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Some Republicans Back Trump's Call to Let Obamacare Fail; Trump Unveils Plan to Curb Legal Immigration; Graham: Mixed Messages from Trump & Tillerson on North Korea; Lawsuit: FOX News, White House Colluded on Seth Rich Story. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired August 2, 2017 - 11:30   ET


[11:30:00] MARY KATHARINE HAM, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Investigating that is a form of protecting people from discrimination.


ANGELA RYE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I would be careful with the wording. They did not rule that race-conscious policies are a good form of racial discrimination. I'm being careful --


KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: And this is an internal memo --


RYE: Right.

BOLDUAN: -- from the Department of Justice. Let's see what happens from that.

We didn't get to half the topics I wanted to get to. It was fun and we did it together.

Great to see you guys. Thank you so much.

RYE: Thanks, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Coming up, Republicans signaling a willingness to work with Democrats on repairing the health care system, even shoring up Obamacare, bipartisanship. I can't believe I'm saying it. What about the president's call to let Obamacare implode? How does that square?

Plus, moments from now, we will hear from the president. He will speak live. He will unveil a new plan, endorsing a plan to curb legal immigration. We will bring you that announcement live from the White House coming up.


[11:35:12] BOLDUAN: Moments from now, President Trump is set to endorse a plan to curb legal immigration. He will speak about reforming the immigration system in the country. We will bring you those remarks live. Will he also discuss the Russia sanctions bill that he just signed into law this morning? We will bring you those remarks live when they begin.

We're also watching this. Repeal and replace, maybe it's more or less like repair and renovate right now. House Republicans working with some Democrats to come up with ideas to fix what ails Obamacare and, on the other side of Congress, a bipartisan group of Senators are planning to look at ways to fix the individual insurance market. But is the White House on board with these new bipartisan efforts?

CNN's senior Washington correspondent, Brianna Keilar, is tracking this.

Brianne, where are we right now?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Right now, Kate, I would say where the Senate is and House is, is in a different place where the White House is. You are hearing this push from the White House to repeal the whole thing or to let Obamacare implode. There's a lot of frustration from Senate Republicans who feel like we tried, we tried, we tried, we lost by one vote, we cannot repeal and replace Obamacare at this point. Mitch McConnell wants to move on. He wants to move on to other things, tax reform, dealing with the debt ceiling.

They're also looking at this threat from the White House about getting rid of subsidies. If you are a lower-income American and you require a subsidy to pay for health insurance and then the federal government doesn't pay that, you can see how that throws it into turmoil. I was talking to a GOP congressional leadership aide, and, Kate, they said, if that happens, Republicans and President Trump are going to own the failure of Obamacare. There's now talk about working with Democrats $z do something in the House and the Senate. At this point, we're looking at hearings in the Senate in September. The House, while there is action between Democrats and Republicans, it's really the Senate where the action is. It's going to be some time.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely.

Brianna, thank you for bringing us up to speed. I really appreciate it.

Joining me to discuss the state of health care, where it goes from here, Republican Congressman Ron DeSantis, from Florida, a member of the House Freedom Caucus.

Congressman, it's great to see you.

REP. RON DESANTIS, (R), FLORIDA: Good to see you.

BOLDUAN: It's assured that President Trump will be interrupting us. But let's talk until we see the president come to the cameras to talk about immigration.

I have seen the statements you put out. You agree with the issue of ending payments to insurance plans of members of Congress and their staff. Do you agree with what we were talking about? Do you agree with the president on wanting to cut the subsidy to insurance companies to help lower-income Americans afford coverage?

DESANTIS: Here is the issue. Neither are authorized by law. In the last Congress, the House of Representatives actually initiated a lawsuit to deal with the CSR payments because Obamacare never appropriated any money for it. My position with the president is I don't think constitutionally he can do it. If he wants to do it, he has to go to Congress and get an appropriation. I would not want -- that money, it's pitched as helping low-income people. It goes to insurance companies. Sending more money to insurance companies is not the way to make health insurance more affordable. That's been my concern with watching what's going on, quote, unquote, "bipartisan." I'm not seeing any proposals to actually deal with the root of why the insurance markets are imploding. What I'm seeing is throwing money at the problem to try to paper over these problems. But any of the proposals I'm seeing would not solve the problems.

