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Escalating Tensions Between U.S. & North Korea; Inside Look at War-Ravaged Raqqa; Interview with Congressman Michael Burgess of Texas. Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired April 25, 2017 - 06:30   ET


[06:30:02] WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESONDENT: In fact, that was a warning North Korea put out earlier this week prompting a fiery response from the Pentagon, warning Pyongyang to stop provoking the U.S.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Will, stay with me for a second.

Let's bring in CNN global affairs analyst and vice president of the Woodrow Wilson International Center, Aaron David Miller.

It is good to see you, sir.

Let me ask you for historical perspective on a current premise, which is -- you got to be tough with those guys. When you're tough with North Korea the way Trump is being right now, that's your best chance at getting them to stand down. And then you use that muscle in your relationships with China and Japan and get them to help triangulate around the nasty North.

Do you agree?

AARON DAVID MILLER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: You know, based on my experience in negotiations, not only is timing critical, vinegar is important but also is honey. And the truth is there's no end state here, Chris.

I mean, we have two unpalatable options. If we won't bomb, and I suspect we won't, and we won't negotiate, then you're left with drift. You're left with literally a version of the Obama policy, which was strategic patience.

Now, you have at times it seems to me a sort of nonstrategic impatience, given some of the actions of the Trump administration. So, sooner or later I suspect, they've got to come to some conclusion with respect to creating a format for negotiations, to test the possibility that in effect you can freeze at least testing export of munitions and production of fissile material -- at least get the freeze what we fear, a miniaturization of a warhead and a ballistic missile that will eventually reach the United States.

CUOMO: Two questions in one. One, does this tough talk help the chances of negotiation anymore? What do you make of the people from the Clinton era and even Senator Markey saying, you've got to get them a seat at the table. That's how we got it done in the Clinton era.

Do they have a right to see success in what they did with North Korea during the Clinton era? And do you believe that this muscular talk can help promote negotiations?

MILLER: Well, having failed at so many efforts to promote Arab- Israeli, I still believe that maybe some of my experiences, if I learn from them, are important going forward.

So, look, you need incentives and you need disincentives. Strategic patience didn't work because North Koreans continued to produce fissile material. They now have 1,000 ballistic materials. By 2020, they will have half of Britain's arsenal.

But pressure alone will not do this. This man believes nukes are essential for his relevance and for his security. He's simply not going to give them up.

So, what do you do? That's the core issue. Signaling being tough is fine. Flexing muscles, fine. New president, untested, nearing the end of 100 days.

But, ultimately, you're going to have to figure out a way to talk.

CUOMO: Will Ripley, when you're there on the ground, they are showing you around. Obviously, they are trying to communicate messages to you, too, about where they are. Does there seem to be any indication of risk assessment on the North Korean part? You know what I'm saying? Do they even betray to you a sense of, we hope this doesn't happen? What would this be?

RIPLEY: There is never a dissenting voice spoken publicly and certainly not to me, a foreign journalist here in Pyongyang. North Koreans call it single-hearted unity, many others around the world called it an authoritarian regime where political dissent is not allowed.

So, on the record, everybody here in Pyongyang says they are fully behind North Korea's leader, Kim Jong-un. I ask if they are fearful that they are being taken down a dangerous path, they reapply, absolutely not. Even the soldier I spoke with today.

They also believe because their media tells them that North Korea has an arsenal that can hold up to the firepower of the U.S. and, of course, you add on top of that a standing army of a million people and if you count reserves and paramilitary, an additional 6 million people.

And so, the North Koreans at least publicly project a lot of confidence in the situation. You really don't feel too much tension when you're walking around the streets.

CUOMO: Quickly, Aaron David Miller, has anything ever worked with North Korea?

MILLER: A freeze, temporary restrictions and constraints on nuclear program at best, Chris. And again, last point, I mean, the world for President Trump is filled with migraine, headaches and root canals. He does not have solutions. There are no solutions to these problems. There are outcomes.

