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Mexican Pres & Boy Scout Leaders Say We Didn't Call Trump; Scaramucci Says He Will "Go Dark" Then "Emerge as Me"; Some in GOP Buck Trump's Call to Let Obamacare Fail; Trump Backs New Plan Prioritizing High-Skilled Immigrants. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired August 2, 2017 - 14:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[14:30:00] KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: But the White House has not returned requests for comment on this or some clarity about when this alleged call happened. So if this call didn't happen, as Mexico says, it really ties into this broader credibility problem that we're seeing with the White House. As you know, with that call that Trump says he had with the head of the Boy Scouts, the Boy Scouts says didn't happen. And with what we learned yesterday about Donald Trump Jr's changing statement about his meeting with the Russian lawyer at Trump Tower last summer.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Kaitlan, thank you.

Let me broaden this out and bring in radio host, Bill Press, a Democrat, supported both Sanders and Clinton, and Mary Katharine Ham, a blogger and senior writer for "The Federalist."

Here's the thing. Mary Katharine, let me start with you. When you hear about these stories, and I realize part of this is a bigger pattern, it's like somebody's nose is out to here now. And does that somebody not realize that when you are president, that, you know, everything you say gets scrutinized and fact-checked and you get caught?

MARY KATHARINE HAM, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I mean, he should realize that by now, but I'm not sure he does. I think he's naturally sloppy if not lying about this. Someone could have passed a message along that someone at the Boy Scouts said this and it gets transcribed into this. But, look, do you think you're going to tell this about the Boy Scouts and the Boy Scouts aren't going to pipe up? It's easily verifiable and I think the issue is, look, a lot of people voted for Trump because he was something drastically different and they wanted unpredictable and different but you get to a point where being unreliable and making voters uncertain can turn voters off. I think when it comes to meetings with world leaders or meetings with Senate Republicans who don't know if he's going to turn on them as soon as they're out of the room, that does become a problem, just in daily workings in policy.

BALDWIN: We were talking as we were doing this segment, Bill, about -- you remember, of course, we love all things Stephen Colbert. You know where I'm going, that the whole word he coined, which is "truthiness." Does that not fit here? And isn't that an issue for the American people? BILL PRESS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, it is. I was thinking

of the Boy Scouts, actually. I'm a former Boy Scout.

BALDWIN: There you go.

PRESS: And the first word of the Boy Scout oath is, a Boy Scout is trustworthy. Boy Scouts are. I don't think this president is.

Echoing what Mary Katharine said, in a sense, it's not a big thing, it's a phone call, no big deal, but it is a big deal because it does speak to the issue of credibility and this is a president who's got a problem with credibility to begin with starting with the size of the crowd at the inaugural and then the fact that there were never any meetings with anybody around him and anybody having anything to do with Russia, and so with that credibility problem, this makes it worse, and you know --

(CROSSTALK)

BALDWIN: But, Bill, this isn't just a small thing. I have all the respect for the Boy Scouts, but we're also talking about a world leader, the president of Mexico.

PRESS: Right. The -- and the president of the United States. So point I was going to make is, I think, as Mary Katharine or you said, too, I'm not sure that Donald Trump has ever woken up and said, I'm the president of the United States. Look, Brooke, you and I could go out and have a beer and I could say, I got a call the other day from some big top Republican. I may or may not have. That doesn't matter. But the president of the United States, every word he says matters. And so at best, it's an exaggeration. At worst, it's just a lie.

BALDWIN: A lie.

How does Sarah Huckabee Sanders spin this or defend it?

HAM: I think she's proven pretty decent at this job.

BALDWIN: Verbal gymnastics.

HAM: And my approach would be, if I were in her shoes, the president heard what he heard and the president's hearing, as you know, is terrific, it's the best hearing. And I'm going to take my next question. I don't know. Perhaps she will say that a message came from somebody and it wasn't this particular call. I think that's possible. I wish that the president would be precise about what he's saying. That is not his style. That's not what people voted for but even when you're not lying, being precise is a virtue, especially when you're president of the United States.

