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State of the Union

Interview With Arizona Senator John McCain; Interview With White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney; Interview With New Jersey Senator Cory Booker; Conservatives Push Back On GOP Health Care Plan; D.C. Getting the Tabloid Treatment. Aired 9-10a ET

Aired March 12, 2017 - 09:00   ET




JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Heating up. The investigation into Donald Trump's possible ties to Russia intensifies, as Congress summons the FBI director to answer President Trump's evidence-free claim that former President Obama tapped his phones. While the president remains silent, what will Congress learn?

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: It's a very serious charge against the previous president of the United States. There needs to be some corroboration.

TAPPER: Senator John McCain joins us live for an exclusive interview.

And Republicans divided. President Trump starts negotiating the replacement to Obamacare with his own party.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If we do not act to save Americans from this wreckage, it will take our health care system all the way down with it.

TAPPER: GOP leaders say the bill is good to go. But other conservatives say, not so fast.

SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: The bill, as it stands, really is dead on arrival.

TAPPER: Can Trump use his presidential power to make the deal? A top administration official will be here live in minutes.

Plus, Cory Booker, the rising Democrat, on taking on Trump.

SEN. CORY BOOKER (D), NEW JERSEY: This is a toxic environment being created right now.

TAPPER: And his own political future.

(on camera): Are you going to put yourself forward to be that person, to be that leader?

(voice-over): And the best political minds will be here with insights on what happens next.


TAPPER: Hello. I'm Jake Tapper in Washington, where the state of your union is hearing echoes of that old Trump catchphrase, "You're fired."

In a dramatic public standoff, the U.S. attorney known for prosecuting major corruption cases in New York City refused to resign at President Trump's request, forcing Trump to officially show him the door.

Preet Bharara, dubbed the Sheriff of Wall Street, was appointed by President Obama. But a source close to President Trump tells me he was asked to stay on by President Trump last November as a gesture to New York Senator and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, for whom Bharara used to work.

So, what changed? Well, the source tells me that the president now sees Schumer as an obstructionist to his agenda and Cabinet nominees.

Let's talk about this and much, much more with Republican Senator John McCain, who joins me now live from Phoenix.

Senator, good to see you. Thanks for joining us.


TAPPER: So, over the weekend, President Trump asked for the resignations of 46 U.S. attorneys that served under President Obama, nothing particularly unusual about that, although it was something of a rushed exit.

But this included Preet Bharara, who is in the middle of prosecuting or investigating several high-profile or well-connected Democrats, not to mention looking into the FOX News matter.

Was it a mistake by the president to go back on his promise and to fire Bharara?

MCCAIN: Well, I don't know what his promise was to Mr. Bharara. But I do know that other administrations have done the same thing, perhaps not in as abrupt a fashion. But that is -- that is what -- elections have consequences.

And so for people to complain about it, they are ignoring the history of new presidencies. And I think the president had every right to ask for their resignations.

TAPPER: We learned this week that General Michael Flynn, the former national security adviser for President Trump, was working as a foreign agent last year while he was advising President Trump's campaign.

Flynn notified the transition team and the White House lawyers about the work he had done for Turkey, but this information was not disclosed to the public, nor did he file the proper paperwork until this week.

Does this trouble you at all that the national security adviser had been, until recently, a paid advocate for a foreign government?

MCCAIN: Jake, there's a lot of things about our relations with Russia that trouble me a lot.

For example, why was the provision in the Republican platform that called for the provision of defensive weapons to Ukraine, after being invaded by Russia, why was that taken out of the Republican platform? Clearly, it was not the will of most Republicans.

There's a lot of aspects of this whole relationship with Russia and Vladimir Putin that requires further scrutiny. And, so far, I don't think the American people have gotten all the answers. In fact, I think there's a lot more shoes to drop from this centipede.

TAPPER: Do you think General Flynn, advocating on behalf of Turkey in that way, was part of this whole Russian situation?

MCCAIN: I don't know.

I know that he was in Moscow and at a dinner with Putin. And I'm not sure that, on its face, is anything wrong, but there continues to surface communications between, not just General Flynn, but other members of the Trump "family" -- quote -- and associates that -- Mr. Manafort's relationship with Yanukovych, the stooge of Vladimir Putin, that they finally threw out Ukraine, still has a lot of questions to be answered.


And, so far, they are not being answered.

TAPPER: Longtime Trump confidant Roger Stone told "The Washington Times" on Friday that he had exchanged messages online with Guccifer 2.0.

He called them completely innocuous, but Guccifer 2.0, as you know, is the entity that claims to be behind the hack of the Democratic National Committee. Stone has also tweeted that he had a back channel to Julian Assange during the campaign.

Do you think Roger Stone should be called to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee hearings?

MCCAIN: Oh, I think -- obviously, I think he and others need to be questioned.

