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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER
Trump Moves to Eliminate Obamacare Entirely; Trump Looks to Weaponize Mueller Report Against Democrats. Aired 4-4:30p ET
Aired March 26, 2019 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: So many people were turning them in.
I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thanks for being with me today. We will see you tomorrow.
"THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER" starts now.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: President Trump now ready to use Robert Mueller as an election weapon.
THE LEAD starts right now.
Is the devil in the details? President Trump today doing a victory lap, even before we have seen the full Mueller report. Now the attorney general saying we will see it in weeks, not months.
And he doesn't have name recognition, and I mean that literally, but presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg is having a moment. Can Mayor Pete use this explosion of buzz to emerge from the pack?
Plus, it was a picture-perfect flight, until the pilot told them, welcome to Edinburgh. How on earth did a passenger jet end up landing in the wrong country?
Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Brianna Keilar, in for Jake today.
We begin with the politics lead.
It's expected to take weeks, not months, for Attorney General Bill Barr to make a version of Robert Mueller's report public, a Justice Department official is now telling CNN.
But, in the meantime, President Trump, who has been attacking the Mueller investigation as a witch-hunt for years, is apparently not ready to let it go.
Several advisers tell CNN that President Trump plans to turn the investigation and Democrats' accusations of wrongdoing into a new battle. Democrats, however, are split on how and when to move forward. Many are calling for the full report to be released, even as they say it's time to move on.
And with 2020 looming, CNN's Kaitlan Collins reports, the president and his campaign think they have struck political gold.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The Mueller report was great. It could not have been better.
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Trump turning his victory lap into a political strategy today.
TRUMP: This should never happen to a president again. We can't allow that to take place.
COLLINS: Six sources telling CNN that, after two years on defense, the president now plans to weaponize Robert Mueller's findings against Democrats and those who ordered the investigation.
TRUMP: It went very high up, and it started fairly low, but with instructions from the high up.
COLLINS: The president also taking aim at the media, claiming that, "For two years, they pushed the Russian collusion delusion, when they knew there was none."
The president isn't the only one going on offense. Senator Lindsey Graham, who spent the weekend golfing with Trump, calling for investigations into the Obama Justice Department and Hillary Clinton.
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: When it comes to the FISA warrant, the Clinton campaign, the counterintelligence investigation, it's pretty much been swept under the rug, except by few Republicans in the House. Those days are over.
COLLINS: Even though Graham admitted he was the one who urged Senator John McCain to turn over the dossier on the Trump campaign's alleged ties to Russia to the FBI.
Behind closed doors today, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi telling her caucus they should wait to see the full Mueller report, instead of relying on Attorney General Bill Barr's letter.
According to an aide, Pelosi said: "We cannot make a judgment on the basis of an interpretation by a man who was hired for his job because he believes the president is above the law."
But some Democrats say it's time to move on.
REP. JAMES CLYBURN (D), SOUTH CAROLINA: And I believe that the Mueller report has been done. That's a chapter that's closed.
COLLINS: And focus on other fights to come.
REP. DEBBIE DINGELL (D), MICHIGAN: I mean, we have got real work to do. And every week, we get off on some subject that doesn't matter to the working people in my district in the Midwest. COLLINS: Not all Democrats are on board with that game plan.
Freshman Rashida Tlaib is pushing ahead with her resolution to impeach the president, despite what the party's leadership has said.
QUESTION: Is impeachment off the table at this point?
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Impeachment is not on the table until it is on the table.
COLLINS: Now, Brianna, during that lunch on Capitol Hill today, the president told senators that he felt he got a clean bill of health from the Mueller investigation and also added that he's still OK with it being released.
Now, as far as that release goes, a Justice Department official told CNN that, right now, there are no current plans for the White House to get an advanced copy of that ahead of its public release -- Brianna.
KEILAR: All right, Kaitlan Collins at the White House, thank you.
And we're now hearing that it's going to be weeks, not months, for this Mueller report to be publicly available.
