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INSIDE POLITICS

Energy Roundtable at the White House; Trump Involved in Health Care Debate; McConnell on Senate Floor on Health Care; Health Plan Approval; Super PAC Under Fire. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired June 28, 2017 - 12:00   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:00:26] JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm John King. Lt's go straight to the White House. Just moments ago, the president of the United States at an energy roundtable at the White House where he also discusses the new Senate negotiations, trying to salvage the health care bill. Let's listen.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And Bill Walker, along with state and tribal leaders from around our great country. I'd also like to thank Secretary Perry and EPA Administrator Pruitt, both here also, for their work to help to United States achieve true energy dominance. And that's what's happening. We've made so much progress with respect to energy just in the last four months. It's been an incredible journey, I will tell you. We've learned a lot and we've made a lot.

We're here to talk about how we can create new prosperity for our citizens by unlocking vast treasures of energy reserves, which we have a great deal. Far more than anyone understood.

I'm proud to have such a large gathering of tribal leaders here at the White House. I look forward to more government to government communications with tribal leaders about the issues importance to (ph) Indian country. We love Indian country, right?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.

TRUMP: Many of your lands have rich natural resources that stand to benefit your people immensely. These untapped resources of wealth can help you build new schools, fix roads, improve your communities and create jobs. Jobs like you've never seen before. All you want is the freedom to use them. And that's been the problem, it's been very difficult, hasn't it? Huh? It will be a lot easier now under the Trump administration.

For too long the federal government has put up restrictions and regulations that put this energy wealth out of reach. It's just totally out of reach. It's been really restricted. The development itself has been restricted. And vast amounts of deposits of coal and other resources have in a way been taken out of your hands. And we're going to have that changed. We're going to put it back into your hands. These infringements on tribal sovereignty are deeply unfair to Native

Americans and Native American communities who are being denied access to the energy and wealth they have on their own lands. Many of our states have also been denied access to the abundant energy resources on their lands that could bring greater wealth to the people and benefit to our whole nation. We're becoming more and more energy dominant. I don't want to be energy free, we want to be energy dominant in terms of the word.

From my first day in office, we've take swift action to lift the crushing restrictions on American energy. Scott Pruitt has done an amazing job, an incredible job, in a very short period of time and most people love him. There are a couple that don't, but that's OK, right?

We're also putting our people back to work by doing this. Today's conversation is a chance for these state, local and tribal leaders to discuss how we can cooperate and support them even more in unleashing these domestic energy reserves. They're tremendous reserves that we never appreciated, we never understood, but now we understand them very well. I'm confident that working together we can usher in a golden age of American energy dominance and the extraordinary financial and security benefits that it brings to our citizens, not only the Native Americans, but all over the country. And we're seeing it more and more and it's happening more and more.

I just also want to tell you that yesterday we had a tremendous meeting with the Republican senators met on health care and the meeting went really well. We're talking about a great, great form of health care. Obamacare is dying. It's essentially dead. You don't give it the subsidy, it would die within 24 hours. It's been a headache for everybody. It's been a nightmare for many. And we are looking at a health care that would be a fantastic tribute to our country, health care that will take care of people finally for the right reasons and also at the right cost. It would be a tremendous reduction in cost from what Obamacare is. Yesterday in Alaska, a great state, they had a -- it was announced a 216 percent increase.

[12:04:58] So we have a plan, that if we get it approved -- it's very tough. Every state is different. Every senator is different. But I have to tell you, the Republican senators had a really impressive meeting yesterday at the White House. We had close to 50 of them. We have 52. We need almost all of them. That's never easy. But we had essentially 50 show up to the meeting and the other two are on our side. I think we're going to get at least very close and I think we're going to get it over the line. There was a great, great feeling in that room yesterday.

And what also came out is the fact that this health care would be so good, would be far better than Obamacare, and would be much less expensive for the people, and actually much less expensive also for the country. So those are a lot of good factors.