And in this case, the best outcome you're going to get is some sort of freeze which imposes constraints and restraints on North Korea's nuclear program. That -- don't make perfect the enemy of the good.

CUOMO: And not to complete the metaphor for you, but there's not enough laughing gas in the world to make this situation look less bleak.

Aaron David Miller, thank you very much.

Will Ripley, be safe. Thank you for the reporting as always.


[06:35:00] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Well played. I like the dental analogy.

CUOMO: I don't use it. I enjoy the pain.

CAMEROTA: Yes, right. I recommend it for you. It can only help.

All right. Up next, we want you to see this. It's a CNN exclusive. There is a rare look inside war-ravaged Raqqa. So, what these new satellite images tell us about what is going on inside the last ISIS stronghold in Syria. That's next.


CAMEROTA: We have an exclusive look for you inside the ISIS stronghold of Raqqa, Syria. CNN obtaining stunning satellite images of ISIS' self-declared capital as coalition-backed forces surround the area and are ready to move in for a fierce battle.

CNN's Nick Paton Walsh is live in Irbil, Iraq, with the exclusive images -- Nick.

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Alisyn, so tight is ISIS grip of terror on the city. We've only really been able to see what life is like through the lens of their own propaganda footage.

But these satellite images obtained by us show some stunning detail what life is like in there as that noose from coalition forces around the city begins to tighten.

[06:40:023] Here's what we saw.


WALSH (voice-over): The final target in the war on ISIS, their capital, Raqqa. So wretchedly isolated, held hostage in terror, the closest we get to

a different space and exclusive satellite pictures taken for CNN. Here, two checkpoints in the street. And nearby, an ISIS flag. Precision strikes cutting its people further off from the world.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): Life is not life. Life is death. We are besieged. We can't leave or walk around. Anyone who breathes is slaughtered.

WALSH: She's going a day earlier and describes safety to the north a claustrophobic world of living with ISIS, in streets covered by massive tarpaulin, at the top of across this central market to hide ISIS fighters from coalition drone cameras overhead.

Another escapee describes how ISIS fighters differ.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): The foreigners treat residents very well, but the Syrian ISIS members, they are very aggressive with people.

WALSH: ISIS used their own drone to film damage from coalition strikes prior to the slow net slipping over the city. Images of life inside Raqqa are rare, by one occasion filming the panic of residents trying to flee.

Only seconds of horror here as ISIS just told them the dam to the west might break open flooding Raqqa. It never happened. Like so much of their propaganda, the dam was fine.

But to the west, fierce fighting backed by U.S. special forces has drawn the noose yet tighter. These coalition fighters to the west and east are about to move in from the south. Then, the noose will be complete. And the countdown begins to when these distant streets are open for the world to see again.


WALSH: Analysts pointed out from viewing the city as a whole, there are quite vibrant signs of life amongst the population there. And it looks as though when the coalition strikes buildings, it's pretty precise. They don't bring the whole building down, just take out certain things they want around it.

You saw in the bridge, in fact, the end of the bridge that was severed, apparently that's to allow rebuilding happening as quickly as possible if the city is liberated. The clock really ticking on that, Chris, the coalition putting a lot of assets in the area around it, using Syrian rebels to build up a force that maybe moves in in the weeks or months ahead. They still have to move in from the south and encircle the city first, though -- Chris.

CUOMO: Important reporting and a story well-told. Nick Paton Walsh, thank you very much.

All right. So, former President Barack Obama making his first public appearance since leaving the White House. You know the big question, what did he say about Trump? Did he say anything? The answer, next.


[06:46:39] CAMEROTA: Arkansas has executed two inmates in one night. Marcel Wayne Williams and Jack Harold Jones put to death in the United States' first double execution in seventeen years. Both men found guilty of murder in the mid 1990s. They are among eight inmates Governor Asa Hutchinson fast tracked in April because the supply of lethal injection drugs expires at the end of the month.

