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Repeal Now, Replace Later; Minneapolis Family Wants Answers After Fatal Police Shooting; Drone-Killing Laser Deployed on Navy Ship. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired July 18, 2017 - 04:00   ET



[04:00:12] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We do have to repeal Obamacare, and we will end up replacing it with something that is going to be outstanding, far, far better.


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: A Republican health care bill that was on life support died overnight. Repeal and replace now repeal and delay. The Senate majority leader forced to change course after two more senators refuse to back the Senate bill in a big blow for the president's agenda.

Good morning and welcome to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Dave Briggs. It is Tuesday, July 18th. It's 4:00 a.m. in the East.

Major news overnight: a devastating blow to the president's top legislative priority this morning, as Mitch McConnell concedes defeat on the Senate health care bill in its current form. The Senate majority leader had essentially no choice after two more Republicans defected from the bill, leaving it without enough support even to begin debate, Christine.

ROMANS: Late last night, McConnell explained in a statement: Regretfully, it is now apparent that the effort to repeal and immediately replace the failure of Obamacare will not be successful. McConnell now making a major pivot, announcing he will push for a new version that will repeal Obamacare outright with a two-year phase-out, so there's time to come up with a replacement system. McConnell notes that a majority of senators already backed a House repeal bill when it came up in 2015.

BRIGGS: McConnell's statement came just moments after the president posted a tweet along the same lines, quote, Republicans should just repeal failing Obamacare now and work on a new health care plan that will start from a clean slate. Dems will join in.

Fallout from the defection of the two senators McConnell had been counting on came quickly. Our Ryan Nobles has more from Capitol Hill.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) RYAN NOBLES, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPODENT: Dave and Christine, good morning. This is essentially the worst-case scenario for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Two more Republican senators, Mike Lee of Utah and Jerry Moran of Kansas, have announced they will not support the latest version of health care reform. It effectively means this bill is dead.

This is what Senator Lee said in his statement last night. Quote, After conferring with trusted experts regarding the latest version of the Consumer Freedom Amendment, I've decided I cannot support the current version of the Better Care Reconciliation Act. In addition to not repealing all of the Obamacare taxes, it doesn't go far enough in lowering premiums for middle-class families, nor does it create enough free space from the most costly Obamacare regulations.

And Jerry Moran went further. He said that the Senate needs to start fresh and open up the legislative process. He also said that he would not put his stamp of approval on bad policy.

Now, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was already in a difficult position. He needed to hold on to all 50 votes. They had hoped that as early as today they'd be voting on the motion to proceed to bring the bill to the floor, and it looks as though, at least for now, the Senate version of health care reform has been put on indefinite hold -- Dave and Christine.


ROMANS: Another busy day for Ryan there at the Capitol.

All right. The simultaneous announcements from Senators Lee and Moran came as seven other Republican senators were at the White House for dinner with the president, talking about health care. The White House and Republican whip John Cornyn were given a heads-up on Lee and Moran's defection. Among lawmakers, mixed reaction to news of the Senate bill's collapse.

BRIGGS: So, John McCain in Arizona recovering from surgery, calling for a new, more bipartisan approach. He wrote in this statement: We must not repeat the original mistakes that led to Obamacare's failure. The Congress must now return to regular order, hold hearings, receive input from members of both parties and heed the recommendations of our nation's governors so that we can produce a bill that finally provides Americans with access to quality and affordable health care.

ROMANS: Meantime, Democrats, Democrats scoffed at the president's claim that they would, quote, join in a repeal now and replace later effort. Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy tweeting: Please, please, please, don't call this repeal, then replace. They have proven they can't come up with a replacement. This is repeal, full stop.

BRIGGS: And California Congressman Adam Schiff sent out this tweet: To destroy a health care system that works is a height of irresponsibility. We will not bail you out of a crisis of your own making, Mr. President. ROMANS: All right. Beyond policy, a straight repeal of Obamacare

could leave millions of Americans uninsured. Eighteen million more in the first year, 32 million more by the year 2026. That's according to CBO analysis of an earlier repeal bill. Premiums could jump 25 percent at first. Premiums would double by the year 2026.

