Return to Transcripts main page
THE SITUATION ROOM
Interview With Delaware Senator Chris Coons; Another Person Identified at Trump Tower Meeting; Republican Health Care Plan Collapsing; White House Reveals Second, Undisclosed Trump-Putin Talk; Trump On GOP Health Bill Collapse: "Let Obamacare Fail". Aired 6-7p ET
Aired July 18, 2017 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Coming before Congress? Donald Trump Jr. may be a step closer to testifying under oath about his secret meeting with a Russian lawyer. His special counsel now weighing in on whether it's OK for the president's son to be questioned in public.
And the eighth person. CNN has learned the identity of a mystery man in that Russia meeting, his connection to the Trumps and why he previously raised suspicion on Capitol Hill.
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: Tonight, President Trump says his new health care strategy is to let Obamacare fail, now that his promise to repeal and replace it has been doomed by his own party.
In a dramatic chain of events, two Senate Republicans declared their opposition to the GOP's repeal and replace bill overnight, effectively killing the legislation and apparently blindsiding the president. Now Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says he wants the Senate to vote on a repeal-only bill soon, but that back up plan appears to be dead on arrival with three Republicans already saying they will vote no.
Mr. Trump acknowledges he's very disappointed by all of this, but he's refusing to accept responsibility, blaming Democrats, even though Republicans control Congress.
Also breaking, the White House just revealed a second previously undisclosed conversation between Mr. Trump and Russia's President Vladimir Putin at the G20 summit this month, this as we're getting new information in the Russia investigation.
Senator Dianne Feinstein now says the special counsel has given the all-clear for Donald Trump Jr. and Paul Manafort to give public testimony about their secret meeting with the Russian lawyer.
Also tonight, CNN has learned the identity of the eighth person in that meeting last year. He is a close associate of the Russian family that initiated the meeting with an offer of Kremlin dirt on Hillary Clinton. Exclusive video obtained by CNN appears to show him in the background next to Donald Trump in Las Vegas back in 2013.
This hour, I will talk about those stories and more with Senator Chris Coons. He's a Democrat on the Judiciary and Foreign Relations Committee.
And our correspondents and specialists are also standing by.
First, let's go to CNN's Ryan Nobles. He's up on Capitol Hill with more on the GOP health bill's collapse.
Ryan Nobles, so, what's the next move on Capitol Hill?
RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, even though the math is not currently on his side, Senate majority leader currently has promised that there will be a vote to repeal Obamacare. And the first stage of that vote could come as soon as tomorrow. And it will likely fail.
NOBLES (voice-over): Tonight, Senate Republicans have essentially run out of options.
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER: I regret that the effort to repeal and immediately replace the failures of Obamacare will not be successful. That doesn't mean we should give up.
NOBLES: Soon after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell made his pitch to repeal Obamacare without a replacement, three senators, Susan Collins of Maine, Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, said they would not support a vote to bring a new version of the bill to the floor, essentially killing the measure.
McConnell says that he will plow ahead with the vote, even if it fails.
MCCONNELL: Pretty clear that there are not 50 Republicans at the moment to vote for a replacement for Obamacare. Consequently, some time in the near future, we will have a vote on repealing Obamacare.
NOBLES: Wisconsin's Ron Johnson was angry over reports that McConnell was telling moderate senators not to worry about long-term Medicaid cuts.
McConnell said his remarks were misinterpreted. But when asked if he still has faith in McConnell as a leader, Johnson responded -- quote -- "I found those remarks very troubling."
When a reporter followed asking, so you're not going to say yes to that, he repeated, "I was troubled with those comments."
Despite the crack in McConnell's grip on control of the caucus, most Republicans remain behind him.
QUESTION: Do you still have faith in Leader McConnell?
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Yes. This isn't about Mitch. This is about the politics of health care.
NOBLES: The path forward for Republicans right now is unclear. The problems that existed between the conservative and moderate wings of the party remain, leaving senators in search of an alternative that doesn't currently exist.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm disappointed.
NOBLES: President Trump refusing to take any responsibility.
TRUMP: I can tell you the Republicans are not going to own it. We will let Obamacare fail, and then the Democrats are going to come to us and they're going to say, how do we fix it?
NOBLES: The Senate minority leader, Chuck Schumer, slamming Trump, urging him to work with Democrats.
TRUMP: He wants to throw up his hands, rather than roll up his sleeves to work with us and solve the problem. He is actively, actively trying to undermine the health care system in this country, using millions of Americans as political pawns in a cynical game.
