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President Donald Trump Escalates His Ugly War On The Media; Trump and Vladimir Putin To Meet at G-20 Summit This Week; Trump Tweets Bashing CNN; GOP Senators: Repeal Now, Replace Later; New Jersey Shutdown; Nevada Legalizes Recreational Marijuana. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired July 2, 2017 - 16:00   ET


[16:00:01] FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, everyone. Thanks so much for being with me. I'm Fredricka Whitfield in New York today.

President Trump faces another critical week of his presidency with a Republican health care bill that will potentially change the lives of millions of Americans.

And the President is also looking at his first face to face with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G-20 summit this week. So far, the President, though, is spending this holiday weekend escalating his ugly war on the media. At an event honoring veterans in Washington, D.C., the President veered off course from honoring those who helped secure America's independence to taunting and slapping the media.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The fake media is trying to silence us. But we will not let them. Because the people know the truth. The fake media tried to stop us from going to the White House. But I'm President and they're not.


WHITFIELD: The President followed that in D.C. with a tweet this morning for all to see, showing a doctored video from his WWE days. You can see Trump smacks down CNN there, there is Trump and there is a CNN logo. This just now three days before the President of the United States heads to Europe ahead of the G-20 summit.

All right. Following Trump's tweeted video, CNN released this response saying quote "it is a sad day when the President of the United States encourages violence against reporters, clearly Sarah Huckabee Sanders lied when she said the President had never done so. Instead of preparing for his overseas trip, its first meeting with Vladimir Putin, dealing with North Korea and working on his health care bill, he has instead involved in juvenile behavior, far below the dignity of his office. We will keep doing our jobs, he should start doing his." That's CNN's statement today.

The President's attacks on the media over the past week, well, it began taking an ugly turn with vicious personal attacks on two television hosts and then to that new wrestling takedown we saw today. Earlier today, one of Trump's cabinet members, health and human services secretary Tom Price was pressed on the President's use of social media. Listen.


CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST, MEET THE PRESS: I'm just asking you as a father, if your son tweeted about a woman like that, what would you say to him?

TOM PRICE, HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES SECRETARY: Chuck, you know, this is really remarkable. You have incredible challenges across this nation, incredible challenges around the world. The challenge that I have been given is to address the health care issues and your program, a program with the incredible history of "Meet the Press." And that's what you want to talk about.

TODD: I don't.

PRICE: Let me just suggest --


TODD: Mr. Secretary, I don't. With all due respect, you are blaming me for what the President of the United States has spent his entire week focused on?

PRICE: No. Listen to me. With all due respect, the American people are concerned about a health care system that is not providing choices, where premiums are going up, their insurance company is vacating markets all across this land that's what they want us to concentrate on and fix, and that's what I and the President are working on.

TODD: Why isn't the President as devoted to this as you are?

PRICE: I think that he is. Absolutely. The fact of the matter is, he can do more than one thing at a time.


WHITFIELD: All right. Joining me right now, CNN senior media correspondent Brian Stelter. And on the phone with us, CNN senior White House correspondent Jim Acosta.

All right. Glad you could both be with me.

Jim, you have been among the dogged intrepid reporters there in the press room in the White House. And here this Fourth of July holiday, the President is targeting CNN in this way. We heard from the President in D.C. at that veteran's event where he says the media is trying to silence. But is it the other way around? The President by way of his video today trying to silence or punish the media, CNN in particular. JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (on the phone): Yes.

Fredricka, I think our statement really sums it up. And you know, there are two approaches to this. One is, we can just sit back and be silent and just take it. There are some people who say, you know, don't take the bait. You are just going to encourage this behavior even more. But I think we are well past that now. I think we are at the stage where we have to try the other approach which is we have to stand up to this. We have to confront this and say that it's wrong. And I know I speak for myself, I can't speak for everybody who has covered Donald Trump since he was a candidate, but you know, I covered him throughout much of that campaign, and now that he is President of the United States.

My concern is and I know it's shared by others, is that this kind of rhetoric, this kind of behavior is going to lead to a journalist being hurt. And that's the thing that I worry about. I hate that I'm worried about that on 4th of July weekend when we are all supposed to be celebrating our freedoms, including the first amendment, the right to free speech and the free press.

