Return to Transcripts main page


Trump Punts On Healthcare Until After 2020 Election; GOP Lawmakers Tried To Dissuade Trump On Tossing The Health Plan; Bernie Sanders Raises $18 Million In First Quarter; Ocasio-Cortez Says White House Is Risking Thousands Of Lives With Clearance Mess; Khashoggi Children Getting Payments And Homes From Saudis; Trump Takes Questions On Healthcare And The Border. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired April 2, 2019 - 14:00   ET


[14:00:00] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: Hi, I'm Brooke Baldwin and you're watching CNN. We begin with a whiplash policy maneuver in the White House, repeal and replace means repeal now and replace later. Like way later. Less than one week after making the promise of replacing Obamacare, the President is punting to push health care reform after the 2020 Presidential election.

A new tweet vowed this, quote, "vote will be taken right after the election when Republicans hold the Senate and win back the House." So just like that, the President is once again toppling the work of his own administration which has spent the last week bolstering this belief a Republican health care plan is in the works.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're going to get rid of Obamacare. And I said it the other day. The Republican party will become the party of great health care. It's good. It's important.

MARC SHORT, CHIEF OF STAFF FOR VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: The President will be putting forward plans this year that we hope to introduce into Congress --

MICK MULVANEY, ACTING WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: We're doing the same thing with taxes. Remember when we started with taxes, people criticized us for not giving enough details and we sent principals to the hill, one or two pages and from that following the proper legislative process we got a tremendous tax bill that passed into law, also got rid of the individual mandate at that time just as an added benefit. We're going to do the same thing on health care.


BALDWIN: CNN's Kaitlan Collins is at the White House this afternoon. Do we know what led this President to this about-face on the Republican health care plan?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brooke, he seems to be heeding the warning of his fellow Republicans on Capitol Hill that didn't want to have the fight. Those are the Republican lawmakers sent scrambling when the Trump administration threw its weight behind the lawsuit that would invalidate Obamacare because they knew they did not have a back-up for the affordable care act so the strategy to get in touch with the President to try to change his opinion is to call him frankly and there was several calls from a steady stream of Republican lawmakers but two of those were key.

One was from the Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and the other was from the House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy. Now we know that McConnell's strategy seemed to work because he told the President he thought Republicans had a good thing going with the tax on Democrats proposal for Medicare for all and keep that up and then he advised the President to wait until after the election to try to take any legislative steps here. Now if you look to the President's tweet, the part you just highlighted, you see that is what the President is saying. He's taking Mitch McConnell's advice and putting it there. Now White House aides have been struggling to defend this change from the President today. Several of them have gone on television talking about it. But Democrats on the other hand see this as a political gift. They are more than pleased to have this fight with the White House and here is what Nancy Pelosi essentially summed it up as today.


NANCY PELOSI (D) HOUSE MAJORITY SPEAKER: And now what is he saying today? It is like Nixon's secret plan. I have health care -- you're too young to know. Nixon had a secret plan. Read it in the history books. It is history to you, it is my youth. But anyway, a secret plan in Vietnam. This is his secret plan, they're not going to pass it until after the 2020 election.


COLLINS: So, Brooke, the President saying this vote would happen after the 2020 election and assuming that Republicans will win back the House. But also, this is guaranteeing that health care is going to be front and center in the Presidential election.

BALDWIN: We'll have that conversation next, thank you very much. We'll talk about it for the next year and a half and along with the Presidential punt and campaign pivot and a White House official said now the position is to keep Democrats on the defense for the proposal for Medicare For All and what we saw today, when a White House official talked to our own Jim Sciutto.


MERCEDES SCHLAPP, WHITE HOUSE DIRECTOR OF STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS: Again, I present you the political reality of what we're seeing in the House of Representatives where you have the radical left basically controlling these moderate Democrats and pushing and advocating for socialized medicine and government takeover of health care which we know would be detrimental to our health care system.


BALDWIN: So, with me now, CNN political analyst Julia Hirschfeld Davis and from "The New York Times", nice to see you. And in case one has forgotten, lets remind people of another promise made.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It is going to be a tax reduction of 10 percent for the middle class. Business will not enter into it. And this will be on top of the tax reduction that the middle class has already gotten. And we're putting in a resolution probably this week, I think these folks know about it, and Kevin Brady has been working on it very hard, really for a couple of months.


[14:05:03] BALDWIN: So, we know how that movie ended, Julie. Is this now with health care and President Trump, is this another example. Politics make a lot of promises but is this another example of promises made but promised not kept.

JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVIS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think so. I think this President certainly has a penchant for in the heat of the moment when he thinks there is political gains to be made, making a lot of promises that he doesn't necessarily have a plan to put in place and that he hasn't really vetted or talked to other Republicans about to figure out whether they are feasible or prudent. There was a promise right before the midterm Congressional election around the time that -- from the clip you just played where the President was talking about signing executive order to end bridge right citizenship and we haven't seen that happen either.

That is something that he wanted front and center in the campaign and he thought it was worth talking about that and he didn't follow through. I think the news with this proposal that he's made more recently is that he is heeding the advice for now of elect -- elected Republican officials that are telling him this is not a political winner and we don't have a plan and he seems to agree with that.


BALDWIN: On the flip side of it all, did Trump do the Republican party a huge favor for the year and a half and saying we're the party of health care and vote for us and we have a plan and if asked for specifics, he's like sorry we're breaking up and sorry bye. They don't have a plan so they can't give specifics.

DAVIS: For sure it is helpful that he's willing to back off of saying we're going to have a plan for you next week on putting together a working group. That is helpful to them. But I still think he's created political problem that frankly they already had which is that he keeps talking about repealing Obamacare and talking about taking away the system that people know right now even if not everyone loves it, they know that it is there. Democrats are talking about ways in their campaigns to add onto it or to make it stronger and the President and his party seem to be talking about ways to get rid of it and haven't come up with an affirmative case for what they would do instead and for a people feel in their pocket books that could be dangerous terrain to be on. BALDWIN: And you mentioned Democrats ran on this and did extremely

well last November, but how important this issue is right now. Last year we learned today people were borrowing $88 billion just in the last year to pay for health care and polls have shown that health care is one of the most important issues through 2020. How do you think Republicans will win without a plan?

DAVIS: Well, the strategy certainly seems to be -- and this is what we've seen the President pivot to today -- to just attack Democrats and say they're plans for the health care system are radical, that it was a government takeover and it would cost too much money and then nobody would have any choices. And really try to get people to turn against what Democrats are offering. And I think they may have some success with some voters who are skeptical of the idea -- who maybe don't like Obamacare and skeptical of the idea of adding on still more and whether that system would be helpful to them and the soaring costs they are feeling.

But I do think it becomes a big problem for them, Republicans saw how well Democrats did in the midterm Congressional election hammering away at the health care message and Republicans don't have anything to answer that with except for, well their plan is very bad. So, unless they could come up within an affirm tv pl-- affirmative plan it is a liability for the President and the candidates going into 2020 and they are aware of that.

BALDWIN: Thank you so much. Good to see you. The President erratic and unilateral governing is becoming a pattern in this White House. Chris Cillizza has new announcement on why this could be his strategic plan for re-election in 2020. So, what do the last couple of weeks tell us.

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER AND EDITOR AT LARGE: First of all, the strategic plan, the big takeaway there is no plan. But I'll get to that. But let's go through. OK, here we have Sunday March 24th, you remember it was ten days, nine days ago, Brooke, we get Bill Barr, the Attorney General saying he has the report by bob Mueller and he said collusion has not been established. Big deal. Very positive news for Donald Trump. Tuesday, March 26th, this guy, saw him on cable television, Michael Avenatti, one of the lead instigators against Trump, representing Stormy Daniels, he is arrested on bank and wire fraud as well as extortion. Great week. This is going to set up terrifically for the next month or so for Trump, right? Wrong.

[14:10:01] Because why? Days later Trump administration announces it is going to side with a Texas judge ruling that the aca, the affordable care act, Obamacare, totally invalidated and they are going to have to replace it entirely. That is trouble. He threatens to close the border at the end of the last week, again in our March poll, Brooke, 38 percent of people approved of how Donald Trump is handling immigration. 58 percent of people disapprove. Not a good fight. And then we get to it.

The plan is there is no plan. That is true on health care, it at the end of the last week, again in our march poll, Brooke, 38 percent of people approved of how Donald Trump is handling immigration. 58 percent of people disapprove. Not a good fight. And then we get to it. The plan is there is no plan. That is true on health care, it is true on closing the border because his aides are scrambling because they don't know how it would even work and true more broadly for Trump, there is a theory out there after he won in 2016 that he is playing three dimensional chess and operating from a strategic blueprint that is just too complex for any mere mortal like myself to understand. The truth of the matter he is not. He is simply acting and then reacting to the reactions. That is it.

BALDWIN: So, he's the sort of master of puppets and he maybe has no plan and it freaks everyone out and including his own people. But it's worked for him so far-ish.

CILLIZZA: Absolutely.

BALDWIN: And 2020, talking about the numbers -- we're getting, what do you make of how much these three have earned.

