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Trump and Greek Prime Minister Press Conference; Bipartisan Health Care Deal; Trump Endorses Health Care Deal; Ex-Trump Adviser Subpoenaed. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired October 17, 2017 - 14:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[14:00:00] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Companies to line their pockets, to raise up their stock prices, and they've had a record run. They've had an incredible run. And it's not appropriate.

Obamacare is a disaster. It's virtually dead. As far as I'm concerned, it really is dead. And I predicted that a long time ago. It's a concept that doesn't work.

And we are very close. We feel we have the votes -- and as soon as we're finished with taxes, John (ph), we really feel we have the votes to get block grants into the states where the states can much better manage this money and much better take care of the people, rather than the federal government. The state block grants -- we'll do massive block grants into the various states so that the states can run the program.

So we feel we have the votes. We're going to be doing that after the taxes.

In the meantime, we're involved with a budget and then after the budget -- hopefully that gets approved. And after the budget, assuming we have the support of all the Republicans, because we'll have no support from the Democrats or almost no support because they've really become just obstructionists, they have no good policies and, frankly, they're not good politicians, but they're very good obstructionists and that's what they do well, obstruct.

The number of nominees that I have approved by the Democrats are about half of what President Obama had. And when you look at that -- and you can look at judicial appointments, look how slow that's going. I'll have 145, ultimately, which is a tremendous number. We'll have 17 Court of Appeals appointments.

But they're not getting approved, they're being slow-walked by Schumer and the group of Democrats that really it's -- it's really disgraceful. Even people that they know they're going to approve, they take it right out to the end. They use every single minute. And I think it's a very disgraceful situation.

But Obamacare is everything but dead. The people aren't going to take it. They're not going to take it.

Alaska, they had over a 200 percent increase. In Arizona, they were 116 percent and I hear going up even higher. And the people aren't going to take that any longer.

So I think we're in great shape. I think we have the votes. And we'll be doing that right after the largest tax cuts in the history of our country are approved, hopefully sometime in the very near future.

QUESTION: So is Graham-Cassidy still the plan, sir?

TRUMP: Yeah, essentially, that would be the plan, yeah. Block grants.

QUESTION: OK.

And, Mr. Prime Minister, with respect to the president, in March of 2016, you said at the potential for a Donald Trump presidency, quote, "I hope we will not face this evil." And I'm wondering if, after spending time with the president, you have changed your mind or if you're of the same mind?

TRUMP: I wish I knew that before my speech.

(LAUGHTER)

TSIPRAS (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): The meeting I had with the president, his approach and the way he addresses (inaudible) -- the U.S. is a very strong power, and their ability to intervene for good are very, very important.

I want to confirm that the meeting that we had was very productive. Not a moment did I feel that I was threatened at any time. I saw that there is a very fertile outlook here in order to set aside any differences we may have, to find the common ground, the common ground which is really important for the relationship between our two peoples, that are traditional and historical, and for our common objectives.

We have common values. Don't forget that the value of democracy and freedom was born in Greece, and it's one of the basic values that traverses American culture and American tradition.

The president today of the U.S. continues this tradition. And I think our collaboration will be very substantial. And I'm very optimistic after our meeting that we had today.

TRUMP: I might just add that a number of countries were a little bit nervous at the beginning, and I have very good relationships with the leaders of virtually every country I've dealt with.

But the reason they were concerned was because I will not allow our country, the United States of America, to be taken advantage of by so many other countries all over the world.

If you look at our trade deficits -- massive trade deficits with virtually every country; you look at our jobs, moving out to certain countries, and the -- the companies are leaving, and they're firing the people, and the product is made elsewhere, and then it's sold back into the United States, I'm not going to be allowing that. So I can understand how certain countries, and the leaders of certain countries may feel. But we're just not going to allow the United States to be taken advantage of by other countries anymore. And there's nothing we can do about that.

Thank you.

OK, you have a question.

QUESTION: (inaudible).

Mr. Prime Minister, how do you plan to attract the long-term foreign direct investments in Greece? And if you can elaborate, please, on the steps that Greece is making to tackle the bureaucracy and over- taxation in order to ensure investments -- investors around the world that Greece is ready for business.

And Mr. President, if I may, why would you encourage the U.S. (inaudible) to invest in Greece? And how can the U.S. support the Greek efforts to fully turn the page, attract investments, and to manage its debt?

Thank you.