BALDWIN: Can we talk about -

(CROSSTALK)

BALDWIN: I just wanted to move on before we run out of time. About the Mooch. I know the Mooch is gone. But there was, he actually did talk to the "Huffington Post" and he's dropping hints about his next move.

Let me read for all of us this part of the interview he did with the "Huffington Post." This is quoting, "The president told me he knows I have his back but he has to try to tighten the ship." She says, "What are you going to do next." He says, "I'm now going to go dark, and then I will reemerge as me."

What -- Bill Press, do you speak Mooch? Do you know what that means? Might he have political ambitions? Will he go back to business? Do we have any idea?

PRESS: Well, I'd have to say first that if that string of expletives and vulgarity that we heard from him last Friday, if that wasn't going dark, I don't know what is. I have no idea.

Look, this is a total loser. He sold his business. His wife dumped him. He lost his job in the White House. And now the "Harvard Review," says he's dead. I don't know where he goes from here.

(CROSSTALK)

BALDWIN: Right. That was an accident, obviously. Right.

PRESS: I think the less we hear from Mooch, of the Mooch or about the Mooch, we'd all be better off.

[14:35:16] HAM: I don't know.

BALDWIN: I hate to call him a total -- listen, I don't know the man. You know, I hate to call him a total loser.

HAM: It was a very bad week.

BALDWIN: It was a bad week. He never should have spoken so freely to Ryan Lizza. Great for Ryan Lizza, bad for the Mooch.

HAM: This sounds like a super hero sort of announcement. I don't mind looking forward to the rise of the Mooch Phoenix at some point in whatever style he wants to come in, perhaps outside of the policy world, but it will be entertaining.

BALDWIN: Mary Katharine --

PRESS: I hope it's not in the White House.

BALDWIN: Who knows?

PRESS: I'll just say that. I hope it's not in the White House.

BALDWIN: M.K. and Bill, thank you so much.

(CROSSTALK)

BALDWIN: We're waiting for this press briefing. Sarah Huckabee Sanders has lots to talk about today. Also ahead, are members of the Republican Party trying to work around

President Trump to find a bipartisan way to repair health care? This, as more and more Republicans are speaking out and standing up against the president.

Also, White House briefing ahead, live, as President Trump today signed the Russian sanctions bill. And now Senator John McCain is weighing in. Stay here.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[14:40:42] BALDWIN: Again, we're waiting for this White House briefing to start. A couple of questions certainly that Sarah Huckabee Sanders will be asked about, including we know that the president has said on one hand, let Obamacare implode. He's also still pushing folks on the Hill to repeal and replace. This, as we're learning that Republicans are now reaching across the aisle to help fix Obamacare, how the White House responds to that.

And also those phone calls or non-calls between the president of Mexico, and also this conversation with the head of the Boy Scouts. How Sarah Huckabee Sanders will handle that and so much more in the briefing. So stay tuned for that.

We're also getting new approval/disapproval numbers in from Gallup so we'll have those for you. This is all on a day when the markets are looking mighty nice. You can see right now all the green on your screen, above the 22,000 mark. on this Wednesday, just about an hour and some change left of trading here.

Quick break, we're back with more news in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[14:45:37] BALDWIN: Imagine this. Republicans working with Democrats on a plan to fix health care. This is not fiction. This is not, you know, ripped from the archives. This is actually a plan in motion on Capitol Hill, despite the president's instructions to let Obamacare implode. You have Senator Lamar Alexander, from Tennessee, among a number of Republicans bucking the president on this very issue, holding bipartisan hearings on how to stabilize the individual health insurance market and, quote, "put out the fire."

Brianna Keilar is live for us, our senior CNN Washington correspondent, on the Hill.

