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tv   Wolf  CNN  March 23, 2017 10:00am-11:01am PDT

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hello. i'm wolf blitzer. it's 1:00 p.m. in washington. 5:00 p.m. in london. from wherever you're watching, thanks for joining us. the political drama that's playing out minute by minute here in washington. after years of vowing to repeal and replace obamacare, can republicans finally deliver, or will they come up short? right now, we don't even know when the vote on the house floor will take place or what is even in the latest version of the bill. the scramble by house republicans to pass their health care bill will be a major focus of today's white house press
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briefing. it's set to begin later this hour. we'll bring it to you live. that's coming up. the stakes clearly are enormous for president trump and house leaders. if they succeed, it's a big win for the president in need of a major victory. if they fail, it's a major blow to the trump agenda. just a little while ago, members of the house freedom caucus arrived at the white house to meet with the president. he's hoping to win over the conservative lawmakers. we hope to speak to some of them after that meeting. meanwhile, any concessions moving forward will be significant. they're trying to get the support of that freedom caucus, but it could be -- could the process alienate moderate republicans? the crucial number for house republicans route now, 21. that's the most republican votes they could afford to lose and still get their health care bill approved. that's assuming all the members of the house of representatives actually show up for the vote. let's bring in cnn white house
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correspondent sara murray from the white house and phil mattingly is up on capitol hill. sara, we mentioned president trump's meet with members of the freedom caucus under way right now. how intense is this final push by the president to repeal and replace obamacare to get this republican legislation passed? >> wolf, what you're seeing is a president who knows this is his first major item on his agenda that he needs to be successful in this in order to move forward with some of the other big things he wants to do. they've been courting the house freedom caucus aggressively. they've made visits to the white house and phone calls. legislating is a very messy process. that's certainly true in this case as well. jeff zeleny was pointing out there's a little confusion. you have trump and pence and kellyanne conway all making calls. there could be a few mixed messages along the way.
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this calls into question whether they can make a deal and get to a vote by tonight. >> let me go to phil. the president's efforts, are they paying off where you are on capitol hill in the house of representatives? that's where it really counts. give us the latest cnn whip count. >> certainly there's been movement forward. it seems like there also appears to be a step back. take a look. there are currently 29 individuals up here who are either leaning no or outright opposed to that bill. you obviously made clear that's way more than they need right now. that's why these lobbying efforts matters so much. the president working very hard on that conservative house freedom caucus where you need to look at this as a pendulum. if the bill moves toward conservatives you have a big problem with the moderates. right behind me about 15 feet away, a group of those moderates of are meeting behind closed doors. when potential changes were announced and presented behind closed doors by leadership to this group of moderates last night, there was anger,
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frustration and a lot of concern. you're dealing with a lot of issues that could move toward the conservatives but cause moderates to drop off. that's a needle they're trying to thread and they haven't figured out a way to yet. >> do you know some of these last-minute changes that are being made to the bill to win over some of these lawmakers, phil? >> the biggest one we've seen, a very big, substantive change. they have at least gotten the idea across that house leadership hears agreed to open the possibility of stripping the essential health benefits that were provided by obamacare. federal kind of realities, requirements of the central health benefits in any insurance plan. conservatives say this is one of the primary reasons premiums have been driven up but the big problem with that is moderates are very uncomfortable with this. this is the issue presented to them last night. this is the issue they're meeting about behind me right now. they might not come along with
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this and if you gain 10 or 15 conservatives because you add this to the bill but lose 10, 15 or 20 moderates, it doesn't matter in the end. >> sara, the health care issue sure to be a major topic at the white house press briefing with sean spicer that's coming up shortly this hour. give us a preview of what we can expect to hear. >> yesterday we heard sean spicer say there is no plan b. of course, that's what my colleague phil mattingly has been hearing from the hill as well. this is it. this is his signature first legislative item. we'll hear from sean spicer today how far they are willing to go to appease these house freedom caucus members. he's going to be asked about that. whether they do actually believe they can get a deal and get a vote today or whether we might see this timeline shifting a little bit. those are all going to be big questions as far as what the president is willing to put on the table. >> sara murray and phil mattingly, we'll get back to you. standing by for the sean spicer
