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Democrats Pushing Medicare for All; 'Empire' Star Victim of Apparent Racial, Homophobic Attack; U.S. Intelligence Chiefs Contradict Trump. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired January 29, 2019 - 15:00   ET

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


[15:00:02]

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: False statements, obstruction, witness tampering make up those charges, as well as the special counsel's claim that Stone coordinated with senior Trump campaign officials about his outreach to WikiLeaks.

And that appearance comes just one day after acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker stunned lawmakers by saying the Mueller investigation will be wrapping up soon.

John Dean is with me, the former White House counsel for President Nixon, and is a CNN contributor.

John Dean, always a pleasure, sir.

Let's just dive in. And here's my first question for you.

Roger Stone never met a microphone he didn't like. And when you saw him today, yes, he gave sort of that Nixon salute as he walked out of the courtroom, but he said nothing. Do you think this is all catching up to him? Do you think he's spooked at all by the law?

JOHN DEAN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, he should be. He's in a lot of trouble, Brooke.

That indictment is really very tight. Some of the evidence is right there and he's going to explain away facts that are not easily explained away. He's claiming, for example, he was joking when he was trying to intimidate somebody, that they did this all the time.

Well, the witness who was intimidated doesn't feel that way. I'm talking about Randy Credico.

So he is facing on the face term of the statutes 50 years, if he's convicted on everything. I doubt he will be convicted on everything, but it's possible, because Mueller is very good, and prosecutors don't bring cases in the federal system unless they really, really have a reasonable belief -- boy, that took time to get out -- that they can succeed in court.

And I think he can. So Roger, probably out of the sentencing guidelines, may -- probably about five-year sentences is what he's faced.

BALDWIN: On the flip side, though, how likely is that Roger Stone thinks Trump's just going to give him a pardon?

(CROSSTALK)

DEAN: I think he is hopeful of that. He is certainly sending messages to Trump. He says he hasn't talked to him in a while.

And, obviously, it would be an admission of guilt to say, I want a pardon, because, in effect, when you accept a pardon, you have admitted you're guilty of all the offenses you're charged at.

So I don't know that Roger needs one yet. Or I don't think Trump politically could do anything for him before 2020. And he could do it maybe on the way out the door in 2020 or 2021, or, if he gets reelected, then he might consider it.

BALDWIN: When you look at someone like Roger Stone, who obviously idolizes Richard Nixon, I mean, the tattoo on the man's back, the Nixon, the V for victory here, the relics all through his home, here you are, John Dean, with your famous history with President Nixon.

What do you think of Roger Stone's choice of hero?

DEAN: Well, I initially thought Nixon was a potentially great president. When I got inside the inner circle, I realized I wasn't -- he wasn't what I thought he was.

And we obviously had a parting of the ways. I -- Roger seems to have learned all of the wrong lessons from Watergate and Nixon. In other words, dirty tricks are fine. Ignoring the law is fine. Abusing power is fine.

But his day of reckoning is coming when Nixon might not be such an attractive role model.

BALDWIN: Matt Whitaker, Matt Whitaker, the acting A.G., making quite the statement yesterday during a news conference that had nothing to do with the Mueller investigation.

Here he was.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEW WHITAKER, ACTING U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: You know, I have been fully briefed on the investigation, and, you know, I look forward to Director Mueller delivering the final report.

But, right now, you know, the investigation is, I think, close to being completed. And I hope that we can get the report from Director Mueller as soon as possible.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: So, his comments there, do you think that was just a total off-the-cuff moment? Or was that orchestrated?

DEAN: That didn't seem like an orchestrated moment.

In fact, I had a couple of readings on that, first, that he was so unprepared, he really kind of botched it and said more than he might have said. If they were going to make an announcement at that time, I think it would have been a little bit clearer.

This business about his reviewing things was very fuzzy and very unclear. It sounded more...

BALDWIN: Let me stop you and ask you about that, because when he said the special counsel's decision will be reviewed by the Department of Justice, John Dean, what does that even mean?

[15:05:03]

DEAN: Well, he has that power, but it sounds more like he's looking at potential future actions that the special counsel might be taking, rather than looking at a report, which was the question -- or when he was going to wind things up.

There's nothing to review when the windup comes. It's over. I don't -- I also read this another way. Here's a guy who's about to lose his job. He's the acting attorney general. He's been the chief of staff. He's looking for another job.

He wants to show Trump how tough he is and how he's in his corner. So he went out and bullied the special counsel a little bit and said, get your report in here because I'm telling you it's over. That could be another way to read the conversation.

BALDWIN: Got it. So maybe his intended audience was Bob Mueller himself.

