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Despite GOP Pleas, Trump Resumes Vicious Tweets on TV Hosts; Tillerson Cannot Hide Frustration Over Unfilled Jobs; FBI Arrests Man in Disappearance of Chinese Grad Student; States Refuse to Give Voter Rolls to Trump Election Panel; Senate Health Bill Impact on Rural Hospitals; Trump to GOP Senators: Repeal Obamacare Now, Replace Later. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired July 1, 2017 - 17:00   ET


[16:59:58] BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: Yet another tweet from President Trump viciously attacking a pair of cable TV news anchors. "Crazy Joe Scarborough and dumb as a rock Mika are not bad people but their low rated show is dominated by their NBC bosses." Too bad. The latest attack comes as even Republican lawmakers are pleading with the President to stop tweeting like this or doing that, it does nothing to advance their agenda.

CNN Ryan Nobles is live at the White House right now. Ryan, is the White House concern with these tweets as some Republican lawmakers appear to be?

RYAN NOBLES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Of course, it's really hard to get a read on how White House staffers feel about the President's tweets because they attempt to change a subject as quickly as you asked about it. They simply have the candid response that the President's tweets speak for themselves. And then they tried and move on to other issues. They contend that this does not hold back the President's agenda and all that he's still focus on things like healthcare in this upcoming meeting of the G20 Summit.

But as you mentioned Boris, pretty much every Republican up here in Washington, especially those on Capitol Hill are concerned that this is really distracting from the President's overall efforts to get some of these big ticket items done because it is just making it more difficult to move that agenda forward.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER: I'm sitting there with a Rubix cube, trying to figure out how to twist the dials to get to 50 to replace this with something better. American people said, we elected a Republican president, a Republican house and Republican Senate, we want to see some results and I can't say anything other than, I agree with you. But it's not easy. And we are going to continue to wrestle this and try to get it done.


NOBLES: And Boris, that's some key sound from the Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell last night. You could see his focus on healthcare and he's specifically talked about this idea of whether or not the Senate should take off the President's suggestion of separating this healthcare bill and just doing a straight repeal first and then worrying about the replacement later.

He seems pretty focus still on this idea of doing it simultaneously. As you heard in that sound bite recognizes that it's going to be difficult to bring these different parts of the Republican Party together but his goal right now is to do it all once when they returned from this July 4th recess.

SANCHEZ: And Ryan, there's this suggestion from some ten GOP senators that maybe Mitch McConnell should shorten or even cancel the August recess in order to get this and couple of other things on the agenda done. Have you heard anything else about that?

NOBLES: Yes. You know, the only person who can make that decision is Mitch McConnell, Boris. And he has not even opened the door to the idea that the August recess would be cancelled. But you're right, there is a growing course of Republican senators who think it is a good idea. There is even some Republicans on the House side who are echoing those comments but what this tells us more than anything, Boris, is that they aren't anywhere near close to a deal.

And that they are concerned that this conversation could bleed into late into the summer. So, even the mere suggestion that they stick around in August really gives it, makes it just crystal clear how far apart they are and how far away they are from really coming up with the deal they can agree upon.

SANCHEZ: Ryan Nobles reporting from the White House. Ryan, thank you.

NOBLES: Thank you.

SANCHEZ: I want to talk more about the President's attacks against the MSNBC's, host of MSNBC's "Morning Joe." You probably know the anchors responded yesterday making some very serious allegations. Watch this.


JOE SCARBOROUGH, MSNBC HOST: We got a call that, hey, the "National Enquirer" is going to run a negative story against you guys. And it was, you know, Donald is friends, the President is friends with the guy that runs the "National Enquirer." And they said if you call the President and you apologize for your coverage, then he will pick up the phone and basically spike the story.


SANCHEZ: Joining me now to discuss, Time Magazine contributor Jay Newton Small and CNN legal analyst and former prosecutor Paul Callan. Thank you both for joining us.

Jay, to you first. What was your response to hearing that allegation from Joe Scarborough that someone suggested that if he call the President and maybe gave some more positive coverage to the White House, they would spike this negative story about Joe and Mika?

JAY NEWTON SMALL, CONTRIBUTOR, TIME MAGAZINE: Well, it's just, you would think that somehow you could not be more anymore surprised by the President in getting so personally involved in its coverage. And yet it's amazing I still can't get surprised by these things. I mean, the President seemed to confirm it in his own tweets that he was working a new of a story at "National Enquirer" about Joe and Mika. And it's just sort of stunning that he is so in the weeds and so obsessed with this media coverage and with this television coverage.