So we'll see what happens. We're working very hard. We've given ourselves a little bit more time to make it perfect. That's what we want to do. I think this has a chance to be a great health care at a reasonable cost. People can save a lot of money. We get rid of the mandates. We get rid of so much. Got rid of a lot of the taxes. All of the bad parts of Obamacare are gone. Essentially it's a repeal and replace. And I look forward to working with the Republican senators over a short period of time. I know Rick is very excited about the health care that we're talking about.

RICK PERRY, ENERGY SECRETARY: Actually, having these governors sitting around the table is a great example of it. And one of the things that I know Kim and Paul, they'd like to be able to put health care into place that they helped write and their citizens helped write, because I know these -- I don't know Bill that well, but my bet is he's the same. You give him the authority to take care of their citizens, they can have more people (INAUDIBLE) do it at less cost. I'm quite confident.

TRUMP: Well, we're sending a lot of it back to the states where it belongs.

PERRY: Yes.

TRUMP: And this will be something really special if we can get it done. Always tough.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE).

TRUMP: It's probably the toughest subject from the standpoint of approval, because every state is different, every state has different needs. We have a tremendous opioid problem and some states are more affected by that than others. But, overall, I have to tell you, this will be a tremendous plan. It will really -- we're going to have a lot of very, very happy people in this country if we can get it done. So we're working very hard on health care and I think we're going to have a great answer and hopefully we're going to have it soon. And we will keep you informed.

Thank you all very much. Thank you. Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you. Thank you --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, are you concerned about the Medicaid cuts in the health care bill?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you (INAUDIBLE).

TRUMP: It's going to be great. This will be great for everybody.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) --

TRUMP: I always say it. I always say it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, yesterday (INAUDIBLE) said he doesn't know if you still believe in climate change or you think it's a hoax (INAUDIBLE) --

TRUMP: Thank you all very much. Thank you. Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thanks, press.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President --

KING: You're listening to the president of the United States. Quite interesting, this is a round table on energy issues and energy production, but most of the conversation as the president had reporters in the room, dealing with the Senate health care negotiations. The president saying we're going to get a very beautiful bill. At the end there, refusing to answer questions about Medicaid cuts and some of the other specifics in that bill. But very telling. The president of the United States brought in a group of people to talk energy issues, understands the urgent issue of the day here in Washington is health care, spending most of his time on that.

With me in studio here on INSIDE POLITICS to share their reporting and their insights, Michael Shear of "The New York Times," CNN's Dana Bash, CNN's Sara Murray, and Mary Katharine Ham of "The Federalist."

We'll get to Capitol Hill in a minute where the negotiations that matter are ongoing. But the president did get more involved in this yesterday. When it collapsed in the Senate, the Senate Republicans decided to come down to the White House and the president is now saying he wants to be part of the solution. How open is the majority leader, Mitch McConnell, who has to somehow work some magic here, how open is he to actually having the president involved on a minute by minute, senator by senator basis?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I think that as much as the president could potentially help, the majority leader is certainly willing and open to getting that help. It's just an open question of how much it helps.

Look, I talked to senators who the president has called in the past couple of days, one senator in particular who was and is on the fence, who, you know, was very respectful but made very clear that the president's not a detail guy. And that's not his thing. It's just not. The voters didn't say, let's get him in there because he can, you know, recite policy up and down from health care to anything else. You know, he's a closer. The question is whether or not he has just enough of a grasp of the specifics to close. Because this is very complicated. And I thought it was really interesting that the vice president was up on Capitol Hill yesterday early in the morning. He was meeting with Mitch McConnell. He was meeting with Dean Heller saying, get on the bus, please, and let's -- let's try to get this (INAUDIBLE).