The CBO predicts healthier people will quit the market. Insurers will then hike rates to offset the cost of sicker enrollees. Now, that's if a straight repeal succeeds. Otherwise, Congress will have to decide if it will stabilize Obamacare.

There are two ways to do so -- sharing the costs for lower income Americans and enforcing the individual mandate.

[04:05:02] That's key to getting younger, healthier people to enroll. But so far, lawmakers have not committed to either, and that indecisiveness, that indecisiveness is causing insurers to pull out of the exchanges, big names like Aetna, Humana and Anthem. In fact, the number of insurers joining next year fell about 28 percent and that figure could only grow. Insurers are not locked into participating until late September.

BRIGGS: White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer contradicts the current official explanation for Donald Trump Jr.'s meeting with the Russian lawyer at Monday's off-camera press briefings. Spicer insisted the meeting was about adoption policy and ending U.S. sanctions against Russian officials.


SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: There was nothing that as far as we know that would lead anything to believe that there was anything except for a discussion about adoption and the Magnitsky Act.


BRIGGS: And was Don Jr.'s initial explanation. The problem is, since then, he's admitted he took the meeting he was promised damaging information about Hillary Clinton.

ROMANS: Even President Trump has adopted that explanation. Yesterday, he tweeted this. "Most politicians would have gone to a meeting like the one Don Jr. attended in order to get info on an opponent. That's politics." The White House did not immediately respond to a CNN request for clarification on Spicer's remarks.

BRIGGS: Meantime, we have new word from an administration official that staffers are becoming concerned that top Trump aide and first son-in-law, Jared Kushner, may not be granted a final security clearance. Questions have been raised about Kushner's repeated revisions of his application for clearance as he's added more and more Russian and other foreign contacts.

President Trump has the option of overriding any decision not to grant Kushner a clearance, but that would carry considerable risk of a bipartisan blowback. ROMANS: All right. The editorial board at "The Wall Street Journal"

urging radical transparency from President Trump and his inner circle, citing Don Jr.'s Russia e-mail revelations. They say the president and his family are repeating what they call the legacy of scandal, deception, and stonewalling that doomed Hillary Clinton.

Quoting here: Even if the ultimate truth of this tale is merely that Don Jr. is a political dunce who took a meeting that went nowhere, the best case, Trump's made it appear as if they have something to hide. They have created the appearance of a conspiracy, that on the evidence, Don Jr. lacks the wit to concoct, and they handed their opponents another of the swords that by now could arm a Roman legion.

That is the editorial board of "The Wall Street Journal." "The Wall Street Journal" is part of Rupert Murdoch's news empire, which generally supported Mr. Trump.


Well, the U.S. dispensing a mixed message on Iran's nuclear compliance, certifying that Iran is still making good on the terms of the nuclear deal, but the Trump administration says Iran's nonnuclear activity show its, quote, unquestionably in default of the spirit of the agreement. Both the president and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson have been fierce critics of the deal. A senior administration official says they're considering more sanctions targeting Iran's ballistic missile program and state sponsorship of terrorism.

ROMANS: All right. People who fish, boat, jet ski and paddle board on the Potomac River unhappy with a new Coast Guard rule that closes a two-mile stretch of the river when president Trump or a senior official are golfing at his club in Virginia. The Coast Guard says it's for security reasons. Critics have until August 9th to voice their concerns before the rule becomes final. The White House and Secret Service are not commenting.

BRIGGS: And of particular interest, Christine, a veterans group that uses that very route on the weekends to kayak and rehabilitate, so that would not be a popular ruling so the president can golf.

ROMANS: Eight minutes past the hour.

A man left searching for answers after police shoot and kill his fiancee in Minnesota.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our hearts are broken, and we are utterly devastated by the loss of Justine.


