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Congress Investigates White House Security Clearances; Trump to Offer No Plan to Replace Obamacare Until After Election; CNN to Host Democratic Presidential Debate in Detroit. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired April 2, 2019 - 15:00   ET



BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Hour two. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

Here's the news just in. CNN has finalized details for the second Democratic presidential debate, which this network will host.

And our senior political analyst, Mark Preston, is with me with those details.

So, Mark, tell me more.

MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICAL EDITOR: Well, Brooke, as you just said, the DNC, the Democratic National Committee, has named Detroit as the host for the second debate.

Now, this is a move that is going to be seen as symbolic in some ways, but certainly sending a message to Republicans that Democrats are not going to cede the Midwest. They're going into Detroit, a city which has a very strong and vibrant labor movement.

Of course, we know that has a very large African-American population. These are two very important constituencies to the Democratic Party, certainly constituencies that Democrats are relying on, but it also is home to these Midwest Democratic voters that Democrats lost back in 2016.

Donald Trump won the state of Michigan. However, Democrats came back. They won the governorship in 2018. Democrats now are heading there in July. It will be on July 30 and 31. Won't be one night, Brooke. We expect it to be two nights. Could be upwards of 10 candidates each night on stage.


PRESTON: There's a lot of excitement right now in the Democratic Party. I'm sure we're going to see that on the debate stage up in Detroit at the end of July -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: Midwest next July. Mark Preston, thank you very much for that news. Also, some breaking news now. The House Oversight Committee just

voted to subpoena the man in charge of approving White House security clearances. This is all happening after a whistle-blower alerted House investigators that her boss and others approved the security clearances for 25 people who had disqualifying issues.

A source tells CNN that both Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump are on the list of 25 Republicans and Democrats incredibly divided over the issue.

So let's go to our CNN senior congressional correspondent, Manu Raju, with more.

And so what have you just learned on the subpoena?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, along party lines. This vote was 22-15 in the House Oversight Committee to authorize a subpoena for Carl Kline, who's the former head of personnel security in the White House.

He's the individual in which this woman Tricia Newbold, who's been working in administrations for past 18 years, worked in the White House, right now, she alleging that this individual, Mr. Kline, overrode her concerns about a number of individuals, 25 individuals.

We learned Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner are among them, the people who got their security clearances despite those initial concerns. Now, Jim Jordan, the top of Republican on the committee, just came out. And he said that this is all a political show.

And I asked him if he had any concerns about the whistle-blower's -- what the whistle-blower has raised to the committee.


REP. JIM JORDAN (R), OHIO: So, obviously, we will show her the respect that any whistle-blower deserves.

But the bottom line is, and she said this in her -- in her interview. The president of the United States can -- can -- is entitled to have the people around him who he thinks going to give him as commander in chief the best possible advice.


RAJU: But she also said there's -- she also said there's lackluster safeguards. She said people got interim security clearances who later were deemed not to get some interim security clearances.

Do you take any of those concerns seriously?

JORDAN: I think we take seriously the process that should be played out when we're doing an investigation. And the idea the Democrats are going to interview one witness and then do a big press conference like they're getting ready to do, issue a big press statement yesterday, and then subpoena someone who's already said they would come in voluntarily, I think that's a problem with an investigation that's -- that's being run in the manner that it's being run by the Democrats.


RAJU: So, the committee plans to pursue this going forward, not just Carl Kline. They want to bring in other witnesses too, people who know about why these security clearances were issued for individuals who, according to Ms. Newbold, were not -- should not have been granted any security clearances, either interim security clearances or permanent security clearances.

Democrats say this is far worse than the Hillary Clinton e-mail situation, something that Republicans, of course, are pushing back against. We are expecting comments from Elijah Cummings, the chairman of the House Oversight Committee, momentarily.

His same committee, Brooke, today, just moments ago also issued subpoenas for information regarding the citizenship question that was on the census, including to Wilbur Ross, the commerce secretary. So, subpoenas are flying from this committee, as well as others, including the House Judiciary Committee tomorrow, of course, wants the subpoena for the full Mueller report, the underlying evidence.

The question ultimately is, will the administration comply, will any of these individuals comply? Will the Democrats get what they're looking for, Brooke?

BALDWIN: Well, keep your ear to the ground on whatever Chairman Cummings may say.


Manu Raju, thank you very much on all that news coming off Capitol Hill.

And now to this, the latest whiplash policy maneuver out of the White House that the president just commented on. Turns out that the saying of repeal and replace actually means repeal now and replace later, like way later.

Less than one week after making this major promise of replacing Obamacare, the president is now punting, pushing health care reform after the 2020 election.

