Return to Transcripts main page

CNN TONIGHT

Melting Promise; Speaker to the Rescue; The Game of Politics; Getting Along with Former Rivals; Repeal and Replace - Obamacare Lite. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired March 8, 2017 - 22:00   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[22:00:00] VAN JONES, CNN HOST: Welcome back to The Messy Truth. I'm Van jones.

Now, you know, I stick up for the under dogs in the red states and the blue states. That's just me. But a few episodes back I went to West Virginia and I met with some coal miners who voted for Donald Trump.

But Whoopi Goldberg who is no fan of Donald Trump acknowledge, these are some good, good people. And these good people are about to get a very bad deal.

Now I want to give you a little bit of history here. Seventy years ago, America's government made a promise to our coal miners. They said, look, here's what you do. You go down in those holes, you dig out that coal and you keep the lights turned on for America.

Now when you come back out the truth is, your bodies might be broken, you might have black lung disease. But don't worry, America is going to make sure that your pensions are honored and that you're always, always going to be able to see a doctor no matter what.

Well, guess what? Now that little fund that lets America keep our promise to the coal miners is about to run out of money, and this week, 20,000 of those heroes in hard hats and their widows got letters saying that after May 1st, you're on your own, no pension, no money, no doctor, nothing.

Now congress could pass this Miners Protection Act to save these guys. I hope they do. But I want you, Stephen, to hear from a retired coal miner who has been directly impacted by this issue. Welcome Mr. Edward Lee Embry.

(APPLAUSE)

Listen, I want to shake your hand. I want to shake your hand. Look, how many years, how many years were you going down in those coal mines?

EDWARD LEE EMBRY, RETIRED COAL MINER: I've been a United mine worker member over 30 years.

JONES: Thirty years. EMBRY: Yes.

JONES: Thank you for what you've done. I got a chance to meet with some folks. I don't think people understand how dangerous it is. Have you ever seen anybody get hurt down there?

EMBRY: Absolutely.

JONES: Yes.

EMBRY: There have been people -- we also work surface mines. There have been people who get hurt on surface as well as underground, lots of people.

FOSTER: Yes. What's your question, sir?

EMBRY: My question would be, if I could, I'd like to lead in just a bit and I mean, reiterate the fact that I did receive a letter last week that my health care benefits will be cut off at the end of April if Congress doesn't act.

[22:04:55] As I said, I've been a United Mine worker member for over 30 years. We worked in the coal mines producing the fuel that made America the most powerful nation on earth, the company I work for went bankrupt and now I will lose my health benefits.

The federal government has guaranteed for 70 years that coal miners like myself we get our benefits, but now for the first time the government may not live up to that moral commitment. Do you, sir, think that the United States government should honor the promises that were made to miners like myself?

STEPHEN MOORE, DONALD TRUMP ECONOMIC ADVISER: Well, first of all let me just salute you for what -- the great work you've done in the coal mines.

(APPLAUSE)

This country, Van, was built on coal. So, you truly are the people who turned on the lights and made this industrial revolution possible.

I don't know all the facts of what -- I would ask you this question, sir. What happened to the money? Because you paid into the system, right? And I wonder what happened to the retirement health care dollars that were supposed to be there for you when you retired. I don't know the answer to that.

I agree. You should be made whole. You should be -- it's people like this, workers like this that deserve health insurance.

JONES: I'll tell you what happened.

MOORE: Yes.

JONES: What happened is that when fracking hit, the price of natural gas went way down. MOORE: Yes.

JONES: It made coal expensive and the coal companies started going into, running into bankruptcy courts to discharge those obligations.

MOORE: Right.

JONES: And you can argue with that was right or wrong, fair or not, but that 70-year-old commitment said no matter what the coal companies do, America is not going to throw our heroes...

(CROSSTALK)

MOORE: Well, I think we should not (Inaudible) that commitment. But I'll just say, I'll just add one thing.

JONES: Yes.

MOORE: It wasn't just the lower price of natural gas. Some of these are environmental laws really put a knife in the back of the coal industry and we need coal. We had 500 years' worth of coal in this country. We should produce it. We need another generation of coal miners.

And I went to a lot of these coal mining towns, sir, you know, with Donald Trump and these towns have been decimated by excessive environmental regulation. Now, it's true, you know, natural gas prices are low, but I'd love to see coal make a big come back in this country.

JONES: Well, here's where I agree with you and here's where I don't agree with you. I believe we need to honor those responsibilities and those commitments.

MOORE: Yes, I do, too.

JONES: I'll tell you what, some of the best people in the world have been doing that work. We also have an opportunity to move to cleaner sources, but we shouldn't leave people behind. And a retired coal miner is not putting any more carbon in the atmosphere so I don't know why...

(CROSSTALK)

MOORE: But we have clean coal in -- isn't it true, we have clean coal in this country now, it's cleaner than any other country in the world?

JONES: It's cleaner but it's not clean enough. And here's what I worry about. You had Donald Trump go on put on a hard hat and say he was going to be there for the coal miners. And when it was time to take back those regulations for clean water, he did that quickly.

I haven't seen him yet move quickly to help these folks.

(CROSSTALK)

MOORE: I'll bring this up with him.

JONES: Bring it out, I appreciate. I want to thank my guest Stephen Moore. I want to thank Trevor Noah.

(APPLAUSE)

I also want to thank my studio audience and everybody watching at home. We had an honest conversation. It got messy at times. But now it's your turn. I hope you keep talking at dinner tables and neighborhoods.

We will be back next Thursday with special guest Kareem Abdul Jabbar.

CNN Tonight with Don Lemon starts right now. Thank you. It's beautiful.

