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CBO: Under Repeal Bill, 32 Million Would Lose Insurance; Trump Has Second Undisclosed Meeting with Putin; Interview with Eric Swalwell (E-CA). Aired 5-6p ET
Aired July 19, 2017 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
TAPPER: I now turn you over to Brianna Keilar, who's in for Wolf Blitzer THE SITUATION ROOM. Thanks for watching.
[17:00:10] BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, breaking news. Back from the dead? A day after giving up on the Republican health care plan and saying he'd just let Obamacare fail, President Trump brings Senate Republicans to the White House as he tries to bring their repeal and replace effort back to life.
Not enough votes. That White House luncheon may have been tough to swallow for GOP leaders, but Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says there will be a motion to proceed on health care next week. There's no indication if he has enough votes to make it work.
Threatening his party. President Trump seems to offer a veiled threat to one health care opponent who's up for reelection next year, and sources say the White House sent a heavy-handed former Trump campaign manager and his deputy to meet with another Senate hold-out.
And what was said? The White House won't say what was discussed during President Trump's previously undisclosed meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The two spoke during a G-20 summit dinner, joined by a Kremlin translator.
Wolf Blitzer is on assignment. I'm Brianna Keilar, and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
KEILAR: Breaking news. Suddenly, President Trump is not taking no for an answer. After the stunning collapse of the Senate GOP's health care effort, the president brought Senate Republicans to the White House and told them to try again, saying there's no choice but to repeal and replace Obamacare.
That comes a day after the president had advocated a repeal only approach and then seemingly gave up on health care, saying he'd just let Obamacare fail. Today he said inaction is not an option, asking senators not to leave town for their August recess without passing a health care bill. President Trump singled out one of the plan's opponents, Nevada Senator Dean Heller, joking ominously, "He wants to remain a senator, doesn't he?"
Afterwards, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said that next week there will be a vote to proceed, but proceed with what is the question of the day.
The White House is defending President Trump's second previously undisclosed meeting with Vladimir Putin at the G-20 summit. The deputy press secretary says it was a, quote, "brief conversation" and will not say what was discussed. But a senior official says the two presidents spoke for nearly an hour at the end of a dinner. There were no U.S. officials at hand, only a Russian government translator.
I'll be talking with Congressman Eric Swalwell of the Intelligence Committee; and our correspondent and guests are standing by with full coverage of the day's top stories.
To our breaking news now. President Trump twisting arms at a luncheon for GOP senators today, making a last-ditch effort to keep a Republican health care plan going.
We begin with CNN congressional correspondent Phil Mattingly.
Is the president beating a dead horse here, Phil?
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Brianna, yesterday afternoon Senate Republicans were ready to just have the vote. No, the vote was going to fail. Procedural, they were ready to have it this week as soon as today, until the president called and said he wanted more time. Why? Well, we get to see it firsthand this afternoon.
MATTINGLY (voice-over): Tonight President Trump desperately deploying a last-minute pressure play on Republican senators to revive the all but dead Obamacare repeal effort.
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're in this room today to deliver on our promise to the American people to repeal Obamacare and to ensure that they have the health care that they need. We have no choice. We have to repeal and replace Obamacare.
MATTINGLY: Surrounded by 49 GOP senators, the president trying to muster the prestige and power of the White House.
TRUMP: Any senator who votes against starting debate is really telling America that you're fine with Obamacare.
MATTINGLY: Something GOP forces have repeatedly complained has largely been lacking in the effort up to this point, as Republicans remain intractably split on the path forward. Trump Wednesday touting key element, the moribund Republican plan.
TRUMP: Repeals the individual mandate. How big is that?
MATTINGLY: Calling on Republicans to cancel the scheduled August recess.
TRUMP: We have to stay here. We shouldn't leave town. And we should hammer this out. MATTINGLY: And calling for a return to the repeal and replace effort,
directly undercutting the new strategy of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
TRUMP: The people of this country need more than a repeal. They need a repeal and a replace.
MATTINGLY: Even in jest, Trump also tossing a not-so-subtle political threat toward currently undecided and at times sharply critical Nevada Senator Dean Heller.
TRUMP: This is the one we were worried about. You weren't there, but you're going to be. You're going to be. Look, he wants to remain a senator, doesn't he? OK.
[07:05:00[ MATTINGLY: For Trump, who so far this week has supported a repeal-only effort, then called for doing nothing at all. Now a third position in just two days and one that runs headlong into Capitol Hill reality. Republican leaders still don't have the votes.
But after the meeting, Senate Majority Leader McConnell making clear he still intends to move forward with the health care push next week.
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER: We cannot keep the commitment we made to the American people to repeal and replace Obamacare unless we get on the bill. Next week, we'll be voting on the notion to proceed. And I have every expectation that we'll be able to get on the bill.
