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McConnell: Pass Health Bill or Work with Dems to Fix Obamacare; Trump Accused Comey of Leaking Classified Information; NY Times: Trump's Son Met with Russian Lawyer for Damaging Info on Clinton; Iraq Declaring Victory Against ISIS in Mosul. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired July 10, 2017 - 11:30   ET



[11:30:10] KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: So, the Senate is back at work today. Reviving talks over the Republican effort to repeal and replace Obamacare is, of course, at the top of the priority list at the moment. They have three weeks before the next recess and the math is still against them when it comes to getting at least 50 members to support something. Right now, at least 10 Republican Senators are publicly saying they won't vote for the current bill. Two more say without changes, the bill is likely dead.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R), ARIZONA: If you shut out the adversary or the opposite party, you are going to end up the same way Obamacare did when they rammed it through with 60 votes. Only guess what? We don't have 60 votes. My view is it's probably going to be dead.

SEN. BILL CASSIDY, (R), LOUISIANA: The draft plan has been serious rewrite. We don't know what the serious rewrite. The draft is dead. Is the rewrite dead? I don't know. I haven't seen the serious rewrite plan.


BOLDUAN: The fact they are talking about things being dead, that does not spell good things.

On top of that, majority leader, Mitch McConnell is laying down something of a marker that Republicans either get it together and get it done or else. The else being they have to work with Democrats to get something fixed with Obamacare, something done with health care. For that, McConnell is facing criticism from conservative groups.

My next guest, Dan Holler, is the vice president of Heritage Action. He's been a policy advocate. In a statement, Heritage Actions said this, in part, "If the Republican Party wants to work with Democrats to bail out Obamacare, the results will be catastrophic for the party. For seven years, it has pledged it is the party of repeal. Now is the time to work toward that goal."

Dan Holler is here with me now.

Dan, thanks for the time. I appreciate it.


BOLDUAN: Why is your powerful and important group so unhappy with talk of a bipartisan solution?

HOLLER: I don't think we should be under any illusion Democrats are interested in fixing the core problems with Obamacare. What they're suggest is you double down on the failed status quo that is Obamacare that has seen premiums go up and people lose choice and access to care and they want to throw more money at the problem. That's not the right way to go about it. If Republicans have to work with Democrats, that's going to be the outcome we get. The problem is, when we talk about a bipartisan bail out of Obamacare, what we're actually doing is empowering Rob Portman and Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski, these liberal Senate Republicans, who don't want to repeal Obamacare like Republicans have promised for the past seven years.

BOLDUAN: Dan, you say their names like they are bad words. They are Republicans looking for solutions for their state. They are concerned the Medicaid changes will hurt their states.

HOLLER: What we have learned over the past six months or so as Congress has been debating this issue is there are liberal Republicans within the Republican Party who are not committed to repealing Obamacare. They've talked about it for seven years. Now they have the opportunity to do it, and not only are they unwilling to do it, but they are not willing to make modest changes to it. They are holding out in hopes that the bill the House had, the bill the Senate crafted, any sort of real reform effort falls by the wayside and they can go on and move on with the status quo, which is basically bailing out Obamacare.


HOLLER: That is not the acceptable solution.

BOLDUAN: Well, OK, talk about what an acceptable solution would be. You are taking on Mitch McConnell in that statement you put out when he's saying we have to work with Democrats if we don't get our act together. Are you threatening Mitch McConnell?

HOLLER: No. The real problem within the Republican Party is not Mitch McConnell. It's not Ted Cruz. It's not Mike Lee. It's the moderate Senate Republicans that are holding out to preserve Obamacare. Those are the individuals who are holding up the repeal effort. Mitch McConnell promised to repeal Obamacare, root and branch. The people standing in the way are Rob Portman, Lisa Murkowski, the Senators I was talking about.


BOLDUAN: How much focus are you going to put behind that?

HOLLER: This is not necessarily about money. You can throw a lot of money at the problem. The challenge is these Republicans talked about the flaws of Obamacare for seven-plus years. Now they have the opportunity to do something about it. They need to actually do it. Our goal is to work with those conservative Senators who are pushing for ideas that will increase choice and competition.

BOLDUAN: The fact of the matter is you need those moderate Senators to get this over the line.

HOLLER: Right. They need to come on board. That is absolutely right. But they need to come on board with a plan that increases choice and competition at the state level. And --


BOLDUAN: Are you going to put money in their states? Are you going to put money to convince them, as you say?

HOLLER: The right thing is to show we have the right policy solutions to help the people in their state. That's the key. They talk about more federal spending as though that's the solution for their state. It's not. Increasing choice and competition in the state insurance market is the way to help those people that have been left behind because of Obamacare.

BOLDUAN: We'll stand by and wait to see what Heritage Action will do to try to convince those Senators.

Dan Holler, appreciate your time. Thank you.

HOLLER: Thanks a lot.

[11:35:02] BOLDUAN: You can see there, the tough task the Republicans have to get something over the line.

Coming up for us, President Trump is accusing the former FBI director, the FBI director he fired, of leaking classified information. But is that the whole story? Is that the case? We are going to break down the facts from a new report.