That's what I'm concerned about. And I think where we stand right now is people have a choice on all sides of the political spectrum, on both sides of the political aisle. Where are you going to stand in all of this? Are you going to say well, it's OK for the President to engage in this kind of behavior to attack the news media, try to intimidate the news media?

He is trying to silence us, Fredricka. That's what's going on here. Are people going to say, you know, enough is enough? And you know, I just think that we have reached that point where people need to say, enough is enough, it doesn't matter what party you are from, what side of the political spectrum you're on, this is just not the kind of information you expect to come from the President of the United States.

[16:06:03] WHITFIELD: So Jim, how concern are you now, this point forward, or maybe a continuation that you will be spending more time in the pressroom there at the White House arguing or having to press the points about the press place in asking probative questions, versus being able to ask the probative questions of policy. Where this White House stands on certain issues.

You are being put in a position or it's a question. Are you being put more in a position of defending your place as a member of the press in the White House versus trying to get to the bottom of where policy -- what the directive is of this White House. Where it is taking the nation?

ACOSTA: Yes. Well, I can tell you, Fredricka, I know from talking to a lot of people in Trump world, people who have worked in the White House, people who vote in his campaign, you know, there is some strategy behind this. And make no mistake, when the President does this sort of thing, when his advisers encourage this sort of thing, it's because they know it provokes this kind of response, and makes the conversation about us in the news media and less about the President and his policies. And so, I completely understand the point from some of my colleagues

who say, and the press who say, you know, if you engage in this, then you are encouraging this behavior which is really aimed at provoking a conversation about the news media instead of the President's policies.

I totally get that. But at the same time, we have reached the point where the behavior has to be labelled for what it is, and it is just wrong. It is unhealthy behavior. It's unbecoming for the President of the United States to be doing all this.

I would love to be focused on policy. I would love to be focused on health care, the environment, foreign policy. We are going to be going on this foreign trip with the President. He is going to be in Warsaw in G-20 meeting with Vladimir Putin after that. That is going to be a fascinating encounter between the two leaders.

Sarah Huckabee Sanders war lecturing us in the briefing room earlier this past week saying, you know, you guys don't spend enough time on the policies. But it's the President who is tweeting about Mika Brzezinski. It is the President who is tweeting videos of him taking down CNN in a pro wrestling match. So they can't have it both ways. It's a little too cute (INAUDIBLE), if you ask me.

But I just think we have moved beyond this sort of academic discussion as to what should we do about the tweets? Should we report on the tweets? I think we are well beyond that. And now, we just have to stand up, confront it, and say, this is wrong. There is no right side. There's no both sides of this issue. Well, on one hand and the other hand. It's just wrong.

WHITFIELD: Yes. And Brian the President tweeted this morning and listening conversations. And yet he is tweeting again just now. He can't help himself. He still has more to say about the dishonest media, and there it is.

BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: And here is the President to released one of his aides posting on his official account. Quoting him from last night at this Veterans event, we made that detour into media bashing, quoting the President saying "the dishonest media will never keep us from accomplishing our objectives on behalf of the great American people."

One of those cases, Fed, I think we said it on television before. Maybe I thought he was going to back down. No, he is doubling now. I guess that's the point of his latest tweet, his message is for the past six days on twitter have been anti-media messages.

Today at CNN, but earlier in the week, it was the cast of "mourning Joe," and "The New York Times" and the "Washington Post." To Jim's point, who knows what outlet will be his target tomorrow. This is about a broader attempt to tear down the press journalists who tried to ask tough questions and scrutinize his administration. At the same time he builds up pro-Trump media outlets. It's well within his right, of course, to post whatever he wants. It's the first amendment. What we are celebrating this weekend, among our other right as Americans, the first amendment to have freedom of expression. So the President can post whatever he wants. But it raises I think

two questions, One about twitter, whether this violates twitter's terms of service. Whether twitter -- I know for a fact based on the emails I'm getting from viewers that twitter has been getting complaints all day from people who say this is a harassing tweet. It violates terms of service. It suggests violence, take it down. These are messages to twitter reporting his tweet as harassment. We have been asking twitter all day for a comment. We haven't gotten a response.

