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FBI Investigating Airport Stabbing As Act of Terror; Dem Demand Info On Flynn, Kushner Security Clearances; Trump Proposes New Immigration Rule; WF Staffers Briefed Tonight On Senate Health Care Bill; Special Counsel Robert Mueller Meets With Sen. Judiciary Cmte.; Trump: We Won Last Night Despite "Phony Witch Hunts"; Otto Warmbier's Funeral Thursday; Military Option Against North Korea? Aired 9-10p ET

Aired June 21, 2017 - 21:00   ET



[21:01:16] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Breaking news, we have new information tonight about a bloody airport attack that was certainly terrifying, whether or not the FBI ends up calling it terrorism.

For a police officer at Bishop International Airport in Flint, Michigan, it was very nearly deadly. He is recovering tonight from knife wounds. A suspect is in custody and the bureau is investigating what happened as possible terrorism.

CNN's Ryan Young is at the spot where it happened. He joins us now with the very latest. Ryan, what are you learning?

RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: John, a scary attack and airport officials were nice enough to allow us in here so you can show you kind of the sequence of event. They think he was over somewhere the attacker was over went near one of the restaurants. He had two bags and he walked this direction toward the bathroom with those two bags. He placed the bags inside the bathroom, John, and then turned this direction, according to the FBI. They have surveillance tapes of all of this.

And right around here, this is where Lt. Neville was standing. He had his back turned, and according to the FBI, that's when the suspect walked up behind him and had a large knife. It was a 12-inch knife with a 8-inch blade. He stabbed him in the neck right here. This is where maintenance worker was, also. They started fighting with the man in this area.

This right here is covered because this is where all the bloodstains were this afternoon. And they covered this so obviously no one would see it. That struggle played out here. That life-or-death struggle right here where everyone started running out of the offices, trying to help. The officer was able to subdue the man, get him under arrest, despite the fact of being stabbed. We do know he had surgery today, but it sounds like he will make it. John.

BERMAN: Fascinating to get that look where you are, Ryan Young. What more are you learning about the attacker?

YOUNG: Absolutely. Well, we are learning more about the attacker. In fact, he made some statements during the attack according to the FBI. One thing he said is, "You kill people in Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan, we are all going to die." We have learned the attacker is 50-years-old from the Montreal area, came to America last Friday. Not sure what his whereabouts were for the last week. That's what the FBI is tracking down right now.

BERMAN: And they are investigating this as a possible case of terrorism. Ryan Young for us in Flint, Michigan. Thanks so much for that report, as we said, a fascinating look.

All right, back in Washington, House Democrats are squeezing the White House harder tonight on why Michael Flynn, the fired National Security Advisor, was allowed to maintain top security level clearances despite warnings that he was a security risk. They are also raising similar concerns about Jared Kushner, who's right now on a trip to the Middle East.

CNN's Manu Raju has the latest joins us once again from Capitol Hill. Manu, the Democratic members of the House Oversight Committee, what are they saying about the former National Security Advisor and the president's son-in-law?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Well, they're saying, why do they maintain the security clearances when there are clear regulations that say, that if someone has some serious allegations raised, let's say that they may not be fit to receive classified intelligence, that their security clearance should be at least suspended, while an investigation takes shape. And that did not happen when Mike Flynn, when Sally Yates, the acting Attorney General raised serious concerns to the White House Counsel Don McGahn, on multiple occasions, saying that Michael Flynn could be susceptible to Russian blackmail. He still maintained a security clearance for 18 days, attended classified briefings.

And also Jared Kushner, they're pointing to his number of meetings that he had with foreign officials, as well as at least four meetings he had with Russian officials during the campaign and during the transition, in which he did not disclose on his own security clearance form. They're saying that those are things that need to be at least investigated, at least suspend that security clearance until we determine there is nothing there.

As we know, Jared Kushner himself is one area in which the special counsel appears to be interested in looking at. Not necessarily target of that investigation, but at least looking at his interactions during the campaign. Something that is also of interest on Capitol Hill, they're saying at least suspend that security clearance until that review is done, but no response yet, John, from the White House, on those questions.

[21:05:04] BERMAN: And then, Manu, the CIA Director Mike Pompeo, he was giving these briefings to the President while Flynn was in the room. There are questions about how much he did or did not know about Michael Flynn at the time, correct?

RAJU: Yeah, that's right. In fact he was there, in the same room. They were briefing the president of the United States. They all were talking about classified intelligence, according to "The New York Times" report that Mike Pompeo did not share any of these concerns with the president according to the administration officials cited in that report. The CIA not commenting on that, but questions about whether or not Mike Pompeo just did not share the same concerns that Sally Yates raised, that Flynn could have been susceptible to blackmail or simply that Mike Pompeo may not have known that was a concern.

