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GOP Urged to Continue on Health Care; Interview with New York Congressman Hakeem Jeffries; Trump Threatens Health Benefits; Kelly Sworn in as Chief of Staff; Sanctions Possible for Venezuela. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired July 31, 2017 - 09:30   ET



[09:32:36] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: You are look at live pictures of the White House on a beautiful Monday morning in the nation's capital. This is where the swearing-in ceremony for incoming Chief of Staff John Kelly is just about to begin in the Oval Office. After the ceremony, President Trump is expected to hold a big cabinet meeting. This is a big deal also because it will be the first time that he will be in the same room with his embattled Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

President Trump with a threat to Congress and to insurance giants on health care. This follows a string of attacks on Republicans over the weekend, telling them don't give up, the world is watching. He also said, if the repeal and replace effort dies, it is because Republicans are, quote, totally quitters.

Our national correspondent, Suzanne Malveaux, is on Capitol Hill. CNN Money senior writer Tami Luhby is here.

Suzanne, to you.

He is saying go for it again.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: He is, Poppy. And a lot of people are looking at those tweets and saying of course they're not quitters but they are trying to be realistic about this. We've seen the president time and time again try to put pressure on members of Congress to continue with this battle of repealing, replacing Obamacare. The latest tweet this morning saying that if Obamacare is hurting people, and it is, why shouldn't it hurt the insurance companies and why should Congress not be paying what the public pays?

This, a series of tweets essentially saying that he is going to stop -- or the government is going to stop what he calls bailouts for insurance companies and bailouts for members of Congress. Now, most members of Congress receive their health insurance through the D.C. exchange, which is subsidized, in part, by Obamacare. But when the president is saying that he is going to essentially implode Obamacare or try to undercut Obamacare, there are two decisions that he's talking about. One of them is whether or not the government will continue to help subsidize and help contribute with insurance companies some amount of money to help them with the low-income folks to be able to afford care. The other thing is whether or not the government is going to enforce those mandates.

At the same time, Senator Susan Collins, she is working on trying to get members of Congress to take little bit by bit sizes here, to try to shore up the markets in rather small ways, in bipartisan ways.


SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: We need to go back to committee, to the Health Committee and the Finance Committee, identify the problems, carefully evaluate possible solutions through hearings and then produce a series of bills to correct these problems.


[09:35:07] MALVEAUX: So while she's pushing that forward, Poppy, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell seems to have very little appetite for continuing this battle. He is ready to move on, saying he wants to deal with spending bills and the budget.


HARLOW: All right, Suzanne Malveaux on The Hill, thank you so much.

Now to Tami Luhby.

I have two important questions for you this morning, the first being the insurance companies. The president frames this as bailouts for insurance companies. Correct me if I'm wrong, but this is actually 5 to 6 million Americans who rely on these, you know, $7 billion a year in subsidies so they can afford health coverage, right?

TAMI LUHBY, CNN MONEY SENIOR WRITER: Right. I mean, you know, Congress and the president is making this a political game. Their goal is to fulfill their promise, repeal Obamacare. But there are about 6 million people who get these bailouts, these cost-sharing subsidies, and in total there's more than 10 million people on the exchanges. So we're talking about actually hurting Americans.

HARLOW: It's being sorted out, though, I will say in the courts, right? They're sort of in limbo because they were -- there were questions about the legality of this under the Obama administration?

LUHBY: Yes, although the Trump administration and Congress just keep putting off the date. This could be solved if the House just appropriated the money.


LUHBY: That would be an easy solution, but neither side is giving on this, even though --

HARLOW: Nothing's easy in Washington, Tami.

LUHBY: Well, it's both Republicans now.

HARLOW: To Congress -- LUHBY: Yes.

HARLOW: Speaking of Congress, the president's other part of his message to Congress is, hey, you get bailouts, just like -- that would be akin to saying, we get bailouts from our company that pays into our insurance plans.

LUHBY: Exactly.