[16:10:18] WHITFIELD: Interesting. OK. All right. Well, you know, there are many who are celebrating that this president is this transparent. But then, of course, it solicited the about whether this is instructive or destructive.

All right, Brian, thanks so much. And Jim Acosta, appreciate it as well.

So earlier, I asked our Republican congressman Lee Zeldin for his reaction to the President's twitter attack, this is some of what he said.


REP. LEE ZELDIN (R), NEW YORK: There's a whole lot of responsibility to go around. There are great people in the media who -- they earn awards for journalism. They earn Pulitzer Prizes for investigative journalism and doing great work. There is also inside the media, it's selling to stir emotion, and get people fired up, and not so much tell folks exactly what -- the journalistic news is of the day, and you have Hollywood. And all of those examples of where --

WHITFIELD: But why can't we stick to the moment and the issue right now? Why is it you want to, you know, take this into another direction? Let's talk about this latest example from the President of the United States today, the message that it sends ahead of him heading to Germany to meet with other world leaders at the G-20. Ahead of a week that could be critical for health care, but this is what the President chooses to talk about via twitter. Can you stick to just that message and not point and what message you have as a sitting member of Congress to the President of the United States?

ZELDIN: Well again, I'm trying to answer the question because there is -- it's not just about the President of the United States. But about the President of the United States, I do believe he has an effective tool through social media, to be able to communicate with the American public. Talk about what you're working on, the challenges that are ahead.

WHITFIELD: What was the message today then?

ZELDIN: I'm not here to defend the tweet that was there this morning. So that's why -- I'm giving the answer, there's a way for the President to be able to raise his game. But there is a -- it's not a changing of direction, that we all need to do more to be able to raise our game, because while we are here talking about it, you have people in Hollywood making jokes about assassinating the President of the United States, punching him in the face, cutting his head off. You have people in the media who aren't --

WHITFIELD: But you're not -- you're trying very hard not to deal with the topic at hand right now, by bringing up these other examples that have already been discussed.

ZELDIN: No, that's not true.


WHITFIELD: All right. Let's talk more about all of this and the responses that it's elicited.

CNN political commentator Ana Navarro with us now.

So Ana, your thoughts about the President's tweet. He retweeted again the dishonest media, you know, will never keep us from accomplishing our objectives on behalf of the great American people, the smack down video of CNN, and many who have come to the President's defense, including the congressman there. And other surrogates we had on earlier today who say, have a sense of humor and this is a good means of communication from this President. It's transparency. Your thoughts.

ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. I want to see how funny it's going to be when someone ends up getting killed or getting hurt or getting punched or getting injured.

Look. Those people that may be able to take this as humorous, I certainly don't. And maybe it's because I know the kind of social media feedback and threats that I got. And that many other on CNN and many other of our colleagues get on a daily basis.

There may be some people who are capable of taking this as humor, but there are a lot of unstable people out there who do not take it as humor. Who take it as a cult leader's call to action, call to arms, and this is not going to end well.

We are only six months into this presidency. And my question is, how low can he go? Every time I ask myself that, he goes lower. And you know, stop enabling this. I will say to every Republican, to everybody around this President. Secretary Price knows that he shouldn't be asking Chuck Todd why he is talking about this. He should be asking the President of the United States why he is tweeting this.

WHITFIELD: And what is that --

NAVARRO: That congressman that was just on, if he cannot denounce what he knows to be wrong, then really he shouldn't go on TV.

WHITFIELD: Why is that?

NAVARRO: They look like fools trying to bend themselves into pretzel shape. WHITFIELD: So help people understand, what is going on that there is

this consensus among many. We just, you know, exemplified it in the two ways. You just mentioned Zeldin as well as Price who try to explain if away or tell people, you're not really seeing it as you're interpreting it but it's something else. Where does that come from? How is that instructive? How is it going to help this President with his agenda? How is it going to help the American people achieve the great again, that was the slogan of this now President?