BOLDUAN: I want to get to the bipartisanship. On this issue of the payments to insurance companies to lower costs for lower-income Americans, Republicans are not on the same page as they haven't been on many issues when it comes to the health reform.

You have Republicans like Lamar Alexander who is spearheading an effort in the Senate to stop that from happening, to stop the threat that the president laid out from happening. Charlie Dent, a Republican in the House, he is working on this. Here is what he has to say about cutting those payments.


REP. CHARLIE DENT, (R), PENNSYLVANIA: First, withholding that money would ultimately hurt a lot of people making between 100 and 200 percent of the poverty level trying to afford insurance. I think that would be a mistake.


BOLDUAN: In the absence of health care reform -- it hasn't moved anywhere in the Senate -- do you support the president making these cuts? As Charlie Dent says, it will be a mistake and it will hurt people.

DESANTIS: I wouldn't do it to necessarily use it for policy --


BOLDUAN: Congressman, I'm sorry to interrupt. If you could stick around with me.

Let's go over to the White House. President Trump speaking live.

[11:39:46] DONALD TRUMP, PRSEIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you very much.

It's great to be here today to unveil legislation that would represent the most significant reform to our immigration system in a half a century. I want to thank Senators Tom Cotton and David Purdue for their

tremendous work in putting together this historic and very vital proposal.

As a candidate, I campaigned on creating a merit-based immigration system that protects U.S. workers and taxpayers. And that is why we are here today, merit-based. The RAISE Act, R-A-I-S-E, the RAISE Act will reduce poverty, increase wages, and save taxpayers billions and billions of dollars. It will do this by changing the way the United States issues green cards to nationals from other countries. Green cards provide permanent residency, work authorization, and fast track to citizenship. For decades, the United States was operated and has operated a very low-scaled immigration system, issuing record numbers of green cards to low wage immigrants. This policy has placed pressure on American workers, taxpayers and community resources. Among those hit the hardest in recent years have been immigrants, and very importantly, minority workers competing for jobs against brand- new arrivals. It has not been fair to our people, to our citizens, to our workers.

The RAISE Act ends chain migration and replaces our low-skilled system with a points-based system for receiving a green card. This competitive application process will favor applicants who can speak English, financially support themselves and their families, and demonstrate skills that will contribute to our economy. The RAISE Act prevents new migrants and new immigrants from collecting welfare and protects U.S. workers from being displaced. That's a very big thing. They're not going to come in and immediately go and collect welfare. That doesn't happen under the RAISE Act. They can't do that.

Crucially, the green card reforms in the RAISE Act will give American workers a pay raise by reducing unskilled immigration. This legislation will not only restore our competitive edge in the 21st century but it will restore the sacred bonds of trust between America and its citizens. This legislation demonstrates our compassion for struggling American families who deserve a gracious immigration system that puts their needs first and America first.

Finally, the reforms in the RAISE Act will help ensure that newcomers to our wonderful country will be assimilated, will succeed, and will achieve the American dream.

I would like now to invite Senator Cotton and Purdue to say a few words.

Thank you. Thank you very much.

SEN. TOM COTTON, (R), ARKANSAS: Thank you, Mr. President.

I'm very excited to be here with Senator Purdue and President Trump to be introducing the new version of the RAISE Act. Our legal immigration system should accomplish two main goals. One, it should help American workers get a decent pay raise and have a higher standard of living. And, two, it should promote economic growth, make America more competitive in the world. Our current system doesn't do that. It's over a half century old. It's an obsolete disaster. And it's time for it to change.

