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Conservatives Slam GOP's Obamacare Replacement Plan; Deputy Attorney General Nominee Grilled Over Russia-Trump Allegations; Interview with Rep. Chris Collins; House Intel Chair Has Not Seen Evidence of Trump Wiretap Claim. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired March 7, 2017 - 17:00   ET


TAPPER: You can tweet the show, @TheLeadCNN. That's it for "THE LEAD." Turning you over now to Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

[17:00:11] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, breaking news. On life support. The president backs a House Republican plan to replace Obamacare, but it's already under attack from all sides with conservatives calling it Obamacare Lite. Is it dead on arrival?

Still no evidence. The White House offers nothing to back the president's claim that he was wiretapped at Trump Tower by President Obama. It has not talked to the FBI, and it says the president has no regrets. Democrats say President Trump is destroying -- destroying -- the credibility of the presidency 140 characters at a time.

Special prosecutor. Senators press the man who would oversee a federal inquiry into Russia's election meddling and its contacts with the Trump campaign. Would he answer Democrats' demands to appoint a special prosecutor?

And CIA secrets stolen. WikiLeaks claims it has secret files on how the agency uses cyber weapons to spy on people around the world, including hacking into smartphones and smart TVs. Does President Trump still love WikiLeaks?

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: Breaking news, House Republicans roll out their Obamacare replacement plan, and President Trump gives his blessing. But the plan is under attack from both left and right, and the White House may have a very, very tough sell.

Democrats say proposed subsidy cuts will drastically reduce the number of Americans with health coverage. Conservatives say the new plan's tax credits gives a lot too much away and says it's not what the -- what they promised the American people.

And while the bill's sponsors will try to rush it through Congress, conservatives already say it's dead on arrival. Senators today pressed the man who would control a federal investigation into Russia's election meddling and Moscow's contacts with the Trump campaign. The deputy attorney general nominee was questioned about President

Trump's unfounded claim that he was wiretapped in Trump Tower in New York City by President Obama. That claim has been denied by an Obama spokesman and the former director of national intelligence; and the White House is not backing off and says the president has no regrets.

Lawmakers on both sides say they've seen no evidence to back the president's claim, and while the House Intelligence Committee chairman says his panel will look into the matter, Democrats are stepping up demands for a special prosecutor.

And WikiLeaks, once praised by President Trump for its damaging leaks during the presidential campaign, has now published what it says are secret files on a worldwide CIA hacking operation that can target smart phones and smart TVs and bypass encrypted messaging apps.

I'll speak with Republican Congressman Chris Collins. And our correspondents, analysts and guests, they're standing by with full coverage of the day's top stories.

We're following two major stories right now: the growing fallout over President Trump's claim that he was wiretapped by President Obama and the growing opposition within the Republican Party to an Obamacare replacement plan.

Let's begin with our senior White House correspondent, Jim Acosta. Jim, the president just spoke about the healthcare plan. Update our viewers.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. We just heard from President Trump here at the White House on health care. The president announced he supports the House Republican plan to repeal and replace Obamacare, but the president's message had to share the stage once again today with the problem of his own making. This time his unfounded claim that President Obama bugged him.


ACOSTA (voice-over): It's now a question that won't go away. Where is President Trump's proof that his predecessor, Barack Obama, broke the law and tapped his phones? The White House still doesn't have an answer.

(on camera): Where is the evidence? Where is the proof that President Obama bugged President Trump?


ACOSTA: Do you have any proof or any evidence?

SPICER: No. It's not a question -- it's not a question of new proof or less proof or whatever. It's -- the answer is the same. And I think that -- which is that I think that there is a concern about what happened in the 2016 election. The House and Senate Intelligence Committees have the staff and the capabilities and the processes in place to look at this in a way that's objective, and that's where it should be done.

And frankly, if you've seen the response from especially on the House side but as well as the Senate, they -- they welcome this.

ACOSTA (voice-over): And White House press secretary Sean Spicer made it clear the president is not about to take any of it back.

(on camera): Will the president withdraw the accusation? Does he have any...

SPICER: Why would he withdraw it until it's -- until it's adjudicated? That's what we're asking.

ACOSTA: No regrets from him...


ACOSTA: ... about raising this accusation?

SPICER: Absolutely not.

ACOSTA (voice-over): Democrats are furious and perplexed over the still baseless allegation.

SEN. RICHARD DURBIN (D), ILLINOIS: Donald Trump is destroying the credibility of the office of president 140 characters at a time.

[17:05:05] ACOSTA: The drama over the president's bugging claims is yet another distraction as Republicans mount their first major legislative challenge, selling the public on their plan to repeal and replace Obamacare. But the president embracing the new House GOP plan.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm proud to support the replacement plan released by the House. We're going to have something that's going to be much more understood and much more popular than people can even imagine.