And he truly is the first reality TV president that's ever lived. And I think it's really frustrating to see, you know, as Ryan was saying earlier for Republicans on The Hill to, you know, who want to focus on policy, who want to focus on, I mean last week was supposed to be energy week, right? But who talked about that? Who wants to focus on the other things. And you end up with me after week getting trapped in the twitter storms and with these fights with like personalities. And never talking about policy and never actually getting any legislation passed.

[17:05:28] SANCHEZ: To be clear what the President tweeted was that he took a call or was getting set to take a call from Joe Scarborough about that "National Enquirer" hit piece on Joe and Mika.

Paul, to you this sounds like blackmail, is this a legal issue potentially for the White House?

PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, a lot of people reacted that way. That it sounds like extortion or blackmail which is a crime. However normally in a blackmail situation or an extortion situation, somebody is saying, an organized criminal is saying, I'm going to burn down your store unless you pay me $1,000 a week or I'm going to release damaging information about you unless you pay me a certain amount of money. That's a classic example of it.

Here it doesn't quite make it to the line, the legal line of blackmail or extortion. Because the allegation is that the President said that he would use his influence to get the "National Enquirer" not to run a story about Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski. So, his mere refusal to use his influence to help them would not be extortion or bribery. I think -- and I want to make it clear although it's not criminal, it's reprehensible conduct. I mean, what he is doing in these tweets is, it's undignified. He is lowering the level of communication from the presidency.

SANCHEZ: Is it an abuse of power?

CALLAN: I don't think it reaches the level of -- when we talk about abuse of power we think of it as an impeachable offense. I don't think it reaches that level. But what I worry about is here he is getting ready to negotiate with the South Korean president about the possibility of nuclear war presumably.

SANCHEZ: Right. CALLAN: On the Korean Peninsula. And he is sending tweets out about

whether Mika Brzezinski got a face lift. It's such bizarre conduct that I think it's worrisome to a lot of people. And I think it sends a really terrible message internationally about the leader of the United States.

SANCHEZ: Yes, and the indication here, Jay, at least if you read the subtext of this is that the President has some kind of influence over what the "National Enquirer" publishes.

SMALL: It is and it's so interesting because like with the charges that former FBI Director James Comey had against him. This is all about what he wants to see in the press, and how he wants the narrative to go. And it's when the narrative is going in a way that he doesn't like and he wants it to change directions that he exerts this influence, exerts this power in any which way he can to try to change things, try to force people to, you know, whether he's bullying them, whether he is sort of threatening them or whether he is trying to sweet talk or pressure them, to change this narrative.

And that's really, I mean, that's something that's been the way Donald Trump has operated from day one. And that is sort of his modus operandi. And it really does push the envelope on a lot of levels. I mean, there is right now an investigation to obstruction of justice for him into that -- into Comey -- into whether or not he unduly influenced intelligence officials and other officials to not investigate his former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.

But then there is -- even in these kinds of contexts with you know, Twitter fights with the media, is it -- it's again a kind of bullying. It's the sense that if he doesn't get his way, he is going to find a way to get his way and that's just it.

SANCHEZ: I should mention, Paul, you actually wrote for about this today. I did want to ask with all the other investigations that are circling the President in terms of potential obstruction of Justice. Russia is meddling in the election, does this now potentially become a factor in those investigations?

CALLAN: Well, certainly it would be something that you might look at in passing. But I think any serious prosecutor looked at this would say there is nothing criminal about this. I mean, you might think personally its odd behavior. And I think, you know, to me when I'm looking at this conduct by the President, he is accusing the Trump -- he is accusing the press of teaming up on him of being his enemy.

But the problem that he is confronting is that the press is just applying the same standard it always applies when it looks at a president. And the country looks for, you know him to fall into the pattern that past presidents did. Past presidents didn't send out Twitter messages in the middle of the night talking about face lifts by people who are news broadcasters on cable news networks. And I think that he is creating this problem himself by the way he handles this twitter account. And he really should take a second look at it.

SANCHEZ: Of course the White House response is that the press should focus on the agenda but it seems like the President is taking the conversation in a different direction.

