— -- THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT FOR 'THIS WEEK' on March 19, 2017 and it will be updated.
ANNOUNCER: Starting right now on THIS WEEK with George Stephanopoulos.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Wiretap covers a lot of different things.
ANNOUNCER: President Trump defiant.
TRUMP: I think you're going find some very interesting items coming to the forefront.
ANNOUNCER: Refusing to apologize for his false claim. Provoking conflict with America's closest allies.
And, just 24 hours away from a showdown with the FBI director, the president's priorities stalling in Congress.
TRUMP: The battle is just beginning.
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), MINORITY LEADER: This budget is really a slap in the face.
ANNOUNCER: Is Trump's agenda faltering?
TRUMP: Fake news, folks. A lot of fake.
ANNOUNCER: What will be the cost of this self-inflicted blow to White House credibility? Tough questions ahead for one of the president's close friends, a key architect of the health care plan. And the GOP senator demanding changes to the bill.
Plus, key intelligence committee members investigating Russia.
From ABC News, it's THIS WEEK. Here now, chief anchor George Stephanopoulos.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC HOST: Good morning. It has been 15 days since President Trump detonated that explosive charge with Saturday morning tweets, that he was the victim of an illegal wiretap ordered by President Obama.
Fifteen days later, we know two things: The president's charge is untrue and he knows it's not true. At least he should. His attorney general has not given him any evidence to back up the claim. Nor has the FBI director, the CIA director, or the Director of National Intelligence. Trump may not have even asked them for the evidence. He did ask the House and Senate Intelligence Committees to investigate.
Here's what the top members of the House said this week.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. DEVIN NUNES (R), CALIFORNIA: I don't think there was an actual tap of Trump Tower.
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: We have seen no basis for that whatsoever.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: The Senate leaders issued a rare joint statement. "We see no indications that Trump Tower was the subject of surveillance by any element of the United States government either before or after Election Day 2016."
No evidence the charge is true. Overwhelming evidence it's false. Which may be why only Trump's truest believers are standing by the claim. And one of his top allies in Congress now says the president should apologize.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. TOM COLE (R), OKLAHOMA: President Obama is owed an apology in that regard. Because if he didn't do it, we shouldn't be reckless in accusations that he did.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: Instead, at that awkward press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Friday, Trump doubled down, joking about the fact that Merkel had been spied on by our NSA.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: As far as wiretapping I guess by, you know, this past administration, at least we have something in common, perhaps.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: That look on Merkel's face shows how well the joke landed. Trump also refused to disavow his press secretary's embrace of a false report that Trump was spied on by British intelligence.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: That was a statement made by a very talented lawyer on Fox. And so you shouldn't be talking to me. You should be talking to Fox, OK?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: Fox News quickly disavowed the report. The British called it utterly ridiculous, demanded an explanation from the president's National Security Adviser who promised it would not be repeated.
So fifteen days after those first tweets, here's where things stand. Two of America's closest allies upset. The president's agenda overshadowed. The credibility of his spokespeople in tatters. And tomorrow, a public showdown. The FBI director, before Congress, likely to defy the president and publicly testify that Trump's claim is simply not true.
How Trump will respond to that challenge is anyone's guess. We asked the White House for a guest to address this topic. They declined. But we're joined by a close friend and ally of the president, Christopher Ruddy, the CEO of the conservative website, Newsmax. He tweeted out this photo of the president yesterday in Florida and he joins us now from West Palm Beach.
Mr. Ruddy, thank you for joining us this morning. It looks good down there. Looks like you have a sunny day down there.
You spent a lot of time in Mar-A-Lago. You meet with the president a lot. And two weeks ago when he put out those tweets, here's what you wrote. You wrote, "I haven't seen him this pissed off in a long time. When I mentioned Obama's denials about the wiretaps, he shot back this will be investigated. It will all come out. I will be proven right."
Fifteen days later, quite the opposite. So what is it going to take for the president to retract this statement?
CHRISTOPHER RUDDY, CEO, NEWSMAX MEDIA: George, well, first of all, thank you for inviting me on. I want to make clear, I don't speak for the president. I run Newsmax. I'm an independent news agency. But I do think the press has been very unfair. And even the setup for this segment of me coming on.
You know, there have been so many things for the press to discuss. Let's talk about the first 100 days of this presidency. The incredible record that the president has had. A-plus cabinet. Jobs he's hoping -- creating tens of thousands of new jobs. Merkel, he had a really impressive meeting with her. Probably got hundreds of billions of dollars in concessions from her, certainly an increase in the NATO budget. And the health care plan is coming.
So when you come and say, oh, it's all about the wiretapping, et cetera, the president last night was with myself, briefly, and Alan Dershowitz who, as you know, is not a supporter of the president. And the president was discussing that all of these leaks have taken place, classified meetings and conversations he had with the president of Mexico, the prime minister of Australia. General Flynn's private conversation was leaked. These are criminal acts. Even Alan Dershowitz said it was very, very serious stuff, but the press isn't talking about that.
STEPHANOPOULOS: We know he's upset -- but wait a second, Chris. And I take your point about not being an official spokesperson for the president. The president went -- sent out tweets that accused his predecessor of a felony, of doing something illegal. Since then, as I pointed out, and I don't think you say what I said in the page two may have been unfair. I don't think is anything I said there that is untrue, and if you would like to suggest that there is you can say that.
