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Trump Eases Insurance Rules; Trump Jokes with Paul; Republicans Aren't Unified. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired October 12, 2017 - 12:00   ET



[12:00:50] JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm John King. Thank you for sharing your day with us.

Just moments ago, President Trump couldn't get Congress to repeal Obamacare, so now using executive power to roll parts of it back.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This will cost the United States government virtually nothing. And people will have great, great health care. And when I say people, I mean by the millions and millions.


KING: Plus, more accounts of presidential anger and mood swings, an unhappy chief of staff, a former top aide said to be worried about a cabinet coup. It's members of the president's team who are the sources of all this. But --


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's frankly disgusting the way the press is able to write whatever they want to write and people should look into it.


KING: And the president says Puerto Rico was a disaster before Hurricane Maria and the federal government can't help indefinitely. Then his team, yet again, tries to clean it up.


BEN CARSON, HUD SECRETARY: It should not be abandoned.

REP. MAXINE WATERS (D), CALIFORNIA: And you don't think that they should be shamed for its own plight, is that right?

CARSON: There is no question that there have been a lot of difficulties in Puerto Rico. The ended up (INAUDIBLE) --

WATERS: Should they be shamed for its own plight? CARSON: In debt. I don't think it --

WATERS: You talked about --

CARSON: I don't think it is beneficial to go around shaming people in general.


KING: Just moments ago at the White House, President Trump taking the matter of health care into his own hands, signing a new executive order to begin dismantling parts of the Affordable Care Act. President Trump says this executive order, especially because Congress was unable to act on Obama, is good for all Americans.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The competition will be staggering. Insurance companies will be fighting to get every single person signed up. And you will be hopefully negotiating, negotiating, negotiating and you'll get such low prices for such great care. Should have been done a long time ago and it could have been done a long time ago.


KING: The president says it will cost the government almost nothing. It will help millions. Your premiums will go down. Is that what this executive action will really do?

Let's get straight to CNN Money's Tami Luhby in New York.

Tami, is the president right here or is he perhaps overpromising?

TAMI LUHBY, CNN MONEY SENIOR WRITER: Well, we still don't know all of the details and it may take months before we do. More broadly, the executive order aims to increase competition and consumer choice at lower prices. Critics, however, are very concerned that this is going to dismantle -- or not dismantle but further destabilize Obamacare by syphoning off all of the young and healthy people into these new health care options that he's offering and leaving the exchanges with the sicker people, which means that they're going to be having -- having to pay higher prices.

So let's look specifically. He's looking at allowing more small businesses to form or join association health plans. These health plans allow groups of businesses, like bakeries, to go across state lines and join together to buy coverage. But the concerns are that this coverage may not adhere to all of the Obamacare protections and then the people in them, they would be able to have cheaper plans. However, so the people who may not be able to get into them would be left again with more expensive plans.

Then also the administration want to offer more of these short-term policies. Right now these policies are available for 90 days. They used to be available for up to a year. The administration wants to make them more broadly available. But these plans don't have to adhere to Obamacare at all. They can, you know, base their coverage on your medical history, they can charge whatever premiums they want, they can deny you coverage, they can also offer skimpy plans. So, yes, for the young and healthy people, are these good options? Sure, if they don't need coverage. But for the sicker people, not so good.

And then finally, the administration also want to allow more employers to put money into these employer-funded plans to let their employees buy coverage on their own in the exchanges or elsewhere.

KING: Tami Luhby with the details. And an important point, we have to wait to see the executive order and then see how it's implemented in the marketplace. But the president making his announcement today (ph).

[12:05:05] Thanks so much, Tami.

With us here to share their reporting and their insights, CNN's Dana Bash, Olivier Knox with "Yahoo! News," "McClatchy" Franco Ordonez, and Molly Ball of "The Atlantic."

The president stepping in here, in part because he's been frustrated time and time and time again that his Republican Party -- his Republican Party has not been able to do anything for the first nine months.