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briefing. our other big story, cnn has learned new details of the fbi investigation into potential links between individuals associated with the trump campaign and the russian government. evan perez is joining us now. among our reporters who broke this story along with pamela brown. give us the very latest. >> wolf, right now, we've learned from officials we've been talking to that the fbi has information that indicates, at least suggests, there are members of -- people associated with the trump campaign who are in touch and communicating with people who are associated with the russian government. and the concern there is whether or not there was any coordination. this is coordination, of course, that the fbi director mentioned when he testified before a house hearing on monday. the question here now, wolf, is some people are looking at the evidence that they have in front of them or the intelligence they're looking at. and some people say that perhaps someone was trying to give a
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thumbs up for information to be coordinated, to be released by the russian government, the russian intelligence services. others are looking at the same evidence and what they see is we don't see the same inference from the same information that they're taking a look at. so you have two sets of people in the same investigation who are coming to different conclusions. obviously, there's still no direct conclusion that there was collusion or coordination at this point. the fbi is still investigating, wolf. >> give us a little insight in what the fbi director james comey knew when he actually made some of those statements at that house intelligence committee hearing on monday because there were several bombshells there. >> well, exactly. there are a lot of people were kind of taken aback by what the fbi director said. they were expecting him to confirm there was an investigation. he went a lot further and said they were looking at the possible coordination between members or people associated with the trump campaign and
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members or officials affiliated of with the russian government. that was much further than anyone expected him to go to, wolf. and he also said they were looking for indkagications of a crime. at this point, this is exactly what the fbi director was referring to. he knew that this evidence existed. again, it's not enough yet for us to say or for them to say that there is direct collusion and certainly evidence enough for them to say that, but it is definitely the focus of this investigation now by the fbi. >> do we know evan, who is being investigated? >> we don't know exactly who these people are who are being looked at for possible coordination or collusion. what we do know is that at least four people who are associated with the trump campaign, we know carter page, roger stone, michael flynn and paul manafort are being looked at and scrutinized by the fbi for their contacts with people associated with the russian government. and so that's where the focus is
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at this point. what's interesting at this point, wolf, is that the fbi is looking -- is running into a few new obstacles because of all the publicity related to this investigation and all the press coverage. we know we're told that some of the communications between some of these associates in trump world and the russians has ceased. and we also are sold that the russians have changed the way they communicate. so that makes it all the more difficult for the fbi to monitor what they're doing. >> evan perez doing excellent reporting with our team. thank you so much. i want to go to cnn's senior congressional reporter manu raju. he's also live up on capitol hill where the chairman of the house intelligence committee is now explaining his decision to brief the news media and the president over at the white house before actually briefing members of his own committee about surveillance that may have picked up trump team communications. apparently devin nunes now offering some sort of apology to
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his colleagues. what are you hearing? >> yeah, that's right. they had the closed door briefing of the full house intelligence committee earlier today in which mr. nunes told the members he's sorry. sorry for telling the president of the united states and the press about this new information that shows that there was some surveillance activity that picked up some communications of trump officials talking with apparently foreign nationals some time during the transition period last year. nunes went out and told the press and president of the united states but did not tell democrats on the committee an as this committee is investigating russia and the russia meddling and any of those alleged contacts and coordination that occurred between trump officials and russian officials meaning that some democrats believe that he has compromised this investigation. now earlier today, i had a chance to ask mr. nunes specifically, where did you get this information from yesterday, and was it from the white house? he wouldn't say.
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take a listen. >> did this information you got -- >> as you know, we have to keep our sources and methods here very, very quiet. the president did invite me over. i called down there and invited myself because i thought he needed to understand what i saw and that he needed to try to get that information because he has every right to see it. >> he apologized for not informing the ranking member. >> do you feel confident he can run this committee? >> i am not confident he can run this committee. i am of the opinion that this was orchestrated, either from the white house or by possibly someone associated with the white house. >> so, wolf, the big question is now whether or not this committee can credibly go forward with an investigation. that's one thing that democrats are raising. nancy pelosi, the minority leader believes mr. nunes should step aside.
