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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

GOP Unveils Revised Health Plan; Trump Defends Son: Says Most Would've Taken Meeting. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired July 13, 2017 - 16:30   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:31:37] JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back.

Sticking with our politics lead and new reaction to the newly revised health care plan unveiled by Senate Republicans until just a few hours ago. GOP leaders have kept this draft closely guarded, only releasing a few headlines. Now on paper, the actual provisions seem to address some of the major demands made by various senators, the question, of course, is, will the changes be real today convince at least 50 Senate Republicans? That's the minimum number they need to support the final bill.

CNN's Ryan Nobles joins me live from the Hill.

And, Ryan, the Vice President Pence says President Trump's going to be working hard to get the votes needed. A lot of undecided Republicans. Specifically on the substance, how is this legislation different from the previous health bill that the Republicans couldn't get enough votes to pass?

RYAN NOBLES, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Jake, really substantively, it's not dramatically different, but there are a few key changes that Republicans are mulling over right now, deciding whether or not it's enough for them to support this bill. And let's break down a couple of them.

One of the big changes is, there's now going to be an option for folks to buy and purchase cheaper insurance plans that will also offer fewer benefits, these catastrophic plans that are currently not available under the law. They also want to allow people to use their HSA payments or their allowance pretax to pay for premiums. That's something you're not allowed to do now. There is $45 billion that have been allotted to combat the opioid crisis. That's something a couple of key senators are very keen on getting into this bill.

But this is one of the most important aspects of this bill, there aren't any dramatic changes to Medicaid from the previous bill, and that's one of the reasons that a lot of moderate senators have been concerned, big and deep cuts to Medicaid down the road that they're unhappy with.

But moderates are happy with this provision. There will be no repeal of the Obamacare taxes on the wealthy. That's something that they have fought for. You know, there is one key senator who has been somewhat of a purity

person when it comes to this. He wants to be a full repeal, and that's Ted Cruz. He sounded a little bit different today after they emerged from a meeting on this bill. Take a listen to what they had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: The bill today reflects the input from senators across the spectrum. It's not the ideal bill I'd like it pass. I suspect there may not be a single senator for whom it's the ideal bill they'd like to pass. But it does represent a bill that reflects the concerns expressed across the conference. I think that's how we actually come together and honor our promise to repeal Obamacare.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NOBLES: Not necessarily a ringing endorsement, Jake, and that could be the problem for Mitch McConnell as they try and bring all these senators together to get those 50 votes necessary to get this bill passed.

TAPPER: All right. Ryan Nobles on Capitol Hill for us -- thank you so much.

President Trump says most people would have taken the meeting his son had with that Russian lawyer promising dirt on Hillary Clinton from the Russian government. If that's true, and it's no big deal, why are we just learning about it now?

Stick around.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:38:43] TAPPER: We're back with more on our politics lead.

President Trump's defense of his son meeting with a Russian government lawyer, that's what he thought anyway, went global today.

My political panel is here with me. Let's start by playing some of what President Trump said during his news conference today when asked about this issue.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think from a practical standpoint, most people would have taken that meeting. It's called opposition research or even research into your opponent. I've had many people -- I have only been in politics for two years, but I've had many people call up, oh gee, we have information on this factor or this person or frankly Hillary, that's very standard in politics.

(END VIDEO CLIP) TAPPER: Now, as a matter of fact, what the president described is standard in politics, but coming from the Russian government, that is not standard in politics, Angela.

ANGELA RYE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No, it's definitely not standard in politics. In fact, you've heard Trump supporters frequently over the last day or two cite an example of a DNC consultant meeting with a foreign government. And the issue to me is, they talked frequently about this saying it's the exact same thing as Russia, it's not. It's apples and oranges.

This is something that came from the top down. In fact, you saw it in black and white frankly in the e-mails that Donald Trump received and sent.

TAPPER: And, David, I know that it's a father defending his son, and I get that.

[16:40:05] I have a son. But, you know, first of all he called his son a kid or whatever, I think he's 39 years old. I mean, he's a grown man. But OK, you consider your son your kid for the rest of your life.

There is kind of like an attempt to normalize this, and it isn't normal.

DAVID URBAN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. So, let's just rewind the facts here. I'm glad Angela raised the issue of the DNC consultant, right, of actually going to a foreign power, actual consultant on the campaign going to an actual --

TAPPER: She was a DNC consultant.

URBAN: So, the DNC was smart enough to have a cutout, OK? So, that's fine. So, they have a cutout, going, they have a cutout going to a foreign government, actual foreign government, OK, looking for dirt on the Trump campaign on Paul Manafort, OK? Someone who's coming down the pike.

Amazingly, her stock goes up dramatically right after Paul Manafort's named the campaign chairman. In this instance, OK, I'm not saying the meeting was a great idea, Don Jr. said if he had to do it again, he wouldn't. But it was -- she's an alleged, alleged, has alleged contacts with the Russian government.

