Show: FOR THE RECORD Date: April 3, 2017 Guest: Greg Miller, Chuck Grassley, Michael McFaul, Jeff Mason, Jim VandeHei, Howard Dean, Demetri Sevastopulo, Bob Scales
GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOR THE RECORD HOST: Hey, Katy. Thank you very much, Katy. We have breaking news. The Washington Post is reporting that right now that the United Arab Emirates arranged a secret meeting in January between a Russian close to Vladimir Putin and key Trump supporter, Blackwater founder Erik Prince. Now, Prince had no formal role in the Trump transition but his sister, education secretary Betsy DeVos. Prince himself a major Trump donor. He visited Trump transition offices back in December. Greg Miller of the Washington Post, one of the journalists who broke this story joins us. Greg?
GREG MILLER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Yes.
VAN SUSTEREN: Tell me, where was this meeting and why was this meeting?
MILLER: So this meeting happened in a Seychelles, is a set of islands in the middle of the Indian Ocean in January just weeks before Trump`s inauguration, and our understanding of it that it was arranged with the help of the United Arab of Emirates as sort of back channel communication between the Trump team and Russia. So Erik Prince has deep contacts with the Trump White House and met with a Russian, a wealthy Russian individual with close ties to Putin. And the agenda is not completely clear, but one of the things we`re told they discussed was try to find ways to drive a wedge between Russia and Iran.
VAN SUSTEREN: All right. Why did it have to be a back channel meeting? Because we`re also learning and we know during that time is that General Flynn who had then been named as national security advisor, he had contacts with the Russian ambassador. So why did Erik Prince have to do this?
MILLER: Yeah, I mean, that`s a really good question. It does come at a time when the Trump transition team`s contacts with Russia are under a great deal of scrutiny. So the FBI is already looking at General Flynn`s contacts with the Russian ambassador. There was a meeting at Trump Tower where the Russian ambassador in early December, and a subsequent meeting with the crown prince of UAE. And that appears to have set in motion this meeting in the Seychelles. But you`re right, I mean, for all of these contacts between the Russian figures and Trump associates that kind of happened not exactly in plain view but here in the United States. At least the trouble that they went to, to try to set something up in this remote part of the Indian Ocean just seems really odd.
VAN SUSTEREN: It`s particularly odd because it`s normal or conventional for transition team to want to have contact with other nations, Russia included. Jeremy Bash who`s been on air, one of our contributor said that many times he worked at the CIA and the department of defense. But what`s peculiar about this, it`s that it seems to be outsourced to someone who has been controversial in the past, Blackwater, and that`s what`s so peculiar is that why not send Jared Kushner to have a conversation, or someone on the transition team or General Flynn. Why Erik Prince?
MILLER: Well, I mean, Prince has position -- he has close relationships with the UAE, so when they agreed to broker this meeting and this is all arranged by the UAE, Erik Prince is -- he`s firms have made hundreds of millions of dollars from UAE. He was even based there for a time. He would be a logical person for them to go to.
VAN SUSTEREN: If they didn`t have the contact themselves. I mean, that`s the peculiar. That`s the point that`s so different. They could have done these themselves, the transition team. Flynn could have and was talking to him.
MILLER: There are other aspects of this story that is sort of strange as well. Why does the crown prince of the UAE sort to make this weird secret flight to New York to meet with the Trump team, doesn`t report to it the Obama administration. They learned about it only because they see that his name shows up on a flight manifest from customs and border protection. So there`s a lot of weird effort to hide a lot of these meetings. Even those meeting that you`re discussing that you referencing that happened in New York. I mean, those are meetings that this Trump administration did not acknowledge or publicly identify until they were all revealed by news organizations including the Post.
VAN SUSTEREN: Well, I`m certain the Washington Post and you will dig deeper into this one to find out what`s really going on because it does seem a little bit weird, some aspects of it. Thanks for joining us.
MILLER: Thank you.
VAN SUSTEREN: And brace yourself for this one because we`re on the verge of a big time Washington, D.C. throw down, it`s over President Trump`s Supreme Court pick and a move that could change forever the rules of the U.S. senate. Today, the senate judiciary committee voted along party lines to send Judge Neil Gorsuch his nomination to the senate floor for a full senate vote. But Democrats are up in arms. They do not want Judge Gorsuch on the Supreme Court, saying the 10th circuit court of appeals judge refused to answer many of their questions. So Democrats are now ready to filibuster.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNINDENTIFIED MALE: I will not support Judge Gorsuch`s nomination in the judiciary committee today.
UNINDENTIFIED MALE: In light of Judge Gorsuch`s record, I oppose his nomination.
UNINDENTIFIED MALE: Approval of Supreme Court justices must be by more than a razor thin majority.
UNINDENTIFIED FEMALE: The credentials are not enough, not enough for the Supreme Court.
UNINDENTIFIED MALE: My conscious will not allow me to ratify the majority leader`s actions.
