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AT THIS HOUR
Trump Deals Twin Blows To Obamacare, Iran Nuclear Deal; Trump Punts To Congress On Iran Nuclear Deal; Trump Halts Crucial Obamacare Subsidies; Dems Blast "Spiteful, Pointless Sabotage" Of Obamacare. Aired 11-11:30a ET
Aired October 13, 2017 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: -- right now with "AT THIS HOUR."
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you, John, Poppy. Hello, everyone. I am Kate Bolduan. Two major announcements with major implications for millions here and abroad, both coming from the president and just the president.
This isn't just a tweet, isn't a big threat, also can't be walked back a moment later. Health care and the Iran deal on the plate today. The president talking about and teeing up announcement to a supportive crowd he called friends at the Value Voters Summit just moments ago, an annual gathering of social conservatives.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: We are taking a little different route than we had hoped because getting Congress, they forgot what their pledges were. So, we're going a little different route. But you know what, in the end, it is going to be just as effective, and maybe it will even be better.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: This just hours after the Trump White House deals a crippling blow to Obamacare, the president cutting off subsidies to help low income Americans afford health insurance.
Next hour, the president is targeting another Obama legacy item, the Iran nuclear deal. He is expected to announce that the agreement no longer serves America's national interests, but will stop short of scrapping the deal all together.
Let's begin with the president as he wrapped the speech just moments ago. Senior White House correspondent, Jeff Zeleny is there. Jeff, two big announcements, two major Obama legacy items. What is the president telling folks today?
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Indeed, Kate, good morning. I think the president was clear when he was talking about what Congress has not done in terms of repealing and replacing Obamacare. I would call it the political equivalent (inaudible) making lemonades out of some lemons. We have covered these Value Voter Summits and other conservative groups for years. The anthem, the rallying cry has been to repeal and replace Obamacare.
The president now becomes the first sitting president to address this group, and frankly he is before the group without any action legislatively in Obamacare. So, the president actually gave a bit of a jab there to members of Congress for failing to uphold their pledge.
So, he said he is doing his own executive action, which of course, he has criticized President Obama for doing, using the power of his pen here, but he said it could be better than actually repealing and replacing Obamacare.
Most people know that that actually is not true. But the president, of course, going forward on his own because Congress did not do as what they said. So, Kate, I am struck by the optimism here, of course, with conservative activists from across the country, gathering in Washington.
They love to see that there is one of their own Republican in the White House. But when you breakdown the accomplishments, the only accomplishment the president was able to tout here was the nomination and appointment of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court.
So, of course, that is a major issue for conservative voters. The president goes on to talk about the Iran speech he will give next hour, and called Iran a terrorist nation and that of course is something he will be addressing at the White House as he's headed back there right now -- Kate.
BOLDUAN: Yes. Two huge announcements coming up as we speak. Jeff, great to see you. Joining me to continue the discussion, David Sanger, CNN analyst and national security correspondent at "The New York Times," Mark Preston, CNN senior political analyst, Chris Cilizza, CNN politics reporter and editor-at-large, and Nia Malika- Henderson, CNN senior political reporter. Great to see all of you.
Mark, on health care, let's start there. Because the president talked about that, hit on that quite a bit in the speech. This was something that he was -- has been threatened for months, cancelling these subsidies, this divides his party.
I mean, if you look at Republican member, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, she wrote on Twitter this after the president announced it, "Cutting health care subsidies will means more uninsured in my district. The president promised more access, affordable coverage, this does the opposite." So, what does this all mean?
MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, a couple things, one, it's going to put an incredible amount of pressure on Republicans in Congress to try to do something to make sure that the markets are not destabilized because the insurance companies now are looking at this and anticipating this. This is going to hurt them. So, the question is how do you stabilize markets to the point where President Trump and the Republican-controlled Congress can actually get through and repeal and replace Obamacare. That will not happen in the next couple of months.
If it happens, perhaps it will happen in the first quarter of the next year. Bottom line is you're going to see action from Republicans who are going to try to stabilize markets, maybe some kind of bipartisan fix.
