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AT THIS HOUR
Grassley Sending Letter To Trump Jr. Asking Him To Testify; Senate GOP Unveils Revised Health Care Bill; Trump, French President To Speak Amid Russia Firestorm; GOP Senators Team Up To Unveil "Alternative" Idea; Interview with Sens. Lindsey Graham and Bill Cassidy. Aired 11-11:30a ET
Aired July 13, 2017 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: -- him to appear in a public session before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Now this comes as the ranking Democrat in the committee told me earlier that she would like to see him as soon as next week.
And both of them are not ruling out the idea of issuing subpoenas if he does not comply to the request. Now, this comes, of course, after Donald Trump Jr. revealed following a number of revelations in the media, he did have a meeting in 2016 with a Russian lawyer.
That lawyer who apparently wanted to help them find dirt on the Clinton campaign as part of an effort Donald Trump Jr. was told by the Russian government to help his father's campaign.
This of course has caused a lot of concern among both parties on Capitol Hill and a lot of questions that members from key committees want to get answers, answers from Donald Trump Jr., himself.
So that is one reason why Chuck Grassley and Dianne Feinstein are teaming up and discussing bringing forward Donald Trump Jr. before their committee as soon as next week.
Now this comes also as the Senate Intelligence Committee and the House Intelligence Committee have also expressed interest in speaking to him. It's unclear if that will happen and when that will happen, and if it were to be done in a public setting or behind closed doors.
But a very significant development, Kate, because Grassley wants to not only talk to Donald Trump Jr., but also Paul Manafort, the former campaign chairman, who was also in that meeting as well. So we'll see if these two men agree to testify or if they actually issue subpoenas to compel their appearance -- Kate.
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: This goes without saying, of course, Manu, this isn't just a big deal because it's someone who is a close adviser to the president throughout the campaign in light of this bombshell news. This is the president's eldest son being sent a letter, asked to testify in a public setting before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
RAJU: Yes. That's absolutely right. It's coming from Republicans, too.
RAJU: The question that I asked Chuck Grassley, I said what do you want to hear from him? He said, well, you know, there have been a lot of questions about these meetings. This will be an opportunity for Donald Trump Jr. to explain to the public what happened.
Now, of course, what will be significant about this is that this would happen under oath. Everything that Donald Trump Jr. has said so far, of course, has been over Twitter or his appearance on Sean Hannity's program. It has not come under oath.
So you have to tell the truth under oath and that also means that his -- all questions about his any past conversations that he had with any Russian officials, any past ties to Moscow in any way, all which will be explored.
Now I should say, Kate, Donald Trump Jr. said that he would be willing to testify under oath. He said that to Sean Hannity so presumably he would be OK with this request.
We'll see what he says especially when this letter comes today. That Chuck Grassley just told me moments ago that they are planning on sending the letter today, asking him to appear before the committee -- Kate.
BOLDUAN: Thank you so much, Manu, for bringing that. I really appreciate it. We'll continue to follow this. That's big news on Capitol Hill.
Also happening right now, President Trump is meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris, and very soon, the president will face reporters in a news conference.
It is a safe bet at this point that he will likely be asked about an entirely different meeting, not the one with the French president, but the one between his son and a Russian lawyer during the 2016 campaign.
We are going to be watching that very closely. We are also watching this, years of promises, days of threats, and now a new version of the Republican plan to overhaul Obamacare is about to hit the Senate. A plan that could affect every American in one way or another.
This hour, Republican leaders will be unveiling the newest plan to senators behind closed doors. The big question, of course, does this bill change the math? Remember, they can only afford to lose two of their own and still get the plan over the finish line, but no Democrats are likely to support.
Also, breaking news at this hour, we have the new details of a new alternative that two Republican senators are getting ready to roll out to the health care plan. First, we'll get to that in just a moment.
But let's get first to CNN's Ryan Nobles on Capitol Hill. So Ryan, what are you hearing? What is the state of play? What's the mood up there right now?
RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Kate, the best way to describe Capitol Hill this morning is nervous anticipation. That bill yet to be released to the public. We expect it sometime in this hour, and then Republican senators are going to gather for an all-GOP meeting where they discuss the details of this plan.
Kate, keep in mind that most Republican senators have still not seen the actual bill itself. They have been relying on bits of information here and there from the GOP leadership team that is crafting this bill.
One of the big controversy so far this morning, will there be an amendment that was crafted by Senator Ted Cruz and Senator Mike Lee that will deal with insurers, allowing insurers to offer insurance plans that do not fall under the regulations of the Affordable Care Act.
This is a key provision that conservatives are looking for. There was some talk that a version of the Cruz amendment will appear in this bill.
[11:05:00]But this morning, Senator Mike Lee from Utah tweeting that he has not seen the bill, but he knows that the one that he and Ted Cruz wrote will not be in the bill.
Some version of it, and he's not sure if he can support it. So we'll wait to see the contents of this bill and the reaction. As you mentioned, Kate, a very small margin for error if Republicans hope to get this passed.
BOLDUAN: As it has been since the beginning. The devil is in the details on this when it comes to getting Republicans on board. Ryan, thank you so much. We are watching that closely. That's happening this hour.
And also this, now to the new, new alternative we can call it. I want to bring in chief political correspondent, Dana Bash, for much more on this. So Dana, Lindsey Graham, Bill Cassidy, they think they have the solution here. They think they can thread the needle. What do we know about what they are planning to roll out?
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, first of all, as Ryan just laid out, Kate, the prospects for the current Senate Republican health care bill, which will be unveiled for all Republican senators is still very much in jeopardy.
So knowing that, Senators Lindsey Graham and Bill Cassidy, have been working feverishly behind the scenes with GOP colleagues to craft a GOP alternative, as you said.
And the health care bill is something that we actually have the first details on right here. First, the gist is it would keep federal taxes on wealthy Americans in place and then block grant the money to states to control.
Now Graham and Cassidy, who have been working very closely with their former colleague, former Senator Rick Santorum, argue that one of the main reasons Republicans are having such a hard time agreeing on a health care replacement bill is because they are working from the Obamacare template particularly federal control of health insurance.
Another big problem with the Senate Republican bill unveiled last month is that it effectively gives a tax cut to wealthy Americans and then makes cuts to Medicaid, which helps many afford health insurance.
So the key to whether or not this new alternative will work is whether they can get buy in from Republican governors. That is their focus. Many Republican governors feel their states and constituents benefited from Obamacare.
Many of them have a lot of sway with pivotal GOP senators. The hope among Graham and Cassidy and Santorum is working with them is that this is, you know, politically probably a Hail Mary.
But policy wise, they argue that it is good for Republicans because it makes conservatives happy by sending control of the states and GOP moderates happy by maintaining some of the critical help that their constituents need -- Kate.
BOLDUAN: They are just going to be rolling this out. Is there any -- do you get a sense yet of where the buy in -- you know, forget the governors for a second, but the buy in from Republicans senators at the moment?
BASH: The answer is, they don't know. They said that they are having a lot of people, conversations with a lot of people who like the idea, but you can't underestimate the Republican governors, particularly for some of the vulnerable Republican senators.
Again, some of whom represent states where Obamacare is actually working. They feel that if those Republican governors say, hey, this is a good idea and I can work with this then that could get the ball rolling.
Look, here is the reality. What the Republican leadership and what the president wants is 50 votes. They want to get 50 Republican votes. They want something that can pass and what they are working on to fix the underlying, the current Republican bill to get 50 votes, OK.
If not, what Graham and Cassidy are hoping is this is an alternative that is different that could kind of shake things up a bit.
BOLDUAN: Yes, and at this point, you mentioned a Hail Mary, at this point, maybe that's what they need. So we will see. We are in Hail Mary territory because you are not so good at football. Great to see you. Thanks so much.
