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Trump Punts Nuclear Deal Decision; New U.S.-Iran Strategy; Trump Ending Subsidies. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired October 13, 2017 - 12:00   ET


[12:00:40] DANA BASH, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm Dana Bash. John King is off today. Thanks for sharing part of your Friday the 13th with us.

President Trump teases his big announcement on the Iran nuclear deal.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: In a little while I'll be giving a speech on Iran, a terrorist nation like few others and I think you're going to find it very interesting.


BASH: That will come just hours after the president delivered another blow to Obamacare, cutting subsidies to insurers. Democrats call it sabotage. The president calls it a political promise kept.


SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: It was exactly the right thing to do. These are massive bailouts to insurance companies.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Lawsuits, are they likely?

CRUZ: There may be lawsuits, but they're not going to win.


BASH: And a longtime Republican senator and Trump critic makes a big decision about her political future.


SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: I want to continue to play a key role in advancing policies that strengthen our nation.


BASH: As a candidate, Donald Trump repeatedly pledged to dismantle two things President Obama considered his signature achievements, Obamacare and the Iran nuclear deal. Well, today, President Trump is taking steps to fulfill those promises. Later this hour, the president will announce a new strategy on Iran. And he's using his executive power to unravel President Obama's Affordable Care Act.

We're going to have more on that with the panel in just a moment. But first I want to start with CNN's chief national security correspondent Jim Sciutto.

And, Jim, we talked about this on the program yesterday. We have talked about this behind the scenes here. The president plans to decertify that Iran is complying with the nuclear deal, but he is not scrapping the deal. It's a significant difference. Explain how this was put together.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: That's right. A significant difference for now. It's a punt, but to torture this metaphor, the ball's still bouncing around on the field.

This is how it works. He decertifies it, punts to Congress. It is up to Congress. Congress has the power to re-impose sanctions on Iran. And, frankly, it's not clear that that's what they're going to do, that there are the votes for that.

What the administration's asking Congress to do short of that is to set new trigger points into the agreement where, for instance, if Iran doesn't comply with new restrictions, those would be the trigger points and then Congress would -- the U.S. would, in effects, unilaterally re-impose sanctions or impose new sanctions on Iran.

The trouble is, to do that, to pass legislation to oppose new trigger points, that requires 60 votes in the Senate. So you would need Democrats. You would need eight Democrats to get on board with this. That's something that's not very clear would happen. In fact, you might say that's a very high bar for that to happen. At which point, if Congress doesn't deliver on the pathway that the president is asking them to do so, the president could then just tear up the deal, as he has promised here.

So -- so this is a punt, but it's a punt with consequences. And it's very unclear now, Dana, how this ends up. Today, the Iran deal is not being torn up. At a later date, if Congress doesn't act, as the president is demanding that they do, that's a real possibility.

BASH: Jim Sciutto, thank you for that reporting.

And here at the table to share their insights and reporting, Michael Shear of "The New York Times," the AP's Julie Pace, Perry Bacon with an excellent tie of FiveThirtyEight, and "The Federalist's" Mary Katharine Ham.

I'm not saying that your tie is not cool, too, Michael, I'm sorry.

Let's pick up where Jim left off, on the notion that this is certainly a big deal that he -- the president is going to say he's not going to certify that Iran is complying with the tenets of the nuclear agreement.

But I want to show you something that Aaron David Miller, who is an expert on the Mideast, tweeted. He said, to paraphrase Seinfeld -- which I'm sure Steve Bannon is loving right now. He probably gets money for that -- new Iran policy is show and nothing. Decrt -- meaning decertify -- will leave deal intact and more talk than action against Iran in the region.

[12:05:00] He has a point.

JULIE PACE, "ASSOCIATED PRESS": He does have a point. If you take Aaron's point and Jim's point, kind of get to where we are right now, which is that the president is taking a step that was created by Congress under the Obama administration. By decertifying, he is taking a step for U.S. policy, but it doesn't actually touch the actual Iran deal.