Unclear if Democrats will agree with them on that or Republicans also need to get by the hardline conservatives in their party who are not going to want any kind of fix in the next month or two.
[11:05:01] BOLDUAN: Nia, Democrats are calling this sabotage, what the president has announced. A federal court did rule in favor of Republicans who sued over this saying that the payments were against the law. So, which is it, sabotage or following through or both?
NIA MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: I think it is both, right? I mean it does go a long way in terms of undermining the Affordable Care Act. There's no doubt about it. You got open enrollment starting in the next a couple weeks. We'll see what the markets look like, what insurance companies do.
They've always been nervous about this prospect in terms of what it would do to their bottomlines. You are talking about $7 billion and you are talking about roughly 7 million people, and couple saying he is not going to make insurance payments, those subsidy payments.
You couple that with what he did with the executive order, essentially saying that associations and people can band together and sell and buy insurance across state lines that don't meet with some of the restrictions that are part of the Affordable Care Act.
That again is a blow. You have to look at those two things and really see that this will have a big impact in terms of how the Affordable Care Act works at this point. One of the things you look for going forward is to see what the different states do.
People like (inaudible) Bassera (ph), the attorney general in California, are we going to see that sort of thing where a Democratic attorneys general in some big states try to see if they can go at this and challenge the legality and over turn that original, you know, court case that ruled in favor of the House GOP originally.
BOLDUAN: In the meantime, as you said, open enrollment is right around the corner.
HENDERSON: Yes. Good luck.
BOLDUAN: Exactly. Chris, take this in combination with the Iran deal move. Both cut at the heart of the Obama legacy. You say that's what today's big news is really about, why?
CHRIS CILIZZA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER AND EDITOR-AT-LARGE: I do. I mean, I would say that's what the big story of the first nine months of Donald Trump's presidency are, Kate, DACA, travel ban, Paris climate accord. There's a lot of things.
But essentially what you see is a roll back, a reversal of virtually every policy that Barack Obama put in place, this being the central piece, health care being the central piece, the one that has his name on it. Why?
Because you think Donald Trump came of age politically speaking in the last decade-ish and through birtherism, right, I mean, that's where he got the start. It was this rejection of the validity of Barack Obama generally speaking to be president.
That transformed itself into I'm going to be the president that undoes what Obama did not just because of Obama but because liberals are wrong about what government can and should do. It is how Trump positioned himself in the campaign, worked extremely well, and I think he's sort of doing the same as president.
The problem of course is that's not necessarily your own vision. Getting rid of the other guy's stuff is step one. The step two which Mark mentioned this on repeal and replace, they've not been able to get their own positive vision passed through.
BOLDUAN: But just getting rid of what the other guy did, that's what basically he ran on.
CILIZZA: It is what he ran on and I would say it has very real consequences. Getting rid of what the other guy did means something. But my point is governing is typically, typically voters and constituents are looking for. OK, you don't like this, we got rid of that, cleaned the decks. What's the next thing that you want to do with this?
BOLDUAN: And David, that leads us to the Iran deal. The president is not going to certify the deal again, he is not going to tear it up, he is kicking it over to Congress. Do we know what the real fallout will be after the president's announcement?
DAVID SANGER, CNN POLITICAL AND NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, it depends entirely, Kate, on how well he can control how Congress reacts. So, he wants to create the impression here that he is completely disavowing the Iran deal, which is the signature element of President Obama's foreign policy just as Obamacare was the signature element of his domestic policy.
It was one major accomplishment of the Obama era. It was removing Iran from that collection of countries that we were highly concerned would have a nuclear weapon. And here, President Trump ran into a problem because while he denounced the Iran deal repeatedly during the campaign.
Described to me and Maggie Haberman at length in interviews why he thought this was a disaster of a deal and he could have negotiated it better, once he got into office he discovered you couldn't just walk away with ease. For one thing, the Iranians haven't violated terms of the deal within the four corners of the agreement itself.
