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Trump Warns GOP on Health Care; Gorsuch Pushes Independence; USA Advances to World Baseball Classic Final. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired March 22, 2017 - 05:00   ET


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now -- the White House looking to wrangle the votes it needs to pass the Republican health care bill, just one day before the House vote. Can the president seal this deal?

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: And the president's nominee for the Supreme Court says he's his own judge and won't be forced into any ruling by the president. What else did Neil Gorsuch say during ten hours of testimony.

ROMANS: Plenty.

BRIGGS: An awful lot in 10 hours.

Good morning, everybody. Welcome to EARLY START. I'm Dave Briggs.

ROMANS: It is Wednesday, I'm Christine Romans, March 22nd, it is 5:00 a.m. in the East. Good morning, everybody, up and at 'em.

We're just one vote away from a vote that could change the face of health care in this country. President Trump bringing his patented brand of hard sale to Capitol Hill, trying to coax, really threatening reluctant Republicans to vote for the American Health Care repealing Obamacare.

[05:00:05] At an all hands, closed-door meeting for House Republicans, the president said a loss just isn't acceptable. He called out Mark Meadows by name. Meadows is the chairman of the ultra conservative House Freedom Caucus. Trump predicted Meadows and the caucus will get on board.

Hours later the president repeated that call for party unity at the National Republican Congressional Committee dinner.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The American people voted for historic change. And they also voted for serious action. The American people gave us clear instructions. It's time to get busy, get to work, and to get the job done. These are the conservative solutions we campaigned on. And these are the conservative solutions the American people asked us, as a group, to deliver. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: The House Rules Committee takes up the health care legislation this morning at 10:00. Though the vote is set for tomorrow. House leaders still have much work to do.

Now, CNN's ongoing whip count currently shows 26 GOP lawmakers opposed or leaning against. Only 21 can defect without killing this measure.

ROMANS: If the Obamacare repeal does manage to pass the House this week, how will it fare with the Senate?

The measure is set to bypass committees and go straight to the floor. Predictions by key Republican senators of the bill's fate there are mixed. Second ranking Republican leader John Cornyn says, should the House repeal the bill on Thursday, tomorrow, the Senate will takes it up next week and approve it. He said, "If they pass it, we will pass it."

BRIGGS: Other Senate Republicans not so sure. Alaska's Lisa Murkowski said of the tight schedule, quote, "Wow, pretty progressive."

Senator Bill Cassidy, a physician, said he also would prefer not to vote next week.

Senators already on record against the bill in its current form are Tom Cotton, Mike Lee and Rand Paul. Republicans can only afford two defections in the Senate.

ROMANS: To help us break down the latest from Washington, CNN politics digital managing editor, Zach Wolf.

Good morning, Zach.

How does it look? I mean, we do our whip count. I mean, it looks like the reason why the president is threatening House members is because they don't have the votes here yet.

ZACHARY WOLF, CNN POLITICS DIGITAL MANAGING EDITOR: Yes. And even if they can somehow find the votes, you just did the math. They can afford to lose two in the Senate. And there are three on record who say they will oppose the bill right now. So, I mean, that's pretty clear. They need to start changes some minds somehow.

I think that moment yesterday when Trump went up to Capitol Hill and started singling people out really saying this guy is with me, even though it's not clear at the time that he was, or, you know, that guy is really great. You see this sort of art of the deal style of Trump kind of kicking in here.

Is it going to be enough to pass a bill that basically nobody in the conference is really happy with? Well, the clock is ticking.

ROMANS: The Chamber of Commerce, the Club for Growth, AARP, all of these big lobbies. BRIGGS: Campaigning against it.

ROMANS: Yes, they're working against it.

BRIGGS: Zach, Mo Brooks of the House Freedom Caucus said to Don Lemon last night that he has more than 30 noes on record.

Here's how Paul Ryan made the sales pitch yesterday?


REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: The president of the United States came to us and said we all made a promise to the American people. And we need to keep our promises. Everybody running for Congress in the House, everybody running for Senate, the president himself said to the American people, you give us this chance, this responsibility, this opportunity, with a Republican president, with a Republican Senate and a Republican House, and we will repeal and replace Obamacare. We keep our promise, and the people will reward us, if we don't keep our promise, it will be very hard to manage this.


