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Trump Team Warned Flynn About Contacts With Ambassador; Candidate Macron: I Was Hacked; Trump To Make First Stops on First Overseas Trip; Unemployment Drops to 4.4 Percent, Lowest in a Decade; U.S./Russian Agreement Reached on Safe Flights Over Syria; JFK Secret Documents to be Released; Frances' Macron, Wife Capture Attention; NY A.G. to Sue if Trumpcare Enacted. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired May 6, 2017 - 17:00   ET


[16:55:42] ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: You are in the CNN NEWSROOM, I'm Ann Cabrera in New York. So, glad you could join us.

We'll begin with the Trump's transition team's red flag warning to National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, this came months before he was forced to resign. A former U.S. official now tells CNN, senior members of Trump's transition team warned Flynn about his conversations with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak weeks before the two discussed sanctions against Moscow.

And "The Washington Post" first reported these developments and says, Flynn was told in late November that his conversations with Kislyak, the Russian ambassador were almost certainly being recorded. All this coming as President Trump spends his first weekend as commander-in- chief at his mom in Bedminster, New Jersey.

And our White House correspondent Athena Jones is in nearby Branchburg. Athena, what more are you learning now about this controversy?

ATHENA JONES, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hi Ana. We know that members of the Trump transition National Security team were concern that Lieutenant General Flynn didn't have a full understanding or full appreciation of the motivations of the Russian ambassador. That is why you had the head of that team Marshal Demensly (ph) asked the Obama White House to provide a classified CIA profile on Ambassador Kislyak to provide to Flynn ahead his conversations with the Ambassador.

One thing that isn't clear at this moment is whether Flynn read that document. One more interesting detail that my colleague Jeff Zeleny has confirmed, is that according to a former U.S. official, the Obama White House was troubled about the way the Trump transition people was handling classified documents. The official said that some highly sensitive documents were copied and removed from a secure room in transition's Washington DC headquarters. And so, as a result of that, some Obama officials later decided that some documents -- Trump's transition's team will only be allowed to view at the White House. So, some interesting news we're learning about Flynn -- Ana. CABRERA: Also those coming to just a couple days before acting

Attorney General Sally Yates is scheduled to testify publicly on what she told the White House about Michael Flynn. So, Athena, are you hearing any reaction from the White House or Flynn's camp?

JONES: No reaction so far. I know that I've seen and he's reached out to Michael Flynn's lawyer, still waiting to hear back from him, from the lawyer. And we also haven't heard anything from the White House on this. But a lot of attention as you mentioned leading up to this testimony by Sally Yates before the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee early next week where possibly more will come out about this -- Ana.

CABRERA: Athena Jones in Branchburg, New Jersey nearby where the President is staying this weekend. Thank you. I want to talk more about this with former Russian spy Jeff Barsky, he's the author of "Deep Undercover: My Secret Life and Tangled Allegiances as a KGB Spy in America."

Jack, thanks for joining us. I'd love to get your take on this new information, former U.S. Intelligence officials describing the Russian Ambassador Kislyak as a top spy and recruiter of spies. The notion that Russian officials have dismissed. What's your take on that?

JEFF BARSKY, FORMER KGB SPY: I'm absolutely blown away by the naivete of a senior person such as Mr. Flynn not understanding that when you get in touch with somebody in an official capacity from Russia or in the old days, the Soviet Union you might as well talk to their Secret Service. I mean, these types of individuals are either directly associated with one of their services or at least report back. This has always been like that -- the Soviet Union has been like that in my days and that hasn't changed.

CABRERA: So, you think it's very likely that Flynn should have known, even after he was warned as well that what he was saying could be scrutinized, not just by U.S. authorities by also by Russian authority?

BARSKY: I can't even grasp how somebody with that kind of an impressive background of service and intellect can fail so miserably. I mean, it goes sort of along the line where I found Americans to be rather naive when it comes to the world. We think everybody should like us and we sort of like everybody. There's a lot of naivete amongst the general population that I just didn't expect this to extend to some of the highest level in government.

