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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Charleston Shooter Speaks Out; Battle Over Obamacare; Faraday Future: New Electric Car Has 1K Horsepower; Voice-Controlled Home Robots Unveiled At CES 2017. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired January 4, 2017 - 16:30   ET

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


[16:31:01]

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back.

The future of the health care law front and center on Capitol Hill today, as a fired-up President Obama strategizes with Democrats on how to save Obamacare, or at least how to make Republicans pay for trying to repeal it, while incoming Vice President Mike Pence hosts a meeting with his party to plan the tricky process of rolling back Obamacare without angering the many voters who benefit from it.

CNN White House correspondent Michelle Kosinski joins me now.

Michelle, repealing the health care law, it has been one of Republicans' top goals for many years, but that brings lots of political danger.

MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: The White House is saying they made those promises and now they're going to have to live up to them and they alone will be held accountable for whatever they come up with.

So, this is extraordinary. You have a president in his last days in office, his administration winding down, but now very much gearing up Democrats for this fight in Congress to save Obamacare and, of course, his legacy.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KOSINSKI (voice-over): President Obama on Capitol Hill today, urging Democrats to battle with all they have got against Republican plans to gut his signature law, Obamacare.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you. Look out for the American people.

KOSINSKI: Democrats don't have the votes to block Republicans, so his message, to avoid "rescuing them," helping them craft their replacement.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: The president asked us, are you ready? Do you have the fight in you? He didn't need to ask us that question. KOSINSKI: He spurred Democrats to use tactics like the Tea Party did

in opposing Obamacare, to go out to town halls, tell the stories of their millions of constituents who have benefited from the plan, as well as hold Republicans accountable for what they come up with. The president saying Democrats ought to start calling it Trumpcare.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), MINORITY LEADER: They want to repeal it and then try to hang it on us. Not going to happen. It's their responsibility, plain and simple.

The Republican plan to cut health care wouldn't make America great again. It would make America sick again and lead to chaos.

KOSINSKI: At virtually the same time, Republicans also girding for this epic fight led by vice president-elect Mike Pence, a meeting described by attendees as more pep rally than policy discussion.

MIKE PENCE (R), VICE PRESIDENT-ELECT: The promises of Obamacare have all been proven to be false. If you like your doctor, you can keep it. Not true. If you like your health insurance, you can keep it. Not true.

REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: This law has failed. Americans are struggling.

KOSINSKI: The president-elect also jumping into the debate in a series of tweets seeming to warn Republicans not to work too closely with Democrats. "Dems own the failed Obamacare disaster with its poor coverage and massive premium increases. It will fall of its own weight. Be careful."

The White House today hammered Republicans for not yet presenting a replacement plan and for their ideas so far projected by the Congressional Budget Office to potentially add trillions to the deficit over time, making it clear Democrats should not negotiate with them unless they don't repeal Obamacare.

JOSH EARNEST, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The Republican ideas are actually bad for people, they're bad for the economy, they're bad for small businesses. They have bad ideas.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KOSINSKI: At one point, the president told lawmakers that he envied them that they will still be on the field for Obamacare and he will be a private citizen. The White House agreed that don't expect to hear from Obama repeatedly on this after he leaves office. He intends to step back and it's time for others to take the lead.

What the White House wants to project right now is confidence. They keep saying they feel Democrats will win on this, based on the numbers of Americans who are enjoying the benefits of Obamacare. But, as we know, efforts to repeal it have already started. There was a vote in the Senate today, and Mike Pence is saying that then President Trump will take executive action literally on day one, Jim.

SCIUTTO: Michelle Kosinski at the White House, thanks very much.

So, will President Obama be able to save his signature legislation and protect some of his legacy? We asked one of his former senior advisers. That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:39:23]

SCIUTTO: Welcome back.

President Obama leaves office two weeks from today. He's trying to protect as much of his legacy as he can ahead of the incoming Trump administration. Today his focus was on his signature legislation, Obamacare.

CNN senior political commentator David Axelrod joins me now.

David, thanks so much for being here.

We saw president-elect Donald Trump tweet a word of warning to his own party who are working on repealing Obamacare. I will quote it here. "Republicans must be careful in that the Dems own the failed Obamacare disaster with its poor coverage and massive premium increases."

[16:40:00]

Is the message there for Republicans not to repeal now, but in effect, let it die on its own?

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, it's hard to say. There's not a lot of nuance in these tweets, and so you have to tease out, you have to tease out meaning.

But I suspect he was reacting to the president's visit to the Hill today. And I think what he was saying, and he's right, is that this is fraught with political peril, because they're going to be by repealing this taking away coverage.

This law has cut uninsured Americans in half by percentage since it took place. But it also has made it possible for people with preexisting conditions to get covered, kids under 26 to stay on their parents' insurance. It's eliminated lifetime caps for everyone who has insurance, including people who have employer-covered insurance.

