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Possible Health Care Breakthrough; Ex-NFL Star's Death; O'Reilly to be Paid Millions; Deported Dreamer Case. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired April 20, 2017 - 14:00   ET


[14:00:00] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Right after - well, right now.

ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: Top of the hour. I'm Ana Cabrera, in for Brooke Baldwin today. Thanks for being with us.

As President Trump's 100th day gets closer, news of a significant, potential breakthrough. The White House might be looking to take another stab at a campaign promise that has eluded them, repealing and replacing Obamacare. Two sources close to this process tells CNN, the effort comes ahead of Congress returning to Washington next week. The timing, tough, could prove tricky. The White House wants to get this done before Trump's 100th day. That is next Saturday. And we're learning top House Republicans may be nearing some type of agreement. The president may have hinted at this Tuesday. Listen.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We are going to have a big win soon because we're going to have health care and I believe that's going to happen. And, you know, there was no like loss with health care. This is just a constant negotiation. And the plan is getting better and better all the time.


CABRERA: Here with me now to discuss, CNN national politics reporter MJ Lee, Democratic strategist and former director of strategic communications of Hillary For America, Adrienne Elrod, and CNN political commentator and contributor for "The Hill," Kayleigh McEnany.

MJ, I want to start with you.

Let's begin with a lot of talk this week all building up to new developments today. What is the latest?

MJ LEE, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER: Well, what we know is that there are conversations that are happening and there may be some potential movement on the health care front. We know that leaders in the Tuesday Group and the House Freedom Caucus, so a moderate wing of the party, as well as the conservative wing of the party, they have been talking and they are potentially close to nearing a deal. A deal that could win over some 18 to 20 House Freedom Caucus members who voted previously "no" on the health care bill. Now, there is no legislative text yet, but we are told by sources,

White House sources, that they want to have some legislative text ready by tomorrow or Saturday. We also learned today that there is going to be a House-wide conference call for Republican members of Congress on Saturday, so there could be some more details from that call on what the legislative agenda looks like for next week.

But, remember, the big agenda item for next week in the House is going to be funding the government. So it's not really clear yet whether this is something that they are willing to take on. And also keep in mind that they are still sort of bracing themselves and wary of the fact that it was just a month ago that the health care bill did not make it through the House.


LEE: So, a lot of open questions right now.

CABRERA: So you say 18, 20 perhaps for House Freedom Members coming around. Would that even be enough?

LEE: Exactly. We know that a lot of moderate members, so the non- Freedom Caucus members, have a lot of questions and a lot of concerns. So unclear right now without seeing the legislative text if those members across the House conference will get on board this bill.

CABRERA: Kayleigh, how important is it for the Trump agenda to get this passed in his first 100 days?

KAYLEIGH MCENANY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Look, it's more important to get it right than to get it passed quickly. It's essential that Donald Trump, President Trump, protect the pre-existing protections that were given during Obamacare. Reportedly this bill is going to allow states to have a waiver if they offer high-risk pools. It's essential that those high-risk pools are funded. It's essential that people with pre-existing conditions do not have to pay higher costs. That will scare off a lot of moderates if this isn't a well-funded provision, a well-throughout out provision (ph).

CABRERA: Right, but a lot of House Freedom members have said they don't want any of that.

MCENANY: Sure. Sure. And this is always the struggle President Trump has faced. He did not run as (INAUDIBLE) conservative. He ran as a conservative populist. And what that means is you're a conservative, yes, but when the demands of the people come in the way of your ideology with pre-existing conditions, for example, you change and you alter your position to protect the people. So President Trump has the hardest position right now trying to navigate a conservative populist bill that will appease the moderates but also the conservative constituency.

CABRERA: Let's talk about timing, Adrienne, because, again, that first 100 days is sort of an arbitrary number at this moment, but it does seem like there is this increased pressure to do something and do it quickly. How are you reading this? Do you think we're going to see something this coming week and would that be a good idea for Republicans?