CABRERA: Now, another thing we've been learning is federal investigators believes another campaign contact, former campaign adviser, Carter Page was being used to try to infiltrate the Trump campaign. Does that sound like Russian President Vladimir Putin's mo setting up a spy close to the Trump campaign trying to influence the election?

[17:04:04] BARSKY: Well, I think you're going one step further than I'm willing to follow you. They certainly were trying to get as close as possible to this fellow because, you know, he operated in Moscow as a businessman and had dealings with Oligarchs and I think it was one of the largest corporations in Russia, and he catered to them in some respect. And so, there's no doubt that the folks in the FSB or VRU or whichever secret service was working him, were trying to get as close to him as possible. And were most likely trying to figure out, can we use him? And this is always an interesting question because you don't necessarily always use somebody who you're cultivating.

CABRERA: And use them for what?

BARSKY: Whatever it is. This is -- this is open-ended stuff. When you're getting close to somebody who you eventually could use either unofficially, unknowingly or even potentially officially or, you know, under the covers as a recruit, this -- you don't know where that's going, you understand? You can't plan that because you're dealing with an individual who you need to figure out, you know what can be done with that particular individual.

CABRERA: What would be the motivation from Russia to mess with somebody like Carter Page or Michael Flynn?


BARSKY: The motivation is to, you know, whatever intelligence does, you know, if you -- if you're dealing with representatives or, you know, individuals that come from a country that is, you're stated and known adversary, you know, you always try to get an angle. You get the upper hand in some way. This is not all orchestrated and pre- planned, you know, it's very opportunistic.

CABRERA: Hmm. You don't think it was preplanned. What do you make of the evolution of just the relationship we're seeing between President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin? We heard President Trump say, relations have never been lower or worse?

BARSKY: Well both sides have said that right. And you know, at this point, you know, I said early on, I'm disappointed with the politics that has been leaking into international policy with in this country, and I don't believe that the whistling dixie, the relationships are right now, is not very good and that is not good for us and the world.

CABRERA: All right Jeff Barsky. Thanks for your insight.

We now the name of the U.S. Navy SEAL who was killed in an operation against the terrorist group in Somalia earlier this week.

Senior Chief Special Warfare Operator Kyle Milliken was killed Thursday about 40 miles West of Mogadishu. The Pentagon now says, he came under small arms fire during a counterterrorism mission against in Al Shabaab later. Milliken was a member of SEAL Team Six, the elite unit that killed Osama bin Laden. He was just 38-years-old, a husband and father. He is now the first American to die in combat in Somalia since the infamous Black Hawk Down incident in 1993.

And we have some breaking news right now in to CNN from Central Africa government officials announcing that more than 80 young girls kidnaped by a terrorist group three years ago are free. This is according to a Nigerian government official who says, negotiations with the militant Islamic extremist group Boko Haram resulted in this girls' release. It's not all the girls kidnapped by the group three years ago.

You'll recall more than 270 girls were abducted by Boko Haram in April of 2014. The militants released a statement saying they would sell the girls, those released today are reportedly in military protection now in Nigeria. We are closely watching this story for official confirmation and we'll bring you more details as soon as we learn them.

A presidential campaign hacked. E-mails and documents released online, it sounds like a flashback to last year but this time it happened in France just two days before the country's presidential election. This story is next on CNN.


[17:13:08] CABRERA: It's election weekend in France. Voters there will pick a president tomorrow but the current and former American presidents who already made known who they would like to see elected. President Trump short of a fall endorsement for the far right candidate Marine Le Pen told and Associated Press reporter last month that he saw Le Pen as strongest on border since she's the strongest on what's been going on in France.

Le Pen's opponent is centrist Emmanuel Macron. He got an endorsement from U.S. former President Barack Obama.


FMR. PRES. BARACK OBAMA (D), UNITED STATES: The success of Trump matters to the entire world. I've admired the campaign that Emmanuel Macron has run. He has stood up for liberal values. Because of how important this election is, I also want you to know that I am supporting Emmanuel Macron to lead you forward.