BOLDUAN: This morning, President Trump is back in Washington and back on Twitter in a big way. One of the tweets this morning, reigniting his feud with former FBI Director James Comey. The president wrote, "James Comey leaks classified information to the media. That is so illegal."

This is in reference to an initial report in "The Hill" publication. According to "The Hill" sources, some of the private memos of Comey's conversations with President Trump about the Russian investigation contained classified material. However, there is nothing in "The Hill," we should point out, in their reporting that suggests the memo that Comey gave to a friend that eventually made it into the press contained classified information.

CNN justice correspondent, Jessica Schneider, is back with me on this. Jessica, pulling double duty today. I appreciate it. Lay this out

for me. We're just getting more information on this.

[11:40:26] JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, we are. The president there in the tweet claiming James Comey leaked classified information. Like you said, Kate, there's nothing to indicate the memo Comey gave his law professor friend to leak to the press, there's no indication that it contained classified information.

Here's the breakdown as reported by "The Hill" publication. According to some of its sources, the former FBI director wrote seven memos detailing his nine conversations with President Trump. "The Hill" reports four of the memos had markings to make clear they had information classified at the secret or confidential level.

But James Comey testified last month that the memo he shared with a friend to leak to the press was one he believed to be a personal document that contained his own recollections and did not classified information.

Here is the exchange with Senator Roy Blunt about the blockbuster hearing from June 8th where James Comey explained how his memo, he believed, differed from the others. Take a listen.


SEN. ROY BLUNT, (R), MISSOURI: You didn't consider your memo or your sense of that conversation to be a government document? You consider it to be somehow your own personal document that you could share with the media as you wanted to?



COMEY: I understood this to be my recollection recorded of my conversation with the president. As a private citizen, I felt free to share that. Thought it very important to get it out.

BLUNT: So were all of your memos that you recorded on classified or other documents, memos that might be yours as a private citizen?

COMEY: I'm sorry. I'm not following the question.

BLUNT: Well, I think you said you would use classified -- classified --


COMEY: Yes. Not the classified documents. Unclassified.


SCHNEIDER: So Comey saying he only put out unclassified memos.

Despite the clarification that Comey, the memo he leaked did not contain classified information, the president in that tweet, as well as his top counselor, Kellyanne Conway, they continue to insist that the leak was illegal and they continue to dig in that the memo contained classified information. Comey insisted his memo did not. "The Hill," though, also reports it is unclear when some of those other memos Comey wrote may have been classified confidential, suggesting that the classification may have been made after they were written. Kate, that's reminiscent of the Hillary Clinton e-mail server investigation where some of her e-mails were deemed classified after the fact -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: Yes. Where he called her extremely careless. Similar and reminiscent to that.

Thank you, Jessica. Appreciate it.

Here with me is Perry Bacon, a senior political writer for 538, and John Weaver, now a CNN political commentator and former senior adviser to John Kasich's 2016 presidential campaign.

Great to see you both. Thanks so much.



BOLDUAN: Perry, first to you.

Is the White House playing a strange game of telephone with this story here? Trump's tweet and what Kellyanne Conway said this morning goes far beyond where the reporting is, at least right now.

BACON: It does. Trump has been saying in May and June that Comey did something wrong. He tweeted Comey is a leaker. I think the reality is, we have two unusual things that happened. Itis not normal the FBI director gives stuff to "The New York Times" about meetings with the president. It's unusual and not normal. The reason Comey did that is because he was investigating the president who then fired him. I think you basically have a situation where Trump said it was an illegal violation and Comey would argue that part of what is was trying to do was stop illegal behavior from happening by the president.

BOLDUAN: John, Robert Mueller has these memos now. This is part of the investigation that he's in charge of. I mean, Trump weighing in on this now, it does what?

WEAVER: Well, it does two things. Look, this White House has never let the backs get in the way. They want to do two things today. They want to take this story as the story by "FOX & Friends" this morning that is the president saw and use it to discredit Comey, who was a great man, who served this country as a prosecutor and as head of the FBI for his entire career. And they want to divert attention away from the stories over the weekend in which the three most influential members of the Trump campaign met with a Kremlin-tied official about dirt on Hillary Clinton. So, today's actions are a twofer for them. They are trying to hurt Comey, although, that won't have an impact on the investigation, and divert attention away from what people should be paying attention to.

[11:45:03] BOLDUAN: John, I want to ask you, now that we are learning about the meeting with Trump's son and other campaign officials and that Russian lawyer, you were an advisor to John Kasich in that same election, would you have taken a meeting like this?

WEAVER: Kate, I have been on nine presidential campaigns. Not one of them has anyone, in any of them. met with foreign officials at that level, much less with the impact of trying to find dirt on an opponent. So, no, I wouldn't have. Normally, our campaign wouldn't have. The thing is, right now, Kate, they can't keep their stories straight. They are zigzagging more than a band of road runners on crack. It's hard to keep up with what's going on. Initially, we saw different dots on the screen. It was hard to see the picture. But as good reporting, and I'm sure an even better investigation is going on by Director Mueller, you know, the lines are being drawn to all these dots. A clear picture is emerging. It's alarming.