I mean, you just heard Congressman Schiff saying I'm not going to tell you anything that's classified, and he's saying that she's apart of the Russian government. So, we know that's not true because if Congressman Schiff knew that for a fact, he wouldn't say it on national TV if he knew that for classified meeting.

So, we heard from a B-list publicist an e-mail saying she's tied from the Russian government. So -- and Don Jr. wasn't part of the campaign. He's a family member.

RYE: No, he was an advisor to the campaign. He absolutely -- TAPPER: He was a surrogate.

URBAN: I was on the campaign at the time.

TAPPER: But let me -- can I say one thing, is it not significant that Ukraine is an ally of the United States and Russia is a geopolitical foe?

URBAN: Ukraine is an ally of the United States, but we're not an ally of the Trump campaign at that time or Paul Manafort.

TAPPER: Because he had done work in Ukraine.

URBAN: Right, absolutely.

TAPPER: Go ahead, Angela.

RYE: No, and I just think again -- I brought it up because it is outrageous, it is laughable that this is the defense used. Number one, it wasn't just Donald Trump Jr. in these meetings. It was Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort who, of course, was the campaign chairman. It also, the contact with the Ukraine and the DNC consultant was about Paul Manafort. It wasn't about impeding on and fudging with our democracy of the election.

URBAN: Sure it was. It was about knocking Paul Manafort out of election and participating, which they did. It was successful.

RYE: And here's the bottom line here, there has been a number of people who have suspected, right, collusion, and now you have something in black and white that was leaked, only because Donald Trump Jr. knew this story was coming out of the "New York Times". It's damning.

TAPPER: So, let many ask a question, because Trey Gowdy, who is a Republican congressman from South Carolina, he had a take on this that I want to play.

RYE: Yes.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. TREY GOWDY (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: The amnesia of people that are in the Trump orbit, someone close to the president needs to get everyone connected with that campaign in a room. And say, from the time you saw Dr. Zhivago until the moment you -- until the moment you drank vodka with a guy named Boris, you list every single one of those and we're going to turn them over to the special counsel because this drip, drip, drip is undermining the credibility of this administration.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: That is a very conservative Republican from South Carolina.

URBAN: Listen, I don't agree with Congressman Gowdy one bit. I'm for getting every bit of that information, every bit of news you have and dumping it all, get it out. I'm not for -- I think it's a bad strategy, I don't think it's a strategy at all.

I think it was an oversight on someone's SF86. They corrected it.

TAPPER: Security clearance form.

URBAN: They corrected it, and they're being truthful and moving forward.

RYE: But I think it's bigger than that, right? This is not about minimizing this. This is Trey Gowdy also who led the special committee on Benghazi saying this. And I think we have to acknowledge, it's not just about getting the information out, it's when the information comes out, us being able to say in a bipartisan manner, this information is problematic.

And that is what a number of House and Senate Republicans are saying. And for whatever reason, Trump surrogates can not fix their mouth to say that it is in fact problematic.

URBAN: Which part is problematic, Angela? Which part? The part --

RYE: Taking the meeting. What's also in the substance of the e-mail, the fact -- do you want me to answer your question?

Donald Trump Jr. saying, you know, this -- I love it, especially if it's later in the summer. All of that is highly problematic, it's not ethical, and it is borderline illegal. If there is in fact a conspiracy here, it's a conspiracy to commit -- or to violate federal election law. That's the problem.

URBAN: So you are jumping and making a lot of assumptions.

RYE: Not at all. It's on the paper.

URBAN: Conspiracy --

RYE: I said if it is --

URBAN: FEC violation. If I was 6'4" and handsome, i'd be a completely different person. So, if --

TAPPER: We find you very attractive, David.

URBAN: No, but you're assumptions are just huge.

TAPPER: No, my assumptions aren't -- no, but they're not assumptions.

URBAN: They are assumptions.

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: Let's look at the legality. Let's talk about the ethics -- was it unethical? Forget the illegality, because that's debatable. URBAN: I don't know if it's unethical. It's obviously -- listen,

it's all based -- no, because it's all based on your mens rea, right? What's going on in your mind. I don't know what Don Jr., what he read in the e-mail, what he thought about in the e-mail.

Russia had nothing -- listen, at that time in the campaign, Russia was nowhere on anybody's --

TAPPER: Angela, last word.

ANGELA RYE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: So, it's - Russia is now in our sights because of actions taken like this, and his (INAUDIBLE) is clear, it's actually in black and white on the paper. And I think that we have to continue to stop acting like this is not a big deal, it is very much a big deal. If it wasn't, there wouldn't be two past ethics lawyers who served under Barack Obama and George W. Bush saying it is unethical.

