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Hong Kong Handover Anniversary; Trump's Twitter Tirade; U.S. Health Care; Battle for Mosul. Aired 12-12:30a ET

Aired July 1, 2017 - 00:00   ET




CYRIL VANIER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): The Chinese president draws a red line in Hong Kong, Xi Jinping says he will not tolerate challenges to Beijing's authority there.

Donald Trump versus "Morning Joe," the Twitter war between the U.S. president and two TV show hosts escalates.

Plus ISIS on the verge of losing the little they still have in Mosul. Our correspondent tells us what to expect once the battle is over.

Hello, everybody. Thank you very much for joining us. I'm Cyril Vanier from the CNN NEWSROOM in Atlanta.


VANIER: It's been 20 years since Britain handed Hong Kong back to China and to mark the anniversary, Xi Jinping was in Hong Kong, his first visit there since becoming China's president.

He warned that China's sovereignty in the former British territory was non-negotiable. Mr. Xi also swore in Hong Kong's new leader, Carrie Lam. She called for unity and solidarity. The day has been marked by protests, as demonstrators fear that Beijing will strip Hong Kong of its democratic freedoms.

Andrew Stevens joins us now from Hong Kong.

Activists, Andrew, say that under Chinese rule, democracy is under threat but the Chinese president claims that they have more right than ever before.

So who is right?

ANDREW STEVENS, CNN ASIA PACIFIC EDITOR: I think Xi Jinping is right in this sense, Cyril, because if you think back to the pre-handover, colonial days in Hong Kong, there wasn't the same amount of political freedoms there are now.

And this has been enshrined under the one country, two systems. What the activists in Hong Kong worry about is going forward. In fact, it was supposed to happen this year, that they believe that under the deal struck between Beijing and London on the handover from Hong Kong, that Hong Kongers would be freely allowed to elect their chief executive, their leader.

China has stepped in and said you can elect your leader freely but we will choose who the candidates are for that leadership. That is a sticking point.

There have been other concerns; you may remember last year, some booksellers who were selling literature which was seen as subversive by Beijing, they were literally taken from Hong Kong and reappeared in Beijing.

And that sent a real shudder through what's the one country, two systems securities was and were the Chinese allowed to come in freely in and operate as they were.

But it's interesting listening today to President Xi Jinping as he addressed 2,000 luminaries here in Hong Kong just after he'd sworn in the fifth Hong Kong governor for a five-year term.

It was a strong speech, Cyril, by the Chinese president's standards. He was saying partly domestic consumption, it was carried live across China, but was also aimed at the Hong Kongers. And he talked about sovereignty He talked about the one country side of this; one country, two systems platform, which operates between mainland China and Hong Kong.

Listen to what he had to say about any threats to sovereignty.


XI JINPING, CHINESE PRESIDENT (through translator): Any attempt to endanger China's sovereignty and security, challenge the power of the central government and the authority of the basic law of the HKSAR or use Hong Kong to carry out infiltration and sabotage activities against the mainland is an act that crosses the red line and is absolutely impermissible.


STEVENS: It's pretty clear that the president has drawn that line about any push towards independence. Now most pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong's say they're not asking for full independence, Cyril. They are asking for the one country, two systems layout, if you like, scheme to be honored and for Beijing not to interfere.

There is definitely a feeling in Hong Kong that Beijing is interfering more and more in politics in Hong Kong. They want to see Beijing completely withdraw from the local political scene, overtly, covertly, anyway you like, and let Hong Kongers get on with it.

President Xi says we'll let Hong Kongers get on with it as long as they explicitly obey the one country, two systems, which President Xi says has brought Hong Kong a lot of prosperity.

VANIER: CNN correspondent Andrew Stevens from Hong Kong, thanks very much.

South Korea's president is making it clear he does not want to see the regime in North Korea collapse nor does the South intend to attack or replace the North's leaders.

That's after U.S. president Donald Trump warned that the U.S. had run out of patience with North Korea. During his visit to the White House this week, South Korean president Moon Jae-in promised to work closely with Mr. Trump in order to restart negotiations with Pyongyang on ending its nuclear program.

CNN's Paula Hancocks has more on the talks between the U.S. and South Korean presidents.



PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Two very different leaders with a common problem.

The presidents of South Korea and the United States discuss an ever- elusive solution on North Korea.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Together we are facing the threat of the reckless and brutal regime in North Korea, the nuclear and ballistic missile programs of that regime require a determined response.