UNINDENTIFIED FEMALE: I cannot support this nomination.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAN SUSTEREN: After the hearings, Republicans came to the podium slamming Democrats of playing politics. And the Republicans also vowing to invoke the nuclear option, meaning, all they would need to put Judge Gorsuch on the Supreme Court is a simple majority, that`s 51 votes instead of the current 60 vote threshold.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNINDENTIFIED MALE: If you`re filibustering him as a Democrat that just means you don`t accept the fact that President Trump won.
UNINDENTIFIED MALE: Some of our colleagues are determined to just pound the table in order to stop Judge Gorsuch. And all they can come up with are facts that have absolutely nothing to do with his qualifications as a jurist.
UNINDENTIFIED MALE: We saw Democratic senators throw every fastball they could, use every attack they could, and end up with no meaningful criticism of Judge Gorsuch`s record.
(END VIDEO CLIP) VAN SUSTEREN: Senator Chuck Grassley, Republican from the great state of Iowa and the chairman of the judiciary committee joins us. Nice to see you, senator.
SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY (R), IOWA: Thank you, Greta. Glad to be with you.
VAN SUSTEREN: Senator, is the Democrats effort to filibuster Judge Gorsuch, is it about ideology or it is payback for Merrick Garland?
GRASSLEY: Well, from the speeches that they gave in our committee today, both of those excuses were given. But, remember, all these excuses you`ve heard today it`s because they can`t lay a glove on this candidate, this nominee because he`s so outstandingly well qualified. He has expressed the independence that we expect of our judges, and just all together 10 years of extreme qualifications serving on the tenth circuit court of appeals. They can`t do anything else except find those excuses.
VAN SUSTEREN: All right. If they have the nuclear option it will change everything in the U.S. senate forever. I know many senators, Republicans and Democrats, are very distressed by the fact that this will change everything. Have you had any private conversations with either the ranking member, Senator Feinstein or Senator Schumer, the minority leader, about this nuclear option, the fact that it`s going to change everything in the senate?
GRASSLEY: I have not. But let me make very clear, it`s only going to change everything in the senate forever for one position in our constitution and that`s on the Supreme Court. Everything else that had 60 vote requirements up until November of 2013, the Democrats, under Reed, changed everything forever, for every cabinet position and every judge. The only thing they left what was, was the Supreme Court. So the big change came four years ago.
VAN SUSTEREN: All right. I assume that the next Supreme Court justice could be a liberal. Right now, Judge Gorsuch is likely to replace a conservative Justice Scalia. So it`s conservative for conservative. So we`re not going see a dramatic change in the court likely. The next one could be a liberal which would be a big fight. Do you foresee -- give me an idea what you think is going to happen next time around when we have President Trump conservative nominee for maybe a liberal opening on the court?
GRASSLEY: Well, I think that`s the time when the Democrats are going to realize that making 60 vote threshold to get this guy on the Supreme Court was a mistake because if we change it the same way Reed changed it for everybody else four years ago, then they won`t have anything to stand on to prevent the change that you just questioned me about.
VAN SUSTEREN: Senator, let me move to another part of the judiciary committee of oversight over the FBI. What are your thoughts on the FBI investigation, and you`ve got Chairman Nunes over in the house? I know the senate -- we`ve seen a bipartisan discussion in the senate intel committee, but what do you make of what`s going on in the house intel committee?
GRASSLEY: Well, what goes on in the house, I shouldn`t comment on. But I believe that if somebody has some information that shows that laws were violated and people`s names unmasked, so that they are accused of being something they probably didn`t do and it was done for political purposes, I think that anything that makes transparency in things that are wrong in government brings about greater accountability in government and whoever did that needs to be held responsible. There`s too much -- there`s plenty of legitimate concern about Russia interfering in our elections. I don`t have any problem with that. But there hasn`t been enough concern about the people that have been leaking, and committing a felony in the leaking of it.
VAN SUSTEREN: But does that suggest that -- as oversight for the FBI, if you suspect that there`s been some unmasking unlawfully that you would quickly refer to the justice department for investigation into the person who did the unmasking?
GRASSLEY: I`ve got two letters to the justice department right now, involving some things that are related to Russia. The dossier that was used against Republican and against Clinton by this guy named Steele. I`ve got a question into the FBI about McCabe, the deputy director, who seems to have ties to Governor McAuliffe, and finding out whether or not there`s any conflict of interest there, both in regard -- as the inspector general is looking at it in regard to the Clinton e-mails. But what does this McCabe have to do with the investigation of the dossier and the FBI paying for some information that is simply looks like opposition research? Is there a conflict of interest there? That`s what I have to worry about right now because there`s plenty of investigation on the Russian influence under the intelligence committees.
VAN SUSTEREN: All right. One quick question, if you were a betting man, what`s more likely to happen this year, healthcare, a repeal of Obamacare and some replacement, or tax reform?
