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Longtime Trump Confidant to Testify in Russia Probe; Fake 'TIME' Magazine Covers Discovered at Trump Properties; Republicans Struggling to Pass Health Care Legislation. Aired 3-3:30p ET
Aired June 28, 2017 - 15:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: One, do we know what the president was referring to when he said health care and big, big surprise? And, two, what were the headlines from the briefing?
JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think the big, big surprise would be if they actually get it passed at this point.
They really are not in a position where they can put together the number of senators that they need to pass this out of the Senate. I do think there's an interesting back and forth going on between the president and the Senate minority leader, Chuck Schumer.
You know, earlier today, Schumer said that the president should have not just Republican senators over to the White House, but have Democratic and Republican senators over to the White House to cobble together some kind of compromise bill that fixes Obamacare and doesn't just throw it out the window.
And the president just a few moments ago in another media opportunity here at the White House said to reporters that, well, he has to find out if Schumer is serious about this, and he went on to say, "I'm not sure that he is," to which Schumer's office tweeted, he is serious.
And so we will have to see how all of that plays out. This is some of the bluffing that, of course, goes on here in Washington. But, Brooke, during the so-called off-camera briefing that we just had with the deputy spokeswoman, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, she said the president continues to be optimistic about this, that he continues to make phone calls on all of this and they're confident that this is going to get passed.
But there remain some very big questions. And one of the questions that came up during the briefing is what the president is willing to accept on the Medicaid front, the program that provides medical care coverage for the poor. That appears to be one of the big sticking issues, as you know, for some of these moderate Republican senators.
They don't want to see poor people in their state go without health care. That's part of the big reason why the Congressional Budget Office said that you would have 22 million more Americans going without health insurance if this becomes law. And Sarah Huckabee Sanders basically said during this so-called off- camera briefing that she wasn't sure how the president felt about that and what kind of changes he would agree to. And so this is still very much a work in progress over here and the White House is trying to put its best face on what was a pretty awful day yesterday.
BALDWIN: All right. Jim Acosta with the assessment twofold, thank you, Jim.
ACOSTA: You bet.
BALDWIN: We're going to broaden out. And let me just tell all of you, Senate Republicans are aiming to have this new draft of the health care piece of legislation by Friday.
So, joining me now, CNN chief political analyst Gloria Borger, and then a whole lot of Davids.
I have David Nakamura, White House reporter for "The Washington Post," David Gergen, senior CNN political analyst who used to serve as an adviser to four presidents, David Catanese, senior politics writer for "U.S. News & World Report."
So, whoever has a great David joke, you can tweet it to me here at CNN.
So, Gloria, the non-David of the panel, let me just begin with you on your assessment of the president's perceived optimism that on health care it will be a great, great surprise. Like, is this the kind of optimism when you say something's going to be great and you say it so many times, you really hope in the end that it will be, or, listen, this is the president of the United States, he may very well know something we don't?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Maybe.
But, on the other hand, you know, you don't want to throw in the towel before it's over. So I think this was a president trying to say it's not over and saying that perhaps they're going to get there and that was his way of doing it.
I mean, right now, what you have is Mitch McConnell calling in members of the Senate to meet with him. It looks like they're all each going to the principal's office, kind of, and they have each being called into the principal's office and they're clearly making a list about what they need to do to get to yes.
But it's very difficult for them, because this is not just this is what I need in my district and this is what you can do for me. These are huge ideological arguments that people have about the role of government in health care. And it's very, very hard to bridge that, and then you put on top of that the fact that this bill has somewhere between a 13 percent and 17 percent popularity rating, and, oh, by the way, there isn't a message about what's good about this bill that Republicans have been able to rally around, other than we want to repeal Obamacare. And I think as they head home to their districts, they have to get that in order as well.
BALDWIN: And oh, by the way, let's add to that, David Nakamura.
Your great colleagues at "The Washington Post" writing this piece this morning, in essence saying, well, sorry, Mr. President, but these Republican senators don't exactly fear you. They're not shaking in their boots over the president, what the president says and does, which doesn't exactly help the president get what he wants in the end with health care.
DAVID NAKAMURA, "THE WASHINGTON POST": And it's really upset the president directly. We know that.
And, you know, the idea that these senators, who have a lot more constituents than House members, and it's harder for Trump maybe to influence them directly, and it's also not clear what kind of leverage he has. As Gloria said, he's not making a proactive case for the benefits of this bill.
He made a lot of promises during the campaign that were popular, but very broad and vague. And so far, this is a president who has not been in the weeds, we know, in policy. They have outsourced a lot of drafting essentially of this legislation first to the House, which developed and passed a bill that he called mean.