I was listening to Dr. Zeke Emmanuel (ph), a, you know, an Obama-ite (ph), you know, who was helped part of Obamacare, did made an important point politically. Now that the president is doing this, now that the government is getting involved under Trump letterhead, we don't know exactly how this is going to play out. The president says it's going to cost nothing. It's going to lower premiums for millions. It's going to increase competition. Everybody's going to win. He is putting his personal stamp on this. You can't just blame Obamacare anymore.

OLIVIER KNOX, "YAHOO! NEWS": Yes, it's not the first time, though. I think you really need to look at this in conjunction with something else that they've been doing much more quietly, which is to say that they've cut back on the advertising ahead of the open enrollment period, which starts in a few weeks. They have reduced the amount of navigator health, in other words, that the professionals who were helping Americans sign up for the Obamacare exchanges.

This is sort of a companion piece to that. You're right, it does put his stamp of approval on it. He talked about how it should have been done long, long ago. It was tried long ago. Or something very much like it was tried very long ago and the nonpartisan investigative arm of Congress, the Government Accountability Office, found vast problems with what -- roughly what he's proposing. Although Tami's right, that we need to actually see the order before we really draw a conclusion.

KING: We need to see the order. But just days ago the president was saying, I had a phone conversation with Chuck Schumer, the Democratic leader, trying to work on a temporary bipartisan fix to Obamacare. Isn't that inconsistent with executive actions that then strip away key pieces of Obamacare? Which is it that the president really wants? MOLLY BALL, "THE ATLANTIC": Well, the president being inconsistent I would argue is nothing new. But it's -- but what was clear, I mean, I think what those actions had in common was that he just wanted to get something done. And he was tremendously frustrated. Where have we heard that before, a president who couldn't get Congress to bend to his will and decided to issue executive orders and, according to his opponents, governed by fiat instead. It sounds a lot like President Obama.

KING: Sure does.

BALL: And, you know, Trump was critical of that at the time.

But, you know, it's always been the case with Trump that he wants to do the deal and he doesn't really care what's in the deal. Just -- he just wanted something in front of him that he could sign to say that he did something. But the potential problem, depending on how this plays out, is that as you -- as you said, it does put him on the hook for whatever the consequences are.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: He might not care about the details of this, although, you know, maybe it's an accident, maybe it's not. This is a really core conservative/Republican policy initiative that they have been pushing for a very long time, to be able to buy insurance policies across state lines. During the Republican primary process, I remember asking him about health care and this is the one thing that he would seize on. H would talk about -- he would draw circles with is finger and talk about the state lines and say that you have to be able to -- to buy across state because he knew that that was a really important part of the conservative credo. And that's the main reason why you saw Rand Paul sitting there making a speech, which even the president remarked was a big feat.

FRANCO ORDONEZ, "MCCLATCHY": Right. Let's also remember that Steven Bannon's white board back when, and he had his list of priorities, repeal and replace was right there. Now, a lot of critics are saying that he's a big hypocritical by doing an executive order. But, really, will his base care? I mean this is such an issue that is so important them.


BALL: Well, his base will care if their health care costs keep going up despite his promises.


BALL: And to your point, that was the core promise was repeal and replace and this isn't that.

KING: Right.

BALL: It may, according to some experts, gut Obamacare, but it is not repeal and it is not replace.

KING: And he says, maybe we'll come back to that. He wants Congress to come back to that. That won't happen in 2017. This president, and the Republican leadership, said that would be top priority this year. It's not going to happen, repeal and replace. The infrastructure is not going to happen.

Everybody mentioned Rand Paul. Rand Paul was there. He actually got to speak at the White House event introducing the vice president, who introduced the president. A key player in this. Also a key player when the Senate votes on a budget agreement next week. His vote is not there yet. They need that for tax reform.

Listen to the president talking about, hey, I got Rand Paul on my side.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I can say, when you get Rand Paul on your side, it has to be positive. That I can tell you.

Well, I -- I was just saying, as he's getting up and saying all these wonderful things about what we're going to be announcing, I said, boy, that's pretty unusual. I'm very impressed.