CABRERA: Just hours before the French people pick their new president a surprising announcement from one of the candidates, listen to this. Emmanuel Macron is now claiming somebody hacked into his personal e- mail and business papers and put them on the internet. Nobody knows who did it exactly but the method are similar to the suspected Russian hack of U.S. presidential candidate Hillary Clinton's campaign last year.

CNN correspondent Isa Soares is watching this election from Northern France where these new allegations are changing the tone of the contest in the final hours.

ISA SOARES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Ana, today was supposed to be a day of reflection of taking stock. After what has been a campaign of so many twist and turns, but eye brows were raised yesterday at 11:00 when the campaign of Emmanuel Macron came out and say, they've been a victim of a massive and coordinated hacking operation. We're talking about 14.5 gigabytes of personal e-mails and professional e-mails from the campaign that were put online. Seventy thousand files. Now, Emmanuel Macron had about an hour or so before the voting

restrictions came into place here. To actually talk about that, to issue and statement. And this is what he said, I am going to read it out to you. This operation is clearly meant to undermine democracy just like it happened in the U.S. during the last presidential campaign. In terms of who was behind it, we simply do not know. There's been lots of finger pointing at Russia for meddling in Macron's election campaign, but we simply do not know.

We do know that Russia's come out today saying that this is just pure slander. They could be behind this. And we know that Russia said they don't have a third candidates in mind. Many of those say, well, that perhaps is not the case. Marine Le Pen sees eye to eye with President Putin -- she's anti-native, anti-Europe. And she wants to roll back some of the sanctions of a new place against Russia -- of Crimea.

What will be interesting here is whether people are paying attention. The election commission has come out and urged the media not to report on the contents of these e-mails, but will those undecided voters be looking into these e-mails on the contend of them and will that influence Sunday's elections -- Ana.

CABRERA: And it's been the election of course that is going to impact the world. Thank you, Isa Soares.

U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley is speaking out on the situation in Venezuela and the government's violent crackdown against protesters there. This was the scene yesterday. Venezuela National Guard armor vehicles using water cans to beat back protesters. And the death toll from all the unrest in Venezuela over the last few months has now risen to 36.

Ambassador Haley released the following statement. I quote, "We are deeply concern about the Maduro government's violent crackdown on protesters in Venezuela. President Madura disregard for the fundamental time rights of his own people has heightened the political and economic crisis in that country." The economic crisis so grave right now people are losing weight because they are literally starving. It is such such tough conditions.

The White House is getting ready for President's Trump first overseas trip. We'll have a closer look at his itinerary and the message it may send next. You're in the CNN NEWSROOM.


[17:21:22] CABRERA: President Trump finally heads overseas later this month. I say finally because no president in several decades has waited this long before their first trip abroad. Since early '70s only Jimmy Carter was in office 100 days or more before visiting another country. President Trump and his first trip abroad will visit the capitals of three major world religious. Saudi Arabia, Israel and the Vatican.

Let's bring in our Global Affairs Correspondent Elise Labott joining us in Washington. Elise, there's a NATO meeting, some European business on this trip's agenda but of course the big story is the President's visits to these major religious capitals. And the fact that he's visiting these countries instead of Mexico or Canada. The usual choices for U.S. presidents and their first trip abroad.

ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Ana. Well, I think what the White House is trying to do with this trip is show that President Trump is trying to be very tolerant and inclusive in trying to, you know, rally the world. All of the major religions whether it be Judaism, Christianity or Islam against fundamental extremism. And I think that's what the message is. But, you know, in effect he's really kind of diving into a lot of conflicts here.

Obviously in Saudi Arabia trying to talk about countering Iran and also the fight against ISIS and Israel. He'll be talking about the Mideast peace process in trying to build on some momentum that he has there after meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu a few months ago. And just this week, Palestinian President Abbas.

And then I think it is going to be a lot of conflict in Rome. You know, he's had a little bit of tension with this Pope. You know, the Pope has talked about that border wall saying that, you know, kind of un-Christian values and he's called the Pope's comments disgraceful so that should be a very interesting meeting there as well.