(APPLAUSE)

DON LEMON, CNN HOST: Searching for the truth.

This is CNN Tonight. I'm Don Lemon.

A White House under siege with no answers after five days of questions about President Trump's false claims of wiretapping by the former President Barack Obama.

Tonight, well, there's news on both camps from both camps that they have spoken since Mr. Trump's weekend tweet storm. But the former President, President Obama is angry.

Plus, another signature campaign promise, another botched roll out after years of promises. How has a launch of the bill to repeal and replace Obamacare gone so wrong? Signs tonight that President Trump while still trying to sell the plan may already be questioning it.

We have a whole lot to get to this hour, in the next couple of hours here on CNN. I want to begin with CNN -- CNN's chief political analyst, Gloria Borger, political analyst Kirsten Powers, a columnist for USA Today, Bill Kristol, the editor of the Weekly Standard, a republican political consultant.

So Gloria, I want to get this right. Because the president is fighting on two fronts here. Still, you know, no one is answering questions about the supposed, you know, tweet.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Sean Spicer said he's not under investigation so far as he knows.

LEMON: Yes, and we'll discuss it. But also on Obamacare. And I want to talk to you about this meeting. I have information from Jim Acosta and others. This meeting tonight with the tea party group, and president told skeptical republicans, that if repeal and replace fails, that he's going to let Obamacare expire and then democrats will own it. Is this a good strategy? I mean, are they sort of giving up less than 24 hours after it was announced? BORGER: Well, from a president, you have to ask if you think

Obamacare is such a disaster, is it a good policy for the American people? If the health and welfare of the American people is what you care about, then why would you say that? Because you think it's a disaster, as he's told us time and time again.

[22:09:58] I think he was being honest about his political strategy and how he feels that it would redound, you know, to democrats, you know, it would be bad for them. But I don't -- you know, I think saying that kind of makes you scratch your head about the American people. You know, they have to come first here. And if you think it's bad, then your goal has to be to fix it.

LEMON: Do you think everyone would be on the same page with this -- and one would think you need to have a republican Congress.

BORGER: Right.

LEMON: You've got a republican Senate, you have a republican in the White House. You have been trying for six years to repeal and replace Obamacare, that would, boom, it would happen?

KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: No, because there is so much disagreement among republicans on this issue. I mean, John Boehner had come out and said that in the last couple of weeks basically like this isn't going to happen because there just isn't consensus on what should be done in terms of health care, which is why they basically kept this secret and then thought they were going to like push it into the bloodstream and try to like, push it through because there was no way they were going to get a consensus bill. Because there is too much ideological...

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: And speaking of that, but it's not -- but hang on. It's not - it's not just -- it's not just for politicians. Its doctors, its hospitals and it's these groups. And I'll let you weigh in. The organizations that don't like this plan have an issue with this plan, the American Medical Association, American Hospital Association, American Nurses Association, and the list goes on, Bill Kristol.

BILL KRISTOL, THE WEEKLY STANDARD EDITOR: No, that's exactly right. I think the bill is going to fail and they're not going to get the votes even in the House let alone the Senate. Probably all these groups will come out against it. It is hard if you're a republican congressman.

You know, you go home, the hospitals are against it, the doctors are against it, half your conservative constituents are against it. And why exactly are you going to go -- and the Senate is not going to adopt it anyway. Why exactly are you going to go?

Think of this. Think about Obamacare. I don't like Obamacare. I don't like Obamacare. I wish it hadn't been passed, et cetera. How did it get passed? President Obama spent six months stumping the country for it. Rahm Emanuel, the chief of staff and others, called in the insurance companies, the hospitals, the doctors, a lot of liberals didn't like it but they basically had deals with a lot of these people.

They had to knock heads and say, I'm sorry, you can't have single payer, you can't have Medicare for all. It was a tough process. They went to that process and they finally got a bill that could hold democrats together.

What process has the Trump White House, or Paul Ryan, for me, he's a real -- it's a real mystery here. He knows what he's doing. He's been there for a long time. He knows to pass huge legislation like this, you need to let people have -- get buy in and get the groups on board. And they pop a bill Monday night that's different from the draft they had 10 days ago, markup Wednesday, we want it through next week? It's nuts.

LEMON: Your point is that it took a while for Obamacare or the Affordable Care Act to go through, a year. The president spent a lot of political capital.

KRISTOL: Right.

LEMON: How much political capital do you think this president is going to spend? Because he invited the critical conservative house freedom caucus to go bowling at the White House. I mean, I don't know if that's enough.

SHERMICHAEL SINGLETON, REPUBLICAN POLITICAL CONSULTANT: It hasn't helped, Don. It hasn't helped. I mean, many members of the freedom caucus have stated they are not supporting this piece of legislation. And recalled many republicans, although President Obama took a long time to pass the Affordable Care Act, many republicans articulated they rushed it through.

And now we're doing essentially what we argued Obama did several years ago. President Trump argued to many of his supporters, I will repeal and replace Obamacare. What we see today is definitely not a repeal and replace of Obamacare.

LEMON: But he didn't say I will repeal and replace Obamacare within the first month.

(CROSSTALK)

SINGLETON: Right. Fair, he did not.

KRISTOL: That's what crazy. So, why they're doing it in 100 days, Don? because they've got them -- the cart is now way before the horse, so whatever meant it for you. There is this reconciliation provision. They think they can do it on that. They only need to push...

(CROSSTALK)

BORGER: They want to do it by majority.

KRISTOL: But they can -- it's crazy. They can do reconciliation later.

SINGLETON: Right.

KRISTOL: They've talked -- they've talked themselves, you know, the wrapped is also on the axle. They need in my opinion to step back and say, OK, calm down let's take a month or two here.