ACOSTA: And the health and human services secretary selling the plan at the White House.


ACOSTA: Even though the White House isn't willing to call this Trumpcare just yet.

(on camera): Is that the president's bill?

SPICER: That is a bill that we have worked with with Congress. And I'm not trying to be cute here, but I think it's not his bill or their bill. It's a bill that we have worked on with them together. We're very proud of where it stands now.

ACOSTA (voice-over): Not because Democrats oppose the bill... REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), MINORITY LEADER: Just when you think you've

seen it all, the Republicans go to a more extreme place. This will make millions of people -- it's a question of 10, 15, 20 million people off of having health insurance. It will be the biggest transfer of wealth from low and middle income people to wealthy people in our country.

ACOSTA: ... but because some conservative Republicans do, as well.

SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: Under Obamacare you had to pay the government the penalty. Under Obamacare Lite, he House leadership plan, you will pay the penalty to the insurance company. This is, in all likelihood, unconstitutional.


ACOSTA: Now, as for the wiretapping claims from the president, the White House was being very careful today about questions of confidence and the FBI director who privately raised concerns about these unfounded claims of bugging at Trump Tower from the president.

Asked if the president still supports James Comey, press secretary Sean Spicer said he has no reasons to believe he doesn't.

The White House did receive more bad news today, Wolf. As you saw up on Capitol Hill, influential conservatives from the Heritage Foundation to the House Freedom Caucus, all lining up to oppose the Republican healthcare plan. The troubles are mounting once again for this president, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, they're suggesting it's dead on arrival.

Jim Acosta, thanks very much.

Senators today pressed the man who would oversee a federal investigation into Russia's interference in the election and Moscow's contacts with the Trump campaign. Add to that now President Trump's unfounded claim that he was wiretapped by President Obama, a claim for which the White House says it has absolutely no regret.

CNN justice correspondent Pamela Brown is here.

Pamela, the nominee, who's widely respected, would -- would be running away quickly, if you will, would be forgiven for running away quickly.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Right, and Wolf, it can't be understated or overstated enough, what would typically be a low-key confirmation hearing for the deputy attorney general became a tension- filled showdown over Russia, because he would now be the man who could oversee the investigation into Russia's meddling in the election, just a week after Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from the investigation.


BROWN (voice-over): Tonight, as questions about Russian interference into the U.S. election swirl, Rod Rosenstein, the man nominated to be deputy attorney general, who would take over the investigation, is at the center of the storm.

ROD ROSENSTEIN, DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL NOMINEE: Let me make sure you all are clear on this. I don't know if there is an investigation. I don't know anything but what I read in the newspapers at this point.

SEN. AL FRANKEN (D-MN), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Well, I actually found -- find it very disturbing that you did not read the declassified report on Russia's activities during the election.

ROSENSTEIN: I read the newspapers stories.

FRANKEN: I find that very, very disturbing.

BROWN: Rosenstein pledging that, even though he is unaware of what probes may be taking place inside the Justice Department, he will continue any necessary investigations into Russian interference.

ROSENSTEIN: If there is an ongoing investigation in the Justice Department into interference with our elections by Russia or anybody else, and it's properly predicated and there's a basis for federal investigation, then absolutely I would support it.

BROWN: But Democrats are demanding a special prosecutor take over.

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D-CA), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: That's why I continue to support the appointment of a special prosecutor to lead the investigation. This is about more than just one individual. This is about the integrity of the process and the public's faith in our institutions of justice.

BROWN: Republicans, on the other hand, resisting those calls.

SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY (R-IA), JUDICIARY CHAIRMAN: How would you decide whether a special prosecutor would be appropriate in a particular department investigation?

ROSENSTEIN: The bottom line is, Senator, that it's my job to make sure that all investigations can be conducted independently.

BROWN: And now there is fresh confusion after President Trump's tectonic claim that President Obama wiretapped Trump's phones during the campaign, which would have been against the law.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I think that the president of the United States, who has stated categorically that Trump Tower was wiretapped, that he should come forward with the information that led him to that conclusion.

BROWN: And tonight Senator Cornyn telling CNN that the Senate intelligence investigation will look at the wiretapping claim.

[17:10:04] MANU RAJU, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Do you believe the president when he says that? SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R-TX), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Well, like I said, it

needs an investigation so we can find out what the facts are. So, we'll follow the facts wherever they may lead.

RAJU: I think largely, though -- largely, was it appropriate for him to say that, to accuse President Obama of this?

CORNYN: I don't know what the -- I don't know what the basis of his statement is, so I really can't comment on that.

