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Majority Of Americans Oppose Obamacare; Purdue Wins Georgia Senate Primary Runoff; First MH17 Bodies To Arrive In Netherlands; FAA Suspends U.S. Carrier Flights To Israel

Aired July 23, 2014 - 07:30   ET


MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: Two flights carrying some 40 bodies from the MH-17 disaster are in the air on their way to the Netherlands. Relatives and members of the Dutch royal family are on hand for the arrival of those planes at an air base in Eindhoven. U.S. officials are working off the theory from pro-Russian rebels shot down that jet by mistake. Right now the plane's black boxes are in the hands of U.K. investigators. Intelligence shows Russia is still sending equipment and weapons to separatists -- as many as 20 vehicles Tuesday alone.

Back here at home, a friend of Boston marathon bombing suspect, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is now in federal custody. The 21-year-old Steven Silva is accused of providing the gun the Tsarnaev brothers allegedly used to kill an MIT police officer during the manhunt that followed the marathon attack. Court documents revealed that he possessed a handgun with an altered serial number and the same gun has been identified as that murder weapon.

New fears of possible listeria contamination have triggered a nationwide stone fruit recall. Some of the fruit comes from big name stores, Wal-Mart, Trader Joe's and Costco. Our senior medical correspondent, Elizabeth Cohen, is live with more on this. We're in the beginning of stone fruit season. How serious is this, Elizabeth?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: No one has gotten sick so far that we know of, Michaela, and that's great. But listeria should be taken seriously. It can cause miscarriages. It can be fatal especially for the elderly and for babies. So let's take a look at some of the stores and some of the fruits that

we're talking about. So Costco, Trader Joe's, Kroger, Wal-Mart, and we're talking about peaches, nectarines, plums, pluots, which are a plum/apricot combination, of course, the fruits that have the big stones or big pits in the middle of them.

This all started when the Wawona Company in California noticed that they had listeria in one of their facilities. They have now shut it down and sterilized it -- Michaela.

PEREIRA: All right, well, good to know and at least folks can be aware if they purchased there what they need to do. Thanks so much, Elizabeth.

BOLDUAN: All right, time now for "Inside Politics." New poll numbers show that even with escalating crises abroad, the president doesn't seem to be losing so much ground, but he also isn't gaining any either. A new CNN/ORC poll shows the president's approval rating shows at 42 percent, within the margin of error from the last time you checked this polling. Is this the new normal for the president? What does it mean going ahead?

Let's talk about it with John King, CNN's chief national correspondent and, of course, the anchor of "Inside Politics." Good morning, John. Approval at the moment standing at 12 percent, but in the midst of not one but multiple crises that he's dealing with overseas. Taking a lot of heat from Republicans on his handling of it. What do you think it means?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's really interesting, Kate. The president essentially is a flat line in the approval rate since January. If you look back to the beginning of the year to where we are now, he's moved almost not at all. What does that tell us? It tells us that 42 percent likely is his bottom. Now that's not good. You don't want a president of 42 percent anytime especially in a midterm election year when the approval rating is essentially the North Star.

Midterm elections are determined most of all by the president's approval rating. I will give you this caution. The biggest drop since January actually among Democrats. He's lost 11 points among Democrats since January perhaps closer to the election when Democrats are rallying a bit. That number could tickup a bit, but remember we are talking about a national number 42 percent.

You can bet if he's at 42 percent nationally the president is lower in the states that have the big Senate races this year. They tend to be red states like Montana, South Dakota, West Virginia, Alaska, Louisiana, and North Carolina. He's at 42 nationally and he lost most of those states I just listed in 2012 he's probably a little lower in those. So it's not -- there's no discouragement for Democrats, but there's nothing to cheer about.

BERMAN: You know, John, it's bad but could be a whole lot worse theme you can also see in the numbers on health care, Obamacare. The president's numbers, the policy numbers there in terms of approval, they haven't really dropped over the last several months.

In fact, you've heard some Democrats in recent weeks, up until yesterday, and I'll got to that, talk about the idea that Obamacare may not be the albatross around their necks in this election that they once thought it would be.

However did, that change yesterday, at about 9:45 when we got the first of the federal court ruling suggesting that a big part of Obamacare should be thrown out?