This is what the president said just a second ago.


QUESTION: Did Mitch McConnell ask you to delay this?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No, I wanted to delay it myself. I want to put it after the election, because we don't have the House. So, even though the health care is good, really good, it's much better than -- when the plan comes out, which will be showing you at the appropriate time, it's much better than Obamacare. So, when the plan comes out, you will see it. It's possible the

Democrats would want to do it. I mean, it's much better for the people. But I'm assuming they won't, because the Democrats never do anything that necessarily is going to be anything other than political.


BALDWIN: Let's go to our CNN chief White House correspondent, Jim Acosta.

And Jim, the president speaks like there is a current Republican health plan that just hasn't been introduced publicly yet. But let me just be crystal clear. Does the White House have an actual plan to replace Obamacare? Do Republicans have a plan?


And, apparently, what the president is announcing now is a repeal and revisit plan. They don't have a replace plan. And what you heard the president say there during that visit with reporters in the Oval Office just a few moments ago is that he wants to take a look at this after the 2020 election.

He says, right now, because they don't have the House, because Democrats control the House, there's really much of a hope of getting anything through the House, if they were to come up with a bill.

Now, I did talk to a White House official earlier this morning, who tried to add some texture to all of this. And what this person said was, is that, the president is just acknowledging the realities of Washington right now, that that if he were to come out with some sort of legislative proposal to replace Obamacare, it's just not going to make it through the House.

And so the president essentially acknowledged what we have known for about a week now. And that is, while they have signed on, the administration has signed on its support to a Republican attorney general effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act in the courts, at this point, the White House, Republican members of Congress don't really have a consensus health care plan to replace that legislation, that law with.

When I talked to this White House officials this morning, they said that they were talking about priorities and sort of the outlines of a health care replacement proposal, but nothing hard and firm just yet, Brooke.

BALDWIN: What about the comments he just made sitting there with the NATO secretary-general on the border with Mexico?


BALDWIN: And, actually, when he was asked about the negative impact, in terms of trade and commerce and money, on the U.S., he acknowledged that closing the border would have a negative impact.

ACOSTA: He did.

And we should point out the president is still ratcheting up the rhetoric on this, although he's talking out of all sides of his mouth. He -- at one point, he said, if we don't get a deal with Democrats, he's going to close the border, 100 percent. And then a few breaths later, Brooke, he said, well, maybe I won't close all of the border, maybe we will just close portions of it.

And so he is sort of dancing all over the place on a couple of big issues, not just health care, but also immigration. But on this question of trade, because there's been a lot of discussion over the last couple of days, when the president -- in the aftermath of the president making this threat.

And it's been raised that there's a lot of trade that goes back and forth across that border with Mexico. The president told reporters just a few moments ago that he cares more about national security than trade.

But, Brooke, he did acknowledge there would be an economic impact if the border is shut down, because there is so much commerce that goes right across that border in both directions on a daily basis -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: Jim Acosta, thank you.

ACOSTA: You bet.

BALDWIN: A senior White House official says their focus will now be to keep Democrats on the defense over their proposals from Medicare for all, which is a full government-run health insurance program.

But today also brings a new proposal from the Democrat with a similar name, but a big difference. Medicare X does not replace private insurance. Instead, it would be offered alongside other plans currently on the exchange. The nonprofit insurance policy would offer doctors in Medicare's network and would be offered first to rural areas, where there is less competition for health plans.

So, with me now, one of the architects of Obamacare, Zeke Emanuel, who wrote the book -- here we go -- "Reinventing American Health Care: How the Affordable Care Act Will Improve Our Terribly Complex, Blatantly Unjust, Outrageously Expensive, Grossly Inefficient, Error Prone System."


Good to have you back on, Zeke.


BALDWIN: So you and I had a chat last week, after the news came that Trump wanted to upend Obamacare. And you said to me -- quote -- "President Trump really has chutzpah to say, oh, well, we're going to come up with an alternative plan that's better than Obamacare."


How much chutzpah do you think the president has now?


EMANUEL: Well, I think Jim put it really well.

He -- 180 degree turn. It's probably the plan that's under how we're going to defeat ISIS, how we're going to get 3 percent sustained growth in the economy. There is simply no plan there. There's not even an idea of a plan that's coherent, that will get us access, universal access, that will get everyone with preexisting conditions covered and control health care costs.


EMANUEL: Those are the three goals, and he doesn't have the shreds of an idea to actually make that happen.

BALDWIN: Are you afraid, though, that the lack of a plan for the next year-and-a-half might actually work for Republicans?


I think the American public is very nervous about health coverage. They're nervous because costs are going up.