[17:10:01] CALLAN: He should, you know, Harry Truman once followed this advice when he would be angry at the press. And Truman was angry at the press a lot because he got a lot of bad press back in those years. And he would write a letter of anger to the editor of a newspaper. He would put it in a drawer overnight so that he would have 24 hours to think about it and then when he took it out in the morning, he'd often rip the letter up. Now, that might be some good and we need a twitter send button that has a 24 hour delay and we might have a better president.

SANCHEZ: There's some draft folder you could potentially put those tweets in.

CALLAN: Yes. That's right. That's my thought.

SANCHEZ: Jay Newton Small, thank you so much. We are out of time but a great conversation. We appreciate you both joining us.

CALLAN: Thank you.

SMALL: Thanks, Boris.

SANCHEZ: Coming up, reports of major differences between the State Department and the White House just days before the President embarks on a crucial trip overseas. You're watching the CNN NEWSROOM.


[17:15:04] SANCHEZ: The White House and the State Department, all is not well right now between the two, as the Secretary of State is now publicly showing his annoyance at not being able to hire the people that he wants for a lot of senior positions that are as yet unfilled.

Elise Labott is with us now. She's our global affairs correspondent. Also with us, David Sanger, political analyst and national security correspondent for "The New York Times." Thank you both for joining us.

Elise, to you first. It comes down to this, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has people in mind for many, many vacancies. A lot of them senior positions. But it seems like he is getting his choices stepped on by the White House. How is he handling that?

ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, he is not handling it very well, Boris. I mean, there is a natural tension between cabinet agencies and the White House over cabinet picks. But I think for Secretary Tillerson who was the CEO of Exxon Mobil one of the largest corporations in the world, this is a bit of a culture shock. He was used to being the top dog. And now he has to deal with, you know, the White House wanting a lot of political appointments.

And Secretary Tillerson himself is a very careful, deliberate person. He was an engineer started at Exxon. And so, he has been taking his time finding what he thinks are the most qualified candidates only to go to the White House and have them say no, that's not what we want we have in mind. We have a political person in mind. He is not used to this. So, I think he is struggling to find his way to realize that he is in a sense a staffer for the White House when he was, you know, probably told that he would have a lot of autonomy over his department.

He doesn't have a lot of Washington experience. I mean those secretaries of state that have come in knowing what Washington is like probably know that there is going to be, you know, more of a push and pull. But I think for him he is finding it a little bit more difficult.

SANCHEZ: David, what are your thoughts? It seems like the Secretary of State is kind of in a difficult place.

DAVID SANGER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: He is, Boris. And everything Elise said, I agree with. But I think the problem is even more complex than that. The first is, there is a great temptation to often say, well, let's just come in and apply business experience to an old structure like the State Department. And certainly the State Department is in need of some reform. But the fact of the matter is that the world charges ahead and the Secretary had the view that he could stop everything and think about a reorganization for what will take by his own account the full first year of the administration.

Well, that's a quarter of the way into his term. Assuming he serves one full term as secretary of state. And few go beyond that. And he is without any assistant secretaries, any undersecretaries. The operation is jamming up because it's being run by too few people at the top. I can understand his frustration with the White House under those circumstances. But secondly he has been losing on policy issues.

He advised the President against withdrawing from the Paris climate accord. He was extremely nervous about the President's approach on China. And one of the fascinating questions is, since he is the only one in the administration with experience dealing with Vladimir Putin, will the President listen to him before he heads into right now what seems to be a rather loosely organized meeting with Putin at the end of this week?

SANCHEZ: Yes, Elise we should talk about the G20 Summit just a few days away. We know that the President and Vladimir Putin are set to have a meeting on the sidelines. We don't know what the format of it is going to be yet. But what do you expect will be the content of that conversation.

LABOTT: Well, it's really unclear, Boris. And as David said, I mean, this is not a very well prepared meeting. H.R. McMaster, his National Security adviser said there isn't really an agenda. It's just going to be about whatever the President wants to talk about. Well, you know, these kind of summits especially with a leader like Vladimir Putin, especially with the backdrop of tensions with Russia and all the things that the U.S. and Russia need to deal with, Ukraine, Syria, you know, other issues around the world, you would think these are very well prepared meetings traditionally. It doesn't seem as if that's the case. But you can rest assure that

President Putin is preparing very carefully for this meeting. So, I think if President Trump wants this to just be a kind of grip and grin, if you will, you know, way to kind of reset the course and reset the relationship, I think it's going to be a missed opportunity. I think a lot of people not only in the United States but around the world are looking for him to assert himself against Vladimir Putin over interference in U.S. and European elections and Russian behavior around the world. I don't know that the President is going to be as tough on Vladimir Putin as people would like.

