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New Day

Part of President Trump's 2005 Tax Returns Released; House Health Care Bill Draws Criticism; Interview with Senator Lindsay Graham; Obamacare Versus GOP Health Care Plan. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired March 15, 2017 - 08:00   ET


[08:00:00] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He feels very confident this will vindicate him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: James Comey expected to confirm if the FBI's investigating Trump's ties to Russia.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Too many people are losing insurance. That's not what President Trump asked.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the American health care act. The president is proud of it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If it's so good, why aren't they rushing to have their names on it.


ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, welcome to your NEW DAY. Alisyn is off. Poppy Harlow is here. Thank you as always.


And up first, we have a rare glimpse into President Trump's finances, kind of. Somebody leaked a client copy of Mr. Trump's 2005 tax returns, but just a couple of pages, and they reveal he did pay in taxes, how much money he paid, and how big his business losses were that helped lower his burden. But they are far from the whole story.

HARLOW: There's even more that they don't tell us. We're talking about just two pages. And a question this morning, is this just a distraction from the growing number of issues facing this president? The battle over his own party's health care plan, the battle within his own party, and the cloud of Russia looming over his administration. So much at stake on this day 55 of the Trump presidency. We have it all covered for you. Let's begin with Suzanne Malveaux in Washington. Good morning.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Poppy. With the release of Trump's 2005 1044 raises more questions than answers, like President Trump's possible business ties to Russia and other foreign entities, whether he skipped out on paying his fair share of taxes more recently. But interestingly enough, the disclosure is being treated more like a distraction from those who have been calling for his tax returns throughout the campaign.


MALVEAUX: The American public finding getting a glimpse of President Trump's federal tax returns. Investigative journalist David Cay Johnston obtaining the first two pages of Mr. Trump's 2005 taxes. The document shows he paid $38 million in taxes on more than $150 million in income, giving him an effective tax rate of roughly 25 percent. The White House confirming the figures in a statement on Tuesday night. The move comes as the White House is battling negative headlines on the GOP health care bill and the president's wiretapping claims, prompting Johnston to speculate whether the president himself or one of his staffers sent him the document anonymously.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you think it's possible he could have sent them to you?

DAVID CAY JOHNSTON, INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER: Oh, absolutely. I think it's entirely possible. Remember Donald has a long history of leaking information about himself.

MALVEAUX: Democrats largely dismissing the tax disclosure.

BRIAN FALLON, FORMER PRESS SECRETARY, HILLARY CLINTON: I don't think we learned anything at all interesting tonight. This report tonight I think would be a mistake for Democrats to get distracted by.

MALVEAUX: President Trump's son suggesting the release was actually a positive development for his father. "Breaking news, 12 years ago, Donald Trump made a lot of money and paid a lot in taxes. #scandal." This after President Trump insisted for months he could not release his tax returns because they are still under audit by the IRS.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm not releasing tax returns because, as you know, they're under audit. Almost every lawyer says don't release your returns when the audit is complete. When the audit is complete I'll do it.

I don't know. Depends on the audit. It depends on the audit. Not a big deal.

MALVEAUX: The DNC suggesting that the president may have other reasons for keeping his taxes to himself.


MALVEAUX: Early this morning, the journalist who received the tax forms spoke the NEW DAY and here is how he explains what he believes happened.


HARLOW: Do you think it was possible that it was sent to you by the president?

JOHNSTON: Yes. Donald has a long history of leaking things about himself and doing it directly or incorrectly. So it's a possibility. The anger with which the White House responded suggests not likely, however. It's when something gets leaked he's happy about it doesn't complain.


HARLOW: The DNC is urging folks not to focus on this this morning with the new health care plan threatening to kick millions off their coverage, Chris.

CUOMO: All right, Suzanne, thank you very much.

So in just hours, we have a big moment. FBI Director James Comey expected to reveal to lawmakers whether the bureau is investigating ties between the Trump campaign and Russia. This as concerns grow about the GOP health care bill after the CBO scoring. More Republicans are backing away saying they cannot support a bill if people will lose coverage. CNN's Joe Johns live at the White House with more. Joe?

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Chris. Think about what you're just saying there. You've got health care, you have the Russia investigation, you have wiretaps, just an extremely challenging period right now for this White House on multiple fronts, and not clear at all the extent to which the administration is going to have control over any of it.


JOHNS: President Donald Trump facing mounting pressure from members of his own party confronting internal revolt over the House health care bill and ongoing scrutiny of his unsubstantiated claim that President Obama wiretapped phones at Trump Tower.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: A lot of Americans need to know.