And now he's trying to sell this to the Senate. And the CBO score is very damaging. And the big reveal that he's talking about with a surprise, that is setting up something for another sense of disappointment among members who won't be satisfied, especially if Mitch McConnell can't find a way to really improve that CBO score if he gets this new draft to the CBO by Friday.
BALDWIN: David Gergen, you have worked with multiple presidents on both sides of the aisle. You tell me the benefits of having a president who is feared and revered vs., according to many people quoted in this piece this morning, not the case for the current president.
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, Brooke, a long time ago, the most famous book in the English language or in the Western world about politics was by Machiavelli.
And Machiavelli said a prince must either be feared or loved, and if you have to choose, it's better to be feared. And the problem the president has in a sense right now is he's neither feared nor loved. And I think that does make the persuasion process all that much harder.
As to whether he can bring, you know -- bring off the surprise, I mean, one surprise would be that he's working in something out with Democrats. But so far as we know, the people who are trooping in to Senator McConnell's office to tell them what changes they want are all Republicans.
If we start to see a couple of Democrats show up in Mitch's office, that's a very, very different story, isn't it? But I think he faces a very uphill fight. I understand the optimism, because you never want to let your forces sort of get so discouraged that they don't go home and fight.
But remember that the Trump White House and indeed Republican senators were expressing lots and lots of optimism that they would vote affirmatively on the bill this week. And that is not exactly what's happening.
BALDWIN: In order to have that fear, though, David Catanese, don't you have to have wins, you know, legislative victories, wind in your sails? And so far, put Justice Gorsuch in the win column, but that's sort of it. So, what's your assessment of all of the above?
DAVID CATANESE, "U.S. NEWS & WORLD REPORT": I actually think the president is less important to this process than he has ever been before.
Remember, he was making phone calls to at least four GOP senators over the weekend, and they lost votes. There are now nine GOP senators that are opposed to this for varying reasons, but he actually lost votes over the weekend. I think this is all being handled by Mitch McConnell.
Every Senate aide I talked to yesterday said the White House is not involved in the details of this. Trump's calls to Rand Paul, I was told he told Rand Paul, we want to win. We got to get a victory on this. It wasn't about whether to expand Medicaid or whether to rein it in.
The chasm is between the Republican Party and the Republican Conference. You have Susan Collins on one end saying she's very concerned about the Medicaid cuts, very concerned about the CBO and 22 million uninsured, and, at the other end, you have Rand Paul saying, no, we got to pare this back. This is Obamacare-lite.
You have Mike Lee saying, I want an opt-out for states and individuals to have anything to do with this system. So the chasm is really between the Republican Party. And that's why Mitch McConnell is so crucial. Trump is a cheerleader in this. But he is not going to be a crucial negotiator.
BALDWIN: Isn't that so dangerous, Gloria Borger? And from what I can tell from some of these Republican senators, with all due respect to the president, it's sort of like step off and, like David said, let Mitch McConnell take the reins on this.
BALDWIN: But what if they end up with this huge win on health care and the president can't say, see, I did this, if he didn't?
BORGER: Well, he's going to -- if they win something, it's going to be his baby. And he's -- and he knows it. And I think what you see happening now is that they understand that this is a president who hasn't been mired in the details of health care reform.
And what this White House has done is ceded more authority to the Congress than I have really seen in an awfully long time. I mean, this is a president who said to them, you work it out and I want to win. And that's what he said when he met with Paul Ryan early on and said, you know, whatever you guys want to do, we will get this agenda. Your agenda is my agenda, just give me some wins.
And I think that's what we see playing out here. But it's not that members went to the White House yesterday and argued about Medicaid expansion and argued about the finer points of 22 million being uninsured and how you would stretch that out over 10 years or 15 years.
I think they went to the White House because the president wanted to tell them how much he needs this, and how much they should want it, because, after all, the one thing that unites all Republicans, no matter what the ideological divide that David's talking about, is the fact that they all ran on repeal and replace.
BALDWIN: Right. Right.
And for years and years and years, we heard about that.
BALDWIN: David Gergen, you know, how do you, though -- advising the president or the president's role moving forward, I mean, they're hoping to get this blueprint by Friday.
They're all going to go on vacation and celebrate the Fourth of July, come back 10 days later and hope to get rolling on this. So then what?
GERGEN: Well, Brooke, I think it's really important that the Republican Party have a bill that they can champion and go to the country to sell it.
And that's the job of the president. But, you know, I think one of the biggest surprises I have had in the last few months was to read today -- and it was the "New York Times" report -- that the senators came out of that meeting yesterday saying the president really didn't have a good grasp of the bill itself.
GERGEN: And the biggest surprise was that he -- that it appeared to some of them that he did not know that the health care bill from the Senate brings almost a trillion dollars worth of tax reductions.
He thinks that's going to be in the tax bill. Well, you know, that's just sort of stunning. I don't know how you sell something that you don't understand.
