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INSIDE POLITICS

Deadline Looms For GOP Healthcare Bill; Republicans Struggle To Win Over Murkowski; Alabama Senate Race Enters Final Day Of Campaigning; Trump Vows To Campaign For Moore If Strange Loses; Bannon To Make Rare Public Appearance At Moore Rally; Top Democrat: White House Stonewalling Over Russia Probe Records. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired September 25, 2017 - 12:30   ET

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


[12:30:03] JOHN KING, INSIDE POLITICS HOST: -- profound concerns. Several conservatives also now say they are nos or leaning nos, and so there's a late scramble to rewrite the bill with that deadline just ahead.

CNN's Phil Mattingly tracking what some call routine changes, other call sweeteners, and critics still see as an effort of flat out buy votes by favoring some states over others.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, look that's true on all counts except for perhaps the first one, and there's no question about it. The changes that were made in this bill, look, nothing gets the pulse pounding like looking through a 146 pages of legislative text at 10:00 p.m. on a Sunday night. But the changes aren't subtle, they are very, very defined to try and target specific lawmakers.

Take Lisa Murkowski for example. As you noted, still undecided on this bill and the changes that came in last night and will post this morning. The state of Alaska would get a significant bump-up in the federal matching funds for Medicaid, up to 25 percent because it is defined as a low poverty state. But it would also get certain carve- outs from funding because it is a low density state.

Included in it is also an automatic enrollment for any Native American or Alaskan native who has benefited from the Medicaid expansion program directly into the Medicaid program. These are three very specific changes that almost entirely involve Alaska alone. And are the types of things that Lisa Murkowski has been very concerned about.

Now, look, Alaska has a very unique health system. The cost of care up there is extraordinarily high, the size of the state and the population density are obviously major problems. But there's no question about why these changes were made.

Now John, flip it to the side of things, conservatives, people like Ted Cruz, like Rand Paul, like Mike Lee. They are most concerned about regulations. Well, that sections change as well, loosening the regulations making it significantly easier for states to cut back on some of the crucial protections that were in ObamaCare.

Again, for conservatives, this is an issue about premiums. They don't want healthy people paying more because they're in a larger risk pool. That's exactly what they're targeting here. We've seen them trying and kind of thread this needle multiple times before. But there's no question about it.

They're scrambling for votes. They are changing the legislative text to specifically try and get senators on board. We'll see if it works, but as of now early returns are, not yet, John.

KING: Not yet, not yet, the deadline is Saturday and Senate does not like to be here on Saturday so let's see what happen. Phil Mattingly in Capitol, appreciate it.

Let's come in the room. This is your day job. Do you have any dispute with Phil's math? This is nowhere, right?

MANU RAJU, SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This is nowhere and I totally agree with what Phil said. I always agree with Phil Mattingly.

Look, Susan Collins is not going to vote for this bill. She's waiting in for this late afternoon announcement by the Congressional Budget Office to get what they're calling a preliminary analysis of the bill. That analysis, though, is not going to have the coverage numbers. It's not really going to get into the details about cuts to Medicaid spending.

It's only going to look at the basic deficit projections which probably would be favorable for the Republicans, but it's not going to get into what the nitty-gritty and what a lot of people want to hear, including what John McCain wants to hear. That's why John McCain is voting against it.

I think you can probably expect other Republican senators, perhaps Collins to point to that as well saying that I need more information before I can vote for it. She's already skeptical about the way it was structured.

Perhaps Lisa Murkowski comes down the same way. But it's interesting to hear Trump saying, touting how good this is for the states. The only information they're relying on right now is from the Health and Human Services Department, his own Health and Human Services Department. There is no independent analysis that both parties can rely on, and that's one of the big reasons why it'll probably fail this week.

ELIANA JOHNSON, POLITOCO: To be fair, John McCain has given a lot of reasons why he voted against this bill. But I think -- I'm just struck by how to add the process has been on all of these health care bills. President Obama spent two full years trying to pass ObamaCare and then the next six years paying the price in defending it in terms of Senate and House seats. But Republicans expected to come in and repeal this apparently in three or four months. And now they have spent another three or four months trying to do the same, and mounted zero public campaign to try to rally the country around doing this.

Nobody has really owned these bills. I mean, three weeks ago nobody was talking about Graham-Cassidy and all of a sudden it's supposed to consume public attention. I just think the process on this has been completely botched from top to bottom and that's ultimately going to be the reason why this fails by a couple votes.