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nunes is signaling he is still planning to move forward but members on the committee expect to see this information that the chairman saw yesterday that he revealed yesterday, as early as tomorrow. we'll see if anybody changes their tune after they see what the chairman publicly revealed, wolf. >> the president, manu, yesterday, said he feels, quote, somewhat vindicated by the comments by devin nunes, the house intelligence committee chairman, and he also told time magazine this. and let me put it up on the screen. so that means i'm right. nunes said the surveillance appears to be incidental collection that does not appear to have been related to concerns over russia. i don't know where these wiretaps came from. they came from some place. this is what they should find out. but the fact remains democrats, even some republicans, are now questioning whether this committee can go forward and lead a credible investigation with nunes atop that investigation. >> yeah, that's right. that's what you heard adam schiff, the top democrat say
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yesterday. is there nun ethe chairman running this full committee and bipartisan investigation, or is he a surrogate of the white house? and i asked mr. nunes that directly today. he pushed back on that suggestion, believed he can move forward. but even though the president said he feels vindicated, even devin nunes says he shouldn't feel vindicated because there's nothing he's seen in the intelligence reports that back up the president's claim that he was wiretapped under the orders of barack obama. only that some of these communications that occurred between trump transition officials were picked up in surveillance reports and that was done legally, he says. and i am told by other members on the committee that that information was actually discussions about how the trump team would form its new government. one person said it was more gossip than anything else. so not the president being spied on by president obama. nothing that vindicates him on that particular issue, but, wolf, clearly this decision by mr. nunes to go forward yesterday has impacted this investigation and democrats believe undercut his ability to
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put forward a bipartisan report. >> very quickly, manu, the information, the discussions that nunes is talking about occurred after the november 8th election, during the transition, not before. is that right? >> yeah, that's right. during the transition period. we know -- but that's all we really know at this point. so clearly not during the election period which the president has been saying so far, wolf. >> in his four tweets he had almost three weeks ago, he was saying that president obama ordered the surveillance, ordered the wiretapping of trump tower during the campaign. obviously, that's a very, very significant difference. manu raju up on capitol hill also doing a great job for us. let's talk about all of this with our panel. joining us uchis, gloria borger david chalian and the correspondent for the new yorker magazine, ryan lizza. is it enough, the little apology he gave, his fellow intelligence
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committee members today, devin nunes? >> well, we're going to have to see. honestly, i think that there were members of that committee on the republican side who believe that he acted in a very rash way. and there are democrats who believe he's now disqualified himself from being any kind of a person who ought to lead an impartial investigation. and there were republicans, i'm told, who were trying to stop him from going down to the white house with whatever information he had but that he felt he had to do it. he didn't listen to them. he didn't like the fact that adam schiff spoke for 15 minutes during the day of the comey hearing, and he felt he owed it to the white house to do this. now the democrats, and you heard nancy pelosi today call him a stooge and say what he was doing was just providing political cover for the white house. now republicans are going to try and raise money off of this feeling the president was
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vindicated, as he said yesterday. so in the end, i think you'll have more calls for a special commission, an independent counsel, which, of course, the white house and republicans don't want, but there are republicans on the committee trying to get, you know, who are trying to get past this because they don't want that to occur. the question is whether they ever can. >> i remember that hearing, though, on monday, the chairman, devin nunes, he said, i recognize the ranking member for 15 minutes. he's the one who said you have 15 minutes. >> i don't think he really wanted to. >> he agreed to do that. that was his announcement. how do you see this, david? >> i think that devin nunes has done himself a lot of harm. i don't think there's any question about that. and as gloria is saying, the calls for the independent or select committee or an independent investigation, those are no longer just coming from democrats. we see john mccain out there now really beating that drum.
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and so i -- republicans clearly want to keep that at bay. but they've got work to do to make sure the american people, i don't think, can watch the house intelligence committee process at this stage of the game, even after his apology and think that they are getting a totally independent and unbiased kind of investigation. >> ryan, listen to nancy pelosi, the democratic leader in the house, the minority leader, react to the decision by devin nunes to brief the president and the news media before actually speaking to members of his own committee. >> he was part of the trump transition. all of this relates to trump transition, by and large. i just think it's very clear he himself -- i don't know if that was a cry for help or let me out of here or whatever that was. but it was highly unusual. >> go ahead. >> you know, i think what these implying there is maybe nunes wanted to blow up his own