KING: And it was interesting, we were talking about this a bit before we came on the air and before the tape was playing there. To your point about, he's not a detail person, that is certainly his reputation and there was a story in "The New York Times" today that he was not such a detailed person. Then the president seemed offended by that and was tweeting out this morning, I know this issue, it's the fake news. And I took that, what we just saw there, the president turning an energy event into a health care event, as an extension of him trying to say, you know, I get this. [12:10:18] SARA MURRAY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I think

"The New York Times" hurt his feelings a little bit today when they said he's not a health care policy wonk, if you can imagine. Again, people didn't elect Donald Trump thinking he was a health care policy wonk and his aides have been saying for weeks that his goal is not to push for something specific in this bill. Yes, he said he wants it to be not as mean as the House bill. But his goal is to get a deal. His goal is to get something done. And now he seems, I guess, offended by that assessment. But, you know, I don't think we should be surprised to see this. I think one of the things the president has not done that maybe could give these other senators cover is he hasn't gone out and sold, you know, the merits of this plan to the American people. People are not excited about this health care bill. He hasn't gone out and said, this is going to be a better bill and make your life better because of x, y and z.

KING: But to --

MICHAEL SHEAR, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": And I -- and I --

KING: Please, go ahead.

SHEAR: I just -- I think that in some ways this is a window into is personality because it's not unique that the White House, any White House, uses the people that are the best for the moment. The previous White House used Joe Biden a lot on Capitol Hill in places that they didn't think Barack Obama would be particularly helpful or useful or in situations where Biden was better building on the relationships that he had in the Senate. But, you know, this president seems particularly offended by that in a way that maybe previous ones haven't (ph).

KING: I don't want to interrupt, but Leader McConnell's the man who has to get 50 votes. He's on the floor of the United States Senate right now talking, you guessed it, health care.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), MAJORITY LEADER: Obamacare's failure in the seven years since they passed them. I regret they continue to demonstrate an unserious attitude about all this today. But it's increasingly clear that Obamacare's negative trends will only get worse unless we act, hurting even more Americans all along the way.

This should not be acceptable to anyone sitting on the sidelines and accepting the status quo won't bring help to anyone's constituents. We have the opportunity to provide relief to those struggling families and, Mr. President, we should take it.

Senators will have more opportunities to offer their thoughts as we work toward an agreement and every member will have the ability to engage in a robust debate out here on the Senate floor. But if one thing is clear, it's this, Obamacare is a direct assault on the middle class. A direct assault on the middle class. It's getting worse and we have to act to finally move beyond its failures.

KING: All right, that was the majority leader, Mitch McConnell, talking health care on the floor. Let's get to our Phil Mattingly on Capitol Hill, because Mitch

McConnell has to round up the 50 votes.

And, Phil, stand by for just a second as I try to help you with the math here. You know it very well. But if you follow this debate, they need 50. They have 52. So Mitch McConnell can only lose two. A lot of conservatives are upset. A lot of the more moderate members are upset. Listen here. Here's a conservative, Rand Paul, saying, sure, I'm happy to negotiate, but we've already given the moderates a lot. It's time for us to get.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: We've given moderates in our caucus lots of money to keep spending. They get to keep the Obamacare subsidies. They get to keep the Obamacare regulations. They get to create a new federal super fund for insurance company bailouts. So those are all things that big spending Republicans want. Now, if they want conservatives to be on board, they have to start talking about, you know what, we promised repeal, why don't we make the bill look a little more like a repeal.