HARLOW: The federal government pays into Congress' insurance plan. The point I think he's trying to make, that is an interesting one to dissect and consider is, members of Congress, you should live how many of your constituents are living. Is that what he's saying here?

LUHBY: He is. But, remember, as you had said, most people with employer plans get subsidies or at least get part of their premiums paid. I mean they actually get about three-quarters of their premiums paid. So are you asking Congress to live like most of their constituents who work for large employers, or are you asking them to live like the people on the exchanges? The people on the exchanges get subsidies, but only to a certain level. Probably most people in Congress --

HARLOW: It's a lot a threat to them.


HARLOW: They'd have to pay so much more out of their check and --

LUHBY: Right, because they wouldn't qualify for the premium subsidies, most likely.

HARLOW: All right, we'll see if that --

LUHBY: It is a threat. That's what it is.

HARLOW: Either of them get Congress acting more, if they're going to move on to infrastructure and tax reform.

Tami Luhby, thank you so much.

LUHBY: Thank you.

HARLOW: Appreciate it.

As the president hits the reset button in the White House literally this hour in the West Wing with a new chief of staff, is it time for Democrats to hit the reset button for their entire party?


[09:41:37] HARLOW: In just minutes, President Trump holds a cabinet meeting with his top staffers. In the room, newly sworn in Chief of Staff John Kelly, as well as embattled Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Let's get reaction to all of this and the White House shake-up. Joining me now is Democratic Congressman Hakeem Jeffries of New York,

of the great borough of Brooklyn, I say, where I reside.

Let's talk about the move, John Kelly just sworn in moments ago. You'll see it play here in just a moment.

General Kelly as chief of staff, good thing for America?

REP. HAKEEM JEFFRIES (D), NEW YORK: Well, hopefully. I mean the first six and a half plus months of the Trump administration has been characterized by chaos, crisis and confusion. Sort of like a circus atmosphere that has not put forth, you know, any policy proposals in any meaningful way working with Congress to benefit the American people.

HARLOW: Well, they've put fourth proposals. They don't have any legislative points on the board, but they've put forth proposals --

JEFFRIES: Well, they've put forth proposals.

HARLOW: Which you think is a good thing for America?

JEFFRIES: Well, I mean, I think that if you can restore some semblance of order and balance, all of us want to see government working. It's broken right now. It's chaos in the White House. If he can restore some semblance of responsibility and get the president of the United States under control, then perhaps it's going to be a good thing for the American people.

HARLOW: Look, he's certainly served this country and given this country his all, including, I mean, his own son, who died fighting for this country.

I'm hearing in just about two minutes we'll see video of him sworn in. So we'll take a pause and we'll look at that.

As we wait for that, though, you tweeted something that certainly caught our attention and you tweeted over the weekend that the president is a, quote, sick guy. That language has been language akin to what the president has used and has been condemned by so many on the left and the right. So why are you doing the same?

JEFFRIES: Well, that was in response to the comments that he made in front of a whole bunch of law enforcement folks in Long Island encouraging police officers essentially to engage in police brutality and roughing up suspects.

HARLOW: He said, quote, don't be too nice.

JEFFRIES: Absolutely. Everyone understood what he was suggesting. And that's consistent with the insightful language that he used during his presidency and all throughout.

HARLOW: So how does it help, congressman?

JEFFRIES: Well, I think -- HARLOW: I mean if you're critical of his language, how does you using something similar, how does that help?

JEFFRIES: Well, I think we have to call it like we see it. That's what we do in Brooklyn to some degree. And when he crosses the line, I'm going to meet fire with fire. But, by the same token, as Democrats in Washington, you know, we're focused on advancing a better deal, economic agenda, to improve the prospects of the American people. That's where our focus will be.

HARLOW: All right. You know you sound just like the president when you say, you know, this is a New Yorker way to do things. We fight fire with fire.

But let me move on. You put forward a better deal. And some of your Democratic counterparts, like Representative Seth Moulton say this leadership, Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, is not the best bet for us going into 2018. I don't want their names on these bumper stickers going forward. Here's how Nancy Pelosi defended it. Listen.