GRASSLEY: Or they`ll both going to happen this year. Number one, tax reform, because it could be done in a better way that Republicans are united. And, two, because of the death spiral of Obamacare, we`ve got to do something to save healthcare for the American people because they aren`t going to get it within a year or two under Obamacare.
VAN SUSTEREN: Senator, thank you very much for joining us, sir.
GRASSLEY: Thank you very much. Glad to be with you.
VAN SUSTEREN: Now to President Trump, he`s digging his heels in more -- continues to stand by his thus far unverified wiretapping claims by President Obama. In a new interview, President Trump is saying, quote, the one about being in quotes wire tapped, meaning surveilled. Guess what, it is turning out to be true. And then, this morning the president went on another tweet storm starting at the crack of dawn, 5:15 AM, slamming Hillary Clinton and praising a Fox News segment tweeting quote, such amazing reporting on unmasking and the crooked scheme against us by Fox & Friends. He added, spied on before nomination. The real story. All that busy early morning presidential tweet before this story came up from Bloomberg that former national security advisor Susan Rice requested the identities of U.S. persons in raw intelligence reports that connect to the Donald Trump transition and campaign. Now that Bloomberg story reported that Rice did this on dozen of occasions. And despite the Bloomberg report, today, Devin Nunes, the chairman of the house intelligence committee would not confirm that it was Susan Rice who requested that unmasking. But Senator Rand Paul tweeted, quote, smoking gun found. Obama pal and noted dissembler, Susan Rice, said to be spying on Trump campaign. Meanwhile, White House press secretary Sean Spicer would not go that far.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Yeah, I saw Senator Paul`s tweet. Look, I think -- I want to make sure I`m clear and consistent. I think we`ve been trying to say that from the get-go that there`s been an ongoing investigation that we have supported looking into this matter. I will say that we have continued to say, I think, there is a troubling direction some of this is going in.
(END VIDEO CLIP) VAN SUSTEREN: With the Ambassador Michael McFaul, he served as the U.S. ambassador for Russia 2012 to 2014, and also NBC`s intelligence and national security reporter, Ken Dilanian. Ken, first to you, explain -- set out the facts of what this new story is on Susan Rice and the unmasking.
KEN DILANIAN, NBC NEWS: Sure, Greta. Well, the first thing we should say is there no evidence whatsoever in that story that anything inappropriate occurred. I`ve been speaking to officials how this process of so-called unmasking works and it`s very routine. And the important thing to know about it is that only the sources of the information, the intelligence, whether it`s the national security agency, the CIA or the FBI. Only they can grant the unmasking. Officials can request it. For example I interviewed former NSA director Keith Alexander last week, and he told me he routinely turned down request to unmasked. What are we talking about unmasked? If a foreigner is talking to another foreigner and their under surveillance and they mention an American, that name has to be blacked out in the intelligence report, unless there`s a good intelligence reason to learn the name, and often there is a good intelligence reason. And when you think back to when this occurred, this was the transition. Everyone in the world was talking about Donald Trump and his aides and what jobs they might take, and who`s up and who`s down? And if the NSA had foreigners under surveillance, we`re speaking about Donald Trump and his aides, there may be occasion where Susan Rice or anyone else asked to have a name unmasked and it`s perfectly legitimate. For example, if two Chinese officials were talking about a particular Trump aide, this is hypothetical, and they say, hey, we can do business with this guy, we have a relationship dating back a few years. You know that might be an interesting thing for people to know. For intelligence reason, not for political reason, Greta.
VAN SUSTEREN: Ambassador, for all I know that you`re also friends -- friends with Susan Rice or professionally, what do you make of all this?
MICHAEL MCFAUL, FORMER AMBASSADOR TO RUSSIA: Where to start, Greta. And I know, Eli Lake, the person that reported for Bloomberg, and let`s just state from the beginning, we heard a lot of people testify and make statements about 10 days ago about how awful it is that leakers are providing classified information. Eli`s story was based on people leaking classified information. So it appears that when it`s convenient they likely course, and when it`s inconvenient they don`t. Number two, just what Ken said is exactly right. I worked for three years at the national security council before going to Moscow. There could be, I don`t know the facts here and I hope our intelligence committees will get to the bottom of the facts, but there most certainly could be intelligence reason, not political reasons, why you would want to know about those kinds of connections. At the top of your show you`ve just heard about an incredible story of an American traveling to Seychelles to meet with a Putin confidant to talk about what? If that was an intercepted phone call, somebody might want to know what is going on in there.
VAN SUSTEREN: Ambassador, to me -- I`ve never seen this intelligence report, but I imagine if something like -- you know, this Russian person talked this unnamed American or something to that effect.
MCFAUL: Exactly right.
VAN SUSTEREN: I`ve guess they`re contacts because what difference it would be if someone talked unnamed American. I mean, what gives you the privilege to unmask or have the authority or the substantive reasons. It can`t simply be because it`s someone talking to a Russian. Doesn`t it have to be more?