BERMAN: And Manu, leaders of the Senate Judiciary Committee they met today behind closed doors for the Special Counsel Bob Mueller. What have you learned about that meeting?

RAJU: Yeah, that's right. In fact, that meeting occurred just a few hours ago. And emerging from that meeting, one senator, Democrat Dianne Feinstein, the top Democrat on that committee, I got a chance to ask her about the areas in which these two -- these investigations may conflict. I said, well, he is looking into obstruction of justice, is that mean that the Senate Judiciary Committee can not look into obstruction of justice, as part of its own investigation.

And she said, "No." She said that we are the legislative body. We can look into whatever we want to look into. Those are her exact words. That suggests that Bob Mueller did not urge the Senate Judiciary Committee in any way to stand down. They just want to coordinate over interviewing witnesses, make sure there's an open line of communication, as these parallel investigations take shape, John.

BERMAN: All right. Manu Raju for us, great reporting from Capitol Hill.

The questions about Michael Flynn and what was done after the security concerns were raised about him, they're not new. The fired acting attorney general painted a vivid picture during her senate testimony. More now on the timeline she laid out and what the White House did at key points in it from "360's" Randi Kaye.


RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The warning came January 26th, from Deputy Atty. Gen., Sally Yates.

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president was immediately informed of the situation.

KAYE (voice-over): Yates told the White House Council that National Security Advisor, Michael Flynn, was potentially vulnerable to blackmail by Russia, because he had lied about his conversations with the Russian ambassador.

Despite this urgent warning, it seemed to be business as usual at the White House. Keep in mind, Flynn had been labeled a security risk, yet the very next day, he was seen walking with other White House staff along the West Wing colonnade.

On January 28th, two days after the warning, he was in the Oval Office, as the president signed executive orders. And while the president called not only German Chancellor Angela Merkel, but also Russian President, Vladimir Putin.

Remember, at this point, the White House is aware that Flynn is potentially compromised by Russia. That same day, the president tweeting out this photo of a major security gathering, Flynn standing right behind him.

(on camera) None of that was in keeping with what critics say should have been done in light of the warning about Flynn. One Democratic senator telling CNN, if there was concern a White House Staffer may have been compromised, that staffer should have been quote "firewalled." Separated from classified material and kept out of sensitive meetings with foreign officials.

(voice-over) Instead, the Trump administration appears to be focused on getting the president's travel ban through, even firing Sally Yates after she made it clear she would not defend it. Flynn, meanwhile, remained on the job.

On February 1st, a week after the warning, Gen. Flynn was publicly condemning Iran.

MICHAEL FLYNN, FMR. NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: As of today, we are officially putting Iran unnoticed.

KAYE (voice-over): And hiring more staff.

SPICER: The National Security Advisor Mike Flynn today announced additions to the NSC senior staff.

KAYE (voice-over): On February 6th, Michael Flynn joined a briefing at Central Command. And on February 7th, after a suicide bombing in Afghanistan.

SPICER: General Flynn spoke with the Afghan National Security Advisor to reaffirm our continued support for Afghanistan and for our strategic partnership.

KAYE (voice-over): On that same day, Trump denying any connections to Russia. "I don't know Putin, have no deals in Russia, and the haters are going crazy."

On February 8th, in an interview with the "Washington Post" Flynn denied discussing U.S. sanctions with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.

But the next day, a spokesman for Flynn hedging, telling "The Post", Flynn couldn't be certain that the topic never came up. Only after that report did Vice President Pence supposedly learn that Flynn had given him bad information, even though Pres. Trump had known that for two weeks.

And on February 10th, just days before Flynn would be ousted, Trump was asked about Flynn's connections to Russia.

DONALD TRUMP, (R) U.S. PRESIDENT: I don't know about it. I haven't seen it. What report is that? I haven't seen that. I'll look at that.

KAYE (voice-over): On February 12th, hours before Flynn would resign, the president was golfing in Florida.

And on February 13th, Flynn's last day on the job, more denials from the West Wing.

[21:10:07] KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO THE PRESIDENT: Yes, Gen. Flynn does enjoy the full confidence of the president.

KAYE (voice-over): Then, a short time later, a different take from Press Secretary Spicer saying, "The president is evaluating the situation."

Finally, that afternoon, 18 days after the White House had been warned about him, Ret. Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn was officially out of a job.

Randi Kaye, CNN, New York.


BERMAN: I want to bring in David Sanger from "The New York Times", former CIA and FBI senior official, Phil Mudd, also, CNN senior political analyst, David Gergen, a veteran of Democratic and Republican White Houses alike, as well as "U.S. News & World Report".

David Gergen, you've been in many White House. You know, in 18 days, we're talking about 18 days here where Michael Flynn was, you know, had access to this very sensitive information. How much would he have been exposed to in this time?