CHRIS WALLACE, FOX ANCHOR: Do Democrats need new leaders with new ideas?

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D), MINORITY LEADER: Well, let me just say this, self-promotion is a terrible thing, but somebody's got to do it.

WALLACE: Exactly. I agree with you on that.

PELOSI: I think that in the situation that we are in, I am a master legislator. I know the budget to the nth degree. I know the motivation.


HARLOW: All right, hold on one second. We're looking at new video just in of the president and his new chief of staff, John Kelly.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have no doubt as chief of staff what he's done in terms of Homeland Secretary is record- shattering. You look at the border. You look at the tremendous results we've had. And you look at the spirit. And with a very controversial situation, there's been very little controversy, which is pretty amazing by itself.

[09:45:14] So I want to congratulate you on having done a fantastic job, general. And we look forward to, if it's possible, an even better job as chief of staff.


TRUMP: Thank you, general.

KELLY: Thank you.

TRUMP: Thank you very much.

We'll see you -- we'll see you in the board room. We're having a cabinet meeting.


TRUMP: Well, I think we've done very well. We've done very well. Lots of records. Lots of records created, John. You look at stock markets, the highest it's ever been. Unemployment, lowest in 17 years. Companies are doing tremendously well.

Business spirit is the highest it's ever been according to polls. You look at the polls, the highest it's ever been in the history of these polls. We're doing very well. We have a tremendous base. We have a tremendous group of support. The country is optimistic. And I think the general will just add to it.

But the country is doing very well. Strongest stock market ever. On Friday we hit the highest in the history of the stock market. Business is very enthusiastic. And we will proceed and we will keep going.

But we have a fantastic leader, chief of staff. He's going to do a really great job.

Thank you very much. We'll see you in the board room.


HARLOW: A vote of confidence for his new chief of staff, General John Kelly there. The president saying we will do very well.

Sara Murray is at the White House.

And, Sara, look he -- according to the president, he said things are going extraordinarily well across America right now and Kelly is just going to make them better and more effective.

SARA MURRAY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right. And, look, a lot of people are hoping that Kelly will bring some kind of fresh start and some kind of order because, yes, President Trump has pointed to some things that are moving in his direction. But there's certainly plenty that hasn't been going as smoothly as they were hoping in this White House.

The collapse of a health care deal last week is obviously on the top of that. Yes, there has been job creation. The economy has continued growing under President Trump. The stock market has continued booming. But in terms of his actual legislative agenda, the president has been stymied. And it's not by the Democrats, as much as he likes to complain about them, it's by members of his own party for the most part.

So it will be interesting to see, even in talking to White House staffers this morning, nobody really knows what to expect yet under John Kelly as the new chief of staff. They're waiting to see what it's like when he meets with other senior staffers, when he starts to actually do this job. But people are hoping not just for a little bit more order within the White House, but a little bit more success when it comes to the legislative agenda on Capitol Hill.

HARLOW: Sara Murray at the White House, thank you so much.

Back with me, Congressman Hakeem Jeffries.

Your response to what the president said. He said things are going certainly well. He pointed to the stock market, which at some point you've got to argue is not just about what the Obama administration did. This has been six months of the Trump White House. So, is he right?

JEFFRIES: Well, in terms of the stock market, certainly the investor class, the shareholder class is doing well, but working families, the working class, the middle calls folks who also aspire to be part of it are struggling.

HARLOW: Well, it's half -- well, a lot of those -- half of Americans have some money in the market, half don't.

JEFFRIES: That's right. But it's not necessarily a life-changing, meaningful amount. We understand that when the stock market explodes, as it has been doing since -- you know, six years into the Obama administration that largely benefits a disproportionately small amount of Americans.

Our better deal (ph) economic agenda is designed to help those who have been struggling without a meaningful raise, most of the middle class over the last 40 plus years, and those who aspire to be part of the middle class.

