Return to Transcripts main page


Can Democrats Stop Repeal of Affordable Care Act?; North Korea Close to Testing Intercontinental Missile; Book Examines Obama Legacy As President Leaves Office. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired January 2, 2017 - 07:30   ET


[07:30:00] REP. DEBBIE DINGELL (D), MICHIGAN: So the things that people really like, he knows have to stay.

And as we just heard from Congressman Zeldin, the devil is in the details. You've got to figure out how you're going to pay for that and Republicans are having a very hard time figuring out how they're going to replace. It's become very important to the American people. And if they try to take away a guarantee to seniors across this country that they would have health care when they retired at 65, you will hear a hue and cry across this country that will scare many Republican members.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Well, Paul Ryan, in the past, has talked about, you know, doing things with Medicare and Medicare reform. Donald Trump really hasn't so we don't know what he wants to do with Medicare. That's a totally separate issue going forward. We do know that Obamacare --

DINGELL: Well, they get tied together.

BERMAN: They do. There is -- there is some overlap there for sure. But again, you are in the minority in Congress and starting on January 20th, for the first time, not only will you be the minority in Congress but you're not going to have a Democratic president either. So when they act in concert, the Republicans in Congress and the Republican president, there's not much you can do to stand in their way, is there?

DINGELL: Well, I would actually say to you that our job is to make sure the American people know what they're going to try to do them. So our job is at a very grassroots level to go out and talk to our constituents, and constituents within our states, and warn them about what could happen. So, they're making their voices heard. So we will collectively act on what's right for the people of America. So our job right now is to do a good job of communicating and making sure people understand what the implications are of laws that they want to change.

BERMAN: You know, it's interesting because communicating is what elections are about also, right? You do that --

DINGELL: That's correct.

BERMAN: -- in campaigns. And if you look at what's happened since President Obama took office in 2008, Democrats -- you know, he did win reelection into the White House but Democrats across the board have lost a lot of ground. Just to review here, you've lost 70 seats in the House, 11 seats in the Senate. Ten Democratic statehouses lost governors -- gone, not to mention the legislatures around the country right now. Democrats have taken a beating across the country there. The question is, you know why? Why do you think Democrats have fared so badly across the country in the last eight years?

DINGELL: Well, you may or may not know, I was one of the Democrats that said for two years that Donald Trump could win this election.

BERMAN: You sure were.

DINGELL: There's an anger out there right now. People are frustrated and we, as Democrats, have to hear that anger and we have to make sure we're doing a good job of communicating with people on understanding what it is that they want and if we don't do that we're a permanent minority. We've got to come together collectively. We cannot be a caucus of identity politics.

We've got to be a big caucus that's going to understand what the issues are for working men and women of all demographics, of all geography. And they need to know that, as Democrats, we're going to fight for them. A lot of working men and women don't feel like we're a voice for them right now.

BERMAN: Has President Obama failed in that regard? I mean, I know he's coming to Capitol Hill on Wednesday to talk to Democrats there about how to try to preserve some aspects of Obamacare, but how much of this is on his shoulders? He's been the leader of the Democratic Party for eight years.

DINGELL: You know, I think it's on all of our shoulders. I'm going to be very blunt about that. Each of has a responsibility to make sure that we are connecting with the people that have elected us. So, he's one of our leaders. He's going to come and I think he's going to try to energize the troops to keep us together. It's exciting that the House and Senate are getting together as Democrats. We never do that. We need to do that. If we keep fighting each other we're not going to be able to fight for those policies that we really have to be out there being the voice for.

BERMAN: Is President Obama -- how much of a role do you want him to play after January 20th or do you think that the Democratic Party starts -- needs to look for new people to lead?

DINGELL: There is no question that it is time for us to be bringing along the next generation of leaders, but there are very wise people and he is one them. He's experienced and seasoned. You know, a good team knows how to use everybody on the team. He can be one of our very seasoned, smart leaders who helps to bring along the next generation.

BERMAN: Debbie Dingell, member of Congress from the state of Michigan. Thanks so much for being with us, appreciate it.

DINGELL: Thank you.

BERMAN: Alisyn --

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: John, the U.S. is putting North Korea on notice over Kim Jong Un's latest provocation. Is the reclusive leader saber-rattling or is this a real threat? That's next.


[07:38:17] BERMAN: The Obama administration is putting North Korea on notice about provocative action. The State Department has said that there are consequences to unlawful conduct. This, after Kim Jong Un alerted the world that North Korea is preparing to test an intercontinental ballistic missile. CNN's Saima Mohsin live in Seoul in South Korea with the latest. Good morning, Saima.

SAIMA MOHSIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, John. Yes, huge concern but important to separate the rhetoric from reality. Well, what do we really know? We know that North Korea has nuclear weapons, conducting two tests alone in 2016, the fifth and largest under Kim Jong Un's watch in September which resulted in sanctions. But that doesn't seem to be stopping him as we heard in his New Year's Day speech. He believes he has an intercontinental ballistic missile and he's very close to testing it.