TSIPRAS (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): First of all, one thing is to intervene legislatively to attract investment. And it's different to work on a daily basis to implement these intentions in a stable environment.

We opted to conflict with the basic illnesses of Greek public administration, and to create a friendly environment for foreign investment, because this is our investment, our priority today (ph). Investment, it means jobs. Jobs means less unemployment. And it means return of young people that have left Greece, educated Greeks that have left Greece to go other countries to come back to Greece.

So what did we do? We passed a law in parliament that provides a stable tax environment, a fixed tax rate for 12 years for investments of high value. We simplified the procedures to provide licenses to investments. We introduced a fast- track process for strategic investments.

And we also made significant changes to combat bureaucracy through digitization of administrative procedures in public administration, and our vision is to have a digital public administration because we really want to make it practice. I personally have created a task force in the prime minister's office for investments, so we can see whether laws are being implemented, whether there is effectiveness, and we are sending out a strong signal of political will to promote these projects.

The president asked me earlier what is happening with the Ellinikon, with the old airport where years ago he, himself, as a business man in the past was interested in it, and he saw himself the weaknesses and the illnesses of Greek public administration. I informed him it's moving along and very soon we will see this area to being formed to a very, very large real estate project in Greece which will be -- we're hoping it will be an attraction for other investments from abroad.

I would like to also say that Greece, for the first time, from the last country is the first country in absorbing European funds -- investment capital from European structural funds.

So we find ourselves at a turning point, a point where investments can provide the ability to exit finally the crisis. And the message that I want to pass on to U.S. investment is that Greece is not just a tourist attraction -- the best maybe in the world -- but it's also an investment destination as well.

TRUMP: I can say that we have a great confidence in Greece. I think it's a land of tremendous potential. I know many people are looking to invest in Greece. A lot of the problems are behind it.

They've had some very good leadership. They've really done a lot of -- they've made a lot of difficult decisions.

We are helping, as you know, with a massive renovation of their air force and also of airplanes generally going to Greece. They're looking at buying additional planes from Boeing. And we are helping -- we're very much involved with Greece and with helping Greece get back on its feet. We have a tremendous Greek population in this country, people whose heritage is Greece. And we love that country, special country, one of the most beautiful countries in the world. And I think it's got great potential and we are helping it along.

OK, Jennifer (ph), you want to go?

QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. President.

TRUMP: Sure.

QUESTION: I have a question for both of you, but let me start with you, Mr. President. Let me give you a quick question about the Federal Reserve.

Do you have any other candidates that you're looking at other than Powell, Yellen, the five that have already been named? Are you looking at anyone besides those folks?

TRUMP: I would say within those five you'll probably get the answer. And I'll be making the decision over the next fairly short period of time.

QUESTION: Can you say who your favorite is at this point?

TRUMP: Honestly, I like them all.

QUESTION: OK.

(LAUGHTER)

TRUMP: I do. I have a great respect for all of them.

But I'll make a decision over the next very short period of time. QUESTION: Can I ask you a quick Obamacare question as well, even

though John Roberts asked one as well?

TRUMP: Sure. Sure.

QUESTION: Apparently Lamar Alexander has said he's made a deal with Senator Patty Murray to stabilize Obamacare. Has the White House been involved in those negotiations and will you support that deal?

TRUMP: Yes, we have been involved.

And this is a short-term deal, because we think ultimately block grants going to the states is going to be the answer. That's a very good solution. We think it's going to not only save money, but give people much better health care with a very, very much smaller premium spike, and you look with what's gone on with that. Also, much lower deductibles so they can use it.

Lamar has been working very, very hard with the Democratic -- his colleagues on the other side. And Patty Murray is one of them, in particular. And they're coming up, and they're fairly close to a short-term solution.

The solution will be for about a year or two years. And it'll get us over this intermediate hump. Because we have -- as you probably know, we have -- either have the votes or we're very close to having the votes, and we will get the votes for having really the potential of having great health care in our country.

So they are indeed working. But it is a short-term solution so that we don't have this very dangerous little period, including dangerous period for insurance companies, by the way. For a period of one year, two years we will have a very good solution.

But we're going to have a great solution ultimately for health care, OK? And they are working together and I know very much what they're doing, OK?

Thank you.

QUESTION: Thank you.

Mr. Prime Minister, on Turkey, do you still regard Turkey as a democracy? And should Turkey remain a member of NATO?