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investigation. in other words, maybe he knew the ramifications of what he did by going to the white house would be to make the house intelligence committee investigation just seem overtly partisan. i think two things happens before this. one, he and schiff agreed to a very broad investigation. you listen to the democrats, they were very, very pleased with what nunes is allowing them to investigate. collusion, the full scope of the russian campaign. all of the top things the democrats want and republicans basically wanted an investigation into the leaks. then comey comes along on monday and he starts to cooperate with schiff and with nunes. and suddenly, schiff changed his tune and said, all right, maybe this investigation will actually work in the end. so i think democrats have this decision to make. do they continue to participate in the investigation and try and make it work, or do they -- >> boycott it. >> in a sense boycott it. i think after monday, democrats were happy about how that house
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intelligence investigation was going. it was the republicans who said, wait a second, did we let the genie out of the bottle here? >> and maybe, you know, maybe nunes will feel like he's been chastized correctly. he looked a little bit like, you know, that he had been taken to the woodshed by his own members. and since he's apologized for it, maybe there is an opening for the democrats to kind of with a chastized chairman who is now on, you know, on notice. maybe there's an opportunity to work with him in a way and to kind of get around this. we'll have to see what schiff says about it. >> sean spicer, the briefing that's coming up in a few moments, it will be interesting to see how he responds to all of it. we know how the president responded when he says he feels partially vindicated and then in that "time" magazine interview, you read the whole thing, all of us did in that "time" magazine interview he basically says, see, i was right. >> well, i think that the
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president's reaction is a good hint as to what sean spicer is going to say from the podium in the briefing. as gloria referenced, the fact you have the house campaign arm, the nrcc, the national republican congressional committee, putting out a fund-raising blast with the subject line that says truth be told, barack obama spied on donald trump, i mean, none of that was actually adjudicated yesterday in anything devin nunes did. even devin nunes said so. but now the entire campaign apparatus of the republican party, the rnc sent out an appeal "vindicated. "they're fully behind trump on this because they're desperately trying to muddy the water on those tweets that nobody can defend. >> everybody stand by. we're going to have live coverage of the sean spicer briefing coming up. police say, meanwhile, they've identified the london terrorist as isis claims responsibility. we're also going live to london for the very latest. plus, only moments away from
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the white house press briefing. looking at live pictures. reporters, camera crews now heading inside. sean spicer will likely field questions on a whole range of issues, including the health care vote upcoming, russia, the house intelligence committee chairman, devin nunes. a lot more. we'll be right back. new aveeno®... ...positively radiant® overnight facial. get the benefits of a spa facial... ...overnight. aveeno®. "naturally beautiful results®" li don't want to pry... grown man now. dad. but have you made a decision? i'm going with the $1000 in cash back. my son... ...a cash man. dad, are you crying? nah, just something in my eye. the volkswagen 3 and easy event... ...where you can choose one of three easy ways to get a $1000 offer. hurry in to your volkswagen dealer now and you can get $1000 as an apr bonus, a lease bonus,
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yesterday an act of terrorism tried to silence our democracy. but today, we meet as normal as generations have done before us and as future generations will continue to do. to deliver a simple message. we are not afraid. >> the british prime minister theresa may speaking about wednesday's terror attack outside the houses of parliament. this story is rapidly unfolding. here's what's we know right now. police have identified the
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attacker as a british-born man, 52-year-old khalid masood. a uk official says it's too early to tell if isis has any operational attacks to masood. this after a news agency linked to the terror group claimed a soldier of islamic state, end quote, carried out the operation in response to calls to target citizens of coalition countries. the attack claimed three lives including american kurt cochran and injured 40 people. president trump tweeted his condolences. a great american, kurt cochran, was killed in the london terror attack. my prayers and condolences with his family and friends. police arrested eight people in a series of raids in birmingham and around britain. let's get the latest on our investigation. nic robertson is in birmingham. nick paton walsh is joining us from westminster. nick paton walsh, you're there on westminster bridge where the
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attack unfolded. what have you learned, first of all, about the attack? >> khalid masood, is his name, as you said. uk officials speaking saying it is too early to tell if isis suggests, he was one of their soldiers. and this official goes on to say, claiming attacks as being affiliated or part of it. this is the curb which masood mounted in his hyundai suv inflicting so many of those people -- 40 people's injuries, killing the american kurt cochran out right here. his wife melissa. they were here on their 25th wedding anniversary, in celebration. melissa hurt in the ribs and the leg and a second of the three victims killed here, aysh
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aysha frade, a spanish teacher. he then continued in his hyundai. some video shows terrifying scenes. people throwing into traffic. one woman thrown or jumping into the river thames. she was injured, fished out by authorities an hour or so later. he continued past now what is a makeshift memorial for those who lost their lives here. and then passed that police tape crashing into the railings there. massoud then gets out his hyundai and takes what looks like a kitchen knife and tries to get into parliament where his third victim police keith palmer is stabbed and then masood is shot dead. how did this 52-year-old man with a petty criminal record end up committing a crime as devastating as this? the worst terror inflicted on uk since 2005. standing beneath a stunning cultural landmark, big ben.
