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New Report on Russian Election Interference; Sean Spicer Holds Audio-Only Press Briefing. Aired 3-3:30p ET
Aired June 23, 2017 - 15:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
QUESTION: (In progress) -- the president said he believes his tweet about the tapes
influenced Comey to tell the truth at his testimony. So, two-prong question here.
Is his position now that Comey was truthful in that testimony? And is he conceding that he used Twitter in a way he believes changed the behavior of a congressional witness?
SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I'm not going to comment any further than the comments that he made this morning.
QUESTION: ... a separate topic, on the briefings, you said Monday about your decision to hold these off-camera briefings, off- audio briefings, quote, "There are days that I'll decide that the president's voice should be the one that speaks and iterate his priorities." Today, the president spoke -- so did you this morning -- in an interview with Fox News.
What's the reasoning for not answering questions on camera today?
SPICER: The president's -- gave lengthy remarks today on camera. Spoke about the V.A. bill; I hope you carried it.
QUESTION: You spoke on camera, too, earlier.
SPICER: I know. I did. See how much on-camera there is?
I mean, look, I think, as I said, you referenced the comments I made on Monday, I made the same comments -- similar comments in -- in December and January. Some days we'll do it.
I think it's -- it's great for us to come out here and have a substantive and -- discussion about policies. I don't think that the be-all and end-all is whether it's on television or not. We've made ourselves available a lot of times, and continue to do it.
But I'd rather sit here and have a very enjoyable conversation with you on issues on a Friday afternoon, after -- and let the president's comments stand on the great things that he's doing on behalf of our nation's veterans.
QUESTION: Sean, a follow-up on the tape, though. You were also on Fox this morning, and you indicated...
SPICER: I was. Thank you for watching.
QUESTION: ... yeah -- but you indicated that -- that the president's tweet on the tapes successfully influenced Comey to tell the truth in his testimony.
So do you believe that he lied about -- is it the White House's position that he still lied about the president pressuring him to end the Flynn investigation? Is that -- is that still the White House position?
SPICER: I believe that the president's remarks on "Fox and Friends" this morning reflect the president's position.
QUESTION: So that -- that would mean that he believes that Comey told -- told the truth in his testimony.
SPICER: I don't -- I don't think I need to do any further analysis than what the president himself said the intention was.
QUESTION: Thank you, Sean. I have two questions, if I may.
First is about -- during yesterday's meeting between President Trump and Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi, President Trump expressed his interest in joining Belt and Road Initiative. Could you tell us more about their meeting?
SPICER: I can't -- I mean, there's obviously -- I think we sent a representative to that conference, but I'm not going to get any further than that -- the discussion that they had.
QUESTION: And also we heard that Jared and Ivanka have accepted invitation to visit China by the end of this year. Could you comment on that as well?
SPICER: They have.
SPICER: I know, because Goyal's got a visit coming on Monday, so he gets a question on a Friday.
QUESTION: Thank you, sir. Two questions.
SPICER: You excited?
QUESTION: ... this will be the first face-to-face meeting...
SPICER: It will.
QUESTION: Yes, sir. This will be...
SPICER: Better get ready.
QUESTION: ... this meeting between President Trump and Prime Minister Modi. So is President Trump ready to accept him and welcome him?
Because both have the same dream. Prime Minister Modi is saying the -- made in India. President Trump is saying, buy American and make in America or hire American.
So my question is that how much is there on the plate when Prime Minister Modi arrives here? He's saying that he will have a great meeting with the president, because we have many things in common as far as U.S.-India relations are concerned. So what are we expecting, really, between the two leaders?
SPICER: Well, first, I want to wish the people of India a happy 70th anniversary of their independence.
But during the meeting, the president and the prime minister will discussing ongoing cooperation, to -- including counterterrorism, defense partnership in the Indo-Pacific region, global cooperation, burden-sharing, trade, law enforcement and energy. I think it's going to be a very robust discussion.
QUESTION: And (inaudible) question, please.
