know, from their attempts to influence the campaigns in France and in Germany and in Montenegro.
TAPPER: All right. Senator Susan Collins of Maine, thank you so much for joining us today. We really appreciate it. Great to see you.
COLLINS: Thanks so much.
TAPPER: I'm waiting with my pen to sign it, says the president, pressuring Republicans to pass this health care bill. But how is the famed deal maker going to close this one? That story, next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BEN SASSE (R), NEBRASKA: So obviously there's lots of reasons to be concerned.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's certainly problematic, at the very least, it's very damaging.
REP. TREY GOWDY (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: This drip, drip, drip is undermining the credibility of this administration.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Those are Republicans on Capitol Hill, objecting to Donald Trump Jr.'s meeting with a Russian lawyer last year, and the e-mails and questioning whether the White House can accomplish anything while simultaneously trying to battle against the steady stream of new revelations about Russia.
Let's talk about it with our panel. We have with us Democratic Congressman Eric Swalwell of California. Alice Stewart is a former Ted Cruz communications director. Former Republican Attorney General of the Great Commonwealth of Virginia Ken Cuccinelli. And Bakari Sellers, former Democratic South Carolina state representative.
Thanks, one and all, for being here.
Ken, Charles Krauthammer, who in many ways a very powerful conservative pundit and a leading one, I think it's fair to say, he said that we're in a new phase now. And that this was not acceptable, whether or not it was legal. This meeting was not acceptable.
Do you agree with him?
KEN CUCCINELLI, CNN LEGAL COMMENTATOR: Well, certainly there was nothing illegal about it. But it certainly has raised enormous -- we've spend -- look, it's Sunday, the end of the week that has covered nothing but Donald Trump Jr. I mean, virtually nothing.
I mean, the health care bill came out Thursday and it was the tail end of any news show. And I think that's a problem on two levels.
One, it didn't (ph) going (ph) to affect Americans' lives. But second of all it has distracted, it has thoroughly wiped off the table other meaningful subjects to people's lives like health care. And, you know, Donald Trump Jr. gave them the ammo to do that.
TAPPER: Yes. And you heard the argument from Jay Sekulow, there was nothing illegal. But he didn't answer my question when I asked, what about was it moral, was it ethical?
ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Was it improper? Yes, it was improper.
And their argument that anybody would have taken this meeting in politics. No, they wouldn't. People would not have taken this.
Yes, do we take oppo -- everyone at this table is familiar with people coming to you but with opposition research on your opponent? However, when it's the Russian government, you say no and you immediately call the FBI.
And I think that's the problem. I think, Donald Trump Jr.'s amnesia with regard to this meeting is troublesome. But even more so than that his affluenza and the righteous indignation toward anyone who questions whether or not they knew about Russians tipping the scale towards Donald Trump that is discouraging to the American people and I find it insulting as well.
TAPPER: Congressman we found out there were at least eight people at this meeting, including a Russian American lobbyist with alleged ties to Russian intelligence.
As a member of the House Intelligence Committee how significant, how important are these other people at the meeting besides the three Trump players and the lawyer?
REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D-CA), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: They're very significant. We want to hear from them and also want to hear from anyone who may have been involved in setting up the meeting or any post meetings that took place.
I don't think this was a one-off. It doesn't look like that.
I also agree with Ken, though. I think this is costing us everything. You think of all those people and all the crowds that Donald Trump have who were, you know, really putting their hopes on him to put them back to work, to help them with their problems and their life. And this investigation, his -- you know, the continuum of saying no Russia, no collusion to where we are today saying essentially, so what, this is opposition research.
The distraction has affected our ability to work for those people especially his ability to deliver on the promises he made.
TAPPER: Do you think Democrats are talking too much about the Russia investigation as opposed to other issues such as health care and tax reform?
BAKARI SELLERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No. I think the Democrats and I heard my friend Gavin Newsom recently talk about this issue. But I think Democrats are perfectly capable of walking and chewing bubblegum at the same time.