SANCHEZ: All right. David, to you. We just had a Kimberly Dozier on in the past hour. And she mentioned that there were some reporting out there that had picked up Russian conversations about this expected meeting between the President and Vladimir Putin saying that it would likely go well for the Russians. Can you expand on that? Do you know anything about those reports?

[17:20:16] SANGER: Well, you know, the U.S. is always listening into the Russians. And the Russians know they're listening into in. So, one of the questions when you hear things like this is, did you hear something the Russians wanted us to hear? But, you know, to pick up on Elise's point here about how you prepare for these, the President and his aides might do well to read some of the history of President Kennedy's first meeting with Khrushchev in 1961 in Europe.

Another period of huge tension with at that time the Soviet Union. And Kennedy who was more experienced in foreign affairs given his time in the Senate than President Trump is got really beaten up in that meeting and learned a lot of hard lessons from it. And admitted right away to one of my predecessors at the times, at the New York Times, Scotty Reston, that it had been a disastrous meeting. And so, there is a lot of things to learn about what happens when you send a new president in to meet a quite experienced Russian leader.

And here you wouldn't want there to be no agenda. Because think we've got three big issues with them. We've got the election hacking issue, whether the President wants to go acknowledge it or not because there is no indication that the Russians have stopped their activity, particularly in Europe. We've got the question of harassment of the nations of Europe by Russian military exercises. And we've got some big nuclear issues to sort out with the Russians, including their apparent violation of the intermediate nuclear forces agreement. So there is a big agenda. The question is, will the President take it on as one?

SANCHEZ: Yes. The other fascinating thing that we're going to have to watch for is the response from international leaders. This will be the first time the President greets them and meets them after pulling out of the Paris climate accords, especially in Europe with President Macron there. It will be an interesting conversation. Unfortunately, we have to leave it there.

Elise Labott and David Sanger, thank you so much for joining us.

SANGER: Thank you. SANCHEZ: Coming up, a 27-year-old man is arrested in connection with

the disappearance of an Illinois college student. The disturbing internet searches police found on his phone. You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.


[17:26:40] SANCHEZ: The FBI has made an arrest in the disappearance of a visiting Chinese graduate student who authorities now believe may be dead. Twenty six-year-old Yingying Zhang was studying at the University of Illinois when she went missing three weeks ago. Surveillance video allegedly shows Zhang getting into 28-year-old Brendt Christensen's car on the day that she disappeared.

CNN's Kaylee Hartung is covering the story from our World Headquarters in Atlanta and she joins us now. Kayleigh, what is it that led police to this suspect and why do they think that Yingying is now dead?

KAYLEE HARTUNG, CNN NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Boris, there are several layers of evidence that led authorities to this arrest. And it starts with that car you mentioned, the last known siting of Zhang being on June 9th as she got into that black Saturn you saw on the video surveillance cameras from the north end of the University of Illinois campus. There are very few of that model of car in the area. Police were able to trace Christensen as the owner.

And once they inspected that vehicle, they found the same cracked front passenger hubcap that you could see in that video. And as they further inspect, that they could tell that the passenger seat and door had been cleaned more diligently than the rest of the car. Now, this led police to then obtain his phone. And a forensic search of that phone showed that he had searched to find a website headlined "abduction 101" and within it threads headlined "perfect abduction fantasy" and also "planning a kidnapping".

So, with that information in hand they began to surveil Christensen and the biggest break-in this case came on Thursday when Christensen was caught on an audio recording explaining to someone we don't know who but explaining how he kidnapped Zhang. How he brought her back to his apartment and held her against her will there. So, based on this and other facts uncovered, the affidavit concludes that law enforcement does not believe Yingying Zhang is still alive.

SANCHEZ: Heartbreaking story. Kaylee Hartung reporting from Atlanta. Thank you so much.

Coming up, several secretaries of state have expressed alarm over a request from a Trump panel for voter information. Why some states are saying they will not comply with the request from the federal government, next.