BROWN: Today the attorney general refused to comment on the president's wiretapping accusation.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Will you refute President Trump's claims that President Obama had his phones tapped during the election?

BROWN: But Democrats are demanding more answers after Jeff Sessions originally failed to disclose two meetings he had with the Russian ambassador to the U.S. leading to his recusal.

JEFF SESSIONS, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: Therefore, I have recused myself.

FRANKEN: He should come back and explain himself, Mr. Chairman. I think he owes that to us.

BROWN: But Judiciary Committee chairman Republican Chuck Grassley coming to Sessions' defense.

GRASSLEY: If I was going to ask you a gotcha question, I was going to tell you about it ahead of time. And I consider what Senator Franken asked Sessions at that late moment, that that story just come out, as a gotcha question. And...

FRANKEN: It was not a gotcha question, sir.


BROWN: And today the White House is still not commenting further on explaining the president's claims about the wiretap. Instead, it reiterated its desire to investigate leaks to the press -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Pamela Brown, thank you very much.

Joining us now Republican Congressman Chris Collins of New York.

Congressman, thanks very much for joining us.

REP. CHRIS COLLINS (R), NEW YORK: Always good to be with you, Wolf.

BLITZER: President Trump called it a fact. He said it was a fact that President Barack Obama ordered the illegal wiretapping of his phones last year at Trump Tower in New York City. The homeland security secretary, John Kelly, told me last night that President Trump has, quote, "got some convincing evidence that took place."

But is there evidence at all, as far as you know?

COLLINS: Wolf, I am not on the Intelligence Committee. I do not have any information myself. I'm not privy to FISA court orders and the like. So, at this point I don't know anything more than you or other Americans know.

But I do agree there's nothing wrong with putting this, if we're going to investigate the Russian issue related to the campaign. There's nothing wrong with putting this issue, as well. Was there interference, surveillance, phone tapping that was directed by the Democrats, by the administration, directed at the campaign? Might as well investigate that, as well, because we've also got a lot of other things, as you know, whether it's health care or tax reform to deal with. So, I'm fine with doing that investigation.

BLITZER: I know you're not on the Intelligence Committee, but the respective Republican chairmen of the House and Senate Intelligence Committee, they say the same thing. They have seen no evidence that President Obama wiretapped the phones at Trump Tower in New York City. Does that concern you?

COLLINS: Well, whether it's wiretapping or whether it's surveillance or whether it's other kinds of nefarious activities, I guess we need to put them all together and say, let's investigate what did happen, what didn't happen, and see where this goes. So I would expand it beyond the words phone tapping or wiretapping and look at the other issues, as well.

BLITZER: Because in his tweets Saturday morning, and the White House as of today says they're still sticking by those tweets. Let me read a couple to you, because the president was firm.

"Terrible. Just found out that Obama had my wires tapped in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism." A few minutes later he tweeted, "I bet a good lawyer could make a great case out of the fact" -- he used the word "fact" -- "that President Obama was tapping my phones in October just prior to election."

A few minutes after that, "How low has President Obama gone to tap my phones during the very sacred election process? This is Nixon Watergate. Bad or sick guy."

Do you believe President Obama did it, that he's a bad or a sick guy? Do you agree with President Trump?

COLLINS: Well, if it turns out that he did tap his phones, then absolutely I would agree with that. I don't have the facts, so I really can't have a, you know, informed opinion one way or the other, Wolf. Let's let an investigation by the House...

BLITZER: But you don't -- with all due respect, Congressman, you don't need a congressional investigation. He's the president of the United States. If he has the evidence, within a nanosecond, he can release that evidence, make it public and show that he's right. He refuses to do so, which suggests he doesn't really have the evidence. COLLINS: Well, again, it depends what you mean by evidence. It may

be hearsay that someone was explaining that to him. So, let's take this where it goes, and it may or may not be true there was actual wiretapping. And it may not or may not be true there was surveillance and other nefarious activities going on by the Democrats. Let's see where that takes us.

BLITZER: But the president said it was a fact. He didn't put any "ifs," didn't put any qualifiers. He said it was a fact. And that, obviously, has raised so many questions. The FBI director, James Comey, we're told, is incredulous: How could he do this?

[17:15:14] The former director of national intelligence, Clapper, says it never happened. We're getting denial after denial after denial. The president still refuses to provide any back-up to those assertions, and that's causing alarm. You understand that.

COLLINS: Oh, I certainly do understand that. I'm just working away on healthcare reform, on the Energy and Commerce Committee, on the Health Subcommittee and just suggesting, if we're going to investigate Russia, let's investigate this. Let's see where the investigation goes in both cases. Meanwhile, as you well know, we've got an awful lot of work on the other agenda in the House.