You know, I don't hear the outrage from my Republican colleagues that I believe that this Russia investigation deserves. I mean, I think that we are talking about a legitimate threat against our democracy.
I mean, I like to play the what if game. What if Barack Obama, you know, did this or what if Hillary Clinton did this, you know?
Ken Cuccinelli would be red in the face and he would be running around with pitch forks in Washington, D.C. But we don't see that same outrage because it's Donald Trump and he's able to meander his way in and out of lives.
And so, I think the Democrats can talk about the 23 million people that are going to be kicked off health care. And we can also say that Donald Trump Jr. what he did was a threat to our democracy and borderline treason.
TAPPER: So, Ken, let me ask, you agree with Alice -- right -- that getting opposition research from somebody billed as with the Russian government, you wouldn't take that meeting?
CUCCINELLI: No, but I don't for -- I don't agree with Alice in the sense that -- and I don't think most Americans think that everybody in Washington who is saying oh, I would never do this bull hockey.
Look, this is a low form of human life inside the beltway here. And enormous proportion of these folks would take this information if they could get it. I just don't buy it.
TAPPER: From the Russian government?
CUCCINELLI: You bet. I don't buy -- now, again, beginning of your question, I'm troubled by it.
I don't like it. But I'm kind of an idealist. And I don't think most people are.
And -- in your polling you were talking, I think to Senator Warner about at the beginning of your show or the earlier part of the show where most people think Democrats just stand for being against Trump --
TAPPER: Let's put that poll up. Let's put --
CUCCINELLI: -- is a problem. This is a bipartisan problem. And to the congressman's point --
TAPPER: There it is -- 52 percent just against Trump. What the Democrats --
(CROSSTALK) CUCCINELLI: Right. That's where we're losing our opportunity here.
SELLERS: But that's OK. Like, for example, people -- I'm about winning elections. Right?
We want to change the conversation in Washington, D.C. We can't do it if we don't get more Democrats elected. What did Republicans in 2010 stand for? The Republicans in 2010, they were against Barack Obama.
CUCCINELLI: Against Obamacare.
TAPPER: They were against Obamacare.
CUCCINELLI: They were against Obamacare.
SELLERS: And now we are against repeal and replace or whatever that may be and we are against Donald Trump.
The central theme of the Republican Party the last eight years, Mitch McConnell said it best, he did -- he wanted it to be a one-term president. Was the man who was president of the United States.
It's OK. And we can talk about other issues.
SWALWELL: We have a future elections coming up. We have the 2018 midterm and another presidential election. I think, Republicans and Democrats, I hope -- see this as an opportunity to at least say we have a responsibility to secure the ballot box.
We know the Russians will do this again. Other countries will see this as an opportunity.
CUCCINELLI (ph): They've done it in the past.
SWALWELL: Yes, they have done in the past. But whatever Mueller does, we should at least accept the facts that Russia attacked us and we have a responsibility to make sure it doesn't happen again.
STEWART: And that's also part of the president's voter integrity panel. While they're all -- they were looking to clean up voter registration across the country part of that, they will be able to determine information about Russians' influence and impact on the election. And I think that's important.
To your point, we need to make sure this doesn't happen again. And if I were advising the White House, which they wouldn't listen to me, get it all out there. Tell them everything about all of these meetings and let's let Mueller do the investigation, the House and Senate, put it behind us and let's -- let's get to the issue at hand, which is the agenda, repealing and replacing Obamacare. TAPPER: And let's talk about that. Here is President Trump talking with Christian Broadcasting Network Pat Robertson about repeal and replace.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: It has to get passed. They have to do it. They have to get together and get it done.
PAT ROBERTSON, FOUNDER, CBN: What will happen if they don't?
TRUMP: Well, I don't even want to talk about it because I think it would be very bad. I will be very angry about it. And a lot of people will be very upset.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: If it fails to pass, do you think President Trump might go after some of his fellow Republicans?
