Will Trump be able to pass his legislative agenda?

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This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," June 6, 2017. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: At the core of this agenda is repealing and replacing the disaster known as Obamacare. If Congress doesn't act to save Americans from this Democrat-inflicted catastrophe, next year is only going to get worse. It's going to get a lot worse. The House took an important first step to rescue Americans from this calamity. Now the Senate I'm sure will follow suit and get a bill across the finish line this summer that will be great health care for Americans.


BRET BAIER, HOST: The president at the White House meeting with congressional leaders on the Republican side, tweeting "Big meeting today with Republican leadership concerning tax cuts and health care. We are all pushing hard. Must get it right."

What is the prospect of getting it right or getting anything done? Let's bring in our panel, editor in chief of Lifezette, Laura Ingraham, Mara Liasson, National Political Correspondent of National Public Radio, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer. Mara?

MARA LIASSON, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: Well, there's a lot of views in the Senate about whether they can get it done. There are even some Republicans who think not getting it done would be the politically best outcome for them.

BAIER: Lindsey Graham among them.

LIASSON: Lindsey Graham among them, because then they think they can still blame the Democrats. There's also a debate about that that. But so far there is not a bill in sight in the Senate, and they are talking about getting it on before they go for recess. That's just a couple weeks away. So I think it's looking very, very difficult.

BAIER: So one of things I've heard, Laura, is that they are going to piece something together in the Senate. They are going to strong-arm 51 votes and get it to a conference committee and then do the work of ironing out the details of what it looks like.

LAURA INGRAHAM, EDITOR IN CHIEF, LIFEZETTE.COM: I can tell you from my radio listeners from all across the country, this is the one issue other than the wall I think that they think Trump and the Republicans, they really have to deliver on enforcing the border, making sure it's enforced, building some kind of wall, and getting this Obamacare repeal and replace done.

I think it's pretty pathetic. You have control of all of government. You've asked for the control. You went to the people in good faith, we thought, and said this is what our plan is going to -- we're going to do this. They voted on it many times bird when the votes didn't count. Now everyone is running scared. There is no political courage.

And I think the House bill actually has a lot of problems, and I think it actually won't lower the cost of health care as many predict. I talked to many doctors who actually practice medicine who know what time it is on this. But they must do what they campaigned on or I really believe this is going to hurt them much more than sitting on the sidelines and blaming Chuck Schumer. Chuck Schumer is not in charge.

BAIER: The other big issue obviously is tax reform. They want to get to tax reform and they need the funding from the savings in health care ideally, it's the way they planned it. Here is the president and Congress Kevin Brady.


TRUMP: It will be the biggest tax cut in our country's history, and it will spur business like never before.

REP. KEVIN BRADY, R-TEXAS: All the elements are in place to do it. I think the job creators in the country are hungry for this tax reform. I think Americans are too. We are laser-focused on getting it done this year. The Trump team feels the same way, and the Senate as well.


BAIER: Here's the problem, Charles, the calendar is just hitting them like reality. The days are ticking away, legislative days, to be able to get all of this done.

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: That's why I think you just heard in that clip a real slip-slide. The president spoke about tax cuts. Tax reform is a combination of tax cuts with removing loopholes, removing cutouts, meaning increasing taxes in other areas of the tax code so you end up revenue neutral. To do that, you have to offend a lot of people. You have to go against a huge number of constituencies. And that is infinitely more difficult than tax cuts, which are cheap. Everybody is in favor of it. Of course you blow up the budget.

It's the difference between Reagan '81 and Reagan '86. Tax cuts was easy. That's what you get in ‘81. In '86 he did tax reform. It took a year-and- a-half of negotiation and it was a tremendous success. They can't do it in a few weeks, the tax reform, because you have to deal with all of these constituencies who are against removing all the loopholes, some of which a lot of people like, for instance, the state and local tax deduction. And you get a lot of pushback from Republicans in those states. So I think we are looking at cuts which will be cheap to do politically and will be very difficult in terms of economics, because how do you make up for the revenue loss?

BAIER: We have talked about on this panel, why doesn't this president call back Simpson-Bowles, the commission President Obama set up, Democrat and Republican, and say he didn't give you a chance. I will. Why doesn't he do that?

LIASSON: The genius of Simpson-Bowles is that it packaged entitlement reform and tax reform together. But I don't know if this town could handle something like that. That absolutely needs bipartisanship to pull off something like that. But I thought what Trump said today was really important because yesterday Marc Short, the legislative director, briefed at the White House and said yes we would prefer tax reform, big base broadening, revenue neutral tax reform, but we need the economic growth. And he suggested that as a fallback plan they'd be happy to take just tax cuts.

INGRAHAM: They are not getting the three percent GDP easily anyway. But you're certainly not going to get the three or four percent GDP unless you have a massive tax cut. It's not going to happen.

BAIER: Well, if you have a massive infrastructure plan, and believe or not, your gas tax is being circulated around as a possibility now to raise revenue.

KRAUTHAMMER: After 36 years, people are listening. That proves that it's worth -- longevity has a lot to be said for it. Look, I think it is the most plausible plan. You've got in the past, you had some support from Democrats and others. You have historically low oil and gasoline prices. If you are ever going to do it, you can do it now because it will have the least effect. I was for a refundable one, but even if you don't, you can refund part of it, use the other for infrastructure. It is just sitting out there, historically low and internationally low compared to other countries.

BAIER: And if they don't do health care reform, they're going to find they're have to get the revenue someplace else.

I want to play one quick sound bite from Sean Spicer, asked today about whether the president has support, and the attorney general has the backing of the president.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How would you describe the president's level of confidence with the attorney general, Jeff Sessions?

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I have not had a discussion with him about it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Last time you said that, there was a development.