But, just let me finish the question, what is it going to take, given all the evidence of what the president said is untrue, what is it going take for him to retract and apologize?
RUDDY: So, let's go back on the wiretapping. There were reports in "The Washington Post", "The New York Times", and the "McClatchy Papers" that there were intercepts where the administration had been monitoring the Trump campaign. The head of national intelligence for the Obama administration said that there was no collusion. They found absolutely no evidence of it. But clearly reading those press reports, there was an investigation. So, it would be hard to believe there was no surveillance whatsoever.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Wait, wait. But that's not what the president -- I'm talking about what the president tweeted. The president accused President Obama of illegally wiretapping.
RUDDY: Well, and the president said that he wants to have an investigation. And if you listen to what you said, it's pretty clear there actually has never been an investigation of it. And that neither the House or the Senate committees have actually investigated. They just say, at this time, we don't have any evidence of it.
But I think there's a...
STEPHANOPOULOS: After being briefed by the FBI director. Chris, wait a second. You know that the president could simply ask his attorney general, he could ask his FBI director, he could ask the CIA director, he could ask the director of national intelligence. Everybody who has been briefed on this say there is no evidence.
The president has not provided any evidence. There's been overwhelming evidence to the contrary. So -- but I take it from your point that based on what you know right now as far as you can tell, the president is not going to retract or apologize?
RUDDY: Well, I don't speak for the president. You're going to have to ask him what his plan is on that.
I do think that the press is harping on this.
Look, there was a recent poll that showed 54 percent of Americans believe that the press is too aggressive on their attacks on the president. We have never had a situation where the press has basically been part of an opposition political party.
STEPHANOPOULOS; We have never had a situation, Chris, where the president has accused his predecessors of a felony.
RUDDY: Well, I think that this is something that needs to be investigated. I'm waiting for the evidence, just like you are, on the allegation.
But I do think when you look at the broader scope, you're not talking about any of the president's achievements. We have never had a president this successful using just the bully pulpit, getting companies all over the world to bring jobs. He's getting NATO countries to increase their budget, which would help save Americans money, and the health care plan. He was willing to tackle one of the most serious problems that we have in this country. And yet we're always focused on one little tweet or something like that.
And I think the American people out in the heartland have a different view than the people in Washington.
STEPHANOPOULOS; That may be. That may be. But it's one little tweet that accused his predecessors of a felony. The FBI director coming to Capitol Hill tomorrow. He's going to publicly testify, as I said, we expect him to publicly challenge the president's tweets.
How do you think the president will respond?
RUDDY: Well, I don't know what the FBI director is going to say, but I definitely think that they said that there was no collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians. I think that considering the amount of air time the press has given this story over the past four or five months, I think that is a pretty powerful statement. And if the FBI director reaffirms that, I think that's a pretty powerful.
Now, how they came to that conclusion without ever doing any surveillance or intercepts, we know that they did intercepts of General Flynn with the Russian ambassador, and that was leaked, and that was a highly classified conversation as was the president's other conversations that were leaked. And there's to talk about that being investigated by the press or congress.
STEPHANOPOULOS: We talk about all those issues.
Let me ask you, do you believe that President Obama ordered a wiretap, ordered an illegal wiretap of President Trump?
RUDDY: I have no idea what President Obama did. I haven't investigated this thing myself. I do know there where press reports indicating there was surveillance and that the administration was concerned about the -- the Obama administration was concerned about possible ties between the Trump campaign and the Russians and they found no evidence of it. But if that was true, it suggests there might have been an investigation and that there may have been surveillance.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But you have no evidence -- so you're not willing to say right now whether you think it's true or not?
RUDDY: Well, again, I don't talk to the government of the United States. So I think that this is a question for the administration and the White House to answer.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Let me just ask one final question.
You mentioned health care, as well. You've actually been at odds a bit with the president on health care, even though you tout his successes right now. You wrote this week that, "Donald Trump staked out a high moral ground by calling for a feasible system of universal health care to replace ObamaCare. He shouldn't retreat from that no matter how much the establishment GOP dislikes it."
So you're saying he should work with Democrats instead on ObamaCare: Different kind of plan.
RUDDY: So I'm not at odds with the president that I know of. I believe that the president still wants universal health care and good quality coverage for everyone.
He told me yesterday that he is -- the health plan that he is -- he will iron out with the House and Senate is going to be very positive and very strong.
I have a problem with the House plan that was first proposed by Ryan. It looks like there's going to be serious amendments.
But a lot of conservatives -- almost all the conservative radio hosts have opposed or criticized the Ryan plan. I have criticized it for its effort to reduce the number of people on Medicare and Medicaid. If you look at the savings, Medicaid costs about $4,000 a year per person. If they're -- if those same people are pushed into private health insurance, their health expenses would go up to about $7,000 a year. That's a pretty big increase for about 10 million people that just recently joined the Medicaid rolls.
So I'm sure these things are being worked out and we're going to look -- I'm going to -- before I make any final comment on it. But I think the president's intent here -- and I really give him an incredible amount of credit for tackling this issue. Most politicians would run away from this issue, because it's such a hot potato. And he decided to move on it first.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Chris Ruddy, thanks for joining us this morning.