SINGLETON: And take some time.

KRISTOL: Let's take some time. It will happen. It's going to fail.

BORGER: But here's the thing. The president...

(CROSSTALK)

KRISTOL: And then they're not going to let -- they can't -- what are they going to do? As you just said earlier, they can't have it fail in April and say OK, that's it, we're not doing anything for the next 16 or 18...

(CROSSTALK)

BORGER: OK.

LEMON: But why -- why take so risk of...

KRISTOL: (Inaudible) going back at it.

BORGER: But the president came in and he said to Paul Ryan, he said, look, I want some wins. I want some wins. And you can't do everything by executive order. So you have to have a win, right? This was going to be his first win because it was his big promise. Every republican who ran, find me one who didn't say repeal Obamacare and replace...

(CROSSTALK)

KRISTOL: They'll do it later.

SINGLETON: Right.

BORGER: ... find me one. There isn't any.

KRISTOL: They'll do it later, though.

BORGER: OK. So they all ran on it. Now they're hoist on their own charge here because they ran on it.

LEMON: Yes.

BORGER: Because they don't have anything to replace it with they can all agree on, and now we know why John Boehner quit the House because he knew as speaker he was never going to be able to herd these cats.

SINGLETON: Right.

BORGER: ... and nobody else can.

LEMON: And now you know that it's really all -- I can't say the word that I want to say.

KRISTOL: No.

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: It's all -- no, no, it's poop because it's been politicized so much, people ran on it as a talking point.

BORGER: Right.

LEMON: When they knew that they couldn't actually do it. And they knew there were good things about Obamacare. They knew there were bad things, but they politicized it. All they had to do is say, you know there are some really good things about Obamacare, or the Affordable Care Act and we're going to make those better and the things that are not good, we're going to make those better...

(CROSSTALK)

SINGLETON: And Don, that is a legitimate point. As a conservative I would argue that there are not enough market based solutions within the Obamacare as we like to call it. I think you take a look at those things, you figure out a way to lower premiums, et cetera.

[22:15:06] The president should not have rushed this. He's losing political capital very early on and it's nonsensical to me that they're attempting to pass something next week. That doesn't make any sense.

LEMON: They're even attacking -- attempting to discredit the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.

POWERS: Yes.

BORGER: Right. Which, by the way is run by a republican.

LEMON: A republican.

BORGER: Thank you very much. Run by a republican who used to work for George W. Bush.

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: Don't you want to know how much it cost? Why are you attacking that office?

BORGER: Well, I would think if I were a member of Congress more to the point that I would want know what it cost. But now, Sean Spicer said today, said, well, they're always wrong, this group, except when we agree with them. And then they're right.

And that's the problem because really, they don't have a leg to stand on if it is expensive. What do they say?

POWERS: The problem is the republicans and -- you can correct me if you want. But my understanding is that they think the free market solves this problem. And they had plenty of time when George Bush was President and they were running Congress to come up with a health care plan.

LEMON: They didn't.

POWERS: And they didn't.

BORGER: Right.

POWERS: Because they don't actually think it's the job of the government. So now they're stuck in a situation where President Obama moved the conversation to a point where Americans now view this as not an entitlement, but a right.

LEMON: Right.

POWERS: And so, republicans are trying to have it both ways, but they don't really believe in it. So, actually nothing is going to fix Obamacare other than moving it more towards a single payer system or adding the public option or these kinds of things that republicans just don't want to do.

LEMON: And I hear from republicans and democrats, no matter what you do, you're right. The former President Obama did get us to where we are now when it comes to health care and no matter what version it is, it's still going to be Obamacare. It's still going to have its roots based in Obamacare whether republicans like it or not, whether Donald Trump likes it or not.

(CROSSTALK)

POWERS: Let's just be -- that's the other thing.

LEMON: Yes.

BORGER: Right. Right.

POWERS: Like somehow he's supposed to get credit for not kicking 26 year olds off their parents' plans. And he's supposed to get credit for not, you know, for not taking away the fact that, you know, preexisting conditions now have to be covered. It's like you don't get extra...

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: I got -- I got to move on because I want to talk about this. I found this very interesting today if you watched the briefing. Someone saying -- handing Sean Spicer a note. Because the president and the administration are still trying to explain this tweeting, this reckless tweeting that the president did last weekend on wiretapping now.

It has people thinking that the president, the current president is under investigation and that's how the FISA warrant. So now they're trying to explain it. Sean Spicer was handed a note at the briefing today and then we'll discuss. Watch this. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEAN SPICER, UNITED STATES WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: There is no reason that we should -- that we have to think that the president is the target of any investigation whatsoever. The one question dealt with whether or not the tweet dealt with wiretaps during the thing. The other is an investigation. They are two separate issues. And there is no reason to believe that there is any type of investigation with respect to the Department of Justice.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: The tweet dealt with the wiretap story and the thing. Like, if you're explaining that much.

BORGER: Well, it's just hard to watch these people twist themselves into a pretzel to try and explain those tweets as anything other than ridiculous.

LEMON: Thank you.

BORGER: And they're just twisting themselves to say, well, you know, we want Congress to investigate it because that's a way to shove it to one side for them.

KRISTOL: But also look at what Sean Spicer said there is no reason to believe. He doesn't know. Honestly, he doesn't know what the Justice Department is investigating and whether -- I mean Donald Trump's name is turned up in some part of it or not. I mean, I'm not saying it has.

So, he's saying something he really doesn't know, yet the tweets were ridiculous. They related to our earlier talk. Why are republican congressmen not hopping to it and thinking, hey, Donald Trump can deliver this. The way I do think democrats thought...

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: Because they don't think he can deliver.

