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Congress Still No Vote on Health Care Bill; North Korean Families Divided by Conflict; Interview with Representative Gerry Connolly; Sebastian Gorka to Leave White House Post; Interview with Representative Mike Kelly; Trump Skips White House Correspondents' Dinner; Exploring Mexican Influence in Southern California. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired April 30, 2017 - 20:00   ET


[20:00:00] ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: Conservatives and moderate Republicans that could help the legislation's chances of clearing Congress.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There will be such competition -- right now there is no competition. There will be such competition by insurance companies so that they can get health care and the people taken care of in health care. The other thing we're going to have is groups. Groups of people can negotiate. What's going to happen is the competition is going to drive down the premiums. In my opinion, much, much more than people understand.

JOHN DICKERSON, CBS ANCHOR: So what you have just described is a bill that you have previously had said you're worried wouldn't help your people. And here's why I ask. You said pre-existing conditions --

TRUMP: No. There were things in the other bill, the first version, which were not as good.


TRUMP: But when I watch some of the news reports, which is so unfair, and they say we don't cover pre-existing conditions, we cover it beautifully. I'll tell you who doesn't cover pre-existing conditions, Obamacare. You know why? It's dead.


CABRERA: I want to bring in my panel to discuss this. "Chicago Sun- Times" Washington bureau chief, Lynn Sweet, and the White House correspondent for the "Washington Examiner," Sarah Westwood.

Thank you both for joining us.

Sarah, we'll be begin with you. Let's play something Senator Rick Santorum said on "STATE OF THE UNION" today and I want to get your reaction.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) RICK SANTORUM, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: The president has to be more engaged involving these issues. There is one failing I would give to the president that maybe isn't talked about very much is he really needs to get his policy chops, you know, in line. He has to start understanding the details, particularly when it comes to health care and understand that unless he engages and is convincing members, not I'm going to, you know, run somebody in a primary against you, but here is the policy reasons why we need to do this. Here's why this is best for America. We're going to be in trouble.


CABRERA: Sarah, he's a fellow Republican. Is that a fair critique of President Trump?

SARAH WESTWOOD, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, WASHINGTON EXAMINER: That's been a major Republican criticism of how President Trump and his White House legislative team handled this health care situation, that what they did was just get in line behind congressional GOP version of Obamacare reform and didn't put forward their own policy details and didn't have input on the front end, and that allowed House leadership to put forward a bill that was unable to garner a majority of Republicans to line up behind it.

And I think you see the White House addressing that weakness with tax reform, that they're coming out at the beginning of the process. They put forward these broad goal posts that they want Republicans to hit when it comes to tax reform, the rates that they'd like to see, what deductions they'd like to see eliminated, and then they're bringing in stakeholders and lawmakers into the process to make it more collaborative instead of delegating all that authority to the House.

CABRERA: Now, Lynn, as we just heard, one of the ideas here from the GOP health care plan is to give more of the responsibility to the state to figure out what plans work best for their residents. So if it becomes more of a state responsibility, could we be looking at 50 states with different levels of coverage?

LYNN SWEET, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, "CHICAGO SUN-TIMES": The answer is yes. And I want to first correct the record, when President Trump said Obamacare does not cover pre-existing conditions, it does. It's a hallmark of Obamacare health insurance. And what it does is put a cap on how much people with pre-existing conditions can pay. What governor -- excuse me, Senator Santorum was talking about is that President Trump doesn't know enough about the details of the plan, two, and he had a splendid opportunity on "Face the Nation" today to explain it and sell it.

If President Trump in his former life was trying to sell me a condominium, I would expect him to be able to tell me what's the assessment and what are the taxes. He couldn't even explain how people with pre-existing conditions, if you go to a plan where 50 states are going to regulate our health insurance, President Trump could not guarantee that people would get pre-existing condition coverage. And I say that with a caveat that it has to be affordable. Being covered for a pre-existing condition isn't really coverage if

you're paying an astronomical amount of money each month for it, so you have to be realistic about prices. So if it goes to states, then you have an entirely different ball game. But the most important thing I hope you have in this conversation is that the legislation is not detailing the state plans, how it would go in a way that President Trump could even come close to explaining how it would work, much less how these interstate marketplaces would work that he's been talking about for a long time.