There's no doubt that Mr. Stone was closely associated, again, with Mr. Yanukovych, who was -- thanks to the rising up of millions of Ukrainian people, was thrown out of office at the Maidan, this demonstration in the square of national will of the Ukrainian people that is as impressive as anything I have ever seen.

This whole issue of the relationship with the Russians and who communicated with them and under what circumstances clearly beg -- cries out for investigation.

But I would also point out we should not assume guilt until we have a thorough investigation. I'm not judging anyone guilty.

TAPPER: Speaking of assuming guilt, a week ago, President Trump made a stunning allegation.

He tweeted that President Trump had wiretapped him at Trump Tower during the campaign. On Monday, you said that: "If President Trump has any information that would indicate that his predecessor wiretapped Trump Tower, he should come forward with the information. The American people deserve it." That is your quote.

The White House is supposed to hand over any evidence it has to back this charge to the House Intelligence Committee by tomorrow, but a White House official this morning suggesting they might not turn anything over.

If there's no proof for what the president said -- and we know that the FBI director has said it is not true, and the former director of national intelligence has said it's not true -- should President Trump take back his charge and apologize to President Obama and to the American people?

MCCAIN: Well, look, President Trump has to provide the American people, not just the Intelligence Committee, but the American people, with evidence that his predecessor, former president of the United States, was guilty of breaking the law, because our director of national intelligence, General Clapper, testified that there was absolutely no truth to that allegation.

So, I think the president has one of two choices, either retract or to provide the information that the American people deserve, because, if his predecessor violated the law, President Obama violated the law, we have got a serious issue here, to say the least.

TAPPER: But there's no one I have heard who has any information relating to the FBI or intelligence, including Vice President Pence, Sean Spicer, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who has said that they know of any information that backs this up.

Do you have any reason to think that this charge is true?

MCCAIN: I have no reason to believe that the charge is true.

But I also believe that the president of the United States could clear this up in a minute. All he has to do is pick up the phone, call the director of the CIA, director of national intelligence, and say, OK, what happened?

Because they certainly should know whether the former president of the United States was wiretapping Trump Tower.

TAPPER: Do you have any concern about the constant barrage of conspiracy theories we keep hearing from the president? MCCAIN: Well, the president obviously has a unique style. He was

elected president of the United States. And I'm not telling him how he should conduct that presidency.

But I do believe that, on an issue such as this, accusing a former president of the United States of doing something which is not only illegal, but just unheard of, then that requires corroboration. And I will let the American people be the judge.

But this is serious stuff, Jake, because it under -- if true, or the allegation is left out there, it undermines the confidence the American people have in the entire way that the government does business.

TAPPER: Mexico's top diplomat came to Washington Thursday with meetings with the U.S. government.

Instead of meeting with the secretary of state, he met with Jared Kushner, the president's son-in-law and adviser the president, and other White House aides. The State Department spokesman apparently did not even know that he was coming to Washington.


Are you concerned that the Trump White House might not respect the State Department as much as, say, you do?

MCCAIN: Well, Mr. Tillerson has not been very outspoken since he has become secretary of state. And I think we ought to give him a chance, as secretary of state, to perform.

But, obviously, Jake, the optics of people coming to town who are foreign leaders, and without the knowledge of the secretary of state, is not -- is not good.

But I keep trying to remind myself that we are still in the first 50 or 60 days of this presidency, and we don't want to prejudge. There's no doubt that this president has approached the president -- the office of the presidency in a different fashion than his predecessors. But he was elected by the American people.

TAPPER: EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said this week that carbon dioxide is not a primary contributor to climate change. Take a listen.


SCOTT PRUITT, ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY ADMINISTRATOR: ... agree that it's a primary contributor to the global warming that we see.


TAPPER: Back in 2008, Senator, you said -- quote -- "I believe climate change is real. I think it's devastating."

Are you at all uncomfortable with an EPA administrator who would say what he said?


But I'm also uncomfortable with environmentalists who categorically reject nuclear power as one of the most clean and efficient ways of generating energy.

And so let's see what Mr. Pruitt has to authenticate his allegations. But, again, Mr. Pruitt is widely respected. And I voted for him, and I would like to give him a chance.

TAPPER: Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, Senator, thank you so much. It's always good to see you.

MCCAIN: Thanks for having me on, Jake.

TAPPER: President Trump celebrated some good news on Friday; 253,000 jobs were added to the U.S. economy in February, with the unemployment rate falling to 4.7 percent.

For a president who campaigned on bringing back jobs, the unemployment rate must be a very important number, one would think, right?


TRUMP: The unemployment number, as you know, is totally fiction.

The 5 percent figure is one of the biggest hoaxes.

Don't believe those phony numbers when you hear 4.9 and 5 percent unemployment. The number is probably 28, 29, as high as 35. In fact, I even heard recently 42 percent.


TAPPER: So, what changed?

Well, here's White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer.


SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: talked to the president prior to this. And he said to quote him very clearly. They may have been phony in the past, but it's very real now.