QUESTION: Thank you.
On Wednesday, June 21st, was the International Day of Yoga, which was declared by the United Nations three years ago...
QUESTION: ... with the -- under the leadership initiated by Modi.
Any citation do you think President Trump will issue? Or what he had -- any message as far is yoga is concerned? Because yoga means less trips to the doctors and hospitals.
SPICER: I'm -- I -- I will -- I don't have... (LAUGHTER)
... anything on yoga at this point.
But I appreciate the...
SPICER: No, I...
QUESTION: Thank you, (inaudible).
I have two questions, one on North Korea, one on health care.
Starting with health care, does the president consider the Senate bill a full repeal of Obamacare? The four senators you talked about, they cite that they don't feel it's a full repeal, which is why they're not supporting the current draft.
SPICER: Obamacare is -- there -- is -- I mean, I think I've said it before -- Obamacare is dead. So -- it -- it is -- you have no carriers, the premiums are skyrocketing. So whatever you want to call it, the bottom line is, it is a dead health care system.
There isn't a question about whether or not -- what to do with it. We have to act. I think the president's made clear that we need to actually get a system in place.
QUESTION: On -- on North Korea, the government of North Korea said that Otto Warmbier's death is a mystery to them. How does the White House respond to these comments?
SPICER: I don't think it's a mystery. I think we know very well what happened. And I think, as the president said, it's a disgrace.
QUESTION: Sean, I have a couple questions.
First, on health care, the order in which the Senate is going to vote will occur after the CBO score, and the White House was very critical of the Congressional Budget Office back in March, during the House process. So my question is, does the president believe that his discussions with lawmakers about what they want and their concern about the legislation -- should it be guided by the CBO score? And will it influence his thinking as he looks at the bill?
SPICER: I think one of the points that I made last time, Alexis, which stands, is that the CBO core function is budgetary and fiscal impacts, not on people. And they've been wildly off by a huge percentage when they've tried to score people. Their track record on doing that is not -- not good.
And so, we're going to -- we maintain what we have all along. We want to do the right policy. And the CBO score should be used by members in the Senate to decide, you know, to the -- to the extent that they think that that helps them make a decision.
But I think we all understand -- look, Obamacare was -- we -- promised it was going to drive premiums down $2,500. It was going to bring down deductibles. It did none of that stuff.
I think the way that this bill has been constructed -- has done so in a way that it is going to actually achieve the goals that the American people were promised.
All the way in the back.
QUESTION: Can I follow up -- can I just follow up on another topic?
SPICER: Of course.
QUESTION: Hallie was asking about Russia and the interference, and I just wanted to ask you, because you were just commenting that the president does believe Russia was behind the interference last -- in the election, that he is concerned, that the administration is taking steps.
So to follow up on her question and Steve's question, is it the president's desire to speak directly to Putin, if he gets that chance, to say that U.S. officials believe that Russia poses a risk to the 2018 and 2020 elections, and that the United States would like Russia to be on notice or on warning that the United States disapproves of it?
SPICER: If and when there's a meeting, we will have a readout for you.
QUESTION: Thank you, Sean.
There's a play -- a rendition of "Julius Caesar" in New York City where the character portrayed as President Trump gets assassinated. Is the president aware of this play? And if so, what's his reaction? And also, is the Secret Service investigating it? SPICER: That's a question for the Secret Service. You can call Kathy (ph) over there and ask her.
Look, I think it's troubling, whether it's that or Johnny Depp's comments or -- and we've seen this, and -- and frankly, as far as I'm concerned, I know that the president and the first lady weighed in on -- on Kathy Griffin's comments.
I don't know that he's aware about the play, in particular, that's going on there. But it is, you know, frankly, my -- my belief, a little troubling, the lack of outrage that we've seen in some of these instances where people have said what they've said with respect to the president and the actions that should be taken.
The president's made it clear that we should denounce violence in all of its forms. And I think that, if we're going to hold to that standard, then we should all agree that that standard should be universally called out.
