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Trump Health Care Executive Order; Trump Tax Plan; Jones Act Waiver; Private Plane Use by Cabinet; Trump on NFL Change. Aired 1- 1:30p ET

Aired September 27, 2017 - 13:00   ET

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


WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Hello, I'm Wolf Blitzer. It's 1:00 p.m. here in Washington, 8:00 p.m. in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, 9:30 p.m. in Kabul, Afghanistan. Wherever you're watching from around the world, thanks very much for joining us.

On the defense, after the disaster, President Trump praises his administration on its response to Puerto Rico, but millions of Americans still begging for more help.

Angry and embarrassed, the president livid after his chosen Senate candidate loses in Alabama. Why Republicans are now facing a civil war.

And the U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis and other dignitaries targeted by the Taliban while in Kabul. We have new details on that attack.

But, first, there is breaking news out of the White House. I want to go to our Senior White House Correspondent Jeff Zeleny who's joining us right now.

Jeff, the president getting ready to leave for Indiana. Major speech on tax reform. What are you learning?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, that's right, the president is leaving for Indiana just momentarily from Andrews Air Force Base. He just did leave the White House here.

But he did talk to reporters before he left about a variety of subjects. He talked about the NFL again. He talked about the Alabama Senate race, of course, which he is stinging over the loss last night of the incumbent Senator Luther Strange.

He also talked about health and Human services secretary Tom Price who, of course, has been embroiled in a growing series of questions about his use of a private jet. The president said, we'll see, when asked if he would fire --

BLITZER: Hold on for a moment.

ZELENY: -- his Health and Human Services secretary.

BLITZER: Hold on for a moment, Jeff. We just got the tape of the president's remarks, Q and A with reporters. Let's listen in. QUESTION: Do you have faith, Mr. President, in Mitch McConnell after

Luther Strange's defeat?

TRUMP: Well, we have a man who's going to be a great senator. And I -- I -- I -- I'm very happy with that. I spoke to him last night. I never met him. I never spoke to him. I'm very happy with him.

And I have to say, Luther came a long way from the time I endorsed him, and he ran a good race. But Roy ran a really great race. And I know what they did with Mitch, and they used it very much in the campaign. But he worked hard, and I'm sure things will work out.

I just wanted to say, though, on health care, we have the votes for health care. We have one senator that's in the hospital. He can't vote because he's in the hospital.

QUESTION: Are you talking about Cochran?

TRUMP: He can't vote because he's in the hospital. We have two other votes that are coming, and we will have them. But the problem is we can't have them by Friday, because the reconciliation ends on Friday. So we'll have to do it in January or February.

But I feel we have the votes. I'm almost certain we have the votes. But with one man in the hospital, we cannot display that we have them. Plus, some people want to go through a process just to make themselves feel better. That's OK.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

TRUMP: We're talking about health care. We're talking about health care.

QUESTION: On health care, Mr. President--

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

TRUMP: I was looking into it, and I will look into it. And I will tell you personally, I'm not happy about it. I am not happy about it.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

TRUMP: I'm going to look at it. I am not happy about it, and I let him know it.

QUESTION: Do you have confidence in Secretary Price.

QUESTION: What about Leader McConnell? Is he in trouble?

TRUMP: You'll have to ask senators about that.

QUESTION: Do you have confidence in Leader McConnell?

TRUMP: No, you're going have to ask senators.

So here's what I've been (ph) saying -- we're going right now to Indiana. We're going to introduce a tax plan that's the largest tax cut, essentially, in the history of our country. It's going to be something special. You already know some of the numbers. We're going to give you some of the additional numbers. But on health care, we have the votes. We can't do it now, because we have somebody in the hospital. And we have great respect for that gentleman, by the way. He's been a -- he's a fantastic man. We are going to--

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

TRUMP: Yes, that's right.

QUESTION: Why does it matter (inaudible)?

QUESTION: Sir, who's in the hospital? What senator are you referring to?

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: In other words, he can't come here and vote because he's in the hospital.

QUESTION: Who is in the hospital?

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: Sorry. Wait, wait. In the hospital.

So we're going to do it in January or February because, as you know, we have the votes but we can't go longer than Friday.

What we're going to do is we will do the block grants. We will do the health care. We will get a longer process going through the couple of people that did want to see more process, even though they're a yes vote.

But very importantly, I have also -- during this period of a couple of months, I'm also going to meet with Democrats, and I will see if I can get a health care plan that's even better.