HANCOCKS (voice-over): Saying the North Korean regime has no regard for the safety of its people or its neighbors, Mr. Trump says the two leaders are working closely on a range of diplomatic, security and economic measures but added emphatically the U.S. will always defend itself and its allies.

President Moon had a message for North Korea, "Do not underestimate the resolution of the two countries."

He said, "We urge North Korea to return as soon as possible to the negotiation table for the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula."

And earlier what could be described as a televised lecture to South Korea, President Trump making it clear he sees their trade deal as unfair, calling on his Commerce Secretary and economic adviser to spell out some of its grievances, although he says he was encouraged by President Moon's assurances.

TRUMP: Fact is that the United States has trade deficits with many, many countries and we cannot allow that to continue.

And we'll start with South Korea right now.

REAR ADM. JOHN KIRBY (RET.), CNN MILITARY AND DIPLOMATIC ANALYST: He uses this tactic of embarrassment almost humiliation with some of

our best friends. And so far, it really hasn't come back to bite him yet but I suspect that over time it will. HANCOCKS (voice-over): We can expect President Trump hearing South Korea within the year, President Moon said his invitation has been accepted.

Initial reactions on how South Korean media and pundits feel the summit went, less focused on trade and more on the fact that there appeared to be a rapport between the leaders, they say, a feeling that if they at least get on, then cooperation on North Korea will follow -- Paula Hancocks, CNN, Seoul.


VANIER: The Twitter feud between President Trump and two television journalists has taken another bizarre turn. The MSNBC cohosts now allege that the Trump White House tried to strong-arm them into apologizing for their coverage of the president.

And then, well, it just got weird. CNN's Jessica Schneider explains.


JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A new allegation from the MSNBC hosts engaged in a war with the White House. Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough claimed they were threatened by the White House this spring.

JOE SCARBOROUGH, MSNBC ANCHOR: We got a call that, hey, the "National Enquirer" is going to run a negative story against you guys.

They said, if you call the president up and you apologize for your coverage, then he will pick up the phone and basically spike the story. Three people at the very top of the administration calling me.

SCHNEIDER: Brzezinski and Scarborough first lobbed the accusation in "The Washington Post" column Friday morning.

MIKA BRZEZINSKI, MSNBC ANCHOR: He appears to have a fragile, impetuous, childlike ego that we've seen over and over again, especially with women. It's like he can't take it.

SCHNEIDER: This was the story the "National Enquirer" ultimately ran in June, accusing the couple of cheating on their spouses. Brzezinski said the tabloid hounded her family to get the story.

BRZEZINSKI: They were calling my children. They were calling close friends.

SCARBOROUGH: You're talking about the "National Enquirer"?

SCHNEIDER: The president has close ties to the "Enquirer," which endorsed him during the 2016 campaign and has relentlessly attacked his political adversaries.

President Trump and a "National Enquirer" publisher, David Pecker, are close friends and allies. The "National Enquirer's" editor-in-charge, Dylan Howard, issued this statement, "At the beginning of June, we accurately reported a story that recounted the relationship between Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski, the truth of which is not in dispute.

"At no time did we threaten either Joe or Mika or their children in connection with our reporting on the story. We have no knowledge of any discussions between the White House and Joe and Mika about our story and absolutely no involvement in those discussions."

After the explosive accusation from the couple on air, the president responded, tweeting, "Watched low rated @Morning_Joe for first time in long time. FAKE NEWS. He called me to stop a National Enquirer article. I said no! Bad show."

Scarborough quoted the president's tweets and called him out, "Yet another lie. I have texts from your top aides and phone records. Also, those records show I haven't spoken with you in many months."

NBC confirmed to CNN that Scarborough told NBC News executives about the threats and calls from the White House as they were happening.

But the White House is putting out a different spin. An official says it was Joe Scarborough who called Jared Kushner about the upcoming "National Enquirer" story.

Kushner then told Scarborough to call the president, but the official denies there was any indication that the president would help kill the "Enquirer" story in exchange.


VANIER: CNN's Jessica --


VANIER: -- Schneider reporting there.

Let's move on to health care. Still in the U.S., President Trump's patience is wearing thin over stalled efforts to replace ObamaCare as he promised in his campaign.

On Friday he tweeted, "If Republican senators are unable to pass what they're working on now, then they should immediately repeal and then replace at a later date."

That would be a disastrous move. The Congressional Budget Office estimates 50 million insured people would be without coverage by the year 2026 if ObamaCare were repealed.


VANIER: And Ellis Henican joins us now. He writes a column entitled "Trump's America" for Metro Papers.

So, Ellis, first repeal the current health care system and then replace it with something else.