And so, when those actions are depicted -- and I think we saw, you know, a couple folks in the media and some other places tweet out their support for that show. I don't -- I'm not sure that that's -- that's a smart thing to do. We either all agree that violence should be called out and denounced, or not.
And I think that it's -- it's concerning when you see a pattern that -- these comments get made, these actions get depicted, and the lack of attention that they get when it's -- when it's on our side.
QUESTION: Sean, thank you.
Yeah, regarding the bill signed this morning, do you see this as a -- because the president talked a lot about draining the swamp. Is this considered a part of that, with federal employees and so forth?
Do you see this as maybe a larger point of, like, going through civil service reform, in which you can look at holding career-level federal employees to higher standards, and making it easier to fire certain people for certain conduct?
SPICER: I think it's a good start, yeah. We're -- this is the first step.
I think it's important that we start with our veterans, but I think everyone who serves in the public trust has a -- has an obligation to -- to serve the public and do what they can, whether it's our veterans or people looking for an education loan or whatever. And if you're not doing your job, I think that we should, as a government, have a -- have a standard that, if you're not doing what the job's supposed to be doing (sic), and you're not helping your fellow American achieve what that department or agency is (inaudible), then we should make sure that there's a process by which we can have that person removed and put in place somebody who will do it.
The president's step this morning was a big step forward. And I think, to your question, the impact of that, the signal that it sends, isn't just about veterans, obviously. But it is -- it is -- it should resonate government-wide that we expect people who serve in government to do what they can to -- to serve our country.
QUESTION: You mentioned veterans would be a good start. What would be the next step? I mean, would it be the -- possibly the IRS, or...
SPICER: I -- yeah, I mean, we'll -- we'll wait and see. I think we've got a fairly robust legislative agenda right now. But if the House or the Senate wanted to move forward with something else, I'm sure we could find a way to work with them.
QUESTION: Thank you, Sean.
The Carrier plant that the president visited right after the election has told employees that it would lay off more than 600 people between now and the end of the year. Employment would actually fall below the agreement that it has with the state.
Does the president reengage in that situation? Could the state claw back some of those incentives?
SPICER: There was -- there -- we're talking about 632 jobs, in this instance. This was announced last year, so what we're hearing now is nothing new. Carrier remains committed to retaining six -- 1,069 Hoosier jobs over the next 10 years, consistent with the deal that was reached after the election. By maintaining these jobs in Indiana, Carrier is showing confidence in the business climate and the future of the American economy.
QUESTION: So in terms of the deals that the White House is making with individual companies, though, earlier this week, you addressed Ford, and you said at some point in the future, tax reform is what would incentivize companies...
QUESTION: ... to operate here. But what sort of an enforcement mechanism does the White House have to keep these companies honest?
SPICER: Well, again, remember, that deal that you're talking about with Carrier is consistent with the deal that they struck. This is just a manifestation of the deal that was -- that was struck back in -- I think it was November of last year; it could have been early December.
So, you know, this is consistent with what they said they would do back then. But I think both in terms of regulatory policy and tax policy, we need to do what we can to incentivize more companies to not just stay here, but to grow here.
QUESTION: Thank you, Sean.
Two separate policy topics.
First of all, you said that Senator Joe Manchin, a Democrat, is going to be looking at potentially getting some Democratic votes for the Senate health care bill. The president has said repeatedly that no matter how good this bill is, that he doesn't think that he would get any Democratic votes for it.
It now sounds like you're saying that you do expect, potentially, to get some Democratic votes for it, and therefore you might not even need these four Republican senators who say that they can't support it.
SPICER: I didn't say that.
SPICER: But what I said, and just to be clear, is it's obviously -- the president believes, and for good reason -- I don't think, you know, that he doesn't believe that we'll end up getting any. I think it's encouraging that, as we evolve through this process, that you see someone like Senator Manchin say, "I agree that the system's broken and -- and I'm willing to fix it."