DEAN: Yes.

BALDWIN: John Dean, thank you very much. Good to see you, sir.

DEAN: Thanks, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Now to the 2020 campaign.

And if California Senator Kamala Harris thought she was getting a lot of attention for announcing a presidential bid, she should probably brace herself for what is to come after saying that she backs Medicare for all.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It is inhumane to make people go through a system where they cannot literally receive the benefit of what medical science can offer because some insurance company has decided it doesn't meet their bottom line in terms of their profit motivation.

That is inhumane.

(APPLAUSE)

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: So, just to follow up -- just to follow up on that -- and correct me if I'm wrong -- to reiterate, you support the Medicare for all bill, I think, initially co-sponsored by Senator Bernie Sanders. You're also a co-sponsor on it.

HARRIS: Yes.

TAPPER: I believe it will totally eliminate private insurance.

So for people out there who like their insurance, they don't get to keep it.

HARRIS: Well, but, listen, the idea is that everyone gets access to medical care, and you don't have to go through the process of going through an insurance company, having them give you approval, going through the paperwork, all of the delay that may require.

Who of us has not had that situation, where you have got to wait for approval, and the doctor says, well, I don't know if your insurance company is going to cover this? Let's eliminate all of that. Let's move on.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: Well, who knows how easy moving on will be.

Her comments came last night during our CNN town hall with Iowa voters. And by this morning, one of her potential rivals, former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, who perhaps would run as an independent, was seizing on the senator's remarks.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HOWARD SCHULTZ, CEO, STARBUCKS: Well, you just played Senator Harris' saying she wants to abolish the insurance industry. That's -- that's not correct. That's not American.

What's next? What industry are we going to abolish next, the coffee industry? I mean, the Republicans want to get rid of the Affordable Care Act. I don't agree with that. The Affordable Care Act should stay and it should be refined. But to think we should get rid of the insurance industry?

Again, this is exactly the situation. It's far too extremes on both sides. And the silent majority of America does not have a voice.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: There's certainly no shortage of opinions when it comes to Medicare for all, what that could mean for the U.S. health care industry, and also just the U.S. economy.

But, right now, let's just focus in on facts. So, with me now, Julie Rovner, chief Washington correspondent for

Kaiser Health News.

And, Julie, welcome.

And, first of all, what does Medicare for all really mean?

JULIE ROVNER, KAISER HEALTH NEWS: Well, that is the big question.

What it means to the people who are touting it, the purest form is what Senator Harris is talking about. It would get rid of the private insurance industry and have the government basically pay all medical bills.

It wouldn't be the kind of socialized medicine they have in England, where the provider system is also run by the government. The doctors get paid a government salary and the hospitals are provided by the government.

Rather, it would be much more like the Medicare program we have now in the United States, where the government pays the bills, but the care is provided privately.

There are, however, and as we have seen in fairly recent public opinion polls, a very deep misunderstanding by the public about what it means. The public kind of thinks it means everybody gets health care. And there are lots of different ways to do that that would not involve getting rid of the private insurance industry.

BALDWIN: What would even a transition from our current system look like?

ROVNER: Well, that's a really good question, and that was always going to be one of the big debates about whether you want to go to a pure Medicare for all system or even just what some Democrats are calling a Medicare for more system, where younger people could buy in or people in the individual market could buy into Medicare, you know, as a public option.

How things would have to change, how payment would have to change -- what would happen to the insurance industry, which is a -- the health insurance industry is a large multibillion-dollar industry. And what would become of those people?

[15:10:00]

Bernie Sanders, who's been pushing this, has been asked that. We haven't really seen what that transition might look like.

BALDWIN: And then, of course, there's the cost.

Let me just play some sound. This is former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg on the cost of Medicare for all. This was the mayor earlier today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (I), FORMER MAYOR OF NEW YORK: I think you could never afford that. You're talking about trillions of dollars.

I think you can have Medicare for all for people that are uncovered. But -- because that's a smaller group, and might have been taken care of with Medicaid already -- Medicare -- but to replace the entire private system, where companies provide health care for their employees, would bankrupt us for a very long time.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: Julie, would it, I mean, bankrupt the country for a long time?

ROVNER: Hard to say.

I mean, certainly, there would be a huge shift of private sector funding to public sector funding. Taxes would have to go up. Many people might pay the same or less. Sick people would probably pay less.

We have had a bunch of private estimates about what this might cost. And they have been argued by people on all sides. One of the interesting things is that now, with the Democratic majority in the House, they have asked the Congressional Budget Office to do an estimate about what this might cost and how it might work.

And I think we're all going to be very interested to see that when they finish it, which I think will be in a couple of months.

