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AT THIS HOUR WITH BERMAN AND MICHAELA

Al Qaeda Leader Taunts Trump After Yemeni Raid; Trump Attacks Media During Central Command Speech; Gen. John Kelly Says Bad Travel Ban Rollout "All on Me"; Trump's Controversial Comments on Russia/Pro- Russian Forces Attacking Ukraine; Trump: Obamacare Repeal Time Line Could Be 2018. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired February 7, 2017 - 11:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


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[11:3134:] KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: New fallout over the Yemen raid that left a U.S. Navy SEAL and several civilians dead. And a top al Qaeda leader, Qassim al Rimi, who CNN has learned was one of the targets of the raid, released an audio message taunting President Trump, saying this, in part, he says, "The new fool of the White House received a painful slap across his face."

CNN chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto, is joining me now with much more.

So, Jim, how will the progression of what we learned here, it seems, at first, we heard that the target of the raid was gathering intelligence. Now we hear this al Qaeda leader was also a target. What is the very latest you're hearing?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Let's be clear, they said from the beginning this raid was about gathering intelligence, and it was, but we're learning new details now about what that specific intelligence they were looking to gather here. And that is collecting key intelligence on AQAP leadership, including the leader, Qassim al Rimi, you mentioned there. If al Rimi wasn't there, they believed they may find intelligence that would help lead to him and other senior al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula leaders. That doesn't mean the mission was green-lit based on whether he was there, but when you look at the allocation of resources, Navy SEALs, Special Forces from the United Arab Emirates, U.S. aircraft, all in the line of fire, the risk taken here indicates the seriousness of this operation.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely.

Also, speaking of terror, I wanted to get your take on this, what the president said yesterday. He took the opportunity to hit the media during his speech at U.S. Central Command yesterday. You heard that along with all of us. But for our viewers, here's what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: All over Europe, it's happening. It's gotten to a point where it's not even being reported. And in many cases, the very, very dishonest press doesn't want to report it. They have their reasons, and you understand that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: So then after that, the White House puts out a list of 78 terror attacks that they claim had been underreported, in their words. Beyond the fact that that is inaccurate about underreporting, do you have any sense of what's motivating this? What is behind this?

SCIUTTO: Listen, Kate, when I saw this list, my reaction was, ask my wife, right? Because, you know, when myself and my many CNN colleagues traveled to Paris twice for the "Charlie Hebdo" attacks or Paris attacks, spent days and days there covering this deeply. We went to Orlando, the coverage of San Bernardino, a series of attacks both here and in Europe, the Nice attacks, we were on the air for hours talking about this. So, as you say, it's just not factual. It's not correct.

Now why are they doing this? It's hard to say. It's hard to say whether this is an actual belief in the White House or if his media team is trying to catch up with the president's comments on this. When you look at that list last night -- and I was looking at it like you -- it was a list of all terror attacks or suspected terror attacks around the world of years, virtually, all of which we covered. Some of them -- and the coverage, you know, depending how big and impactful the attack was corresponded to those attacks. If you had a couple hundred people killed, we were talking about it for days and weeks. The smaller attacks mentioned -- and we can send to our viewers the CNN stories done on these things. But of course, smaller attacks got less coverage. So, it's a cipher. I don't know. We don't know why they're pushing this line.

[11:35:11] BOLDUAN: And a distraction. But to be clear, and you saw this when you saw the list, some of the attacks on the list were the big attacks we were all talking about. And you listed them out. Some of the attacks had nothing to do with the United States, if he's trying to make an argument for travel ban, if that's what this is about. Some of the incidents had no casualties whatsoever.

And then there's, of course, the additional bit of this, this imaginary -- we call this imaginary line of enough coverage or underreporting that, apparently, now the White House and the government thinks it's the decider of. That's something that none of us can do.

SCIUTTO: It's just wrong. It's just wrong. And there seems to be a political motivation behind it. All I can say is that our record stands for itself. We cover these issues and these attacks deeply and seriously. It's -- I'm a chief national security correspondent for CNN. It's a big part of my job. And I have been out with my colleagues, you included, covering these stories very closely. We'll let the record stand.

BOLDUAN: We'll keep doing it.

Great to see you, Jim. Thank you.

SCIUTTO: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: In just minutes, Vice President Pence may be making history. Never before has a V.P. had to cast the deciding vote for a cabinet secretary confirmation. How is this all going to shake out? We're minutes from the vote. We'll take you there live.

Plus, right now, Homeland Security Chief John Kelly is facing tough questions and making some tough admissions over the president's travel ban. Kelly saying, "It's all on me." Much more ahead.

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[11:40:53] GEN. JOHN KELLY, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: The president's recent executive order, temporarily suspending entry for foreign nationals from seven countries, we believe is lawful and constitutional.

In retrospect, I should have -- this is all on me, by the way -- I should have delayed it just a bit so I could talk to members of Congress, particularly the leadership committees like this to prepare them for what was coming.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: It's all on me, he says. That's the Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly just a short time ago on Capitol Hill saying the roll-out of the president's immigration order was not ideal. That's a first. Also, taking full blame for how it all went.