It's time to explain your legislation, Mr. President, to the people.

CABRERA: And it seems like a lot of GOP lawmakers who may not be on board with the current plan also don't understand how it would work. That's what we've heard from some of these Republicans, particularly moderate Republicans is that they don't understand how people with pre-existing conditions would still be covered. Now, remember, the original plan had just 17 percent approval.

So, Sarah, does Congress have a political will to push through a bill that may not be popular with most Americans?

[20:05:04] WESTWOOD: Well, I think it's sort of now or never for Republicans in the House. If they can't get together on this compromise, it's been so fine tuned, it's been now nearly two months of working out the details of an Obamacare reform plan and if at this point they can't get behind it, then it's unclear if there will be a will to push forward and forge some other kind of compromise. They worked out the details down to a very minute level. I think obviously the president has had trouble articulating those details.

But if you ask policy wonk on the hill like House Speaker Paul Ryan, he could articulate what the waivers will entail and under what conditions states would be able to opt out some of those Obamacare regulations that are removed by the Republican legislation. But I think it will be a challenge for Republicans to settle on any other kind of compromise if they can't push forward this bill that's on the table right now.

CABRERA: Sarah Westwood and Lynn Sweet, thanks for joining us.

SWEET: Thank you.

WESTWOOD: Thank you.

CABRERA: And during the president's wide ranging interview, President Trump also discussed the growing tension between the U.S. and the country now posting one of his biggest foreign policy challenges, North Korea, and its nuclear quest. Listen.


DICKERSON: Mr. President, you and the administration said that North Korea don't test a missile. They have tested a missile. Is the pressure not working? TRUMP: Well, I didn't say don't test a missile. He's going to have

to do what he has to do. But he understands we're not going to be very happy. And I will tell you, a man that I've gotten to like and respect, the president of China, President Xi, I believe has been putting pressure on him also. But so far perhaps nothing is happening and perhaps it has.

This was a small missile. This was not a big missile. This was not a nuclear test, which he was expected to do three days ago. We'll see what happens.

DICKERSON: You say not happy. What does that mean?

TRUMP: I would not be happy. If he does a nuclear test, I will not be happy. I can tell you also, I don't believe that the president of China, who is a very respected man will be happy either.

DICKERSON: Not happy meaning military action?

TRUMP: I don't know. I mean, we'll see.

DICKERSON: The Chinese are allies -- have been our allies with North Korea. How are you sure that they're not using this as a way to test you?

TRUMP: You can never be sure of anything, can you? But I developed a very good relationship. I don't think they want to see a destabilized North Korea. I don't think they want to see it. They certainly don't want to see nuclear on -- you know, from their neighbor. They haven't liked it for a long time. But we'll have to see what happens.

The relationship I have with China, it's been already acclaimed as being something very special, something very different than we've ever had. But again, you know, we'll find out whether or not President Xi is able to effect change. I hope he is.


CABRERA: President Trump's sit-down with CBS News came one day after North Korea carried out its latest failed missile test. He called leader Kim Jong-un, quote, "a pretty smart cookie." But Trump did not rule out taking military action against the rogue nation at some point saying, quote, :We'll see."

CNN's Will Ripley joins me now from Pyongyang, North Korea. So how are the president's latest remarks being received there, Will?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Ana, the president may be ambiguous about what the U.S. intends to do if North Korea pushes the red line, that sixth nuclear test. But here on the ground they are anything but ambiguous. They are continuing with their bellicose rhetoric, blasting the United States for everything from the Carl Vinson carrier strike group off the Korean peninsula, conducting joint naval drills with the South Korean Navy to the fact that there was that mix-up in South Korea over who exactly was going to pay that $1 billion for the THAAD missile defense system. The U.S. now says at least for now they are going to cover the cost of that.

North Koreans do want to engage with the United States, they say, but they say they are not willing to denuclearize after investing so many of their resources into developing these weapons. And I have to tell you. I've been on the ground here for several weeks now and we have talked a lot about missiles and nuclear weapons. We have reported about the rhetoric and the escalating tensions. One thing that often gets lost in all of that noise are the stories of the real people on the Korean peninsula on both sides who are affected by all of this.

I met with a family here in Pyongyang who has a family member who defected to South Korea, and their story is one that anybody who is apart from their family can probably identify with.