KING: The legal challenge in those court cases and now the political debate about them will be fascinating between now and the election. Let's focus on the numbers. The numbers are pretty static and that's been the case for Obamacare for really a year or so, that people are just locked in on this. And so if you look at it, you know, 40 percent favor the health care law, 59 percent disapprove of the health care law, very careful when you cite the disapproval. Republicans like to say a majority of Americans disapprove of the health care law, well, a slice of them about 15 to 17 percent, disapprove because it didn't go far enough.

They think it's not liberal enough. But here's a potential silver lining for the White House as this argument goes forward. In our poll, we asked, has this helped you or anyone you know and 53 percent say it has helped them or other families, 18 percent say it's helped their family and 35 percent say it's helped other families.

Now politically, Republicans want to replace and repeal, as they like to say. If a majority of Americans think it's helped them or helped someone they know it gets harder politically to take it away so if people think it's helping, even if they didn't like it at the beginning, but it's helping them or their friends, the Republicans have a higher bar. If you want to take it away, they need to explain much more clearly what they would put in its place.

BOLDUAN: As we watch kind of the mid-term approaching in these important primaries that are play out, you wonder, what is the big message, the big resonating issue for each place in each state? I mean take Georgia, for example, David Purdue, businessman, beating out longtime Republican Congressman Jack Kingston taking on another big political name in that state, Michelle Nunn. What do you take from that primary last night?

KING: Well, the headline of that number one, beyond the primary last night is the Democrats have two places where they think they can pick up Senate seats there in, Kentucky and Georgia. That tells you how steep the hill is for Democrats this year, that their best chances are in states that President Obama lost twice, Kentucky and Georgia.

Now let's look at that Georgia race, though, Michelle Nunn, the daughter of the longtime Senator Sam Nunn, Democrats think they have a great recruit and top of the ticket in Georgia will be relatively strong, Jimmy Carter's grandson is their candidate for governor. What about David Purdue?

This one was a loss last night. We've talked a lot this year about the wins for the Chamber of Commerce and the Republican establishment. Well, the chamber backed Jack Kingston. David Purdue whose face you see right there, the businessman and the newcomer to politics. He won that. The buzz among conservatives is that the timing helped David Purdue.

What have we been talking about a lot, immigration? What does the Chamber of Commerce want, comprehensive immigration reform including a path to legal status or a path to citizenship? Conservatives don't like that. What conservatives in Georgia are saying is that Jack Kingston took on the baggage of the Chamber of Commerce position on immigration and that helped David Purdue.

Watching this race going forward, you're going to have two people, Michelle Nunn may have a famous name. She's never run for office before. David Purdue has never run for office before. So it makes it interesting when you have newcomers to politics. This is a race Democrats really need because they are expected to lose in some of those states I mentioned at the beginning.

They really need to pick up a seat somewhere so watch a lot of money now go into Georgia, and watch health care, women's issues, a lot lo of microtargeting in this race. It will be a fascinating contest.

BOLDUAN: You are going to see Democrats coming in from all over the country to help that race out for sure.

BERMAN: The ones who aren't in Kentucky.

BOLDUAN: The one who aren't splitting their dime between Kentucky. Exactly. John King, great to see you. Thanks, John.

KING: Take care, guys.

BOLDUAN: Coming up next on NEW DAY, President Obama is on a fundraising swing out west amid two major crises overseas. We'll talk to White House deputy national security adviser how the administration is handling these challenges.


BOLDUAN: Breaking news, two Ukrainian fighter jets have been shot down in Eastern Ukraine, this according to Ukrainian officials. We're going to bring you many more details as they become available, happening as we speak. This, of course, just days after Malaysia Air Flight 17 was shot down over Ukraine killing 292 people on board. U.S. intelligence shows the pro-Russian separatists shot down that plane, that according to U.S. officials.

BERMAN: We do not know what weapons may have been used to shoot down the Ukrainian fighter jets. Were they these BUK missiles suspected of taking down MH-17? We don't know that yet, but I think piecing that together will make the situation on ground much, much clearer.

BOLDUAN: Yes, absolutely right.

BERMAN: We're going to have much more on that crisis in Ukraine and the Middle East crisis as well. We'll speak with the White House deputy national security adviser, Tony Blinken, next.


CUOMO: All right. We do have breaking news to report, and it is troubling. It comes from Ukraine's government. They say two Ukrainian fighter jets have been shot down over Eastern Ukraine. Again, that's the hostile region, the pro-Russian region largely controlled by different militant groups, and, again, two Ukrainian fighters jets just shot down over eastern Ukraine.

