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White House Unveils New "Theme Weeks" as Approval Hits New Low; Lawmakers Pushing Manafort, Trump Jr. to Testify; GOP Delays Senate Vote after McCain Surgery. Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired July 17, 2017 - 10:00   ET




POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. Top of the hour, I'm Poppy Harlow. Right now, at the White House, a change in the message, if not the momentum. The administration is launching a "Made in America" week. A campaign to underscore a top priority among the president's faith, and that is jobs. But when it comes to how Americans view the job he's doing, well President Trump has hit a new low. According to an ABC News/Washington Post Poll, his approval rating now, 36 percent that is the lowest six-month approval rating in the history of modern polling in 70 years, one reason, his own agenda.

And this week, the Russia investigation could come and be a reason more of the headlines. Well, Donald Trump Jr. and former campaign manager Paul Manafort testified in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee. As it was discussed, they just may. Last week, well they talked about that meeting they had with the Russian lawyer. And what about the president's lawyer and the new pushback that he's facing from the Secret Service.

On top of all of that, one huge objective in limbo, the Senate's health care vote is now on hold amid Senator John McCain's health scare and his recovery from surgery. How is he doing? Our Dr. Sanjay Gupta will have the medical perspective. Let's get to that in a moment. But let's begin with the politics and the legislative agenda. Suzanne Malveaux joins us from Capitol Hill. So, another delay for Mitch McConnell on this one what are you hearing?

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, what we're hearing is essentially this is just the very latest in a series of stops and starts regarding the health care bill. And Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had wanted to try to build some momentum here, a sense of urgency. That, Poppy, has come to a screeching halt. Members of Congress back in session this afternoon and despite that, however, this is a real difficult moment for them.

We are talking about over the weekend, that announcement made by Senator McCain's office that he had that surgery to remove a clot that that would push back this timetable at least a week perhaps more. Mitch McConnell saying then that he knows he doesn't necessarily have the votes necessary, can't afford to lose a single vote to just even move the legislation forward, so also delaying this process here.

And this comes, Poppy, even before we had some no's -- some outright no's, from Republicans. I spoke with two of them last week, Senator Rand Paul, the conservative who says this does not go far enough, objects to the taxes, the regulations, the subsidies that are still included under the revised version. And also, Senator Susan Collins of Maine, the moderate who says she cannot live with this deep, deep cuts to Medicaid. That it is just too severe.

Over the weekend, what did we see? Well, we know that senior administration officials, working with the president trying to twist little arms, doing some phone calls, if you will, the president tweeting about this. Vice President Pence over the weekend going to the National Governors Association, trying to say, look, the CBO score, whatever it is, it's bad, is not necessarily going to make a difference here, many governors saying that they did not buy that that it did not go well. And Poppy, as you know, that CBO score not coming out today, potentially later in the week. That is the next hurdle for Senators to face. Poppy?

HARLOW: And the White House is already trying to undercut whatever the number is in an op-ed saying, you know, just take it with a grain of salt. Suzanne, thank you.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta, to you, no one better to talk about Senator McCain's recover and what's ahead because you are a neurosurgeon. How serious is all of this?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think, when you read the original description, you know, the -- it was said, look, he had an eyebrow incision, had this blood collection removed. I think it's a little bit more serious than that. Just to be clear, when you feel your own eyebrow and if you do an incision that you can feel the bone underneath that.

As part of this procedure, Senator McCain actually had that bone removed to basically gain access to the brain. I want to show you in this skull. Again, right above your eye socket, it's this bone in here in particular that was removed to try and gain access. So, you get a small incision, but it can give you a pretty big opening there, sizeable opening to the brain.

And just to show you, again, here on this brain. Now, once you have opened up that bone, you are gaining access to this part of the brain and what you hear is that there was about a five centimeters, which is about two inches abnormality there.

[10:05:07] They call it a blood collection. We are not sure and essentially what it is yet until it's looked at under the microscope to make sure. But that's what it was. So, you know, it is brain surgery. It's a good size operation. It's general anesthesia. It does involve recovery. And that's all what he's going through right now.

HARLOW: Do you know, Sanjay, what would cause doctors to look for that? Because I think the word - that as you said, the hospital used was routine. GUPTA: Right.

HARLOW: But would there be something that led them to scan for this?