First, we bring over a million immigrants into this country a year. That's like adding the population of Arkansas every three years. The vast majority of those immigrants come here not because of their English language abilities or job skills or job offer or educational attainment. Only one in 15, one in 15, out of a million new immigrants come here because of their job skills and ability to succeed in this economy. That means it puts great downward pressure on people who work with their hands and work on their feet. Now, for some people, they may think that's a symbol of America's virtue and generosity. I think it's a symbol we're not committed to working- class Americans. We need to change that.

Second, we also lose out on the very best talent coming to our country. The most ultra-high-skilled immigrants who can come here and bring their entrepreneurial spirit and their innovative capabilities and make a higher wage, create new jobs for Americans and new immigrants, speak English, and contribute to our economy, and stand on their own two feet and pay taxes. And not receive welfare and not drive down wages for working-class Americans.

The RAISE Act will change all of that by reorienting our green card system towards people who can speak English, who have high degrees of educational attainment, who have a job offer that pays more than a typical job in their local economy, who will create a new business, who are outstanding in their field around the world.

I'm excited and I look forward to working with Senator Purdue and President Trump to pass this legislation through the Congress and make this kind of very fundamental sweeping change for the first time in over 50 years to our immigration system.

Thank you.

[11:45:36] SEN. DAVID PURDUE, (R), GEORGIA: Thank you, Tom.

Thank you, Mr. President.

Good afternoon, everyone.

First of all, Mr. President I want to thank you for your leadership on this immigration topic. I think this is critical for our country. You talked about it often on the campaign trail. You said, job one was growing the economy. It's why I believe you are standing here and why I'm standing here. You've also said that, as a Fortune 500 CEO -- and I'm the only Fortune 500 CEO in Congress. I have lived around the world much of my career. Nothing we're going to do is more important than this in terms of growing our economy.

The reason we need do this is simple. Our current system does not work. It keeps America from being competitive. It does not meet the needs of our economy. Today, as Tom said, we bring in 1.1 legal immigrants a year. Over 50 percent of our households of legal immigrants participate in our social welfare system. Right now, only one out of 15 immigrants that come into our country come in with skills that are employable. We have to change that. As business guys, Mr. President, you and I understand we need a new

approach. We need to fix this immigration system.

So we took a look at best practices. We looked at Canada, Australia and others. What we're introducing today is modelled on the Canadian and Australian systems. It's pro-worker, it's pro-growth, and it has been proven to work. Both have been extremely successful in attracting highly skilled workers to the countries.

We can all agree, the goals of our nation's immigration system should be to protect the interests of working Americans, including immigrants, and to welcome talented individuals come here legally and want to make a better life for themselves. Our current system makes it virtually impossible to do that.

If we're going to continue as an innovator and leader economically, it's imperative our immigration system focus on highly skilled, permanent workers who can add value to our economy and ultimately achieve their own version of the American dream. What we're talking about today is very simple. It's measured, it's a rational approach to immigration that will allow us to finally fix, once and for all, this broken system in a strategic way that will reposition America as a global leader economically.

Mr. President, I'm proud to stand here with you and Tom Cotton. I look forward to passing this in the U.S. Congress and making this a law of the land, and letting it be a sweeping change for America.

Thank you.

TRUMP: I just want to state that as you probably have noticed, the stock market hit an all-time record high today, over 22,000. We have picked up substantially now more than $4 trillion in net worth in terms of our country, our stocks, our companies. We have a growth rate, a GDP, which has been much higher than, as you know, anybody anticipated, except maybe us. It's going to go higher, too. We're doing a job. You are going to see jobs are pouring back into the country. Factories and plants are coming back into the country. We're going to start making product in America again. That's happening all over. As I mentioned yesterday, Foxconn will spend $10 billion in Wisconsin and other places. I think the $10 billion is going to end up being $30 billion. They make the iPhone for Apple and others. It's a truly incredible company.

So we have a lot of things happening that are really great. Again, today, the stock market hit the highest level that it has ever been. And our country is doing very well.

I just want to thank you all.

Tom and David are going to be outside. They're going to speak to you at length about what we're going do with respect to this aspect of immigration. I think it's going to be very, very important. The biggest in 50 years. Biggest change in 50 years.