KING: It's a fantastic point because they ran in -- since the day ObamaCare passed, they ran in every election since and benefited. You're right, the Democrats lost the House, the Democrats lost the Senate. Look at the state legislator seats, the governors' races. ObamaCare played a lot in the Republican gains and yet they had no plan when they actually got power. They said give us power we'll do this. They probably didn't take the --

JOHNSON: They expected to do it in like two or three months rather than devoting a full year or two years to really working out all the kinks. Mounting it in a big public pressure campaign, building support for it. I mean, the whole thing doesn't make any sense to me.

JEFF ZELENY, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: They've been nowhere, outside groups came from nowhere.

KING: (INAUDIBLE) tonight.

ZELENY: Yes. And the president, I mean, for all of his talk about how Republicans can't get this done, we were told by White House officials that he would actually become more involved in this. He's not been involved in this at all.

[12:35:07] But in terms of selling this, this among Republicans alone, never mind Democrats, has like a 26 percent approval rating or something. So that is extraordinary in our latest polling here. But, I think some people were surprised that Senator McCain last week by not supporting this.

Someone I talked to who knows him very well and Lindsey Graham, he travels with him a lot, that it explains the relationship. Senator McCain has seldom followed Lindsey Graham, that's usually the reverse. Lindsey Graham looks up to Senator McCain and follows him in some respect. But Senator McCain was never going to vote for this and right about, you know.

KING: And it's not just about, you know, if you're a Liberal Democrat, you think of John McCain as a conservative. If you're a Republican and conservative, you think that John McCain is on the left of the Republican Party nationally. That's why Susan Collins even more to the left of him, Lisa Murkowski maybe between the two. You think of them as the more liberal moderate Republicans.

But that's not the only problem. Listen here, Ted Cruz, says no.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: Right now, they don't have my vote and I don't think they have Mike Lee's either. Now, I want to be a yes. I want to get there because I think ObamaCare is a disaster --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But there's work to be done.

CRUZ: But the price to getting there, I believe, is focusing on consumer freedom --

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: It's a mess when you know -- the math isn't great for Republicans because they know, they can only afford to lose two. So you got to either lock up the right or lock up what they would consider the left or the moderates.

KIMBERLY ATKINS, BOSTON HERALD: Right.

KING: If you got (INAUDIBLE) on both ends, you're done.

ATKINS: That's true. I mean, and to, you know, it's important to point out that Senator Cruz made that comment after it was pretty clear that there were four against it. So it gives him and other Republicans a little more room to voice their concerns about it. But --

KING: And leverage, it's still an open call, it's still an open game? Give us more.

ATKINS: Exactly. So this bill -- but that's the problem. You have folks like Rand Paul who don't want this extra stuff that they're giving to Kentucky in an effort to woo him. He actually wants these black rams to be smaller. He wants some more conservative plan and other conservative thinks too.

But one thing that Republicans seems to be united behind is just, we want repeal and replace ObamaCare. We want to kill this plan that President Obama had. But the thing that Americans want is they want healthcare that's more affordable. They want their premiums to stop rising.

They want fewer out of pocket costs. And they have not come forward with a plan that does that which the way it has this decimal approval ratings. The only solution is the one that seems politically impossible which is Republicans and Democrats getting together and fixing what is wrong with the healthcare bill.

RAJU: And I agree with Kim, the process was completely vast from the start. Mitch McConnell, when it came to the Senate side, thought it would be smarter to cut this deal behind closed doors, unveil it, jammed it through. But a lot of Republicans who probably have not buy in, pushed back on that. And also the president to deserve significant amount of blame here, when he came out and said the House bill that he endorsed was mean.

KING: Yes.

RAJU: It really caused other Republicans to say, well, the president is going to give me cover for such a difficult though --

KING: Right.

RAJU: -- when it becomes even more unpopular.

KING: Yes.

RAJU: He's probably going to turn on a criticism.

KING: The president calls you up now and says, I need your vote, you're like -- but, you know, the House guys gave him a big White House ceremony and then called them all mean.

(CROSSTALK)

KING: Look, I mean, top seats, those who'll be (INAUDIBLE) in 2018. We'll see, we got one week to go. Washington likes nothing more than a deadline.

And a reminder, CNN's Jake Tapper, Dana Bash moderate a discussion tonight on this very issue, the future healthcare in America. Republican Senators Lindsey Graham and Bill Cassidy, the office of the last bill standing will debate former Democratic presidential candidate, Bernie Sanders and Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar. That's tonight 9:00 p.m. Eastern only right here on CNN.