GUPTA: It's a great question, Poppy. And here's what I would say. Typically, in hospital vernacular, when they say something is routine. It means that it was already scheduled. There wasn't any particular reason, because somebody was having some problem or something that led to the scan. It was just already scheduled for routine purposes.

And usually, it's because somebody has some history, in this case, of cancer. He has a history of melanoma. We know Senator McCain does -- right in this area, in the left temple area. So, often times, they say as part of a follow up, we are going to scan you from time-to-time to make sure there's no evidence of the return of that melanoma. And that's typically a routine scan is done.

Again, that's different than someone saying, hey look, I'm having problems. I'm having headaches or you know something feels abnormal. That would be a scan that would be done for other reasons.

So, routine scan that finds something and it's significant enough, that the doctor say. Senator, we need to operate. We need to remove this. We need to do this through this incision that I just described. And we need to find out what's going on here.

And that's what happened on Friday. It takes a while after that, Poppy, to then actually look at that abnormality, that mass that was removed from the brain and really be certain as to what it is. If it's just a blood collection, that would great news actually, because -- it would essentially be resolved. But if there's something else going on there, then that might need more treatment, more follow up and more recovery.

HARLOW: Doctor Sanjay Gupta, thank you so much for all of that perspective. We wish Senator McCain a speedy recovery and all the best.

So, on another front, the White House, this morning, trying to pivot away from headlines about Russia, today they are unveiling another one of their "Theme Weeks." And they're focusing on getting back on message, this one, "Made in America". Let's go to the White House. Let's talk to Joe Johns. So, what are we going to see?

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well, we are going to see the president around 3:00 p.m. this afternoon. He's going to be part of that "Theme Week." As you said, it is "Made in America" focusing on U.S. products. But it's also putting a focus on the fact that many Trump family products are made in other countries. So, that one event we will see today, the president around 3:00 p.m. Eastern Time.

Meanwhile, it is sort of turning the corner and the attention away from the uproar just last week about Donald Trump Jr. and his meeting with a Russian lawyer. One aide from the Trump campaign talking today, indicated, in his view, this is the type of thing that really needed to be kept far away from the candidate and inside the circles close to him. Listen.


MICHAEL CAPUTO, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN ADVISER: You know you don't want those kinds of meetings to even come anywhere close to the president or to the president's family. I mean any opposition research meetings -- no matter where they come from. You know as an experienced campaign operative, I might have seen a red flag.

But at the same time, you have to understand that the members of the family -- this is the first time President Trump ever ran for office. His kids were unfamiliar with it. And I can see how Don Jr. might make a mistake.


JOHNS: That would be a big mistake and not only a mistake. It's also essentially unpopular in the polling. NBC News/Wall Street Journal Poll indicates only 26 percent of respondents said it was appropriate. The rest said no. Back to you, Poppy.

HARLOW: Joe Johns, thank you very much. Let's get reaction now from Republican Congressman Francis Rooney of Florida. He joins us now. Thanks for joining us.

REP. FRANCIS ROONEY (R-FL), FOREIGN AFFAIRS COMMITTEE: Poppy, thanks for having me back on.

HARLOW: I want to get you on health care in a moment. But let's get you on Russia as well. When you were on the program last week, we talked about this opinion piece that you wrote in March. And let me pull-up part of it on the screen that stood to me.

You wrote, "Putin's boldness has been encouraged by a series of foreign policy blunders committed early in President Obama's administration."

So, that was you putting part of the onus on President Obama, which I hear. But then I asked you, well -- did the actions of the Trump administration embolden Putin further? And you said I can see that argument. I kept thinking afterwards, what do you mean? Can you elaborate on that because you were very quick to put blame on the Obama administration?

[10:10:00] So, what onus goes to the Trump administration for, in your words, emboldening Putin?

ROONEY: Yes. You know, like we say in the south, what's good for the goose is good for the gander. I think it would have been a lot better had Donald Trump Jr. not taken that meeting given the fact that he was in the middle of a campaign. And the meeting was obviously a propaganda deal. That lawyer was probably a front to get that other person in front of Donald Trump. So, it would have been better if he didn't do it you know.