CUOMO: Former President Barack Obama making his first public appearance since leaving office revealing what he wants to do next during a Chicago forum.


BARACK OBAMA, FORMER UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: The single most important thing I can do is to help in any way I can prepare the next generation of leadership to take up the baton.


CUOMO: As long as it doesn't include discussing the current president during his time on stage, Mr. Obama never once mentioned his successor, President Trump.

CAMEROTA: So there is a round of severe storms packing damaging winds and rain and hail. It is ready to pound the central U.S.

CNN meteorologist Chad Myers has our forecast.

How is it looking?

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: And even the potential for tornadoes, too, Alisyn.

(AUDIO GAP) for Wednesday and Thursday (AUDIO GAP).

This weather is brought to you by Purina, your pet, our passion. We even have flash flood warnings this morning right now over Raleigh, North Carolina. So, be careful out there today. It is going to be a severe weather today across the east and then for tomorrow across the Midwest.

Here is how it looks for tomorrow. The main threat is hail. By the time we work our way into Wednesday, we will actually see the potential for tornadoes.

It's spring. We expect it. This is exactly what should happen this time of year when we have warm air on one side, cold air on the other side, even the potential for very heavy rain today and tomorrow. Watch out if you're driving on the roadways, there will be ponding all through North Carolina all the way up even into Boston.

Chris, back to you.

CUOMO: All right, friend. Thank you very much.

So, health care reform is back on the Trump administration's front burner. The president was out there saying there will a vote this week. That's not going to happen. Do Republicans really have a replacement bill ready to go? A closer look next.


[06:52:58] CAMEROTA: Let's talk health care.

Where are Republicans today on their plan to repeal and replace Obamacare?

The man with the answer is joining us now, Republican Michael Burgess of Texas. He's chairman of the Energy Committee and he serves on the subcommittee helping to craft new GOP health care proposal.

Good morning, Congressman.

REP. MICHAEL BURGESS (R), TEXAS: Good morning. Technically, I'm chairman of the Subcommittee on Health on the Energy and Commerce Committee.

CAMEROTA: Thank you for that correction. I'll fire someone later for writing that.

BURGESS: That's all right.

CAMEROTA: OK. Meanwhile, Congressman, give us a status report. I mean, we have heard from Reince Priebus, the chief of staff, as well as President Trump him self they were anticipating a vote this week on whatever the new and improved GOP plan is to repeal and replace Obamacare. Where are you with it?

BURGESS: Well, of course, the plan is as it passed out of our subcommittee actually now a month ago. I think the name was the American Healthcare Act. That is still the proposition that's before Congress.

Now, during the two weeks we weren't in Washington, our subcommittee provided technical assistance to anyone who thought they might have an idea that they wanted to get drafted in terms of an amendment, but this will not be an entirely different piece of legislation. It will be building on the bill as it left committee, again, three or four weeks ago.

CAMEROTA: OK. But are you really going to have a vote this week?

BURGESS: Well, the first evidence of that would be an amendment coming to the rules committee. The first evidence of that would be an amendment that was made public. So --


BURGESS: Well, you could technically, but I would expect if something is going to happen, I would expect it to be next week not this week. But I've been wrong on that projection before.

And I'll say this, I think there's broad recognition, broad recognition we need to get something done and the time for arguing with ourselves is drawing to a close. We are going to have to put a bill on the floor and take a vote.

CAMEROTA: Yes, yes. And I mean, before I get to the substance of that, I just am curious about the timeline.

[06:55:02] I mean, do you think this is a realistic timeline that you would have something to vote on this week.

BURGESS: Well, the realistic time line was doing something in February. So, I would -- it is time. Look, health care part of the Trump agenda is important, and it is the key that gets us through the door to the other stuff.