MATTINGLY: All while back at the capitol, GOP senators praising today's meeting.
SEN. RON JOHNSON (R), WISCONSIN: I completely support and I thought this was a really good lunch. Good day.
SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: We came from that meeting with a renewed commitment to keep working, to keep negotiating and get to yes. In my view, failure is not an option.
MATTINGLY: And renewed talk about trying to finally reach a deal to repeal and replace Obamacare.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Replace?
SEN. BILL CASSIDY (R), LOUISIANA: The president was very explicit that he thinks we should do a repeal and replace. Very explicit on that.
SEN. ROY BLUNT (R), MISSOURI: A dozen or so members with the most concerns will be meeting later this -- early this evening, and I think we're moving toward some conclusion here. And the White House meeting was helpful and the president was very motivated and motivating on this issue.
(END VIDEOTAPE) MATTINGLY: And Brianna, that meeting happening at 7:30 tonight will be the earliest and probably biggest test of that renewed optimism we heard coming out of that meeting. I think it's important to note out -- to point out the issues here haven't actually changed. The kind of divergent opinions on policy haven't, either. Those haven't been changed just because of the White House meeting. Those haven't been changed just because the Republicans are considering bringing replace back to the table.
Whether or not they can beat those divides, that meeting tonight will be the first sign, one way or the other. And I'm told there are other meetings that are currently in the works, trying to bring replace, essentially, back from the dead, but as I noted, the reality here is they still don't have the votes, at least now.
KEILAR: Very good point. Phil Mattingly on the Hill for us. Thank you.
The White House is downplaying a previously unrevealed meeting between President Trump and Russia's President Putin, refusing to say what the two leaders discussed. The only other official in earshot was a Russian government translator.
I want to turn now to CNN senior White House correspondent Jeff Zeleny. Is that unusual? It seems pretty unusual, Jeff.
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Good evening, Brianna.
It is unusual, particularly that it happened directly in front of all these American allies with one of our adversaries. Now, many of these allies are wondering if the U.S. is going to stand up to Russian aggression in the region there. That was one of the subtexts of the whole G-20 meeting.
But national security advisors say one of the biggest risks here is there's no record of that meeting at all, anything promised or discussed by the president.
But the White House today said the president was just being social.
ZELENY (voice-over): It was the biggest moment of the G-20 summit. President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin face to face for the first time.
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's an honor to be with you.
ZELENY: But it turns out, that wasn't their only meeting that day. Hours later, in a dinner with other world leaders, the two presidents met again for a conversation the White House only disclosed 11 days later after word of it had leaked.
Mr. Trump walked around the table and joined first lady Melania Trump, seated next to Mr. Putin, and had a second talk with him that lasted nearly an hour. That conversation is raising eyebrows, given the Russia cloud hanging over the White House amid investigations into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russians during the election. No U.S. officials were present at the dinner meeting, a highly unusual move for a talk between adversaries. The only translator on hand was from the Russian government, unheard of in diplomatic circles.
IAN BREMMER, EURASIA GROUP PRESIDENT: Unless the Russian translator had a tape, and I think there's probably a reasonable likelihood that he does, then you know, nobody else is going to have a readout of this meeting.
ZELENY: Ian Bremmer, who was among the first to learn about the dinner, says many of the other leaders were alarmed.
BREMMER: Given the fact -- give how unusual the Trump-Putin relationship has been, how notably and consistently warmly both of these leaders have taken every opportunity to be towards each other, both publicly, and as we see privately, the fact that you would have this kind of a meeting in front of all these leaders, the first G-20 summit that Trump himself had attended with American allies.
ZELENY: The president pushed back on Twitter: "The fake news is becoming more and more dishonest. Even a dinner arranged for top 20 leaders in Germany is made to look sinister."
At the White House today, deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders dismissed the criticism but declined to shed any more light on the encounter.
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY: He had a brief conversation, and I'm not going to get into the specifics of the conversation, but again, this was a social dinner where the president spoke with many world leaders.
ZELENY: The first Trump-Putin meeting has been highly scrutinized, from their handshake to their body language. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who was at the president's side during the first meeting that day, described their interaction like this.
[17:10:08] REX TILLERSON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: The two leaders, I would say, connected very quickly. There was a very clear, positive chemistry between the two.
ZELENY: Yet questions remain about how forcefully Mr. Trump pressed the issue of election interference, given his repeated reluctance to agree with the U.S. intelligence community's assessment that Russia meddled in the 2016 campaign.
TRUMP: Well, I think it was Russia, and I think it could have been other people in other countries.
ZELENY: But those questions and more only intensified after the second Putin meeting was revealed.
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), RANKING MEMBER, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Did the president raise the issue of the sanctions that Putin wants to do away with? Did he talk about any willingness on his part to give back these buildings that the Russians are alleged to be using to spy on Americans?
