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Trump Speaks on Obamacare, Calls It Expensive and Horrible; Former Vice President Joe Biden Expresses Regrets Over Anita Hill Hearing; Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired March 27, 2019 - 12:00   ET


[12:00:20] PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks for joining INSIDE POLITICS. I'm Phil Mattingly. John King is off today.

We are awaiting brand new comments from the president inside the Oval Office. We will bring you that video as soon as we have it. In the meantime, here with me now to share their reporting and insights, Margaret Talev from Bloomberg, "Politico's" Heather Caygle, Tarini Parti from BuzzFeed News, and Lisa Lerer from "The New York Times."

We're going to take you right to the president in the Oval Office right now.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: -- and you will see this very soon because Obamacare is a disaster. It's too expensive by far. People can't afford it and the deductible is horrible. So the premiums score is too much. The deductible is horrible.

The only difference between now and the other administration is that we're administering Obamacare very well. So we've made it better, but it's still horrible, no good. It's something that we can't live with in this country because it's far too expensive for the people, not only for the country, but I'm not even thinking about for the country. It's too expensive. The premiums are too expensive.

People are going broke trying to pay for it and the deductibles are averaging over $7,000. So you have to spend $7,000 before you get anything. That's a very unusual circumstance so the deductibles are way too high.

Obamacare is a disaster so we're going to be the -- and I said it yesterday and I mean it 100 percent. I understand health care now especially very well. A lot of people don't understand it. We are going to be the Republicans, the party of great health care. The Democrats, they've let you down. They came up with Obamacare. It's terrible. I got rid of the individual mandate.

That was the worst part of Obamacare because people were forced to pay a lot of money to get healthcare that they didn't want, OK? Now they don't have to pay that money. People are all over this country thanking me. Every time I go out they thank me. They don't have to pay a vast amount of money to have bad healthcare. So we got rid of the individual mandate. That was a big thing. We will, you watch, we're going to be the party of great healthcare

and the Democrats have let you down. They've really let you down. Obamacare doesn't work. It's too expensive and the -- you take a look at everything with deductibles. It's a disaster. It's a disaster for our people. We're not going to allow it to go. So we're coming up with plans. We have a lawsuit right now going where phase one of the lawsuit terminates Obamacare, essentially terminates Obamacare. You know, that's the Texas lawsuit.

We think it will be upheld and we think it will do very well in the Supreme Court, and if the Supreme Court rules that Obamacare is out we will have a plan that's far better than Obamacare.

Thank you all very much. I appreciate it. Thank you.


TRUMP: Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, everybody.


TRUMP: Thank you.


TRUMP: I greatly appreciate that she's here and she's been a tremendous representative for her country and she's meeting tomorrow with the first lady of the United States, in Florida. They're meeting tomorrow.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: It's a message that the United States is committed to seeing Venezuela --

TRUMP: I'll tell you, if you look at what we're doing you will see a commitment that few people have made, and frankly, this didn't have to happen in Venezuela. Past administrations right here should have been more forward thinking. This should never have happened in Venezuela. This is a tragedy.

You know, we're fighting all over the world for countries where 5,000, 6,000, 7,000 miles away. They never did anything with respect to Venezuela. Past administrations allowed this to happen. I've inherited a mess between North Korea and all of the problems we have all over the world, the entire Middle East and Venezuela, these are things that never -- they never should have happened.

They never should have allowed to get to this point, but I'll fix it. We're fixing it all over the world. That's what we're going to do, just like in a different sense we are going to fix healthcare. We're going to fix a lot of problems that nobody else was able to do and we just left, as you know, the prime minister of Israel that have a lot of hard times over there right now.

[12:05:07] But the Golan Heights which every president promised they'd do, they never did. I did that, not only with respect to Jerusalem and the embassy but also now the Golan Heights, they desperately need it. It was good timing. They desperately need it. They need the Heights.

Thank you very much, everybody. Thank you.