DAVID GERGEN, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER TO NIXON, FORD, REAGAN & CLINTON: A lot. These are very formative days for the incoming administration. They were receiving and sending out lots and lots of communications to various countries around the world. Some of which was extremely sensitive.

So it's inexplicable that the White House sat for 18 days without taking action, that the president knew for two weeks that the vice president had been lied to by Flynn, but didn't say anything, and then fired Flynn, supposedly because he did lie.

So there is just a cluster of mystery surrounding Mr. Flynn about what he did and why the president has been so solicitous of him since he left. And I don't think we have the answers. I'm not sure we're going to get them anytime soon.

I do want to distinguish between Flynn and Jared Kushner. I just don't think they're in the same league. Yes, there may be questions about Jared Kushner failing to report things. But in Flynn's case, the attorney general -- the acting attorney general of the United States reported to the White House that he was a national security risk. No such warning has been issued about Jared Kushner and I think it's unfortunate and unfair in some ways to pair him up with Flynn, at least based on what we know.

BERMAN: Glad you brought that up. Phil Mudd, you've been on the inside of these things. You know, Michael Flynn, there may or may not be concerns there based on, you know, the fear of blackmail. As far as you see, any legitimate reason from an intelligence standpoint to not make Jared Kushner, allow him to be privy to information?

PHIL MUDD, FORMER SENIOR OFFICIAL, FBI AND CIA: No, I can't see a reason for this. I see the debate in Washington, D.C. from Democrats, and I would ask them one question that we lose in Washington, D.C., give me a four-letter word. That is a fact. We have an investigation that the FBI has confirmed. The former director of the FBI, James Comey, has confirmed that some individuals, including General Flynn, are the subject of that investigation. He said that in an open hearing.

People have said in the media that Jared Kushner is involved in this investigation and that people have requested his financial records. The president of the United States, John, has the right to bring in advisers. Can you tell me one fact that indicates that Jared Kushner has broken some law or federal regulation that suggests that he should not have a security clearance? There's a lot of smoke, there's a lot of political smoke. I don't like everything the president has done, but I want to see a fact, and I haven't seen it yet.

BERMAN: Would just -- hypothetically, would not filling out the forms correctly, which his lawyers said he, you know, corrected that mistake, but would not filling out the forms correctly while he was getting security clearance. Would that count in your mind?

MUDD: Nope, that's chump change. I didn't fill out those forms correctly when I was in. I met people all the time. And I had to make a judgment. Should I fill out a form that indicates every single person I saw in the hallway or had a cup of coffee with over the past year or should I make a determination? Was the conduct that I had, the interaction with that person substantive?

So I look at that and say, potentially, the failure to fill out those forms makes a difference, but until I see what the context was. For example, did that conversation have a substantive relationship with the presidential campaign? I don't think that's substantive yet. I don't see it as a big deal until I see more context.

BERMAN: I'm going to make sure CNN human resources know that you do not fill out the forms substantively.

David Sanger, I want to bring you into this conversation right now. It was your paper that really pushed the reporting forward on the intelligence concerns with Michael Flynn. It's a complicated relationship when you're talking about the intelligence agencies and the former director, you know, of military intelligence, essentially, Michael Flynn. They didn't always get along, and there's a high level of mistrust, really, between those institutions, specifically Michael Flynn, correct?

DAVID SANGER, NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Well, there is. And for Mr. Flynn, it was doubly complicated. There was concern about what Gen. Flynn had done as director of the DIA. Not concerns at the time he was the DIA, about security issues as much as just management issues.

And then, as you recall, he was actually fired by the Obama administration, by James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, from the DIA job. And then he went on to go work for then-candidate Trump.

[21:15:09] I think the really interesting question about those 18 days is, did the White House think that Sally Yates' warning would simply go away? Did they share it with Mike Pompeo, who is not only the CIA director, but previously had been the chairman of the -- of a major committee overseeing intelligence work? Did Pompeo know? If he did know, was he holding back on some things that he was saying in General Flynn's presence?

BERMAN: You know, David Gergen, you know, our friend, Phil Mudd says it's basically not Mike Pompeo's problem what Michael Flynn did or did not know. It's Mike Pompeo's job to brief the president and whoever the president brings into a room with him. Do you agree?

GERGEN: Well, yes and no. Yes in a formal sense, he may not have lying responsibly for it. But look, he's a top adviser to the president. And, you know, what the president expects from his top people is, you better give me damn or give me an alert if something is going wrong. I don't want any surprises. You know, tell me, just if something is going wrong somewhere else in my administration, I want to know it from you. And you're expected to do that. That's what loyalty requires and speaking truth to the president. And, you know, and it's truth to power. And sometimes it may be bad news, but that's what you owe him.

BERMAN: David Sanger, I want to end on this question. We've been hearing different answers from the president for months now, about whether or not he thinks that Russia hacked into the election. Today, we heard from Jay Johnson, the former director of Homeland Security who said in no uncertain terms, Russia hacked. It was orchestrated by Vladimir Putin himself.