So I will negotiate with Democrats. But from the Republican standpoint, we have the votes. We'll vote in January, February or March.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: Are you considering an executive order?

TRUMP: I am considering an executive order or associations, and that will take care of a tremendous number of people with regard to health care.

And I'll probably be signing a very major executive order where people can go out, cross state lines, do lots of things, and buy their own health care. And that will be probably signed next week. It's being finished now. It's going to cover a lot of territory and a lot of people. Millions of people. (CROSSTALK) TRUMP: John, go ahead.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

TRUMP: I think we're there now, John. I'll be honest.

You look at the statement put out by Alaska, by -- right, you saw that, by Lisa, you look at the other couple of statements -- you know, we're only -- we were only one off, maybe two, but we can't vote now, John. You probably didn't hear me, because, as you know, one of our yes votes is in the hospital. I can't take -- I can't take -- wait -- I can't take him out of the hospital.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

TRUMP: I do have confidence in him, yes. I do have confidence in him.

QUESTION: Even though he's--

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: But it's really not up to me; it's up to the Senate.

But I do have confidence in him. I will say, they used him in the race. And I was very honored by the way I was treated in the race, but they used him in the race. John, they used him in the race. And you know, -- (inaudible) one of those things.

QUESTION: (INAUDIBLE) on tax reform, does your plan help the wealthy too much? (inaudible)

TRUMP: My plan is for the working people, and my plan is for jobs.

QUESTION: You wouldn't benefit out of your tax plan?

TRUMP: No, I don't benefit. I don't benefit. In fact--

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) benefit?

TRUMP: In fact, very, very strongly, as you see, there's no -- I think there's very little benefit for people of wealth.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

TRUMP: The state taxes, one of the things -- and that's if you look at it, for farmers and people with small businesses.

QUESTION: Mr. President, what do you say to the things that Roy Moore has done in the past (inaudible)?

TRUMP: I don't see it. But we'll talk to you about that at a different time. So here's the point. The point is--

(CROSSTALK) QUESTION: (INAUDIBLE) he's such a firebrand, and says these controversial things?

TRUMP: The point is this. Health care, we have it. We have the votes. Because of reconciliation, we have to wait til January, February or March, which we'll do.

But in the meantime, I will negotiate with Democrats to see if we can make a bipartisan bill.

Yes, John?

QUESTION: With Democrats?

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

TRUMP: Very much a red line. In fact, I wanted to start at 15 so that we got 20. It just -- the numbers were -- 15 was so low, we didn't take in the revenue. But I wanted 15, so we got 20. Twenty is my number, so I'm not negotiating that number. I really--

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: I am not going to negotiate.

That's the number I wanted to get to. I wanted to start at 15 to get there. We really had to start there, because of the complexity of the numbers. But 20 is a perfect number.

QUESTION: On Puerto Rico, Mr. President, why not lift the Jones Act like did you in Texas?

TRUMP: Well, we're thinking about that, but we have a lot of shippers, and a lot of people that work in the shipping industry that don't want the Jones Act lifted. And we have a lot of ships out there right now.

And I will tell you, the governor was very generous yesterday with his statements, and so was the mayor of San Juan. Very, very generous with their statements.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

TRUMP: So we have a lot of people. And I'm going there on Tuesday, as you probably have heard.

And Puerto Rico's a very difficult situation. I mean, that place was just destroyed. That's not a question of, "Gee, let's dry up the water, let's do this or that." That place was flattened. That is a really tough situation. I feel so badly for the people.

QUESTION: (INAUDIBLE) travel ban? TRUMP: Yes.

QUESTION: First of all, can you explain to us why Sudan was removed? And second of all, how does the travel ban work in North Korea (inaudible)? TRUMP: Well, the people -- yeah, the people allowed certain countries -- but we can add countries very easily, and we can take countries away.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

TRUMP: And as far as the travel ban is concerned, whatever it is, I want the toughest travel ban you can have.

So I'll see in Indiana. I'm going to go over some more points that have not been talked about. Are you all going? Is everyone going?

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: Is there room? Is there room for us?

QUESTION: Mr. President (inaudible) NFL story (ph). I know this is something you've been talking about a lot. You said (inaudible) in Charlottesville that those folks had the right to protest. Why doesn't Colin Kaepernick have his First Amendment rights?

TRUMP: I think the NFL is in a box. I think they're in a really bad box. You look what's happening with their ratings. You look at what's going -- I mean, frankly, the only thing that's doing well in the NFL is the pregame--

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: -- because everybody wants to see what's going on.

