Return to Transcripts main page
Republicans Look to Pass Health Care Plan; President Trump Blames Obama for Not Stopping Russian Meddling in Election. Aired 3- 3:30p ET
Aired June 26, 2017 - 15:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BRIAN STELTER, CNN ANCHOR: More importantly, Spicer doesn't have answer to the questions that journalists are trying to get answers to.
ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: Let me bring in Abby Phillip. She's our CNN political analyst, also a reporter for -- a White House reporter and you are with "The Washington Post."
Abby, when you hear they don't want to have this on-camera briefing because they want to talk about more substantive issues, and they think that people are trying to ask gotcha questions to have a good video clip to release later, that's been some of the explanation that we have heard from the press team with the White House, it seems like today would be a perfect day to do an on-camera briefings, because they have something so great like the travel ban to talk about, in which the president has come out with a statement saying this was a major victory for his team.
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, I think that's the downside of this strategy when they decide pretty much arbitrarily whether to have an on-camera briefing or not. They miss out on opportunities to push their own message.
But I think that one other thing is apparent here. Whether the briefings are on-camera or off-camera, the answers to questions are not getting more substantive. We still don't know whether or not the president believes that Russia and that Vladimir Putin directed the hacking into the 2016 election.
And according to Sean Spicer, he still hasn't asked the president about it, so we're still getting the same sort of evasiveness and the lack of answers on fairly simple and straightforward questions from this White House, but with even less transparency. I don't think that they're even -- their argument that perhaps the briefings are becoming are more substantive is really borne out by the facts here.
CABRERA: Let's put the on-camera, off-camera briefing aside and talk about this travel bad ruling by the Supreme Court.
Jeffrey Toobin, I just want to get first your reaction to the Supreme Court's decision here to say part of that travel ban may be implemented, but the rest of it, we're going to take up in October. JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Every court, lower court that has considered this, or just about every court, has said it violated the Constitution in one way or another. The Supreme Court did not say that.
The Supreme Court unanimously let part of it go into effect. And that is certainly a win for the Trump administration. They did not let the whole thing go into effect. People who have specific ties to the United States, whether they are students admitted or close relatives or they have job offers in hand, will be allowed to come from those six companies, so, in that respect, the ban will not go into effect.
But by and large, this is certainly better news for the Trump administration than it's had from the courts on the travel ban from day one, and that's something you would think they would want to take about.
CABRERA: Mark Preston, politically speaking, we know the full ban is not in effect. We won't know the fate of that until October, but should the president be taking a victory lap here?
MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICAL EDITOR: Well, in some ways.
He's been beaten up and rightfully so when day one, when they introduced this ban, of course, and it was -- come under a lot of criticism, and of course the other courts knocking it down.
They have got to be careful, and I think so far President Trump has been careful, although I would say that the day is very early, it's only 3:00, where he hasn't gone on a tear on Twitter, given his own personal commentary or analysis about it.
You know, they had a pretty measured statement that they put out, and you have to wonder, will he continue to listen to his lawyers over the upcoming months before the Supreme Court actually hears this case?
But it is a victory for the Trump administration in many ways. And the fact is people are not going to be allowed to come in during this period. And that's what he wanted. So for him for now it's a victory, but he has got to be careful how he plays it over the coming months.
CABRERA: Abby, the starts are still allowing people who have "bona fide" relationships with people here in the U.S. to travel here. Is it clear to you what that means?
PHILLIP: Well, I think one of the main -- the basis for a lot of the challenges have been people who do have those ties, people who had ties to universities or family members and so and so forth.
So, in some ways, I think for those individuals this ruling doesn't really change a whole lot. It still allows them and their family members to travel to and from the United States.
And I think that the Trump administration is notably wanting to take some time to figure out what this means for them. I heard we heard Sean Spicer say today that the agencies need to figure out how to implement this. And that's a change from where they were when they first put this ban into place.
They did it without a lot of agency cooperation. And so you see them sort of like taking a little bit more time, because I think they recognize that the way in which they move on this is going to be very important for their subsequent legal chances in the courts.
And I think, for the vast majority of people, this ruling is going to continue to allow them to live their lives. For the people who may be wanting to come into the United States as tourists, who have no other ties other than who want to come and visit, it remains to be seen what the ruling is going to mean for them and exactly what that line is going to be, where that line is going to drawn for those individuals.
CABRERA: And questions about implementation.
TOOBIN: Something to keep in mind on that subject about when and if it goes into effect, the executive order, the travel ban was styled as a temporary measure, 90 days, 120 days.
That period will have lapsed by the time the Supreme Court hears the argument. It's possible the court will use that lapse to say the whole thing is moot, and let the administration file a new order that is perhaps permanent, that would then be challenged.