And you have what Senator Alexander is up to. This is a far cry from the message that they have been seeing from the president of the United States.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right. This idea to just continue with repeal and replace, obviously, Brooke, that would take only Republicans because Democrats aren't going to go along with it. And talking to congressional leadership aides, especially in the Senate, they say we did everything we could, we couldn't get there, we tried and we tried and we tried and we couldn't. And clearly, the Senate majority leader mitch McConnell wants to move on to other things like tax reform and to the debt ceiling.

But you mentioned, Brooke, that hearing that's scheduled by Senator Lamar Alexander in the Health Committee on the Senate side. And that's going to be a bipartisan hearing, but it's just one hearing. And then on the other side of the capitol, in the House, you have Democrats, some of them, and Republicans getting together talking about a compromise idea. But the ball's really in the court of the Senate. So, it's unclear exactly, you know, if this is just something very small and there's discussion going on, which, of course, is good, but if it's really something that's substantive and certainly if it's substantive in any time soon.

BALDWIN: I hear you on these are just hearings. But it could be progress. What might come of Democrats and Republicans working together, specifically on health care.

KEILAR: On the Senate side, we don't know at this point. This is a hearing that's going to be scheduled for when the Senate would come back from recess in September. On the House side, what you have is about 40 Democrats and Republicans, called the Problem Solvers Caucus. And it is certainly interesting to look at what they're talking about because it is very much a compromise. It doesn't get rid of that employer mandate, but what it would do is it would say to businesses, currently, right now, if they have 50 employees, they have to provide health insurance. It would bump it up to 500. That's considerable. And then -- but at the same time, not completely eradicating the mandate. And then it would also keep subsidies. So that's something that, of course, would make Democrats very happy. It would get rid of the medical device tax, something that would make Republicans happy.

But the subsidies right now, Brooke, as you know, this is the really big issue because the White House is threatening to not pay the subsidies. So if you're a low-income American and you have health insurance and you're dependent on the government kicking in some money to help you afford health insurance, if that doesn't get paid, you're not going to have health insurance. This is going to be a huge thing. And that's why talking to some top Republican aides, one said to me, if that actually went through, then Republicans and President Trump own the failure of Obamacare. So that's really what they're very worried about as they look at the White House and this threat that's coming from it.

BALDWIN: Many of those who are most vulnerable voting for President Trump back in November.

KEILAR: Right.

BALDWIN: Brianna, thank you, in Washington, for me.

Coming up next, earlier this year, President Trump talked about his great relationship with the Chinese president. But now, the administration may be getting tough on trade with China. What would that look like? Also, again, we're waiting for the press briefing to begin there at

the White House. This, as this new poll is just in showing President Trump's approval rating hitting new lows. Stay here.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[14:53:24] STEPHEN MILLER, WHITE HOUSE ADVISOR: Great to be here today to talk with you about the president's new proposal for immigration reform. I'll just walk through the basics of it, and then we'll take some questions and, hopefully, be able to answer all of them.

So, this is the largest proposed reform to our immigration policy in half a century. The most important question when it comes to the U.S. immigration system is who gets a green card. A green card is the golden ticket of U.S. immigration.

Every year, we issue a million green cards to foreign nationals from all the countries of the world. But we do so without regard to whether that applicant has demonstrated a skill that can add to the U.S. economy, whether they can pay their own way or be reliant on welfare, or whether they'll displace or take a job from an American worker. And as a result of this policy, in place now for many years, we've seen significant reductions in wages for blue-collar workers, massive displacement of African-American and Hispanic workers, as well as the displacement of immigrant workers from previous years who oftentimes compete directly against new arrivals who are being paid even less. So it's a policy that's actually exacerbated wealth inequality in the country in a pretty significant way. So you've seen over time, as a result of this historic flow of unskilled immigration, a shift in wealth from the working class to wealthier corporations and businesses, and it's been very unfair for American workers, but especially for immigrant workers, African-American workers, and Hispanic workers, and blue-collar workers in general across the country. At the same time, it's cost taxpayers enormously because roughly half of immigrant-head of households in the United States receive some type of welfare benefit, which I know is a fact that many people might consider astonishing. But it's not surprising when you have an immigration system that doesn't look at questions like skill level or self-sufficiency.