KING: It is remarkable in the sense that if you rewind the tape just a few weeks, just a few weeks, it was Rand Paul who was one of the roadblocks to repealing and replacing, which is that signature promise they were all supposed to do. He kept calling it Obamacare light. We weren't really doing it. And --

KNOX: And -- and he disclosed on Twitter that he and the president have been working on this plan for months.

KING: Months.

KNOX: Right. So that overlaps with his opposition to repeal and replace, which had the president describing him as a malign influence on the debate. But if they were working on this for months, Rand Paul knew the entire time that he could oppose repeal and replace with no significant costs in terms of his relationship with the president since they were working on this. It's an amazing little bit of sort of behind the scenes (INAUDIBLE).

[12:10:07] KING: I know I can defy you and my own leadership here and hold out because we've got a plan b.

KNOX: This is all for show, in effect, is what he was -- is what he was telling us.

BALL: Well, but it's also a very neat illustration of the difference between someone like Rand Paul and the president, right? For Trump, politics is personal. It's about relationships. It's, are you on my side or not?

For Rand Paul, it's about policy. And he opposed the Senate plan on policy grounds. And I think that if Trump thinks that he can get Paul on his side on the budget, no matter what's in it, he's sorely mistaken because Paul is again going to be looking at what's in that in terms of policy.

KING: It was interesting. Listen to the president's interview with Sean Hannity last night. We'll get to some other parts of it later in the program. But the president making the case that, you know, he's acting with executive order on this point, in part because he can't keep his own party together, but he says the Democrats somehow manage to stay together.

Oh, we don't have that. I'm sorry. Let me read it to you. It's interesting, one thing with the Democrats, they -- oh, let's go.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's interesting. The one thing with the Democrats, they stay together like glue. They are lousy politicians and their policies are terrible, but they do stick together. We have great policies, but the Republicans tend not to be as unified.


KING: To your point about using executive action, it sounds a lot like President Obama, looks a lot like President Obama. That's exactly what the Democrats said throughout the Obama administration, the Republicans stick together and we're all over the place.

BASH: Yes. It's a lot easier to stick together when you're in the opposition.

KING: Right.

BASH: It's just -- that's just the way it works.

I do think that he has a point. And I've talked to so many Republicans -- I'm sure you all have as well -- about when Democrats were in charge, the way -- it wasn't easy, it was very hard, but the way that Nancy Pelosi in the House, Harry Reid in the Senate, and then, of course, the Obama presidency, found ways to bridge the very big gaps between Democrats, within the Democratic Party, to get things like Obamacare passed. They weren't successful at other things, like increasing the coal issue, things like that. But they were on that. And that is the difference between kind of the DNA of how the Democratic caucus works and the Republican caucus. It is different. Much easier with the minority.

BALL: Well, it also took a lot of effort, right?

BASH: A lot.

BALL: And that -- and that effort is not being exerted to bring the Republican Party together. It took a lot of negotiation and compromising on the part of Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid to bring together the caucus that has very different political and policy priorities. We don't see Trump doing the same kinds of things, or the Republican leadership able or willing to do the same kinds of things to get everybody into the tent and behind this particular policy.

ORDONEZ: Well, they also have so many openings with -- they have so many issues, whether it's immigration and others, where they're pushing issues that they know Republican leadership is actually on their side. These are opportunities for them to jump in. And they know they can -- they can rally their own base around that, but they also know that under the surface there's a lot of Republicans who would like to jump in there too.

KING: Everybody sit tight. One second, sit tight. Got to work in a quick break. But when we come back, stories of chaos in the Trump White House are almost daily, if not hourly. But here's a new nugget in one. Did chief strategist Steve Bannon warn the president, the biggest threat to you is not impeachment but a coup within your own cabinet?


[12:17:29] KING: Talk of chaos in the Trump White House? Well, that's hardly news. But talk of a coup? "Vanity Fair," in a lengthy piece about team Trump infighting and the president's constant anger includes this gem. Former White House chief strategist Steven Bannon reportedly telling the president the risk to his presidency wasn't impeachment, but the 25th Amendment, the provision by which a majority of the cabinet can vote to remove the president. When Bannon mentioned the 25th Amendment, the president reportedly said, what's that?

