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INSIDE POLITICS

Trump to GOP: Many Will Lose In 2018 If Health Bill Fails; Ryan: Will Be Hard For GOP "If We Don't Keep Our Promise; Trump To GOP: Pass Health Bill Or Risk Losing Seat; Confirmation Hearing For Trump's Supreme Court Pick; Lawmakers Grill Trump's Supreme Court Pick. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired March 21, 2017 - 12:30   ET

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


[12:30:00] PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: -- their seats, and the House majority will actually be at risk and likely will go away as well. I asked Speaker Paul Ryan what he thought about that. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MATTINGLY: The President told your members that he believed many would lose their seats if this doesn't pass, the majority was at risk. Do you agree with that assessment --

REP. PAUL RYAN (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: Yes.

MATTINGLY: -- and do you believe that you guys have done enough to assuage their decision?

RYAN: Absolutely. The President 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 the Senate, the President himself, said to the American people you give us this chance -- this responsibility, this opportunity, whether Republican President with a Republican Senate and Republican House and we will repeal and replace Obamacare.

We are using the tools that we have to do that. That's this budget reconciliation. You can't put everything you want into that bill. That's why we have a three phase process that we're very confident works, but the president was really clear. He laid it on the lines for everybody. We made a promise. Now is our time to keep that promise, and 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.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MATTINGLY: So Wolf, as you see Speaker Ryan not hedging on the stakes. They are real, they are very big and I can tell you what's happening behind the scenes right now. House leaders are trying to get a sense of where that vote is. They are whipping their votes. They are trying to understand where their members are, how close they are to that number. At the same exact time, the Conservative House Freedom Caucus in a building a couple of blocks away, they are now meeting privately as well. Many of them have said they are either opposed to the bill or lean no's. The big question is where will they come out?

Last night, Wolf, they were saying they had enough votes to sink the bill. Did President Trump help change that? That's the hope of leadership as we move into this afternoon, Wolf.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Very quickly, Phil, if the speaker and the majority leader in the House, Kevin McCarthy, if they feel they don't have the 216 votes, I assume they won't even let the legislation, the bill come up for a vote, right?

MATTINGLY: It's an open question. I think that's kind of everybody's assumption right now. We'll know if they have major problems if the rules committee meeting tomorrow starts to move off the schedule or if this vote is pulled altogether. I do think it's worth noting, Wolf. They've made very clear. This is the lone vehicle to repeal and replace Obamacare. That means there are no other options on the table, and that also means that if this bill runs into problems, if it looks like it's going down, their only option if they want to keep this going will be to pull it and try something else, but I can tell I have not talked to a single leadership aide or member of leadership that says that is on the table right now. We'll have to wait and see over the next 24, 48 hours.

BLITZER: Yes. The vote coming up on Thursday. Phil Mattingly, we'll check back with you.

Gloria, this is going to be a really close roll-call by all accounts.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: These kinds of votes very often are and I think, you know, as Phil was saying, I don't think they're discussing pulling it yet, and we'll have to see because it seems to me like they're getting to yes or they think they're getting a yes, but think back to the campaign. This was a president that went to African-American voters and said what have you got to lose?

Now he is going to his Republican caucus and saying you're going to lose unless you do this for me because you're in this with me, we are all in this together, and, you know, my question is he might be right or he might be wrong because if they pass this bill and people don't like it, then people will hold them responsible. So it's a big gamble for these members, and the conservatives who are out there who have believed in these conservative principles, which they say are not represented in this bill, they call it Obamacare lite, even with the changes. So, look, I think this is fraught with political risk and the President was telling them behind closed doors today, the big risk for you is if you promise something and you don't deliver it.

BLITZER: But even if they pass it on Thursday in the House, that's just the step in the process that then goes to the Senate where there's a much slimmer Republican majority.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It would be a tactical victory. It is not guaranteeing repealing and replacing Obamacare. It gets you through the House. And they've made changes largely in the Medicaid slice of this to try to get more of these House votes, but -- which has damaged their case with the more moderate members of the Senate. So this will be tactical victory for the speaker and for the President without a doubt if they can pass something.

If they can do that in the House, don't count. That's not the final bill. It will be changed again in the Senate, and then the question will be, can the President cut a big deal. That's the short-term. So we're talking more about the politics than the policy, frankly, to see if that gets through.