There are a lot of benefits here that are at risk, and so there's great political peril associated with this. And the fact is, Jim, that the Republican Party has been -- it has been good politics for them. They have been voting repeal bills for years and years. The president has been vetoing them. But they haven't really surfaced a plausible plan to replace the law and keep all those benefits in place.

And unless and until they do, this is a politically fraught move on their part. SCIUTTO: But let's be honest. Obamacare has fallen short on many of

the promises President Obama himself made, and that's in the numbers right there, premium increases, et cetera.

Is there a way for Republicans to keep it so you don't take away a new benefit from 20 million people, but then claim to have fixed it in some way?

AXELROD: I think that there are elements of this that are even more important than the 20 million. Everybody is focused on the 20 million.

But the prohibition against banning people with preexisting conditions from getting insurance, the provision that has kids under 26 on their -- eligible for their parents insurance, the ban on lifetime caps, those things are fundamental and they apply broadly.

And to take those away have great has great political risk. The 20 million alone is problematical. Interestingly, you have Mike Pence, who accepted the expansion of Medicaid in his state, and 400,000 more Hoosiers have insurance today because of this law.

So, this is difficult. And, you know, I remember, Jim, when I was working for the president in those years when Obamacare was passed. And I remember an ally of his who supported the law coming to me and saying, look, this is the right thing to do, but understand everything that happens in the health care system from here on, you own.

And that's going to be true of the Republican Party if they move forward on this or do it in a reckless fashion.

SCIUTTO: Let me ask you this. It's CNN's own reporting that President Obama was fired up in his congressional meeting with Democrats today as he works to defend his legacy. I just wonder from a practical standpoint, does the outgoing president have any actual political muscle here to defend that legacy?

AXELROD: I don't think it's political muscle.

I think these were exhortations based on shared values with members of that caucus. And he wants to give them some guidance as to how to proceed. And I should say, Jim, knowing him pretty well, there's no doubt there is a legacy piece of this and everyone's focused on that.

He really believes in this. He knows that the law has cut the growth in health care spending dramatically. There was just a new report that said health care spending from 2014 to 2019 will be 11 percent under estimates, largely because of delivery reforms within this law.

He believes in this law. It's not just about having a trophy to leave with. He believes that this was a necessary reform and without it the health care system would have imploded. And if it's taken away, it very well could. That's what he believes, and I think he went in there in that spirit to try and steel the spines of members of that caucus to fight this fight.

SCIUTTO: David Axelrod in Chicago, thanks very much.

AXELROD: Good to see you.

SCIUTTO: Please be sure to tune in to CNN this Monday for a special town hall with Vermont Senator and former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. "NEW DAY"'s Chris Cuomo, members of a live audience will ask the senator and former presidential candidate questions.

And take on Thursday night, Jake Tapper hosts a town hall with House Speaker Paul Ryan. It's only on CNN, of course, starting at 9:00 p.m. Eastern time.

Entries from the jailhouse journal of a convicted killer, Dylann Roof, what he wrote weeks after the Charleston church shooting, that's next.

Then, did Tesla just meet its match? A new electric car that claims to go from zero to 60 in 2.39 seconds makes its big debut. Did it fly or flop?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:45:00] SCIUTTO: We're back now with the "NATIONAL LEAD", and it's truly a sobering story. The first public words from the racist killer behind the Charleston Church massacre. Self-proclaimed white supremacist, Dylann Roof, is representing himself as the sentencing phase of his trial begins in court. This morning, he told jurors the following, "There's nothing wrong with me psychologically." And then he rambled about his mental status and being misrepresented by his lawyers. Roof was convicted of killing Church Pastor Clementa Pinckney, parishioners Cynthia Hurd, Susie Jackson, Ethel Lance, Reverend Depayne Middleton-Doctor, Tywanza Sanders, Reverend Daniel Simmons, Sr., Reverend Sharonda Singleton and Myra Thompson. As Roof spoke today, some court observers, they walked out calling his remarks -- and I'm quoting here -- "All crap".

CNN's Martin Savidge was also in that courtroom, he joins me live now in Charleston, South Carolina. Martin, tell us what it was like inside that courtroom and this court diary, or rather jail diary, I suppose, that was revealed today.

[16:49:54] MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right. Well, let's start with that. You know, one thing we have known is that Dylann Roof has been a prolific writer. He had a manifesto that was a journal, handwritten that was found inside of his car when he was captured. Now, it turns out, and it was only revealed today by the prosecution, that Dylan Roof also kept a jailhouse journal. It was discovered by authorities, they say, six weeks after he had been captured. And if you had thought that during that time while behind bars and after all of the horrific deaths of which he's now been accused, he'd had some kind of "come to Jesus moment" or maybe reflected upon it and began to have some remorse, absolutely not, according to the prosecution.

