Return to Transcripts main page


Soon: Trump, South Korean President Meet amid North Korea Nuke Concerns; Trump: If GOP Deal Fails, Repeal now & Replace later; Trump Sanctions Chinese Bank amid North Korea Tensions. Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired June 30, 2017 - 10:00   ET



POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Top of the hour. Good morning, everyone. I'm Poppy Harlow.

Just moments from now, at the White House, President Trump sits down with South Korea's president as fears escalate over North Korea's nuclear program. But that major meeting overshadowed by just 53 words in a statement from the president. Bipartisan outrage over the president's attack on two television hosts for their criticism of him and unleashing his most venomous jabs at a woman, Mika Brzezinski, mocking both her intelligence and her appearance.

This morning, Brzezinski and co-host Joe Scarborough responded in an opinion piece in "Washington Post" entitled, "Donald Trump is not well." They write, "Our concerns about his unmoored behavior go far beyond the personal. America's leaders and allies are asking themselves yet again whether this man is fit to be president."

This, as Senate Republican leadership continues to struggle to try to reach a health care deal. Let's begin with all of it at the White House this morning with Boris Sanchez. Good morning.

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, good morning, Poppy. Yes, in that op-ed in the "Washington Post," Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough refuting several of the president's claims, including that they asked him to stay with them at Mar-a-Lago over New Year's Eve. Going on to say that the president has an unhealthy obsession with them and questioning his mental health.

Yesterday, the president had a chance to respond to reporters who asked him about the tweets, he declined. Though he tweeted about that show again this morning, saying that it is fake news and continuing this feud with the hosts who were actually supposed to be off today, but they decided to go into the studio and respond to the president's Twitter tirade. Here is some of what they said.


MIKA BRZEZINSKI, ATTACKED IN TRUMP TWEET: It is unbelievably alarming that this president is so easily played. He's so easily played by a cable news host. Now, what is that saying to our allies? What is that saying to our enemies that this president is so easily played? JOE SCARBOROUGH, ATTACKED IN TRUMP TWEET: We have friends inside the White House that have told us over the past month they are getting more concerned about his emotional state. And also, more concerned, at the same time -

BRZEZINSKI: Self-control.

SCARBOROUGH: -- about what's happening across the world. There are bad things brewing across the world.


SANCHEZ: And, Poppy, you mentioned some of the disappointment across the aisle from lawmakers as to the president focusing on this Twitter war with that show. It comes at a very interesting time because yesterday you had the implementation of the travel ban being put in place, two bills in the House to crack down on sanctuary cities and illegal immigration and on top of that, this ongoing debate about a health care overhaul.

And the fact that you have the president of South Korea now visiting the White House, Moon Jae-in is set to arrive at any moment. He, along with the president are set to give a joint briefing at about 11:00 a.m. outside the Rose Garden. We are told that reporters will not be allowed to ask questions. So, we will not be digging further as to why the president is choosing to focus on this morning, a talk show as opposed to all of the things that are on the agenda. Poppy?

HARLOW: It's unfortunate that no questions from any journalists will be allowed at such a critical meeting when it comes to U.S. foreign policy and partnering with South Korea when it comes to the North Korea's regime. Boris Sanchez, thank you for that.

President Trump seemingly calling for a change in tactic on health care, writing in a statement this morning, "If Republican senators are unable to pass what they are working on now, they should immediately repeal, and then replace at a later date!"

That would impact millions of Americans and a Republican official just voiced displeasure with that to say the least. Let's go to Phil Mattingly on Capitol Hill. What are they saying?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I have on Republican official related to rolling a hand grenade into the middle of the negotiations. The point being that they're pretty far along while they are not close to a deal yet and senators have left town. They have been working extremely hard over the course of the last couple of days to try and bridge the very real divide. And the idea that now there could be another option on the table. One, Poppy, that conservatives like very much, the idea of voting on what was essentially a 2015 repeal only bill. If that gets back on the table, that could complicate things. The interesting here is this is also a very clear shift in position from the president. Take a listen to what he said late last year.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We'll do it simultaneously and it will be just fine. We're not going to have like a two-day period and we're not going to have a two-year period where there's nothing. It will be repealed and replaced.