NOBLES: And it seems as though there is more time given to these Republican senators to think about the idea of a straight repeal, the fewer that appear to be coming out in support of the measure.
Add Senator Rob Portman of Ohio to the list of Republicans prepared to say no to a straight repeal, making it even less likely that some version of Obamacare reform happens any time soon -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Ryan, thanks very much, Ryan Nobles up on Capitol Hill.
Let's get some more now on President Trump's response to this huge political defeat.
We're joined by our White House correspondent, Sara Murray.
Sara, the president says he's not going to own this.
SARA MURRAY, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf.
Today, President Trump said he was disappointed by this outcome, but essentially said, whoops, this isn't on me. This is on the Senate. Take a listen to what Trump had to say today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TRUMP: We have had a lot of victories, but we haven't had a victory in health care. We're disappointed. I am very disappointed because, again, even as a civilian, for seven years, I have been hearing about health care, and I have been hearing about repeal and replace, and Obamacare is a total disaster.
Some states had over 200 percent increase, a 200 percent increase in their premiums. And their deductibles are through the roof. It's an absolute disaster.
And I think you will also agree that I have been saying for a long time, let Obamacare fail and then everybody is going to have to come together and fix it and come up with a new plan and a plan that's really good for the people, with much lower premiums, much lower costs, and much better protection.
I have been saying that. Mike, I think you will agree for a long time, let Obamacare fail. It will be a lot easier. And I think we're probably in that position where we will just let Obamacare fail. We're not going to own it. I'm not going to own it. I can tell you the Republicans are not going to own it. We will let Obamacare fail and then the Democrats are going to come to us and they're going to say, how do we fix it, how do we fix it? Or how do we come up with a new plan?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MURRAY: Now, the White House strategy, as you see there, has been to blame the Democrats.
But the reality is the president did not do much to sell this bill. He did not use the bully pulpit of the presidency, of the White House, and he did relatively little arm-twisting behind the scenes. It was members of his own party that could not get on board with that plan. That is why this effort died.
Now, of course, some voters elected him to fix Obamacare, not to finger-point. It will be interesting to see what the next steps are for this White House -- Wolf.
BLITZER: I'm surprised he never even did an Oval Office address to the nation on this critically important issue.
Sara, thanks very much for that.
Let's get some more on all of this. Senator Chris Coons, Democrat on the Judiciary and Foreign Relations Committees, is joining us right now.
Senator, thanks very much for joining us.
SEN. CHRIS COONS (D), DELAWARE: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: So, when you hear the president of the United States say, let Obamacare fail, he said it a few times today, what's your reaction? COONS: Wolf, that's just heartless.
We're talking about real people here, literally tens of millions of people. One of the things the Affordable Care Act did was provide better-quality insurance for over 150 million Americans who get their insurance through their employer and provide access to health care for the first time for tens of millions of Americans in addition.
To simply throw his hands up and say, I'm not responsible, I have nothing to do with this, we will simply let the insurance markets fail, and then begin to work toward some sort of replacement plan, that's just callous.
BLITZER: Here's what else the president said about Democrats today. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: It would be nice to have Democrat support, but, really, they're obstructionists. They have no ideas. They have no thought process. All they want to do is obstruct government and obstruct, period.
And, in this case, think of it. So many good things, we didn't get one vote, and their plan has failed. And, by the way, Obamacare isn't failing. It's failed. It's gone.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right. So, he says you and the Democrats, you're obstructionists.
COONS: Well, the bill that they were trying to move forward in the Republican-controlled Senate would have cut more than $700 billion out of Medicaid over the next decade.
That's one of the reasons that they weren't able to get 50 Republican votes to support it. Wolf, I will remind you that for the last seven years, Republicans have run on the idea that they would repeal the Affordable Care Act and replace it with something better as soon as they had the chance.
What we have seen now is they haven't done any of their homework to develop a better health care plan for America. I am hopeful that now that this really has failed, that Republicans and Democrats in the Senate can work together to find ways to begin to deliver on the idea that we can have lower-cost, higher-quality, affordable health care for all Americans.
BLITZER: What will it take for that bipartisan cooperation to start?
COONS: First, it's going to take Republicans saying, OK, we're going to follow a regular process. We're going to have hearings in front of the relevant committees. We're going to listen to the people who provide health care across the country. Remember, the doctors, the nurses, the senior centers, the nursing
homes, all those organizations, and the AARP, were all opposed to the Republican bill. They weren't part of the process.
So, we need to have an open process. And then we need to make a few important fixes, and the Trump administration needs to stop trying to sabotage the Affordable Care Act. Ever since they came in, they have been throwing a wrench into the insurance markets that the Affordable Care Act has set up.