MCFAUL: Correct. It has to be more. And we`ve heard from FBI director Comey that there has been an ongoing counter-intelligence investigation of all these connections. So it`s not like it`s just some -- that drama that we now heard about on the record from Director Comey, that investigation was already happening well before the election. Why anybody -- and I want to be clear, I don`t know what Susan Rice did. I think we should, you know, let the investigators find that out. But one could easily imagine if you`re in charge of national security affairs that you might want to know about these kinds of contacts before January 20th.
VAN SUSTEREN: Ken, I guess it would make a difference to me, too, whether this is an isolated event or whether this is something routine, whether she asked for a lot of them, whether it`s done all the time. Sometimes when we isolate these stories, they`re taken out of perspective. We don`t have a lot of information to go around this.
DILANIAN: I think you`re absolutely right, Greta. That was my reaction when I read it. How often does this happen? And does she doing this monthly and what are the reasons? I guess it`s conceivable that there could be something inappropriate that happened here. Although, I have to say, you know, I`m a little curious, if these documents did show that Susan Rice was engaging in inappropriate conduct, wouldn`t the White House want to release them to the full intelligence committees, to both parties, instead of just giving them to Devin Nunes? That`s what I`m little confuse about. Because there are Democrats like (INAUDIBLE) talking for years about the perils of inadvertent surveillance of U.S. persons and are Americans caught up in NSA surveillance. They really care about this issue. It`s a civil liberty issue. It is a legislate issue, but I wonder why these documents were only given to Devin Nunes, Greta.
VAN SUSTEREN: We haven`t seen -- to get a whole lot more facts as we keep digging for it. Thank you, gentlemen, both. And moments ago, NBC News catching up with President Trump in the oval office. With me NBC`s Kristen Welker from the White House, who`ve just spoke with the president. Kristen?
KRISTEN WELKER, NBC NEWS: It was extraordinary, Greta. President Trump spoke with me for a few moments from the oval office. I had the chance to ask him about healthcare, the fact that, of course, his initial push for healthcare reform was defeated. And he said, look, he`s still negotiating. He is still trying to get a deal. Of course, we know he went golfing with Senator Rand Paul over the weekend. I asked him about that meeting. He said it went well. I asked him if they discussed specifics, and he said they did in fact discuss specifics, wouldn`t get into what those specifics were. But he said, look, this notion that he`s not read in on the details is just simply false. He said he`s been read in on all of the little nitty-gritty details all along. And I`ve tried to get him to characterize how serious this effort is to revive healthcare. He indicated he`s very serious about it. And, in fact, Hallie Jackson reporting that Vice President Mike Pence met with some house leaders as well, discussed the possibility of reviving healthcare reform, and came away from that meeting with a very positive sense that there is potentially something they can get done. I met with some committee heads as well during that meeting. So, there seems to be a real shift here and a sense that healthcare not necessarily dead. Of course, there`s the reality, the fact that they also want to do tax reform, infrastructure potentially, but the president really trying to send a message that he`s serious about reviving these talks on healthcare, Greta.
VAN SUSTEREN: All right, Kristen -- I mean, that`s incredible that we`re getting this insight into the president. But how did you happen to get into the oval office to talk to the president? I mean, that`s seems unusual.
WELKER: I was speaking with one of his staffers, and I think that he sort of was aware of the fact we were there, invited us in, clearly, wanted to talk about healthcare. And I got to ask him a few questions. It was a very brief meeting, Greta. But, nonetheless, this message that he does feel as though he can get something done. One other headline, I asked him if he felt as though he could work with Democrats, and He said, he feels like right now it would be tough to work with Democrats because there`s so much tension, raw emotion, particularly over Neil Gorsuch. So he seemed to indicate that his best chance for getting something done would be working with Republicans, going back to the freedom caucus, the Tuesday group, the moderate and conservative groups that he was talking with before, he seemed to indicate there was some room there for some progress, Greta.
VAN SUSTEREN: Kristen, thank you. And that president certainly is accessible. It`s unusual. Anyway, thank you. Still ahead, very tough words for the man leading the house investigation to Russia hacking, with all that has happened, is chairman Nunes still capable of a bipartisan probe? One top Republican says, no. And here`s a stunner, President Trump now claiming he never wanted a healthcare vote despite what Kristen just reported. And that`s not all, he is making big news about his twitter habits. I`m going to talk to the journalist who sat down with the president face-to-face about that. And this could be extremely dangerous, many wondering tonight, is North Korea on the edge of firing a nuclear ballistic missile. New warning coming just days before President Trump holds a critical summit with China.
VAN SUSTEREN: The White House is talking a lot about leaks and unmasking. But two Republican senators are vowing to stay focused on Russia`s meddling in the 2016 election.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNINDENTIFIED MALE: If somebody was unfairly unmasked and some transition member was surveilled after the election and unfairly unmasked, I want to get to the bottom of that. While all these issues are important, the big issue is what are we going to about Russia`s attempt to interfere in our election.