TRUMP: Thank you very much. Thank you.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thanks very much. Right this way. Thank you very much. Let's go. This way.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right this way, press. Let's go.

MATTINGLY: And you were just watching President Trump sitting in the Oval Office with Fabiana Rosales. She is the wife of Juan Guaido, the self-proclaimed interim president of Venezuela, also an individual who's recognized by about 50 countries as the interim president of Venezuela.

Obviously, a very important issue for the administration. They've been talking about this a lot. They've been working on this very complex issue now for a while, but I want to talk with the panel who we're tap-dancing a little bit there at the beginning.

So I introduced all you guys but mainly about the Affordable Care Act. Start with that. If you want to know if the president cares about this and wants this to make this an issue, he seemed to pivot multiple times back to the Affordable Care Act even when he was asked about Venezuela.

He has made clear now because of this lawsuit that the Justice Department has since expanded its position on, that the invalidation of the entire healthcare law is a possibility, but first, before we get to the panel, I want to get to Abby Philip who's standing outside the White House.

Abby, you've got some brand-new reporting for us as to actually how the administration came to this decision for this Justice Department filing. Lay it out for us.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Phil, it's interesting to hear President Trump in that spray talking about a brand-new plan that his party would have to replace Obamacare if it's invalidated, but our reporting is indicating that according to multiple sources there is no such plan and that up until this point no one had been told that the White House was going to basically try to force the hand of lawmakers to do something about Obamacare by joining in on this lawsuit seeking to invalidate the entire law.

That decision to seek to invalidate all of Obamacare is a reversal for this administration and it happened at the urging of acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney and his allies within the White House and it was opposed by the Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and by the Attorney General Bill Barr.

Now some of this reporting, most of this reporting was first reported by Politico but we have confirmed that essentially this debate had been raging within the White House for several months. And ultimately what Mulvaney wanted to do and what he believed this step would do is force Republicans once again to take on the issue of repealing and replacing Obamacare which they failed to do in 2017.

That being said, we are told by sources that the Office of Legislative Affairs in the White House was kept completely in the dark. Key lawmakers on Capitol Hill also kept completely in the dark on this idea that they are supposed to then pivot to replacing Obamacare and ultimately there are some concerns within the White House among conservative lawyers within this administration that the argument that they joined in on is not one that will be upheld in the courts.

So this administration has essentially put their party now in a pretty difficult political position, not to mention legal position, but the political problems are pretty acute. They don't have a plan to replace -- repeal and replace Obamacare and on this issue that so motivated Democrats in the last election they've now put it back on the table. Some people characterizing this as a gift to Nancy Pelosi going into this next 2020 election where Democrats can basically say the Republican Party -- President Obama, they want to get rid of Obamacare altogether raising these issues about -- you know, about pre-existing conditions and other things that the Republican Party just simply doesn't have a plan for at the moment, Phil.

MATTINGLY: Yes. Abby Philip at the White House.

Republicans didn't think this was going to be a thing. It is now very, very much a thing.

Guys, to be honest, I'm having like flashbacks of nervous twitches to February, March of 2017. I know you were sticking out those hallways with me until midnight or 1:00 a.m. The bottom line or kind of the takeaway being that they weren't able -- Republicans weren't able to coalesce around a single plan, at least to get through both chambers of Congress into the president's desk in a Republican House or a Republican Senate or Republican White House.

Why in a divided Congress with the Republican Party that is pretty wary of getting into this issue would suddenly figure out a way forward, particularly when, as Abby points out and I know I've heard the same, I'm sure you guys have heard the same, too, there is no plan or working theory about what a plan would be. So there's complications on the legal theory when you talk to lawyers. There's complications on the policy side. There's complications on the politics side.

So, Margaret Talev --



MATTINGLY: How does this end? What's the play right now from the administration on this?

TALEV: I mean, the president is heading towards re-election in the middle of trying to redefine a lot of things from the way that the public thinks about them and is voted on them to the way he wants people to see them heading into 2020.