[17:32:54] SANCHEZ: You may recall President Trump making the stunning allegation that millions of illegal votes were cast for Hillary Clinton, even though he won the White House. Now a special Commission on Election Integrity is asking all 50 states for personal voter data that might prove the president's claim. But many states are saying they will not cooperate.

Trump tweeting this out today, quote, "Numerous states are refusing to give information to the very distinguished voter fraud panel. What are they trying to hide?"

Our Tom Foreman shows us numerous states are refusing the commission's request for some sensitive data.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So many cities are corrupt. And voter fraud is very, very common.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: In a quest to root out allegedly rampant voter fraud, the president's commission wants an ocean of sensitive information about every voter, including the person's full name, address, date of birth, political affiliation, voting, military, and criminal records, part of his or her Social Security number, and more.

States, particularly, some Democratic blue ones, are pushing back hard.

California is flat-out refusing to hand over the info.

ALEX PADILLA, CALIFORNIA SECRETARY OF STATE: The president's allegations of massive voter fraud are simply not true.

FOREMAN: So is New York: "We will not comply."

Virginia, too: "There is no evidence of significant voter fraud."


FOREMAN: But some states that went Republican red for Trump are also balking, including Utah, Alabama, Iowa, and Wisconsin. They'll hand over only some data.

And still others are dismissing the whole idea of voter fraud run amok.

MATTHEW DUNLAP, MAINE SECRETARY OF STATE: We might find some illegal activity but not on the scale described.

TRUMP: People that have died ten years ago are still voting. Illegal immigrants are voting.


FOREMAN: As a candidate, Donald Trump insisted fraud was a real problem.

(MUSIC) FOREMAN: And even after he won the Electoral College, he lashed out at news more people voted for Hillary Clinton, tweeting, "I won the popular vote, if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally."

[17:35:00] TRUMP: So many things are going on.

FOREMAN: To help steer his commission, he chose Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who calls the states' complaint complete nonsense.

KRIS KOBACH, KANSAS SECRETARY OF STATE & DIRECTOR, COMMISSION ON ELECTON INTEGRITY: We're looking at all forms of election irregularities, voter fraud, intimidation, registration fraud, voter intimidation, suppression.

FOREMAN: Kobach has zealously hunted vote cheaters back home for months, yet he's found less than a dozen provable cases out of more than a million and a half registered voters.

What's more, he's a champion for voter I.D. laws, which many skeptics consider a way to suppress minority votes.

And he was fined by a federal judge in Kansas just last week for his conduct in a lawsuit involving voting rights.

Connecticut state: "Given Secretary Kobach's history, we find it very difficult to have confidence in the work of this commission."

(on camera): Underlying it all is this simple fact, there is simply no credible evidence that there's ever been a widespread voter fraud problem. That's adding, clearly, to the hesitancy of many of these states.

Tom Foreman, CNN, Washington.


SANCHEZ: Thanks for that, Tom.

On one side of the political spectrum, you have accusations of voter fraud. The other side has concerns about privacy and voter suppression.

We get both sides now. Joining us, CNN political commentator, Ben Ferguson, host the "Ben Ferguson Show," and Democratic strategist, Zac Petkanas, a spokesman for the Hillary Clinton campaign.

Ben, first to you.

Critics say this panel will be used to restrict voting, restrict access to voting. Why should we truss the commission?

BEN FERGUSON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: One, this commission would not have the power to decide what states do and what they decide to do when it comes to what I.D.s to show when it comes to voting. I would say that's definitely fearmongering. The federal government is not able to trump state governments. We've heard that from many Republican and Democrat leaders in many different states. A great example is Mississippi where the A.G. in Mississippi has said they're not going to turn over all the information because it would violate their state law. That's a Republican saying that. So this idea that somehow this commission is going to have so much power that they'll be able to dictate to the states how they choose to do things is just not accurate.

What I do think the panel could do is actually look at some of the ways people might have the ability to somehow decide to do voter fraud. And it's nice to look at different states and to see what things may work in some states to suppress voter fraud and to fight against it. And that's how people I think should look at this commission, not so much as they have a whole lot of power.

SANCHEZ: You have the secretary of state of Mississippi, Ben, saying, "Jump into the Gulf of Mexico."

Zac, to you --


FERGUSON: Yes, and that's Republican.


Zac, I want to play some sound for you, something Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Grimes said on MSNBC said yesterday. She and several of her counterparts refusing to comply with the Election Commission's request. Here she is.