BRIGGS: Zach, A, is that what President Trump elected people to do? And B, will that argument work without House Freedom Caucus?

WOLF: Well, you know, I think people elected Donald Trump for a lot of different things, a lot of really conservative members probably thought they were signing up for a full repeal. And this bill is certainly not a full repeal of Obamacare. For a lot of people, you know, maybe Obamacare didn't factor into why they voted but they're worried about stripping these Medicaid funds away from states. And this sort of goldilocks approach that they've come up with, sort of the middle path, is clearly not something that's gained mass appeal in the conference.

ROMANS: Hey, Zach, could they postpone it? Could they postpone the vote and save some political face and try to get it together?

WOLF: Yes, in the House, they control the schedule. They could easily do that. It would be -- I think people would read a lot into that. It's clear they don't have the votes right now.

If they did postpone it, it would be -- you know, they might just want to move on at this point. Kind of give up and move on but we'll just have to see.

ROMANS: Just talking about credibility.

BRIGGS: Well, if they do, would the president set up to blame Paul Ryan in your estimation?

WOLF: I think there would be a lot of recriminations. You can't say necessarily that Donald Trump hasn't tried to own this headlights care bill. He did go up there. He did try to get the members on board with it. So I think he would get credit with there. Paul Ryan said that Trump would be on board with it. On the other hand, he really didn't have a hand in crafting it.


WOLF: He wasn't the guy who said, you know, this is the bill I really want.

ROMANS: So, the final desperate hours here, and this morning, a scathing editorial in "The Wall Street Journal" about the credibility of this president. Dylan Byers, our colleague, wrote another scathing piece about his press secretary, how Sean Spicer lost his credibility. That's actually trending and so many people are retweeting that one.

I want to go to "The Wall Street Journal" editorial though. And it's important here because the president is trying to sell this at a time when people are questioning his own word.

"Mr. Trump is his own worst political enemy. He survived his many false claims as a candidate because his core supporters treated it as mere hyperbole. And his opponent was untrustworthy Hillary Clinton. But now he's president, and he needs support beyond the Breitbart cheering section that will excuse anything."

It begins the piece -- this is the editorial board of the "Wall Street Journal." It begins the piece by saying if President Trump said a North Korean missile landed 100 miles from Hawaii, would you believe him? Would the world believe him? That he is losing his credibility so quickly.

That's a remarkable position to be in here.

WOLF: It really is, I think you have to at this point start drawing the line between everything that's happened with Russia and the investigations there, and all the smoke around all of those different things. No fire anywhere, but all the smoke. And then the policy of him trying to pass health reform, and in that element.

You know, this is kind of the meeting of the candidate to the president. And he's finding it so difficult, I think, to bridge those two worlds and finding that the people who put him in office, the people who really did that for him are not necessarily the ones he represents every day.

BRIGGS: And he's lashed out that it's fake news. "The Wall Street Journal" has never been among those he's targeted. So, that should be interesting. This pushback in the White House.

ROMANS: Day 62, 62 and counting.

All right. Zach, come back in a few minutes, we'll talk more. We've got to talk about Judge Neil Gorsuch, vowing to be his own man if confirmed for the Supreme Court. What did he say on his policy proposals on that grueling day of testimony?


(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) [05:11:26] JUDGE NEIL GORSUCH, SUPREME COURT JUSTICE NOMINEE: When anyone criticizes the honesty or integrity, the motives, of a federal judge -- well, I find that disheartening, I find that demoralizing. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: What a key moment that was yesterday in another long grueling day of questioning is ahead for Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch. He faced a ten-hour grilling from senators at this confirmation hearing on Tuesday, brutal, long, with Democrats challenging his ability to maintain independence from President Trump.

Let's get live to CNN Center and bring in Michael Moore, the former U.S. attorney for the middle district of Georgia.

Good morning to you, sir.

ROMANS: Glad you're here this morning.

BRIGGS: All right. Overall, how would you grade the performance of Neil Gorsuch?

MICHAEL MOORE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY, MIDDLE DISTRICT OF GEORGIA: You know, I think really he did a fine job, and I think you have to look at this not in a vacuum. You look at his hearing, it's not in a vacuum. He's basically talking about being independent. He's talking about being a textualist. He's talking about being an originalist.