We also know that North Korea conducted -- launched a satellite in February 2016, which a lot of experts, John, say points to the fact that this could be a template for launching a long-range missile. An intercontinental ballistic missile has a minimum range of 5,500 kilometers and beyond. Taking a missile like that way out of just this region alone in terms of the threat it poses.

Now, Kim Jong Un is also on a path and a timeline to complete his nuclear ambitions in 2017 according to a recent defector who spoke out here in Seoul. He said that Kim Jong Un is anxious to carry out more nuclear tests as President Donald Trump moves into the White House -- Alisyn.

[07:40:00] CAMEROTA: Saima, thank you for all of that background. Let's talk more about North Korea's latest moves and the possible consequences. Joining us now is Victor Cha. He's a Georgetown University professor and the Korea chair for the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Professor, thanks so much for being here. How do you interpret the latest moves? Saber-rattling or a real threat?

VICTOR CHA, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY PROFESSOR, KOREA CHAIR, CSIS: I see it as a real threat, Alisyn. North Korea, under Kim Jong Un, has carried out 65 ballistic missile and nuclear tests over the past eight years. As you said, 20 in the last year. And there's a clear pattern to them targeting U.S. elections and inaugurations. There's periods in which they would like to do more testing -- more demonstrations of strength to try to gain the upper hand with a new incoming president coming to Washington.

CAMEROTA: And so, you believe that we should be truly concerned and you see it as a real threat. And are they also ratcheting up their technical know-how each time?

CHA: Yes. I think the fact that the testing has been so frequent -- the tempo has been so strong over the past few years really shows that this is not just saber-rattling. It's a military testing program designed to improve, by bits and pieces, different technical thresholds they are trying to surmount in order to be able to have a nuclear ICBM that can reach the United States.

Whether that is the launch capacity, whether it's solid fuel propellant, whether it's putting a miniaturized nuclear warhead on the top of an ICBM, these are all thresholds, technically, that they need to cross, and they need to do the testing in order to do that and that's what we've been seeing over all this time. So it's not saber- rattling, it's a military testing program.

CAMEROTA: So how do you think this will go, Professor, when Donald Trump becomes president? What do you think that his relationship will be like with Kim Jong Un, if that's even the right word for it, or with North Korea?

CHA: Yes, I don't know if I'd call it a relationship. I mean, I think the number one priority for the incoming president is that he has to stop this program. It's certainly important to deter a country like North Korea -- an unpredictable and dangerous country like North Korea from carrying out nuclear tests or carrying out missile tests.

But it's just dangerous for a country like this to even have these things. To have missiles and nuclear weapons of this caliber that they might proliferate to others or that might give them a sense that they can around and start to coerce other countries in the region into doing things that they want. So, to me, this is the number one priority for the incoming administration in terms of national security.

CAMEROTA: So, when you say stop this program, how? How can the U.S. or President-elect Trump, when he's president, do that?

CHA: So, I mean, there's obviously diplomacy. Diplomacy is something that can be used to try to get them to stop testing. But beyond that, there are sanctions from the last U.N. Security Council resolution that are new. There are Treasury Department sanctions that have gone through a public comment period and now are effective in terms of cutting off their finances in the international system. There's moving military assets to the region. There's changing our declaratory policy if they stand up an ICBM again to try to test something.

There are a number of things that need to be done but the first thing that needs to be done is a very strong statement by the incoming president that this will not stand under his watch. That North Korea will not be able to develop a weapon --


CHA: -- that can reach the West Coast of the United States.

CAMEROTA: But does Kim Jong Un respond a strongly-worded statement from the president?

CHA: Well, I think he doesn't respond -- he -- we know that he doesn't respond to weakness. I mean, he responds to strength. And in the past, every time the North Koreans have come to the negotiating table, made agreements, anything, it's been because of strength. It's not been because of weakness or a willingness to simply sit down and talk to them while they continue to get aid from China and from other countries. So I think this is a sort of policy decision that the incoming president has to make where that person has to say that this is something that cannot happen--


CHA: -- under his or her watch.

CAMEROTA: I mean, you also say sanctions. We know that sanctions have greatly hurt the North Korean people but not Kim Jong Un.

CHA: Well, we don't know that for sure. I mean, especially the latest iteration of sanctions that the Chinese have agreed to undertake in the last U.N. Security Council resolution will cut revenues for the North Koreans by some -- by some 40 percent in terms of revenues from mineral exports they're sending to China. These Treasury sanctions also are quite effective because they will not allow the regime to have access to the international financial system. And, of course, it's the elites, not the regular people of North Korea, that have access to the international financial system. So these are more targeted sanctions that may be more effective.