And in a moment, as Dana and I were just discussing, we are going to have a CNN exclusive, Senators Lindsey Graham and Bill Cassidy, the men behind this proposal, will be joining me live on this new health care effort. That is coming up. Stay with us.
Also, any moment right now, we are expecting to see President Trump and French President Macron sitting down together for a bilateral meeting this hour. The two leaders and their wives met this morning in Paris.
You see Trump and Macron exchanging another handshake. I'll leave you to decipher how that compares to the last handshake.
Let's get over to Paris right now. That's where CNN's Sara Murray is standing by, traveling with the president. So Sara, what are we expecting -- we saw the greeting and saw them touring around together. What are we expecting for the leaders today?
SARA MURRAY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, now they are in this more formal, bilateral meeting. This is where the more substantive part of this will happen. They are expected to talk about counterterrorism, strategies for dealing with Syria.
These are areas where President Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron sort of see the world in a similar light. Now what was not listed as a key topic is climate change. It's certainly something that could come up.
We know this is a place where these two world leaders differ. As always, with President Trump, you really never know what is going to come up in these bilateral meetings. He might bring up something else along the way.
[11:10:04]One of the things advisers mentioned, they might compare notes about who they met with at the G20 and how they felt about different world leaders, for instance, Russian President Vladimir Putin.
But after that, becomes the even more unpredictable part. That is when we will see them both in front of the camera, each of them will make statements and they will take questions from the press, two from the American press and two from the French press.
And this where you can bet President Trump is going to be asked about this meeting his son Donald Trump Jr. had last summer with a Russian lawyer. This will be the first time President Trump is answering these questions publicly in front of cameras.
He has made a couple comments about how he doesn't necessarily blame his son in interviews. But there is a broader question about credibility in this White House at this point.
Why should the American public or the world community believe what the president saying after they gave so many blanket denials that there were no contacts among anyone with any Russian officials, and then drip, drip, drip.
More meetings continue to emerge like the one that we have been talking about these last few days with Donald Trump Jr. and the Russian lawyer. So that is certainly something to watch for as this press conference gets closer -- Kate.
BOLDUAN: Absolutely. Great to see you, Sara, thank you so much. We are going to keep an eye and waiting for that news conference to start. We'll bring it to you live.
With me now, though, right now, CNN national security and legal analyst and former NSA attorney, Susan Hennessey is here, White House reporter for "The Washington Post," Abby Phillip is here and national security correspondent for "The New York Times," David Sanger is joining us as well.
Great to see all of you. So David, first to you, on the news that Manu Raju brought to us at the very top of the hour. This breaking news that the Senate Judiciary Committee will be sending a letter to Donald Trump Jr. requesting that he come to testify in a public session before the committee and they were talking as early as next week. That's a big development.
DAVID SANGER, CNN POLITICAL AND NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: It's also one you have to expect. Once, you know, if you think about the sequence of events that started this, Jared Kushner, the president's son-in-law had failed to disclose meetings that he had been in. He submitted his form, updated form. It revealed this meeting.
And that led to the cascade of events that took the "Times" to the e- mails which ultimately Donald Trump Jr. revealed. So here you have where it feels like once again it's playing catch up both to the media and to a White House that keeps saying, as -- meetings with the Russians and there's one more.
This one, being particularly notable for one reason. What those e- mails establish, more than anything else is that the campaign was notified by an intermediary that a Russian government wanted to help them and provide them information. The usual thing to do when you have that about an adversary government is turn it over immediately to the FBI.
BOLDUAN: That's not what appears at least at this moment to have happened here. I mean, Abby, the White House --
SANGER: That did not happen -- yes.
BOLDUAN: Exactly, by anyone's account. Open to more information coming to light. But Abby, at this point, the White House has to expect that the president is going to getting questions about this today, not only the evolution of defenses that came from Donald Trump Jr., but kind of an evolution in the statements coming from the president as well.
It started out as a terse statement, I didn't know about the meeting, and then it turned into denying knowing anything about the meeting, and now he's defending the meeting saying anybody would have taken it.