[11:10:04] The IAEA says that, other signatories including our allies Britain, France, and Germany, all say they have seen no significant or even rally very insignificant violations.
So, the president had to reach for another justification which was they were violating the spirit of the deal because they continue to launch ballistic missiles, support terrorism, all of which aren't covered in the deal.
BOLDUAN: Mark, it will be up to Congress to decide what to do about Iran's compliance. Isn't it entirely possible Congress does nothing? If that happens, what then?
PRESTON: That's a good question. I'm not quite sure. Basically, when you think of Congress, right, it is not a fine tuned, well-oiled efficient machine, right? And --
BOLDUAN: What? That's breaking news.
CILIZZA: Breaking news. Get the banner up.
PRESTON: But let me say this in simple terms. Congress can chew gum and walk at the same time. What Congress can't do and shown the past couple years, they're ineffective doing, chewing multiple pieces of gum and walking at the same time.
BOLDUAN: In Congress' defense, it does choke, there's a choking hazard. Keep going. I am loving this.
PRESTON: Think about putting seven or eight pieces of gum in your mouth and chewing it, tell me how much fun it is. It is not fun, it is not effective, it is bad. But seriously, that's the situation we're in.
You have DACA. You have the Iran deal. You've got the federal budget, debt ceiling has to be addressed, repeal and replace Obamacare. To Chris' point in the beginning, they have no accomplishments, there's no accomplishments this year of getting anything done.
BOLDUAN: Let me also say this, difficult to chew several pieces of gum at the same time, but David Sanger, isn't this what their job is? Go ahead.
SANGER: So, in this particular case I'm not sure the White House would be unhappy if Congress does what Congress does best which is do nothing. There's one thing they're trying to get around, which is have the president have to sign off every 90 days on certification.
It was driving him crazy because he felt like Iran should be in violation even if you couldn't find or demonstrate evidence that they were, and he wanted a way to push back. What the European allies are all saying to him is if you want to push back against all of the other bad things Iran is doing around the world and there's a long list, let's focus on that, but don't undo the Iran deal.
So, what they'd like to do is get a piece of legislation that basically takes away the 90-day requirement for the president. Sets up some triggers that if Iran violated them would put sanctions back in.
If Iran got close to a bomb, if Iran went wild with ballistic missile testing, but fundamentally they don't really want to mess with the deal itself, they know that right now it is working and the allies would not be with us.
BOLDUAN: Yes. So, CC on this whole conversation, Bob Corker, Donald Trump's foe, now new bestfriend. Let's see. Guys, great to see you. Thank you so much.
Coming up, is the president playing clean up on his message to Puerto Rico? This just as lawmakers are arriving to see the damage firsthand on the ground. We're going to take you there live.
BOLDUAN: The president has been threatening it for months and he made good on the threat last night, cutting off subsidies to help insurance companies to help lower income Americans pay for insurance.
Subsidies the federal court ruled were illegal, subsidies, though, that have not just had the support of Democrats, but divided the Republican Party. We saw the president moments ago touting that he is repealing and replacing Obamacare step by step by step. This is definitely a major step in dismantling, but is it sabotage as Democrats say?
CNN congressional correspondent, Phil Mattingly joining me from Capitol Hill. Phil, what's the impact of this and what's the reaction on the Hill now?
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I think it's two-fold. First and foremost, you would look at the marketplace, these are subsidies not to individuals, but to the insurance companies themselves that allow the insurers to kind of cut prices how they offer insurance in specific areas for lower income individuals.
So, the market reality is premiums are likely to go up. Some insurers might want to pull out of the market place all together. That's a serious, serious problem. Politically, you can kind of point to it as being akin to rolling a hand grenade into a very, very complicated, and difficult last couple of weeks for Congress this year.
If you look, Kate, at what they have on their agenda, whether it's tax reform that they want to do, DACA, government spending bill, any number of reauthorizations, adding this to the game is problematic for Republican leadership.
Look, Republicans are opposed to Obamacare, Republicans were opposed to CSRs, Republicans and their lawsuit is the reason that CSRs were deemed illegal, and allowed the president to make this move.