TAPPER: Joining me now is the director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, former Congressman Mick Mulvaney.

Director Mulvaney, thanks so much for being here. We appreciate it.

MICK MULVANEY, WHITE HOUSE BUDGET DIRECTOR: Jake, good morning. Thanks very much for having me. TAPPER: So, did anything actually change at the Bureau of Labor

Statistics in terms of methodology or who is running the business there?

MULVANEY: What I think changed is, you start to look at some of the underlying numbers.

You look at the U6 number. We could talk -- I'm already boring you're audience. There's things like U3, U6. And what you should really look at is the number of jobs created.

We've thought for a long time, I did, that the Obama administration was manipulating the numbers in terms of the number of people in the work force to make the unemployment rate, that percentage rate, look smaller than it actually was.

And we used to tell people back home, the only thing you should really look at, number of jobs created. And as long as that number is above $250,000 (sic), then the economy is doing extraordinary well. And that was the number we hit last week.

TAPPER: But just to -- I don't want to spend the whole interview talking about this.


TAPPER: But just a point on it -- you're not the one that was attacking the numbers as phony. There's nothing that changed that made them real today?

MULVANEY: Right. The BLS did not change the way they count, I don't think.

But you could have a long conversation, when you have got a numerator and a denominator, how to arrive at a percentage. But, again, I don't want to bore people.

TAPPER: This is not a claim that you made, so I'm not going to spend too much time on it.


TAPPER: You recently spoke about President Trump's budget. And you said -- quote -- "We are taking his words and turning them into policies and dollars."

I want to follow up on that, because there were a lot of words said during the campaign. So, the president one time said that he believed taxes should actually go up on the wealthy. Take a listen.


QUESTION: Do you believe in raising taxes on the wealthy?

TRUMP: I do. I do, including myself. I do.


TAPPER: The plan to repeal and replace Obamacare would do the opposite of that. It would deliver roughly $157 billion over the coming decade to those with incomes of $1 million or more, according to the nonpartisan Joint Committee On Taxation.

Isn't that breaking the promise?

MULVANEY: A couple of different things.

First of all, when we talk about taxes, there's more than just one tax out there. The Obamacare taxes are not the only taxes that anybody pay. We did promise, the president did promise to repeal those. And we are repealing them in this proposed bill.

As we get further down the road and start talking about other tax reform, the president just as recently as last week reaffirmed to me he wants to repeal the tax incentive on what they call carried interest, which overwhelmingly benefits the wealthy.


So, I don't think the two things are inconsistent. If you're going to talk about tax policy, play that clip, you should look at the overall tax policy, not just the changes to the Obamacare.

TAPPER: OK, so look at it in the aggregate after the year is done or two years are done?

MULVANEY: I think that's fair.

And we are just in the very early stages now of developing that larger tax policy. Let's talk about health care reform as health care reform, not necessarily as stand-alone tax policy.

TAPPER: But you think that -- you think that this tax cut does not break that promise, because there might be tax increases, such as the hedge fund manager's tax...


TAPPER: ... talking about?

MULVANEY: That's correct. That's correct.

TAPPER: When President Trump, then candidate Trump, was about to enter the race, he made a pledge not to cut Social Security, Medicare, or Medicaid. Take a listen.


TRUMP: I'm not going to cut Social Security, like every other Republican. And I'm not going to cut Medicare or Medicaid.

(END VIDEO CLIP) TAPPER: The plan to repeal and replace Obamacare would roll back the expansion of Medicaid that has provided coverage to more than 10 million people in 31 states.

Wouldn't that also be a broken promise? He is touching Medicaid.

MULVANEY: Just because you spend less money on something doesn't mean it can't get better.

In fact, the private sector does that all the time. The phone you have in front of you is cheaper now than it was before, but it's a better quality than it was before. And that's one of the things we are trying to drive into Medicaid as part of this discussion about replacing Obamacare.

We are trying to make Medicaid a lot more efficient. We met with, I think, 46 governors just about two weeks ago. And one of the things they asked us for on Medicaid, on many other things was more state control over what government sends them.

I was in the state legislature several years ago. We would have loved to have more control over our Medicaid spending. But, right now, under Obamacare, under the existing Medicaid rules, Medicaid is this one-size-fits-down, Washington-knows-best type of approach.

And we think, with this bill, we would give more control to the states and allow them to drive efficiencies that would increase quality and also reduce costs.

TAPPER: But I'm not just talking about the block-granting of Medicaid. I'm talking about rolling back the Medicaid expansion, which is supposed to happen in 2020. It might even happen sooner if some House conservatives get their way.

Isn't rolling back the expansion touching Medicaid?

MULVANEY: Yes, but the blueprint that we have seen phases that out. It doesn't kick anybody off. The president has said he doesn't want to leave -- kick anybody off.

And the proposal that we're working on...

TAPPER: But how does that work if you're...


MULVANEY: Well, folks typically don't stay on Medicaid very long.