RIPLEY (voice-over): Seoul, South Korea, tens of thousands of North Korean defectors have fled South since the late 1990s.

Kim Ryon Hui is one of the rare few who's ever asked to go back. She came here thinking she could work for a while to earn money to pay for medical treatment and then go home. But instead, like all defectors, she lost her North Korean passport and was made a South Korean citizen. Her old home, just a 20-minute flight away, if you could fly. South Koreans are banned by their government from visiting or even communicating with anyone in North Korea.

[20:10:10] I'm taken to see Kim Ryon Hui's husband and her daughter.

(On camera): We sent a crew in South Korea to go speak with your wife and your mom, and she recorded a video message that she wanted you to see.

KIM RYON HUI, MOTHER LIVING IN SOUTH KOREA: I'm so sorry. Your mother is so sorry. I am so proud and thankful to see you all grown up, confident and bright. I really miss you. I really want to hug you.

RI RYO GUN, DAUGHTER LIVING IN NORTH KOREA: There are times it's hard to bear, my mother wouldn't like to see me like this. She wouldn't want her daughter to be weak.

RIPLEY (voice-over): I am also taken to meet Kim Ryong-Hui's aging parents. Her father is 75, her mother 72.

(On camera): When you see her, I can't even imagine what you're thinking.

KIM SE HWAM, KIM RYON HUI'S FATHER: This is the first time I have seen her in six years.

RIPLEY (voice-over): Since she left, her mother has gone blind in one eye. She's losing sight in the other. She worries time is running out, that she'll never see or hold her daughter again. They can't call, they can't e-mail, they can't even write a letter. No way to communicate. We let her husband and daughter use my phone to send a video message

back to South Korea. Ryo-Gun tells her mother how she just graduated from catering school. And now she's a chef. She hopes that someday her mother can taste what a good cook she's become. She shows off their new apartment. They moved in here after she left.

No matter what's happening in the outside world, this is reality for this family and many others on the Korean peninsula. So many families divided.


RIPLEY: It is very important to point out that the only reason North Korea made this particular family available to us when we asked to speak and get information about the families of defectors is because their mother is one of the rare few who has ever actually publically stated that they want to come back into this country. There have been tens of thousands of others who have never wanted to come back here and there are reports that their families are not treated well. In fact they are punished, exiled from Pyongyang, sent out to the countryside, even sent out for reeducation at labor camps and that multiple generations of families are punished when somebody betrays this society by leaving.

And so obviously this is -- this benefit the North Korean narrative that there is this one person who wants to come back. A lot of people don't want to come back. And those people, their families who are left here, never have any contact with them, even though they're geographically close. It's as if they can be on another planet. And not only that, but they also may be suffering right now as a result of the decision by their loved ones to try to leave and to try to experience life in another place beyond this very tightly controlled authoritarian regime.

CABRERA: Wow. Very eye-opening report. Thank you, Will Ripley, for bringing it to us.

We have this just in to CNN right now. The Pentagon has identified the soldier who died in Iraq. 25-year-old, 1st Lieutenant Weston Lee of Bluffton, Georgia. He died Saturday in Mosul. On a statement from the 82nd Airborne says he was killed by an explosive device while on patrol. He was part of a contingent from Fort Bragg, North Carolina. It was his first appointment to Iraq. There are about 1,000 members of the U.S. military on the ground assisting Iraqi forces.

Coming up, total phony story. That's how President Trump is responding to questions about the investigation into possible campaign ties to Russia. A Democratic member of Congress weighs in next.

You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM.


[20:18:48] CABRERA: This week we learned the Defense Intelligence Agency had warned former National Security adviser Michael Flynn against accepting foreign payments as he entered retirement back in 2014. And the Russian TV network RT later reportedly paid Flynn more than $30,000 for a 2015 speaking engagement in Moscow. We also learned the inspector general opened an investigation earlier this month.

Let's dig a little deeper into this revelation. Joining me now is Virginia Democrat Gerry Connolly, he is the senior member of the Congressional Oversight Committee.

Thank you so much for joining us.


CABRERA: Listen to the president address this latest Michael Flynn development this weekend.


TRUMP: The concept of Russia with respect to us is a total phony story.