TAPPER: David and Angela, thanks, both of you. I appreciate it. He was the first living recipient of the nation's highest award for valor on the battlefield since Vietnam War, the incredibly inspiring reasons why this - reason why this hero is giving away his medal of honor. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: We're back with our "BURIED LEAD," stories that we think are not getting enough attention. Nearly seven years ago, Army Staff Sargent Sal Giunta became the first living recipient of the Medal of Honor since the Vietnam War. In the Korengal Valley in eastern Afghanistan, one night in 2007, Giunta ran into enemy fire to rescue a fellow soldier from the Taliban. But the weight of the military's highest honor for valor may have been too much for him to carry alone. Days ago, Giunta took off the medal and he gave it to his entire brigade. CNN's Barbara Starr at the Pentagon has more on this hero's story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

[16:50: 12] SAL GIUNTA, MEDAL OF HONOR RECIPIENT: The whole time frame maybe lasted anywhere between like two minutes, three minutes, and five or six lifetimes. I don't know.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: In 2007, Salvatore Giunta went on a night patrol in the mountains of Eastern Afghanistan and stepped into history.

BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: The soldier as humble as he is heroic, Staff Sergeant Salvatore A. Giunta.

STARR: In 2010, receiving the nation's highest award for valor, the first living Medal of Honor recipient since the Vietnam War.

OBAMA: He'll tell you that he didn't do anything special, that he was just doing his job.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Salvatore A. Giunta -

STARR: Now a decade after that patrol, Giunta has taken another extraordinary step, giving his medal of honor to his unit, the 173rd Airborne Brigade where he thought it belonged.

GIUNTA: I am not here because I am a great soldier. I am here because I serve with great soldiers.

STARR: The Brigade's current Sergeant Major Frank Velez says Giunta's action left him speechless.

COMMAND SGT MAJ FRANKLIN VELEZ, 173RD AIRBORN BRIGADE: The first thing that came to mind is like, are you sure you want to do that? And he said, Yes, Sir, I think it belongs to the 173rd.

STARR: The Brigade posted video, capturing a moment of humble strength amid years of grief.

GIUNTA: I want this to stay here in Vicenza, Italy with the 173rd, to the men and women that earn this every single day through their selflessness and sacrifice.

VELEZ: There was a few gasps in the crowd and then there was folks just going wild, That is incredible, this just really happened.

STARR: CNN first talked to Giunta in 2010 about the battle.

GIUNTA: I think about it, and it hurts, but to say it out loud makes it that much more real.

OBAMA: Sal and his Platoon were several days into a mission in the Korengal Valley, the most dangerous valley in Northeast Afghanistan.

STARR: Suddenly, ambushed, there was gunfire from all directions, his friend, Sergeant Joshua Brennan in peril. Giunta, 22 years old, charged into a wall of bullets.

OBAMA: He crested a hill alone, there he saw a chilling sight, the silhouettes of two insurgents carrying the other wounded American away, who happened to be one of Sal's best friends.

STARR: Brennan rescued by Giunta died of his wounds.

GIUNTA: This is where it gets rough for me. You know, every time I - every time I can try - I can try to explain it, and I can try to put it into terms so people can understand it, and the more I do that, talking about it doesn't help me.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

STARR: And now, a decade on, the Medal of Honor is back with the 173rd, the men, and women that Sal served with, exactly where he wants it to be. Jake.

TAPPER: What a remarkable young man. Barbara Starr, thank you so much. The death toll is rising, people are starving, and they're trying to escape a deadly political crisis, the growing refugee emergency in Venezuela coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:55:00] TAPPER: Welcome back. Our "WORLD LEAD" now, violent protests have become a daily routine on the streets of socialists of Venezuela. Nearly 100 people have been killed in a wave of antigovernment demonstrations that started in the spring. And now more desperate Venezuelans are trying to escape the rising violence and find food by crossing the border and flooding into neighboring Columbia. CNN's Leyla Santiago reports from the border town of Cucuta.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Six-year-old Natalie wants food. She's hungry. Her mother hears, but she doesn't have anything to give her. The family of five sitting on a street corner in Cucuta, Colombia made the journey from Venezuela last month. Asked Natalie why she's here, she says things are tough because of Maduro, the President of Venezuela. Their lives here, selling lollipops, living day-to-day are an escape from political unrest, shortages, and violence. Here, they can make money and eat.

She says she's here because she has to make money for the hotel.

The family depends on the generosity of others in a place where some help; many don't, and most are too distracted to notice the little boy who hasn't had a meal today.

The Mayor Cucuta says the town cannot afford to support what he calls an exodus of Venezuelans.

If anyone understands limited resources, it's Freddie. These lollipops are all they have to sell and to eat. Yet, with the little money he collects, about eight U.S. dollars on a good day, the family pays for a room and their meal. Tonight, a few bread rolls, a few for his sons, and a few for complete strangers, another Venezuelan family just like his. Because at the end of the day, dad wants his kids to understand, this isn't what he wants for them, but it should be appreciated.

This life they're living, he says, far away from home, no money, no school, is still better than what many are living in Venezuela, even if here they feel invisible. Leyla Santiago, Cnn, Cucuta, Colombia.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TAPPER: And our thanks to Leyla. That's if, for THE LEAD, I am Jake Tapper. You can follow me on Twitter @jaketapper. I now turn you over to Jim Acosta in for Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM." Thanks for watching.