I mean, we have got to take actions that count for something against Putin. For example, we got a really good opportunity right now in the destruction of sanctions to say we are not going to put sanctions on the Trans-Caspian Pipeline which Russia bitterly opposes. To show him that we are determined to get natural gas out of Azerbaijan into Russia and to Europe. --

HARLOW: So, you are saying, Congressman - and look, that sanctions bill passed the Senate 98-2 and now it's held up for a long time, so far in the House. You say it's better if he didn't have the meeting. You know, that it wasn't great that he had the meeting. Donald Trump Jr., Manafort, Jared Kushner. Is it beyond that? I mean, even conservative columnists and Fox News contributor, Charles Krauthammer, called it a violation of any kind of civic honor. Is it that?

ROONEY: I don't know. I certainly don't know if it's illegal or not. I'd leave that to the experts.

HARLOW: Congressman, I did -- wait, wait, wait, wait. Please answer the question I asked you. And that was -- nothing about illegality because I know you are not an attorney. What I am asking you is was it a violation of civic honor? Was it an American thing to do?

ROONEY: I think it definitely would have been better if he didn't do it. But I guess I have a little sympathy --

HARLOW: But I'm asking you, sir, does it go beyond that? Is it more than just it would have been better if he didn't do that? That's like saying it would have been better if I didn't eat that bagel this morning. Is it more than that?

ROONEY: Well, I don't know. You know, I mean, I just have a little sympathy for this guy coming from the outside because I'm from the outside myself. But it definitely is not a good thing to have gotten in the same room with probably a Russian intelligence officer, using that lawyer as a friend. That's getting out there, I agree.

HARLOW: All right. I don't know if that's a clear answer to my question. But I'm going to move on to health care because this is very important to millions of American people. When it comes to the issue of Medicaid expansion, funding for Medicaid that is greatly reduced under the Senate version of this bill, Vice President Mike Pence and Republican Senator Susan Collins are on drastically different pages on that. Listen to both of them.


MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: President Trump and I believe the Senate health care bill strengthens and secures Medicaid for the neediest in our society.

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: This bill would impose fundamental sweeping changes in the Medicaid program and those include very deep cuts. That would affect some of the most vulnerable people in our society.

You can't take more than $700 billion out of the Medicaid program and not think that it's going to have some kind of effect. (END VIDEO CLIP)

HARLOW: So which is it, helpful to the most vulnerable or harmful?

ROONEY: I think if you look at the people that took Medicaid expansion under Obamacare, a lot of them are what they call able bodied, single adults, not the most destitute people for whom the program was originally designed to support and help. And so, when we're talking about repealing back the expansion and turning that back to the states, I'm all for it.

I think the states can be the laboratories of innovation. They can have work requirements. They can take those block grants and the people -- that are on there might not need to be on there if we get our tax credit program. --

HARLOW: Congressman, are you saying -- are you saying, I may not have heard your full answer because the control room was in my ear for part of that. But are you saying the people that have benefited from Medicaid expansion, a good amount of them are not among the most destitute or those most in need of help?

ROONEY: Yes. From what I have read, a lot -- a significant portion of the people that joined Medicaid under the expansion when the poverty multiple was raised and the formula of funding was shifted to the federal government and away from the states are people that are above the original set that Medicaid was meant to support.

HARLOW: But you would argue that it has helped -- hold on. You would argue that it has helped many, many Americans, right?

ROONEY: No doubt about it.

HARLOW: It seems like you are trying to qualify who matters more in terms of whom it should help?

ROONEY: No. What I'm saying is that if the tax credit program works to enable people to buy decent insurance, then these people that are at a multiple of a poverty level that have jobs, working people, should be able to find insurance without having to be on Medicaid. And I think that if the states can take that money instead of the federal government, they can do something better with it in the federal government.

[10:15:00] HARLOW: Let me also get you on this. Because this just came in as we were discussing health care, a new tweet from the president on that meeting that we just discussed, the Don Jr. meeting with the Russian lawyer.

"Most politicians would have gone to a meeting like the one Don Jr. attended in order to get information on an opponent. That's politics!"

This is the president downplaying the importance of this, downplaying the fact that it was a concerted government effort to have this meeting, saying that's politics. Is he right? Is the president right, Congressman? It's just this is politics, nothing to see here, folks? ROONEY: Well, it's politics in terms of the general idea of getting opposition research. All is fair, you know. It's a rough game. But I personally --

HARLOW: It's all fair? Is meeting with a hostile foreign government entity fair? Is that --

ROONEY: Absolutely. Having spent a lot of time in the international world, I am always very careful who I meet with and under what circumstances, when you are meeting with foreign leaders and foreign business people. And I think it would have been better to avoid for both Donald Trump Jr. and for Hillary Clinton's people dealing with Russia and the Ukraine and other foreign powers concerning their respective opposition researches.