KING: And yet, Phil, at the same time, more moderates like Shelley Moore Capito, they like some pieces of Obamacare, especially the Medicaid expansion. Listen to her.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. SHELLEY MOORE CAPITO (R), WEST VIRGINIA: That, I think, is the crux of what we have to make if there is a transition, it has to be seamless. I -- you know, I think the 184,000 West Virginians, I've said repeatedly, I'm not going to drop you off a cliff. And, in my view, the Senate bill was too much of a cliff.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: And so here's your math test, Phil Mattingly. There are 52 Republican senators, nine have publicly said already they can't vote for this bill. How do you make 52 minus nine equal 50?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We'll see, I guess. Look, if you want to know where kind of the parameters of the debate are, just listen to those two quotes. You have conservatives -- what Rand Paul said is very reflective of how conservatives like Mike Lee, like Ted Cruz, like Senator Paul, like Ron Johnson, to some degree, feel about the process of this bill. They feel like they haven't gotten anything yet, even though in the working groups, behind closed doors, there were a lot of proposals that were put out, a lot of alternatives that were put out, specifically on how to deal with the regulations that Obamacare implements on insurance plans. And they don't feel like they've gotten anything. And yet you listen to Shelley Moore Capito, who makes very clear the changes that they're making, not just on Medicaid expansion, but just the overall reform to the program, which I think is incredibly important on the longer term, doesn't work for her. And she speaks for several Medicaid expansion states or states that are very dependent on the program. [12:15:05] At the core here is an ideological divide, right? Like,

this isn't something that people -- these are just minor issues that they care about a little bit and, OK, I'll come to the middle and compromise on that. These are -- these are deeply, deeply held policy beliefs and ideologies about what the government's role is in health care right now. And if they can't move anywhere off of those current positions right now, they aren't going to be able to get to 50. And I think that's what we saw yesterday, this idea was, look, we know where the parameters are, we know where all of you stand, here's some kind of possibilities that we could use to bridge the divide. And neither side was willing to start moving in that direction. We have to wait and see for somebody like Ted Cruz or somebody like Shelley Moore Capito to start to move off their publically stated positions before we'll have any idea of which way this bill is going to go and, John, if it has any chance at all of ever reaching 50.

KING: And how adamant is Leader McConnell, who was adamant at first the vote would be this week, then he canceled that plan and says he wants to vote -- he wants to have a plan by Friday and then they can look at it while they're home over the July 4th recess.

We have seen this movie before. They pulled the vote in the House and then they did figure out the compromise. However, they had a lot more people to work with in the House. They had a bigger majority. Mitch McConnell, being only able to lose two, it makes it a lot more complicated.

MATTINGLY: No question about it. Look, I think the comparison of what happened in the House and the Senate isn't quite analogue. It's just a very different circumstances right now, most notably because senators have a lot more constituents and a lot deeper held -- more deeply held beliefs about where they're actually going in this direction right now.

I think, as things are moving forward right now, the idea of having something finalized or hammered out on Friday isn't a hard and fast deadline. That's where they want to get. They want to make sure that their members have a full week to digest this. They want to make sure the CBO can score whatever they come up with next.

But, the reality is, they're still pretty far apart. I haven't heard anybody say today that they've made solid progress towards a final deal. They just know that they need to move quickly on this. The most interesting element with Senator McConnell, who was dead set on voting this week for the last couple of weeks, he and several of his top lieutenants have said repeatedly, letting this hang out there isn't going to make it any easier. The longer this is out there, the longer our members have to hear from our constituents, the harder this vote is going to be. It's a very, very personal issue for so many people. It riles up so many people. That getting this through quickly without a ton of attention, a ton of focus on it, is more helpful to getting this done than not. And so, right now, moving quickly, even if it gives themselves another 10 or 13 days, is a necessity, not a luxury, I think at this point, John.

KING: Phil Mattingly on The Hill trying to do that math. We'll see if the leader can help you on that, Phil, in the next few days.

Mary Katharine, when you hear Mitch McConnell, he essentially is warning Republicans, if this collapses, we're going to have to fix the Obamacare problems, we're going to end up in the room with Democrats and you're -- if you don't like this deal, we're in the room with Democrats, you're going to get even less. What political argument holds more sway with Republicans? And maybe it's an unfair question because Republicans are split into different groups, but that we must do something before 2018 because we cannot go into a midterm election having not kept our promise to repeal Obamacare now that we have the White House and both chambers of Congress, or the argument that you get from some of these individual members that, when I go home, this thing's not popular in my state even among Republicans.

