Return to Transcripts main page


Soon: GOP Senators Meet With Trump On Bill Collapse; Sources: Trump To Remind Senators Of Promises; Dems Ask FBI To Review Ivanka Trump's Security Clearance; "Eight Man" Tied to U.S. Probe Of Russian Money Laundering; GOP Senator: Trump's Lunch Won't Change Minds. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired July 19, 2017 - 11:00   ET



KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: -- a short time from now, President Trump will be hosting Republican senators at the White House to figure out essentially what the heck they're going to do next.

It comes after the revised GOP health care bill in the Senate collapsed and after a very disappointed president -- those are his words -- says that he is now willing to just let Obamacare fail.

But maybe this will fix everything. The president sending out this statement earlier on Twitter, "The Republicans never discuss how good their health care bill is and it will get even better at lunchtime. The Dems scream death as Obamacare dies."

Let's go to CNN's Kaitlan Collins at the White House. No laughing matter, this is life and death for many people when we're talking about health care, but talk to me about this lunch. What are we expecting? What are you hearing, Kaitlan?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, we're hearing from the White House that they are expecting about 95 percent of those senators who were invited here today for lunch to show up. They hope that this is more of a strategy session where, like you said, they can figure out what they're going to do next.

The question is, what strategy are they going to pursue? They're meeting with a president who has publicly advocated for several different strategies including repeal and replace, and then repeal then replace at a later date, and letting Obamacare fail, which is what President Trump brought up yesterday during a meeting here at the White House.

It will also likely be a venting session for these senators who don't think Trump has done enough to publicly advocate for this bill. Though he loves rallies, he never held any or gave any solo speeches dedicated to this health care bill leaving more of the leg work up to Vice President Mike Pence.

Now, Donald Trump did host a dinner at the White House on Monday night with seven senators, but it raised some eyebrows because those senators all were in support of the bill. Now as you know, during that dinner, the health care bill essentially collapsed when Senators Lee and Moran came out in opposition against it. Donald Trump said that that surprised him though it didn't surprise many other people.

It will be interesting to see what happens today because Donald Trump often distance himself from the party calling them "the Republicans" and today he said that "The Republicans have to fulfill the promise they made to the American people to fix health care."

Now the White House said that this isn't him distancing himself from Republicans but noted that their promise to fix health care comes along before his -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: The Republicans, it's like a strange version of the Ohio state, which I always take issue with in and of itself. Great to see you, Kaitlan. Thank you so much.

Joining me right now, CNN political commentator and former communications director at the RNC, and also a former Capitol Hill staffer, Doug Heye. Jon Selib is here. He was chief of staff for former Senator Max Baucus, who helped usher through Obamacare in the Senate. Hi, guys, great to have you here.

So I'm a little bit confused. Kaitlin lays it out. Forget the Ohio state, we'll get to that later. Repeal and replace, repeal now, replace later or let Obamacare fail and then we'll figure it out.

The reporting now is that they're going to go into this lunch, Doug, and the message from the president is inaction is not an option. Which of the menu of those three are we at? I'm quite confused.

DOUG HEYE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think that everybody is pretty confused. We're not at plan "b" or plan "c" here, we're at plan "q" and until we figure out some direction from the president, we are not going to know anything more.

If you look back at the dinner that Republican senators have, they'll tell you Donald Trump spent a lot more time talking about the parade in Paris than he did in health care. We need to see a change in action from the White House, not talking about "they" but talking about "we."

Moving things forward and proactively talking about this. The absence of Trump's voice in this meant that there was a vacuum, which means it was filled with bad CBO numbers and bad process stories. We can't do anything if that doesn't change.

BOLDUAN: And the lack of "we" you've often heard with President Trump when it comes to things -- when things are not going well legislatively when it comes to his agenda.

John, what do you -- there are a lot of luncheons and meetings at the White House leading up to the passing of Obamacare and you are working through it. What do you think could come from this meeting if 95 percent of the Republican senators show up? JON SELIB, FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF TO SENATOR MAX BAUCUS (AN OBAMACARE ARCHITECT): I don't think very much will come from this meeting. I can't see what would have changed from the other day when the Senate Republicans had their lunch after Moran and Lee came out and killed the bill, right.