[12:10:06] And you can see this from everything, from foreign policy to domestic policy, you see him trying to redefine Democrats as anti- Jewish. You see him now trying to say the Republicans are the real party of healthcare. I think one of the -- one of his motives is to try to put Democrats kind of on the defensive, to catch them off guard, but one of the political problems he may face on this is that at least in the November election, healthcare was a real problem for President Trump and the Republican Party and in those midterm congressional seats that so many Republicans lost, Democrats were able, when they stuck to the healthcare message rather than the Russia message or the Mueller message able more effectively to have an affirmative message of this is what Democrats can do for you if you vote for them that helped them in many of those races.

So I think for many of the Republicans who are kind of queasy about this, it is the concern that the president, because he very often will like double down on something rather than retrieve from it, that his instinct is to double down, and their instinct is not to go there. One of the other problems is that the legislation that we saw last year or the year before from Republicans in terms of reforming kind of the Obamacare stuff involved a lot of bring it to the local level and give people more choice.

A lot of those plans when you dug a little bit deeper were cheaper because they offered a lot less coverage. In the areas that people care about, covering stuff like pre-existing conditions. So if that's what's going to be returned to in terms of the framing of the policy debate heading into 2020, you know, he may be giving Democrats a gift to run on again.

MATTINGLY: Yes. And I think that's a good point. So I want to pull up a poll from I believe it was shortly after the 2018 midterm elections in terms of what voters cared most about in the exit polls after they voted and if you look at the numbers at the top is the economy and healthcare tied one, two at 80 percent.

And Margaret, you made a good point. Everybody who's talking about Russia or the special counsel's investigation, you went on the trail with Democrats, they were talking about healthcare. They were talking about healthcare. They were talking about healthcare. And so I know you were covering House Democrats yesterday. They had a closed-door caucus meeting.


MATTINGLY: What's kind of the message right now from Democrats in response to what we're seeing from the president right now?

CAYGLE: You know, I think they were elated yesterday. You know, House Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal, the tax writing committee, he stood up inside the private meeting yesterday morning, and he was like, this is a gift to us because they've been struggling since they took back the majority to like pivot to their legislative agenda, to get people to pay attention to it, and finally they're, like, yes, we can talk about healthcare.

We are on offense on this issue. We know how to talk about it. Republicans don't have a plan. And so they were pretty ecstatic and they still are today that Trump keeps bringing it up again.

MATTINGLY: Yes. And I -- if you want to know where Republicans are on this, and look, let's be clear. There's 53 Republicans in the Senate, the vast majority of them have talked about, if not all of them, have talked about repealing Obamacare at one point or the other. Repeal was never the issue for them. It was the replace. That was always the problem. And one of the people who had the biggest problem with the replace efforts was Susan Collins. This is how she feels about the lawsuit.


SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: This is contrary to the tradition of the Justice Department which generally defends laws. If the administration is supposed to be ACA and clearly there are provisions of the law that do need to be passed, the answer is for the administration to work with Congress and present a plan to replace and fix the law, not to prove the courts that seek to invalidate it altogether.


MATTINGLY: The omnipresent Manu Raju in the camera shot there as he always is. But -- so here's the interesting point. Susan Collins is saying this is congressional prerogative. We should be the ones to fix this if something needs to be fixed. The White House perspective, at least as I've picked up on it so far, at least some in the White House, is let's force their hand on this.

Is that a fair characterization?

TARINI PARTI, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, BUZZFEED NEWS: That seems to be what the White House is doing, but he has caught his entire party off- guard including his allies. I mean, it's not just inside the White House, but outside the White House, some of his allies who sometimes are even more defensive of the president than, you know, those inside the White House, have been scratching their heads trying to figure this out. And I think the Oval Office comments were interesting because that's the most we've heard the president really even talk about health care since 2017.