MATTINGLY: Now, it's interesting to note, the Republican leaders at the stark of this Congress actually wanted to do a straight repeal bill vote and then move on and deal with replace later.

[10:05:02] But they actually heard from their own conferences that that was a bad idea. They wouldn't have the votes to pass it. That's why they decided to move forward on the repeal and replace after.

Now, what is the genesis of the president's tweet this morning? There's always a lot of question as to where things may have come from. But some insight from Senator Ben Sasse, he, this morning, sent a letter, pitching this very idea to the president. Shortly thereafter, went on "Fox and Friends" to talk about this idea. We know that's a show that the president often watches.

Shortly after that appearance, the president's tweet came out. Now, I'm told the senator staff has been talking to the White House about this idea. And the White House seemed intrigued by and he pitched it today. The president seemed to support it.

But, Poppy, a really important note in here, is what this actually means. As I noted, the idea of the Republicans could get the necessary votes on just a straight repeal bill. They've already discovered that that wouldn't work. That's why they shifted tactics in the first place. If that did work, the replace effort would take 60 votes so you would need Democrats, which would make that process even more complicated than it already is. And then there are the actual ramifications.

Now, what Senator Sasse was pitching is a repeal bill, a delay on implementation of full repeal for a year, putting kind of a deadline to try and do replace. But you noted the numbers. The CBO, in January, released a score of what a straight repeal bill would actually mean. By 2026, it would mean 32 million fewer people would be covered in insurance. It would mean premiums would be going up by between 50 and 100 percent.

The rationale here, being that if you remove the entire infrastructure from the regulations to the subsidies, all of those things that would come out with this. It will be severely problematic for the markets. Even if there is a transition period there, a lot of complicating details here. But that's why Republican leaders moved away from this idea. And that's why, this according to folks I'm talking to right now, they aren't exactly thrilled that the president seems to, at least on Twitter, put this back on the table. Poppy?

HARLOW: It makes you wonder how much confidence he has that McConnell can get this done. Phil Mattingly, thanks for the reporting. Joining me now on that and all of the news we have this Friday morning, John Avlon, CNN political analyst and editor in chief for "The Daily Beast," Jason Miller, CNN political commentator and former communications adviser to President Trump and Margaret Hoover, CNN political commentator, Republican Consultant, formerly worked in the Bush White House. Thank you all for being here.

Jason, let me begin with you. Because Phil Mattingly noted so many important things that would happen if you just repeal Obamacare, don't replace it with anything and then work on a replace later. Perhaps most notably, that fact that you would need 60 votes, so you would need Chuck Schumer and the Democrats on board. What do you make of why the president is doing this?

JASON MILLER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR AND FORMER COMMUNICATIONS ADVISER TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: Well, Poppy, good morning. And as much as I would absolutely love for Republicans to go and completely repeal Obamacare, that's just not going to happen - it's a standalone bill. But what I think the president may have been doing, and this is just my guess, kind of from the outside looking in her, is lighting a fire under those who are working on this actual repeal and replace legislation in the Senate to go and get this done. To go and get them fired up and say, hey, you know, there are a lot of folks in your conference who would like to actually go with 100 percent complete repeal.

So, I think he may have just been lighting a fire under them and drawing more attention back to the overall need to get this done. We saw another provider just pull out of Ohio, another provider just pull out of Nevada. We have to go and get this right and fix this. I think that's probably what the president was speaking to. But hey, bottom line, I'm glad that we are talking about health care this morning because this is a big deal.

HARLOW: It's really hard to know because he won't answer any questions today at the joint presser and the White House said, take his statements, his tweets as White House statements.

So, John Avlon, given that, given how we're supposed to take this tweet, does it show that the president has a full understanding of what that would mean for the 18 million Americans the CBO estimates would immediately lose their coverage?