BLITZER: All right. Stand by, Congressman. We have a lot to discuss. We're going to take another quick break. We'll be right back.


[17:20:26] BLITZER: Our breaking news: President Trump gives his blessing to an Obamacare replacement plan put forward by the House Republican leadership. A conservative critics are already calling it Obamacare Lite, and they say it will be, quote, "dead on arrival."

We're back with Republican Congressman Chris Collins of New York.

Congressman, you're on the House Energy and Commerce Committee that released the bill. You've got a lot of knowledge about what's in it. We're hoping you can help answer some critically important questions.


BLITZER: First of all, under this bill, how many people would be covered?

COLLINS: Well, initially, certainly everyone is going to be covered. There's really no significant changes, other than the repeal of the employer mandate and individual mandate, which are immediate.

The other changes come in basically January 1st of 2020. It's two years and ten months from now.

So getting rid of the employer mandate and the employee or the individual mandate lets people go whose hours were cut from 39 hours to 27 hours. They can go back to the 39-hour part-time job, not have to have two part-time jobs. You know, that's a very big thing.

Also, the repeal of the fees, the taxes and the penalties which would take place about a year from now, January first of '18, would actually stimulate job creation in the economy, with that money being used by companies and individuals to buy products, goods and services or expand their companies.

BLITZER: So, everybody -- so you're saying, Congressman, everybody who's covered now would be covered in this new -- if this new legislation were to become law? Is that what you're saying?

COLLINS: Yes, certainly through January 1st of 2020, the exchanges are still there...

BLITZER: What about after 2020?

COLLINS: Well, come January 1st of 20, there will be a few changes.

Now, states that are currently being reimbursed at an enhanced rate for Medicaid, it could be 90 percent in New York or other states. They can continue to have the expansion, but it will be at their standard reimbursement rate. In the case of New York, 50 percent. A state like West Virginia, 73 percent.

But I would say to those who don't like that we're cutting that reimbursement, today the blind and the disabled are reimbursed in New York at 50 percent. Why would we reimburse anybody at all for 90?

BLITZER: Let me ask -- let me interrupt for a second, Congressman. Because, you know, there was a congressional budget report that came out, what, in 2015 on similar House legislation which passed but never got through the Senate, never went to the president. And it said that the number of people who are uninsured would increase by 18 million in the first new plan year following enactment of that bill. Very similar to this bill.

And it also went on to say premiums in the non-group market for individual policies purchased through the marketplaces, or directly from insurers would increase by 20 percent to 25 percent. I assume you saw that nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office study.

COLLINS: Yes, but here's the big difference. That plan or that bill we passed eliminated the Medicaid expansion in its entirety right away. We're going to continue it as-is through 2019 and allow the expansion to continue indefinitely if a state chooses, which I'm sure a state like New York will. They'll just get the 50 percent reimbursement instead of 90 percent. And so that was a big thing.

The other one is that plan did not have the refundable tax credits that we have. So you would argue that the 20 million people now that are covered by Medicaid expansion and by the exchanges and the subsidies, if you looked at what we did a couple years ago, that all disappeared. And this plan is not that way.

BLITZER: So question -- question, Congressman, so, after 2020, which is not that far down the road, would more people have insurance or fewer people have insurance? What happens after 20?

COLLINS: Well, we're not sure of that answer, but we're still going to have, in my opinion, Medicaid expansion in the 31 states that expanded. So, that would not see any people coming off on the Medicaid rolls. And people are going to have refundable tax credits...

BLITZER: But this is so important, Congressman. 2020 is not that far down the road. You don't know the answer, how many people would be insured after 2020? That's a question mark that you want to leave hovering over all of this?

COLLINS: Well, we don't know what anyone is going to do tomorrow. We're putting individual choice back in. We're eliminating the individual mandate. We're eliminating the employer mandate.

But we are providing refundable tax credits for people to pick an insurance policy that works for them. We're going to be reimbursing Medicaid expansion at the standard state rate, New York 50 percent, a state like West Virginia at 73. I fully expect the 31 states that took expansion will continue that.

[17:25:19] So right now, there's no indication, frankly, that anyone is going to lose coverage, but two years and ten months from today, we don't know what's going to happen. There could be more people insured. There could be less people insured. That's, you know, hypothesizing something that, you know, isn't -- isn't something we can do, other than what we're doing today is very different than what we talked about a year and a half ago, which would have eliminated the expansion immediately across the board.

That's not the case, and it did not have the refundable tax credit to which we have to help those in the certain lower income level to buy insurance.