ADRIENNE ELROD, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Look, I'm extremely skeptical, and I agree with Kayleigh, I mean the pressure is on. There are so many moderate members who are not going to fully dismantle this health care bill. I mean you also have to keep in mind that members will be coming off of a two-week recess where a lot of them are holding town halls. They're filling the intensity from their constituents. And we also have, as you mentioned, the potential of a government shutdown. So to have all of those factors in place and actually get something passed next week, I'm extremely skeptical.

CABRERA: And, remember, Democrats learned a lesson with Obamacare back in 2010. There was so much talk about the issue of how quickly Democrats moved to try to pass something through, even though there were months of debate.

So, Kayleigh, the question is, are Republicans at risk of trying to jam this through when, as MJ points out, there isn't even legislation for the whole membership of the House to look at?

MCENANY: Yes, that's certainly a risk.

Look, we all remember when President Obama said, if you like your doctor, you can keep it. People lost their doctors and he paid a cost for that at the ballot box in the midterm elections. This time you have Republicans, President Trump namely saying, I'm going to protect you with pre-existing conditions, I'm going to protect children who want to stay on their parent's plan, the popular parts of Obamacare. If those promises are not met, he is going to be in a lot of trouble. Republicans will be in a lot of trouble in two years when the congressional races are occurring. So it's important to just step back, worry about the budget, get this right, protect the popular parts of Obamacare and change the parts that aren't working.

[14:05:29] CABRERA: It seems like I'm hearing all of you ladies say, like, maybe there should be a little bit of a hold-on on health care. But let's also remember, even if this gets through the House, Adrienne, the Senate, then what?

ELROD: Yes, I mean the Senate is a whole different beast, right? In going back to 2010, I was a chief of staff on The Hill when this - when we passed Obamacare. It took a year and a half. I mean this stuff take a lot of time, especially when you are going in and making some major reforms. And a lot of people do agree, there needs to be changes and tweaks to ACA, to health care reform. But let's take our time. Let's not be hasty. And let's do it the right way.

CABRERA: All right, ladies, got to leave it there. Thank you so much for joining us, MJ, Adrienne and Kayleigh.

We are following some more breaking news this hour. New evidence that China has put its forces now on high alert preparing for an event involving North Korea. Details on that ahead.

Plus, some new details about Bill O'Reilly's exit at Fox News, including how much money he'll get despite sexual harassment allegations.

And, remember the judge who candidate Trump targeted during the campaign over his race? Well, he's now the judge set to hear the case of the first dreamer deported under President Trump.

This is CNN's special live coverage.


[14:10:35] CABRERA: Several developments to tell you about now regarding the death of former NFL star Aaron Hernandez. We are learning he had the Bible verse John 3:16 written on his forehead when he was found dead in his prison cell. You have the text of the full Bible verse there on your screen for those of you who may not be familiar with it. Now, correction officers found Hernandez's body hanging from a bed sheet yesterday in a Massachusetts prison.

I want to bring in CNN's Deborah Feyerick.

Deb, I know you spoke to law enforcement officials who say that Bible verse, John 3:16, is often used by inmates. How so?

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, absolutely. That's one of the most popular phrases. And, actually, it's also used by football players as well. What we are told is that, in fact, when officials did find him, he did have that on his forehead. It appears to have been written in red. And we don't know whether, in fact, that was suggested as some sort of a suicide note, how you want to read into what it means. It's essentially finding salvation, eternal life in Christ. Whether that was his way of saying that he was at peace. All of that, of course, under investigation.

But also when you - his lawyer, Jose Baez, came out today because there's been a lot of questions as to why he may have done this. He seemed to be in OK spirits, having just been acquitted of a double murder just five days before this suicide. And now Jose Baez, his lawyer, actually says he wants Aaron Hernandez's brain preserved and also examined by a university for a degenerative disease called CTE. Now apparently arrangements have been made so that the brain would be picked up by a very prominent university and medical center, but he says that the medical examiner has refused to release Aaron Hernandez's brain. Take a listen.