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, I mean, I think the central question that underlies this whole thing is, did the president know about this meeting? Did he know about the context in which this meeting happened? There were a couple things in those e-mails that have emerged in the last couple of days that struck out at me.
And one of the most important, I think, is this idea that Don Jr.'s intermediary, who conveyed to him that the Russian government wanted to help his father also asked and suggested that he might present this information directly to Trump himself, through Trump's sort of secretary, who would have been a sort of gatekeeper for the president.
So that is unresolved. Was there ever an attempt to pass this information directly to the president? And then hours after Don Jr. confirmed that he was going to go ahead and meet with this Russian lawyer, the president went out and said, you know, I have some information about Hillary Clinton and her dealings with foreign governments, including Russia that I'm going to present to you in a press conference next week.
That press conference never happened, but a lot of people are looking at those comments and saying what happened there? What was Trump referring to? What he suggesting that maybe the information that Don Jr. would have gotten as a result of this meeting he would have then conveyed to the American public in a press conference?
[11:15:02]But because the meeting really turned up nothing, the press conference never really happened. So there's a really big question mark here. There's a reason why nobody really wants to talk about what the president knew and when. The statements that he only found out in the last couple of days are going to become extremely important as more information is uncovered about what happened here.
BOLDUAN: And of course, Don Jr. says he never talked to his dad about it because he didn't think it was worthwhile, but he may be asked the very same question under oath as we are now learning from the Senate Judiciary Committee. So we'll see what happens then.
Susan, the president did an interview with Reuters and spoke about this, but also spoke about his meeting with President Putin where there are obviously some conflicting reports about exactly what was said and what came out of it.
I mean, to Reuters, the president would not say if he believed Putin's denial of interfering in the election. But he also wouldn't clearly say if he trusted Putin in another point of the interview, which I find fascinating. Are those hard questions to answer for a president?
SUSAN HENNESSEY, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY AND LEGAL ANALYST: Well, they shouldn't be difficult. I mean, it really does speak to the lack of credibility. His decision not to include anybody other than Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in the meeting, there really wasn't anyone in that room with external credibility, who can say this is what happened.
The other issue is that the president himself has not been consistent about whether or not he believes there was Russian interference in the election. He goes back and forth.
He says it could have been anyone. It's pretty clear that he himself is not convinced or is not willing to really consistently publicly acknowledge this reality.
BOLDUAN: Yes, guys, stand by, if you will. We have a lot more coming up. Really appreciate it, though.
So what did the president know? What did the president know and when about this meeting? Lawmakers are demanding answers now with an urgent push to get Donald Trump Jr. and others to testify. I'm going to speak live with a member of the House Intelligence Committee coming up.
Plus moments from now also, Republicans will be holding an all hands on deck meeting on the state of their health care efforts. But before they do, I'm going to speak live with two senators who are rolling out a new idea, Lindsey Graham and Bill Cassidy, that's next.
BOLDUAN: Republicans have a 52-vote majority in the Senate. That means with no Democratic support, they can only afford to lose two of their own and still pass a health care overhaul. Well, now two senators, exactly, two Republican senators are coming up with an alternative plan that they think is the answer to finally getting this done.
Joining me right now are those two senators, Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Bill Cassidy of Louisiana. Gentlemen, great to see you. Thanks so much for coming in.
So Senator Graham, in a nutshell, you are taking Obamacare money and giving it back to the states.
SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Yes.
BOLDUAN: Why is this plan better?
GRAHAM: OK, in a nutshell, we are keeping the taxes in place on the wealthy. We are repealing the individual mandate, the employer mandate, the medical device tax that 75 senators voted to repeal.
There are about $500 million of money. Rather than trying to run health care from Washington, we are going to block grant it to the states, and here is what will happen.
If you like Obamacare, you can re-impose the mandates at the state level. You can repair it if you think it needs to be repaired. You can replace it if you think it needs to be replaced. It will be up to the governors. They have a better handle on this than any bureaucrat in Washington.