Thank you all very much.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Mr. President will you comment on Russian sanctions, please?

BOLDUAN: We were listening there to President Trump and Senators Tom Cotton and David Purdue introducing their plan to curb illegal immigration. And the president was asked a question about him signing the Russian sanctions bill, and no comment as he walked out.

Right now, let's get to Tony Blinken, CNN global affairs analyst, former deputy secretary of state and former deputy national security advisor under President Obama.

Tony, it's great to see you.


BOLDUAN: What the president is laying out right there with the Senators, they're introducing a bill, but there's a long road to seeing how it fares in chambers of Congress, but a merits-based, points-based immigration system. The reporting was that he wanted to curb legal immigration by some 50 percent. From your post working with President Obama on many issues of immigration, what's your reaction to this?

[11:50:25] BLINKEN: The devil's in the details. But as advertised, this is counterproductive and misguided and, ultimately, it's un- American. It's counterproductive because if you curb avenues for legal immigration, there's going to be more wanting to come here illegally, something we all want to get a grip on. Second, it's misguided because across the economic spectrum, immigrants are contributing to our country every single day. They're picking our crops, preparing out food, nursing our sick, doctoring in places where doctors don't exist. And at the high end of the spectrum, they're creating new companies, 40 percent, 50 percent of the new ventures in Silicon Valley. When you're cracking down on that, on legal migration across the spectrum, you're actually hurting the economy.


BLINKEN: And, ultimately, Kate, it's un-American, too, because this country has been built by wave after wave of immigrants, Irish, Italians, Jews, Asians, Latinos. That's who we are. And this is saying that's not who we are. And I think it's profoundly wrong.

BOLDUAN: What about the case you heard from Tom Cotton -- he made the case before that in cracking down and making sure there are more high- skilled workers coming in, people that can support themselves, demonstrate real skills, it will help American workers and help improve American wages?

BLINKEN: We all want high-skilled workers to come here. We need to continue to find ways to attract them. But we want people coming across the entire spectrum. Again, it starts at the low end, too. The reality is many immigrants are taking jobs that people who are already here just don't want to do. By the way, if you happen to, say, own a golf course or a hotel or a

restaurant, chances are you're employing a lot of those low-skilled laborers that are coming into this country, something the president probably knows something about.

BOLDUAN: I want to ask you about a completely different topic, but also foreign policy related, North Korea. Tensions are -- it feels like -- at an all-time high right now. Lindsay Graham was on the program earlier and he stands by his assessment that the president has told him that he is basically ready to go to war if North Korea continues down the path of enhancing its missile program. Lindsay Graham also said that what he's hearing from the president and Rex Tillerson, at the State Department, are two different messages, as Graham said as Rex Tillerson said to North Korea, you are not our enemy, he said, at best, it's inartful, at worst, it's mixed messaging. What's your take?

BLINKEN: I heard Senator Graham say something else that was very important, that I put my figure on, and that is sharpening the choice for China. Using the leverage it has over North Korea to try to get it to the table, to stop the testing, and to at least put a halt to this problem before it gets even worse. We have to sharpen that choice. We started to do that with President Obama. I hope President Trump continues. And it's pretty straight forward. The message to China should be, look, if you can't or won't help us solve this problem and bring North Korea to the table, we're going to have to continue to do things that are not aimed at you that you don't like, more missile defenses in the region, more military exercises with the South Koreans and the Japanese, more sanctions, including on Chinese companies and individuals doing business with North Korea. This has to be more uncomfortable for China to get it to use its leverage. We have got to get the North Koreans to at least stop testing this stuff. Because the more they test, the closer they get to perfecting technology that can actually give them an intercontinental ballistic missile with nuclear weapons that can hit here in the United States. That's the first step. Then you buy time and see what you can negotiate.