JOSE BAEZ, ATTORNEY, AARON HERNANDEZ'S FAMILY: Everyone's well aware of - everyone's well aware of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, which is - in short is known as CTE. The family of Aaron Hernandez has decided to donate Aaron's brain to this study so that we could possibly help other young men who decide to play football and to help further that cause and also possibly shed light and more evidence on this case.

We made arrangements for Boston University's CTE unit to take possession of Aaron's brain. We made these arrangements with the medical examiner yesterday. From one day to the next, the medical examiner's office here, specifically a Dr. Neels (ph), has determined that his office will retain the brain of Aaron Hernandez and that their office is better equipped than Boston University's CTE unit, which is the most renowned unit in the world as it relates to CTE studies.


FEYERICK: Now, Aaron Hernandez's body has been released back to his family, but the brain is being held by the medical examiner. Don't forget, that is part of an autopsy, including toxicology tests. But Jose Baez says essentially the medical examiner is holding the former NFL player's brain illegally.

CABRERA: Interesting. A lot of people would like to know what the information is that can be developed from any kind of studying of his brain for sure.

Deb Feyerick, thank you.

Let's turn to Bill O'Reilly and the fallout since he departed. Just yesterday his two-decade reign at Fox News is over. The Murdoch family severing ties with this ratings giant amid claims of sexual harassment that reportedly happened over many years and ended in settlements. Now, those cases recently surfaced in a "New York Times" report.

So how much is Fox paying O'Reilly to leave? Sources tell CNN, tens of millions. O'Reilly had just signed a new contract before his troubles began. The deal was reportedly worth $20 million to $25 million a year.

Now, also happening today, Fox's parent company is holding a board of directors meeting. This as, take a look, posters, the former news anchor are now noticeably missing from that outside wall of the Fox News building.

Joining us, founder of the website Mediaite, Dan Abrams, and senior editor at, Rachel Stockman.

Dan, let's first talk Fox's public image. What do you make of this payout?

[14:15:02] DAN ABRAMS, FOUNDER, MEDIAITE: Well, look, I think they had to pay it out. They made a deal with Bill O'Reilly relatively recently. The contract, I think, was pretty clear. The interesting thing would have been, if there hadn't been a deal, the fight over the language in there would have been fascinating.

So, look, I think that Fox and Bill O'Reilly both wanted to end this in a way where there wouldn't be a major war. Bill O'Reilly may not be on Fox tomorrow, but Bill O'Reilly can still get a big audience. And if Bill O'Reilly wants to sort of stick it to Fox, that's not a public fight that they wanted. They had to figure out how to end this, if they wanted to terminate him, which they did, and they did just that.

CABRERA: But does that kind of money send a message of sorts in terms of whether - ABRAMS: Well, of course it sends a message but, you know, the bottom line is, you signed a bad contract and, you know, you've got to pay big dollars. I mean -

CABRERA: Do you think it's contractual, too, Rachel?

RACHEL STOCKMAN, SENIOR EDITOR, LAWNEWZ.COM: Well, absolutely. We got word through various sources that he signed this contract a few weeks before this huge "New York Times" article came out. And Fox News was well aware of many of these settlements and allegations prior to them signing the dotted line. So basically they had little choice in this. Yes, a few new allegations came forward, which may have given them a little bit of wiggle room. But Bottom line is, it would have been a huge legal fight for Fox News to terminate him without basically paying out something.

ABRAMS: And I think that's the most important point here is that everyone's talking about "The New York Times" article as if that's the reason. It's not the reason. Fox News knew about everything in that "New York Times" article before it was published.

CABRERA: There weren't necessarily new allegations.

ABRAMS: Well, there was nothing new to Fox.


ABRAMS: It was new to all of us.


ABRAMS: But it wasn't new to Fox. They were the ones who had settled this.