BALDWIN: But he's president. He's president. He made those promises. And he won.

EMANUEL: Yes, but I don't think they're -- the public is willing to tolerate that.

And here's, I think, the most important piece of data there is that if more than 50 percent of Republicans are interested in Medicare for all, that suggests that there's a lot of uncertainty and fear in the system, especially fear, if we have a recession, that they might lose coverage, and that there won't be a coherent safety net.

And I think that's driving a lot of the health care debate. And I think the president has no answer to that. Trust me is not an answer, especially since the Republicans -- as I keep pointing out, we have had nine years since the debate about Obamacare, since Obamacare was passed, and they have never once put out a coherent policy alternative.

So I don't think we're about to get one in the next year-and-a-half.

BALDWIN: No, we won't. I mean, the president has admitted it.

But -- so, all right, figure out a plan post-2020, after Trump wins. This is -- this is his new line. But what could happen if the U.S. district judge in Texas rules that Obamacare can be repealed and there is still no plan to replace? What then?

EMANUEL: Well, the district judge did already rule that. The issue is what the appellate court judges decide.

BALDWIN: The appellate court judge.

EMANUEL: And I do not think they are going to actually agree that this is completely unconstitutional.

And I don't think it -- I mean, if they rule it's unconstitutional, then we're going to have a crisis. A lot of people are going to lose their health coverage, and there are going to be a lot of people who are going to be nervous about losing their health coverage.

And that, I think -- if you want to give the Democrats the 2020 election overwhelmingly, that would do it.

BALDWIN: Democratic Senators Tim Kaine and Michael Bennet will be introducing their Medicare X plan, which would create this new public option for health insurance. Take a listen.


SEN. TIM KAINE (D), VIRGINIA: Within in time, it would be on every exchange in the country and also on the small business shop exchange.

Because Medicare doesn't have to cover a profit, pay shareholders, pay fancy salaries to execs, advertise on the evening news, set up a distribution network, et cetera, pay state and local taxes, it would be a much more affordable policy. And people could purchase it if they want. And they could use their Obamacare subsidy, if they qualify for one, to even bring the premium down further.


BALDWIN: You guys weighed a public option about a decade ago, and the Democratic Party seems to have shifted since then. Do you think it's a realistic plan now?

EMANUEL: Well, several things have happened.

One is, we have seen some uncertainty in parts of the exchange plans where there's either no plan or more likely just one plan, especially in rural counties. And I think this is an effort to address that and, again, to put some solid-base safety net there so that people can be sure that there's a plan, coverage they can get.

I think that's solving a problem that was revealed by Obamacare. And I do think that that's new. The other thing which I would say that is important in this bill...


EMANUEL: ... is that they would allow price negotiations with the drug companies for Part D plans. And I think that also is something that a lot of Americans are supportive of. We have to have price negotiations on drugs. And I think adding that to this bill makes it more appealing. This is clearly not single- payer. It doesn't, as you noted, get rid of private insurance. It's more of an effort to shore up the Affordable Care Act and to provide some solutions for more Americans within the current system.

BALDWIN: OK. Just so -- one week later, you're still not losing any sleep over any of this health care business?

EMANUEL: I don't -- no, I -- well, I don't lose sleep. What I do lament is...


EMANUEL: ... we are losing valuable time and that we do need to fix problems in the system that we have recognized.


EMANUEL: Top of the list is high prices, high drug prices, high hospital prices, and I think, again, reforming the system so that it becomes more efficient.



EMANUEL: And by battling the Republicans constantly trying to repeal the Affordable Care Act, instead of trying to move forward and get a more affordable system for millions of Americans, we have gridlock.

And that is a problem. Democrats have lots of ideas. We have put -- you now have probably the fifth different proposal forward by Democrats, and we have no proposal by Republicans. And I do think that's very revealing.

BALDWIN: Zeke Emanuel, thank you.

EMANUEL: Thank you. Thank you for...


BALDWIN: Still ahead -- you got it. Thank you for being here.

Still ahead, Senator Bernie Sanders rakes in $18 million in first- quarter fund-raising, this as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi just weighed in on accusations from two women who say former Vice President Joe Biden made them feel uncomfortable.

And, later, L.A. police release new details about the murder of rapper Nipsey Hussle -- what we're learning about his relationship to the suspect, who is still on the run.


[15:20:22] BALDWIN: The House Oversight Committee just voted to subpoena a top official in charge of approving security clearances at the White House after a whistle-blower claimed several staffers who were granted clearance had glaring disqualifying issues, but, before the vote, some fiery debate from lawmakers.


REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D), MARYLAND: 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.