What kind of effect do you think it has on the various investigations? What effect do you think it has on the American people and their level of concern or interest and whether or not there's a foreign country trying to get into our election system, when the president still won't give an unequivocal answer on this?

SANGER: Well, I think it does have some harm. And I think the harm is this. That when we're all done with the obstruction of justice questions, when we've sorted out what Gen. Flynn said and didn't say and why he had his security clearance, when they're past all the questions on all the other members of the staff, the one deep remaining issue here is, not only what the Russians did, but what they're still doing and what they could do in the next election. And that was the importance of Jay Johnson's testimony today.

And I thought it was revealing having gone to see Mr. Johnson, when they were in the midst of it and he was still not allowed to go utter the word "Russia," at the time, because they hadn't turned out their first intelligence reports on it.

So, by the president not acknowledging this, he's basically sending the message, I'm not going to make this a priority to get ready for the next election. And, you know, it would be so easy for him to say, you know, I was elected legitimately, no matter what the Russians did, nobody has indicated that it actually affected the outcome. But the mere fact that a foreign power was inside our election system tells us we have something that desperately needs to be fixed. And we haven't heard that. And if you don't get presidential leadership from that, you're not going to get others in the administration working hard to fix it.

BERMAN: And there are members of both parties looking for that statement right now. All right, guys, thank you so much. Much more to talk about tonight, including the president's rally that's just wrapping up in Iowa, where he just made some news signaling a potentially big change in immigration policy again.


[21:22:13] BERMAN: All right, the president has just wrapped up a combined victory lap and sentimental journey in Iowa. I guess that makes it a sentimental lap. But he also made some news on immigration as well. The victory lap for a pair of Republicans special election wins last night. The sentiment, it was the kind of rally that candidate Trump elevated to performance hours in the immigration news. CNN's Jeff Zeleny joins us once again tonight from Cedar Rapids with more on that.

Jeff, Pres. Trump had a lot to say.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: John, he had so much to say. It seemed like he's been missing these campaign rallies. Of course, these were a staple of his candidacy. He hasn't done nearly as many as president. But tonight, he talked for about twice as long as the White House advised he would. He stayed on stage for more than an hour, talking about really the whole gamut.

As you said, it was a bit of a sentimental journey. But on immigration, specifically, he did float a new policy. He said that any immigrants coming here could not have access to welfare for some five years. He said they would have to show that they could actually work and not be sort of living off the government dime. But then he went on to talk about the people who have made up his Cabinet, his top advisers. He's talked about Goldman Sachs. He talked about the wealth of his advisers. And he also said he didn't want to be advised by poor people. Let's watch.


TRUMP: The legendary Wall Street genius, Wilbur Ross here, he's our secretary of commerce. We have Gary Cohn, who is the president of Goldman Sachs. In fact, somebody -- he's the president of Goldman Sachs. He had to pay over $200 million in taxes to take the job, right?

So somebody said, why did you appoint a rich person to be in charge of the economy? I said -- no, it's true. And Wilbur is a very rich person in charge of commerce. I love all people, rich or poor. But in those particular positions, I just don't want a poor person.


ZELENY: So the president there, talking about his economic advisers. And, you know, it's something that I'm not sure, John, any other president or politician would be able to get away with saying that he does not want a poor person advising him. But that is one of the things that Donald Trump supporters liked about him, the fact that he was going to appoint successful people all around him. But the whole Goldman Sachs idea and the investment banker idea is certainly so much different than his message during the campaign, when he railed against Wall Street. Now he, obviously, is joined by Wall Street.

BERMAN: Had Lloyd Blankfein in some of the negative ads that he put up at the end there as part of his closing argument. Did he have anything to say about the health care bill tonight, Jeff?

ZELENY: He did, indeed, John. In fact, this is something that's actually going on right now in Washington. His White House advisers are being briefed on the details. The president did not talk about the details, but he did talk about his hope for a kinder, gentler bill in the Senate, if you will.

He talked about his hope for Democratic support for it even. Let's take a listen.


[21:25:13] TRUMP: And I think, and I hope, can't guarantee anything, but I hope we're going to surprise you with a really good plan. You know, I've been talking about a plan with heart. I said, add some money to it. A plan with heart. But Obamacare is dead.


ZELENY: So "Add some money to it" there, now, that is something that will certainly be controversial for some Senate conservatives. And they need Senate Republicans on this bill, of course. We'll find out tomorrow morning, John, if the president is going to get behind the specifics of this Senate bill, or if he's going to again remain on the sidelines and then bridge the differences between the House and Senate.

But that health care discussion, John, was one of the more interesting ones, because the president, after, you know, launching into partisan attacks throughout his speech almost sounded wistful near the end of his remarks here, saying he wished Democrats could come along. He wished Democrats could join him with tax reform, health care, infrastructure.