JOHN AVLON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST AND EDITOR IN CHIEF, "THE DAILY BEAST": I don't think he's particularly focused on that. As Jason just said, you know, I think Jason's argument is it's essentially a brushback pitch from the president. It's interesting to use the phrase, light a fire because it is sort of a continuation of a strategy he's used saying that you know, that Obamacare is dead. We have to fix it, right? So, saying that this thing is on fire, this bill and therefore there's no alternative but to take action.

The problem is there's a degree of arson at work because if you are trying to actually compel the failure of the problems of the existing program, you know, rather than trying to fix it, reform rather than repeal in a chaotic replace effort. That puts you in a pretty complicated position because of the reality. But I think the president is trying to really, up the ante to try to focus the members of his Congress.

HARLOW: We'll see if he can do it. Because again, they said, they are probably not going to have a deal before they go into the July 4th recess. I want to get to what the president has chosen, Margaret, this morning, to focus a lot on, and that is continuing his attack on cable news hosts, including, particularly, a woman, Mika Brzezinski.

Looking back at some of the comments and promises he made to the American people through the campaign, in his Republican nomination acceptance speech. We are going to be considerate and compassionate to everyone, words from the president. On the campaign trail, "I am going to be so presidential that you people will be so bored."

He has heard outrage from some of his fellow Republicans like Susan Collins, like Ben Sasse, like Lindsey Graham.

[10:10:01] Has the president been dishonest to the American people about -- what he would do on this front?

MARGARET HOOVER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR AND REPUBLICAN CONSULTANT: I think he's been dishonest with the American people, but I don't think he thinks that. I think he thinks he's being very presidential. Who cares what is in his head. I mean, the "New York Post" is editorializing today. All the president needs to do about his tweeting is stop. They have a three-word editorial, just stop. -

HARLOW: The "New York Post?"

HOOVER: The "New York Post." -

HARLOW: Notable.

HOOVER: I mean this is a publication that has been incredibly supportive of the president. What's interesting, not only does he undermine his wife's entire initiative of a cyber bullying --


HARLOW: Why do you think that is?

HOOVER: I don't understand how this White House is working. If he wanted to pass a health care bill, he wouldn't be tweeting publicly. He would be on the phone, hammering in senators to get those votes to cross the line, not encouraging Rand Paul and throwing grenades into these talks.

This is -- all of us know what we are looking at. We're looking at something that's incredibly disorganized and not working along traditional through modes or healthy modes for operating. And you know he wanted to drain the swamp. He wanted to get things done. That's why people voted for him. But this isn't getting anything done.

And by the way, you don't get this done. You know what happens in all this? Everyone goes home and they have to look at their constituents in the eye and their constituents are going to say, are you taking away my health care from me. I mean, if you thought it was bad in 2010, Republicans have no idea what is coming to them in 2018.

HARLOW: Jason, the president, as you know, has written a number of books. In the most recent book, here's part of what he wrote. "The president of the United States is the most powerful person in the world. The president is the spokesman for democracy and liberty. Isn't it time we brought back the pomp and circumstance and the sense of awe for that office that we all held?" Does this do that?

MILLER: Well, I think that the president is doing that. And I think the fact that we have seen his interaction with foreign leaders, whether it be, prime minister -


HARLOW: So, Jason, I appreciate the attempt -- I appreciate the attempt at the spin. But I asked you, does this? Do these statements on Twitter from the president do that? Do they bring that dignity to the office, that pomp, that circumstance, the respect that the office deserved?

MILLER: Well, Poppy, the president certainly has his own style. And some of the tweets I might like and some of them I might not like. I think like a lot of Americans though, guess what, I didn't wake up yesterday and watch "Morning Joe." I didn't wake up this morning and watch "Morning Joe" or read their editorial in "The Washington Post." I got up and got the family together and started thinking about what the day was going to be like. Look -

HARLOW: But he did. That's what he tweeted about this morning. He got up and watched it and then, he tweeted more insults.