Republicans, at least in the leadership level, wanted the administration to continue these payments because they understand what it means for the marketplace. Now Democrats are going to demand they be paid.
Take a look, Kate, at what the Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said last night, quote, "It is a spiteful act, a vast pointless sabotage, leveled at working families in the middle class and every corner of America.
Make no mistake about it. Trump will try to blame the Affordable Care Act, but this will fall on his back and he will pay the price for it." That kind of a recognition of marketplace effect there as well.
Kate, you mentioned a really important point here as lawmakers try and figure out what the path forward is now that this is on their plate. The Republican Party is very divided. Obviously, senior Republican leaders like Lamar Alexander, a key health care senator in this chamber want to do something about this.
There's been bipartisan negotiations for a short-term funding. It's worth also noting the Republican repeal plans in the transition period into the replace funded the CSR subsidies for insurance companies as well. That's an acknowledgment of why this is important.
But you have conservative Republicans who don't want to do anything to, quote, "fix Obamacare." They're adamantly opposed to it and they think this is not only the right move, but nothing should be done to prop this up in the future.
[11:20:06] Take a listen to what Ohio Republican Jim Jordan had to say earlier today on "NEW DAY."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPRESENTATIVE JIM JORDAN (R), OHIO: These CSR payments are in fact illegal. The president said he is no longer going to engage in making these payments. So, let's move forward, do what we should have done a long time ago, what we in the House actually got passed, let's move forward on that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTINGLY: Obviously, Kate, the issue is there's no current legislative near term kind of profile for repeal and replace. They are going to have to wait a couple months. So, how do they handle this? All I can say is this, there will be a big congressional fight.
Democrats will hold out until they get the payments. Republicans have to figure out how can they move forward while understanding the party is going to be divided and still try to figure out a way to get this done. There's a deal to be made here. The question is, do Republicans want to take it, given their opposition to this law all together.
BOLDUAN: Yes. It seems like it is getting tougher, not easier, but I could be wrong. Phil, great to see you. Thank you so much.
Joining me now to discuss, Republican Congressman Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania. Congressman, thanks for coming in.
REPRESENTATIVE CHARLIE DENT (R), PENNSYLVANIA: Thank you, Kate. Great to be with you.
BOLDUAN: All right. Phil laid out kind of the parameters of where we are, the president cancelling these payments. You raised concern about this before. What's your reaction to his move today?
DENT: Well, first the cost sharing reduction payments will need to be made. I'm part of a group of members called the Problem Solvers Caucus, about 45 of us. We put out legislation to stabilize the individual insurance market to ensure that the cautionary reduction payments are brought under the appropriations process to provide relief to employers through the employer mandate.
That can only apply to companies over 500 employees and return to a 40-hour week, and we repeal medical device tax. So, we have a bipartisan plan that includes insuring these cost sharing reduction payments.
I am fearful now that the president made this announcement this will destabilize insurance markets, raise premiums for a lot of folks. In Pennsylvania, I believe 57 percent of the people on the exchanges are receiving these cost sharing reduction payments.
That means their premiums will spike. There will be greater instability in the insurance market and there will be likely larger numbers of people who will become uninsured.
BOLDUAN: Congressman, you say you're fearful that this could destabilize. Do you see this as sabotaging the health care markets?
DENT: Well, certainly it is not helpful. I don't -- I think the president is ill advised to take this course of action because we at the end of the day will own this. We, the Republican Party, will own this. So, I believe --
BOLDUAN: That's different than what we heard from Republicans so long, for so many Republicans. They say no matter what, this is on Obama. Trump himself has said it. You say that now Republicans own this.
DENT: Well, Barack Obama is a former president. President Trump is the president. He is a Republican. We control the Congress. We own the system now. So, we are going to have to figure out a way to destabilize this situation. Barack Obama is no longer in the equation.