That comes from the Ukrainian government. As we get more details about how that happened and why, we know why, as we get details about it, we'll bring them to you. Right now, I want to bring in Deputy National Security Adviser Tony Blinken.

Tony, this is fresh information. I'm not going to ask you about that because we're all learning about it at the same time. However, it does go to the main question that planes are being shot out of the sky in Eastern Ukraine. This isn't the first report we heard about it. Other planes have been taken out as well.

So let's stick right with MH-17 because that's our focus specifically here in Holland as we wait for the bodies to finally come home, at least some of them to their loved ones here in Amsterdam. So, Tony, what do we know on the U.S. intelligence side about what brought down MH-17? What proof and intelligence can you suggest?

TONY BLINKEN, PRESIDENT OBAMA'S DEPUTY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Chris, we have a very compelling case about what brought down the plane. First of all, we've seen a flow of weapons across the border from Russia into Ukraine for weeks that we've been working to document.

Second, we know that a missile brought down the plane. We know it came from territory controlled by the separatists. We know that the missile in question was in the possession of the separatists. We know that the Ukrainians didn't have any of those kinds of missiles anywhere near range and indeed haven't used any anti-aircraft missiles during this conflict.

And we know that the separatists on social media bragged about taking down a plane immediately after the plane went down and then pulled that back from social media when they found out it was a civilian aircraft. So I think there's an extremely compelling case, and if this morning's news bears itself out, that is, the shoot down of Ukrainian planes.

That just only deepens what we know because it demonstrates yet again that the separatists are shooting down planes. In this case, they shot down a civilian airliner and killed nearly 300 innocent people.

CUOMO: All right. But there will be a distinction, and it's a key one. First of all, Tony, I don't think you or I can see the screen, Wolf is going to join us also to get your take on situation in Israel. I don't know if you can see him on the screen right now, but he will be in just a moment.

The distinction would be this, Tony. Yes, the militants say they have the weapons to shoot planes out of the sky, but of a certain range. MH-17 would have required a different range weapon asset, a surface- to-air missile. Those they say they do not have.

So is all of the proof circumstantial and based on what we have heard, or do you think you can make a technical forensic case to prove that they had the weapon and that they took this plane out of the sky, MH- 17?

BLINKEN: Chris, you have to bring all of the elements together and that's what we're working to do. What we've seen, for example, is compelling reports in social media of separatists using a missile to shoot down the plane, parading it in streets of towns in the separatist-controlled areas indeed where we believe the missile came from, just a day before the plane was shot down.

That to me is quite compelling and again when you put that together with the fact that they were bragging about taking down a plane just shortly after MH-17 came down, you put those two things together, together with the flow of weapons across the border from Russia into Ukraine that we've seen for weeks on end, all of that taken together makes a very compelling case.

CUOMO: But if you talk to the self-appointed prime minister of the militant area, which I have and others have or my friend from Russian TV, they will say that's all you have is social media and some conversations that could have been manufactured with all the money and surveillance capabilities and intelligence capabilities of the U.S. That's the best you can do? Is that a fair criticism?

BLINKEN: Look, the separatists and some of their backers would say this conversation is not happening. They'll say we invent anything. The fact of the matter is when you lay it all out, when you see how we come about bringing the evidence together, for example, the social media. What do we do? We get voice intercepts of the separatists talking and bragging about taking down a plane.

We compare it to remarks they made in public to the voices that are on those tapes, and you can have a very compelling assessment of who is speaking. Our experts are very good at this, but again you also saw the other day reporters get into the field and find pieces of the plane with shrapnel in it that's consistent with an SA-11 missile, which is what we believe brought down the plane. The case when you bring these elements together is very compelling and beyond that there's no plausible alternate explanation.

CUOMO: On this same point, one last question before we get to Wolf, Tony, first, can you show -- I know it's hard to show the nonexistence of a fact, but the Russian side would say they have proof that a Ukraine government plane was in the area of MH-17 when it was brought down, and that's why we believe they did it. Is there a way to show that that can't be true?

BLINKEN: Well, from what we've seen there were no Ukrainian planes in the area at the time and the plane that the Russians are pointing to is a plane that is used for air-to-ground attacks. In other words, it doesn't shoot down planes in the sky. It attacks things on the ground. It's not outfitted to take down planes in the sky. So they're alleged case holds no water.