But there is a possibility that, especially the way you read the orders today, that suggests that the court is saying, you know what? We don't want to deal with this if it's just a temporary order. We will allow some of it to go into effect, but, Trump administration, file a final order and then we will allow litigation over that.
CABRERA: Do you think this is going to lead to a flood of litigation?
TOOBIN: I don't think a flood of litigation.
I do that bona fide relationship phrase is sufficiently vague, there will be some litigation over who is covered and who is not. But I mean in the broader sentence that this whole case may be mooted out by the passage of time, and the Trump administration may be able to file a new executive order will generate a new round of challenges, but will allow the Supreme Court to avoid a tough decision, which is something they often like to do.
CABRERA: Mark Preston, the other big win I guess for the president is his Supreme Court justice that he picked at least, Gorsuch. He rules in the president's favor in this. In fact, he said he would have liked to see the court go even further.
PRESTON: Right. And he did that with Justice Thomas and Justice Scalia. There was still a bit of concern I think at one point whether Gorsuch would align himself with the real hard-core conservatives of the court. And we've seen that certainly in this ruling. That doesn't mean moving forward we will see him perhaps moderate his views on some other issues.
But, yes, the fact is, the president picked somebody that sided with him, which is extremely important. And quite frankly going forward, if we are to have another vacancy on the Supreme Court, President Trump is going to be able to pick that person as well and really could cement his legacy in the White House through the Supreme Court, not only with the potential upcoming pick, but there could be another one coming up as well.
There's a lot that President Trump is going to have on his plate potentially regarding the Supreme Court in the four years that he's in office.
CABRERA: And timing is everything. What do you make, Jeffrey, of these rumors that Justice Kennedy might step down and retire?
TOOBIN: He is about to turn 81. And most 81-year-olds do not work full-time jobs in demanding professions.
So I'm not surprised he is going to stay for another year. So it appears. There's no rule that says he has -- a Supreme Court justice has to announce a retirement on the last day of the term. Justice O'Connor announced her retirement two days after the last day of the term in 2005.
CABRERA: He could still surprise us.
TOOBIN: He could still surprise us.
But I think Justice Kennedy is a great believer in the court as an institution. And he knows bringing on a new justice in a tumultuous period where there was a long vacancy creates a certain amount of discomfort at the court.
And I think he probably feels I will give Gorsuch a year to get settled. And then I will see if I leave the courts.
He also likes being the most important judge in the country, and why not?
CABRERA: I can only imagine he wouldn't -- he's got to be passionate about what he's doing and enjoy being a part of that to still be working at age 80. Amazing.
TOOBIN: It's a good gig he's got.
CABRERA: Abby Phillip, Jeffrey Toobin, Mark Preston and Brian Stelter, thanks to all of you.
Still ahead here in the NEWSROOM, senator Rand Paul will join us. He's among the five Republican senators currently opposed to the health care bill, why he remains a holdout. And what will it take to win his vote?
CABRERA: Any time now, the Congressional Budget Office will come out with its score of the Senate's Republican plan to replace Obamacare.
The nonpartisan government analysis will answer key questions, like, how many people will be covered under the Senate plan? And it comes as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell begins his full final week to get the 50 votes he needs to pass it.
McConnell hopes his chamber will vote on this before Congress breaks for Fourth of July. And right know, we know of at least five senators who say they're against it.
That's three more senators than Republicans can afford. And so far, no word that many have changed their minds, despite the fact that President Trump called three of these people, people on that list over the weekend. And then add in Senator Capito.
Let's go to CNN's Phil Mattingly. He's up on Capitol Hill for us.
Phil, the Senate just released a revised version of the draft. What exactly has changed?
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This, Ana, is more about markets than members, if you will, more about how the market would actually work than the senators themselves, trying to get those senators back in line.
Inside this bill now will be a provision that says if you lose coverage or drop coverage for more than 63 days, you will be held out of the ability to buy coverage for six months.
Now, the rationale for this is essentially trying to bolster the marketplace in general. You want people to maintain continuous coverage. This is an incentive for people not to go without coverage, essentially, trying to incentivize healthier, younger people to get into the marketplace to expand the risk pool, trying to disincentivize those who might be less healthy from getting in whenever they feel it, whenever they have medical problems.
This is something that they're doing. It's something that insurers wanted. It's something Senate staff has been working on for a long period of time. Now they feel like they're finally there on the language. So, this gets in the bill.
And you mentioned the CBO score that should be coming out within the next hour or two. This should actually help Senate Republicans on that score. It will be excluded in what is being scored by the CBO and should, not unlike the individual mandate on some level, help bring coverage numbers up. If you think about the House bill, 23 million fewer people would have insurance based on the House bill over the course of 10 years. The hope is by having this element in there, this might actually help the process.
