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Rift Between Gulf States & Qatar over Terror Claims; Trump Touts Travel ban in Wake of London Attack; White House Daily Briefing. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired June 5, 2017 - 13:30   ET


[13:30:00] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Joining us, Zalmay Khalilzad, the former United States ambassador to the United Nations. Also a former ambassador to both Afghanistan and Iraq.

Mr. Ambassador, thanks very much for joining us.


BLITZER: It's pretty extraordinary that these Arab states are cutting ties with Qatar.

KHALILZAD: There have been differences of view between Qatar and several other states. Although of all the states of the GCC, Qatar and Saudi Arabia are the closest because their borders is mostly Wahhabi countries, religious kind of extremists.

BLITZER: But there has been over the years as you well know a lot of strains been Saudi Arabia and Qatar because they have different interpretation. We don't have to get into that right now. But it's important for the United States what's going on.

KHALILZAD: Very important.

BLITZER: Because the U.S. regional headquarters of the U.S. military's central canned is in Qatar.

KHALILZAD: Yes indeed. Qatar is a platform from which many of our flights attack targets in Iraq or Syria also take off. We have strengthened our relations recently with Saudi Arabia after the cooling that took place during the Obama administration. Now we are in the middle of this big crisis and Qatar is seeking to improve relations with Iran.

BLITZER: That's really what's going on right now. The UAE, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, they are strongly opposed to Iran's expanding influence. Qatar not so much. That's fueling this rift.

KHALILZAD: The more Saudi/Qatar relations, the terror rate, the more opportunity it will provide to Iran to improve relations with Qatar. Qatar may have started it by moving toward Iran, but the more it's isolated from the rest of the GCC, the more likely it is to go to Iran. BLITZER: What about the charge that was leveled against Qatar that

they're funding ISIS and al Qaeda among other terror groups?

KHALILZAD: I've seen some reporting based from Saudi Arabia and UAE alleging that. We were concerned during the time that I was in the government about that. Qatar knowing exactly where an attack would take place almost beforehand because as soon as an attack took place, they would be there covering the attack by al Qaeda. There have been concerns about the relationship between Qatar and some of the extremist movements. Right now I think the great concern that they really haven't talked a lot about is that Qatar supports the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and elsewhere.

BLITZER: Egypt -


KHALILZAD: Right. And I think UAE is also very concerned about Muslim Brotherhood. So it's a very complicated situation with various factors playing a role.

BLITZER: Al Jazeera is based, headquartered in Doha, Qatar. That's why the suspicion arose against them.

Talk about what's going on in London right now. You saw the president's tweets really criticizing the London mayor who himself is Muslim.

KHALILZAD: Well, of course, as long as this crisis of Islamic civilization, the rise of extremism, the rise of terror, state sponsorship, and alleged taking place, you can't really get rid of this problem overall, but you can contain and manage it. I expect it will increase in the coming weeks and months as we press ISIS in Iraq and Syria. They were more like an insurgency there taking over territory. Now they're becoming a full-flight terrorist organization attacking everywhere that they can reach out, including the West.

BLITZER: You saw this last tweet, from 9:49 this morning, "Pathetic excuse by London Mayor Sadiq Khan" who had to think fast on his no reason to be alarmed statement. MSM" -- mainstream media -- "is working hard to sell it."

It's pretty extraordinary that the U.S. ambassador to the U.K., the acting ambassador, he tweets positive things about the London mayor, but the president is going after the mayor of London at a time of crisis in London.

KHALILZAD: We are all with London and with the U.K. at the present time.

BLITZER: Is it appropriate for the president to be slamming the mayor like this, who's got a lot on his agenda right now?

KHALILZAD: Well, he does have a lot on his agenda and we all need to be supportive of the mayor and of the U.K. government as they confront these very difficult days and difficult circumstances. BLITZER: Very quickly, the travel ban, the revised version, are you

with the president on this or against the president?

KHALILZAD: I'm with the president that we ought to be extremely careful of who we let in the country, although most of the terror problems here are home-grown terrorists. I have no doubt terrorists are trying to get in here from overseas. I think, ultimately, the president, judiciary and our political process will come to a balanced equation. I don't know whether the travel ban is the right approach.