DICKERSON: Even the Trump campaign.

TRUMP: Of course it's a total phony story. In fact I just heard where General Flynn got his clearance from the Obama administration.

DICKERSON: But you don't mean --

TRUMP: Excuse me. And when he went to Russia -- I didn't realize this. When he went to Russia it was 2015 and he was on the Obama clearance. When General Flynn came to us, as you now know, he already had the highest clearance you could have. I think the same clearance as the president of the United States would have. He had this really high clearance.


[20:20:02] CABRERA: Congressman, how do you respond to the president and what you just heard?

CONNOLLY: Well, when President Obama had the chance to observe Michael Flynn's performance, he fired him as the head of DIA. When Trump had the chance to watch Michael Flynn in action, he hired him as the National Security adviser to the president of the United States.

I think there's is a big difference. And to try to slop it off because the security clearance was processed at a different time under a different administration is really a distraction from the real fundamental issue, which is what in the world made you think Michael Flynn was appropriate to be the National Security adviser, and why did you end up hiring him? Because he lied to your vice president about his ties to Russia.

CABRERA: Should the president have also done vetting, or was it safe to say --

CONNOLLY: Absolutely. CABRERA: -- since he had received a security clearance under the

former White House that he had a clean slate?

CONNOLLY: He did not have a clean slate. A lot happened between the issuance of that security clearance and Michael Flynn being chosen by Trump both in the campaign and to be his National Security adviser. Like payments from RT in Russia, the Russian television station, like payments from Turkey and like payments to the company he formed in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Those are all new developments between Obama and Trump that the Trump administration had an obligation to do its due diligence on and they clearly did not.

CABRERA: Earlier this week, the ranking member of your committee, Representative Elijah Cummings, disclosed this information that Flynn had been warned against taking foreign money but the chairman of the House Oversight Committee, Jason Chaffetz, a Republican, criticized Cummings for doing this. For going around the committee and making this public. Is the House Oversight Committee investigation into Russia being politicized?

CONNOLLY: I don't think there's much of an investigation of the Russia-Trump connections because the Republican leadership on our committee has sought to quash it. They'd rather look at anything, steroids in baseball, than look at the Trump connections -- Trump campaign connections and the administration connections with Russia that are very, very troubling. And I think Elijah Cummings has tried to put a little bit of public pressure on the chairman to do what he promised which was irrespective of who got elected, he was going to run a robust oversight operation.

CABRERA: Let me read you a tweet from President Trump today. He says, "The Democrats without a leader have become the party of obstruction. They are only interested in themselves and not what is best for U.S."

Congressman, in what area would you work with President Trump?

CONNOLLY: Well, he's got to have to decide whether he wants common ground or not. He's done nothing but (INAUDIBLE) Democrats since he got into office and even blaming Democrats for his own failure, and that of the Republican caucus in the House, the Obamacare repeal to it. But if he wants to reach out and he wants to work on some things like infrastructure investment, like meaningful tax reform that doesn't just benefit the top 1 percent, we're all ears. We're willing to talk at least and sit down with you. But he hasn't done that outreach. And the burden is on him to do that.


CONNOLLY: Especially given the behavior he's engaged in, in both the transition in the first 100 days.

CABRERA: Our Maeve Reston has reported that some Democrats have receive a phone call from the White House. He had reached out to Democrats recently. But I am hearing from you, you haven't heard him reach out on the issue of the health care legislation? Is that accurate?

CONNOLLY: I haven't heard anything from this White House.

CABRERA: What would you say to the president if he were to reach out to you?

CONNOLLY: Well, I think it would depend on what the nature of the reach-out was. If he calls me to say, I want you to join me in repealing Obamacare and denying coverage to 20 million Americans, and rescinding the protection to all Americans in terms of pre-existing conditions, I think that's a very brief conversation.

CABRERA: Let me play part of an interview with President Trump about his tax returns on "Face the Nation." Listen.


DICKERSON: You first said that you were under audit and was going to wait until that was done about 14 months ago. It seems like a long time. When do you think this might happen? Are you asking them --

TRUMP: It could happen soon. I don't know. I mean I think it's --

DICKERSON: What's -- give me --

TRUMP: I think it's pretty routine, to be honest with you. But then I'll make a decision.