The NFL is in a very bad box. You cannot have people disrespecting our national anthem, our flag, our country. And that's what they're doing. And in my opinion, the NFL has to change or you know what's going to happen? Their business is going to go to hell.

QUESTION: The First Amendment (inaudible).

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: Not at all, no. No, no.

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: We have to respect our national anthem. We have to respect our country. And they're not respecting our country.

And most importantly, the fans agree with me. I mean, largely, the fans agree.

But we have to show total respect for our national anthem, for our flag, for our country. We have to do it.

And you can -- there are plenty of places, and there are plenty -- personally, when they're protesting during a football game, I think they can find better places. But they cannot do it during the national anthem. QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

TRUMP: I am going to see. I'm looking at that very closely. I am not happy with it. I will tell you, I am not happy with it.

QUESTION: (INAUDIBLE) fire him, sir?

TRUMP: We'll see.

BLITZER: All right. So, there's the president just a videotape a few minutes ago. He's walking to Marine One. Marine One will be taking him -- has already actually taken him over to Joint Base Andrews for the flight to Indiana where he'll be delivering a major speech, outlining his proposals for tax cuts, tax reform. And he made some significant news there, saying he's now settled on 20 percent tax for businesses coming down from 35 percent originally. He wanted 15 percent. Much more on that coming in.

Also some other major news, the president saying next week, he probably will be signing an executive order that will allow Americans to purchase health insurance across state lines. That would be a major change in the way health insurance is purchased in the United States right now. Lots more.

I want to bring in Jeff Zeleny, our White House Correspondent who was listening very carefully. Often, we couldn't hear the exact questions; we could hear his answers. But let me walk through some of these issues with you. He was, among other things, strongly defending his rebuke of the NFL.

ZELENY: He was indeed, Wolf. And, of course, he, again, is saying the NFL is in a box over this because of low ratings. And, again, what we have been told by private conversations he's been having, he does not regret talking about the NFL and the anthem at all. But we also get the sense his advisers hope he starts talking about something else.

And boy did he, Wolf. I think the biggest headline out of this perhaps is he talked repeatedly about health care. He did not acknowledge that Republicans have suffered a major defeat once again this week.

This was the week that they were going to try, once again, to revive the efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare by that deadline on Friday. He kept saying, time and time again, there's a senator in the hospital. Well, the senator we believe he's referring to is Senator Thad Cochran of Mississippi. His office told us earlier today, Wolf, that he indeed is not in the hospital but he is recovering from some procedures that he had.

But the reality here is the votes simply were not there. We did not hear the president address that specifically. But about that executive order next week, saying he would sign what he called a major executive order, allowing people to buy insurance across state lines. He has long talked about this as an idea. And, in fact, he wanted this to be part of a health care bill. But that is something that would -- was not able to be in it because of how they were trying to do it in the reconciliation process in this year's budget.

But, Wolf, if the president does sign that next week, that certainly would be significant. But it does not get the Republican Party to its stated goal of repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act.

BLITZER: It's something that Senator Rand Paul said he couldn't vote for the legislation that didn't even come up for a vote this week. He really was pushing forward -- pushing for, among other Republicans as well, the ability for Americans to purchase health insurance across state lines, presumably the argument goes there would be more competition.

ZELENY: Right.

BLITZER: It would bring down the price. There's been some discussion, some debate whether the president can make such a significant change through an executive order, as opposed to legislation. I assume that will be -- that will be debated once the president signs that executive order.

ZELENY: It certainly will be debated, Wolf. And that is exactly what Senator Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky, has been talking about.

And we know, despite the fact that Senator Rand Paul opposed this bill, he does talk to this president quite frequently. And he is one of the few Republicans who oppose it who the president has not been angry about. So, we know that they've been talking and working toward something and this is indeed that.

But, Wolf, you're exactly right. The idea that this could be done through executive order is something that, A, concerns many people on Capitol Hill. They believe it's their purview to pass legislation. And it also, like most executive orders do, it triggers potential lawsuits or challenges as well here.

So, the fine print is not done on this executive order at all. The president may have gotten slightly ahead of this, again, trying to talk about what he is doing on health care.

[13:15:25]

Not the addressing the fact that Republicans, controlling the Senate, controlling the House, have failed, once again this week, once again this week to do their stated goal of repealing and

replacing the Affordable Care Act.

BLITZER: Yes, they also tried to put a positive light on the election in Alabama, the Republican primary last night, suggesting that Judge Roy Moore would be an excellent Republican candidate, even though he strongly supported Luther Strange.