I wonder, Ana, does President Trump take this win and use this momentum for his agenda, or does he squander the capital by gloating?
ANA NAVARRO, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Is that a real question or a rhetorical one?
KEILAR: It's a bit rhetorical. Go on.
NAVARRO: Let's see. Donald Trump spike the football, claim victory, claim exoneration, even when it's not the case?
KEILAR: Does it squander capital that he could otherwise spend?
NAVARRO: Look, he can't resist himself, right?
He feels that this is a big victory for him. And certainly I think the first part him, Mueller, having found no collusion is a big victory for him.
And there's -- and this has been something that has been an obsession of Donald Trump's for the last two years. There is no way that he's going to go, OK, next, let's turn the page and focus on more important, pragmatic things, like the policies that affect Americans. No, he's going to spend some time on this.
KEILAR: Could he do both things effectively, do you think, John? Are you concerned that, at this moment, look, he's riding high, he should take this and do something productive with it for himself, for the Republican Party?
JOHN JAMES (R), FORMER U.S. SENATE CANDIDATE: Well, there's no question.
He certainly has an extensive amount of political capital out of this. No collusion is a big deal. He's been saying it for quite some time. But I believe the quicker that we can turn away from 2016 and turn toward making sure that we have voter integrity and making sure that we ensure the integrity of our elections in 2020, I think that is what we need to shift our focus to.
And I think that will be very essential.
KEILAR: I think a lot of people would agree with that, the integrity and the elections.
PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Because that's just far too sensible for him to actually adopt. John's exactly right.
I think back to after Iran-Contra, where President Reagan was dinged, but ultimately cleared. As soon as it ended, he said, we need to get back to business.
I worked for President Clinton. I actually helped write the statement he gave after the Senate found him not guilty in that impeachment trial. And he said, we have work to do. Let's come together, heal the nation, move forward.
The difference is, those two men, while very different, were agenda- driven presidents, right? Ronald Reagan wanted to cut taxes. President Clinton want to expand education and health care.
This president it's more attitude-driven than agenda-driven. And the attitude is, I think, frankly, self-centeredness and grievance. So there's nothing he would rather do than whine about the investigation into his campaign.
KEILAR: What about Democrats, Kirsten? How should they be handling this as they look to move forward? Because it's not a great few days for them.
KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN COMMENTATOR: Well, I mean, there's a lot of disagreement about this.
So, I tend to think that they should -- I have always said that I think, for impeachment, that would have to be -- it's an incredibly high bar, right? And so there would have to be some really clear slam-dunk reason.
And so it doesn't look like that exists. Now, we don't have the report. I do think the report should be released. But I think the Democrats should be careful that you don't want this to turn into something that just looks like they're just digging and digging and digging and trying to find something, because we do have an election coming up.
So there is an opportunity for the voters to weigh in on this. And so I think that it could end up distracting from areas where voters are really interested in particular issues, and just turning it into Donald Trump being able to act like a victim who is being persecuted.
NAVARRO: Look, I think Democrats have to come to the conclusion that he's not getting impeached. Right?
Even if Mueller had found collusion, the likelihood that he would have -- that they would be able to get 67 votes in the Senate was implausible. And without collusion, it's even less so. Donald Trump is not getting dragged out of the White House in cuffs.
The only way Donald Trump gets out of the White House is if he's voted out. And that's what -- Democrats, if you want Donald Trump out of the White House, that's what you have got to concentrate on.
KEILAR: Is there utility in getting to see the actual Mueller report, Paul? Or is it...
BEGALA: For history. Well, first off, if it exonerates the president, let's exonerate him.
We have 65 words from Mr. Mueller, 65 words. That's it. We don't even have a Mueller report. We don't even have a Mueller sentence. Literally, in William Barr's letter, there's not even a complete sentence, not even one, from Mr. Mueller.
So we have to see it for history's sake.
KEILAR: There are fragments of sentences.
BEGALA: There's a few fragments.
KEILAR: There are some key fragments.