It does, though, create this uncertainty here. You have a lot of allies, European allies, other partners in the deal who worry that he's basically putting the U.S. on a slippery slope. And what we've seen, though, is pressure on this administration from overseas, pressure from internal adviser who want the president to stay in the deal. They think it's not a great deal, but it's the deal we have right now. So now the focus turns to Congress. There's a lot of pressure on Bob Corker, on Tom Cotton, to come up with some kind of arrangement that will allow the president to say, we are now taking tougher action on Iran. They're going after Iran on all of those things that are not a party to the nuclear deal. They are support for terrorist groups, financing of terrorist groups. Also lets the U.S. basically stay where they are.

BASH: Yes. I mean giving it to Congress, what could possibly go wrong, right?

I want to get you on that, but also Tillerson, Rex Tillerson, the secretary of state, just said about this Iran deal and about what the president is going to announce today, this is the pathway, we think, that provides us with the best platform to attempt to fix this deal. Is that wishful thinking?

MICHAEL SHEAR, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Well, I -- look, I think partly it is because of -- the entire -- the thing that undergirds the entire Iran deal was a global agreement between a whole bunch of nations, right? And the idea of it was that, yes, there would be ways for countries to make an assessment that Iran wasn't living up to the agreement, but the idea was that it would be done in concert with all of these other countries. That if Iran was not living up to the deal, that there would be a sort of consensus that that was the case and that action would be taken kind of -- you know, together.

What wasn't contemplated rally was this idea that one country, and especially the United States, would simply sort of figure -- decide on a win that isn't working and that the rest of the world was going to disagree. And I think that's where the end game is so uncertain here. Whether Congress does it or whether Trump does it, what happens after that? The rest of the world has clearly indicated they're not going to be in the same place (INAUDIBLE).

BASH: Well, on that note, another thing that Tillerson said to reporters, he said, on the question of whether allies and those who have signed the signatories of this can trust the United States again, his response was, I think they can trust we will never do a deal this weak again. We will do a deal, but it is going to be a deal that meets the needs of what we see as preventing nuclear proliferation.

MARY KATHARINE HAM, "THE FEDERALIST": Well, you point out that it wasn't contemplated that this could happen. It should have been contemplated because while this was being enacted, there was not exactly small, bipartisan problems with it.

BASH: Absolutely.

HAM: And that was the reason it did not go through Congress in the way that a treaty would.

BASH: Chuck Schumer didn't support it, the Democratic leader.

HAM: Right. So I think it was -- it was sort of naive to assume that everything would go fine and that, you know, someone who would adopt this agreement exactly would be elected. That is not what happened.

Now, Trump could have ripped it up on day one if he had wanted to. He has not done that. So I think that signals that he probably does not want to. Kicking it to Congress, as you say, I'm not sure exactly how that goes. They've not been super successful at passing things. But because of this past bipartisan problem with this deal being too soft on Iran, I wonder if there's a possibility there. I just don't know in the era of Trump how that -- how that plays out.

BASH: That's exactly right because there is bipartisan disgust with Iran, with the -- never mind the notion of them getting a nuclear weapon or nuclear capability, but also about the fact that they are state sponsors of terrorism. That's what Democrats and Republicans argue, that they have this ballistic missile program that they're -- that they're pushing. And those are the kinds of things that the Trump administration and many people in Congress on both sides of the aisle want to include and make a much more holistic strategy. And that's what we're going to hear from the president today. It's going to be hard to see some Democrats disagreeing with that.

PERRY BACON, FIVETHIRTYEIGHT: I think that's true. It's sort of odd, though, to have -- we're going to announce that the president is deferring to Congress essentially. It's a very -- I mean all this buildup, this big speech in which he isn't really going to do anything or take any real big action, it almost seems like he doesn't want to certify this deal, so he doesn't want to do that a third time. He doesn't want to break it up either. And it's odd -- you know, usually we look for the president to like make the big decision. And he seems to be not willing to do that in this case.