KRISTOL: Yes, they don't think he can stay on message. They don't think he can go and make the case. President Obama went out and had hour-long town halls, took a million questions. He understood the issue. He had people with him at the issue, we've got the groups to buy in.

LEMON: Yes.

KRISTOL: They don't deep down they are worried. They do sort of thing. I talked to a couple republican members of Congress today. Some of those still think, you know, Trump will have one of those rallies, do some tweeting. The magic will hit and suddenly the public will be out there rallying. But I think they're beginning to lose confidence.

LEMON: But the thing is that the Russian thing, maybe they are that, you know, from the intelligence agencies so far there shows -- there shows no collusion, right? So far, but they're still investigating it. POWERS: Sure.

LEMON: And so if they had just left it at that, by he brought attention to it by putting out this tweet. And then I hear people -- it drives me crazy when I'm watching television and I see someone say, well, The New York Times wrote that there was, you know, a warrant, a FISA -- no, it was on the Russian ambassador and Flynn got caught from the FISA if there was a FISA warrant, from the Russian ambassador's conversation, not that they were tapping Flynn or anyone at Trump Tower.

KRISTOL: You shouldn't be watching television.

LEMON: But there is no...

(CROSSTALK)

KRISTOL: It's crazy, you believe what you see on television? I mean, come on.

[22:20:01] LEMON: There is no evidence of that. And I see it on every single channel and no one challenges the surrogates or the Trump supporters. No, that is not true. There is zero evidence at this point.

SINGLETON: Right.

KRISTOL: Right.

BORGER: Look, the president wanted to change the subject. Let's go back to last Friday. It was only last Friday. When there were stories about disarray in the White House, the president getting angry at his staff, blowing up at his staff.

KRISTOL: Sessions had recused.

BORGER: Sessions recused himself, the president was upset Sessions recused himself. Saturday morning, this series of tweets occurs because the president, I believe, wanted to change the subject to something else.

SINGLETON: I do.

KRISTOL: But think of it, Gloria, I mean, if you're -- if it's Saturday and you're unveiling your big legislative initiative Monday night, what do you Saturday? You give a radio address which you tout your initiative.

SINGLETON: Right.

KRISTOL: You begin to lay the groundwork.

(CROSSTALK)

BORGER: You're so conventional.

SINGLETON: That's the norm. That's the norm.

KRISTOL: He calls the head of the American Hospital Association, the American Medical Association and prominent conservative health care experts to, hey, I want you on board with this. We'll give you a briefing in the White House Monday.

LEMON: I thought he tweet.

KRISTOL: Yes, apparently he tweet accusing the prior president of wiretapping.

LEMON: Yes. And by the way, but by the way, who do you think the note was from?

KRISTOL: Which note?

LEMON: To Sean Spicer.

BORGER: I don't -- well, somebody sitting along the row on the side. I don't know. Could have been Kellyanne.

LEMON: You need to clear this up right now.

(CROSSTALK)

BORGER: Yes, it could be.

LEMON: The president is not under investigation.

BORGER: Maybe the White House Counsel's Office.

LEMON: Yes. But speaking of as you're saying, changing the conversation here, this is -- I want you to look at Senator Mark Warner speaking to Manu Raju, our colleague.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARK WARNER, (D) UNITED STATES SENATOR: A lot of what we saw today was the evidence underlying how Russia manipulated the news, how it hacked into the DNC and John Podesta and leaked out in favor of one candidate against another candidate. But I think these efforts beyond even the whole question about whether there were contacts between campaigns and the Russians.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Is there anything that suggests that the Trump campaign was involved in coordinating that released information?

WARNER: At this point I'm not going to get into that part of the discussion. That is part of our investigation. It's always been about the misinformation. It's been about the hacking and selective release of e-mails. And it's been about whether there's been any contact between either campaign and the Russians prior to the election.

(END VIDEO CLIP) LEMON: The focus is still on Russia and possible collusion. And as I've been hearing from many people who have been involved in these things, especially Carl Bernstein, I mean, Watergate took two years. It's not often a smoking gun. It's a drip, drip, drip if there is anything there.

(CROSSTALK)

BORGER: We don't -- we don't...

KRISTOL: It's under oath testifying before Congress. It's criminal investigations from the Justice Department.

LEMON: Yes.

KRISTOL: It's the media looking into things and who knows.

SINGLETON: But the president just did not have to bring this up Saturday. I completely understand trying to change the narrative from all the horrible news he was getting Friday. I get it. But that was the wrong way to do it and I'm really wondering if folks in his communication shop are willing to sit down and say, Mr. President, look, we have to stay on message. We have to show some discipline here.

LEMON: Good luck.

SINGLETON: This is not -- this is not the behavior...

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: I think...

BORGER: He's done that maybe, I mean, really.

LEMON: Yes. I don't think -- I don't think he realized by impugning the reputation of a former president what damage he has caused and how much more...

(CROSSTALK)

SINGLETON: To himself. That's right.

LEMON: Not only to the former president and to the country, to himself and I don't think he understood that this was coming.

BORGER: Right.

SINGLETON: But he's made it a lot worse.

LEMON: Stick around. We'll continue our conversation. We'll be right back.

[22:25:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: A dinner invitation to the White House tonight that most observers likely did not expect.

Back with me now, Gloria Borger, Kirsten Powers, Bill Kristol, and Shermichael Singleton.

So, President Trump had dinner with Heidi and Ted Cruz tonight at the White House. So can we take a little stroll through memory lane here? Which was -- it happened on women's day, too.

And by the way, just for a full disclosure, this is the point in the campaign where I kind of just -- I couldn't believe it. This is the one that -- the straw that broke the camel's back for me.