So hard to see what the president can offer at this point. I agree with Doug completely. Presidential leadership is essential for major pieces of legislation like this and President Obama, you know, worked really hard to stay on message, to bring members along, to try to shape the bill in ways without being too dominant over the process.

But at the end of the day, the other problem with this legislation is it's just not a very good bill and I don't think you can message your way around this. There's only so much the president can do with a bill that's going to take away insurance from 23 million people.

[11:05:01]BOLDUAN: Well, here's one thing about it, at least as of yesterday, we'll see where the president lands today. As of yesterday, the president said he was -- he would be fine with just letting Obamacare fail and if it did, he wasn't going to own it. To remind our viewers, this is what he said.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: We'll just let Obamacare fail. We're not going to own it, I'm not going to own it. I can tell you the Republicans are not going to own it.


BOLDUAN: I just want to make a point on that before I get your take. That is a total contradiction to what the president ran on when he basically -- one of his strong points was, he's from the outside and he's the only guy or gal you can send to Washington to fix this problem, the system. Just listen to this from the convention.


PRESIDENT TRUMP: I have joined the political arena so that the powerful can no longer beat up on people who cannot defend themselves. Nobody knows the system better than me, which is why I alone can fix it.


BOLDUAN: So what does this failure right now prove?

HEYE: Well, I think it should, if things work, give us some hope. If you go back in 2014, Republicans struggled to put any kind of legislation -- not even legislation, language on a health care replacement. I worked on it for six months and we got nowhere.

And the only dynamic that's different between today and last year when we struggled and five years ago when we struggled is that we have a President Trump and we own this because we own the House and the Senate and the White House.

If we're not all working together with an all hands on deck mentality, we are not going to be able to do this and that leadership has to come from the president.

BOLDUAN: As of this moment, it doesn't seem like it is when he says "We will not own it, I will not own it." What did you think when you heard the president said that yesterday?

SELIB: I mean, obviously, he hasn't been a great supporter of the members of his own party along the way. He called the House bill "mean." He often tries to shift blame away from failures of his administration.

But look, just because you control all the levers of government, doesn't mean you have to do everything by yourself. Democrats I think genuinely want to work together with Republicans to fix some of the things in the Affordable Care Act as long as that effort isn't designed to repeal the whole law.

George W. Bush, even though when he came into office he controlled the Senate and he controlled the House, reached out to Democrats on a whole host of priorities. I worked on the 2001 tax cut bill, OK, you know --

BOLDUAN: But don't be Pollyanna, my friend, Jon. I think some Democrats would truly enjoy to see whatever the Republicans end up doing -- good, bad, or ugly -- fail so they can use it in 2018.

SELIB: Look, I'm not being Pollyannish about this. There's no way Democrats will ever agree to a bill that repeals the Affordable Care Act, at all, full stop. So if those are the terms of the negotiation Democrats are going to be hard-nosed about that and they should be.

However, if it means working with the Republicans to make a few minor tweaks so that people's insurance markets operate more effectively, I think Democrats are game for that.

BOLDUAN: Democrats are going to have to lose the term "minor" in terms of the tweaks if they are going to --

HEYE: This is about more than health care, though. This is about whether or not a Republican Party owning the government can govern. We are having problems in a lot of different areas.

BOLDUAN: Let's see if they will first just own health care when they come out of this one. It's great to see you, guys. Thanks so much.

Turning now to new questions in the Russia investigation. First, it was Jared, now Ivanka, what did Ivanka Trump know and did she disclose it? Some Democrats are calling on the FBI to review what the first daughter put on her security clearance application when she joined the administration as a White House adviser.

This comes, of course, amid the ever-evolving explanations coming from her brother and the changing updated disclosures coming from her husband after their meetings with Russians.

Let's go to CNN White House reporter, Jeremy Diamond, who is following this side of the story. Jeremy, what is the basis at this point for these calls from Democrats to look into Ivanka's security clearance?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, Congressman Don Byer, a Democrat, is leading a group of 22 members of Democratic members of Congress calling on the FBI to review Ivanka Trump's security clearance application for potential omissions.