BASH: That's exactly right. And I was told point blank that the first two times that -- because the law that Congress passed requires a president to certify every 90 days, the first two times he did it, he did it, you know, holding his nose with his, you know, fingers behind his back.

PACE: Right.

BASH: I mean h was not happy about it, but he did it. And this -- this time he said, uh-uh, let's come up with a -- or his advisers certainly said, let's come up with a broader policy.

Talking about Congress, it's not bipartisan yet, I don't think, but Senator Bob Corker, who has been in the news a lot, the Senate Foreign Relations chair, and Tom Cotton, who's probably one of the most conservative and the most hawkish in the Republican caucus, do have proposed legislation that they've already been working on. They call it fixing the Iran deal. And among the things that it would try to do is effectively end the sunset, which is a big problem. There you see for -- for a lot of conservatives.

[12:10:25] But here's the key thing on the screen there. Automatic snapback of U.S. sanctions should Iran go under a one-year breakout period and move closer to a nuclear weapon. The sanctions, that is sort of the key area that Congress has been playing with because, as part of the nuclear deal, Congress got rid of the -- of the sanctions. And what the Congress is saying, in addition to these other things that you see over here about bolstering the verification and eliminating their centrifuge program, some of the things that many people thought were problematic with the deal. The key thing that Congress can do is reinstate sanctions.

PACE: And sanctions is actually -- re-imposing those sanctions is actually the thing that would kill the nuclear deal.


PACE: Certification, decertification is, again, just a technical term that Trump has to --

BASH: Because, just to go back in time, the -- part of the deal was Iran agreed to this, you know, to limit its nuclear capability as long as the U.S. and other countries, but particularly the U.S., stopped sanctioning the country.

PACE: Exactly. And so the act of the U.S. re-imposing is something is actually something that a lot of people were worried that Trump would do at this phase of the game right now. So he is putting this on Congress. I mean he will have some support, bipartisan support probably, for the idea of coming up with a window, a specific window, a timeline for the Iranian nuclear program where the Congress could say, we see this progress, we see there within this one-year breakout point now. we will go and re-impose sanctions. Again, that would completely undermine the deal. How Iran would react to that. How the Europeans would react to that. You have European countries that are going into Iran, that are making business deals, that are -- that are putting money, you know, on the ground there. How they would react to it I think is also uncertain, but that is the thing that would kill this (INAUDIBLE).

HAM: Well, but --

BASH: And this reality check about Congress, let's just remind people what they have on their plate. The budget. Tax reform. DACA, meaning dealing with the dreamers. Obamacare. And this Iran deal. And there's probably a reason why all of those so far have incomplete grades.

HAM: Yes, for sure. I mean this is very up in the air. I would say the thing that, you know, critics, including Democrats, had an issue with the Iran deal was that it made that breakout period a fait accompli and sanctioned by us, which was what people were upset about. So a -- a snapback in response to that would make perfect sense and to make it simpler and codified by Congress actually is something that could have gotten Democratic support in the past. We shall see in the future.

BASH: Fascinating.

All right, everybody standby. We have a lot more to talk about, including the president ending what he calls bailouts for insurance companies, but it may also affect some of the very people who voted for him.


[12:17:24] BASH: Republicans in Congress may have failed to repeal Obamacare, but the president is using his pen, executive power, to make significant changes. President Trump says he will immediately stop paying a key set of Obamacare subsidies to insurers. Those subsidies were created to help nearly 6 million lower income Americans to be able to afford coverage. They were projected to cost the government nearly $7 billion this year alone. And this makes a huge difference in out of pocket costs for those folks.

Just, for example, on a traditional silver plan, for those who are just above the poverty line, the subsidy lowers the average deductible to $225 a year. Without it, it is $3,600 a year. You can see the big difference it makes.

Now, the president touched on this earlier today when he spoke at the Values Voter Summit.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You saw what we did yesterday with respect to health care. It's step by step by step. We are taking a little different route than we had hoped because getting Congress -- they forgot what their pledges were. So we're going a little different route. But, you know what, in the end it's going to be just as effective and maybe it will even be better.