But when you look at the things that are going on the outside of that Senate chamber, I think it plays into what's happening on the inside. I mean, you've got the FBI investigation. You've got the fact that Merrick Garland was treated so poorly.

And Democrats are still upset about that. So, some of the things that they're talking about and some of the things that they maybe focusing on and picking on, might not have otherwise been a big deal. I mean, I think this is basically the type of nominee you would expect from a Republican president. The problem is he had to be nominated by President Trump.

ROMANS: Did he go out of his way -- I mean, to me, it felt like he went out of his way to say he's his own man, he's his own judge, that no man is above the law. I don't know how many times he said that and specifically talking about the president of the United States.

He really tried to say that he's not owned by this president.

MOORE: Well, I think that's right. And I think that's probably an important message to get across to not only the Senate committee but the full Senate and also the American people. Because of these other things that are happening, other things that are going on in the stage, politics right now, I think he wants to make that clear.

And it may very well be should he be confirmed, I think that's probably likely, that he'll have to make some decisions and rulings based on what is going on as it affects the administration.

BRIGGS: As with any nominee, abortion is clearly an issue. And the Roe v. Wade decision he was asked about yesterday?


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: In that interview, did he ever ask you to overview Roe v. Wade?

GORSUCH: No, Senator.

LINDSEY: What would you have done if he had asked?

GORSUCH: Senator, I would have knocked out the door. That's not what judges do.


BRIGGS: Now, he, of course, being President Trump, did Democrats lay a glove on him? Did he draw any blood throughout this ten hours?

MOORE: I've lost you totally.

ROMANS: You can hear us? Can you hear us, Michael?

MOORE: Can't hear you at all.

ROMANS: He can't hear us. We're going to let them test that a little bit and we're going to come back.

BRIGGS: We'll check back in with him in just a moment. That's the question, did they lay a single glove on his guy who appears bulletproof out of central casting.

ROMANS: There was one moment with Senator Al Franken where it seemed to be the testiest. But there weren't a lot of moments that they could really get him. Again, he went out of his way to talk about how he was demoralizing by the insults by the White House on the judiciary, about his independence.

And I want to play the sound bite, if we can, where he would not promise how he would rule. Can we roll that sound bite?

[05:15:01] I think it's really kind of emblematic of what the test is about.


SEN. AL FRANKEN (D), MINNESOTA: Also, he's got hypothermia. He's a little woozy. Probably figures that's not too safe. I don't think you'd want to be on the road with him. Would you, Judge?

GORSUCH: Senator, I'm --

FRANKEN: You would? Or not? It's a really easy yes or no. You haven't thought about for a second what would you would have done in this case?

GORSUCH: Senator, I thought a lot about this case. FRANKEN: What would you have done.

GORSUCH: I totally empathize.

FRANKEN: I'm asking you a question. Please answer the questions.

GORSUCH: Senator, I wasn't in the man's shoes.

FRANKEN: It is absurd to say this company is in its rights to fire him because he made the choice of possibly dying from freezing to death, or causing other people to die, possibly, by driving an unsafe vehicle. That's absurd. Now, I had a career in identifying absurdity.


And I know it when I see it.


BRIGGS: Clearly, Democrats are focusing on a truck driver who had to abandon his load thought he might freeze to death in cold temperatures. Now, Neil Gorsuch ruled with the company --

ROMANS: And he lost his job for leaving the load.

BRIGGS: Right, they ruled with the company who let him go. Is that enough to hold up a stellar career?

Let's dial back in Michael Moore who once again is with us.

How big a deal will that case be, Michael?

MOORE: You know, I don't think it's a big deal. I think when you really look at it, the fact that Senator Franken is picking on a case where Judge Gorsuch wrote the dissent. Sometimes, when judges write the opinion, especially if they write a dissent, it gives them an opportunity to expand about ideas like textualism and originalism and those types thing.

Look, I don't think anyone can question whether the outcome was absurd in that case. I think probably that's a fair assessment of it. I just don't know that if that's the case where folks, if that's the case, the Democrats are going to try to hang their hat on. It's enough to derail this.

How he treats the little man, he's talking about, well, I treat the rich and the poor the same. He tried to make that message clear. They talked about workers and other issues during the hearing. And I think Dianne Feinstein was questioning him about some things like that.