ROMANS: Just a tragedy. Authorities so far slow to provide information. We have a report from Minneapolis, next.


[04:13:17] BRIGGS: A Minneapolis police officer involved in the shooting death of a woman who called 911 for help now coming forward and offering his condolences to her family. That officer identified through his attorney as Mohamed Noor. Meantime, stunned family and friends of Justine Ruszczyk making desperate pleas for information about the last moments of her life.

CNN's Ryan Young has the latest from Minneapolis.


RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Christine and Dave, a lot of people asking questions about exactly what happened. Of course, this shooting has really terrified a lot of people. You see signs like this one, why did you shoot and kill our neighbor and friend?

We do know that phone call was made by Justine. She called 911 because she believed back in this alleyway that she thought she saw a sexual assault going on. When she called 911, two officers arrived. They did not activate their body camera. They did not have their car dashcam rolling. We do know at some point a shot was fired, she was hit and died and it's really tearing apart her family.

DON DAMON, VICTIM'S FIANCE: Piecing together Justine's last moments before the homicide would be a small comfort as we grieve this tragedy. The death of Justine is a loss to everyone who knew her. She touched so many people with her loving and generous heart.

YOUNG: There was a statement released by the officer's attorney, says that the Officer Mohamed Noor extends his condolences to the family and anyone else who has been touched by this event. He takes their loss seriously and keeps them in their daily thoughts and prayers.

We've also learned from the medical examiner's office that she was shot once in the abdomen, and that was a fatal shot where she died just out here. Again, most of the community members out here want to know exactly what happened.

[04:15:01] They're waiting to hear from police to get those extra details -- Dave and Christine.


ROMANS: Just a tragedy. All right. Keep us posted on that.

Police in suburban Cincinnati have uncovered a strange mystery in their investigation of a deadly shooting this month at a gender reveal party. Authorities say the host of the party, Cheyanne Willis, was not pregnant. Investigators cannot explain why the party was organized under false pretenses, but they say the lie is hampering their investigation of the shooting.

One woman was killed, eight people were hurt. The police chief says the false leads they have been provided are, quote, uncommon from victims of a crime wanting solution. Just a strange story there. The weather starts warming up today on the East Coast. Meteorologist

Pedram Javaheri has more.


PEDRAM JAVAHERI, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Dave and Christine, a big story developing here across the central United States. We're talking about excessive heat, widespread over an area, home to almost 15 million people. And the advisories stretch from Ohio into Kansas City, warnings in place for places like St. Louis.

And the reason for that is we get a multiday event set up here where potentially through Friday, maybe even Saturday, we have triple-digit heat, and this is just factoring in, of course, without the humidity. This is just in the shade into the afternoon hours. But you factor in the humidity, it could feel as high as 113 in a few spots across this region and we'll see that kind of expand off towards the eastern half of the country.

So, by say Thursday and Friday, Atlanta gets into the middle 90s. We'll feel like into the 100s. New York City also will get into the lower 90s, will feel like close to 100 degrees by the afternoon hours. And with all of this set, plenty of instability in the atmosphere, severe storm potential there into parts of Minnesota, into western Wisconsin today.

Some flooding associated with this could also be seen around this region, mainly south of Minneapolis going in towards the afternoon hours, and watching couple of areas of disturbed weather, Tropical Storm Don in the works. At this point, it looks like it will have a Central America impact and we'll follow this into the weekend -- guys.


ROMANS: All right. Thank you so much.

BRIGGS: The Twitter feed on Tropical Storm Don last night was interesting, if you're bored this morning.

ROMANS: All right.

BRIGGS: Next, the CNN exclusive from the Persian Gulf: a drone- killing laser. It's one of the newest weapons in the Navy's arsenal. An up-close look at how it all works, next on EARLY START.


[04:21:34] ROMANS: All right. Science fiction now a reality for the U.S. military. The world's first active laser weapon has already been deployed on an amphibious transport ship used by the U.S. Navy.