So we have no idea what was in that conversation. It is hard to imagine the conversation going on that long that involves superficial things.
ZELENY: So the White House says this is not unusual at all, but Brianna, they will not say what the topics discussed at that meeting were. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, in her briefing this afternoon, was asked repeatedly. She would not say.
She was also asked about the Russian translator, if he would have been characterizing the conversation in an honest way. She said it would not be advantageous for them not to. She said they have no worries about that at all.
Brianna, that is the central question here: Is this White House being a bit naive about that, about what Moscow and the Kremlin may have been up to in that meeting.
KEILAR: Yes. There are many other people who do have that concern she does not have. Jeff Zeleny at the White House.
And joining me now is Democratic Congressman Eric Swalwell of California. He's a member of the Judiciary and the Intelligence Committees.
Congressman, thanks for being with us. And you heard that report there. The White House says this was a perfectly normal conversation between two world leaders. What's your reaction?
REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D-CA), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Good evening, Brianna.
It fits the pattern of what we've seen with Donald Trump, his campaign, his businesses and their ties with Russia. And it goes something like this. You hold secret, undisclosed meetings with Russia. You deny or not acknowledge they exist. Only when confronted with overwhelming evidence do you attempt to explain it, and now it goes to the very top.
Of course, we've seen this with Jared Kushner, Donald Trump Jr. And now with the president. I don't understand at a summit of world leaders, most of them who are our friends, why the president would spend most of his time with the Russian leader rather than others.
KEILAR: You heard Sarah Huckabee Sanders, that she had said there wasn't a concern that there would have been misinformation, because there was only one translator. This was not an American translator. This was a Russian government translator.
Do you have concerns that the president may be vulnerable to some deliberate misinformation from the Russians?
SWALWELL: I have a lot of concerns that the president didn't have another American there. This is exactly what Russia would love to have, a scenario where they have the U.S. president by him or herself without anyone there to give their version of the events.
Also, there's just a lot of concerns about, you know, what exactly is it that Russia has on this president, and what are we getting out of it? Because Russia has gotten a lot out of it. They've gotten this one-on-one meeting now. They've gotten national security secrets given to them in the Oval Office. We're considering rolling back sanctions. NATO's role in the world, I think, has been diminished by the president's own remarks.
But what has the United States gotten out of this relationship? And I would say it's nothing.
KEILAR: I want to ask you, as well, about another meeting, this being the meeting that Donald Trump Jr. had the summer before the election in Trump Tower.
So we're learning now about the eighth person who attended this meeting. It's a meeting where Donald Trump Jr. is looking for dirt on Hillary Clinton from a Russian attorney.
The man that we're talking about, as you know, is Ike Kaveladze, and he's a Russian businessman who set up 200 bank accounts for people in Russia. It's a practice that conventional investigators believe may have been a shell game to hide money laundering. We have to note, of course, he was never formally charged. Certainly, there's big -- three's a lot of suspicion around that, though.
What's your concern, now knowing the identity of this person?
SWALWELL: My concern, Brianna, first is that the meeting was even taken. Second, that it was not disclosed. And third, again, only because of press reporting this over the past 10 days have we learned anything about the identities of these individuals.
Again, no American campaign should be meeting with a foreign adversary or their representatives during a presidential election. So on the Intelligence Committee, we certainly want to learn the identities of these individuals. If they're U.S. citizens and we're able to obtain their testimony, I think that would be preferred, and then hopefully, Special Counsel Mueller will be able to pursue this separately in his criminal probe.
[17:15:08] KEILAR: All right, Congressman Swalwell. I know you have to go vote. I'm going to let you go and do that.
SWALWELL: Of course. Thanks, Brianna.
KEILAR: Congressman, you're right off the House floor. So come back as soon as you're done, and we'll pick up our conversation again.
SWALWELL: I'll be right back. KEILAR: We, of course, we have a lot more to talk about today. We'll have much more with the congressman once he is back from the House floor.
KEILAR: We have some breaking news. The Congressional Budget Office has just received its latest estimate on the Senate Republicans' latest Obamacare repeal and replacement bill. The numbers of this price tag are potentially devastating. The CBO estimates 32 million fewer people will be insured by 2026 under the Republican bill.
[17:20:02] We're back now with Democratic Congressman Eric Swalwell of the Intelligence Committee. That is a big number. What is your reaction to the score?
SWALWELL: Brianna, my reaction is that, if you're not going to lose insurance, chances are somebody you know will lose insurance under this bill. And if you have employer-provided insurance, chances are your premiums are going to go up. And if you're a senior over the -- 55 years or older, you will see that they can charge five times more than what you were charged the year before if your insurance lapses. So this is bad all around.
Democrats believe that Republicans should come to the table. I think there's an opportunity now for us to work together to make sure that we strengthen the Affordable Care Act, not just throw it out and throw people out on the street without insurance.