CABRERA: And you were one of 18 members of the House Oversight Committee to sign this letter to the chairman, Jason Chaffetz, asking for a vote on the Presidential Tax Transparency Act to require President Trump and future presidents to disclose their tax returns.

In light of the president's tax proposal that tax policy experts say would benefit wealthy Americans like President Trump, do you see more of your Republican colleagues demanding transparency?

CONNOLLY: Boy, I hope so. You know that if this were about Obama or Hillary Clinton, my Republican friends would be all over it. But they're making a big carve out because it's Trump. But if anybody has a potential conflict in tax reform legislation being submitted to the Congress by the White House, it is the president and the White House.

[20:25:08] The alternative minimum tax, we do know from the one tax return that was released to "The New York Times" that he had to pay a fairly hefty amount in the alternative minimum tax. His reform calls for its elimination. Pass throughs. We know that he used a lot of pass through companies. They're taxed at a 39.6 percent rate. He wants to reduce that rate to 15 percent. The estate tax, we know he and his family would benefit enormously from not having an estate tax of any kind and he would eliminate the tax which right now only affects people, joint couples with assets more than $11 million. So he stands to benefit big time as he would say from his own tax reform bill. I think we need to know about his tax returns in order to assess what

conflicts and what self-dealing is going on with this president and this White House over tax reform.

CABRERA: Congressman Gerry Connolly, thanks for your time tonight.

CONNOLLY: My pleasure.

CABRERA: Coming up some breaking news. A controversial figure in the Trump administration apparently leaving the White House. We'll explain why Sebastian Gorka was a problem for the West Wing.

You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.


[20:30:23] CABRERA: Returning to our breaking news, Sebastian Gorka, a controversial national security aid in the White House, is now expected to leave his job. Several administration officials are confirming this to CNN. One senior official with the Trump administration it was possible that Gorka would take another job in the White House, but that official also said Gorka would probably just leave because he was simply generating too much controversy for the White House.

Sarah Westwood is joining us once again. I know you have some reporting, Sarah, on his departure. What can you tell us?

WESTWOOD: Well, Sebastian Gorka -- there has been reporting that had suggested that he had struggled to obtain a security clearance. And so that prevented him from contributing to the national security agenda in a meaningful way. And then he was taking up a position that could have gone to someone who did have that security clearance and who could contribute. So this has been, you know, the subject of discussion related to palace intrigue, but sources are telling me that it was also a logistical issue, just that lack of a security clearance prevented him from carrying out some of the responsibilities that ordinarily would have fallen to someone in his position.

So he is moving to a position, potentially outside of the White House in a federal agency that's being created for him to use some of his counter terrorism expertise to talk about the propaganda issues with respect to the Islamic State.

CABRERA: Now, Sarah, does this shake up or change anything in terms of the dynamics in the White House?

WESTWOOD: Well, certainly in the first 100 days it does seem that the faction of the White House loyalty to Steve Bannon, this populist nationalist that have come from places like Breitbart where Sebastian Gorka was once an editor, they have lost influence within the West Wing. It seems that they have been relegated to less prominent positions within the White House as the faction loyal to Jared Kushner, to Gary Cohn, has gained influence with the president. This is kind of the natural ups and downs you would expect to see in the White House, but Sebastian Gorka is sort of the way this casualty of -- the changes that have seen the populist nationalist lose some of that influence.

CABRERA: Sarah Westwood, thank you for joining us.

Still ahead, he was singled out at President Trump's rally -- at the rally last night and urged to pass health care reform. We'll talk to Congressman Mike Kelly about where the fight in repeal and replace Obamacare now stands.


[20:36:51] CABRERA: A renewed focus on day 101 as the president says a new version of the bill to repeal and replace Obamacare is on the way and he's calling on members of Congress to pass it quickly.


TRUMP: We're going to give Americans the freedom to purchase the health care plans they want, not the health care forced on them by the government. And I'll be so angry at Congressman Kelly and Congressman Marino and all of our congressmen in this room if we don't get that damn thing passed quickly. They'll get it done. We know them. They'll get it done.


CABRERA: Representative Mike Kelly of Pennsylvania is joining me now. He kind of singled you out there. He called you to the carpet, Congressman Kelly. It sounds like he expects you to pass an Obamacare replacement bill very soon. Can you deliver for the president, and when?