He tweeted this unflattering, re-tweeted this unflattering photo of Ted Cruz comparing her to Melania Trump, right, -- of Heidi. Sorry. Ted Cruz, wife, comparing her to Melania Trump. He also talked about Ted Cruz's dad being involved with the JFK assassination. He later expressed some regret about some of this, but let's listen to Ted Cruz calling Donald Trump a coward.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TED CRUZ, (R) UNITED STATES SENATOR: I don't get angry often, but you messed with my wife, you messed with my kids. That will do it every time. Donald, you're a sniffling coward and leave Heidi the hell alone.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: So I said, he later expressed some regret.

BORGER: Who, Cruz or Trump?

LEMON: Trump did.

BORGER: Yes.

LEMON: I think this is why I don't get politics. If someone said that about my wife, it's like, you know what, fine. I don't want...

(CROSSTALK)

BORGER: How about accusing your father of being involved in the Kennedy assassination?

LEMON: I don't want to talk to you. It doesn't mean that I hate you or whatever. I just have nothing to do with you ever.

BORGER: So, here's the thing. From Donald Trump's point of view, and this is interesting as you talk to people who have known Donald Trump over the years, is that he will forget that he did this and come back to you and expect you to forget it, too, and to work with him.

He's done that with people who had sued him and who he has sued over the years. He just says, OK that was then, and let's work together now. And in Ted Cruz's case, he may find that it's in his own self- interest to do so or not do so. I don't -- you know, I don't know. But this is the way Donald Trump operates.

LEMON: What about Heidi Cruz have to sit there with this man?

POWERS: I don't know. I mean, I do think politicians are different kinds of people. I mean, because I just, again, I'm with you and I certainly, you know, and Heidi Cruz, I guess goes along with it because she's supporting her husband. But we've seen a lot of people frankly, I mean, Mitt Romney, all the things that he said about Donald Trump and was willing to go and basically prostrate himself before him, you know, to maybe get a job. I can't explain it. I don't understand that.

LEMON: And then not get the job.

POWERS: Yes, and not get the job and get humiliated.

SINGLETON: But I will say, I'm biased, I did work for Governor Romney. Look, I think what's said in political campaign are harsh things. But when someone is elected you have to do the business of governing. And that can sometimes be hard. But I think as long...

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: That doesn't mean you have to go sit at the dinner table with your wife who he insulted.

SINGLETON: No, Don, I'm not disagreeing with that whatsoever. Me personally, I perhaps would have did something different. But I do think that some individuals recognize that it's bigger than the individual. And in recognizing that, if the president asks you to sit down at dinner with him and his wife, then you're going to do so.

[22:29:58] POWERS: And you don't think it's maybe that they just want something and they're trying to get ahead? You think they're just the same people.

(CROSSTALK)

SINGLETON: Well, I'm not saying...

POWERS: It's not possible that they have like desires of their own and they want power.

SINGLETON: Well, I'm not saying that there's no -- well, I'm not saying there's no self-interest involved.

BORGER: Yes.

SINGLETON: I think at the core of most people that are...

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: I know. But you -- you're the only one who can kind of relate to this because...

SINGLETON: Sure. LEMON: ... you lost out on a job because you criticized the president. Is it okay or not okay to criticize?

SINGLETON: No, I think it is OK, and I think, look, if you're a leader, you should be acceptable to being critiqued because it's the hope that when you're critiqued, it opens you up for growth and you want leaders to constantly grow.

I think it is very, very dangerous when you have a leader, particularly a president, who is not willing to be critiqued. But it's my hope as Donald Trump goes on, that he will learn that being critiqued by individuals who want to help him be a better president, he'll be more receptive to those things.

LEMON: But I think you -- this is...

(CROSSTALK)

SINGLETON: Maybe I'm wishful thing.

LEMON: ... you see so many republicans kowtowing to this president who he insulted a lot of presidents. A lot of scorched earth.

BILL KRISTOL, THE WEEKLY STANDARD EDITOR: Yes. And I think there are people, and I think Mitt Romney thought, look, as a secretary of state I can do some good for the country. But you know what, I think the reason Romney didn't get the job he would not retract, he would not apologize for what he said.

SINGLETON: That's right.

KRISTOL: He wouldn't retract it. He wouldn't change his views on Putin. So I don't think it's fair to -- it may be looked like Putin -- like Romney was kowtowing when that dinner and Trump sit in a way that sort of embarrass Romney in that dinner charge sort of this fancy hotel.

But still, I think Romney thought he was doing right for the country. It's a tough position. I know a lot of people in Washington, you go into the Justice Department, do some good, State Department, Defense Department. I think you can justify that.

I know Heidi Cruz. I knew her before she was Heidi Cruz, Heidi Nelson since she was in politics. She's a very accomplished woman, and a very nice woman. It would be tough, I think tough for her -- her husband is used to this and politics is politics.

But she's tough, too. I guess, you know what, they can put it. They can handle it.

(CROSSTALK)

BORGER: You know, Melania...

KRISTOL: But having the broader point, there is much too much forgiveness, I agree with that. There is a certain -- you can understand that republicans want to wish him well and want him to succeed, but they need to be honest with themselves about the character of this man who is president, you know?

LEMON: I wouldn't give you the satisfaction of...

(CROSSTALK)

SINGLETON: But do you not...

BORGER: He is their, you know, he is their vessel to get...

LEMON: You can insult me, but not my wife.

BORGER: And that's what I believe, that if Donald Trump is not ideological, that they can shove some ideology into Donald Trump and get what they want, yes.

(CROSSTALK)

KRISTOL: But Elijah Cummings states the same thing, to be fair. So, I mean, if you're a member of Congress or a senator, what are you supposed to do? The guy is going to be president four years.