KEILAR: And I just want to clarify on this. This is actually just the repeal bill.
BLITZER: So when you look at this and you see this number and then you compare it to the repeal and replace bill, where the numbers aren't too far off in terms of people losing insurance, what does that tell you, that there isn't really that different of a scenario between the two?
SWALWELL: What it tells me, though, also is the anxiety that is hanging over people right now waiting to see what's going to happen. You know, if you just repeal and there's no plan to replace, you know, right now a lot of employees, they negotiate years out for their health insurance.
And so if you're going to repeal, and you don't have a plan for the next two years, a lot of them are negotiating into 2019/2020, and so that uncertainty will actually increase the cost of health care.
So, again, I think there's an opportunity now for us to work together. They are not -- they don't have the support of the American people to repeal. Why don't we strengthen what we have, rather than continue to make people worry so much about how they're going to get their health care? KEILAR: I want to switch gears here and talk about Jared Kushner and
his security clearance. He recently, of course, made it known to -- in his update of his security clearance data, that he attended this Trump Tower meeting last summer. It was arranged with the promise of getting dirt, of getting opposition research on Hillary Clinton from the Russian government, and there are 20 of your colleagues who signed a letter asking the FBI to review Ivanka Trump's security clearance, as well. They think that she may not have properly disclosed her husband's contacts with Russians on her SF-86 paperwork.
Your name, we should note, was not on that letter, but I wonder if you share your colleagues' concerns about the president's daughter.
SWALWELL: Bri, I do share that concern. We know that nearly everyone in the immediate family has had prior contacts with Russians. Donald Jr. has said in the past that the Russians have invested heavily in the Trump family. Eric Trump also made similar comments to a golf magazine.
So you know, there's nothing illegal about having contacts with Russians. Because they're an adversary, because they interfered in our election, and because of the nature that the Trump family -- their contacts were during the election, I think it's worth probing and understanding. And so I think it is fair to ask what were Ivanka Trump's contacts and whether she met with these individuals during the time of Russia's interference campaign.
KEILAR: All right. Congressman Eric Swalwell, thank you so much.
SWALWELL: Thank you, Brianna.
KEILAR: We do appreciate your time on a busy day.
And coming up, we have more on our breaking news. It's the latest price tag on the Republicans' Obamacare repeal bill.
[17:27:59] BLITZER: We're following President Trump's new attempt to revive the Republican effort to repeal and replace Obamacare, and over lunch with most the Republican senators today, the president repeatedly said, "We shouldn't leave town before a new health care bill is on my desk."
I want to get some new insight from our correspondents and our specialists here.
And -- and actually, Phil Mattingly, I'm sorry. I want to go to you first to talk about this CBO score. We have this new updated number that is quite significant, because we've talked about the repeal and replace bill and the price tag there. This is for just the repeal bill.
MATTINGLY: Yes, and it's a little bit head-spinning to know, actually, where we are in the debate process of which iteration of these various bills that are actually being considered by Senate Republicans, but this is the crux of the plan that Senator McConnell announced that he's going to pursue. This would be, according to his statement, the first amendment up.
The CBO has a score on that, and why they turned it around so quickly is this is essentially a very similar version to the 2015 bill that the Senate also voted on. And the numbers are devastating, there's no question about it, because it's repeal only.
And to go through some of the numbers here, now it would save $473 billion over the course of 10 years, but in terms of coverage, Brianna, by 2026, 32 million fewer people than under current law would have insurance coverage.
And that's not even the biggest issue. The biggest issues would probably be premiums, if you want to add that to it, because Republicans have obviously made that the core of their issue here. Premiums would jump by 25 percent by 2018, by 50 percent by 2020, and by 100 percent over the course of 10 years.
Now, a caveat here that is very important. This is repeal only. Replace would come later. The Senate version that is out there right now that they may consider at some point or another has a two-year transition period, and the idea would be, during that two-year period, to be able to have a replace plan constructed and able to put in place, so none of these numbers would matter.
But these were the types of numbers that you had that were the rationale for a lot of senators coming out and saying repeal only is a non-starter. It has to have some type of replace, and frankly, knowing these are the actual numbers and knowing the numbers would be so similar to 2015, that is why replace is starting to percolate again right now. Because they recognize that doing this for the two-year transition period and, clearly, no clear pathway forward on how to get to some result, some situation with replace, there's a very real possibility that they would be stuck with these numbers, stuck with these results, and they know if they look at their voters back home, they look at their constituents back home, that would be hugely problematic.
[17:30:33] Brianna, 32 million when you consider that the Senate replace proposal that has been discarded and they're trying to bring back to life was at 22 million people -- few people having insurance over the course of ten years. That's a dramatically large number, and that's something that Republicans would have to be dealing with.