RUDDY: Thank you.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And we are joined now by two key members of the House Intelligence Committee holding that hearing with the FBI director tomorrow, Democrat Joaquin Castro, Republican Will Hurd.
Thank you both for joining us this morning.
Congressman Hurd, let me begin with you just on the question of the day.
Have you seen any evidence that President Obama ordered an illegal wiretap of President Trump?
REP. WILL HURD (R), TEXAS: George, no, I haven't.
And thanks for having me on the show.
I haven't seen that. And to quote by 85-year-old father who -- Bob Hurd -- who has given this advice to all of my friends when they get married, it never hurts to say you're sorry.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So you think the president should say he's sorry?
HURD: I think so. I think it helps with our allies. We've got to make sure that we're all working together. We live in a very dangerous world and we can't do this alone. And when we have a major ally -- and it's not just sorry to the president, but also to the U.K. for the claims or the intimation that the U.K. was involved in this, as well.
It doesn't hurt. And it takes away from the rest of his agenda.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And Congressman Castro, I assume you agree with that right there.
What do you expect from FBI Director Comey tomorrow?
Do you think he's prepared to address this publicly?
REP. JOAQUIN CASTRO (D), TEXAS: On the wiretapping, I hope that he will. You know, George, this will be an opportunity for us to have an open discussion about this investigation. I'm sure that we're not going to hear everything, because we aren't, in a classified setting.
But I think there are a few things that I'm hoping to hear.
First, whether any Americans are being investigated for cooperating or conspiring with the Russians who interfered with our election.
Second, the scope of that investigation.
And third, a time line for resolving it.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But -- and then to follow up on something that Chris Ruddy was saying -- and the White House has talked about, as well -- we do have the former director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, who's said he's seen no evidence of any collusion between the Trump campaign or people associated with the Trump campaign and the Russians.
CASTRO: Well, it's my understanding that that's exactly what's being investigated. He's stating that there's a conclusion that's being reached. My understanding is that that's still being investigated.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So you -- so up to now, you haven't seen any evidence?
So you're -- that the investigation is continuing to pursue that?
CASTRO: No conclusion one way or another.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So meanwhile, Congressman Hurd, how do you expect to go about this?
And bottom line, do you think the Committee -- the House Intelligence Committee -- is going to get to the bottom of this?
What's it going to take?
HURD: Well, I think it takes a bipartisan thoughtful thorough investigation.
And first, we've got to allow federal law enforcement to continue to do their job. I think some folks will probably be frustrated on Monday. I'm not hearing certain answers, because there may be an active investigation going on, a criminal investigation. And if there's an active criminal investigation, we need to allow law enforcement in order to do their job.
Then, the House and Senate Intelligence Committees should be reviewing what law enforcement -- their responses have been. We should be reviewing what the intelligence community is doing.
I'm looking forward on Monday to having the NSA director and the FBI director go through the time line, publicly, on the Russian involvement in our -- in attempts to influence our elections.
What was -- how did we respond? And also, part of this is, if we understand what they did, to plot out how we defend against this in the future, and maybe be able to tell our allies like France and Germany what they should be doing to inculcate themselves from Russian attacks.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Congressman Castro, how much damage do you think has been done to our intelligence relationships with Great Britain and perhaps Germany as well given the events of the last several days? They are some of our closest intelligence relationships.
CASTRO: It is quite alarming, George. You think about our long-standing relationship with the British, our relationship and information-sharing with the "five eyes," for example, and how hostile the president has been, not only to the CIA and the FBI, our own intelligence agencies, but also to Australia, for example, now Britain, and certainly Germany.
So these relationships work. And working together on things like counterterrorism is only successful if these nations and their intelligence agencies trust and have confidence in the United States.
So when you hear these outlandish comments, what I keep thinking is that there's a real possibility that the president is undermining these relationships.
STEPHANOPOULOS: As you know, Congressman Hurd, the president and his allies believe that he's been undermined by people inside the intelligence community. You worked at the CIA. What do you make of the claims that there's a "deep state," so-called "deep state" working against President Trump?
HURD: Well, I spent nine-and-a-half years as an undercover officer. I was the dude in the back alleys at 4:00 in the morning collecting intelligence to protect our homeland. And you have professional intelligence folks. And then you have the political intelligence folks.
The men and the women in the CIA, they do their job regardless of who is in the White House. Same for NSA. Same for FBI. These men and women are putting themselves in harm's way. Have to deal with difficult situations.
And what I think -- Grizzly Steppe (ph), this is how the intelligence community refers to the Russian involvement or attempts to manipulate our elections. It's going to go down in the history of Mother Russia as the greatest covert action campaign, not because President Trump won.
There was no manipulation of the vote-tallying machines. It's going to go down as the greatest covert action because it drove a -- created a wedge, whether real or perceived, between the White House, the intelligence community, and the American public.
And that's why as we go through this review and investigation, it has to be bipartisan. It has to be thorough. And it has to be thoughtful, because we are feeding into this covert action narrative that the Russians are trying to create.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Congressman Hurd, Congressman Castro, thank you very much for your time this morning.
CASTRO: Thank you.
HURD: Thank you.
STEPHANOPOULOS: When we come back, the battle over health care. President Trump claims he has the votes to get his bill through the House. Conservatives call that wishful thinking, signs of trouble ahead in the Senate, as Trump voters raise more questions about what the bill will mean for them.