BOLDUAN: Senator Cassidy, how does this pass the Jimmy Kimmel test as you laid it meaning how does this way of putting forth health care insure that people can afford the coverage that they need?
SENATOR BILL CASSIDY (R), LOUISIANA: Yes, because you are giving money back to the states to make sure that those who have needs are able to have their needs addressed.
By the way, if we couple this with the Ted Cruz amendment, which allows people to purchase insurance through a health savings account. You could imagine that a state would put money into someone's health savings account with which you could then purchase the insurance that you need.
The essential health benefits will still be there. We can't repeal those as part of this process. You still have the protection. This perfectly fulfills the Jimmy Kimmel test.
BOLDUAN: But Senator Graham, does every state give the same amount of money -- if you block grant, I know this is an old Republican idea, but does every state get the same amount of money from the federal government? How does its decided?
GRAHAM: We will come up with a formula that will be fair to the states. It will have an inflation rate that will be regionally based so the inflation rate will be there, but we are going to have it based on region. We are going to incentivize states who are more efficient if they beat the inflation rate.
They don't lose the money. They keep the money and they can spend it on other forms of health care. So the formula going back to the states is important. But here is the main thing.
Instead of a refundable tax credit going to individuals and the tax code being used to manage health care, we are going sever health care policy from the federal tax code, block grant the money back to the states. It will be a state block grant to individual entitlement and each state will be treated fairly and the more efficient you are, the more money you'll have.
BOLDUAN: Speaking of entitlement, Senator Graham, what does this mean for Medicaid? Through this alternative, you guarantee that people in Medicaid don't lose coverage?
GRAHAM: Medicaid is a completely separate issue. We are going to try to make Medicaid more sustainable. I'll let Dr. Cassidy talk about Medicaid. We are talking $500 billion that didn't exist under previous Republican bills.
The thing that we are doing is that we are leaving in place the taxes on the wealthy, taking that money and giving it back to the governors to come up with better health care. If you like Obamacare and want to repair it, you can. If you want to replace it, you can. As to Medicaid, I'll let Dr. Cassidy tell you what we are trying to do.
BOLDUAN: Yes, go ahead, Senator, I'm sorry.
CASSIDY: Regarding the taxes, it maybe those taxes that are being kept will be eventually revealed, but it will be done as part of comprehensive tax reform, not as part of this. The problem has been trying to combine tax reform with replacement of Obamacare. Putting those two together has not worked. We now sequence it and hope we can accomplish both. BOLDUAN: But on the taxes, if you leave the Obamacare taxes in place on the wealthy, are you no longer -- are you giving up on repealing Obamacare?
CASSIDY: No! Absolutely not. We are actually giving, as Senator Graham said, the money back to the states. The states can decide what they can do. A blue state can do a blue thing, a red state a red thing.
My state is going to repeal and replace Obamacare with something which gives power to the patient, but that starts by us with giving power to the state. Now all the power Obamacare took to Washington, D.C., we devolve in the states who then devolve it to the patient. That's the way we should be going.
BOLDUAN: Let's talk about the politics, Senator. Senator graham, let's talk about politics. Is McConnell on board?
GRAHAM: Well, you know, we are going to support Mitch's effort with his new plan, but we want an alternative, and we are going to see which one can get 50 votes. We are not undercutting Mitch. He's not undercutting us.
But here is the politics. It is pretty hard to take money from the poor to give to the rich. When you combine tax policy and health care policy, it's a losing proposition.
[11:25:09]So we are going to leave in place the Obama tax increases on the wealthy, but we are going to take that money and give it back to the states, rather than giving it to bureaucrats in Washington.
And guess what, if you like Obamacare as it is, and you think it needs to be repaired, you can do that. If you want to replace it like South Carolina and Louisiana will do, you can do that. That's the big lift for Republicans is keeping the money in place.
Here is going to be the challenge for Democrats, particularly moderate Democrats. You are going to have to go to your governor in your state and say we don't trust you with this money. We trust the bureaucrats more.