REP. MIKE KELLY (R), PENNSYLVANIA: You know what, I think that very soon you are going to see a health care piece come out of Congress that will go over to the Senate. I think we've done just about as much as we could do with it in the Congress and understanding that there is 435 of us that come from very unique districts and not all the same. But the president is pretty good. I don't think -- he's not very good about tolerating failure and I think when he puts that out, what he kind of jokes, he means it. It's time to get moving. It's time to get this done. It's been eight years.

CABRERA: So when will we see a vote?

KELLY: Well, I think -- you know, I can't tell you that exactly because I don't know where the whip count is. My understanding is we are within single digits right now with the accommodations that have been made and the concerns with all these different districts and making sure that we're representing the folks back home. Not just Republicans back home by the way. But all our constituents back home. That we're doing the right thing for them. And if you'll say, you know, you did the right thing for the right reasons, good things happen. That's what we're trying to do, then we're going to get it over to the Senate, see what they have to do and we'll get it down to the president for his signature.

CABRERA: Maybe you can clarify one thing that a lot of people have had questions about regarding this health care bill, and that is pre- existing conditions. We heard the president say that's going to be taken care of with high risk pools that the states will have. However, when you look at what that could do with those high risk pool, the health care experts say people with pre-existing conditions will likely be paying much higher premiums and face potential gaps in coverage in which they would face a penalty. So how are they protected in the way you see this?

KELLY: Well, listen, insurance is like any other -- any other business program, and there is risk involved in everything, so there is reinsurance pieces that you put in there to make sure that the insurance companies know that there's going to be funding to take care of it and more importantly that individuals know that even if they have a pre-existing condition they're going to be covered. That's just critical to who we are, not as Republicans but who we are as Americans.

We want to make sure we're taking care of the most vulnerable every time that we can. So it's a matter of constructing a business model that makes sense to people who have to present it, and that's the insurance companies, but they have to have the assurance that we're going to be able to back them as they go forward. But more importantly that we're going to be behind the American people in doing what we think is right for them.

CABRERA: I mean, that sounds good.

KELLY: That's just critical.

CABRERA: That sounds good but access doesn't necessarily mean it's affordable. And when you look at what AARP has projected, premiums in high risk pools could cost as $25,700 a year. A lot of people that's their livelihood in a year.

[20:40:09] KELLY: Yes. But, you know, you've got to remember when the Affordable Care Act was first -- was first put out there, we were told we're going to save $2300, $2500 a year with our insurance premiums.

Look, it's going to go back and forth and we're going to have to find a solution that actually works. We can talk about all these could be's, maybes, but we have to get actually into the markets and make sure that those folks have the assurances that they need to have if there is a plan, a model that actually works. There is so many people right now that have an insurance card but no insurance coverage between deductibles and co-pays and high premiums. So we want to make sure we're addressing those problems the right way especially for the most vulnerable.

CABRERA: OK. The president was pretty well received by the crowd there in Pennsylvania last night. But how do you think his rhetoric goes over with those who may not be Trump supporters?

KELLY: Well, listen, I got to tell you. There is some people that are not Trump supporters, and will never be Trump supporters. But this is a president that exudes confidence and I think it has always been in America that we like people to have a little swagger. We like people that have confidence and we like people that we can look to say there is a leader. There is somebody that I can buy into their program and I can follow it.

Listen, President Obama was great at lecturing. But he was terrible at leading. Now people will disagree with me, and I get that. But I've got to tell you right now it's been about the courts. It's been about coal, it's been about consistency, and it's been about confidence.

Last night in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, you saw over 10,000, 10,000 people and not all of them just from Pennsylvania. They came to Harrisburg to see the president of the United States, and they were at such a fever pitch. He brings out in people something that we haven't seen in years and what it is more than anything else, it's about that strong Yankee ingenuity. It's about being confident in who we are.

CABRERA: Congressman --

KELLY: And nothing is made to lead.

CABRERA: Congressman, would you have given that speech last night?

KELLY: You know what, I'm enormous talent as the president. The president is pretty good at giving speeches, but I got to tell you, that's why I said you -- before we get into the arena, you have to be there to see it. He just --

CABRERA: Do you agree with the message he gave?