HHS Secretary Dr. Tom Price and Senator Rand Paul are next.
TRUMP: We met with 12 pretty much nos in Congress. You saw that a little while ago. And they went from all nos to all yeses. And we have a lot of yeses coming in. It's all coming together.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: Optimistic President Trump there after meeting with one group of House conservatives. With a vote scheduled for later this week, a big question about whether votes are there. Plus, even more trouble in the Senate.
We'll be back with the president's point man on health care, and one of the plan's most outspoken critics, GOP Senator Rand Paul.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Over 90 percent of the counties in Florida are losing Obamacare. And they're losing the insurers that put Obamacare there. We'll be terminating Obamacare. And we'll be replacing it with so many different options that you'll have great health care at a fraction, a fraction of the cost. And it will be great.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: There's Donald Trump in Sarasota, right before the election, with his signature promise to repeal and replace Obamacare. The president back in Florida this weekend, and that's where ABC's David Wright checked in with voters to see what they think of the president's plans right now.
MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The Obamacare nightmare is about to end.
DAVID WRIGHT, ABC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: This weekend in Florida, Vice President Pence was once again Salesman in Chief.
PENCE: The truth is, Florida can't afford Obamacare any more.
WRIGHT: What to keep and what to get rid of? That depends on whom you ask.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I believe that it should simply be repealed.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't think we need a 1,200 page health care plan. It's ridiculous.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE; What I'm seeing looks like -- but it's not finished. It's a work in progress.
WRIGHT: So, it sounds like you feel that Obamacare needs some serious reform.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Absolutely, it needs reform, but the..
WRIGHT: But this not the way to go in your opinion?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Definitely not.
CROWD: Health care for all.
WRIGHT: Congress members have been getting an earful from their constituents.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you're going to make us take that other health care, then I want you to take it as well.
WRIGHT: In Sarasota Saturday, Republican Representative Vern Buchanan faced a breast cancer survivor worried about losing her coverage.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A high-risk pool is not a pool I want to jump into. Will you commit to voting against the reintroduction of high risk pools for those with preexisting conditions so we can continue to afford care?
REP. VERN BUCHANAN (R), FLORIDA: We're in the third inning of a nine-inning game.
WRIGHT: Those passionate concerns, one big reason about 22 Republican congress members have yet to sign on to the bill.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The irony of the new plan is the people that it's going affect most are the people that probably voted for Donald Trump, those who are on the lower or mid socioeconomic level are the ones who are going to get hurt the most.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If America is so great, then why can't we take care of our people?
WRIGHT: But some Trump defenders still have faith in the GOP plan.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If they open up the states to free competition, prices of health care will go down.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It will not only insure people, but I think in the long run, it is going to save money.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It will come through, and it's going to be great.
WRIGHT: For This Week, David Wright, ABC News, West Palm Beach.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And we are joined now by the president's point man on health care, the Secretary of Health and Human Services Dr. Tom Price. Dr. Price, thanks for joining us this morning.
TOM PRICE, SECRETARY OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES: Thank you, George. Good to be with you.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So, last week, you said that no one would be worse off financially under President Trump's plan. Since then, we have seen the CBO report saying that up to 24 million people over time won't be able to afford their health insurance.
And they say it's going to be a real double-whammy on older, lower income Americans. They're going to be charged higher premiums, get less in tax credits that they do now in subsidies. So, do you stand by that claim?
PRICE: I do, as a matter of fact, because what the CBO was looking at, and what they were charged to look at, is just one portion of the plan. The overall plan is not just this piece of legislation before congress right now, which I think is an integral part, an important step in all of this. But it's the second phase of all of this, which is ongoing as we speak, but it includes all of the administrative changes that need to be put in place, and that a third phase, which also is ongoing as we speak, which are multiple other pieces of legislation that round out the plan and make it so it fulfills the president's promise of repealing and replacing Obamacare and putting in place a patient-centered system where we get patients and families and doctors making medical decisions and not Washington, D.C.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But you can see that under this plan, the plan that the House is expected to vote on this week, some Americans will be worse off.
PRICE: Well, that's not the plan. That is part of the plan.
STEPHANOPOULOS: That's what they'll be voting on.
PRICE: That's what people will -- you have to put in place the entire plan. And this is part of that plan. And it's an important part, because what it does is repeal Obamacare. It repeals the taxes of how Obamacare. It provides greater flexibility to the states in a fundamental way to make it so that the Medicaid system can actually work for patients in the Medicaid system. It makes it so that every single American will have the financial feasibility to gain access to the kind of coverage that they want for themselves and for their family, not the government forces them to buy. So, it's an important part. It's a first step in this process.
STEPHANOPOULOS: The president seemed to concede this week in that interview with Tucker Carlson that some of his voters won't do as well as Hillary Clinton voters under this plan. Let's take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TUCKER CARLSON, FOX NEWS HOST: A Bloomberg analysis showed that counties that voted for you, middle class and working class counties, would do far less well under this bill than the counties that voted for Hillary, the more affluent counties.
TRUMP: I know.
CARLSON: It seems like this is inconsistent with the message of the last election.