The key to the Trump presidency I always felt is jobs and economy, tax reform is a big piece of that. Health care they say comes first. OK. Let's get our work done. Let's move on then to helping the economy.

Because let's face it, if there's not a significant growth in the economy, then all of this other discussion just becomes an academic exercise. We need growth in this country.

CAMEROTA: Are you getting pressure from President Trump to get this done?

BURGESS: Me individually, no, but certainly I know that they are interested. I know they want this done. This was something I was with then candidate Trump in November when he campaigned in Pennsylvania.

And this was something clearly something that he wanted to get done and he wanted to get done early. He saw there was a problem. He saw people were hurting because of the current policies and he wants that fixed.

I do, too. I agree with him. It needs to be fixed.

CAMEROTA: So, Congressman, explain to us in layman's term if you can how it will be possible that the House Freedom Caucus, conservative Republicans and the so-called Tuesday Group, moderate Republicans, are ever going to find common ground. I mean, I know that there are representatives from each MacArthur and Meadows working to cobble this together, but it seems you are really at loggerheads with these groups.

So, now, how this week are they going to find common ground?

BURGESS: Well, number one, we're all Americans. And we're all Republicans. So, this is -- this is a discussion going on in the family. And is it resolvable? And I believe that it is.

And credit to both groups who worked very, very hard over the last couple of weeks. Again, our committee has been providing technical drafting assistance trying to put their ideas into action, put they will on paper so they can be considered by the larger conference.

But whether those amendments are adopted or not, I do feel it's time for us to move forward and get the bill that passed out of our committee, which basically was -- it was a good bill. I've heard more and more people say that over the past two weeks.

I think there is a growing consensus that the product that passed energy and commerce committee, ways and means committee, and then came through the budget committee, I think it's time for it to have a vote on the floor.

CAMEROTA: But wasn't the sticking point in that bill -- one of the sticking points -- the essential health benefits, some people wanted them gone and some people wanted them kept? So, how -- where are you now with those?

BURGESS: Well, I think that's one of the objects under discussion.

Look, I'm for giving governors more flexibility in states. I'm for all of that. That was a big part of Medicaid reforms tackled in the bill and giving governors flexibility of block grant, capital allotment, threading the needle between Medicaid expansion states and Medicaid non-expansion states. So, all of that was very important groundwork, which was done in the base bill.

I have not had a lot of governor's offices calling and asking for waiver for essential health benefits. But if that is part of the discussion, I welcome their input and certainly we may hear from my governors and state offices as this week goes on.

CAMEROTA: OK. Congressman Michael Burgess, we will be very interested to see what you all come up with this week. Thanks so much for being on NEW DAY.

BURGESS: Great. Thanks, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Thanks to our international viewers for watching. For you, "CNN NEWSROOM" is next.

For our U.S. viewers, we talk to Trump voters about his shifting positions when NEW DAY continues right now.


STEVEN MNUCHIN, TREASURY SECRETARY: The president is working hard to keep the government open.

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Construction of a wall is going to continue to be an area that moves forward.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), SENATE MINORITY LEADER: We're rushing into it. See some real plans. Not just talk.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a total waste of taxpayer money.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We'll be having a big announcement having to do with tax reform.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: His tax plan already met with skepticism because it would simply add to national debt.

SEN. RON WYDEN (D), OREGON: I have serious concerns about the pace of the investigation.

SEN. JAMES LANKFORD (R), OKLAHOMA: We're going through the process but we're doing it quiet.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Pursuing nuclear capability, reaching possibly the United States.

TRUMP: People put blindfolds on for decades, and now, it's time to solve the problem.

ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.


CAMEROTA: Good morning. Welcome to your NEW DAY.

And we begin with a shift that President Trump believes could keep the government open for business. President Trump now backing off his demand for a down payment to fund his border wall, likely averting government shutdown.

CUOMO: We also have new details emerging about the president's tax plan. It seems to include a big cut in the corporate tax rate.