LEMON: Right.

KRISTOL: Elijah Cummings cares a lot about certain about drug prices. The president of the United States asked him to come to the White House to be with him.

(CROSSTALK)

BORGER: Sure. I agree.

KRISTOL: And he is going to say yes.

SINGLETON: So, do you oppose...

LEMON: OK. Hold on. You guys are talking about a whole another...

(CROSSTALK)

KRISTOL: Do you think Cruz should go by himself...

LEMON: Listen, there's a whole lot of business. There are things -- there are things you have to do in business and your professional life that's OK, I understand that. When you personally insult someone's wife or their child or whoever it is, that's beyond -- that's beyond the bounds.

(CROSSTALK)

KRISTOL: I'm not arguing on that.

LEMON: I'm not going to sit in the White House with him.

BORGER: And your wife. And Melania, by the way. LEMON: Yes, and Melania.

BORGER: We talked about Melania being at this dinner, too.

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: And speaking of that.

BORGER: It's not great for her.

LEMON: She spoke at the White House luncheon today, honoring international women's day, by the way, red, you're wearing red today. The president tweeted about that...

(CROSSTALK)

BORGER: No, I would like to point out.

LEMON: ... tweeted about it and so did Ivanka Trump. He said, "Today, we celebrate women and are reminded of our collective voice and the powerful impact we have on our societies and our economy."

So, what's your take on the president? His leading ladies are speaking out today and talking about women, but he's gotten so much criticism for things that he has said about women.

POWERS: What's my take on what?

KRISTOL: (Inaudible) smart in the White House.

POWERS: I mean, obviously he should, you know, I think Ivanka and Melania are both great representatives for him, you know, if he wants to put people -- women out there who, you know, Melania now has a 52 percent approval rating, I guess. And, so, Ivanka is a very accomplished and I think a woman that a lot of women look up to, even women who aren't conservative.

So, it's smart, it's good for him to put them out there. It's no question. I don't think he's changed, right? There is nothing that's really different. He's still the same person that he was during the campaign.

LEMON: And there were big rallies today.

BORGER: Yes.

POWERS: Yes.

LEMON: And he said that positively on Twitter rather than what happened last...

(CROSSTALK)

BORGER: But I think that was a plan to tweet, don't you think? That perhaps his staff said to him, you know, it would be great to tweet today on this. Yes. LEMON: And it's good that he listened to them.

SINGLETON: That's right. That's right.

LEMON: Thank you all. I appreciate it.

SINGLETON: Thanks, Don.

LEMON: And speaking of the first lady, CNN special report Melania Trump, the Making of a First Lady airs Friday night at 9 right here on CNN. We'll be right back.

[22:35:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: President Trump fully supports the bill to replace Obamacare, but the swiftest opposition isn't from democrats, it's from conservatives on Capitol Hill. And here is one of them. Republican Congressman Mark Sanford of South Carolina, a member of the House Freedom Caucus. So good to have you on, Representative. Good evening to you.

MARK SANFORD, (R) UNITED STATES REPRESENTATIVE: Well, good evening to you.

LEMON: House majority whip Steve Scalise told republicans today when it comes to this bill, you're either with Nancy Pelosi and you oppose the bill, or you're with the president, President Trump, and you support it. So, are you with Pelosi here? What's going on?

SANFORD: I don't think so. You know, I think there are a number of us who simply see this in Donald Trump's world, you know, what's interesting about Donald Trump is that he would never take the opening bid in a real estate deal.

I think that what has been proposed is simply the opening bid and what a number of us have said is, look, from a conservative perspective, might not we take a little bit away here, add a little bit here, and end up with a better bill?

We had Nick Mulvaney who is the head of the OMB come by and meet with us last night. And he said, look, we're going to push for an open amendment process so that indeed some of these things that you're pushing for can be added. So I see this, again, as an opening bid and the tug of war that goes with the world of politics.

LEMON: You think he's rushing it?

SANFORD: Yes. I mean, what you don't want to do in a bill, in a measure that's this big that impacts people to the degree that it does is rush something through. You know, I've had six town hall meetings over the last three weekends at home and I've heard from a lot of people.

[22:40:01] And you know, once health care is vital, it's in some cases life and death, it's something that people feel very, very strongly about. And so, I think that from a consumer standpoint, hearing directly from

people is part of the equation and from a policy standpoint, fully vetting the bill in terms of what it cost, and its implications, I think it was equally important and that takes time.

LEMON: Congressman, so, be honest with me. What are you hearing from people that's giving -- that's making you hesitant about what's in this bill?

SANFORD: Well, you know, I think that there are many different vantage points to that question. So, I think...

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: I mean, I'm sure you're getting it. Many people are getting it at these town halls.

SANFORD: Yes.

LEMON: When people are saying they're worried about preexisting conditions, about gaps in coverage, about you know, the cost of health care going up. What concerns you? What are you hearing?

SANFORD: Well, two of the things you just mentioned are certainly things that I've heard about. One of the things I've said to, I mean, at one point with a crowd over a thousand, Tim Scott and I had at one of the town hall meetings we held. And I said, look, you guys need to realize you've already won on this.

The debate has changed simply on repeal to then repeal and replace, and now built into any of the different proposals that will come out from the republican side is the notion of staying on your parents' plan until the age of 26. This notion of preexisting condition, this notion of no caps.

Those things are sort of boiled into the discussion already. And I think that from a conservative standpoint, the opposite side of the equation at times from what I heal at the -- hear at these town hall meetings is this notion of not creating an open checkbook.