But I just don't that the fact that the frozen trucker case, it was a great sound bite, it was a great bit of theater in the confirmation hearing, I just don't know that that's going to enough to derail --

BRIGGS: Good theater for Franken.


BRIGGS: It was.

ROMANS: There's a lot of substance but there's a little bit of theater, too.

You know, I think he's getting high marks for how he swatted down some criticism from a former law student who said that she didn't like the way he had talked about maternity leave and women potentially using maternity leave as a tool when they're doing job interviews.

But I think the real -- I guess the person who was not there who is making headlines, Merrick Garland, that is who the Democrats still have in mind. They think this is his stolen seat.

MOORE: Well, that's right. That kind of goes back to what I was saying at the beginning of the segment and that is you have to do these hearings inside of that vacuum of what's going on.

There are other things going on in the political stage. The very fact that you've got a president who's under investigation, who's made a nomination for a Supreme Court justice and suddenly, this is the person they're trying to move through in place of Merrick Garland who sat there for all those many months, while President Obama was still in office. I think that's also coming into some of the tone and tenor of the questions that you see and from the members of the Democratic side.

BRIGGS: Well, will Neil Gorsuch be confirmed? We'll get that breakdown for you at about 5:30. Thanks for joining us. And we'll see you in about 20 minutes.

ROMANS: We'll iron our technical wrinkles. I just love that.

BRIGGS: All right. Ahead, Team USA reaching the final round of the World Baseball Classic for the first time ever. Can they knock off undefeated Puerto Rico, though?

Andy Scholes joins us for this morning's "Bleacher Report."


[05:23:33] BRIGGS: Well, now, the White House weighing in on Tom Brady's super bowl jersey being recovered in Mexico.

ROMANS: Oh, man, some groans in the White House briefing room.

Andy Scholes has more on this morning's "Bleacher Report."

Hey, Andy.


Yes, Brady's jersey from Super Bowl 51 recovered in Mexico early this month. It was allegedly taken by Mauricio Ortega, who's the director of a popular tabloid newspaper in Mexico. He's resigned from his post but still has not commented on the allegation.

But White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer did have fun with the press about the jersey being recovered.


SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: And, by the way, I'm very happy that the individual in the press corps who took Tom Brady's jersey, that has been returned properly. Another bad on the press, but we've righted that wrong. Thank you.


SCHOLES: All right. This is a pic of Brady's Super Bowl 51 jersey that was recovered. It was sent out by Mexico's attorney general. Brady's jersey from Super Bowl 49 and what is expected to be Von Miller's helmet from Super Bowl 50 were also found in Ortega's home.

All right. For the first time ever, Team USA will be playing the championship game of the World Baseball Classic. They beat Japan 2-1 last night in L.A. to advance to the championship. The U.S. will now play Puerto Rico in that championship game tonight at Dodgers Stadium. This is the fourth World Baseball Classic. And, amazingly, the U.S. has then finished better than fourth.

All right. Things are getting chippy between the Bulls and the Raptors last night. Serge Ibaka giving Robin Lopez a bump down low.

[05:25:03] Lopez doesn't appreciate it. He swipes at the ball, and here we go, Ibaka looking like Floyd Mayweather, dodging some punches from Lopez. Both players ejected after the scuffle. The Raptors go on to win this game 122-120.

Finally, here's a lesson to all minor leaguers out there. Do not park in someone else's parking spot in spring training especially one of the members of the team. New York Mets minor leaguer Kevin Kaczmarski learning the hard way, guys. He parked in pitcher Jacob deGrom and his teammates got him back by plastic wrapping his entire car.

Now, the joke is on deGrom and the rest of the team, though, because a pack of birds flew over the parking lot and left their mark and his car is the only one that didn't good have to get washed.


SCHOLES: I definitely made that last part up. It would be funny if that actually that happened.

ROMANS: Fake news! Fake news.

BRIGGS: That was some fake news right there from Andy Scholes.

ROMANS: Yes, Andy, that was great.

BRIGGS: That's got to take a long time to get that plastic wrap.

Thank you, my friend.

SCHOLES: All right. Have a good one.

ROMANS: All right. Twenty-six minutes past the hour.

President Trump looking to prove he's the dealmaker he claims to be. One day now, one day to go until a critical House votes on a bill to repeal and replace Obamacare. Can Trump find the votes he needs?