BALDWIN: Well, so I think you mentioned -- or it certainly came up last night in Iowa, where Senator Harris was a co-sponsor of the Bernie Sanders Medicare for all bill that he introduced a year-and-a- half ago.

And so he proposed for paying for it as follows, with a 7.5 percent payroll tax on employers, a 4 percent individual income tax and higher taxes on the wealthy.

Does that math add up? Will that fly?

ROVNER: Well, that's what the Congressional Budget Office is going to tell us. A number of people have had tried to estimate that, and there have been arguments about. It depends.

There are a lot of -- there are a lot more assumptions that go into it than just those taxes and how much it would take. So we're eager to see sort of a nonpartisan estimator come out with -- and I'm sure there will be arguments over that also, whatever they come out with.

But if you were going to do it in Congress, you're going to have to get the Congressional Budget Office to do an estimate anyway. So we might as well know up front what they think it's going to cost.

BALDWIN: We should talk again when we get those hard numbers, because this is something we have been hearing from so many of these Democrats.

Julie Rovner, thank you so much.

ROVNER: Sure.

BALDWIN: Coming up next, breaking with the president, America's top intelligence officials, FBI, CIA director of national intelligence totally contradicting President Trump today when it comes to the most serious threats facing the U.S. right now on ISIS, North Korea and Russia.

Also, breaking news out of Chicago, what we're learning about a possible hate crime involving one of the stars from the hit TV show "Empire."

And she has claimed to have evidence of Russia collusion in the U.S. presidential election. Now a self-proclaimed sex coach is speaking exclusively to CNN after getting out of prison, even though she says Russian agents warned her not to talk.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[15:17:29]

BALDWIN: Welcome back. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

America's top intelligence officials breaking with the White House today on the chief threats facing the country right now, laying it out at this sobering hearing this morning before the Senate Intelligence Committee.

You had the heads of the FBI, CIA, director of national intelligence, all warning the country must still be wary of Russia come 2020, also that ISIS is still a threat, as in not defeated, and North Korea is highly unlikely to give up its nuclear weapons.

All of this seemingly contradictory to the president's often expressed rosier view.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LT. GEN. ROBERT ASHLEY, DIRECTOR, DEFENSE INTELLIGENCE AGENCY: There still is a substantial military capacity that Kim Jong-un wields.

DAN COATS, U.S. DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: We currently assess that North Korea will seek to retain its WMD capabilities and is unlikely to completely give up its nuclear weapons and production capabilities, because its leaders ultimately view nuclear weapons as critical to regime survival.

The group has returned to its guerrilla warfare roots, while continuing to plot attacks and direct its supporters worldwide. ISIS is intent on resurging and still commands thousands of fighters in Iraq and Syria.

SEN. ANGUS KING (I), MAINE: Since our departure from the deal, they have abided by the terms? You're saying they're considering, but at the current moment they're in compliance?

GINA HASPEL, CIA DIRECTOR: Yes. They're making some preparations that would increase their ability to take a step back if they make that decision.

COATS: We assess that foreign actors will view the 2020 U.S. elections as an opportunity to advance their interests.

CHRISTOPHER WRAY, FBI DIRECTOR: Not only did the Russians continue to do it in 2018, but we have seen indication that they're continuing to adapt their model and that other countries are taking a very interested eye in that approach.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: My next guest has considerable expertise on nuclear and security issues, all of which, of course, took center stage at today's hearings.

She's Liz Sherwood-Randall. She served as the White House coordinator for defense policy in the Obama administration and senior director for European affairs at the National Security Council. She was also the deputy secretary at the Energy Department under President Obama.

So, Liz, good to have you on.

And let's just begin with the sound we just played, I mean, on Iran, on Russia, on ISIS, you name it, totally contradictory to the president. What did you make of that?

ELIZABETH SHERWOOD-RANDALL, NATIONAL SECURITY EXPERT: I'm thankful that we have an intelligence community that is willing to speak truth to power.

And the director of national intelligence, Dan Coats, appointed by this president, put out a document this morning in preparation for his testimony that laid it out straight for the American people.

[15:20:03]

The threats that we face from North Korea, from ISIS, from climate change are real. And what the president has said about them are just not factually accurate. It's very important to base our policies and our actions on the facts.

And so if we look at the facts, as you just shared them with the American people, the clips from the statements that were made this morning, we know that the North Koreans are not heading in the direction the president has said they're heading, the Iranians are actually implementing the nuclear agreement that the president is walking away from , that climate change threatens us dramatically, as Americans and as a planet, and that ISIS has not been vanquished.