BLITZER: Zalmay Khalilzad, the former U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Iraq, Afghanistan, among other things. Thanks for joining us.

KHALILZAD: Great to be with you, Wolf.

[13:35:12] BLITZER: Coming up, once again, we're standing by for the White House press briefing and what's sure to be some rather tough questions on the president's tweet storm slamming the mayor of London after the terror attack, and plugging his own -- criticizing his own travel ban, the revised version, which he actually signed as an executive order. How will the White House respond? Stay tuned.


BLITZER: You're looking at live picture it is inside the White House briefing room. Full house today. Lots of reporters. The deputy press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, will be taking questions from reporters instead of Sean Spicer. Lots of questions facing the White House today, including the president's series of tweets on the London terror attack, the travel ban, as well as former Director James Comey's upcoming testimony on Thursday in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee. We're monitoring the briefing room. Once Sarah Huckabee Sanders walks in, we'll have live coverage of that.

I want to bring on our panel. Susan Page, Washington bureau chief for "USA Today" is with us; Shimon Prokupecz, CNN justice producer; and Nia-Malika Henderson, CNN senior reporter.

Nia, this could be a lively session with Sarah Huckabee Sanders. First of all, do we know why she's doing the briefing as opposed to so Sean Spicer? He's working today.

[13:40:47] NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: He's working today, Apparently, this is part of the White House strategy. And they talked about this, different communication strategy to pull Sean Spicer back a bit from doing these on-camera briefings every day. We've seen him do off-camera briefings last week, for instance. Also, I was talking to someone familiar with the White House and they always want to have sort of a number-two person who can step in when Sean Spicer wasn't available, so this is part of, you know, kind of getting Sarah Huckabee Sanders ready to step in. We'll see what she does today.

BLITZER: Do we know, Susan, if she's going to come out with a guest first, have someone from the administration, as they often do, to make a statement, then answer a few reporters' questions before she does the briefing? Do we have any word on that?

SUSAN PAGE, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, USA TODAY: They sometimes announce, but they haven't announced at this time. It would natural to have somebody outcome talk about the air traffic control proposal the White House has made or something about infrastructure. But you've got to think no matter who is doing the briefing, what a tough job to be addressing these series of tweets that the president posted this morning that seem quite at odds with what the intended message was for today and create all kinds of complications. Their appeal to the Supreme Court on what President Trump has insisted this morning is an immigration ban, something his officials, his spokesman has spent a lot of energy denying it was a ban.

BLITZER: I was curious if Elaine Chow, the transportation secretary, for example, might come out and explain this decision, the president this executive order -- it's not an executive order. A series of proposals he submitted to Congress to revise the air traffic control system in the U.S. We'll see pretty soon whether or not that happens.

Let me just update our viewers right now on the -- those who have been confirmed as two of the three terrorists who committed this terror attack in London. British police have now named two of the attackers. They're identified as British citizen, Kareem Boutte (ph), who was born in Pakistan, and Rasheed Radwan (ph), who claimed to be of Moroccan/Libyan nationality. We'll get more information on that. Saturday's attack, seven killed, 36 people remain hospitalized, some in serious conditions. All three terrorists were killed, shot by police.

Shimon, I take it the U.S. is deeply involved with British law enforcement, British intellige3nce in trying to understand what happened.

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN JUSTICE PRODUCER: Absolutely. So the FBI in New York, part of the Joint Terrorism Task Force, overseas in London has been assisting London. I know some folks there in New York had to go in to work when this happened on Saturday. Yeah, for sure, the FBI has been monitoring, has been helping, has been offing assistance where they can. And has really been on top of a lot of what's going on there. It's very important --


BLITZER: Hold on a second. Hold on a second. Sarah Huckabee Sanders just walked in. Let's listen in.

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRINCIPAL DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY: Good afternoon. Hope you guys had a chance to get a little rest this weekend, because, as I'm sure you can tell, the president, as well as the rest of the administration, has a very busy week and agenda moving forward, at meetings, events, both inside and outside of Washington.

And with that, I'd like to bring up Secretary Shulkin to talk with you all about the big announcement he made this morning about a historic modernization of the V.A.'s medical records system. And as a reminder, as always, I would encourage you to please be respectful and keep your questions on the topic at hand. And I will be happy to answer questions on other topics after.