CUCCINELLI: Well, that's always a possibility anyway. I mean, he is very unpredictable in that respect. And he has never been in politics before.
So we don't know what he will do in this midterm election. That's a big question mark for how that will happen.
But it will also matter when we turn the corner into 2018, what's his standing with the electorate and -- particularly the primary electorate which is the source of his leverage to have that impact? That's determined by what goes on here in Washington, whether anything gets done, whether he tries and it doesn't, but, frankly, if we have a health care bill that doesn't basically undo Obamacare, you know, Senate conservatives fund where I work, we don't want it to pass.
TAPPER: Who do you think -- there are already two Republicans in opposition, Collins and Rand Paul, if one more comes out against it, then it's dead.
Who do you think is most likely to fit that role? There are eight to 10 Republicans who are wavering according to polls (ph).
SELLERS: Well, one of the things that Mitch McConnell is definitely afraid of is postponing this vote any longer which he has to do because of Senator McCain, because Democrats are going to ramp up the resistance, as we so eloquently call it.
But I would look at actual governors. I would look at Kasich and I would look at Sandoval, because they have a great deal of influence over Portman and over Heller. And I think that's where Democrats are going to focus a lot of their energy.
But I do recall when Obamacare was being rolled out about this same time in 2008, 2009, Barack Obama stood in front of the media and did a press conference for 50 minutes and took questions. We're waiting on Donald Trump to do the same thing. TAPPER: Congressman, what do you think is going to happen with this bill?
SWALWELL: I think the people are being hurt and I wish we were amplifying these stories two years ago. But, you know, it's the people who are coming forward saying this affects my son with cancer. This affects my husband's treatment.
Don't, you know, charge us more. Don't take away our care. And I think that energy is going to be leveraged in the Senate and it's going to keep them from --
CUCCINELLI: But Obamacare is why the charges are going up.
SWALWELL: And we should work to strengthen Obamacare.
STEWART: And that's why people --
CUCCINELLI: No, no, no, no, no. You don't strengthen a failure. You get rid of the failure.
TAPPER: OK. We got to -- we got to break up. Sorry, guys.
CUCCINELLI: She was saying I was right.
TAPPER: We have a reality TV star in the White House. Is a rock star in the Senate next? Stay with us.
TAPPER: It's no joke. That's what powerful Senate Democrats including Chuck Schumer and Elizabeth Warren are saying about the threat that a Trump loving, whiskey swilling; rock god might be joining their ranks.
So who is the shirtless Republican rocker whose potential Senate run has them quaking in their suits? It is in the subject of this week's "State of the Cartoonion."
TAPPER (voice-over): Democratic Senator Debbie Stabenow of Michigan might face some interesting competition in her Senate race next year. That's right. Kid Rock seems to have adjusted his ambitions.
Now he says, I want to be a senator, baby, maybe. Kid Rock isn't completely new to politics. Some of his songs were used as campaign anthems for his fellow Michigander, Mitt Romney. [09:55:00]
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm happy to introduce a son of Detroit, a friend, a guy who makes great music, Kid Rock.
TAPPER: And he popped up recently next to President Trump at a White House visit with pals Sarah Palin and Ted Nugent.
So will Kid Rock be bringing the "Bawitdaba" to the campaign trail? Will he be able to assemble a willing coalition? Does Michigan have enough midnight glancers and topless dancers and cans of freaks and cars packed with speakers and G's with the 40s or chicks with beepers?
Senator Stabenow (ph) for one she sounds worried. Warning supporters -- quote -- "After Donald Trump's surprising win last year, we need to act fast."
If it turns out to be real he could be campaigning while in concert. Coincidentally I'm sure the tour for his new album begins next year too.
TAPPER: Thanks for watching. You can catch me here every Sunday and weekdays on "THE LEAD" at 4:00 p.m. Eastern.
I'm Jake Tapper in Washington.
"FAREED ZAKARIA GPS" is next. Have a great Sunday.