But, John, we are five months and one day into this presidency. We cover the White House every day. We cannot count really any examples of outreach the president has made to these Democrats here. But he was starting to say that, you know, that would be a perfect solution. He's trying, of course, to paint Democrats as obstructionists, and he's trying to go after the resist movement, saying that Republicans are trying to get things done.

John, one thing that was not mentioned, Russian interference in the election. Perhaps not surprisingly, but that is a key topic here on Capitol Hill, elsewhere, not one mention of it. Not one mention of Russia at all tonight for more than an hour and about 15 minutes or so of speaking. John.

BERMAN: All right, Jeff Zeleny, thanks so much. Back in Washington, they are talking about Russia and Special Counsel Robert Mueller is meeting today with members of the Senate Judiciary Committee. It's part of an effort as Manu Raju reported earlier, to make sure their probe, his probe, and the two Intelligence Committee investigations, don't get all tangled up in each other.

It was also increasingly clear today that not only is he, Bob Mueller, investigating possible obstruction of justice by the president, it does seem the Judiciary Committee is too. Late today, I spoke with Democratic panel member, Chris Coons of Delaware.


BERMAN: Senator Coons, special counsel Mueller met with leadership from your committee today, which then released a statement that characterized the meeting as including the investigations, plural, into Russian interference in the 2016 election and the circumstances surrounding the role of former FBI Director James Comey. Can we deduce, then, that your committee is, in fact, looking into possible obstruction of justice in the firing of James Comey?

SEN. CHRIS COONS, (D) DELAWARE: Well, it's clear, I think, that you've got two different committees in the Senate that we'll be moving forward with investigating the details around the firing of former FBI Director Comey and whether there was inappropriate political interference into an ongoing FBI investigation.

Whether that amounts to obstruction of justice is a conclusion for a prosecutor to reach, but an investigation into political interference in an ongoing investigation, that's certainly an investigation into the circumstances that would lead to an obstruction of justice charge.

BERMAN: And you're saying your committee is doing that. It is underway. What about special counsel Bob Mueller? Is that committee statement a confirmation that he is looking into possible obstruction of justice or the circumstances?

COONS: Well, I think the statement speaks for itself. What's encouraging about the meeting today is that there is ongoing coordination between the special counsel and the leadership of committees of the House and Senate to make sure that we're not stepping in each other's lanes and to make sure that the ongoing investigation that special counsel Mueller is meeting is able to pursue leads wherever they might go.

This is an investigation that may have criminal consequences, may have counterintelligence consequences. And so I think it's important that committees of the Senate and the House operate in closed coordination, so that we don't interfere with each other's investigations.

BERMAN: A new development this afternoon. Some of your Democratic colleagues in the House Oversight Committee, you used to acknowledge, there are a lot of different committees looking into a lot of different things.


BERMAN: They're concern over the idea that then National Security Adviser Michael Flynn continued to attend presidential daily briefings by CIA Director Mike Pompeo for weeks after intelligence officials became concerned that Michael Flynn had been compromised. Does that concern you?

COONS: It does concern me. This is something I previously asked questions about in hearings, why it is that the national security adviser was allowed to continue access to the situation room, access to the president and to highly sensitive, highly classified material long after then attorney general, Acting Atty. Gen. Sally Yates, had directly raised the issue of his vulnerability to blackmail by Russia with the White House Counsel.

BERMAN: Now, does your concern go as far as to cover Jared Kushner? I'm asking you, because these same Democrats say they're also concerned about Kushner maintaining his security clearance while the investigations continue, even though I don't think anyone has leveled the level of accusations against Kushner, as they have against Flynn.

[21:30:05] There is no proof that Kushner, at this point, did anything, you know, untoward or if he been being investigated as doing something illegal?

COONS: Well, I think there's a significant evidence that Mike Flynn, the former national security adviser, had very complicated relationships with foreign powers that he failed to disclose, that he had been untruthful with the vice president, which is what led to his ultimately dismissal, but he had been untruthful at the very beginning of his service with this administration. And I think that's the foundation of questions by the House Oversight Committee Democrats. I'm less certain why they're pressing the issue with Jared Kushner, but my hunch is they have good reason for raising concerns about his security clearance, given other matters that may have come before their committee.

BERMAN: Your hunch is, but as you sit here based on what you know in your committee, which would be judiciary and the senate foreign affairs, also do you have any reason to believe that Jared Kushner has been compromised? COONS: I don't have direct knowledge of that. I'm not in the leadership of the committee. I'm neither the chair nor the ranking, but there's nothing that I've seen from the Senate Judiciary Committees relatively limited activities on this matter to question Jared Kushner's security clearance.

BERMAN: Understood. You each do have your lanes. I understand you only see what's in your lane there.