CABRERA: I'm curious what the expectation is for President Trump's reception there and Israel specifically. We know he and Prime Minister Netanyahu's friendship has been strong, but what about the people and of course the issue of moving the embassy?

LABOTT: Well, I mean, I think this is going to be, you know, incredible trip for President Trump because, you know, most of his experience and his knowledge has been, you know, on the pro-Israel side. He's been dealing with Israelis his whole life but it's just recently that he's started to learn more about the Palestinian story and he's met with Palestinian President Abbas. We understand he's going to go into the West Bank. In addition to speaking at the, you know, Masada, one of the great monuments in Israel. He'll also be looking at that border wall.

And, you know, he's used the Israeli border wall between Israel and the Palestinian territories to keep bad guys out as he says. But, you know, he's going to see it from the Palestinian point of view which is basically a lot of these Palestinians look out their window and they see a gray wall and that prevents them from going into Israel. So, I think this is going to real education for him. I think, you know, there's going to be a lot of excitement about his visit. There is a lot of hope and optimism. But also I think a lot of people are nervous because they don't really know where he's going with the peace process. He's gave a lot of contradictory messages.

CABRERA: All right. Elise Labott, thanks for the preview.

President Trump is reacting after the new U.S. unemployment rate failed to 4.4 percent. This is the lowest point in a decade. The President tweeted yesterday, quote, "Great jobs report today. It is all beginning to work."

Chief Money Correspondent Christine Romans has more now on the burst of hiring another signs of progress in the U.S. economy -- Christine.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, MONEY CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Ana the headline here is the unemployment right. May 2007 was the last time 4.4 percent was the unemployment rate for the U.S. Labor Market. It has been as you can see a steady decline in the jobless rate really since 2009, really since the worst days of the recession slowly climbing out of that hole. So 4.4 percent, a milestone here. The lowest unemployment rate since May 2010.

Job growth, how many jobs were created, 211,000. You can see that in March something happened. Sentiment cooled among employees. And only 79,000 on new jobs were created. But it bounced back in April and that is a good sign. A sign of confidence among people who are hiring? Where are they hiring? This is key here. Financial services saw 19,000, but once again we had good job growth in the healthcare sector.

Everything from ambulatory services, outpatient centers, doctors, nurses, janitors in hospital facilities, the big university hospitals all adding jobs. Construction jobs related to healthcare. All of those continue to grow. In fact, we've crunched the numbers and since ObamaCare was signed into law 2010, 1.5 million new health care jobs have been created. So, it's a very big growing part of the economy and clearly everyone's interested in what happens next in healthcare and healthcare reform.

[17:26:20] Manufacturing jobs, 6,000 jobs added. This is notable Ana because you have seen 41,000 new manufacturing jobs over the past three months. This time last year, you were losing manufacturing jobs. Some of the economists are telling us that is a credit to the policies or at least the rhetoric of President Donald Trump who has promised to reward companies who keep manufacturing jobs in the United States.

A weak spot here wages about 2.5 percent. That's so, so. You'd like to see wage growth do a lot better and wages is the part of the equation frankly, that is one reason why even people with jobs feel as though they can't get ahead in this economy. You'd like to see wages growing a little faster -- Ana.

CABRERA: Well, we'll hope for the best in the future. Thanks very much Christine Romans. Former Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke says, there are a lot of positive signs about the economy as Christine just outlined but he has more in his conversation with CNN's Fareed Zakaria.


FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN ANCHOR: So when you look at the economy now. The growth numbers came in very weak, under percent, .7. Does that tell you the economy has been a long though somewhat a modest recovery, what's going on? BEN BERNANKE, FORMER FEDERAL RESERVE CHAIRMAN: No. The first quarter

numbers are probably just in aberration. We know that in the winter, the GDP numbers have been a little bit lower than they should be. Generally speaking, the recovery has been really good in the sense that we're down to 4.5 percent of unemployment. Sixteen million jobs created since 2009. Inflation is low in stable, gas prices low, stock market's up. A lot of things are very positive. Growth could be faster that would be great. But underlying this growth pattern is slow growth in the economic force. Population changes. And pretty slow productivity gains.