BLITZER: Let's move on to some other issues.
You're on the Foreign Relations Committee. The White House now has confirmed that there was a second meeting that the president had with Vladimir Putin in Hamburg at the G20, a previously undisclosed second conversation they had on July 7. They had a big meeting, the two-hour 15-minute bilateral meeting.
But now at a dinner, a couples-only dinner event, toward the end, the president did speak with Putin at the dinner. No staff or Cabinet were at the dinner at all or any of the countries. Did you know about this second conversation that the president had with Putin?
COONS: I just heard about it this morning from a source that suggested not only did he get up and go all the way over the dinner to sit down and talk to Putin, but he did so for a very long period of time. Didn't do so with other heads of state, and didn't bring an American translator.
He relied on Putin's translator for the understanding of what the conversation was, a basic failure in terms of national security protocol, so that there was someone who could help him understand from an American perspective what was being said.
BLITZER: But was it just sort of social chitchat or was there a substantive conversation, based on what you know?
COONS: How would we know? That's exactly the point is that he was publicly seen by our allies, by critical heads of state with whom we are trying to sustain our alliances, to snub them and take the time to invest a great deal of individual one-on-one time with Vladimir Putin, relying on his translator.
BLITZER: Explain why that makes a difference, if the translator, the official Russian government translator or a U.S. government translator?
COONS: Well, first, just the nuances of the words in translation might be misunderstood. And, second, there's only one person who really knows exactly what was
said in the course of that conversation now, and it's the Russian translator.
BLITZER: Would the president then go back to his staff and report on this second conversation and there would be some notes based on his recollection? And if they do exist, would they share that with the Foreign Relations Committee?
COONS: He should, and not likely.
One of our challenges, as you know, has been very senior members of this administration forgetting to report appropriately or to disclose or to share with leaders either in the executive branch or the legislative branch meetings that they have had with senior Russians.
That's why Mike Flynn was fired as national security adviser. That's why Attorney General Jeff Sessions had to recuse himself from important matters related to the 2016 election. And in some ways, one would argue that's why FBI Director Comey was fired by the president, is this whole pattern of different meetings and events that were not appropriately reported and are now under investigation.
BLITZER: What's your conclusion as far as the president's attitude toward the Russians, Putin particularly?
COONS: Well, going back to the campaign, now President Trump as candidate Trump had a disturbing practice of praising Vladimir Putin, of embracing him and saying he was a smart man and a great man and a good leader, and denigrating or marginalizing his relationship with our key democratic allies, for example, Angela Merkel, chancellor of Germany.
So, I see him as being too close, too friendly with Vladimir Putin. And it's one of the reasons that lots of members of Congress have had questions about whether the smoke here, the billowing questions about all these different unreported meetings with senior Russians, actually is concealing some fire.
BLITZER: What I don't understand, if there is a second conversation at the end of a couples-only dinner at the G20 and he has this conversation with Putin, why wouldn't the White House disclose that? Why wouldn't they make that information available to the American people?
COONS: Well, Wolf, it could be entirely innocent. This could be the sloppiness of a new administration that doesn't see the significance or relevance of a long, direct, one-on-one conversation between our president and Vladimir Putin.
But now, more than six months into it, with an active investigation where questions about ties between Putin and Trump are on the news every single night, it's hard to see this as anything other than a significant misstep or an attempt at concealment.
BLITZER: Yes, we're showing our viewers video of that dinner. And Melania Trump is actually seated at the dinner next to Putin. I
assume they had a pretty good conversation as well. I don't know if she speaks much Russian. She is from Eastern Europe originally. Maybe she speaks a little bit. But you could see a translator there, I think, in between helping with the translation as well.
All right. I want you to stand by. There are other new developments, Senator Coons, that are coming into THE SITUATION ROOM. There is much more we need to discuss right after this.
BLITZER: We're back with Senator Chris Coons. He's a Democrat on the Judiciary and Foreign Relations Committee.
Senator, I need you to stand by.
We have some breaking news on President Trump's contacts with Vladimir Putin. We are also getting new information about the controversial Russia meeting over at Trump Tower in New York last year.
I want to go to our justice correspondent, Jessica Schneider.
Jessica, what are you learning?
JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the White House has just disclosed today that President Trump actually had a second conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the end of the G20 dinner. That was back on July 7, but the disclosure just coming from the White House today.
Now, that meeting came the same day as the two-hour face-to-face between the world leaders. The White House now not giving many details except, to say the talk took place in the main dining room and no staff or Cabinet members were present.