MARY KATHARINE HAM, "THE FEDERALIST": Right. Look, this is very hard, any change and any disruption in the health care system is going to be emotional for people and it's going to be demagogued to the end of the earth. The only way that the Obama administration got away with it was by brazenly promising that nothing would change except for everything would be awesome. That was not how that turned out. And there really is a problem for the middle class. There really is a problem for overloaded Medicaid that has now 29 percent more people on it thanks to Obamacare. And you have to address those underlying issues. So I think it's just -- I think mortally it's irresponsible to completely leave it alone and let it collapse in the individual market in particularly in Obamacare, which is coming quickly. But threading this needle is really, really difficult and it may be that McConnell was calling something to say, let's get the temperature, see where you guys are.

It will get tougher when they hear from constituents. I think the question is what people are afraid of is, look, if I vote on this things, are the short-term things that you're giving moderates going to be really expensive and maybe not work. In the long term, reforms you're giving conservatives never come to fruition, which we have seen many, many times in the past. And then you end up sort of with a worst of both world situation and you're potentially blamed for the problems that Obamacare caused in the first place. That is a really tricky situation and Republicans are not sure that Trump won't change his mind in four days and say, hey, I'm -- I don't like that bill (INAUDIBLE) --

KING: Yes, and that --

HAM: Even though I asked you to vote on (INAUDIBLE).

KING: That, to the point, for anyone watching at home who's been paying attention, if you're a House member, the president celebrated your bill in the Rose Garden. Now he calls it mean. And so that's one of the calculations for senators, where does the president go on this.

But listen here, at -- Mitch McConnell wanted to do this as a Senate deal and maybe get the president's help at the end. Now the president had everyone down to the White House yesterday. You just heard the president there. The president is involved. How involved in the senator by senator, we'll see in the days ahead. But listen here, the senators now know this, and the senators who are

trying to negotiate know the president's involved and they're using him to make their argument. Listen to Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, among those worried about the Medicaid piece.

[12:20:00] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BILL CASSIDY (R), LOUISIANA: If we do what President Trump suggested, they would put more money back in to try and improve the coverage for those Trump voters who were told on the campaign trail they would have coverage, their pre-existing conditions addressed. If we take care of those Trump voters, which is to say all Americans, but just the representative that voted for Trump, that believed his pledge, then we'll do the right thing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: How many times can you say Trump? How many times can you say Trump and make -- and that's smart politics to say if --

BASH: It is. It's very smart politics.

SHEAR: Right. Right.

KING: If you -- you need the president to, you know, be on board with this at the end. It's like they're trying to send a signal to the president that this is about your vote. This -- the Medicaid piece, the lower income piece --

BASH: Yes.

KING: The elderly piece, about Trump voters.

BASH: And this -- this speaks to a much bigger fundamental problem with the way the Senate Republicans rolled this out. And I still kind of can't believe that this is how it happened. Never mind it was done in closed doors -- behind closed doors and all that, fine. But when it was time to make it public, they just threw it online.

KING: Right.

BASH: There was no press conference. There was no even attempt to frame this piece of legislation as good for the American people. Not even close. So what happened was the people who are against it zoomed in to fill that vacuum and so it has been defined on the negative side. No even -- on one's even trying to do it on the positive side, which is part of what you just heard the senator do there.

KING: Right. And to your point, a new poll out today, NPR/PBS "Newshour"/Marist poll, overall, 17 percent of Americans support the Senate Republican plan. Thirty-five percent of Republicans support the Senate Republicans. But when a third -- when only a third of your own party is on board --

BASH: They don't know what it is.

KING: Even if it's a great plan, they haven't sold it.

BASH: Exactly.

MURRAY: But that's what's perplexing to me, what Mary Katharine was saying about -- OK, so these, you know, Republican members are going to go home. They're obviously going to get an earful because people are emotional about health care. And what are you going to say beyond this repeals Obamacare? OK, it repeals Obamacare and -- and then --

KING: But it doesn't repeal Obamacare.

HAM: It doesn't.