What's the point of separating the two?

ELLIS HENICAN, METRO PAPERS: This is the "trust us" plan, Cyril, the party that, for the last eight years, could not come up with a plan said let us kill ObamaCare and then at some point in the indistinct future we will come up with a plan to replace it.

I got to tell you, I think this is going nowhere.

VANIER: But, look, they're not talking about totally getting rid of the current health care system in the first step, right, in the repeal step.

HENICAN: Well, yes, although I got to say we don't really know all the details of what might come. Listen, Senator Ben Sasse, Rand Paul and maybe no others think this might be the best answer because the Republican caucus could not --


VANIER: Well, hey, Ellis, you're forgetting somebody, the president apparently.

HENICAN: -- oh, yes; him, too. I forgot -- although that's new. Give me credit on this because he hadn't previously been saying this. Although you're right; in the last 12 hours or so, he has decided that he, too, likes this idea. You're absolutely right, Cyril, good point.

VANIER: So -- but it sounds risky again to pare down the health care system to very bare bones, even though we don't know specifically what that would be and then hope that you're going to find the votes to replace it with one of your own making.

HENICAN: Yes. And let's talk the brutal politics of it, right. If you're a moderate Republican, which is really the group that holds the power here, you have constituents back home who are very, very nervous about what's going to happen with their health care.

So you're going to go home over the 4th of July weekend and explain to those folks, don't worry, just trust us. You know, I don't think you need to worry about what the Democrats think or what the public polls say, I don't see how you get this past moderate Republicans.

VANIER: But look, Republicans could still very well come away with a win on this. To some extent, there was a self-inflicted wound because they made it clear that they wanted a quick vote; they couldn't get to it because the Senate majority leader realized he didn't have the votes.

They could come back, not next week but the one after that, and get the votes.

HENICAN: That's true. And do not count Mitch McConnell out. He is a very crafty political operator. He knows his caucus well, he understands what little goodies to give this one and that one to swing a vote around. So no, no, I am not among those thinking that this is permanently dead. There is-- there are a lot of twists and turns left.

VANIER: Look, something else that I wanted to talk about with you, it looks like senators are frustrated with the lack of achievements -- Republican senators. And they wrote to their majority leader, Mitch McConnell, asking him to cancel their summer recess or at least shorten it to give them more time to work.

And, honestly, there is something I found a little funny in the letter, in the wording. At the end of their letter, they said -- I don't know if you saw this -- "We simply recognize that making America great again requires a certain time commitment."

HENICAN: Yes, right. This is from a group who usually works a two- or three-day week, right.

Listen, I -- you know, maybe they will. I think there is a lot of pressure on the Republican Party right now. I mean, they control all the branches of government. They've not yet been able to make a major legislative achievement with their new president.

So there is huge pressure there. It would not surprise me if they do what, in many years would be considered unthinkable, which was to give up that August recess.

VANIER: This is signed by 10 senators; that's almost 20 percent of the Republican senators.

Is there a precedent for this that springs to mind?

HENICAN: Honestly, I can't think of one. Usually they're itching to get out of town in the summertime.

But, again, think about it, how it looks from their perspective. If you're a Republican senator, you're in the majority, you want to be able to go back home. You've been telling folks, just give us that majority and give us that Republican president and we will get stuff done.

You know you got to find some way to put some kind of win up on the board.

VANIER: Yes, it hasn't really happened yet. All right, Ellis Henican, thank you much for joining us on the show.

HENICAN: Great seeing you, man.


VANIER: Troops on the ground say the fight is nearly over in Mosul. But that may only bring more challenges moving forward. An Iraq expert explains after the break.





VANIER: Iraqi forces say these are the final days of ISIS in Mosul. They're now engaged in a fierce battle with militants still holed up in a few blocks of the old city. CNN's Nick Paton Walsh has seen some of the most intense fighting firsthand and he brought us this update from Irbil, Northern Iraq.


NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SR. INTL. CORRESPONDENT: It is clear, according to our sources on the ground, that in the overnight period, Iraqi forces have managed to secure the al-Nuri mosque, that great symbolic place for ISIS, where Abu Baker al-Baghdadi gave his one singular public appearance, announcing the beginning of the caliphate.

They appear to have moved past it and further deep into the old city of Mosul, hundreds of meters now potentially between them on the river that marks the end of ISIS territory.

But that's no comfort to thousands of civilians still caught in that area that ISIS control. We saw some of them emerging ourselves yesterday, talking of an absence of anything apart from war to being shelled constantly, some injured hobbling simply out of the rubble.

