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Trump to Sign Controversial Religious Liberty EO; House Voting on Repealing, Replacing Obamacare; Trump Speech on Religious Liberty; Interview with Rep. Phil Roe. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired May 04, 2017 - 11:30   ET


[11:30:00] KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: This is an important moment. This is a promise the president made on the campaign trail of something he would do.

Let's go to Jim Acosta, live in the Rose Garden as we get ready for this to get under way.

Jim, what are we expecting?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Kate. I'm going to mention, I'll speak in hushed tones as there are prayers under way before the president comes out and addresses this crowd.

You're exactly right, he'll sign this executive order in a few moments that will essentially direct the Internal Revenue Service to show discretion in enforcing what is known as the Johnson Amendment, which restricts churches and tax-exempt religious organizations from engaging in political activity. This is something the president talked about time and again out on the campaign trail. It was one of his big pitches to Christian conservatives across the country and helped to rally Christian conservatives to his cause during that campaign.

But keep in mind, Kate, as they're talking about this here in the Rose Garden, there are some prayers going on down on the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue as they get ready to take this vote on health care to repeal and replace Obamacare. And they're very mindful of that at the White House. I can tell you from talking to various White House officials early this morning, they're cautiously optimistic, is how one White House official described to me about this vote expected to take place in a couple hours.

Keep in mind, Kate, there is nervousness in the Republican Party, not only because they know this is going to be very tight, but I talked to a key Republican source a little while ago who said this proposal, Dana was talking about this with Congressman Meadows, this proposal is still going to receive a Congressional Budget Office score after this vote happens. So, when that vote happens, it's not going to be after these members of Congress had a chance to read this legislation thoroughly or even have a score come back from the Congressional Budget Office. That could be problematic for these lawmakers after this vote goes down.

We should also point out a little bit of news coming out of the White House this morning, in that it was confirmed by officials here that the president on this upcoming trip to the G-7 in Brussels -- excuse me, the G-7 in Sicily and meeting with NATO in Brussels, that in addition to those two stops, he's going to be visiting Israel, the Vatican in Italy and Saudi Arabia during this first foreign trip for the president.

A big day at the White House for the president. You know, a great deal riding on this health care vote here in a couple hours for this president. Something he promised time and again, to repeal Obamacare. Of course, more coming up later this month on this big foreign trip that's happening here in a couple weeks -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: A busy month, a busy week, a busy day right now at the White House.

Great to see you, Jim. Thank you so much.

ACOSTA: You've got it.

BOLDUAN: We'll get back to Jim, back to the Rose Garden as soon as President Trump comes out of the White House to take part in this National Day of Prayer and sign that executive order.

We're also keeping our eye on the other side of your screen, Capitol Hill, where they are expected to vote on Republican efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare.

Let me bring in Republican Congressman Phil Roe, chairman of the GOP caucus. He also played an instrumental role in drafting this bill.

Congressman, thank you for the time.

REP. PHIL ROE, (R), TENNESSEE: Kate, thanks for having me on.

BOLDUAN: Take me inside the room this morning when you all got together. What was the message from Paul Ryan today?

ROE: The message was upbeat. Look, it's been a long struggle. At times, the debate is good. I think we've had a healthy debate in our party that was good. I think it was good for the country. Most importantly for me, as a doctor, it's important for patients because I think about this every time we pass legislation, how does this affect our patients that I see, does it make it easier for them and less expensive for them to come see the doctor and get their care.

BOLDUAN: Congressman, here is what Democrats are saying today. This is no news to you. You've heard it as well. They say what's going on is hypocrisy. Republicans slammed Democrats for jamming through Obamacare years ago without knowing what was in it.

Paul Ryan was one of those folks slamming Democrats. Just listen to this.


REP. PAUL RYAN, (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I don't think we should pass bills that we haven't read that we don't know what it costs. If you rush this through before anybody even knows what it is, that's not good democracy. That's not doing our work for our constituents. We shouldn't rush this thing through just to rush it through for artificial deadline. Let's get this done right.


BOLDUAN: That was from 2009. No CBO score, no committee meetings. How is this not the same thing?

ROE: That's very simple. That was a 2500-page bill. Our bill is less than 200 pages long. There was a 27-hour debate in Energy and Commerce and about a 20-hour debate in Ways and Means on the meats and bones of this. The Upton Amendment is two pages long. I read it in three minutes this morning. Basically, very specific. So, everyone's had a chance to read this bill. We've been talking about these ideas and concepts now for years.

BOLDUAN: You don't think this is rushed through?

ROE: No, it's not rushed. Most of us wish it had been done two months ago. The amendments are better.