BEGALA: There is a few fragments. And they are, in the main, very helpful to the president.
Therefore, if you're a partisan for the president, you would want the whole report out. I wonder why they don't.
KEILAR: Well, there's been fragment that's not particularly helpful to the president that says he's not exonerated when it comes to obstruction.
BEGALA: Maybe that's why Barr's covering it up. But he needs to release it, and all of it. I am old enough to remember 455 pages from Ken Starr, including all
the grand jury material. By the way, in Watergate, the same thing. The judge -- you go to a judge in a case like this, and judges have, at least in the Watergate case, the Clinton case, they have said, yes, we will waive the secrecy of the grand jury because the public's right to know is more important, because a president can't be charged criminally anyway.
So we have to put the information out.
KEILAR: In the sake of transparency, it is important to see what is in the report.
But, clearly, it seems whatever the Democrats receive is not going to be as much as they would like to see. Do you see a problem for them, John, as they try to get as much information as they can on this topic, and simultaneously are trying to move on to agenda items?
JAMES: Well, legislatures -- well, Congress has a duty to both provide oversight and legislating, to provide check and balance.
And we're seeing a lot more the former than the latter in both cases. I think that restoring balance to this process is absolutely essential. And I think that we would be better served by making sure that this is gone through methodically, pragmatically.
And if you try to rush this, what is going to happen, in order to stay out of trouble and in order to stay away from violating someone's rights, I believe that these passages, because we have ongoing investigations, because we have grand jury testimony, that Barr, General Barr, said that he was going to be working with Robert Mueller to make sure that they do this properly.
If someone is going to go too fast, and this would be antithetical to the transparency that we're all looking for. The president himself has said that he has no problem releasing it. And I personally believe that, if you're innocent, you have nothing to hide.
NAVARRO: But there's also the national security and election integrity aspect, right?
NAVARRO: Even if Mueller found that there was no collusion with the Russians, we all know, all intelligence knows that the Russians tried to collude, tried to influence the elections, tried to interfere.
We have got elections in less than two years. And I think it behooves everybody in government on every level, executive and legislative, to make sure that our elections are sound and safe from foreign interference.
KEILAR: We've heard that from the president's own intel chiefs.
Looking ahead here, the move that President Trump just made that could help Democrats in 2020 -- next.
Plus, feeling some Cold War vibes -- why Russian troops are now in America's backyard.
[16:15:24] KEILAR: In our politics lead today, President Trump declaring first via tweet, then in the halls of Congress --
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The Republican Party will soon be known as the party of health care, you watch.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: Interesting timing considering his administration just announced a major reversal on Obamacare.
The Justice Department asked a federal judge to affirm a lower court's ruling and throw out the entire Affordable Care Act without a Republican plan to replace it. It's a political gift for Democrats looking to move on from the Mueller report, capitalizing on the announcement and unveiling a new health care plan of their own.
Health care was the top issue in 2018 for voters and as CNN's Sunlen Serfaty reports, it could now define the 2020 race.
SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Democrats on Capitol Hill are seizing.
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: This is actually an opportunity for us to speak to the American people with clarity. They say one thing and they do another.
SERFATY: Capitalizing on the Trump administration's decision to call for the elimination of the entire Affordable Care Act known as Obamacare, as the perfect pivot point to refocus back on health care, one of their marquee bread-and-butter issues.
PELOSI: Protecting and strengthening health care is why Democrats are here on day one.
SERFATY: The Trump administration's move laid out in a legal filing on Monday continued a remarkable shift from their position in the past. The president first proclaiming --
TRUMP: I want to keep a pre-existing condition. I think we need it.
SERFATY: Then, last year, then Attorney General Jeff Sessions saying parts of a law that protect people with pre-existing conditions could not be defended, but the rest of the law could stand. Now, the DOJ telling an Appeals Court that it agrees with a ruling of a federal judge in Texas that invalidated the entire health care law, saying it is not urging that any portion of the district court's judgment be reversed.