Other elements of the "Vanity Fair" piece track reporting by CNN and other news organizations that in recent weeks, including one source of his most recent outburst is his decision last month to back the losing candidate, Luther Strange, in that Alabama Republican Senate runoff. A person close to Trump quoted in the "Vanity Fair" article saying, quote, Alabama was a huge blow to his psyche. He saw the (INAUDIBLE) personality was broken.

The magazine also reports the president vented to his long-time security chief Keith Schiller, I hate everyone in the White House. There are a few exceptions, but I hate them.

The White House, we should note, denies this reporting, saying, quote, the president's mood is good and his outlook on the agenda is very positive.

Again, hardly news that this turmoil in team Trump. But the idea that Steve Bannon, who, I think, like the president occasionally is part of conspiracy theories, would say, Mr. President, the threat is not Democrats impeaching you, the threat is, what, Secretaries Mattis and Tillerson cutting a deal with Vice President Pence to write a letter saying you're not capable of being president? I mean has it gone to that level?

BALL: The actual conspiracy, maybe not, but this is absolutely the way Steve Bannon thinks and talks. And it's absolutely the way he sees the world.

KING: It's a great way to run a government, when you're looking over your shoulder ever minute for the coup.

BALL: And it's absolutely the way that he and Trump understand each other is that it is this feeling that you're under attack from all sides and that that most dangerous source of the attack is the Republican establishment. That really has always been enemy number one in Steve Bannon's mind. So it's not surprising at all.

And I think that there's a strategic aspect to it where he -- by stoking the president's anger at the Republican establishment hopes to sort of sick him on the congressional leadership and others who Bannon sees as unfriendly to the cause.

BASH: I'm going to be a little bit of a contrarian here in that I'm not saying that there's not chaos in the Oval Office, in the West Wing. I just don't know that it's really gotten worse than it has been over the last 10 months.

KING: Right.

BASH: And I genuinely think it depends on not just the day, but maybe the minute or the hour --

KING: Right.

BASH: That somebody who you're talking to, you as a reporter, has talked to the president.

[12:20:00] I'll give you an example.

I talked to two people in the past couple of days who have talked to the president this week. One said that the president believes that hiring John Kelly as chief of staff was the best decision he ever made. He didn't like it at first, he chaffed at the process, he chaffed at the idea that people couldn't just come into the Oval Office, but now he thinks it's terrific because he likes having the order.

I would not be surprised if the president had a conversation about John Kelly with a different person or even the same person an hour later and said something completely different. I just think that that is kind of the nature of this.

And some of it is intentional. The president gets us. He gets the press. He understands and he enjoys the notion of throwing things out there that he knows are going to be reported. Things obviously that he says on camera, like there's going to be -- this is the calm before the storm, to send everybody scurrying, to figure out what he's going to say. And I was told after that he went back to the residence and watched his TV and was laughing because he -- it was mission accomplished.

KING: And so, to that end, the president often knows a lot more than we do about what's happening. Maybe yesterday he knew this "Vanity Fair" article was coming that was going to say a -- his chief strategist think there's going to be a coup in the White House. OK. If so, the vice president's a really good actor. I will say the vice president's a really good actor if he's plotting a coup against the president.

But then the president yesterday, these sources, Mr. President, are people who work for you. People you speak to. People who are around your White House. But this is what the president says.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's frankly disgusting the way the press is able to write whatever they want to write. And people should look into it.

The media is bad. They're really dishonest people. These are very, very dishonest people, in many cases. In many cases. And not all. Look, I know some reporters, I know some journalists that are phenomenal people and very straight, very honest, but there's such dishonesty.


KING: The part of -- he's entitled to that. He can do whatever he wants. He has the First Amendment privileges too. The part of what he said yesterday that was trouble was with the idea, we'll take away your license. The authoritarian Trump saying, if you publish something, write something, air something I don't like, we should go after you. That part was beyond troubling.