I mean, the bill is presently configured and there is already, in essence, a discussion on this at the committee level, has an open- ended commitment with regard to further Medicaid expansion for the next three years. I think that could be disastrous. It could create a rush for the door with a big taxpayer liability coming with it.

LEMON: OK. You mentioned no caps.

SANFORD: Yes.

LEMON: You mentioned staying until the age of 26 and preexisting conditions. That's Obamacare and also the expansion of Medicaid. That's Obamacare. So, is the criticism that this is Obamacare lite, or it's just the same thing repackaged or rebranded, which Donald Trump is -- you know, the president is such a master at? SANFORD: Someone said so. I mean, Speaker Boehner basically said

that, you know, I guess a couple weeks ago. He said, look, you're not going to replace Obamacare. You're going to take a few things out, add a few other things, wrap it up in a bow and call it repeal and replace.

I think if you actually look at the baseline of what is being talked about, it's much more comprehensive than that. When you talk about ending the mandate, if you talk about ending the employer mandate, I mean, you talk about essentially ending all taxes save for the Cadillac tax, that's a big change.

I mean, that goes to the heart of what Obamacare was all about. So, I think that at the end of the day we're talking about a more comprehensive change than that. And that's why it probably requires time.

LEMON: It has to be of some concern to you that the doctors and hospitals are opposing it as well as the American Medical Association obviously, the Doctors American Hospital Association, the American Nurses Association and the list goes on. I mean, do you think that -- are you surprised by this blowback?

SANFORD: Not really. I mean, because -- and I think this is the difficulty in complex bills. If you hear from simply one group of stakeholders, you can come up with one conclusion. What we have to do I think in the political process is hear from a bunch of different stakeholders, many of whom may have diametrically opposing viewpoints, try and boil those down together and move forward.

And so, for instance, one of the stakeholders that's not being addressed is cost. That's why I care about this notion of an open- ended commitment with regard to Medicaid, for instance. And I think you've got to look at the bill and say, wait a minute. If we stay on the track we're on, I mean, Medicaid was about $70,000,000,010 years ago. It's about $300 billion today. That's sort of a fourfold increase over the last 10 years.

If we stay on that trajectory, will we be able to keep this program sustainable? And I think what the numbers overwhelmingly show in Washington is that the answer is no. That there are more political promises on the table than we can afford to pay for.

And, so, I think that if you simply look at the sliver of doctors have a Hippocratic Oath that they're sworn to. It's absolutely natural that they're not going to worry about the cost. They're going to worry solely about the care. But one of the other stakeholders that we've got to include in this equation is how we pay for this stuff.

LEMON: Yes. So, I've got to ask, you've always been very straight with me...

SANFORD: Yes.

LEMON: ... and answered my questions directly. I think for -- and I know you've heard this at town halls. Why has this particular issue, when it -- when it affects everyone regardless of your political background, regardless of who you are, everyone needs health care?

Why has this been politicized so much in maybe it's a branding issue because I've heard so many people say, I like the Affordable Care Act, but I don't like Obamacare. It's like, so what is -- so, what is going -- why is this so politicized? And is there a way to -- that we can untangle and undo that?

SANFORD: I don't know that...

(CROSSTALK)

[22:44:59] LEMON: By the way, Affordable Care Act and Obamacare are the same thing. But go on.

SANFORD: Yes, yes, yes, I'm well aware of that.

LEMON: I'm explaining because some people may be watching may not know.

SANFORD: Yes. Fair enough. I don't know. That's the $94 question. I think that what happens is, you know, it's the construct of the political process, which is for every issue that's out there, the people who get something from it show up and care deeply about the issue.

The preponderance of people who maybe don't, don't show up and don't care that much about it. And so, let's be clear. The Affordable Care Act was well intended. It meant to do good and it has done good for any number of different people. The problem has been in paying for it.

So, at home in my State of South Carolina we've gone from three providers down to one over the last two and a half years. Premiums went up by 29 percent last year. And we have a real cost issue. And then we have another cost which is at the top of that.

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: You can fix that without politicizing it.

SANFORD: What's that?

LEMON: You can fix that without politicizing it. You can address the cost of it without making it a political issue or political football.

SANFORD: Yes, but come to one of my town hall meetings and try and pull that off if you can do so. You ought to run for office.

LEMON: I might -- I might take you up on that, but go on.

SANFORD: Fair enough, fair enough. What I'd say is it is what it is. And, so, on the democratic side it got politicized and, you know, Ms. Pelosi said, you know, after you've voted you can read the bill and all the different things we heard over the years. Republicans politicizing, and democrats have politicized against this latest change.

It's a hot button issue I think because it is so vital to so many different people.

LEMON: Yes.

SANFORD: People have different perspectives as a starting point.

LEMON: Yes.

SANFORD: And so, I might start from a free market perspective. A lot of my friends back home may start from the standpoint of, I think we need just a single provider system.

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: I've got to...

SANFORD: We've got a different political starting point.

LEMON: I've got to go, Congressman. I had two people on last night who is suffering from cancer and their cancer didn't matter if they were democrats or republicans.

SANFORD: Absolutely.

LEMON: And I think both of them, at least started out very opposed to Obamacare and this is a staunch republican but now supports it.

Thank you, congressman. I always appreciate your time.

SANFORD: My pleasure. Thank you.

LEMON: Coming up, Secretary Ben Carson, Secretary Ben Carson, Dr. Ben Carson, and Representative Jason Chaffetz getting slammed this week for controversial statements. Did President Obama get a pass when he made similar comments? We'll discuss that.

[22:50:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: Is there a double standard when it comes to criticism of the Trump administration and republicans?