BLITZER: As you heard the president today endorse this House leadership version, the Affordable Care Act came to be known as Obamacare. Should this legislation be called Trumpcare?

COLLINS: No, this is actually a coordinated effort between the administration, the House and the Senate. So, this is being called the American Healthcare Act, the AHA, and I think that's fair to say it's a collaborative effort by the administration and the House and the Senate.

And I do believe it's going to be passed. It's too important for the Republican Party. We cannot go into the midterm elections and not have delivered on the repeal and the replacement of Obamacare, something that we all ran on. And I hear what others are saying, but I do think that the speaker, the majority leader in our whip will get the votes. They pledged they're going to get the votes, and we may need President Trump to weigh in. But as a member myself, I've got to expect we will get it done.

BLITZER: Well, you know there's a lot of Republicans already say they can't support it. Mike Lee, the senator from Utah: "This is not the Obamacare repeal bill we've been waiting for. It is a missed opportunity and a step in the wrong direction. We promised the American people we would drain the swamp and end business as usual in Washington. This bill does not do that."

Others are equally as critical. Heritage Action said, "In many ways the House Republican proposal released last night not only accepts the flawed progressive premises of Obamacare, but expands upon them."

They're indicating right now, a lot of these conservative Republicans in the House and the Senate, they can't vote for this. You might not even get it passed in the House or the Senate this first phase.

COLLINS: Well, we've got to get it done, Wolf, or again next year would be a disaster. We're on a team together. We're going to have to rally the team to get this done; and people are saying what they're doing, they're posturing. I would ask them to maybe just back off a little bit.

Look at the details. The very fact that we're eliminating the individual mandate, the employer mandate. We're eliminating all the fees, the taxes and the penalties that have stifled the growth in our economy. And we're fixing Medicaid. We're actually doing the per capita cap block grants on January of 2020 to slow the growth of the cost of Medicaid which today is what we spend on national defense. That will make Medicaid sustainable on into the future. The biggest entitlement change that we've made in decades.

They need to look at the good things in here and not focus on some wish list that they had, which they claim would be the perfect bill for them. You can't let perfect be the enemy of good, and this is a good bill.

BLITZER: It's got to pass the House, and the speaker just said he guarantees it will pass the House. You'll get the 218 votes.

But then it's got to go to the Senate, where there's a 52-Republican majority over the 48 Democrats. So, you need 51 votes. But already, several moderate Republicans in the Senate, whether Susan Collins or Lisa Murkowski or others, they're saying, if you eliminate funding for Planned Parenthood, they can't vote for it. Shelly Moore Capito, Cory Gardner, Rob Portman, there are a whole bunch of Republicans who say you can't stop funding for Planned Parenthood.

Are you ready to put funding for Planned Parenthood back in the legislation?

COLLINS: Well, what it comes down to, Wolf. We're going to pass what we do in the House. It's going to go to the Senate. There will probably --in fact, for sure, there will be some changes coming out of the Senate. That's when we conference the two. And what you've brought up is the one issue that very well could be changed in a conference between the Senate and the House. We'll have to wait and see.

I don't see that changing in the House bill, but we're all aware that that's probably at the top of the list of something that will be problematic in the Senate. We'll have to see how that plays out and deal with it at the time.

BLITZER: Well, very quickly, you know your Republican colleagues in the House. If funding comes back from the Senate to a conference committee, and it insists on funding for Planned Parenthood, will your Republicans in the House vote for that legislation?

COLLINS: I'm confident, Wolf, that when it comes back from conference, the House will approve what we agreed to with the Senate. In some cases, again, it won't be perfect. There will be parts that will be objectionable to folks. But we have to get it done. There is no alternative for the Republican Party, other than to put this on President Trump's desk by the middle of the end of April. We have to get it done. It's that important.

[17:30:26] BLITZER: All right. Congressman Chris Collins of New York, thanks so much for joining us.

COLLINS: Good to be with you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Coming up, can the CIA use your phone, your computer, even your television to listen to your conversations? We have new details about a potentially devastating new claim by WikiLeaks.


[18:35:16] BLITZER: We're following multiple breaking stories, including new attacks on the Republican plan to repeal and replace Obamacare. Even though President Trump says he's proud of the plan and Republican leaders are promising quick action, it already is under lots of fire. Not only by Democrats, but by many conservative Republicans, as well.

Let's bring in our political experts. You know, Gloria, Paul Ryan, the speaker, he guaranteed the 218 votes needed to pass it, the House of Representatives, would be there, but a lot of people are not so sure. There are plenty of Republicans who are worried about it in the House from the right. But there's a whole bunch of Republicans in the Senate who are worried that it simply cuts too much, and a lot of their constituents are going to be left without health insurance.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: What did President Trump say? It's unbelievably complicated? Well, it is.