JOHNS: Amid this turmoil, FBI director James Comey could confirm today whether the bureau is investigating ties between Trump's campaign and Russia.

[08:05:04] Leaders of a Senate judiciary subcommittee also hopeful that Comey will also respond to their request to provide evidence regarding the wiretapping acquisition.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: They're about to screw up big time if they keep running to the Intel Committee and not answer that letter.

JOHNS: Earlier this week Sean Spicer qualified Trump's accusation, but now he's sounding defiant.

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: He feels very confident what will ultimately come of this will vindicate him.

JOHNS: Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle showing growing frustration about the White House's failure to provide any evidence to support Trump's extraordinary claim.

REP. ADAM KINZINGER (R), ILLINOIS: I think, frankly, the administration probably should come forward with whatever proof they have because, again, leveling a charge like that is a huge deal.

REP. JACKIE SPEIER(D), CALIFORNIA: You do not make those kinds of allegations, criminal allegations, against a former president as he did so recklessly.

JOHNS: This as the White House battles criticism from both GOP conservatives and moderates over the Trump endorsed health care plan following the release of the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office report estimating 24 million more Americans will be uninsured by 2026 under the GOP's replacement plan.

REP. TOM GARRETT JR. (R), VIRGINIA: Right now I'm a no, I'm a firm no. I candidly don't see how we get to 216.

SEN. BILL CASSIDY (R), LOUISIANA: I'm concerned. That's not what President Trump promised. That's not what Republicans ran on.

JOHNS: One top GOP source admitting, quote, "headlines are terrible," fraying nerves within the GOP. Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski under pressure to support the replacement bill, refusing to answer CNN's Manu Raju.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Yes or no, do you support the health care bill.

SEN. LISA MURKOWSKI (R), ALASKA: Would you please be respectful?

JOHNS: President Trump silent over the report as the administration continues to discredit the CBO's findings.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The CBO report is full of errors.

SPICER: CBO coverage estimates are consistently wrong. This is the American Health Care Act. The president is proud of it.


JOHNS: And so what is the president doing in the midst of all this? One thing he's doing is hitting the road, headed out to Detroit today for job creation event and south to Nashville for a big rally. Chris?

CUOMO: All right, some video there of Murkowski getting up close and personal, in the face of that CNN reporter just for asking what's she's going to do on the health care bill.

All right, so one man in Congress who will not be distracted by Trump's taxes or by the wiretapping allegations, he's got Russia on his mind. It's the man on your screen, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. He is a member of the Judiciary and Armed Services Committees. You will get face time with James Comey, the director of the FBI today. You have criticized that the FBI has not been forthcoming enough to your liking. How so? GRAHAM: Number one, Director Comey will not appear before the Judiciary Committee. He's not a witness. We have four people who will talk about what Russia does all over the world to interfere with democracies, the tools in their tool box.

We wrote a letter, Senator Whitehouse and myself, the Democrat, I'm the Republican, wanting to know if there's evidence of a warrant ever being issued against the Trump campaign. He hasn't answered that letter. He hasn't confirmed if there's a criminal investigation of the Trump campaign. He needs to answer the letter and give the nation some information about what's going on here.

CUOMO: Three things. One, I thought he was coming today before the Judiciary Committee to say whether or not he's investigating ties between Russia and the Trump administration. That's not true?

GRAHAM: No. There's some misunderstanding here. Two weeks ago we met with Director Comey, Senator Whitehouse and myself. And I told him by the 15th of March I'd like to know if there's a criminal investigation because I'm about to launch a Congressional investigation of Russia. I don't want to interfere with your investigation. I think it's very important that Congress know whether or not there's a criminal investigation so that what we're doing doesn't interfere with what Comey may be doing.

And if there's not a criminal investigation of the Trump ties to Russia, then I think the country needs to know it, Congress needs to know it. And he has never promised to answer that question.

But Chairman Grassley said something very important yesterday, that he would be willing to block the deputy attorney general's nomination until Director Comey gave us the information we have sought regarding warrants and investigations.

CUOMO: So nothing could happen today in terms of the FBI. He may decide not to come forward. You're saying he's not on the plan and he hasn't answered your letter.

GRAHAM: Right. So what we would do next is subpoena the information. I like Director Comey. He's in a bad spot here. You have the current president accusing the former president of basically having his campaign surveilled. The way you would do that is get a warrant either through the FISA court or a criminal court.

I want to get to the bottom of it. The FBI would know if there's a warrant was ever issued. They would know if a warrant was applied for. I want to answer that question. And if they do not provide the answer to that letter we wrote in a bipartisan fashion, there will be a bipartisan subpoena following the FBI.