Well, let's break it all down now with Kamau Bell -- W. Kamau Bell, the host of CNN's United Shades of America. Why didn't you name it United Shades of Merica? M-e-r-i-c-a, that would have been awesome. Did you think about that?

W. KAMAU BELL, CNN HOST: Well, that might have been the second season title. That might me the second season title. I know what shows we shot so that's actually a pretty good title for this season.

LEMON: So let's get right, let's get to business. So there is a controversy and outrage about two things said by republicans this week only to find that President Barack Obama said very similar things. So let's start with his remark with the HUD Secretary Ben Carson and then we'll listen to the former president.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BEN CARSON, UNITED STATES SECRETARY OF HOUSING AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT: That's what America is about. A land of dreams and opportunity. There were other immigrant who's came here in the bottle of slave ships, who worked even longer even harder for less. They too had a dream. That one day their sons, daughters, grandsons, granddaughters, great grandsons, great granddaughters might pursue prosperity and happiness in this land.

BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Life in America was not always easy. It wasn't always easy for new immigrants. Certainly wasn't easy for those of African heritage who had not come here voluntarily, and yet in their own way, were immigrants themselves.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Widespread outrage. What did you think when you heard that?

BELL: That is clearly not the same thing.

LEMON: Thank you!

BELL: Stop this. It's not the same thing.

LEMON: Thank you very much. Go on, Kamau.

BELL: You can even hear - you can even hear how President Obama was like, should I be saying this? Am I really -- this is probably not exactly -- he even slowed himself down. Like, I've let the horse out of barn. I got to go get it.

Whereas, Ben Carson was like, hey, everybody gather around. I've got a story to tell you about America.

LEMON: Yes.

BELL: That's not the same thing. And anybody making it the same thing doesn't understand how language works. Not a good idea.

LEMON: I didn't hear you, Kamau. Someone is talking. Did you said -- did you finish your statement?

BELL: No, and I can keep going.

LEMON: OK. Sorry about that.

BELL: Not a good idea.

LEMON: So I got to ask you, I mean, because context is everything. I don't know if the venue mattered but I think the way he phrased it was completely different, right? He sees with the caveat saying, and those who are of African heritage who came over here involuntarily.

BELL: Yes. The whole involuntarily thing means he's talking about slavery and understands that they didn't want to come here. And also he didn't attach it to the same sort of like romantic American dream that Ben Carson attached it to. As if the people on the middle passage were like, I have a dream. They didn't know where they were going. There were no dreams. Like it is not the same thing as someone pulling up to Ellis Island and getting their name changed and saying I'll start a business.

LEMON: But remember, it's always Obama's fault. Remember that, you know that.

BELL: Yes. Because Obama had such an easy time. He had such an easy time. He never had any criticism now. He's getting criticism now and he hasn't been in office for weeks.

LEMON: Well, he's still there. His ghost is still there.

BELL: Yes.

LEMON: And it's haunting the current president. The other comment that had people hauling...

(CROSSTALK)

BELL: Yes. The ghost of good presidents past.

LEMON: ... as people hauling from Representative Jason Chaffetz. Here's what he told New York -- New Day -- excuse me, Alisyn Camerota when she said access to health care for low income people doesn't equal coverage.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[22:55:06] JASON CHAFFETZ, (R) UNITED STATES REPRESENTATIVE: We're getting rid of the individual mandate. We're getting rid of those things that people said that they don't want. And you know what? Americans have choices and they've got to make a choice.

And so maybe rather than getting that new iPhone that they just love and they want to spend hundreds of dollars on that, maybe they should invest in their own health care. They've got to make those decisions themselves.

OBAMA: I guess what I would say is if you looked at that person's budget and you look at their cable bill, their telephone, their cell phone bill, other things that they're spending on, it may turn out that it's just they haven't prioritized health care. Because right now, everybody is healthy.

Nobody actually wants to spend money on health insurance until they get sick. And then once they're sick, the cost of not having health insurance are a lot worse than the cost of having health insurance.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Same thing?

BELL: Not the same thing! Not the same thing!

LEMON: Not the same thing.

BELL: Stop it.

LEMON: Yes, yes.

BELL: First of all, Obama talked to like three time as long because he was trying on couch it. And he created an image of a sobering person who looking at their budget and counting costs.

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: Not the same thing.

BELL: And Jason Chaffetz was like, Americans are like shiny phones. Americans -- he is -- it's not the same thing. Stop it. Stop it, everybody.

LEMON: Well, especially when he is explaining about a budget and then he says, you know, health care costs more on the back end than the front end. So I understand. Listen, people are going to be mad. How much time do we have?

BELL: It's not -- yes -- it's not the same thing.

LEMON: OK. Let's talk about...

(CROSSTALK)

BELL: That's my new segment. My new segment is to come on every week and just go it's not the same thing!

LEMON: It's not the same -- I know everyone at home is going to, no, of course they're going to agree with Obama because they're black. No. I have ears. It's not the same thing.

BELL: Yes.

LEMON: So let's talk about something more fun. The history of comedy. This week's episode goes Inside the Comic Mind. So tell us about it.

BELL: You know, this is -- you know, for comedy that you want to see comedy on purpose from professionals, right now we live in comedic times. But this, the history of comedy is a very investigative and thorough examination of comedy in this country. And it is also, it will make you cheer up. May be cheer up.

LEMON: Yes. By the way, Kamau, he said, look at your budget. He didn't say stop buying cell phones. He said take a look at your budget and examine it. That's it. Not the same thing.

BELL: Yes.

LEMON: Thank you, sir. Always a pleasure.

(CROSSTALK)

BELL: It's not the same thing. Thanks for having me.

LEMON: Make sure you catch the new episode of History of Comedy. It's tomorrow night at 10 right here at CNN. And we'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)