UNINDENTIFIED MALE: Every time we turn around another shoe drops from this centipede. And we need to examine all the aspects of it. If we`re really going to get to the bottom of these things, it`s got to be done in a bipartisan fashion. And as far as I can tell, Congressman Nunes killed that.
(END VIDEO CLIP) VAN SUSTEREN: Some very stern words from the Republican chairman leading the house investigation to Russia hacking. The political battle lines between right and left on stark display.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNINDENTIFIED MALE: Any time anybody jeopardizes the privacy rights of an American citizen and then leaks that information, that`s potentially a crime.
UNINDENTIFIED MALE: That really obscures the much, much larger issue of what did the Russians do in our campaign.
UNINDENTIFIED MALE: There`s nothing ordinary about the process that was used here at all. I would tell people whenever they see the president use the word fake it ought to set off alarm bells.
(END VIDEO CLIP) VAN SUSTEREN: With me Jim VandeHei, co-founder of Axios, and Jeff Mason White House correspondent from Reuters. Jeff, tell me this, the White House -- is that the president tells Kristen Welker tonight that healthcare is still possible, but he said he doesn`t think he can work with Republicans, so it sounds like he wants to nab the freedom caucus and maybe the more libertarians like Senator Rand Paul, he golfed with. Do you have a sense that the White House healthcare is going to happen?
JEFF MASON, REUTERS: I mean, I think they want to signal that he`s going to continue to keep his promises, and that`s one of the biggest promises that he made as a candidate. And yet, when healthcare failed he said he`s going to move on to tax reform. So, it`s interesting now, I think, they`re just trying to keep it in the air. That it`s something he`s still very interested in, and starts to see what kind of movement he can get either from the Republicans or potentially from some Democrats.
VAN SUSTEREN: Jim, what happened? I mean, he has the Republicans, they had plenty of time to get this healthcare bill done, and it has fallen apart. I mean, what sort of the political landscape?
JIM VANDEHEI, CO-FOUNDER, AXIOS: Well, obviously, he had not put a lot of forethought into it. So he let Republicans in the house take the lead. They failed. I don`t know that it`s completely dead, it`s mostly dead. The reason that you heard the president saying this today, there has been a flurry of meetings between the freedom caucus and key members of the White House, where they`re trying to figure out is there a compromise, or something to sell as a compromise, that might turn over more authority to the states, and get more authority to HHS on some of the regulatory components. Not that they can go on and pass next week, but they can take home over recess and say, listen, we`re still at it, we`re still trying to get a solution on healthcare. They feel embarrassed that with all Republican rule they couldn`t get a victory. And they understand it, not just healthcare was difficult is that the next month is a really difficult month. You can have a government shutdown if they can`t figure out how to bring the party together on how to fund the government without getting into tricky political topics.
VAN SUSTEREN: All right. But every time you pick off a member of the freedom caucus or several of them do, you give them something to sort of make this healthcare bill more attractive. You`re taking something away from the more moderate Republicans who are worried about Medicaid expansion. Who are worried about credits for people who needs extra help in paying for healthcare. It`s almost like every freedom caucus person you pick off you`re going to lose a moderate Republican. So you`re not that much better off.
MASON: That`s exactly right. And that`s what happened for last time when they try to get this done. And you saw him talking to both sides and they got basically sending the whole thing into the trash can.
VANDEHEI: And I don`t think you can really fix that long term. That`s why he`s probably not going to sign a bill into law. The very fact that you talked about it is that you can placate the conservative, but then you`re going to lose the senate. What they need is something they can take home, at least to say to their constituents that we`re still at it. We have some kind of bill to work at. You cannot end the first 100 days and say, oh, all we got was a Supreme Court justice, not that that`s not a huge victory, it is for the conservative movement. But legislatively that`s pretty disappointing when you have all Republicans rule. You can do a lot in this town when you have all Republican rule. If you put all thought into it, and you have a strategy for getting it done. Ask George Bush. Ask Barack Obama. Had much more success early on, understanding how to leverage the power they have.
MASON: Well, politically, is very dangerous to make such a big promise, and to make it sort of the cornerstone.
VAN SUSTEREN: That`s the least of them. I mean, I have a whole laundry list I can give you.
MASON: Yeah, but that was a big one. And that`s one that he -- his supporters expected him to be able to do. And he said he would do it on day one.
VAN SUSTEREN: But it`s not reasonable because he had all the Republicans, he had Speaker Ryan who said -- in some ways, I`m sympathetic to the president because he outsourced it to the hill, but the hill seem to have this -- I think it appears that the house said we`ve got this taken care of for you.
MASON: Well I think it goes to show if you make a promise you have to be able to know what`s in your back pocket to be able to fulfill it.