KEILAR: It's why they coupled this, right, Phil? Because when you look at -- why they coupled repeal and replace, because when you looked at repeal and replace, even though it's an extraordinarily unpopular piece of legislation, it did bring premiums down over time, right?
MATTINGLY: Yes. That's exactly right. And I think that was a key point the Republicans wanted to make, and I think if you look at what Ted Cruz has been pushing, conservatives have been pushing, in terms of cutting back on the regulatory infrastructure of the Affordable Care Act, of Obamacare, they want to bring those premiums down even further.
Again, the idea here is that repeal with numbers like this hanging out would essentially force your hand. You would have to -- senators would have to come to some type of resolution on a replace plan, because obviously, nobody would want something like this to go into place. Basically, what repeal would do, it would take away the subsidies. It would take away the things that pay for those subsidies, and it would leave the regulatory infrastructure in place. So costs would soar; premiums would soar; and people would lose coverage.
So whether or not that trigger would actually work, though, and if you look at the last six months of negotiations -- this is a key thing I've heard from a lot of Senate aides -- there's kind of no -- at least no guarantee that a replace plan would ever be finalized. And that is exactly why you saw senators so quickly -- three, in fact -- come out and say, "Look, repeal only, even with a two-year transition period? We can't do it. It doesn't work for us" -- Brianna.
KEILAR: All right. I want to bring in my panel to talk more about this.
OK, Rebecca. The president had -- I mean, he was all over the map. It was repeal and replace, and then it was let it fail, repeal only. Today it was back to repeal and replace. And this CBO score, this price tag might tell us why, right? You can't -- considering we know you can't quite trust Congress to do things that are not coupled up like this. You can't just repeal it, because then the premiums would be going through the roof, too. I mean, this would -- could be a disaster.
REBECCA BERG, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right, and so President Trump might not be someone who we would necessarily label as a policy wonk, right? He doesn't really care about the policy, as far as we have been able to tell so far in his presidency.
What he does care about and understand is politics. And he knows that just repealing Obamacare without replacing it with anything would leave a lot of people in the lurch, be very unpopular, and that's something that Republican senators understand, too.
And so as much as you can find maybe a strategy to what Mitch McConnell has done by bringing the idea of only repealing this law without replacing it with anything, it might be to sort of help people draw this contrast between, "OK, here's the plan we put forward first with a replacement. Here's what it would do." Much better, I think most people would agree, than just repealing it and leaving people in the lurch without anything to replace it.
KEILAR: This one means more people, not that many. I mean, still millions. But there were still so many millions in the repeal and replace who were losing insurance over time.
All right. So the CBO, when you look at this, they essentially say that this would trigger a death spiral in the non-group market, so the individual insurance market. They say, quote, "In CBO and JCT's estimation, under this legislation,
about half of the nation's population would live in areas having no insurer participating in the non-group market in 2020 because of downward pressure on enrollment and upward pressure on premiums. That share would increase, would continue to increase, extending to about three-quarters of the population by 2026."
NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I mean, try to run on that, right, if you are a Republican running in 2018. Those -- this idea that so many people are going to be without insurance.
KEILAR: That's saying you don't have access.
HENDERSON: Yes, you don't have access.
KEILAR: Most people over time will not even have access on an individual basis.
HENDERSON: Never mind sort of the explosion in terms of premium prices and the increase in terms of the number of people without insurance.
And that's why this -- in some ways, you have a president who's trying to make this about politics and kind of making good on a bumper sticker slogan, repeal and replace. But it really is about people, and it really is about policy. There he was talking to Dean Heller, talking to other folks...
HENDERSON: That's right, talking to Dean Heller.
KEILAR: Let's play this, because this is unbelievable. Let's listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The other night I was very surprised when I heard a couple of my friends -- my friends -- they really were and are -- they might not be very much longer, but that's OK. I think I have to get them back.
SEN. DEAN HELLER (R), NEVADA: I saw you looking this way.
TRUMP: That's right. No, you didn't go out there. This was the one we're worried about; you weren't there. But you're going to be. You're going to be.
Look, he wants to remain a senator, doesn't he, OK? And I think the people of your state, which I know very well, I think they're going to appreciate what you, hopefully, will do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[17:35:11] KEILAR: I mean, Jeffrey Toobin, well, I mean, I find it fascinating, quite frankly, because it's sort of like an inside voice becomes an outside voice. You know, it's -- it's fascinating to see, and you have Heller laughing along with that. I mean, what did you make of that interaction?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I mean, I -- whatever you think of Donald Trump, and you know, there's never anything beneath the surface. I mean, it's always right out there. I mean, that's the great virtue of his Twitter feed, is that you really know what he's thinking.