ALISON GRIMES, KENTUCKY SECRETARY OF STATE: Well, there is not enough Bourbon here in Kentucky to make this request seem sensible. And I'm proud that Kentucky has led the way. And as you noted at the top of the broadcast, numerous other states have followed. Not on my watch are we going to be releasing sensitive information that relates to the privacy of individuals. Not on my watch are we going to be turning over something that's left to the states to run. Elections --


GRIMES: -- are left to the states under the Tenth Amendment.


SANCHEZ: Not enough Bourbon in Kentucky. Some colorful language from both secretaries of state there.

What do you make of so many states refusing to comply.

ZAC PETKANAS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST & FORMER SPOKESMAN, HILLARY CLINTON PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN: Well, I say good on them and good on the state of Kentucky. Let's be clear. This commission is called a Voter Fraud Commission. But it is, in fact, a voter suppression commission. And you know that because the chairman of this commission, Kris Kobach, has a history of doing this in his state of Kansas, where he is the secretary of state. We are talking about somebody who wants to gather personal pieces of information, information that he himself in the state of Kansas is refusing to hand over to his own commission. And the reason is very clear. He wants to do what he did in Kansas, which is purge the voter rolls. In Kansas, what ended up happening was that individual citizens, who shared the name of undocumented immigrants, they had their voting rights stricken. They were -- they were taken off the roles. It is nothing more than an attempt to gather information in order to -- to give down recommendations to restrict voting rights. And not just the voting rights of anybody, the voting rights of minorities, the voting rights of people that they think --

FERGUSON: That's not true.

PETKANAS: -- will vote Democrat. It absolutely is true.

FERGUSON: It is -- first of all, the fearmongering here is the saddest part of this, where you're trying to somehow make this into, one, a racial thing and, two, make it into a dictating-type thing from the federal government. If you know the law, the law makes it abundantly clear, the states are the ones that decide. You can look at the recommendations that may come down from the commission and you can choose to throw them in the gulf or to douse them in Bourbon and set them on fire, to quote the two A.G.'s.

But the part here that's so frustrating is we know there are some vulnerabilities to our system. We've been obsessed about vulnerabilities when it comes to hacking from Russia. Why are we not giving the same amount of attention to the reality that there are vulnerabilities in this country?

I will also say this. It's a sad day when we require people to show an I.D. to do virtually everything in this country. And no one says it's racist when you're registering kids in school or getting on an airplane or getting assistance for government housing or food stamps. But somehow, when you go to vote, we don't want to protect that vote enough to actually say, hey, it might be a good idea to show an I.D. so that we know someone else doesn't take advantage of the system and actually vote on your behalf without your knowledge. This is just common sense. But we've turned it into such a politic point that it's sad. It should not be a political point. We should protect everyone's vote, no matter who they are.

[17:41:06] PEKANAS: Here we go.

SANCHEZ: Zac, I'll give you have a chance to respond.

PETKANAS: Thank you. I mean, here we go. He said the magic words. This is about voter I.D.'s, which we know that Texas -- sorry -- the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has already ruled the voter I.D. laws they are inherently racist. They -- African-Americans and Latino --


FERGUSON: That's not what the Fifth Circuit said.


FERGUSON: They didn't say it was racist.

PETKANAS: African-Americans and Latinos disproportionately have less access to or have fewer I.D.s required for voting. And so I think you hit the nail right on the head about what this is about. Voter I.D. laws are voter suppression laws. That's what this commission is about. And Ben made the point perfectly right there.

SANCHEZ: Ben, respond, quickly.

FERGUSON: The Fifth Circuit -- the Fifth Circuit did not say that. If you look at what the Fifth Circuit said, they did not talk about the racial side of things.


FERGUSON: I would encourage people to go look at what they actually said.

But, again, I'll go back to one said --


FERGUSON: -- a moment ago. I'll go back to the point I made a moment ago. We don't ever call it racism to ask for an I.D. to put kids in school, to get government aid. No Democrat calls that racist. But somehow, showing I.D. is a racist thing in the country when you're going to vote.


FERGUSON: What we should be protecting.

SANCHEZ: We appreciate --

PETKANAS: We know better, Ben.

SANCHEZ: -- your reiterating that point.

Ben Ferguson, Zac Petkanas, thank you, gentlemen, for the time. We will continue the debate soon, I'm sure.