To Gloria's point, if Jen Psaki can remember a Democratic President, Barack Obama, telling squishy Democrats on Obamacare, this was our promise to the American people, we must do it or else we will be punished. Well, they did it and they were punished.

(CROSSTALK)

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENATOR POLITICAL REPORTER: And, yes, and you imagine -- yes, I mean, you imagine some of those who are going to vote no might be essentially saying they don't want to touch the third rail of American politics either way. Because even if this goes all the way through when it passes and Donald Trump is able to sign this repeal and replace into law, the affects on average people, we don't know what they're going to be. If you believe the CBO score, people are going to go in and ensure (ph). People are going to face higher premiums.

[12:35:06] Older people are going to probably drop out of the system. At first premiums are going to go up as well and then apparently they'll go down. But -- I mean, and this is going to be something -- I mean, if you look at the movie that we've seen, the Democrats starring in Obamacare, it didn't end well. I mean, it didn't end well in 2010. It didn't end well in 2014 --

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: It didn't end well politically.

HENDERSON: Exactly, politically. Exactly, exactly.

KING: It's a lesson that Washington conversations are often not America's conversation.

TOOBIN: Right. Yes.

KING: We're talking about a test of leadership for the President. How many can you get to 260? How can you get the 50 or 51 in the Senate? That's what we're talking about to advance with the size (ph) of priority but how it affects people out there tends to be different.

BLITZER: If you were voting on this legislation, you should be in the Senate, Rick Santorum, how would you vote?

RICK SANTORUM, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I'd vote -- well, I vote yes. I'd vote -- I would vote -- you got to get the bill out --

BORGER: You should tell Neil Gorsuch and say I can't answer that.

SANTORUM: You'd got get -- you have to get this bill. Look, there's a lot of things I don't like about this bill, but you have to get this bill out of the House. What you haven't talked about which -- and I don't think Republicans are even considering they should be which is failure. It's not just political. You said it's all political. No, it's not. Because Obamacare is failing.

I mean, you even hear Obamacare advocate saying, no we got to fix it. I mean, there's a real problem here. Republicans are going to -- want to fix Obamacare. Do you think there's no vote for this? There's no votes for putting a band-aid (ph) to a system that nobody believes in.

So --

BORGER: Well the Democrats might see that (ph).

SANTORUM: But here is the problem. Republicans are going to own the health care system whether they fix it or not because by not fixing it and leaving it in place, you now own it. You've now taken control of Obama -- the fact that we've tried to do this, we now own it. Whether we pass it or not, we own it. And that's what people aren't understanding that there is a huge problem with not doing something. At least if we own it, at least give a try for what we believe in instead of owning something that we have nothing to do with.

BLITZER: Jen Psaki.

JEN PSAKI, FORMER WH COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR FOR OBAMA: Look, I think Republicans are experiencing what Democrats have when they experience when they won, which is the realities of campaigning are very different from the realities of governing. And my favorite example is Senator Joni Ernst. So I think she shot the Obamacare bill in one of her ads during the campaign, and now you've seen her sort of get a little squishier and back away because she's seeing the realities of what the impact will be on the people of Iowa.

So, you know, the fact is they're looking at a situation now where they're taking something away from people. They're taking away health care. They're taking away security. They're taking away, you know, seniors and vulnerable people being able to get the testing they need. That is a very difficult thing to go home and defend, and we're only a couple of weeks away from a two-week break for Easter, so there's a time clock that's happening here too. Yes, it's not a disaster for them if they don't pass it on Thursday, but as more time passes, it's going to be more time for people to digest what's being taken away with from them.

BLITZER: And Joan Biskupic, you've said that even if it passes, let's say it becomes the law of the land, it will be subject to judicial consideration. There will be challenges.

JOAN BISKUPIC, CNN SUPREME COURT ANALYST: Completely. When the Obamacare law was signed, within hours there was the first challenge, and the same thing is likely to happen again.

BLITZER: On which issue? On which part?

BISKUPIC: It can go -- you know, what was taken away. There could be things on the Medicaid. There'll be -- and for Obamacare, there were so many different lawsuits filed that, you know, they can go for the whole package in terms of its constitutionality or specific statute requirements. So, there are a host of things.