[16:15:20] NAVARRO: It's not going to help his agenda. If you think that a President with 36 percent approval rating, causing this level of distraction, and throwing the country into angst is helpful to his agenda, it's not. Why don't they do it? Because they are afraid. Because they would rather be close to power. They would rather be close to the seat of power and be in Donald Trump's good graces than do the right thing, than stick by their principles. Because they are enabling him. Because Donald Trump does not allow anybody to criticize him, around him. So they know that if they do, if they dare do, they are going to end up losing their jobs, off with their heads. That's why they don't do it because they are - you know, a lot of people in Congress don't do it, because he will throw a bone at them about, you know, this policy or that policy that they care about. And so they hang on to in a little thing that he may throw at them and look the other way when he does something that's so outrageous and so diminishing, and that is lacks such prestige for the office of the United States presidency.

WHITFIELD: So House minority leader Nancy Pelosi tweeted her response saying, violence and violent imagery to bully the press must be rejected. This and she hashtag, you know, #July4th to celebrate freedom of the press. Guardians to our democracy, is he just throwing ammo at the Democrats right now? Or I mean, is this a message to everyone?

NAVARRO: Look. I have seen some Republicans denounce it. You know, I just read a tweet by Senator Susan Collins, there are some who have been over and over again denouncing it. It gets tiring because you realize that he is not changing. They are going to have to do more than denounce it. They are going to have to refuse to take action that he wants. They are going to have to play hardball. Because when a tragedy happens --.

WHITFIELD: But then don't they also run the risk of being called obstructionist because we heard that from the President already who, you know, said Democrats are obstructionists for not being on board?

NAVARRO: I'm not talking about Democrats. He doesn't care --


WHITFIELD: Don't they run the risk of him calling them obstructionists like you said earlier, they worry about losing their seat of power?

NAVARRO: I tell you what, I would rather be called obstructionist than un-American. I would rather be criticized by the President of the United States than enable this lunacy, this unstable, dangerous call to arms by the President of the United States. I would rather do everything I can to avoid a potential tragedy than sit on my hand and bit my tongue because I want some legislation or because I like a Supreme Court justice nominee.

They have to do the right thing. That's what leadership calls for. That's what they got elected for. That's what they are. They are a- you know, they are an independent branch. So they are not be holden to this President. And they need to remember that. And they need to stick by their conscience and by their principles and by their convictions and their sense of right and wrong. And there is no senator I know, no Republican senator I know who would defend this in private, and they should not try to do so in public. They need to denounce it because this will only get worse. We are only in month six, folks. We have three and a half years of this guy to go, and he's getting worse and worse by the day.

WHITFIELD: All right. We will leave it right there.

Ana Navarro, always good to see you. Thanks so much. Appreciate it.

NAVARRO: Thank you, Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right. So President Trump set to meet amidst all of this, set to meet with Vladimir Putin in just a few days at the G-20 summit. This as the Russia investigation moves forward with several former Trump advisers set to testify later on this month. All that next.


[16:22:56] WHITFIELD: All right, welcome back. I'm Fredricka Whitfield in New York.

So in just a few days, President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin will meet for the first time since Trump won the White House. They will meet face to face on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in Germany. So just how well do these two leaders think they know each other. As CNN Victor Blackwell reports, it's a question that's elicited many different answers.


TRUMP: I don't know who Putin is --

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's a claim President Donald Trump made many times during the campaign.

TRUMP: I never met Putin.

I don't think I have met him. I never met him. I don't think I have ever met him.

BLACKWELL: The White House says next week's G-20 summit in Germany will offer the first opportunity for President Trump to meet Russian president Vladimir Putin t face to face. However, all the denials contradict what candidate Trump said in October 2015 radio interview.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have you met Vladimir Putin?



TRUMP: One time. Yes, a long time ago.

BLACKWELL: Mr. Trump did not say during that interview when or under what circumstances the two men met.

Days before their meeting at Hamburg, there are several unsettled opposing claims about their history. The White House says Trump and Putin have spoken by phone at least three times since the 2016 election, but on conversations before the election.