BORGER: Who knew, who knew it was so complicated? It is. And I think what you saw Paul Ryan trying to do and what you see Mitch McConnell trying to do on the Senate side is get this bill through as quickly as they possibly can, because the more scrutiny it undergoes, the more difficult it will be to get it passed.

We have not had, for example, the price tag for it. We don't know what it's going to cost yet. That takes a little bit of time to figure out. We don't know, as the Congressional Budget Office takes a look at it, we don't know what's going to be the rise, if any, in the copays, in your deductibles, what it's going to do to the Medicare trust fund and how many less people would be served, how many less people would have health insurance or would more people have health insurance?

So we don't -- we don't have all the numbers. And what we do know is the conservatives don't like it, because they think they're starting a new entitlement plan, and they think this looks too much like Obamacare. But the leaders want to push it through, because they want to give the president a win.

BLITZER: With the conservative Republicans opposed, it faces a steep climb to get to that 218 number in the House of Representatives, despite the speaker saying he guarantees it will?

But you know what? It face an even steeper climb in the Senate to get to 51 that you need right away.

CHALIAN: It does. A mix of different kinds of Republican senators who are expressing some concerns. You have the Mike Lee, Rand Paul, Ted Cruz crowd. What Gloria was just talking about, about sort of the conservative critique.

Then you have the Rob Portmans, the Shelley Moore Capitos, who are really concerned about the Medicaid expansion.


CHALIAN: Do you want to get that?

BORGER: No. Sorry.

CHALIAN: Get the Medicaid expansion and keep that expansion going for their states.

But -- but before you get to the Senate, Wolf, the House is where this game is right now, and it really does face a steep climb. My inbox, as I'm sure yours was, flooded from Club for Growth, Freedom Works, Heritage Foundation.


CHALIAN: These are all the conservative groups. I keep thinking to myself, Nancy Pelosi, Barack Obama and Harry Reid must be, like, popping the popcorn and sitting back, because eight years ago, they were fighting with their left flank on public option and watching this and the intra-party battle to get Obamacare through. And now it's Donald Trump and Paul Ryan's turn.

BLITZER: Because in the Senate, if they have three Republicans who bolt, it's over, because no Democrats are going to go along with this, as far as I can tell.


BLITZER: You know, Ryan, you wrote an article about the speaker in "The New Yorker" today. I read it. Let me read a sentence or two from it. "If Ryan" -- you're talking about the speaker, Paul Ryan -- "can rush and muscle it through the House, and Mitch McConnell can do the same in the Senate, it might end up on Trump's desk. But the more scrutiny this House bill is subject to, the more likely it is to share the fate of most efforts at health care reform and die somewhere on its journey to the Senate and perhaps long before then. If his health care reform effort fails, Ryan himself may not survive as the House leader."

And you heard his flat guarantee: it will pass the House.

RYAN LIZZA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, look. I mean, I think I was sort of surprised today by the reaction from the right.

As David pointed out, all of the important grassroots conservative groups came out against this bill. The Freedom Caucus, which represents about 40 members of the House of Representatives, 40 Republicans, a lot of their members came out against it.

So you would have expected, after all of these years and making this the first legislative priority of the Trump era, that the Republican Party would be more unified around this bill.

I mean, in 2009, the Democrats -- and they barely passed that bill, right, when Ted Kennedy died and Brown replaced him. They barely got that thing across the finish line and they were united on the basic plan, despite some of the disagreements they had on the minutiae.

[17:40:08] This is a very ominous sign today that there is that much friction, and you've got it from the middle and from the right.

BLITZER: So, quickly, is Paul Ryan's speakership on the line right now in

Look, you have a faction of the Republican Party that didn't -- wasn't crazy about him and has been -- didn't think he was tough enough against Obama, and that faction is still active and looking for excuses to damage him.

So, I think it's -- I think the Republican speaker always has a bit of a precarious position considering what happens to John Boehner. And the same people that helped overthrow Boehner are the ones today that are very critical. And they're calling this Ryancare, and they don't mean it in a positive sense.

BLITZER: You know the president today, Gloria, he warmly welcomed, he virtually endorsed the House leadership healthcare reform package.


BLITZER: But a lot of people think it's dead on arrival. Do you?

BORGER: Well, I think if they push it through quickly, they have more of a chance than if it sits out there. And I don't know if they're going to be able to push it through quickly.

BLITZER: Well, they've got to wait until the Congressional Budget Office -- they score... BORGER: No, they're not waiting. They're not waiting.

BLITZER: They have to get an estimate...


CHALIAN: ... a vote...

BLITZER: ... how much it's going to cost -- what?