CILLIZZA: We have three people who have submitted their reports for the first quarter. Big number here is Bernie Sanders. $18.2 million and 900,000 individual donors and $12 million for Harris and then Buttigieg and 158,000 donors. And here is what I would say. This is also of what we expected with the exception of here. This is more. This is the guy who is a mayor of south bend, Indiana, who no one could pronounce or knew his name months ago and now he is ahead and $7 million is significant and Harris is from California thinking she could raise money and a top tier candidate since she got in and then Sanders. It shows where he was in 2015. Cue 2015 when he's running for President and becoming an internet phenomenon and he raised $18.2 million at the same time in 2019 where he is more of a front-runner.

People forget this, Bernie Sanders raised $228 million in his 2016 campaign. We forgot -- you are talking about someone, there aren't three politicians in America that have raised that. Barack Obama and Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, other than that, $228 million. So, he is on a pace that would put him above that and that would make him, if not the front-runner fundraising-wise, he would be right there eventually over time with Beto O'Rourke and maybe Kamala Harris. Those are the three that I think with Biden presumably who will set the pace fundraising-wise.

BALDWIN: Mayor from South Bend, Indiana --

CILLIZZA: $17 million --

BALDWIN: Who would have thunk.

CILLIZZA: I won't have thunk.

BALDWIN: Chris, thank you.

Fireworks at a House Oversight Hearing. The issue, those questionable White House security clearances.


I mean, really, what is next? Putting nuclear codes in Instagrams. This is ridiculous. We need to get to the bottom of this.


BALDWIN: We'll discuss.

Plus, six months after killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi we learned his children are reportedly receiving millions of dollars from Saudi Arabia.

And fired FBI Director James Comey sits down with CNN and weighs in on the mysterious Mueller report. Hear his warning and what he said about the President not being exonerated on obstruction. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.


BALDWIN: In just a couple of minutes the House Oversight Committee will vote on issuing a subpoena for more information on White House security clearances as a result of the whistleblower Tricia Newbold alerting that senior officials overruled concerns raised by about 25 individuals whose clearance was denied and both Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump are among the 25 individuals. Republicans and Democrats incredibly divided over this very issue. Here is just a piece from their fiery debate earlier today.


REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D), CHAIR OF OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE: This lady was scared. You hear me, she's scared. She's small in stature and she's already seen what is going on in the White House. She was scared to death. And she was afraid, sadly, of our Republican colleagues.

REP. JIM JORDAN (R), RANKING MEMBER, OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE: First Saturday, deposition. Then yesterday a press release to one witness while you hand pick parts of her testimony and now today, now today we're going to subpoena a guy who just sent us a letter saying he's willing to come here voluntarily. I've been on this committee 17 years and never seen anything like this.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, please. You've done it.

JORDAN: I haven't.

REP. JACKIE SPEIER (D), MEMBER, OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE: There is an anti-nepotism law in this country that the President has circumvented by having his daughter and son-in-law work in the White House as volunteers.

[14:20:00] REP. MARK GREEN (R), MEMBER, OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE: Overturning the security clearances is a choice the commander-in-chief can make. He's the President of the United States. It is not against the law, it is not against policy, there have been no leaks of national security information. It is not like this process has led to classified e-mails being on an unsecure server.

CUMMINGS: I will protect whistleblowers, period. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: CNN senior Congressional correspondent Manu Raju is up live for us now. Let's talk about Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez sounding the alarm as were others. You talked to her right after the hearing. What did she say to you?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well she and other Democrats are raising concerns that this White House does not have adequate safeguards in place in the security clearance process and they've approved people who should not get security clearances who have access to the nation's foremost secrets and who are later deemed unsuitable to have access to that same information. Democrats are raising concerns that this White House does not have adequate safeguards in place in the security clearance process and they've approved people who should not get security clearances who have access to the nation's foremost secrets and who are later deemed unsuitable to have access to that same information.

Those are the allegations that were raised in that private witness testimony with Tricia Newbold who the Democrats say is a whistleblower from the White House raising serious concerns. Now Ocasio-Cortez said what is next for the White House putting unusual codes on Instagram direct messages, that is something she said in the hearing and afterwards I asked her about Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump and whether she believes they should have security clearances revoked?


REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D), NEW YORK: Well, you know, I think it depends on the process. Did they go through the full security clearance process and were there any flags raised and were there clearances -- did that process get overridden through the proper channels.

RAJU: Republicans say this is not anywhere near as bad as the Hillary Clinton e-mail situation. What is your response.