CUOMO: So you're saying, hold on a second. So you gave the FBI until the ides of March, March 15th -- I don't know if that was intentional, but that was a dramatic play. And if he does not come before the committee today, if he does not fond to the letter, you're going to subpoena the FBI. GRAHAM: So I never asked him to appear in person today. I like

Comey. I think he's a good man. I want to know -- don't you want to know if there's a criminal investigation of the Trump campaign?


GRAHAM: Don't you want to know if there's a warrant issued?

CUOMO: But I'm saying, you will subpoena the FBI, is that what you're saying?

GRAHAM: I will subpoena the information requested in the letter with the support of my chairman Senator Grassley, who has been terrific. The ranking Democrat is Senator Feinstein. They have helped Senator Whitehouse and myself write the letter. We're going to follow up. Congress is going to flex its muscles.

The president of the United States asked Congress to look into this as to whether or not the Trump campaign was surveilled during the 2016 election by the federal government. I'm going to get to the bottom of it. And if it needs a subpoena to get there, that's what we'll do.

CUOMO: So the subpoena would be for the wiretapping, not for information about any evidence linking Russian interference to anybody in the Trump orbit?

GRAHAM: OK, you got it. We want to know if a warrant was ever issued, the information provided to the judge or judges in question, what did you give them? Did they give you a warrant? I want to know that. That's the letter which would be backed up by subpoena. The general question is, is there an active investigation of the Trump campaign regarding their ties to Russia? No one has ever told me there is. As a matter of fact Director of National Intelligence Clapper said a couple weeks ago on his watch there was no evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians.

So I want to know that this has been raised by the current president. I think Congress should look into all things Russia, but if there's a criminal investigation, Chris, I don't want to get in the middle of that, because that should be protected.

CUOMO: So that's why you're not going to include it in the subpoena?

GRAHAM: Right.

CUOMO: But you've also implied that you don't think there's anything to the wiretapping allegation. You think the president put it out as a distraction. You've been one of the proponents of the simple logic, which is if you care so much you should pick up the phone, because Jim Comey is not going to duck him the way he's ducking you. That's his boss. And he could know the answer right away and declassify any information. Is that true?

GRAHAM: Well, number one, I don't know if the president can pick up the phone and ask questions about an investigation of his campaign. The bottom line is people have asked the president to deliver any information you have, the Trump people, about what may have occurred. They've given us nothing. I've seen no evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. I've seen no evidence of a wiretap being requested by the Department of Justice, a warrant. But the longer it takes to answer my letter, the more concerned and suspicious I'm beginning to be.

CUOMO: Right. But look, I think the law is fairly clear that the president could. Whether she should is certainly an ethical consideration. You can talk about that all day.

GRAHAM: It might be illegal, too, actually. So I don't know.

CUOMO: The flipside of it is this. People say you keep talking about the Russian connections and contacts and there's nothing there. Clapper came out and said there's no proof of collusion. Comey has not jumped at the chance to tell you what he's doing with any Russian investigation. This is all about political hate directed towards the president.

GRAHAM: Well, I don't have political hate directed towards the president. I've talked to him twice in the last week, had great conversations about health care and national security. But the president raised this issue a week or so ago saying he believed his campaign was wiretapped by the former president. There would be a way to find that out. Once you raise it, you've got to answer the question.

Is there a warrant? Was a warrant ever issued by any judge anywhere in America to allow the Trump campaign to be wiretapped? I'm going to find the answer to that. If there is a criminal investigation ongoing regarding the Trump campaign and their ties to Russia, I want to know. I'm going to pursue all things Russia, because here is what I do know. The Russians tried to interfere with our election. I don't think they changed the outcome. It wasn't a 400-pound guy sitting on his bed who hacked into the DNC. It was Russian intelligence services. They took that information, they gave it to WikiLeaks, and they tried to basically embarrass Secretary Clinton. And if we don't stop Russia, it could be Iran and China tomorrow. It could be Republicans on the receiving end of this.

CUOMO: But those are separate considerations, right?

GRAHAM: Right.

CUOMO: Why they did and how they did and what they did as Russia, that's something everybody believes deserves inspection.

[08:15:04] Whether or not Trump had something to do with it is a separate inquiry.

GRAHAM: Absolutely, absolutely.

CUOMO: To this point there hasn't been any proof of that.

GRAHAM: You're right. I have seen no evidence. I have requested whether or not any evidence exists. To get a warrant, Chris, to follow the Trump campaign, there's two ways you can do it, the Foreign Intelligence Service Act would allow you to follow campaign operatives if you believe they're interacting with foreign agents.