CHALIAN: There won't be a vote on the floor of the House before the CBO report.

BORGER: But they want to push it through committee pretty quickly, and they're not having a huge number of hearings. They're going to mark up and they're going to, you know, do that in committee. So I think they understand that the longer it sits out there, the more of a, you know, a problem it is.

But John Boehner, I mean, Ryan is talking about Boehner. Boehner always says Republicans never agreed on health care. They never agreed what to do about health care. And guess what? Now that they're running the place, they're still not agreeing about what to do about it.

BLITZER: You say they want to jam it through right now.

David Chalian, listen to this. This is 2009, 2010 when Obamacare was on the table, and Republicans had this to say about the process that was unfolding.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), FORMER MINORITY LEADER: They're saying, ignore the wishes of the American people. We know more about this than you do. And we're going to jam it down your throats.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R), FORMER MINORITY LEADER: My colleagues in Congress are going to continue on their march to shove this government non-health care plan down the throats of the American people.

SEN. LAMAR ALEXANDER (R), TENNESSEE: It would be a political kamikaze mission for the Democratic Party if they jam this through.


BLITZER: Well, now it looks like the Republicans want to jam this through.

CHALIAN: What's old is new again. I mean listen, there's a political imperative here, and Donald Trump identified it today when he was meeting with folks at the time White House, the deputy whips and the folks that are going to be rallying these votes.

If the Republicans cannot go back to the country and say, "We have repealed Obamacare," Donald Trump said there's going to be a blood bath for his party in 2018 in the midterm elections. And that's true. They have won election after election, cycle after cycle, 2010, 2014, 2016, all on this promise of repeal.

So, to Gloria's point, they do need to move quickly, because if it does falter, it really could be quite damaging politically for the Republican Party.

BORGER: And for the president. Don't forget that.

LIZZA: And yet the arguments of the conservatives who already don't like this bill, what was their argument about Boehner? What was the thing that they got out of Speaker Ryan to put him in that position? They got promises that they would not rush legislation through, that it would go through so-called regular order.

So, you know, it is true that speed is the best way to get something through, but in this case, to win that right flank, speed may -- may actually push some of those -- some of those folks off.

BLITZER: Let's talk quickly about the president's unsubstantiated claim that President Obama wiretapped his phones at Trump Tower in New York City. The White House once again refusing to provide any back-up to the president's assertions Saturday morning. How long can the White House avoid at least providing some evidence to back that up?

BORGER: Well, I think their belief is that they've now shunted it aside, that they've now squarely said, "OK, it's up to Congress." Sean Spicer today said, "This is what the separation of powers is about. We believe in that." And they believe that way they don't have to address it.

But as long as journalists keep asking the question, Sean Spicer is going to have to keep -- keep answering it. And there are people on Capitol Hill who are saying, as you saw today, that so far we haven't seen any evidence of what the president was talking about.

And the White House will keep saying, "Well, push harder." When we know, in fact, that the president could end the controversy by simply telling people what the evidence is that he has.

BLITZER: It's fascinating that the Republican chairman of both Intelligence Committees said today they've seen no evidence to back up what the president tweeted.

CHALIAN: Yes, and the House intel chair, Devin Nunes, went even further to say, "Well, the president is a political neophyte. So he doesn't seem to know what he's talking about here perhaps, or he doesn't know his way around" -- what? He's the president of the United States. And he put out this statement that had totally no evidence and, of course, the White House is not going to be able to put out evidence, because there is none.

BORGER: He may have meant that the President didn't know it was illegal.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: You know, Ryan, Devin Nunes, the Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee said, look, the President, he's only been a politician for about a year or so. Don't take his words literally. You know, he may not have known what he was doing, he's just saying this. I mean, that's pretty outrageous.

LIZZA: I mean, the outrageous thing is he's right about that in a sense, that the President does act and tweet and say things based on, you know, sort of sketchily sourced press reports rather than relying on, you know, the greatest intelligence service in the world. So, look, we haven't seen evidence of this because there is no evidence.

The White House, when they were pressed last week, they sent reporters some clips of some websites with anonymously sourced reports about this. So if they actually had evidence, if they knew that this was true, they would surely be a whole lot more certain about it.

BORGER: You know, if the President --

BLITZER: Yes. It wasn't really press reports.

BORGER: Go ahead.

BLITZER: It was right-wing radio, you know, that was making these kinds of assertions. They weren't even going as far as the President was going.

LIZZA: No, absolutely right, Wolf.


LIZZA: You're absolutely right.

BORGER: Right.

LIZZA: They were reports that were not saying what he said. You had to go several steps beyond that to make the leap. You're right.