KNOX: And the response from Republicans, from Senator Ben Sasse for example and others was, you know, you took an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution, which includes, you know, you've got the Bill of Rights, the First Amendment and the rest of it. Are you turning your back on that oath? So a lot of Republicans -- ii don't think we call Ben Sasse an establishment Republican, but a lot of the Republicans came out and said, what -- what are you doing?

BALL: And he's not doing anything. What it is, is it's intimidation.

KING: Right.

BALL: It's an attempt to intimidate.

KING: Right.

BALL: We don't hear that he's meeting with his FCC chief to actually investigate how to actually do some of these things that would probably be unconstitutional, but to fiddle with the licenses and so on. But it's a shot across the bow and it is an escalation. This is -- this goes beyond just the, you know, enemies of the people in the bluster. And by proposing this concrete step, even hypothetically, that does take it to another level.

ORDONEZ: And even personally, as a reporter, I mean it's hurtful, but it's a -- it is a -- it is a worthy -- it's a political strategy that seems to be working in some degrees. When I was with President Trump in Iowa, the first -- the strongest applause line was the border wall. The second greatest applause line was talking about the enemy media. The fake news. His base eats this up to much degree. KING: They do.

BALL: Yes, but I don't think you can say about a president with a sub 40 percent approval rating that any of his political strategy is successful.

KING: Right.

ORDONEZ: I think you can talk about that with a 40 percent approval rating. But among Republicans, that approval rating has been much, much higher.

BASH: Somebody who is the president of the United States, it goes beyond political strategy.

KING: Right.

BASH: Dictators and people across the globe who are in charge of their countries, who don't have the Constitution that we have and listen to that and think, oh, if he's going to do it, I'm going to do it. It's not good. It matters. I mean he -- he is a global leader. And when he says things like that, it is very dangerous for (INAUDIBLE).

KING: But he doesn't think like that. He thinks more to the point, that I got here by being constantly disruptive, I'm going to stay here by being constantly disruptive, including attacking the news media. That's how he thinks. But you make the perfect point, he's the president of the United States. We do have that little thing called the Constitution.

Before we go to break, an American woman and her husband -- this is a good story today -- three young children, all free today, five years after they were kidnapped by the Haqqani network, a branch of the Taliban. We're still learning details about the capture and the captivity of Caitlan Coleman and her Canadian husband, Joshua Boyle. Their three children all were born while they were hostages. They were rescued in a military operation on the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan. Officials tell CNN, the family is doing well.

A short time ago, President Trump thanking the government of Pakistan for its help freeing the family.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And we want to thank Pakistan. They worked very hard on this. And I believe they're starting to respect the United States again. It's very important. I think a lot of countries -- right now, a lot of countries are starting to respect the United States.


KING: It's a remarkable story. We'll get more and more details as it plays out.

Up next, wildfires raging across California's wine country. More than 20 people dead, thousands more on the run.


[12:29:09] KING: More politics in a moment. But let's turn to the wildfire emergency on the West Coast today. Northern California's wine country, still burning. Twenty-three people have already been killed in these fast moving wildfires. Nearly 300 other people still unaccounted for.

Entire towns have been ordered to evacuate. Thousands of firefighters are working day and night trying to get these fires under control.

Meteorologist Chad Myers is with us from the CNN Severe Weather Center.

Chad, another windy day in northern California, which I assume has to be the worst news for those fighting these fires.

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes. We were probably 25 miles per hour. And, you know, if you're on the coast and that's just a breeze, you're flying a kite. But when you're flying embers, 25 is a big number.

Now, most of the wind last night was Napa and eastward, not into Sonoma County proper.

Let's go through this. I went through it yesterday. I'll zoom you in.

Here is the bay area. Here's San Francisco. Part of the bay area today choking with smoke because the wind is coming down from the north.

Let's zoom you right in here to Sonoma County. Sonoma, on this side of the ridge. Napa on this side of the ridge. The fires burning, increasing almost 10,000 acres last night.

[12:30:08] We just heard, though, from Calistoga's mayor. He said there are no buildings burning right now in Calistoga.