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>> we were watching it unfold yesterday, 24 hours ago. nic robertson, you're in birmingham right now where the police conducted a number of raids overnight. tell us what they found there and what their suspicions are. >> wolf, they are continuing to search the premises behind me. three people were taken away in the middle of the night. a raid by armed police. that's unusual in britain but the details they are beginning to release now about the attacker due indicate that he was living in this part of the country, west midlands, they say. khalid masood, 52 years old. born just to the southeast of london, but had moved to this area, the west midlands, some time fairly recently. the police say he used several aliases in the past. he had a very violent history. his violence goes back three decades, 1983, his first offense for criminal damage. his most recent offense, 2003
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for possession of a knife. an omen if you will there, for the attack that was witnessed yesterday. the british authorities did know about him. they had investigated him for connections to radical islamist groups in the past. decided that he was peripheral to that. and according to the police, according to the latest police statement that he wasn't under observation, wasn't under investigation for anything in the recent years. they are saying that, therefore, there was no reason for them to believe that he was planning this type of attack. however, these characteristics, the criminal actions, the violence and to have isis claim him as a soldier, not proving any link, it has many parallels to some of the recent acts of similar violence that have been witnessed there in france. the attack in nice last year. so there are some similarities emerging. but the arrests here last night, the police are not saying why
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they have those people. they say that he acted alone but clearly concerns that potentially he tabbed into potentially some broader network here. >> there's a lot of work to do in this investigation. nic robertson, thank you. and nick paton walsh joining us as well. mark meadows, a leader of the freedom caucus is now speaking. let's listen in. >> it's 1 1/2 because it has to do all with the obamacare mandates, the obamacare rules and we're trying to move from phase two into phase one. we're not adding anything other than we're taking what was supposed to happen in phase two and bringing it into phase one. >> chairman, the speaker's office says this meeting was do or die. that this all comes down to you. >> well, obviously, he's the speaker of the house, and he knows the conference better than anybody. we are certainly trying to get to yes, but indeed, we made very
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reasonable requests, and we're hopeful those reasonable requests will be listened to and ultimately agreed to. >> i've got to run, guys. i've got a meeting. >> give us a sense of where your confidence is -- >> i'm going in -- i'm going in right now to make sure that we have that. i don't want anybody to get hurt here, so -- all right. thank you. >> representative mark meadows, the leader of the freedom caucus, saying that he wants what's supposed to be in part two of the implementation of repeal and replace, which is mostly administrative regulations being changed, to be brought into phase one. that's what he is saying. we're going to get some reaction to that momentarily. a critical moment in the future of health care here in the united states. i want to go to cnn's dana bash. she's up on capitol hill. dana, you're getting new information right now. what are you learning? >> it's sort of adding to what you just heard from the head of the freedom caucus, mark meadows. this is from another member of
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the freedom caucus, dave bratt who i spoke with right after he walked out of the white house. what he said is that what they specifically asked the white house for is some kind of document that shows numerically, mathematically, quote, ironclad way that whatever passes here and ultimately, obviously, goes to the president for his signature, will bring premiums and other costs for americans down in the short term. that is, he said, what they are demanding. now unclear how they are going to get this document, how even if they get a document, they are going to feel comfortable that whatever mathematics is used to make that promise is something that they can trust. something that can have credibility. so it seems quite murky as to how that's going to happen. and also you hear that. i heard that from congressman dave bratt of virginia, member of the freedom caucus. we just heard from mark meadows
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talking about sort of the -- that same theme but more broadly, the idea of doing -- changing some of the regulations in the short term doing it now. it's actually perfect example of how the frustration that is happening inside the white house and down behind me inside the speaker's office is palpable because they feel like they're getting lots of different requests and demands from members of this critical, critical freedom caucus that might be hard to meet. so we'll see what happens. we'll see if they get this document if it's something they can live with. meanwhile, as i'm talking to you, wolf, down behind me in the speaker's office, members of the moderate section of the house republican conference just went down to speak -- to talk with the speaker. again, that poses the other problem we've been talking about that everyone -- our team here has been reporting on for days and days and days that, let's just say that they give
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assurances somehow to the freedom caucus, does that mean that by sort of definition, with this dynamic, you're going to lose moderates, which gets you back to the drawing board of not having the votes to pass. this is very fluid still, and we'll see again the next thing to happen is, will that document come from the white house? what is it going to say? and what's going to happen with this meeting going on right now with moderate republicans and the house speaker. >> and so is it fair to say that this final floor vote in the house of representatives, dana, is supposed to be today, potentially it could be delayed? is that a fair assumption? or is it definitely on, no matter what, later today? >> i don't think you can say definitely for anything right now. that is still the plan, to have the vote. but they certainly are not going to put -- it's hard to imagine them putting this bill on the floor to take the vote without really being sure that they are at least close if not actually there, to having the votes to pass it.
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so we don't -- i don't think you can definitely say that anything is going to happen as of right now because things are still pretty fluid. >> dana bash up on capitol hill. we're watching all of this unfold. we're going to take a quick break. the white house press briefing coming up momentarily. sean spicer will be answering reporters' questions on this and a whole range of other critically important issues. we'll be right back.