JORDAN: First a Saturday deposition, then yesterday, a press release after talking to just one witness, where you hand-pick a few 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 have been on this committee 10 years. I never seen anything like this.


JORDAN: Never seen anything like this. I haven't.

CUMMINGS: Yes, you have done it.

JORDAN: I haven't.

REP. JACKIE SPEIER (D), CALIFORNIA: 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.

REP. MARK GREEN (R), TENNESSEE: Overturning the security clearances is a choice the commander in chief can make. He's the president of the United States. It's not against the law. It's not against policy. There have been no leaks of national security information.

It's not like this process has led to classified e-mails being on an unsecured server.

REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D), NEW YORK: Folks are suggesting that we are conducting foreign relations with folks with security clearances via WhatsApp.

I mean, every day that we go on without getting to the bottom of this matter is a day that we are putting hundreds, if not potentially thousands of Americans at risk.

I mean, really, what is next, putting nuclear codes in Instagram D.M.s? This is ridiculous. We need to get to the bottom of this. And in order to do that, we have to issue subpoenas, because people in this administration are not cooperating.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BALDWIN: Mark Zaid is a national security attorney.

And, Mark, nice to see you.


BALDWIN: This is essentially about that whistle-blower's boss, a man by the name of Carl Kline. And we know his attorneys have agreed to voluntary testimony.

Tell me, what is issuing a subpoena going to actually get this committee?

ZAID: Well, I'm a little perplexed about that as well. And I am concerned.

Let me say this first. The House Reform and Oversight Committee should absolutely be conducting investigations and hearings into this type of issue. Now, there are separation of powers issues with respect to the constitutional authority of the executive branch to issue clearances.

But this is an absolute legitimate issue for this committee to handle, with bipartisanship. So I will actually side a little bit with Congressman Jordan to say, why did the committee issue this memo hours after it interviewed one witness?

But, at the same time, when Congressman Jordan says it should be bipartisan, I say, step up to the plate, Congressman and your Republican colleagues. Why are you not joining with the Democrats to investigate whether or not this White House is using politics to override the national security concerns of the United States, which both sides should believe in?

BALDWIN: When you -- when you read this memo from this committee, it details this wide range of reasons why these individuals weren't initially cleared, right?

So it includes foreign influence, conflicts of interest, concerning personal conduct, financial problems, drug use, and criminal conduct.

So, so if you were Carl Kline or his attorneys, how do you defend their decisions, outside of simply saying, hey, it's a choice the commander in chief can make?

ZAID: So it's obviously really difficult, not knowing the details of each of these more than two dozen cases.


ZAID: Let me just say this.

The memos, as I understand it, these adjudicators, regardless if it's in the White House or any agencies, would receive information on what's called the SF-86, as well as in the background investigations, credit reports, although that that's an issue in this particular case, because apparently the White House stopped looking at credit reports in some cases, which I don't understand that decision at all, except for the wrong reasons.

But the adjudicators would look at all of this and identify disqualifying conditions, and based on that make a recommendation. What we don't know is, what were the mitigating conditions?


So you gave us an example criminal conduct.

BALDWIN: Mm-hmm.

ZAID: Let's say someone had a DUI. That could be disqualifying, for obvious reasons, with alcoholism. That's a specific guideline in the adjudicated guidelines.

What would be mitigating? They went to A.A. They have abstained drinking for the last eight months.

BALDWIN: Got it.

ZAID: They have done all sorts of things. We need to know all that.

So it's what's called the whole person concept to determine whether a clearance should be granted. What we don't know, based on this whistle-blower, who has been very brave -- and I commend her, because she's done it the right way -- is, what happened along the way?

When she wrote these memos and others who said, we -- we would recommend denying these individuals, what happened next at Carl Kline's level and elsewhere? Did they talk to the political appointees who were told, you must give these clearances, or did they actually render, in their judgment, that the clearances should be granted?

And that is possibly what oversight hearings can look into, with the caveat that all of these people, including Jared and Ivanka, are entitled to privacy. They have privacy protections. But I think these hearings can be done in a way to get at the substantive issues, without violating anyone's privacy.

BALDWIN: Sure, the mitigating information, all those details, that's what these members of Congress...

ZAID: Absolutely.

BALDWIN: ... on this committee are trying to get their hands on.

Mark Zaid, thank you so much for laying that out for so well. Appreciate it.

ZAID: Any time.

BALDWIN: Appreciate it. The president insults Puerto Rican officials, as an aid package fails

in the U.S. Senate -- why the creator of "Hamilton" is involved in this fight.

Plus, Senator Bernie Sanders releasing his first-quarter fund-raising numbers. We will talk about what it says about the Democratic race and others who are doing quite well.