OCASIO-CORTEZ: It is like I said in committee, we're getting reports that there is communication happening with Saudi officials via what's app. I mean, like I said in there, what is next Instagram DMs. This is completely insecure and the issue with that, as we saw in the lead- up to so many attacks and so many issues is that when we have insecure channels of communication, anything can get hacked. And if we don't know what -- what hostile forces know about us, we are putting thousands of lives at risk.


RAJU: So, I asked her if she wants to see Jared Kushner before her committee to ask questions. She kicked that up to the chairman of the committee Elijah Cummings. He has not said that explicitly but he does want to talk to a range of White House officials aware of the security clearance process. They want to know about how these problems they view have been resolved or not being resolved and as you heard from Republicans earlier, they view this as a reckless attempt by the Democrats to try to smear the White House. They believe there is nothing wrong here that a few places have been overblown so not much agreement and the Democrats have subpoena power and plan to use this in moments.

BALDWIN: We'll stand by and wait for that. Thank you very much.

And disturbing new reporting concerning the murder of "Washington Post" journalist Jamal Khashoggi. His children have received multimillion-dollar houses in Saudi Arabia and monthly payments and they are part of the kingdom's attempt to ensure his children will basically keep quiet about their father's murder. Six months ago, today, Khashoggi walked into the Saudi consulate in Istanbul and never heard from again. Saudi operatives face trials soon for the brutal killing and this comes from the "Post" Greg Miller here with me from D.C. and thank you so much for being on and thinking of all of you all and that it has been six months already. But let me first ask you about your reporting on Khashoggi's children. What have the Saudis given or promises to give them since his death?

GREG MILLER, NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT, "THE WASHINGTON POST": So, there is two pieces of that. What they've gotten and what they might get and what they've gotten so far are Houses in Saudi Arabia worth as you said millions of dollars. And they are also getting each of the children is getting a monthly payment from the Saudi government of between $10,000 and $15,000 a month and that is just ongoing. And then as I said in the story today, they are in position to get many millions more potentially as the cases and trials of the accused killers move forward in Saudi Arabia.

[14:25:02] BALDWIN: This could easily be perceived as a payoff to keep quiet. I know you quoted them saying such support is part of our custom and culture not attached to anything else. But my question to you, though, is it?

MILLER: Right. The Saudi government insists they are not putting any strings on this money. That the Saudi government often compensates victims even of natural disasters and this should be viewed in the same way. But of course, it can't be viewed in the same way. These are the children, the grown adult children of a journalist who was critical of the Saudi government and was brutally murdered in a Saudi government facility. So, I think there is no other way to look at this. There is compensation to the family for that brutal act and I think also in an effort to try to give them no reason to become more outspoken in their criticism of the government. To not become symbols of that regime's repression.

BALDWIN: You mention the issue of how far to go in protecting their father's legacy has been a source of tension among the Khashoggi siblings. How do you mean?

MILLER: I think that these are siblings and they all have different positions and opinions on this. And so, there are a few and I think it l the daughters particularly who have tended to want to be more outspoken, they are the ones that wrote an op-ed piece for The Washington Post that talked about their father. While the sons have -- listen, we're not going to get our father we should make sure that we get -- take care of ourselves at this point and ensure that we're able to live our lives. And the oldest son obviously wants to continue living in Saudi Arabia. So that is a very delicate thing for him. He has to consider if the family becomes too critical of the government, would he be able to stay there and continue in his career with his family.

BALDWIN: Greg Miller, thank you very much. "The Washington Post." appreciate it.

Today is the Democrat's deadline for the Attorney General to release the Mueller report and it is -- that is not likely going to happen, we have heard from Bill Barr and he'll have it out by mid-April. Subpoenas are still coming and James Comey, one of the people involved in the investigation, just reacted to the Barr letter on CNN. What he says about obstruction.



TRUMP: People say the Secretary General will be with us for quite a long time because he was just extended, so congratulations on that. That is a big thing and I was with your 100 percent and I think you know that. We've felt strongly on that. And we worked together on getting some of our allies to pay their fair share. It is called burden sharing and as you know when I came it wasn't so good. And now -- they are catching up.

We have seven of the 28 countries are currently current and the rest are trying to catch up and they will catch up and some of them have no problems because they haven't been paying and their very rich. But we're looking at the 2 percent of GDP level and at some point, I think it is going to have to go higher than that. I think probably it should be higher. But we're at a level of 7 out of the 28. The United States pays for a very big share of NATO, a disproportionate share but the relationship with NATO is very good. The relationship with the secretary general has been outstanding. And I think tremendous progress has been made, if you look -- in fact you showed me this originally yourself, if you look at the charts and the different things.