BALDWIN: I saw that too. That was a Glenn Thrush piece and the sort of the questions thrown at the Senate majority leader outside of the West Wing and not quite fully answering on precisely your point.
David Nakamura, just final thoughts from you on all this.
NAKAMURA: Well, I think the panel has it right. But what also this illustrates, I think, is that you saw during the Obamacare debate initially, the original debate, how long a process that was. This was supposed to be quicker.
It was criticized that it was being done in secret, but that was the whole strategy was to get this through. Now, the longer that it goes on, I think it's going to be harder and harder. And the Republicans are now sort of in a box as to how to bridge the divide between the hard right and the moderates. And I think that's just going to be, you know, accentuated during this recess and make it harder when they come back.
BALDWIN: We're in for a big, big surprise, so says the president of United States, flanked by Chicago Cubs moments ago. That said, David, David, David, Gloria, thank you.
BALDWIN: Thank you all.
GERGEN: Thank you, Brooke.
BALDWIN: Coming up, any moment now, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly expected to unveil new rules aimed at enhancing airline security. So what does this really mean for you and me? We will find out.
Also, fabricated covers of "TIME" magazine featuring Donald Trump spotted on multiple walls of some of his Trump properties. New clues on why they exist and what they might tell us about President Trump the man.
Back in a moment.
BALDWIN: Welcome back. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.
It was perhaps inevitable that "TIME" magazine named President Trump as their 2016 person of the year. Aside from pulling off the biggest election upset in recent history, he has been on the "TIME" cover 14 times.
But if you ask the president, he may have a different number. "The Washington Post" recently discovered this fabricated cover of "TIME" magazine. This was actually framed and mounted on the walls of not one, but several Trump properties.
The fake cover praises his "Apprentice" reality show, and now "TIME" magazine is actually demanding the Trump Organization remove the phony covers.
The reporter who broke the story, David Fahrenthold, is with me now. He won a Pulitzer Prize this year for his reporting on Donald Trump's charitable contributions.
So, always a pleasure to see you, sir.
And Michael D'Antonio is with us. He's a former biographer of Donald Trump.
So, David Fahrenthold, just first a simple question, how did this fake "TIME" cover even come to your attention?
DAVID FAHRENTHOLD, "THE WASHINGTON POST": I happened to walk by it during a visit to one of Donald Trump 's clubs, and something about it just looked wrong. Look, the border was too thin. The headlines were too sort of cheerleadery. There were exclamation points in the headlines.
You could tell from looking at it that it was not a real "TIME" cover. So, I took a picture of it, and I showed it to the people at "TIME," and they said, yes, that's not one of ours.
BALDWIN: So, as you point out, though, in your piece, this "TIME" cover is hanging in these prominent locations around clubs around the country.
Do we know if this was Donald Trump trying to, you know -- pre- President Trump, trying to masquerade like this was some legit cover, or was it maybe a gift, clearly a fake, they would never use so many exclamation marks?
FAHRENTHOLD: Well, the way it's displayed at these clubs, it's displayed along with other real covers. It's next to covers of "GQ" that Trump was on or like "Fairways and Greens" magazine, other magazines that really did have Trump on the cover.
It's displayed along with those. There's no hint about its display that shows, OK, this is a fake or this isn't real. I don't know where it came from. I don't know who made it. But you can tell that there wasn't just one, right? A gag gift or some sort of one-off thing, I could understand, but there would just be one of them.
Now there's a whole bunch. There's one in at least eight clubs. Someone made a lot of effort to put this in a lot of different places.
BALDWIN: So comes the bigger question, Michael D'Antonio, is, what does this fake cover say about President Trump the man?
David writes: "So, how did Trump, who spent an entire campaign and much of his presidency accusing the mainstream media of producing fake news, wind up decorating his properties with a literal piece of phony journalism?"
MICHAEL D'ANTONIO, JOURNALIST: Well, this is classic Donald Trump.
And one of the things that we have to keep in mind is that even if we see other covers and imagine that they're real, they may not be for actual, legitimate publications.
One of the things that he also displays at many of his properties is a series of awards from something called the American Academy of Hospitality Sciences. And it turns out that this academy is made up primarily of Trump friends and employees. And the guy who runs it is a former felon named Joey No Socks.
So, you have to be very careful when you take in the Trump message that you're not actually absorbing what is not only fakery, but, in many cases, awards and platitudes and praise that are completely false and developed out of these pretend organizations.
BALDWIN: So that's so -- for our absorption and maybe not to believe every cover of magazine cover on his properties.
But, Michael, again, what do you think it says about the man, Donald Trump?
D'ANTONIO: Well, it says that there's never enough for him. There's not enough praise, there aren't enough awards, there isn't enough attention.