TRUMP: No. A lot of things aren't consistent. But these are going to be negotiated.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: So, the president went on to say he won't sign a bill that doesn't take care of his people. So, how does he plan to address that imbalance on the tax side?
PRICE: Well, again, it's part of an entire plan. The administrative changes we we're able to put in place we have already begun to make it so that the insurance companies -- we have talked to multiple insurers.
You know, George, there are one-third of the counties in this nation that only have one issuer in insurance on the exchange, five states only have one issuer. What that means is that people don't have a choice at all.
STEPHANOPOULOS; But that's not going affect the tax benefits, that's what the president was taking about right there.
PRICE: Yes, but what that means is that people aren't going to be able to get the care that they need. And this isn't about Washington politics; this about people's health care, and that's where it's important to keep the focus.
And that's why the administrative changes that we’ve already begun will -- we’ve had insurers tell us not only will we stay in the market, but we’ll get back into the market. And that’s what we need: choices for patients, competition, to drive down costs so that folks have greater opportunity again to get the kind of coverage that they want for themselves and their families.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But, you know, you’ve even got Republican senators like Bill Cassidy and John Thune saying it’s going to be hard for older Americans to afford insurance under the House plan right now. They say you’re going to have to beef up those tax credits and maybe slow down the changes in Medicaid.
PRICE: And that may be the case, and that’s why, as it works through this legislative process, we’re looking at it and working with our legislative colleagues, to make certain that we’ve got the kind of plan that actually works for people in the real world. Something that the previous administration didn’t do.
So if it needs more beefing up, as you say, for folks who are low income, at the -- between 50 and 64 years of age, that’s something that we’ve talked about, something that we’ve entertained, and that may happen throughout the process.
STEPHANOPOULOS: That’s not the direction it’s going in, in the House, right now. The president with those members of the Republican Study Committee this week; it appears that they’ve agreed to put some kind of a work requirement in for Medicaid and allows states to block grant Medicaid as well.
Is that enough to get a majority in the House or are going to need to do more to -- to bring along members of the House Freedom Caucus, those conservatives, as well?
PRICE: Well, we’ve talked to so many folks in the House of Representatives to try to see what their discomfort level is, if they have any, with this piece of legislation. Again, understanding that it’s part of the overall plan.
The work requirements are important. They’re something that is restorative to people’s self-worth, self -- sense of themselves, about working when they’re able to. We believe it’s important for folks to -- to have a job, that they contribute not just to society but they contribute to their own -- own well-being.
To provide states greater flexibility in the Medicaid population, as I mentioned, whether it’s a per capita cap or a block grant. What that means to people in the real world is that states are going to be able to be the ones that are fashioning their Medicaid program for their vulnerable population, so it’s much more responsive. Not a one-size-fits-all from Washington program.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But the House Freedom Caucus is still against the bill right now, and some of them are saying you’re going to have to speed up those Medicaid changes even more, maybe do away with some of the mandates. Are those changes on the table right now?
PRICE: Well, as the president -- as you heard the president say, he has been talking with a lot of the House members, and certainly members of the Senate as well, working -- we’re working through this process.
This is what tough legislation looks like, so it’s not unusual to have this give-and-take and this back-and-forth. I’m confident that as we move forward, we’ll be able to move all portions of the plan.
This reconciliation bill that’s moving through Congress right now, certainly the administrative changes that we believe are important. You remember all of the regulations that the previous administration put in place? Hundreds of them. Literally thousands of guidance letters. Many of them were harmful to patients and drove up the costs of health coverage and drove people out of the ability to care for patients in the real world.
We’re going to look at every single one of them and make certain we do right thing…
STEPHANOPOULOS: But, Dr. Price…
PRICE: … and then that third bucket, which is the legislation that will be coming forth to make certain that the insurance changes are ones that will actually work for people.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Yes, but you’ll need -- you’ll need Democratic votes for that, that third budget -- that third bucket. But in the meantime, aren't you caught in something of a squeeze play right here? The changes you’re making to get conservatives in the House -- speeding up the changes in Medicaid -- are going to cause even more concerns with those senators in the Midwest, in rural areas, who are saying that -- that their states are relying on the Medicaid expansion.
So everything you do to get votes in the House is going to cost you votes in the Senate, isn’t it?
PRICE: Well, it’s a fine needle that needs to be thread, there’s no doubt about it. But you mentioned working with Democrats on that -- on that third bucket, and we sure hope so.
We’ve been reaching out to individuals in both the House and the Senate on the other side of aisle and look forward to their ideas and hopefully their input and their support as we move forward.
They know that the current law doesn’t work. They know that premiums are going up. They know that deductibles are skyrocketing. They know that a lot of people have health coverage but no health care because they can’t afford the deductible.
So we’re asking men and women of goodwill in the legislature, in the legislative branch, to come forward and work with us to solve the challenges that the American people see in their health care system, again, so we get a health care system that works for them. Not government, but that works for people.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Democrats don’t seem very willing right now. Senator Rand Paul is coming right up. He says you should just do a clean repeal like you did in 2015 and then have a wide-open debate on how to replace Obamacare.
What’s wrong with that proposal?
PRICE: Because that -- what that does is place vulnerable people at risk, and that’s not something that the president’s willing to do, it’s not something that he said he would do. Certainly what he has said is that repeal and replace need to occur essentially at the same time, concurrently, and that’s what we’re going -- that’s what we’re moving forward within this first phase.