This revelation coming on the same day we finally know the name of that eighth person in the room at Trump Tower for that June 2016 meeting. His name is Ike Kaveladze and he works for the Russian oligarch who requested the meeting be arranged. It turns Kaveladze appears to have had interactions with the Trump family in the past.
SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Ike Kaveladze appears to be steps away from Donald Trump in this exclusive video from 2013 taken in Las Vegas on the eve of the Miss USA Pageant.
Kaveladze is in a light suit jacket standing behind Russian pop star Emin Agalarov. Kaveladze's attorney now confirms to CNN that Kaveladze was at Trump Tower on June 9, 2016, the eighth person inside the meeting with Donald Trump Jr., campaign chair Paul Manafort and now White House senior adviser and Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner.
Music publicist Rob Goldstone arranged the meeting at the request of the Agalarovs and sat in on it. Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya was there, along with Russian-American lobbyist Rinat Akhmetshin, a translator named Anatoli Samochornov, and now it's been revealed Ike Kaveladze.
Kaveladze is a naturalized American citizen who joined the Agalarov real estate development business in 2004, but in 2000 he was linked to U.S. bank accounts that came under congressional investigation in a possible billion dollar money laundering scheme tied to Russian brokers.
At the time, he claimed no wrongdoing and was never charged with a crime. He is senior vice president at Crocus Group, according to his LinkedIn page. The company is run by Azerbaijani Russian oligarch Aras Agalarov, the father of musician Emin, who featured Donald Trump in a 2013 music video.
The Agalarovs seemed to play a key role in arranging the June 2016 meeting with publicist Rob Goldstone writing in a June 3, 2016 e-mail, "This is obviously very high-level and sensitive information, but is part of Russia and its government's support for Mr. Trump helped along by Aras and Emin."
Kaveladze's lawyer insists he's never had any engagement with the Russian government in any capacity. Kaveladze attended the meeting under the impression that he would be Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya's translator because she didn't speak English, according to his attorney.
But then Kaveladze realized Veselnitskaya had her own translator. Now special counsel Robert Mueller's investigators want to talk to Kaveladze as part of his ongoing probe into Russian interference with the U.S. elections. The White House is watching all of this unfold. Staffers there are concerned Kushner's involvement in the June 2016 meeting may make it difficult for Kushner to receive final security clearance.
But a source close to Kushner says he has now had two interviews with the FBI about his security clearance and his legal team sees no reason it would be denied since he has updated all of his forms to include this June 2016 meeting.
Kushner attorney Gorelick saying: "Mr. Kushner has tried to be fully transparent and responsive in the background investigations process. We have heard no expression of concern from the FBI, and I think we would know if there were such concerns at this time."
SCHNEIDER: Now, the attorney for Ike Kaveladze, the eighth man we now know was in the room, tells CNN that Kaveladze will cooperate with special counsel Robert Mueller, but has not yet been interviewed.
The attorney also represents the Agalarov father and son and tells us Mueller's investigators have not reached out to either of them yet. Wolf, the special counsel's office has declined to comment on the story -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Jessica, thanks very much, Jessica Schneider reporting.
Also tonight, top Senate investigators are speaking out about new developments in the Russia probe.
Let's go to our senior congressional reporter Manu Raju up on Capitol Hill.
Manu, what are you hearing?
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, both Democrats and Republicans in the Senate on the key committees are pushing to learn more about the meeting that occurred in Trump Tower with the top Democrat in the committee emerging from a closed-door meeting that occurred earlier today to say, who else was in the meeting, wondering if there were more than eight people who were actually meeting with Donald Trump Jr., Paul Manafort and Jared Kushner.
Mark Warner raised some serious concerns about this eighth individual earlier today. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MARK WARNER (D), VIRGINIA: It's very disturbing to me that it's taken us this long for this kind of information to come out. So, this individual who at least had a colorful past, if not potentially criminal, it is very strange to me that this meeting that was supposed to be originally -- was related as three or four people about Russian adoptions, I doubt if this individual who had a history of setting up thousands of fake accounts in Delaware was really there to talk about Russian adoptions.
So, what we see here is, again, senior levels of the Trump administration, and now the Trump family, not coming clean with information and this has been a week before we got this information.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RAJU: Now, Wolf, earlier in the day, I got a chance to catch up with the Republican chairman of that committee, Richard Burr, who made his most explicit comments to date about that Trump Tower meeting.
Previously declining to really go into details, but today saying he does want to learn more information about it, even raising the specter of public testimony of some of the individuals involved in that meeting. Here's how he responded.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RAJU: Do you also feel like you understand everything about what happened in that Trump Tower meeting at this point?