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i've found a permanent escape from monotony. together, we are perfectly balanced, our senses awake, our hearts racing as one. i know this is sudden, but they say: if you love something... set it free. see you around, giulia ♪ all right. here's sean spicer, the white house press secretary. >> a great american kurt cochran was killed in the terror attack in london yesterday. our prayers are with his family and friends. we're aware of reports that another american citizen was injured, as well as potential as the story continues to develop, we stand ready to provide consular assistance but considering privacy concerns i'm
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not going to further discuss this current state of any of those individuals at this time. as i said yesterday, the president spoke with uk prime minister may to offer his condolences and pledge the full cooperation and support of the united states government in responding to this attack and bringing those responsible to justice. now a little on today's schedule. this morning, after receiving his daily intelligence briefing, the president met with over 30 members of the house freedom caucus to discuss building momentum towards replacing and repealing obamacare with the american health care act. the members of the freedom caucus thanked the president for engaging with them throughout their negotiations, and the president, likewise, thanked the group for their willingness to work closely with the white house and their colleagues to craft the strongest bill possible. the group agreed their ultimate goal is to implement a system that will drive down costs and increase access to health care for millions of americans. this meeting was a very positive step towards achieving that goal. this is just the latest in a series of discussions in person
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and on the phone that the president, vice president and his team have had holding with the republican house members and the american health care act. this afternoon, we expect the president to continue those meetings with members of the tuesday group from the house coming up here later today. since the law was introduced, the legislative affairs team has been in constant contact with members of the -- with members. the american people will be counting on to fulfill their promise of repealing and replacing obamacare by supporting this bill later tonight. the president has been on the phones with scores of republican members in addition to the in-person meeting you've seen with the republican study committee, house freedom caucus and the tuesday group. this bill has truly been a collaborative effort from the beginning through an open n deliberative process. the president and his team have helped to negotiate a very, very strong bill. he was on the phone last night well into the 11:00 hour with members on an individual basis discussing their support for the
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bill. the amendments that have been incorporated add important aspects to the bill like removing costly essential health benefit insurance regulations, repealing obamacare taxes immediately, starting in 2017, reforming medicaid by allowing states to accept funding as a block grant to implement able-body work requirements and block states from requiring enhanced percentages if they expanded during the transition. we've already seen the results with many members coming out and saying they're going to be a yes tonight. as i've noted before, today is the seventh and we hope the last anniversary of the day that president obama signed obamacare. the president is looking forward to seeing republicans fulfill the pledge tonight that they've been making to their constituents for years. that with a republican in the house and with them in congress, they would once and for all see the end of obamacare. the president -- i assume that president obama must be feeling this time is up for his signature law since today he came out with a lengthy statement about it.
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but he can't change the facts about where it stands. president obama stated that americans received a, quote, upgrade in insurance. but the mandates obamacare placed on insurance forced millions off their insurance, away from their doctor, which broke the promise they were given. president obama attempted to move the goal post on costs downplaying the skyrocketing premiums. some in the case of over 100% in some places. and unaffordable deductibles. americans, he seems to have forgotten he pushed obamacare on the promise of reducing cost, not making health care unaffordable. president obama said obamacare isn't in a death spiral but enrollment is nowhere near expectations, and this year it's declining. insurers are fleeing the exchanges in one in three counties in america only has one insurer. president obama may not believe that obamacare is a job killer but the new law, including its job-killing taxes mandates and regulations speak for itself. with the passage of the american health care act, we'll begin the
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process of rolling back obamacare's many disastrous policies. of course, it's not just a big day on the house side. on the senate, we begin the final and fourth day of judge gorsuch's senate judiciary hearings. earlier today, democratic leader chuck schumer announced that some democrats will be mounting a filibuster against his nomination. from day one, we've said the president made an inspired choice with the nomination of judge gorsuch. the american bar association has given him their highest rating of well qualified. this week he has showcased his sterling credentials and a brilliant legal mind. we find senator schumer's announcement truly day pointing because it breaks with the tradition of how the senate has handled supreme court confirmation votes in modern time and represents the type of partisanship that americans have grown tired of. in the last half century, only three supreme court justices have ever faced a filibuster. the most recent, justice alito, was opposed by then senator
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obama who voted to uphold his filibuster and later admitted his vote was a politically motivated act that he regretted. senate republicans didn't filibust hearse supreme court nominees kagan and sotomayor. we call on senator schumer to follow democrats to abandon this attempt to block judge gorsuch from receiving a fair up or down vote that he and the american people have voted for. back to the rest of the president's schedule. this afternoon, the president will meet with members of the tuesday group. he had lunch with secretary of the treasury mnuchin. at 3:00 today, we hope you'll come out and join the president to welcome the truck drivers and truck company ceos who will be meeting with on the american health care act as they arrive to the white house alongside two rather large big rigs. one in every 16 americans work for the trucking industry. it's the backbone of our country's domestic freight transportation and moves over 70% of domestic great tonnage. the trucking industry has