We are seeing improvements in wages, the latest employment cost index showed a stronger number. So in terms of the recovery from the crises things looked pretty good generally speaking. And I'd have to say that if you told me three or four years ago that we'd be where we are today, I would have been pretty happy to hear it.


CABRERA: You can see the entire interview tomorrow at 10:00 a.m. on Fareed Zakaria, GPS.

Now, even the billionaire investor known as the oracle of Omaha admits he missed out on some real opportunities. Warren Buffet addressed tens of thousands of shareholders with congregated in Omaha for Berkshire Hathaway's annual shareholder meeting today and he says he blew it when he miss the vote on investing in two of today's most successful tech companies. We're talking Google and Amazon both are now among the largest companies in the world. Even smart guys like that make mistakes.

Relations between the U.S. and Russia are pretty chilly right now. But are we on the verge of another cold war?

We'll ask presidential historian Douglas Brinkley next in the CNN NEWSROOM.


[17:33:20] CABRERA: U.S. and Russia have just come to an agreement on safe fights over Syria. This development came in a phone call between U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph Dunford and his Russian counterpart. These men also agreed to keep in touch. The tensions still remain between the U.S. and Russia in Syria, and the Russian's suspected influence in the U.S. election.

Let's discuss more about the tension between these two countries. CNN presidential historian, Douglas Brinkley, is joining us.

Douglas, thanks for being with us.

What do you make of what we're seeing between the U.S. and Russian relations? Could we be on the verge of a new Cold War?

DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: We may have entered Cold War II. Just like there was World War I and World War II, it's become Cold War II in 2016 when Russia interfered with our sacred right to vote free and fairly. The whole problem with Russia interfering in our elections is a big, big issue.

But the Cold War went on from 1945 to 1991. And it had highs and lows, times of great accommodation and times of tension, like the Cuban Missile Crisis. So the hope is that Trump and Putin will be able to find some collaborative efforts to do together, whether it's in space or fighting the war on terror, destroying ISIS.

But as long as we have an embargo going on Russia that was placed during the Obama years, you're going to see a Putin determined to get that lifted. If not, he'll make havoc wherever he can for the United States.

CABRERA: Was it the Obama years where you feel tensions were chilly or is this taking it to another level?

BRINKLEY: I think it got to a new level in the Obama term. Remember, when George W. Bush said he kind of liked Putin and I think Barack Obama, first term, thought there might be a way to do business together. There seems to be a more mischievous and diabolical attempt out of Russia to return it reconstitute the old USSR, particularly their interference in the Ukraine. Anybody that cares about democracy and rights has to be deeply concerned about what Russia is doing. Putin's dictatorial stance around the world -- if he can make America's life miserable, he's happy to do it. We're seeing an old style, what we used to call Soviet expansionism, which we tried to contain. But he's trying to expand not just in places, you know, like the Ukraine, but in the Arctic even, in trying to get advantage over drilling and claiming rights there.

[17:35:50] CABRERA: We've also seen more flights, more fly-bys with Russia jets near Alaska.

Another president knew something about the tensions with Russia, JFK. I know you are the co-author of a new book, "JFK, A Vision of a New America." We're coming up on an interesting time. In a few months, secret government files about JFK's assassination are set to be made public, but President Trump could stop their release. What do you think he will do and should do on this?

BRINKLEY: In that book, there's an essay by the great novelist, Don Bellello (ph), who wrote a novel, "Libra" (ph), and it's brilliant on thinking on what does the Kennedy assassination mean in America, and I recommend it.

In 1992, we had the JFK Assassination Records Collection Act, and now there's a group of documents, about 3,600 files, which are largely FBI and CIA documents. And Donald Trump could demand they be finally released. There's a deadline ticking October 26th, which is the 25th anniversary of the 1992 act, And if Trump would do that, it would have scholars like myself. And I encourage him to do it because scholars always want to see new documentation. It might put people's minds to rest that Oswald was the killer. It might raise new suspicions that he wasn't. But we should get them open. We need more transparency and more historical documents released. CABRERA: Given your deep research into Kennedy for your book, how do

you think he would advise the current president?