Again, the second phase, the administrative changes; the third phase, the other pieces of legislation -- they’re being worked on literally as we speak. And if you look at the plan in its entirety, I think that Senator Paul would have to admit that it includes the vast majority of the kinds of things that he and others have been talking about as being important: to have a health care financing and delivery system that works for patients.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Finally, sir, on another subject, Pro Publica reported this week that Preet Bharara, the U.S. Attorney in the Southern District of New York, before he was fired, was said to have been investigating your stock trades when you were a member of Congress. Have you and your lawyers gotten any indication that you’re the subject or target of an investigation?
PRICE: No, I have -- know nothing about that whatsoever.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Thank you for clearing it up. Dr. Price, thanks for joining us today.
PRICE: Thank you.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And we are joined by Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, GOP senator from Kentucky.
Senator, thank you for joining us this morning. You just heard Dr. Price --
SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: Good morning.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Good morning. You heard Dr. Price right there. He says the plan you propose right now is going to put vulnerable people at risk.
PAUL: I think it's sort of the opposite. The program they're putting forward, you know, Obamacare Lite, they're keeping half of much as what Obamacare had presented, but they're not going to fix the fundamental problem of Obamacare. The fundamental problem of Obamacare is the insurance mandates. When you mandate what has to be insurance, it elevates the price. And when you tell people they can buy insurance after they're sick, they will. And you get what's called adverse selection. And so the adverse selection, the death spiral that everybody's talking about, will continue under the Paul Ryan plan. And my fear is that, a year from now, people are going to come back and we're going to have all the same arguments again that insurance premiums are still going through the roof and we still have a mess.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And you heard Dr. Price right there. He also said it's not fair to just look at this Ryan plans, as you just called it, in isolation. You have to look at everything the administration is proposing.
PAUL: The problem is, see, we as conservatives ran on repeal of Obamacare. I was elected in 2010, right after it came into place, to repeal it. We never ran on a replacement of Obamacare Lite. We never ran on making the entitlement subsidies permanent. We never ran on an individual mandate or keeping the taxes or keeping the Medicaid expansion. We didn't run on that, and so they're really flat-out false in telling us, oh, you guys ran on this plan. None of us ran on this plan. We ran on repealing Obamacare because it doesn't work.
They're going to repeal part of it and leave in place all of the stuff that causes your insurance rates to go through the roof. So we have a plan, a replacement plan that we'd like to talk about at the same time, that instead of subsidizing people's health care, actually forces prices down, forces the insurance companies to come to the table.
Under my plan, 37 million people who belong to AARP would be able to negotiate and buy a group policy of insurance. And that would drive prices down, particularly for people leading right up to retirement but on into the retirement years. It's the only thing that would work to bring prices down. And we're not talking about at all. That's a huge mistake by the Republican Party.
Now we're in a bidding war with Democrats over, well, we're going to offer half as much federal subsidies as the Democrats. We're never going to win that bidding war. It's a huge mistake. It's a public relations nightmare. They should scrap it all. Start over. And let's have a real meaningful debate about how to fix it.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Have you convinced enough conservatives in the House to vote no?
PAUL: I talked to the House Freedom Caucus leadership over the weekend. They still believe that the conservatives in their caucus don't want Obamacare Lite. I believe that the real negotiation begins when we stop them. You have to stop them. Conservatives will only have a seat at the table if we have 21 votes in the House, or three or four in the Senate. At that point, they'll become a real negotiation. That's why I passed out to them all "The Art Of The Deal" last week. Because we need to -- learn from the master and let's make sure that we increase our leverage by holding the line.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So you don't think it's going to pass?
PAUL: I don't believe so. I think there's enough conservative that don't want Obamacare Lite. And I think that they do not fix the problem.
And here's the thing, and this is the biggest political mistake of Republicans who are not even thinking about how this is going look. They call it repeal and replace. But when it doesn't fix the problems and you say you've fixed the problems, they're going to own it. And I promise you, in a year, the insurance markets will still be unraveling. The insurance will be still be begging for more handouts. They have in the House plan bailouts for insurance companies. Conservatives are not for bailing out the insurance companies. We're for empowering the consumer to drive prices down so you can get better cost insurance. But we're not for, when you get sick, the taxpayer takes over the tab for the insurance company. It's a terrible situation. What you do is you socialize the insurance company losses but you privatize the billions of dollars that they make. I'm not for giving a gift to the insurance companies, and that's what this House plan does.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Finally, sir, you're also a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. WE see the president standing by that claim about President Obama. It's caused a rift now with British intelligence over the weekend. How big a problem is this for the president's credibility? How does he fix it?
PAUL: I think that we know one thing for sure, that the Obama administration did spy on Flynn. Now, whether it was direct or indirect, somebody was reading and taking -- a transcript of his phone calls and then they released it.
It is very, very important that whoever released that go to jail, because you cannot have members of the intelligence community listening to the most private and highly classified information and then releasing that to The New York Times.
There can only be a certain handful of people who did that. I would bring them all in. They would have to take lie detector tests. And I would say, including the political people, because some political people knew about this as well.