BORGER: You know, the President is a master at knowing how to change a conversation. And don't forget, when this occurred, the conversation was about disarray in the White House and the President getting very agitated at his own staff.

So he does that on Friday. He flies to Mar-a-Lago on Saturday. And he tweets these things Saturday morning because, again, what he's trying to do is say, you know, that isn't the story. The story here is the leaking.



BORGER: The story here is leaking. It's not what you're writing about and trying to sort of, you know, tell the press, go look in another direction.

LIZZA: Right.

BLITZER: And if the President --

CHALIAN: Which is not a successful change of subject.


BLITZER: It was not successful at all.

BORGER: It backfired. I would say it was a boomerang.

BLITZER: If the President has the evidence, he can release it immediately if he wanted to, if there is evidence.


BLITZER: Coming up, WikiLeaks' explosive claim. It just exposed thousands of pages of CIA secrets about how it can hack into your phone, your computer, even some smart TVs.


[17:51:50] BLITZER: WikiLeaks claims it has acquired secret files on how the CIA uses cyber weapons to spy on people around the world, including the ability to hack into smartphones and smart TVs. Brian Todd has been digging into this.

Brian, what are you finding out?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, tonight, WikiLeaks has a bombshell, publishing these documents, what could be the biggest exposure of U.S. intelligence gathering methods since Edward Snowden's leak. WikiLeaks won't reveal its source, other than to say it is someone who wants to get the CIA's hacking capabilities and its intelligence gathering power out in the open.


TODD (voice-over): Some of the CIA's most sophisticated and effective spying tools apparently pried open tonight with the help of WikiLeaks. The anti-secrecy group says it obtained thousands of files, hundreds of millions of lines of code from the CIA's massive hacking operation.

WikiLeaks says the documents show the CIA's team of hackers have developed malware to be able to hack into almost any device people use and can remotely control iPhones, iPads, android devices, taking video from their cameras, listening with their microphones.

ROSS SCHULMAN, SENIOR POLICY COUNSEL, OPEN TECHNOLOGY INSTITUTE: We should be worried if they're being used against non-intelligence targets. We should be worried if they're being used against Americans.

TODD (voice-over): The CIA is not allowed to spy on Americans inside the U.S., but privacy advocates worry other agencies may be using the same tools. WikiLeaks says there's one CIA hacking operation called "Weeping Angel" that can even tap into an enemy's Samsung smart T.V.

TODD (on camera): They can turn my T.V. into a spying device? What happens when I turn it off?

SCHULMAN: When you turn it off, it's not actually off. A lot of people remember that little red light?

TODD (on camera): Right.

SCHULMAN: That means there's still a computer in there. And it's listening for the remote to call back again to turn on, otherwise it wouldn't be able to do so. So what the CIA can do is they can latch into that. And even when the T.V. is off, they can still listen to the microphone that's in the television. They call this fake off.

TODD (voice-over): WikiLeaks says CIA hackers can bypass encrypted messaging apps like signal or telegram, just by cracking the phones themselves. According to WikiLeaks, the CIA explored the possibility of hacking into the software of modern cars.

SCHULMAN: It can be accessed from outside and perhaps taken control of, and this can let you do a lot of things from playing the music to taking control of the car entirely and crashing it if you want to assassinate somebody.

TODD (voice-over): WikiLeaks says the CIA uses the U.S. consulate in Frankfurt, Germany as a secret base where CIA hackers spy on people in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa.

The White House and State Department wouldn't comment. The documents released by WikiLeaks have not been authenticated by independent experts, and the CIA says it won't confirm their existence.

WikiLeaks says some of these hacking techniques would allow the CIA to mask their hacking to make it look like someone else did it. One former CIA analyst says, if this claim is true, WikiLeaks has dealt a significant blow to U.S. national security.

AKI PERITZ, FORMER ANALYST, CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY: Every time a place like WikiLeaks blows our ops, it means that the bad guys evolve and they use countermeasures to defeat the abilities of the United States to spy on them and to track them to target them and so forth.


TODD: WikiLeaks says there's a broader security problem here. That if the CIA can get its hands on these hacking tools, well, then the bad guys can, too. That cyber criminals and other hackers, hostile countries' hacking teams possibly, will be able to hack into people's phones, computers, and TVs.

[17:55:11] Contacted by CNN, the CIA said it does not comment on the authenticity or the content of purported intelligence documents -- Wolf. BLITZER: All right, Brian. Thank you. Brian Todd reporting.

Coming up, the President backs a House Republican plan to replace ObamaCare, but it's already under attack from all sides with conservatives calling it dead on arrival.

And the White House offers no evidence and no regrets for President Trump's claim that he was wiretapped illegally by President Obama.