The second way is a criminal warrant to follow the Trump campaign if you believe they're taking services from a foreign government in violation of our campaign laws. I want to know were either of those warrants ever issued. I don't believe they were, but the longer it takes to answer that question, the more suspicious I get.

CUOMO: Senator, let's get at the real question that's behind all this. You either believe what's coming out of this White House or you don't. That's something you guys are having to deal with. I know there's a lot of spin. I know what politics is. I grew up in it.

GRAHAM: Right.

CUOMO: But this is different. Do you believe what's coming out of this White House on a daily basis, or do you feel that you have to check everything these days?

GRAHAM: Well, I believe that the statement made by President Trump that he believes the Obama administration surveilled his campaign is something very, very serious. And he challenged the Congress to get to the bottom of it, and I will.

You can't leave that hanging. In terms of the president's efforts to reform health care, I've been impressed by how much time he's spent as a person to try to get a better bill. Republicans have an opportunity to do this by ourselves. We also have an opportunity to screw it up by ourselves. Right now the House bill in my view will have a hard time getting through the Senate. Rand Paul says he can't vote for refundable tax credits in the House bill because that's an entitlement in another name.

Medicaid in the House bill allows open enrollment for another year and a half to two years, and that's a problem for me. The president is working hard to find a bill that will replace Obamacare.

My advice to the president, if you can't find a better plan coming from republicans, don't buy it just because the republicans want to sell it to you. Let Obamacare collapse, and it will. Then try to replace it in a bipartisan fashion. That's what I would recommend he do.

CUOMO: I want to hear from you before we let you go about why you think Obamacare is going to collapse. But I want to go back to one question I didn't get an answer from you on. I said do you believe what's coming out of the White House on a regular basis. Because on the wiretapping allegation, I get that because the president raised it and put it on you, you have an opportunity to dig into it.

I'm asking you, just like with wiretapping which you don't seem to buy, do you feel that has become part of the normal now which is, they say things that aren't necessarily true which you have to check up on?

GRAHAM: Well, I think every president says things sometimes that doesn't work out. This was at another level. I never heard this before --

CUOMO: He accused the president of a felony, called him a bad or sick man.

GRAHAM: Right.

CUOMO: He then seemed to base it on fringe reporting.

GRAHAM: Right. I want to make sure that the accusation that the former president was involved in surveilling the current president is put to bed forever. As to this president, I had a good conversation about how to rebuild the military. We're talking closely about health care, how you can put an infrastructure bill together. I want to work with president Trump. It's not a credibility problem other than this one issue to me has to be solved.

CUOMO: We'll leave the deeper discussion about health care to another day when we understand the politics a little better from where we are right now.

You guys are still dealing with that CBO score. We know Russia is a priority. We will continue to cover it. We will not be distracted.

Thank you, Senator.

GRAHAM: Thank you very much.

CUOMO: Poppy?

HARLOW: Great interview, clarifying a lot of open questions this morning.

Coming up for us here, the showdown over health care. Which of these plans is best for Americans? The one we have now or the GOP's replacement?

We've got two experts joining us next who have been digging into the numbers. What they have found straight ahead.


[08:22:51] HARLOW: After a pretty brutal CBO analysis, more Republicans this morning are demanding changes to the House GOP plan to replace Obamacare.

So, how do these two plans actually stack up against one another?

Let's talk about this with two experts, former health and human services secretary under President George W. Bush, and former governor of Wisconsin, Tommy Thompson joins us, as well as former acting administrator --


HARLOW: Good morning to you.

Former acting administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Andy Slavitt.

Nice to have you here. I appreciate it.

Governor Thompson, let me begin with you. I just want your response as someone who is very supportive of this bill. I assume you agree with Spicer that this is, you know, the one shot that the Republicans have to undo Obamacare.

But here is how Republican Senator Tom Button sees it.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I do believe firmly he is behind it. He's going to continue to work --

SEN. TOM COTTON (R), ARKANSAS: There is no three-step plan. That is just political talk, some mythical legislation in the future that is going to garner Democratic support and help us get over 60 votes in the Senate. If we had those Democrat it votes, we wouldn't need three steps.


HARLOW: You know, Senator Lindsey Graham just said to Chris moments ago, you know, that he would advise the president not to buy a Republican plan just because Republican in Congress are selling it to him. He said his advice would be, if this isn't the right plan, let Obamacare collapse and then do something about it.

Why do you think it's the wrong assessment?

THOMPSON: Well, I'm not saying it's the wrong assessment of Lindsey Graham. I'm saying that we're just starting the process. There is a great opportunity to improve this bill and make it a bill that's going to work well for the American public.

And that's why I've got the full confidence in Paul Ryan and the Republicans getting it accomplished.