And the thing I was thinking about with what Jen said about the recess coming up, you know, think of the kind of sloganeering we just heard from the lectern. You know, the closing the deal. You know, he's going to come on strong. Once those members go back to their town halls, you know, they're going to want specifics about the details of what's going to happen with their individual health care. They might -- people out there might not have understood much of what was happening during the Neil Gorsuch hearings this morning. You know, that was way above what they care about, but this is the real --

BLITZER: And, you know -- and Jeffrey, just remind our viewers as we're getting ready to resume coverage of the Neil Gorsuch confirmation hearings for the Supreme Court, it was the Supreme Court that kept Obamacare alive with that ruling in favor of the mandates, the taxes, and the chief justice basically saved it.

TOOBIN: Twice. Twice. I mean, it was really an extraordinary sort of drama in the Supreme Court where there was the first case, which was brought right after Obamacare passed. It's challenged the constitutionality of the whole law. 5-4 decision. The four Democratic appointees plus John Roberts, the chief justice upholding the law. Then a couple of years later the law that basically -- the lawsuit that would have crippled the implementation of the law also saved by John Roberts' vote, and so --

BISKUPIC: And Anthony Kennedy.

TOOBIN: And Anthony Kennedy. On the -- that was a 6-3. But it just shows how so many big political controversies ultimately wind up before those nine judges.

[12:40:00] BORGER: And I will also say that the Supreme Court also changed the law, are and that was -- it was very dramatic because it was about Medicaid, and it gave states the options to take this Medicaid money that was available to them, and lots of states opted out, which I would argue is why the Congressional Budget Office estimate was off. But now the fight, all these many years later, the fight is over Medicaid, and that very issue that justice Roberts really decided in many ways, and so it sort of comes full circle.

BLITZER: All right. We're going to resume our special coverage of these confirmation hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee, the Federal Judge Neil Gorsuch. He is going to be answering questions from Democratic and Republican senators. Remember, he's only 49 years old. If he is confirmed, this is a lifetime appointment. He could be on the Supreme Court for 30, maybe even 40 years. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:45:20] BLITZER: Once again, you see the White House briefing room on the left part of your screen. The President's Press Secretary, Sean Spicer, he is going to be having his daily press briefing. That's coming up. We'll have coverage of that on the right part of your screen.

You see the Senate Judiciary Committee ready for round two this morning. Five senators so far have had a chance to ask Judge Neil Gorsuch questions, but there are another 15 to go. Each senator will have half an hour. Our special coverage of that will resume momentarily, but all this comes, what, 24 hours after very dramatic, extraordinary testimony from the director of the FBI, the director of the National Security Agency. Very awkward, embarrassing testimony as far as President Trump is concerned.

You know, Gloria, the fall-out from what happened yesterday continues. It's very, very dramatic. When Comey said there is a criminal investigation now underway and when both of them said there's no information, no evidence to back up the President's wiretapped tweets claiming that President Obama wiretapped Trump Tower in New York City. The fall-out from that is significant.

BORGER: Well, and we also haven't heard from the President on it. We heard from Sean Spicer immediately afterwards, and I'm sure he'll be ask more about it today where he said, well, this is still ongoing.

BLITZER: Hold on one second. Sorry to interrupt. But the round two today has just started. This is Dick Durbin, the Democrat from Illinois.

[12:46:47]

GORSUCH: -- Senator McCain and Senator Graham wrote the legislation, with input from the Department of Defense and the Department of Justice and a whole lot of others besides. And, I -- I was one voice among a great many, and that in terms of when it was struck down hand and held that the Detainee Treatment Act didn't apply retroactively, it only applied prospectively. And then several years later, gosh, I want to say it was 2008 maybe, the court came back around in Boumediene.

DURBIN: So what I'm driving at though, is the McCain section relative to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and I assume or I hope you've had a chance to take a glance at the e-mails Senator Feinstein gave you. You said in you e-mail, you wanted a signing statement, to the effect that the view is that McCain is best read as essentially codifying existing interrogation policies. So, what interrogation policies did you think the McCain amendment was essentially codifying?

GORSUCH: Senator, I haven't had a chance to look at that. I'm sorry. I scarfed down a sandwich over the break and I will -- I will be happy to read it but I'm -- I'm not sure what I can answer you here sitting off the top of my head. It's been 12 years ago and I'm doing the best I can with my recollection. My recollection --

DURBIN: I'm trying to get this leap from your memory of this e-mail, which I understand there were a 100,000 pages of e-mails.

GORSUCH: Exactly Senator, I think the Department of Justice has produced something like 200,000 pages of stuff. DURBIN: I will concede that point. But, your lack of memory at the moment and contrast that with your clear statement that you believe that the McCain bill, which I supported outlawed water boarding.

