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Trump Turns Up Heat On Republicans Over Health Care

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

At the White House today, two statements on two very different topics - one on the Russia investigation that the Trump administration is struggling to get out from under, the other on a bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act that President Trump is struggling to push over the finish line. NPR White House correspondent Tamara Keith joins us now from the White House. Hi, Tam.

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: Hi.

SIEGEL: Let's start with that first statement. A rare public remarks from Jared Kushner, the president's son-in-law and senior adviser, who sat down today with Senate investigators looking into Russian meddling in the election.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JARED KUSHNER: The record and documents I have voluntarily provided will show that all of my actions were proper and occurred in the normal course of events of a very unique campaign.

SIEGEL: Tam, what else did he have to say?

KEITH: Well, that audio you were hearing came from a statement he delivered at the White House after speaking with Senate investigators, but that was behind closed doors and lasted more than two hours. In his public remarks, Kushner was adamant that he did not collude with Russia, and that he doesn't know of anyone else in the campaign who did so. There was also a longer written statement that he submitted to the committee.

And in that he said that he had four meetings with Russians during the campaign and the transition, which he characterized as benign and not part of some larger plot to work with Russia. And he described them as part of a context of a campaign that was lean and inexperienced and overwhelmed with requests for meetings from many foreign governments, not just Russia. We don't know, though, what the committee pressed him on or what he talked about behind closed doors with investigators.

SIEGEL: Kushner clearly was trying to put this behind him. How likely is that?

KEITH: Yeah, so he was clearly trying to, but you know what? He'll be back up on the Hill tomorrow speaking to investigators from the House intelligence committee, which has its own investigation. It's possible that at some later point he'll be asked to testify in an open session. It's not clear when that would be, but Kushner's team insists he wants to be as helpful as possible.

SIEGEL: OK, on to health care. The Senate is set to take a procedural vote on the bill tomorrow. Can you quickly explain what that means first?

KEITH: Yeah, so it's a motion to proceed. That's basically a vote to begin debate on the health care bill or a health care bill. But it's not clear that there are at this moment enough Republican senators willing to vote even just for that. And if they do manage to begin debate, it's not clear what version of the health care legislation they'd be debating or ultimately asked to support. The president has said that his preferred option is repeal and replace. But there, at the moment, is no agreement on what the replacement should be.

SIEGEL: Yeah. And the president had a message for Republican senators today. What was it?

KEITH: You've been making a promise to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act for years. Get on it. You know, this message was really all about turning up the heat on Republican senators.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: The question for every senator, Democrat or Republican, is whether they will side with Obamacare's architects, which have been so destructive to our country, or with its forgotten victims. Any senator who votes against starting debate is telling America that you are fine with the Obamacare nightmare, which is what it is.

KEITH: Actually, there are some Republican senators who would dispute that characterization. They say they don't even know what they're being asked to vote for...

SIEGEL: Yeah.

KEITH: ...So - and also, one thing is that President Trump's remarks today were pretty similar to remarks he delivered last week in a lunch meeting with Republican senators. The message hasn't much changed. And there hasn't been much movement, apparently, in votes.

SIEGEL: Well, given that and given that it's unclear what's on the table exactly, why is President Trump saying this again?

KEITH: Well, this was a statement that was aimed at the public, at making a case to the public that Republican senators need to act and that there will be consequences if they don't.

SIEGEL: NPR White House correspondent Tamara Keith. Thanks, Tam.

KEITH: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.