You know, other than when he talks about John McCain's no vote, this is the most we've seen from him but this is also the same person who in 2017 said that who knew healthcare would be so complicated? So you can see why people like Susan Collins are pretty wary of this position that they've been sort of pushed into.

MATTINGLY: Yes. And I -- one of the questions I've had, Democrats are not -- particularly on the campaign trail, and you come to this as close as anybody, are not unified necessarily on what healthcare should be, but they are unified on not that. Not what the Justice Department is doing right now. So does this in some way help even candidates, presidential candidates?

LISA LERER, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Right. They are divided over how they want to expand the coverage given Obamacare, but they are all unified around the idea of keeping these popular provisions that are included in the healthcare law, things like keeping your kid on your insurance until they're 25, covering pre-existing conditions, those are broadly popular with -- you know, across voters and Democrats want to keep them.

[12:15:10] I think there is another point here, too, which is that from the time this law was passed, the past decade or so, Republicans have campaigned aggressively on getting rid of it and replacing it with something better. And that was a major governing failure that they were unable to do this. So by bringing this back up especially in this totally unexpected way, this unprepared way, they're giving time to craft a viable replacement plan, as you point out they don't have one, just reminds voters of those failures, of the fact that they handed over the keys to governing to the president, to Republicans and both Houses of Congress, and they have not delivered on some of these promises.

And that's not really the place you want to be in, not only as the president, but as some of these -- you know, as a Susan Collins heading into this re-election cycle.

TALEV: Unless your intention is to divide and conquer, to force the Medicaid for all debates, to push Democrats further to the left as they all clamor to explain why Republicans aren't the party of healthcare. If that's your goal, this is the path to that.

MATTINGLY: That's true. That's true. Look, keep an eye on the space. The policy here is extraordinarily important and where they go from here, if they go anywhere at all, that will be important, too.

All right. Up next, Joe Biden inching closer to a decision on 2020, but apologizing still for what he didn't do in 1991.


[12:20:33] MATTINGLY: Regrets? He has had a few. Former Vice President Joe Biden once again attempting to apologize for how Anita Hill was treated by his Senate Judiciary Committee in 1991. She testified that she had been sexually harassed by now Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.

Speaking at an awards dinner in New York last night which was honoring students working to stop sexual assault, the potential 2020 candidate lamented that he did not do enough to stop, quote, "the abuse that took place at that hearing." (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We knew a lot less about the extent of harassment back then over 30 years ago, but she paid a terrible price. She was abused through the hearing. She was taken advantage of. Her reputation was attacked. I wish I could have done something.

When Anita Hill -- when Anita Hill came to testify she faced a committee that didn't fully understand what the hell it was all about. To this day I regret I couldn't come up with a way to get her the kind of hearing she deserved.


MATTINGLY: Arlette Saenz, our Biden whisperer at CNN, joins our conversation now.

You were there last night. The thing I think everybody was taken aback by, I wish I could have done something. He was the chairman of the Judiciary Committee at the time. Walk me through what the thought process was, to the extent you know it, about that comment.

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Yes. I mean, that was the criticism that immediately emerged on social media after he made those comments saying I wish I could have done something. Well, he was the man who was in charge of these hearings and so those comments to many people ring hollow saying that he could have done actually more to ensure that she got that hearing that he said that she deserved and this is not the first time that he's had to address the Anita Hill controversy and it's certainly not going to be the last.

Joe Biden and his team are very aware of the repercussions that that moment has had especially now in the Me Too Movement and he's trying to find ways to kind of express that regret. One big question is whether or not he's actually delivered a personal apology to Anita Hill. That remains unclear at this point and that's, I think, one step that people want to see to kind of rectify the situation.

MATTINGLY: Yes. And I was following your reporting last night and the fact it still remains unclear I think is kind of wild given the fact that this is going to keep coming up and this is what Anita Hill said back in 2018 when I asked about this specifically.