And so we need to have policies in place that advance American national security interests and don't undermine us. BALDWIN: These are officials who this president appointed. And it seems that -- and I don't know why -- the president isn't listening to, isn't trusting his own intelligence.

Why?

SHERWOOD-RANDALL: Well, I think what's most meaningful for us is that we have people who have the integrity and the courage to speak publicly and state the facts.

We're in such a noisy time of so much fact-free debate that, when we have people as credible as the director of national intelligence, the head of the FBI, the head of the CIA, a career professional, who are willing to take the stand and say what they know is true, we all benefit from it.

BALDWIN: I have got you.

I want to ask also about a moment yesterday at the White House Briefing Room, where you have this yellow notepad held by National Security Adviser John Bolton, and the mystery scribble, "5,000 troops to Columbia."

It got everyone, media talking, Twitter talking. The acting defense secretary, Pat Shanahan, just told lawmakers that he has not spoken to Bolton about any troops heading south.

So what do you think was going on with Ambassador Bolton's notes? Do you think that was on purpose, or was it an accident?

(CROSSTALK)

SHERWOOD-RANDALL: I can't divine what he was intending to do.

I will tell you that one of the things you do when you are a senior American official is, you don't have notes that are available to be seen on camera. But, in this case, I would guesstimate it's possible that what is being considered is whether we have prepositioned forces in the region should we need to evacuate the Americans who are in Venezuela, whether they are diplomats, others working on behalf of the United States or just American citizens.

One of the things that we always did when we saw a country in crisis around the world was, we made sure that, if our citizens needed to be evacuated, we would be able to get to them in time to protect them, especially those who are serving on behalf of the United States around the world in our embassies, consulates, and other locations where we have public servants doing the work of the nation.

BALDWIN: But note to any administration official: If you're going to have a yellow notepad with notes on it facing the media, they're going to figure out what it says.

I did want to ask you also about...

SHERWOOD-RANDALL: Unless you're deliberately trying to telegraph a message.

(CROSSTALK)

BALDWIN: Exactly.

SHERWOOD-RANDALL: Right. Yes.

BALDWIN: Exactly.

Tony Blinken writes this opinion piece in "The New York Times" this morning. He was the deputy secretary of state under Obama, 25 or so years experience in government. So he writes this piece where he's making the point that the most successful administrations, they essentially had three things in common, experienced, honest people, an effective process, and clear policies.

And then he goes on to write this: "But the administration has not faced an actual" -- speaking of the Trump administration -- "has not faced an actual national security crisis that tests it and us in a profound way. There is no shortage of possible candidates, a major terrorist attack, a debilitating cyber-attack, an infectious disease outbreak, an incident with North Korea."

He goes on and he ends: "Yet no administration in modern memory has been less prepared to deal with a true crisis than this one."

I mean, you mentioned Venezuela a second ago, with that swirling, Afghanistan, Syria. Do you agree with Tony?

SHERWOOD-RANDALL: So, Tony is a close colleague of many years, and we sat around that deputies table together in the Situation Room dealing with crises almost on a daily basis, because that's what the deputies process did.

You noted he was deputy secretary of state when I was deputy secretary of energy. And what we have learned from those who are willing to share what is happening inside today is that there is not a process populated by people with experience that is producing policies that are then implemented.

And Tony's piece I think is spot on. That is, we really are at risk if we face the kind of crisis that puts all Americans in the -- in the crosshairs of someone who's trying to attack us.

And I will give you an example. When we worked to prevent terrorist attacks on the United States during the Obama administration, the deliberate work that has to be done involving every single agency of the U.S. government and our allies around the world to prevent terrorists from coming to our shores, or sending things to our shores or through the skies that might harm Americans, it requires an extraordinarily meticulous, coordinated, deliberate effort.

[15:25:14]

And what we don't see is that kind of process with the people producing the policies that are being implemented by this team. BALDWIN: Yes, just look at the turnover rate, in and of itself, which

is something I know Tony pointed out in this piece.

Liz, thank you so much.

SHERWOOD-RANDALL: And many...

BALDWIN: Yes, yes.

SHERWOOD-RANDALL: And many positions empty, many positions that have never been filled, people leaving at an alarming rate, embassies overseas without ambassadors, you name it.

BALDWIN: Yes.

Liz Sherwood-Randall, thank you.

SHERWOOD-RANDALL: Thanks so much, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Thank you.

We have got some breaking news out of Chicago, where one of the stars from the hit show "Empire" says he was doused with chemicals and had a rope tied around his neck in an apparent hate crime. A U.S. senator is now calling this incident an attempted modern-day lynching.

We have a live report from Chicago next.

[15:30:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)