But we need to get to the bottom of who is releasing these highly classified conversations. And if the president was surveilled, he probably wasn't the target. I don't know that he was or wasn't. But if he was, they probably targeted someone in a foreign government, but then they listened to the conversation with Americans.
But our government's talking to foreigners all the time. We can't allow people in the intelligence committee to release the contents of that informing to the media.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But you don't believe...
PAUL: You will get a deep state. You will have an intelligence community that has enormous power if that happens.
STEPHANOPOULOS; You don't believe President Obama ordered an illegal wiretap of President Trump?
PAUL: Well, what happens is it's different than that. We target foreigners all the time, but they talk to Americans. They talk to the president. They talk to the national security advisers. And they're supposed to be masked.
But there was something alarming the other day. General Hayden admitted that people all the way down to some of the lowest analysts can unmask who the American is. So, someone unmasked General Flynn and they're a low-level analyst, we need to be looking at their computer and find out if they unmasked that conversation and if they spoke with The New York Times you have got to put those people in jail, because you cannot allow this to happen, or we will have presidents being blackmailed or national security advisers being blackmailed.
This is a huge, huge problem, bigger than anything else that's being discussed is the fact that private conversations from the intelligence community's perspective are being leaked to the press. That's not like a leak that says, oh, the president watches TV in his bathrobe, this is important to national security, you can't let it happen.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator Paul, thanks for your time this morning.
PAUL: Thank you.
STEPHANOPOULOS; We'll be right back with our roundtable.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Here with our roundtable ready to weight in right after this from our ABC stations.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Back now with our Roundtable. Joined by our chief foreign correspondent Terry Moran. Also "New York Times" White House correspondent Maggie Haberman, also an analyst with CNN. Roland Martin, host and managing editor of NewsOne Now. And Republican strategist Sara Fagen, also contributes to CNBC.
Terry, let me begin with you. You spend most of your time in London. The White House sending out that bomb to London this week as well, embracing the idea that British intelligence spied on President Trump. What went down there?
TERRY MORAN, ABC NEWS CHIEF FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT: Bewilderment and fury. It was a surreal thing to cover from the British end because the first thing was that this spook -- this spy agency, which never speaks, not only did they speak, they spoke in the most undiplomatic terms. Utter nonsense, ridiculous, don't believe it.
And then when they got the contrition calls, the apology calls that weren't apologies from the White House from General McMasters, that was strange. Because the first thing they did was call reporters up and say, they've apologized, we're moving on from here, like good allies should.
And then an hour later, when the White House apparently -- men don't apologize or something, real men don't apologize, said, we're not apologizing, they had to change their story.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And, Maggie Haberman, you have been covering President Trump for a long time. You know, in Trump world I guess you do not apologize. You have a piece in The Times this morning talking about though how these tweets and self-inflicted wounds are getting in the way of his agenda.
Do you see any movement (INAUDIBLE), if you were watching Chris Ruddy today, you don't, on how the president is going to get out from under this?
MAGGIE HABERMAN, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": No. I mean, I think that you're seeing a couple of things here. One is the "we don't apologize" syndrome that he has had as long as we have known him, which doesn't really work in a White House. It worked for him in the campaigns. Does not translate to the government.
Trump is very, very frustrated by the Russia issue and the questions about the collusion and...
STEPHANOPOULOS: And the leaks.
HABERMAN: And the leaks are driving him crazy.
He has, you know, long enforced nondisclosure agreements on his own employees as a private businessman, obviously cannot do that with a larger government bureaucracy.
I think that his been frustrating to him. And he's used to being able to use his Twitter feed to sort of change the story and push people somewhere else. So I think what you are seeing, I think, is that he keeps trying to do that. But it's a boomerang that comes back and hits him in the head every time.
ROLAND MARTIN, NEWSONE NOW: If he's frustrated, stop lying. No, he said throughout, he said no business. No dealings there. His own son says millions pouring in. He then says, no, I didn't meet with anybody. Then we have proof he met with the Russian ambassador. Flynn, no, no talks. Now, do we have talks? He's being paid by Turkey. $34,000 speech in Russia.
This is very simple, Mr. President, you and your team stop lying about Russia. Then folks might be able to move on.
STEPHANOPOULOS: What about Director Comey?
SARA FAGEN, CNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well, at a minimum, stop inflaming an issue that clearly the intelligence committee does not believe the -- no one in the intelligence community seems to believe the president on this topic. So stop inflaming it by going out and furthering the story. They're furthering the story.
The more important point is focus on where there is there there. And Senator Rand Paul is right, which is somebody leaked a transcript of General Flynn's comments. That is a crime. Somebody should go to jail for that. That's where they should be focused on. Not --
STEPHANOPOULOS: The only way to do that -- I think you can't move on to other issues in the absence of some kind of retraction can you?
MARTIN: No. You can't. And he will not do it.
FAGEN: But here's the point. He's not going to do it. He's not going to retract it. He's not going to apologize.
MARTIN: And that's what children do.
FAGEN: But at a minimum, stop repeating claims that people now believe to be false.
HABERMAN: This is also where I think his staff is not always serving him well. Because essentially, you always have staff to be there to sort of protect the principal and to be there to find a way to sand down the edges. And in this case, you have a press secretary whose role as press secretary in the White House is you're not speaking for the president as his spokesman. You are seen as a spokesman for the country. So when you are reading these things and claims like about, you know, British intelligence agencies and so forth, they sound like they are being made as policy. And I think that they have really had trouble as a group shifting, because Trump sits there and watches all of these briefings and they're all doing thing for this audience of one as opposed to the broader world.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Meantime, you know that Angela Merkel, Theresa May in Britain, want to get beyond this.