Now, whether or not we ultimately can get his vote, that's another question. But I think it's encouraging that someone like him wants to step forward and engage in a discussion about if there's a potential of -- of getting his vote.
And obviously that's a discussion that, whether it's he -- him or someone else, you know -- I -- I noted the other day, I think to Hallie, that, you know, a couple times already, Senator Schumer's been very clear that there would be no engagement from Democrats.
So to see this progress, I think, is -- is -- you know, I don't want to get too far in front of it, but it's also -- it's good to see at least one senator publicly say that they're willing to have that discussion.
QUESTION: Sir -- sorry, I said two policy questions, sorry.
SPICER: You did.
QUESTION: They're -- totally separate subject. I wanted to follow up on what John Gizzi had asked about the...
SPICER: That's a first.
(LAUGHTER) QUESTION: Follow up on what John Gizzi had said about the president's speech on Tuesday night, and the welfare requirement for immigrants.
What specifically would the proposal that the president was talking about do that's different than what is already a part of the federal law?
You said he wanted to reexamine it, maybe even put in a new -- a new law. What -- what was he proposing? How is that different?
SPICER: Well again, when we have an announcement on that, I'll let you know.
QUESTION: You're putting new legislation forward (ph).
SPICER: I understand that, and so when we do, we'll let you know. But at this point, we don't have that.
QUESTION: Thank you, Sean.
If the White House is concerned about the message of "Julius Caesar" and stuff that's said by Johnny Depp, then why was Al Baldasaro, who said that Hillary Clinton should be shot for treason for her handling of Benghazi, invited to the V.A. event today at the White House?
SPICER: Well, obviously, as I mentioned, we also -- I make it very clear, I don't -- I condemn all acts of violence. I don't believe that any -- and the president has said this as well -- that anybody who goes out and tries to highlight those kind of actions should not be welcome.
I don't -- I'm not aware of the comments he made. But again, I'll say it right now, that I don't think that we should be resorting to that kind of language with respect to anybody in our country.
QUESTION: You do condemn it?
SPICER: I do. Thank you.
OK, we're getting to the second row now.
QUESTION: I want to ask you about one on Russia and one on health care.
Russian -- Russia sanctions bill, can you talk at all about what your goals are for that bill, even -- even a sense of timing? Is it -- is it -- is it helpful to have that bill sooner or later in the (ph) White House?
SPICER: You mean the one that the Senate passed, that is -- got pulled back for the parliamentary -- I mean, that -- I mean, that's -- it's -- right now, it's -- the Senate passed the bill. The parliamentarian ruled that it had a revenue component to it, and it had to have originated in the House, so now the House is looking at it.
But right now, I mean, there's not -- there's nothing to -- there's nothing to comment on, in the sense that the Senate parliamentarian ruled that because of the revenue nature...
SPICER: Well, I mean, let's see what it looks like.
I think, obviously, the -- the concern that we will have is whether or not the executive maintains the authority and the flexibility with respect to implementing sanctions, both going forward and -- and pulling back, to effectively achieve a goal, right? And so...
QUESTION: It's not a timing issue for you guys.
SPICER: ... no. I think it's a policy -- it's -- it's how it's crafted, and -- and I think that's something that we're going to look at as it, you know -- assuming that the House now takes it -- takes up its legislation, and then when it goes to the Senate.
But I think our main concern overall with sanctions is -- is how they -- how the Congress crafts them, and any potential erosion of the executive branch's authority to implement them.
QUESTION: Just real quick, on the -- the -- these contested Obamacare payments, the...
SPICER: The CSRs.
QUESTION: ... that the administration let (ph) through this month...
QUESTION: ... the president has referred to those as ransom. Is there any reason to believe that those will -- won't keep just -- won't be approved every month until there's a change in the health care law?
SPICER: I think we committed to making them last month, and that's as far as we will go at this time. We're not committing to them this month. Obviously...
QUESTION: Why is it a month-to-month thing for you?