More contradictions. In July 2016 candidate Trump said this.

TRUMP: I have nothing to do with Putin. I have never spoken to him. I don't know anything about him other than he will respect me.

BLACKWELL: That contradicts what he said two years earlier.

TRUMP: I was in Moscow recently and I spoke indirectly and directly with President Putin who could not have been nicer.

BLACKWELL: During the campaign, candidate Trump denied any relationship with Putin.

TRUMP: I have no relationship with him other than he called me a genius.

BLACKWELL: But when asked about their relationship during a 2013 MSNBC interview, another contradiction.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you have a relationship with Vladimir Putin, a conversational relationship or anything that you feel you have sway or influence over his government.

TRUMP: I do have a relationship.

BLACKWELL: The G-20 summit begins Friday.

Victor Blackwell, CNN, Atlanta.


[16:25:05] WHITFIELD: All right. I want to bring in now CNN senior international correspondent Matthew Chance in Moscow.

So Matt, you know, the Kremlin says it is willing to meet in whatever format suits the U.S. What do we mean by that?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think they are trying to sort of make the best they can. And in fact that did (INAUDIBLE) he is going to be, where they are going to sit down together and have a face to face meeting in a room, where they just going to, as mentioned earlier, brush past each other in the corridors on the sidelines of the G-20 summit which is being held in Hamburg next week.

The point is they don't know the format. They don't even know what the agenda is going to be. And they thought an open mind to the Kremlin perspective on what needs to be discussed. Of course, there's a whole range of issues that are between the United States and Russia, the meddling in the election allegedly by the Russians, of course which swept Donald Trump to power. Those are the conflicts in Syria and Ukraine because of which the Russians run the U.S. sanctions, of course.

Now, we have also heard from White House officials that there won't be an opportunity. But Donald Trump is not seeing this as an opportunity to talk about recriminations against the Russians with regards to the election meddling in the U.S. election. Apparently, White House officials are telling CNN they are going to focus more on the situation in Ukraine and Syria. And I think that will probably be welcomed by the Kremlin if that's the case because they see areas where, at least in Syria, the United States and Russia can and should be cooperating, Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: So then Matthew, if it's a sideline meeting and no one is really saying, you know, the format, how long, when you hear sideline, you think, five minutes, ten minutes to talk about, you know, Ukraine, to talk about Syria, to talk about sanctions, all of that stuff would take time. So what really could be hammered out, you know, in such a potentially impromptu sideline meeting?

CHANCE: No, I mean, exactly, not very much. And I think no one really expects anything but the broad outline of an agenda to be discussed at this initial meeting between the two leaders. And in fact, expectations here in Russia at least are exceedingly low as to what can be achieve, if anything at all to be achieved. I mean, the main Russian anchor on state television is saying, look, if they agree to meet again, that will be considered a good thing from the Russian side, some analysts are saying less than that, it could be -- if it's not an abject failure, that would be considered a success.

WHITFIELD: All right. Matthew Chance, thank you so much. Appreciate that.

Repeal now, replace later, that's the message from the President on the GOP's health care bill. Next, the latest on the Republicans battle to roll back Obamacare while millions of Americans coverage hangs in the balance.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's cancel the August state work period and let's do it in full public view and have hearings and get to work on something that works better than Obamacare.


WHITFIELD: Hi, welcome back. This breaking news, in just a few days President Trump and Russia's president, Vladimir Putin, will be meeting for the first time since Trump took office, face to face in what we're told could be a sideline meeting at the G20 Summit.

Well CNN has just learned from White House officials that among the issues that the two could talk about will not include recriminations for Russia's election meddling. Instead, Trump plans to focus on Syria and Ukraine, two issues he and the White House believe present a more urgent challenge for the United States.

All right, meantime, this morning, several Republican senators are voicing a similar stance as President Trump when it comes to health care, the health care bill. If necessary, repeal now, replace later.


SEN. BEN SASSE (R), NEBRASKA: I'd like to say let's do the repeal then let's try to get 60 out of 100 senators, let's bring everybody into the room, let's do this full time, 18 hours a day, 6 days a week, let's cancel the August state work period and let's do it in full public view and have hearings and get to work on something that works better on Obamacare. We pledge that and the American people deserve that.