Secretary Shulkin?

DAVID SHULKIN, SECRETARY OF VETERANS AFFAIRS: Thank you. Thank you, Sarah, and I'm glad to be here today.

As Sarah said, earlier today, I made an announcement about the Department of Veteran Affairs decision on electronic health records. And normally, that's not too exciting a decision about a product, but I have to tell you, I'm very excited about this, because I think this is going to make a big difference for veterans everywhere and it's going to make a big difference for the Department of Veteran Affairs.

I wanted to say from the outset that when the president selected me to be secretary, he made clear to me that he expected us to act with faster decisions, to act like business, and to really make sure that we are really doing the right thing to change veterans' health care. And that's exactly what we're trying to do today.

I had told you when I was here last week I was going to make a decision by July 1st, and I wanted to let you know that we're coming back early and that I'm honoring that commitment.

[13:45:08] And so, having an electronic health record that can follow a veteran during the course of his health and treatment is one of the most important things I believe you can do to ensure the safety and the health and wellbeing of a veteran. So that's why this is so important.

I'd told Congress recently that I was committed that V.A. would get out of the software development business, that I did not see a compelling reason why being in the software development business was good for veterans. And because of that, I made the decision to move away from our internal product to an off-the-shelf commercial product.

As you may know, almost all of our veterans get to us from one place, and that's the Department of Defense. And when I went back and looked at this issue very carefully since becoming secretary, I was able to trace back at least 17 years of congressional calls and commissioner reports requesting that the V.A. not only modernize its system, but work closer with the Department of Defense. So that went all the way back to 2000.

But actually, to this date, the Department of Defense and the Department of Veteran Affairs have gone separate ways. We each have separate systems and each are supporting separate electronic systems.

And while we've been able to advance interoperability at the cost of hundreds of millions of dollars to the taxpayers, today we still have separate systems that do not allow for the seamless transfer of information.

And I just want to expand on that a little bit, being a doctor. What we are able to do with the Department of Defense over years and year -- and as I said, hundreds of millions of dollars -- we're able to read each other's records right now. That's called interoperability, or at least, we -- that's our certification.

But what you're not able to do is actually work together to plan a treatment, to be able to go back and forth between the Department of Defense and V.A. And so, we've not been able to obtain that to this point.

And so, for those reasons, I decided that V.A. will adopt the same electronic health record as the Department of Defense. So we will now have a single system. That system is known as the MHS GENESIS system, which, at its core, is Cerner Millennium. The adoption of the same system between V.A. and DOD is going to allow all patient data to reside in a common system. So you will have this seamless link between the departments without the manual or electronic exchange of information.

So, as secretary, I think I'm not willing to put this decision off any longer. I think 17 years has been too long.

When DOD went through its decision on electronic medical records and its acquisition process in 2014, it took them approximately 26 months to do this. And I will tell you in government terms, that's actually a pretty efficient process.

I don't think we can wait that long when it comes to the health of our veterans. And so, under my authority as the secretary of V.A., I am acting to essentially do a direct acquisition of the EHR currently being deployed by the Department of Defense that will be across the entire V.A. enterprise that's going to allow the seamless health care for veterans and the qualified beneficiaries.

Once again, because of the health of our veterans, I've decided that we're going to go directly into the DOD process for the next- generation electronic health record.

Let me just tell you this. This is the start of the process.

V.A. has unique needs that are different than the Department of Defense's. And for that reason, V.A., while it's adopting an identical EHR to DOD, needs additional capabilities to maximize interoperability with our community providers.

As you know, one-third of our health care goes outside the V.A. into the community. And this is critical that we can have the same interoperability with our community providers.

We're going to have our V.A. clinicians who are very involved in how we develop this system and how we implement it. Because in many ways, the Department of Veteran Affairs is actually well ahead of the Department of Defense in clinical I.T. innovation. And we're not going to discard all the things that we've done in the past. And in fact, that's how we're going to help DOD get better.

So, this is a system that's going to strengthen care for veterans and our active servicemembers.

We're going to be embarking upon something that's never been done before; that is a integrated product, using the DOD platform, but it's going to require this integration with other vendors to create a system for veterans so that they can get care, both in the community as well as through the Department of Defense.