Here now with me to discuss, former NATO supreme allied commander, General Wesley Clark, now a senior follow at UCLA's Burkle Center of International Relations; and retired Brigadier General Mark Kimmett. He was assistant secretary of state for political and military affairs under President George W. Bush

Generals, thank you so much for being here.

General Kimmett, first to you.

I want your take on what we heard from Capitol Hill. Secretary Kelly, a former general himself, taking the blame for the rocky roll-out of the travel ban. Your thoughts?

BRIG. GEN. MARK KIMMETT, FORMER ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE FOR POLITICAL AND MILITARY AFFAIRS: Look, I know John Kelly. We've served together twice. Two years, NATO. He's an admirable person, an honorable person and a great Marine. That's exactly what I would have expected him to say, take the blame for something, even though, I suspect, given that he had just recently been appointed to Homeland Security director, he probably didn't know his way to the parking lot of HSC before that roll-out happened. So, I admire what he's doing.

I think a thorough look at it, he probably would have preferred a much longer time to actually put a good plan into effect, rather than this 24 to 36-hour planning time, I suspect they had to roll this out. Consequences of a bad plan, I think we saw on the ground.

BOLDUAN: Yeah, I think we did.

General Clark, can I turn to another big topic with you. The president and Russia. He has said he respects Putin. He said it again in an interview over the weekend. And then the president had something interesting to say about an interesting take on Russian aggression in Ukraine. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL O'REILLY, FOX HOST, O'REILLY REPORT: You talked to Putin last week. You had a busy week last week.

TRUMP: A Pretty busy week and a half.

O'REILLY: But within 24 hours of you, on the phone with the Russian leader, the pro-Russian forces step up the violence in Ukraine.

TRUMP: Yeah.

O'REILLY: Did you take that as an insult?

TRUMP: No, I didn't, because we don't really know exactly what that is. They're pro forces. We don't know if they are uncontrollable? Are they uncontrolled? That happens also. We're going to find out. I'd be surprised, but we'll see.

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BOLDUAN: General Clark, he says we don't know what that is, if they are controllable. That seems eerily similar to what we heard from the Russian government as they were invading Crimea.

GEN. WESLEY CLARK, SENIOR FOLLOW, BURKLE CENTER OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS, UCLA & FORMER NATO SUPREME ALLIED COMMANDER: Right, this is not the accurate interpretation of what happened. Those forces in Ukraine are totally under control of the Russian government. They have gone through several different phases, basically, when the Russian government put people in there. Wasn't happy with the people serving. Some were recalled. Some were called up and eliminated. All of the training, the equipment, everything is coming from Russia, and Russian leadership is in there. Those forces are part of Russia's military machine.

When they take action like that initiation of hostilities in Ukraine, that's the way Putin communicates. He says, I'm really tough, and, you know, we may like each other, you may say you like me, you're not going to get anything, I'm going to show you how tough I am, even when you say you like me. Because he's going to drive a very hard bargain.

Putin is a realist in this. He knows Russia's interests aren't the same as America's interests. He's perfectly willing to accept Trump's profession of friendship but he's out for Russia. You can't deal with a person like Putin on the basis of personal friendship and relationships because that's not what is the deciding factor in this case.

So, I'm all in favor of having good relations with Russia, by the way, and I don't want to criticize the administration because they're seeking it. But you have to understand the motivations of Russian policy and the methods of Vladimir Putin in order to deal with him successfully.

[11:45:12] BOLDUAN: And on this specific issue of Russian aggression in Ukraine, obviously, this is why there are -- one of the reasons why Russia is facing sanctions from the U.S. But when it comes to this issue, Donald Trump is not on the same page with many Republicans, obviously, on who they think is the aggressor on the Russian aggression, who is backing the fighters in Crimea. Is there any question in your mind at this point who is in control? Are they uncontrollable, as the president says?

KIMMETT: Let's be clear, I think what the president is trying to do, as General Clark said, is the same thing that every president since 1989 has attempted to do, which is push the reset button with Russia. And I think they've all been disappointed, whether it was George Bush saying, I looked in Putin's eyes and we were soul mates, whether it's Hillary Clinton pushing the reset button, and now we're seeing the new president trying to reset those relations. But as General Clark said, I think we're going to give it a chance, I think Putin is going to disappoint us in how willing he's going to go to reset those relationships. And I think we're going to find ourselves in the same situation President Obama did six years ago.

BOLDUAN: Real quick, General Clark, what does this kind of talk, what mixed messaging coming out of the U.S. in terms of what's going on in Ukraine, what does it do to those in Ukraine?

CLARK: Well, it's very painful for Ukraine to go through this. Now President Poroshenko has talked to Trump. Trump says he supports NATO. They have a nice conversation. But I think the Ukrainians are fearful that there's some grand design in mind. Like this. So, if you could split Russia from Iran and use Russia as an ally of the United States to deal with ISIS, would this scratch the itch, and then you could isolate Iran. Now, the cost for that would be perhaps releasing sanctions and giving Putin free reign in Ukraine, and maybe even all of eastern Europe.