But the problem is, he doesn't engage with the policy aspects. And, you know, Dean Heller is looking at a -- you know, the state of Nevada, where millions of people are going to lose insurance under the repeal plan, under the repeal and replace plan, and the president is expecting him to vote for it. Why would he vote for it if he's running for reelection, and it's going to do all that damage to the state? That's the -- that's the policy problem.
But the president talks about it exclusively in terms of, "Are you with me or are you against me?"
HENDERSON: Yes. And says, you know, "I know the people of Nevada." That's what he says to Dean Heller, who's been in public service for, like, two decades in Nevada, is very good friends with Brian Sandoval, the governor there, and is looking at 200,000 people who got insurance because of the Medicaid expansion there. That is the real sticking point there.
So again, I mean, this idea that you can sort of threaten and bully based on politics, it's not going to work here, because it really is not policy.
KEILAR: That's sort of his rhetorical go-to, right? Because he knows more about ISIS than the generals. Maybe he doesn't, really. Then later, we'll see about that.
Something that struck me about this, Rebecca, and I wonder what you thought. Now, I don't know Senator Heller very well, but he seemed to be kind of entertained. I imagine it's tough to maybe be a little bullied by President Trump, but I noticed this when I interviewed him, a lot of other people who have exposure to him have noticed he can be extremely gracious and funny. And I wonder why, even in this way that seemed to be kind of well-received, just this sort of joking around, it seemed like some people might actually appreciate it.
Why hasn't he done more interacting? Why hasn't he taken advantage of the fact that he could have relationships with -- with these senators and have used the bully pulpit more?
BERG: Well, what's interesting, I mean, I feel like there are two things here: the relationships and the bully pulpit.
BERG: The private relationships, actually, Donald Trump has built relationships with senators in a way that President Obama really did not. He has shown great interest in socializing with them, schmoozing with them, inviting them over to dinner and lunches.
But the problem is, he hasn't been able to leverage these relationships that he's building into votes. That's the key.
KEILAR: Is that...
TOOBIN: Maybe the answer -- maybe the reason why is that the policy matters.
KEILAR: That's right.
TOOBIN: And we always these -- we always want our presidents to be schmoozing the senators. And, you know, Lyndon Johnson putting their arms around them. He -- the president has no leverage over these people. These people run independently. Trump is unpopular. Obama had no leverage over the Republicans. I mean, both of them have decided to play golf with their buddies instead of with senators, because I don't know what good it would do. I mean, they're independent actors.
KEILAR: You said the policy matters. And that's -- whatever you will say, President Obama did struggle with the relationships. He understood the policy.
HENDERSON: He did understand.
KEILAR: And when -- it is this frustration that we hear over and over from members of Congress that it's not like they can have a substantive conversation about what is in the bill with Donald Trump. In fact, today when he was going on and on about what it would do, those things were not largely true.
HENDERSON: Right. He -- this isn't where -- this isn't his wheelhouse, right? Policy. He's about sort of the politics of it; he's about Twitter.
And I think if you're a senator, I mean, if you look at where Donald Trump has been over these last even couple of days in terms of repeal and replacing Obamacare, he's been all over the map. He's had three, four, five different positions. Let it fail. Repeal only. Repeal and replace. Repeal and replace at the same time. Wait two years. I mean, he's been all over the place, so I think it's hard for these senators to really buy in on whatever his message is. And I'm not exactly sure if senators really necessarily want him out there all the time. Because he hasn't necessarily been that helpful.
BERG: Although they have tried to use his inconsistent remarks to their advantage. Senators, when they want him to try to push a certain policy for his legislation, have gone out there and said, "Well, the president has said that this is a good thing."
KEILAR: He's covered all the bases.
OK, Phil Mudd, I mean, this -- I want to change...
PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: I don't have a comment. I don't...
KEILAR: You don't -- we're not going to put -- that's not your wheelhouse, shall we say.
[17:40:05] OK, so Phil Mudd, I want you to talk about this conversation, though, that we now know the president had with Vladimir Putin. The White House did not disclose it. They're trying to say this is -- I mean, this is just -- he's socializing. But this is a one-hour meeting where you have Vladimir Putin, Donald Trump and a Kremlin translator. Is that normal?
MUDD: It's not normal, but I think -- this is about the person that we have here, President Trump, and not about the presidency.
Let's go back and talk about Ronald Reagan talking about Mikhail Gorbachev. We thought there might be a deal. If he had spent -- that is Ronald Reagan -- an extra hour with Gorbachev, we would have said, "This is really impressive. Maybe we're going to cut a deal."
With this guy, I think part of what's going on is, A, will we ever know what he says? No. B, if we get a glimmer of what he says, how confident can we be that the next day, the Kremlin's not going to come out and say, "Actually, nothing like that happened at the meeting"?
I think in essence, this is a good thing. A president who doesn't do detail -- We just talked about that with health care -- actually spend three hours with a foreign leader. The question is, what the heck did they talk about, and we don't know.