I live in a state and the district I represent that a third of the counties have no way to buy insurance through the exchange. I have to do something. And I believe that this bill right here will do several things. One, I think it will increase the number of people with health insurance. I think it will lower costs and increase quality of care. That's what I'm interested in.

[11:35:23] BOLDUAN: Here's the thing, exactly to that point, Congressman, is the CBO score, for all of its benefits and faults and what people think about CBO, that helps kind of back you up and understand how many people it will help and what the effect of legislation is. How -- why not wait for a CBO score?

ROE: I think the reason we're moving on is it's time to get past this debate. The CBO scored the ACA in 2010. They said 24 million people would be covered in the individual market. That number was about 10 million and it's going down, not up. The CBO assumed 14 million people would lose their insurance. That includes me. I've never had a mandate in my life to buy insurance and I've always provided it for my family.


BOLDUAN: Congressman, do you think if you had waited for the CBO score you would have lost votes or something?

ROE: No, I don't think so. I think not. I think the votes are there. I think it's going to be a close vote but I really believe the votes are there.

This is -- again, this is not about politics and votes. This is about providing health insurance so that families can go out and get health care. BOLDUAN: Right.

ROE: In my own hometown, in my own hometown, where I practiced medicine for over 30 years, 60 percent to 70 percent of the uncollectible debt in our hospital now are people with insurance. That's not sustainable. We had a 60 percent increase in premiums in our state in the individual market. That's not sustainable. They look at me and say, Dr. Roe, please do something to help us --


BOLDUAN: Congressman, I only have to cut you off to go to the White House. We're going to President Trump.

Can I just say, real quick, Congressman, I want to wish you very good luck. You're getting married this weekend.

ROE: I am.

BOLDUAN: I want to say congratulations to you and best wishes to the bride. Just want to say that.

Thank you for your time.

ROE: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Let's get over to the White House. You see Vice President Mike Pence and President Trump live from the Rose Garden. Let's listen in.



PENCE: To Pastor Paula White, Pastor Jack Graham, Cardinal Wohrle (ph), Rabbi Haier (ph), and to all our distinguished guests, the president and I are honored by your presence and grateful for your prayers.

From the founding of this nation, Americans have claimed that ancient promise, that if his people, who are called by his name, will humble themselves and pray and seek his face, that he will hear from heaven and heal their land. In 1775, the Second Continental Congress established a day of fasting and prayer. President Abraham Lincoln similarly urged Americans to pray so, in his words, "The united cry of nation will be heard on high and answered with blessing." In 1952, President Harry Truman and the Congress formally established this National Day of Prayer as a time set aside each year for the American people to turn to God in prayer and meditation. Every president has issued a proclamation in honor of this day ever since. But not every president has done so in the Rose Garden at the White House.


PENCE: Today, our president will continue that great tradition, to proclaim the importance of prayer to the American people and to reaffirm the vital role that institutions and people of faith play in our national life. Our president is a believer. He loves his family and he loves his country with an unshakeable faith in God and the American people.

So with gratitude for that faith and for the actions that he takes today and every day, it is now my high honor and distinct privilege to introduce to all of you the president of the United States of America, President Donald Trump.


TRUMP: Thank you.


TRUMP: Thank you, everyone. Thank you very much. Thank you very much.


TRUMP: Thank you.


[11:39:53] TRUMP: Thank you very much to Vice President Mike Pence. I am very fortunate to have Mike with me. He's a man of very deep faith. I can tell you that. Great character and conviction.

Mike, thank you very much for making this journey with me and with all of us, believe me. It's been great to have you.

I also want to thank Pastor Jack Graham, Cardinal Donald Wohrle (ph) and Rabbi Marvin Haier (ph) for leading us in prayer.

Thank you. Thank you very much. Thank you.


I also want to mention, as you know, Cardinal Donato (ph) and all the other great faith leaders that we have, I see Franklin Graham, so many are here, so many great friends, so many great supporters. And we very much appreciate it.

Because we're a nation of believers.


TRUMP: Faith is deeply imbedded into the history of our country, the spirit of our founding and the soul of our nation. It is a beautiful thing to see these three faith leaders from three very different faith traditions come together to lift up our nation in prayer. And it's great to do it at the White House, isn't it? Isn't that great?

(APPLAUSE) TRUMP: Because not only are we a nation of faith, but we're a nation of tolerance. As we look at the violence around the world -- and believe me, it's violent, I get to see it perhaps better than anybody -- we realize how truly blessed we are to live in a nation that honors the freedom of worship.

Today, my administration is leading by example as we take historic steps to protect religious liberty in the United States of America.


TRUMP: We will not allow people of faith to be targeted, bullied or silenced anymore.