BOLDUAN: John, would you take a meeting, during a campaign, any of them, with somebody you didn't know their name going in?

WEAVER: Of course not. Look, at that level, the three most influential members of the campaign, would not be meeting with anyone that was not truly vetted. So, their stories do not add up.


BOLDUAN: They say -- John, Kellyanne Conway says the reason it was those three is because they ran and proudly ran a mean, lean operation. They didn't have others to take meetings like that. Do you see that?

WEAVER: I don't believe it. No one has run leaner campaigns than I have. We wouldn't take those meetings. Secondly, why would they meet about an adoption issue in Russia? That doesn't pass the smell test. You are going to say you had a meeting with a Kremlin official about digging up dirt on Hillary Clinton. These three people? Nothing here makes any sense. You know, a graduate at a junior college in crisis management would say you need to get the facts out immediately. There's one reason they haven't done that. The facts are not there.

BOLDUAN: Perry, what is the impact of this. The denials for months, what is being learned now, and it will continue on. This is the first known meeting of the senior-most campaign officials and a Russian national during the campaign.

BACON: Right. This is an important story because it's Donald Trump Jr. It's not Carter Page. It's not -- it's someone who is definitely in the inner circle. Donald Trump admitted it. So it's public. It's --


BOLDUAN: It's not even Michael Flynn.

BACON: Right. Not Michael Flynn. BOLDUAN: It's the son, son-in-law and the campaign chairman.

BACON: Exactly. So if you are thinking last week's summit with Trump and Putin was odd in certain ways, he wasn't critical enough, this adds to the story. It keeps the questions alive of what was going on. We have to be clear, June, 2016, was not a random time when Kushner and Donald Trump Jr and Manafort had a lot of free time. This is the middle of the campaign, before the convention. This is an important time in terms of the campaign. This top campaign advisers, even a small campaign like Trump's, don't meet with anyone at random. It was a Russian official. Imagine if Robby Mook met with the Iranians in the middle of the campaign to have information on Donald Trump. That would be odd. This is an odd and weird meeting. and not explained well. Donald Trump Jr initially lied about it, it sounds like.

BOLDUAN: We'll see where it goes.

Perry, great to see you.

John, great to see you.

BACON: Thanks, Kate.

WEAVER: Thanks, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Thank you so much.

Coming up for us, a huge victory is at hands in the fight against ISIS in a key city that terror group has had a strangle hold on for years. That is according to Iraq's prime minister. We are going live to Iraq to get the story of what's going on.


[11:53:11] BOLDUAN: The Iraqi military is on the brink of a major victory in Mosul. That, according to the government there. Soldiers are battling to free the last civilians in the city who have been used as human shields. Crowds gathered in celebration around Iraqi Prime Minister al Abadi who said this, quote, "It is a matter of time before we declare to our people the great victory."

CNN senior international correspondent, Nick Paton Walsh, has been there. He's joining me from Irbil.

Nick, I think it was two weeks ago, you and I discussed Iraq's prime minister declaring victory in Mosul. Where exactly do things stand now?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, they're very fond of declaring victory here, absolutely. Today, we are seeing the final, final pockets of ISIS resistance in the old city of Mosul. We saw them ourselves coming to an end. And while Haider al Abadi came here yesterday to announce the liberation of Mosul, we've seen military officials apologize for preempting his statement. We've seen him talk to parts of the city, east of the city, talk to the Christians, tell everyone to go back to work. The parties have begun on the streets. But the fireworks we've been hearing are the wrong sort, really, in the old city of Mosul. ISIS fighters, dozens, really, dug in to the rubble there. We've seen them emerge, surrendering themselves after intense air strikes from the United States. People bedraggled, covered in dust, walking towards Iraqi special forces. Perhaps they simply ran out of bullets. But there are literally dozens of houses that their special forces have been combing through in the afternoon. That violence may still be going on, may have stopped. We, ourselves, have pulled away in the middle of the day here.

But still, all the same, the broader political message is, yes, ISIS' main hold of territory here in Iraq in its second biggest city of Mosul has come to an end. They've declared an end to the caliphate. They've been carrying out a victory march for some time while the awful work of cleaning Mosul had been continuing.

But, Kate, despite the fact the broader military task is over, the political one begins now. Yes, there will be pockets of ISIS in other cities around the country still to be cleaned up. But Iraq has to begin the healing between its Sunni and Shia ethnicities. That's been impossible for the last decade. Tough to make happen now, but essential for people who felt that ISIS was their best bet, the Sunni extremists, for finding some other way of expressing that voice again through violence -- Kate?

[11:55:37] BOLDUAN: Yes, an essential part of that, though, this step of liberating Mosul. Just one essential and important step heading in that direction.

Nick, great to see you. Thank you so much for being there.

We'll head back towards today's big story. President Trump's son, Donald Trump Jr, now defending a meeting he had with a Russian lawyer during the campaign who had promised dirt on Hillary Clinton, a meeting he originally left off -- originally left -- not giving details about. And also a meeting he had with two other senior campaign officials. Much more on this story ahead.