SEN. RICHARD BURR (R), NORTH CAROLINA: No, absolutely not. I think that there's a lot to learn from that and we have reached out to the appropriate people and asked them to provide information for us and to testify possibly publicly.
But it's too early in that to draw any conclusions, but, you know, our job is to put the facts on the table and follow wherever it goes.
RAJU: Do you want Don Jr. public? Do you want that Don Jr...
BURR: I think you have got to ask Don Jr. to come in. Whether that's public or whether it's private or how you proceed and at what pace still yet to be determined by information that we learn between now and the time we make that request.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RAJU: And, Wolf, they are not the only committee that is actually moving forward to look into this Trump Tower meeting.
The Senate Judiciary Committee also wants to talk to both Donald Trump Jr. and Paul Manafort. Senator Dianne Feinstein, the top Democrat on that committee, telling me earlier today that they have actually discussed this with Bob Mueller, the special counsel's office, who has essentially given them a green light to seek public testimony for both Paul Manafort and Donald Trump Jr. when they want to.
So, the question, Wolf, is, will those two men agree to come before the committee? And if they don't, will they face subpoenas? Because Senator Chuck Grassley, the Republican chairman of the committee, has threatened subpoenas if they do not agree.
The third individual Bob Mueller also cleared, Glenn Simpson, who is actually in charge of that research firm Fusion GPS. Bob Mueller saying that that committee can also look and talk to him in a public session. So, look for all this to take place in a matter of the coming weeks or days.
BLITZER: Yes, looks like there's pretty good cooperation through the special counsel Robert Mueller and the Senate. Thanks very much, Manu Raju up on Capitol Hill.
I want to go back to Senator Chris Coons.
What do you make of this eighth person, this mystery person as he's been described, all of a sudden also showing up at that meeting?
COONS: Well, Wolf, it's really striking that Donald Trump Jr., the president's son, his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and his campaign manager, Paul Manafort, had what was initially presented as just a brief meeting about Russian adoption.
And as the days have gone by, we hear about a fourth person, fifth person, sixth person, seventh person, now eighth person. And it raises questions for me about whether any of the representations that we have gotten publicly about what went on at this meeting, its purpose and its outcome are fully truthful have fully disclosed...
BLITZER: Your colleague Dianne Feinstein, the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, she says that Mueller, the special counsel, has given the all-clear for the committee to go ahead and question Donald Trump Jr. and Paul Manafort, the campaign chairman at the time. Do you know when that will take place?
COONS: Well, the schedule in the Senate has been uncertain because of the challenges of the health care vote and its timing.
We have got several weeks ahead that we're going to be in session that we don't currently have things scheduled. My hope would be that Donald Trump Jr. and Paul Manafort will appear in front of the Judiciary Committee in open session soon. It might be this month. It might not be until September.
BLITZER: What about Jared Kushner?
COONS: I think Jared Kushner should testify as well. Fortunately, we're seeing close cooperation between the Intelligence Committee, the Judiciary Committee and special counsel Mueller.
It is important that they not get crosswise and that special counsel Mueller continue to have the resources and the independence to pursue this investigation wherever it leads.
BLITZER: Let's talk quickly about the sanctions bill. It passed the Senate, the anti-Russian sanctions bill. There was an amendment involving additional sanctions against Iran. Passed the Senate first time 98-2, second time 97-2, but it's sort of languishing in the House of Representatives now. Why?
COONS: It's taking much longer than it should. And there is a debate about exactly who is holding it up and why. There are some reports that there are senior members of the Republican leadership in the House that are working with the administration to water down one provision, to strengthen the executive's ability to wave Russia's sanctions.
Others say it was a misunderstanding about jurisdiction between the House and Senate. Either way, the House should take it up and pass it promptly and send it to the White House for passage. There is a possibility they will also add North Korea sanctions.
BLITZER: That's what Kevin McCarthy, the majority leader in the House, wants.
Are you with them on that?
COONS: I think stronger sanctions against North Korea make sense in the current environment. As long as we have got the floor time for it to come right back to the Senate and for us to pass it and the president to sign it, I think that's an acceptable path.
But we have to get this done and done soon.
BLITZER: Senator Coons, thanks so much for joining us.
COONS: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: Chris Coons of Delaware.
There is much more coming up here in THE SITUATION ROOM, including more on the president's role in the collapse of the Republican health care bill and his refusal to take responsibility for it.
And will the president's son actually give public testimony about that Trump Tower Russia meeting, now that the special counsel says it's OK? Our analysts and specialists, they are all standing by.