KING: It doesn't repeal Obamacare. It fixes Obamacare.

MURRAY: Well, right, but they can -- but they can go home and they can say that, you know, whatever, we promised you repeal Obamacare, that's what we're doing with this, but then what? Like then, you know, it doesn't cover more people. The CBO score says your premiums will go down but ultimately you will end up paying more out of pocket and it will be a far worse plan. So what's the other half of that promise that Republicans are trying to make?

HAM: Well, I think this is where -- this is where a president who was involved in the details and who did have an ideological sort of bent and new about this stuff would be helpful because, look, there's not going to be a sexy argument here. The sexy -- and the sexiest argument you get is, look, we're doing really hard work and we're doing what you sent us to Washington to do, and sometimes that requires this very hard kind of legislation where everybody doesn't get what they want but that's what we're doing. We're working to get (INAUDIBLE).

So, you can say that. The other argument you can make is, look, on Medicaid and Obamacare, these problems exist. Medicaid was not working for people before you added more people to it who, by the way, are able bodied and mostly not in poverty as opposed to the venerable class that was supposed to serve, which it was not serving. And you can go to people and say, please give me the argument for not reforming this program, that it's not working for the most vulnerable, and it's making us broke. Trump is not the guy who makes that argument.

KING: Right. And the problem is, he won't make that argument, and you have 30 Republican governors who would be the natural echo chamber for Republicans in Washington, except most of them oppose this plan. And the what -- some of them are being quite team players but some are out there speaking out against it, to the communications part here has been a disaster for the Republicans. So we'll look at the details of the bill as negotiations continue.

Up next, though, one super PAC close to the president attacks a fellow Republican. Another ignoring facts attacks the special counsel. The president's political strategy is the source of constant complaints and head scratching from his fellow Republicans.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [12:27:57] KING: Welcome back.

If you were with us a few moments ago, you heard the president talking about his meeting at the White House yesterday with Republican senators. They were there to talk health care. And, for some, to deliver a complaint directly to the president. The complaint was about this ad run by a super PAC called America First Policies. That super PAC led by former Trump campaign operatives.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): Senator Heller has made his position clear, that it's unacceptable to us and millions of Americans suffering under Obamacare. Heller is now standing with Pelosi. Unacceptable. If you're opposed to this bill, we are opposed to you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Senator Heller happens to be a Republican, one of the most vulnerable Republicans in 2018. America First Policies later said it would pull that ad as long as Senator Heller is engaged in compromise negotiations.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. RON JOHNSON (R), WISCONSIN: I've heard those ads have been pulled and I'm really glad they've been pulled. I think every last Senate Republican is glad those ads have been pulled -- or are glad.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Did it alarm you that that even happened in the first place?

JOHNSON: I did not think it was a very good strategy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: You heard from a Republican senator there, not a very good strategy. That super PAC ad, hardly the only complaint and curiosity about the political strategy or lack thereof of the Trump White House and the president's super PAC allies.

This has been a complaint from day one, that a lot of people from the campaign who didn't commit to the administration went out and started these super PACs, and there are several of them, two big ones and some other ones, and a lot of Republicans scratch their heads just about every day and complain, why aren't they helping the party instead of attacking a Republican in this case? Why aren't they promoting the president's agenda in a positive way about what he's trying to do, as opposed to negative attacks on the establishment in Washington, and we'll get to another ad in a minute that attacks the special counsel. Where is the coherent Trump political strategy?

SHEAR: Well, look this is a kind of perineal issue, right?

KING: Right. [12:29:46] SHEAR: Presidents and members of Congress often have different interests and the -- and members of Congress often complain, as they certainly did in the Obama years, that the sort of political operatives at the White House aren't necessarily in sync with the ones on Capitol Hill. It's often a kind of a difficult dance. This seems particularly clumsy, right? I mean this -- here you have -- the Republicans need to maintain their majority in the Senate. As you've said today, they only have two. They're only up by two.