Coming up, it's a big vote in Alabama, it's more like a big Senate race. The president has a candidate and he has a plan B.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:43:04] KING: Welcome back. Today is the final day of campaigning for a special Republican runoff for Alabama senator race. The pitched the interim Senator Luther Strange against conservative former state chief justice, Roy Moore. Also pitch President Trump against most of its base.

The White House is throwing a lot of last-minute weight into this race. Sending the Vice President Mike Pence to Alabama to campaign for Senator Strange. Likewise, the president's former chief strategist, Steve Bannon will make a rare public appearance to campaign for Judge Moore.

Now the President surprised a lot of people, he went down on Alabama, Friday night as we discussed earlier of the program. He says, Luther Strange is my guy and then he hedged his bet.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And I told Luther, I have to say this, if his opponent wins, I'm going to be here campaigning like hell for him. But I have to say this, and you understand this, and just look at the polls, Luther will definitely win.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Luther will definitely win. But if he doesn't, I'll be here to campaign for his opponent. I don't know (INAUDIBLE). I did talk to somebody from an outside group very involved in this race who says the polling is getting closer in the last several days. That it's a very close race but that Justice Moore is still leading right now. Polls are not always great, anyway, in a special election, a runoff election.

So if it's close, then it's close, and we'll see who turns out. But the president -- it's a gift to get the president of the United States to commit a campaign of your Republican primary. But if he says out, don't worry, Jeff, if you lose, I will not back you.

ZELENY: That's exactly the message they're hoping. But look, he's (INAUDIBLE) because he's watching what's happening there. A lot of the people who are normally with him, who are on the opposite side of this, either way the president can spin this as a win.

If Senator Strange loses, he can say, I helped him out, you know, he was down 20 points. And he'll blame it on Mitch McConnell and others on the establishment.

But the -- we'll see what happens. I would advise everyone to not pay much attention to these polls as you said earlier.

[12:45:04] We -- you know, I mean, we've seen this happen time and time again, in specials, particularly and others as well. It's incredibly hard to poll.

If he gets 5,000 more people out to the polls because of his presidential visit, that could change things or vice versa here. But there were a lot of people at the rally on Friday who came to see the president who surely will support Roy Moore. Or as the president call them this morning a "Rain Moore" on the Alabama radio station.

RAJU: But John, the concern is, you know, here for the Republicans that Moore will be in a very controversial candidate in the general election, of course it's Alabama, the Republicans will be heavily favored. The concern is he has a very controversial pass. He has a penchant for saying things that puts his own party over defense. And that's why the Mitch McConnells of the world are doing what they can to get Luther Strange elected to this seat.

And it's interesting that Trump today saying, Mitch McConnell is not Luther Strange's friend. Mitch McConnell's super PAC has spent millions to try to help Luther Strange because, frankly, that there are concern about Roy Moore and what he may do down take it for the rest of the party.

KING: The argument to get the president down there was, if you put Roy Moore in the Senate, we haven't been able to pass ObamaCare. But if you put Roy Moore in the Senate, you think we're going to be able to pass anything because the agitation against the Republican leadership. That's recommends the president, I guess this is in myself interest to do this even though most of his base is against it.

I just (INAUDIBLE), we're talking earlier about having a plan to sell something. You will see how nimble people are in politics. While the president is down there he says, I'll come back and campaign for more if my guy loses. This PAC supportive of Roy Moore jumps on it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. LUTHER STRANGE (R), ALABAMA: Who does the president support? The president supports me.

TRUMP: Because I have to tell you something, hasn't been there very long, so with Luther. But I don't know, I met him once and I might have made a mistake. And I'll be honest, I might have made a mistake. I don't know him, I don't know him, I don't know him.

STRANGE: The president supports me.

TRUMP: But I don't know him. I could be sitting at home right now.

If his opponent wins, I'm going to be here campaigning like hell for him.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The conservative PAC paid for this ads and are responsible for its contents.

(OFF-MIC)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ATKINS: Of course. Of course that's what he did.

KING: Well played.

ATKINS: I mean, we watched that rally from all that equivocating that the president was doing, yes, I'm here for this guy. And even when you -- when the president speaks about Luther Strange himself, the reason for his support is because Luther Strange has said nice things about him and supported him.

