What Trump said about his drug czar pick, health care fixes
JUDY WOODRUFF: We begin our coverage tonight at the White House.
At two public appearances today, President Trump addressed a flurry of news stories and controversies.
Joining me now to walk us through the president's remarks is our own John Yang.
John, thank you.
So we know the president invited the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, to the White House today to have lunch. There was a lot of attention on that. We're going to talk about that later in the program.
But I think what the big news coming out of the president's comments today was when he spoke about this opioid control story that broke over the weekend, The Washington Post and CBS News.
JOHN YANG: That's right.
The stories were about the president's nominee to be head of the Office of National Dug Control Policy, the drug czar. That's Pennsylvania Representative Tom Marino. The stories say that he pushed legislation in Congress that made it harder for the DEA, the Drug Enforcement Administration, to police opioids.
And, today, Mr. Trump said he wants to talk to Marino about that.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I did see the report. We're going to look into the report. We're going to take it very seriously, because we're going to have a major announcement, and probably next week, on the drug crisis and the opioid mess or problem. And I want to get that absolutely right. We're going to be looking into Tom.
JOHN YANG: Earlier today, Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, a state hit-hard by the opioid crisis, said he wants that nomination withdrawn.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And we're going to be hearing more about that opioid story a little later in the program with William Brangham.
John, the president also spoke again about health care, the failure of Republicans to repeal and replace Obamacare.
JOHN YANG: This came during the Cabinet meeting earlier in the day.
He made it sound like the breakthrough is imminent both on a short-term fix to sort of bolster the Affordable Care Act and then on a long-term bill to destroy the Affordable Care Act and replace it.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I think we will have a short-term fix, and then we will have a long-term fix. And that will take place probably in March or April. We will have a solid vote. It will be probably 100 percent Republican, no Democrats, but most people know that that's going to be a very good form of health insurance.
JOHN YANG: Now, our colleague Lisa Desjardins reports from Capitol Hill that there is some signs of progress on a short-term fix, a bipartisan short-term fix. The negotiations or talks between Senator Lamar Alexander and Senator Patty Murray are showing some signs of progress.
But on the longer-term fix, the suggestion is, according to Lisa, that the president may be pushing an idea that is not yet fully baked on Capitol Hill.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So, separately, John, the president was asked about those well-publicized allegations out there for the last week against movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, sexual assault allegations.
And then the question turned to the president's own situation, a problem that emerged during the campaign last year.
JOHN YANG: That's right. Specifically, he was asked about a subpoena that was served on his campaign committee asking for documents about women who accused President Trump during the campaign of sexual misconduct. And, once again, he denied everything.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: All I can say is, it's totally fake news. It's just fake. It's fake. And it's made-up stuff. And it's disgraceful what happens, but that happens in the world of politics.
JOHN YANG: Mr. Trump's lawyers are trying to have that suit dismissed. They argue that a sitting president cannot face a civil suit.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And, finally, John, the president was asked why he has not spoken out publicly yet about U.S. special operations soldiers who were killed in Niger just in the last few days by Islamist extremist forces.
JOHN YANG: He took this question and turned into a comparison, this question about four fallen warriors overseas, and made it a comparison between how he reacts and other presidents reacted, particularly his immediate predecessor, President Obama.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: If you look at President Obama and other presidents, most of them didn't make calls. A lot of them didn't make calls. I like to call when it's appropriate, when I think I'm able to do it.
MAN: Earlier, you said President Obama never called the families of the fallen soldiers. How can you make that claim?
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I don't know if he did. No, no, no, I was — I was told that he didn't often. And a lot of presidents don't. They write letters. I do — excuse me, Peter. I do a combination of both.
Sometimes, it's a very difficult thing to do, but I do a combination of both.
President Obama, I think probably did sometimes, and maybe sometimes he didn't. I don't know. That's what I was told.
JOHN YANG: Former aides to President Obama are pushing back very hard, saying that he did make phone calls, he wrote.
And I can say that also both President Obama and President George W. Bush met personally with families of the fallen.
JUDY WOODRUFF: John Yang, thank you very much.