But the big outstanding question and you could actually say questions, Ana, is, policy-wise, what are they going to do to bring those wary senators that you listed -- and there's even more that aren't really out publicly right now -- on board?
You have conservatives who want the Affordable Care Act regulations cut back even further than they are in the bill. They want the free market, in their words, to be act, operate more effectively in health care markets.
And then you have more moderate senators, senators from places that expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act who are very wary about some of the provisions on health care, both on the expansion itself, how it phases out, but also changes to kind of the growth rate of Medicaid starting in 2025, 2026.
So there's a lot of really important policy implications, a lot of really important policy questions that we still don't have answers to. And the answers to those questions will dictate whether or not they can actually get to 50 votes by the end of this week.
CABRERA: And the layman like me is like, how does that happen when people are on completely opposite sides here? Do you think this vote will happen before July 4?
MATTINGLY: That's the goal. It's not the finalized plan yet.
And all you need to do is pay attention to the Twitter account of the number two ranking Republican, Senator John Cornyn, second ranking Republican. Over the weekend, he told some reporters, look, the goal was to have it done by the end of this week, but August 1 is kind of the drop-dead date.
Some reporters pointed that that kind of opened the door. Maybe this goes beyond the end of this week. The senator says I am now closing that door in a tweet, saying we need to do it this week before double- digit premium increases are announced for next year.
Look, Senate leaders want to get this done. And the reason why, I'm told explicitly from Senate leadership aides, is they recognize this isn't going to get any easier over time. The conservatives, they know where their positions are. The Medicaid expansion states, they know where their positions are.
Trying to thread this needle isn't something that's going to get easier for Republican leadership over time. They want to try and get this done as quickly as possible.
The drawback of that, and this is a very real drawback, Ana, is these policies are extraordinarily important. They hit millions of people. What they're doing on Medicaid is kind of revolutionary reform from the conservative side of things.
The inability for people outside these chambers to actually grasp that, understand that, get their heads around that I think is a drawback, unquestionably.
But when it comes to where Senate leaders are right now, their goal is to get to 50 votes. And if they can do that by the end of this week, they absolutely will, according to just about everybody I have talked to up here, Ana.
CABRERA: And when we heard from Sean Spicer after he was asked about the timeline, he wasn't given a firm deadline this week.
Phil Mattingly, thanks for the update from Capitol Hill.
So let's drill down on what this bill means for the average person.
Joining us now, CNN Money senior writer Tami Luhby.
And, Tami, obviously, this is complicated. So, let's try to simplify it for people. Who loses in this bill? Who might end up in a worse situation than currently, what they're getting under current laws?
TAMI LUHBY, SENIOR WRITER, CNNMONEY.COM: Well, the people who are going to be hurt are many of the people who are helped by Obamacare.
The individual market was a tough market before Obamacare came about in 2010. So you're going to have lower income enrollees. They're going to be hurt. There are going to be a lot of changes to Medicaid, which mean fewer people will qualify for it, probably.
And they're going to lose a lot of the subsidies that they got, not the premium subsidies necessarily, but these other subsidies that they got to help them lower deductibles, help them afford to actually go to the doctor and get care, that's going to be gone in a few years under the bill.
You also have older enrollees. The Senate plan and the House plan would allow insurers to charge enrollees, older folks in their 50s and 60s -- we're not talking Medicaid -- we're talking people who are in their 50s and 60s -- those folks are going to have to pay more for their coverage.
In fact, Kaiser Family Foundation ran some members. And a 60-year-old in Alaska making about $40,000 a year is going to have to pay $9,000 more in coverage.
CABRERA: Nine thousand dollars more?
LUHBY: Yes, that's 253 percent more. That's a pretty stunning number.
CABRERA: And making $40,000, that's about a quarter of what that person is making for the entire year. LUHBY: Yes.
That's pretty tough. And the middle class, actually, interestingly, a lot of the criticism of the Republicans has been that Obamacare doesn't help enough people, that there's a hard cutoff at $47,000 to get government help to pay for insurance.
The Republicans are going to reduce that to about $42,000, so there are going to be fewer people who are going to be eligible for the subsidies under the care among the middle class. And, of course, we all have been talking a lot about people with preexisting conditions.
The Senate plan does not allow insurers to charge people based on their health insurance -- or their health status, so that's good.
However, it does allow states to potentially opt out of this essentially health benefits requirement, which means that insurers in those states would not have to cover all of the treatments that people need who are sick.
So you might not be able to get the chemotherapy. You might not be able to get the drugs.
CABRERA: Or they might have to pay out of pocket in order to get those treatments, it sounds like.
If it's not covered, then you are going to have to pay out of pocket, so a lot of this is -- what the issue here is that for some people the premiums may be lower up front, but for those people who actually need care, they're going to be paying a lot more out of pocket through deductibles, through co-pays and possibly through not having as robust coverage.