SPICER: I'm answering a question, which is I have not had that discussion with him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So you can't give his confidence in the attorney general?

SPICER: I said I have not had a discussion with him on the question. I don't -- if I haven't had a discussion with him about a subject, I tend not to speak about it.


BAIER: Well, that was a non-answer, Mara, and ABC is reporting tonight that tensions are so high between the A.G. and the president that he threatened to resign.

LIASSON: This is an extraordinary moment. Jeff Sessions, number one loyal person to Trump, the first senator to endorse him, the keeper of the flame on immigration, on law enforcement. And Donald Trump has never forgiven Jeff Sessions for recusing himself from the Russia investigation, which begat several steps down the line Bob Mueller and the special counsel. And he's not happy about that. But that was an extraordinary moment where Sean Spicer could not say that the president of the United States has confidence in his own attorney general.

BAIER: There was somebody else he couldn't say it --

LIASSON: Yes, and we all know what happened after that.

BAIER: It was Jim Comey who testifies Thursday.

INGRAHAM: Losing Sessions I think is not smart. I know he didn't like the recusal decision. I actually happen to agree with him. I don't think you want to have an attorney general whose first impulse is I've got to recuse myself. I don't agree with what Lindsey Graham said with you earlier. If he had no involvement with the Russians, he didn't have to recuse himself. Democrats never, rarely recuse themselves from actual investigations, so I wouldn't have done that.

But that having been said, Jeff Sessions is one of your most stalwart supporters. He carries the conservative populist banner. And he is actually doing a really good job as A.G. right now. They have got to get a couple key positions filled.

BAIER: The DOJ director of public affairs is declining to comment on this ABC report. Quickly, Charles?

KRAUTHAMMER: I guess he hasn't spoken with the president either then. This is quite serious, because, as you say, it's happened before, and then within a few days that person was gone. This is a problem for the president's self-control. This man, the attorney general is a pillar of this administration, and the president has to -- he's always going to have a disappointment here and there with anybody who works for him in any department. It happens in all administrations. If you can't absorb this one issue on which he disagrees, the recusal, and you have to get rid of him, then nobody is safe, and then you have an intrinsically highly unstable administration reflecting instability inside the president's head. This is really bad.

BAIER: We are going to take a quick timeout and then we're going to talk about tweets in 140 characters or less.




CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: That is a policy. His tweets are the policy. They are statements from the president of the United States about what he wants.

GORKA: It's not policy.

CUOMO: Of course it is.

KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: This obsession with covering everything he says on Twitter and very little of what he does as president --

CRAIG MELVIN, "TODAY"/NBC: That's his preferred method of communication with the American people.

CONWAY: That's not true.

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president is the president of the United States, so they are considered official statements by the president of the United States.


BAIER: The tweets -- the focus on the tweets, the reading of the tweets, the tweets versus policy. It is an interesting dynamic. The president tweeting this morning, "The fake mainstream media working so hard trying to get me not to use social media. They hate that I can get the honest and unfiltered message out." Laura, I mean, you talk to lawmakers of all stripes up there, supporters. They are worried about the tweets.

INGRAHAM: I understand especially the concern when you are tweeting about an ongoing investigation. If you were my client, I would say, here is the press strategy -- we're going to say we look for an expeditious conclusion to this investigation. We think we will be clear to the end. We really have an enormous amount of work to do for the American people. But we hope Bob Mueller does a thorough and fair investigation. We are confident he will. That is really what your strategy should be in this regard.

At the same time, when Mitch McConnell says in his Mitch McConnell way, "I am not a fan of this. They need less drama." No one cares about Mitch McConnell's tweets. With all due respect to Mitch McConnell, who is a smart man and very wise, they do care about what Donald Trump says. Has he gone over the line in tweets? Yes, he has. Has he also got around people who have been supremely unfair to him and the press? Yes, he has. And he does feel like this is the way that he can get his opinions across, not always policy. A lot of them are opinions. And when this London thing happened, I think a lot of Americans that don't follow every word of the characters think we have a president that actually really wants to keep us safe, and in London they are doing other things, and some of it is good and some of it's not good. We are kind of glad that he takes this really, really seriously.

BAIER: Mara?

LIASSON: You heard what he said in that tweet, "the honest and unfiltered message." That is what he wants to tell the American people. I think it is pretty cut and dried. They are official. Anything that the president says is official. And it's funny, at NPR, we had a conversation early on in the administration, how do we recover this? We're just going to cover them like anything else the president would write, say, walk by a reporter. What's the difference? What's the difference? So I think that the White House aides are getting themselves tied up in knots over nothing.

BAIER: But the White House puts out this call with King Salman of Saudi Arabia, where he says, the president says that he wants the Gulf nations to all be together. Well, he tweeted out about how the Gulf nations were pointing to Qatar as an extremist terrorist funder earlier today, and it seemed to be diametrically opposed to the message that this call tonight is suggesting.

KRAUTHAMMER: Well, it doesn't help them for exactly that reason. Several, but among them is that it does show disarray. You get the administration saying a, and he says b. And in this case, I think it is very unwise. Why should the president interpose himself in what is a major attempt by the majority of our allies in the Middle East to get Qatar to shape up? They are doing this thing, this boycott, cutting them off from diplomatic relations, everything. Why say, well, this is a response to my trip? It's not about you. And if you make it about you, it looks like the Saudis are doing the bidding of the American imperials.

But here's the irony. The tweets aren't just official. They are the most official. Every other statement has been massaged, read by eight people and changed. Here you are going right into the id, and what you get his presidential id. There is nothing as authentic as that.

BAIER: Yes or no, does it stop or slow down?

KRAUTHAMMER: It never stops.

INGRAHAM: Investigation tweets will be diminished.

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