Very quickly on the taxes. The president said wealthy Americans would not benefit from the tax cuts he's going to put forward. But one thing that he is putting forward, correct me if I'm wrong, is elimination of the estate tax, meaning there would be no tax on the estates of individuals. A very wealthy individual like himself, he says he wouldn't benefit, but he would tremendously benefit if the billions of dollars that he had in his estate was given tax free to his children.

ZELENY: They certainly would, Wolf. And that's just one thing that both sides, the House and Senate, negotiators on this group of six, it was called, would like to see done, the estate tax done away with. But that is going to be controversial in some corners and it is going to be -- make it more difficult in some instances to get Democratic votes on this.

But it is also the speech that he's going to be giving this afternoon in Indiana is going to outline principles for tax reform, but it is going to be left to the tax writing committees on both the Senate and the House to hammer out the fine print on this. And there is still the door being left open to raising taxes specifically on some of the wealthiest Americans. And the president is OK with that being discussed, we are told, because he wants this to be seen as a middle class tax cut.

Steve Bannon, when he was here at the White House, really was urging the president at the time to consider increasing taxes on the wealthiest Americans here. So that is going to be one of the rubs here in this.

But don't look for a lot of numbers and specifics on this tax plan this afternoon. This is something that must be hammered out here. But we did hear the president saying he would accept a corporate tax of 20 percent. That is a change. He initially had been pushing for 15 percent. But still, Wolf, a big decrease from what it is right now.

BLITZER: And he says he will not negotiate that 20 percent. He originally wanted, as you correctly point out, 15 percent. He settled on 20 percent, down from 35 percent.

ZELENY: Right.

BLITZER: That's not negotiable in the coming weeks and months as this tax legislation presumably will go through Congress.

Jeff Zeleny, thanks very much.

ZELENY: Sure.

BLITZER: The president also said this will be the largest tax cut in the history of our country. We'll do the numbers. We'll see if he's right on that.

But there's lots more to assess.

Rene Marsh, I want to get with -- get your reaction to what the president said on it's a pretty arcane, complicated issue, the Jones Act. The people in Puerto Rico, 3.5 million Americans right now are suffering and many of them want the elimination, a waiver of what's called the Jones Act. The president said that's not happening.

RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION AND GOVERNMENT REGULATION CORRESPONDENT: Right, exactly. So for people who don't know what it is, it essentially is shipping restrictions at U.S. ports that essentially says that only ships that are owned, operated by Americans can essentially go from port to port delivering goods.

BLITZER: Has to have an American flag.

MARSH: Right. Exactly.

But what people in Puerto Rico, members on Capitol Hill are calling for is for that to be waived so that even foreign vessels could come in and bring in supplies. They're saying they want it expedited. Also, they believe that they will be able to get access cheaper supplies if this is waived -- the Jones Act is waived.

Department of Homeland Security right now today telling us that they are reviewing the request from members in Congress. They haven't made a decision yet. They simply say that their hands are tied. Here's why. They say the only way that they can waive the Jones Act is if it's a national security issue. They say they can also waive it if there is a fuel shortage.

And DHS says at this point there is no fuel shortage in Puerto Rico. They say the problem is distributing all of the fuel that is there on the island. So as it stands right now, they are not waiving the Jones Act.

But what really stood out to me is when we just heard the president speaking there. He was asked about the Jones Act. And I want kind of pull up what he said. He said, a lot of shippers, a lot of people in the shipping industry, they don't want to waive the Jones Act. That will strike people in -- let's just say it will rub people the wrong way because here it is he's talking about the shipping industry and not -- the shipping industry now wanting the Jones Act to be waived. But then you have these images in Puerto Rico for people who are saying we need supplies, we need help. Anywhere we can get help, we will take it. I will guarantee that comment from the president will not be taken --

BLITZER: Because it sounds sort of cruel, you know, to hear that from the president. These people are suffering. What's the difference if a British flag ship or a French flag ship comes in and provides badly needed supplies right now to the people of Puerto Rico? The shipping industry will survive. They're in good shape.

[13:20:06] MARSH: Exactly.

BLITZER: But the problem isn't the shipping industry, the problem are the people of Puerto Rico.

MARSH: Exactly. And so the tone of that comment is certainly going to strike people the wrong way.