SPICER: Because I think that the question is, if we -- you know, again, I'm not going to -- last month -- obviously, if we can pass health care overall, then that changes the dynamic, and part of it's going to be where we are in that process. But it'll ultimately be up to the president to decide.
But the reason it's a month-to-month is because -- exactly what you said. He doesn't -- the court has ruled very clearly on this -- on this instance.
QUESTION: Can you say why he decided to make -- authorize these payments...
SPICER: Because, again, part of it is -- our goal is to ultimately transition to a health care system that doesn't need them and isn't a bailout to the insurance companies. So we want to get to that system as quick as possible, and our hope is that that transition can take place.
QUESTION: Seems like, you know, to threaten these payments on a month-to-month basis, does this risk the...
SPICER: It's not a threat.
SPICER: There's no threat. It's just a fact.
As soon as we can get it done, it's in the best interest of the health care system, it's in the best interest of the American taxpayer -- and as soon as the president decides that we either have a system or he doesn't want to continue the bailout, then we'll stop.
SPICER: But it wouldn't make -- I mean, I don't think -- look, I'll give you the flip side.
If the president were to hypothetically say that he's going to make the payments in perpetuity or for a year, I think that that continues to prop up a failed system, it continues to do wrong by the American taxpayer, and it also doesn't lend itself to the expediency that I think we want to -- to help get a new health care system in place, OK?
Thank you guys very much.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: All right. So, that's that.
Let's parse through this audio-only, no-cameras-allowed White House briefing today. I know. It's not ideal. This is how the White House is rolling at the moment.
David Chalian, let me begin with you. I wrote down headlines on Russia, health care, even Johnny Depp. Got a whole panel to talk about this.
But, David Chalian, first, on Russia, seems to me that Sean Spicer was saying the White House is getting a little bit more comfortable admitting that President Trump actually does believe, despite that awful answer earlier in the week from Sean Spicer, does believe it was Russia who meddled in the election.
And, two, you know, despite what President Trump had said in that FOX interview with regard to the sort of too-close-for-comfort relationship between Bob Mueller and James Comey being bothersome, says, even though he has the power to fire him, he will -- he has no intention of doing so.
DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yes, keep your eyes on that latter point there, Brooke.
The first point, you're right. Sean Spicer was able to go back and have the conversation with the president, apparently, and confirm that what he said in January is still operative, that he thinks it's Russia.
There wasn't much more expansion beyond that about what the administration is doing to make sure that our election system is not attacked again.
But on the second point you made, it seems to me -- and Sean kept saying I'm going to let the president's comments about Mueller stand, he made himself crystal clear -- well, if he -- if indeed the president was being crystal clear, it is at least crystal clear to me that the president is looking to define Mueller on his terms.
He sees him as a political opponent. He highlighted in that interview with FOX the too-close relationship he sees with Comey. He thinks it's an important point to mention that Mueller's lawyers that he's hired have made political donations to Democrats.
He's trying to frame how the country should see Mueller, and he wants them to see him as a political opponent here.
BALDWIN: Let's listen to that.
CHALIAN: Not as a hands-off investigator.
BALDWIN: Let's listen to that. Go ahead and roll it, guys.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He's very, very good friends with Comey, which is very bothersome. But he's also -- we're going to have to see. I mean, we're going to have to see in terms -- look, there has been no obstruction. There has been no collusion. There has been leaking by Comey.
But there's been no collusion, no obstruction, and virtually everybody agrees to that. Robert Mueller's an honorable man. And hopefully he will come up with an honorable solution.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: So, Michael Zeldin, to David Chalian's point on how clearly the president is framing this relationship, even though Sean Spicer is saying he has no intention of firing him, although he can, he has the power to do so, you know, Bob Mueller was your boss.
Can you just tell us how close these men are? And should that, you know -- would that compromise, at all, the special counsel's integrity in this investigation?
MICHAEL ZELDIN, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: These guys are consummate professionals, and no way is Comey's relationship with Mueller going to interfere with Mueller doing the right thing, full stop. That's the end of that discussion.