Meaning the health care of millions of Americans who rely on Obamacare is in greater peril. If the laws ultimately overturned, many Americans could lose coverage for kids up to 26 remaining on their parents' plans, coverage for those with pre-existing conditions access to free birth control, mammograms and cholesterol tests among other things many Americans have come to rely on.
TRUMP: The Republican Party will soon be known as the party of healthcare, you watch.
SERFATY: The renewed fight --
REP. SHEILA JACKSON LEE (D), TEXAS: We're going to fight with every breath that we have.
SERFATY: -- is already giving easy ammunition to Democrats many of whom ran and won on health care.
REP. HAKEEM JEFFRIES (D-NY), DEMOCRATIC CAUCUS CHAIR: House Democrats are focused on kitchen-table, pocketbook issues involving lower health care costs and increase pay for every day Americans.
SERFATY: It plays right into the hands of President Trump's 2020 Democratic opponents eager to take this on.
SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA), 2020 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Leaders should stop playing politics with people's public health.
SERFATY: And Democrats up here on Capitol Hill feel that this was essentially perfect timing for them. They are very, very eager to move on past the Mueller report, past that fallout, and show that they're working on their own legislative priorities, not just focused on all the investigations and oversight of President Trump.
And as far as for what's next for this health care law, Brianna, this will play out on the Fifth Circuit Court in New Orleans. That is known as a very, very conservative court and it could possibly wind up in the Supreme Court eventually in the end -- Brianna.
KEILAR: All right. Sunlen Serfaty, thank you for that report.
And it makes you wonder, John, why President Trump would do this. He has this victory lap. He's celebrating and then restarting the fight on health care, which is you heard someone report -- I mean, Democrats are just like thank you about this.
JAMES: Well, it was certainly a gift, nobody can deny that. But I've spoken with the president and I as you just heard him say, he wants the Republican Party to be the party of health care. I personally believe that quality and affordable health care is a necessity.
We need to make sure that we cover pre-existing conditions, but we also need to make sure that we're doing so in a manner that the patients and the doctors have the power not the federal government and the insurance companies. And threatening private health care insurance and Medicare for all is Medicare for none.
We need to make sure that we do it in a pragmatic way to make sure that all Americans are covered in a free market.
NAVARRO: This was the biggest issue in there are two seats where I live in south Florida that are now held by Democrats that were used to be held by Republicans because of this issue, because they stuck to it. They focused on it.
[16:20:00] It was, you know, laser focus on health care. People care about this. People are deathly afraid, literally, deathly afraid that they will lose their health care. That they will lose the ability to have pre-existing conditions and still get insurance. This is a very serious issue.
And if Donald Trump wants to campaign on this, I think Democrats should welcome it,
BEGALA: Right, because it's not repeal and replace anymore. When you go to the courts -- the courts can't legislate, they can't create a better health care system. John has his ideas, mine are very different, that's what the legislative process is for.
The judicial process, what the president is asking the courts to do is to throw 23 million people off their health care with nothing to replace it, to tell all of us that we have no right to health care if we commit the sin of having a pre-existing condition. Oh like say being a one, which was a pre-existing condition before Obamacare, women always had to pay more than guys.
It is -- it is substantively a catastrophe and a really cruel thing to do, even if you have better ideas on health care, I don't think the president does, but he might. Take them to Congress. When you go to the courts, it's going to throw 23 million people out in the streets and all of us are going to lose our rights.
KEILAR: And this has been one of the -- Republicans have struggled with having a plan in place, an alternative, even as the president has promised to protect people with pre-existing conditions. That promise is not part of this plan before the courts.
POWERS: It's not a winning issue for Republicans because we saw in 2018, it was a winning issue for Democrats. But it's also not a winning issue for them because it's not something they ever talked about until Obamacare came around. So, even when they were in control of Congress, they weren't coming up with plans.
They weren't coming up with plans to cover pre-existing conditions. They weren't coming up with plans to keep people on their health and parents health insurance until age of 26. They weren't coming up with plans to cap expenses. All they've done, all their plans have been about dismantling Obamacare. So, for them to come out and now claim, oh, well let's just let Obamacare go away and we'll take care of it -- it's like why would anybody believe that.