The omissions they're talking about are in particular about foreign government contacts, that's a part of the application and it not only asks that you to disclose your foreign government contacts, but those of any immediate family members.

Hugh, Jared Kushner, Donald Trump Jr., who we learned last week had this meeting in June 2016, with a Russian lawyer who Donald Trump Jr. believed was representing the Russian government to provide dirt essentially on Hillary Clinton.

[11:10:00]So let me just read you a part of this letter from Congressman Don Byer and these 22 Democrats. It says, "We are concerned that Ivanka Trump may have engaged in similar deception. The high standard to which we hold public servants, particularly senior advisers to the president of the United States requires that these questions be raised and promptly answered."

So Democrats have turned up the heat on Jared Kushner calling for his security clearance to be revoked. Now they're also turning up the heat on Ivanka Trump. The White House and Ivanka Trump's attorney have yet to respond to CNN's request for comment -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: All right, so you have that and now there's also more coming out about the eighth person who attended the meeting with Donald Trump, Jr. at Trump Tower and his links to a congressional investigation. Not just a congressional investigation but a federal investigation into Russian money laundering. What can you tell us about that?

DIAMOND: That's right. Well, we found out just recently that Ike Kaveladze (ph) is the eight person who attended that meeting and Kaveladze was actually previously linked to a congressional investigation.

He was linked to bank accounts essentially that were being investigated by a congressional panel with regards to money laundering. Kaveladze has denied any connection to money laundering efforts at the time.

He called the GAO, the Government Accountability Office's investigation a witch-hunt. Familiar words we're hearing now today again from the president of the United States.

But Senator Carl Levin, a Democrat who was on that congressional panel that was investigating that has just put out a statement on Facebook. Let me read it to you in part. He says, quote, "As GAO reported, Kaveladze established some 2,000 U.S. corporations and bank accounts for a number of them. The owners of those accounts then moved some $1.4 billion through those accounts.

Kaveladze claims he did all this without knowing for whom he was doing it. Carl Levin also goes on to call Kaveladze in a sense the poster child of that practice of money laundering.

So clearly some more questions being raised about Kaveladze, who was the eighth person in that room with Donald Trump. Jr., Jared Kushner, and Paul Manafort during that meeting at Trump Tower -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: Jeremy, thanks so much for bringing it and laying it out. I really appreciate it.

Joining me now on this to discuss is former U.S. Attorney Michael Moore. Great to see you, Michael.


BOLDUAN: Let's talk about that. This eighth person in the room, Kaveladze, from the now infamous 2016 meeting. He's identified and he's being linked to the federal money laundering investigation.

This was back in the 2000 when this was all being investigated. Is Robert Mueller going to be looking into this?

MOORE: You know, I think Bob Mueller actually will look into a lot of it. These investigations take a long time and some of this information will start to come out as that goes on. Hopefully, not a lot, we don't have leaks in the investigation.

But the problem with these explanations about the meeting is kind of like those little dolls that the Russians had and you open it up and there's another doll inside, and opened that called a babushka doll. That's how this is.

Every time we look into the meeting, we started this gate and we pop the top off and look in and another little Russian pops out. That's where we are. The real problem too with the meeting is it's essentially a time when we gave the communists a win, gave Putin a win both in the PR end and the counterintelligence world.

I don't know what the administration was expecting when they were having this kind of meeting. You know, I don't know if they thought maybe that Putin would ride up in a 1947 tank wearing a fur hat and jump out of Trump Tower.

But they send people in to set these things up and essentially what the Trump team did is they set up the administration for the potential for blackmail and extortion going down the road.

BOLDUAN: Let's focus, though, one more time I have another question on this eighth person in this investigation that we're now just learning about. The investigation looked at hundreds of U.S. bank accounts that were setup for corporations tied to Russia.

More than a billion dollars was funneled through them and former Senator Carl Levin says, as Jeremy laid out, that this guy became in essence a poster child for this kind of money-laundering practice. He was never charged in this but how serious is this?