GORSUCH: I -- I -- I -- sitting here that would be my understanding Senator.

DURBIN: The problem with what I've just described is, when you were talking about a signing statement, water boarding was still happening and you were saying in your e-mail I want to essentially codify existing interrogation policy. There's an inconsistency there, which we're going to have to wait to the second round to resolve.

GORSUCH: I -- I -- OK.

DURBIN: OK. Let me read something to you and ask you for a reaction. It is a statement that was made about eight days ago by a Congressman named Steve King of Iowa, and here's what he said. You cannot rebuild your civilization with somebody else's babies. You've got to keep your birthrate up and that you need to teach the children your values. In doing so, you can grow your population, you can strengthen your culture, you can strengthen your way of life. The reaction to that statement was overwhelming. Civil rights leader Congressman John Lewis called it bigoted and racist. Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan said he clearly disagreed with King's comments, went on to say the Speaker clearly disagrees and believes America's long history of inclusiveness is one of its great strengths. What would your reaction to that statement be?

GORSUCH: Senator, I can talk about my record and I can tell you that as a federal judge, when a defendant comes to court with an allegation that sentencing judge made improper comments based on his ethnicity, me and my colleagues - my colleagues and I have removed that judge from the case. I can tell you that when an immigration lawyer fails to provide competent counsel time and time again, I've sent him to the Bar for discipline.

I can tell you that when it comes to access to justice, I've written on this topic, I've worked on this topic for the last six years together with many wonderful people on the rules committee trying to make our civil litigation system cheaper and faster because it takes too long for people to exercise their Seventh Amendment liberties. And I can tell you, together with my colleagues, when we found that the level of representation of inmates on death row was unacceptable in our circuit - a whole bunch of us, I can't take too much credit, tried to do something about it.

I can tell you that when prisoners come to court, prose (ph) handwritten complaints and I see something that might be meritorious in them, I appoint counsel. That's my record, Senator.

DURBIN: Can you describe your relationship with Professor John Finnis?

GORSUCH: Sure. He was my dissertation supervisor.

DURBIN: When did you first meet him?

GORSUCH: Whenever I went to Oxford so it would have been 1990...

DURBIN: ...Two.

GORSUCH: Well, it could have been two or three, somewhere in there.

DURBIN: And how - what was his relationship with you or you with him?

GORSUCH: He was my dissertation supervisor and I would describe that as a relationship between teacher and student and he was a very generous teacher, particularly generous with his red ink on my papers. I remember sitting next to the fire in his Oxford office, it was like something out of Harry Potter. And he always had a coal fireplace burning and sometimes whether I was being raked over the coals, he was - he did not let an argument that I was working on go unchallenged from any direction.

DURBIN: So that was over 20 years ago that you first met him?

GORSUCH: Whatever it is, it is. Yes.

DURBIN: Do you still have a friendship or relationship with him?

GORSUCH: Last time I saw him - gosh, when he - I know I saw him when he retired and there was a party held in his honor and I remember seeing him then and that was a couple of years ago.

DURBIN: Did he know you were from Colorado?

GORSUCH: I don't know. It must have, at some point, come out in our conversations. I don't know.

DURBIN: And do you recall saying some words of gratitude for his help in writing your book?

GORSUCH: He did not write my book, Senator. He did not help write my book. I wrote my book. I certainly expressed gratitude to my dissertation supervisor in a book that's basically my dissertation.

DURBIN: He - I think you were quoted as saying in 2006, you thanked Finnis for his, quote, "kind support through draft after draft."

GORSUCH: And there were a lot of drafts, Senator. I mean, golly, that was a very tough degree. That was the most rigorous academic experience of my life and I had to pass not just him but an internal examiner, an external examiner, and that was hard. That was hard.

DURBIN: In 2011, when Notre Dame ran a symposium to celebrate his work, you recalled your study under him and you said, quote, "it was a time when legal giants roamed among Oxford's spires."

GORSUCH: Oh, yeah. Yeah.

DURBIN: You called him one of the great scholars. GORSUCH: Well, and - and Oxford has a stable and it's part of the reason why it was such a privilege. I mean, here was a kid from Colorado and I got a scholarship to go to Oxford, I had never been to England - to Europe before and at Oxford at that time, they had John Finnis, Joe Raz, Ronald Dworkin, HLA Hart was even still alive then.