Some people do, but most people rotate off of Medicaid. It's part of the ordinary course of life. Medicaid is there when you need it for the truly indigent poor. But folks -- I think the number we use is someplace between three and five years is the average roll-off.

TAPPER: Do you think the 10 million people that have now Medicaid because of the Medicaid expansion will be -- will gradually go off and on their own? MULVANEY: That's what all of the...

TAPPER: Ten million?

MULVANEY: ... statisticians will tell you, that the folks don't spend their entire life on Medicaid.

Some people do, but when you starting talking about large numbers of people, they typically don't.

TAPPER: As you know, there are a lot of conservatives who are not a fan of the health care plan as it exists right now. Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin had some harsh words, telling Breitbart News that that is RINO-care.

She said -- quote -- "There is still an aspect of socialism to this plan." She predicted that President Trump will step in and fix it.

Is she right to think that President Trump and you and Dr. Price at Health and Human Services will make the bill right now that Speaker Ryan has put forward more conservative and less RINO-care, as she puts it?


And there are some wonderful names from people who don't have to defend it, right? Anyway...

TAPPER: Nobody is calling it Trumpcare or Ryancare. Nobody is putting their name on it.

MULVANEY: Here's what we've got. We have a framework. We have a really, really good bill that the White House did work with House and Senate leaders to come up with.

But we encourage the House and the Senate to try and make the bill better. We have laid out the things that the president needs. It must repeal as much of Obamacare as it can, given these strange and arcane Senate rules that we have to use. And it must do as much replacement as it possibly can.

The president was very clear on the campaign trail he wanted to repeal and replace. That's what the framework does, repeals as much as possible and gives us as much replacement as possible.

If the House and Senate think they can make that bill a little bit better through the process, that's what this legislative process is about.

And it's the legislative process that exist for Obamacare. We have already had two hearings in the House on this bill. I think there's another one this week. There will be another one next week before it comes to a final vote. And that is even before it goes over to the Senate. So there's plenty of opportunities to make the bill better.

TAPPER: I don't know what you mean. I keep hearing this from Republicans: It's a legislative process that didn't happen under Obamacare.

Obamacare was a year-long process. And there were many, many committee hearings. I understand that a lot of people don't like it, but what is different about this legislative process?

MULVANEY: You can go read the bill, for one thing. Could never do that with...


TAPPER: Oh, because it's up on the Web site.

MULVANEY: It's there. Anybody can read it. Folks watching on television now can go online and read what the bill is. They can watch the committee hearings. Those are things that were dramatically missing in Obamacare.

TAPPER: Director Mulvaney, it's a pleasure to have you here. Thank you so much. Good luck. Hope to have you on again soon.

MULVANEY: I will be back. Thanks, Jake.

TAPPER: Thank you so much. Appreciate it.

Be sure to watch this Wednesday for a special town hall on the future of health care with Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Tom Price. That is Wednesday at 9:00 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN. Wolf Blitzer and Dana Bash will moderate.


TAPPER: Turns out an active Twitter feed can get you all the way to the White House.

So, is Senator Cory Booker's earnest social media presence a sign that he is ready to take on Trump next time around?


TAPPER: Welcome back.

President Trump is making a full-court press to try to sell the Republicans' plan to replace Obamacare. He's dined with senators and will host members of the conservative Freedom Caucus for bowling and pizza at the White House.

Democrats, meanwhile, are standing firm in opposition to the replacement bill, saying millions will lose health insurance coverage.

But is there room to negotiate with the man who authored "The Art of the Deal"?


I met up with Senator Cory Booker at the South by Southwest conference in Austin, Texas, over the weekend, and asked about the Democrats' next moves.


TAPPER: Senator Booker, thanks so much for doing this.

BOOKER: Thank you for having me.

TAPPER: So, you have been very critical of the Republican approach to repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare.

I know you object to what the Republicans are doing, but don't Democrats have an obligation to help fix this bill?

BOOKER: Well, clearly, that would be great if they were coming with open hearts and saying, hey, there's -- this is not perfect, let's fix it.

Now, let's be clear. Even before the Affordable Care Act, I was the mayor of a city dealing with health care costs. They were going up significantly. So don't put this all on this ACA.

I don't think you will find a Democrat or a Republican in the Senate who wouldn't honestly tell you that things weren't perfect before. And what we're saying in the Democratic Party is, let's build upon it, let's fix it.

The first time that Medicare was put into -- or Social Security, these are laws and legislation decades-old now, but they have been improved by successive generations to preserve them and make them better.

What we see now, though, which is actually -- I'm not exaggerating this -- frightening to me, when Brookings just comes out and says that we're looking at about 15 million Americans losing their insurance.

TAPPER: So, why not get in there, roll up your sleeves and try to improve -- look, Republicans are going to repeal and replace Obamacare. It's happening. And they have a president who will sign them into law.