So, this is on us. I believe his action will force us to enter a bipartisan agreement on the cost sharing reduction of payments. As I said, the Problem Solvers Caucus has a plan. Lamar Alexander and Patty Murray are working on a plan. So, either way we're putting a bill I hope on the president's desk that stabilizes the market and ensures the cost sharing reduction payments.
BOLDUAN: You're also a realist. Do you think there's a realistic way that there's going to be any movement on this since the president has now placed his marker on this?
DENT: Well, there will have to be. Again, the president's actions will likely result in higher premiums for too many Americans. In my state, that will be the case, higher premiums. I suspect more insurance companies may end up pulling out of the market and will see higher numbers of uninsured individuals.
I believe that will be the consequence. That's going to put enormous pressure on us in Congress to do something about it and we'll have to send the bill to the president. Whether or not he signs it, I don't know. I hope he would. Maybe that's what he wants us to do. Maybe he is forcing us to take some action here.
BOLDUAN: Can I ask about the Iran deal? Is the president making the right move today decertifying the Iran agreement?
DENT: Well, I would like to see exactly what the president is going to do. I voted against the Iran deal back in 2015 when it came up. I think it is seriously flawed. That said, I would be hesitant to walk away from the Iranian agreement now that the moneys have been released to Tehran.
Now we have to make sure the Iranians comply with that agreement. The challenge with the Iran agreement is not what's happening today or tomorrow, it is what happens in ten years when much of this agreement goes away, Iran would be able to restart its nuclear weapons program. That's the big fear.
So, if the president were to walk away today, it would put tremendous pressure on all of us, and maybe --
BOLDUAN: It sounds like he is not walking away entirely, right? He wants to kick it to Congress is what it sounds like. Should he be kicking it to Congress?
[11:25:13] DENT: Well, if he wants to take it to Congress, I can live with that, but I also believe that Congress has to be very circumspect just to how we proceed. I believe Iran and its leaders have engaged in very serious terrorist activity, they're bad actors. We all know that.
The question is how do we confront Iran on their nonnuclear activities right now and their meddling in the region causing instability and chaos everywhere they go. So, I think that's really the issue.
So, if Congress acts, I suspect we should probably try to act on those areas outside of the nuclear agreement to put pressure on Tehran. That's what I think we ought to do. BOLDUAN: Congressman, of course, everyone knows you're retiring after seven terms. You had been considering it for a while. You made the decision in the mid-summer. Did President Trump play a factor in your decision?
DENT: Well, part of this decision was personal. I have run for office 13 times, four for statehouse, two for Senate, seven times for Congress, you know, 13 and 0, it is nice. That said, I think there has been some frustration that's actually predated Donald Trump.
Ever since the government shutdown in 2013, I have always been concerned that there are a lot of folks have a difficult time getting a yes. Concerned both parties are seeing increasing elements of isolationism, protectionism, nativism and at times nialism (ph), both parties have this problem, these are not attributes of a great nation.
I think we have to correct things. I believe the country is going flew a political realignment now. The Democratic Party is not in a good place, heck, their party taken over by a guy, Bernie Sanders, not even a Democrat, and our party taken over by Donald trump who until recently wasn't even Republican.
So, we have this shift going on and I think that's frustrating. But yes, some of the actions of the president certainly caused some frustration. To be sure, I mean, I don't enjoy spending days responding to the tweet of the moment.
And I think that's been a real problem for us. It distracted us from serious substantive matters, talking about Miss Universe or the president's comments on Charlottesville or did Barack Obama spy on him or whatever the issue is, it makes life much more difficult for us to focus on tax reform or whatever the more important issue of the moment is.
BOLDUAN: I would love more time to reflect on your thoughts on the institution later. Let's focus on the here and now, right now. You've got a lot on your plate as we just discussed. Thank you for coming in, Congressman. Great to see you.
DENT: Kate, thanks for having me. Great to be with you, too.
BOLDUAN: Thank you.
Coming up for us, the update from Puerto Rico. There's actually more people in Puerto Rico without power today, not less. What's going on? House Speaker Paul Ryan getting a firsthand look as he set to tour the devastated island and a new message to the Puerto Rican people from the president. That's next.