DURBIN: So let me, if I can, read a couple statements from Professor Finnis. In 2009, Professor Finnis wrote about England's population. He said England's population had, quote, "largely given up bearing children at a rate consistent with their community's medium-term survival." He warned they were on a path to, quote, "their own replacement as a people by other peoples more or less regardless of the incomers' compatibility of psychology, culture, religion, or political ideas and ambitions or the worth or viciousness of those ideas and ambitions."

He went on to say, quote, "European states in the early 21st century move into a trajectory of demographic and cultural delay, population transfer and replacement by a kind of reversed colonization."

Had you ever read that before?

GORSUCH: Nope.

DURBIN: Have you heard it before.

GORSUCH: Nope, not to my recollection.

DURBIN: Could you distinguish what he said with with Congressman Steve King said?

GORSUCH: Senator, I'm not here to answer for Mr. King or for Professor Finnis.

(CROSSTALK)

DURBIN: ... your reaction to these things. Do you feel that what Professor Finnis wrote about purity of culture and such is something that we should condemn or congratulate?

GORSUCH: Senator, before I expressed any view on that, I'd want to read it. And I'd want to read it from beginning to end, not in excerpt. And Senator, I've had a lot of professors. I've been blessed with some wonderful professors. And I didn't agree with everything they said, and I wouldn't expect them to agree with everything I've said.

DURBIN: Let me ask you this specific one. It was 1993 and you were at Oxford, when you believe you first met this professor. Professor Finnis was tapped by the then-Colorado Solicitor General Timothy Tymkovich, to help defend a 1992 state constitutional amendment that broadly restricted the state from protecting gay, Lesbian and bisexual people from discrimination.

During the course of the deposition which he gave in support of that effort, Finnis argued that antipathy toward LGBT people, specifically toward gay sex, was rooted not just in religious tradition, but Western law and society at large. He referred to homosexuality as bestiality in the course of this as well.

Were you aware of that?

GORSUCH: Senator, I -- I know he testified in the Romer case. I can't say sitting here I recall the specifics of his testimony or that he gave a deposition.

DURBIN: I guess the reason I'm raising this is this is a man who apparently had an impact on your life, certainly your academic life. And I'm trying to figure out where we can parse his views from your views; what impact he had on you as a student; what impact he has on you today with his views.

GORSUCH: Well, then I guess, Senator, I think the best evidence is what I've written. I've written over -- gosh, written or joined over 6 million words as a federal appellate judge. I've written a couple of books. I've been a lawyer and a judge for 25 or 30 years. That's my record. And I guess I'd ask you respectfully to look at my credentials and my record. And some of the examples I've given you from my record about the capital habeas work, about access to justice. I've spoken about over-criminalization publicly.

Those are -- those are things I've done, Senator.

DURBIN: And what about LGBT (inaudible) individuals?

GORSUCH: Well, Senator, there are -- what about them?

DURBIN: Well, the point I made is...

GORSUCH: They're people. And, you know...

DURBIN: Of course. But what you said earlier was that you have a record of speaking out, standing up for those minorities who you believe are not being treated fairly. Can you point to statements or cases you've ruled on relative to that class?

GORSUCH: Senator, I try to treat each case, and each person, as a person, not a this kind of person, not a that kind of person -- a person. Equal justice under law is a radical promise in the history of mankind.

DURBIN: Does that refer to sexual orientation as well?

GORSUCH: Senator, the Supreme Court of the United States has held that single-sex marriage is protected by the Constitution.

DURBIN: Judge, would you agree that if an employer were to ask female job applicants about their family plans, but not male applicants, that would be evidence of sex discrimination prohibited by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act?

GORSUCH: Senator, I'd agree with you it's highly inappropriate.

DURBIN: You don't believe it's prohibited?

GORSUCH: Senator, it sounds like a potential hypothetical case. It might be a case or controversy I might have to decide, and I wouldn't want to pre-judge it sitting here at the confirmation table. I can tell you it would be inappropriate.

DURBIN: Inappropriate. Do you believe that there are ever situations where the costs to an employer of maternity leave can justify an employer asking only female applicants and not male applicants about family plans?

GORSUCH: Senator, those are not my words and I would never have said them.

DURBIN: I didn't say that. I asked you if you agree with the statement.

GORSUCH: And I'm telling you I don't.

DURBIN: Thank you.

[13:00:00]

In Wang vs. Kansas State, the case involved a cancer-stricken professor.