Lastly, it's a big week in the Senate. Some time tomorrow, you may get your look at the Senate version, the Senate Republican version of the bill to repeal and replace Obamacare. Do you have any sense what's inside of it?

COONS: I have no idea what is in the Senate Majority bill that would repeal and replace Obamacare. And frankly, neither do many Republican senators. There's been a lot of concerns, a lot of complaints by Republican and Democratic senators that this bill which will have an impact on hundreds of millions of Americans by affecting how health insurance and health care is regulated in this country has been composed behind closed doors by a very small group of folks. I'm encouraged that it is going to be public tomorrow. There will be a CBO score, if that's what's being reported, I hope that is what happens.

BERMAN: I'll get a chance to look at it tomorrow within the clock as you say will be ticking. Senator Chris Coons, thank you so much for being with us.

COONS: Thank you.

BERMAN: As senator Coons mentioned, there is a secret chorus of Republican senators frustrated with the secret process to draft this bill. We'll hear from them after the break. Also North Korea could order yet another underground nuclear weapons test. How the president might react tonight on "360."


[21:35:45] BERMAN: Again, our breaking news on the Republican health care bill. White House staffers, they received a briefing tonight on the plan. The Senate could vote on it as early as next week, if Mitch McConnell has his way. But not a lot of senators even know what is in the plan yet, not even many Republicans. Watch this.


SEN. MARCO RUBIO, (R) FLORIDA: I hope it's a vote that allows plenty of time for debate, analysis, and changes, and input. And if that's the process we follow, it'll be fine. If it's an effort to rush it from a small group of people straight to the floor on an up or down vote, that would be a problem.

SEN. MIKE LEE, (R) UTAH: I'd be fine. Don't get me wrong to be voting on something soon. But we should be able to see it first.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have you seen the senate version of the bill?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nope. Haven't seen it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is that a problem?

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R) ARIZONA: Oh, no, never a problem. No, of course not. I always like to move forward with legislation that I haven't seen. That's one of the practices I've enjoyed around here.

LEE: It's not being written by us. It's apparently be written by a small handful of staffers for members of the Republican leadership in the Senate. So if you're frustrated by the lack of transparency in this process, I share your frustration.


BERMAN: All right, back now with our panel, Kirsten Powers, Errol Louis, Jeffrey Lord -- Jason Miller, and Jen Psaki. Kirsten, first to you. I mean this is a clear case of the standards that were set by Republicans back in 2010. They're just breaking them, you know, with complete glee almost right now.

KIRSTEN POWERS, USA TODAY COLUMNIST: Yeah, well, I think we all remember them complaining that Obamacare was sort of passed in the dark of night behind a closed doors when, in fact, there were hundreds of hearings. So and people actually were able to look at it.

So, look, the Republicans are frustrated and there's supposed to be a vote next week, but, you know, there's not even a bill really for people to look at and Sen. Collins actually told reporters that the parliamentarian, I think as expected has ruled on this abortion language that was in the House bill and said it's not going to pass the bird rule. And so that's going to throw everything into chaos because they're going to be -- conservatives are going to say, we're not going to vote on this unless there's something that bars federally -- federal dollars being spent on abortion.

BERMAN: You know the Senate leaderships though Errol essentially says. You know what, once this bill comes out, which will happen tomorrow. We're going to see this tomorrow one way or the other. People are going to forget the fight about it being done in private. And most Senate Republicans, many of whom we heard complaining right there, they're going to vote for it.

ERROL LOUIS, POLITICAL ANCHOR, SPECTRUM NEWS NY1: Well yeah, I think that's true in the sense that process will cease to be the issue once we get a look at this thing.

BERMAN: Tomorrow.

LOUIS: And if it's a bill that a senator can't support, even someone who was being as sarcastic as John McCain, he will, in fact, vote for it. This is a power play by McConnell and the leadership. No question about it. They're going to try and make it as easy as possible for everybody to get to yes. They haven't done so in a way that the rest of us are comfortable with if we care about good government and transparency. But if it's a bill that they can vote for, they will vote for it.

BERMAN: Yeah, it's another Washington thing will people will complain, complain, complain about something and not actually stand up and do anything about it when that moment comes.

Jen Psaki, to the substance of this, some of the details are starting to drip out if you read some of the papers right now. The Senate version, it may phase out the Medicaid expansion more slowly than the House version for one thing. Some of the subsidies may be higher than the House version for some things. The president has called for more heart in the Senate version. Is that what he's getting?

JEN PSAKI, FMR WH COMMUNICATION DIRECTOR FOR PRES OBAMA: Well, first, I think people are going to take a close look at the details that are not that complicated. I don't know what they've spent the last couple of weeks doing in these back rooms, maybe playing monopoly, I'm not sure. But if we believe what's in the discussion draft, the differences are minor.