KEILAR: OK, Jeffrey Toobin, I want to play a little devil's advocate on this. Because I was covering that nuclear conference in Seoul when President Obama said to Dmitry Medvedev, you know, "I will have more flexibility after the election." And Medvedev said, "I'll transmit that to Vladimir."
So we know that these sort of like -- these one-on-one conversations go on. That was a meeting and a photo op, but they still had a pretty substantive exchange. How is that so different from what we see at a dinner, which is in a much more public setting?
TOOBIN: Well, I think the main difference is that there were American witnesses to what -- to what President Obama and Medvedev were saying. The problem with this exchange, as I'm aware...
BLITZER: Well, the media, because it was a hot mike, right?
TOOBIN: Well, that's right. There was a hot mike, but there were also -- but here you only have a Russian translator. And you know, Strobe Talbot (ph), who was deputy secretary of state under President Clinton and handled Russia, he tweeted yesterday. You know, the problem is we don't know what possible commitment the president made when there's only Russian witnesses to it.
So you know, I don't think anyone objects to the president speaking to Vladimir Putin. I think that's a good thing. But it should be done in the customary way, when there are witnesses to both -- you know, from both countries so that there is a record that is accepted by both countries. KEILAR: It's not often that I get to cite "People" magazine as we
talk about our political and our foreign policy panel, but let's do just that. Because it's not just a Washington story anymore. It's on the cover of "People" this week. It's out with a story that quotes a Trump family friend who says Don Jr. can't wait for these four years to be over.
What do you make of that quote, Rebecca? Considering this is -- I mean, this is a story with broad interest.
BERG: Right. Well, I can't say that I know what Don Jr. is thinking about how things are going. And I'm sure he would argue that it's going to be eight years and not four.
But certainly, I think you can tell, based on the way things -- the way things have been going, that it is a very trying time for Trump's family, for this administration. This is not how they envisioned things going.
Donald Trump said he was going to come to Washington, change everything, drain the swamp, get everything done on day one. And instead they have no real legislative achievements that they can name. The family has been dragged into this because they are so inextricably linked to his campaign and now his administration. It's not an easy time, and that's reflected in all the negative coverage we've seen in recent weeks.
KEILAR: Phil, this -- what do we take from this? So many people are paying attention, right, because of -- now it becomes this drama in a way that is beyond just folks who pay a lot of attention to politics.
MUDD: I think that's right. I think you have to step back in the emotion in Washington and look at facts. I want to pick up on what Rebecca said. If I read into what we're seeing on the cover of "People" magazine, I've got to start subscribing if I want to learn about what's happening in Washington.
Within weeks you have to fire your national security adviser. If you -- look at what the president said. The peace process, Arab-Israeli, is easy. Health care, who could have thought -- think this would be so hard? I've got to believe they're stepping in and saying this ain't a business deal; this is really tough.
And meanwhile, all of them have had to hire lawyers, because there's a federal investigation that could lead to indictments, and we're not even seven months in yet. I can't believe anybody looking at those facts, regardless of whether you like the family or not, says, "This is what we banked on, on inauguration day." No way.
KEILAR: But Jeffrey Toobin, he had a lot of support.
TOOBIN: He won, right? I mean, he won the presidency. We sit around here saying... KEILAR: When I say a lot of support, I mean, he has some support that it can -- almost can't be eroded. He has support that can't be eroded, it seems.
TOOBIN: Yes, well, I don't know about it can't be eroded. I mean, it has eroded somewhat. But you know, we sat around that table for a year saying, "Oh, Donald Trump, he can't say this..."
[17:45:00] BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: -- has some support that it can't -- almost can't be eroded. He has support that can't be eroded, it seems.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, well, I don't know that it can't be eroded. I mean it has eroded somewhat.
But, you know, we sat around that table for a year saying, oh, Donald Trump, he can't say this, he can't say that, and this is a disaster. And he proved all of us wrong and he won the presidency. And who is to say that he's not going to win it again in three and a half years?
I just think, you know, all of us in the news media need to have a lot of humility about predicting anything about Donald Trump since we have a record -- and I don't mean everyone but certainly, I include myself -- a record of underestimating him. And, you know, we should keep that in mind.
KEILAR: It is a good lesson. We all should have more humility. Thank you so much, Jeffrey Toobin, Nia-Malika Henderson, Phil Mudd, and Rebecca Berg.
And coming up, more on the breaking news, this CBO estimating huge increases in premiums. Thirty-two million more people without insurance by 2026 if Congress passes a straight ObamaCare repeal.
And also, it turns out that some of the Russians who saw Donald Trump, Jr. also met with a prominent Republican lawmaker. We have new details about what they wanted.
[17:50:49] KEILAR: We'll have much more ahead on the breaking news. The Congressional Budget Office just releasing a devastating new estimate on the impact of a plain ObamaCare repeal without replacing the bill.