That's going to take the active cooperation of many companies and thought leaders. And it will serve as a model, not only for the federal government of federal agencies working together, but for all of health care that is trying to seek this type of interoperability.

[13:50:05] Once again, I want to thank the president for his incredible commitment to helping our veterans and support the V.A.

And I also want to thank the Department of Defense, who have been incredibly helpful in this process; and the American Office of Innovation, who has been incredibly helpful in helping us think differently about how to solve problems.

This mission is too important for us not to get right, and I assure you we will.

And I'd be glad to take any questions.



QUESTION: Two questions. One, how long will this take? You said it's a beginning process. And then, two, how will a veteran know and feel and experience a difference because of this decision?

SHULKIN: Yeah. Great -- great questions.

So this is the beginning of the process. We're going to start, essentially, entering into the details of how we would implement a contract.

We expect that process -- again, trying to do this as quickly as possible -- will be about three to six months at the latest. And during that time, we're going to be developing both the implementation plans and the cost of this system, so that we can go out and make sure that we're doing this right and that we have the resources available to do it.

Secondly, to a veteran, they're now going to be able to have a single system from the time that they enlist in the military until, potentially, they die. One single lifetime record. And so there will never be a need to be able to go back and forth and say, "Records aren't there for me," or, "My doctor isn't able to have input into what the Department of Defense is doing." And our community partners need that same type of interoperability.

QUESTIONS: How will that change things for people in the system now?

SHULKIN: Well, as you know, my top clinical priority is to reduce veteran suicide.

One of the areas that we've identified is a gap in the transition, when you leave the military and all of a sudden you no longer have that structure that you were used to, and what happens to you before you get enrolled into either V.A. health care or community health care.

That no longer is going to happen. We're going to have a seamless ability to make sure that information's there.

So, to a veteran who's experiencing emotional disorders, when they reach out for help, it's going to be easier to get them help. For other people who have physical problems, that same information's going to be there so you can develop a coordinated care plan.

Yes, sir?

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, you're waiving competitive bidding for this. Do you have a ballpark estimate of how much it's going to cost? And is that factored into your current budget?

SHULKIN: We have not begun the cost negotiations. We know the Department of Defense had a $4.3 billion contract. V.A. is a bigger organization. But we have not begun those negotiations.

Part of the reason why I have waived that process is because I absolutely believe -- and I've spent a lot of time reviewing the materials -- it is in the public interest to move quickly, and I also believe we can do this cheaper for the taxpayers by, essentially, moving forward quickly without a lengthy process.

Yes, sir?

QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. Secretary.

You were a part of the last administration; in fact, you were deputy V.A. secretary. Is there a particular reason why this process which you're announcing today did not take place during the Obama administration? Did you drop the ball in the Obama administration? If you could, explain a little bit about that.


This is -- this is one of those problems that I talked about last week with all of you that I think spans administrations and has been going on for decades. I can count no fewer than seven blue-ribbon commissions that have recommended that we move in a direction like this. The Commission on Care, which was a $68 million study, came out with this recommendation.

And so I think people have felt that this was a direction that they should be moving in. I will tell you it is hard to make decisions. There's a lot of built-in movement to keep things the way that they are.

So while, in the last administration, we considered this and we looked at a number of things, I think that it really was this administration and the president's mandate to do business differently that allowed us to move forward with this type of speed.

Yes, sir?

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) for the contracting period, when -- at what point in the future -- how many months or years -- veterans will be transitioning? How will the -- will the records seamlessly transfer (ph) to V.A.? When -- when will...


QUESTION: And then second question will be who at the White House was involved in this process? We know this is a priority of (inaudible).

SHULKIN: Yeah. So, two questions. One is about the timing, when does a veteran actually begin to experience this?

That is what we're going to be determining, the timeline during this three- to six-month period when we roll it out.

I do believe -- and everything that I'm doing is trying to act with speed -- that, working with the Department of Defense and already using their planning materials and their change management tools, we will be able to do this much faster than if we had begun it alone.

So the Department of Defense, you know, has taken a period of time before they've implemented their first system in the Fairchild Air Force Base, which has been successful.

[13:55:02] But I think we will be able to do ours even faster than they did.

SHULKIN: Thanks again to Secretary Mattis and the Department of Defense. They have actually detailed over to us some of their key executives who have worked on their project. They now are at V.A., and they're helping us actually begin this. So we have institutional knowledge from them that's considerable.