ABRAMS: Bill O'Reilly had made these settlements they knew about.

What happened with "The New York Times" is, it spawned an investigation, it spawned additional allegations, it led to this advertiser revolt. All of these things happening together is what led this to happen. It's not that, oh, my goodness, look at these settlements that "The New York Times" disclosed. We have to now figure out what to do about it. It's everything that happened as a result of that, that's led us to where we are.

STOCKMAN: And the fact that you had all these new allegations. There were at least two or three post "New York Times" articles that came out -

CABRERA: New women coming forward saying, no I feel like I can come -

STOCKMAN: The new women coming forward calling the hotline and that gave Fox News the added momentum, the added - what they needed.

ABRAMS: There may have been more to that. There may have been more than that in the (INAUDIBLE).

STOCKMAN: Right. We don't know.

CABRERA: Let me ask you about the reaction we've now seen from Bill O'Reilly saying he is innocent, calling these claims, these allegations unfounded. Again, they settled all of these cases, or most of them. And the fact that he's kind of doubling down saying I'm innocent, why wouldn't he have gone all the way to the end with these cases in terms of proving his innocence or - I know it's not - you know, you're not guilty until proven innocent. But, nonetheless, if he's so innocent, why would he not want to make sure that that's (INAUDIBLE).

STOCKMAN: Because, think about it. Right now he's leaving Fox News. Yes, he has a cloud of bad PR, but he's making tens - according to your own reports - of millions of dollars. So if he were to further litigate this and say, no, these are unfounded, a lawsuit could ensue, all of this information could be brought out for months, and years and years. There could be depositions from these women. Who knows. It could even become, you know, a trial if it wasn't settled. So bottom line is, he got a pretty good deal.

ABRAMS: And his -

CABRERA: So why not apologize, though, if he did indeed hurt some women and, you know?

ABRAMS: But he says he didn't do it. I mean - I'm just saying, he's not going to apologize if he's -

CABRERA: I mean is doubling down on his innocence also trying to set him up for potential future (INAUDIBLE) -

ABRAMS: You know, these - it's an interesting -

STOCKMAN: If he gets sued again.

ABRAMS: Well, it's an interesting question about the future, too. I mean let's talk about it from a media perspective. You know, what is Bill O'Reilly going to do next? People are talking about, oh, does he go to one of these conservative upstarts that are going to start a network? You know, at Bill O'Reilly's age and his stature, I don't know that he's going to want to go through the process of a startup. He's got all this money. He writes all these books. He gives all these speeches. You know, I think Bill O'Reilly is going to be able to live a pretty good life as Bill O'Reilly. There are going to be a lot of people who are not going to see it the way that 21st Century Fox sees it, the way a lot of these women see it. They're going to see it as Bill O'Reilly got the raw end of the deal here and they're going still be behind him because that's what Bill O'Reilly is saying. He's saying, I got a raw deal here.

CABRERA: He's got his following and he says that he's the victim.

Guys, we've got to leave it there. Thank you both, Dan Abrams and Rachel Stockman, for joining us. Good to have you on. ABRAMS: Yes.

CABRERA: Coming up, as President Trump continues to stare down North Korea, strange new satellite images of a North Korean nuclear test site showing people, take a look, they're playing volleyball it appears. No kidding. What does this mean?

And, round two. Remember the judge who candidate Trump criticized during the campaign over his race? Well, now that same judge is set to hear the case of the first dreamer deported under President Trump. We'll discuss, next.


[14:24:15] CABRERA: A controversy from the campaign trail is now haunting President Trump and it's unlike any other we have seen so far in his 91 days in office. The judge that then candidate Trump slammed for being, quote, Mexican, is now presiding over a key deportation case just filed against the federal government. Remember back in June, Republican and Democrats condemned President Trump for accusing Judge Gonzalo Curiel of bias because of his Mexican heritage? Now the judge, who was born in Indiana, he was overseeing lawsuits against Trump University.