BRINKLEY: To unite the United States, that we are a deeply vied country and you've got to find a project that pulls Democrats, Republicans and Independents together. JFK did it in his first month in office with his famous speech in a joint session of Congress to go to the moon by the end of the decade. He embraced NASA, the moon shoot. We started having the John Glen success. We need something in our country that pulls us together. Everybody's looking for a new moon shot. Joe Biden has been talking about the war on cancer. Everybody hates cancer, let's pull together as Americans. We need something that's uniting us, not dividing us. I think that's what Kennedy would recommend to Trump.

CABRERA: Douglas Brinkley, thanks so much for joining us. Congrats on your new book.

BRINKLEY: Hey, thank you so much.

CABRERA: President Trump got a win on health care this week. But the fight is not over. It's just moving to a new battlefield. We'll break it down for you next.


[17:42:23] CABRERA: It's election weekend in France. Voters there will pick their next presidents tomorrow. These are the two candidates, neither from the political mainstream, centrist, Emmanuel Macron, and representing a far-right party, Marine Le Pen. This race was shaken in just the past few hours by charges from Macron that his personal e-mail and business accounts were hacked and released on the Internet. He says this is an effort to undermine his campaign. Nobody knows yet who is behind the hacking.

The race for president in France contains an unconventional love story, starting with 15-year-old student falling in love with his teacher and vowing to marry her. Fast forward to today and French presidential candidate, Macron is now 39 years old and his wife is 54.

And CNN's international correspondent, Melissa Bell, has a closer look their relationship.


MELISSA BELL, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Their relationship has caught the attention of the world.


BELL: The favorite to become the next president of France and his wife, his former teacher. Macron was 15 when he met Brigitte Trogneux. She was a 40-year-old married teacher at his school in northern France.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was the friend, you know, of the teachers of the high school. You know, he had dinner with them.

BELL: An old school friend says that Emmanuel Macron always did what was expected of him, except when it came to Brigitte.

At age 17, Macron reluctantly left, but not before telling Brigitte that one day he would marry her. And by the time he arrived in Paris, he certainly avoided the girls of his own age.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think that they were maybe too young to be interesting to him. He needs to learn something from his lover.

BELL (on camera): And maybe slightly older women makes more sense?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Of course, especially if they are a teacher.

BELL (voice-over): 14 years after first meeting, they were married. But not before Macron asked her three children, one of whom was his age, 29 at the time, for their permission.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translation): It's a powerful act because not everyone would have taken that precaution to come and ask us for her hand in marriage. I mean it wasn't quite like that, but he did want to know if this is something we could accept.

BELL: Macron says that becoming a family was an important step for him as he turned an improbable relationship into what he calls the commitment of a lifetime. He's now 39, and she's 64, with seven grandchildren.

EMMANUEL MACRON, FRENCH PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE (through translation): We do not have a classic family. It's undeniable. But is there less love in this family? I do not think so. Maybe there's even more than in conventional families.

[17:45:07] BELL: Trogneux is now at the center of the campaign. Unusual in French politics, visible, but not voluble for now.

"I'll start speaking in two months, and then I'll never be quiet again."

So what kind of first lady would she be?

MACRON (through translation): She wouldn't be paid for it by taxpayers, but she certainly will have an existence. She will have her own take on things. She will always be by my side, of course.

BELL (on camera): This is the school where it all began. An unconventional story to be sure, but one that Emmanuel Macron has used in his campaign, saying that it shows once his heart is set, his determination and commitment are then unwavering.

Melissa Bell, CNN, France.


CABRERA: What a story. Critics say the president's health care plan is a tax cut for the

wealthy. The president says it will be better than Obamacare. We'll hear from the left and the right next in the CNN NEWSROOM.

But first, he is just out of college, but this week's "CNN Hero" is already making a difference in the lives of Cambodian children. The problem there is lack of access for something most of us take for granted, a simple bar of soap.


UNIDENTIFIED CNN HERO: When children do not wash their hands, they are vulnerable to illnesses which, unfortunately, can take their life. No child should suffer because there simply wasn't any soap available.