And if he's -- you know, he also has trained, I think, people around him to create this -- these trophies for him. So, even if he doesn't command that the individual items be produced, I think there's an inclination among the people around him to manufacture praise.
This is why his briefers in the White House put his name in every other paragraph in the papers that they hand him. They have learned how to get his attention and how to please him and that he needs this. He needs this praise.
BALDWIN: David, last question, maybe most importantly, what is the president saying about this?
FAHRENTHOLD: Nothing. I have asked the Trump Organization, his business, to explain where this came from, what it means, who made it, did Trump know it was fake?
I have gotten no response at all. I asked the Trump White House the same question. Did Donald Trump, did he even know this was a fake or was this a trick being played on him by somebody in his organization? They didn't respond. The only response was, we don't comment on the decor on the walls at Trump Organization golf courses.
So, we haven't really gotten any response out of him.
BALDWIN: OK. To be continued. Gentlemen, David Fahrenthold and Michael D'Antonio, thank you so very much.
D'ANTONIO: Thank you.
BALDWIN: Coming up next, Roger Stone, a longtime confidant of President Trump's, agrees to testify in the Russia investigation, this after Hillary Clinton's former campaign manager made an appearance in front of the same House committee -- details next.
BALDWIN: Hillary Clinton's former campaign chairman is defending former President Obama's handling of the Russian attack.
Now, just a reminder here, John Podesta's e-mails were hacked and then released by WikiLeaks in the final month of the 2016 presidential election. U.S. intelligence indicates that Russia was behind that. But Podesta stopped short of actually criticizing President Obama's response.
Here he was after speaking to the House Intelligence Committee.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN PODESTA, FORMER CLINTON CAMPAIGN CHAIRMAN: I think that the president and the entire administration were dealing with an unprecedented incidence of the weaponization of the fruits of Russian cyber-activity, and I think they were trying to make the best judgments they could on behalf of the American people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: Let's go to Kaitlan Collins, our CNN White House reporter.
Kaitlan, did we learn anything about what Podesta actually said to the committee?
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes.
So, John Podesta testified before the House Intelligence Committee yesterday. We don't know a ton about what he said, besides what he has told us, because it was a closed session.
As you recall, the leak of these e-mails was a pivotal moment of the election, because it really revealed the inner workings of Hillary Clinton's campaign. We found out about their strategies on how to defeat Bernie Sanders, who was becoming an increasing threat. We found out about her staffers' concerns of her paid speeches and even what jokes she was going to tell at dinner that night.
Now, yesterday, John Podesta was given the opportunity to throw Barack Obama and his administration under the bus for the way they reacted when they found out that the Russians were trying to interfere in the election, and he declined that opportunity.
He said that they made the best judgment they could when they found out about that because it was an unprecedented attack that we hadn't seen before. Now, that is not what we have heard from Donald Trump. As you have seen on Twitter lately, he has been very critical of the former administration and said that we should focus on their lack of a response to the Russian interference compared to -- instead of focusing on what Donald Trump is doing.
BALDWIN: What about Roger Stone, the president's longtime confidant, now scheduled to testify before the House Intel Committee next month? What do you know about that?
COLLINS: Yes, so, Roger Stone has said for months publicly that he wants to testify in front of a committee. He's doing so in a closed hearing, even though he said he wants to do it in a public hearing, on July 24, he told CNN yesterday.
And here's a statement he issued: "I'm confident that Podesta most likely repeated his lie that I knew in advance about the hacking of his e-mails, and I'm anxious to rebut this falsehood. I'm still unhappy that my testimony will not be in public, but I believe it is more important to resolve the issue of Russia collusion with the Trump campaign, which I believe was not existent."
BALDWIN: Meantime, Kaitlan, just quickly, on Paul Manafort, the former Trump campaign chair. He has registered as a foreign agent. Can you give me some context to that?
COLLINS: Yes, Paul Manafort has registered as a foreign agent. His firm received over $17 million from a pro-Russia group that was in Ukraine for a few years, and he retroactively filed those documents with the Department of Justice thanks .
Now, as you will remember, he was the Trump campaign chairman for a few months in 2016, though Press Secretary Sean Spicer, has tried to distance him from the campaign, saying he played a very limited role for a very limited amount of time, though he was the chairman of the Trump campaign.
BALDWIN: All right, Kaitlan, thank you so much at the White House for us this afternoon.
So, you heard the latest on the House investigation there.
Our own Manu Raju up on Capitol Hill actually caught up with the co- chair of the Senate investigation into Russia.
Here what was Senator Richard Burr had to say moments ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Do you believe we're any closer to that key central question about collusion at this point?
SEN. RICHARD BURR (R), NORTH CAROLINA: Well, I would only say that there have been comments, public comments, that suggest that there's been no overwhelming evidence to suggest that there was collusion.
But we have to chase down every potential -- every potential pathway that we see.