Well, now, Curiel will be overseeing the case of what many believe is the first deportation of a dreamer. This 23-year-old man from California says he was forced out despite the fact he was protected under DACA, the program for undocumented immigrants who entered the U.S. as kids, allowing them some legal status to work and go to college here in the U.S. So what happens to DACA and all who are part of this program remains in limbo under President Trump.

[14:25:10] Here now a reminder of what then candidate Trump said about Judge Curiel during the campaign. Let's listen.


PRESIDENT: But I have a judge who is a hater of Donald Trump. A hater. He's a hater. His name is Gonzalo Curiel.

He's a member of a club or society, very strongly pro-Mexican, which is all fine, but I say he's got bias. I want to build a wall.

I've been treated very unfairly by this judge. Now, this judge is of Mexican heritage. I'm building a wall, OK. I'm building a wall.

JAKE TAPPER, HOST, CNN'S "THE LEAD": If you are saying he cannot do his job because of his race, is that not the definition of racism?

TRUMP: No, I don't think so at all.


TRUMP: No. He's proud of his heritage. I - I respect him for that.

TAPPER: But you're saying he can't do his job because of it. TRUMP: We're building a wall. He's a Mexican. We're building a wall

between here and Mexico. The answer is, he is giving us very unfair rulings. Rulings that people can't even believe.


CABRERA: Again, the judge is from Indiana. Now, the case involving the dreamer we've been talking about, Juan Manuel Montes Bojorquez, is complicated. But one thing his attorneys and Homeland Security officials agree on is he left the U.S. in February. Why he left is a big point of dispute. The 23-year-old dreamer says it's because he was deported, in part because he did not have his DACA papers to show border patrol. But Homeland Security says he left voluntarily. The two sides also agree he tried to come back into the U.S. The dreamer says he did that fearing for his life after he was assaulted, but DHS says his re-entry proves the dreamer left the country without permission.

Joining me now, CNN legal analyst Danny Cevallos.

First, I have to ask, the fact that Judge Curiel is now going to have this case, what are the chances?

DANNY CEVALLOS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I mean, in this particular district, he's going to be assigned at random. But, yes, it is something of a coincidence that he's back in the news for this reason because when judges are assigned, they're done according to a wheel. This is truly a random assignment to be sure.

CABRERA: And coincidental maybe at best.

Now, just to be clear, though, Judge Curiel is not going to decide the dreamer's fate, shall we say. I mean he's really taking a look at a case that involves paperwork, right?

CEVALLOS: Yes, exactly. This is called a FOYA case, right? And this is when - the FOYA act requires the government to disclose records upon request by a citizen or virtually anybody. And in this case that government agency is Customs and Border Protection and another agency. And what the plaintiff wants here is information about his arrest, his removal and his alien file. It's commonly called an A-file. And the government - and having handled a number of these cases - the government isn't always so great at finding its own records.

So, in this case, just a week or so ago, they requested these records and the government hasn't provided them. So under FOYA, they can file suit and ask a judge to decide. Most of these cases are decided on summary judgment, which means Judge Curiel himself will likely decide this case in its entirety.

CABRERA: And, finally, before we let you go, how long does that usually take, this whole process?

CEVALLOS: Well, in this case, summary judgment is probably not going to take as long as it might in other cases because there aren't really that many factual disputes. The question is, did they request the documents and does the agency have a good reason for denying access to those documents?

CABRERA: So, can they withhold them.

All right, Danny Cevallos, thanks for helping to break it down for us. We definitely appreciate it.

Now, you've heard of nuclear football. Have you ever heard of nuclear volleyball? Not one, not two, but three volleyball courts on a North Korean nuclear site. That's ahead.

Plus, Bernie Sanders speaking out on that special election in Georgia. He says he doesn't know if Georgia Democrat Jon Ossoff is a true progressive. Jon Ossoff joins me live. His response, coming up.