So, yes, Medicaid has an additional year, but if the cuts are much more drastic and they would have a much worse, a much harsher impact on lower-income people. There still -- is going to be an ability for states to opt out of covering the essential benefits package. That means that maternity coverage, mental health coverage won't be covered.

So these are some of the issues that caused a lot of concerns by moderates the first time around. And I suspect they're going to have those same concerns now. There aren't that dramatic of a change to a lot of these pieces from what we've seen.

BERMAN: And the guarantee the pre-existing conditions, we don't know how that will play in the senate version.

PSAKI: Exactly.

BERMAN: What we have to wait and see. Jason Miller, I'm curious though from the right, in addition, to working for the president and his campaign and during the transition. You worked for Ted Cruz at one point during the campaign. I don't know if his vote is a guaranteed yes on this, so far. If it goes far enough for Ted Cruz, what do you think?

[21:40:13] JASON MILLER, FORMER SR. COMMUNICATION ADVISER, TRUMP CAMPAIGN: Well, I think the senate leadership, I think, is a doing a couple of smart things here. I think as far as those that they need more in the center, I think slowing some of the phasing. I think also tying the tax credits into income as opposed to age, I think those --

BERMAN: But if it spends more money than the House bill, isn't that the type of thing that only Ted Cruz that I used to know would be against.

MILLER: Here is the point where I think is Sen. Cruz is looking at this where he really like some of the things you are doing on the Senate side is when they're slowing down the inflation growth on Medicaid. And so, as opposed to going to the medical inflation plus one, they're going with inflation. And so, when you look at the long- term impact, I think that's a big deal and I think conservatives like Sen. Cruz will like that. And I think there's a very important point here -- actually, two important points.

BERMAN: Just one.

MILLER: OK. Well -- then I'll combine them together. We saw today, three anthems, Blue Cross Blue Shield pull out of three more states, Indiana, Ohio, Wisconsin. Obamacare is absolutely imploding and when we stack up with the Republicans in the Senate and the House are doing as opposed to what the Democrats are doing. Look, Jon Ossoff, the candidate who lost in the Atlanta suburbs last night, he at least got a participation trophy, National Democrats don't even get that. They're doing absolutely nothing when it comes to the health care debate, not putting any ideas forward.

BERMAN: Hang on one second. We'll let Paul jump in right after the break and has to do with --

PAUL BEGALA, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: My head is going to explode during the break, John.

BERMAN: It will last, I think, hold on tight. We'll return to something the president said tonight in Iowa about the special election last night, in what, if anything, that election tells for the future control of Congress.


[21:45:22] BERMAN: Last night around this time, Anderson and the panel were watching the votes get counted in a pair of Special House Elections. Republicans won both and they are now batting a 1000 for the season. Tonight in Iowa, the president pointed that out as only he can.


TRUMP: And they have "phony witch hunts" going against me. They have everything going. And you know what, all we do is win, win, win. We won last night.

They can't believe it. They say, what is going on? What is going on?


BERMAN: All right. And that is the question. What is going on?

And what might it say about the many more races to come in 2018? Back now with the panel, Paul Begala I should tell you managed to keep his head exploding over the break. Although, insulted me just before we came back on the television right now. So you got the first question now, you want to talk about health care, which was an issue in Georgia 6th.

BEGALA: Not much of one. BERMAN: They talked about it. I mean Jon Ossoff said --

BEGALA: Jon Ossoff mostly said, I'm going to cut waste and fraud abuse. And, you know, with Karen Handel didn't embrace it, Ossoff didn't attack it, but Democrats will, they will. This saying, they're going to talk to actual people. You know, we cover the Washington thing, always Sen. McCain going to vote for it, Senator Cruz going to vote for it.

That's not how people process it. They are going to say, my daughter has asthma and I can't get her medicine anymore. My mom is in a nursing home and she's going to get cut off medicaid.

Two-thirds of people in nursing homes are on Medicaid. These are real people, many of whom voted for Donald Trump. What's leaking out, certainly in the House Bill, is like a heat-seeking missile attacking Trump voters that disproportionately rural.

Obamacare actually help rural people who are lot more than say suburbanites and even many urbanites. They are just proportionally older. They are just proportionally white. The vast plurality of the people on Medicare for example are white, twice as many as African- American or Latino.

So, we're seeing a Washington game that's going to cause enormous damage to real people. And if the Democrats have their act together, and I think they will, they will tell those stories, and I don't think we had a test run of it in Georgia at all. I don't think the Democrats did a good job there of putting this God-awful health care bill on trial.

BERMAN: Jen Psaki, you know, Paul Begala says he thinks they will. Democrats will get their act together. Do they have their act together?

JEN PSAKI, FORMER WH COMMUNICATION DIRECTOR FOR PRES.OBAMA: Not yet. But I think Paul made a really important point about health care. This -- while it wasn't a major issue in Georgia 6th, it should have been, 81 percent of voters in that district said that was one of the most important issues they cared about.