SEN. MIKE LEE (R), UTAH: If politically for some reason we can't get that done, what we ought to do is get back to what I've been suggesting for the last six months, which is to push full repeal and then embark on an iterative step-by-step process to decide what comes next.


WHITFIELD: So right now, President Trump is not at the White House, but his administration is still fighting to repeal and replace Obamacare. According to a senior White House official, the president is working on the GOP bill from Bedminster New Jersey where he is spending the holiday weekend.

So this comes after eight Republican senators called for the August recess to be cancelled or postponed to better work on the health care plan. Joining me now to discuss all of this, Brian Morgernstern, a Republican strategist, Ellis Henican, political analyst and a columnist, he writes the Trump's America column for the "Metro" papers.

Good to see both of you. OK, so Brian, you first, so do you think it's necessary for lawmakers to skip the August break in to really, you know, get down and dirty on this health care plan?

BRIAN MORGERNSTERN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: It's not a bad idea. They had several years, you know, to come up with a plan. They've been running on repealing Obamacare. It's fallen apart, many insurers leaving the market. They have to fix it, they don't have the choice. And I would actually believe that a good answer is lock them in a room and make them finish their homework before they can go home for vacation --

WHITFIELD: But you said to fix it, you know, that they have to fix it and it seems like people on both sides, you know, are in that same camp, that it needs to be fixed. But the issue is, do you repeal what is there, and not replace it with something, but perhaps later or

[16:35:30] as some Democrats say, don't repeal it at all, just fix it? So which is it?

MORGERNSTERN: The issues whether the name is repeal or whether you call it a fix, regardless, the main issues involve Medicaid expansion and certain insurance regulations and interstate insurance sales and things like that. The issues remain the same no matter what you call it. And those sort of impasse that certain senators are up against between the conservatives, the moderates and the Democrats (INAUDIBLE) these issues remain the same, they're going to have to figure out something if the status quo is unacceptable.

And so, you know, if they're locked in a room before they can go home for vacation, maybe that's the kind of pressure that would result in an agreement.

WHITFIELD: So on the campaign trail and even on inauguration, Trump said, you know, the forgotten will be forgotten no more. And he also, you know, talked about his commitment to repealing Obamacare. But then this was Senator Mike Lee who essentially put those two things together in this manner.


LEE: This bill, the one we've been discussing in the senate has bailouts for insurance companies. It has hundreds of billions of dollars in tax relief for the affluent. It even has some provisions for the poor who leaves out the forgotten man, the forgotten woman, those earning a combined household income of $75,000 or so who have been left behind, and these are the people who helped propel President Trump to victory last November.

We need to do more to help them and to make sure that they're able to purchase the kind of health care they want, the kind of health care that's affordable for their families.


WHITFIELD: So Ellis, how big of a problem is this that on one hand, the president says, you know, he wants to live up to his campaign promise of repealing it, but at the same time he's also saying, the forgotten people will be forgotten no more, and Mr. Lee says there are a lot of forgotten people who are going to be left without here potentially.

ELLIS HENICAN, POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, I would call it an eight- year problem, which is just about how long Republicans have been trying to solve it without any success at all. You know, this notion of we're going to get rid of it before we tell you what we're going to replace it with, I guess that's the trust us plan, the party that for eight years that couldn't do it. Now, just you know what, buy this black box and don't worry, they'll solve it later, I don't think it's going to fly.

WHITFIELD: So, you know, I spoke with former Health and Human Services secretary Kathleen Sebelius yesterday and this is how she says, you know, so far the plan in the making looks while at the same time she says there are things that need to be fixed about Obamacare.


KATHLEEN SEBELIUS, FORMER SECRETARY HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES: The House bill decimates Medicaid. It would cause 23 million people to lose coverage, raises prices according to every economist, anybody who's in the market now would pay more, not less. They pay more out of pocket, they pay more deductibles. So then the president called that bill mean and turned to the Senate. The Senate bill in some ways is worse, at least the draft that they got close to putting on the floor, 22 million people lose coverage.