BLITZER: Breaking news tonight, the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, says a procedural vote on a straight repeal of Obamacare will be held early next week. That comes after the latest attempt by Senate Republicans to repeal and replace it. That attempt collapsed. Now the president is effectively washing his hands of the entire effort.
[18:44:50] Let's get some more from our experts and our analysts.
Gloria Borger, I want you to listen to how the president responded today to the Senate GOP health care bill's failure.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Let Obamacare fail. It will be a lot easier. And I think we're probably in that position where we'll just let Obamacare fail. We're not going to own it. I'm not going to own it. I can tell you the Republicans are not going to own it. We'll let Obamacare fail, and then the Democrats are going to come to us. And they're going to come to us, and they're going to say, "How do we fix it? How do we fix it," or "How do we come up with a new plan?"
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: How unusual is it to hear that kind of tone from an American president?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Look, I think it's very unusual. It's a very cynical statement for a president to make. This isn't leadership. This is the president saying, "Let it fail."
And you know what happens if it fails? Then people lose insurance. And that's a problem if you're president of the United States. Because if your version didn't work, then I would argue it's your responsibility to make sure that people are not left uninsured, even if that means working with Democrats, which is exactly what Mitch McConnell said Republicans would have to do if this failed. And, you know, God forbid, Democrats and Republicans working together,
who ever heard of such a thing? I mean, what would be so wrong with that? Obviously, Chuck Schumer would have to -- would have to cooperate here.
But for a president -- and I was thinking about this when I first heard this today, Wolf. It's as if he was having a private conversation, and then he said it publicly.
BORGER: There is no difference.
RYAN LIZZA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Or it's as if he's not president. He's talking to someone who's not actually in the role of being responsible...
LIZZA: ... for all of the federal programs, and who actually ran and was elected on fixing what he believed was wrong with Obamacare.
LIZZA: It's just a complete denial of responsibility.
BLITZER: You know, Bianna, the White House deputy press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, said today she doesn't think the White House has to take any actions for Obamacare to collapse.
But the latest Congressional Budget Office score says Obamacare markets will largely be stable. Will the White House take steps to hurt the functioning of the Affordable Care Act when millions of Americans right now rely on it?
BIANNA GOLODRYGA, YAHOO! NEWS: Well, they could stop funding cost- sharing subsidies, which is something that the president has threatened to do in the past, something that he said he's inclined to do in the future.
The deadline, for instance, for next month's cost-sharing subsidies payment would be this Thursday. So, he could very well do that. That's about $10 billion that would go into effect for 2018, and it could raise premiums by up to 20 percent for people around the country who desperately need their health care. Obviously can't afford these costs.
But, you know, the irony for a president who called the House bill recently "mean," to say publicly that "We're going to let Obamacare fail," you know, that's the ultimate act of meanness. And people will start to see the ramifications of that right away.
So, to say, "It's not on me" is something that clearly is something that a lot of people don't agree with when it comes to this president and his decisions . BLITZER: It is causing a lot of commotion out there. Ryan Lizza, I
want you to listen to the president discussing the math of this latest bill. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: We had 52 people; we had four no's. Now, we might have had another one somewhere in there. But essentially, the vote would have been pretty close to, if you look at it, 48-4. That's a pretty impressive vote by any standard. And yet, you have a vote of 48 to 4 or something like that and you need more, that's pretty tough.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: What do you make of that?
LIZZA: I mean, look, this president came -- his previous career was basically as a marketing executive, right? He was a marketer of brands and a spinner of facts. AND All politicians do that, as well.
I don't think I've ever heard a president try and spin a loss in Congress, which runs by majority rules, as something other than a defeat. It's sort of absurd to talk about 48 votes as, you know, "Close but no cigar; that's not so bad."
Also, we don't even know if it was 48. I mean, we don't know how many Republicans in the end would have voted against this. We had -- there were at least four people publicly against the bill.
But this is similar to his statement the other day about how 36 percent approval rating, he described it as almost 40 and how that wasn't so bad. I mean, his presidency is cratering, and he is struggling to spin bad approval rating and a loss of his congressional agenda as something other than failure and, you know, I don't think -- not a way to be successful. He either has to pass legislation, increase his popularity, or not.
BLITZER: Along that point, Rebecca, his job approval, according to the latest Washington post poll, 36 percent, is that why he couldn't get those wavering Republicans on board? If his job approval was a lot better, he would have had a better chance?