TSIPRAS (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): I have to say that, despite our concerns regarding Turkey, despite the concerns that are also based on the daily intervention -- Turkish intervention in the Aegean, nevertheless we continue to support the Turkish course towards Europe.

We respect it as a regional power, and we believe that it must stay oriented toward the European perspective, stay oriented to its collaboration with the West, and stay oriented toward NATO.

We do believe that the European perspective of Turkey can also be a lever of pressure so that they can have those reforms toward the democratization of the domestic (ph) of the country.

So my answer to your question is relatively easy: Yes, we do believe that Turkey must remain within NATO and its European course.

But on the other side, we have to ensure, and we must make it clear to this ally of ours and to its government, that the road to Europe and the stay and the collaboration with the West carries with it certain conditions, certain responsibilities.

One of the most necessary conditions is to respect international law, to collaborate, and not promote tension with allied countries such as Greece.

This is our basic direction. And I do believe I had the opportunity to go in detail on this matter with President Trump, to explain the need for the fulfillment of these conditions so that there are clear messages also toward the Turkish administration.

TRUMP: (OFF-MIKE)

QUESTION: Thank you.

Mr. Prime Minister, how do you -- us Greeks like to hear about the still (ph) strategic importance of Greece in the region. What is your government planning to do to enhance this role and to -- for the benefit of the bilateral relationship?

And for specifically in Souda Bay, are there any plans you have for it? QUESTION: And, Mr. President, you praised Greece's role in NATO with the contribution and with -- in Souda Bay.

Amid the volatile region of the Eastern Mediterranean, what do you see as the potential of Greece being -- as a pillar of stability in the region? And what would the U.S. like to see happening in order for Greece to achieve this potential?

Thank you.

TRUMP: Well, I'd just start by saying that I think it has a great role in stability in the area. We have a feeling that it will get stronger and stronger. Very stable people.

It's got the potential to be -- once it gets over this tremendous financial hurdle that it's in the process of working out, we think that there'll be great stability in Greece. And militarily, and in every way, we look at it as very important, and very important to the United States.

We have great confidence in Greece as a nation. We have great confidence in what they are doing relative to their military, because I know they have plans to do some terrific things. And we know they will be an ally for many, many years to come.

You know, they've always been a very reliable ally, and we've always been very reliable to them. So we look forward to that for many years. We're going to be friends for many, many years. And stability is very important, and we look upon that, with respect to Greece, as being a key, OK?

Thank you.

TSIPRAS (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): As regards the initiatives that we're going to be taking, but also, regarding the initiatives that we have taken to broaden the strategic role of Greece as a reliable partner, both in the E.U. and NATO, I'd like to say that from the first moment we took over the administration, we proceeded to a new dogma through the minister of foreign affairs, but as a basic aim to enhance the role of Greece as a country that is a pillar of security and stability in a very sensitive and unstable region.

We enhanced our collaboration with two significant partners in the area, Egypt and Israel, and Greek Cyprus with Israel, and Greek Cyprus with Egypt, and with other countries in the area, such as Jordan, Lebanon. Our goal is, through these multilateral collaborations, to ensure the collaboration, stability, peace and joint development, joint growth in this area.

Of course, Greece for a number of years has been playing -- as underlined earlier, it plays the role of a reliable ally of the U.S. But it also has a unique, different feature: Greece may be talking with the Arab world, with other countries in the East. So it's not just a NATO member. It's a useful ally for the United States of America.

Now, as regards Crete and Souda Bay, we all know it is a special geostrategic importance. And we evaluated, jointly evaluated, and I think that we're doing good work there, and it can and it must be upgraded, enhanced.

TRUMP: So, I want to thank everybody.

The prime minister came out here, and he said, "This is so beautiful." I said, "This is the Rose Garden." And I think even the media likes the Rose Garden. That's hard to believe, but even the media likes it.

Mr. Prime Minister, it's been a great honor having you, and we look forward to many, many years of friendship, working together, and keep up the good work. Thank you very much.

TSIPRAS (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): Thank you very much. Thank you.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: The president of the United States, the prime minister of Greece, wrapping up a news conference in the Rose Garden at the White House.