CUOMO: All right. I want to bring in Wolf now and hopefully, Tony, you're working there in Washington to figure out how to get some expert eyes on the ground in East Ukraine at that crime scene before it's completely corrupted and you're not able to gather any hard forensic proof of what happened to that plane --

BLINKEN: We are.

CUOMO: -- I'm going to give it to Wolf now who is in the middle of a very, very serious conflict there -- Wolf.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST, "THE SITUATION ROOM": Tony, thanks very much. How close is the secretary of state, John Kerry? He's in Jerusalem. I'm in Jerusalem right now. How close do you believe he is to achieving some sort of cease fire between Israel and Hamas?

BLINKEN: Look, Wolf, he's working, as you know, very hard in that direction. He's on the ground. He is engaged with all of the key players, obviously with the Israelis, with the Egyptians trying to work on making their initiative real, with other countries that may have an important role to play from Turkey to Qatar to the UEA to Jordan, trying to bring all of this together.

There's real urgency to trying to end the violence and to get a cease- fire, but let's again go back to the basic and most important premise, no country can abide having rockets raining down on it by terrorists or having terrorists tunnel underground to kill or kidnap its citizens.

So Israel is doing what's necessary to end that threat, but right now given the civilian toll, there's real urgency in trying to bring this to a close. Israel has done significant damage to the Hamas infrastructure, and it's now in a place I think where it can move to a cease-fire. Indeed, it said it wants one, to try to bring this to a close.

BLITZER: Would all Israeli troops have to be removed from Gaza as part of this cease fire agreement?

BLINKEN: Well, in the first instance, the most important thing is to, indeed, cease fire immediately and then work on what comes after that, including what happens to the troops, what happens going forward to ensure that Hamas does not continue to rain rockets down on Israel or try to send terrorists underneath the ground to kidnap or kill Israelis.

And also what happens to try and alleviate the suffering of people in Gaza and to ameliorate their circumstance so that the suffering that they're enduring also comes to an end.

BLITZER: I know that the U.S. has already pledged $47 million in humanitarian aid to Palestinians in Gaza as an initial gesture right now. I know you like what Egypt is doing to try to broker this cease fire agreement, but I'm hearing conflicting reports about the U.S. attitude towards Qatar. Is Qatar helping or hurting this process because of their relationship with Hamas?

BLINKEN: Well, the important thing is there are countries, including Qatar, that have a relationship with Hamas, and Hamas is the odd party out. It has refused to engage in the cease-fire. We don't deal directly with Hamas, so countries that do, including Qatar, including Turkey, have a role to play in trying to convince Hamas that it needs to stop firing and stop raining these rockets down on Israel.

BLITZER: But is Qatar's role helpful or hurtful? BLINKEN: Look, I think it can be helpful, again, because we need contact points with Hamas and Qatar, Turkey, other countries can provide that.

BLITZER: In the next few hours, Tony, the FAA has to announce whether they're lifting that ban on U.S. flights, U.S. carriers flying in and out of Israel. Have they already told the White House what their plan is?

BLINKEN: No, Wolf, I haven't heard anything from them this morning. They have been working very closely with Israeli authorities overnight to see if the concerns that were raised yesterday can be alleviated, and they can lift the notice, but I haven't heard from them yet this morning.

BLITZER: What do you anticipate? Are you anticipating a lifting or a continuation?

BLINKEN: Wolf, they're working through this closely with the Israelis. The FAA has a responsibility for the safety and security of Americans and American carriers, and they take that responsibility very seriously, but they've been working overnight with the Israelis on this.

BLITZER: Yes, I know the Israelis are very, very upset, as you can fully appreciate what's going on. We'll see what the FAA decides to do. Tony Blinken is the deputy national security adviser to the president. Tony, thanks very much for joining us.

BLINKEN: Thanks, Wolf. Thanks, Chris.

BLITZER: All right, let's go back to John and Kate in New York.

BERMAN: Thanks so much, Wolf. Coming up, we're going to talk about that FAA decision to halt those flights into Israel after the rockets hit near Tel Aviv's airport. We'll discuss the risks of flying through conflict zones.

Also, Virginia Senator Tim Kaine joins us live, a key ally to President Obama. We'll get his reaction to the latest breaking news out of Ukraine.

BOLDUAN: Plus, a mother, a grandmother, and an uncle grieving the loss of two boys when Flight 17 went down. Chris had a very emotional interview with this family. You will want to hear this coming up.