VANDEHEI: That is letting the president off a little bit. If he ran a transition the way a president typically runs the transition, they would have thought what we can get through. What can we get done to crate legislative momentum? You could think that maybe, the actual format or infrastructure would be easier to health care.
VAN SUSTEREN: Most transitions start in the summer. I don`t think President Trump actually thought he would need a transition team until the night of the election.
MASON: He had a huge transition team.
VAN SUSTEREN: They picked it up.
VANDEHEI: They did start early and could have been working on it.
VAN SUSTEREN: Why did they get rid of that transition team, I mean that was led by Chris Christie?
VANDEHEI: That was led by Christ Christie and then that he was purged and Mike Pence took over after the election.
VAN SUSTEREN: And I should add that the president did say he had a healthcare plan. I`m not so sure he did. He outsources it.
VANDEHEI: He doesn`t love policy specifics and that comment about healthcare is complicated. Yeah, like Washington is complicated, tax reform is complicated, infrastructure.
VANDEHEI: And I do think if he ever catches his rhythm, we`re talking months away from now, because of the reason you talked about that there wasn`t a normal transition and they really started the transition in the last month or two and just starting to figure out who should be the staff and either once they figure it out who the staff should be and the ideas they`re interested in so much infighting and so much turmoil.
VAN SUSTEREN: By that time we`re at mid-terms. Anyway, thank you both. Howard Dean is next talking healthcare and much more.
VAN SUSTEREN: We are back with breaking news, moments ago, NBC`s Kristen Welker speaking to President Trump in of the Oval office and the big news, the president saying he is serious about health care reform the said reports he has given up on healthcare is false. The president is saying he is talking to moderate and conservative Republicans and not reached out to Democrats at this time because he believes they`re not likely to work with him right now, with me, former Vermont Governor, former chair of the Democratic National Committee, Howard Dean. Good evening, governor.
HOWARD DEAN, FORMER DNC CHAIRMAN: Thanks for having me on.
VAN SUSTEREN: I had the thought the president was likely to reach across the aisle to work with Democrats and health care, be seen that there is no hope among his own party, because of some disparate in the house.
DEAN: Everyday is a different day. Who knows what he is going to do. I think its unlikely healthcare comes back and the reason is I think it is unlikely is, you know it won`t pass the senate. Too many senators up who have huge Medicaid populations that will lose their health insurance. If you were a member of the house, why would you walk the plank for a president with a 37 percent favorability rating when you knew the bill would get killed in the senate and think of all those ads? He voted to take away your healthcare. I don`t see it coming back.
VAN SUSTEREN: Every time he reaches over and picks off someone in the freedom caucus he loses the moderate Republicans and he loses the senate vote at that point.
DEAN: And the 38 percent he doesn`t have a lot of leverage to scare people. He tried that with the freedom caucus and they basically flipped him the bird.
VAN SUSTEREN: What could he do for the Democrats? Where can they both reach out to each other? At what point?
DEAN: Honestly, at this point, I think the atmosphere is so poisonous in Washington I don`t think he can get anything done, I really don`t. The things he had to say -- Chuck Schumer is the consummate deal-maker and he and Schumer could probably come to a deal about something. The fight everyday that goes on, he doesn`t -- he is not respectful of others and you pay a price for that.
VAN SUSTEREN: Is everything fine in the Democratic view with Obamacare in the sense that nothing is done, it won`t collapse. When you hear the Republicans say it will collapse and these things are going to happen. If nothing is done, what is going to happen for everybody?
DEAN: Insurance costs will go up and insurers will leave markets. That is a problem, why the public option --
VAN SUSTEREN: Problem or catastrophic?
DEAN: Not catastrophic, I mean it happens all over the place. There are bigger parts of this country where the insurance premiums are going down than up. This program is the flip side of what happened with part d of Medicare, which the Republicans pushed through against the Democrats and it actually came in under budget. Obamacare is substantially under budget. It`s actually cost much less than the CBO said it was going to cost when it was enacted.
VAN SUSTEREN: Ok, so people and the premiums go down, good for them and good news. What about Arizona you hear rates have gone up 116 percent. Why is that?
DEAN: I can`t tell you about Arizona, because I don`t know the insurance market. They probably have an insurance commissioner not tough enough. You don`t have to let the insurance companies do that. Eventually they leave the market you have to have a substitute. That is the weakness of the program. The substitute could have been Medicare for people under 65 but it wasn`t. There`s a fix. We should have let people buy into the Medicare system and individual mandate is not needed. The insurance companies love it. In theory you need it but most people do the smart thing and most Americans won`t go bare without health insurance including young people. There are fixes to that. There are fixes we could make to Obamacare without all this crazy rhetoric and right wing non policy of Paul Ryan`s.
VAN SUSTEREN: If there`s one thing you get to fix about Obamacare what would you do?
DEAN: Public option.
VAN SUSTEREN: That involves insurance companies.