MORAN: Totally. He's got an agenda in the world which is disruptive, like his agenda at home. They want to come to terms with it. He's been sent by the American people to change things, right? And they're ready to do business with him. Theresa May in particular, she's kind on that side of the ledger. Instead, it's like Yik Yak, that high school social media app where people say, well, I heard somebody say to somebody something about him, about her. And they're lost in the weeds of the adolescence out of Washington, so the primary feeling is not we don't like the president's agenda, he's president of the American people. We can't deal with this guy.
FAGEN: Well, I don't -- I mean, I think we'll see. I mean, the reality is, for all the noise around his comments and his tweets, is the Treasury Secretary, Steve Mnuchin is at a G20 meeting and gets concessions from other countries in terms of the statement. It wasn't a big concession. But --
STEPHANOPOULOS: On protectionism?
FAGEN: Yes, on protectionism. Yes, he had the protectionism language pulled from the communication by the G20. And at a minimum, people still recognize that the United States is the most powerful country in the world. Most financially successful. And, most importantly, has the biggest military.
MORAN: There is a --
MARTIN: But people want to respect us. And when -- and I was raised to respect the presidency. It would be nice if Donald Trump can respect the presidency. We want the president to be truthful and people to go I trust what he says. We can't trust him.
FAGEN: I agree the president needs to be truthful. However, having lived through a White House where people said George W. Bush makes the world -- the world doesn't respect the United States under George W. Bush. And the Republicans said under Obama. People of the opposite party always say that.
MORAN: But the polls in Germany, in Britain, are demonstrating --
FAGEN: But they were -- they were --
MORAN: -- that that sentiment is flipped. And in fact the White House at this point is a laughingstock --
MARTIN: That's right.
MORAN: -- in the capitals of Europe.
HABERMAN: This is the risk, is that other countries, our allies, and even not allies, people are just not -- to your point -- not going to want to deal with us. That's the phrase that I have heard repeatedly, deal with the U.S.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Even though they have to?
HABERMAN: Even though they have to. But there is also the risk for the White House with this where, in terms of the credibility potential crisis. These are all self-inflicted wounds. These are all of their own making. At some point, there will be some actual crisis. And they are going to need the public to believe them. And this is where it becomes a real risk.
STEPHANOPOULOS: That is the key question. Let me move on before we finish to health care as well.
Sara, you saw Dr. Tom Price right there saying you got to look at the whole plan and hoping to Democrats on board. That's not where their problem is right now; it's getting it through the House. And they're going to move in a way that's far in the opposite direction of where Democrats want to go.
FAGEN: Well, here's the thing. Necessity is the mother of invention. And Republicans, after having campaigned for seven years on repealing and replacing Obamacare, have to come to terms with a bill that they can get through the House and Senate. And I think --
STEPHANOPOULOS: Is there one that can get through both. That's what I was trying to ask Price. I mean, to get it through the House, you're going to have to do more Medicaid cuts, speed up the changes in Medicaid. To get it through the Senate, you are going to put more money into Medicaid.
FAGAN: I think conservatives in the House, while certainly having been strongly opposed to the bill are now saying the right things, which is they're looking at it. They're looking at amendments. And I think President Trump deserves some props here, which is...
STEPHANOPOULOS: He's working it hard.
FEMALE: He's working it very hard. He's going to be in Kentucky on Monday. He's working behind the scenes. He's not commenting on individual provisions. I think ultimately Republicans have no choice. They have no choice.
STEPHANOPOULOS: He is working it hard because they know the cost of losing in the House. The president can't lose...
MARTIN: And he can work it as hard as he wants to, but as I'm watching the town halls. I'm thinking about Malcolm X, you've been had, you've been took, you've been hoodwinked, bamboozled, led astray, run amok. To watch these white, working class voters upset and mad saying, I voted for you. And I'm going, we tried to tell you this is what the man said he was going to do. Now they're faced with the backlash of, now they love the Affordable Care Act and now Republicans are in a box.
The number has gone up 20 points this last year.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Even though the numbers don't work, they want to believe the president on this.
MORAN: They do. They sent him to change this. One of the things they wanted to change was Obamacare. Now, the problem for the Republicans is they seem to want a political victory more than a policy victory. They'll do anything to get the repeal part. But it turns out they really don't have a replacement.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And if it gets through the House, it's going to be a long, long slog in the Senate.
HABERMAN: It's going to be a really long slog in the Senate. And you have had a number of Republican senators make clear that this is not as in current form, and in the shifting form, is still not something that they can be with. They are not going to get Democratic votes on this. The Democratic base is in no mood to compromise. So, this is very challenging. But the president does recognize that he is working very hard on this, because he does recognize that something has to get passed. He cannot lose.
STEPHANOPOULOS: I wish we had more time. We don't. We'll be right back.
STEPHANOPOULOS: That is all for us today. Thanks for sharing part of your Sunday with us. Check out "WORLD NEWS TONIGHT". I'll see you tomorrow on "GMA".