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suffered greatly under obamacare. many truckers were forced to buy health kaur plans that weren't right for them on the exchanges. like millions of americans across the country, they saw their premiums rise and options plummet. trucking companies classified as large employers under the law are mandated to provide insurance that we already know doesn't work. instead of imposing senseless restrictions from washington, the president's three-prong health care reform plan will lower premium s and increase choice by increasing competition. the president looks forward to discussing how this policy combined with forthcoming tax, regulatory and trade reforms will provide much-needed relief for the trucking industry. also today, the vice president met with president hernandez of honduras. a readout on that meeting is available from the vice president's office. and if a few notes before i get to your questions. as the president noted during his first cabinet meeting earlier this month, while many of the spectacularly qualified choices to lead his departments and agencies are already in place and taking action to fulfill the president's
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ambitious agenda, there are still some important positions that have not been filled. in large part to senate democrats, obstruction. i want to give you a quick update on outstanding confirmation. secretary of labor alex acosta. had a very successful hearing yesterday. we expect mark-up next week. secretary of agriculture desing iny, sonny perdue. we expect governor perdue to continue to show why he's the best choice to lead the usda and his mark up to be scheduled in the coming days. we also announced that prime minister rasmussen of denmark will be visiting the white house on march 30th. we'll have further details on the visit in the upcoming days. tomorrow, the president will host medal of honor recipients and their guests in celebration of medal of honor day which falls on saturday this year. we'll have some more details on that event coming forward. the president intends to be here this weekend. so as we have updates on the president's weekend plans, we'll let you know as well.
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i'll also note we've got coming up on a deadline related to the keystone pipeline. we'll have an update on that for you tomorrow. and finally, i'm proud to announce that on april 19th, the anniversary of the battles of lexington and concord, the new england patriots will be visiting the white house to celebrate their latest and what will probably be a continuation of many more to come super bowl win. and with that, i will take your questions. jeff mason. >> is this a patriots question? >> no. >> do you know anything about tom brady's jersey? >> i've got nothing on that. health care question. do you expect there to be a vote tonight? >> that's wat i understand the house has scheduled, yes. >> any chance that's going to be pushed back? >> that would be, obviously, up to speaker ryan and leader mccarthy, but i have been -- nothing leads me to believe that's the case. >> is the president concerned at all that as he draws support for the bill from the freedom caucus
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that he may lose support from more moderate members of the house? >> he's meing meet'ing with mems of the tuesday group today. there's a little bit of a balancing act that goes on. we continue to make progress every day. we walked out with more members in support of the american health care act today than we started the day with. i continue to see that number climb hour by hour. and i anticipate that we'll get there. blake? >> patrick mchenry said we had an offer, speaking of the house freedom caucus, can accept it or reject it. is that how you see it? are you waiting on the house freedom calkous to come to your side? are you at their whims right now? what's their status as far as you know? >> there are some in the meeting who stood up and told the president i'm with you now. member by member, that's how they're going to vote. they're going to, i think we've continued to see that number rise. and the same thing with the
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tuesday group. there are members that had not been with us that are expressing that -- their willingness to be part of this. the president went over several commitments and changes that have been made to assuage different folks that have continued to evolve. and i think that we continue to see the number rise. but i think we continue to do you know how many came across and what it was that brought them across? >> it's depends. again, i don't think there's any singular issues in a lot of cases. there's a lot i think we talked a little bit about sections of the bill that they -- there was an issue with. you know, and so i think there's a couple of areas there's common ground on but there were over 30 members there today and there are specific aspects they want today see improved and some that
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came to say frankly thank you that what you have done already has been a benefit. in a will the of cases there were some members that was their number one thing but again it wasn't universal across the board but again i think some of the measures taken along the way have really -- again beyond that there's a lot of discussion about phase two and phase three and the president an vice president are goboth committed making commitments of the totality and comprehensive nature of how we're going do this. for a lot of these guys it comes down to premium increases, and i think the president and vice president secretary price, director mulvaney, reince priebus, chief of staff, the legislative affairs team were all continuing to work with them to talk about certain measures that have put in place to drive down costs and i think when you realize what we have continue today talk about that costs are
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too high, premiums are spiking deductibles are going up, choices are going down, these are really concerns for stic constituents and i think this makes them better not just this bill but phases two and three. -- preexisting conditions from the bill? >> i think there's something these been very clear needs to stay in there. >> secondly, about this essential benefits protections, obviously among those are maternity leave, how would removing that during the president's campaign to expand maternity leave. this would take it out and insurers would no longer have to provide that. >> i don't want to get into a benefit by benefit discussion, but there are a lot of concerns as i just said to blake, part of