With respect to the president and his sort of bipolar approach to Mueller, it's not clear to me what he's trying to do. On the one hand, he, yes, is going after Mueller and saying, perhaps, this guy is compromised and I'm going to keep my options open whether to retain him or fire him.
On the other hand, he said he's an honorable guy and he will do the right thing. If he goes after Mueller and says Mueller is a partisan, sort of in the way that Clinton went after Starr, then if Mueller does come forward, as Bob Mueller is quite capable of doing, when there's no there there, he will say it.
If he's muddied up Mueller's reputation, when Mueller says there's no there there, how do they walk back from that and say that, well, he is a man of integrity? So I don't think that they can play it both ways and I think it's a dangerous course that they're following there.
BALDWIN: Let's stay on Russia. We will get to health care in a second.
Jeff Zeleny, let me bring your voice in as our senior White House correspondent. It also sounded to me Sean Spicer was saying it is possible that the president may meet with Vladimir Putin.
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: He did say it's possible, but that is something that is sort of always up in the air, particularly with Vladimir Putin.
If we will remember, he did not acknowledge or confirm a meeting with the secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, a month or more ago when he was visiting Moscow until really essentially when it was happening. So this is not all that unusual to not necessarily confirm it, because, frankly, I don't think the White House knows if there will be a meeting or not. But if there is, this would come likely at the G20. That's the
meeting of world leaders that's going to be taking place early next month in Hamburg, Germany, here. But, boy, Brooke, that would be an epic meeting, of course, here.
But the -- back to something that David and you were talking about earlier, Sean Spicer still left room in the fact that it could be any country interfering. He said this. He said that: "Of course he is. He's concerned about any country and any actor that wants to interfere in the election."
That simply is not strong enough for what some Republicans want to hear. Congressman Adam Kinzinger, a Republican of Illinois, was on CNN's "NEW DAY" this morning saying the president needs to be more forthcoming about this because he said the same thing can happen in the reverse to a Republican election here.
So I'm still not hearing the level of acknowledgment of interference in the election here at the White House that you're hearing, really, across this town, across the intelligence community, House, Senate, Republican, Democrat, it doesn't matter.
ZELENY: That is still not something the president wants to engage in, because he's afraid that it delegitimizes his win, which, of course, it doesn't. He won the election. It's a separate thing.
ZELENY: But it's something that this White House has still struggled to come to grips with.
BALDWIN: Astute of you, because it mirrors what the president said in that mega-news conference back on January 11. Right? He said, Russia and other countries.
So, I hear you loud and clear, Jeff Zeleny, on that point.
Let's also just talk about the briefing now.
Brian Stelter is with me.
And just so we're all transparent, this is the second straight day that the White House has not allowed you to see the briefing. In fact, there have only been two on-camera briefings in the past two weeks, so 15 days.
So, we here at CNN actually sent a sketch artist inside to provide you with the visuals the White House won't allow you to see. So you're actually looking at this artist rendering of Press Secretary Sean Spicer giving the answers. They refused to be recorded on camera.
Brian Stelter, this is the only way people can see. It's ridiculous.
BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: This is CNN getting creative. Other television networks will be able to use these images later today as well, Brooke.
This is by artist Bill Hennessy, a well-known courtroom artist. He works at the Supreme Court all the time for CNN and other news outlets. He's covered a lot of trials, but I believe this is his first day sketching a White House press briefing.
So, you see his image on screen here. He was in the back of the briefing, didn't have his easel, the way he usually has, but he was able to draw the briefing. He's working on color versions of these images now.
The point here is serious. CNN did not send a cartoonist in order to make fun of the briefing. They sent an actual sketch artist, because it's a way to create a picture, paint a picture of these briefings for people, because we, the viewers, weren't able to watch on camera.
Brooke, this is an example of the White House rolling back press access. We have seen what is normally on-camera daily briefings become a relatively infrequent exercise. You mentioned only twice in the past two weeks the briefings have been held on-camera.