Before the question, though, it is simply a matter of trying days, says the U.S.-backed coalition and the Iraqi government until Mosul falls entirely.

The broader question is how does Iraq deal with the lingering insurgency that ISIS will become in the months and years ahead. They're already seeing parts of it reaching into Baghdad and elsewhere.

There are certain towns like Hawija that ISIS still have a substantial presence in. This isn't really over. Politically, the message may be out that they've defeated ISIS. But politically, too, they have to enter into room to reconciliation here. Remember the got of Baghdad is predominantly Shia; they've had a lot of Shia forces fighting against areas which are predominantly Sunni.

Remember the Sunni-Shia split in Iraq, the Sunnis were in control on the Sudan. Now the Shia are dominating control. The question is how do you get that Sunni part of the population, the extremists, of whom felt more affinity frankly with ISIS than anybody else here.

How do you get them to come together and for Iraq to heal?

Well, the pace in which declarations of victory have been made suggest maybe reconciliation isn't on the top of people's agenda We'll have to see in the months ahead because, without a broader healing here, we may see something like ISIS rear its head again.



VANIER: Let's get more on Mosul with somebody who knows this very well, CNN military analyst Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling joins us.

You know Northern Iraq, you know Mosul for having done battle there.

Once ISIS is defeated -- and we understand that's going to happen and it's only going to take a few days now, what happens after?

LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, the next phase of the operation is going to actually more difficult, Cyril, and that's when the Iraqi government decides to reinforce with assistance, aid in rebuilding.

When my organization along with the Iraqis fought there in 2008, it was against Al Qaeda. They had damaged a great deal of the city. But it was nothing like what ISIS has done in the last two years.

They have destroyed the city and the fighting there with the artillery and the coalition bombing has destroyed it even more. So the Iraqi government from Baghdad, a Shia government has to support --


HERTLING: -- the rebuilding of this city while providing humanitarian aid for the close to 1 million people who live in the city.

That's going to take a lot of money. The last time they attempted to do this, corruption splintered away some of that money. It didn't get to the places it needed to go, the rebuilding did not take place. And it generated some ill feelings even more dire, ill feelings toward the Iraqi government.

So Mr. al-Abadi really has to make this happen in order to bring the citizens of Mosul back under the patronage of the Iraqi government from Baghdad. That's going to be tough.

VANIER: So rebuilding the city of Mosul is going to key.

But what about security because ISIS, even if it's defeated in its stronghold of Mosul, it won't be totally gone from Iraq?

HERTLING: It won't and there's a couple of places that I would name: Shirqat, Hawija, Al-Qa'im, areas in Kirkuk province, which is to the southeast of Mosul and even as far south as Diyala province, which is just north of Baghdad, still has pockets of ISIS fighters.

So the security forces in those areas have to continue to fight; at the same time, one of the biggest problems that we experience and I think the Iraqi security forces are going to continue to experience, the borders with Turkey and Iran and Syria are very close to the city of Mosul.

If those borders aren't controlled and they've always had difficulties doing that, then you're still going to have challenges with additional new fighters coming in and ISIS will try and rebirth themselves. That's a fact.

They may do it in Iraq; they may do it in other places but there's certainly going to be continued fighting in the northern Nineveh plains of the Iraqi government.

VANIER: And certainly there's a lesson to be learned from the defeat of Al Qaeda, which was reincarnated years later into ISIS.

I mean how do we prevent ISIS from becoming something else down the road?

HERTLING: I think a couple of things. First of all, the Iraqi government cannot take their foot off the pedal in terms of generating new security forces. They can't be content with the army and especially the police force. So they have got to continue to build professional security apparatus within their country.

At the same time powers that have been contributing to this fight, primarily European countries and the United States, have to continue to provide that support.

In my view, I think were going to have to have United States maintain a presence in Iraq to continue to train the operational level forces but also to provide the aircraft support, for when new pockets of ISIS are found in a desert environment.

VANIER: Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling, thank you very much for coming on the show. Always a pleasure.

HERTLING: Thank you, Cyril.


And coming up after this next break, a live report about the heavy flooding shutting down parts of Berlin. Stay with us.




VANIER: Welcome back.



VANIER: One of the world's greatest footballers has tied the knot. Barcelona star Lionel Messi has married his longtime girlfriend, Antonella Roccuzzo. They've know each other since they were young. Hundreds of people attended the ceremony in Argentina and the event made a big splash there with at least one newspaper calling it "the wedding of the century." Thank you for joining us here on CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Cyril Vanier and

I'll be back with the headlines in just a moment. Stay with us.