CABRERA: We know the goal of this is to lower costs for people. Who benefits?
LUHBY: Lower premiums. So...
CABRERA: And is that going to happen for anybody?
You have younger enrollees who now, because the older enrollees are going to pay more, one thing that Obamacare did was it had younger enrollees subsidize older enrollees to some extent.
The Senate and House bills are rolling that back. So you have a 27- year-old in South Carolina making $40,000 a year, they're going to pay about $1,500 less or 38 percent less. So, that's a good benefit.
Then you also have healthy people who don't want all of this coverage. They don't take drugs -- I mean, sorry -- prescription drugs.
LUHBY: They don't need mental health care, for instance. Maybe they don't want maternity. They're beyond child-bearing years.
So they won't have to buy these robust plans that Obamacare provided. In the individual market before Obamacare, there was a lot of concern that a lot of the policies were what we call catastrophic policies, so if you got hit by a car, if you got a terrible illness, you would get coverage.
But the policies weren't very robust. Obamacare made them far more robust. But not everybody wants that. People who are healthy, or people who just want to pay for coverage on their own if they need it, or pay for their costs on their own if they need it, those people will now be able to buy skimpier plans, and those plans are going to be cheaper.
That's good for them. You also have the wealthy, outside of this issue of coverage. Obamacare levied a lot of taxes on wealthier Americans in order to pay to for a lot of this coverage expansion. The Senate and House bills roll back those taxes. So, they're going to benefit.
And, of course, insurers are also going to benefit to some extent, because, interestingly, this Senate bill will actually stabilize the Obamacare markets for a few years before they eventually kill them, because these changes are going to take time to take effect. Insurers are pulling out of the market now.
They're increasing deductibles now. Senator Cornyn said that he wanted to get this done before insurers start issuing double-digit premium increases.
CABRERA: Right. Right.
LUHBY: They already are.
So, something needs to be done quickly in order to prevent the market from collapsing in 2018.
CABRERA: To get them some re-insurance and just make sure people have coverage.
Really very quickly here, you are waiting for the CBO score as well.
CABRERA: Can you see any scenario that the CBO score will help bring people on board, because it says it covers more people than expected?
LUHBY: It's very hard to tell. The theory is that, yes, there will be fewer people who are going to
lose coverage under the Senate plan. That's possible, but you're still talking about...
CABRERA: Compared to the House plan.
LUHBY: Compared to the House plan, yes.
LUHBY: Under the Senate plan, there will be fewer people losing coverage than under the House plan, but you're still talking about millions of people.
One of the things that is underappreciated I think about Obamacare is actually the number of people who are uninsured in America, the share of people uninsured in, has fallen to record lows under Obamacare.
We had almost 20 million more people gain coverage in recent years thanks to Obamacare and thanks to the improving economy. And a lot of those may be rolled back under these bills.
CABRERA: All right, Tami Luhby, thank you.
LUHBY: OK. Thank you.
CABRERA: All right.
We will talk more about this Republican Senator Rand Paul, of course, who says he's voting no on the bill. That's coming up in just a few minutes.
Meantime, up next, President Trump trying to turn the tables on President Obama, accusing him of collusion and obstruction, accusing President Obama of that, for how he handled Russian hacking during the election.
A former chairman of the House Intel Committee is going to join us live to discuss this.
CABRERA: White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer says the weapon story on former President Obama's response to Russian meddling proves the Obama administration -- quote -- "knew all along that there was no collusion between Trump and Russia."
Now, the president slammed his predecessor in a new series of scathing tweets today.
"The real story," he writes, "is that President Obama did nothing after being informed in August about Russian meddling. With four months looking at Russia under a magnifying glass, they have zero tapes of Trump people colluding. There is no collusion and no obstruction. I should be given apology."
Now, the president went even further, suggesting that, President Obama assumed Hillary Clinton would win and therefore -- quote -- "did not want to rock the boat. He didn't choke. He colluded or obstructed. And it did the Dems and crooked Hillary no good."
Joining us to discuss, Pete Hoekstra, the former Republican congressman from Michigan and former chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, and David Tafuri, the former Obama campaign foreign policy adviser and former U.N. and State Department official.
So, Pete, going off those tweets, do you think this president is owed an apology?
PETE HOEKSTRA (R), FORMER U.S. CONGRESSMAN: Well, I think let's look a look at the facts.
We know that since the election, the Obama administration and others have brutally gone after President Trump and his administration and his campaign, accusing them or implying that they were colluding with the Russians.
What "The Washington Post" story on Friday showed was, number one, the Obama administration knew about potential Russian involvement for more than a year before the election. They didn't act aggressively because they didn't materially believe that the Russians would affect the vote.
There was no meltdown of the election process on Election Day. And despite this -- the Obama administration's focus in almost --