Don't you, as a member of the Senate, have an obligation to get in there, join them, and try to improve the bill?

BOOKER: Well, I mean, that's really where we are.

The Republicans cannot just force this down our throats. It's going to knock a lot of folks off, hurt long-term care, hurt good working- class folks. So, I don't understand this, almost. I don't understand what their political strategy -- because this is bad politics. But, deeper than that, it is bad policy and bad process.

TAPPER: Let me ask you about drugs, because that is obviously an important part of health care. And you know Bernie Sanders was very critical of you and 12 other Democrats for voting against a bill that would have allowed the importation of drugs from Canada.

And I know that you have answered as to why you voted that way, but he was very harsh. He said you lacked -- you and the other Democrats lacked the guts to stand up to the pharmaceutical industry.

BOOKER: Well, first of all, you know that that was not a bill.

TAPPER: It was an amendment.

BOOKER: It was a resolution.


BOOKER: It was not even something that, if everybody in the Senate voted, would have changed one thing. It was a late-night resolution during a vote-a-rama, that all some of us were asking is, hey, put some safety requirements on it. They were not put on.

And so I went right to work. I said, hey, Bernie, Senator Sanders -- excuse me -- let's work together. Senator Casey, Senator Sanders and I put our heads together, worked on a bill that is incredible. Not only will it allow imports, but it gives the safety guarantees that a lot of us were concerned about.

This has nothing to do with pharma. It doesn't have to do with courage. It's about good legislation, because while most Canadians are getting access to really high-quality drugs, if we just did without the kind of safety provisions we put in there, you would see rogue pharmacies popping up, rebranding drugs, drugs coming in from other countries, and saying, these are now Canadian drugs.

So, we put things like track-and-trace technology and other things to make sure our consumers are getting quality drugs.

TAPPER: So, you know that there are progressives out there who are looking for a white knight, and were disappointed in that vote. And, in addition, I think, in 2014, you were the number one recipient of donations from pharmaceutical companies and executives of them.

How can these people who are very wary of big pharma and very wary of the fact that rising drug prices is one of the main reasons why health care costs are going up so much, that you're going to be on their side and not the side of all these pharmaceutical companies that are in your state?

BOOKER: I'm a big believer that life is about what you do, and not what you say.

And so my performance in the Senate when it comes to issues that really are important to my community, like -- please understand this. A lot of folks in the Senate go home. I go home to Newark, New Jersey, Central Ward, a community of folks who are working-class folks who are battling every day against rising rents, rising college costs, and a lot of the challenges we're facing.

That's where my loyalty lies. And we are trying to -- in the Senate, my team is trying to focus on that. So, when it comes to pharmaceutical prices, they are too high. And my -- if you look at my performance in the Senate, whether it's a bill I just did with Senator Sanders, we are talking and working about other ways to lower prescription drugs.

In fact, go back to when I was a senator -- when I was mayor. We had ways to -- we did an incredibly innovative program to lower prescription drug costs and get more people into preventative care.

So my work and my -- you know this from my history. What got me into politics in the first place was representing low-income communities. I still live in a census track where the median income is $14,000 per individual. That's where my loyalty lies. I haven't put anything out there ever that is contrary to that.

TAPPER: But let's talk about those people in Newark, New Jersey, especially the kids of Newark, New Jersey.

When you were a city councilman and then when you were mayor of Newark, New Jersey, you seemed to have an open mind when it came to issues having to do with charter schools and school choice. You angered, you pissed off a lot of teachers union. You pissed off a lot of Democrats.

Last month, you voted against Betsy DeVos to be education secretary. And one of your former allies, Peter Denton from Excellent Education for Everyone, said that you have -- quote -- "turned into a partisan political player."

Put aside Betsy DeVos for a second.

BOOKER: Right.



TAPPER: Where are you on the issue of whether or not kids in places like Newark, New Jersey, should have the option to go to a public charter school or whether or not, actually, there should even be more choice potentially in education?

BOOKER: Well, let's get out of the idea there are charters that are bad or good or traditional district schools are better.

I'm a big believer in great schools and every kid should have a public access to them. And Newark is the best model. In fact, we're the number -- we're the number two ranked city in America for quality public charter schools. More than that, we're the number one city in America for what's called beat the odds schools. High poverty, high performance.

Since the time I became mayor to now if you are a poor black kid in Newark, if you're a black kid and poor in Newark your chances of going to a high-performing school went up 300 percent.

TAPPER: But have you forgotten that? I guess that -- what happens to Democrats who are the reformer types like yourself, we saw it with Barack Obama -- BOOKER: How could you ask me that question -- how could you ask me

that question (INAUDIBLE) for the D.C. bill that has scholarships in it, charter schools in it, who wrote -- who rewrote that bill? I did.