MILLER: I mean -- I would have rather that this morning he didn't go and tweet that. Keep his focus on crime in Chicago and what he's doing with federal health, how he's sending that there. And also, what he's going to be doing on health care and tax reform. Because what, the president certainly has the right and the ability to go and communicate his viewpoints and pushback what he thinks that folks are putting out inaccurate reports against him. I prefer to keep a little bit more focused on the agenda and I think that's probably where most Americans are today.

HARLOW: John Avlon?

AVLON: Yes, but that's of course, the larger problem. We have been told that the president's tweets are official statements from the president. They're official, right? And the problem is that Twitter Trump is real Trump. This is him unvarnished, without a speech writer, without a policy team, without a press operation. And when you notice that he's tweeted more about attacking his critics in the media rather than jobs - or fundamental issues with policies --

HARLOW: Let's put that up on the screen. Yes.

AVLON: Yes. I mean, that really tells you all you need to know about where his focus is, which is that this is a president who has impulse control problems, who doesn't seem to be focused on the actual job of the presidency, but rather reacting to things from a narrow vision of self-interest. And that's destabilizing to the institution of president.

Normally, we see that the office itself is noble. This president seems to be determined to wriggle out of that. And he's engaged in fights that are beneath the office in ugly ways that compromise the integrity of the office and American leadership at home and abroad. It is pathetic to see and it's sad to see going into 4th of July weekend.

MILLER: I guess - my pushback - sorry, go ahead, Poppy.

HARLOW: I just want to get Margaret in here for the final word. We're running out of time. I mean, Susan Collins, yesterday, a Republican senator, who he would like to have on his side when it comes to health care, by the way, said that he doesn't know if it gets in the way of legislation, but it's embarrassing. At what point in time or has it already, do you believe, as someone who worked in the White House, got in the way of accomplishing perhaps the most important thing for millions of Americans right now.

HOOVER: This is incredibly distracting. But that's what we are talking about. I mean, his tweet set the agenda. I hate it when I agree with my husband. But I mean, he is right, this is diminishing off the presidency. This is diminishing American discourse and this is diminishing, even further, the state that people have in our institutions. And it is disappointing to see going in, especially to the 4th of July weekend. We have a proud history in this country. The country and our traditions will with stand one office holder.

HARLOW: Jason, I have 30 seconds.

[10:15:00] MILLER: Look, I think that the president today, we are going to see where the real focus is with this administration. We'll see some tough bilateral talks going on with the president of South Korea. We have to get the auto sector and the steel sector back on track. I think that's where the main focus is. I want him to keep it there.

HARLOW: John Avlon, Jason Miller, Margaret Hoover, who agrees with her husband on this lovely Friday, thank you all very much.

A high stakes meeting about to get underway as you just heard. The president, President Trump, will meet with South Korea's new president, President Moon, all of this, in the shadow of heightened tension with North Korea.

Also, Iraqi Forces are locked in an intense fight for Western Mosul, still under ISIS control. We will take you inside the battle for that key city.


[10:20:03] HARLOW: Moments ago, President Trump welcomed South Korea's leader to the White House. You see the motorcade pulling up just there. This is a crucial meeting and made growing concerns about North Korea's nuclear program. The two leaders will deliver remarks next hour in the Rose Garden. Notably though, they will not take questions from the media. One of my next guests says today's meeting could be potentially the most consequential of both of their young presidencies.

Let's discuss with retired Lieutenant Colonel Rick Francona, our CNN military analyst and Gordon Chang, author of "Nuclear Showdown: North Korea Takes on the World." He's also a columnist for "The Daily Beast."

So, Gordon, let me begin with you since you know the region so well, North Korea, so well. This is a key meeting for two young leaders. I mean, President Moon was just elected. He comes to this with an 80 percent approval rating. At the same time, he comes to it with a very different view of how the United States, China and South Korea should approach Pyongyang than the United States and President Trump do, diametrically opposed opinions, in fact. So, what will come of this meeting?

GORDON CHANG, AUTHOR, "NUCLEAR SHOWDOWN: NORTH KOREA TAKES ON THE WORLD" AND COLUMNIST, "THE DAILY BEAST": I think President Moon will do his best to avoid disagreement on North Korea. He's got to put forward his issues because of domestic political concerns where I am, in Seoul. But nonetheless, I think that he knows that he needs Trump's support because he cannot reach out to North Korea unless he is sure that his country is safe. And the only reason his country is safe is the United States and the 63-year-old alliance.