The CBO estimates 32 million more Americans will be without health insurance by 2026 if the straight repeal passes. Also that premiums would increase significantly and access to healthcare -- health insurance would go down in many parts of the country.
Also tonight, we have new details about some of the Russians who met with Donald Trump, Jr. and other top members of the Trump campaign team. It turns out they also met with a prominent Republican congressman.
Our Brian Todd has been looking into that. So tell us who you are learning more about, Brian.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Brianna, we have new information tonight that two of those Russians under so much scrutiny, Natalia Veselnitskaya and Rinat Akhmetshin, also have met with Dana Rohrabacher, an influential member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. And tonight, his ties to them are raising a lot of concern here on Capitol Hill.
TODD (voice-over): Donald Trump, Jr., Paul Manafort, and Jared Kushner were not the only influential Americans that pro-Kremlin advocates Natalia Veselnitskaya and Rinat Akhmetshin met with last year pushing against Russia sanctions. CNN has learned they also had a busy visit to Washington including at least one meeting with Republican Congressman Dana Rohrabacher.
Four days after the Trump Tower meeting, Veselnitskaya and Akhmetshin are believed to have attended a Washington screening of a pro-Kremlin film criticizing Russian sanctions law called the Magnitsky Act. An attendee told CNN both were there.
That American law which Vladimir Putin hates was named after a Russian lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky, who died in Russian custody after he uncovered a massive fraud scheme benefiting people linked to Putin.
CNN has obtained this invitation to the screening of that film, which House aides say was sent by Rohrabacher's committee staff after Rohrabacher's plan to have the film shown in a hearing room in the house was denied by Committee Chairman Ed Royce.
The movie was part of a push to help the Kremlin get those sanctions lifted according to Magnitsky's former boss, Bill Browder.
BILL BROWDER, FORMER BOSS OF SERGEI MAGNITSKY: They've sent in --this woman, Natalia Veselnitskaya, has been leading the campaign in the United States to get rid of the Magnitsky Act. It is a hugely resourced effort. They have hired and spent millions of dollars. They've hired lobbyists.
TODD (voice-over): The day after the screening, there was a House congressional hearing on Russia where Veselnitskaya is seen sitting in the front row. Rohrabacher repeatedly defended Russia.
REP. DANA ROHRABACHER, CALIFORNIA: The fact is there has been an unrelenting hostility towards Russia.
TODD (on camera): When you are looking at all this happening in that hearing, I mean, what was going through your mind?
REP. GERRY CONNOLLY (D-VA), UNITED STATES HOUSE COMMITTEE ON FOREIGN AFFAIRS: Why in the world would my colleague be taking this kind of strident pro-Russia, pro-Putin advocacy and dismiss, so readily, evidence to the contrary that's pretty compelling?
TODD (voice-over): The anti-sanctions filmmaker was there too and spoke to Rohrabacher afterwards, photos from Free Russia Foundation show. The filmmaker told "Politico" he had been invited by Rohrabacher's office to testify, but in the end was disinvited.
A top congressional aide tells CNN, Chairman Royce did not agree to a hearing Rohrabacher had proposed and instead held that broader hearing on Russia.
But the filmmaker, along with Natalia Veselnitskaya and Rinat Akhmetshin, did still get a meeting with Rohrabacher later that evening, dinner with him at the Capitol Hill Club in Washington.
Republican operative Lanny Wiles who organized the dinner tells CNN they discussed the film and Magnitsky.
The next day, behind closed doors, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy joked, quote, there's two people I think Putin pays, Rohrabacher and Trump. When the comment came to light, McCarthy dismissed it as a joke, saying no one actually believes that.
Rohrabacher's office declined to make him available for an interview when we went there today and didn't respond to our repeated calls and e-mails seeking comment.
TODD: Now, "The Daily Beast" first reported Rohrabacher's ties to Natalia Veselnitskaya and the anti-Magnitsky movement. Rohrabacher's meetings in Russia have also raised eyebrows.
[17:54:59] And back in 2012, the FBI approached him and warned him that Russian spies were trying to recruit him. That is according to "The New York Times."
The Congressman also has met with this operative, Rinat Akhmetshin, in Berlin this past April to discuss sanctions, Brianna.
KEILAR: Fascinating report, Brian Todd. Thank you so much.
Coming up, a day after giving up on the Republican healthcare plan, President Trump brings Senate Republicans to the White House as he tries to bring their repeal and replace effort back to life. But could a stunning new nonpartisan estimate be a final nail in the coffin of the GOP healthcare effort?
[18:00:02] KEILAR: Happening now, breaking news. Back flip. President Trump tells GOP senators that inaction on healthcare is not an option a day after he seemed to acknowledge defeat, promising to let ObamaCare fail.