And as they were wrapping up, we just got word that there is a deal in principle that will allow the Obamacare health care subsidize to insurance companies to continue. The chairman of the Health Committee, Republican Senator Lamar Alexander, the ranking Democrat, Patty Murray, their aides are now telling CNN, there is an agreement in principle. And we just heard, moments ago, from President Trump say he would

support this deal. He says it would be a short-term -- for a short period of time. This deal would be for two years. But it in effect reverses the decision he made only last Friday, which would cut those subsidies to insurance companies because the president said those insurance companies were simply making too much money.

[14:20:20] Lots to assess as a result of this news conference.

But, Gloria, this is a significant development right now.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it is.

BLITZER: Bipartisan cooperation. A Republican and a Democrat working together, forging this tentative deal.

BORGER: But just step back for a moment, look at the larger picture. The president says he's going to end the subsidize. Ends the subsidize, gets a lot of blow-black on it because, in fact, a lot of that people who would be affected, if you end these subsidize, are people at the lower end of the economic scale, many of them Trump voters. And he takes the political tact saying, you know, it was just the insurance companies that were getting too much money.

Fast forward. The Republicans and the Democrats in the Senate trying to stop this from happening, led by these two senators, say they've come up with this deal in principle. Now they still have to get co- sponsors. And the president today says, OK, that's fine, after he said that the insurance companies' profits were up too much, 400 percent, et cetera, et cetera. And then said that in the end they're going to have the votes for his version of health care reform, what's called Graham/Cassidy. In fact, they don't have the votes for it yet. And we all know that.

BLITZER: Yes.

Jeff Zeleny is our senior White House correspondent. He's there for us.

Jeff, the president keeps saying he has the votes for what he wants. He clearly doesn't have the votes. If he had the votes, they would have passed the legislation. Didn't have the votes. Still doesn't have the votes. That's why presumably he's made this major decision to support, at least for the next two years, what this compromise Lamar Alexander/Patty Murray legislation is all about.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, that's right, they do not have the votes. Republicans do not have the votes on their side of the Senate or they would have passed it and moved it through. We, of course, know the House supported this version of health care. The Senate did not.

But by the president saying that he supported this short-term deal in principle between Democrats and Republicans, it certainly is a sign that he wants to move forward with this, he wants to get something done in health care. But, Wolf, it's so interesting here. He says Obamacare is dead.

Obamacare is not coming back. The reality here and the worry here among some of the president's advisers is that he will own the collapse of health care. So that is something that he is not eager to own in its entirety. He's blaming it on the predecessor, the Obamacare legislature. But the reality here is now, he and -- and the Republicans control this. So that is one of the reasons that he is supportive of this bipartisan move, Wolf. But this is just the beginning of this. It certainly is not the end of health care.

And in terms of the votes, he said they hope they move on to health care after tax reform. But the reality of that is, Wolf, that is many months away, likely, even though he said he would like to get some type of tax cut, tax reform package done this calendar year, that is seen as a long shot by some Republicans on Capitol Hill, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, they got to pass a budget first, then move on to tax reform. And clearly they're not going to get anywhere near major repeal or replace efforts as far as Obamacare, at least until, as the president's own advisers have told us, at least until March or April of next year.

In the meantime, David Gregory, this is a reversal for the president. Only last Friday he said he was ending those subsidize to insurance companies because they're making way too much money. Today he says he's going to support what Lamar Alexander and Patty Murray have put forward, namely to continue those subsidize, at least for the next two years.

DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, I suppose he'd like the credit for sticking it to the insurance companies via executive order and to dismantle Obamacare. In his mind, Obamacare is dead because of the executive actions that he took because Republicans couldn't get it done on Capitol Hill.

But there's a striking thing about this that gets into health care policy, which, no matter how you slice it, if you want universal health care, insurance companies have to get it taken care of. That's what the Obama team understood. One way or the other, they have to get taken care of because they are the ones who have to extend coverage to more people than they would rather not give coverage to. They have to give it to everybody. And they only do that if young and healthy people take up insurance, buy insurance to drive up their profits, to offset the fact that they're giving it to people who have pre-existing conditions.

And Trump, even through bloc grants, wants pre-existing conditions to be taken care of. So there's a lot he still wants to be on the right side of when it comes to universal health care, but for now he wants to be the one who's taking on the insurance companies. This stuff just doesn't add up yet.

BLITZER: And what's your analysis?

JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVIS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I mean, let's not forget what the strategy was behind ending these payments last week, and they were pretty transparent -- the president was pretty transparent about this. He talked about, you know, it being a bailout for the insurance companies. But he also said, I'm going to end these payments, and then the Democrats will have to come to me --

[14:25:11] BLITZER: Right.