But it also seems like it's out of step. He doesn't understand the concept of the Jones Act, because it goes against everything that the Department of Homeland Security told us today, which is, it has nothing necessarily to do with whether people want it in the industry or not, it is about the law and the law states that DHS can only waive this if there is a national security issue or fuel shortage.

BLITZER: Let's get some more analysis. Shannon Pettypiece is with us, White House reporter for "Bloomberg News."

This comes at a time when the president suffered a major humiliation, the loss of his Republican candidate in the Alabama Republican primary. He tried to put his best foot forward on that issue. And also the collapse of this latest revision of repealing and replacing Obamacare. And as a result, the president is in a tough situation right now.

SHANNON PETTYPIECE, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, "BLOOMBERG NEWS": He's clearly coming out and trying to show, hey, look, we're doing something, we're trying to do something, this executive order that Jeff was talking about to expand health insurance across state lines. I am almost certain that will be challenged legally as to whether or not the president has authority and that's no silver bullet for the issues in the health insurance market. It only addresses the individual market, which is not where most people get their health insurance from, and it would take a long time for a national insurance market with all the regulations and networks to get set up. So that's not going to be any sort of panacea for people in 2018. But, still, it's something he can do to try and show he's making progress.

And, of course, they're now getting the focus on this tax reform plan off of the NFL that we -- he spent the weekend talking about that when they could have been talking about tax reform and jobs, trying to get the message today back on to tax reforms which, you know, is one of the things that's been propping up the stock market and propping up these employment numbers.

BLITZER: David Drucker is with us as well, our CNN political analyst, senior congressional correspondent for "The Washington Examiner."

When the president says wealthy Americans are not going to benefit from the tax cuts that he's putting forward, but the highest level of tax cuts -- individual tax cuts will go down from 39.6 percent to 35 percent. That sounds like a benefit.

DAVID DRUCKER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, they're making the argument that they're going to do with away with some of the deductions and carve-outs that have allowed the so-called wealthy, people who make a lot of money, to benefit in ways that when you don't make as much money, you don't have as many tax deductions, you can't take advantage of all of these on a per capita basis.

I think what's really interesting here though, Wolf, is regardless of how this tax reform plan turns out, -- and we don't know if they're going to be able to get this done when you look at how health care went -- that President Obama and the Democrats I feel have really won the political argument about what tax reform and health care reform for that matter is supposed to look like because you look at President Trump and Republicans on The Hill talking so much about not allowing the wealthy to benefit. And that is a Democratic talking point and a piece of Democratic party philosophy, liberal philosophy, that usually was up against the Republican conservative philosophy of, if you make your money legally, you work hard for it, you should get a tax cut. And the Republicans have now moved away from that.

One last thing on this. This framework that they have released today doesn't include one particular thing, and that is the income levels that is going to decide which rate bracket you're in. In other words, the government has not yet told Americans who's going to be considered rich and therefore who doesn't get a tax cut, and that is a very big deal.

BLITZER: And this goes against the grain of so many conservatives, so many Republicans, who say, you know what, if you cut -- you should cut taxes for everyone, including the wealthy.

DRUCKER: That's correct. That has always been a philosophical underpinning of at least the Republican Party since Reagan. Even though the tax cut plans have always remained progressive under Republican administrations, even though they got into the same ball game of bestowing preferred tax breaks to industries that the government picked, there was always this philosophy that, if you earn your money, you deserve a tax cut because it's the government's money, not yours. A lot of them -- that was appealing for a long time to a lot of Americans. Republicans have now thrown in with the democrats. They agree that the wealthy should not get a tax break. And they're going to decide, they say, who is too wealthy to deserve a tax cut and who is not wealthy enough that they're willing to give them a tax cut.

BLITZER: And Maya MacGuineas is with us as well, president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget.

So what's your reaction to what the president just told us? There's a lot -- a lot of news in there.

MAYA MACGUINEAS, PRESIDENT, COMMITTEE FOR A RESPONSIBLE FEDERAL BUDGET: Yes, there's a lot of news in there and clearly they are going to need tax reform to move forward because the Republicans need a political win. And tax reform is really difficult to do because what it means is it's structured in a way that's going to help grow the economy. Something the president has made a priority and it needs to be a priority because growth in this country has a huge headwind right now, which is the aging of the population. So the economy needs all these policies that we can put together to create growth.

[13:25:07] Here's one thing that doesn't grow the economy, though, borrowing a lot of money and adding to our debt. And the plan that came out today -- we're just getting the details, and like we said, they're not details on where the rates are phased in.

BLITZER: Still fairly sketchy.