I opposed Betsy Devos, why? Because she -- the Office of Civil Rights in the Department of Education is something that's really important, helping transgender students, helping black students, issues of equity there were unacceptable to me and a number of other reasons I didn't support her to be the secretary of education. But when it comes to my record for supporting what I believe that any child born in any zip code in America should have a high-quality school, and I don't care if it's a charter school or a traditional district school, if it's a bad school, I'm going to fight against it.

Just like I supported charter school closures in Newark that weren't serving the genius (ph) of my kids. So I haven't changed one IOTA. Look at what I'm doing. Look at what I stand for. We should have great education.

TAPPER: In the hearings for the secretary of state Rex Tillerson, you asked him about pledging to bring the press with him when he traveled around the world. He pledged that he would be transparent, that he would support full transparency. He's about to go to Asia on his first major trip to Asia as secretary of state. He's not bringing any reporters with him.

Did he go back on his pledge to you?

BOOKER: Look, what I'm seeing now with the secretary of state, I hope he kind of gets it because it's outrageous that there's no transparency, that there's no accountability.

We are in a crisis in our country. And the secretary of state, God bless him, he's new in there, I know when he was flying around the globe for Exxon Mobil, he didn't take the press with him, he didn't hold -- barely head press conferences, he didn't answer anybody to shareholders.

Well, I'm sorry. This is not America Inc. This is not a corporation. This is the United States of America. We are a republic, we are a democracy, and fundamental the founding fathers wrote it in, ideas of the importance of the freedom of the press.

And so for you to turn your back right now on the press and there are traditions of openness and transparency and accountability, you're turning your back on the American ideals and it is unacceptable. And I think he'll get. I think he'll get it after time.

TAPPER: 2009, you went to the wedding of Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump. In 2013 she had a fund-raiser for you at her Park Avenue, I don't know what it is, mansion, estate, I haven't been there, maybe you can tell me.


TAPPER: Have you talked to her since her father won? If you haven't, what would you tell her?

BOOKER: Look, I had a private conversation with her once at the what they call the Alfalfa dinner. I saw her and had a very brief conversation.

I think there's a problem at this country -- our country right now that we are having problems talking to each other across a lot of the lines that we have. And people dismiss somebody just because they are a Democrat, dismiss somebody just because they are a Republican.

There are millions and millions of good Democrats, millions and millions of good Republican Americans who are 99 percent of us are good people. This is the problem, is, I don't care what party you're in right now, recognize this. We're in a time of increased fear in our country.

TAPPER: Because of Donald Trump?

BOOKER: There is something seriously wrong when mendacity has become the norm. There's something seriously wrong when law-abiding citizens are afraid to leave their home. There is something seriously wrong when hate crimes are surging. There is something seriously wrong when a toxic environment is being created right now.

And I don't care who you are, if you consider yourself a leader, you have an obligation to stand up and do something about it and lead with love and not appealing to people's darker angels or appealing to -- or exploiting that fear.

TAPPER: I would be remiss if I didn't ask you, are you going to put yourself forward to be that person, to be that leader, to be the person that units the country? The person that greets hate with love? Are you going to try to take this further than the United States Senate?

BOOKER: No, I think that we are doing -- anybody in office is doing exactly what the American people are fed up and sick and tired of, by talking about politics. Let's talk about people and purpose now.

I want to be authentic in who I am right now. I want to be a person of purpose not thinking of a future office. And you know this because I know you well enough know that if you're a senator thinking about president you're often not a very good senator. Or else you're making compromises where you are.

I'm going to be fearless in telling the truth. I don't care where it ends me up. Because I think when I go home to Newark, New Jersey, that's what my community wants from me.


TAPPER: Senator Booker, thanks so much. Always good to see you, sir.

BOOKER: Thank you very much. Thank you.

(END VIDEOTAPE) TAPPER: Coming up, pizza party diplomacy. Could a slice of pepperoni help sway conservative Republicans who are leery of the health care plan? Stay with us.



TRUMP: This is the time we're going to get it done, we're working together, we have some great results. We have tremendous spirit. And I think it's something that's just going to happen very shortly. So thank you all very much. We're going to get to work.


TAPPER: The art of the deal. President Trump sounding optimistic about the health care bill which passed two of three committees in the House on Thursday and is heading to a full vote in the chamber by the end of the month. But does it have the votes to pass in its current form? It does not seem to. With the strongest opposition coming from inside the Republican caucus. Can the president bring those Republicans on board?

Joining me now to talk about this all our star panel.


TAPPER: Former Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum from the Great Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Neera Tanden, president and CEO of Center for American Progress, Republican Congressman Mark Meadows of North Carolina and chairman of the Freedom Caucus, and also with us Democratic Congressman Luis Gutierrez of Illinois.

Thanks one and all. It's a great panel.


TAPPER: Let me start with you, you heard Mick Mulvaney, the director of the Office of Management and Budget, talking how he wants conservatives to help improve the bill. You wouldn't vote for it in the current form, though?