Let me just read you two excerpts from it. One begins, "I do not regret what I did." Let me just preface that. He started by saying, "Let me be crystal clear, I do not regret what I did. I am not sorry. I have not shed a tear for the innocent people I killed." He went on, "I have shed a tear of self-pity for myself. I feel pity that I had to do what I did in the first place. I feel pity that I had to give up my life because of a situation that should never have existed." Again, the words of Dylann Roof as he wrote them in a jailhouse journal, and it was read by the prosecution. You could hear in the area where family members and victims' family members, were disgust and groans.

SCIUTTO: We were showing the video there of him calmly walking in and out of that church before and after committing those murders. Today, him walking up to that podium, that wasn't expected, not even the security officers?

SAVIDGE: Well, here's the way it went. It's extraordinary. I mean, here you have a man who is a self-admitted racist, mass murderer. He's been convicted now. He is confronting and speaking to that same jury that convicted him and in the audience, of course, are survivors, and there are also victims' family members. All of this, crowded into one courtroom, and he gets up, defending himself, speaks in his own words for the first time. And he -- well, you just don't know what he's going to do, essentially.

And though the judge had spoken to him, before the jury came in, and they had set down some ground rules of what he could and could not do, you're talking about a man whose mental competency has been questioned twice. So, no doubt there were a lot of people wondering what will he do, what will he say? Turns out what he said was, rather matter of fact, basically, "Don't believe it, I'm not crazy."

SCIUTTO: Had to be chilling to watch. Martin Savidge, thanks very much.

It sounds like something out of The Jetsons, a home robot that can watch your pets, play music, do math and give you recipes. It's just one of the cool new gadgets at the Consumer Electronics Show. Samuel Burke is live in Las Vegas with more. Samuel?

SAMUEL BURKE, CNN BUSINESS AND TECHNOLOGY NEWS CORRESPONDENT CNN: Jim, a lot of people think that wearable tech simply went out of fashion, it was never useful, but this device might actually improve your breathing. We've got all the details coming up from the largest tech show on earth in just a few seconds.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:55:00] SCIUTTO: We're back now with our "MONEY LEAD", a glimpse into the future. Well, at least, when it comes to technology. The world's latest, greatest, sometimes weirdest tech gadgets are being showcased at the Annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Among thousands of products and inventions making their world debut, what's creating the biggest buzz among techies? Let's ask CNN Tech Correspondent Samuel Burke. He is luckily at the Las Vegas Convention Center for this. So, Samuel, I hear one of the headlines is a flashy, new electric car that's gunning for Tesla?

BURKE: That's right. I'll get to that in just one second, Jim. But since we went to the break talking about this, we've heard so much about wearable technology and then it seemed to disappear. Well, here's one that's actually an air filter. So, we see many times people in Asian countries, Mexico City, with those air filters. And now you can have a fashionable mask that will only set you back about a $150 for this techy scarf.

But that mysterious company, Faraday Future, has stolen the headlines here. It's a competitor to Tesla, born in America, this company, but it's from a Chinese billionaire pouring money into it. They've been all talk and no walk until now they finally revealed their flagship electric car, goes from 0 to 60 miles an hour in just 2.39 seconds. Of course, the range is the most important part of an electric car. It goes about 380 miles in just one charge, Jim. But interesting, when it came to the big moment when the billionaire came out in this car, they had it -- was supposed to go just a few feet forward autonomously and it couldn't do that. So, Jim, I think there are still some big question marks over this company especially about its financials. And at the end of the day, it looks like you and I are still needed behind the cars - the wheels of these cars.

SCIUTTO: That must have been an embarrassing moment. How about A.I., Artificial intelligence, in the home?

BURKE: Well, I think a lot of companies now are trying to follow-up with the Amazon Echo. You know, this is the speaker that has had amazing success for Amazon. You just talk to it, if it's in your living room or your kitchen, and it speaks to you. And now all these robots, from LG, are trying to copy that, though these go throughout your house. And so, if it follows you into the bedroom, you might be able to play your favorite Marvin Gaye song. If it follows you into the kitchen, you might say, "How do I cook? How do I boil an egg?" So, talking robots with real Artificial intelligence that can understand you and adapt to you, seem to be the future, though they're not saying just how much they'll cost yet or when they're going to be on the market. But here's the place where Amazon is leading the way out in front of Apple, Google, and so many other tech companies.

SCIUTTO: Samuel Burke in Las Vegas, thanks very much. Thanks for watching tonight. Be sure to follow me on Facebook and on Twitter @JIMSCIUTTO. You can also tweet the show @THELEADCNN. That's it for THE LEAD today. I'm Jim Sciutto in all week for Jake Tapper. I turn you over now to Wolf Blitzer. He is, as you'd expect him to be, in "THE SITUATION ROOM".