DEAN: Public option gives Americans the choice.
VAN SUSTEREN: Medicare is essentially public option.
DEAN: Medicare is the public option, you could buy Medicare, if you want to stay in the private sector, and you buy an insurance policy. If you`d rather keep an insurance company, because you think the private sector is better you get to do it, but it keeps them from raising their prices unfairly.
VAN SUSTEREN: Do you think you and Senator Coburn could get in a room? Tom is the best but he is really conservative.
VAN SUSTEREN: Do you think you could work it out the two of you?
DEAN: We could work a lot out but he fundamentally has some different views that I --
VAN SUSTEREN: You would give it a shot?
DEAN: Yeah. He is a good guy, absolutely.
VAN SUSTEREN: Governor, thanks for joining us.
DEAN: Thank you.
VAN SUSTEREN: Ahead, the North Korean nuclear threat a defector is warning the world, we are going to tell you, what he told NBC news.
VAN SUSTEREN: President Trump making some big news on China and North Korea in an interview with "The Financial Times."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: China has great influence over North Korea and China will either decide to help us with North Korea or they won`t. If they do, that will be very good for China. If they don`t, it won`t be good for anyone. Well if China`s not going to solve North Korea, we will.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAN SUSTEREN: President Trump also talking about his tweets, saying, quote, I don`t regret anything, because there is nothing you can do about it. Saying his wiretapping claim is quote turning out to be true and the president making news on the North Korean nuclear threat. With me, Demetri Sevastopulo, Washington Bureau Chief of the Financial Times, he is one of the reporters who interviewed President Trump, nice to see you, Demetri.
DEMETRI SEVASTOPULO, THE FINANCIAL TIMES: Thank you.
VAN SUSTEREN: All right, I want to talk first about North Korea. He said China will helps us or they won`t. What does that mean?
SEVASTOPULO: For number of years, the U.S. has been increasingly worried about North Korean has the ability to hit the U.S. with a nuclear armed long range missile. China has the most sway over North Korea, because it provides the regime with food and fuel and the U.S. wants the China to do more to essentially squeeze Pyongyang, but China has resisted for two reasons. One, it`s worried about refugees pouring across the border if North Korean implode and Second of all, it worried about the unification of South and North Korea on the Korean Peninsula and U.S. troops moving up towards the border with China. It hasn`t helped the U.S. as much as the U.S. would like.
VAN SUSTEREN: The creeping by North Korea, they had all these nuclear tests, a missile test all going in a bad direction which is why the president is saying that. Even General Mattis was quite robust in his statement. What is it he says we will do alone if we go alone?
SEVASTOPULO: He is very vague about it. The options are one end of the spectrum. You could have a preemptive strike on the North Korean nuclear facilities and on the other end of the spectrum, during the campaign he said he would be willing to sit down with Kim Jong-un, the North Korean dictator and have a hamburger with him. There are extremes in between you could put sanctions on Chinese companies that deal with North Korea and cyber attacks and other things. So the whole range of things you can do and a lot have risks of damaging relationships with China and risk that North Korea might retaliate by sending a bunch of missiles to Japan and South Korea, which are the U.S. allies in the region.
VAN SUSTEREN: What do you say about Health Care?
SEVASTOPULO: Health Care, he said I want the freedom caucus to come around to my plan or to Paul Ryan`s plan and if they don`t, we`ll work with the Democrats and have plan. And we will get there and I`ll have a victory.
VAN SUSTEREN: He is certain?
SEVASTOPULO: He said he will work with the Democrats but if they filibuster Gorsuch this week hard to pick up and see how they will work together on healthcare.
VAN SUSTEREN: He talked about his tweeting. He admits not all his tweets are good. Was that the word he used?
SEVASTOPULO: I think the used the word clinker. He said he has hundreds of tweets and if you have one clinker that is ok. He called out his social media director in to the Oval office and he had 101 million followers. He was very proud of that.
VAN SUSTEREN: Does he see this ways to bypass the American, by pass to immediate get to American people.
SEVASTOPULO: I don`t think he has any reservation or whatsoever, I mean he does it almost every day. He does it on a weekend.
VAN SUSTEREN: He does it himself. Is there any question he does it himself?
SEVASTOPULO: I think some of them are from the aides and the social media director does some of them, but there is doubt some of them are written by him.
VAN SUSTEREN: Those 5:15 a.m. ones probably are his.
SEVASTOPULO: You can count on that.
VAN SUSTEREN: Demetri, thank you.