TRUMP: And we will never, ever stand for religious discrimination. Never, ever.


TRUMP: Tolerance is the cornerstone of peace. And that is why I am proud to make a major and historic announcement this morning and to share with you that my first foreign trip as president of the United States will be to Saudi Arabia, then Israel, and then to a place that my cardinals love very much, Rome.


TRUMP: These visits will take place ahead of the NATO G-7, and will begin with a truly historic gathering in Saudi Arabia with leaders from all across the Muslim world. Saudi Arabia is the custodian of the two holiest sites in Islam. It is there that we will begin to construct a new foundation of cooperation and support with our Muslim allies to combat extremism, terrorism and violence, and to embrace a more just and hopeful future for young Muslims in their countries.


TRUMP: Our task is not to dictate to others how to live, but to build a coalition of friends and partners who share the goal of fighting terrorism and bringing safety, opportunity and stability to the war- ravaged Middle East.


TRUMP: We all pray we can make a difference. We pray for peace.

Just over 150 years ago, President Lincoln called for a National Day of Prayer -- today -- after he feared we were becoming a nation too proud to pray to the God that made us.


TRUMP: Today, we recall President Lincoln's words as we sign a proclamation designating today as National Day of Prayer. That's what we want, a National Day of Prayer. And it's so great to be doing it in the Rose Garden. How beautiful is that?


TRUMP: It was looking like you'd never get here, folks, but you got here.



[11:45:23] TRUMP: Thank you.


TRUMP: Thank you.


TRUMP: Thank you. Thank you very much. So true.

And we remember this eternal truth. Freedom is not a gift from government. Freedom is a gift from God.


TRUMP: It was Thomas Jefferson who said, "The God who gave us life, gave us liberty." Our founding fathers believed that religious liberty was so fundamental that they enshrined it in the very First Amendment of our great and beloved Constitution. Yet, for too long, the federal government has used the power of the state as a weapon against people of faith, bullying and even punishing Americans for following their religious beliefs. That has been happening. That is why I'm signing today an executive order to defend the freedom of religion and speech in America, the freedoms that we've wanted, the freedoms that you fought for so long, and we are doing it in just a little while right over here.


TRUMP: Thank you.


TRUMP: Thank you.


TRUMP: Thank you, all. Thank you.

No American should be forced to choose between the dictates of the federal government and the tenets of their faith. As I campaigned across the country, faith leaders explained that they were prevented from speaking their minds because of a 1954 rule known as the Johnson Amendment. I spoke about it a lot. Under this rule, if a pastor, priest or imam, speaks about issues of public or political importance, they are threatened with the loss of their tax-exempt status. A crippling financial punishment. Very, very unfair. But no longer. I promised to take action if I won. If I didn't win, I gave you no promise. That's for sure. If I didn't win, I guess I'd be gone, right? I'd be out enjoying my life, I think, but I wouldn't be helping you with the Johnson Amendment. And to this end, this financial threat against the faith community is over.


TRUMP: In just a few moments, I will be signing an executive order to follow through on that pledge and to prevent the Johnson Amendment from interfering with your First Amendment rights. And you're the people I want to listen to. Other people are allowed to tell me and everybody what to do. I want to hear it from you. And so do a lot of other people. So, you're now in a position where you can say what you want to say. And I know you'll only say good and you'll say what's in your heart. And that's what we want from you. You are great, great people. You are great, great people. Thank you. Thank you.


TRUMP: This executive order directs the IRS not to unfairly target churches and religious organizations for political speech. No one should be censuring sermons or targeting pastors.


[11:49:47] TRUMP: And I know one thing. It never stopped Dr. Ben Carson. He said the heck with the Johnson Amendment.

Right Ben?

I've been with Ben and he did what he wanted to do.

But not everybody's going to do that, Ben. You know that, right?

In America, we do not fear people speaking freely from the pulpit. We embrace it. America has a rich tradition of social change beginning in our pews and our pulpits. Perhaps there is no greater example than the role of the African-American church as the agent for social progress, spurring our nation to greater justice and equality. We must never infringe on the noble tradition of change from the church and progress from the pew.


TRUMP: Thank you.

Under my administration, free speech does not end at the steps of a cathedral or a synagogue or any other house of worship. We are giving our churches their voices back and we are giving them back in the highest form.

With this executive order, we also make clear that the federal government will never, ever penalize any person for their protected religious beliefs.