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the reason premiums have spiked out of control is because you should obamacare there were theisma these man dadates services and older men and women were having to buy benefits not necessary for them. people who were at the younger end of the age skill were buying end of life benefits and this goes back to the nut of this discussion, which is we have now gone down to a system in one third of all counties there's one choice. and there's this pot pourpourry they are buying things they don't need which is driving up costs for everybody, so part of it isn't necessarily about a benefit. it's about a series of benefits being mandated for everybody, so what has happened is the cost of health care for every individual has gone up and the choice has
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gone down and there's a philosophical discussion about what's going on to make sure that we have actual coverage, something we talked about before, but doing so in a way that doesn't drive up the cost for everybody. >> one followup, is the president concerned without having those essential benefits you will have a situation where women are defacto paying higher insurance. >> no, you could have family plan. the point is it's not -- again you're picking one benefit and trying to extrapolate it and it's like saying should young people have to pay for end of life care. the idea is to instill choice back into the market. so it's not one particular benefit. it's allowing people to taylor a plan and cost point that's good for them and their family or their spouse, but it's not about one particular benefit it's about looking at it and figuring out what are the cost drivers and give people the choice they
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need. >> the white house defended the way this bill was written, saying it needed to be structured a certain way and exclude certain things to be able to proceed through the senate through reconciliation so what's changed to put the substantive changes that has given the white house confidence that it can survive through the senate? >> i think there's a lot of discussion that goes on without getting into it, the issue is the bird rule, you can't have policy that have a budgetary impact. there are sinthings phrased and crafted with orders with the rule but there are a lot of smart people familiar with the rules trying to make this bill conform in those ways. zeke. >> two questions for you, one on the health care bill. the way this bill is now being
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modified to basically pick up votes on monday night, the amendment included that special carve out for upstate new york, good nicknames i can't do justice for, but now these latest -- is the president concerned now this bill looks a lot like procedurally what obamacare looked like seven years ago that republicans spent seven years criticizing an here they are seven years later on the same day about to do the exact same thing? >> no, not at you will. exactly doing what we intended it to do. the two goals set out to do it's actually doing, lower costs, giving people the option to choose a plan that fitting their budget and second instill competition and choice. so the things that are being done actually achieve the goals that have been set forth.
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jim. >> yesterday secretary mattis testified on capitol hill that they were willing to have congress have a public debate around a new -- traditionally those have started the executive branch. is the white house willing to put one forward and begin that round of discussions? >> i would refer you back to secretary mattis. that's one that the department of defense -- >> so you think that statement is it operative for the white house? >> no, i think that was brought up in the context of a conversation that he is willing to with respect to overseas contingencies existing right now and the battle especially with respect to isis and the current tools we have to combat them, but i think that was a discussion about whether or not we should have a discussion on authorized use of force and how to have that. jim. >> now that chuck schumer has
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announced a definite filibuster of judge neil gorsuch, do you think it's time for the white house to take a stand on eliminating a filibuster for supreme court nominees? >> i am not going to -- i'll let senator mcconnell -- a much more apt user and understanding of the senate rules. i'm not going to start to tell senator mcconnell what he should be doing from here. >> he's you're nominee. >> i understand that but it's his rule and chamber that he leads. >> sean, has anybody from the national security team or homeland security folks been in touch with their counterparts in london in the last 24 hours or so? >> yes. >> can you expound on that at all or not? >> only to the extent they have been in touch to evaluate, offer assistance and again i'm not going o get into a classified
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discussion. >> a supportive effort needless to say? >> yes. >> thank you. >> chairman nun enunes, refused rule out the information came from the white house, so will you rule out that anyone in the white house gave chairman nunes? >> i don't know why he would come to brief the president on -- i did not sit in on that briefing. it just doesn't -- so-yeon why he would travel -- brief the speaker and then brief us on something we would have briefed him on. it doesn't seem to make a ton of sense, so i'm not aware of it but it really doesn't pass the smell at the time. >> mark meadows says there's no deal. does the president acknowledge this bill appears to be in trouble right now? >> no -- it's not a question of
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trouble, there's no deal. we weren't asking for a deal. >> would you call this essential health benefits package a deal? >> no, i think a lot of them stood up and said mr. president we're with you and there were others who said we're going to go back and think about it. but there was no deal. i think this was a discussion that the president continues to have. i think we have been very, very pleased with the direction it's going in and the number of members who have expressed their support, we'll continue the discussion with the tuesday group, but the number is growing, the number of members who have shared concerns and i think that we have been very responsive as well as speaker ryan to the concerns and ideas that members have expressed from across the spectrum. >> you have said there's only plan a. >> right. >> at this point is there an acknowledgment there needs