DAVIS: And cut a deal --

BORGER: Right.

DAVIS: To improve health care because Obamacare will fail.

Well, now he has, it seems like, agreed to continue these payments for another two years. If he thought that Democrats had any incentive to cut that kind of deal with him, it would be gone now because the payments are going to continue.

And it's not totally clear to me either whether he is on the same page with a lot of senior administration officials who we've talked to in the last few days, week, leading up to the decision to cut off these payments. They have all said, in order to continue these payments, we're going to need to get something. That's going to be either an end to the individual mandate that David talked about, an end to the employer mandate for insurance, and it's -- it doesn't appear -- I haven't seen the fine print on this deal, but it seems very unlikely that Patty Murray and the Democrats would be agreeing to anything like that. So he seems to have gotten out ahead of where White House strategist was just 24 or 48 hours ago.

BLITZER: Yes, he clearly wants a deal. He wants to be able to say, yes, there's a deal. And maybe there will be a deal. It's by no means a done deal yet. There's still a lot of work to do.

And even as we're talking, Jim Sciutto, about health care and this possibility of bipartisan cooperation to get some sort of deal going, reversing what the president announced last Friday, there's word that Carter Page, who was a foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign, has now been subpoenaed by the Senate Intelligence Committee to testify. He had refused a request to testify.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN: That's right. Carter Page has been a prominent figure, at least in the coverage of the Russian investigation since the beginning, although there are real questions about how central a figure he actually was. I mean certainly a very public supporter of the president, very public in his, if not support, his willingness to engage with the Russians, go to Russia. He gave speeches there that criticized U.S. foreign policy at the time. And you might even say exaggerated his own role in all this. He was very happy to be public and to be interviewed and be cagy in those interviews, perhaps not revealing too much.

But he's been asked. He didn't accept voluntary requests for him to come forward. So the Senate Intelligence Committee doing what it has said that it would do with others who did not take their request to come voluntarily. They're subpoenaing him. Whether -- it doesn't mean he's necessarily a central figure, but they have reasonable questions to ask him and they want to bring him forward.

BLITZER: See if he testifies or pleads the fifth or whatever he wants to do.

There's other news. John McCain has just responded -- just responded to the president. Last night, John McCain gave a very, very important speech, making it clear he disagrees with the president. Earlier today, the president said, be careful, this is what he was referring to, Senator McCain, be careful because at some point I fight back. And now John McCain has just said this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Let's start with the Senator Rand Paul on the budget going against the budget reform. Does he not understand the bill? Why is he pushing against this (ph)?

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I don't -- I don't know. I don't pay any attention to Senator Paul.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He and Senator Graham seem to be having quite a disagreement about what their understanding is of what's in the bill. So --

MCCAIN: Well, you'll have to ask them.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK. Let's go to your speech last night.

MCCAIN: OK.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Were you trying to -- were you addressing the president or Bannon or the group in total?

MCCAIN: I think that what is clear is what I was talking about as an environment here of non-productivity of a reversion to the attitude of the '30s, which was one of the major reasons why we fought World War II.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And then with regard to -- and I'm reluctant to bring it up, sir, but I feel the need to. With regard to what the president has said about General Kelly and his son and Obama -- President Obama not addressing the Senate, is this an appropriate place for the president to be making comments? You've served in the armed forces.

MCCAIN: I don't -- frankly, I don't know what to think about that. I think that our first objective has to be to honor the service and sacrifice of these young people who have given their lives.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can I ask one question on ISIS? Sorry.

MCCAIN: What?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A question on ISIS. President Trump said that if he had been president earlier, than Raqqa would have fallen earlier. Do you agree with that? MCCAIN: Glad to hear that. No, that's illuminating to me. I was involved in it throughout. Do I believe the last eight years were failed? Absolutely. Absolutely. There was no rules of engagement. There was no success. There was no strategy. So I certainly agree that the last eight years were a dismal failure of our policies and strategy in Iraq and Afghanistan. That's why it's been 15 years.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you, senator.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right, so there you have Senator John McCain, in part, responding -- he didn't respond to the president's threat to him, be careful because at some point I fight back.

[14:30:04] But, Gloria, he's speaking bluntly. He's agreeing that the Obama administration failed in Iraq and Afghanistan. He agrees with the president on that. But he's making it clear on a whole host of other issues