So as Democrats look back to what can be learned about that race, maybe they should have run more ads on health care and should have been more proactive in talking about it and what was at stake.

I think Democrats, right after the election, the most Democrats should look at is not last night, it's the November election, and a lot of the races we should have won. And Democrats have took a little bit of time to start soul searching. I think they've started that over the last couple of weeks. That's a good sign. But we can't just be the party of the resistance. We have to be the party that's rebuilding. That means getting new candidates. That means standing for a message, something proactive that talks about who we are and what we will be if we win back the House, the Senate, and hopefully, eventually, the White House. BERMAN: Jeffrey Lord, your take on all of this? You've been around, you've seen some cycles before. You know that things eventually do turn around. What will turn it around for the Democrats?

JEFFREY LORD, CONTRIBUTING EDITOR, THE AMERICAN SPECTATOR: Well, time, time will turn it around. I mean we're going to get, for instance, to the off year elections in 2018. And the historical fact --

BEGALA: Hopefully. Let's hope.

LORD: Let's hope. The historical fact is that those off-year elections are boomers for most incumbent presidents. Bill Clinton had a terrible one in 1994 and he did much better in 1998. Bill Clinton, Pres. Kennedy, and Pres. Bush 43 were the exceptions. So, they got one reprieve there. But most of the other Presidents got clobbered, including Ronald Reagan in his two off-year elections. So that will probably -- that pattern will probably hold. But then the president can rebound and come out very strong.

So I'm sure the Trump people are looking at this, but winning these elections, this helps a lot and it is -- they're on message. And they've got people supporting them.

BERMAN: All right. We have to wrap right now, thank you guys so much.

Up next, signs that North Korea's leader Kim Jong-un could be ordering a new nuclear test and what we are learning about the possible U.S. reaction including even possible military action.


[21:53:29] BERMAN: Tomorrow in Ohio, Otto Warmbier's family and friends will gather for his funeral. The 22-year-old returned home from captivity in North Korea in a coma. It's unclear what happened to him and his family refused an autopsy.

Now, whether it's this tragedy or another possible North Korean nuclear test, the president is under pressure to take action. And we have learned the Pentagon does have new options for military response doing more testing. More on that from CNN's Barbara Starr at the Pentagon.


BARBARA STARR, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Kim Jong-un could soon order a sixth underground nuclear test. It could lead to Pres. Trump considering military action. U.S. spy satellites spotted personnel and vehicles at one of the tunnel entrances at this test site. U.S. officials familiar with the classified assessment of Kim's personality profile say he is so unpredictable. There is no way to tell what he might do next.

REX TILLERSON, SECRETARY OF STATE: We call on the DPRK to halt its illegal nuclear weapons program and its ballistic missile test. GEN. JOSEPH DUNFORD, JOINT CHIEFS CHAIRMAN: We have a responsibility. We, the Department of Defense, number one, to deter any provocation by Kim Jong-un in the meantime and to provide the president with a list of options in the event that hostilities occur. And that's exactly what we're doing.

STARR: But the Pentagon also specifically updated military options to respond to a nuclear test. Some officials say a test could indicate China's pressure on Kim isn't working, and therefore military options would be presented to the president.

[21:55:03] And a recent tweet by Pres. Trump adding uncertainty, "While I greatly appreciate the efforts of President Xi and China to help with North Korea, it has not worked out. At least I know China tried."

Defense Secretary James Mattis said a military red line on North Korea's weapons program.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, (R) ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE: Is it the policy of the Trump administration to deny North Korea the capability of building an ICBM that can hit the American homeland with a nuclear weapon on top? Is that the policy?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, it is, Sen. Graham.

STARR (voice-over): But does North Korea already have a missile that could hit the United States?

GEN. JOHN HYTE, COMMANDER, U.S. STRATEGIC COMMAND: They already have the capability to deploy an intercontinental ballistic missile. The question is, when will they be able to make a nuclear weapon?

STARR (voice-over): Stopping Kim from getting a nuclear weapon with U.S. fire power may be impossible.

BALBINA HWANG, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY: I think it's just too late. Unless you have a full-scale military invasion where you're going to just go in and sweep the country, we simply will not be able to end these programs.


STARR: So far, there's no indication the Pentagon is getting orders for military action, but commanders are making clear they are ready. John?

BERMAN: All right, Barbara Starr at the Pentagon, thanks so much. We'll be right back.


BERMAN: All right, thanks so much for watching "360". I'm John Berman. Time now to hand it over to Don Lemon. "CNN Tonight" starts right now. [22:00:06] DON LEMON, CNN HOST: Breaking news on the Russia investigation. Russia again, as Pres. Trump takes a victory lap after his party's election win in Georgia, again.