BASH: One of our colleagues here said, today is, elections have consequences day. And this is a perfect example of why.

HAM: Yes. I mean this is another example of the weakness of the pen and phone presidenting by Obama because these subsidies were never actually created by Congress. And that's the problem. Which is why when the House sued, the Republican House sued, it went to a federal judge. The federal judge was like, actually, yes, these have to be authorized by Congress and so you can't just give $7 billion to insurance companies to cover up the costs of these plans to help them.

BASH: Because it was done by executive order to begin with.

HAM: Exactly.

So I think, first of all, on a constitutional level, you've got to get rid of that and figure out a different way to do it. If you are going to do these backdoor payments to insurance companies, you should do it by the letter of the law.

Then the question becomes, how does this affect people who were -- those subsidies were covering them? It goes to the insurance companies, not directly to the folks, and there are federal laws that require the insurance companies to work on some of these cost sharing prices themselves. They're just not going to be doing it with taxpayer money right now.

BASH: Right.

HAM: But it is an open question exactly what that looks like.

BASH: No, you're exactly right. But in the meantime, knowing the way Congress is working or not working on this, let's just look at another fact about how this impacts real people here. We're talking about individuals earning less than $30,000 a year. A family of four earning less than $61,000 a year.

BACON: I mean, she's right, the subsidies are just not necessarily clear the people's costs will go up, the insurance company's costs will go up. So I think we should distinguish that (INAUDIBLE).

[12:20:08] The executive order yesterday may change --

BASH: But have you -- have you met anybody -- have you met an insurance company? They don't suck up the cost.

BACON: They will -- you know, they will subsidize some of this.

HAM: But there actually some restrictions --

BASH: No, I know. I know. I know.

BACON: But in this -- in this part -- part of the law.

But I do think overall, if you look at what's happened these last seven or eight months in terms of -- from stopping from limiting enrollment funds, to not encouraging the law, to criticizing it in public, we are looking at a place where three years from now we may have an Obamacare repeal, we may have an Obamacare repeal in some ways done through the executive branch. And that's kind of what Tom Price was doing. That's what (ph) his replacement will do. And Trump campaign -- like he said -- I think he said pretty much what he's doing, which is, we couldn't do the repeal through Congress, but we're going to change the law in the ways we think should happen through the executive branch. BASH: But before you -- I want you to weigh in on this as well.

Understanding that this is a specific subsidy to insurance companies, and we're not talking about Medicare expansion, which really helps -- helps a bigger swath of people. The president was also consistent on not hurting working people and people who need it the most. Listen to what he told me about a month into his campaign, July of 2015.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES (JULY, 2015): Now, at the lower end, where people have no money, I want to try and help those people. And I don't think there's anything wrong with that. You've got to be able to help the people. Can you imagine, you have no money and you get sick, like somebody else, and you have no place to go? And, you know what, if I lose votes over that, or if I don't get a nomination over that, that's just fine with me.

BASH: Because it would be government assistance effectively.

TRUMP: It has -- you have to help people.

What do they do? They're sick and they're supposed to sit in their homes and just die or whither?


SHEAR: Look, I think that it's just so striking to see that in contrast with what the president has been doing, as Perry described it, sort of step by step. I think there's two things to think about. First of all, while there are technical reasons to think that the insurance companies aren't going to be able to simply take away the subsidies to parts -- to some of these people because the law requires them to continue to pass it on, they can and have already raised premium prices to cover the fact that they're going to have to suck up the $7 billion that they're now going to have to eat during 2018.

The other thing I think we should talk about here is the politics of this. I mean, you know, the president was interesting when he -- when he -- when he talked today about how, well, Congress hasn't done -- they forgot their promises. Well, do you know who he's talking about? He's talking about Republicans.

BASH: Yes.

SHEAR: He's not talking about Democrats. He's talking about Republicans who said they were going to repeal Obamacare and they've forgotten their promise.

BASH: That's right.

SHEAR: And 2018 is just around the corner. And he is setting up a dynamic where he's doing what Perry said, that he's chipping away at the law, but they're not putting anything else --

BASH: Right.