Your second question had to do with who at the White House has been working with us. I will tell you that in this decision, I not only reviewed large numbers of reports -- independent management reports that we had, consultants that would come in to help us, but I've consulted with all the stakeholders that I could -- hospital CIOs, hospital CEOs, members of Congress and people at the White House -- to be able to talk to all the stakeholders to make this decision.

At the White House, of course, we've talked with the -- with the president's office, but also working closely with the American Office of Innovation. And all those are stakeholders that contributed to my thinking.

Yes, please?

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) sir, during the Bush years, there was a problem with computers when it came to Medicaid and Medicare. During the Obama years, we know about ACA. What are the guarantees when you try to bring all -- integrate all the information from all the services into this one system? What are the guarantees?

SHULKIN: Yeah. No guarantees. High-risk process, particularly when you're doing this in the largest integrated health system in the country. And so this is high-risk.

It's one of the reasons I made this decision. I think by going with the Department of Defense system, we are lowering our risk, because we have a federal partner who's already gone through this process, and that's why we're taking their expertise and putting it into V.A. And again, with Secretary Mattis's commitment to work with us closely, I think we're lowering the risk.

But as a private sector CEO, I've done this several times, successfully. But I've never done it on this scale, and so the risks are there. But we're going to make sure that we do this the right way.

QUESTION: Following up, what happens to those older veterans who have problems? I mean, you're doing this now, trying to integrate now, but what happens to those who have been in the system for a long time? How -- where do they come in, and how long will this take to help them get into the system (ph)?

SHULKIN: Well, this is a problem that -- that many health care organizations that have transitioned to other electronic health records have found.

You do not discard your old information; that would be clinically irresponsible. So you have to have a way of making sure that the old information's there, transitions into a new system or remains available for clinicians to have.

So that's a problem that I think that we're going to be pretty good at handling.

Yes, sir?

QUESTION: Do you have a cost-benefit analysis? Can you share that with us?

SHULKIN: Yeah, some of our management consultants who have looked at this issue of off-the-shelf versus staying with -- with maintenance have helped us look at the cost-benefit decision. That was part of my thinking.

This is a -- essentially the most cost-effective way to go to a commercial off-the-shelf system.

The problem with what V.A.'s been doing -- we have a $4.1 million -- $4.1 billion budget in I.T. -- 70 percent is maintaining our current systems. And our systems are getting older, the Band-Aids are getting holder -- harder to hold the system together. Each year, I believe, will get more and more expensive to modernize our own system. We aren't able to keep the type of people that we want. So I think the best cost-benefit decision for taxpayers and for

veterans is to move to an off-the-shelf system.

QUESTION: So, a quick follow-up to that: You're -- you're talking about an off-the-shelf system. You're not developing new software, you're not -- you're going to -- so...

SHULKIN: We're doing...

QUESTION: ... security will be there?

SHULKIN: ... what's that?

QUESTION: So the security -- the biggest problem with off-the- shelf is security.

SHULKIN: One of the reasons, again, why -- why I chose to go this route is because of cybersecurity. The Department of Defense has already invested in such high cybersecurity standards. Those are the standards that we need to be able to assure privacy and security for our veterans. And that's part of the reason why we're doing this.

Just to be clear, we are -- we are adopting an off-the-shelf system. But, as I mentioned before, we're also embarking upon something that nobody's done before, because of this problem of -- these commercial systems don't talk together. And we need them to talk together, because many of our patients are out in the community, and our academic partners -- many of them use other systems besides Cerner.

So we're creating something that is taking the best of what's off the shelf, but also creating something that doesn't exist today.


QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) you mentioned -- couple things. The only thing that Congress needs to get involved with is the appropriations, yes or no?


QUESTION: You (ph) don't know what you're going to be asking for, so it's not built in the F.Y. '18 budget, right?

SHULKIN: You're correct.

QUESTION: But it will be higher than $4 billion, right?

SHULKIN: I would love for do it for less, but I think that would be unrealistic.

QUESTION: You don't know -- you don't have a ballpark, right?


QUESTION: But is that going to hamper the appropriations if you want a three- to six-month timeframe to be able to initiate what you're doing?