[14:55:25] And so this proposal has several major historic changes. First, it eliminates so-called chain migration. So right now, what does chain migration mean? It means that if you come into the United States on a green card -- and so we're all clear, a green card gives the recipient lifetime work authorization, the ability to bring in their family members, it gives them a fast track to U.S. citizenship, and with that, all the benefits that come with being an American citizen. And so the individuals, right now, who are receiving green cards, they can bring in, say, an elderly relative who could immediately go on to public assistance if they become unable to support themselves financially. And then that person can bring in a relative, who can bring in a relative, who can bring in a relative. And that's why they call it chain migration. And over years, that has massively deskilled the migrant flow into America and produced all of those effects I'm talking about. So, we're proposing to limit family- based migration to spouses and minor children.

Additionally, we're establishing a new entry system that's points based. Australia has a points-based system. Canada has a points- based system. And what will the system look at? It will look at, does the applicant speak English? Can they support themselves and their families financially? Do they have a skill that will add to the U.S. economy? Are they being paid a high wage? The last part's very important because it will help prevent displacement of U.S. workers. So if a company, let's say, they're offering three times the median wage, that person would get more points on their application than if they're being offered two times the median wage or one times the median wage. So you're making it very hard to use immigrant labor to substitute for American workers because, by prioritizing higher-paid workers, you basically end the practice, more or less, of being able to seek out permanent residents to come in at lower pay. And so that's a major historic change to U.S. immigration policy. The effect of this switching to a skills-based system and ending unfettered chain migration would be, over time, you would cut net migration in half, which polling shows supported overwhelmingly by the American people in very large numbers.

Now, I'll just conclude by saying that this is what President Trump campaigned on. He talked about it throughout the campaign, throughout the transition, and since coming into office. This is a major promise to the American people to push for merit-based immigration reform that protects U.S. workers, protects U.S. taxpayers, and protects the U.S. economy, and that prioritizes the needs of our own citizens, our own residents, and our own workers. It's pro-American immigration reform that the American people want, that the American people deserve, and that puts the needs of the working class ahead of the investor class.

So with that, I would gladly take a few questions.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Thank you, Stephen. You talk about the president's agenda and wanting to implement it but, obviously, if this doesn't become law, it won't be implemented and there's already resistance in Congress, specifically from Republicans, even the day that you're rolling out this plan. How do you plan to overcome that? Where are the compromise points for the president and this White House?

MILLER: It's been my experience in the legislative process that there's two kinds of proposals. There's proposals that can only succeed in the dark of night and proposals that can only succeed in the light of day. This is the latter of those two. The more that we, as a country, have a national conversation about what kind of immigration system we want and to whom we want to give green cards to, the more unstoppable the momentum for something like this becomes.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: There's room for change?

MILLER: Public support is so immense on this -- just look at the polling data in many key battleground states across the country -- that over time, you're going to see massive public push for this kind of legislation. Because immigration affects every aspect of our lives, affects our schools, our hospitals, our working conditions, our labor market, our tax base, our communities. And it's a deeply personal issue for Americans. And so you're going to see massive public support for this. And ultimately, members of Congress will have a choice to make. They can either vote with the interests of U.S. citizens and U.S. workers, or they can vote against their interests, and whatever happens as a result of that, I think, would be somewhat predictable.

(CROSSTALK)

MILLER: Let me go to John and come back.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: How do you wedge this into an already jam packed legislative calendar?

MILLER: Well, ultimately, we're going to have to have conversations with Senate leadership and House leadership about the steps forward. But this is an issue that we campaigned on. The American people voted for it by electing --