My hope for Cambodia is youth, is for them to understand that they can take their own health into their very own hands.

Very good. Very good. Yes.

Just by a simple act such as hand washing.


CABRERA: To see how Samir (ph) is using soap to not only save lives but to boost the local economy and help the environment, go to, and while you're there, nominate someone you think should be a 2017 "CNN Hero."

We're back right after this.


[17:51:38] CABRERA: Backlash is mounting against the House-approved Republican health care bill. New York's attorney general plans to sue the Trump administration if this measure becomes law. Eric Schneiderman says it weakens protections for those with pre-existing conditions. And he says it specifically imposes an undue burden on women's constitutional rights.

Let's discuss. Republican strategist and CNN political commentator, Alice Stewart, is joining us; and "Daily Beast" contributor and host of Sirius XM's "The Dean Obeidallah Show," Dean Obeidallah.

Alice, you first.

You said this bill is what the voters wanted. But even some Republican lawmakers are saying this legislation is likely to hurt low-income and older Americans. How do you respond?

ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: First off, to address the New York attorney general's concerns with regard to pre-existing conditions, look, there's specific language in the bill that was passed by the House that specifically states the bill can, in no way, be construed as permitting health insurance carriers to deny coverage for people with pre-existing conditions. That is specifically stated in the bill. That is something that will not change. That was a last-minute amendment that was added. And --


CABRERA: But they can opt or waiver out of that mandate.


CABRERA: Even if they provide or offer coverage, it doesn't necessarily mean that it's affordable coverage?

STEWART: That's a key provision that was included in that. There will be $8 billion to offset some of those costs and they will develop high-risk pools for those people.

To your specific question, there are Republicans that take issue with this, but let it be as no surprise, the bill we see now is a far cry from what we will see when it comes out of the Senate. A lot of those concerns from Republicans and Democrats alike will be addressed in the Senate.

CABRERA: Do you agree, Dean, that it's not a big deal because it isn't how it's going to end?

DEAN OBEIDALLAH, CONTRIBUTOR, THE DAILY BEAST & HOST, THE DEAN OBEIDALLAH SHOW: No, no, I think this is a huge deal. I think sadly the Republicans and Donald Trump are playing politics with people's health. I want to be blunt. I'm not being partisan when I say this. If this bill, as passed by the House, Americans would die. I'm saying that completely honestly. Two reasons. One, million will lose their health care coverage. What passed, Republicans voted without the Congressional Budget Office scoring it, and telling us how many would lose coverage. But, secondly, they've got over $800 billion from Medicaid, which they're saying, if you lose your insurance, you go to Medicaid. So people have nothing. That's why AARP and the AMA was so against it. This should not be a game. I hope the Senate rewrite it where scratch. Only 17 percent of Americans approve of this health care plan. That's why they're doing this, for them? No. Republicans and Democrats want more health care. They want Medicare for all. 60 percent of Americans in a Pew poll just two months ago said Medicare for all is what we want. That's where we should be going, more health coverage, not less.

CABRERA: Representative Chris Collins says some of what you brought up, it's simply fearmongering. He says the bill guaranteed coverage for anyone with pre-existing coverage, for example, who now has continuous coverage. Do you think some people's fears are all -- all these fears are warranted?

OBEIDALLAH: I think when groups like AARP are saying people from 50 to 64 will suffer the most, I think you should be concerned, when you're going to have a state waive coverage for pre-existing conditions, as you pointed out. I used to be a lawyer. I did health care law part of my time. When you go to high-risk pools -- pre-ACA, high-risk pools had high deductible, six to 12 months of no coverage, really high premiums becoming unaffordable. The $8 billion they were giving, every expert says it is woefully short. Again, Americans should be getting more health coverage and not less. Americans will die if this becomes law. So let's hope it never becomes law.

[17:55:11] CABRERA: Alice, why do you think the GOP had enough people to vote for it if it's as bad as Dean is describing?