MEADOWS: We would. And it is not just the Freedom Caucus, it is more than that. So we're not even close at this point. But Director Mulvaney is right, I think, the Freedom Caucus and a number of conservatives willing to work with the president -- and the encouraging thing for me is the president told me personally, we want to make this better for the American people. And he's willing to negotiate the art of the deal is not dead.

And so I think what we'll see at the end of the day are modifications to the Ryan bill that is out there right now. The GOP bill that truly transforms it to something that President Trump and the American people can support.

TAPPER: Congressman Gutierrez, are you part of this process at all? Or are Democrats just sitting by the sidelines opposing everything?

REP. LUIS GUTIERREZ (D), ILLINOIS: Very different process. When 2009 to 2010, let's remember hundreds of Republican amendments were adopted in the ACA. There were literally hundreds of hearings between the Senate and the House. I mean, it covered 2009/2010, so it's a very different process.

In this process what I find is there's a really lack of transparency. And it's important. It's almost as if, Jake, they said we're going to take a businessman's approach. We are going to the boardroom -- right -- in the back in secret and now we're going to reveal it to the American people.

So what I would just say is moving forward, I'd like to see a health care system in which if you have health care, you get to keep it. If you don't have health care, there's an opportunity for you to join. And keep your hands off Planned Parenthood.

Literally, I think the American public and those at least who live in my district, understand tens of thousands of women in my district and hundreds of thousands, millions of women across this country depend on Planned Parenthood for their health care. So let's get transparency, let's have hearings, let's have witnesses -- what's the rush?

TAPPER: Senator, what do you think about the process so far?

RICK SANTORUM (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: (INAUDIBLE) agree. There hasn't been a whole lot of transparency. I don't think you can defend it. The reality is there needs to be -- there needs to be a little bit more openness here.

So I will agree with you on that. I disagree with you completely -- I think it's remarkable you said, if you have a plan, you can keep it. That's something Obamacare -- President Obama pledged and certainly didn't come through. And on the Planned Parenthood -- look, Planned Parenthood is a very small percentage of women's health care. There's lots of health care clinics out there doing much more comprehensive job on treating women and that's where we should focus our dollars on.

The big problem that I see is the Republicans didn't do what you have to do in order to get something done. The House always, when it comes to these things, always puts out the conservative bill. And you know the Senate's going to bring it back.

What the House did this time is they started out in the middle. And, well, if you're a conservative, you're thinking, this is the best we're going to do. That's why they are not voting for it. Because they know when it goes to the Senate it's going to get worse. The House has to come out and set the poll saying, here's the conservative bill and work from there. And they didn't do that. That's the problem.

TAPPER: Neera?

NEERA TANDEN, PRESIDENT AND CEO, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: You know, I don't -- I can't even explain this bill because it doesn't seem too conservative or too liberal to me. It's an upside-down bill. It charges people who need the most help the most.

They have the biggest increase in premiums. If you're 20 -- if you make $20,000 a year, you're 50 years old and you live in a rural community you have an eight-fold increase in costs. That's why doctors, nurses, the AMA, hospitals, are all opposing this bill. You have Club for Growth and the doctors and the AARP all opposing this bill because it's an upside-down bill that makes so little sense for people.

It doesn't lower costs, it increases -- it makes it more unsustainable, the Medicare trust fund. So it's uniting, it's not liberals versus conservatives on this bill, it's the broad spectrum of Americans opposing this bill. And I think that's why it doesn't make any sense to rush this process.

We took six months in the House, six months to have hearings in the House. This bill is supposed to be introduced and voted on in three- and-a-half weeks.


TANDEN: One-sixth of the economy, three-and-a-half weeks.

TAPPER: ... a group backed by House Speaker Paul Ryan, the American Action Network, is out with television ads pressuring members of the Freedom Caucus, your group, to vote with President Trump on health care. Take a listen.


TRUMP: Repeal and replace Obamacare.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tell Congressman Labrador to vote with President Trump.


TAPPER: Do you think those ads will be effective?

MEADOWS: Well, I don't think they will change any votes if that is what you mean. I mean, when we really look at it, Neera was talking -- and so here we have someone from the left and someone from the right who agree on one thing, we've got to lower health care premiums.


If we don't do that, Jake, we have failed. And this current plan doesn't effectively lower health care premiums.

TAPPER: How do you effectively lower --

MEADOWS: Listen, I campaign on repeal and replacement of Obamacare. And so we would disagree on a whole lot of aspects, but when you force insurance companies to provide a certain type of coverage and you can't buy a cheaper coverage -- today, you and I cannot buy a catastrophic plan, because of what is put out there. And so we've got to make sure that we give the flexibility in terms of the number and types of plans that can be bought to drive it down. And if we don't do that, then we just have Obamacare by another name.

The president and I, as we talked about it, he wants to drive those costs down. I'm confident that if we work together, and I have reached out to five Democrats, I said, my district is not the same as Luis' or any others, so I said, give me ideas on what you would like to see, ultimately the president is going to be the chief negotiator as well as the commander in chief. And I think that we will see a better bill that passes the House. And that goes --

GUTIERREZ: I think, Jake, this is a fundamental difference is how we see public policy and how we see the role of government. So national defense, that's the government's responsibility. Education, government responsibility.