It was about the president, it really wasn't about this race in Alabama. As you said they wanted -- Republicans wanted them to go down there and sort to try to fight for Luther Strange because they think it's in their interest. But at the end of the day, this is not a fight that President Trump's heart is truly in. And if --

KING: And if Roy Moore wins, the reason Steve Bannon is going to do a pub -- high profile there is because he hopes with Breitbart News and his involvement and the involvement some of his friends with deep pockets to get other challenges, the anti-status challenge to come forward another races as Arizona and be on.

Let's see what Steve Bannon said yesterday in St. Louis. "It's the reason I left the White House, Trump needed a wing man to go against the Republican establishment. It's not the Democrats, we'll get to them and we'll beat them like we beat Hillary Clinton. But the first thing you've got to get through is a corrupt and incompetent Republican establishment".

If Roy Moore wins and Steve Bannon can make the case, I was a part of this. He's going to go from state to state looking -- starting in Arizona where we talk about this story before. He's already trying to get a stronger conservative candidate and against Jeff Flake saying look, we can do this. It will cause a mess in the Republican Party. He thinks a necessary mess. JOHNSON: You know, I do think this race is kind of a microcosm about a bizarre political moment where you have Mitch McConnell pouring tens of millions of dollars in to -- to back a candidate who's saying he's going to come to Washington to oppose Mitch McConnell. And you have Donald Trump supporting a candidate who -- or opposing a candidate in Roy Moore who says, I'm the real guy who is going to channel, you know, Donald Trump.

So, it is this bizarre amalgamation of facts down there, but it's true. If Roy Moore wins, the concern is really that he could inspire lots of other anti-establishment candidates. And if there's a weird way in which Trump's base is pit against the interest of the Republican Party, he is, you know, he is his own party in many ways.

KING: He is own his party. It's a great way to put it. We'll keep watching that race against -- today is the last day, we count the votes tomorrow. Stay right here, (INAUDIBLE) two days ahead.

Up next, ask and you shall not receive. What the White House won't turn over is angering some congressional committees investigating Russian election meddling.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:53:40] KING: Welcome back. A key House Democrats said it's time for Congress to stand up to what he sees as White House stonewalling in the Russia election meddling investigation. The House Intelligence Committee wants documents related to the president's decision to fire the FBI Director James Comey. But so far, no cooperation.

So in an e-mail to CNN, the committee's top Democrat, Congressman Adam Schiff says, quote, the White House must fully comply immediately, if it does not, the Committee should on a bipartisan basis, subpoena the records.

Manu Raju this is your story. Wishful thinking by Adam Schiff or does he think he can get the Republican chairman and the other Republicans on the committee? They do run the show to actually subpoena this White House.

RAJU: Well, he has actually had support from the Republican who is running the investigation, Mike Conaway. This is related to (INAUDIBLE) documents or conversations that James Comey had with the president. Both Schiff and Conaway did sent a letter to the White House asking for this information be turn over by the summer.

They did not do that. Now, there's going to be subpoena treat is now coming public. But that's just not -- that's just one of a number of outstanding request that bipartisan committees have sent to the White House, everything from Jared Kushner's security clearance information to information about the dossier that Kushner's (INUADIBLE) agent complied about Trump ties to Russia.

The questions is, does the White House agree? But the standoff is certainly intensive. [12:55:04] KING: And the New York Times, since September 17th, Ty Cobb, a White House special counsel says, quote, if we give it to Mueller, there's no reason for it to ever get to the Hill. If that's your philosophy, I just think this committee is going to be waiting a while.

ZELENY: I think that's absolutely right, but I mean, we'll see. I'm not sure if that's --

KING: And they hold up.

ZELENY: I don't think it's necessarily what happen.

RAJU: And one of the things that's point out to me that this -- that decision on responding to congressional inquiries comes from Don McGahn's office, the White House legal counsel more so than it does from Ty Cobb, the special counsel. But if you're the White House, you know that the Mueller probe is -- in a lot of ways, a lot more serious, you don't want to mess with the Mueller.

KING: A couple ways to look at this. Number one is, if you don't give them the documents, they don't have much to chew about. The other way is, if you don't give them the documents they'll pull on fight. This cloud never goes away. So, we'll see how this whole plays out.

Thank for joining us here in the INSIDE POLITICS. See you back here this time tomorrow about a news pop in today. Stay with us, Wolf Blitzer in the chair after a quick break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, I'm Wolf Blitzer. It's 1 p.m. here in Washington, 6 p.m. in London, 1:30 a.m., Tuesday morning in Pyongyang --