STEWART: The first measure proposed last month, yes, that had a 17 percent approval rating. But they went back to the drawing board and sharpened their pencils, listened to their constituents. Certainly, this has a lot more support from people back at home, and will return Republicans in Congress. Otherwise, it never would have passed.

Yes, it's a rallying cry from Democrats that people will die. I think that's a big exaggeration. They're threatening Republicans will face stiff challenges in the next election.

But I think people should take Dean at his word. What he tweeted makes perfect sense. Democrats need to stop saying that Republicans will face challenges and have a difficult time winning reelection. And all of them need to work together to provide more meaningful health care for all of Americans. That's the best solution.

CABRERA: I want you to listen to what Montel Williams told me earlier today. He's been battling multiple sclerosis for nearly two decades. Let's listen.


MONTEL WILLIAMS, FORMER HOST, THE MONTEL WILLIAMS SHOW & VETERAN: I hear from people who suffer from M.S. all over the country who can't even get medication. M.S. is one of those conditions --


CABRERA: Why can't they get medication?

WILLIAMS: Because they're not insured. Our medication costs over $1500 a month. This bill, which is so ridiculous, only address things like pre-existing conditions but how are we going to lower costs? You can say you might want to insure somebody and then say to the insurance company I'm going to charge you for that insurance. How can the normal American expect to pay over $20,000 a year just for a shot or medication to keep them alive? That's only one. A lot of conditions like the ones I have can be up to $100,000 a year to $200,000 a year.


WILLIAMS: That's what insurance is for.


CABRERA: So, Alice, how would you answer Montel's question, how will medical costs be lowered?

STEWART: That is the main focus for this bill the Republicans in Congress campaigned on and won on lowering costs and increasing access -- (CROSSTALK)

CABRERA: But what about this bill -- what can you point to in this bill that will guarantee medical costs will be lowered?

STEWART: That also is part of what -- I do agree it would have been helpful to wait for the CBO where we got specific numbers back from the budget office as to the costs and who all will be covered. But more than anything else, Republicans fought hard for lower costs. And with regard to Montel's situation, people with M.S., and others with pre-existing conditions will be covered despite what many on the opposition say. They will be covered. They will be in high-risk pools that will provide them the coverage they so greatly need. That is something that certainly the House addressed and members in the Senate will do the same.

CABRERA: Alice, I do have to bring up what Dean mentioned earlier. High-risk pools happened before Obamacare and they were very inadequate. They were typically severely underfunded. They charged high premiums, excluded coverage of pre-existing conditions initially, and they had waiting lists for enrollment.

We talked with a governor of Washington State earlier today, who said, if they take away the money from Medicaid, that will have a whole other impact on helping people who are vulnerable and those who are less fortunate.

So I'm trying to get how you square what we know from what his story has taught us, what we are hearing from leaders of states that are looking at this and saying the funding just isn't going to be enough.

STEWART: That's a huge concern. Having worked in an administration on the state level in the governor's office before, that is a huge concern. But as you said, the Trump administration and Republicans put money set aside to address that specific issue, $8 billion.

Here's another thing to keep in mind. When the Senate discusses this, that will be a big topic. They have to make sure the money adds up. They will make considerations based on the CBO report to make sure the money is there. So I think that issue will be addressed as it moves down the road in the Senate because they will be looking at the bottom line.

CABRERA: Dean, we have about 30 second here. If you were to give one piece of advice or suggestion to the Senate, what would you like to see them do to change what we have right now in the GOP health care plan?

OBEIDALLAH: Tear up the GOP health care plan. It's an abomination. It's horrible. Start over. Medicare for all. That's what Americans want, cradle to the grave coverage. We are the only industrialized nation in the world that doesn't have it. Why are we're not -- America is the best country in the world. We should be giving our people cradle to grave coverage, basic coverage. That is where we should be going, not backward, but forward.

CABRERA: Got to leave it there.

Alice Stewart, Dean Obeidallah, thanks to both of you for coming on.


CABRERA: I'm Ana Cabrera, in New York. Thanks so much for being with us. I'll see you in one hour from now life in the CNN NEWSROOM.

"SMERCONISH" is next.