They've never -- this has never been a priority for them no matter how much they talk about it, when push came to shove after voting to repeal it -- I lost track of how may times -- they didn't have a plan, right?
So, it's like the -- so I think voters know that and they know that Democrats are the ones who are proactively running on this, as they did in 2018.
JAMES: Well, I would actually say, respectfully, not so fast. I think the American people have been lied to by both parties and Congress has failed all American people from both parties because there was a time that I remember, we were told if we liked our doctor, we can keep them. We like our health care, we can keep it.
But you also have the Republican Party that says repeal and replace and it has nothing to replace it with. Both parties have failed the American people want health care.
JAMES: I believe that we need to fix the parts of ACA that work and then key -- and fix the parts of ACA that are that are broke and fix them, and they keep the parts --
NAVARRO: But you're not going to get that -- what you do is, you know, overturn it in the courts and the Trump administration cannot plead clean hands. This is their directive. This is their effort. This is their DOJ pushing for it to be overturned in the courts, and you have no plan in place.
Here's the problem with Obamacare, a lot of people have issues with it, including me, you, but the American people, it's like that corn flake commercial. They like it. They like it.
NAVARRO: And so, try taking something away that people like, it's -- you know, putting that genie back in the bottle particularly when you don't have something immediately to show to the American people that you are ready to replace it with. You think a replacement of Obamacare could get passed with a Republican Senate a Democratic House and Donald Trump in the White House?
JAMES: Because the Congress is impotent and incompetent. Is there anybody who disagrees with that? It is the job of the legislature, the job of the Congress to pass legislation, to pass laws to take care of people, and they have failed the American people.
And yes, I do believe that the Congress needs to step up because all these presidential candidates talking about all their plans, a lot of them have been in Congress for years and years and years. You have 70-year-olds talking about they want to do to change things to fix things. But what have you done --
(CROSSTALK) NAVARRO: We're having a very rhetorical, theoretical talk here. Wait until the campaign trail and parents start showing up with kids that are dying, with kids that are terminally ill and who depend on this health care.
JAMES: You just heard me say that health care is of vital importance to all Americans.
JAMES: We need to work together to get it done, and this falls on the legislature for not doing their job.
POWERS: But, actually, the Democrats weren't incompetent when it came to health care. They passed Obamacare. So -- and I actually wouldn't call Nancy Pelosi whatever --
POWERS: But hold on, it doesn't matter, it passed. And the point is, people want it to be improved. I actually have criticized a lot of parts of Obamacare. It has been problematic.
And if you look at most polls, people say improve it, make it better, let's make some changes and do it.
POWERS: But that's not the position of the Republicans. The position of the Republicans is to repeal it. So I think it's -- that this -- I don't even feel like what I'm saying is partisan, I just like I'm stating facts. This is what happened and voters know that.
[16:25:01] And they know that the people who are saying we want to make Obamacare better are the Democrats.
KEILAR: But to the point of it's unpopular -- it was unpopular when it was passed. Any changes to health care will be unpopular when passed that's the conundrum of Republicans. If you were to create an alternative, it very likely will not be popular. And it narrowly got through the Congress even with Democrats in control, which makes it increasingly difficult that a split Congress would be able to push something through.
BEGALA: What they're seeking -- I come back to this -- to the courts is a complete abolition. There's over 11 million Americans get their health care through the exchanges through Obamacare. There's 12.4 million Americans that get their health care through Medicaid expansion under Obamacare, and there's 250 million, how many, 320 million Americans who are protected by the pre-existing condition rules and other protections in Obamacare.
This president, Donald Trump, America needs to know this, is going as far as he can possibly go to take your health care away and to take away your rights to free (ph) -- and replace it with nothing. You're on your own. KEILAR: All right.
So from who is that to trending on Google. The 2020 presidential candidate appearing to catch fire, next.