CNN's Jim Sciutto got exclusive access to a live-fire test of the drone-killer.


In the sometimes hostile waters of the Persian Gulf looms the U.S. Navy's first -- in fact, the world's first active laser weapon.

The LaWS, an acronym for Laser Weapons System, is not science fiction. It is not experimental. It is deployed onboard the USS Ponce amphibious transport ship, ready to be fired at targets today and every day by Captain Christopher Wells and his crew.

CNN was granted exclusive access to a live fire test of the laser.

CAPT. CHRISTOPHER WELLS, COMMANDING OFFICER, USS PONCE: It's more precise than a bullet. It's not a niche weapon systems like some other weapons that we have, you know, throughout the military, where it's only good against air contacts or it's only good against surface contacts or it's only good against, you know, ground-based targets. In this case, this is a very versatile weapon. It can be used against a variety of targets.

SCIUTTO: LaWS begins with an advantage no other weapon ever invented comes even close to matching. It moves by definition at the speed of light.

For comparison, that is 50,000 times the speed of an incoming ICBM.

LT. CALE HUGHES, LASER WEAPONS SYSTEM OFFICER: It's throwing massive amounts of photons at an incoming object. We don't worry about wind. We don't worry about rains. We don't worry about anything else.

SCIUTTO: CNN witnessed that speed and power firsthand. First, the Ponce crew launches the target, an incoming drone aircraft -- a weapon in increasing use by Iran, North Korea, China, Russia and other adversaries.

Immediately, the weapons team zeros in on its target.

HUGHES: We don't have to lead a target. We're doing that engagement at a speed of light. So, it really is a point and shoot. We see it, we focus on it and we can negate that target.

SCIUTTO: Then, in an instant, the drone's wing lights up, heated to a temperature of thousands of degrees, lethally damaging the aircraft and sending it hurdling down to the sea -- all of this from a silent and invisible killer.

HUGHES: It operates in an invisible part of the electromagnetic spectrum. You don't see the beam. It doesn't make any sound. It is completely silent and it's incredibly effective at what it does.

SCIUTTO: It is remarkably precise, minimizing collateral damage. In all, the $40 million system needs to operate is a supply electricity and a crew of three. No multimillion dollar missile, no ammunition at all. The cost per use --

HUGHES: It's about a dollar a shot.

SCIUTTO: Today, the laser is intended primarily to disable or destroy aircraft and small boats.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's designed with the intent of being able to encounter airborne and surface-based threats and it's been able to prove itself over the last three years as being incredibly effective at that.

SCIUTTO: However, the Navy is already developing more powerful, second generation systems which would bring more significant targets into its crosshairs: missiles. Those missions remained classified. However, commander and crew are already very much aware of the potential capabilities.

CNN PRODUCER: Could it shoot down a missile?

WELLS: Well, I don't know. Maybe.

SCIUTTO (On camera): The U.S. is certainly not the only country working with laser weapons. Russia, China, North Korea, Iran and others are doing the same.

[04:25:02] And to be clear, not just with the intention of striking targets down here on Earth, ships and aircraft, possibility of missiles, but also targets even as far away as in space.

Jim Sciutto, CNN, Washington.


ROMANS: That's cool.

BRIGGS: That is a fascinating look. Thank you, Jim.

All right. There is a new plan on health care this morning -- repeal now, replace sometime later. A major shift for Mitch McConnell after learning the current Senate bill would not have enough Republican support to pass.



TRUMP: He's got to pull it off.


TRUMP: Mitch has to pull it off. He's working very hard. He's got to pull it off.


BRIGGS: But Mitch McConnell has come up short. He's being forced to abandon repeal and replace of Obamacare after he could not get enough Republican support. Repeal and delay, perhaps, the new plan. But even that, can it pass the chamber? That is a heavy, heavy lift.

Welcome back to EARLY START, everybody. I'm Dave Briggs. ROMANS: And I'm Christine Romans. Thirty minutes past the hour this

Tuesday morning.