REBECCA BERG, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. Certainly, a higher job approval rating, Wolf, would have been helpful, because then the president would have had more leverage over these senators. But as it is, those senators actually probably have more leverage over the president, because in most states, they are more popular than he is.
[18:40:08] So that's certainly a problem, but I think what Republican senators truly confronted in this situation was the stark reality that passing health care legislation was going to be very, very difficult, if not impossible, especially because you're talking about rolling back entitlements, essentially, especially with the Medicaid expansion, government subsidies for health care. Once you put these things out there and give people these entitlement programs, it's very, very difficult for the government to then say, "We're taking this back" and not have that be political suicide.
BLITZER: All right. Everybody stay with us. Don't go too far away. There's more breaking news just ahead. The White House reveals a previously undisclosed conversation between President Trump and Vladimir Putin.
[18:45:33] WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: The breaking news tonight, the White House has just revealed a second conversation between President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G20 Summit in Germany earlier this month. A National Security Council spokesman said the two leaders spoke without staff at the social dinner following their one on one meeting earlier in the day.
Gloria, that one on one meeting earlier in the day lasted, what, more than two hours. This one lasted a long time. We don't know exactly how long it lasted, but why wouldn't the White House disclose this right at the time?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: I -- I have no idea. Maybe it's because the Senator Chris Coons pointed out to you earlier that there was only one translator, and the translator was Russian. So, we don't have any record of what was said during this other than what the president told his national security aides and perhaps they then told others. But we don't -- we don't know what was actually said at this session, which is why it was probably not disclosed.
BLITZER: And it was done, Bianna, in front of all these other world leaders at the social dinner. You would think the White House would realize, you know, a lot of people know about this and word is going to get out.
BIANNA GOLODRYGA, YAHOO NEWS: Yes, there were reports that others around them and other world leaders were just as surprised to see the two men huddled for nearly an hour. Word of this conversation, hour- long conversation started coming out yesterday afternoon and now, obviously, we have confirmation from the White House about it. But once again, Wolf, it shows that the president obviously knowing the optics of what this would appear to be and how this would appear, chose to go over and felt comfortable enough to sit with Vladimir Putin for an hour without bringing anybody from his team over.
You remember that oval office meeting with the Russians as well when secret information and intelligence was revealed. There were at least others in his cabinet who were there in the meeting, General McMaster who was able to come out and say, well, there wasn't too much revealed. The source of this intelligence wasn't revealed.
Now, the only three people that know about what transpired in this conversation are the president of the United States, the president of Russia, and the president of Russia's interpreter. You go back three years ago to this exact meeting where Vladimir Putin, following the invasion of Ukraine, annexing Crimea, was ostracized, sat alone in the corner picking at his food. Nobody spoke to him. The Australian prime minister barely shook his hand and Vladimir Putin left early. Here, he's getting validation that he's once again a powerful world
leader sitting with the most powerful leader in the world, having a very long, lengthy comfortable, it would appear, conversation.
BORGER: And, you know, it makes you wonder, what's the unfinished business that the president decided he needed to transact after his initial meeting. We don't -- we don't know the answer to that. And, in fact, we may never know the exact answer to that because we have no record. We have absolutely no record of what transpired.
BLITZER: You know, all these world leaders at the G20 were at that dinner. Ryan, we were showing video of Melania Trump sitting next to Putin at that dinner. And then there's this lengthy conversation that the president of the United States has with the president of Russia with only a Russia interpreter, an official government Russian interpreter. No American interpreter.
You heard Senator Chris Coons of the Foreign Relations Committee said that was very inappropriate.
RYAN LIZZA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Inappropriate and massive failure of President Trump's staff to allow him -- look, he's already one of the most inexperienced people -- all presidents come to the job with a lack of experience, but he's more inexperienced with most new presidents. And to not have staff work that would make sure that they had someone there so that an account of that meeting was -- the American side had a true account or frankly a translator who might mistranslate something, you would at least want an American translator there so that you know you're getting an honest translation of the meeting.
Like so many things with this White House's relation with Russia, it is puzzling. It's puzzling that they didn't disclose it. You know, they never did a press conference at the end of that trip, so we didn't get a chance to press them on some of these things.
LIZZA: Why is it that every time a senior administration official meets with a Russian it doesn't get disclosed until it leaks out?
BLITZER: And why, Rebecca Berg, would they think at the White House you could keep a meeting like that secret when there are, what, 20 plus leaders there plus spouses?
[18:50:03] REBECCA BERG, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It really defies logic and perhaps, it was just an issue of them, the White House, not having an account of what happened. They were going to have to disclose a meeting of which they had no further details.