KELLY: Yes, I agree with the message he gave. I think he was spot on.

CABRERA: All right. Congressman Mike Kelly, thank you very much for joining us.

KELLY: Ana, thanks so much for having me.

CABRERA: Coming up the saga of the president and the press taking another interesting turn this morning. Could the White House relax laws intended to safe guard free speech?


[20:46:38] CABRERA: It was the hottest ticket in town last night in D.C. Only in Washington can reporters, actors, pundits and former White House staffers all walk the same red carpet. It was the annual White House Correspondents' Dinner went on with one very notable absence at the head table, the president, who gave no in his RSVP several weeks ago. The main speaker was "The Daily Show's" Hasan Minhaj.


HASAN MINHAJ, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENTS' DINNER MAIN SPEAKER: We are here to talk about the truth. It is 2017, and we are living in the golden age of lying. Now's the time to be a liar, and Donald Trump is liar-in-chief. And remember you guys are public enemy number one. You are his biggest enemy. Journalists, ISIS, normal length ties, and somehow you're the bad guys.


CABRERA: You are laughing already. CNN's senior media correspondent and host of "RELIABLE SOURCES," Brian Stelter is with me. So you were there last night. Did he kill it or were people just being polite and laughing?

BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: Actually there were some journalists in the room trying not to laugh too hard. Because there was a concern about a perception of leaning to the left, certainly with President Trump not showing up. It's a little bit awkward to be laughing at jokes when someone so prominent is choosing not to be in the room. Normally that's what makes this event so interesting is you have the president getting roasted by a comedian just a few feet away.

This year Hasan Minhaj acknowledged that awkwardness, leaned into it, sort of embraced it, and said this is what's great about America, the First Amendment allows for this Muslim kid, as he called himself, to get up there and roast the president. Even though he wasn't there.

I think for the most part he was very well received. He was funny for the most part without being mean. A few jokes that made people cringed. He did talk about the real president actually being Vladimir Putin in Russia. There were a couple of jokes maybe crossed the line but that's how these events are supposed to go.

CABRERA: And he did turn the table and made fun of the media as well.

STELTER: Yes, indeed.

CABRERA: How did the media receive it when he was poking the bear?

STELTER: Yes. He says we overuse the breaking news banner here on CNN, which is probably true. He had some choice words for FOX and MSNBC as well. Yes, those jokes always get a lot of laughs because people understand the truth to them. And that was the case for Trump as well. We don't know if the president actually watched the performance or not but he has not tweeted about this comedian, so maybe that says something.

CABRERA: Well, meantime he was doing his counter programming. He was at that rally in Pennsylvania.


CABRERA: And really firing up a crowd there. And he caused some controversy when he read this poem, "The Snake." Let's listen.


TRUMP: Oh, shut up, silly woman, said the reptile with the grin. You knew damn well I was a snake before you took me in.


CABRERA: This is seen as an anti-immigrant poem, a poem the author's own family has asked the president not to read. What do you make of this?

STELTER: I actually thought this was the biggest story from his rally because most of what we heard from president, it was a repeat of what we heard from the campaign trail. What was newsworthy to me was the president now bringing this poem from the campaign trail and reciting it as president. Of course, he has a much bigger podium now that he is the leader of the free world. And this poem, it does have -- what it's basically saying is you let in a snake and then the snake bites you, you deserve it.

[20:50:08] Now you could think about that relating to terrorism, to immigration, to a number of different topics, but the president in this case in particular was citing his Homeland Security efforts and his immigration enforcement efforts. So in his mind, it would seem this is a poem about the dangers of immigrant, of refugees and migrants and immigrants coming into the country.

I just found it slightly astonishing to see the president reading it up on the stage. But this was true to form. He was not changing from the campaign trail. I think t was one of the themes of the first 100 days, is that we're not seeing a lot of change in the president.

CABRERA: You think we'll still see him in campaign mode moving forward?


STELTER: I do think so. We heard today on ABC "This Week" that the Chief of Staff Reince Priebus says the administration is still looking at how to open up the libel laws, make it easier to sue news organizations. Right now this is all talk, not action. But it was another example of something we heard on the campaign trail that the administration says they are still exploring.

CABRERA: That his base eats up.

STELTER: Indeed.