SHEAR: You know, or not significant amounts in place.

BASH: Right.

SHEAR: And so what are these Republicans going to run on when they face their constituent who have seen big premium increases or coverage losses or insurance companies have left?

PACE: Some Republicans -- some Republicans are actually feeling like Trump is putting them in a position to have to be the ones that actually save Obamacare, or the outlines of Obamacare. That if he create this gap where he's taking things away and there's no solution being put on the table, that they are the ones that are going to have to work within the confines of the system, in part because they realize that Congress is kind of in a rough spot in terms of being able to do a broad repeal right now. That's an uncomfortable position for them, particularly heading into a midterm year.

BASH: And they have Democrats pounding.

PACE: Exactly.

BASH: I just want to read you just a few samplings of the tweets that we've seen last night and this morning. Chuck Schumer, the Senate minority leader, it is a spiteful act of vast pointless sabotage levelled at working families and the middle class in every corner of America. Bob Casey got the sabotage memo saying Congress must act to reserve this sabotage. If Donald Trump is unwilling to follow the law, then Congress must force him to. And then Brian Shats (ph) said after this, sabotage, Republicans own the price of health care totally. If they want to lower cost, legislative fix is ready for a vote.

And retiring Republican Congressman Charlie Dent, who as many who are retiring feel able to say whatever --

BACON: Freedom.

BASH: Or freedom, whatever they want, kind of agreed with the idea that Trump -- it's Trump's problem now. And Republicans. Take a listen.


REP. CHARLIE DENT (R), PENNSYLVANIA: We, at the end of the day, will own this. We, the Republican Party, will own this. And -- so I believe, if nothing else, as Republicans, we --

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: And that, of course, is different from what we've heard from Republicans so long, right? For so many Republicans, they say, no matter what, this is on Obama. This isn't on -- Trump himself has said it. You say that now Republicans own it?

DENT: Well, Barack Obama is a former president. President Trump is the president. He's a Republican. And -- and we control the Congress. So we own the system now. So we are going to have to figure out a way to stabilize this situation. You know, Barack Obama is no longer in the equation. So this is -- this is on us. (END VIDEO CLIP)

[12:25:12] BASH: He's not wrong.

BACON: I think Trump would hint, if you asked him, would say if this market is not working, this market was not working when I came in. This market is not going to work even more now. That will inspire Congress to actually pass a bill along the lines of what I think (INAUDIBLE). That's his long-term strategy. It may not work.

I would say yesterday's executive order is not that everyone's costs will go up or down. It depends on who you are. My guess is, if you're young and pretty healthy, tomorrow -- yesterday's executive order may reduce your cost some. But if you have some pre-existing condition, it may be harder to get insurance than it was before.

I think part of the issue here is like (INAUDIBLE) we're redistributing money and income a little bit. It's not as if this policy's going to hurt everyone or help everyone. It's not -- Trump is aimed in a lot of ways. Obamacare was very focused (INAUDIBLE) Obama (ph) was designed to really push money towards low income people with a lot of rules on them. And I think this idea may, if you're in the upper middle class, may actually -- (INAUDIBLE) may actually reduce your cost some. And the cost sharing is changing in a lot of ways.

BASH: OK, everybody stand by. Do you want to say -- go ahead. Give me -- give me your final thought.

HAM: No, a lot of this is -- frankly was self-sabotage, particularly with the subsidies, which we knew was like not allowed. So he's following along on that front. He will face some of the weaknesses of the phone and pen presidenting, exactly as Obama did, with the executive order stuff which, yes, could cut down on some mandates and offer more choice to people who do -- who could get like less expensive, less overhead in their health insurance plans, and maybe attract more people to the market and that could make a difference. But it could be wiped out by the next president.

BASH: That's very true.

HAM: That's how this works.

BASH: See, I'm glad I let you get that in.

Up next, the key Senate Republican who opposed her own party's health care bills decided today if she wants to stay in that job. Stay with us.