Obama urges Democrats to fight plans for 'Trumpcare'
President Barack Obama launched a final battle yesterday to stop "Trumpcare" replacing the health reforms he hoped would be the central plank of his political legacy.
Two weeks before he leaves office, Mr Obama held a last-ditch meeting with Democratic senators and congressmen urging them to "fight" against president-elect Donald Trump and his Republican allies, who declared repealing Obamacare their "first order of business".
According to Democrat politicians who attended the closed-door meeting on Capitol Hill with Mr Obama, he emphasised that they should refer to whatever plan Republicans come up with as "Trumpcare", contrasting it with "Obamacare".
Mr Obama told the meeting: "Keep up the fight. Tell the stories about the people who have benefited from Obamacare. Our Republican colleagues don't quite know what to do. They're like the dog that caught the bus. They can repeal but they have nothing to put in its place."
He also told them: "Don't rescue" Republicans by helping to pass "Trumpcare" which would be "something worse".
As he left the room Mr Obama said: "Look out for the American people."
It fired the starting gun on what promises to be the first high-profile legislative confrontation of Mr Trump's presidency, which begins on January 20.
Opposition to soaring healthcare bills under Obamacare was a major plank of Mr Trump's campaign message in key battleground states. Paul Ryan, the Republican House Speaker, responded to Mr Obama's comments by saying that Republicans did have "plenty of ideas" and would not "pull the rug out from anybody". He added: "This law has failed; it is getting worse and families are hurting."
Obamacare, otherwise known as the 2010 Affordable Care Act, led to more than 20 million Americans who previously had no health insurance getting coverage.
It also stopped health insurers from putting limits on coverage and refusing insurance to people with pre-existing conditions. But amid growing costs and a problematic launch, the system became an opposition rallying cry for Republicans who condemned it as government overreach.
Mike Pence, the vice president-elect, met for an hour with Republican senators and congressmen on Capitol Hill, telling them Mr Trump wanted to sign a law dismantling Obamacare on January 20, the day he takes office.
Meanwhile, Mr Trump has sided with Julian Assange against the US intelligence agencies, in a remarkable statement that has confounded security experts and angered many within his own party.
Mr Trump has consistently cast doubt on the intelligence agencies' conclusion that Russia was behind the hack of Democratic party emails, which were released to damage Hillary Clinton during the election.
The hacked emails from the account of John Podesta, Mrs Clinton's campaign chief, were provided to WikiLeaks.
On Tuesday night, Mr Assange, speaking from within the Ecuadorian embassy in London to Mr Trump's chief cheerleader at Fox News, denied that Russia had provided WikiLeaks with the emails.
"Julian Assange said 'a 14-year-old could have hacked Podesta' - why was DNC so careless?" tweeted Mr Trump yesterday. "Also said Russians did not give him the info!"
Lindsey Graham, the influential South Carolina senator who challenged Mr Trump for the Republican nomination, said Mr Trump's continued refusal to accept the verdict of the 16 intelligence agencies was "very disturbing".
He said Mr Trump was foolish to side with Mr Assange. "Not only should he ignore Julian Assange, he should condemn him for what he has done to our country - putting our soldiers at risk," he said. "I don't believe a word of what Mr Assange said. This is a guy who harmed our troops, who is a fugitive from justice for heaven's sake, don't listen to him, listen to our patriots."
Mr Trump is due to be briefed on the intelligence supporting the claim that Russia was behind the hack. He tweeted on Tuesday night that the briefing had been delayed suggesting it could be because the intelligence agencies needed more time to make their case.