CABRERA: All right. Brian Stelter, thank you.

STELTER: Thanks.

CABRERA: Good to have you. Nice to see you. As always, you can catch "RELIABLE SOURCES" Sundays at 11:00 a.m. Eastern here on CNN.

Immigration has been a topic that's brought out strong emotions on both sides of the aisle in the president's first 100 days. But comedian W. Kamau Bell believes those uncomfortable conversations create change. It's the subject of tonight's season premiere of "UNITED SHADES OF AMERICA." (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

W. KAMAU BELL, HOST, CNN'S "UNITED SHADES OF AMERICA": I'm in Washington, D.C. And I can't think of a better place to explore our country's conflicting views on immigration.

RICHARD SPENCER, WHITE NATIONALIST: There is no diverse America. There is only white America.

BELL: America is a country of immigrants.

SPENCER: That's bull (EXPLETIVE DELETED). Ultimately America is a white country. It's a man's game. The fact is men and women are different. Women are more suited to maintaining the household. We bring a level of civilization. We are more interested in power. We're more interested in aspiration and domination. I just want to bathe in white privilege.

BELL: I'm not going to say anything. There's a lot of jokes in here. I'm not going to say any of them because I'm a nice hearted person.



[20:56:20] CABRERA: On the new season of "PARTS UNKNOWN," every dish tells a story. And Anthony Bourdain is determined to taste them all. I sat down with him ahead of tonight's season premier.


ANTHONY BOURDAIN, HOST, CNN'S "PARTS UNKNOWN": It's really an exploration of, you know, how Mexican in Southern California, how American are the Chicanos. How American or Mexican are the Chicanos. They are such an important part of our cultural tissue. Music, food, identity, workforce, so we really want to look at Los Angeles, this most photographed of cities entirely through a Mexican and Chicano prism and also to answer the pressing question of why is Morrissey so popular with Mexicans and Chicanos? It's one of the most fascinating things that came up.

CABRERA: What can you tell us about that?

BOURDAIN: You'll have to watch the show. But it is not something you'd expect.

CABRERA: Is Mexican food what we all know it in this episode from what you experienced, what you ate?

BOURDAIN: I mean, we eat a lot of the kind of authentic Mexican street food that people already more familiar with.

CABRERA: Because the (INAUDIBLE) influence, too. There's specifically that I know you explored.

BOURDAIN: Yes. But it's perhaps the most important emerging, exciting and important emerging cuisine. It's the least understood. Young Mexican chefs and Mexican-American chefs are making -- are finally, you know, looking back to the deep complexity and sophistication and quality of traditional Mexican ingredients and particularly their sauces and those are finally beginning to be understood and valued as they should be.

CABRERA: What do you see as the key ingredient?

BOURDAIN: Time. Time.


BOURDAIN: Something like a (INAUDIBLE) sauce. That's an incredible amount of time to make with, you know, upwards of 20 ingredients. These are deep nuanced sophisticated sauces and techniques as anything the French ever came up with.

CABRERA: It's not as simple as just throwing some beans in a tortilla.



CABRERA: That's my style of Mexican. I have Mexican heritage myself.


CABRERA: So I say that because I love that kind of food.

BOURDAIN: Even good beans, that's a long, careful process where you've got to get that just right.

CABRERA: Yes. When you talk about again the influence not just in California, but the influence of undocumented immigrants in our country.


CABRERA: Which again is heightened in that area, it seems that immigrants and the food industry are often intertwined. And I'm wondering your take in terms of if all of those undocumented workers who are part of the food industry were to leave.


CABRERA: Where would that leave us?

BOURDAIN: Well, food would rot in the fields to start with. Every stage of the food chain. The growing, production, gathering, harvesting, processing, shipping, serving and cleaning up after, Mexicans, Mexican-Americans, a large number of undocumented immigrants are rightly or wrongly absolutely vital everywhere. Every undocumented Mexican to not show up to work tomorrow America would find out real quick what kind of economic impact that would have and this big gaping hole in a way we live. (END VIDEOTAPE)

CABRERA: You can catch the season premiere of "ANTHONY BOURDAIN: PARTS UNKNOWN" next.

That's going to do it for me. Thank you for joining me. I'm Ana Cabrera in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'll see you next weekend. Have a fantastic week.