MOORE: Well, it's serious any time you link somebody's name with potential money laundering. Obviously that's a federal violation and it's especially serious since we don't have tax returns from the president to look, and see if maybe he had interest interests or dealings with some of these corporations that were set up.

Those things could tell us a lot, too. So you know, the web continues to get thick and we're just not getting the information from the administration that we need and for some reason they seem to be particularly protective and interested in having these ongoing discussions with the Russians.

BOLDUAN: On Bob Mueller, Dianne Feinstein, Senator Dianne Feinstein, the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, she has said that Mueller has given them on judiciary, given them the green light to bring in, to ask to bring in Donald Trump Jr. and Paul Manafort to get them to testify about this meeting we've been talking about.

Can you read anything into that, Michael, about the investigation that Mueller is doing that he is OK with them testifying?

MOORE: My guess is that he's probably got information from a cooperating source. He may already have the information he needs about the meeting and is now willing to see whether or not statements come out that are contrary to what he thinks he can prove from other evidence.

[11:15:08]So you know, if he was in the midst of wondering whether or not there was some nefarious intent in having the meeting, I doubt he would have given his OK.

But at this point, my guess is maybe it's from Michael Flynn or somebody else, he's got information about what the intent was behind that meeting, probably well beyond even the e-mails that we've seen from Don Jr.

BOLDUAN: We will stand by to find out. Great to see you, Michael. Thank you so much.

Coming up for us, new backlash and questions after we learned the president met with Vladimir Putin a second time at the G20 summit. Why didn't he bring another American with him? Any official, any translator, and why didn't anybody know about this until now?

I'll speak live with one former ambassador who says Putin's goal was just that -- to get the president alone.

Plus, the Russian lawyer at the center of the Trump Tower meeting says she will testify but on one condition, that's ahead. And we are just getting word President Trump will be speaking any moment at the first meeting of the Voter Fraud Commission that he set up, been embroiled in controversy since it began. You're looking at live pictures of the room. We'll bring you his comments live when they happen.



BOLDUAN: Moments from now, the president will be playing host for a meal with some serious high stakes. He's invited all Republican senators over for lunch at the White House. The topic, health care.

So is this going to be more of a postmortem or a fresh start at this point? Where do things go for from here?

Joining me right now, Republican Congressman Michael Burgess, who helped craft the health care bill that passed in the spring. Congressman, it's good to see you. Thanks for coming in.


BOLDUAN: Congressman, how hopeful are you that they are going to come out of this lunch, Senate Republicans and the president, on one message on health care?

BURGESS: Well, I don't know if that's -- if that's a possibility. But I think it's good that they are meeting and I don't know that the final answer will be in today. Leader McConnell has said that there will be a vote on a motion to proceed next week.

I think we know at this point how important it is to the president and vice president although it has been difficult to get here. Here we are right on precipice of getting this accomplished and I believe the president is going to be all in, in talking to the senators about how important it is to move this along.

BOLDUAN: Maybe the message today, but just yesterday, Congressman, the president says that he made very clear that he was OK with just not doing anything and letting Obamacare fail. Are you comfortable with that position?

BURGESS: No, the fight's not over and I believe the senators have a -- I know the senators have a duty to go to the floor and vote. It may not be a successful vote, but my opinion, they are obligated. They can't do this by mailing in a press release.

They have to go to the floor of the Senate. They have to be recorded yes or no and you saw the editorial of the "Wall Street Journal" this morning, does any senator in that group want to be the one who whom it is forever affix it had title.

This is the senator that saved Obamacare after running election after election saying they were going to get rid of it. That's tough to carry that forward in their political career.

BOLDUAN: They seemed to all know the pressure that is on them. Why it's tough to make these decisions but on the president's role, you say you don't agree the president that letting Obamacare fail is an option but also --

BURGESS: Let's back up. I wouldn't say I disagree with the president, but I don't think that is the option on the table. I think the option on the table is do we proceed with this --

BOLDUAN: Do you think the president is right where he says we might be a place where you would be OK with not doing anything and letting Obamacare fail?

BURGESS: I think the president does hold some cards in this that the average senator or the average House member does not hold and that is the decision to continue funding what are called cost sharing reduction payments, that's about $7 billion a year.