MACGUINEAS: Yes. So the outline, though, is clearly going to be a tax cut of above $5 trillion and a portion is paid for that by broadening the tax base. But a big portion isn't. So it looks like they're going to be borrowing beyond $2 trillion and adding that to the debt.

So, to the Republican narrative, that's sort of switched. One, they're moving away from tax reform into tax cuts. That has always been something a lot of Republicans liked, but they've also liked spending cuts. And that's how you don't add to the debt.

That's something we don't hear about anymore at all. We don't hear about spending cuts. We don't hear about entitlement reform. If what this ends up being is just a big tax cut, it is going to add to the debt massively for a party that's been really strong in saying we shouldn't do that and they are going to be stuck on how these numbers don't add up.

DRUCKER: And entitlements are two-thirds of government spending baked into the biggest driver of the debt. There's a big disagreement about what you should do about Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security going forward. But if you don't want to address those issues, and you do want to reduce the amount of money that the government takes in, then you're banking on economic growth generating the extra revenue.

A lot of Republicans believe that is possible. A lot of people in the business world believe that it's possible. But it's not something that they can necessarily bank on. And so they're going to have to just see if it works, if they can even get this done. There are a lot of tough votes in there, removing the deduction for state and local taxes, and there are a lot of Republicans in blue states that are going to have to explain this to their constituents. And so I think this is going to be a very tricky thing for them to do.

BLITZER: In other words, if you think repealing and replacing Obamacare was hard, just wait for significant tax reform.

The president was blunt as far as some members of his cabinet using private planes.

Rene, I know you've been looking into this as well. He said, I'm not happy about it. He was specifically asked about Tom Price, secretary of Health and Human Services. I'm not happy about it. The president's being sort of blunt and critical about this controversy which has come up. It's not just Tom Price. It's others as well.

MARSH: Right. He said he's not happy about it but he stopped short of saying anything more. I mean what will happen? There has been this question about, is Tom Price safe or not. Our reporting here at CNN is it appears for right now he is safe.

BLITZER: Safe in terms of holding on to his job?

MARSH: That's correct.

But going back to this issue of the private planes, I mean, I had been speaking with HHS, Health and Human Services, for quite some time and they said that, you know, the approval came from the legal counsel within HHS. And you just heard the president saying, not happy about it. So clearly they didn't give the approval. But, you're right, the microscope is on Tom Price, as well as other

members of his cabinet. Steve Mnuchin. There's also reporting out there that Scott Pruitt, over at the EPA, also used a private plane.

So, you know, with an administration that's talked a lot about cutting the pork, there are now I.G. -- I don't want to say investigations, but inquiries into their use --

BLITZER: Inspector general.

MARSH: Right, inspector general inquiries looking into their use of government resources.

BLITZER: It's a very sensitive issue.

Another sensitive issue, Shannon, the whole NFL uproar. And you heard the president, once again, he's not backing away from this at all. The NFL is in a box. Their ratings are down. The only time their ratings are up, the pregame shows, when you see who's going to be kneeling, who's going to be standing, who's going to be respecting the flag. He says you cannot have people who don't respect the national anthem.

He's not backing away from that at all.

PETTYPIECE: No.

BLITZER: And I suspect he sees that politically as a winning issue for him.

PETTYPIECE: Yes, I think he does see this as an issue that he's winning and that -- an issue where the American people are on his side with. And I think this is one of these classic examples where he says, you know, liberals and the media, they're the only one who have a problem with this and listen to the fans boo and look as the jersey sales and look at the ratings.

And even before this really caught -- well, just as it was starting to catch wind, you know, the White House, they weren't necessarily unhappy that this story had taken over because they felt liking this wasn't an issue. It was a little bit of red meat to throw to the base, you know, to show to them that he's still the guy they put into office despite Nancy and Chuck and some of the criticisms about the wall and DACA. It was something to show to the base to remind them, hey, this is why I like this guy.

BLITZER: Yes, that story is certainly not going away, as well.

Once again, lots of issues coming up during this informal ten-minute q and a with reporters as the president was on the South Lawn of the White House getting ready to board Marine One.

All right, we're going to continue to follow all of the breaking news, including some devastation and a lot of desperate people right now. Food, medicine, drinking water, all in very short supply as Puerto Rico waits for more assistance from the federal government. CNN is live on the ground. [13:30:04] Also, I'll speak live with a member of the House

Intelligence Committee on news that the special counsel, Robert Mueller, is working with the IRS right now in the Russia investigation. Are the president