The bill right now is going to be the bill that will end up on the president's desk. Everybody knows that. It's going through the trek, the traverses of Congress. It's going to take a lot of amendments, a lot of concessions. And that's going to come.

The same way the Obamacare bill, if you remember back -- Obamacare was written by Speaker Pelosi in the House and by Harry Reid in the Senate.

[08:25:04] Two different bills and then they had to pass a third bill three months later in order do make both bills work and together --

HARLOW: So, how do you --

THOMPSON: -- and gave the power to the secretary of health. So, all that's going to take place. We've got a great chance to make this bill a very good bill. HARLOW: I hear you, but that often takes time, right? And what we're

hearing right now --


HARLOW: -- is this urgency, this expediency that's needed so this can get done by the end of April, so that broader tax reform can get done by the end of August. So, would you say to your fellow Republicans slow down?

THOMPSON: No, I would say let's improve it. Let's see how we can make this bill better, you know? There are tremendous opportunities to improve for more people and that's going to take place. It's the same way with all legislation, you know, it takes a long time to get a good piece of legislation through both houses.

This is a controversial subject. Health care is very, very complex.

HARLOW: It is complex and it takes a long time. And you're hearing from the White House and other Republicans we don't have that time right now.

Andy, let me bring you into this, because, look, you ran two of these big agencies, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid. When you look at what needs to happen to get something that works for the American people, you need the insurance companies to really play ball, to be happy and stay on board.

I mean, part of the fundamental sort of crisis for some American families right now with Obamacare, they can't afford it. Not enough young people got into the risk pool and you had big providers like Humana and Aetna pulling out. So, in some places folks only had one option to buy their individual coverage.

How do you change things for the insurer so you don't have Aetna coming out and saying, look, we pulled out because we saw more than $430 million losses from this since 2014?

ANDY SLAVITT, FORMER ACTING ADMINISTRATOR, CTRS. FOR MEDICARE AND MEDICAID SERVICES: Yes, so, look, I think one of the things you have to evaluate is, what does this bill actually do? It does a couple of things. It instantly drives the cost up by an additional 15 to 20 percent by taking away some of the things that drove the healthy people into the market in the first place. So, it sends it the wrong direction.

And as a result of that, 14 million people next year going to lose coverage, and that's scheduled to grow up even further to 24 million. On top of that, you have the basic program that covers seniors, people with disabilities, people under low incomes slash by about 25 percent in order to pay for a tax cut.

So, it's hard to figure out how to get some place better from those starting points. I think the insurers look at that and say, wait a minute, you're taking away the major protection, the individual mandate that's causing people to get into the market and drive more healthy people into the market.

HARLOW: Right.

SLAVITT: This is not going to head in the right direction.

HARLOW: But that doesn't -- I hear you, but that doesn't answer my question as to how does this plan -- how do you believe, Andy, that you would fix the fundamental problem with Obamacare?

SLAVITT: Yes, so I think the thing that, if you go back and look at the ACA and look at what improvements can be made, there are some. I think one of the major things that I think we've learned is that people who are above 400 percent of poverty level in certain states have had their costs go up too much.

And so, there's -- you've got to fix that surgically. You don't start that by starting from scratch. You fix that by extending subsidy levels higher, by extending the reinsurance which worked in the first several years of the ACA.

And then you get to those affordability questions. Remember, 2015, about $8 billion to $10 billion intended to stabilize rates was taken out by Congress. That drove the costs up. You know, that's responsible for some of the lack of competition we have. Easy to fix.

I think this CBO report and S&P have both said the market is moving to a place of stability. So, I think if we change our thinking and get focused on surgical changes, we can get there.

HARLOW: I don't know if any of this is easy to fix. We're out of time, gentlemen. Thank you for joining us. You'll both be back, Governor.

THOMPSON: We need to be bipartisan, and the rates are going down in the Republican plan, not under Obamacare.

HARLOW: They're going down in a few years, up the next two to three years, though. Gentlemen, thank you very much.

THOMPSON: Yes, because Obamacare -- OK.

HARLOW: We will have you back, I promise. Up against a break.

THOMPSON: Thank you.

HARLOW: Also tonight, a big thing you're going to want to watch tonight on CNN. Join Wolf Blitzer and Dana Bash for a live town hall with HHS Secretary Tom Price on the GOP's health care plan. That's 9:00 Eastern, only right here tonight on CNN.

CUOMO: Up next, the Trump White House is trying to delegitimize judges, the media, the Congressional Budget Office now. Why? And is it working for them? We have two key players from the 2016 presidential campaign debate. They'll have it out.