Developing tonight, NBC news exclusive, North Korea`s leader quote desperate would strike the U.S. North Korea telling NBC`s Lester Holt that interview and reaction from General Bob Scales that is next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
THAE YONG HO, NORTH KOREA DEFECTOR: Kim Jong-un has nuclear weapons and ICBMS, you know he could do anything, plus he sees that there is any kind of sign of, you know, kind of attack of imminent threat from America, the he would use it, you know his nuclear weapons, you know with ICBM.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAN SUSTEREN: North Korea`s leader is desperate and would strike the U.S. with nuclear weapons if he felt threaten and he has the capability. That is the chilling new claim from a former North Korea diplomat who deflected last summer. The Defector is now speaking exclusively to NBC`s Lester Holt. The reason North Korea has conducted multiple missile tests as a consequence to the growing aggression by North Korea. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has said military action is on the table. With me Major General Bob Scales, nice to see you, general.
MAJ. GEN. BOB SCALES, RETIRED U.S. ARMY: Hi, Greta.
VAN SUSTEREN: I guess every Secretary Defense would say all options of the table all the time. That is not unusual. Does China want to help us?
SCALES: Not really. I think they`re a little nervous about Kim Jong-un, because he is a sociopath, but just think for a minute, the fact that we have American forces in South Korea and they`re not focused against China. They have a buffer between United States and China and Korea. They also need to keep this regime alive, if North Korea implodes for any reason, what are they going to run. They`re going to run into China and that would lead to disaster for the Chinese government. Other than the fact that Kim Jong-un is driving him nuts, right now I think the Chinese are standing pack.
VAN SUSTEREN: They`re creeping towards nuclear weapon militarizing it. One of the things that I think sort of gets lost in the shuffle, they have all those weapons at the DMZ and they have -- what could they do -- what could they do to solve?
SCALES: We get so hung up on the ICBM missile deal, this is a 1960s artillery based army that I able to put right across the DMZ and this harden caves 15,000 weapons, 15,000 combination of artillery and missiles and they can shoot all the way to the hot river, which means --
VAN SUSTEREN: They can easily get solved.
SCALES: They can threaten 50 percent of the South Korean population which is in the vicinity of Seoul. Before we get too hung up on missiles, we ought to start worrying about their conventional threat, which is enormous.
VAN SUSTEREN: I Remember the -- thought we were going to be the parade. We didn`t get that. This wasn`t World War II and deliberation. This wasn`t that. Some people think, I don`t agree with this but some people think that if we go into North Korea in any form, the DPR, that they`ll --
SCALES: Absolutely not true.
VAN SUSTEREN: I think they`ll dig their heels.
SCALES: They`ve had 70 years of living in a prison where they have been bombarded with propaganda by three generations of Kim`s. These are people who view the Kim`s as gods, the idea that somehow we could intervene in North Korea with the South Koreans and have a victory parade in Pyongyang, not going to happen.
VAN SUSTEREN: I think that is what makes it more. We`re not liberating people if we go in there and do anything. We`re not liberating them.
SCALES: We should have learned that lesson in Iraq. It would be 10 times worse in North Korea. It`s psychologically damaged. 25 million people worshipping one guy.
VAN SUSTEREN: Which means it is more dangerous, thank you -- thank you very much. And coming up, I have been misled and now I am setting the record straight. I`ll tell you, next.
VAN SUSTEREN: I have something to say for the record, and it`s actually a bit of a public service announcement. It`s the head of the impending show down in U.S. Senate. I have been misled. As a consequence, you got misled. Don`t get all revved up and firing off those tweets on me, no one died. But I will tell you what happened, it`s about President Trump`s Supreme Court nominee, here is how I first said his name it looked and sounded correct to me.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VAN SUSTEREN: The two candidates, at least we think they are, Gorsuch, Hardiman, Neil Gorsuch, and Judge Neil Gorsuch.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAN SUSTEREN: Well, as days marched on someone told me I was wrong, that I should pronounce it like this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VAN SUSTEREN: President Trump Supreme Court Judge Gorsuch, Judge Gorsuch.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAN SUSTEREN: Ok, Gorsuch, whatever, what thing is absolutely clear, I`m not the only one.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want you to meet Judge Neil Gorsuch.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The president announced his pick of the Supreme Court Judge Gorsuch.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No one could have chosen better than Neil Gorsuch.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I had a good meeting with nominee Gorsuch.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAN SUSTEREN: All right. So what is it? Well during day two of the confirmation hearing Senator Tom confused himself decided to get to the bottom of it all, once and for all.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Please pronounce your last name?
NEIL GORSUCH, JUDGE OF U.S. COURT OF APPEALS: I`ve answered a lot of things Senator. Gorsuch is how I say it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We had probably different cheat sheets with different phonetic, Gorsuch. For everybody in the audience, it`s Gorsuch.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAN SUSTEREN: Yes, Gorsuch and now I have my own cheat sheet right here, Gorsuch, by the way that is the e at the end of Susteren and sometimes I just sort of slur right over it. Thanks for watching. I`ll see you back here tomorrow night 6:00 p.m. Eastern. If you can`t watch live, set your DVR and follow me on twitter, because you know why you love twitter, that is the one place you go on and say the meanest, nastiest things to me. Anyway, enjoy the rest of the evening. "Hardball" with Chris Matthews starts right now.
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