WHITFIELD: So Brian, that's very different than the current HHS secretary, Tom Price, who told CNN's Dana Bash just last week that no one will lose coverage.

MORGERNSTERN: Well, the -- there's a difference in terminology. In fact, Jake Tapper used different terminology and it's offered people an alternative. We're not penalizing them for choosing not to purchase insurance and maybe paying out of pocket for (INAUDIBLE) some different approach. I think what most Republican senators and those in Congress are re trying to get to is a plan that makes insurance affordable for the middle class that they can then purchase in the private sector rather than being stuck with Medicaid which specifically yields worst health care upgrades (ph).

So, that's sort of making the debate very difficult. One thing Senator Sasse has proposed, which is an interesting idea (INAUDIBLE) leadership likes it or the White House likes it but having these long hearings where the arguments are taking place in public and then you can, you know, sort of see how the public reacts to them and then maybe pass the bill that way.

But it maybe, you know, public (INAUDIBLE) making would be difficult. It is certainly a different approach (INAUDIBLE) said so. The alternative not, you know, it's an alternative, not taking something away but offering something different.

WHITFIELD: OK, not cut you off Brian but the signal was a little spotty there so I almost thought you were finished. So Ellis, it's very confusing isn't it. It's become even more confusing for a lot of Americans who are relying on some answers. They want some assurances about their health care, and to say that, you know, if you do without Medicaid, maybe there'll be something more affordable. But a lot of people, you know, can't afford anything and that's why they're counting on

[16:40:00] government assistance by way of Medicaid or Medicare. So I mean, what do you say to people who are saying, you know, I'm really afraid that I'm going to be priced out all together.

HENICAN: Well, Fred, thank you for bringing it back to real life because that's really where this thing ought to be. The frustrating part, right, is that the various versions of the Republican plan that we have seen so far all lack huge numbers of people. Whether Brian's right and it's really just about affordability and choice, whether I'm right that really squeezing these people off in a way that they have no choice.

You're hurting all these people who need health care, and by any objective count a much less likely to get anywhere near as much as they're getting right now. Let's solve the problems with these programs. Don't toss these people out and tell them oh, hey, just keep your fingers crossed, we'll get back to you in a while with what the solution is. I don't think many people are buying that.

WHITFIELD: And a lot of Americans want this to be on the front burner but at the same time it is being upstaged meaning health care, G20, all of it being upstaged by the president's tweet this morning, Brian and Ellis, and I'm talking about the video image of this WWE Donald Trump, you know, smack down.

You see the moniker of, you know, CNN, the inference there that, you know, is beating the press or at least beaten CNN to a pulp. And so Brian, what's your view on whether this is humorous, this is a serious message coming from the president of the United States. How do you interpret this? How do you defend it or, you know, denounce it? Where are you on this?

MORGERNSTERN: I think it's a joke where the president was fake wrestling with a logo, which signifies the fact that, you know, he and -- the White House and CNN will be going back and forth. It's pretty out there in public. Everybody knows it. I think it was just a silly joke and that's pretty much it.

WHITFIELD: Is that it?

HENICAN: What I first thought, I got to tell you, I thought Barron had somehow gotten his daddy's iPhone. I mean, this would have been very popular among my crowd in fifth grade. It has put me up with the challenge though. I've been trying to think of what's the right Donald Trump wrestling name, right? The best I can come up with -- maybe some of the viewers would be better but how about Tiny Hands Trump. Would that work?

WHITFIELD: Oh my, I think you're probably going to get a tweet at any moment now.

ELLICAN: He does a lot with those tiny hands, right Brian?

MORGERNSTERN: It's the Blue Collar Billionaire, that's his --


WHITFIELD: All right, we'll leave it right there. Brian Morgernstern and Ellis Henican. Thanks so much. Appreciate it. All right, we'll be right back.


WHITFIELD: About an hour ago, frustrated New Jersey Governor Chris Christie said he had no choice but to shut down his state's government, because of a stand-off between Democratic and Republican lawmakers who can't agree on a budget.


GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: The legislature is making a choice here. This government is not open because I can't constitutionally let it be open. I don't have any money, and so as of July 1, I had no money. Now, I told them that I will sign a budget if they send it to me.


WHITFIELD: CNN's Polo Sandoval is at a state park in New Jersey or in Jersey City I should say, and it's been closed this busy or what should be a busy July 4th weekend. So Polo, you got cars lined up but they have to turn around, don't they?

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. That's the thing too Fred. These cars, they're not going to be able to go anywhere unless they go to a nearby restaurant or marina which is privately owned. Of course many people here are driving down this road here hoping to make their way into Liberty State Park. However, say police including some of the officers are just making their way past us right now are saying that the park is closed.

This is a place that's always bustling with activity on the weekends especially this weekend, which is of course 4th of July, when you tend to see a lot of families. And the reason why this matters more than just people here in New Jersey is because this is also a main launching point for those who may want to check out the Statue of Liberty.

There's a ferry pick-up point not far from where Im standing. Instead though, we've seen people from as far as Chile come here and have to go back to Manhattan to be able to jump on that ferry. Not only can you not drive in, you also can't walk and we've seen a lot of people on bikes and on foot trying to make their way down the trail to what is really a beautiful park with a beautiful view.

Instead thought, well, Fred, this is as far as many people are going to have to -- are going to be able to go including a young lady who is of course at least able to lay out here at the entrance of the park. How soon will we see a solution? It could take days potentially. Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right, Polo Sandoval. Thank you so much in Jersey City. We got so much more straight ahead in the NEWSROOM. But first, here's a look at this week's CNN Hero. Meet Leslie Morissette.


LESLIE MORISSETTE, CNN HERO: It's really difficult for kids to spend a lot of time in the hospital. They get so disconnected from their family and friends and schools. And when we bring them this technology, they're able to dial in and be in the classroom --


MORISSETTE: -- you can just see their face light right up. It brings them such joy.


WHITFIELD: Wow. So to watch Leslie's full story, go to And we'll be right back.


WHITFIELD: Hello again. Adults in Nevada can now legally buy recreational marijuana. A new law, governing sales and use of marijuana went into effect yesterday and there were already long lines last night for people waiting to make their purchases. In fact, a couple got married at a cultivation facility to celebrate the new law. Greg Fiegener with CNN affiliate KSNV has details.


CRAIG FIEGENER, KSNV: They said I do surrounded by grow lights and marijuana plants. Mark and Erin got married in what is essentially a greenhouse for one of Las Vegas' largest dispensaries.



M. BALFE-TAYLOR: I feel somewhat lost for words.

FIEGNER: Mark Balfe-Taylor and his wife Anna got hitched here and on this day to celebrate the legalization of recreational pot for sale. Mark says he was inspired in part because his father was jailed once on a cannabis crime.

M. BALFE-TAYLOR: It's about the freedom to have choice on a substance that is harmless if they want.

FIEGELER: Mark and Anna are the first to say they are from a traditional couple. Instead of wedding flowers, he sported some bud for a corsage. Mark proposed marriage and this idea a few months back.

A. BALFE-TAYLOR, BRIF: Mark asked me and I had to think about it, and I support it. I think it's great.

FIEGENER: The ceremony

[16:55:00] was brief, about 20 minutes, that's because it's warm inside of a grow room, and how do you celebrate? He insists they will not be getting high.

M. BALFE-TAYLOR: Due to the fact that it's still has been a federal offense, as a parent it's not something that I wanted for my family considering my upbringing.


WHITFIELD: All right, very unique. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. Thanks so much for being with me today. We have so much more straight ahead in the NEWSROOM with Boris Sanchez, right after this.


BORIS SANCCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: It is just about 5:00 p.m. You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM.

I'm Boris Sanchez in New York in for Ana Cabrera who has the weekend off. We thank you so much for joining us. On this holiday weekend where we're celebrating our country's independence, the dominant narrative today surrounding the president of the United States

[17:00:00] has nothing to do with policy, with making or enforcing laws with our brave military men and women overseas, risking everything to protect our way of life.