Look, we also have to build up our deterrence, make sure that we have all the adequate responses in place. But I don't think there is a good military solution. Much of their program is built mountains, underground. We don't know where a lot of it is. Increasingly, they are mobile missiles they can put on launchers that they can wheel out in a matter of minutes, fueled with a solid propellant. Even if we did know where things were and could get to it, they have 10,000 pieces of artillery 30 miles from Seoul, South Korea. They get off a salvo and decimate the city. So it's not a really great option.

BOLDUAN: The human cost can't be overstated.

BLINKEN: That's right.

BOLDUAN: The human cost what it would be.

Let's see what the president has to say. That's what all eyes are on right now, the steps if there is one, towards North Korea, on China. Great to see you, Tony. Thanks so much.

BLINKEN: Thanks, Kate.

[11:54:31] BOLDUAN: Coming up for us, new details on lawsuit that have just been released accusing FOX News and the White House of coordinating on a false story about the murder of a DNC staff.

We'll be right back.


BOLDUAN: New details on the truly bizarre and truly sad story involving murdered DNC staffer, Seth Rich, FOX News, and now possibly the Trump administration. Ed Butowsky, a wealthy Republican donor at the center of the lawsuit, is speaking out. He said that the lawsuit against him is an attempt by Rod Wheeler, a FOX News contributor who's filing the lawsuit, an attempt by him to just make some money. Listen.


ED BUTOWSKY, GOP DONOR: This was tongue-in-cheek just talking, texts, never serious because Rod Wheeler was always looking for a job, because he has no money. And by the way, this lawsuit is all about Rod Wheeler trying to get money.


BOLDUAN: The lawsuit accuses that man of working with the White House to coordinate a false story, eventually, it was retracted and completely debunked. A story about the murder of DNC staffer, Seth Rich. Butowsky denies the claim.

Let me bring in Chris Cillizza, CNN politics reporter and editor-at- large, author of "The Point" on

So, Chris, where does this story go?

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER & CNN EDITOR-AT-LARGE: I mean, obviously, this is now pending litigation, Kate. And this has been going on for more than a year. Seth Rich was murdered July 10, 2016. It came back in the public view on May 16th of this year when FOX News posted something based largely on what they said was Rod Wheeler's investigation, that suggested there were ties between -- that Seth Rich exchanged e-mails with folks at WikiLeaks. This was seen as evidence somehow that there was coordination here, that this was not the Russians involved in the hacking, et cetera, et cetera. Conservative groups ran with it. A week later, May 23, FOX News retracted that report.

We're now back into this because of the lawsuit. Obviously, it's a lawsuit filed by Rod Wheeler. Ed Butowsky has not has his say, necessarily. This is Rod Wheeler's version of events. But it's pretty damming, if you read through the claims made in the lawsuit. BOLDUAN: What about the response from the White House? They White

House involvement is directly addressed in the lawsuit. Any clear message from the White House on what they think of it?

CILLIZZA: Two points on that. One, Butowsky and Wheeler met with Sean Spicer, who, at the time, was the White House press secretary, on April 20. Spicer asked if he had any knowledge of this on May 16, the day that the FOX News report came out allegedly linking the DNC and Seth Rich. He said, I don't know anything about that. He has since said -- yesterday, he told NPR, yes, I did meet with them, but they wanted to keep me updated. Now yesterday, at the press briefing, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who's now Sean's successor in that role, said the president didn't know anything about this and any claim to the contrary is wrong.

So that's where we're at. Pending lawsuit, we're going to find out more. We're going to get the other side of this. But I would encourage folks to go and read the Wheeler lawsuit. It's available. You can read the claims made in it. There are extensive as it relates to FOX News and the White House.

BOLDUAN: The claim, of course, everyone should have their say. But also doesn't look good for FOX News if it's at all true that there was any coordination or any creation of a story.

CILLIZZA: No. And Wheeler, just to be clear there, Kate, said that the quotes that were attributed to him in that original story linking the two did not exist. He did not say them.

BOLDUAN: Chris, it's great to see you. There's a lot to this story. But of course, you can read it, and you should.

Thanks so much for joining me, Chris.

CILLIZZA: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: I really appreciate it.

Thank you so much for joining us AT THIS HOUR.