HARLOW: The president in this tweet, again, is saying that's just politics. These are just meetings you have. Any other politician would have taken them. You know that's not the case. You have said before that you would likely not take this meeting.

So, is the president not downplaying then Russia's interference in the election and their attempts to sway the Trump campaign at the very least through this meeting? Is he not doing that and does it not concern you?

ROONEY: Well, there are a lot of things that concern me about meeting with foreign powers and about the Donald Trump Jr. meeting. But one of the things that really concern me is that we are getting distracted from accomplishing the things we need to do. --

HARLOW: But Congressman, if you could just answer my question, then we could end this interview. And my question is does this new statement on Twitter from the president, downplaying the importance of this meeting, a meeting we now know was put together through a concerted Russian government effort. Does that bother you? As an American, not as a Republican or a Democrat or even a congressman - as an American, does it bother you? Does it concern you?

ROONEY: OK. Literally what the president said is true. It is a rough sport. And its politics as usual about gathering opposition research -


HARLOW: So, you agree with the president this is politics as usual because that's a first.

ROONEY: It's politics as usual to gather opposition research. And this is a no holds barred sport. I have learned it myself unfortunately. But I do agree with you. I would not have met with a foreign power or the representatives of a foreign power. I would have stayed out of that. Because in this business, what Donald Trump may not have understood is appearances are very important. And those are nuances that would have been better not incurred. I agree with you.

HARLOW: All right. Congressman, this is not politics as normal to have meetings with representatives of foreign, hostile nations. We are out of time, I appreciate you coming on. We'll have you on again. Thank you.

ROONEY: Thank you.

HARLOW: The president standing by as you just saw his son's meeting with the Russians. Is that really how opposition research is supposed to work and work as the Congressman just said? We'll have two pros on to talk about that.

Also, a woman shot and killed by police in Minneapolis over the weekend and now, her family and the city's mayor demanding answers. Why is there no body cam video?

Also, they joined ISIS looking for love. But they left in despair. CNN takes you inside the world of the brides of ISIS.


[10:22:40] HARLOW: This morning, President Trump again defending his son's meeting with a Russian lawyer because of a concerted government effort. Moments ago, he wrote, "Most politicians would have gone to a meeting like the one Don Jr. attended in order to get information on an opponent. That's politics!"

Is it? Here to discuss, Karoun Demirjian, congressional reporter for "The Washington Post," David Drucker, CNN political analyst and senior congressional correspondent for the "Washington Examiner" and Susan Page, Washington bureau chief for "USA Today."

Thank you all for being here. I wasn't going to start the panel like this but now I am because of what the president just wrote. Looking at the latest polling, this ABC News/Washington Post Poll that came out, 60 percent of people think Russia tried to influence the elections. 63 percent of people say they think that meeting was inappropriate -- 63 percent of Americans. The president says not only was it appropriate, but any politician would have done it.

DAVID DRUCKER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. Well, any politician wouldn't have done it. I mean, most political professionals that I have covered over the years, that I have been talking to said they wouldn't have taken that meeting. A lot of them told me, they would have immediately called the FBI and put them on alert because the FBI is our counterintelligence agency.

And what's interesting about this tweet here, the president is defending his son. On the one hand, he is in a sense saying there is nothing wrong with what his son tried to do, theoretically, work with a foreign government to dig up opposition research on his opponent. And that can encourage other foreign governments to do more of the same. And the argument can be, hey, look, the president defended it as a standard operating procedure in the United States.

I think the other thing to understand here is that there's actually a danger that if President Trump's Democratic opponent in 2020 decided to do the same because President Trump is a sitting president, there are actual legal implications that didn't exist for Don Jr. and the Trump campaign that would exist if a Democrat worked with a foreign government against Trump in that campaign because it could be interpreted as trying to work with a foreign government to bring down a sitting president.

So, there are all sorts of things wrong with this. Republicans know this no matter what they say. But they don't find it useful and I understand this to get in an argument with the president because so far, they are not hearing from their voters, at least not loudly enough that their voters care enough for them to get into the fights.

HARLOW: But not one Republican has come on this program or any that I have seen and said that they would have taken that meeting. Not one is willing to go that far and do that.