HARLOW: You took a little bit of heat last week, as you know, on the airwaves for a better deal, your agenda, specifically from those who say that is too focused on, you know, sort of white working class America, not enough on African-Americans in this country. To that criticism you say?

JEFFRIES: Well, we are trying to advance an economy that works for everyone. People in urban America, people in blue collar America, people in suburban and rural America. If you have an economy that improves for everybody, by necessity, African-Americans are going to benefit from that. We often say, when the economy catches a cold, the African-American community gets a fever. And so if we can improve the economy, get better jobs, better wages, lead to a better future for the vast majority of Americans, by necessity the African-American community will benefit.

HARLOW: Congressman, thank you for sticking around. Nice to have you here.

JEFFRIES: Thanks for having me.

HARLOW: We appreciate it. Congressman Hakeem Jeffries. Ahead, we're going to take you to Venezuela. Threats of more protests

after an incredibly controversial and violent election yesterday in Venezuela. President Trump now threatening to slap additional sanctions on Venezuela's government. We'll bring you a live report ahead.


[09:54:13] HARLOW: Bloodshed on the streets, escalating political tension in Venezuela could lead to additional sanctions by the Trump administration. As early as today, the U.S. may announce additional economic sanctions on Venezuela. And this comes after a very controversial vote, one that opposition leaders in the country regard as a power grab by the country's president, Nicholas Maduro. Opposition leaders calling for more protests today just hours after demonstrations turned violent. We want to caution you, the video you're about to see is disturbing.


HARLOW: Election day clashes between protesters and police there. As you see, it looks like one officer caught on fire. That claimed at least ten lives.

[09:55:01] Paula Newton joins us now for Caracas.

And, Paul, what has the response been from Maduro today?

PAULA NEWTON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, nothing so far today. But let's say early this morning, in a fiery speech, he said -- he called Donald Trump an emperor and said what the heck do we care what the United States thinks. And that is in direct response to the Trump administration saying, look, this is a sham election. It moves Maduro closer to a dictatorship. And we will move with strong and swift sanctions.

What does that mean, Poppy? You know, they could, in fact, ban oil imports from this country to the United States. About half of all the oil exports go to the United States. The problem though there, Poppy, it could bring up gas prices in the United States and that's why on a background call last week the administration told us that, look, all options are on the table, but they will probably pull back from that. It will be really interesting to see what kind of sanctions are there.

Poppy, as I was on the streets yesterday talking to people in the middle of those protests I asked them, look, what do you think of these sanctions? And while they're fearful, you know, under the heading, be careful what you wish for, they do kind of feel that the Trump administration could help them now because they almost feel as if there has to be a trigger, more pressure on the Maduro regime to convince them that, a, they need some humanitarian help here. Something the government has always rejected. But a change in working with the opposition to get to a more effective government.

So far, Poppy, nothing like that. The rhetoric, you know, flying fast and furious. But, you know, take a look at the conversation you just had in the

last hour. You know, what kind of bandwidth does the Trump administration have for this and how will they weigh in.

I will note that Senators John McCain and Marco Rubio pressing this administration to have a very strong response to this election.

HARLOW: Paula Newton live for us in Caracas. Thank you very much for that reporting as we do expect more of those protests today.

We are minutes away from the White House cabinet meeting and President Trump coming face-to-face with his own attorney general, Jeff Sessions. That would be any normal Monday at the White House, except for what has happened between these two men in the last two weeks. It will be the first time that the two will be in the same room since the president launched a series of attacks on Sessions. Much more straight ahead.


HARLOW: Top of the hour. 10:00 a.m. Eastern. Good morning, everyone. I'm Poppy Harlow.

The Trump White House reaching for the reset button and hitting it this morning. Right now, President Trump convenes a meeting of his cabinet, including embattled Attorney General Jeff Sessions. It will be their first face-to-face encounter since the president unleashed his barrage of taunts and public shaming on the A.G.

[10:00:09] And new leadership officially in the West Wing. You're looking at it right there.