Coming up, as the Senate heads home for recess, Republicans will have a hard time defending their health care bill. We're going to take you to some rural hospitals, already struggling to stay open, to see how the proposed Medicaid cuts could affect them.

You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.


17:46:56] SANCHEZ: Turning now to the battle over your health care. The Republican lawmakers headed home over the July Fourth recess may soon about the Senate health care bill directly from their constituents.

The bill would slash Medicaid funding that many rural hospitals rely on. In recent years, some of those hospitals have had to shut doors due to shrinking budgets.

CNN's Nick Valencia explains how proposed Medicaid cuts might affect hospitals already struggling to stay open.


NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Here in Richland, Georgia, just two hours south of Atlanta, it's a different world from the big city. Access to basic services, including a hospital, is not a guarantee.


VALENCIA: Doctor Alluri Raju has been the only doctor in town since the nearest hospital, Stewart Webster Hospital, shut down in 2013. Nearly 100 rural hospitals have closed since 2010. And now hundreds more are at risk. To add insult to injury, the facility was shuttered with little warning.

RAJU: Gave us notice on Monday and we closed the hospital by Friday.

VALENCIA (on camera): What was that like.

RAJU: Oh, it was very devastating and very sad.

VALENCIA (voice-over): Dr. Raju, who was the chief of staff at the hospital, is now in high demand.

RAJU: I see about 22, 25 patients a day.

VALENCIA (on camera): And you're the only doctor here?

RAJU: I work full time, Monday through Friday.

VALENCIA (voice-over): Raju says most of his patients are elderly. And that 95 percent of his patients are now on Medicare or Medicaid.

Under the new health care Senate bill, these subsidies would shrivel, putting the only doctor in town at risk of closing, too.

RAJU: If there is Medicaid cuts, it's going to impact.

VALENCIA (on camera): How bad?

RAJU: Very bad.

VALENCIA (voice-over): With the nearest hospital at least a 45-minute drive away, residents of Richland live in a medical desert.

It makes the jobs of Ed Lynch and his small crew of EMT's even harder. His two ambulances service an area larger than Los Angeles. They receive an average of 1200 calls per year. ED LYNCH, EMT: They can be hung up at a hospital three, four hours

before they get a bed. And then, if we get a call, we can go hours without coverage.

VALENCIA: Since the hospital shut down, they've become mobile emergency rooms.

LYNCH: Rural Georgia is dying. There used to be hospitals littering the whole state.

VALENCIA: It's more than just an inconvenience for Richland resident, Anna Lord Barrett. With no hospital close by and Doctor Raju unavailable, she had to call an ambulance when she caught the flu.

ANNA LORD BARRETT, RICHLAND, GEORGIA, RESIDENT: It would have been simpler to get fluids right here and come home, which is what I needed. But it took all night long.

VALENCIA: But without a hospital, others, who have suffered from something more serious, haven't been so lucky.

LYNCH: I can remember when having to ventilate somebody. I've seen people I know all my life die. We can't save everybody. But it's nice to save the ones we can.

VALENCIA (on camera): Rural residents are in a public-health crisis. Small-town hospitals, like this one, are closing all across America. But especially in the southeast. Here in Georgia, the state has identified up to 50 other small-town hospitals in danger of closing doors.

Nick Valencia, CNN, Richland, Georgia.


[17:40:10] SANCHEZ: Nick, thanks for that report.

I want to talk more about the Senate health care bill and how it might affect people in rural America.

Joining me now, Democratic strategist, Peter Daou, a former digital strategist for Hillary Clinton's campaign, and Republican commentator, Andre Bauer, the former lieutenant governor of South Carolina.

Andre, let's start with you.

We just saw that report by Nick Valencia on health-care struggles in Georgia. That's not far from South Carolina, only about 60 miles from the border. So what should GOP lawmakers in your state tell their constituents in rural areas? This is an extremely unpopular bill. Some polls having it at only 15 percent support. You'd expect you're going to hear from them, some vitriol coming from their constituents.

ANDRE BAUER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Absolutely. I know this all too well, because I was a rural-state Senator at one time, before rural counties that had hospitals -- they struggled many times to try to keep the doors open. But I've been on the other side of this. I thought the Republicans, way back when, made a strategic move that was incorrect to run and try to jump on this. At the beginning the year, they said they'd try to have it done in 60 or 90 days. I said it's never going to happen. I thought this was the opportunity for Republicans to show the difference on an approach to problem solving with the Democrats, and really show the American people the difference.