[10:25:05] Susan Page, to you, the argument that the White House keeps bringing up and some Republican lawmakers as you may have heard on this show last hour is this is akin to that consultant, the Ukrainian- American consultant who was digging up information on Manafort and Russia and you know, feeding it to the DNC. They are saying it is apples to apples. It's not for a host of reasons. And it doesn't mean it doesn't warrant investigation.

I'm saying it's not apples to apples. It's not the highest levels of the Ukrainian government dealing directly with the Clinton campaign. That didn't happen. Is it a successful argument for the White House to keep making on this one?

SUSAN PAGE, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, "USA TODAY": Well, it is a talking point that we have heard. I think you are right. I think the story that appeared in "Politico" in January about this deserves some study. But as you say, this did not involve a meeting with one of our leading adversaries, the Russian government trying to meddle in our election. And it was also not a meeting -- the contact with the DNC consultant who was trying to look for damaging material about Paul Manafort did not involve the top and most senior circle of the candidate. So, in all those ways, it is not apples to apples, which is not to say worth looking at.

HARLOW: Karoun, what do you think the play is here for the White House? This is not, you know, so new. The president has made similar statements defending his son saying anyone would have taken the meeting, et cetera, et cetera. What is the long term play for the White House on this one? If you are the new White House counsel, Ty Cobb, who is just brought in and you're looking at this tweet this morning. What are you thinking?

KAROUN DEMIRJIAN, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Well, there are a number of things that they could be advising. The first question is. Is this the sum total of all the interactions that anybody at the senior level of the Trump campaign had with any sort of Russian person claiming affiliation with the Kremlin? Let's just say. Because if it's not, then they have to be very careful about what they do. If it is, then president, in a way, needs to you know, control what he's been saying publicly.

And this is no different than many different episodes with the Russia probe looking into the connections with Donald Trump and his -- surrogates in the campaign. When it goes away, the president brings it back by tweeting about it again. And that has been a problem for him in the past. So, as all of the congressional committees, as Mueller's probe, is certainly going to look into this. We have seen them staff up legally, bring in more lawyers.

Clearly, they don't think it's going to go anytime soon. But they also just have to get their story straight. I mean, you cannot recast what this was four times in less than a week, which is what happened. And if there are any more chapters to come, they got to be very careful how they do this. Because this one episode - I mean, look, you have had Republicans trying to back up the president as much as they possibly could, saying let the investigation happen because it will exonerate you. This last episode with Don Jr. and the meeting really put them in the tightest spot possible. And he doesn't have as much of the backup as he used to if there's anything else that comes to light that is equally questionable.

HARLOW: What is not good news for the White House this morning, David Drucker, is the new polling, the new all-time low approval rating six months in, 36 percent for the president. That's the worst since modern polling has been tracked, the worst in 70 years. But maybe even more telling is what has happened to him in areas that he flipped from Obama. That he was able to take the voter from Obama in 2012. With the new NBC/Wall Street Journal Poll shows is his approval rating there, only 44 percent, disapproval rating 51 percent. Is that the most telling this morning?

DRUCKER: Well, it could be. I mean, I still think we need to be cautious with the national polling, not because it is incorrect, it is correct, but because the numbers are not evenly distributed. So I still talk to Republican operatives in Trump states and districts, strong Republican districts in areas that feel very confident at this point that the president's problems in swing districts and in Democratic strongholds is not an issue for them where they are. That's why you haven't seen Republicans in mass, revolt against the president various chaotic episodes and problems that he's having. On the other hand, I was really keen under the Des Moines Register Poll that came out over the weekend.

HARLOW: Yes, Iowa.

DRUCKER: Iowa was a state that once the caucuses were over, was never competitive for Hillary Clinton even though she put a lot of resources in there. It was a strong Trump state. And the new Iowa Des Moines Register Poll, it shows independents disapprove of Trump there, 59 percent. It shows the president's overall approval rating under water, about 43 percent.

So, here's a state that is a swing state, typically, wasn't really a swing state in 2016. And it looks like a lot of voters there are having second thoughts at the moment. One big thing that Republicans tell me and it's why you are seeing them push so hard for a health care bill that is otherwise very unpopular is the one thing that could turn off the Republican base and get them to stay home in 2018 and decide voting is not worth their time, failure to pass an Obamacare repeal bill. No matter how unpopular it looks today. HARLOW: The Republican voters that I sat down with recently for this voter panel, the consistent line, get points on the board. Get points on the board. Get something you promised done. Thank you all very much.