I would be very interested to hear the White House explanation, if we get one, as to why this was not disclosed. But the fact that there was this meeting on the sidelines that wasn't disclosed, a second meeting between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin is very much consistent with what we know about Donald Trump and his objectives when it comes to Putin. He has said he wants to be his friend. He wants to have a very, warm cooperative partnership.
This kind of smoothing is exactly what you would expect Donald Trump to do --
BORGER: I think we should get a read-out of this conversation now.
LIZZA: How do we even get that?
BERG: You would have to get it from the president or from Russia.
BORGER: How do you get a read-out?
BLITZER: Well, if you want a read-out, you can go to Moscow. You can get a read-out of this conversation.
BORGER: Maybe the Kremlin is going to have to give us a read-out, which as you point out --
LIZZA: Because the only account that the White House is going to be available is from Trump --
BORGER: Is from the Kremlin.
LIZZA: Or from Trump himself.
BORGER: Or from Trump himself.
LIZZA: So, no White House advisors actually know what happened in this meeting except from Trump's point of view. And to be quite frank, President Trump is not always reliable when he narrates anecdotes and things that have happened to him.
BERG: To put it gently.
BLITZER: Go ahead, Bianna.
GOLODRYGA: And, by the way, this could have been very well much (INAUDIBLE) that this president did, and he thought it was innocent and wanted to go over and chitchat with Vladimir Putin.
GOLODRYGA: Again, Vladimir Putin would approach this very differently given his expertise in being a spy, and being with the KGB and FSB. Obviously, he would know how to play this president very well. It was interesting just this week there was video released in Russia of President Putin talking and praising Donald Trump, President Trump, saying what a great listener he is and how even if he questions or disagrees on certain issues, he follows up with good questions.
I mean, he really went into great detail to talk about the man that this president is and the man he found him to be that night. Now, we know there was an additional hour in that bromance.
BLITZER: Stand by, everybody standby. We have much more coming into THE SITUATION ROOM. We'll report right after this. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
[18:56:38] BLITZER: Republican efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act have collapsed tonight with President Trump responding, and I'm quoting him now, let Obamacare fail, despite his many previous promises.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You're going to have such great health care at a tiny fraction of the cost, and it's going to be so easy.
Real change begins with immediately repealing and replacing the disaster known as Obamacare.
Obamacare is dead. It is going to be repealed. It is going to be replaced.
We're going to do it simultaneously. It will be just fine. We're not going to have like a two-day period and we're not going to have a two- year period where there is nothing. It will be repealed and replaced.
Obamacare repeal and replace. I've been talking about repealing and replacing Obamacare now for almost two years.
It is an unbelievably complex subject. Nobody knew that health care could be so complicated.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: A lot of people knew it was very, very complicated. Six months in office later this week. He'll mark his first six months. How does this failure fit in?
BORGER: Well, he's discovered there is no easy button that you can push. And, look, he has done a bunch of things that were easier. Withdrawing from the Trans Pacific Partnership, the Supreme Court justice, that wasn't easy, but he got him confirmed and you have the list up there.
He left the climate deal. He did reduce some illegal immigration and, he's, of course, signed some executive orders reversing regulations, about 15 of them. But the big stuff, Wolf, that he promised -- the wall, you know, Obamacare, infrastructure, all the rest of that, he has not done because it is not easy.
His popularity still remains high with Republican voters I should point out, 82 percent with Republican voters. But independent voters are down to 32 percent approval. They were at 41 percent in January. So, he has lost a lot of altitude there.
The question is, how long will his base stick with him, if the things he promised and ran on day after day after day do not get done? Including tax reform, I forgot to put on that. LIZZA: That's the point. It doesn't get easier from here on out,
debt ceiling, budget, tax reform, those things are coming very fast. Each one of them is equally as complicated as tax reform.
BERG: And the common denominator in all of those things you named, Gloria, that have not gotten done in this administration is those are mostly things that need to go through Congress.
BERG: And so, this isn't only a Donald Trump problem. This is a Republican Congress problem. And Republicans in Congress need to find a way to get answers.
BLITZER: Very quickly, Bianna, he's got to come up with a new strategy -- well, Bianna, unfortunately, she's no longer with us.
LIZZA: I was going to say that. You were exactly right. The things on the left side of that list we just had up there are executive actions. He's realizing that the power of the things that he can do unilaterally as president, he could get accomplished. Anything he needs Congress for so far hasn't happened.
BLITZER: Got a lot of work to do. It's not going to be easy. We're going to watch it every step of the way.
Guys, very, very thanks. That's it for me. Thanks very much for watching.
I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.