I was disappointed not to see tort reform, reduction in prescription drugs, substantially, ability for the consumer to know what it will cost before you have a surgery, so many more free-market principles. I'm actually against the government being in the health care business in the first place.

But if they are going to be, we need to really do more, and not just to shift the cost of health care, but to do what we can to have a substantial cost reduction. That's going to take a lot more time.

And I don't understand why the Republicans want to steal this issue. It is a failing issue from the Democrats. When, in fact, if they let the Democrats continue to own this, it will make the Democrats have to come to the table.

But I do think Trump's tweet is classic Trump negotiation to say, we've got something out there. He tweets it, and it gets to the public to say something to their members of Congress.

SANCHEZ: Peter, to you.

Since Obamacare was enacted in law back in 2010, about 80 rural hospitals shut down. Did Obamacare fail those rural communities?

PETER DAOU, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST & FORMER DIGITAL STRATEGIST, HILLARY CLINTON PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN: I don't think it failed. We all can see there's problems with Obamacare. Even President Obama, himself, knows there's things we need to fix.

But issue is, you don't fix it by disproportionally harming poor Americans, older Americans, with the age tax, to do what? To give a tax cut to the super rich, which is what congressional Republicans are doing right now. That's not the solution. The solution is to work together with Democrats to fix what's flawed about Obamacare.

SANCHEZ: Back to you, Andre. I want to play some sound from President Trump, because he tweeted yesterday that if this version of the health care bill fails in the Senate, Republicans should step back, repeal Obamacare now, replace it later. Very different tone back in 2016. Listen.


LESLIE STAHL, CO-ANCHOR, 60 MINUTES: There's going to be a period if you repeal it and before you replace it when millions of people could lose --

(CROSSTALK) TRUMP: We're going to do it simultaneously. It will be just fine.

That's what I do. I do a good job. I know how to do this stuff. We're going to repeal it and replace it. 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. And we'll know. And it will be great health care for much less.


SANCHEZ: President Trump said, I know how to do this stuff. You said the tweet was a negotiating tactic. Is this now, him, kind of giving the Republicans an out?

BAUER: I hope it's not giving them an out. I, again, think the best scenario is to continue to let us go down the road where we are, where the Democrats have to do something. Right now, we've got gridlock. This is not how I served in the legislature when people worked together. Washington's not doing that. Very disappointing to me and to most Republicans and Democrats and Independents, that they are not doing anything to get it done.

Look, a Democrat can make may a lot of hay right now because they need their vote. They could negotiate and get a lot of the things they wanted if would come to the table. That's what I hope a few of them will do. But if they don't do that, the Republicans should back away, continue to see more and more companies pull out of this, and something will have to -- they will be driven, the Democrats will, to come to the table with even far less, the longer they wait. They should be chomping at the bit to get something passed to address these needs. And right now, where there's a narrow vote in the filibuster --


SANCHEZ: Andre --

BAUER: -- to get what's important to them.

SANCHEZ: I hate to cut you off. But we are just about out of time.

I want Peter to have a very short response.

DAOU: Look, what Andre's saying is, you know, the philosophy of let's just let things get worse so that they get better -- they have more leverage. That's not the way to do things. President Obama said in a Facebook message the other day, he said, "To my Republican friends, public service is not about just notching a win and hurting people in the process. It's about doing what's right for people." I think we all have to work together.

Just very briefly, if I could, I saw a very funny headline the other day. "Senate majority leader warns of bipartisanship," as if that's something that's not desirable. Let's work together to make it better for people.

[17:55:17] SANCHEZ: We have to leave this, Andre.

BAUER: You're not working together.

SANCHEZ: Peter Daou, Andre Bauer -- who we hear him responding, but we have to go.

Gentlemen, we are out of time. But we thank you for joining us this Saturday.

SANCHEZ: Shifting gears now, after losing her 8-year-old son to leukemia, this week's "CNN Hero," Leslie Morrissett (ph), transformed her heartbreak into action.


LESLIE MORRISSETT (ph), CNN HERO: It's really difficult for kids to spend a lot of time in of hospital. They get so disconnected from family and friends and schools. When we bring them this technology, they're able to dial in and be right in the classroom.



MORRISSETT (ph): You can see their face light right up. It brings them such joy.


SANCHEZ: To watch Leslie's full story, go to