Most of the time they have been off-camera, audio-only and no live audio.
It's weird in this age of Periscope and Facebook Live, that you and I could get our phone out and live-stream right now, that the White House is being so restrictive. And we have seen a number of attempts to change this. There was a meeting yesterday with the head of the White House Correspondents Association with Sean Spicer expressing concerns about these restrictions, but I think today, CNN trying something new inside the briefing in order to have people have a sense of what it looks like.
BALDWIN: So the concerns have been expressed.
Jeff, just back over to you at the White House, I mean, tell me what's the White House's explanation? I'm checking my Twitter during the briefing, and I'm getting from viewers like I'm not tuning in to listen to a podcast. People deserve to see the briefing. Why not?
ZELENY: Well, Sean Spicer was asked that directly again today at the audio-only briefing, and he said, look, he said that this is something the White House is trying to allow for a more substantive discussion on policy.
That's actually, perhaps, some of it. And it was a robust briefing today with some serious discussions. Of course, that can happen on- camera as well here. This would not be all that unusual if this happened to be the anomaly, if there happened to be three or four daily briefings and then once a week or so -- I can remember back in the Obama days, back in the Bush administration, which I was covering as well, the press secretary would have a group of reporters in his office to talk about things in a more substantive way that weren't necessarily in sound bites. But that's not what this White House is doing. This White House is trying to avoid questions about the Russia investigation over and over. And the president also, I believe, is trying to have the media sort of fight with itself and talk about itself.
He relishes the moment when the media is talking about the media. He enjoys this. But seeing this sketch artist there, I was just talking to Bill Hennessy just before I came out here, Brooke. And I can tell you, he is a very talented artist, as we have seen, and he has -- you know, sketching out some more things of the scene in the room there.
And, as Brian said, this isn't a cartoon. This is a real depiction of what's going on there. so, certainly, like a courtroom, like a murder trial or something elsewhere cameras aren't allowed, they weren't allowed today, so we went in with a sketch artist, Brooke.
BALDWIN: Wow. Well, let's move on from that.
David Chalian, back over to you. Point taken.
On health care, so we have a bit of breaking news. As we were listening to that briefing, we know a fifth Republican senator, Senator Dean Heller, on health care has now said the current Senate health care bill is -- quote -- "not the answer," announcing, "In this form, I simply will not support it."
So we have got these five guys on the screen here. There could be more, more moderates. This is one wing. Add that to the news from Sean Spicer on just the fact that the president does want involvement, you know, has had some phone calls with the Senate majority leader. The vice president's being integral in this process. What do you make of this now? And now there are five.
CHALIAN: Yes, I want to underscore Heller, because it's a different scenario than the other four that we heard from yesterday on this, and here's why.
Dean Heller is the most vulnerable Republican up for reelection. So, it is a year where Democrats are on defense almost entirely. Republicans get to play a ton of offense this cycle in Senate races. This is one race where Republicans are playing defense, and Dean Heller is the kind -- in a battleground state, a purplish state that leans blue sometimes, like it did in 2016, in Nevada, is exactly the kind of incumbent that Mitch McConnell would say, hey, I understand if you can't vote with me on this as I want everyone else in the conference to vote because you have got to play your politics right.
The problem is, Mitch McConnell doesn't have a ton of breathing room here. As you know, he can't lose more than two. So now, when you have some of those other conservatives are out there to try to publicly negotiate, and Dean Heller certainly left himself room.
He said not in its current form. But it is going to be very tricky for Dean Heller to now eventually somehow come out in favor of this bill without getting hammered by the Democrats in what is going to be a tough campaign for Dean Heller this season. BALDWIN: Got it. Got it. Thank you for that, David Chalian.
BALDWIN: And thank you all so very much.
Bill Hennessy, thanks for the sketch as well.
Coming up next here on CNN, this bombshell report out of "The Washington Post" today detailing how the Obama administration confronted Vladimir Putin in 2016 about Russia hacking the election. Did they do enough?