That's going to be hard politics if we keep the taxes in place for Democrats govs. So they have to pick between a Washington bureaucrat and people in their own state.
BOLDUAN: Senator Cassidy, if this amendment does not make it into the final bill, are you a no then on the Republican health care effort?
CASSIDY: I'm not -- I have not seen the final bill. But what I am trying to do is, from what I have heard, make this bill even more likely to get 50. You are more likely to get 50 if you return power to patient in states, traditional Republican proposal, by the way.
But it's also a tenth amendment proposal. We actually think it works better. Whatever that final bill is that we are going to be presented, we think it makes it more likely to get to 50 because it is more in concert with conservative Republican principles.
GRAHAM: And from the Democratic point of view, it's no longer about the money. We are going to have money. We are going to keep the taxes in place on the wealthy. It's about who should deliver health care, somebody in Washington or somebody in the state in which you live. I think some Democrats will be attracted to the idea of power out of Washington as long as you have the money.
BOLDUAN: But right now, no Democrat on board, Senator Graham?
GRAHAM: Not yet. Just to be continued.
BOLDUAN: To be continued. Let's continue to this. I want to ask about the breaking news, Gentlemen. I appreciate it. We'll see where your Republican colleagues land on your alternative you are throwing out today.
We've just learned from Manu Raju, Senator Graham, that Chuck Grassley, the chair of the Senate Judiciary, is sending a letter to Donald Trump Jr. to request he appear before the committee in a public session to testify about the news, his e-mails, the meetings. What questions do you have for Donald Trump Jr.?
GRAHAM: Well, you need to listen to the hearing. I'm not going to tell you now. We agreed on this yesterday. He's a relevant witness in terms of judiciary jurisdiction. Mr. Manafort will come. We are going to get to the bottom of what happened the best way we can. We are going to give Donald Trump Jr. a chance to tell his side of the story. You have to watch the hearing to know what I'm going to say.
BOLDUAN: Thank you for the tease. We will watch. Let me ask you this, though, because this also happened in a hearing yesterday, Senator Graham, you've made very clear with the confirmation hearing of Christopher Wray, what you thought a politician should do when it comes to if they were ever approached by a Russian promising dirt on an opponent. We can play that for our viewers to remind them.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GRAHAM: -- the director of the FBI. So, here is what I want you to tell every politician. If you get a call from somebody suggesting that a foreign government wants to help you by disparaging your opponent, tell us all to call the FBI.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: But the president said in an interview just yesterday that many people would have taken that meeting. He said this, Senator, most of those phony that is act holier than thou, if the same thing happened to them, they would have taken that meeting in a heartbeat. What do you say to that?
GRAHAM: I think the president would be wrong to do so. One, the Russians are not going to come to help me because they hate me and I hate Putin. But if any government tried to help my campaign, I would say no, because you are destroying American democracy. If the Ukraine government is trying to help Hillary Clinton because they don't like Manafort and Trump, most Republicans wouldn't like that. It's a pretty simple proposition in America, we are not going to let foreign governments interfere in our election process by helping one candidate over the other.
So with all due respect to President Trump, the answer is no, you don't take meetings from foreign governments to help you. You can go to jail for this, maybe.
BOLDUAN: Maybe. That is to be determined. Senator Cassidy, the president still says this. Here is another part of the interview with Reuters. "There was zero coordination. It's the dumbest thing I have ever heard. There's no coordination. This was a hoax. This was made up by the Democrats. Can the president still say that after these e- mails were released, that it's a hoax?
CASSIDY: Well, clearly, he can say it. But I'll trust the Judiciary Committee and SENATE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE and the FBI to exonerate. It's not up to me to kind of (inaudible). It's up for these folks to investigate and the American people will know the story.
GRAHAM: Here is what I can say, Kate, the FBI director doesn't believe it is a witch hunt. The e-mail in question for Donald Trump Jr. basically talks about receiving help from a foreign government. Apparently, the meeting did not materialized and helped but --