So, Moon has tried very hard, especially going to Quantico, the Marine Corps Base, laying a writ, talking about the personal experience about how the marines saved his parents because they were able to leave North Korea and he was then born in South Korea. So, he's doing all the right things, but nonetheless, there is a disagreement between the two of them and eventually, that disagreement will break out in the open. I hope not now, though.

HARLOW: Lieutenant Colonel Rick Francona, the United States needs China and the president has been pretty direct in his criticism of the lack of action. He believes he would like to see China doing more on the North Korea front. Now you have this new, major arms deal between the United States and Taiwan. China has just come out and called it a quote, "Serious violation of international law." How does that complicate things?

LT. COL. RICK FRANCONA (RET), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: It's just one more, you know, hurdle that we have to overcome. As Gordon said, you know, President Moon is making all the right noises, but he's not somewhat doing all the right things. A key point would be the refusal to allow the continued development of the THAAD defensive system in South Korea.

South Korea needs to be safe if he wants to proceed with his goals in North Korea. And stopping THAAD doesn't help that. The sale of weapons to Taiwan, I believe, is a strong message to China that we need to get together with North Korea. And here is an opportunity for us to cooperate. And if you don't cooperate, neither will we.

So, I think the president is laying down a marker there. I think it's very serious though. We all know where we want to be, it's just how we get there is where we differ.

HARLOW: Gordon, what about the sanctions on this Chinese bank? - I mean, North Korea's economy could not -- I wouldn't say prosper, but could not churn without China. 90 percent of their trade is with China. They rely on being able to use the Chines banking system for financing. So, the U.S. slaps these sanctions on a big Chinese bank for doing that. But then what? I mean, this has been going on for years.

CHANG: Yes. This is the first time that the U.S. has unplugged a Chinese bank from a financial system. And that's going to be important because that is sort of an act of political will. It's showing Beijing that the United States is willing to take tough steps. And as Lieutenant Colonel Francona said just a few moments ago, you have the time on arms sale on the same day.

So, what the Trump administration is doing is pivoting. Instead of trying to give initial concessions to China in order to win its help on North Korea, it's decided to impose (INAUDIBLE), and in some cases, illicit activity. And this is going to be, I think, a pivotal moment. We are going to see more punishments on China. And essentially, this is going to be a downturn in relations with Beijing. But this really, I think, is necessary, in the sense that up to now, all the things that we approached China with haven't worked. And so, Trump is trying the one last thing that hasn't been tried over the course of decades.

HARLOW: Colonel, can the United States succeed in its ambitions when it comes to tampering Pyongyang's nuclear program without China on board? Can the U.S. do it alone?

FRANCONA: Well, yes is the answer. But we don't want to do it that way. You know, the president has just asked for more military options to how he solves this problem. And I think there's a long way between where we are now and that military option.

[10:25:02] And I'm hoping that we'll come up with some way and maybe even through the South Koreans to reach some sort of political settlement. But you know the North Koreans have not shown any indication that they are willing to even talk about this nuclear program. And as Gordon says, we just keep -- continue doing what hasn't worked in the past. So, we need to do something different. And I don't know what that's going to be.

HARLOW: Yes, the Trump administration says the time for strategic patience is over. Lieutenant Colonel Rick Francona, Gordon Chang, thank you both.

If you cannot hammer out a deal to replace Obamacare, just repeal it for now. That is what the president is saying this morning. We will ask one GOP lawmaker if he thinks that's a good idea and what he makes of it.


HARLOW: New details this morning about Russian hacking in the 2016 election. The "Wall Street Journal" is reporting that a long-time Republican opposition researcher tried to track down e-mails from Hillary Clinton's private e-mail server that he believes were stolen by Russian hackers before the election.

Let's get straight to our crime and justice reporter Shimon Prokupecz with more.