BOLDUAN: Wow.

CLARK: That's what the Europeans sense is coming from the discussion from the orientations. And from all the evidence we have, this would be a big mistake. Russia is not going to be a reliable ally of the United States.

BOLDUAN: And all the latest evidence is --

(CROSSTALK)

CLARK: -- wars in the 20th century to protect Europe. So, big mistake if that's what's being planned. We don't know. BOLDUAN: Again, exactly, General Clark. We don't know. We just have

the words of the president and mixed messaging coming from the White House and the rest.

General Clark, General Kimmett, thank you so much.

CLARK: Sure.

KIMMETT: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: In just minutes, the Senate will vote on one of President Trump's most controversial cabinet nominee, Education Secretary nominee, Betsy DeVos. Will Vice President Mike Pence cast a historic tie-breaking vote? That was video of him entering the capitol. We'll take you there live.

Plus, how to unwind after leading the free world for eight years. How about a little kite-surfing? And a little kite-surfing competition with Sir Richard Branson nonetheless. President Obama's vacation video coming up.

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[11:52:10] TRUMP: We're going to be putting it in fairly soon. I think that, yes, I would like to say by the end of the year, at least the rudiments, but something within the year and the following year.

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BOLDUAN: That was President Donald Trump, going further than we've heard him say before, saying that the replacement for Obamacare may not be in place until 2018. But we're hearing something quite a bit different from Republicans on Capitol Hill, and for one example, here is Senator Ted Cruz.

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SEN. TED CRUZ, (R), TEXAS: The president has said he has committed to repealing Obamacare. Republicans in both houses have said we're committed to repealing Obamacare. I look forward to delivering on it.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Do you want to do it this year? Do you expect to be done this year?

CRUZ: Absolutely.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: Absolutely. We're going to hear from more from Senator Cruz tonight in a debate with Bernie Sanders on this very topic, on Obamacare. That's tonight on CNN at 9:00 p.m. eastern.

First, let's hear from CNN's economic analyst, Stephen Moore, on this. He's an economist with the Heritage Foundation and was a senior economic adviser for the Donald Trump campaign.

Stephen, we've heard from House Speaker Paul Ryan earlier today, and his answer on this was we're going to finish our legislating this year. What is the real-time time line here, in your view?

STEPHEN MOORE, CNN ECONOMICS ANALYST: Hi, Kate. Well, I'll tell you what the real time line should be, which is to get going as quickly as possible. We're seeing rising premiums and people lose their health insurance, health insurances companies don't know what's going on. There's a lot of chaos right now in terms of the health insurance markets. People are worried about losing their coverage. I think Republicans have to get their act together, quite frankly, Kate. I think one of the reason that Donald Trump won the election showing 22 percent increases in premiums.

I think there has to be more clarity. I think Republicans are fumbling on this issue, and they ought to start by getting of the mandates, some of the worst parts of Obamacare, and guarantying people they won't lose the coverage that they have right now.

But I don't understand why it's taking nine, 10, now they're talking about maybe 12 months to get this thing fixed.

BOLDUAN: There's also confusion on the words that members of Congress are comfortable using at this point. Do you think --

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MOORE: Repair is the new word.

BOLDUAN: Apparently, it's a bad word, according to some people, Stephen. So be careful.

Do you think this is going to become more of a repair rather than a full repeal? Some Senators are starting to suggest that. Paul Ryan does not like that language.

MOORE: Well, Republicans have used the term repeal throughout the brutal campaign that we just went through. So, it looks like a little backtracking for Republicans saying, well, now maybe we'll just reform it and repair it.

I think, look, the American people want a health care system that works, that doesn't drive up costs, that gives them a lot of competition and a lot of choices. One of the big problems with Obamacare right now, Kate, is you look around the country, and because there's been so many insurance companies that have dropped out of Obamacare, and in one out of four counties today, people only have one insurance company left. That lack of competition is what is driving up prices. But you're right, this is causing frustration among a lot of conservatives.

And the other problem is, there's 10 plans out there. You know, they don't need 10 plans. They need one plan to fix this system. And that is -- it's unbelievable to me, after all of this time, Republicans spent, what, six years talking about replacing Obamacare. Now they've got to chance to do and they say they are not ready to do it.

[11:55:41] BOLDUAN: You can be sure that Democrats are ready to point that out as well.

Stephen, great to see you. Thanks so much.

MOORE: OK. I'll be watching that debate tonight. It's going to be like Ali versus Frasier. So, it's going to be a fun one to watch.

BOLDUAN: For folks like you and me, yes.

(LAUGHTER)

Just a reminder, Senators Bernie Sanders and Ted Cruz will battle it out over Obamacare tonight. That is 9:00 eastern, here on CNN.

All eyes on Capitol Hill as we speak, where just moments from now, the Senate will vote on President Trump's controversial education nominee. We'll take you there live.

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