I see in the richest nation, the nation that spends the most money on health care, and I see tens of millions of Americans, citizens of this great nation of ours without health care and I say, shame on us. Now, I bet at the end of this debate, the members of Congress, after we have decided which or how we are going to vote, are all going to get government-sponsored health care. They are all going back to their government-sponsored health care that we receive as employees of the federal government. Why can't we do for the American people what we do for ourselves?

SANTORUM: This is the false narrative that started Obamacare and it's a continuing false narrative...


TAPPER: What is false about it?

SANTORUM: ... health care. That's absolutely not true.

TAPPER: Well, they are getting it in the emergency room.

SANTORUM: Well, they are getting more at the emergency room now.

Actually emergency room visits are up as a result of Obamacare. Because the Medicare expansion has caused more emergency room visits. The bottom-line is before Obamacare Americans got health care. There was a law in place.


SANTORUM: Everybody -- everybody got health care. The question is health insurance. And what kind of insurance.

We went from a system where everyone got health care and the best health care in the world at a reasonable cost to a system now everyone has insurance but are not getting health care. People on Medicaid because Medicaid has blown up and Medicaid providers have not blown up. They are not getting health care anymore because under Medicaid, because they don't have access to providers.

This is -- this is a false narrative.


SANTORUM: And people -- and you can't accept that narrative as a basis for going forward with the next bill.

TANDEN: We have some -- we have facts here. 20 million people have received health care because of the Affordable Care --

TAPPER: Health insurance.

TANDEN: Health insurance...

SANTORUM: Health insurance.

TANDEN: ... because of the Affordable Care Act. And they are healthier because of the Affordable Care Act.

And the reality is that Donald Trump promised voters that they would keep their coverage. And now we have estimates from this plan that he endorsed that 50 million people would lose it. States like North Carolina, the prices go up the second most. Alaska, the most.

The reality is here, people relied on him, they voted for him for who've got the Affordable Care Act to saying they would keep their coverage and it would get better. And the Ryan plan is less coverage at a highest cost, worse all around. And I think that's what's fueling a lot of the anxiety amongst Republicans and Democrats.

GUTIERREZ: And when you look at rural America, one of the greatest beneficiaries of Obamacare, here's what you have. What you have is a woman, she's in North Carolina, she was in "The New York Times," she pays $260 a month for her health care plan. She gets to $791 subsidy. Well, the Republicans are offering her $2500 to $4,000 in subsidies. She can't afford health care.

Here's what happens, she said, I voted for Trump because I thought he was going to reduce my health care, now I'm realizing that under this program, I'm going to pay more, if not be completely shut out of the health care position.

MEADOWS: There won't (ph) be (INAUDIBLE) policies left and right. Number one, there's only -- like a big percentage of counties only have one plan.


SANTORUM: We're down to one (INAUDIBLE). Come on.

TANDEN: I know. That's because the Republicans undermined the ACA.

TAPPER: Great stuff and this issue is not going away. We'll have you all back. Thanks one and all for being here.

Coming up, is the former tabloid king of New York City about to usher in a new tabloid era in the nation's capital? D.C. getting the tabloid treatment in this week's "State of the Cartoonion."



TAPPER: Welcome back. President Taft was the first president to work in the Oval Office. It's the room where addresses the nation have happened, heated discussions about war and the economy, and then there's the meeting that took place there this past week which is the subject of this week's " State of the Cartoonion."


TAPPER (voice-over): Into the sacred confines of the Oval Office, President Trump welcomed for an hour long meeting this week TMZ founder Harvey Levin.

Levin says the nation's foremost purveyor of lurid celebrity gossip is headed for the nation's capital.

HARVEY LEVIN, FOUNDER, TMZ: I'm telling you, TMZ D.C. is a big thing.

TAPPER: And we know President Trump himself is not above some celebrity gossip.

JOHN MILLER, MEDIA SPOKESMAN: Actresses, the people that you write about just call to see if they can go out with him and things. He's got zero interest in Madonna, it was literally the end.

TAPPER: I'm sorry. That was actually so-called spokesman for Mr. Trump John Miller. Actually, Mr. Trump himself.


It is widely suspected. Here is the actual president.

TRUMP: Things are being leaked. It's criminal action, criminal act. And it has been going on for a long time.

TAPPER: That's kind of in conflict with TMZ's common practice of paying for leaks, leaks about famous people. But so far despite supposedly placing paparazzi all over the nation's capital TMZ D.C. has yet to yield any big scoops. But they do say Washington is Hollywood for ugly people so perhaps TMZ will fit right in after all.

LEVIN: They're celebrities. They're going to like this. They just don't know yet.


TAPPER: Thanks for watching.