Oh, it's a graphic. Good stuff, huh? All right. So she said, "He said he apologized but he hasn't apologized to me. The statute of limitations has run on an apology. I don't need an apology. But sometimes when the door bell rings I am not expecting anyone, I think, could that be Joe Biden?

TALEV: Oh my god.


MATTINGLY: That was in November of 2018. That's not subtle. And look, she has very good reason to have that perspective. But how is that not been addressed if it hasn't been addressed, we don't know yet.

LERER: It's pretty clear what the former vice president has to do to get right on this issue and he has to give her a personal apology. He has to acknowledge his own culpability for what happened in that hearing and that's why that event last night was so striking.

I was there with Arlette and it was just -- this was an event, it was a foundation that grew out of his work as vice president, combating campus sexual abuse. He talked about white male culture and how it needs to be changed and how it's still present at the highest levels of government and corporate boardrooms and Hollywood. He said all the things that activists and the female voters and, you know, people involved in the Me Too Movement want to hear except when it came to that hearing which is the one thing that's, you know, really been a huge problem for him.

And I think it also speaks to the difficulties of running with a 30- year record. He is someone who has taken a -- you know, how Democrats view these kinds of issues, whose view a number of issues has shifted over the past three decades as things tend to do, and he hasn't always been on the right side of that shift. And that -- this is something that's going to come up again and again, not only when it comes to sexual abuse but a variety of other areas.

MATTINGLY: Yes. And one of those areas tough on crime legislation.

LERER: Exactly.

MATTINGLY: Where he said he'd kind of take a similar stance and this is actual sound, not me reading something. So take a listen.


BIDEN: I haven't always been right. I know we haven't always gotten things right, but I've always tried. It was a big mistake when it was made. We thought -- we were told by the experts that crack, you never go back. It was somehow fundamental that it's not different, but it's trapped an entire generation.


[12:25:01] MATTINGLY: So, Tarini, Mike Bloomberg had made some comments about the kind of the apology tour that it seems like multiple candidates have been on at this point. When this gets in, does this go away? Does this continue to plague him? What's -- if he gets in. Sorry.


MATTINGLY: What's your read on this?

PARTI: Yes. I mean, in Joe Biden's case I don't think it's a full apology tour as we've been saying. It's a half apology tour at best. I mean, he's kind of pushing the blame whether it's, you know, tough on crime legislation or Anita Hill. He's kind of blaming it on other people and not taking as much personal responsibility. He's blaming it on experts who with -- you know, evidence of crime data or in Anita Hill's case he's talking about the other white men on the committee. You know, so I think -- unless he sort of comes out and has a full apology tour that actually addresses these issue, I don't know if it will satisfy the base that is -- you know, that he needs to satisfy in order to probably do well in the Democratic primary.

MATTINGLY: And Arlette, we've got about a minute left. What's your read? Obviously I don't think his team wants to roll out with a full apology tour. But kind of their perspective on how this plays in the months ahead.


MATTINGLY: If he gets in.

SAENZ: I mean, you've seen him trickle a lot of this out over the past few months so there is these comments about criminal justice issues, there is this comment about Anita Hill. You also had him backtrack when he called Mike Pence a decent guy. I think they're slowly trying to find these opportunities where he can address some of these potential liabilities and as record and back in December at an event in Montana, he has said that he's ready to litigate all of the issues from his past so I think we're likely going to see more of that coming forward in these coming weeks and as he potentially announces that bid.

MATTINGLY: Yes. We'll see if mentioning it or apologizing for it or trying to lament about it will close the book on it. I can guess probably not given the primary opponents he's got.

All right. We'll be right back in a few minutes. Programming tonight and this is very important. CNN has a town hall with Democratic presidential candidate, Senator Cory Booker. Don Lemon will moderate live from Orangeburg, South Carolina. That's tonight at 10:00 p.m. Eastern only on CNN.

And up next, a White House victory lap after the attorney general's letter about the Mueller report.