TRUMP: That is why I am today directing the Department of Justice to develop new rules to ensure these religious protections are afforded to all Americans. There were more than 50 religious Americans and groups sued the previous -- and you've seen that -- 50 sued the previous administration for violating their religious freedom. The abuses were widespread. The abuses were all over. As just one example, people were forbidden from giving or receiving religious items at a military hospital where our brave servicemembers were being treated and when they wanted those religious items. These were great, great people. These are great soldiers. They wanted those items. They were precluded from getting them. And we know all too well the attacks against the Little Sisters of the Poor.


TRUMP: Incredible nuns who care for the sick, the elderly and the forgotten.

Where are they, by the way? Where are they?

Could you stand, Sister. Stand.

Come on up here. Come on up.




TRUMP: Congratulations. They sort of just won that lawsuit. That was pretty good. That's a good way of doing it, huh?

Well, I want you to know that your long ordeal will soon be over. OK? It's been a long hard ordeal.


TRUMP: We've all been watching. Some of you have been very much involved. A lot of us have been watching the news for years and five years.

You had good lawyers? Huh?


TRUMP: Where are your lawyers? Stand up. Come on. Stand up. Good job.


TRUMP: Do you mind if I use your lawyers?


I could use some good lawyers, too.

Good job. Great job.

With this executive order, we are ending the attacks on your religious liberty and we are proudly reaffirming America's leadership role as a nation that protects religious freedom for everyone.


TRUMP: Over 60 years ago, the IRS went after one of the greatest leaders in history, Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. It is a sobering reminder of the need for vigilance. The words of Reverend King and other religious leaders have awakened the conscious of millions and millions of Americans and inspired us to act in the name of peace, justice, freedom, and charity. Every president must work to protect -- and we have to do this. We have no choice to do this. We have absolutely no choice -- to protect these hard-fought gains. They have been hard fought. They have been fought for so many years, for so many decades, for so many centuries. And this is a very special today perhaps for that reason. That's why we're here today, to defend the rights of all Americans, to honor our great Constitution, and to protect the sacred liberties given to us, not by any earthly power, but by our creator in heaven.


[11:55:49] TRUMP: I'd like to thank all of you great, great religious leaders for being with us today. We have some of our great political leaders -- oh, you can have them.


They know. They know.

Today's a very big day. We have a big vote coming up in a little while. And I thought it was very appropriate that it turned out to be you folks, and then I have to deal with those politicians. But they're good. I will tell you, they're good. They work very hard. And hopefully, we're going to have a wonderful day and a wonderful vote and we're going to take care of a lot of people, great, great people from this country with their health care, their health care needs. We hope to be able to do that. We have all fought very hard to be able to do that.

So I want to say to everybody in attendance and everybody in our country and everybody in the world, God bless you and God bless America.

Thank you all very much. Thank you.


TRUMP: Thank you.


TRUMP: Thank you very much



TRUMP: OK, National Day of Prayer. We like that, don't we?


TRUMP: Proclamation.


TRUMP: In honor of Dr. Martin Luther King.


BOLDUAN: All right. President Trump right there in the Rose Garden making remarks in classic Trump fashion on the National Day of Prayer and also signing this executive order he's talking about right now. He'll sign it and likely will do his show and tell as he often does.

Let's bring back the panel to discuss this.

This is an executive order. It's a very big deal to discuss this, Abby. This gets to a law. The Johnson Amendment has been on the books since '54 I think it is. This doesn't change the law. Congress has to do that. What does this do? Does it really change -- does it change anything?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL ANAYST: Well, it might change the sort of culture around political expression. It instructs the government not to nears the law. How far that's going to go we don't know because it will be subject to a lot of legal challenges. It's not very durable. The next president can just do away with it. But a lot in favor say it will basically open the flood gates for churches to spend money in very political ways. They could then conceivably cut ads for candidates. It becomes a potential "money in politics" kind of issue even though it sounds more like it's about freedom of expression in churches.

BOLDUAN: But campaign promise. Promise made, promise kept?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It is a campaign promise although the law is not being changed.

BOLDUAN: That's exactly right.

ZELENY: It's yet another executive order which he enjoys signing. It's significant symbolically. On the edges, the idea of spending money by these religious groups will be so different. But he promised to change the law. That's not happening. But significant, still.

BOLDUAN: He also said he was going to totally destroy it, is the way he said it.

A quick final thought from you before we go.

CAITLIN HUEY-BURNS, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, REAL CLEAR POLITICS: Politically, too, I mean, social conservatives have been saying that they have been seeing a lot to like in this president. A year ago, covering the meeting, they had with him in Manhattan and they were skeptical. They've seen this signing of the policy. They've seen a Supreme Court justice, the Mexico City policy.


BOLDUAN: We'll see what's next, right?

President Trump embracing the day. And then, also, we're live on Capitol Hill for another big moment with the health care vote in the House.

Thank you so much for joining us AT THIS HOUR.

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