Remember, the House sued President Obama because those were not appropriated funds. The court case was put on hold for a little while the new administration got up to speed.

But now the decision month by month as to whether or not those payments occur, that is out of the White House so they have some leverage there and I won't say what I think or whether or not they've talked to me about it or whether or not they would use that leverage, but that is leverage available to the executive branch and I think they're aware of that.

BOLDUAN: Yes, but isn't that different than letting it fail? Isn't that actively trying to push it to fail?

BURGESS: Well, look, it's all about negotiation and you make your best case. The president is known for being a closer. The Senate and even the House are not known for its ability to close a deal. The president is. I'll give him the space he needs to negotiate this.

BOLDUAN: Let me ask you about this one then, Congressman. The president also says if this fails Republicans won't own it "I won't own it" he said. Didn't you all take ownership of this when you won control of both chambers of Congress and the White House?

BURGESS: Wait a minute, remember who you're talking to. I'm a House Republican, we get blamed for everything so I fully understand who's going to -- if there's a victory we get very little credit. If there's blame we pretty much get it all.

BOLDUAN: So on that one, the president is a little off base?

BURGESS: No, I wouldn't say he is off but I wouldn't tell you --

BOLDUAN: But he said he's not going to own it, Congressman.

BURGESS: He may not. He may not but --

BOLDUAN: You don't think he owns this too?

BURGESS: My experience as a House member is you will do a very good job of making sure that the House Republicans own whatever -- if it's bad, the House Republicans will own it, if it's successful, there will be a million people lined up to take credit for it.

BOLDUAN: Congressman, do not put this on me that I'm going to putting blame on you. This is about you Republicans --

BURGESS: It's reality.

BOLDUAN: -- have control of the House.

BURGESS: I've lived with it for a decade.

[11:25:09]BOLDUAN: The Republicans have control of the House and the Senate and the White House and you say that the president will not own this if this fails?

BURGESS: Well, the president did not cause this problem. This problem was caused by Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, and Barack Obama back in 2009 and 2010 when they pushed on a party line vote, a reformation of one-sixth of the American economy.

BOLDUAN: Right, but Congressman, the president was more than happy --

BURGESS: Tough sledding ever since then trying to fix that, but I don't think you can say now at the 11th hour this is all on the executive branch. It started with the executive branch in 2009, but the president's only been on the job for six months.

I agree with him. I don't think that is his ownership. As a House member, yes, I get it. We have run on this in, what, 2010, 2014, 2016 --

BOLDUAN: But he ran on it, too, Congressman. He ran on it, too.

BURGESS: -- the deliverable is ours and we need to deliver for the president. I feel that acutely that the president needs us to do our job and I want -- the House did do its job. I want the Senate to do its job as well. They can't mail this with a press release. They have to go on the floor with the Senate and be recorded?

BOLDUAN: I hear you, Congressman, but the president was more than happy to own health care when the House did act and passed its version of health care and held a pep rally at the White House, the president seemed more than happy to own it then.

BURGESS: He was grateful for the House's participation and I was grateful for the president acknowledging the work that the House have done. It was hard. As someone who sat in the committee through the 28-hour markup, and then sat through the Rules Committee on another 18-hour markup. This was hard.

For all those people who said, well, you weren't really repealing Obamacare, that wasn't the tone in those markups when we went through this process.

BOLDUAN: I just want to get you on this one point, Congressman, he's not shirking responsibility when he says I'm the president, but I'm not going to own it if the health care effort fails under my watch?

BURGESS: You all will assign what you wish to assign.

BOLDUAN: Stop, do not put this on me, I am asking you.

BURGESS: As a House member, I understand where the responsibility is and it is with the members of the people's House and Senate.

BOLDUAN: Congressman, it's always great to have you on. I really appreciate it. Thank you.

BURGESS: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Coming up for us, the secret sit-down between the president and Vladimir Putin and only three people know what was said at all. What they talked about. How unusual is this? Does it break rules? Could it happen again? And why wasn't it revealed that they met for a second time? Two world leaders. We'll be right back.